Monday, April 6, 2020
Nothing better symbolises the UK's open defiance of the World Health Organization than the Chief Medical Officer returning to work when he might still be infectious
Sunday, April 5, 2020
Nicola Sturgeon must make 100% sure that whoever is appointed as the next Chief Medical Officer is not a "herd immunity" zealot
Saturday, April 4, 2020
With a voice in London once again banging the "herd immunity" drum, the time has come for Nicola Sturgeon to follow Jacinda Ardern by loudly saying "no way, not EVER"
But there are no such excuses anymore. Anyone who has been paying attention over the last few weeks knows the score. So now that the UK government's "chief pandemic modeller" is suggesting that the lockdown should be lifted and that we should go back to allowing most of the population to be infected and put at risk of severe illness and death, we really do need Nicola Sturgeon to immediately knock this one politely and firmly on the head. We need to hear her echoing the words of Jacinda Ardern by saying that 'herd immunity' will never be acceptable to her or to any other Scot, and that the "Four Nations" approach will be immediately abandoned if London start flirting with it again.
The 'chief modeller' in question is not from the Imperial College team, incidentally - he's Graham Medley, the head of another team from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine who also advise the government. The language he uses is deeply disturbing - he effectively implies that the old should be sacrificed for the best interests of the young, which suggests that he knows full well that a biblical death toll would be unavoidable if he gets his wish. But of course the whole notion of generational sacrifice is bogus anyway, because we've seen large numbers of young people become seriously ill and dying. The two nurses that were mourned today were both in their thirties. The carnage that Medley wants to unleash would be no respecter of youth.
He suggests that people should be infected in the least deadly way possible - as if there's some kind of 'non-deadly' way to catch a virus with a death rate estimated as being as high as 1.4%. He rubbishes the idea that mass-testing might form the basis of an alternative exit strategy, simply because his mathematical modelling suggests that the virus will start spreading again as soon as lockdown is lifted - but that takes us straight back to the idiotic error that got us into this mess in the first place. During the early weeks of this year, the government were totally ignoring the real world experience in China and South Korea and were putting all their eggs in the basket of mathematical modelling instead. That led them to make two huge false assumptions - a) that the virus was much less deadly than it actually was, and b) that it was less controllable by means of testing and tracing than it actually was. South Korea has clearly demonstrated that the number of new cases can be kept persistently low by that method. It would be crazy to condemn hundreds of thousands to death without at least attempting that ourselves.
The message to the Scottish Government must be: don't even think about ending lockdown until there is a credible exit strategy in place that does not involve sitting back and allowing the majority of the population to be infected. Testing and tracing would inevitably be central to any such strategy.
Friday, April 3, 2020
Thursday, April 2, 2020
Dounreay offered large supplies of PPE to health workers in Caithness - but the bureaucrats said "no"
Wednesday, April 1, 2020
The number of excess deaths caused in the UK by a "herd immunity" strategy would be comparable to the Hiroshima bombing
The UK is in a grim place when even Donald Trump now has a more enlightened attitude to the crisis than our own Chief Medical Officer and Chief Scientific Adviser. Trump on herd immunity: "well you know it’s a concept, it’s a concept - if you don’t mind death."— James Kelly (@JamesKelly) April 1, 2020
Among the dwindling band of enthusiasts for the "take it on the chin" / "herd immunity" approach, a favourite refrain is that it doesn't actually matter if an unimaginable number of people die, because (supposedly) "they would have died anyway". Incredibly, even the BBC tried that line the other week. The idea is that many of the deaths are elderly people with severe health conditions who would otherwise have had an extremely short life expectancy. Now let's be clear what we're talking about here: Imperial College estimate that without a full-on suppression strategy, around 250,000 people would die of the virus in the UK, and of those, around half to two-thirds "might" otherwise have died of another cause at some point this year - although of course that leaves open the possibility that they could have lived on for many months, and no price tag can really be put on that.
But even if those people are completely excluded, that means the real total of excess deaths would be "only" somewhere between 83,000 and 125,000. As we've seen, many of those victims would be relatively young, and a significant minority would have no underlying health conditions. We're talking about people who can reasonably expect to live a great many years or decades in the absence of a herd immunity strategy.
For comparison, the death toll from the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima in 1945 is estimated to have been somewhere between 90,000 and 146,000.
