Don’t cherry pick your data: Facts on COVID-19

There has been a great amount of robust debate on all aspects of coronavirus response. This is, of course, healthy – within the bounds of the available science, politicians have had to pick from many possible actions. We don’t have perfect knowledge of this pandemic (we don’t have perfect knowledge of anything) – people have had to make decisions, and these are open to criticism.

This debate has also had another side – a deluge of dangerous misinformation. Misinformation has been linked to hundreds of deaths, as well as protests against public health measures and even the deliberate arson of 5G phone masts.

Science itself has also become a target – through the misrepresentation of data, amplification of discredited scientific theories, or outright attacking the scientific process. This is not healthy debate – facts should be disproven, they cannot simply be denied or misrepresented.

As a scientist I would like to bring some facts to the debate, and address some misinformation that has appeared here on Lib Dem Voice recently:

Lockdown works

In the 4 months post lockdown (March – June), infections and daily deaths decreased dramatically. When restrictions were lifted, infections and deaths began to rise.
On average, there is a 2 week – 8 week delay in death from the onset of symptoms:

(source: gov.uk coronavirus dashboard)

In some reports, these two charts have been plotted on the same set of axes. This makes the number of deaths look small (dwarfed by the number of cases) and prevents us from seeing that numbers are rising again. Someone doing that might wrongly suggest that deaths have not increased since lockdown restrictions were lifted. When someone shows you a graph to ‘prove’ their claim – check the X axis!

The second wave is deadly

Testing during the first wave was based solely on hospital admissions. We now have community testing, which means we are able to detect more infections (see graph below), which are currently rising alongside the number of deaths (see graphs above). We are more prepared for this second wave, with better drugs (thanks to the NHS’s contribution to rapid clinical trials during the first wave), and more knowledge about how the disease progresses. But, if left unchecked, this wave will be equally, if not more devastating on NHS capacity and lives lost. The first wave shut down almost all non-emergency clinics, surgeries and treatments which will have devastating impact to people’s health and quality of life over the coming years: allowing this to happen again is unacceptable.


(source: gov.uk coronavirus dashboard)

Excess mortality is evident already in the second wave

Excess mortality after lockdown was reduced back to pre-pandemic levels, but as restrictions eased, it has started to rise again. Mostly in younger age groups (20-40), but this is slowly rising in older age groups as time goes on:


(source: Public Health England)

In some reports, this sort of data has been massaged to suit a narrative that the author wants to tell. Of course, some might cherry pick the data to suit whatever story they wish to tell! Merging these graphs or only showing data from some age groups would skew the evidence and could be used to support a different conclusion. But when the facts are laid bare, you can clearly see that in age groups where people are getting infected, they are also dying.

Infection control isn’t enough

We must continue to follow the data, the science, and logic to fight COVID-19:

  • We do not have an adequate test, trace and isolate system and any such system only works when case numbers are low.
  • Mask wearing is helpful but does not catch all virus particles.
  • Social distancing is helpful but particles can travel further than the 1-2 metres specified in social distancing guidelines.
  • Hand washing and other hygiene efforts are very helpful but not sufficient when the disease is rampant in the population.

Only by combining all methods available to us can we ensure the safety of the population, and the survival of the NHS.

Statistics and data science are specialisms, and everyone from politicians to digital platforms rely on experts to help them navigate through the information – and to spot misinformation. The Liberal Democrat membership has a lot of expertise, especially in this area, with groups like ALDES that happily provide briefings for parliamentarians and would do for others.

Please get in touch with ALDES if you are unsure of data, graphs or charts related to COVID19 or anything else. As Liberals we surely all recognise that everyone is entitled to their own opinion – but not their own ‘facts’.

* Dr Kylie Belchamber is a Research Fellow with the Institute of Inflammation and Ageing at the University of Birmingham, and has led an effort to provide NHS front-line staff with up to date information on COVID-19. She is also a member of the Association of Liberal Democrat Engineers and Scientists, where she has fed into COVID-19 briefings for MPs, Lords and others.

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104 Comments

  • Rob Davidson 2nd Nov '20 - 1:29pm

    Its horrifying to think someone has to defend the fact that lockdown works. But, many liberals find it too easy to fall in with the idea that there are no facts or truths, only opinion.
    The recent article that the one above rebuts was nothing more than fake news undemrining public health advice and policy during a deadly global pandemic.

  • Thank you, Kylie. Thank goodness for finally getting facts and common sense on LDV.

  • Here we go again…

    You are entitled to your opinion that lockdown works but the evidence you present is far from conclusive and would be refuted by some of the worlds leading epidemiologists (not all of them because like economists, scientists often disagree with each other leaving policy makers to decide).

    So please don’t say it is “misinformation” to disagree with lockdowns which are an experiment not recommended in any countries pandemic planning (essentially China using them in Wuhan and Italy copying them was the first example of lockdowns being used in modern history).

    Graph 1 – the peak was reached about 2 weeks after lockdown on 23rd March. Voluntary Social distancing was used effectively in the 1-2 weeks prior to that. However the fact that cases plateaued when they did suggests that the peak of infections was reached before the lockdown was introduced. Measures were eased gradually in May – June but cases did not rise straight away suggesting that immunity and seasonal effects made a difference.

    In any case the main argument against lockdowns are that they just push cases into the future which is what we are seeing now approaching winter.

    Sweden didn’t have a lockdown but did have a semi-suppression approach which apart from the mortality in care homes has worked very well.

    Graph 2 – not seen this data before so would have to look at it more closely.

  • @Marco – In any case the main argument against lockdowns are that they just push cases into the future which is what we are seeing now approaching winter.

    Which is also an agrument for lockdowns – as it provides a way to ensure there is capacity to handle new cases and gives more time to the development of effective counter-measures and if the R-value stays low potentially permit the virus to disapppear and so those future potential cases don’t actually happen…

  • Thank you for this article.

    Great to see someone able to write an article with the actual links and data to support the facts.

    I will certainly be looking out for the changes in Axis on graphs in future so I can see how some anti-lock down establishments are manipulating the data to support their cause.

    It still astounds me when people are arguing over the stats to do with R and the fatality Ratio etc etc.
    For me personally, it does not matter what R is when it is over 1, that means the virus is growing and we need to get it under control.
    And the stats that concern me at the moment is Hospital admissions and ICU Beds.
    When the Government can see the rates of hospital admissions on their current trajectory and when they would run out of beds, that is a good enough argument for me to impose lockdowns, not just to protect covid sufferers, but for those with non-covid diseases and accidents as well.

    You are never going to get anti-lockdowners to change their minds though whatever the facts, I am sure Glenn would confirm this position.

  • @ Marco What are your qualifications to pronounce on this issue ? A Masters in Public Health, perhaps ?

  • Rob Davidson 2nd Nov '20 - 3:55pm

    Sweden, as a nation, has a similar population to the UK’s largest city.
    Sweden’s population density is a tenth that of the UK’s.
    The notion that the UK can “copy Sweden” is being promoted by anti-maskers and herd-immunity hawks but it does not hold up.
    Further, as Marco points out in his own post, Sweden did have some lockdown-type restrictions and did also suffer severe mortality in care homes and other places.

