That's the sort of statement that superficially appears to be highly intelligent and grounded in realism, but is actually totally daft. It rests on the implication that the virus can somehow move from one country to another in a way that cannot be stopped, which in the case of the UK means that it would have to be able to fly across the English Channel on its own propulsion. It cannot do that, which means Whitty was wrong: if a country can control its own borders, and can eliminate the virus within those borders, there's no need to fret so much about what's happening elsewhere. We know that the UK can, if it wishes, control its borders, so that leaves only one question: is it feasible to eliminate the virus on this island?
Initially, Devi Sridhar (Professor at Edinburgh University and one of the voices of sanity throughout this crisis) seemed sceptical that outright eradication could be achieved, and instead tended to argue for the virus to be suppressed as much as possible while we wait for a vaccine or effective treatments to arrive. But she's come round more to the idea of eradication now that New Zealand has proved its critics wrong.
Current thinking on COVID-19: (thread)— Devi Sridhar (@devisridhar) June 15, 2020
1. This virus is too dangerous to let spread through a population unchecked. Not only bc of health services capacity & deaths in elderly/vulnerable groups, but also because of the morbidity it causes. Not the flu but a multi-system disease.
Countries cannot stay in lockdown forever, or even until a vaccine. Cannot expect people to shield indefinitely & kids need to be back in school, shops/pubs open, & 1m v. 2m misses larger issue that kids need to play together & even at 1m many businesses not financially viable.— Devi Sridhar (@devisridhar) June 15, 2020
The 'least worst' path out 'test/trace/isolate' will be stretched when winter hits & flu symptoms rise which can be the same as COVID symptoms. Already hard for hospitals to categorize patients (green/red/amber) without testing them. 2nd winter lockdown needs to be avoided.— Devi Sridhar (@devisridhar) June 15, 2020
Increasing # of countries attempting/succeeding at national elimination (get rid of virus w/ border screening) like Australia, Thailand, Vietnam, Faroe Islands, Iceland, New Zealand & E.Asian countries. They can form safe 'travel bubble' & wait for other countries to join them.— Devi Sridhar (@devisridhar) June 15, 2020
Instead of living with constant threat of Covid-19, people might start asking their own governments – why not try to get rid of it altogether? With border checks, people can return to "normal" life whether seeing elderly relatives, opening schools full-time, & sports & weddings.— Devi Sridhar (@devisridhar) June 15, 2020
Now that we know what works (i.e. New Zealand/Korean/German/Australian model) and what doesn't (i.e. Swedish/UK/US model), why aren't governments willing to adapt? Until now the logic was "this is new, we don't know what works and what doesn't". Well, now we do! #COVID19 https://t.co/oFdwdgQhmI— Ori_Solomon (@solomon_ori) June 15, 2020
The Scottish Government, to its credit, has been increasingly bullish about using the word 'eradicate' -
*if* we can effectively eradicate COVID - and then control through Test & Protect & policies to mitigate against cases coming into country - we can restore much greater degree of normality. Decisions then about, eg, 2m v 1m are more possible. But first we must suppress/eradicate.— Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) June 12, 2020
But the snag, of course, is that the Scottish Government does not have all of the tools required to eliminate the virus, because it is not the government of an independent sovereign state. A devolved government can, as we've seen in recent weeks, have success in pushing the virus back and suppressing it, but total elimination requires control over borders and the ability to quarantine people who arrive from countries (such as, for example, England) where the epidemic is far from being extinguished. That doesn't mean elimination is impossible, but it does mean it can only happen if the UK Government are persuaded of the need to attempt it, which at the moment looks a distant prospect. (I suspect the penny will drop eventually, but on past form every painful lesson seems to take far too long.)
The cost of not being independent will on this occasion be counted in the loss of human lives.
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On the other extreme from Devi Sridhar's thread is one from former Scottish Tory spin doctor Andy Maciver, who seems to have learned no lessons at all over the last few months. He's arguing that, in spite of the success of New Zealand and other countries, it's for some reason not possible to stamp out the epidemic in this particular country, and that we should therefore accept that the virus might be around into the long-term. Essentially what he wants is for the Scottish Government to throw caution to the wind on the reopening of schools. He sticks his head firmly in the sand on two points in particular -
"There is a reason why we never hear about children dying or even becoming ill from Covid - it’s because it is not happening."
"I know, I know, it’s not about the children, it’s about who they contact. Firstly, it is worth noting that there is no hard evidence that children infect adults at all."
The idea that we don't hear about children even becoming ill is ludicrous. I personally know of a young child who was symptomatic for several days after being infected. But even leaving aside anecdotal evidence of that sort, there's well-documented evidence of children suffering from a rare inflammatory condition as a result of coronavirus. As for there being "no evidence" of children infecting adults, you'd think we might by now have grasped the point that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, and that the precautionary principle dictates that you don't take risks with people's health when there just isn't enough information to know one way or the other.
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I've said a few times that I don't see the need for a new pro-indy party, but that if one is formed it's really important that it has a purpose in life other than 'gaming the system'. If your Party Election Broadcast is an embarrassing three-minute monologue about the d'Hondt formula, you can safely assume you've gone badly wrong somewhere. Alas, judging from the website of the freshly-formed Independence for Scotland party, that mistake has not been avoided. One of the first articles on the site is a tortuous explanation of why the SNP failed to win a list seat in the north-east in 2016, and of how the ISP can supposedly remedy that on behalf of the independence movement if they win "just" 7% of the vote.
The north-east is actually a really poor choice of example, because the SNP succeeded in taking a list seat there in 2011 in spite of winning every constituency seat in the region. A repeat of that type of scenario is not guaranteed, but it's certainly infinitely more likely than a fringe party taking 7% of the vote on its first attempt. What really gives the game away, though, is the fact that the article openly prays in aid Gavin Barrie's pseudoscientific 'analysis' from last year, which many authoritative voices have pointed out was deeply flawed.
It's stated that a voting system designed to prevent a single-party majority means that the forces of unionism have an in-built advantage due to being comprised of three major parties rather than just one. That is, frankly, absolute rubbish. It's the complete opposite of the truth. The SNP's dominance of the Yesser vote has worked firmly in favour of the pro-indy camp - in 2016, a pro-indy majority of seats was won without an absolute majority of the popular vote on either ballot.
I'm troubled also by the suggestion that the ISP exists to challenge a "single party system". That characterisation is simply not accurate - the SNP run a minority government at Holyrood and can't get anything through the Scottish Parliament without the support of at least one other party. But the claim echoes the chorus of spurious unionist complaints from 2015-17 about a "one-party state" - and that period did not end well for the Yes movement. Avoiding self-inflicted wounds is always a good idea.