Saturday, May 9, 2020

Here we go again: now Iain Macwhirter is trying to gaslight us into thinking the WHO have done some sort of U-turn. Spoiler alert: no they haven't.

A recurring feature of this crisis has been anti-lockdown journalists trying to gaslight their readers into believing that experts have said something which they not only didn't say, but is the polar opposite of what they did say. First of all, there was the army of right-wing journalists on both sides of the Atlantic who falsely claimed that Professor Neil Ferguson had "walked back" his projection that the virus would cause hundreds of thousands of avoidable deaths in the UK if suppression measures weren't implemented - in fact Ferguson had stood by that projection in full. Then there was Mark McLaughlin falsely claiming that Scotland's celebrated former Chief Medical Officer Sir Harry Burns "agreed" with Graham Medley that the virus should be allowed to spread widely in order to prioritise other health concerns (a contradiction in terms if ever there was one, because of course allowing the virus to spread would mean the NHS wouldn't have the capacity to deal with much else). In fact, Burns appears to take entirely the opposite view to Medley - he believes in full suppression of the virus. And now, most absurdly of all, we have Iain Macwhirter taking some comments from Mike Ryan out of context to give the false impression that the WHO have done a U-turn and have come to regard Sweden - which has a far worse death toll than all of its Nordic neighbours - as some kind of international gold standard. Iain then added "here's why" and linked to a paper by one of the advisers to the Swedish health authorities, in which it is claimed that practically everyone will inevitably catch the virus and that we therefore should try to manage its spread, not stop it - ie. the 'herd immunity' philosophy, which is the complete opposite of what the WHO believe now and have consistently believed right from the start. Essentially, Iain is trying to give the false impression that the WHO have suddenly and randomly changed their minds and now think that full-on suppression should be abandoned and replaced with a mitigation/herd immunity strategy - which is so far removed from what they're actually saying as to be utterly laughable.

In reality, the WHO in recent days and weeks have been urging governments to be extremely cautious about lifting lockdown and to only do so when certain conditions are met, most obviously very low numbers of new cases and sufficient capacity to keep the numbers persistently low by means of testing and contact tracing. It's been pointed out a number of times that if governments actually heeded the WHO's advice to the letter, very few countries in Europe would be easing restrictions just yet, including the ones that appear to have the virus under far more control than the likes of the UK. But that doesn't mean the WHO think that lockdown is a good thing in itself - as far back as March, Mike Ryan was at pains to point out that lockdowns were a "poor substitute" for breaking the chains of transmission by means of mass testing and contact tracing. Even that left him open to misinterpretation, because some people (including a troll on this blog's comments section) then claimed he was telling countries not to impose lockdowns, but that isn't what he meant at all. He fully accepted that once an epidemic was out of control, lockdowns were needed to take the heat out of the situation, but he also regarded that outcome as a sign of failure. The countries that hadn't failed were the ones that had suppressed the virus from the start and therefore hadn't needed to lock down - most notably South Korea.

The goal of the WHO is to move countries onto the South Korean path - which means once lockdown has calmed things down sufficiently, it should be replaced by a blend of 'test, trace, isolate' and more moderate social distancing. It may seem odd to mention Sweden in that respect, but in fact the Swedes have one part of the equation in place - the problem is that they've neglected the other. As Professor Neil Ferguson pointed out in the Unherd interview I linked to just before his fall from grace, the notion that Sweden have been letting the virus rip is a misconception - he described their strategy as "semi-suppression", with enough social distancing to reduce the reproduction rate of the virus quite radically. So that's all that Mike Ryan meant by his remarks about Sweden - he was pointing out that once it was actually safe to lift lockdowns, the social distancing measures that remained in place would probably look similar to what Sweden is doing now. But he certainly wasn't saying that it was a remotely good idea to jump to the Swedish approach before numbers are sufficiently low, or before 'test, trace, isolate' is ready to go. I haven't the slightest doubt that, if he'd been able to speak freely, he'd have been critical of Sweden for not properly getting on top of the virus in the way that its neighbours did. But the WHO don't make direct criticisms of countries in that way. Instead, they use positive reinforcement when countries are doing something right, even when that something isn't remotely sufficient. If you go back in time, the WHO posted tweets complimenting minor things the UK were getting right even during the herd immunity episode. And at one point Dr Tedros even complimented Donald Trump on his leadership. Limited praise for Swedish social distancing measures has to be seen in that context - it's categorically not a general endorsement of what Sweden have done, or more to the point what they haven't done.

