Sunday, April 26, 2020

How did it ever come to this? Iain Macwhirter is now at one with Tory right-wingers in calling for a premature lifting of the lockdown to allow a mass epidemic - and he dismisses the resulting biblical death toll as a "marginal risk"

Of the UK-based scientific experts who were brave enough to speak out vociferously against the 'herd immunity' madness from the start, I'm aware of only one who has been given an official position advising government.  Devi Sridhar, as Professor and Chair of Global Public Health at Edinburgh University, has a place on the Scottish Government's advisory body.  How much difference that's made is hard to say, because she's just one voice among several.  However, at least it means the Scottish Government have directly heard the same message in private that Sridhar has been consistently delivering publicly.  Essentially she's pointed out that governments had two basic options for going forward, and one was demonstrably and vastly superior to the other.

Option 1: Allow the virus to move through a large majority of the population in pursuit of the possibly unachievable goal of 'herd immunity', and only have in place restrictions that are sufficient to prevent NHS capacity from being overwhelmed by too many hospitalisations at any one point in time.  This option would cause catastrophe on multiple counts.  It would lead to hundreds of thousands of avoidable deaths as a direct result of the virus, but it would also cause a large number of other deaths as an indirect result of the chaotic process of lockdown being repeatedly lifted and reimposed over a period of eighteen months or two years.  That would be inevitable, because the virus is highly infectious and has a high hospitalisation rate, so as soon as you relax restrictions enough to allow a sizeable chunk of the population to be infected, the situation will swiftly spiral out of your control again and you'd need yet another lockdown to avoid NHS collapse.  What's so stupid about this idea is that at the end of eighteen months or two years of carnage, you'd probably have a vaccine anyway and you'd wonder why you'd just allowed a quarter of a million people to pointlessly die.

Option 2: Use the current lockdown to properly squash the epidemic, and only ease restrictions when the number of new cases has come down dramatically.  In the post-lockdown period, keep the numbers persistently low by means of mass testing, meticulous contact tracing and moderate social distacing, and then hold out for a vaccine.  That's the closest thing to a win/win that's available to us.  It means the vast majority of people will not become ill, hundreds of thousands of lives will be saved, and the indirect harms caused by lockdown will be minimised in the long run, because suppression of the virus via contact tracing should ensure that second, third, fourth and fifth lockdowns will not be required.

The Scottish Government, to their great credit, came out decisively in favour of Option 2 a few days ago.  It's a pity they didn't do that in February or early March before people started dying, but better late than never.  Perhaps the change of heart was partly down to Sridhar's influence, or perhaps the penny just dropped with ministers and their other advisers that they should have been listening to the World  Health Organization all along.  Either way, it was an encouraging moment for progressives everywhere - because, after all, surely the cornerstone of progressive beliefs is that the lives of 'weaker' people are not somehow expendable.

That said, there is at least one person who we'd normally regard as a progressive but who takes a radically different view.  Iain Macwhirter was one of the liberal journalists who were seduced by herd immunity in the early days, but unlike most of his peers he's remained stubbornly wedded to it, even as the arguments in favour have been utterly discredited.  He's penned yet another bewildering column today, in which he denounces Nicola Sturgeon for trying to prevent mass infections, and for seeking to keep lockdown measures in place for long enough to achieve that.  He suggests that the Scottish Government should just accept the prospect of the vast majority of the population being infected, because "everyone realises" that is likely to happen anyway.

Oh, really?  Everyone realises that?  Well, the World Health Organization certainly don't - they say the virus can and must be suppressed until vaccines or antivirals are ready.  The great majority of governments around the world don't realise it either, and nor do their scientific advisers.  The Scottish Goverment don't realise it, and even a sizeable chunk of the UK government's own advisers don't realise it.  So who is this "everyone" that Iain speaks of?  Oh wait, here we are - 

"Professor Jason Leitch, the National Clinical Director, has been saying it loudly since March."

Ah.  Jason Leitch is "everyone".  You know, I'm almost beginning to wonder if Iain is an old buddy of Leitch, because the unshakeable faith he has in the man's infallibility, to the exclusion of all other expert opinions, is close to incomprehensible otherwise.  As impressed as we all are by the salesman's patter of Leitch, and even by the fabled Masters degree that he boasted to Piers Morgan about, I'm not convinced that he outranks the world-leading experts of the World Health Organization.

Elsewhere in the article, Iain gets into dangerously Trump-like territory by presenting his own wishful thinking as if it is established scientific fact.

"It is well established that the virus cannot survive long in sunlight and that people are much less vulnerable to coronavirus-type diseases in summer."

That is, let's be honest, utter rubbish, and Iain is deeply irresponsible to peddle misinformation in that way.  This is a new coronavirus which has not co-existed with humans for a prolonged period, and it's therefore purely a matter of speculation whether it will have the strong seasonality that is associated with the four coronaviruses that cause the common cold.  But if anything, the balance of scientific opinion at the moment is that it probably won't, and that increased temperatures during the summer will have only a marginal effect on infection rates.  Professor Neil Ferguson suggested that transmission might dip by around 10-20% during summer, but that this won't be enough to avoid a mass epidemic if suppression efforts are stopped.  But Iain seems to have a curious idea that we're over the worst for now thanks to the weather, and that we should lift the lockdown and enjoy some freedom while we can, before restrictions are reimposed in winter due to the second wave that "everyone knows" is coming.  (Presumably that'll be Leitch again.)  If we did what Iain wants, a huge second wave would be inevitable, right enough, but it would happen in the next few weeks, not on a convenient schedule later in the year.  It's lockdown that is holding back the tide for the moment, not the spring weather.

