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

It's been interesting watching the evolution of Iain Macwhirter's views over the last few days about the UK's "herd immunity" strategy - which defies the wishes of the WHO by deliberately allowing the virus to spread and infect 60%+ of the population, in order to avoid a hypothetical "second wave" later on.  When I first spoke to Iain about this, I think he hadn't quite grasped the scale of what was being talked about - he thought that only a limited proportion of people would have to be infected to generate herd immunity.  A couple of days later, the penny seemed to have dropped and he started wondering aloud whether it was the UK or the rest of the world that was making the huge mistake (a useful rule of thumb when you ask that sort of question is that the answer is most likely to be the UK).  But now he's come full circle, and has penned a column today praising Nicola Sturgeon to the skies for ignoring 'people on Twitter' and listening to the UK scientific advisers instead.  The point he neglects to make is the one he made himself only the other night - ie. that first and foremost it's the experts of the rest of the world she's ignoring, not just 'people on Twitter'.  I don't doubt for a moment how difficult it would be for her to depart from the advice she's receiving directly, but when there is such a huge difference of view between the UK advisers and the leading experts of the World Health Organization, there comes a point where it's necessary to consider the strong possibility that the WHO are right and that the UK advisers are wrong.

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".


  1. 'Herd immunity' only works where survivors actually do build up an immunity. Both China and Japan are seeing survivors re-infected. If this is proven then it makes a mockery of the 'herd immunity' strategy.

  2. Govan young team.March 15, 2020 at 4:27 PM

    Dont agree mate. So far yet again from my uneducated opinion , this is mere rumour nothing more.

    heres a link to this article which disagrees with you...

    Scientists in and outside China agree that reinfection is a highly unlikely explanation for the patients who retest positive. They say testing errors are more likely to blame — either false negatives that resulted in patients being discharged too early, or false positives when they retested and were taken back into hospital.

    Those errors could be attributed to contaminated test samples, human error while taking swabs, or an oversensitive nucleic acid test that detects strands of virus. When a person gets sick with any kind of viral infection, their immune system naturally develops antibodies that should protect them from contracting the illness again after they’ve recovered.

    Even in cases where that immunity wears off, it shouldn’t be as quick as within a few days or weeks, said Dr. Keiji Fukuda, director of Hong Kong University’s School of Public Health.

    “If you get an infection, your immune system is revved up against that virus,” he said. “To get reinfected again when you’re in that situation would be quite unusual unless your immune system was not functioning right.”

    1. I don't see how that negates the main thrust of the argument.

    2. Govan young team.March 15, 2020 at 4:45 PM

      Hi anon , im simply adressing alans post where he says china and japan are seeing survivors reinfected.

      The article makes clear this is highly unlikely and other explanations are more likely.

    3. Ah OK, it was a reply to Alan M, that explains

    4. It matters because if people are not building up an immunity then there will not be a vaccine. Vaccination is a way of building immunity in a controlled manor.

      So if you want an vaccine you better hope that people are building immunity or we are all screwed.

      In other words if proven it makes a mockery for the, hold out for a vaccine strategy as one will not arrive

    5. I don't think that's right. It might have to be a yearly vaccine if immunity is short-lived, but it's not an unsolveable problem.

    6. Thats a fair point, but if people are getting reinfected only weeks after their original infection, then we are not talking yearly vaccinations.

      This is why a vaccine will take time to come to market. Human trials (which many seem to think can just be scrapped to speed up production) are not just to check that the vaccine has no sever side effects, but also to see how effective it is. What does is needs, can this be administered at once or does it need to be spread out, now long does it last for etc etc

    7. Gyt, if you get the lurgy then stay away from Brechins Bar the Subway and the DWP.

    8. Govan young team.March 15, 2020 at 7:15 PM

      A hid it three weeks ago GWC , and i wis walking around maryhill looking fur ye.Snottery hankie , coughing in faces , wiping my unwashed hauns everywhere.

      If that disnae get ye feck knows what will.

      am barred fae the DWP fur pulling some cant over the counter years ago.Lifetime ban , or straight back tae glenochil.

      back selling eldorado doon near the auld wine alley fur a living.A wis in brechin bar last week. Next time im in a will leave a dirty hankie fur ye.

    9. Govan young team.March 15, 2020 at 7:21 PM

      Hey GWC yesterday morning I saw a radical prodistent (who was ranting on about nat si aggression in the peace loving paradise of Govan) lose his footing and fall into the clyde.

      Being a responsible scottish citizen, I notified the emergency services.

      By noon today, they still hadn't arrived....

      I'm beginning to think I've wasted a stamp!

      you awright?

    10. Penny Black stamps are not recognisable in the privatised Post Office doon in Govan.

    11. Gyt, When I wis in the building trade hankies were not invented. Ye jist pressed each nostril in turn an snooted it oot followed by a green spit. Great relief just like a ham shank.

    12. Govan young team.March 15, 2020 at 8:13 PM

      FFS GWC. Its no a real hankie. In govan we use bogroll fur hankies.

      A kin see we are a bit more upper class than you pair cants fae maryhill who dont even have bog roll tae use.