Tuesday, March 31, 2020
It looks like the Dr Strangelove-style "herd immunity" plan of Whitty and Vallance may need to be defeated for a second time
* * *
I criticised Robert Peston earlier in this crisis for regurgitating government propaganda on herd immunity, but he's done a splendid job tonight of exposing government propaganda on the lack of testing...
"Michael Gove said just now that the difficulty in increasing number of #COVID19 tests was due to a shortage of the relevant "chemcial reagents". Well I've just talked to the Chemical Industries Association, which represents the UK's very substantial chemicals industry. It has contacted its members, and they've said there is no shortage of the relevant reagents. So the Association has now been in touch with Michael Gove's office to find out what he means, because it is stumped. The Association also points out there was an industry chat with a business minister today, who made no attempt to find out if there was a supply problem for the vital ingredients of Covid19 testing kits. So this question of why there aren't enough tests for the virus is an even bigger mystery. Also, if it turns out there is a shortage these manufacturers are more than happy to increase their production. But they need to be asked, which has not happened. PS It was Labour MP Bill Esterson who initially spotted this gap between what Gove said and what the industry believes to be true."
So there you have it - the failure to build up testing is not unavoidable, it's a choice. That choice must now be relentlessly challenged, and reversed.
* * *
This is superb from Jacinda Ardern, the Prime Minister of New Zealand and someone who I know that Nicola Sturgeon admires greatly -
"There were some countries that initially talked about herd immunity as a strategy. In New Zealand we NEVER EVER considered that as a possibility EVER. Herd immunity would have meant tens of thousands of New Zealanders dying, and I simply would not tolerate that, and I don't think any New Zealander would."
New Zealand has of course got roughly the same population as Scotland (in fact it's marginally smaller), so we'd be looking at tens of thousands of deaths as well. And yet this is the outcome that the UK government's Chief Medical Officer and Chief Scientific Adviser are apparently still privately hankering after. And this is what the Scottish government are effectively still in lockstep with as part of the so-called "Four Nations" approach.
We've got to put a complete end to this madness once and for all.
"We never, *EVER* considered that as a possibility, *EVER*! Herd immunity would have meant tens of thousands of New Zealanders dying, and I simply would not tolerate that and I don't think any New Zealander would." - @jacindaardern pic.twitter.com/YsjBkidbXX— The Agitator (@UKDemockery) March 30, 2020
Monday, March 30, 2020
Sunday, March 29, 2020
Scottish Parliament constituency voting intentions:
SNP 51% (+1)
Conservatives 26% (n/c)
Labour 14% (n/c)
Liberal Democrats 6% (-1)
Greens 3% (n/c)
Scottish Parliament regional list voting intentions:
SNP 48% (+1)
Conservatives 26% (+1)
Labour 13% (-1)
I'll have to wait a few hours to find out the list numbers for the Lib Dems and the Greens, because I don't pay the Murdoch Levy and the preview of the article cuts out at that point! But there's no doubt that the SNP would win a comfortable outright majority on results such as these.
I know from what people have said that the poll also asked about independence and the Alex Salmond trial (the latter possibly explains the weird timing of the exercise), but I can't see any information about those results yet.
I have to say I feel slightly cheated, because until I found out about the Panelbase poll a few minutes ago I was all set to write a blogpost entitled: "Hello! Is it me you're looking for?" One of our resident trolls had left a comment on the previous thread saying he couldn't wait to see how I would "spin the poll showing a 9% swing from the SNP to the Tories". It turned out there was no such poll - he was referring to a tweet by a journalist from Hello! magazine (I'm genuinely not making this up) who apparently couldn't tell the difference between a poll and a tiny subsample of 99 people.
