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.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.
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.