It really is bitterly ironic when Iain peddles his fiction of a WHO U-turn with words to the effect of "it's hard to keep up with what they believe". In truth, the WHO have been a beacon of consistency and clarity since the start of the year. Countries like the UK that thought they knew better have fumbled around in the dark before concluding that "the science has changed" and that just by complete coincidence the science now says exactly what the WHO have been saying for months.

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I said in my iScot column a few months ago that the narrow defeats for the self-ID rebels in the elections for the SNP Women's Convener and Equalities Convener were actually moral victories that would make it very difficult for the leadership to press ahead with its plans - as long as the rebels didn't conveniently get out of the way by leaving the SNP. So I was disappointed to discover that Colette Walker, who lost to Rhiannon Spear in the Women's Convener vote by the slimmest of margins, is now the leader of a small breakaway pro-indy party called Independence for Scotland (IFS). I do think that's a major tactical misjudgement.




























41 comments:

  1. Everybody has to do something to keep themselves relevant, journalists making stuff up, pop stars and celebrities using their phones to keep themselves on the Telly, Internet bloggers winding folk up to believe any old nonsense, and at the moment there are plenty of idiots willing to believe and latch on to anything

    Unionists are going mental because the SNP keeps getting stronger
    Twitter is swarming with crazies from everywhere, 14 people who were never in the SNP have resigned again because of the biggest issue ever that nobody cares about, and Nicola Sturgeon is the devil, SKY news praises Scotlands FM over Johnson

    All we're missing here are fireworks and 3D technicolour skies, and it all leads to Independence for Scotland is just round the corner and folk don't know what to do with themselves

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  2. From what I witnessed on Friday in NE Scotland the so called lockdown is pretty much over now anyway. I was working (hub school) in the morning then nipped to Aldi & Pets At Home and Inverurie was far busier than I've seen it in weeks. No consistency in message from Westminster, the media constantly pushing an 'end to lockdown' agenda, boredom, its all led to this. I'll be surprised if we don't start to see an increase in Covid-19 cases, at best the tail of the down slpoe will be longer than necessary. Either way more people will die or be left with long term health issues than necessary.

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    1. The reality is that a further period of lockdown is needed to get the numbers low enough. If it doesn't come now, it'll come later - but ironically any second lockdown would have to be longer and harsher.

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    2. "From what I witnessed on Friday in NE Scotland the so called lockdown is pretty much over now anyway."

      Is it a surprise? The public have effectively been stuck in a lot longer than the lockdown period with the rotten weather earlier in the year over autumn and winter.

      They've observed the lockdown better than the government expected in the early stages and they've stuck with it for the best part of 6 weeks despite the fact we've had the sunniest April on record. Now the weather is consistently nice and people have been stuck inside for a significant period of time it's not really a shock that it's beginning to crumble.

      The problem with this kind of voluntary lockdown is that it will only be observed for a finite period.

      There's just a finite number of times that people can hear a trite - even if true - soundbite like "stay home, save lives" and take on board the message before it just becomes increasingly arbitrary background noise. People will not and cannot live their lives based on whatever today's latest set of curves look like, even if scientifically they ought to. It's just human nature.

      I'm sure a longer lockdown IS needed to get the numbers lower down, but people are only going to voluntarily lock themselves away for so long. Pressure builds in the system and it needs a release valve.

      Increasingly, just telling people to stay home is going to have a naturally diminishing return in terms of effect. If the SG/Westminster are thinking otherwise they are being naïve.

      If they want a longer lockdown then they will have to accept that that means increasingly less voluntary cooperation and increasingly more enforced lockdown - but I'm betting very much that that is a route they do not to go do down. Just telling people to stay home is a message that will not have a long shelf life and indeed is probably already just about expired.

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    3. An enforced lockdown is exactly where we're heading if the current one isn't made to work. You're talking as if that's unthinkable, but the reality is that the overwhelming of the NHS would make it inevitable.

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    4. No, I'm not talking as if enforced lockdown is unthinkable.

      What I'm saying is basic human nature will mean voluntary lockdown will only take you so far. If that's insufficient, and we may be getting to the point where it breaks down, I'm saying enforced lockdown will be the only way to maintain the level of lockdown required.

      What is unthinkable is the government thinking it could hope to maintain that level of lockdown much longer on a purely voluntary basis. People are not voluntarily going to lock themselves away to that level indefinitely - it's just a question of when they will tire of it and the signs are that that point is probably only a couple of weeks or so away at max.

