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As we approach 2021, a growing number of Europeans are sceptical about our governments’ respective responses to coronavirus.

My guess is that people are becoming suspicious about the loss of their civil liberties, which was only supposed to last for two to three weeks, yet continues to this day — nine months on.

There is no end in sight as we face the possibility of another sharp, nationwide lockdown early in the New Year.

France

This was a major topic of discussion on RMC’s Les Grandes Gueules today.

Vaccinations have reached saturation point in France, even though the programme has barely started. Perhaps the government was too slow in obtaining more doses at the outset:

Regardless, in France, as well as everywhere else, even the vaccinated will need to continue to wear masks — possibly even after their second BioNtech/Pfizer jab:

Of course, mass vaccination is the only way that a nation’s economy can once again flourish. Recall that for most age groups — up to the 70+ cohort — the average death rate is around 0.05%:

In the meantime, the question arose over whether future lockdowns should be national or regional. (We’ve tried both recently in England and Wales. It doesn’t seem to make much difference.) This educator says that we can’t stay locked down for the next ten years — ‘I’m horrified. We’re in a world of madness”:

The lawyer on the panel disagreed, saying that we need lockdowns until we get the all clear. Someone responded to the tweet casting doubt on government statistics, saying that lies are a way of dramatising the situation — Project Fear:

Listeners rang in to say that they were sceptical about lockdowns and mandatory vaccines. The lockdowns don’t seem to work and there aren’t enough data yet to show that the vaccines are reliable and safe, especially if they operate like the flu vaccine, meaning that one is still susceptible to getting coronavirus, albeit a milder form of it.

Spain

The Spanish government is considering whether to develop a list of residents who do not take the vaccine then circulate those names to other countries to restrict their movements.

British talk show host Maajid Nawaz of LBC warned that this is a very dangerous step for a nation to take. He said that, years ago, he was a prisoner of conscience in Egypt and found out how far the state can go in controlling one’s life. The response to his video is quite telling:

Someone else replying said that Spain would not be able to circulate the list because of personal privacy laws under the Europe-wide GDPR regulations. Hmm, I wonder:

England

Maajid Nawaz had another excellent commentary on the futility of lockdowns. He said that only one person in the UK has put together a cost benefit analysis for public consumption and that only the Times has published it. Apparently, 500,000 lives are adversely affected among the general population and they are not COVID-19 ‘cases’ or inpatients. He added that Government ministers have a lot of data they refuse to reveal to the public. I would go further and say they are not even revealing it to MPs. Matt Hancock lets nothing out in Parliament, only more fear-mongering messages, then expects MPs to approve more restrictions:

Simon Dolan, a businessman who has sued the Government over lockdown, points out that lockdown relies on asymptomatic transmission being true. However, yet another study shows that there is no truth behind asymptomatic transmission:

The latest study, which the JAMA published, focusses on household transmission:

On lockdown, Simon Dolan posits:

Yes, most probably.

But what about the lorry drivers stranded at Dover because Emmanuel Macron didn’t want them coming into Calais unless they were tested? Only a tiny number tested positive:

It’s no wonder people are sceptical.

In closing, I have been waiting for an ecological impact assessment on masks. Here it is:

Does anyone else find it odd that, given the alarm over coronavirus, no country has any HAZMAT bins for used masks? Shouldn’t worn masks be considered hazardous waste?

It makes one wonder …

More to come.

Last week, I ran two posts about the merits of disposable plastic bags:

The one positive out of coronavirus: disposable plastic makes a comeback

Why tote bags are not necessarily better for our health or the environment

Many people think that a return to paper bags is better for the environment, however, few know just how polluting paper production is.

In some ways, paper is worse for the environment than disposable plastic.

HowStuffWorks has a great post, ‘Paper Versus Plastic: Environmental Disadvantages of Each’, an excerpt from which follows. Bold emphases are in the original; those in purple are mine:

  • Causes pollution: Paper production emits air pollution, specifically 70 percent more pollution than the production of plastic bags [source: Thompson]. According to certain studies, manufacturing paper emits 80 percent more greenhouse gases [source: Lilienfield]. And, consider that making paper uses trees that, instead, could be absorbing carbon dioxide. The paper bag making process also results in 50 times more water pollutants than making plastic bags [source: Thompson].
  • Consumes energy: Even though petroleum goes into making plastic, it turns out that making a paper bag consumes four times as much energy as making a plastic bag, meaning making paper consumes a good deal of fuel [source: reusablebags.com].
  • Consumes water: The production of paper bags uses three times the amount of water it takes to make plastic bags [source: Lilienfield].
  • Inefficient recycling: The process of recycling paper can be inefficient — often consuming more fuel than it would take to make a new bag [source: Milstein]. In addition, it takes about 91 percent more energy to recycle a pound of paper than a pound of plastic [source: reusablebags.com].
  • Produces waste: According to some measures, paper bags generate 80 percent more solid waste [source: Lilienfield].
  • Biodegrading difficulties: Surprisingly, the EPA has stated that in landfills, paper doesn’t degrade all that much faster than plastics [source: Lilienfield].

