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

Here's the most disturbing thing I've read since the start of the lockdown - BuzzFeed says a source has told them that Whitty and Vallance are still privately plotting to deliberately allow 60%+ of the population to be infected with the virus in a deranged attempt to foster "herd immunity", albeit over a longer time-scale than they originally had in mind.  This apparently explains their appalling refusal to commit to sufficient levels of testing.  I must say that was the impression I formed when I saw the pair at a press event held several days after the Imperial College paper had forced a change of strategy.  It was as if, for them, nothing had changed at all - they were still talking about merely delaying the peak of the epidemic until the summer and spreading the infections out more.  Whitty at one point even went into a technical explanation about how delaying the epidemic could potentially reduce the overall number of infections somewhat by avoiding "overshooting".  That's unmistakeably the language of a mitigation strategy, not of the suppression strategy that the Imperial College paper told them was absolutely essential to avoid a catastrophic loss of life.

So what's going on?  I think it's professional arrogance - they're reluctantly going along with suppression for the time being, but still want to be proved right at a later date and so are refusing to modify their language or their objectives.  It would be psychologically too difficult to admit to themselves that avoidable deaths will now inevitably occur because the disastrous herd immunity strategy led them to delay vital decisions on social distancing and the ramping up of testing.  By continuing to gaslight us now, ie. by pretending that the WHO's recommendations on mass testing and contact tracing somehow don't apply to the UK, are they trying to put in place another self-fulfilling prophecy?  

We all know there is a perfectly viable alternative exit strategy that doesn't involve a mass epidemic.  It involves waiting until the lockdown reduces the number of infections to a low level, and then keeping them low by testing and contact tracing after the lockdown is lifted. Are Vallance and Whitty hellbent on leaving a mass epidemic as the only option by making sure sufficient testing capacity still won't be there when the moment arrives?  If so, we mustn't let them get away with it.

The good news is that Whitty and Vallance aren't the only scientists advising the government.  Professor Neil Ferguson set out a much saner way forward last week - he said that he had been told that testing capacity would soon improve markedly, and that this would allow us at some point to safely come out of lockdown while keeping the number of new infections at an acceptably low level.  My guess is that Jeremy Hunt has been having private conversations with other experts on SAGE who are exasperated with the attitude of Whitty and Vallance, and that might explain why he's been doing his best to use his influence to steer the government in the correct direction.

The Whitty/Vallance plan no longer even makes sense on its own terms.  One of Whitty's original excuses for herd immunity was the supposed impracticality of asking people to maintain social distancing over a very prolonged period.  But part of the plan was always to "cocoon" the most vulnerable people during the "managed epidemic", and sure enough my elderly mum belatedly received a letter today telling her to avoid all face-to-face contact for 12 weeks.  As things stand, that will probably mostly cover a period of lockdown and suppression.  If Whitty and Vallance then get their hearts' desire of a slow-motion human tragedy of biblical proportions (you know, just to avoid losing face), will that mean vulnerable people actually have to avoid all social contact for 78 weeks until the carnage is finally over?  An intelligent hamster could spot the flaw in that plan.

Once again, if you feel as strongly about this as I do, it might be a good idea to contact your MP or MSP (or both).  Here are the most important points to make -

* The government must commit to mass testing and contact tracing as its strategy for eventually bringing lockdown to an end.  If the testing capacity isn't there at the moment, they should be honest about that, and undertake to reach that capacity as soon as humanly possible.  It should be an all-out effort with no more delays and no more excuses.

* A hazy promise of "more testing" is NOT sufficient. We're not just talking about testing health workers (although of course they should be first in the queue).  We're not just talking about community surveillance.  The WHO recommendation is absolutely explicit - all countries should test every suspected case.  If the test is positive, that person should be quarantined and their close contacts should be traced and tested.  Until a vaccine arrives, that is the only way to break the chains of transmission and avert a mass epidemic.

* Deliberately allowing 60%+ of the public to be infected is not an acceptable alternative exit strategy, and will not become acceptable under any circumstances whatsoever.  It would cause an unimaginable number of deaths, and ironically might well fail to produce 'herd immunity' anyway.  Many experts believe that people who recover from the virus might be susceptible to reinfection after a few months, or a year, or a couple of years.  Not enough is known about the virus to be sure, and allowing huge numbers of people to die in the vague hope that it might possibly produce some speculative benefit at a later date is totally outrageous and downright immoral.

