Monday, March 16, 2020

The UK is *choosing* to have a mass epidemic. It's not a necessity.

It's worth taking a step back at this point and recalling where we were a few weeks ago.  Why did the UK decide in the first place to start defying the World Health Organization by no longer taking sufficient steps to suppress the virus?  The main argument seemed to be that there was no point in any single country trying to control the virus within its borders (as both China and South Korea have shown can successfully be done) when spread is global - in other words, in an interconnected world, a country cannot protect itself from a pandemic.

But you may have noticed that the world has changed a fair bit over the last few days, let alone over the last few weeks.  Countries within the EU's Schengen passport-free zone have either closed their borders entirely or introduced strict border controls.  Remarkably, even Germany have done the latter, in spite of Angela Merkel insisting only a few days ago that free movement was sacred.  Countries further afield that have relatively low infection rates, such as New Zealand, have introduced quarantining for all arrivals.  Many of these measures are billed as temporary, but the likelihood is they'll be extended again and again.  Some countries may well try to stick it out until there is a vaccine, or at the very least an effective treatment.  The interconnected world is essentially gone for the foreseeable future, so that excuse for UK inaction no longer exists.  If we took South Korean-style measures to suppress the virus and then introduced quarantining to prevent it from being reimported, we would not become international pariahs - we'd be applauded for doing the right thing.

Once again, I recommend this interview with the WHO's Bruce Aylward for anyone who wrongly thinks that the virus cannot be controlled, or that it can only be controlled with authoritarian measures that would not be viable in this country.  The key is large-scale testing and meticulous contact tracing - something that the UK has just inexplicably turned its back on.  We were told by Chris Whitty that the "early stages of delay" would be very similar to "contain", with continued testing-and-tracing, but that turned out to essentially be a lie.  We've gone direct from "contain" to "mitigate" without passing Go - something which the WHO begged all countries not to do and warned would lead to the health system being totally overwhelmed.  Ironically, that just makes the most authoritarian outcome (total lockdown) more likely, not less so.

As far as the Scottish Government's role in all this is concerned, it's true that devolution means there are some things they can do and some things they can't.  But to the extent that their actions are helping to facilitate the UK government's plans to allow the virus to spread, they need to urgently look at themselves in the mirror and ask themselves why they're doing that.  If it's because they think there's more political cover in mostly going along with whatever the UK government decide, or if it's because they fear being lambasted for breaking a UK consensus, then those are the wrong reasons.  Nicola Sturgeon and her ministers should be taking every possible step to suppress this virus and to protect the people of Scotland, no matter what the political cost.

33 comments:

  1. We shall surrender our Island to the virus, whatever the cost may be,
    we shall surrender on the beaches,
    we shall surrender on the landing grounds,
    we shall surrender in the fields and in the streets,
    we shall surrender in the hills;
    we shall completely surrender, and when, which I do not for a moment disbelieve, this Island or a large part of it is hospitalised and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas will carry on the surrender, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to nuke us out of our exceptionalist madness.

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  2. We are the guinea pigs of the establishment..

    Good old stuff upper lip will see us through this crisis, and all that bollocks!

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  3. I could not agree more with James's post.

    I would , in particular , take issue with not ( yet) closing schools.

    Prof Jason Leitch , Scot Gov clinical director , Has been prominent on BBC scot and seems to be pushing the line about " all 4 nations of the UK" acting together. He also seems to think that kids are better in school and that we might not need to close them down. He went on about his sister in law , a primary teacher , teaching pupils to wash hands. Aye right in a small primary in a toff area maybe.

    Contrast Forres academy where my wife teaches : kids have to obtain a toilet card from teacher. Yes they all touch it! Reason for card - they regularly trash toilets ( card is an attempt to keep a record of which kid might have done this). Sinks ripped off wall , toilets blocked. Soap dispensers now gone!
    Some teenagers love to break rules like washing hands anyway!

    Schools spread infections. No evidence that kids ( even if not showing symptoms) are not infective.

    Many kids go home to grandparents who hold the fort till parents get hame.