  • The lockdown argument is based on the idea that everyone is and has always followed the rules. But do lockdown supporters seriously think that households haven’t been mixing the whole time or that people like hairdresser were not doing a roaring trade in home visits. I strongly believe that the laws were widely being broken before the lockdowns ended and they will be even less effective this time because there is even less will to follow them . It’s all built on the pretence that no one lies about how they behave and that the police can enforce unworkable laws. I’m not a lock down sceptic because I’m libertarian covid denier. I’m a lockdown sceptic because I think millions of people are only pretending to follow the rules and this means the models might not be anything like as accurate as they are claimed to be. This is a nation of over sixty million people living complicated and interconnected social lives. It’s impossible to police them on the scale and to the extent lockdowns require to work.

  • @Glenn

    So you are arguing that because people brake the law, we might as well abolish the law instead? That does not make much sense to me.

    That likes saying because only 10% of burglaries get caught, we might as well abolish Burglary as crime as it is a waste of resources and not enough criminals comply with the law.

    There are times when drastic measures are needed. Capitalist and free markets “might” be right in the best of times, but it always take a massive dose of socialism in the worst of times as we are seeing now.
    Just as Liberalism is always the best in the safest of times, but maybe requires a dose of Authoritarianism during the worse of times, I.e a public health emergency.

    We all have things that we are passionate about and hold dear to our very core vales and principles, but sometimes we have to accept “temporary” compromises to our beliefs when the need arises, as I believe is the case with this global pandemic and health crisis.
    That’s why I have been so heartened by the vast majority of Liberal Democrats, who I know hold Freedoms and civil liberties at their very core of existence, but have recognised that this crisis has caused a situation where they accept a need for temporary restriction on these much loved and passionate freedoms.

    It made me want to be a Libdem and feel as though it was something that I could say with Pride, not something that I think I could ever say about any other party.

  • James Moore 2nd Nov '20 - 6:00pm

    The issue is not whether introducing universal house arrest reduces the chances of the virus spreading, the question is: is it a proportionate response to the danger? We could prevent almost all road deaths by banning motor vehicles, but we don’t for obvious reasons.

    In some areas of the country the problem is negligible and rates are falling falling – Whitty’s own graphs demonstrated this point. Why lockdown these areas? Experience in Leicester and elsewhere shows that lockdowns only have a marginal effect on the spread of the virus. Yet a national lockdown costs £1.8 billion a day and creates a large amount of human misery. The ‘cure’ (and it isn’t really a cure) is worse than the disease.

    The answer is a cautious policy where we restrict obviously dangerous activity, shield, support and isolate the vulnerable (based on their consent) and where the young and healthy are allowed to continue as normal as far as this is possible. Covid will not go away quickly and could be with us for many years.

    We have had pandemics many times before – for example, in 1918, in the mid-1950s and and in 1968-70. More people died in the UK of influenza in a single week in January 1970 than in any single week of COVID this year. At no time before did Liberals ever think of introducing the sort of comprehensive national shutdown as we have now.

    We now have ‘Liberal’ MPs not only voting for unprecedented universal restrictions on our everyday freedom, but also voting to criminalise anyone who protests against the restrictions. Can we please have a sense of proportion and a bit of common sense?

  • Peter Martin 2nd Nov '20 - 6:05pm

    Good article. Spot on!

    I’m even thinking that the schools should be closing too!

  • James Moore – very well said. The author of the article doesn’t even bother to address the collateral damage of lockdowns and factor that into the equation despite the righteous tone.

    Matt “ Just as Liberalism is always the best in the safest of times, but maybe requires a dose of Authoritarianism during the worse of times, I.e a public health emergency.”

    No no no no no

    That is an authoritarian worldview. The whole point of liberalism is that is is needed during times of crisis- war, pandemic, economic crisis and the litmus test is whether you continue to stand up for human rights and liberties when you feel threatened. In the same reason it is easy to be a socialist if you have no money but not if you’re rich! It is during times of crisis that authoritarians take advantage as people give away their liberty voluntarily and then struggle to get it back again. You need to read your Lord Sumption:

    https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.theguardian.com/law/2020/oct/27/covid-measures-will-be-seen-as-monument-of-collective-hysteria-and-folly-says-ex-judge

    David Raw – I am not the one writing articles for LDV where I appoint myself as a debunker of “misinformation” on the basis that I am a “scientist” which then turns out to be “researcher”.

    Roland – Yes there may be some merit in delaying cases but could we not do this with more moderate rules that are sustained over a period of time whereas having a lockdown then lifting it just encouraged people to go out and socialise. Also buying time doesn’t seem to help this government accomplish anything.

    Rob Davidson – Please explain why population density is relevant in light of the fact that Sweden’s cities especially Stockholm are as densely populated as other major European cities and people living in rural low density areas can have large numbers of contacts, infrequent rural transport services can be crowded and nursing homes are often located in suburban and rural areas?

  • Matt
    No it’s not. There is a difference between a few burglars stealing and millions of people acting like the social animals they are designed to be. I see what is going on as being more like prohibition or one of those soviet era five year plans and other misguided attempts to mould people into idealised virtuous citizens that fail when exposed to the messy reality of actual people. We’re not talking about habitual criminals committing crimes, were talking about millions of people popping in to see their families or friends like they’ve always done and not having strict support bubbles or otherwise stoically enduring social hardship on the say so of Matt, flipping, Hancock. It’s farcical.

  • jayne Mansfield 2nd Nov '20 - 7:12pm

    @ Marco,
    She is a scientist who undertakes scientific research.

  • John Marriott 2nd Nov '20 - 7:34pm

    Has anyone really got anything new to add to the COVID argument? I think not. Now WHEN we get a few vaccines on stream, perhaps we can start the arguments all over again!

  • It is a sad reflection of human nature that many people ignore or bend the lockdown rules and totally disregard the distancing rules. Unfortunately, contempt for the rules will grow the longer the pandemic lasts. These are the same people who call for road maps out of lockdown.

    They do not seem to realise that collectively their behaviour has more control over the virus than the government. The authorities can only respond to the rate of established cases and hospital admissions and these always lag infections by days or weeks.

    It is also true that young people, those who must work and those with jobs at risk or businesses to run may be prepared to ignore the virus particularly if its impact will be negligible. It is very tempting to let the virus rip, keep the economy running and only lock down the elderly and those who are very vulnerable. Most of the elderly and vulnerable are are taking substantial precautions regardless of the rules in force anyway.

    In effect we would have an infected population (we must assume) and a shielding population. The problem is the interface such as in multigenerational families, public transport, food shops, health centres and so on. Managing the interface is a problem that needs to be addressed.

    when they have nothing to fear from the virus. Should we let the virus rip through the population and let the over 60s and the vulnerable take the precations?

  • Paul Reynolds 2nd Nov '20 - 8:04pm

    This article by Dr Belchamber presents its arguments coherently and informatively, supported by data, and the conclusions seem reasonable. I am grateful for it. I do think that as people supportive of liberalism and democracy, we might be somewhat concerned by the tenor of the discussion, however. Although broadly I follow the mainstream scientific opinion on the pandemic and the current optimal remedies in dealing with it, I do think on such an important topic we have to have an open debate. Throughout history mainstream opinion has often been proven wrong, and in modern society those that question the mainstream should not have to endure the ‘Galileo experience’. Scientists who are 100% certain of their ‘correctness’ are not scientists. We should keep open minds and in the end lay and expert judgements will sift themselves into the sustainable and those that fall by the wayside. This process, with its important place in history and which shaped the modern world, should not descend into labelling all those scientists and lay persons that question the mainstream UK narrative on C-19 control (eg lockdown policy) as promoters of purposeful misinformation, burners of 5G masts, protestors of the whole governmental approach, and the cause of hundreds of deaths. Many people like myself follow and broadly accept the mainstream approaches of the UK, Germany, Japan, Sweden, Singapore et al (whose respective scientists do not always agree exactly), but wish to keep an open mind somewhat and reserve the right to be healthily inquisitive and question some of the data and how it is gathered and interpreted … as is indeed a good thing in a democracy. There have always been fringe opinions and plausible-sounding conspiracies and always will be, but their existence should not result in their being only one opinion permitted.