* Perhaps most importantly of all, there should be no question of lifting the lockdown until there is a commitment to mass testing and contact tracing, and until the ability is there to carry it out.  Disturbingly, Scotland's Chief Medical Officer suggested the other day that suppression measures might be relaxed when the NHS has enough spare capacity to treat more patients.  The idea that it's somehow OK to needlessly allow people to become seriously ill just because there's a hospital bed ready for them is, let's be honest, utter lunacy.

*  *  *

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.


33 comments:

  1. There will be a mass epidemic but it will be in Africa and the middle east and wherever there are refugees and displaced immigrants
    Those people will face mortality rates in the millions no matter a vaccine becomes available or not

    The worst immediate big hit will be India where it will tear through that population like a fire

    The world will lose this battle and be vastly diminished

    But as long as the Tories keep their money it's all good eh

    ReplyDelete
  2. Anon (the first one): I've deleted your comment because I'm wary of misinformation. What is the evidence from Italy you're referring to? Is it the Vo experiment? If so, that doesn't justify the strength of the language you've used about it. The latest Imperial modelling suggests around a 10% infection rate in Italy. The highest figure is Spain, incidentally, at 15%.

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  3. The Oxford paper has been comprehensively debunked, Anon.

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    Replies
    1. Yes, certainly I can provide a link for one of the many debunkings of the Oxford paper -

      https://www.livescience.com/amp/half-the-uk-infected-coronavirus-covid19.html

      Now, kindly stop trolling. This is too important.

      Delete
  4. We seem to be in a strange awful wonderland where we have no idea if 'herd immunity' is being pursued or not, and no-one with the ear of the gpvernment(s) seems to be asking, never mind getting an answer.

    Where is the top level politician, opposition leader, top level journalist or prominent campaigner demanding publicly what the strategy is?

    It's as if we are frozen staring at the Schrodinger's Cat box, not daring to open it.

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  5. My Spanish son-in-Ian's sister is a doctor in Valencia. She had several patients with symptoms of Covid-19 and sent them to the hospital to be tested. She was horrified when they were sent home without being tested. When she queried a friend at the hospital, she told her that they had been told not to test until the Fallas was over. (The Fallas is the biggest festival in the Valencia calendar, attracting hundreds of thousands of tourists every year).

    Luckily, someone realised that things were far worse than they had thought, and the policy was hurriedly reversed, and Fallas was cancelled. Now, there are too many people in the Valencia area presenting with symptoms, and they don't have enough tests.

    We aren't the only country where the roost is ruled by the "money-men".

    ReplyDelete
  6. On BBC Newsnight I listened to a clinical *manager* of England's NHS talking about selecting which patients are worth treating with ventilators because by that stage the doctors must make a judgement on who will likely die and who has more chance of life so as not to waste the use of the ventilators because they will be in short supply
    They know this now and yet still drag their feet on obtaining more

    What does this tell you about the England who turned down EU help in getting more ventilators that some Scots still wish to remain shackled to

    Boris Johnson said "We're not members of the EU" Johnson is as insane as Trump

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  7. To quote you

    "Disturbingly, Scotland's Chief Medical Officer suggested the other day that suppression measures might be relaxed when the NHS has enough spare capacity to treat more patients. The idea that it's somehow OK to needlessly allow people to become seriously ill just because there's a hospital bed ready for them is, let's be honest, utter lunacy."

    I lost confidence in our so called Chief Medical Officer when she allowed that tax dodging billionaire parasite Charles Windsor to be tested and worse allowed him to end his self isolation before the 14 day period. He should have been stopped at the border.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Prince Charles of the Royally Royal folk was tested legitimately as it turns out because he has the hereditary blood disease Porphyria which runs in the Royal family

      Remember the *madness of King George* well Royal Chic's got it

      Delete
    2. Constantine MudgeApril 1, 2020 at 11:38 AM

      Pray, this madness you speak of reminds me of the madness of Heracles and the tasks Queen Omphale gave him in retribution.

      Heracles was sold as a slave, and to work for three years to pay the price for the soul of a man he had killed.

      He was bought by Omphale, Queen of Lydia, and she set him many tasks to do. Some of them were not worthy of Heracles for she made him clear all the robbers and brigands from her country. One of these was named the stripper.

      He used to catch wayfarers and rob them then make them dig about his vines with a spade; Heracles knocked him on the head with his spade.

      When the three years were up, he paid the fine and was now held to be free from guilt, as His Royal Highness will be judged and set free.