The main source for Iain's faith in the seasonality theory appears to be Professor Carl Heneghan, whose outlier views have made him a poster-boy for right-wing Tory MPs gagging for any pretext to "open up the country".  But the reality is that even 'herd immunity' enthusiasts on SAGE like Graham Medley disagree with Heneghan's opinion that lockdown wasn't responsible for taking the heat out of the epidemic.  Medley is on record as stating that the lockdown was absolutely essential.  So Heneghan really is out on a limb.  Incidentally, it's probably not a coincidence that Heneghan was also selectively quoted the other day in a front-page Times piece co-written by Mark McLaughlin, who has emerged as another leading propagandist for the notion of lifting lockdown and allowing the virus to spread widely.  (McLaughlin has a very different tactic from Macwhirter, though - instead of attacking Nicola Sturgeon, he pretends that she and the rest of Scottish Government, and all of its advisers, are in total agreement with his own views.  His basic proposition is that anyone who wants to 'lift lockdown without a vaccine' - which to the best of my knowledge means the entire human race - must be a supporter of 'herd immunity'.)

The consequence of abandoning suppression of the virus in the way that Iain urges would be a biblical death toll.  250,000 deaths was Imperial College's projection of what would happen in the absence of suppression, but if anything that's starting to look like an underestimate.  It's believed that 40,000 people have died already, and yet the modelling suggests that only around 4% of the population have been infected so far.  We can all do the sums and work out how many will be dead if we allow a 60-80% infection rate.  But Iain's own characterisation is that people of his generation and older would be "marginally at risk".  I've no idea whether he's got his head stuck in the sand or whether he's lost his moral compass completely - but I do know it must be one or the other.

129 comments:

  1. I find it extraordinary that the man who fronts MND Scotland, another fiendish and terrible illness, would think it is OK to have even a marginal risk of loss of life amongst any age group. And given that we now know that this virus can cause blood clots in any age group with consequential risk of stroke etc....
    I just do not understand how he can think like this.

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    Replies
    1. He does not know how you think.

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    2. One wishes for a return to a liberal transit régime, yet acknowledges the wisdom of current strictures. Would I enjoy visiting the land of August Strindberg? Ja, Ja, Ja. Indubitably. Yet might that prove a constitute a Dance if Death. One fears so, therefore remains in residence chez la Comtesse here in Lower Pomerania.

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    3. I thought that Con might have been able to apply Wittgenstein's Theory Of Mind to the statements of the opening posters but then I suppose he is en vacance at the moment.

      Delete
    4. Constantine MudgeApril 27, 2020 at 9:14 PM

      Never have I adopted the jocular "Con" as appellation. Never shall I, but, oui je suis bien sûr en vacance et je reste ici. The tranquility of the Countess's library encourages one in the pursuit of a more profound knowledge and awareness of the works of Schiller and Goethe. The furious calm of the Baltic coast evokes memories of Caspar David Friedrich's finest chefs d'oeuvre on Museuminsel in Berlin.

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  2. Ian McWhirter's very welcome to walk into any Covid ward breathe deeply and then decide if it's the Flu, or he could just be a bus driver and have everybody cough and sneeze on him, he'll be OK though once he drinks his disinfectant

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  3. The whole Corona virus is a plot by Nicola Sturgeon to deny Scotland its Independence, haven't you heard, apparently she's deliberately spreading it around the world so millions will die so she can avoid holding a referendum, and there are people on Wings who can prove it *fact*
    That's what they write isn't it at the end of dead certain sentences *fact* that makes it all definite

    No wonder the entire Independence movement is dumping that clown

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    Replies
    1. Everyone knows that in order to make any rambling statement a fact uppercase must be used,FACT.

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  4. Remember the old days when politics and current affairs was largely about Labour v Conservative; or NATO versus Waswaw pact (with most in the UK in the western camp).

    Now people are split between progressive and conservative, indy and unionist, Leave and Remain, the two sides in the GRA debate, Sturgeonistas v Salmondites, and now herd immunity v testing & tracing. That's a lot of journalists to occupy all the different positions. I guess Ian Macwhirter fills a need to occupy one of those permutations.

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  5. if your figure of 40,000 deaths is accurate, then the UK with less than 1% of the worlds population, will be responsible for 20% of total fatalities from covid-19.

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    1. It is the virus that is killing not the UK. You Nat si thicko.

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    2. It takes a thicko to know one.

      The deaths due to the virus as disproportionately high amongst people in poverty and the increase in poverty is due to the 'austerity' policies of the Tories (and LibDems. "Austerity" is not about 'balancing the books' it is about transferring wealth from the majority of the population to a relatively few wealthy Tory donors and voters. Part of this wealth is from the public services on which ALL of us depend.

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    3. It's pointless trying to explain anything to Covidia. It's an obedient, unthinking colonial.

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    4. Visit the areas that the Scottish FM represents.

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    5. The areas the FM represents voted her into power, you prick.

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  6. If hot weather is responsible for halting the virus, then MacWhirter et al should explain how the virus has managed to survive in what are hot climates all around the world.

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  7. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/26/trust-wanes-in-uk-ministers-handling-of-coronavirus-pandemic-poll?CMP=share_btn_tw

    Public trust plummets in Britain's handling of pandemic, new poll reveals

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  8. If Scotland had the ability to control its own borders.

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-52436658

    New Zealand says it has stopped community transmission of Covid-19, effectively eliminating the virus.

    Of course as we are part of the UK community, that's impossible, particularly when England is due to overtake Spain for death rate due to the brexiter's 'take it on the chin' plan.

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  9. There is no herd immunity strategy. The UK initially adopted a test, trace, isolate approach but ran out out tests. The largest clinical trials program anywhere in the world is now underway in the UK, and a partnering relationship has been achieved with Indian vaccine producers to scale up production of any successful candidate vaccine.
    Testing capacity is now being massively increased and recruitment of thousands of contact tracers underway in preparation for a renewed containment effort following the easing of restrictions. The UK strategy VERY OBVIOUSLY is to reduce community transmission and then to contain the virus until a vaccine is developed. Any departure by the Scottish Government from UK measures will be very very minor. You can't 'pursue' a herd immunity strategy to any practical extent when less than 0.01 of your population is infected. Lockdown began prior to the UK achieving this infection rate.

