Policing During the Pandemic… Right or Left Realist?

The UK Police Force have played a front-line role in enforcing government lockdown rules during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Newspapers have tended to focus on the more dramatic incidents of police handing out strict penalty notices to those breaching lockdown rules.

For example, this news item in the Sun from January 2021.

However, sociology students need to ask themselves how representative such cases are of the way the police more generally have conducted themselves during lockdown.

Recent research by HMICFRS on ‘policing the pandemic’ in the UK suggests that policing more generally has been more line with a community-engagement Left Realist approach to policing.

Based on a review of police interactions with the public during the Pandemic, the research found that most police forces in the UK successfully adopted government guidelines and spent most of their time engaging, explaining and encouraging people to obey lockdown rules rather than bluntly enforcing them with fixed penalty notices for people not wearing masks for example.

The ratio of ‘engage/ explain/ encourage’ to ‘enforce’ has been more than 10-1.

So while the police HAVE been enforcing lockdown rules with strict penalties in some cases, in more than 90% of interactions they have taken a much gentler approach, suggesting policing during the pandemic has been closer to a left-realist type of control rather than a right realist type of control.

How has Covid Impacted the UK Illegal Drug Market?

There have been some minor changes in the supply and taking of drugs in the United Kingdom since the onset of the covid pandemic, but the changes maybe aren’t as signficant as you’d think.

At least not according to a recent survey of UK drug users carried out in late 2020 by release.org.uk

Drug Use Increased slightly during the Pandemic

43% of users reported increasing their use of drugs, while 21% reduced and 36% kept their usage about the same.

The types of drug used also changed – with Cannabis use increasing and MDMA (the party drug) decreasing, mainly because of lack of opportunity to take it, with clubs being closed.

Drugs were slightly more difficult to find during the Pandemic

Around a third of drug users reported drugs being more difficult to get hold of a seller and having to source a different seller than usual, but overall only 25% reported it as being more difficult to find the drug they wanted, and only around 5% couldn’t find what they wanted or had to buy an alternative….

Unsurprisingly it became gradually more difficult to source drugs as the lockdown came into force and then eased.

Use of the ‘Darknet’ became slightly more popular

Use of the darknet increased by 13% and a full 30% of users would now consider using the darknet (buying drugs online) to purchase if the need to.

Drug dealers practiced social distancing

And many others took further precautions, well they are business people!

Relevance to A-level sociology/ analysis

Overall I’d say that this research shows us just how resilient the illegal drugs market has been during the pandemic.

Despite the UK borders being much more tightly controlled and huge restrictions on the movement of people with national lockdowns the drug supplies were largely unaffected, for the most part managing to keep up with the increased demand from nearly half of the UK drug taking population.

It’s also a nice reminder that UK drug suppliers are running a business, and they clearly take that business very seriously, showing the ability to adapt under extremely adverse conditions.

And they may be trading in illegal goods, but quite a few of them seemed to stick with the government suggested guidelines to stop the spread of the pandemic. I guess that was in their self-interest, it wouldn’t be good for business to infect your customers I guess!

This should be a useful update to both postmodern and global crimes as part of the Crime and Deviance module for A -level sociology,

The Covid Vaccines are not Safe

At least not according to Dr Mike Yeadon, who is the former Chief Science Officer at Pfizer and has 30 years experience working in developing vaccines to combat viruses such as covid-19.

You can watch an interview with him here on the Hive blockchain (video on Lbry), this has been censored from YouTube, but is still available on censorship resistant blockchain technology (which is why you should ALL buy Bitcoin and get on the Hive blockchain!).

Yeadon is not anti-vaccine (30 years working in the industry is evidence enough of that) but he is concerned that the latest coronavirus vaccines are experimental – gene based – so they call on your body to manufacture a response to covid – and the drug companies simply haven’t had sufficient time to put these new experimental drugs through the usual 2-3 years of clinical trials.

It follows that we do not yet have sufficient data on the potential short or long term consequences of these vaccines and thus any one of the hundreds of millions of people who have already received a dose of any of the new vaccines is taking part in a clinical trial.

He argues they have done so without being able to give their full, informed consent because governments around the world have lied to people by pushing out propaganda stating that the vaccines are ‘safe’.