      So governments are going to have to decide if they're going to enforce it more strictly, with all the additional pressure that will put themselves under, or not.

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    5. I see that work on the HS2 fast train line in England is continuing. I have written a poem about that which I have sent to Bob Geldof so he can put it to music.

      Take me home on the Pendolino,
      Pendolino train.
      Take me home on the Pendolino,
      Greet me by my name.
      The Pendolino is the train I worship and adore.
      But don't forget they built the Pendolino for a whore.

      You have to repeat it twice the there's an instrumental with drums and whistles. Then the song starts again.

      You have to imagine Freddy Mercury or Anita Harris singing it.

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    6. Jibble,
      Are you writing about something that you've pulled?

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    7. "So governments are going to have to decide if they're going to enforce it more strictly, with all the additional pressure that will put themselves under, or not."

      In the scenario you describe, they wouldn't have any decision to make - the NHS would be overwhelmed and what you call an 'enforced lockdown', ie. a harsher, longer lockdown would be absolutely inevitable. The real decision is whether we avoid that outcome by making the current lockdown work for as long as necessary.

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    8. They would have a decision to make well before the NHS was "overwhelmed". The NHS wasn't overwhelmed first time round.

      But there may come a time when, if R is hovering just below 1 as they say it is now, and the voluntary "stay at home" message begins to break down and there's more people out and about and doing stuff as seems to be the concern now, that their estimation of R will be back above 1. Much as seems to be happening in Germany right now.

      At that point, but well before there's a sudden rapid increase in the number of new cases overwhelming the NHS, the SG may have to decide that the voluntary lockdown isn't working and that a more harshly enforced one is needed.

      My point still stands that if they think a much longer lockdown is needed right now then they're going to need to enforce it rather than rely on the patience and co-operation of a general population that seems to be beginning to wear thin.

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    9. Italy made decisions on an "enforced lockdown" *after* the health system in Lombardy was already overwhelmed. That's an entirely plausible scenario here if the current lockdown isn't maintained for the necessary period.

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  3. Jibble you must be an old fart like me if you remember Anita Harris.
    Young James do not attempt to just blame the English for breaking the rules. My Mrs has stopped cycling in the local park because of groups malingering. Her friend works between stores in a certain group. Some are meticulous in crowd control and others flaunt the rules. By a rough count she reckons around 200 were in a store.

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    1. Covidia knows all about malingering. That's why it's desperately trying to avoid being put to work in the fields this summer.

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    2. GWC you are not an old fart just a stinky old Britnat turd. Away slide back to your sewer.

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  4. Wouldn't the UK government just love to force Nicola Sturgeon to have to enforce lockdown in the hope it makes her unpopular, and you know what, I don't think it would, I believe the mass majority of Scotland would say thanks very much for that, I don't want to die

    Still it would give the Yoonatics the full mental

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  5. I see Johnson's England refusing to follow the rest of the UK on covid and is planning to do its own thing.

    Why are they damaging the UK like this? Why don't they do what the rest of the union is doing?

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  6. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/live/uk-scotland-52504493

    Mr Jenrick conceded that the devolved administrations in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales can choose to take a different path if they wish to.

    He told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show it is the right time to "update and broaden" the message to the public because "we've passed the peak" of Covid-19 cases in the UK.


    Erm, Scotland seems to have past peak; new cases per day has been falling since around the 20th April.

    However, in England, new cases per day remains at peak levels, having not materially changed in over a month.

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    1. Mr Fudrick conceded something

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    2. Covidia concedes only what its Tory overlords want it to concede. It is an obedient colonial.

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  7. Regarding your second last tweet and slightly O/T I read this: "The excellent Byline Times reports that – “the whole affair could hardly be more sleazy and murky, but the truth is now clear: the Government is giving tens of millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money to the corporate press, including the Daily Mail and the Sun.”" Taken from: https://truepublica.org.uk/united-kingdom/the-stench-of-corruption-could-hardly-be-stronger/

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  8. Is there something that Stuart Campbell is actually for, or is he still just against everything and everybody

    Oh and could you send me some money to my bank in England please and I'll write any old crap to get you to do it

    He must do all his typing by voice now seeing as he doesn't need fingers to count his non existent friends.

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  9. March 12 - Boris Johnson tells the UK to prepare to lose loved ones

    After weeks of watching in horror, our Prime Minister confirmed many people's worst fear - the virus would take their loved ones "before their time."