  • I agree broadly with Paul Reynolds. The science of Covid-19 is a learning curve. Models are relationships determined from analysis of the available data. Sometimes I think there are too many scientists competing for publicity, influence and the all important future funding.

    In such circumstances, broad brush trends are all you need to know and these are not in the least ambiguous. We are heading for a massive increase in infections.

  • @Marco
    There is a difference between Liberalism and Libertarian and it appears to me at least that the anti-lock down protestors are of the far Libertarian views.
    In a state of health emergency that we are in, where there are far to many Rule Breakers in their Millions according to Glenn at least, then a dose of authoritarianism is needed to bring balance back to a more “liberal” view point. I was not suggesting “totalitarianism” Isn’t the Liberal view point “your right to swing your fists ends where my nose begins” in other words That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.

    Allowing this virus to rip through communities with no mitigations would cause untold harm to others and potentially cause a 1/4 of the population to chose from totally withdrawing from society for an indefinite period or taking the risk with their lives or loved ones.
    That in no way represents a Liberal Society to me

    @Glenn
    “No it’s not. There is a difference between a few burglars stealing and millions of people acting like the social animals they are designed to be.” So it’s a case of numbers then? The more that disregard the law, means that the law should be abolished? Is that your argument?
    You argument referring to “social animals” I would argue that most of the intelligent social animals go all out to protect the most vulnerable members of their community, from Primates to Elephants, they do not abandon them as you would appear to do from my understanding of your posts.
    “were talking about millions of people popping in to see their families or friends like they’ve always done” Glenn your rather trying to simplify things there, you have argued against every single social distancing, mitigation policies, lock-downs, curfews, masks, 2m distancing. There has not been a single measure that the Government has introduced that I have seen you support. Quite frankly I find that bizarre and I will not get my head around that, I will never be able to understand anyone who is not prepared to have ANY measures imposed in order to try control a virus that has the potential to be either deadly or extremely life changing to millions of people. I simply cannot comprehend that, sorry

  • Kylie Belchamber 2nd Nov '20 - 9:02pm

    Thank you for the (mostly) positive comments on this article. I wasn’t going to comment, but felt the need to highlight @marco who pointed out that my job title may not reflect my job fully. Perhaps I should have called myself a ‘scientific researcher’, or just ‘scientist’ – or perhaps he should Google my name and read some of my publication record. Another way in which some people might spread ‘misinformation’ about ‘scientists’. Do I need to include a picture of myself in a lab coat before I credible?

  • Matt
    I’m pointing out that millions of people are not really complying with the rules and at best interpret them loosely when it suits them . As you support authoritarianism in a crisis what is your solution to the evil crime of people seeing each other without the permission of the government?

    What really annoys me about the lockdown lobby is they like to present themselves as “caring” but they don’t really seem to care about the damage they’re causing to children, higher education, families, the workforce, transport, cancer screenings, cities, mental health, teeth, relationships, the arts, culture or death from anything else. Personally, I don’t see much “care” in any of this. I see fear and an anti social belief that human interactions are nothing but a threat.

  • @Glenn

    “As you support authoritarianism in a crisis what is your solution to the evil crime of people seeing each other without the permission of the government?”

    The “temporary” rules are there to protect us all Glenn, I know you will constantly argue about how this is non fatal to 99% of the population and I am not going to keep going over the same arguments with you. But the Data on hospital admissions is publicly available and not disputed https://coronavirus.data.gov.uk/healthcare and hospital admissions were doubling every 8 days? that is not sustainable especially coming into Winter when hospitals are generally already pushed to limits.
    So under those circumstances I would support a bit of Authoritarianism and use harsher fines for people who are braking the rules.

    “What really annoys me about the lockdown lobby is they like to present themselves as “caring” but they don’t really seem to care about the damage they’re causing to”
    Actually, it is because I care about a whole host of health matters from cancers to heart disease, from Diabetes to Lung Disease that I support lockdowns, because it is these very people who are at extreme risk in the short term from covid and the long term from a severely diminished public health system which I believe would happen if Covid were allowed to rip.

    I happen to believe that young children should remain in Education as this is vital in early years, whereas older students should switch to online learning where practical
    ( As Sweden has done for over 16’s) and you do keep holding up Sweden as the holy Grail in their response to Covid, so surely you must support that measure???

    As for peoples livelihoods, I care a great deal about those also. How much did the UK government borrow to bail out the banks in 2008 £500 Billion wasn’t it? We have not reached anything like that this far for Covid, so if we can borrow those sums to bailout bankers, I am sure we can afford to borrow the same again to protect peoples livelihoods and public health.

  • Matt – Inevitably it does seem that some people who oppose lockdown are of the libertarian right but that is not the full story.

    For example two of the Great Barrington scientists – Professors Gupta and Kulldorff – are clearly quite left wing. Their analysis has a thoughtful sociological aspect and they highlight the fact that whilst lockdown may be cloaked in collectivist language, in reality the middle classes have been able to shield themselves regardless of risk levels whilst the working classes have not been able to work from home and borne responsibility for building immunity to the virus or lost their jobs. Furthermore the social collateral damage from lockdowns affects the least well off and most vulnerable in society and the economic downturns will push many people below the poverty line in developing countries.

    So clearly they are not libertarians, they think how I would expect progressive people to think and it would be a serious mischaracterisation of their position as well as lazy thinking to call them libertarians.

  • Gerald Stewart 3rd Nov '20 - 12:12am

    Whilst science does encourage the ‘show me don’t tell me’ ideology and depends on peer review and will always have alternative views.
    A research fellow is not simply a researcher, important as they are, many of whom will become research fellows and or professors. Perhaps the opinion of the author should be given due consideration?
    Gerald
    BSc Micriobiology, MSc Environmental Microbiology

  • Since Matt will not answer, could any of the lockdown experts explain exactly how they plan to police rules about households not mixing, support bubbles and other such absurdities that are widely flouted even by a good proportion of their proponents. Because people in fact do visit each other all the time and thus social distancing is not really happening in practice.