    Nicola - close scools now !

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    Replies
    1. The more I see and hear of Jason Leitch, the more concerned I am that he seems to have such influence over the Scottish Government's decision-making.

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  4. Why are the Scot & UK (and Irish for that matter) Govs only advising against large events / pubs etc to shut. Surely they should be making it compulsory!

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    1. The Scottish government don't have the legal power for this. Such sweeping shut-downs are a reserved matter.

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    2. Also note, as per the news earlier, Scotland is running a few weeks behind England, but is moving faster in terms of lock-down, e.g. for the large scale events.

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    3. Here it is:

      https://www.gov.scot/news/large-gathering-guidance/

      The Scottish government does not currently have powers to cancel events, but is encouraging and advising organisers to act responsibly to support the efforts of emergency services and the wider public sector to prepare for increased numbers of cases of COVID-19 (coronovirus).

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    4. I'm hearing that people are saying that its so insurance companies don't have to pay out, could understand if it was just Boris but the SNP & Ireland as well - doesn't sound like something they would do.

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    5. Ireland, like Scotland, is running a few weeks behind England. The outbreak there started a month after it began in England too.

      On the BBC on the way home they were discussing these differences. I understand London is the furthest into the infection timeline.

      I don't enough about Irish law to know what the Irish government can / can't do here. For Scotland, the power is reserved to London.

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    6. It is likely that the IRA virus kill rate will be in excess of the present virus.

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    7. Here we go. Irish government have asked pubs to close, and will seek powers to shut them if they don't comply.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2020_coronavirus_pandemic_in_the_Republic_of_Ireland

      The Vintners Federation of Ireland, the Licensed Vintners Association and the Irish government urged all bars and pubs to close from midnight 15 March until, at minimum, 29 March. The official statement cited difficulty in maintaining social distancing in bars and pubs. All pubs and nightclubs in Temple Bar, a hot-spot of Dublin's nightlife, announced that they would comply in response. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar stated that he "may seek enforcement powers from Dáil/Seanad" in order to compel pubs and bars to close.[46][30]

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  5. Grand nationals off..

    Excellent!

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  6. I understand that the UK government has simultaneously told people not to go to pubs, restaurants, theaters etc, while telling pubs, restaurants theaters etc they can stay open as it's business as usual?

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  7. Meanwhile, in Ireland:

    https://twitter.com/welfare_ie/status/1239591502743048194

    Lost your income/work & need to get an income support urgently? Go to http://gov.ie/pandemicsupport

    Apply online at http://mywelfare.ie OR download, print & fill in the 1 page form & return by Freepost to us.

    We will set you up on a 6 week payment of €203 per week

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    1. Must have set aside money Brown gave tae Paddy after the recession 2008.

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    2. I've checked and UK hasn't ever given any money to Ireland in recorded history, including during the period you mention.

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    3. They paid some of it back. The Brits conned them.

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    4. 2.3% of people in Ireland are British

      0.6% of people in the UK are Irish.

      It's the Brits that are the mass migrants in Ireland.

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  8. Goodness me you Nat sis are all in agreement and I am being deleted. You sad lot. Even Govan Young Team is refraining.

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    1. I think govan young team has a point. Scotland is quite well behind England on the infection timeline; as much as by a few weeks. So the Scottish government should not rush along based on what England is doing. Seems to me they are already ahead of England in introducing control measures, but not rushing into lock downs before they are necessary.

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    2. The old muppets were in Farmfoods stocking up today then over tae the 101 for the booze supplies. Fag sales over the tap. Us oldies are not going tae produce anymore weans, so let us oot tae grass.

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    3. Govan young team.March 17, 2020 at 7:41 AM

      GWC geez yer message list an i`ll help ye oot. Whit is it yer usual? Can a cally , fag papers and a bag of tobacco?

      Dont forget though , im a bit busy the noo workin hard tae pay yer pension.Might be oan the drag the day.

