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Coronavirus (merged threads)

Apr 15, 2004
2,848
93
East Devon
Frank_Butcher":2mww4wof said:
As for following scientific evidence, I firmly belive they pretty much did up until September last. The transcripts from the SAGE meeting before Cheltenham would tend to demonstrate that, as would the comments from Vallance about herd immunity back then. Something did change in September though and I suspect that was an unwillingness to further damage the economy with a second lockdown - a policy of course which was self-defeating in the end and costly for many poor souls. They seem to be back in line now though with today's revelation.

And finally, dear old tmkf keeps trotting out the 'most deaths in Europe' stat as it's the only one that helps him bash Britain (that said he might not be to even use that soon). It's like saying the USA is much worse than North Macedonia because they have more deaths in their country. For those more scientifically minded there are excellent resources on this topic. Figures for excess deaths with good analysis can be found here with links to EuroMOMO for provenance.
Sorry Frank but I really think that accepting the line that the government simply followed scientific advice – even during the first wave – just doesn’t stand up to scrutiny (or at least only partially). You refer to the ‘herd immunity’ idea that was certainly in the media at the time and was mentioned by Vallance as you say – but that doesn’t excuse the government’s decision and indeed doesn’t even correspond to the stated policy at the time.

Here’s an an article written by Ed Yong in ‘the Atlantic’ on 16th March 2020 – that absolutely tears into the way the government was handling the pandemic and lambasts the way ‘herd immunity’ was being portrayed. By the way Ed Yong is a Pulitzer prize winning science writer best known for his brilliant book ‘I contain multitudes’ about the link between microbes and animals (which sits on my bookshelf and heartily recommend as a fascinating and very accessible read). So the suggestion that the one and only scientific recommendation of how the government should have been acting AT THE TIME is the one they actually followed is just wrong.
https://www.theatlantic.com/health/arch ... on/608065/

Here’s a quote (remember this was written at the time):-
]” a growing number of countries struggle to control the virus, talk of “flattening the curve” is increasing. That is, a lot of people are going to get sick, and delaying infections as much as possible is imperative, so that cases occur over a long period of time and health systems aren’t suddenly inundated. Almost every country is trying to achieve this goal through the standard arsenal of public health—testing people and tracing contacts—and through more restrictive measures that include instituting quarantines, closing public spaces, banning mass gatherings, and issuing strong advice about social distancing.

But on Thursday, at a press conference, Boris Johnson seemingly revealed that the United Kingdom would adopt a different strategy. The government would no longer try to track and trace the contacts of every suspected case, and it would test only people who are admitted to hospitals. In lieu of any major social-distancing measures, Johnson instead offered a suite of soft advice—people with symptoms should stay home; no school trips abroad; people over 70 should avoid cruises.

Almost immediately, the supposed plan came under heavy criticism, coupled with confusion that public-health and science advisers would recommend this strategy. Herd immunity is typically generated through vaccination, and while it could arise through widespread infection, “you don’t rely on the very deadly infectious agent to create an immune population,” says Akiko Iwasaki, a virologist at the Yale School of Medicine. And that seemed like the goal. In interviews, Vallance and others certainly made it sound like the government was deliberately aiming for 60 percent of the populace to fall ill. Keep calm and carry on … and get COVID-19.

That is not the plan.

“People have misinterpreted the phrase herd immunity as meaning that we’re going to have an epidemic to get people infected,” says Graham Medley at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Medley chairs a group of scientists who model the spread of infectious diseases and advise the government on pandemic responses. He says that the actual goal is the same as that of other countries: flatten the curve by staggering the onset of infections. As a consequence, the nation may achieve herd immunity; it’s a side effect, not an aim. Indeed, yesterday, U.K. Health Secretary Matt Hancock stated, “Herd immunity is not our goal or policy.”

The point is that there wasn’t a simple scientific diktat that said it was OK to go softly-softly in February and March 2020 to achieve herd immunity, then a sudden later realisation by the boffins they’d got it horribly wrong - so let’s not blame the poor old politicians who were just following advice. The key point for me is the one about track and trace. It was a government, political decision to no longer bother with the track-and-trace in March – not something advised by scientists. Why? WTF were they thinking? We can only speculate they had doubts about whether our large centralised lab systems would be able to cope (unlike South Korea or Germany’s much more numerous but smaller localised labs) or maybe it was cost concerns or maybe some muddled-headed notion of individual liberties and privacy? Who knows – but you can’t blame the scientists for that fundamental deadly mistake or the near criminal decision to discharge covid patients into care homes.

The article also quite rightly points out the horribly mixed messages that the government was sending to the public at large back in March 2020 ...... something that has continued throughout the whole pandemic.

