Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Did the Telegraph deliberately target Neil Ferguson in a sinister attempt to weaken government policy on suppressing the epidemic?

Piers Morgan, for all his faults (and they are legion), has been excellent throughout this crisis, but I'm not going to follow him down the road of suggesting that Neil Ferguson's breach of the lockdown means that he was never really an expert and that the government shouldn't have been listening to him so much.  The reality is that we should all thank God that the government were at least paying some heed to Ferguson, because he played a pivotal role in bringing them back from the 'herd immunity' brink in mid-March.  He was clear-sighted about how drastic social distancing measures could save hundreds of thousands of lives, and more recently he was a strong advocate of a South Korean-style test-and-trace strategy to keep the virus suppressed even after the lockdown is eased.  Heaven only knows how much worse the current catastrophe would be if the government had only had the likes of Chris Whitty, Patrick Vallance and Graham Medley to advise them.

SAGE is such a secretive body that it's hard to guess whether the balance of power will be materially changed by Ferguson's departure, but if there's any backsliding towards tolerating a higher rate of infection, the suspicion will be that the Telegraph's scalp played a part.  We can only hope that the adoption of a South Korean approach is now sufficiently 'locked in', and that a change of personnel won't make too much difference at this stage.

Because of Ferguson's association with the lockdown policies in both the UK and the US, he became a hate figure for rabid right-wingers on both sides of the Atlantic.  (Do a Twitter search of his name and you'll see what I mean.)  Given that the Telegraph is a right-wing rag and has published anti-lockdown commentary, it's reasonable to wonder whether they deliberately targeted Ferguson - either out of sheer revenge, or perhaps in the hope of shifting government policy in a more pro-epidemic direction.  A few questions spring to mind...

* If Ferguson was under some form of surveillance in the hope of catching him out, were other government scientists being watched in the same way?  For example, were herd immunity enthusiasts like Graham Medley subjected to the same monitoring?  If not, why was Ferguson singled out?

* Did the surveillance of Ferguson in itself involve breaches of the lockdown?  Journalists may be regarded as essential workers, but that doesn't mean that anything goes and that absolutely any sort of indulgence can be automatically justified.

* Do minor examples of personal hypocrisy on the part of government officials and advisers really warrant this scale of journalistic investment, when there are far more important things that need to be investigated - such as PPE shortages, the painfully slow progress on testing and contact tracing, and the shameful failure to protect care home residents?

*  *  *

Patrick Vallance directly apologised yesterday for comments he made about "herd immunity" in March, and his failure to make clear that there was considerable uncertainty over whether people become immune after having the virus and how long any such immunity will last.  I'd suggest that means we're now entitled to a similar apology from our very own Jason Leitch, who ludicrously told Channel 4 News on 16th March that "we know that if you get it, you don't appear to get it appears very, very rare, if ever, that you get it twice".  There was no hindsight required to know that was utter tripe when he said it - it was literally impossible to judge if immunity might wear off after six months or a year or three years when the virus had only been circulating in humans for a few short weeks.


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  2. Or maybe the husband of the lady concerned, a sister, a friend decided to blow the whistle on him for playing around with a married woman.

    1. Seems highly unlikely. The "lady concerned" was in an open marriage, so there wasn't much call for the type of 1950s piety you're suggesting. If he wasn't under direct surveillance by journalists, this story has come from a very dark place - possibly Number 10 - and for very dark reasons.

  3. The guy made an erse of himself by breaking the rules he's sternly advising everyone to follow. It's hard to feel sympathy when I've not seen close family and friends since lockdown began.

    If I was a wankstain reporter from the shitty rag that is Telegraph, I'd be running around trying to find 'news' like that. It's what these people do. Aye, there was probably an element of targeting him in particular too.

    1. "he's sternly advising everyone to follow"

      I can't recall him sternly advising the public of anything. He advised the government on policy - it didn't go any further than that. The claim in the newspapers that he was "lecturing" the public on the lockdown rules is an absolute invention. Indeed, his modelling actually made an assumption of significant non-compliance with the rules.

    2. I understood it was his modelling that demonstrated the need for lockdown, which involves rules he promptly didn't follow, and he's held his hands up to this.

      That for me is a completely separate issue to whether right wing journalists were after him, which appears to have been the case.

      In fact, you could argue he absolutely deserves to have to resign because he should have guessed the gutter press would take an interest in him, just as they did in Calderwood.