Saturday, March 28, 2020
As the UK continues to defy the World Health Organization on mass-testing and contact tracing, the Deputy Chief Medical Officer attempts to gaslight the public into thinking the WHO's recommendations somehow don't apply to us
Surprised to hear UK Deputy CMO say yesterday that WHO advice on testing is only for poor countries & UK has strong enough health service to treat our way through outbreak. Don't know any country which has this capacity, rich or poor & burden falls on health staff unnecessarily.— Devi Sridhar (@devisridhar) March 27, 2020
It's not only surprising, it's also untrue. If the WHO's recommendations were only for poor countries, they would have said so. They're called the World Health Organization, not the Third World Health Organization.https://t.co/JVHeD4PhJh— James Kelly (@JamesKelly) March 27, 2020
This clip is quite shocking. If this is the CMO/Deputy CMO view they should resign. That only low income countries should do viral PCR testing and contact tracing?? That we traced every case initially? Many UK areas still have low intensity +would still benefit from test/trace! https://t.co/KycjZGf9zc— Anthony Costello (@globalhlthtwit) March 28, 2020
As I feared this clip is British exceptionalism at its very worst. We know best. Is this the view of the SAGE?? Please could someone ask Sir Patrick Vallance.— Anthony Costello (@globalhlthtwit) March 28, 2020
I follow this more from a political policy perspective. This is consistent with what Vallance and Whitty have been saying all along. Journalists seem to only focus on the hazy language of the PM and Health Secretary that they intend to "test more".— Mr Patel (@patelshop) March 28, 2020
I am watching this clip in horror - in absolute horror. The responsibility of where we are now rests on their shoulders. There will be an inquiry when this is over but for so many it will be too late.— Saleyha Ahsan (@SaleyhaAhsan) March 28, 2020
Is the deputy CMO gaslighting the whole country?— Suffolk Jason🌹 (@SuffolkJason) March 28, 2020
I really dislike it that our leading Government scientists are looking increasingly like rationalising, shifty politicians— Eric Herring (@eric_herring) March 28, 2020
"To support our call on all countries to conduct aggressive case-finding and testing, we’re also working urgently to massively increase the production and capacity for testing around the world"-@DrTedros #COVID19 #coronavirus— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) March 27, 2020
Note here that he says *all* countries should conduct aggressive case-finding and testing. *All* countries. Not just poorer countries, as the Deputy Chief Medical Officer falsely and cynically claimed the other day.https://t.co/DNrz8yCfRE— James Kelly (@JamesKelly) March 28, 2020
I am an academic & cannot fight political spin & constant excuses for delay. Also face daily pressure to be quiet. What keeps me going is seeing change in the right direction (however slow) & getting notes from front-line staff. Herd immunity is not an acceptable plan.— Devi Sridhar (@devisridhar) March 28, 2020
It feels like this gov't is being dragged along. First on physical distancing measures to buy time for NHS & research. And now on testing for front-line staff. Next is appropriate PPE for health workers & putting real commitment into testing & contact tracing. https://t.co/8GNcZQPrZG— Devi Sridhar (@devisridhar) March 28, 2020
If the govt are aiming for 20,000 or fewer deaths, that means a suppression strategy - it means no more than 4 million infections in a country of 67 million. It's obvious that contact tracing in low-intensity areas would help towards that goal, and yet they refuse to budge.— James Kelly (@JamesKelly) March 28, 2020
This is the question that unwittingly explains how we ended up in this disaster. There aren't many countries where it would even occur to people to ask "but surely our own scientists outrank the WHO?"https://t.co/GrqwwzWVxc— James Kelly (@JamesKelly) March 27, 2020
Friday, March 27, 2020
The latest right-wing American conspiracy theory that could lead to millions of deaths if it goes unchallenged
Wednesday, March 25, 2020
I received this email earlier...
Imagine being told you are an essential worker when you are blind, forced to travel in taxis and/or on trains, then placed in a building with 100 others. Even though spaced farther apart, you can’t see the hand sanitisers.
My friend who is blind (visually impaired people sometimes have a little sight but she does not) has been told her work is necessary.
This is because she works for a sub-contracted industry for financial services and they are regarded as essential workers. She does not want the specific agency mentioned though it’s not hard to guess what service a blind person can perform so I’m a bit limited in what I can say.
She is concerned that many disabled people work in sub-contracted services for utilities and banking and, though they are providing services for vulnerable people, they are themselves vulnerable. It can’t be right that they have been told they must come in to work.
She thinks this is a loophole in the current situation – forcing disabled people to work. She’s writing to her MSP. I know MSPs will be inundated at this time. Can you help? People to contact?"
Tuesday, March 24, 2020
The UK's boneheaded refusal to accept the World Health Organization's central recommendation on testing and contact tracing remains the missing piece of the jigsaw
But an even bigger issue is the glaring contradiction between the government's actions and their words. The Imperial College paper which proved such a turning point made crystal-clear that 'mitigation' (ie. an enormous managed epidemic) was no longer a viable strategy, and that 'suppression' would have to be attempted instead - ie. keeping the number of cases as low as possible by means of drastic social distancing measures, and then holding on for a vaccine. The actions the government have taken over recent days are consistent with a suppression strategy, and yet their language remains that of mitigation. Although Boris Johnson didn't specifically use the phrases "lower the peak" and "flatten the curve" in his TV address, he did use words that appeared to have a very similar meaning. And as for the Blighty Knows Best duo of Vallance and Whitty, they've carried on talking without reservation about a mitigation strategy as if nothing has changed at all, while insisting that they're aiming for no more than 20,000 deaths - something that the Imperial paper adamantly stated would only be possible with a suppression strategy. It really doesn't make any sense.
