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Affordable Daycare for Working Parents in the Post-COVID Era

by John Brian Shannon

Most people who work in Britain’s National Health Service have children — whether those NHS workers are Doctors, Surgeons or other professionals, or are Hospital maintenance staff — the vast majority of them have children who live at home.

Which isn’t a problem when there’s no Coronavirus going ’round.

But during the first wave of the COVID-19 Coronavirus, many parents were forced to choose between going to work so they can pay their mortgage, or staying at home to care for their children. A terrifying choice for parents. And it created a terrifying problem for the NHS because at the time the national healthcare service needed the maximum number of staff — NHS staff were booking time off work to stay at home with their kids.

Fortunately, the NHS has a list of former employees and another list of people who had applied to work for the NHS but hadn’t yet been selected. This worked as a kind of pressure relief valve, although it couldn’t replace the vast number of Moms or Dads who took leave to care for their youngsters.

And that, friends, isn’t the best way to run a railroad!

Daycare Located Near the Workplace for Working Parents

Now that the second COVID-19 wave is starting, some jurisdictions in Canada, the U.S. and Australia are telling parents that school opening dates will be delayed, perhaps indefinitely. And I expect the same will happen in the UK over the coming weeks as the second wave hits with even greater impact than the first wave.

And again the NHS will have parents taking time off work to take care of their suddenly school-less children. Of course, as I wrote above, there are some, repeat some former NHS people and some future hires that the health service can access to alleviate staffing shortages during the second wave, but it won’t be enough to cover the shortfall.

It’s no wonder that healthcare workers were posting images of themselves on social media earlier this year to show us what it looks like to work 12-15 hours per day in a Hospital while wearing uncomfortable PPE and working in unusually crowded conditions with overtired co-workers. Not the ideal situation for healthcare outcomes.

What the NHS needs to do is to offer free daycare for parents and locate it within one block of the Hospital where one or both of the parents work.

Mom (or Dad) who works at the Hospital simply drops junior off at the daycare facility located across the street from the Hospital, and then picks up the child on the way home — for as many days as school remains closed. So obvious!

This should’ve started in the 1950’s when women began working away from home. And not only the NHS should’ve been doing this since then, but the National Healthcare Service serves as a poignant example for this discussion.

All medium-to-large companies should offer free daycare within one block of their factory, office tower, or retail shopping mall: It would be a major benefit to working parents, it would be a benefit to companies so they don’t have workers taking time off work to look after their kids, and it would be a benefit to society.

That’s why it should be mandated by legislation, backed by educators of preschool and school age children, and backed by companies.

Perhaps a tax break for companies that purchase and operate an appropriately-sized daycare centre across the street from their location is the way to get it done — Pronto!

Rethinking the UK Education System in the Coronavirus Era

by John Brian Shannon

It turns out that Coronavirus didn’t magically disappear during 3-months of lockdown, in fact, it seems to be back with a vengeance. And while treatment has improved, those already hit with the nasty virus may have permanent heart damage according to experts who now say that 2/3rds of all COVID-19 survivors suffer from decreased heart function.

Heart Damage Even After COVID-19 ‘Recovery’ Evokes Specter of Later Heart Failure (MedScape.com)

Yes, the miracle drug (hopefully!) Remdesivir may turn COVID-19 from a killer disease into a week or two of self-isolation and flu-like symptoms (which is bad enough, but it beats dying from the Novel Coronavirus) however it doesn’t stop people from catching it. Remdesivir helps patients recover more quickly from the disease — especially the very ill — but nowhere in the literature that accompanies the medicine does it say that it prevents COVID-19.

Coronavirus drug remdesivir to cost $2,340 per patient in the U.S. (GlobalNews.ca)

And (you’ll hate this part) the present Coronavirus strain is merely one version of the larger Coronavirus family with newer versions appearing at irregular intervals. So my bet is that there will be another COVID crisis — perhaps with a more serious variant than the present SARS-CoV-2 (which most people know by the name COVID-19, or the Novel Coronavirus)

Naming the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and the virus that causes it (WHO.int)

And now, cats, dogs and ferrets are dying from Coronavirus. Which is not great, as they roam everywhere and like to lick their friends and family to greet them — making pets potential carriers of the disease to unsuspecting humans and to other pets.

Exclusive: ‘Buddy’ first dog to test positive for COVID-19 in the U.S. has died (NationalGeographic.com)

So, it looks like Coronavirus is going to be around for a long time; Yes, the treatment is improving, but it’s still a serious disease even with presently available treatments. And a vaccine seems like it will be ‘only a year or two away’ for the next five years — if you take my meaning.