Another particularly valid criticism is the lack of transparency surrounding the data and models used and the meetings at which these decisions were taken (remember that a certain Doiminic Cummings was actually on the Sage committee FFS!). A great quote here is “If your models are not ready for public scrutiny, they should not be the basis for public policy”. Science works by process of peer review and critical appraisal to come to a consensus. The government seemed to want things kept under wraps and carefully controlled the release of information – the article references letters signed by literally hundreds of scientists asking for greater transparency. It was their decision to behave that way – their decision to limit the scope and peer review of the science …..which they then promptly blamed when it went horribly wrong.

As for the stats – it was reported just the other day the excess death rate of the UK in 2020 was second only to the U.S. ….. now it's quite true we’ve fared much better thanks to the vaccine roll-out in 2021 relative to other countries but it still leaves us one of the worst European countries and we had the distinct advantage of having the example of Italy as a warning at the start of the pandemic. Similar sized ‘western’ democratic countries like Germany, France & even Spain fared much better – even Italy’s figures are only marginally worse.
 
Nov 15, 2011
1,733
143
Pottypilgrim":1ez2kusw said:
Guiri Green":1ez2kusw said:
themightykeithfear":1ez2kusw said:
Wanting to have the freedoms that brexit took away and enjoy my retirement isn’t being anti British. It was the people who voted brexit and took the freedoms away from British people who were anti British.


.....and racists.

So there are almost 17.5 million anti British people in Britain :funny: :lol:

Good to see that you're still talking complete nonsense. :facepalm: Actually, it's not good really...please folks, try not to quote him if you can

You really still don't have a clue. I can only imagine the amount of bilge you've been spewing out lately.

It's my opinion Potty, they may not have thought they were doing that, but in my view it was an unpatriotic vote.

Potty still pretending not to read things he actually is, what makes a person humiliate himself in that way. And still asking for me to be cancelled. He was furious because his hero Trump was having his freedom of speech taken away - he actually wasn't and he is now trying to close down free speech. Hypocrites here hypocrites there hypocrites everywhere.

Freedom of speech is an important part of democracy Potty, it's very British too.

Back to topic. Parliament including the Speaker and many Tory mps furious because Johnson has released the statement on the extension to lockdown to the Press before putting it to Parliament. Remember the promise that our Parliament was going to take back control of our laws from Brussels? Good luck with that.
 
Oct 9, 2003
3,552
30
Aberdeen
@Ave_IT

Yes I agree Track and Trace was a fundamental mistake early on as well, but as you intimate capacity was the issue and I believe Hancock has acknowledged the fact in the past. However, on scientific advice, then in general I stick to what I said - If Vallance was advocating hetrd immunity as he was well into March 2020, then the government were clearly following that strategy. The recent denials from ministers are in my opinion preposterous and disingenuous. I have also posted earlier in this thread with the SAGE meeting minutes days before Cheltenham citing that outdoor events would not be a major cause of transmission, hence the decision to proceed. So on those two points I think the evidence is clear.

On excess deaths, the report you refer to is about the G7 only. This article is more braod in it's assessment:
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-56456312

But i would still advise looking at the Economist article I posted previously. there are massive discrepancies - even allowing for the variation in date range, and if you interpret the figures the UK, along with Germany and France of the big 5 European countries seem to be overstating Covid related deaths - this probably due to the 28 day figure. Conversely many countries are widely understating. It's pretty clear to be honest. Therefore perhaps our excess death rates are high because of other factors - cancer, mental health, heart disease etc. Getting in to the weeds now but it's the only correlation I can see.

You agreed with the rest of the post then? ;)
 
Apr 8, 2011
7,167
469
25
Plymouth
Wembley - 50% capacity.
Wimbledon - 100% capacity.

Class discrimination, in plain view. There is no way to scientifically justify that decision.
 
Apr 15, 2004
2,848
93
East Devon
But Frank.....

The thing is you can't say they "followed the science" because the science wasn't cast in tablets of stone. There was a substantial body of scientists who fundamentally disagreed at the time with what they were doing. The 'herd immunity' is a phrase that means different things to different people and has taken on a retrospective meaning that is now somewhat sinister. At the time it could be argued Vallance was just suggesting the 'curve' must be flattened by slowing the inevitable spread. There's nothing reckless in that principle - it's all about how that is implemented. Did he advocate we could all relax and let the virus rip? No - and he certainly wasn't advocating scrapping track and trace as the government did which, as you agree, was a fundamental mistake that scuppered any chance we had of 'flattening the curve'.