    Nobody knows which strategy or science will ultimately be shown to be the most effective, this is a new virus and much is yet to be learned. There are no guarantees on the development of a successful vaccine. Sweden's top epidemiologist believes the country's adoption of minor social distancing and the consequent 15-20% projected infection rate from the first wave will give it significant protection against further waves slowing the spread of the virus and increasing the effectiveness of moderate social distancing measures. The Dutch have also adopted a smart lockdown approach imposing only moderate restrictions.
    The example of Singapore highlights that just because a virus is seemingly eliminated in a country doesn't mean it can't re-emerge.

    The UK's problem is not one of a strategic lack of compassion for its citizens', it's incompetence pure and simple.

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    1. Here Johnson explains his 'take it on the chin' herd immunity plan to the UK live on TV:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7GSTbwydtMc

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    2. Also, the infection to final death registration time is about 28 days.

      At day 28 from a 23rd March full lockdown, the cumulative UK death numbers had reached 16,509 (daily data). Assuming a 1% fatality rate, that would be 1.63 million infected by 28 days previously.

      That's around 2.5% of the UK population. Slightly more than your 0.01%. About 250 times larger in fact.

      Seems to me you've no idea what you are on about, so your post should be ignored.

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    3. Restrictions were increased on the 16th March prior to the lockdown and the number of positive test results were 5683 on the 23rd March. They are now 152840 a 2600% increase increasing your figure 26 times gives 42.38 million roughly two thirds of the UK population, so we already have herd immunity if your to be believed. Its you that clearly has no idea what they are talking about. Johnson talked about potential strategies, its the one's you adopt that matter. The Netherlands today explained their strategy for herd immunity, lets see who fares best when all is said and done the Netherlands and Sweden or

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    4. 20 cases to 1.63 million in a coupe of weeks, now that's and R number.

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    5. Erm, positive cases identified by testing only tells you how many people are positive out of those you've tested. It very obviously doesn't tell you how many people out of the whole population are infected. This is the problem. We don't really know.

      Deaths are a more reliable indicator as they don't depend on testing the entire population. Just assessing the dead for covid. Of course you do need to assume a fatality rate. 1% seems fair based on studies of isolated populations such as cruise liners.
      If you want me to use a lower value, that will just increase the number of infections in the UK. A higher value makes the disease much more lethal.

      28 days after the 16th of March there were 11329 dead. So, that would give us 1.12 million infected as of the 16th March initial tightening pre-lockdown.

      That's about 1.7% of the population, and 170 times your 0.01%.

      Today we have 21k dead. by the same method, that gives us just over 3% infected 28 days ago. That's a bit less than 2/3 of the population.

      I understand government scientists are suggesting e.g. 5% infected now, up from my 3% a month ago; the infection rate having slowed massively due to lockdown. This seems a reasonable estimate to me.

      It's you suggesting weird numbers.

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    6. You also need to factor in hospitalisations and ITU admissions, a significantly higher proportion of those infected than mortality rates and identifiable earlier along the pathway than death 11-15 days. If as many people were infected as you suggest the hospitals WOULD have been aware of it.

      I'v many friends working in in front line healthcare dealing with Covid19 and the level of admissions was nothing like your suggesting. Everyone with potential symptoms is tested in hospital, and the testing hasn't been scaled up to test a much much higher proportion of the wider population to anything like the degree your inferring for the discrepancy to be explained by an increase in testing.

      Scientists and the Government use the number of positive test results for modelling and decision making. they are going to base the easing of restrictions on them which also suggests they are not wildly inaccurate just a proportion of those infected.

      I've never seen a curve like yours, you should draw it out on paper.

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    7. Unknown: If you hadn't got into a prolonged exchange with Scottish Skier, I would have deleted your comments on the grounds of misinformation. Some of your claims are not only untrue, they're downright risible. From memory, Imperial's modelling suggested that around 2% of the UK population were already infected by the time lockdown was belatedly introduced, not "less than 0.01%" as you absurdly claim. So, yes, the herd immunity strategy is responsible for the bulk of the catastrophic death toll.

      On the other extreme, your claim about the Swedish infection rate is probably far too high - Sweden are still light-years from herd immunity, and the death toll required to get them there would be frightening.

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    8. The UK only ended the containment phase of its strategy on the 13th March i.e. the test, trace isolate every case approach, it then imposed tougher restrictions on the 16th of March and then the lockdown on the 23rd. Your basing your entire argument on two days the 14th and 15th of March, when any notion of pursuing herd immunity could be considered.

      Did the UK make mistakes - Yes
      Was it too slow to act - Yes
      Should testing have been ramped up sooner - Yes

      But that's not the same as actively pursuing a herd immunity strategy.

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    9. Its not my claim its the claim of the Swedish government. Where is this modelling that 2% were infected, and why would hospital testing be so inaccurate, as for a period only hospitalisations were tested and the proportion of people needing treatment should be reasonably stable so this can be extrapolated to give a community estimate.

      5000 to 150 000 versus in the same period 2% to 5% Hmmmmmmm.

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    10. Germany has done mass scale testing and based on that came up with a fatality rate of 1.2% recently.

      https://www.bmj.com/content/369/bmj.m1395

      That was part of the reason I chose 1% to base my calculations on.

      If as you say, only around 0.01% were infected at the time of lockdown, then that would be 6,500 folk. With 20k+ dead now, the fatality rate you are proposing must be 100%.

      If that's true, herd immunity is obviously impossible; it would kill everyone.

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    11. Everything I've stated is factual and certainly not misinformation, the speculation and guesstimation is all Skier's.

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    12. Unknown, just give us your preferred fatality rate % and we can back calculate how many were infected on lock-down day.

      The time from infection to death registration is fairly well established (~28 days), as are the number of deaths. So this is a simple enough calculation.

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    13. The only figure in my calculation that's speculative is the fatality rate. I'm happy to use yours and re-calculate.