His point is that we don’t have enough data to be able to say these vaccines are ‘safe’ – because they haven’t gone through a trial period yet, only after another couple of years, maybe more, will be able to make judgements as to their safety.

Governments and Pharmaceutical Companies are Criminals

Yeadon further suggests that this is criminal – that is the drug companies and governments pushing the vaccines are criminals because they are coercing the world’s population into taking part in a mass medical experiment without telling them the truth, without their informed consent.

This goes against International Law, specifically the Nuremberg Conventions, which explicitly states that human beings have the right to NOT take part in medical experiments without being able to give their full consent, which isn’t the case with the covid-19 vaccine.

This is especially worrying, says Yeadon, when the risk of most people dying from the virus itself are extremely minimal!

Really about Social Control?

The pharmaceutical industry is already manufacturing ‘top up’ vaccines, which he doesn’t believe are sufficiently different to provide any kind of protection against future variations in Coronavirus

Mike Yeadon further argues that nation states and drug companies could be undermining liberal democracy itself – IF we enter a future where ‘vaccine passports’ become the norm then this could effectively mean people are forced into taking part in this mass clinical trial if they wish to travel from one country to another, or maybe even to go to work or to the supermarket.

Relevance to A-level Sociology

This is what sociology is REALLY about – here’s a critical scientist basically being objective and just stating a fact – that the covid vaccines cannot be said to be safe because they haven’t yet undergone a suitable trial-period of 2-3 years.

And here we have powerful interests colluding to manipulate the world’s population into taking part in a medical trial by lying to them, which is in contravention of international law and against human rights.

Obvious links to crime and deviance and state crime here!

There are also links to the media – critical discussion of the pandemic is being censored in mainstream and social media.

There are also more obscure links to Ulrich Beck’s ‘Risk Society’ thesis – this in an interesting example of when ‘risk’ seems to have gone out of the window!

Sociological Observations on the UK’s Vaccine Role-Out

The UK has vaccinated more people (proportionate to population) than any other country:

This is probably due to a combination of the following:

  • A successful ‘social policy’ initiative by the UK government – a sustained focus on getting as many people as possible vaccinated in as short a time as possible and the funding to match.
  • Our National Health Service – so having the infrastructure in place already to enable a relatively easy roll-out of the vaccinations.
  • The fact that UK companies are in the front-line of researching and producing the vaccine – so our ‘industrial and knowledge infrastructure’.
  • Possibly the high level of trust people place in the medical profession (not so much in the government).

However, ethnic and class inequalities are still in evidence:

It’s interesting that the UK is so far ahead of the rest of the EU in rolling out the vaccine, so clearly this isn’t just a matter of ‘developed’ countries being better equipped to roll out mass vaccination programmes.

However I think it’s certainly the case that without a functioning Nation State a mass vaccination programme would be much more difficult to roll-out and track.

Ethnic minorities are less likely to have received the vaccine

Lower social classes are less likely to have received the vaccine:

You should be able to apply some perspectives and sociological concepts to analyse why this may be the case – perhaps lower levels of trust in institutions by these groups?

Interestingly India has just started a mass roll-out of vaccines, aiming to inoculate 300 million people by August – I have a feeling they are going to hit their target, despite the much larger number of people and larger geographical area!

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How is Coronavirus Affecting Developing Countries?

It is worth distinguishing first of all between the negative health effects of the virus itself and the negative effects of government lockdowns. The severity of lockdowns and the capacity to enforce them vary from country to country, and so the consequences of this politically imposed response to the pandemic will vary greatly across countries.

EVEN IF the stats are unreliable, governments the world over have responded with lockdown measures in response to public concern, which has very real consequences.

Lockdowns are pushing people into poverty, hunger and children are being pulled out of school

This brief report from the ODI puts a human face on the consequences of Covid-19. They provide a case study of one woman in Nairobi, Kenya, who was eating three meals a day and sending her children to school pre-lockdown.

However, lockdown forced the shutdown of her street food stall and now she is eating one meal a day, the children are meal sharing at another household and she doesn’t have the money to send them back to school.