  3. Dom and Boris's "Herd Is Not a Metaphor" BDSM ClubMarch 15, 2020 at 4:27 PM

    Imagine in February China had said they were deliberately going to infect 50% of their population and not gaf about infecting the rest of the world. How do you think the rest of the world would have reacted to China at that point?

    Now imagine in two/three months time the lockdowns in Italy and Spain and then other countries have worked as well as they did in China and the spread is thankfully under control across the world, even the US.

    Now imagine the exception at that point is dear old Blighty with say 50% of the population infected, hundreds of thousands dead or dying, millions with pneumonia, and the island still sending infected people out across the world -- and all this done deliberately by the UK govt.

    This is just a thought experiment (although a scenario likely to occur) so bear with me here. If a country is acting in a way that DELIBERATELY endangers the lives of ten of millions and the health of hundreds of millions across the world, might nuking that country be considered by e.g. Donald Trump? If not, why not?

    How about if this hairtrigger nihilistic manbaby whose re-election the virus threatens and who faces life imprisonment once out of office, has a near as dammit veto on the UK's use of nuclear weapons?

    But this must all have been wargamed by Dom and chums, surely. And they'll have received reassurance from the famously reliable US president that no such thing would cross his mind.


  4. "Don’t panic, but do prepare. If your government won’t help you, do it yourself."

    It would be good if the Scottish Government, at least, could help lead us away from this destructive-looking approach of the UK Govt.

  5. It is inexplicable to me how the Scottish Government, normally so enamoured of Europe and the Irish and Scandinavian models of doing things, are suddenly, just at the most crucial point, seemingly so dangerously under the spell of the Cummings/Johnson worldview.

    1. Are they in thrall to the UK Gov and its 'worldview' which does not seem to extend beyond the end of its nose.

      Ms Sturgeon broke ranks by announcing the Scottish Gov plans about gatherings over 500 people.

      Then today the announcement to continue with community testing in direct contrast to the position of the Westminster Gov. This broader testing will, despite Mr Kelly's grudging acknowledgement, provide useful information. I believe there are 41 sentinel centres around Scotland who will be doing the sampling. When flu is on the go there are usually 21 sentinel centres across Scotland.

      Of course more sampling would be better but the SG does not control the manufacture of the kits nor their distribution. Devolution constrains their actions but the SG is pushing at those constraints in an effort to follow a more distinct, and more evidence based, pathway.

    2. "despite Mr Kelly's grudging acknowledgement"

      I said it was better than nothing, and I think that's as far as anyone can realistically go. This is an emergency and doing 10% or 20% of what we need to do just isn't going to cut it.

      Incidentally I do accept that there are major constraints on what the Scottish Government can do due to the nature of devolution. But they need to do the maximum that their powers permit, and that won't happen for as long as they buy in to the basic UK strategy of allowing this virus to spread.

  6. Some of the resonses to this tweet are shocking:
    Craig Murray
    As the world strives to delay and mitigate for a year or so while a COVID-19 vaccine is developed, I hope this shock will deal a real blow to the voodoo anti-vaccination movement, where people piggyback on and endanger the general immunity to avoid miniscule personal risk.

    Vaccines save lives, without them we would still be watching small pox kill thousands, polo kill and put people in wheelchairs, the list goes on and on.

    Sadly some (a very small minority) will die / have complications due to being vacinated. No medical procedure is completely safe. People also die from reactions to antibiotics but i see no clamour to ban them.

  7. Is everyone ignoring the fact that Jeanne Freeman, this morning on Politics Scotland, said -

    "Herd immunity is not what we are trying to do. We don't know enough about the virus.

    The policy is to protect the most vulnerable in the community and as far as possible ensure they do not get the virus."

    I posted that on a Mcwhirter thread a wee while ago, and no response.

    If you can see this (WaPo seems to have a random paywall), I suspect it is the kind of thing they'll be looking at. Still depends on making assumptions about how it spreads but they can vary the assumptions and still get a handle on what they should be doing next. Obviously that would be a lot more believable if they were doing more testing, so good to hear they are going to step up testing.

    If you can't see the article, it's basically showing how simulations (modelling) can predict the effect of different degrees of distancing.

    Clearly distancing and wider testing should have started much earlier.

    1. Nice to hear Jean Freeman disassociating herself from UK policy on so-called herd immunity.
      Pete Wishart's was embarrasment on QT. His me too to the Tories and failure to mention Holyrood's efforts to halt the virus was cringeworthy.
      Phillipa Whitford would have given chapter and verse to the viewers on Scotland's response.
      Wishart seemed to think he was speaking to West Bromwich.
      We're watching too Pete, and you were dire!!

    2. George: I'm afraid that's almost certainly just a presentational shift caused by the public backlash against herd immunity. The UK govermment have suddenly started saying much the same thing: "Herd immunity is not the strategy, was never the strategy, Vallance was just misinterpreted". But no, he wasn't misinterpreted. He was absolutely explicit and said the same thing multiple times. "We shouldn't try to suppress the virus because it'll pop back up again in winter" - that's the herd immunity strategy in a nutshell. On behalf of the Scottish Government, Jason Leitch has been touring the TV and radio studios for days, and he's quite openly talked about herd immunity as being an important part of the strategy. So unless we see a substantive change of policy and the introduction of some of the measures that almost every other European country has adopted, it'll be reasonable to infer that herd immunity remains the objective, albeit that's something they no longer want the public to know about or fret about.