With the “R Rate” Increasing and School Openings Looming, Now’s the Time to Rethink the UK Education System

According to Cambridge University, the R-rate (the rate at which a virus is retransmitted to others) is over 1 to 1, and may be as high as 1 to 1.04 in some parts of the UK.

And that means the UK is (temporarily) losing the battle against COVID-19 — no doubt due to the recently relaxed lockdown and with thousands of people visiting beaches, packed pubs, and other public spaces without the dual disciplines of mask-wearing and regular handwashing.

Coronavirus R rate ‘above one’ in some parts of UK amid second wave fears (TheMirror.co.uk)

So, people, let’s get real. Coronavirus is here to stay. Which means it’s time to make some decisions. These aren’t the kinds of decisions that we can chew on for months;

These are ‘August decisions’ — which means these decisions must be made in August 2020. And these may well turn out to be life and death decisions so don’t shirk your responsibilities to your family and community.

In the Quest for Efficiency, Schools Have Been Getting Larger Every Decade (which is great for efficiency!) But it’s Also Great for Virus Retransmission

Maybe now is the time to reverse the economic efficiency mandate and do what’s best for children’s health, for family health, and for pet health as it may turn out that pets are major retransmitters of Coronavirus.

Think of a school system where all children in Grade I and Grade II attend their classes in one building, while Grades III and IV attend their school in a different location (maybe only blocks away for the convenience of parents who drop-off and pick-up their different-aged kids from school) and Grades V and VI in a different school — again, not too far apart; just let’s have them not breathing the same air.

  • None of those proposed schools should have more than 100 pupils per location.
  • Grades I and II (for example) plus teachers and vice-principal shouldn’t total more than 120 people.
  • That keeps the cohort of potential COVID-19 infections to a small number of people.
  • And similar applies for other grades; III and IV in another school, V and VI in another location, and grades VII and VIII in another building, etc.,
  • Gymnasiums could be in a 5th (nearby) location, and employ a reservation system.

YES! Schools would become more numerous, much smaller and more quickly built!

If China can build two Coronavirus hospitals in one week, the UK should be able to build two 100-pupil schools per county, per week, in the UK.

How China Built Two Coronavirus Hospitals in Just Over a Week (WallStreetJournal.com)

All that needs doing is to source the land and plunk some fast-build structures in place designed to hold 120-people.

If you know anything about construction challenges — that’s about the smallest challenge ever offered to large construction firms! — especially if they decide to use ‘modular’ design, and much of the construction could be done in factories that already produce construction-site oriented buildings or other temporary buildings.

Companies all over the UK could be building these structures during August and deliver them in time for the beginning of the school year. ‘On-time and On-budget’ please!

High School kids might need to wait a few weeks for their buildings to be delivered, but nothing that would stop them from completing their studies by June 2021.

Parents, School Districts and Various Levels of Government: Now is NOT the Time to be Timid; Now is the Time to Leap Forward to a Decentralized School Buildings Model!

There are some great school buildings in the UK — some with a brilliant history. Sir Isaac Newton was schooled in the UK, for example.

And there’s no doubt that special buildings should be preserved as an entire generation switches over to small cohort school buildings. Such valuable buildings could become museums, City Hall office spaces, office space for MP’s and doctors/dentists, etc., or be carefully preserved and listed — but leased to companies for office space.

But for now, keeping kids safe should be the main concern.

Decentralizing the present school buildings/location model might be the way to dramatically lower the R-rate and simultaneously prevent the UK economy from failing during future waves of Coronavirus (or other virus) infections throughout the country.

And we can do that by keeping cohort sizes small among school-aged children by educating them in small, relatively inexpensive, modular school buildings, in handy locations for parents and kids in each and every neighbourhood throughout the UK.

As COVID-19 appears to be with us indefinitely, it’s time to build new and smaller schools and thereby reduce future retransmission of infectious diseases.

Two Surefire Ways to Stimulate the post-COVID Economy

by John Brian Shannon

Eliminating the VAT until December 31 would stimulate the UK economy so much that by 2021 the economic hit from COVID-19 would be completely reversed.

Prior to July 08, 2020 the VAT in the United Kingdom was 20% on most items. However, the government sought to stimulate spending in the tourism sector by lowering their VAT to 15% on most items and admissions. Which was a bit underwhelming. To say the least.

Guidance on the temporary reduced rate of VAT for hospitality, holiday accommodation and attractions (GOV.UK)

I understand that the present UK government is Conservative-led and that caution rules their thinking, but a 5% cut to the VAT is nothing. They might as well not bother as it’s likely to have little effect.

