Saturday, May 2, 2020
But there was also another significant YouGov poll yesterday, which asked respondents across Britain for their views on extending the lockdown. The verdict was emphatic - a total of 77% of Britons think the lockdown should continue and a mere 15% disagree. Among the Scottish subsample, the majority is even bigger - 80% to 12%. This once again exposes the media narrative of "public pressure to get back to normal" as utterly bogus. It's not that anyone likes being under lockdown - but it looks like the vast majority of people realise that it's by far the lesser of the two available evils.
If you haven't already seen it, you might also be interested in this long video interview from a few days ago with Professor Neil Ferguson of Imperial College, who has (since mid-March at any rate) been one of the 'doves' on SAGE arguing against a 'herd immunity' strategy and in favour of a full-on suppression strategy. He makes a number of interesting points, but there are a couple that particularly address some of the red herrings that are regularly raised by the usual suspects in the comments section of this blog. He explains that it's simply not the case that what is happening in Sweden can be taken as an example of the end result of a country following a mitigation (ie. herd immunity) strategy, because in fact Sweden's strategy is a halfway house - he describes it is a semi-suppression strategy which has dramatically reduced the reproduction rate of the virus, but not to below 1. In many ways that leaves Sweden with the worst of all worlds, because there's enough social distancing to ensure that collective immunity won't be achieved in the foreseeable future, but the virus is still rampant enough to be causing carnage in environments like care homes. In a perverse way the Swedish approach looks like survival of the fittest for the elderly and other vulnerable groups, but with a degree of protection for everyone else.
Ferguson also highlights the magical thinking of those who argue that lockdown causes more harm than the virus itself would in the absence of lockdown. He points out that some of the harms ascribed to lockdown are actually caused by the virus, and that if you lifted the lockdown they would get a lot worse rather than better. For example, people may be currently dying of non-coronavirus conditions because they're not accessing the health service, or because the health service doesn't have the capacity to help them. But if you decide "there's more to life than the virus" (as someone absurdly said on Twitter yesterday), and act as if the problem isn't there anymore so that you can get on with other things, that doesn't mean the virus goes away - quite the reverse. Without suppression measures it comes back with a vengeance, the NHS will be totally overwhelmed, and people with other conditions won't have a hope of getting the care they need. Non-coronavirus excess deaths will further increase, not decrease. OK, eventually the epidemic will pass of its own accord, but that will take several months, and by then the damage will have been done.
Friday, May 1, 2020
Unionist journalists learn the hard way that wishful thinking doesn't get the job done, as sensational YouGov poll shows the SNP on course for an overall majority in the Scottish Parliament
The Scottish Government is more trusted as a source of information about the current crisis than the UK Government, the BBC or any newspaper, according to a remarkable poll from Survation
Here is the percentage of respondents who gave each information source a score of at least 7 out of 10...
National Health Service: 81%
Scottish Government: 70%
Organisation I work for: 64%
Welsh Government: 56%
UK Government: 54%
Local council/regional authority: 52%
BBC News: 52%
Channel 4 News: 50%
Northern Ireland Executive: 48%
ITV News: 47%
Sky News: 44%
Private healthcare provider: 39%
News media: 39%
The Guardian: 39%
Financial Times: 38%
Channel 5 News: 34%
The Times: 33%
The Telegraph: 29%
Daily Mail: 21%
Daily Express: 19%
Daily Mirror: 19%
The Sun: 14%
So far only a summary of the poll's results has appeared on Twitter - I can't see any sign of the datasets on the Survation website. That means we need to be a little careful about jumping to conclusions - there's just a chance that the Scottish Government was only offered as an option to respondents in Scotland, the Welsh Government was only offered as an option to respondents in Wales, and so on. But assuming that all of the results are genuinely UK-wide, the Scottish Government's showing is nothing short of incredible. Usually Britain-wide ratings for the SNP, Nicola Sturgeon or the Scottish Government don't tell us very much at all - either there is a very large amount of Don't Knows for understandable reasons, or the numbers are negative in a knee-jerk way due to Jock-bashing in the London media. I would guess what's different on this occasion is that the public have been actively seeking out information about the pandemic wherever they can find it, and as a result there have been high levels of exposure to the Scottish Government's televised briefings. That has allowed people to make up their own minds without going through the filter of Laura Kuenssberg, Sarah Smith or whoever, and it appears that they find those briefings more authoritative, detailed and honest than almost anything else they've seen.