  • Matt
    I’ve never held Sweden up as my Holy Grail. I think Japan is a far better model. 123 or so million people on an Island the size of Britain with one of the oldest populations in world living in densely packed cities.
    I certainly think it is a better model than China, which is where the lockdowns come from. Proponents of lockdowns are copying a police state that puts people in concentration camps and also locks down protestors, but we’re expected to gloss over this and put up with them also mimicking CCP social oppression, without complaining. I think they are accidently paving the road to you know where with you know what

  • Innocent Bystander 3rd Nov '20 - 9:15am

    “Lockdowns work”
    Then why are we having another one?
    If this one “works” as well as the last will we have them every three months in perpetuity?
    What was supposed to happen after the “lockdown that worked”? Weren’t we supposed to pick up our normal lives again? Socialise? Meet? Get back to work? Or just stay alone for ever?
    Where was the virus expected to go during the lockdown? Dutifully and obediently back to China?
    It just waited until we had finished our pointless game and re-emerged.
    There has been a drop in cancer referrals of 60% because of the infamous lockdown.
    Do none of these learned Covid experts care about all those now inoperable tumours?
    Do none of them care about the terrible mental health damage, also irrecoverable?
    The dreadful toll of letting ” experts” control this response is that they are trained to be narrow, focused thinkers when there aren’t any “no brainer” solutions.
    What is needed is breadth of thought, juggling of all the consequences, taking hard decisions about individuals for the greater good and the shouldering of personal responsibility by the decision maker.
    Scientists can not do that. Only leaders can but unfortunately we don’t have one.

  • John Marriott 3rd Nov '20 - 9:52am

    For once I happen to agree with ‘Glenn’ (I assume that ‘Gkenn’ was a typo). It IS all about obedience. As Hamlet famously said, lockdown could be “more honoured in the breach than in the observance”, unless we grasp the nettle and come down hard on those, who both overtly and covertly oppose it.

    I see that Farage is about to relaunch the Brexit Party as the ‘Anti lockdown Party’, appropriately announced from the lounge of a Trump hotel. It’s clear that there are people out there, despite the 72%, who appear to agree with the lockdown, who may quietly carry on regardless. So, Glenn, there appears to be emerging a natural home for people like you. I’m sure that Nigel would be delighted to have you on board.

  • John Marriot
    I would not vote for Farage. I don’t like personality cults. I’m a liberal. So John Marriott what do you mean by coming down hard on those who oppose lockdowns and the millions of normal people who covertly commit the terrible crime of meeting each other without the permission of our absurd rulers . Because it isn’t just a few people. It’s virtually everyone all the time.
    So come tell me what your preferred crackdown is. For my part I am more than willing to say that I don’t support lockdowns or social distancing or compulsion. I can live with the criticism and accusations of not “caring” . I expect the same thing from proponents of them.

  • Peter Hirst 3rd Nov '20 - 12:37pm

    We must move from isolating all contacts to testing them. Then they should isolate if testing positive. Most will isolate while awaiting testing and the results though not for ever. Expecting many to self isolate for more than a few days on the basis of possible contact with an infected case is expecting too much

  • John Marriott 3rd Nov '20 - 12:42pm

    @Glenn
    ‘Coming down hard’. It depends how much of an impact you want to make.

    A ‘Big Bang’ approach could go something like this:

    1. Gatherings/parties/raves: For small gatherings, a visit from the police and a spot fine. For raves or large gatherings a visit from the army or police and the arrest of the organisers. In all cases, details of all those present recorded. Further offence will trigger another fine.

    2. Non wearing of masks in shops: Unless potential customers can furnish an exemption, entry to any shop or business should be denied.

    What it all boils down to is not to introduce any measure that you cannot enforce most of the time. Now, is that draconian enough for you?

    Do I want to see this happen? Of course not! But, if all else fails, as Nick Lowe sang a few years ago “You’ve got to be cruel to be kind”.

  • @Gkenn – “could any of the lockdown experts explain exactly how they plan to police rules about households not mixing, support bubbles and other such absurdities that are widely flouted even by a good proportion of their proponents. Because people in fact do visit each other all the time and thus social distancing is not really happening in practice.”

    The question is how effective does lockdown have to be to reduce transmission?

    I suspect what people are getting confused about is what is necessary with something that is really deadly – such as Smallpox – with a mortality rate of 30%, and what is needed for something with a mortality rate 1~2% – which is still orders of magnitude higher than seasonal flu.

    It is clear, the approach being taken worldwide isn’t one of eradication but of managing down the rate of transmission. In this context having a lockdown obeyed by the vast majority is probably sufficient to achieve the objectives. Also I suspect many of those who seemingly flout the rules, are mostly doing so in a considered way. Thus they aren’t spending several hours each day crammed into an underground train, bus etc. sat in an office with poor air circulation with dozens of others, go to a crowded pub, nightclub etc. (as we did prior to CoViD-19).

  • Mark Seaman 3rd Nov '20 - 4:06pm

    Iro the path that Sweden has chosen, I recall a commentary about the different extent to which people value personal space, and how they react to social distancing (this pre-dated Covid by a good number of years). The ultimate example was a diplomatic meeting with representatives from many countries, where the Swedish ambassador/rep was almost being chased round the room by the Saudi equivalent, due to the difference in their cultural distancing norms. That may well be a fundamental reason behind that countries decision to avoid such a level of lock-down, as they felt that their population would largely self-distance anyway.

  • John Marriott
    As I said before how do you propose to stop people popping round to see families and friends. You’re evading the question by making it about something else. Close contact in home is the main spreader.
    Also why do you assume that I wouldn’t see that stopping a bunch of kids dancing as draconian. I actually think it is awful and they should be out socialising. I’m not saying what I do because I want to go out and party like a teenager. I’m middle aged . I’m saying it because I just cannot believe how ridiculous a lot of you are being. As you get older you’re just more susceptible to all causes of death. Even if you completely eliminate this virus some other virus could get you or your heart could suddenly stop or your kidneys could pack in or you could have a stroke or just develop old fashioned pneumonia.

  • @Glenn

    It is pretty pointless debating with you on this issue because as you have admitted to me before, you do not watch any of the Government press briefings and the data that is presented.
    You did not watch any of the Panorama programs in the first wave from the hospitals showing what they were dealing with on the front line etc.

    You get your information from (word deleted by editor) knows where, your obviously only interested in reading information that supports your views anyway, so it is therefore impossible to have an informed discussion with you.

    I would go 1 step further than John’s comments and say that I personally would increase local enforcement officers by use of council enforcement officers who investigate anti-social behaviour and noise complaints etc.
    I would encourage locals to report neighbours.
    I would then issue fines after 2nd offences on an increasing on a scale.
    For serial offenders I would then have community service orders, maybe working in food banks or delivering food to the vulnerable Shielding groups, delivering prescriptions to elderly ( whatever is necessary to get the message across that there are vulnerable people in the community who need support and actions have consequences for the wider community)

  • John Marriott 3rd Nov '20 - 4:49pm

    @Glenn
    I tend to argue with ‘matt’ about arguing with you. What do you mean about my “evading the question”? Your question went “What do you mean by coming down hard etc?”. Well, I answered it, didn’t I? End of story. Time to move on?

  • John Marriott 3rd Nov '20 - 6:49pm

    Sorry ‘matt’, another predictive text mixup. For “argue” please read “agree”.

  • John Marriott
    You talked about supper markets and raves. I was talking about households meeting.
    Matt
    I read newspapers. I mainly read the Guardian and the I in the printed form and the Independent online. I’m very aware of the counter arguments to my views. I suspect you are more prone to confirmation bias than I am . To me you actually seem to be scared and lashing out more than debating. Hence the swearing and proneness to personal attacks. I just stand my ground. Realistically, you’ve got what you want, but I’m never going to agree to go along with the damage lockdowns and social distancing cause.

  • @Glenn

    I doubt very much I have swore on here as it would not have gotten past the team.
    I don’t believe I have made personal attacks on you either, I have just challenged your view and attempted to get you to consider a different perspective but to no avail.