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    14. But isn't Heinsberg the most intensively tested area? And there the fatality rate is something like 0.37%.

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    15. You are the one suggesting that 5683 positive cases on 23rd March lead to 16509 deaths 28 days later. That implies the virus killed every one of those 5683 people, plus another 11k. It must have a fatality rate of 100% for such numbers.

      We should be fucking terrified.

      Or the fatality rate is more 1% and we had well over a million infections by the time UK lockdown occurred.

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    16. "it then imposed tougher restrictions on the 16th of March and then the lockdown on the 23rd. Your basing your entire argument on two days the 14th and 15th of March, when any notion of pursuing herd immunity could be considered."

      Don't be so bloody ridiculous - the "tougher restrictions on the 16th" were not remotely tough. Mass gatherings weren't even banned until the day the lockdown commenced. We let the virus rip for ten full days.

      "Where is this modelling that 2% were infected"

      It's the Imperial modelling. I helpfully gave a clue when I said it was the Imperial modelling.

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    17. I didn't actually use a percentage sign 0.01 is 1% to me nevertheless, the mortality rate maybe around 1% antibody testing should provide some answers. your assumption of 28 days to death is the flaw in your analysis.

      The implication that the UK went from testing 1 in every 400 cases when it was attempting to find, test, contact trace and isolate every case to 1 in 33 in a period when it had abandoned any attempt at community testing is just nonsense.

      Less than 40000 hospital admissions on 3rd April.

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    18. Known infections were less than 0.01%.

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    19. The 28 days average comes from the lancet.

      https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/news/624/cpsprodpb/1C86/production/_111620370_coronavirus_progression_v2_640-nc.png

      From here:

      https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-52133054

      If you meant 1% when you said 0.01, then you were estimating 650k infections at lockdown. That's a bit more than your 5683 number.

      If the infection to death registration period is e.g. longer than 28 days, it means the infection rate at lockdown would be much higher.

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    20. A 5% hospitalisation rate, a crude average, places the rate at somewhere around 1% infected at the time of lockdown. Whether its 1% or 0-01% its still a hell of a long way from herd immunity.

      Strategy depends on what happens NEXT, UK, Sweden, Germany, Netherlands wherever all had the initial goal of protecting their respective healthcare systems from becoming overwhelmed. The decision is whether to let the virus flow gradually through the population or attempt to suppress it entirely.

      The UK is preparing for mass testing and tracing and ploughing millions into vaccine development, Sweden and the Netherlands are not.

      The last post should have been at the beginning of the previous one if it sounds a bit odd.

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    21. 1 in 100 is a lot; like the UK government were originally going for herd immunity. That would have been 110 infections walking around my work campus.

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    22. 5683 is the published statistic for the 23rd of March in the UK. It is there as a relative measure. Time to death on average begins at 19 days post infection.

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    23. It's the kind of infection levels that would see 20k+ dead a few weeks later because you didn't lock down early enough.

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    24. 19 days would give us not far off 1 million infected on the 23rd march suing a 1% fatality rate. 1.5% of the population infected. 165 infections walking around my work. Definitely late for lockdown and suggests an intent to go for herd immunity before backtracking.

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    25. "Known infections were less than 0.01%."

      So what? What matters is the *actual* number of infections, not the known infections. You don't know about infections if you don't test widely.

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    26. The government can't use prospective deaths in its decision making because clearly it doesn't have that data at the time, it only has the test and death data at that point in time. Modelling changed significantly when the Italian data displaced the Chinese figures, but modelling is not the same as hard evidence. Known infections also give an indication in the trend of hospitalisations as all suspected cases have been tested in hospital.

      The UK also introduced a partial lockdown on the 20th March, schools and colleges closed, pubs and restaurants closed, leisure centres closed, universities moved to distance learning. Within a week of abandoning find test trace isolate most of the country was closed.

      The UK Government has acknowledged the failure of its initial response, but at no time has a herd immunity strategy ever been actively pursued. It was discussed and considered but the UK went from containment to partial lockdown within a week and full lockdown within ten days.

      Hospitals in many parts of the UK are empty and some have barely seen a covid patient. Plans to restart routine surgery are well underway. Staff that were covid trained for surge capacity have gone back to their usual roles. There are no plans to pursue herds immunity.

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    27. "but at no time has a herd immunity strategy ever been actively pursued"

      That's the propaganda line from Hancock and we all know it backwards. We also know it's a lie. Patrick Vallance openly stated on multiple occasions that herd immunity was the objective. He even did so at a government briefing.

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    28. Boris Johnson explained the herd immunity concept live on the telly, and even used the term 'taking it on the chin'.

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    29. Here is the BBC discussing it back on the 14th March. By this point, the government had let around 800,000 become infected, based on a fatality rate of 1%.

      https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-51892402

      Coronavirus: Some scientists say UK virus strategy is 'risking lives'

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    30. From your BBC article

      But a Department of Health and Social care spokesperson said that Sir Patrick's comments had been misinterpreted.

      "Herd immunity is not part of our action plan, but is a natural by-product of an epidemic. Our aims are to save lives, protect the most vulnerable, and relieve pressure on our NHS," he said.

      "We have now moved out of the contain phase and into delay, and we have experts working round the clock. Every measure that we have or will introduce will be based on the best scientific evidence.

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    31. So why lockdown so late then?

      Why wait until 335 have died and over a million are infected?

      Scotland locked down at 14 dead.

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    32. https://fortune.com/2020/04/06/uk-boris-johnson-coronavirus-icu-herd-immunity/

      U.K.’s Boris Johnson, who initially advocated herd immunity, becomes symbol of the strategy’s danger

      Johnson's government was much slower to impose social distancing measures than many other European countries.

      On March 12, the same day that France closed schools and asked companies to institute work from home policies, Johnson addressed the British public and declared that the U.K.'s attempts to contain the coronavirus outbreak, with quarantines, testing, and contact tracing, had also failed.