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  9. The problem with Scotland and England following similar routes over the Corona virus is that Scotland has no choice because we can't close borders because we are a devolved powerless nation and freight commerce and people travel in both directions whether we like it or not

    Whatever travels from England we can't keep out and vice versa which if folk had had a proper think about what they were doing in 2014 and voted for Independence we could have had border checks and health checks at our own discretion but because for the moment Scotland is locked into the Union we're not allowed to do that

    Right there is just one concrete reason for Scotland being Independent, to control our own borders, remember that phrase, well it means England controls Scotlands borders

    Still happy you voted against Independence now?

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    1. You can stop the Avanti and LNER trains at the Scottish border and separate the Scots from the untermench. You can get a refund for train delay if you go online.

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    2. Govan young team.March 17, 2020 at 7:38 AM

      FFS. Av seen it aw noo. GWC kiddin on hees the fat controller given out commuter advice.

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  10. So schools are staying open as kids don't seem to be as badly affected or spread the virus (allegedly). Whole households on the other hand should self isolate if ANYONE in the house shows symptoms. Surely if the former is true I can continue sending my son to school if I catch the virus, ignoring the latter. Can't I?

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  11. Uuuhmmmmmmmm.....
    Just exactly how useful to anyone have nuclear weapons been in this worldwide crisis? Which country, anywhere, has had any option to use theirs and against whom during this?

    And, ahhhh....., are we not right now living through a 'one I made earlier' example of what a globally effective weapon looks like. That would be a weapon which costs comparatively nil, is easily and secretly transported [ no ballistic missiles required, or submarines ].

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  12. Be careful when assuming Scotland is a huge distance behind England in terms of every curb. Whilst it is true that England had its first case before Scotland the curve was very flat for England at the start whilst Scotlands has been much steeper. As in example it took England 35 days to break the 100 case mark, it took Scotland 12.

    Because of this Scotland is not as far behind the curve as things seem. Using my basic model(which despite being basic has worked well thus far) I'm predicting Scotland to break the 1000 case mark in the 6-8 day range which would mark the Scottish and English 100 -1000 case curve virtually identical. The measures that the Scot Gov are introducing now (mass gatherings etc) may have some effect on flattening the curve.

    Scotland could hold back on following England in introducing more stringent measures for another 3-5 days and that would probably keep it on the same sort of curve as England, but it may pay to introduce them earlier to give them more time to flatten the curve.

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    1. I’ve said a couple of weeks, maybe 4 weeks, i.e. not huge. Sitting through the whole of February waiting for case made it feel a lot longer. In the office, we were joking that maybe Scottish weather was to shite for it to survive. Sadly, 4 weeks on, after continuous monitoring, it was finally picked up.

      You seem to be making the mistake of counting confirmed cases as actual number of cases. The two are not the same. You also can't compare the two countries confirmed case numbers unless they are testing at the same rate and in the same way. The datasets would just not be comparable.

      As per WHO recommendations, Scotland has been testing at up to 1.5x the rate of England, so of course it has discovered more cases. Quelle surprise. Probability would also imply it discovered the outbreak earlier, particularly as it was now being more actively sought after it began in England.

      Officially the epidemic did begin in Scotland 1 month later than England. At the same time, while Scotland's case rate appears higher, even ignoring the higher Scottish testing rate factor here, the death rate is still too low for both countries to be on the same timeline. The death rate is the most reliable figure as it will not vary between the nations that much (at least at this stage); our health services are broadly comparable. It does not related to testing rates either.

      Scotland has a low death rate (only 20% of the UK as of this morning) because it's behind in the curve. Likely not by 4 weeks, but readily 2, maybe 3. There is about a 14 day delay from catching to death, so the death rate here will start to shoot up soon, but for now, it's lagging markedly behind England. Of course it's the per capita number that should be considered.

      And anyway, the UK government is openly saying that England is further ahead in terms of infection than the rUK, with London the epicentre. So this isn't just my opinion.

      I do note your suggestion that Scotland’s infection rate is potentially higher because the UK government didn’t act quickly enough in England, so allowing it to accelerate more widely into Scotland at an earlier stage. That’s quite likely, but let’s not start the blame game without firm evidence.

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