The obvious way out of this mess would be for the government and their advisers to drop their superiority complex and actually start listening to the World Health Organization's central recommendation of mass testing and contact tracing, which has proved so decisive in turning the tide on the epidemic in both China and South Korea. Incredibly, this New Scientist piece reveals that the scientific advice the government has been receiving in recent weeks has completely ignored the whole concept of test-and-trace. Not rubbished it, not advanced reasons for why it might not work, but simply ignored it. The arrogance of taking it as read that the central recommendation of the relevant international body isn't even worthy of discussion is just breathtaking.
Instead the government apparently intend to eventually ramp up testing but without contact tracing, which makes no sense at all. It seems the main purpose of the testing will be to attempt to prove Whitty's pet theory about there being a very large hidden number of asymptomatic cases out there, and if that happens to get those people back to work - ie. the 'solution' the government have in mind still appears to be a solution for the economy, not for people's health. But let's hope a bit of common sense creeps in at that point. Even if there isn't the manpower for proper contact tracing, it's not beyond the wit of man to find ways in which the public could do some of the work themselves. If someone tests positive during the mass testing, they could be urged to have a friend or relative ring round their close contacts and suggest that those people should be tested as well. In that way, the chains of transmission might gradually start to be broken.
Oh, and let's knock on the head Whitty's repeated 'truthy' claim that there's no point in any country trying to suppress an epidemic that is almost everywhere in the world. The virus does not fly across oceans on its own propulsion - if it's successfully pushed back in the UK it could then be kept at bay with suitable quarantining arrangements until a vaccine arrives. It's just a question of whether the will is there to actually get on top of this thing as the South Koreans and Chinese have done, or whether the government are still hankering after the impossible goal of 'managing' a mass epidemic with a mortality rate that Scotland's Chief Medical Officer now estimates to be 1.4% - much, much higher than Whitty 'confidently' predicted a couple of weeks ago on the basis of his dud modelling.
* * *
For anyone who wants to know more about the crucial role that contact tracing played in stemming the Chinese epidemic, let me once again recommend this excellent interview with the WHO's Bruce Aylward.
Hahahaha. James Kelly does a full 180 and mumbles "Oh, actually a list indy party could work after all" 😂😂😂😂😂😂 https://t.co/IrEAWpM8rJ— Rev. Stuart Campbell (@RevStu) March 24, 2020
Wings-to-English translation: "James Kelly again repeats what he said multiple times last year - that a list party is a bad idea, but that a tiny number of individuals have a big enough personal following to have a theoretical chance of pulling it off."https://t.co/owi5otLoSC— James Kelly (@JamesKelly) March 24, 2020
But thanks for being such a dedicated follower of the blog, RevStu!— James Kelly (@JamesKelly) March 24, 2020
Monday, March 23, 2020
At this time, would you support or oppose London being placed under a "lockdown" where people are not allowed to leave their homes except to go to work or get essential supplies?
There was strong support even among the subsample of London residents, ie. those who would be directly affected - 57% of Londoners were in favour, and only 27% were opposed. It's reasonable to assume that majority will just keep getting bigger as people wake up to the scale of the catastrophe that is unfolding.
Hopefully also the narrative has moved on since the poll was conducted, due to the disgraceful scenes all over the UK of people ignoring social distancing guidelines and acting like they're on a bank holiday break. Any lockdown self-evidently needs to be UK-wide. If there's any suggestion of it being confined to London, Nicola Sturgeon should insist (publicly if needs be) that it's expanded to cover Scotland.
The public demand a lockdown. The science favours a lockdown. (Needless to say I mean the international science associated with the WHO, not the discredited Blighty Knows Best "science" pushed by the herd immunity triumvirate of Cummings, Vallance and Whitty.) What remaining excuse has Boris Johnson got for not acting decisively to save hundreds of thousands of lives?