On the last point, ReuseThisBag — a pro-tote bag site — explains (emphases mine):

  • It doesn’t break down any faster than plastic in landfills. That’s because, while paper breaks down much faster under ideal conditions, landfills are not ideal conditions. The lack of light, air and oxygen means pretty much nothing decomposes, so paper and plastic are destined to spend equal amounts of time there.
  • Paper bags are bigger than plastic, which means they take up more space in landfills. They’re recycled at a higher rate, which mitigates that fact, but that still means they still have a greater per-bag impact on landfills.

Shipping paper is also more expensive:

  • Paper bags are very thick, so shipping them costs more fuel per bag.

Therefore, out of paper, tote or disposable plastic bags, the plastic bags seem to be the best option. Of course, we know the disadvantages of plastic, but, if we are responsible in disposing of them, there is no problem.

I have a collection of plastic bags, because at some point, post-coronavirus, they might be difficult to get in shops.

They have their purpose on this planet. I reuse mine for all sorts of things before discarding them.

In closing, last year, while I was out in the front garden, a dog walker with three canines in tow, asked me if I had any spare plastic bags. The dogs had eaten something they should not have, and she’d run out of waste bags.

I gave her three or four disposable plastic bags, which made the rest of her walk that much easier and our neighbourhood that much cleaner.

Yesterday, I made a case for plastic carrier bags.

Shops in England were supposed to stop using single-use bags earlier this year and switch to paper. However, coronavirus has put paid to that because … getting a new plastic bag from the shop has next to no germs on it, compared with reusable totes.

On March 14, 2020, the New York Post published an article about the positives of plastic bags: ‘Using tote bags instead of plastic could help spread the coronavirus’.

The article appeared originally in City Journal, where the author, John Tierney, is a contributing editor.

Highlights follow, emphases mine.

Everyone’s going green not only with tote bags, but also reusable cups. I can’t think of anything more distasteful than asking for one’s reusable cup to be refilled. What is going through retailers’ and legislators’ minds? Talk about a disease multiplier!

This is what happened in New York State in March:

a new law took effect this month banning single-use plastic bags in most retail businesses, and this week Democratic state legislators advanced a bill that would force coffee shops to accept consumers’ reusable cups — a practice that Starbucks and other chains have wisely suspended to avoid spreading the COVID-19 virus.

John Flanagan, the Republican leader of New York’s Senate, rightly objected. He:

has criticized the new legislation and called for a suspension of the law banning plastic bags. “Senate Democrats’ desperate need to be green is unclean during the coronavirus outbreak,” he said Tuesday, but so far he’s been a lonely voice among public officials.

No doubt everything is suspended for now. You can imagine how New York got such high infection rates. Perhaps this will be examined later when the pandemic has died off.

We’re supposed to wash our tote bags regularly — admittedly, I do not, but I consider myself to be very careful. No doubt everyone else with tote bags does, too!

The COVID-19 virus is just one of many pathogens that shoppers can spread unless they wash the bags regularly, which few people bother to do. Viruses and bacteria can survive in the tote bags up to nine days, according to one study of coronaviruses.

The risk of spreading viruses was clearly demonstrated in a 2018 study published in the Journal of Environmental Health. The researchers, led by Ryan Sinclair of the Loma Linda University School of Public Health, sent shoppers into three California grocery stores carrying polypropylene plastic tote bags that had been sprayed with a harmless surrogate of a virus.

After the shoppers bought groceries and checked out, the researchers found sufficiently high traces of the surrogate to risk transmission on the hands of the shoppers and checkout clerks, as well as on many surfaces touched by the shoppers, including packaged food, unpackaged produce, shopping carts, checkout counters, and the touch screens used to pay for groceries. The researchers said that the results warranted the adaptation of “in-store hand hygiene” and “surface disinfection” by merchants, and they also recommended educating shoppers to wash their bags.

Another study found that single-use bags were hygienic at the time they were provided at the point of sale:

An earlier study of supermarkets in Arizona and California found large numbers of bacteria in almost all the reusable bags — and no contamination in any of the new single-use plastic bags. When a bag with meat juice on the interior was stored in the trunk of a car, within two hours the number of bacteria multiplied tenfold.

Yes, there are all sorts of dangerous bacteria lurking in reusable bags, including e. Coli:

The researchers also found that the vast majority of shoppers never followed the advice to wash their bags. One of the researchers, Charles Gerba of the University of Arizona, said that the findings “suggest a serious threat to public health,” particularly from fecal coliform bacteria, which was found in half the bags. These bacteria and other pathogens can be transferred from raw meat in the bag and also from other sources.