      "I must level with you, level with the British public, many more families are going to lose loved ones before their time," Johnson said.

      The U.K. would now move to a new phase in its strategy against the pandemic, trying to delay the peak of the outbreak, flattening the curve to prevent the National Health Service from being overwhelmed.

      But Johnson did not follow France's lead, instead simply suggesting the vulnerable older people refrain from going on cruises, that schools consider canceling international class trips, and that people with coronavirus symptoms should self-isolate for seven days.

      His government was pursuing a strategy that rested, at least in part, on the idea of shielding the most vulnerable members of the British public from infection while allowing a large percentage of others to catch the virus. The hope was that most of these people would experience relatively mild symptoms, recover, and wind up immune, stopping the virus's further transmission.

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    33. Herd immunity was discussed, considered maybe even proposed but crucially and this is the crucial part never implemented. The UK Government and by implication the Scottish Government went from the abysmal attempt at containment to the reasonably successful lockdown in a matter of days.

      If herd immunity was the goal, why the research, why the vaccine development, why the lockdown. Sweden and the Netherlands have shown you can slow the rate of infection to a manageable level without a full lockdown, and have fewer deaths per head of population than us.

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    34. https://www.nationalgeographic.co.uk/science-and-technology/2020/03/uk-backed-herd-immunity-beat-covid-19-well-ultimately-need-it

      While countries around the world began to lock down workplaces, schools, and public gatherings in response to the rapidly spreading coronavirus, the United Kingdom’s initial strategy sent many into an uproar.

      At first, the U.K. chose not to shut down large gatherings or introduce stringent social distancing measures. In a plan that surprised many in the medical community, officials instead described a plan to suppress the virus through gradual restrictions, rather than trying to stamp it out entirely.

      The strategy, an attempt to build “herd immunity,” involved allowing “enough of us who are going to get mild illness to become immune,” Sir Patrick Vallance, the U.K. government’s chief scientific adviser, told Sky News on March 13.

      If the risks of COVID-19 were not so high, it would technically be possible to bring about herd immunity by allowing the disease to run rampant through a population. However, evidence shows that scenario would lead to high rates of hospitalisation and need for critical care, straining health service capacity past the breaking point.

      After new simulations of the outbreak from Imperial College London showed how badly hospitals would be overwhelmed, the U.K. suddenly reversed course on Monday and introduced new social distancing measures. By Friday, the Prime Minister had ordered all pubs, restaurants, gyms, and cinemas to close.

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    35. https://www.technologyreview.com/2020/03/16/905285/uk-dropping-coronavirus-herd-immunity-strategy-250000-dead/

      The UK is scrambling to correct its coronavirus strategy

      A new report issued by a group of experts advising the UK government offers a blistering assessment of the country’s previous “herd immunity” approach to coronavirus, suggesting that as many as 250,000 people could die as a result—and that it would do little to stop health-care facilities from being overwhelmed.

      The background: Last week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that his country would adopt a different coronavirus strategy from the ones its European neighbors have followed...


      Forgive me if I don't take some random on the internet's word for it.

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    36. Timeline from your article, March 12 containment failed, March 16 social distancing measures introduced, March 20 partial lockdown, March 23 Full lockdown.

      Should we have locked down on March 12 - yes, but this failure is due to inaccurate modelling and incompetence.

      The 1 million figure is your guestimate based on data not available at the time.

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    37. You can find a million articles saying the UK considered herd immunity but chose not to adopt it due to the high potential death toll showing the previous modelling was inaccurate. I've explicitly stated that, the important part of those articles is the chose not to adopt it part.
      And it was a few days from containment to lockdown.

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    38. Yes, as you say, the UK went ahead with herd immunity, then the modelling showed this would kill hundreds of thousands so it backed off in response to public outcry. As a result, it locked down too late and up to 40k are dead, with the UK death rate one of the worst in Europe.

      Did you watch Panorama?

      https://news.yahoo.com/coronavirus-panorama-government-stockpile-ppe-075408414.html

      Coronavirus: Anger after Panorama programme claims government 'failed to stockpile crucial PPE'

      There has been anger from health experts after an investigation revealed the government failed to stockpile crucial personal protective equipment (PPE) ahead of the coronavirus pandemic.

      BBC Panorama found there were no gowns, visors, swabs and body bags in the government’s pandemic stockpile when COVID-19 reached the UK.

      It said vital items were left out of the stockpile when it was set up in 2009 and that the government ignored a warning from its own advisers to buy missing equipment.

      The programme, broadcast on Monday evening, also claimed the government downgraded its guidance on the severity of COVID-19 as late as 13 March so it could provide a lower level of PPE to health workers.


      If you were going for a herd immunity approach, you'd downgrade a disease risk level and not buy protective equipment.

      That way people would 'take it on the chin' as it 'swept through the population' like Boris explained on the telly.

      Delete
    39. No you wouldn't you'd stockpile PPE as your planning on sending your healthcare system to war for a considerable period of time. The `Herd Immunity conversations were just rabbit in the headlights stuff. The PPE fiasco is just another example of UK Government incompetence, this downgrade was a manipulation purely for the purposes of PPE provision because the UK had nowhere near enough. As said many times if on March 13th the risk level is downgraded, why introduce stricter measures on March 16th then further again on the 20th and then full lockdown on the 23rd, surely that's counter intuitive is it not.

      This is another of your erroneous assumptions. Mortality rate is higher in the early stages of an epidemic providing the healthcare system doesn't become overwhelmed. The build up of clinical expertise and experience lowers the mortality rate over time for a new disease. I've heard straight from the horses mouth that treatment in the UK has evolved and improved over the last month to 6 weeks.

      You cite a study from Germany as an example of mortality rate but Germany has a much lower per capita death rate than the UK. Which means either, a much higher proportion of the infected population was tested, the populations are structurally different or the prevalence in the population is/was much lower. Now we know testing rates are higher in Germany but not to the extent that the lower per capita death rate can be explained by that factor alone.