    3. Dom and Boris's 60 Million Person Petri DishMarch 15, 2020 at 8:40 PM

      UK gov and Scotgov have had multiple chances to deny previously they were going for herd immunity and didn't do so. I've asked SNP heads multiple times to make the same denial and they haven't.

      And even if they really wanted to change tack it might be too late. Even with the far lower rate of testing, the UK's confirmed cases are now where Spain's were just five days ago. Everybody here knew then that the lockdown was coming. If similar was coming in the UK you'd know it by now. No, they've bet millions of lives on herd immunity and they're sticking with it.

      This is so serious it makes even the weightiest previous discussions on this site look trivial by comparison. I really am amazed by the course Scotgov have taken here. Does anybody seriously believe if Scotland wasn't part of the UK, Nicola would have gone along with this craziness?

      And note the complete failure of its defenders here to show why the approach the rest of the world is taking is mistaken. Despite the eerie silent atmosphere and lack of social life etc, it actually feels fine being in lockdown, because it immediately becomes obvious how hard it is for the virus to spread in these conditions.

      The situation is Spain in a month might be complete bedlam, but might not be. Very difficult now to say the latter about the UK. God help you all.

    4. I'm expecting lockdown within 5 days, i.e. matching the European pattern as Scotland reaches the same point on the timeline in terms of cases per capita.

      Local word on the teacher grapevine is that the school will be shut by the end of the week max and probably for many months.

      I work at a university and word is similar there; likely lock down starting by Wednesday - Friday, with students being the first to depart, and staff winding down to mission critical skeleton.

    5. It's honestly not too bad so far. The inconvenience is offset by the relaxation that comes from seeing how effective this is going to be -- has to be. My gf has asthma so I've had to be extremely careful with latex gloves, sprays, masks, moving swiftly away from people coughing, etc, and it's a relief to be able to ease off on that bit. Plus there's quite moving stuff going on like last night's national ovation on everyone's balconies at 10pm for the country's health workers.

      Slightly unpleasant confession. In the current high pressure situation, the old security guard part of me is coming out and I'm finding myself feeling a mild disgust for grown men who're dealing with all this like whining, self-pitying wee pussies. Not proud to feel that, but there we go.

    6. >Early morning and already very drunk British tourists not following the quarantine rules established by the Spanish government in #Benidorm have to be escorted out of the beach by police.

  8. The Scottish nation only exists in its advanced form because of vaccinations. Even Skier and the numpty fae Govan are alive to put out their anti English poison. Skier and Govan are a virus.

    1. Govan young team.March 15, 2020 at 7:42 PM

      Hey GWC.

      Av jist read a guid book about adult breastfeeding by nora nippleoff.

    2. The Germans and allies managed to murder millions of Jews they called a virus. I doubt this real virus will kill as many, hopefully not. We just have to wait it out and see.

    3. Really no need for you to wait.

    4. Have you a suggestion otherwise?

    5. Efter both sufferin depression , me and GWC were gonnae commit suicide yesterday.

      Strangely enough though , once he kilt himself , i started tae feel a lot better so i thought feck it , i`ll soldier oan.

    6. I committed sideways last week then wis ressurected . My followers brought me 365, lanny and some Carlie's.

  9. Yesindyref2: I've deleted your comment, and I'm sure you're capable of making your point much more constructively than that. It is not a "conspiracy theory" to state that the government's non-suppression strategy will directly lead to a very large number of deaths. It's an irrefutable fact. The virus has a much, much higher fatality rate than the seasonal flu. If you choose not to suppress it, it kills people.

    1. And I've deleted your replies. This is serious stuff and I'm not going to let you trivialise it in that way. No more, thank you.

    2. The answer to your question is "no". That sentence was very carefully considered, it is accurate for the reasons I've explained, and it will not be deleted or changed.

      I've answered your question, so please stop this nonsense.

  10. "Food banks empty as hoarders don't contribute".

    "The poor suffer as the greedy hoard cheap beans and pasta"

    For some odd reason I haven't seen a story in the Scottish papers - but they do exist in the English ones.

    Cop on McWhirter, and all The National journos. YOU could save lives.

    1. We are seeing the effect of the just in time world. I usually have 2-4 weeks food in the house, so I don't actually need to stockpile. I have a family, work all week, and live in the sticks. Getting to the shops is a hassle.

      But when I was young and lived in a city, I might have had less than an hour's food at any given moment. With a coop next door and fast food all kids etc.. that was normal.

      The same applies today for younger folks particularly, and notably city dwellers due to the convenience.

      Then we have shops which have have no store rooms. In the old days, the stock room was the size of the shop. Now supermarkets have one that's maybe 10% of the shop and is just a holding pen for deliveries arriving regularly, which go straight out onto the shop floor. So, when folk who normally buy 1 days food suddenly buy 2 weeks worth, the shops empty really quick, with no store room to replenish. They try to get deliveries in, but so long as the shelves look part empty, people continue to panic and keep them that way.