    “you’ve got what you want”
    Actually no I haven’t, you seem to be of the opinion that I am a staunch lockdown supporter regardless of anything when nothing could be further from the truth.
    I would like to see is an effective Track and Trace system that is fit for purpose.
    I would like to see Rapid testing improved and scaled up
    I would like to see all those that are contacted by Track and Trace given a test so that if they test negative then there is no need to isolate any further.
    I would like to see a proper financial support package to cover wages in full for those that are told to isolate either from a positive test or whilst they are waiting for results from track and trace test.
    With financial support there also has to be stiff penalties for those that do not comply though.
    I would like to have seen more use of the NHS Covid-App

    I believe with that kind of robust system, there would be no need for large scale lockdowns.
    I am of the opinion though that nightclubs would have to remain shut as they would still be a breeding ground for virus transmission.

    I wish the Government would have just flew over, whoever from Taiwan or whatever country has a tested, proven and efficient system, I don’t want world beating class, I just want one that works, but as usual when it comes to these sort of projects our government is useless.

    We dont have these capabilities or systems in place and so therefore as far as I am concerned the only alternative is intermittent lock-down ( semi-lockdown measures) to supress the infection rates to a manageable level until science and medicine finds us another way out.

  • Roland
    That’s an interesting point
    My argument is not about the way to stop the spread of the virus. It’s why are we so intent on destroying social interactions for a virus the vast majority of people survive ? Thus I find the arguments for lockdowns impossible to sympathise with. My position is really as simple as that.

  • Matt
    what was the (the word deleted by editor) it’s there in in black and white. Yes you have constantly.

  • @Glenn

    It was not a swear word, it was a religious word that the moderators deemed as inappropriate use and thus deleted the offending word instead of deleting my entire post, I accept their judgement.

    I apologise if you feel as though I have attacked you in my posts, that is not my intention, I will however challenge your views robustly just as you challenge mine and sometimes use colourful language to describe lockdown supporters and comparing them to authoritarian Chinese dictates’, we can all be guilty sometimes of defending our view points overly passionately and there are lessons to be learnt from all sides.

    I still see it as a pointless task of even trying to debate with you on any issue as I do not believe I have ever seen you bend your viewpoint on any topic of discussion that has occurred on ldv over the years and certainly not on this matter.
    I would go as far to say that I feel you are the most rigid person on the forum when it comes to discussions and view points and I do not mean that to be rude either, it’s just a personal observation and he way some people are.

  • Matt
    You’re absolutely right it is pointless. This is because I’m commenting, not debating. I read the main article, but I only scan long comments. This is why my own comments tend to be short, usually a couple of lines or a paragraph at most. Actually, I’m not offended by anything you said. I just noted it as a tendency to personalise and lash out.

  • @Glenn

    Thank you for clarifying your position. I will know in future that it is pointless me responding to any of your comments or questions on any thread for any topic.
    I prefer to “engage” in discussion rather than be “spoken at”

    Of course that will not stop me pointing out the errors in your arguments. I will just not bother to start them with an @Glenn

    Enjoy your evening

  • Thomas Manning 4th Nov '20 - 3:08pm

    Hi. I’ve been looking at this blog and wondered whether I should put in my uncertainties, particularly about the false positive rate of PCR tests themselves ie even with a specificity of 99.9% that still gives a high number of false positives (FP’s) where the infection rate(prevalence) in the population being tested is very low.
    For example as it was when the Imperial College random survey reported on 11 Sept for the period mid-Aug to beginning Sept as 0.13%
    https://www.imperial.ac.uk/news/203873/largest-covid-19-testing-study-shows-cases/
    So with 13 expected cases per 10,000 and 0.1% FP rate for test ie 10 in 10,000, that gives a total of 23 positive cases of which 10 were false, so that is 43% false positives results!
    But of course with the recent increase in prevalence to 1.28%
    https://www.imperial.ac.uk/news/207534/coronavirus-infections-rising-rapidly-england-react/
    this reduces the false positive results in the tested population to 7% but which is still high.
    So how reliable is this testing for deciding on lockdown? But then I looked at hospital admission and these seem to trump(sorry, unfortunate word today!) these apparent false results.
    But then again I’ve just looked at the Govt Dashboard graphs for infections and deaths. Infections have dropped from 26,000 on 26 Oct to 1,300 on 2 Nov without any lockdown!
    And deaths from around 200 on 27 Oct to 82 on 2Nov!
    So what’s happening?

  • @ Thomas Manning. You may wish to revise your penultimate sentence when you consider the facts that there ere 397 deaths in the UK today, and that the figures announced on 2 November were announced after a weekend – which usually result in unreported figures.

  • Ed Davey should now be demanding an enquiry into the award of a £ 347 million contract to Random, a private Testing firm which was heavily criticised in the Summer and has strong links to the Tory Party. Owen Patterson, a former cabinet minister is paid £ 100,000 per annum as an ‘adviser’.

  • Thomas Manning 4th Nov '20 - 4:54pm

    Of course, Good point David Raw. Forgetting my dates! Still doesn’t absolve the false positive for low infection levels

  • Why deleted?

  • Correction to predictive text Random…….. the firm is RANDOX.

  • James Fowler 5th Nov '20 - 9:32am

    @James Moore really nailed this early on. Yes, there are facts given here though a lot opinion is smuggled in underneath them. As regards the central argument; I for one am prepared to broadly accept that lockdowns work in their own terms. But proving efficacy is just the minimum requirement to get a hearing, its never been a satisfactory answer. A real solution encompasses proportionality, equity and sustainability. Here, lockdowns are dreadful.

    Medics have had a hard time, but they’ve also played very safe. They been asked a medical question: ‘How do we stop this virus with minimum loss of life?’ They’ve given a safe medical answer: Isolate yourselves. What they say is true, but like any single, simple ‘solution’ to a wicked problem it’s also completely inadequate. A more courageous medic might say: ‘Stop talking about eradicating the virus. It is here for the long term, so adjust yourselves, but only in ways you can actually sustain. In the meantime, we’ll try and find a vaccine as quickly as we can.’

  • Thomas Manning 5th Nov '20 - 11:38am

    Hi James Fowler:
    I’m still looking for the truth about Covid although broadly supporting the scientific consensus (I’m a retired agricultural scientist) find some ‘facts’ questionable eg reliability of the PCR test.
    The issue of lockdowns is obviously very controversial particularly with the Covid Skeptics and Coronavirus Conspiracy Theorists. Evidence should be the way to provide some clarity but so often statements are made without clear justification or reference backup or eg Marco:
    “Graph 1 – the peak was reached about 2 weeks after lockdown on 23rd March. Voluntary Social distancing was used effectively in the 1-2 weeks prior to that. However the fact that cases plateaued when they did suggests that the peak of infections was reached before the lockdown was introduced. Measures were eased gradually in May – June but cases did not rise straight away suggesting that immunity and seasonal effects made a difference.”
    So the plateau was reached around 7 April about 2 weeks after lockdown so how does that justify the statement “fact that cases plateaued when they did suggests that the peak of infections was reached before the lockdown was introduced” ? Presumably because of the time lag from infection to symptom expression. This sounds logical but I find it surprising that no one appears to have questioned,justified or rebutted this as it seems pretty clear from the graph but I’m not sure that is the way infections develop unless something else comes into play. Need an epidemiologist to look at this.