Then there's the point about the way the government actually listened to the science that they then claimed to be following. As the article I referenced shows there were many critical voices and much frustration in the science community with the lack of transparency. Holding secretive counsels, locked away in ivory towers with everyone sworn on pain of death not to reveal details of what was discussed is NOT how science works. They wouldn't even reveal who was on Sage for months - so is it any wonder they may not have got the best advice?

Having said all that I do take the point they had to take many other factors into account. Yes, it is easy in hindsight to say concerns about the economy, people's livelihoods, education, mental health etc. had to come second to the virus. We'd never experienced anything like it. It's one thing for authoritarian regimes to order a 'lockdown' but for a liberal democracy? It's easy to forget now that at the time the very idea was quite shocking. But their weasel defence of effectively blaming all their own mistakes on the scientists and absolving themselves of all responsibility is cowardly and gutless.
 
May 16, 2016
3,750
137
It's usually good about now to revisit our own very early expert contributions to this thread. Especially as none of us were blessed with hindsight or the deep dived for information on pandemic control at the time.

It will illustrate the difficulties faced throughout this by those responsible for taking the decisions that would literally cost lives v keeping the country from bankruptcy, or the shifting of opinion whilst not trying to appear hypocritical.
 
Oct 9, 2003
3,552
30
Aberdeen
Ave_IT":f98fkkdp said:
But Frank.....

The thing is you can't say they "followed the science" because the science wasn't cast in tablets of stone. There was a substantial body of scientists who fundamentally disagreed at the time with what they were doing. The 'herd immunity' is a phrase that means different things to different people and has taken on a retrospective meaning that is now somewhat sinister. At the time it could be argued Vallance was just suggesting the 'curve' must be flattened by slowing the inevitable spread. There's nothing reckless in that principle - it's all about how that is implemented. Did he advocate we could all relax and let the virus rip? No - and he certainly wasn't advocating scrapping track and trace as the government did which, as you agree, was a fundamental mistake that scuppered any chance we had of 'flattening the curve'.

Then there's the point about the way the government actually listened to the science that they then claimed to be following. As the article I referenced shows there were many critical voices and much frustration in the science community with the lack of transparency. Holding secretive counsels, locked away in ivory towers with everyone sworn on pain of death not to reveal details of what was discussed is NOT how science works. They wouldn't even reveal who was on Sage for months - so is it any wonder they may not have got the best advice?

Having said all that I do take the point they had to take many other factors into account. Yes, it is easy in hindsight to say concerns about the economy, people's livelihoods, education, mental health etc. had to come second to the virus. We'd never experienced anything like it. It's one thing for authoritarian regimes to order a 'lockdown' but for a liberal democracy? It's easy to forget now that at the time the very idea was quite shocking. But their weasel defence of effectively blaming all their own mistakes on the scientists and absolving themselves of all responsibility is cowardly and gutless.

Actually i think the government has tried very hard not to blame the scientists, certainly at that time. They repeatedly used 'following the science' in their briefings and this was never contradicted by any of the top 5 or 6 CSO/CMO staff who were representing theor community.

You say that the science wasn't cast in tablets of stone. Of course it wasn't, we'd never done this before. As for being locked away making decisions, this was a moment of emergency - needing a response that was - indeed - in total contrast to the way that science works, and in any walk of life there will be difference of opinion. Reading your occasional anecdotes about your work, I'm sure like me you have had to lead projects. You don't always include absolutely everyone in that process, otherwise the committee becomes unwieldy and ultimately damaging. Inclusivity is good, but damaging beyond a point - key to most projects is getting that balance right. When you're faced with the criticality of time that is even more important. So who did the government turn to? SAGE and the leadership of the CMO and CSO. I think that's entirely right, and God forbid what would have been said had they not done so ("what's the point in having SAGE at all?", "who do these people think they are?" ....blah, blah).

At the risk of repeating examples:

1. This is an extract from the minutes of the SAGE meeting on March 5th, just before Cheltenham, Liverpool etc.. Vallance, Whitty, Powis and van Tam were among those in attendance:

“SAGE agreed there is no evidence to suggest that banning very large gatherings would reduce transmission.

“Preventing all social interaction in public spaces, including restaurants and bars, would have an effect, but would be very difficult to implement.”


2. As quoted in your fave rag The Guardian, Vallance said on 13th March:

“What we don’t want is everybody to end up getting it in a short period of time so we swamp and overwhelm NHS services – that’s the flattening of the peak,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “Our aim is to try and reduce the peak, broaden the peak, not suppress it completely; also, because the vast majority of people get a mild illness, to build up some kind of herd immunity so more people are immune to this disease and we reduce the transmission, at the same time we protect those who are most vulnerable to it. Those are the key things we need to do.”