      The royal abode will become as a temple of the sick where all are cured, Camilla shall be known as a Panacea, Anne as Hygieia.

      All shall rejoice!

      Delete
    3. Roddy Collarless-ShirtApril 1, 2020 at 11:45 AM

      But what of Orpheus, sir? And would you fully endorse Master Kelly's attempts to lock us down on to a Procrustean bed?

      Delete
    4. Constantine MudgeApril 1, 2020 at 12:20 PM

      Never!
      ....But...Ah yes , Orpheus! Like Master Kelly with the Quill, Orpheus was a rare hand with the harp!
      As he entered the tunnel that led to the dark house of Hades, there he saw some of the greatest sinners enduring their punishment.

      He began a melody, soft, then rose and rang loudly through that dark hall.

      A last Hades cried, "your music is worth a life. Take your wife and go":
      Without thinking, as they left the tunnel, he turned to look and as he wondered if his wife followed, and she uttered a cry and began to fade, and so was lost forever.

      Orpheus would not be consoled, he dies, his head was cut from his body, and thrown to the river. The river carried it to the sea, where it floated to the island of Lesbos by the town of Methymna.
      And ever since that time, the nightingales in the olive trees sing more sweetly than any other nightingales in the world.

      Delete
  8. My brother has a customer in Glasgow, a plastic surgeon, who has bulk bought 400 testing kits and is selling them on privately at a profit.How do I go about this being investigated?

    ReplyDelete
  9. Putting his name on twitter might stop the practice but he might sue if he isn't.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I share a surname with one of the two "government experts," given he has that surname, he will be an arrogant bar steward. We are all the same.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Ah hud the idea furst:

    https://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/lifestyle/scots-msp-shares-brilliant-hack-21785908

    Ah goat it fae Albie's wee nickname fur me.

    ReplyDelete
  12. The Scottish Government has not been in complete lock-step with the UK Government over testing.

    The Scottish Gov announced on 1st March it was going to start surveillence testing for Corvid-19. This is the system used to track 'flu cases.

    In mid-March the SG ramped up the system and it now extends to some 200 surveillence centres, usually GP surgeries. This will give the SG and Health Authorities in Scotland some idea of the spread of the virus. Not of course full contact tracing and widespread testing but more, much more, than the UK Government is attempting.

    Now there are reports that the SG must submit their orders for test kits via the UK Gov. From indyref2 space
    Whitehall is now controlling all the UK tests, NHS Scotland has to beg London for tests and then justify for whom to test via London

    https://mobile.twitter.com/newscotlandtv/status/1245006208408465413

    CH4 news has also reported problems the Welsh Gov is having with their order for kits.

    https://www.channel4.com/news/welsh-governments-coronavirus-test-deal-collapses

    There also seems to be some confusion about how the UK Gov is now collecting and reporting the number of cases and deaths.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. UK and devolved nations governments all agreed to order tests centrally.

      https://news.sky.com/story/coronavirus-whitehall-takes-charges-of-tests-after-row-between-england-and-wales-11966406

      Devolved governments in Scotland and Northern Ireland have agreed to the scheme alongside Wales in the hope it is more efficient, acknowledging it can make more sense for the UK as a whole to procure some equipment.

      I'm assuming that the Scot Gov agreed to this as they thought it would be the best course of action, otherwise they would of just continued to order them seperatly as is in their power.

      Delete
  13. You are doing a grand job James on this virus scandal. Keep up the good work. Hope I am still around to read your final article on this matter.

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  14. I recently retired from a senior job in animal disease surveillance and control. In my time (2006 to 2018) I was involved in seeing off two major virus threats to Scottish livestock. One of them wiped out sheep production in Belgium. While I acknowledge that human epidemiology is a different discipline, I am frankly terrified by what is going on. James's article sums it up well.

    If you can possibly stay away from people and keep your head down for several months, do it. Try to shop as infrequently as possible and take all possible precutions when you have to do it. If our governments won't protect us, we need to protect ourselves and our neighbours, friends and family.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Another anonymous

    Yes people do die all the time but what kind of society allows people to die of preventable disease, and what kind of society talks of not protecting their elderly citizens because they're of less productive worth, and what kind of society instructs its care homes to have residents sign DNR documents in case they contract a disease that will put them into ICU because it would be a waste of use of a ventilator

    These facts and others are available at Tories.co.uk

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    Replies
    1. To me, the economic effects of letting the disease run riot through the populaiton killing say half a million in a few months are too horrific to contemplate.