      I'm out in the sticks and the local shops are pretty well stocked; people in the country tend to hold more in the house maybe? less prone to the madness of crowds?

      I'll see what I've got and can probably give some stuff to the foodbank.

    2. Yes, I posted about JIT on the Hassan article in The National, and just mentioned it on the Herald Expert article. It does need a very careful balance between Microbiology and Macroeconomics, which is perhaps why you have the WHO on the one hand, and the UK Gov on the other.

      Though the UK Gov and Scot Gov don't seem to have had any economists on Cobra or the equivalent - a foolish omission. For example: "Financial crisis caused 500,000 extra cancer deaths, according to Lancet study. 26 May 2016". And THAT was nothing compared with what covid-19 over-reaction could cause. Plus that's only cancer, nothing about poverty or disease generally.

      The media is just starting to cop on to this threat, potentially far more severe than covid-19 deaths.

  11. Unfortunately, the death rate may well be more 5-6% rather than the 1-2% folk often mention.

    And that's based very heavy containment with healthcare systems just about coping.

    For 60% infected, you'd be looking at coming on for 200k deaths in Scotland.

    1. This data suggests 8% for 'closed cases', i.e. the patient recovered and was discharged or died.

      Of course there will be patients not showing symptoms who are never identified, so the death rate is actually lower. However, this proportion is difficult to know (lets hope its really big). For identified cases these are pretty scary numbers.

      5% is 1 in 20.

    2. Does Anybody Still Believe This Isn't a Simulation?March 15, 2020 at 8:56 PM

      Yes, this chimes with the 7% mortality rate when you look at completed cases, which is up from 6% last week due to the higher rate of death in Italy. And as the virus spreads across Europe, UK included, which has a far higher % of old people than China, that rate will keep increasing.

      And again: while the % of deaths for people 80+ is much higher than for those 50 to 59, the actual number of deaths is not so far, because far more in the latter age range catch it.

      And this is what the UK's govts are planning to unleash on the population. It's beyond belief that, on top of everything else, we're having to have these discussions about the UK's insane approach. People outside the UK can't believe it either.

    3. Mass graves then, something like Buchenwald. Workers doing overtime!

    4. Don't take this the wrong way, GWC, but see when your brain suggests typing 'Workers doing overtime (exclamation mark)' beneath discussions of a 6% mortality rate potentially among ten of millions of people, does a voice ever say 'Maybe that's inappropriate in the context. Let's not bother typing that'?

      I'm not trying to have a go at you. I'm genuinely interested.

  12. He's a fucking inbred auld screwball.. can't help himself..

    After the outbreak in the uddingston care home .. think it would be wise to shut the schools now..

  13. Reports people returning to UK including scottish airports aren't being tested for coronavirus would if true be confirmation of the herd immunity strategy.
    Hopefully not true.
    No Govt. should take such a risk with the health and wellbeing of its people.
    This 4 nation nonsense needs to end.

  14. Hello all. My wife and I were on one of the last easyjet rescue flights back to the UK. Getting on to one was a farce but I won't go into that. Point is before we left Milan Malpensa all of us (about 40 passengers) were temperature tested yet again by Italian authorities - if we failed that we couldn't leave. Our captain spoke to us before take off and told us we were to check NHS website for advice when we got back. He also told us that the Italians on the flight were to make their way to a hotel hired by the British government in London but he hadn't been told the name of it nor knew how they were to get there. When we arrived at Gatwick no one met us. The Italians went through border vontrol and on to their destination. My wife and I booked ourselves onto a flight to Edinburgh for the following morning and from Edinburgh made our way home to Sutherland. Nobody met us to test us. We went to Raigmore to the drive in test centre which was not easy to find and was empty but were told we needed an appointment for testing and to phone 111. We then checked with them on our return hone and were directed to our GP instead. We contacted him and were told that there was conflicting information and they would get back to us. An hour later they called to tell us to contact Wick general to arrange testing. We contacted them and eventually were told that they don't do routine testing and as we had no symptoms we didn't even have to self- isolate. A while later our GP called to ask us to call public health as he had contacted them about us. We called them and they took some details including our ages and told us no need to self-isolate. About two hours later they called us again for a few more details and re-iterated that we did not need to self isolate. In a nutshell, we returned with others from a corona virus hotspot and nobody wanted to test us. Italians had a hotel to go to as guests of the UK government but nobody told them where it was. It is a farce. Actually, we might have been safer staying in Italy.

    1. WT maybe you should not have gone in the first place. Take some personal responsibility for your own reckless actions instead of blaming everyone else.

    2. Sorry what was wreckless about going to Italy? FCO told me it was okay. You make a heck of a lot of assumptions in your drivel comment - you don't even know how long I was there for nor why. Also can you point out where I blame anyone for anything please? Perhaps you should try reading before writing. I accept responsibility for my actions as I trust you accept responsibility for being an arse.