    Then James Moore states
    ” Experience in Leicester and elsewhere shows that lockdowns only have a marginal effect on the spread of the virus.” without any reference backup. Again a pretty strong statement against lockdown and no one seems to have taken him up on this or supported him. There must be some data somewhere

  • I agree with Kylie Belchamber the last lockdown worked, “In the 4 months post lockdown (March – June), infections and daily deaths decreased dramatically. When restrictions were lifted, infections and deaths began to rise.”

    Marco,

    The number of people out and about was already reduced by 18th March when I went shopping, those working in the shops talked about they were only doing a quarter of their normal business. The number of cases seem to have stay about the same for the whole of April. Therefore it seems reasonable to conclude that it took about 5 or 6 weeks for lockdown to have a marked effect on case numbers. However, you are correct the number of deaths started to fall two or three weeks after lockdown, but the number of cases had not been reduced. Were people getting better treatment in hospital? I do remember some people died at home because they were not taken to hospital when they really should have been.

    I also agree with Geoff Crocker and Peter Hirst that an alternative strategy would to be have a superb test, trace and isolate system. And with Matt especially when he writes, he “would like to see a proper financial support package to cover wages in full for those that are told to isolate either from a positive test or whilst they are waiting for results from track and trace test.”

  • Glenn,

    People were very good at following the rules during lockdown. Please provide some evidence that they were not. It was commented on how good most people were, better than expected. Of course some people broke the rules but not to see lots of people. The cases I have heard of are about seeing a particular member of another household because they had a relationship with them.

    It is possible that people will not comply as well during this lockdown as they did in the first one. This might be because the rules are less strict and people see more grey areas.

    Thomas Manning,

    You pointed out at 3.08pm yesterday that 10 in 10,000 is 0.1%. You say that in August 0.13% of the population had Covid-19. When added together this is 0.23%. I don’t understand why knowing that 0.1/0.23 is 43% is useful or meaningful. If the prevalence increased to 200 per 10,000 then 200/10,000 as a percent is 2% and 0.1/2.1 is down to 4.8%. Therefore the higher the prevalence the more accurate the number of positives found. You concede this when you calculate 0.1/1.38 is 7%. I see this as much lower than 43%.

  • Innocent Bystander 5th Nov '20 - 6:10pm

    Of course lockdown didn’t work. It just kicked the can down the road.
    If it “worked” why are we back where we started? Could we start dealing with reality for once?
    Of course infections increased after restrictions were lifted. Where do the lockdowner zealots think the virus went ?
    What do you propose?
    Stay in lockdown for a decade ? a century ? for ever ?
    Are we clutching at the vaccine straw ? Which might not work at all, might not work for long ? or might have long term negative side effects that only emerge months later?
    Come out of hiding and learn to cope.

  • Innocent Bystander – weren’t you the person who insisted that the pandemic was over in September, based on your readings of ONS data? And who told me that it didn’t matter whether I wore a mask or not, as the virus had gone, or at least had become a mere irritation rather than a deadly threat?
    So now you are telling us that it was bound to come back when restrictions were lifted. Make up your mind; you can’t have it both ways. Either the pandemic is over or it is resurging.

  • Innocent Bystander 6th Nov '20 - 3:30am

    Mary,
    My challenge is to those who claim the lockdown “worked”. If so why do we need another?
    If the resurgence is due to post lockdown mixing how do we ever get out of permanent lockdown?
    A hastily developed vaccine?
    Another offering is ” track and trace” against some unrealistic logic that we can isolate the positives and ALL their interactions, to the extent of hundreds of thousands who all have to scrupulously comp!y so that all copies of the virus will become extinct.

    That ambition would make Canute laugh.
    Yet another “solution” that isn’t worth a moment’s thought.

    As to wearing a mask, it has been mandatory now for months.
    Didn’t make much of a difference to the resurgence did it? As I pointed out – just ineffective symbolism.

    I will keep referring to the ONS graph of excess mortality. Please study it. it comes out every Tuesday. (I am not being rude I am just not clever enough to include it here like Paul did). So far there is still not the slightest justification for any measures at all let alone the latest set in which I see a total mess of illogicality and inconsistency. They just appear to be harsh for the sake of harshness with contradictory exclusions which defy all explanation.

    But my biggest resentment is the heartless unconcern for the non-covid victims. It is nowhere to be found. Covid is not the only disease in town and this hysteria will have to paid for. As I repeatedly point out there has been a massive drop in cancer referrals.
    Either 60% fewer people are developing cancer or that tens of thousands of lives are being thrown away, over the coming months and years wholly because of allowing narrow focus, single issue virology experts to control the complete health agenda.

    Also, I note that all those supporting lockdown as a remedy do not seem to live alone but have a partner and even regular visits from their bubble. Their are plenty who have neither and lockdown has meant months of not a soul to talk to. Those who enjoy the former situation can simply not comprehend that level of suffering ( or don’t want to).

  • Innocent Bystander,

    By ‘worked’ I mean it reduced the R rate, the number of cases and the number of daily deaths. I do not mean that it eradicated Covid-19. Like many others in this thread I have stated that I would like to see a superb test, trace and isolate system and excellent financial support for everyone isolating while they wait for their results and while they have the virus. Until we have a superb test, trace and isolate system I think lockdowns will be necessary from time to time. I am not convinced we will have such a system even by next year. And if we don’t we might need another lockdown in January and a short one in February. We might even need one over Easter and another which includes the May half term holiday period. I don’t like the idea that areas with low levels of inflection have to lockdown but local lockdowns didn’t seem to work very well in reducing the R rate, the number of cases and the number of daily deaths.

  • Peter Martin 6th Nov '20 - 5:45am

    @ Innocent Bystander,

    “Of course lockdown didn’t work. It just kicked the can down the road.” ??

    That’s why it does work.

    If an effective vaccine becomes available in the new year, the advantages of “can-kicking” are clear.

    Even if one doesn’t there will still be other advances in knowledge. Hospital death rates now are significantly lower than they were in the first wave. If there’s a third wave the rates will be lower still. A hospital with spare capacity is a safer place than one which is struggling to cope.

    Keep on kicking that can!

  • Innocent Bystander 6th Nov '20 - 9:41am

    I am sure these reassurances will comfort the tens of thousands who will soon be told by their oncologists that sadly their tumour is now inoperable and they should have presented earlier, it will comfort the hundreds of thousands whose mental health damage will never heal and the millions who will live in unemployment, fear and poverty.
    But these victims are faceless, nameless and have no advocate in the face of this hysteria where only covid counts.
    The offerings here are for an endless sequence of can kicking lockdowns, regardless of the consequences, far into next year and even beyond.
    Our economy and society can not and will not survive.

  • Innocent Bystander – how dare you! You don’t have any idea of my personal circumstances, and you are making extraordinary assumptions about my complacency. I don’t talk about the medical conditions of myself and my partner. Just be careful before you throw around accusations of ‘heartless unconcern about non-covid victims’.

  • Innocent Bystander 6th Nov '20 - 10:15am

    Mary,
    I apologise profusely but I was not aiming at you for all the reasons you perfectly correctly state.
    But I perceive across the print and broadcast media and every talking head show exactly that to which I referred and I could list (privately) their names. Only Janet Street-Porter (who is alone) has covered the same point.
    Again I apologise if you thought I was talking about you.