    This speech seemed like a turning point in the UK's official response to the crisis and dominated the front pages the following day.

    In sombre tones, he described Covid-19 as “the worst public health crisis for a generation” and told anyone with symptoms to self-isolate for seven days.

    “I must level with you, the British public. Many more families are going to lose their loved ones before their time," he said. And he confronted the myth of the "mild flu" head on saying there was no comparison.

    Yet he said he will not be shutting schools yet or bringing in stricter measures.

    His chief medical officer Sir Patrick Vallance told the press conference that the number of confirmed cases, 596 at the time, was likely to be just a tenth or twentieth of the 5,000 or 10,000 in the UK who had the disease.

    Marred by this news, the mood in Britain became more somber.

    No lockdown would be put in place for another 11 days.

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  10. So now we know why MacW is lusting for the (ahem) "Swedish model": his bosses are watching sales slump and are going apesh*t. Whatever else it kills, CV-19 is delivering a coup de grâce to the Dead Tree Scrolls.

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  11. Constantine Mudge: It's touching that you have such a vivid memory of one of my nocturnal tweets from several weeks ago, but possibly the bigger revelation from your (deleted) comment is that you're not actually Scottish.

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  12. More than 1000 attacks on Police Scotland in respect of non compliance re Corona Virus, Scotland Lord Advocate said every case will be prosecuted and some are detained in jail

    Unionists need to get it into their heads when it comes to health and policing the Scottish government make the rules, shouting *Boris Johnson's my leader ahm no daein it* at Police Scotland gets you locked up and fined

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  13. I see the English government is going with a different covid message from the rest of the UK.

    Typical nationalists. Always have to do things differently to try and put a wedge between the UK nations.

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    1. Stay Alert Skier, how many Scottish Nat sis occupy seats in your ficticious English Parliament.

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    2. There's are plenty of turds in Westminster. Britnat turds stinking the place out.

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    3. The Scottish inbred with English sperm have fled Westminster protecting their weak immune system.

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    4. Covidia takes an unhealthy interest in inbreeding. It would be churlish to speculate on the reasons...

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  14. Wings Forward UnitMay 10, 2020 at 8:47 PM

    Wings Post O The Day:

    "Also, I’d like to point out some differences with Finnish and UK social distancing, and the mentality.

    We have to remember that Finland is a much larger country, less, much less people per km2. A couple of cities might be tightly packed UK style. So our Corona response will be different.

    Just this weekend, I and my brothers and families went to the country. Second Sunday in May is Mother’s Day in Finland. Mother and father (77 and 79 yr old respectively) were getting a bit stir crazy with being quaranteened for their own good. We all kids and grandkids visited. Stayed 2m apart, had lunch outside on several separate tables. It was soooo gooood to see (but not touch) family. What we did is totally allowed, nobody could clype or socialmedia shame us. We were being SENSIBLE.

    Government advice in Finland has been – in lieu of gym excercise – go outside! Ski! (if only we had snow) Walk! Picnic! Run! Cycle! Climb! Do whatever suits you outside – only, not in a group. People do. No neighbours twitching curtains and clyping about someone going outside twice a day or police harrassing people sitting and taking a socially-distanced rest in the park.

    It’s really difficult to get my head around to UK people and police being so readily authoritarian.

    We Finns are mostly very law-abiding. If not law, a recommendation. We make up our minds to yeah, follow the recommendation. Knowing what we know of how the virus spreads etc. So. Even ordinary people in Finland have pretty much info available. It’s not a political thing like it is in the UK, or, US/Trump most of all.

    The Coronavirus will be used in a totally cynical way to gain some short-term political advantage. By Trump and Dominic Cummings. That idea makes me sick. Vomiting kind of sick."

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    1. You might at least credit the person who posted it, then again pretty common for Wings to use other peoples words

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    2. Wings Forward UnitMay 10, 2020 at 8:56 PM

      Lumi Lumi.

      Yes, I know that you just use the words of the King James Version.

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    3. Choking would be preferable after writing your aforementioned crap.

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    4. Covidia has already been made aware that there are somewhat darker quarters of the internet where it might receive payment for sharing its darker fantasies...

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  15. Another spot on article from James Kelly re the pandemic. Scot goes Pop is the go to site re the virus.

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  16. I'm a fan of Constantine Mudge. I think I'll start a Twitter storm about the way he's been treated.

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