    3. Just the sort of reply to be expected from someone whose actions are selfish and reckless. You post all these comments about this didn't hapen and that test didn't happen. You need to read your post again. A test for selfishness is what is needed for you.

    4. WT, sorry to hear you've had to go through all that, and thanks for sharing the info. Sounds like a nightmare.

      And I'm sorry you're having to put up with this pish from Unknown. Imagine reading a story like yours and then your first instinct is 'Let's let the world know how much I disapprove of this person's actions.'

      This site is currently crawling with even more crazies than usual.

    5. Unknown - let me explain, my first post was (in narrative form) to indicate the hubs of possible infection if we were infected and the missed opportunities for the authorities to pick up on this and to conduct normal public health tracing. Look at the possible hubs: Gatwick Airport, Aeroplane to Edinburgh, Edinburgh Airport, Bus 1, Edinburgh bus station, Bus 2, Perth -Broxden, bus 3, Inverness Bus station, bus 4. As we were traveling by car hubs were: Gatwick Airport, Aeroplane to Edinburgh, Edinburgh Airport, Carpark pick up bus, Raigmore Hospital. Look at the missed opportunities for tracking the virus had we been infected. this is about public health not a series of complaints you buffoon. A virus is indiscriminate it doesn't just infect people that you in your misguided way do not approve. Have a look at this list again and remember that there were about 40 people on the flight from Italy so you can multiply hubs of infection and opportunities missed to track and stem. This is a public health issue. If you re-read my original post you will see how the GP had tried to follow this up sensibly but that public health was not interested and that public health was not sure what the advice they were to give actually was. I worked in public health for several years - this is not good practise and suggests that the government is not communicating effectively with its professionals never mind the public.

      As to your other comments - again you make assumptions and you still do not know the reason why we were in Italy erroneously assuming this was for a holiday. That may be the only reason you can think of for travel but there are others. In public health it doesn't matter the reason people do things - all that matters is public health.

      BDSM - thanks for your comment.

    6. WT

      You are spreading the virus. You and BDSM can post your childish comments as much as you want. Someone with a handle BDSM club calling someone else crazy. What is crazy is all these irresponsible people flying around the world spreading the virus.

      Where do I mention a holiday - nowhere - so try and get your facts right before slinging childish swear words about.

      That does not excuse the lack of action and incompetence by the UK gov.

    7. Hello again unknown. It is difficult to tell between one unknown and another perhaps if you used a simple identifier it would help us discern who is who. Sure I made an assumption about you also being unknown at 12:26 AM just two minutes after your own unknown post so I do apologise for the bufoon remark. However, you did assume that I was being 'selfish and reckless' and 'blaming' none of which is true - you do not know the reason behind my visit. You now say about me 'You are spreading the virus' an accusation based on nothing but it raises the fact that you, perhaps inadvertantly, are reinforcing the point I was trying to make in my posts - that NO-ONE knows whether or not I am spreading the virus as nobody bothered to check. It is the lack of testing that is the danger here not even the flying about you mention and which, co-incidentally, no-one is doing. Look to the sky - there is nothing there. Look at your hands - it might now be there. Public interfaces are likely to be the main cause of spread. Public transport in particular will be a danger. That's the bus, the train and the taxi. Large numbers of people at different times of the day embarking and alighting, all touching the same surfaces. Small, crowded spaces where it is impossible to get a meter between people. This is where the danger lies.

      I am glad we both agree that the government is not handling this well.

    8. I do not disagree with what you say in general my point is if the gov fails society then individuals have to take responsible decisions. Not travelling is part of individuals taking responsible decisions particularly when you are aware of the gov failures.

    9. I agree with you. It is really an "every human for themselves" situation and responsible behaviour is required from every one of us. I had a particular reason why we had to go to Italy and checked with the FCO whose advice was very much positive - this was a while before the balloon went up anyway in fairness to them.

  15. I think a lot of people could be thinking the UK is not a good place to hang around any more.

    1. Some nice burds fae Saltcoats on the last train fae Glesga are good tae hing oot.

  16. James you are doing a great job with your posts.pity the same cannot be said for those who govern us. Boris the grim reaper.

  17. All these people going on needless holidays - selfish and reckless. Spreading a dangerous virus. Shameful.

  18. People are confused on information because Englands media and politicians keep referring to England as the UK, media and people from Belgium or Germany or France don't refer to themselves as The Europe, they report and refer to the information about country they're in or from

    1. While many countries are part of unions, from the EU to the UN, I believe England is the only country to claim all other members of a union it belongs to are its property, as reflected in such language use.

      It's characteristic of a deep racist hatred of other union members to wipe out them out in this way, and ties in with the 'no section 30 belief' England has in its 'ownership' of Scotland/Wales/NI.

  19. Good commentary on Covid19 and infection control here

    It's not a good report card.