Saturday, March 21, 2020
Friday, March 20, 2020
And the situation is now worse than one of Whitty merely defying the WHO. He also appears to be ignoring the recommendations of his own modellers, because of course the Imperial College paper reached the definite conclusion that a suppression strategy would have to be followed until a vaccine is available. Incredibly, Whitty once again rubbished any suggestion of holding on for a vaccine. If the modelling is right, that means inevitably at some point that the UK government's lack of sufficient action will lead to the NHS going into meltdown, with the potential for hundreds of thousands of needless deaths unless there's a change of course. My own view is that a change of course would be bound to happen sooner or later in those circumstances, but I had been nursing the hope that the Imperial College paper marked the decisive turning point and that we no longer needed to rely on the UK advisers seeing the light when calamity struck. It seems that may have been too optimistic.
There were a few crumbs of comfort - I didn't hear any mention of 'herd immunity' as a goal, or of the idea that it's actively desirable to let the virus spread as widely as possible in case it pops up again in winter. (I didn't quite watch the entire briefing, though, which means there's a small chance those things may have been mentioned in the part I missed.) So perhaps the impossibility of 'herd immunity' working has been grudgingly accepted. Vallance also reiterated the objective of keeping deaths down to a few thousand. But that leaves us with a mystery, because the Imperial College paper was adamant that such a 'low' death toll would only be possible with a full-on suppression strategy. Do we just have two very stubborn men here who can't quite bring themselves to pull their public narrative into line with the steps that they privately know will have to be taken? We'll have to hope that's what's going on, because the alternative is too horrible to contemplate. There was some vague chatter about international technological progress providing the solution, so maybe what we're looking at is a modified version of the Imperial College recommendation, with some sort of suppression-lite strategy for a while, followed by the development of effective therapies as an exit strategy, as opposed to the farther-off development of a vaccine.
None of this exactly inspires confidence, though, and there must be a high probability that the weird mix of half-measures we've seen from the government thus far means we're hurtling headlong towards an Italian-style catastrophe, and a total lockdown as an emergency reactive step. If a lockdown is near-enough inevitable anyway, it would be far better if it happened in an effort to stop us getting into a deep hole, rather than in an effort to get us back out of it.
Thursday, March 19, 2020
It's simply a fact that, until a few days ago, the UK government were pursuing a strategy that would have led to a large number of avoidable deaths
Tuesday, March 17, 2020
Imperial College paper: "managed epidemic" / "herd immunity" strategy would kill quarter of a million people in the UK
I don't want to tempt fate in the way that some journalists have done tonight by taking it as read that the government will actually take heed of this paper. Admittedly, it's hard to see how they can ignore it, because it's essentially an update of exactly the same modelling that gave rise to the "herd immunity" strategy in the first place. But if we're now going to see movement towards a Chinese/South Korean-style suppression strategy, it's puzzling that there has been no sign yet of any U-turn on the decision to give up on testing of suspected cases and subsequent contact tracing, which the WHO have repeatedly made clear is the key part of any suppression drive. Hopefully we'll see progress on that as time goes on.
It's incredibly frustrating that it's taken this long for the penny to begin to drop, when simply observing the experience in China could have provided a short-cut and saved many lives. I recall watching an interview on the BBC News channel with a young doctor in Wuhan a few weeks ago, and he said the following -
"It turned out to be a pretty good idea to clamp down on travel, right? If it had been done earlier, it might have had a bigger effect."
"The mortality rate with this disease is still far too high."
"Other countries need to be very, very careful with this virus."
We should have listened to him from the start. But better late than never.
Monday, March 16, 2020
But you may have noticed that the world has changed a fair bit over the last few days, let alone over the last few weeks. Countries within the EU's Schengen passport-free zone have either closed their borders entirely or introduced strict border controls. Remarkably, even Germany have done the latter, in spite of Angela Merkel insisting only a few days ago that free movement was sacred. Countries further afield that have relatively low infection rates, such as New Zealand, have introduced quarantining for all arrivals. Many of these measures are billed as temporary, but the likelihood is they'll be extended again and again. Some countries may well try to stick it out until there is a vaccine, or at the very least an effective treatment. The interconnected world is essentially gone for the foreseeable future, so that excuse for UK inaction no longer exists. If we took South Korean-style measures to suppress the virus and then introduced quarantining to prevent it from being reimported, we would not become international pariahs - we'd be applauded for doing the right thing.