Coronavirus has pushed another 71 million people into extreme poverty

The World Bank estimates that 71 million more people will be pushed into extreme poverty in 2021 as a result of coronavirus, an increase of 0.5% and taking the total to nearly 9% of the world population, eradicating all progress towards ending extreme poverty since 2017.

A further 170 million people in low to middle income countries will be pushed below the global poverty lines of $3.20 and $5.50 a day.

How covid-19 has affected households in developing countries

Another World Bank report from December 2020 used phone surveys to interview people in IDA (countries qualifying for development assistance, mostly the poorest countries) and non-IDA countries.

The results show that the consequences have generally been harsher for people in developing countries:

  • People in IDA countries are less likely to have stopped working but more likely to have taken cuts in wages.
  • They are more likely to have skipped a meal.
  • Children’s education has suffered much more in IDA countries compared to non-IDA countries
  • Government bail outs are much less common in IDA countries.

This united Nations article suggests that poorer countries lack the capacity to respond to a global pandemic and that coronavirus could create further burdens in those countries having to deal with other major health problems such as aids and malaria.

It further notes that closure of borders will affect those countries reliant on trade, and reduce remittances from abroad (money sent home), reduce migrant labour opportunities and affect those countries which rely on tourism for income.

Covid-19 will increase inequality

A final World Bank report suggests that inequality will increase as a result of Covid-19.

This is based on evidence from how countries have recovered from previous Pandemics.

The theory is that households with resources are better able to weather the negative affects of a downturn, by keeping their children in school for example, and by using savings rather than taking on debt, and so can just ‘carry on’ as normal when economic recover comes, while poorer people are having to play catch up.

It’s explained in this handy infographic:

Those working in the informal sector are hardest hit

This LSE. blog post reminds us that many more people work informally in developed countries – and these people will be the hardest hit by lockdown policies – they are the first to be laid-off when work is reduced and they do not qualify for any government assistance measures either.

Other potential impacts

You should be able to find out about other impacts, such as:

  • In the long term more countries might cut their foreign aid budgets, like Britain has done recently.
  • Charities such as Oxfam are likely to receive less money from the general public.
  • It will be more difficult for migrant labourers to find work because of border restrictions.
  • I dread to think how all of this has affected the movement of refugees!
  • There have probably been more cases of domestic abuse worldwide as a result of lockdowns.
  • Possibly the most devastating long-term affect is the number of days of schooling that children in poorer countries would have missed – low income countries have much less capacity to offer home based, online learning, compared to wealthier countries.

Relevance to A-level sociology

This is mainly relevant to the health and global development topic, but there are also some useful links here to social constructionism and social action theory.

How has Coronavirus Affected the UK?

What are the short and long term affects of Coronavirus for the UK’s social and economic development?

in this post I focus on how Coronavirus has affected health (obviously) education, work and employment, as well economic growth prospects.

There are many more consequences I could focus on, but all of the above are specifically on the Global Development module specification as aspects of development for students of A-level sociology to consider.

How has Coronavirus impacted health in the UK?

NB – forgive me if the stats below date pretty quickly, this is a rapidly evolving situation, and I can’t update every post daily!

At time of writing the total number of covid related deaths in the UK has just surpassed 100 000, in the 11 months since recording of covid-deaths began in March 2020.

You can find out the latest figures at this government site.

The Office for National statistics allows you to look at the latest figures for covid-19 infections and covid-19 related deaths, without any of the ‘panic’ aspects (and without the distractions of flashing adverts) of the mainstream media.

The covid-related death rate is three times higher among men working in elementary and service occupations (the working classes) compared to those working in professional and managerial occupations (the upper middle classes)

There has been a reduction in the quality of care for those with other chronic-conditions, because of a combination of the NHS having to cope with covid-cases, and people being reluctant to seek treatment because of the pandemic.

This is an interesting article from the BBC which outlines the possible long term negative effects on mental health of dealing with Covid – including increased anxiety and OCD (hand washing!), loneliness, a sense of meaningless and uncertainty (anomie?) and depression – not least because of so many people having to deal with loss of someone they know among that 100, 000 death toll.

This research adds to above finding that there were statistically fewer people who started cancer treatment in 2020 compared to 2019, probably because of lower test rates due to covid-19.