  20. The places most affected by coronavirus so far - Wuhan, South Korea and Northern Italy - have done everything possible to minimise rates of transmission of the virus, and cases, as a matter of urgency. Because this is a new virus, no-one knows what the ultimate success of their strategy will be. For example, there may be a second wave in of the epidemic in these countries, etc. It is clear that the UK, and Scotland, are at present not doing everything possible to reduce the spread of the virus. Whether this is because of a different strategy, economic factors, or cultural arrogance, does not matter. What does matter is that the UK strategy will result in a lot of cases of people being sick. Some of them will be very sick and have to go into hospital. The reality of that is that many people will suffer, some will die, their families will be under huge stress, many health professionals will get sick, and people with other illnesses will be denied treatment because hospital beds are taken up with COVID19 patients (and some of them will die). Right now, today, this is not happening. I can walk into my local hospital and its business as usual. But big numbers of cases, and everything that goes with it, is where we are heading. We live in a society that is dominated by short-term thinking. If things are OK today, then that is fine. But the people who know about pandemics, who have studied historical examples such as Spanish flu and SARS, and have analysed what has happened in Wuhan and South Korea - these people, who have a longer time horizon, are pretty clear about what will happen over the next 6-12 months if the UK/Scotland continues on its current path. Many people are listening to WHO advice and taking necessary action. But a pandemic operates at a group level, and requires resolute action by governments as well as by individuals and families.

    1. Hello John.

      Sorry to say i think your post is disgracefull.

      You are ramping up fear over coronavirus based on nothing more than internet rumour and misinformation , while below thanking a political polling blogger with no knowledge or expertise over corona for providing a forum to ramp up the hysteria over corona.

      If you know whats pretty clear and likely to happen over the next 6 - 12 months , then whay are you posting on this obscure internet blog?

      You should be out offering your talents to the scottish government and in depth knowledge.

      I think certain individuals running around screaming we are all going to die are a disgrace.

    2. I am certainly not saying "we are all going to die" - I can't see where that is implied in my post. My thinking on this matter has been influenced by the numbers coming out of Northern Italy, articles written by Italian doctors about how overwhelmed their system is, and reports of how the UK and other governments are doing their best to increase the number of ventilators and ICU beds. Does that count as internet rumour and misinformation? ALso, I don't think that James Kelly is claiming to have expert knowledge about coronoavirus. What I see him doing is reporting on evidence-based positions advocated by the WHO and many governments. I do not claim any personal expertise, either. However, as a citizen in a democracy I have access to a range of views and evidence, and have a right to express my opinion. I am someone who is in a risk category to be badly affected if I catch coronavirus, including risk of death. So, I think about these possibilities. My family and friends think about them as well, and we are all trying to do what we can to be safe. The fear of death is part of the reality of all of this.

    3. anon above, you need to read this:

      >Prof Chris Whitty, the government’s chief medical adviser, has previously described that figure as the worst-case scenario and suggested that the real number would turn out to be less than that. However, the briefing makes clear that four in five of the population “are expected” to contract the virus.

      >The document says that: “As many as 80% of the population are expected to be infected with Covid-19 in the next 12 months, and up to 15% (7.9 million people) may require hospitalisation.”

      It's perhaps understandable if people come across shocking info or comments online and feel they're 'fearmongering'. This reaction has been the predominant one for two months now.

      But whoever you are, you seem woefully underprepared for what's coming. In the govt's expected scenario above 500k are "expected" to die. This is not their worst case scenario, which would be if the 1% fatality rate is an underestimate (which it may well be).

      450k British people died in WW2, but that was stretched out over 1939 to 1947. 500k British people are "expected" to die over the next year, with 8 million hospitalisations. These aren't my figures or John McLeod's, but the govt's own figures. And one of the real peaks in deaths and hospitalisations is expected in the coming weeks.

      I understand this info might freak you out. Anybody not freaked by it is in denial. But you need to get ready, my friend, including psychologically. In terms of deaths and hospitalisation, on the govt's own figures the coming weeks are going to be worse than the Blitz.

      We are part of the most pampered generations in human history. This may explain the denial -- people simply can't believe that their lives of comfort, historically speaking, are about to end. So this is something else you need to be prepared for -- the psychological freakout that's going to erupt if/when people see 500k dying in a year, and knowing that the UK and Scottish govt allowed this to happen to them deliberately, to an extent, because of an incautious untested theory.

    4. The Scottish government's plan is different to the UK government's plan though. Already we have big deviations, and the papers are all over the differences today.

      While there is not scope for massive deviation due to Westminster refusing the devolution of such powers and a section 30, the evidence in hand is that the Scottish government are not following the same plan as the UK government. In fact the Scottish government announced earlier that while the 4 nations coordination was still being applied (and must be), people were to expect notable differences going forward between governments.

    5. But thats not what said only a couple of hours ago:
      While health is devolved, and while on occasion there might be slight differences in the differences in policy or the timing of policy between nations, she expects there to be a high degree of commonality as it is based on the same scientific advice.

      We should not speculate on things, if the Scot Gov is saying high degree of commonality, with timings possibly the only major difference then thats what we should expect until official communications say differently.

      With daily briefings from Scot Gov, any change from the rUK position can be quickly communicated in an official manor, instead of speculation that can cause confusion.

      Same as if people get information from internal briefings etc regarding school closures etc. When it is decided to close schools schools and education authorities will have forward knowledge (even if it is for a very short period) so they can plan. This of course should not be released into the public domain as it can cause confusion.

