Utility Week

Utility Week 6th March 2020

Utility Week - authoritative, impartial and essential reading for senior people within utilities, regulators and government

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Community locations, and asked his follow- ers if they knew where he could get some info. What he got instead was widespread derision that he was apparently relying on a univer- sity as the source of data about the spread of the coronavirus rather than the government's own Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which are pre- sumably a prime source for the university in the first place. Twitter user Howard Forman spoke for many when he pleaded: "PLEASE can someone tell me that this is a parody account and that our Executive branch has a CLUE of what is going on? PLEASE!?" Every man for himself The outbreak of the coronavirus at least gives us Brits the chance to show the rest of the world what we're made of. You know, keep calm and carry on. That sort of thing. Unfortunately it looks like we're not quite going to live up to our own billing on that one. At the time of going to press the UK had recorded some 51 cases of infection (as against more than 5,000 already in places like South Korea), and yet the Daily Mail was gleefully publishing photos of supermarket shelves stripped bare of essentials such as toilet rolls and flour. So much for the Blitz Spirit. Disconnector Publishing director, Utilities: Ellen Bennett, t: 01342 332084, e: ellenbennett@fav-house.com; Content director: Jane Gray, janegray@fav-house.com, t: 01342 333004; Editor: Suzanne Heneghan, t: 01342 332106, e: suzanneheneghan@fav-house.com Digital editor: James Wallin, 01342 332015, jameswallin@fav-house.com; Intelligence editor: Denise Chevin, 01342 332087, denisechevin@fav-house.com Energy correspondent: Tom Grimwood, t: 01342 332061, e: tomgrimwood@fav-house.com; Policy correspondent: David Blackman, e: davidblackman@ fav-house.com; Reporter: Adam John, t: 01342 332069, e: adamjohn@fav-house.com; Water correspondent: Ruth Williams, e: ruthwilliams@fav-house.com, t: 01342 332069 Production editor: Paul Newton, t: 01342 332085, e: paulnewton@fav-house.com; Business development manager: Ben Hammond, e: benhammond@fav-house.com. t: 01342 332116; Business development executive: Sarah Wood, e: sarahwood@fav-house.com. t: 01342 332117 Conference sponsorship manager: Sophie Abbott, t: 01342 332062, e: sophieabbott@fav-house.com; General enquiries: 01342 332000; Membership enquiries: Peter Bissell, t: 01342 332057, e: peterbissell@fav-house.com. 2,500 Average circulation Jan–Dec 2018 Membership subscriptions: UK £950+VAT per year. Contact Jo Nikiforov on: 01342 332077 Utility Week is a member of the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO), the regulator of the UK's magazine and newspaper industry. We abide by the Editors' Code of Practice and are committed to upholding the highest standards of journalism. If you think we have not met those standards and want to make a complaint, please contact the Editor. If we are unable to resolve your complaint, or if you want more information about IPSO or the Editors' Code, contact IPSO on 0300 123 2220 or visit www.ipso.co.uk. exactly what a health secretary may have to do when faced the re-emergence of the plague. If it comes down to it and we have to start fighting this thing with brutal measures – cutting off towns and telling them to sort it out themselves or sealing up the infected in their own flats, as the Chinese did – then there's only one person for the job: Priti Patel. If it's someone to really crack the whip you need, Priti's your gal! What do you know? Of course, if you're an American pondering your own govern- ment's response to the outbreak of coronavirus, you might be staring over the Atlantic with a wistful look on your face as you gaze upon the heavyweight that is Matt Hancock. But then that's because you have Ken Cuccinelli on the case. Ken is acting deputy secre- tary of Homeland Security and a member of the White House's taskforce charged with dealing with the virus outbreak. The Trump appointee did little to shore up confidence in the administration's competence last week when he took to Twitter to complain that he couldn't access the Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineer- ing department's map showing the latest Covid-19 numbers and Don't bug me They say a week is a long time in politics. Turns out it's a long time in epidemiology too. In case you weren't aware of it, there's a rather nasty flu emerging worldwide for which there is no vaccine and which can prove fatal, particularly for the old and those with under- lying health problems. It's serious stuff, and requires serious people to try to manage what could quickly escalate into a disaster. Which is where we – as the electorate – may have taken our eye off the ball somewhat, it has suddenly become apparent. Boris Johnson is a fine choice for a prime minister as long as your principal aim is to stick two fingers up to the liberal establishment. It's not such a fine choice if you want someone who's going to stop chuckling at his own jokes for long enough to take on board some unpalatable realities. Of course, Boris is not really a details kind of a guy, as he showed during his time as London Mayor, preferring to dedicate the actual work to someone else. This is fine, it occurs to Disconnector, as long as that someone else isn't Matt Hancock. But alas for us, it is. Matt is an unobjectionable chap, but he is hardly the type to knock heads together and get things done, which is UTILITY WEEK | 6TH - 12TH MARCH 2020 | 31 To Disconnector's jaded eye it's very reminiscent of the shortages seen in the 1970s when strikes where common: a rumour about a product disappearing from the shelves would do the rounds, prompt- ing a round of panic buying that would make the rumour self-fulfilling. If we all just bought what we needed there would be plenty to go round. On a sunnier note, it's interesting to see that as well as flour and bread, people are panic-buying quinoa, couscous and, of course, mineral water. One supposes it's progress of a sort, if only in our pretentiousness. As for Disconnector's household, it's stockpiles of white bread and Cheddar. One out, all out If the great British public can fairly be accused of panick- ing, at least the authorities are being more sanguine. Indeed, the government's feud with the BBC was only suspended this week, allowing the health secretary on to the radio to explain to everybody what the big plan was. Switzerland has got its panicking in early: when one of its soldiers tested positive for coronavirus, it promptly confined all its soldiers to their barracks.

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