We sometimes talk as if there's a binary choice between letting the virus rip, and suppressing it. But the prospect Edmunds was raising was of the R number persistently hovering at around 1 due to the halfway house measures the UK government have in mind. An R of 1 isn't a disaster in itself as long as you start with a low absolute number of cases - for instance, with 10 cases a day and a steady infection rate, you'd have fewer than 4000 more cases at the end of a year. But with the current estimate of 8000 cases a day, you'd end up with another 3 million infections after a year - that's getting on for 5% of the population. If the objective is to prioritise the economy, it's completely counter-productive, because people aren't going to engage in normal economic activities until they feel relatively safe. There won't be any feeling of safety for as long as there's a degree of contagion out there that ensures everyone will know people who are getting sick and dying.
Someone emailed me about a week ago to express deep concerns about an article that was prominently featured on the BBC news website, effectively encouraging people to go out and accept a calculated risk of catching the virus. It tried to downplay the risks on two counts - firstly by suggesting that you're unlikely to become infected, and secondly by suggesting that it won't be such a big deal even if you are infected. The latter claim is absolutely jaw-dropping - it's as if time has stood still since February and that the BBC are still, even now, trying to gaslight us into believing that this is a "mild" infection. Several dubious comparisons were made with other 'acceptable' risks that we face in our lives on a daily basis. Unsurprisingly, the article was written by Nick Triggle, who for whatever reason has been given licence by the BBC to pursue a none-too-subtle agenda throughout this crisis. He's been eagerly trying to convince us (inaccurately, as it happens) that the victims of the virus "would have died anyway". The reality is that the average 60 year old with an underlying health condition can expect to have a decent lifespan ahead of them as long as they can avoid catching a deadly virus.
The person who contacted me made a couple of points -
"1. 'Only one person in 400 is infectious.' Yes, infectious on one day. But over the course of a year, how many are infectious? 100 out of 400? Which makes it almost certain that we will come across one of them.
2. Notice that the article formulates risk entirely in terms of risk of death. What about risk of long-term health problems after surviving covid, or risk of awful death of someone close to you with little opportunity to say goodbye, etc."
To which I'd add the ludicrousness of the article suggesting that there are certain age groups who can 'safely' accept the risk of infection. There is no such thing as a safe infection unless you can literally keep the generations totally segregated - and you can't.
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