      I certainly don't e.g. care who he was shagging(?), but if other people are being fined for trying to get a bit of nookie, he can't be let off the hook, especially when it's his advice that's behind the lockdown.

    3. "I understood it was his modelling that demonstrated the need for lockdown"

      Yes, which is not the same thing as him "sternly" telling the public to follow rules that he breached.

    4. Yeah, ok, fair enough.

      He helped make the rules and knew them well enough though. He also understood, as you note, how non-compliance would increase the body count. But temptation got the better of him, which was my point.

  4. As previously stated that you can't guarantee either herd or immunity, I wouldn't suggest the statements by Vallence amounted to an apology but he was clear on the immunity principle which has been the consensus academic view for some time.

    A South Korean study suggested you can't contract Covid19 twice but these are early days and research is ongoing.

    The phrase used by the Swedish epidemiological community is significant immunity in the population, a much lower level rather than herd immunity, to counter and slow the spread on any second and subsequent waves.

    The document published this week by the Scottish Government to roadmap the months ahead predicted a second winter wave and a further smaller wave some time next year. The Robert Koch institute have also stated that a second wave of the virus is inevitable.

    Serology testing in the Czech Republic shows infection levels of 4-5% of the population. The preliminary figures came from a mass testing for antibodies that started in April. According to figures compiled by John Hopkins University, there have been 7,896 confirmed cases and 257 Covid-19 deaths so far in the country with a population of 10.5 million. you can do the maths in terms of implications for the UK and Scotland.

    Data from the Chinese national health authority showed on Wednesday 2 new coronavirus cases for 5 May and 20 new asymptomatic cases. This compared with 1 new coronavirus case and 15 new asymptomatic cases reported a day earlier.

    The level of asymptomatic cases in the population and the true Infection Fatality Rate may significantly alter the perspective of Ferguson's work
    as more and more info emerges. Sweden's top epidemioligists are convinced that the IFR is much lower than the 0.7 - 1% range that has often been quoted.

    The assumption that social distancing wouldn't be introduced or that ICU and hospital capacity wouldn't be increased really undermines the headline figures in his paper. The figure of 20 000 deaths for his paper's suppression strategy has already been exceeded, most likely by over 100%.

    My own anecdotal observation of people's adherence to lockdown measures suggests they are being breached more and more often as the days go by. Socialising is increasing, traffic -levels are up and self employed tradesmen are pushing harder and harder for work, and we're only 6-7 weeks in. The notion that people will observe the kind of distancing required to suppress the virus for another 6 months or more is dubious.
    Yes other societies have managed it and may continue to do so, but they're different societies.

    We appear to be reliant on the research community for vaccines and treatments, but any immunity in the population may well provide vital protection against any future and subsequent waves. It may be a case of significant immunity by default as opposed to design We await with bated breath the results of mass serology testing in the UK when all will be revealed.

    1. "The figure of 20 000 deaths for his paper's suppression strategy has already been exceeded, most likely by over 100%."

      Yes, because the strategy wasn't followed in the beginning. Instead, the UK government let well over 1 million become infected before locking down late, hence the UK has the highest number of deaths in Europe, even with its few weeks warning.

    2. "I wouldn't suggest the statements by Vallence amounted to an apology"

      It doesn't really matter whether you'd suggest that or not. He specifically used the words "I apologise" - there was no ambiguity or any need for interpretation.

    3. Why the bated breath? Why would you expect mass serology testing to show anything different from the results of the serology studies we've seen so far, ie. that infection levels so far are low, and that you'd therefore need absolute carnage to get anywhere close to collective immunity that might protect against a second wave? There's only one game in town, Unknown: head off a second wave with a blend of social distancing and meticulous contact tracing.

      Your observation that Ferguson's paper has been undermined by the fact that the death rate is higher than he anticipated is really peculiar - because the logical conclusion to draw from that is we needed to lock down even harder than he thought.

    4. Unknown: comment deleted. You're peddling misinformation on an epic scale, and I can't allow you to do that. The only alternative to deletion is to respond to all of your long comments point by point, and there are only so many hours in a day. Your repeated claim that the UK did not allow the virus to spread for ten days is particularly absurd - as I've pointed out to you again and again and again, mass gatherings in England were not banned until the day of the lockdown. You can huff and puff as much as you like, but that's a matter of record.

  5. It seems the Torygraph sat on the Ferguson story for a month. Quite nice for the government that this breaks on the day that the UK officially overtakes Italy as the most-fucked European country.