Yes, they’re concerned about driving up the deficit in a (perhaps) uncertain economy. But let’s not feed that uncertainty by underwhelming the credit rating agencies!

Uncertain times call for CERTAINTY, not TINKERING with the economy.

Even Canada, a Country of 38-Million People Saw Fit to Run a $256 Billion Deficit to Assist Canadians

By contrast, the UK government which leads a country of 67-million people has cringed at running a deficit of £361.5 billion. That’s too little, too late, I’m afraid.

UK public borrowing to exceed £350bn with Sunak stimulus plan (FT.com)

To run with Canada and other Western nations in the post-COVID economic recovery period, the UK must do better than that!

Basic arithmetic will tell you that to meet Canada’s level of committent to its citizens, the UK with 67-million people would need to spend £451 billion in 2020.

That’s real money, delivered into the hands of Britons and British businesses to be spent in the UK economy to restart the UK economy.

Really, at this point, there’s nothing more important than restarting the UK economy; Debt-to-GDP and the present deficit are unimportant next to restarting the economy.

Rishi Sunak — nice person that he is — has listened to too many Conservative MP’s and not enough to economists, citizens, and the UK business community.

Normally, it would be a fine thing that a Chancellor of the Exchequer would pay such close attention to MP’s, as it signifies that the Chancellor is a good listener, but now is not the time to listen to overly-cautious (non-economist) Parliamentarians… now is the time to act boldly!

Regular Readers Know I Complain about Deficit Spending

But I only complain because, historically speaking (some) governments were just too lazy to oversee every pound spent in the economy and thereby engaged in deficit spending even when the economy was rocketing along with a high annual growth rate. And folks, there’s no excuse for that. It’s lazy bookkeeping and governments should be tossed from power whenever they fall below that level of fiscal responsibility.

The reason we need to be prudent with our spending during the boom times is so that we have some economic room to manoeuvre when things hit the fan, as they invariably do from time to time. Such as during Coronavirus, such as during the US subprime mortgage crisis, during times of high unemployment, or times of labour strife. And that’s the whole point of this blog post.

Governments need to be fiscally responsible during the boom times so there’s money to deal with things like Coronavirus.

Former Chancellor George Osborne was exceptionally prudent during a time of crisis (and unfairly) wasn’t able to retain his position long enough to enjoy the good times when they returned. He surely would’ve made the best of it — but was on the wrong side of Brexit — very unfortunately for him, and for the UK.

And unfortunately for Rishi Sunak — who is an easy person to like — he’s trying to please Conservative party stalwarts instead of trying to goose the economy to the same level as the UK’s competitor nations. And while we all like Rishi, that doesn’t work for him.

Please, Mr. Chancellor, put the UK’s stimulus spending to the same per capita footing as other Western economies to allow the UK to rocket out of the economic doldrums like an F-35 taking off from the deck of the HMS Prince of Wales… So important!

The Easiest Way to Stimulate the Economy…

Is by ‘topping-up’ the income of every adult British citizen in the UK to £1250 per month via a reverse income tax — thereby instantly replacing every other (overlapping and prohibitively expensive to administer) anti-poverty programme that poverty-stricken people receive assistance from in the UK, and that ‘top-up’ should also include any senior citizen who lives under the official poverty line in the UK.

For those earning over (approx) £20,000/yr. those people wouldn’t receive money from such a programme.

But for those living under the official poverty line amount, their income should be topped-up to £1250 per month in one payment from HMRC. And every pound sterling of that money will be spent in the local economy allowing that person to live and be ready to work when the economy improves, meaning 100% of that stimulus money will be spent in the economy.

Which is quite unlike when the government hands billions to corporations, where 50% of that stimulus goes straight to shareholders, many of whom may not live in the UK, spend money in the UK, nor retire in the UK. Therefore, half of any (corporate) stimulus money the government hands to corporations flies out of the UK never to be seen again. And that should be illegal. Certainly, if taxpayers knew the extent of this since 1950 there’d be a civil war.

The Coronavirus Economy NEEDS a Guaranteed Basic Income NOW! (LetterToBritain.com)

But my plea to the UK’s excellent Chancellor isn’t about plugging that particular loophole (yet) it’s about spending another £100 billion in the economy to better compete with other economies so the UK doesn’t get left behind in 2021 — and putting real money in the hands of Britons who will spend 100% of that money in local UK economies, instead of the government helping to make foreign shareholder returns more generous.

With the greatest respect, Mr. Sunak, it’s over to you!