Our politicians have shown a strong predilection for ‘the mushroom treatment’ in their communications with the people over the Covid-19 epidemic.. Roughly translated this means keep everyone in the dark and feed them a load of horse-shit every now and again.
Here is the latest: On Saturday during the Downing Street press briefing we were told about PPE that “84 tonnes of the gear, including 400,000 urgently needed clinical gowns, would arrive in the UK from Turkey the next day”. Here is what Sky news has dug up on the subject. Suffice to say that if the application for an export license was only lodged with the Turkish Government on Monday, the statement on Saturday was pure codswallop. There is little doubt in my mind that we are dealing with an intermediary and that this shipment has to be collated from multiple sources as it is unlikely that a single manufacturer would be responsible for all the items. It is also unlikely that, in these times, any manufacturer is sitting on piles of stock just waiting for an order.
The following questions should be answered. (1.) On what date was the order placed? (2.) Is the supplier a regular supplier to our Dept of Health? (3.) What were the delivery terms in the contract? (4.) To what extent was this order based on the donation of 14 Tonnes of equipment a week earlier by Turkey?
International trade has never been like walking into Tesco and hoping that the things you want are on the shelf, things are always bought on the basis of forward orders. As we have already noted the supermarket ‘Supply Chains’ broke down when they suddenly found people buying more than their average consumption of household goods, leaving supermarket shelves bare. Export goods are usually bought with lead times of six to eight weeks. We have been spoiled by trade with the EU and it’s high level of standardisation and freedom of cross border movement without formalities. At the moment no Turkish driver would want to deliver goods outside of Turkey as he is faced with a 14 day quarantine on his return.
Some weeks ago we were told that the problem with PPE was related to a shipment from China failing to meet quality standards. Once again the questions that need to be answered are the same. (1.) Was this a regular supplier? or (2.) Or was our regular supply disrupted because of Boris failing to participate in the EU joint buying?
A horrible thought strikes me. Are our ministers learning how difficult trade is going to be outside of the strong regulatory environment of the EU or are they simply striking out and asserting their independence from the EU? Stories of e-mails from the EU being lost in Boris’ spam folder just do not ring true, most executives do not manage their own correspondence, so, who decided to bury the e-mails?
Generally Britons hate one raising comparisons with German efficiency, it is much like raising a red rag to a bull. Here are a few details, Germany started developing a test for the virus as soon as the first rumours of a novel virus started leaking from China, by 10th January, or within weeks of China announcing a new novel virus, and before WHO made any proclamations, they had a viable test. As to their general preparedness, they happen to have almost 10 hospital beds available per 1000 population, we have 2.5.. Testing for coronovirus is carried out at most hospitals (they have 2000) as well as at most University laboratories We do so at a few fairly centralised testing centres and laboratories. They have more vacant Intensive care beds than we have total intensive care beds. Yes, that comes at a cost, they spend 11% of GDP on health care compared to our 9.8%. Overall their outcome, when measured by life expectancy, is no greater than ours, so, hard headed accountants could say their system is wasteful..However, their system is definitely better prepared for dealing with a crisis than ours. They have been able to take intensive care patients from both Italy and France during this pandemic.