How has Coronavirus impacted education in the UK?

Lockdown measures meant that students missed several months of in-school education in 202.

This report by the Nuffield Foundation suggests that pupils started school in September 3 months behind as a result of lockdown in 2020. There is also evidence that poorer students suffered more as they were less able to access online learning provision.

Exams were also cancelled in 2020, but GCSE and A-level pupils received better grades than students in previous years, because of the reliance of Teacher Predicted Grades. It remains to be seen whether this will be the case in 2021.

How has Coronavirus impacted work and employment in the UK?

The effects have varied enormously be sector. The service sectors have been hardest hit, with accommodation and food services suffering a 25% downturn by GDP because of the lockdown rules imposed in response to the pandemic.

Education has also taken quite a hit, but I guess the switch to online learning has lessened the impact here.

The impact has generally been a lot less (somewhat obviously) on sectors where it’s easier to work from home, on professional occupations and on rural occupations.

How has Coronavirus impacted economic growth the in the UK?

The UK has seen a projected decline in GDP growth in 2021 of – 12.9%, which is going to take years to recover from and an expected increase in unemployment going forwards into 2021-2024 – with unemployment figures double that what we’d anticipated for these years.

Also note the debt figures shown in the bottom rows – almost £400 bn borrowed in 2020-21 to cover the cost of dealing with the Pandemic. Not exactly small change!

And then the debt repayments as a percentage of our GDP increase from 5% to 15% – meaning the government is going to be spending 20% more for at least the next five years (and probably longer) to pay for the Pandemic!

This probably means cuts to welfare and public services sometime in 2021 or 2022 – given that the government is neoliberal and will be reluctant to raise taxes, also something which is difficult to do when the economy is struggling.

Selected Sources

HM Gov (November 2020) – Analysis of the Health, Economic and Social Consequences of Covid-19

UK Gov – an enquiry into the impact of covid-19 on education

ONS – Coronavirus impact of covid-19 on Higher Education

The coronavirus class-divide

Those in working class jobs are about two to three times more likely to die of covid-19 related deaths compared to those in middle class jobs.

The Office for National statistics allows you to look at the latest figures for covid-19 infections and covid-19 related deaths, and one of the aspects of the death rate it focuses on is how it varies by occupation.

The covid-related death rate is three times higher among men working in elementary and service occupations (the working classes) compared to those working in professional and managerial occupations (the upper middle classes)

The class difference in the covid related death rate isn’t quite as large for women – those in ‘working class’ jobs are only around twice as likely to die as those in professional jobs…

OK so I’m being quite crude in my measurements of social class, but nonetheless, this is yet more evidence of social class inequality in the UK

Why are the working classes more likely to die from Covid-19?

This article from The Conversation sums it up nicely:

Referring to the ‘coronavirus class divide’ (there’s a not so nice new concept for you!) the answer is very simple:

Working class jobs are the kind of jobs you have to be physically present to be able to do – cleaning, care work, taxi-driving, food and accomodation services – you simply have to be ‘out there’ away from home and you are more likely to be interacting with people.

And thus you are more exposed to the virus if you are working in a manual, working class job:

While if you’re in a managerial or professional role, it is much easier for you to work remotely, to work from home, or if you must go into your workplace, it is easier for you to maintain social distance by shielding yourself in an office or at your individual work station.

The figures for stay at home work, post lockdown, are much higher for those in middle class jobs:

So there is even a class divide when it comes to your chances of contracting and dying from covid-19

Relevance to A-level sociology

This can be used as a rather depressing update to the ‘death rate’ topic which is part of families and households, or the ‘health’ topic within global development.

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A Covid vaccine for the rich, but not the poor?

Moderna is a BioTech company that has had some recent success with a covid-19 vaccine in clinical trials – vaccine mRNA 1273.

There’s a video about it here:

Moderna says it has the capacity to produce 1 billion shots of the vaccine in 2021 and has already sold most of those shots to rich governments, and stands to make an estimated $8 billion next year from the vaccine.

In one deal the US government has agreed to pay $1.5 billion for 100 million shots (pending agreement of emergency legislation in January). The U.S. also has the option to buy a further 500 million doses (it might take two shots per person to work, so that would cover most of the US population).