  • Thomas Manning 6th Nov '20 - 11:31am

    Michael BG
    You say ” Therefore the higher the prevalence the more accurate the number of positives found”.
    That is precisely the point I wanted to make. When infections are low the PCR test will vastly overestimate the true positives. Also a positive test does not indicate the level of infectivity the person has, only the PCR Cycle threshold value will do this. I just hope those interpreting the results are taking this into account when making decisions about lockdown. No one mentions this in most of the media presumably assuming this will confuse ‘the public’. The problem seems to be the lack of FULL explanation for the lockdown decisions which should combine testing results with deaths and hospital admissions. I haven’t seen a comprehensive layout of this explanation. Maybe there somewhere so will keep looking

  • Peter Martin 6th Nov '20 - 2:44pm

    There is a considerable dilemma faced by anyone testing positive. How honest should they be when quizzed about contacts?

    Being honest can cause considerable inconvenience and potential economic loss to friends and family. It’s really not a trustworthy system. A system which might be would have to be ultra authoritarian with severe penalties for anyone withholding information.

    It might be possible in China but here? I don’t think so!

  • Peter Martin 6th Nov '20 - 4:49pm

    @ Geoff,

    Quarantine is too strong a word. The requirement is self isolation for a period of 10-14 days.

    So how do you know who the ‘cohort groups’ are? If two young people, say they are students at your university, take a fancy to each other and decide to form their own cohort how will you know unless one of them later decides to tell the tracers? There may be consequences as we perhaps remember from our own youthful experiences!

    Or, we could have a friends round for dinner and one of the group shortly afterwards tests positive. Even if we shouldn’t have. The rest of the cohort have families and jobs. They will all be socially and economically adversely affected by being known to the tracers. So can we rely on total honesty?

    I don’t think so. Which makes me think that a test and trace system, at least in a liberally inclined country like ourselves, is always going to be lacking in the trace dept. Testing itself is of limited usefulness for most people. If they are positive but asymptomatic they’ll be unaware they need a test. If they do have symptoms they should be isolating anyway. Even if it’s just flu.

  • Thomas Manning 6th Nov '20 - 8:33pm

    David Raw – Cases falling before lockdown:
    Just heard that Covid cases stabilising
    https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/second-wave-of-covid-19-is-stabilising-says-ons-2s7vtrxl9
    so had a look at the Govt Dashboard figures again. This shows a big difference in cases and deaths depending on how they are reported , either by date specimen taken and date of death as opposed to date specimen reported (ie reported back from lab) and date death reported.
    So for dates from Friday 30 Oct to Thurs 5 Nov:
    Cases F S S M T W TH
    Cases by date of specimen: 23K, 16K, 16K, 31K, 24K, 13K, 0.8
    Cases by date reported : 24K, 22K, 23K, 19K, 20K, 25K, 24K
    and Deaths
    Date of death : 298, 275, 300, 288, 274, 213, 87
    Date death reported : 274, 326, 162, 136, 397, 492, 378
    So the slow down in cases cannot have anything to do with lockdown as there is a lag of 1-2 weeks between infection and cases reported.
    Does this suggest some immunity carrying over from first wave in some way – particularly as there were so few tests in the first wave so many more will have been infected with low virus loads and not detected. Also there may have been some cross over immunity from previous Coronavirus epidemics which then became activated by the second wave. I know there is some evidence for lack of cross over from other C’s and a 25% reduction in antibodies from infection with Covid 19 over 3 months (June to Sept) (Imperial College)
    Just seems strange that levels seem to be coming down before lockdown. Immunity expressing itself?

  • Thomas Manning 6th Nov '20 - 8:36pm

    Just to press the point , all media reporting is expressing cases by date reported than actual date specimen taken or death occurred. So this will homogenise the data rather than show what is actually happening on a daily basis

  • Peter Martin 6th Nov '20 - 8:57pm

    @ Geoff,

    I know there are theoretically better solutions than multiple on/off lockdowns but in practice we’re struggling to implement them. The young are always going to do what they’ve always done. If it puts Grandma at risk they probably shouldn’t but that’s not going to stop them. We weren’t any different at the same age – the fear of what would have only been a mild disease wouldn’t have changed our behaviour for the better.

    We should have had much more concern than we did for such diseases as glandular fever. That was known as the “kissing disease” and could well have been classified as a pseudo STD and was often transmitted via saliva. It took me at several months to get over a bout of that and it would reoccur at random for several years afterwards. Not a rich youthful experience at all! I’d take my chances with Covid in preference to that any day!

    We’ve seen increasing evidence, such as at Manchester Uni in the last couple of days, that the young have had enough of being penned up and are starting to let their feelings be known.

    So I’m not offering any solutions. We’ll be muddling through as best we can until, hopefully, we have a vaccine in the New Year. Testing and Tracing will continue to be far from effective. If we don’t have a vaccine it will be more muddling through in 2021.

  • Thomas Manning 6th Nov '20 - 11:00pm

    Will no one comment on the leveling off of infections before lockdown and why the media report figures as reported rather than by date specimens taken or date of death rather than date reported? Am I missing something here?

  • @Thomas Manning

    isn’t it more likely that tier 3 was starting to have an effect on infection rates?
    That does not mean to say that we should have not gone into lockdown.
    because there would have already been a number of hospitalisations and deaths baked into the infections which would start to materialise in 2-4 weeks
    And as far as I understood, this lockdown was about protecting NHS capacity to treat covid and non covid patients and to try and continue to get through some of the backlogs of elective surgeries.
    Some Hospitals I understand have had to cancel operations again due to capacity and resources within their trust.
    Then factor in that the Government were under pressure to try and save xmas.

    That all required driving down infection rates, Hospitalisations and Ultimately deaths.

    R is still above 1 across the country so infections are still doubling, coming into winter the Government needs to get R below 1 and manageable levels

  • Thomas Manning 7th Nov '20 - 10:05am

    Exactly Matt. The fall in infections must be partly due to the Tier 3. So if it’s gone down to 800/day from a peak rate of 16-24,000/day why do you need a further lockdown? All hospitals have to cancel elective surgery normally during winter so it’s only the risk of Covid running out of hand that justifies lockdown. But if they continue to fall what’s the justification. If’s it’s fallen so dramatically I don’t see how it’s doubling and the R value must be wrong. And ofcourse we aren’t told exactly how R is calculated using a model with assumptions which may be wrong. I heard in the news this morning a newsreader saying rates are falling so perhaps some people are waking up and thinking outside the box

  • @Thomas Manning
    Where has it gone down to 800 a day? I do not recognise that figure at all.
    I agree that tier 3 “might” have slowed down the rate of infections in some parts of the country, but that does not mean that they were not increasing elsewhere.

    And like I said, it was mainly based on hospitals and the rate of admissions, it was plain to see that unless you did something, we could be in for serious problems.

    When you are travelling down the M25 and see a pile up, do you start to apply the brakes straight away, or do you wait till the last minute to slam on the brakes and hope you can stop in time? that is the kind of decisions that the Government and the NHS are having to asses.

    “if’s it’s fallen so dramatically I don’t see how it’s doubling and the R value must be wrong.”
    As long as R is above 1 then the rate is doubling, the more over 1 the faster the doubling time
    When R is below 1 then the rate is halving, the more under 1 the faster it is halving.