  6. South Africa is supposedly rather poor backward and pretty Third World, yet this is how they have managed Corona (and software by my old university - Cape Town).

    So that is 148 dead, 7,572 cases (started off by foreign tourists and affluent South Africans coming back from skiing trips, etc) and nearly 270,000 tests. In fact they can now manage 30,000 tests a day. Lockdown is rigourously enforced (in Level 5 you were not allowed out of your property at all other than 1 trip per day shopping and going to work. Taking the dog for a walk was a crime. They are now in Level 4 which means dogs can be walked between 6am and 9am, and you are allowed a walk or jog etc so long as it does not involve any travel by car or similar and is not more than 5km from your residence. The homeless have been moved into hotels en mass. Meanwhile the supposedly advanced US and UK make a complete dog's breakfast out of it.

  7. The thing that worries me is that I don't see anyone locked into a South Korea strategy at the moment. They could well still be intending to go for managed spread, and are just using test/trace/isolate as a way of slowing the spread of the virus down to more manageable levels. The utterly cackhanded approach is probably going to cause that anyway whether they mean it or not.

    It's nuts because it's very little more trouble to do suppression properly. That way you very much reduce the chance of another lockdown, and you may squash transmission so well as to effectively eradicate (with continuing surveillance of course). If they just slow down the spread they'll still be doing that by the time a vaccine is available anyway, they'll probably have ro have at least one more lockdown, and many thousands will die who would be saved by a properly rigorous test/trace/isolate operation.

    I don't trust them. I think they're still at it.

  8. You cannot trust the Britnats and their lying Britnat media.

  9. It's all a bit odd that this should become known right before the government are to announce the easing of lockdown restrictions in some areas.

    The reported breaches of the lockdown took place on 30 March and 8 April according to the Telegraph, so why has this been sat on until now?

    When Fegusson gave an interview to Unherd less than two weeks ago he said that a revised model would be released in days using all the up to date knowledge. As far as I'm aware no such report has been made public yet.

    I don't think he made himeself that popular with government ministers either, both Hancock and Brokenshire sticking the boot in today as well.

    "Matt Hancock says he backs any police action against Neil Ferguson"

  10. Can anyone explain why P.Morgan is and has been given such a massive platform on this whole crisis?
    When we have 99% of 'jourmalists' licking the boots of their masters in Eng(UK)Gov, 'yes master, please master, three bags full master', 'what do you want us to print tomorrow marsterrrrrrsss?????'.

    So we have Morgan ex tabloid editor whose daily rags hounded and hunted people for entertainment, supposedly calling out the Eng(UK)Gov on their supposed dealing with the CV19 virus in the UK, is there no one else who can do that job? No opposition politician?

    Also if you look up N.Ferguson on Wikipedia he is 'British' yet P. Morgan on WP is 'English'. N.Ferguson educated at high school in Wales, doesn't say where he was born though.

    I do not trust P.Morgan one bit and would question why he is somehow an expert on pandemics, and I would definitely question his opinion and any slating of N. Ferguson with regard to his knowledge and professionalism as science advisor to Eng(UK)Gov.

    That stinks to high heaven and look at the timing! Just as the Tories & their red Tory pals are planning on ending the lockdown, and you bet they will do so. How convenient and yes why are the police not questioning the (supposed) journalists who surveilled
    N. Ferguson. Trial by media, ( via the Eng(UK)Gov so they can easily ditch anyone questioning their utterly disgraceful murderous tactics during this terrible health crisis. To go with test trace and isolate would mean containing the virus at least, and saving the NHS from being so overwhelmed stopping it going under.

    I think we all know how much the Tories and their red Tory pals are rubbing their dirty hands together at their successful plotting in destroying the NHS though, meanwhile in trade talks with the U.S. Eng(UK)Gov, 'guess what we have to sell! Wha ha ha ha ha!!!!'

    Thanks for the article will catch up re the poll later.

  11. Thanks for the information! I am looking to travel to Cape Town. Someone told me that Cape Town's crime is high - but after doing my own research, I think it is as safe as anywhere, and I'm looking forward to the trip!

  12. I do not recall the WHO who are highly funded issuing advise that an immediate lock down and travel restrictions is preferable when the virus was first known. Trump may have a point in that the WHO were involved in politics with China. China has said that over one hundred million travelled throughout China during the last public holiday.

    1. Covidia there, showing its working in its decision to join the covfefe of covidiocy.