      The UK Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre reports a mean stay in ICU of 4 days for survivors and 5 days for non survivors, which completely contradicts your time to death guesstimate.

      The risk level of the disease has been upgraded rather than downgraded throughout the course of the pandemic, hence the measures introduced. There is no doubt the UK flirted with the idea of Herd Immunity but ultimately chose not to adopt the strategy, which is a good job because the speed of the epidemic in the UK has proved even faster than predicted by the mid March updated Imperial College modelling when they factored in more and more data from Italy.

      The UK locked down at roughly the same time, (maybe a bit earlier) as other European countries when you adjust for timelines. Sweden and the Netherlands have shown a commitment to Herd Immunity the UK hasn't we'll see who ultimately is proved right.

      Delete
    40. A further thought we're also behind the curve on the compulsory wearing of face masks, again not because we're pursuing herd immunity but because the UK government is incompetent.

      Talk to anyone who's served in the UK armed forces on equipment provision and they'll tell you supplies are useless. There's also systemic managerial incompetence in the NHS due to huge levels of nepotism and cronyism, they are needlessly endangering the lives of their staff through decisions completely unrelated to PPE.

      Delete
    41. So to conclude, in accordance with the skier school of debate, yes, as you say the UK never went ahead with herd immunity.

      Delete
    42. Yes, it started herd immunity, then stopped when there was public outcry and scientists said this would kill hundreds of thousands.

      As a result, the lockdown was too late and the UK now has the highest death rate in Europe. Worse than both Italy and Spain, even though it had far greater warning than these two.

      Going for herd immunity in the first place might have been incompetence, but I watched Boris explain the plan with enthusiasm on the TV. He even talked of 'taking it on the chin'. So it seemed planned.

      Delete
  10. James are you keeping that burd under control or do you need some advice?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Goodness me Skier you are like the Scarlet Pimpernel. Many disguises.

      Delete
    2. Oh dear. Covidia's talking to itself now. That's never a good sign, although it's a good laugh when it starts arguing with itself.

      Delete
    3. I am multiphrenic and moniker-fluid.

      Delete
  11. Despite all the scientific papers that have been published about this virus we still do not know enough to say we can lift lockdown and Mr MacWhirter is being very irresponsible when he says the risks are marginal and, by implication, restricted mainly to one age group.

    Evidence has emerged over the weekend of children presenting with lung problems which may or may not be related to this coronavirus
    https://www.hsj.co.uk/acute-care/exclusive-national-alert-as-coronavirus-related-condition-may-be-emerging-in-children/7027496.article

    The received wisdom up to now has been that young children are not affected by the virus but if what is emerging is related to this virus then they may be affected but in a different way to adults.

    There is also the long-term effects of the virus on the health of those who have recovered from the virus. For example, damage to their lungs leading to loss of lung capacity which has implications for their long term health and immediate implications for the NHS and the need to provide rehabilitation for these people. Can the NHS cope with the current numbers that may need rehab let alone the huge numbers that would result if you give the virus free reign?

    Then his believe in the wonders of UV light. That seems to hark back to the pre-antibiotic days when patients in Sanatoria were wheeled out into the sunlight to 'cure's their TB. I wonder what they did for the ones who got malignant melanoma because of this 'treatment'?

    Then there is his enthusiasm the honorary Professor Leitch and his one-year Masters degree in Public Health from Harvard who did not think large gatherings should be banned. He dies have a PhD but I don't know what it was about.

    Mr MacWhirter is becoming increasingly shrill in his musings and over fond of the sin of omission to make his argument/point

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Leitch is a dentist and his Ph.D was in Oral Surgery.

      Delete
    2. I knew he was a dentist and a consultant in oral Surgey. Think he also lectured in the subject at Dundee Uni if I remember correctly. While the PhD is listed in his qualifications there was no mention of the research topic

      Delete
  12. MacWhirter is a carpetbagger and GWC is a Britnat turd. Sorted for you all. No in depth analysis required.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A thick Nat si @un@ like you would not know the difference between a spade and shovel.

      Delete
    2. A spade or a shovel come in very handy for disposing of dog turds or Britnat turds. Same shit same level of intelligence.

      Delete
    3. I would jist hiv tae look at you Nat si and you would shit yer intelligence intae yer pants. Oh come the civil war soon.

      Delete
    4. GWC I would smell you long before you saw me. Britnat turds - what a stink they make.

      Delete
    5. Covidia just keeps digging.

      Spade is to shovel as GWC is to JCB.

      Delete
    6. How would a Scottish Nat si benefit seeker know what a JCB or a shovel look like.

      Delete
    7. Covidia fears hard work. That's why it won't do any; instead, Covidia and its fellow Brexiteers will leave the crops to rot in the fields.

      Delete
  13. I've just solved the North Sea AngloScottish oil dispute. By abolishing the land border the sea border is, like The Goodies, whatever we want it to be. And they said that only three people understood the Schleswig-Holstein Problem! Mind you, one of them was out of the country, whatever that means.
    So – It's Schrodinger's Oil! Not worth anything anyway.

    Now, roll up, roll up! Who'll take these old bangers off my hands for a 45% discount?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Big Eater From PerthApril 27, 2020 at 1:34 PM

      As easy as it is to mock the idiocy of Baron Snackbeard's latest outburst, we'd do better to regard it as a worrying token of British Nationalists' determination to obliterate Scotland's national identity.

      And I prefer to be clean-shaven before biting into a greasy pie.

      Delete
  14. Why are brits freaking out about something perfectly sensible that other countries have no issues with? Are they just naturally insecure people?

    https://www.interstatequarantine.org.au/state-and-territory-border-closures/

    State and territory border closures due to COVID-19

    Some states and territories in Australia have closed their borders to non-essential travel due to COVID-19. Here’s what you need to know.

    Each state or territory has their own entry requirements.

    The most up-to-date information about entry conditions, forms and requirements is on the government website of the state and territory you are travelling to.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There is no A1. There is no M74. Just lines on a map.