Once again, I recommend this interview with the WHO's Bruce Aylward for anyone who wrongly thinks that the virus cannot be controlled, or that it can only be controlled with authoritarian measures that would not be viable in this country. The key is large-scale testing and meticulous contact tracing - something that the UK has just inexplicably turned its back on. We were told by Chris Whitty that the "early stages of delay" would be very similar to "contain", with continued testing-and-tracing, but that turned out to essentially be a lie. We've gone direct from "contain" to "mitigate" without passing Go - something which the WHO begged all countries not to do and warned would lead to the health system being totally overwhelmed. Ironically, that just makes the most authoritarian outcome (total lockdown) more likely, not less so.
As far as the Scottish Government's role in all this is concerned, it's true that devolution means there are some things they can do and some things they can't. But to the extent that their actions are helping to facilitate the UK government's plans to allow the virus to spread, they need to urgently look at themselves in the mirror and ask themselves why they're doing that. If it's because they think there's more political cover in mostly going along with whatever the UK government decide, or if it's because they fear being lambasted for breaking a UK consensus, then those are the wrong reasons. Nicola Sturgeon and her ministers should be taking every possible step to suppress this virus and to protect the people of Scotland, no matter what the political cost.
Sunday, March 15, 2020
The precautionary principle dictates that you do everything necessary to keep people alive for now, and that you solve hypothetical future problems if and when you face them
Iain said to me a few minutes ago that Nicola Sturgeon would be guilty of dereliction of duty if she ignored the UK advice and people died as a result. But that point is completely upside down. The UK advisers want deaths to occur on a mass scale over the next few weeks and months to avoid the hypothetical second wave. The WHO say the opposite - that the most stringent measures should be taken over the next few weeks and months to keep people alive. Given that the second wave is an untested, unproven theory, the precautionary principle dictates that you keep people alive for now and then solve the hypothetical problem when and if you actually face it. I strongly recommend this article in the Guardian by an epidemiologist (who thought the herd immunity strategy was "satire" when he first heard about it). About the second wave, he says -
"Let me be clear. Second waves are real things, and we have seen them in flu pandemics. This is not a flu pandemic. Flu rules do not apply. There might well be a second wave, I honestly don’t know. But vulnerable people should not be exposed to a virus right now in the service of a hypothetical future."
Incidentally, you may have heard that community testing is being rolled out in Scotland to monitor the spread of the virus. That's better than nothing, but it's important to be clear that it doesn't come even close to bringing us into line with the recommendation of the WHO, who want every suspected case to be tested, with close contacts traced (if the test is positive) to interrupt the spread of the virus. We still won't be doing that. Community surveillance mainly seems to be a passive exercise to help us "predict the peak".
It's worth stressing that although the WHO acknowledge that lockdowns can play an important role when the situation has spiralled out of control, they don't think lockdowns are sufficient. The most important thing of all is to interrupt the transmission of the virus by detecting every case and tracing all close contacts. So even if the government agree to a lockdown (or more likely are forced into it by an Italian-type catastrophe), a second U-turn would then be needed - because they've essentially given up on testing-and-tracing. They've announced that in future only hospital admissions will be tested, which means that mild cases will be completely missed and the close contacts of those people will continue spreading infection still further. The excuse given for this crazy decision is that the world gave up on containment when the virus spread beyond Asia and that a mass epidemic is now inevitable. Which is an odd claim, because the WHO are loudly repeating day in, day out, that this is a controllable pandemic and that every country can and must pull out all the stops to control it in the way that China and South Korea have demonstrated is entirely possible.
If this situation wasn't so unutterably tragic, it would almost be laughable. The people who deliver pious lectures about "following the science" are the ones who are blithely ignoring the pleas of the world-leading experts of the WHO, and yet they seem oblivious to that irony. Instead they're putting all their faith in a handful of UK scientists who are firmly in the minority of international scientific opinion. And let's be frank - the Scottish government are as guilty of that as anyone.
Saturday, March 14, 2020
Don't follow the herd, Nicola, and don't let's "take it on the chin" - untold numbers of lives will be needlessly lost unless we radically change course and move into line with the WHO's recommendations
(Note: I've copied and pasted the tweets below, because embedding a full thread is a bit tricky. You can see it in its original form HERE.)
"Unlike all other countries, the UK strategy aims to build herd immunity by allowing the steady spread of #COVID19. The government argue it will block a second peak in several months time. Here are EIGHT questions about this HERD IMMUNITY strategy:
1. Will it impair efforts to restrict the immediate epidemic, and cause more infections and deaths in the near term? Evidence suggests people shed virus early, and those without symptoms may cause substantial spread...