An outbreak of viral gastroenteritis among a girls’ soccer team in Oregon was traced to a reusable grocery bag that had sat on the floor of a hotel bathroom. In a 2012 study, researchers analyzed the effects of San Francisco’s ban on single-use plastic grocery bags by comparing emergency-room admissions in the city against those of nearby counties without the bag ban. The researchers, Jonathan Klick of the University of Pennsylvania and Joshua Wright of George Mason University, reported a 25 percent increase in bacteria-related illnesses and deaths in San Francisco relative to the other counties.

And, as I said yesterday, the bags end up sitting everywhere before they pop on top of the supermarket counter:

New York’s state officials were told of this risk before they passed the law banning plastic bags. In fact, as the Kings County Politics Web site reported, a Brooklyn activist, Allen Moses, warned that shoppers in New York City could be particularly vulnerable because they often rest their bags on the floors of subway cars containing potentially deadly bacteria from rats — and then set the bag on the supermarket checkout counter. Yet public officials remain committed to reusable bags.

To get around this, New York has developed an elaborate set of shopping and packing guidelines which, oddly enough, include a greater use of plastic:

A headline on the Web site of the New York Department of Health calls reusable grocery bags a “Smart Choice”bizarre advice, considering all the elaborate cautions underneath that headline. The department advises grocery shoppers to segregate different foods in different bags; to package meat and fish and poultry in small disposable plastic bags inside their tote bags; to wash and dry their tote bags carefully; to store the tote bags in a cool, dry place; and never to reuse the grocery tote bags for anything but food.

You couldn’t make it up.

I agree 110% with John Flanagan:

Disposable plastic is the cheapest, simplest, and safest way to prevent foodborne illnesses.

Instead, leaders in New York and other states are ordering shoppers to make a more expensive, inconvenient and risky choice — all to serve a green agenda that’s actually harmful to the environment. The ban on plastic bags will mean more trash in landfills (because paper bags take up so much more space than the thin disposable bags) and more greenhouse emissions (because of the larger carbon footprints of the replacement bags). And now, probably, it will also mean more people coming down with COVID-19 and other illnesses.

I wouldn’t be at all surprised if that’s what partly accounted for New York State’s high COVID-19 rates. I hope we will find out one day.

Bottom line: disposable plastic is hygienic.

Like many of my readers, no doubt, I have to turn off the authoritarian madness surrounding coronavirus every day.

There is one silver lining to the Chi-vi, though: the comeback of disposable plastic.

Last year in England, Conservative (?!) MPs disparaged ‘the scourge of disposable plastic’.

Those of us who find plastic bags and straws useful smirked.

It turns out that, with coronavirus, we had the last — and best — laugh. Never mind if it’s temporary, we have found that disposable plastic bags and containers are actually hygienic. We know from the spread of e. Coli since the advent of reusable tote bags.

With the prevalence of coronavirus in March, merchants in England did a re-think on reusable bags. They give customers plastic bags now, in store and for home delivery.

The United States also recognises the questionable hygiene surrounding reusable tote bags:

Good, good.

People are hardly likely to take care of their tote bags, are they?

Said bags sit on the pavement, the bus or train floor and the manky kitchen counter before they sit on a supermarket checkout counter. Errgh.

Even reusable cups — the latest eco-friendly fad before coronavirus — have been banned in various establishments, and rightly so:

Good, good.

In England, some supermarkets began to deliver home shopping orders in paper bags before coronavirus. The same supermarkets switched back to sturdy plastic when lockdown was announced on Monday, March 23. Even now that lockdown has been largely lifted, supermarkets are still packaging customer purchases in plastic bags.

My weekly — not to mention monthly — waste was much less with plastic bags. Although my butcher, thankfully, still uses them, my fishmonger has switched to paper.

With the butcher, I can rinse the plastic packaging — a flimsy white bag — and dump it into the waste bin which has items I cannot recycle. Those bags are very small. If I am concerned about any residual odour during the summer months, I put the rinsed bags into a clean plastic bag from a local shop and pop them in the bin. Those clean plastic bags contained vegetables or other items I purchased in other shops. I am reusing them.

With the fishmonger, it’s an entirely different story. He bundles everything in three pieces of paper wrap and puts purchases in a flimsy paper shopping bag, which starts bursting at the bottom before I can get it in the door.

‘Those shopping bags are expensive’, he says.

I’d rather he went back to the plastic sealable bags he once used. I had next to no waste. I could even give each bag a good soapy wash after removing the fish and could reuse them at least three times apiece. Where’s the waste there?

With his new paper system, I have to bundle a load of smelly paper into one trash bag that never used to have any fishmonger’s waste. This means that when I normally would not have had to put the non-recyclable waste bin out, I do now — after visiting his shop.

I tried to explain to him that paper production is water-intensive and equally expensive in other ways. However, his two daughters, and no doubt his wife, have convinced him that this is the way to go.

There is another aspect of disposable plastic that relates to coronavirus: disposable masks, which are becoming increasingly more mandatory in various nations in various circumstances!

Strangely, those who support the wearing of masks — even the disposable plastic ones — also support carrying one’s own tote bags and reusable drinks containers.

You could not make this up.

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