More recently Modern agreed a deal with the European Union for up to 160 million doses of the vaccine.

Poor countries set to miss out?

As this article from Global Justice Now points out most of this new vaccine has already been bought up by rich world government.

There doesn’t appear to be much hope that developing countries will gain access to this vaccine in 2021, given that those 1 billion shots the company can produce have already been reserved for richer countries.

The rich benefit

Global Justice Now also report (in the article linked above) that this new vaccine has been funded with nearly $2.5 billion of public money, but with governments paying at least another $8 billion on top of this, this really does seem to be a tidy profit for Moderna.

Moderna’s stock has been increasing ever since it started leaking news about positive progress being made on the vaccine, with two leading executives having cashed out shares and made $30 million each.

The stock continues to rise on the back of the deals being struck with western governments for courses of the vaccine. It has quintupled in value since it started work on the vaccine….

Relevance to global development

This topic is clearly relevant to health and development, and also several theories of development.

This is clearly an example of a Transnational Corporation playing a positive role in development – it is developing a vaccine that will help combat a global pandemic, but we need to go further….

This is also an argument against neoliberal theories of development – governments are very involved here – tax payers money has provided a seed fund for this company and it is governments agreeing to buy the vaccine.

Finally, this seems to support global pessimist theories of globalisation – it is governments with the money and thus people in rich countries who are initially going to benefit from this vaccine, the poor in poor countries are going to have to wait.

We don’t know yet how developing countries are going to pay for this vaccine – if they have to pay? Will it be donated, will it be funded with loans?

That remains to be seen, but for now it seems like it’s vaccines for the rich, nothing for the poor!

A simple solution to avoid scrapping exams next year

I really don’t understand why there is such a panic over exams next year, when the solution is quite simple:

  1. Put all other school years not doing exams on a part-home study schedule with about 1/5 of their lessons to be done at home, self-study for the duration of the exams.
  2. This means every class gets 1 day home-study a week, make it the same day of the week per class for simplicity. So class 1A is always Monday, class 1B always Wednesday and so on.
  3. This will free up 1/5th of classrooms, set them up as exam-rooms.
  4. 1/5th of classrooms will be equivalent to the entire cohort (year 11) sitting their GCSE exams, so sufficient room even for those large compulsory exams such as English.
  5. If classrooms are a little cramped, a portion of the class could sit the exam in the regular exam hall (typically the sports hall) – but the extra space created by the classrooms being used should allow an extra measure of social distancing.
  6. Simply get GCSE students to sit their exams in their regular class-sets, even if in different class rooms.
  7. If necessary mix the teachers up as invigilators and get volunteer parents in to be second invigilators.

As far as I can see it the above is a pretty minimally disruptive way of minimising disruption for regular teaching while maintaining ‘class bubbles’ and the integrity of the exams.

Parents coming into the school will not increase the risk of transmission of covid compared their kids coming in!

OK there will be a bit more mixing of people than in regular classrooms, but honestly, will it be more than takes place during regular break times?

OK it’s a bit of hassle for the parents who may need one day off of work a week to look after their children, but it’s only for a month of exams.

I fail to see what all the fuss is about!

Of course with A-levels it should be a no-brainer to not scrap them – with those you COULD send the entirety of year 12 home to study independently for 3 weeks while the exams take place which really would create sufficient classroom space for the A-levels – year 12s are 16/17 so need no legal adult supervision at home!

Then teachers can simply teach the year 12s until the bitter-end of the summer term -right up until the 20th of July if necessary, rather than letting it all ease off.

The Economic Consequences of Coronavirus (part 1)

what are the economic consequences of covid-19?

Coronavirus has had a negative effect on economic growth. Lockdown measures imposed by governments the world over have seen disruption to global supply chains, a decrease in international trade, an increase in unemployment, and a decrease in investment and global wealth in general.

Coronavirus has decreased global wealth

Probably the easiest way to summarise the economic consequences of coronavirus is to look at the impact it has had on Global Wealth, which I’ve already summarised in this blog post here.

Global Wealth has decreased by $8 trillion compared to where it was projected it would have been before the outbreak of the pandemic.