...this argues for policies against mass gatherings, for school closures, and for strict national and local measures for social distancing.
2. Will it weaken containment systems (testing, screening, radiography, isolation)? China quickly built a robust nation-wide system of mobilised communities/workers for identifying cases promptly, isolating contacts + treating vulnerable people promptly to contain the outbreak.
3. Does coronavirus cause strong herd immunity or is it like flu where new strains emerge each year needing repeat vaccines? We have much to learn about Co-V immune responses.
4. Doesn’t this herd immunity strategy conflict with WHO Policy? After the announcement of this being a pandemic, Dr Tedros, Director General WHO, said “The idea that countries should shift from containment to mitigation is wrong and dangerous.”
5. Shouldn’t we wait to see the China situation? They've contained the epidemic after 7 weeks of intense national effort. Will their strengthened systems not contain outbreaks quickly? What is their herd immunity? We don’t have serology available yet? It might be substantial.
6. Without an all-out national mobilisation plan for social distancing, are the UK government behavioural and nudge strategies really evidence-based to flatten the peak? Or simply based on models?
7. On the precautionary principle shouldn’t we go all-out to snuff this UK epidemic out, with national mobilisation at all levels, using all possible preventive measures (whether evidence is strong, uncertain or weak) and worry about herd immunity when we have more evidence?
8. Vaccines are a safer way to develop herd immunity, without the risks associated with the disease itself. Is it ethical to adopt a policy that threatens immediate casualties on the basis of an uncertain future benefit?"
Friday, March 13, 2020
The best hope is that "social distancing from the bottom up" builds up enough economic pressures that the govt start considering the South Korean strategy. It's clear any change won't come from the govt's medical advisers, who are hellbent on ignoring the WHO's recommendations.— James Kelly (@JamesKelly) March 13, 2020
In a live press conference, @WHO chief @DrTedros just had the following message for world leaders:— Rachel Clarke (@doctor_oxford) March 13, 2020
“Not testing alone.
Not contact tracing alone.
Not quarantining alone.
Not social distancing alone.
You must do it all.”
How precisely does @BorisJohnson know better? https://t.co/jNXefhuUyB
"Do not just let this fire burn" says the head of the WHO to European countries. Unfortunately it seems the only people not listening to him are the UK government's scientific advisers, who think they know better and want a huge epidemic to produce "herd immunity".— James Kelly (@JamesKelly) March 13, 2020
Will the complacent media people saying "we must listen to the science" please, for the love of God, listen to this man, the head of the WHO, who is telling the UK government and its advisers to change course urgently?https://t.co/0xYQ5aTI2s— James Kelly (@JamesKelly) March 13, 2020
Two days ago, "taking it on the chin" was just a wacky theory. Now, it's being put into practice under the pretext of achieving "herd immunity."— Joanne Harris (@Joannechocolat) March 13, 2020
Guys: herd immunity only works when the herd has been vaccinated. Otherwise, we call it "natural selection."
Powerful ,authoritative contribution from Dr Michael Ryan of WHO— Bruce McD (@brucemcd23) March 13, 2020
Speaking from experience of fighting epidemics says work closely with your community, move early and move fast . Leave no room for regret because if you don’t move fast the virus will
Anyone listening in No 10? pic.twitter.com/gS1gyWnrPu
No vaccine and no data on immunity following recovery. In that context talk of herd immunity amounts to social darwinism— Darius Humperdinkt (@DHumperdinkt) March 13, 2020
It seems ages ago, but Chris Whitty said to MPs a couple of weeks ago that, whatever his personal feelings on the futility of containment, he'd have to take heed of international feeling on whether to attempt it. So why are the UK govt studiously ignoring what the WHO are saying?— James Kelly (@JamesKelly) March 13, 2020
If it's true that the UK's idiotic response to this catastrophe is being driven partly by "behavioural psychology", you'd think it would have occurred to someone that "wash your hands but we'll make sure you get the virus eventually anyway" isn't the most promising message?— James Kelly (@JamesKelly) March 13, 2020
Absolutely. And history will record that when some (not enough) of the right things started happening, it was in spite of the government, not because of them. That'll make the UK (sadly including Scotland) almost unique in Europe.https://t.co/ubPQe8tkgs— James Kelly (@JamesKelly) March 13, 2020