      And the central reservation is a function of your imagination.

      Wibble...

      Delete
    2. And I've Emailed the Welsh Branch Manager to say that he should ban the Marches. (Rather him than me.)

      Delete
    3. It's just one more sign of their desperate insecurity.

      Because they know their tide is slowly going out and will soon enough leave them stranded. High and dry.

      Having to stand up on their own (dubious) merits, y'know, without the backing of Big Bro in London.

      Delete
  15. The desperation by the print and TV media to create political division where there is none in order to have something to write about is becoming worse than the online zoomer content infesting websites everywhere

    By continuing to resist the temptations proffered by the media TV and Internet to engage in political one upmanship and concentrate on the job of saving lives in the best way she can Nicola Sturgeon once again pulls off a masterstroke of political judgement, because before this is all over and done the people of Scotland will look at the resulting fallout of the behaviours of the so called leaders throughout the UK and judge for themselves who was really interested in their welfare, the politicians at Westminster and in Scotland, along with the shit stirring media and online blogging conspiracy troublemakers inventing *facts* to destabilise
    or Scotlands First Minister who politiely told all of these people to get stuffed because she's busy trying to save lives

    ReplyDelete
  16. I would tend to argue in favour of a selective Right To Lockdown (and payments) for the elderly and other obviously vulnerable groups and their co-habitees rather than an indefinite on-off general lockdown.
    However it gets more complicated...

    https://www.hsj.co.uk/acute-care/exclusive-national-alert-as-coronavirus-related-condition-may-be-emerging-in-children/7027496.article

    Known unknowns?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sounds similar to medical comment that came out of Italy. No idea what the scale of it is/ was.

      Delete
    2. That ignores that we are finding that the 'non-elderly' are substantially more vulnerable to serious results than once thought.

      Delete
    3. So what figures would you quote in support of this that don't relate to diabetics, asthmatics &c?

      Delete
  17. 62% of covid19 deaths in Scotland occur in hospitals
    the other 38% occur in care homes and elsewhere

    England declare over 20,000 deaths in hospitals ( 62% )
    Which means the 38% of deaths occurring outside hospital in England
    are over 12,000

    That gives a total of more than 32,000 deaths from covid19 in England

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi terence, latest guesstimates of total deaths inclusive in England are over 40 thousand and still rising and when it all comes to light that's why they've been avoiding announcing them Boris the clown will see England turn on him

      But I guess we'll have to depend on Rupert Murdoch for that

      Delete
  18. OPTION 2 relies on “ moderate social distancing “
    After the Westminster governments announcement at the weekend suggesting a return to usual soon it was evident where I live that thee major roads were much much busier than they had been

    It was as if half the country were getting back to normal

    Some people treat social distancing seriously and will speak out to other people if they get too close to them
    Other people just don’t take it seriously at all
    And others take it seriously but forget about it sometimes !!

    I just don’t see any possibility of people keeping acceptable social distancing once a return to normal begins even if it’s done in stages

    It’s the sceptics who are a problem
    There are so many of them, check the supermarket queues !
    They are a danger to us all
    They treat it like it’s flu and it’s NOT FLU

    I would prefer to keep lockdown until there are some days where there are zero new cases tested positive AND zero deaths from covid19

    ReplyDelete
  19. Let's start with some real science. The jury is out on the effect of temperature on CV-19. Maybe there's a second-order effect in that good weather brings people out more from confined spaces. But what is certain is that suitable doses of UV-C will kill any living cell, including those of our own skins. Trump probably uses fake tan out of a bottle, so doesn't have a clue, but any arc welder can tell you about suitable PPE! So sunshine in sun-tan quantities - not too reliable here, mind you - can in principle be used to disinfect materials and surfaces. (But not the innards of people. And UV lamps are a better bet. Maybe sunbeds can be repurposed for handling suspect mail!)

    As for the unfortunate Macw, who knows? I wouldn't have thought he was by any measure among the seriously incommoded, but maybe he is simply cracking up, rather like the sailor adrift who turns in desperation to drinking sea water. More likely though is that he is acting as a convenient conduit for something deeper. In the current crisis, Nicola Sturgeon is by all accounts "having a good war", and there are clearly those who are not in the least happy with that situation, so what better way to respond than to foment public discord?

    Or perhaps the crisis is stripping away all former pretences and revealing those whose attachment to unionism is way stronger than any they may have to reality, whether practical or political.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Vitamin D appears to be important and is related to exposure to sunlight (UV). This probably explains the seasonality of flu and corona viruses.

      https://drmalcolmkendrick.org/2020/04/28/covid-update-focus-on-vitamin-d/

      Delete
  20. Skier/James (same persons). You Nat sis should be promoting a mass Nat si call up of the faithfull to help the Scottish farmers. You could march off carrying your flags and singing patriotic songs like the Horst Wessel, the Soldier Song and we belang tae Dublin.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Most gifted writers are not Scottish and those who are support the Union.

      Delete
    2. It was brexiters that signed up to work in the fields post-brexit. They said if the Europeans were sent home, they'd pick up the slack. Yet here blighty is in it's hoor ae need, and the brexiters er tae feckin lazy tae git aff their erses and work.

      I work in the energy industry, so am a 'key worker' as we need to keep the lights on for you brexiters gettin hame fae the fields.

      Or jist the affy it appears.

      Delete
    3. Yes you do produce wind on an enormous scale.

      Delete
    4. Covidia produces so much wind it could power every turbine in the country

      Delete
  21. https://unherd.com/thepost/imperials-prof-neil-ferguson-responds-to-the-swedish-critique/

    He estimates that the fatality rate is around 0.8% and 0.9% based on current UK figures. Interview is from 2 days ago and is in response to criticism of the Imperial paper he was the lead scientist on by Swedish epidemiologist Johan Giesecke.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Hey Skier Sillars is back again and saying the Nat sis need to change their regime for the benefit of the party and independence.
    The Nat sis are now middle a class regime and stagnant. Who could take over from Knickerless? Could it be Forbes who is a middle class student type and her Nanny probably changes her jam rags for her every month. Where are the Nat si going Skier? Knickerless could be the last working class leader of the Nat sis.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You should take a lesson from your pal Trump, in that your voluminous verbal farts are winning the cause. For your opponents, that is.