      If you have access to information that is not the public domain, its your responsibility not to disclose it until it has been released into the public domain / told to do so. This is normal practice and is even more important at a time like this.

      In relation to the elderly, which has caused some confusion as you have said, some clarity on this coming from the Scot Gov:

      Scotland is taking the same approach to the rest of the UK in considering asking elderly people to reduce social contact amid the coronavirus outbreak, the first minister said.

    6. Glad to hear that, Skier. Haven't had a chance yet to check the Scottish press yet today. I'll hold judgement, though, till I see a crystal-clear statement from Scotgov that they're not following the herd immunity approach. If that's in today's press then fantastic.

    7. You don't understand what the word 'differences' means? And how could there not be massive commonality when tackling a pandemic; the standard approaches are almost identical/ Its really only how you vary the timing and application of these that can be altered. UK policy is identical to that of Europe right now apart from timing and intensity of application.

      And it is slight changes that can make a huge difference. For example, it mass gatherings that caused the explosion of cases in south Korea.

      And that's all I'm going to say as I will not waste my time speaking to someone with such racist hatred for me and the people of my country.

    8. Erm i'm Scottish just like you, how comes its not my country?

    9. I'll also note the UK government were also saying this morning that it is not their intent to get everyone infected. Presumably, the backlash to this apparent plan has had some effect.

    10. Why lie. Everyone can see I didn't say it's not your country.

      Why not just try the truth, for once. Is it really that hard?

      I even clearly say I heard the UK government state its intention is not to get everyone infected.

      And as per my post below, Scotland is departing rapidly from the UK timeline. It is up to 4 weeks ahead in implementing restrictive measures, as it became infected up to 4 weeks after England. This very obvious in stats.

      The decision to stop large gatherings is as much as 5 weeks ahead of England.

  21. The daily briefings from No. 10 are a good idea.

    I just hope they start saying 'England' and not 'UK' when they mean England before that arrogance kills people.

    1. Given the 4 nations approach, we should really have briefings by FMs for Scotland / Wales / NI at the same time as the PM of England does his. Otherwise, there will be confusion where policies deviate somewhat. And they will due to independence of public services etc.

  22. I would like to add my appreciation to James Kelly for devoting his blog to the coronavirus question over the past few days, and providing an arena for discussion of this vitally important issue. I hope that members of the Scottish government are reading it. I think it is significant that James, more than any other Scottish politics blogger, has specialised in the interpretation of quantitative data, such as opinion polls and voting patterns. He has been able to bring these skills - essentially, analysing the meaning and implications of trends in statistical data - to bear on the question of polcy and decision-making around the COVID-19 pandemic.

  23. Just so everyone knows. Mass gatherings are still OK in the UK.

    Coronavirus: UK could ban mass gatherings from next week

    Mass gatherings could be banned in the UK from as early as next weekend [21st March] as the outbreak of coronavirus intensifies.

    1. It's beginning. English government utterly confusing everyone by issuing random 'UK' advice when its supposed to be a 4 nations approach.

    2. Just so we are clear.

      The announcement of the daily updates comes after Health Secretary Matt Hancock revealed that every Briton over the age of 70 will be told "within the coming weeks" to stay at home for an extended period to protect themselves.

      Is this part of the Scottish plan, with full agreement from the Scottish government? I hope it is. Otherwise, WTF does England think it is doing.

    3. Mass gatherings across the uk are ok at present. The advice is your arent going to contract coronaviruse from a mass gathering.

      Scotland on the other hand doesnt want mass gatherings of over 500 not because of coronvirus transmission at said gathering , but because limited medical staff are needed elsewhere.

    4. So mass gatherings can go ahead across the UK as usual as per BBC / No. 10 advice?

  24. Roddy Collarless-ShirtMarch 16, 2020 at 2:14 PM

    I feel that I must deplore this behaviour by the common herd:

  25. I was looking at the death rates per capita and Scotland is far behind England. Similar for the other devolved nations. They are fraction of England, and that can't be explained by treatment standards.

    At the same time though, cases per capita are higher. However, this can be explained by more widespread testing (about 1.5x that of England). Scotland is simply testing better, so picking up more cases.

    The lower death rate is probably mainly a result of it arriving in Scotland later. There is maybe as much as 3-4 weeks delay for Scotland; the fist recorded cases here were one month after England.

    So the Scottish government is moving much earlier than England, for example in stopping large gatherings. As much as 3-4 weeks earlier on the timeline. If schools all close at the same time across the UK, Scotland will 3-4 weeks ahead on this.

    That's quite a radical departure from the UK plan.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. I must admit to being guilty of sort of seeing the UK as all on the same timeline. However, it's not at all of course. At least for now. This is because Scotland is quite geographically isolated from England and became infected a good few weeks later.

      It's only when you look at the stats this makes sense. Sadly, our 1 death will not be for long. We have a low death rate (0.18/m) compared to England (0.59/m) simply because England is a few weeks deeper into infection most likely.