Personally I find this the most useful individual indicator, as it just takes one static gross snap shot figure and compares it with another, it’s very easy to understand.

Coronavirus has pushed most countries into recession

The latest data from the International Monetary Fund shows most countries with less than 0% GDP growth for 2020, so negative growth, that’s all countries in red below, accessed November 2020.

However, we need to look at a lot more figures to get a fuller picture.

Further reports emphasise the near universal negative consequences of Coronavirus:

This report (June 2020) by the World Bank predicts a 5% decrease in global GDP over the coming year, the largest decline since the 1870s, with all regions and countries showing significant cuts to their expected (pre-covid) economic growth rates.

The consequences of this economic slowdown which will be declining rates of investment, job losses and a corresponding decline in the rate social development in many developing countries.

Some sectors have been especially badly hit – the price of oil fell drastically with the Pandemic, but the agricultural sector has not been so badly effected. As a general rule, you might say that the less essential the sector, then the more it has been affected!

This report highlights that no country will escape the effects of Covid-19 unscathed, but China and Asia will probably fair better than the rest.

How Coronavirus Disrupted Global Supply Chains

The immediate impact of Coronavirus was a significant disruption to global supply chains, meaning that many global retailers struggled to maintain stocks of their products.

Supply chain problems also meant that manufacturers had to slow down or cease production of their products altogether, because they struggled to source raw materials.

Lockdown measures imposed in China in early 2020 were the main cause of this, because China is the world’s biggest manufacturer – it not only produces a lot of ‘end products’ (such as iPhones) but it also manufactures a lot of components that factories in other parts of the world need in the products they produce.

To find out more, this article by Bloomburg outlines how disruption to global supply chains impacted a variety of businesses all over the world – from watchmakers in Hong Kong to Lobster fishermen in New Zealand, it does a great job of highlighting the truly global effects of the Pandemic.

According to analysis of data on Tradeshift (a global supply platform) by the World Economic Forum global trade fell dramatically in February – April 2020. Chinese trade transactions fell by over 50% in March 2020, and the United States and Europe followed suit with a 26% drop in April, and a 17% drop after that.

The article suggests that as Chinese trade declined because of lockdown measures, global manufacturers struggled to source materials from other countries and so their production also slowed down.

What Coronavirus has revealed is that the world has become very dependent on China as the source of products – and when it goes into lockdown the rest of the world suffers.

The article further suggests that manufactures will probably look to diversify their supply bases in the future so as to be less dependent on China – and countries such as India, Vietnam and Mexico will probably be the main beneficiaries from this.

Another possible change might be more production in developed countries, further decentralising global supply networks,

So maybe the long term impact of globalisation will be a much more diverse form of economic globalisation (with China being less dominant) and maybe a reversal of the globalisation of manufacturing if we end up with more manufacturing taking place in developed countries?

The effects of Coronavirus on Transnational Corporations

A 2020 World Bank survey of Multinational Enterprises found that more than 90% had been negatively impacted by the Coronavirus Pandemic.

75% reported decreasing reliability of supply chains (meaning more difficulty in producing stuff) and decreasing worker productivity.

Half of MNEs surveyed have cut investment in developing countries by an average of 30% and 40% have reduced employment by an average of 16% – so overall that’s an average reducing of 15% investment and around 7% in employment.

The report (linked above) calls on governments to provide tax breaks to MNEs as well as more deregulation, so in other words more neoliberalisation, which is unsurprising coming from the World Bank.

Not all sectors have been affected equally

As has been reported widely, sectors of the economy associated with travel and leisure, such as the oil and aviation sectors have been affected very badly, with the number of flights taken being significantly reduced.

However, one sector which is doing better, with the hope of a vaccine coming soon, is the Pharmaceutical sector:

NB – these aren’t the only economic consequences of Coronavirus – I will cover the human cost in a separate post, in which I focus on the disruption to people’s working lives – the small enterprises struggling with lockdown measures, and how so many people are struggling to cope with reduced income and job losses.

Selected Sources

World Economic Forum: Here’s how global supply chains will change after COVID-19

Bloomburg: The Virus is interrupting Supply Chains