      On further thought, keep right on. You're a real winner.

      Delete
    2. Trump was the pal of the present FM and former FM. He promised them Golf Courses.

      Delete
    3. Obliged for your ultra-assiduous independence-winning good work.

      Carry on, fartaholic...

      Delete
    4. Covidia is a Domestos goddess.

      Delete
    5. Covidia's doing sterling work for the independence movement. Long may it continue.

      Delete
  23. Iain Macwhirter clearly has his head stuck up his arse. He has also clearly spent too much supping with pig fucking Tories.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Nicola Sturgeon will be the first First Minister of an Independent Scotland no matter how hard the Unionists and the zoomers from Wings over Bath try to stop her the FMs popularity increases daily, she's playing this with all the patience of a world class chess player

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Working class people in Scotland only play chess after cheese, biscuits and port.

      Delete
    2. Covidia prefers noughts and crosses.

      Delete
    3. I am something of a blue stocking.

      Delete
  25. Last year, despite having made some strong and sustained criticism of the SNP, we smashed our all-time fundraising record by miles.

    Sorry if that upsets some people.

    ReplyDelete
  26. This is what going for a 'herd immunity / take it on the chin' approach before backtracking too late gets you:

    https://uk.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-britain-death/uk-on-track-to-become-one-of-europes-worst-hit-in-covid-19-pandemic-idUKKCN22A17I

    UK on track to become one of Europe's worst hit in COVID-19 pandemic

    LONDON (Reuters) - Britain is on track to become one of Europe’s worst-hit countries in the coronavirus pandemic, according to data on Tuesday that showed deaths from COVID-19 had already topped 20,000 by April 17, including a fast-rising toll in care homes...

    ReplyDelete
  27. UK now has the worse daily fatality rate in Europe.

    Care homes not included in UK numbers.

    Day 46:
    21,749 UK
    21,717 Spain
    19,468 Italy

    https://www.newstatesman.com/2020/03/live-data-coronavirus-crisis-all-you-need-know

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Try to find EdConwaySky's z-value graphs he's posting on Twitter.

      The z-value shows the deviation from the normal distribution of, in this case, all recorded deaths over a particular time period. So it takes into account all the factors such a population size/density.

      If his data is correct, then something utterly disasterous has happened in England. It's absolutely shocking.

      Delete
    2. Holy shit. I see what you mean.

      https://twitter.com/EdConwaySky/status/1255148119416700929/photo/1

      Thanks for the info. Graphs are interesting.

      Delete
    3. The Lockdown happened sooner in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, which were up to two weeks or at least a few days behind London and the West Midlands, where most of the deaths occurred and a few days is a very longtime in the world of corona.

      Delete
  28. Hey Skier you are definately the Grimm Reeper. Death is your hobby. Just reading Nat si comments in the Herald. You can be satisfied you are not the only Nas si nutter on show.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You suggest I turn a blind eye?

      Delete
    2. Naw but be constructive and if you have any valid proven suggestions that could save lives then say it. Playing your silly Nat si political games is not helpful. Your great leader Knickerless just wants to save lives and she should be commended for that and for not listening to idiots that hate the English.

      Delete
    3. Ok, how about giving Scotland the power to close / control it's borders, so preventing reinfection from England, which is the worst affected country in Europe? This is something all countries are doing, including within the EU. It is even happening within countries, such as in Australia and the USA between states, where interstate borders are being closes as appropriate.

      As for 'hating the English'. It seems to me the English/Brits are the most insecure people on the planet. Imagine constantly fretting that other people hate you simply because they might wish to do things a different way. It's verging on paranoia and they should probably seek medical treatment.

      It's also pathetic too. 'Oh, boo hoo, we English are so hard done by. We can't get through a day without freaking out about how much we think the Scots / French / Germans / Australians... hate us!'. FFS. Get over it.

      Delete
    4. Or how about independence so we can copy Norway's approach?

      Delete
    5. The Norway approach the Irish approach the Iceland approach the EU approach. I am getting hiccups from your nonsense and laughter.

      Delete
    6. The usual incoherent gibberish from Covidia, then.

      Delete
  29. Tom Newton Dunn editor of the Sun makes a derogatory Tweet about Scotlands First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and the whole of England piles on and tells him to shut the F up

    Now what Tom Newton Dunn had hoped for or expected in his attack on the FM as England demands Nicola Sturgeon replace Doris Johnson

    Remember when they thought they used to hate her following Englands print media pile on of most dangerous woman and all that rubbish

    Now they know exactly who Nicola Sturgeon is and they want her to lead their country too, nice of them, but Naw

    ReplyDelete
  30. GWC - Even if that was true it would be beetter than being an ignorant sack of poison like you.

    The constructive alternatives to uk government blundering have been listed many many times but for you and any other cavernously stupid boot lickers out there just a few are:
    Proper ppe for health and care workers;
    Testing, tracking, isolating;
    Testing and quarantine at Heathrow etc.
    Ignoring the calls of the rich greedy and safely tucked away to lift restrictions and subsidise their robbery of the rest of us with bail out;
    Drop you off at Rockall and forget it happened.

    ReplyDelete
  31. Based on the latest NRS data.

    https://twitter.com/EdConwaySky/status/1255459965826891779
    Ed Conway
    @EdConwaySky
    Some tentatively encouraging news from Scotland where weekly “excess deaths” now seem to have peaked. Note these figs are for week 17. We get England/Wales figs for wk17 next Tues

    ReplyDelete
  32. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  33. I’m getting slightly excited by the slightly differing noises from Westminster and Holyrood.

    ReplyDelete