      The mass panic, fear, death and feeling of complete abandonment by the population, leading to 'every man for himself' would have created a catastrophic economic collapse, and likely a breakdown in society.

      As it stands, we have a few months of severe pain, but hopefully a chance to try and bounce back with some confidence and hope for the future as the situation comes under control like China and Korea. Importantly, people take confidence from society / government moving to protect them rather than the money in the hour of need.

      It is pessimism that drives and deepens economic collapse. Human sentiment. You create that by 'ever man for himself / throw them to the wolves' approaches, which is what 0.5 million or more deaths would be.

      Delete
    2. Letting 0.5% die would have been like just letting the Nazis invade because it was better for the short term economy.

      After all, fighting the Nazis was ruinously expensive was it not, with debt spiraling and millions dead. Has the UK even paid it all off yet?

      Surely we should have just taken it on the chin, and let them do their worst with the fittest surviving?

      Was a nice post-war boom, with an NHS etc...

      Delete
    3. I think Tories fear this because it will mean a lot of state intervention / economic management and, well, let's face it, higher taxes on the very wealthy, to get the economy back on track.

      Much like the post-war boom time.

      It's that or economic collapse, riots on the streets etc.

      Delete
    4. "To knowingly allow 0.5% to die would be genocide on a mass scale."

      Would you care to apply that to economic controllers (and to global food supplies)?

      Delete
    5. I'm not sure what you mean, but to deliberately / knowingly infect someone with a fatal disease (when this was readily avoidable) is a criminal offence that could lead to a murder charge.

      Letting most become quickly infected and build immunity for the herd is a decent plan if you know exactly who will survive and who won't. If you don't, it's just asking a lot of people to die in a short space of time.

      The UK is a very wealthy country. It can walk through this. It will need to increase taxes etc and take control of some industries though. Introduce some socialism, just as it did in WW2, creating the boom that followed the increased equality.

      Delete
    6. "The UK is a very wealthy country. It can walk through this."

      Oh dear, oh dear. So this explains some of the "BritNat" stuff. And one of the important things about an iScotland is the population/ resources balance. (Even if you do think that our culture requires injections from the S and SW.)

      Delete
    7. I think you are slightly mad Mr Loun. Me a unionist? Okey dokey.

      Delete
  16. Here's what's coming... and it's really grim. England is 15 days behind Italy. Accumulated deathtoll > 10th death. (England data = UK total minus Scotland, Wales and Ireland for those days).
    (Italian deathtoll rose above 10 on the 25th Feb. England on the 13th Mar.)

    Italy... England
    11…11
    12…21
    17…35
    21…53
    29…67
    41…99
    52…135
    79…167
    107…220
    148…257
    197…301
    233…384
    366…412
    463…515
    631…679
    827…926
    1016…1118
    1266…1277
    1441…1632
    1809…2152
    2158…
    2503
    2978
    3405
    4032
    4825
    5476
    6077
    6820
    7503
    8215
    9134
    10023
    10779
    11591
    12428

    ReplyDelete
  17. & Germany is 4 days behind the UK:
    https://twitter.com/AngryTed4/status/1245389574249107457

    As can been seen Germany, France, UK, US, Belgium, Netherlands are all on the same curve. Sadly, this is to be expected, until the R value drops below 1 the virus will continue to spread. As can be seen from the Imperial modelling, most European countries are roughly in the same position in regards to this.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. https://www.ft.com/coronavirus-latest
      https://www.imperial.ac.uk/media/imperial-college/medicine/sph/ide/gida-fellowships/Imperial-College-COVID19-Europe-estimates-and-NPI-impact-30-03-2020.pdf

      Delete
  18. https://www.itv.com/news/2020-04-01/scotlands-covid-19-death-rate-will-be-lower-expert-suggests/

    Scotland’s Covid-19 death rate will be lower, expert suggests

    Scotland’s death rate of people with coronavirus will be lower than the rest of the UK because lockdown measures were introduced at an earlier stage, according to an expert...

    ReplyDelete
  19. https://grumpyscottishman.wordpress.com/2020/04/01/is-westminster-coronavirus-policy-a-cull-of-the-sick-and-old/
    This is a total disgrace.

    Grumpy also has a newspaper clip that suggests that Gtech could supply ventilators. SNHS should place an order.

    ReplyDelete