  26. This from the WHO today (Monday):

    We've been listening in to the World Health Organization's daily press conference.
    Here are some key lines:
    WHO director Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus repeated one simple message to governments - "test, test, test"
    The WHO has shipped 1.5m tests to 120 countries, he said, but warned the world had not sufficiently escalated testing measures, calling it the "backbone of stopping the spread" of the pandemic
    He advised countries to test every suspected case of coronavirus, and then isolate positive cases. Anyone in contact with patients two days before they showed symptoms should also be tested, he said
    In the absence of hospital facilities for mild cases, patients can be cared for at home but patients should not share a bed or a bathroom with uninfected family members, and they should be cared for by just one family member, ideally someone in good health
    Although those aged over 60 are most at risk, children have also died from Covid-19

  27. My views on COVID-19...

    I am trained as an epidemiologist and a communicable disease physician. I have also worked in predictive modelling in healthcare and in international health systems development. I am not, however, claiming to be an expert, but I would like to make an few observations...

    1... it is unwise to draw parallels from one country to another. Many factors will be different from place to place, population age structure, population density, breadth of healthcare coverage, reliability and breadth of testing facilities, reliability and breadth of contact tracing capability, stage of spread when control measures were first introduced, population mobility, and many other things.

    2... epidemic curves are a base case estimate and bear little comparison with real world spread. The more a disease spreads, the less reliable they become and the more complex a situation is, the less predictive they will be.

    3... In the UK, the actual experts on this sort of thing are known as "Consultants in Communicable Disease Control". In other countries there are different arrangements. While others, such as intensive care specialists, microbiologists, virologist, mathematicians, journalists, acute physicians, behavioural psychologists have a contribution to make, they are not experts on disease spread in the community and should not be regarded (or present themselves) as such

    4... Almost everything that I have seen on social media is misleading and inaccurate. Some of it is extremely dangerous. If you want high quality information, you can get it from the health ministry, public health authority or health system of the country you are in. If you don't want to rely solely on government information, look at the official statements from reputable health orientated universities and departments. London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Johns Hopkins and the TH Chan School of Public Health at Harvard are a good place to start. The World Health Organisation has good information, but it has to work in a range of very different countries and so may not be the most practically useful for a particular country.

    5... we are not testing everybody in the world, so we can't reliably measure death rates. A simple totting up of the numbers will be a massive overestimate. In addition to this, the way people are tested varies massively from place to place. A low number of cases could mean not much disease or not enough testing.

    1. 6... There are only two meaningful strategies for managing an emerging infection. The first is containment, where you isolate cases and trace and test their contacts. If spread within a community becomes too great, this strategy becomes ineffective. The second strategy is herd immunity. The basis of this is that when a certain proportion of people have become immune to an infection, it can no longer spread and so people who are not immune are protected. This is why we vaccinate children. Part of a herd immunity strategy is to protect people at particular risk of harm until lots of low risk people are immune, so the disease can't spread to the vulnerable. A herd immunity strategy is not about culling the vulnerable, it is about protecting the vulnerable. This is a new infection and we are learning about it and our immune responses over time. Strategies will change and develop as knowledge grows

      7... in many outbreaks, more people die (usually of things like heart attacks and strokes) because they can't get access to healthcare than die of the infection itself. It is extremely important to make sure that health services are not overwhelmed so that people can get the help they need.

      8... there are three key ways we can protect health services. Firstly we need to ensure that, if we don't need to seek healthcare we stay away. Secondly, we "flatten the curve" to stretch out the number of people getting the infection over a longer time period, so they don't all arrive at hospital at the same time. Finally we need to ensure that we have enough people to staff our health and care services. If people can't get childcare, they may not be able to work, so we must be very cautious about closing schools etc.

      9... nothing is simple and every action will have risks of negative consequences that we may not initially be aware of, so if something that is obvious to you is not happening, it doesn't necessarily mean that others are stupid or wicked, it is more likely that you are missing part of the picture...

      10... social isolation can do a great deal of harm to people, particularly older people and the more vulnerable. As containment and delay measures increase it will be really important that our friends, families and neighbours are supported. If we all check in on those around us, no one will suffer unnecessarily. Now is a good time to start sharing phone numbers.

      11... wash your hands

  28. WHOs advice is not open to misinterpretation.
    TEST TEST TEST. Scottish Govt is continuing community testing, but needs to be bold enough to break with England over the herd immunity strategy.
    Are we cooperating with London with one eye on funding via the Barnet formula?
    Health is devolved to Scotland but it's clearly not independent.

    1. Remind me how is welsh labour proceeding with the devolved health service in wales?

      We seem to have a lot of loony lefties running around scotland and england trying to portray the scot and uk governments as incompetent and callous while remaining silent on the disaster that is the welsh labour party run nhs .They are also following the four nation approach.

      The WHO`s advice is clearly nuanced , and simply not black and white for each nation and region around the world.

  29. Selfish people not wanting their lives disrupted. Dying is a substantial interrution to some people's lives.

    Total reckless people flying all over the place.

  30. Frank: No. If the UK government doesn't maximise efforts to suppress the virus, people die in huge numbers. That's the fact.