He later backtracked when criticised by others in his community but I suggest the statement above is pretty much unequivocal in relation to his thinking (at the time). They were following the science and the stupid denials of late don't wash with me - being charitable, perhaps though they were in some way trying to protect the people who were advocating as such? They certainly haven't come right out and laid it at their door have they?

As I said, I do believe they digressed from the advice in September and made mistakes - bad ones. But in those first 6 or 7 months I think they did what they could and followed the senior elected officers' advice - under extreme pressure as well.
 
Oct 9, 2003
3,552
30
Aberdeen
Guiri Green":1rf0brgm said:
It's usually good about now to revisit our own very early expert contributions to this thread. Especially as none of us were blessed with hindsight or the deep dived for information on pandemic control at the time.

It will illustrate the difficulties faced throughout this by those responsible for taking the decisions that would literally cost lives v keeping the country from bankruptcy, or the shifting of opinion whilst not trying to appear hypocritical.

Absolutely right - me very much included.
 
Dec 27, 2004
735
26
Bidford on Avon
Guiri Green":b2u07mcg said:
Especially as none of us were blessed with hindsight or the deep dived for information on pandemic control at the time


Seriously GG?

He's had the same call to make four times and has dithered, delayed and made things immeasurably worse.

The damage done to the economy and the health and well being of the national has been catastrophic.

That's not anecdotal it's staring in the face in any measure we wish to use if being truly objective.

He does have the Midas touch I admit - if I performed that poorly I wouldn't expect to be in a role for long and couldn't complain, if I was honest with myself
 
Nov 15, 2011
1,733
143
No hindsight involved.

In September last year Sage and Starmer called for a circuit break, Johnson said lockdown would be a "disaster" and we know what happened.

It was the same before Christmas when Johnson accused Starmer of "wanting to cancel Christmas".

Same again in early April, we saw the pictures from India of improvised funeral pyres and overspill in hospitals, Bangladesh and Pakistan went on the red list but not India which had similar infection rates, because Johnson didn't want to miss out on a jolly with Modi. Everyone was screaming at him to put India on the red list, but he only did so 3 weeks later when his trip was cancelled.

I saw Gove trying to defend the dear leader this morning but you can tell his heart isn't in it anymore.
 

signalspast

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Aug 17, 2005
1,309
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And yet if the tories called an election tomorrow they would win probably with a larger majority. If you took every comment on pasoti how badly they are doing, then surely labour should have taken over in popularity by now
 
Dec 27, 2004
735
26
Bidford on Avon
signalspast":3mraw4pa said:
And yet if the tories called an election tomorrow they would win probably with a larger majority. If you took every comment on pasoti how badly they are doing, then surely labour should have taken over in popularity by now

That is nowhere near the point SP.

I say again - this isn't about rosettes - it's an objective look at what's happening in real time.

It's a failure of leadership - again and again and again and again.

Boris is incapable of true leadership, he's more concerned with being popular in the press and being liked.

Terrible to contemplate, but I reckon Corby could have done no worse. :hitfan:
 
Nov 15, 2011
1,733
143
Pilgrim_Joe":b6c98nf4 said:
signalspast":b6c98nf4 said:
And yet if the tories called an election tomorrow they would win probably with a larger majority. If you took every comment on pasoti how badly they are doing, then surely labour should have taken over in popularity by now

That is nowhere near the point SP.

I say again - this isn't about rosettes - it's an objective look at what's happening in real time.

It's a failure of leadership - again and again and again and again.

Boris is incapable of true leadership, he's more concerned with being popular in the press and being liked.

Terrible to contemplate, but I reckon Corby could have done no worse. :hitfan:

Exactly, this isn't about what's popular, Hitler was popular, and if you tie your football scarf tight enough around your neck it cuts off the oxygen to your brain.

It's about objectively how the Government has dealt with the pandemic, and vaccines aside, it is appalling at every level. The worst possible Prime Minister at the worst possible time.
 
Apr 30, 2004
342
12
Launceston
Genuine question... what are YOU doing to change things?
Are you lobbying your political party to show some opposition?
If there is no effective opposition, nothing will ever change.
 
Oct 9, 2003
3,552
30
Aberdeen
Just to back up the earlier conversation on excess deaths etc., another indicator that we may be over-reporting Covid related deaths in the ONS figures today:

To 14th June, deaths reported within 28 days of a Covid test = 127907
To 4th June, death certificate mentions Covid = 152397
To 4th June, excess deaths since the outbreak began = 115449

Of course you may argue that there are reduced numbers of deaths in areas such as traffic incidents etc., i.e. changes in the way we lived over the last 15 months, but I doubt that would have that much impact - and anyway probably balanced out by unreported serious illness in the same period.

A terrible toll nonetheless, but it does seem as though we're over-reporting, certainly in comparison to the majority of countries on that Economist list.