Is that assessment justified? As far as the contributions of Nicola Sturgeon and Jeane Freeman are concerned, I would say yes, absolutely - Ms Sturgeon in particular is renowned for the unusual trait of actually answering direct questions, rather than answering the questions she wished she'd been asked instead. As regular readers know, I'm much more dubious about Jason Leitch, who it seems to me has been blagging his way through this crisis and mainly just lustily regurgitating whatever happens to be the London line from Whitty and Vallance on any given day. I've been spontaneously contacted in recent days by a couple of people with strong scientific backgrounds, and they were both scathing in their verdict on Leitch. But of course the poll simply measures perceptions of trustworthiness. There's no doubt that Leitch has the gift of the gab and that some people are tremendously impressed by that.
UPDATE: It's been pointed out to me on Twitter that Carl Shoben of Survation clarified that only respondents in Scotland were asked about the Scottish Government. Nevertheless, it's the Scottish people who will decide the outcome of next year's Holyrood election, and it appears that their relationship with Nicola Sturgeon and her ministerial team has grown much stronger as a result of this crisis.
Wednesday, April 29, 2020
To squash the epidemic and make contact tracing feasible, the lockdown needs to last several more weeks - but we're being edged towards a second disaster by a deeply irresponsible "get Britain moving again" campaign from the right-wing media
Evidence from Wuhan showed that a 10-week lockdown worked to cut community transmission. That suggests the UK lockdown should last until June 1. This would give us time to ramp up testing, recruit the workforce to contact trace, and to produce real-time Ro (Rt) to guide lifting.— richard horton (@richardhorton1) April 27, 2020
So what you could say is this: we must use May to build the capacity to end lockdown on June 1. We must use May to see new infections and deaths continue to fall. We must use May to plan a recovery plan for the nation. We must use May to think about what kind of future we want.— richard horton (@richardhorton1) April 27, 2020
‘Track and trace’ plan to end coronavirus lockdown still weeks away after it emerges the current number of live cases far too high for it to workhttps://t.co/1lRHnCyPPJ— Tom Newton Dunn (@tnewtondunn) April 27, 2020
I'm getting the impression that the irresponsible "pressure on the govt to ease the lockdown" narrative from the media and THE BLOODY LABOUR PARTY is emboldening some employers to flirt with breaching the lockdown already. This could cost lives.— James Kelly (@JamesKelly) April 27, 2020
The problem with easing the lockdown because hospital deaths have fallen is that they’ve fallen *because of the lockdown*. https://t.co/TgEZLwx1Yw— George Eaton (@georgeeaton) April 26, 2020
The lockdown is highly popular across all ages and political groups. So the idea “public pressure” is growing is a myth. pic.twitter.com/8IxnbBMIQl— George Eaton (@georgeeaton) April 26, 2020
This story puts into perspective the absurdity of the "time to get Britain moving" narrative -— James Kelly (@JamesKelly) April 28, 2020
'Germany ready to tighten lockdown as coronavirus infection rate climbs again'https://t.co/Lqw25WsTOt
Why we have to use extreme caution when time comes to ease some lockdown measures! #COVID19— Dr Philippa Whitford (@Dr_PhilippaW) April 29, 2020
Germany ready to tighten lockdown as coronavirus infection rate climbs again | News | The Times https://t.co/fIZHBwDzFs
I'm not sure whether Theresa May means well, but this Trump-like notion that "the cure must not be worse than the problem"...I mean, come on. Lockdown would have to go some to cause the kind of carnage we'd see if we let the virus rip.— James Kelly (@JamesKelly) April 28, 2020
I was actually out working today myself for the first time since lockdown started. I got a real sense that lots of people were just going back to work regardless. In Maryhill the streets were busy as hell too. It's quite worrying.— Clyde Digital (@ClydeDigital) April 29, 2020
I know, I blame the media and to some extent the Labour party for their "pressure to get back to normal" narrative. People are thinking the crisis is almost over when in some ways it's barely begun.— James Kelly (@JamesKelly) April 29, 2020
Businesses of all sizes are beginning to re-open, takeaway & cafes - Burger King, Macs etc. Under whose directions have they done so? Seems we've hardly stuck in a bare toe flattening the curve & now we're already jumping in naked— Charles (@ChicoMagee) April 28, 2020
* * *
But on a more positive note, closer to home...
This is really, really heartening from John Swinney. Every time it's said out loud, it's reassurance that they really are serious about what was in that document last week. It was easy to doubt initially, simply because of the 'herd immunity' episode.https://t.co/G7cwBzTg8J— James Kelly (@JamesKelly) April 29, 2020
Scotland's ultimate objective is driving new cases as low as possible. https://t.co/9QvfOFNwbg— Devi Sridhar (@devisridhar) April 29, 2020