    That’s very simple and easy for everyone to understand, coming into Autumn and Winter season, when the NHS is usually under pressure and respiratory illnesses are more prevalent, It is vital that we keep R Below 1

  • Thomas Manning 7th Nov '20 - 11:35am

    Matt. You don’t appear to have read my post properly. The figure of 800 comes from the Dashboard
    https://coronavirus.data.gov.uk/details/cases
    There it explains that “Data can be presented by specimen date (the date when the sample was taken from the person being tested) or by reporting date (the date the case was first included in the published totals).
    You have to click on “All cases data” to see the graphs presented in both ways and click on “Data” to see the actual daily figures
    So the 800 is the figure for date sample taken and the equivalent figure of 24K is the date the figure was included in the published totals. Which is likely to give a true picture of what is happening day by day?

  • @Thomas Manning

    I am not going to pretend to know what you are on about and would defer to the author of the article to address your point as she is more qualified than I to provide an explanation. But one thing we do know, you should not be looking at data on “1 particular day” to back up your argument

    But remember, the government does not just use that data, they also use data from various surveys who are random testing in the community to get a better picture of how many infections are circulating in the uk and keeping a track of R

  • Mat.
    Data for”one particular day” ? I pointed to data over 4 days and all going the same way and falling dramatically! Sounds like you just want to accept the general consensus even though you know the Govt makes mistakes. Still we will have to see how the data progresses – the data from the last two days are missing!

  • @Thomas

    Obviously it was a mistake and the dashboard was updated, though I am not denying that numbers are falling, but the 800 daily infections was a mistake, but like I said, the government makes decisions based on the numerous surveys taken in the community and not just the NHS tests.
    The random testing surveys in communities gives a better indication on current levels of infections and “R” rate

  • @Thomas
    “Does this suggest some immunity carrying over from first wave in some way – particularly as there were so few tests in the first wave so many more will have been infected with low virus loads and not detected. Also there may have been some cross over immunity from previous Coronavirus epidemics which then became activated by the second wave”
    .
    You only need to look at Lomardy in Italy, It was the hardest hit in the first wave and it is the hardest hit again with rising death rates, so I think that throws out the immunity theory.
    According to a certain someone who wrote the Great Barrington Declaration, they claimed in March that the Uk had already achieved Herd Immunity, but you only have to look at the increasing number of infections in London, who was the hardest hit in the first wave, to see this thinking is flawed.

  • Peter Martin 8th Nov '20 - 8:25am

    @ Geoff,

    I might offer a partial solution which would be, for anyone who even suspects they are even slightly ill, is to ignore the criteria set out on the NHS website which are: “you have a high temperature you have a new, continuous cough, you’ve lost your sense of smell or taste or it’s changed”.

    On the 28th October I started to feel slightly unwell myself but I didn’t have any of these symptoms. In my case they were gastrointestinal and just a mild headache. It’s the sort of thing, in any other year, most of us wouldn’t bother the doctor with and would just carry on as near normally as possible. So, initially I decided not to do the test as I didn’t meet the criteria set out. The riskiest situation I’d been in were just a few visits to local shops so I felt it was unlikely I’d been infected. No visits to pubs or restaurants or partying on the beach!

    However, I knew I’d picked up something, and a quick online search showed that, whilst not typical, these weren’t particularly unusual Covid symptoms. So I changed my mind and gave the incorrect answers necessary to book a test online. That all worked well. I booked the test on the 3rd Nov, received the kit on the 4th, did the test straightaway, posted it off and had the results on the 5th. And guess what? I was positive.

    It would have been much more useful if I had done the test straightaway as I would have known to totally isolate earlier.

    My experience does illustrate what we are up against. ie a highly infectious disease which isn’t at all serious for most of us and we probably won’t even notice we have it. And if we don’t know we have it we are much more likely to pass it on. But if it’s ultra serious for just 1% of us that means 650,000 of us in the UK with possibly getting on for half a million deaths in total especially if the NHS becomes overwhelmed.

  • Matt
    Yes – I see 5 Nov figure increased from 800 to 13,000! A friend who had looked into Covid in detail has pointed out that it takes 1-5 days to get the results for any sample so need to wait up to 5 days before accepting any daily figure. I guess that’s why the 7 day rolling average line stops short before the last date on the graph.
    Good to get a better understanding of the stats. Thanks for your input

  • Peter Martin 8th Nov '20 - 11:43am

    @ Thomas,

    “Will no one comment on the leveling off of infections before lockdown…..”

    It could be that the local lockdowns, especially as on level 3, were starting to have an effect. But the reason we moved into a general lockdown was that local lockdowns weren’t working as hoped. So that’s unlikely IMO. Probably that was because there was a general unwillingness to accept the fairness of the differences imposed by arbitrary lines on the map.

    There does seem to be a more general acceptance of lockdown measures if we are all seen to be in it together and behaviours will therefore change. Most of us don’t have last minute flings and will adopt a higher degree of caution sooner rather than waiting for the deadline.

    Having said this the new lockdown isn’t as severe as it was in April so we can’t expect the same quick results. Children are still at school and it’s quite likely they’ll be a significant source of asymptomatic transmission. So the best we can hope for is a “flattened curve” for a month or so. If we have a partial loosening over Christmas the situation will worsen again and we’ll need another lockdown in the New Year.

    It’s really just about somehow getting through the Winter without the NHS losing its ability to cope.

    @ Matt,

    “As long as R is above 1 then the rate is doubling, the more over 1 the faster the doubling time”

    OK but if its only slightly above 1 then the doubling time becomes so long that most of those who have been newly infected will have recovered before this happens. So there is a bit more to the mathematics of epidemics than simple exponentials and R coefficients.

    Probably we’re not going to get R down to less than 1 before the Spring unless we have an ultra severe lockdown ie Close the schools and workplaces etc. That’s not going to happen. The political will isn’t there to do it.

  • Kirstie Viner 10th Nov '20 - 5:12pm

    @rob davison

    You’re falling into the trap of flawed logic that many lockdown enthusiasts do when discussing Sweden. Yes in terms of land mass/population the UK is vastly more densely populated than Sweden. But the Swedish people live in a tiny fraction of the total land mass. In fact more Swedes live in urban areas than we do here in the UK.

    So the whole “density” thing is a moot point. There is very little difference between population density in the UK and Sweden, if you look at areas in both nations that are actually populated.

    Hope that helps.

  • Peter Martin 11th Nov '20 - 5:12am

    Researchers in Denmark have raised the possibility that the “Russian Flu” of 1889-90 was caused by a previous Coronavirus. So, what we are experiencing might not be too much out of the ordinary.

    https://www.dr.dk/nyheder/viden/kroppen/overraskende-opdagelse-coronavirus-har-tidligere-lagt-verden-ned

    This account of the “flu” from a Dublin physician of the time does sound remarkably like Covid. Especially the part of the patient describing a loss of taste.

    https://web.archive.org/web/20200907173006if_/https://circulatingnow.nlm.nih.gov/2014/08/15/a-physicians-perspective-on-the-russian-flu/?relatedposts_hit=1&relatedposts_origin=4652&relatedposts_position=1

  • Peter Martin 11th Nov '20 - 8:17am

    @ Kirtsie Viner,

    According to this link over half of Sweden’s households comprise just one person. That’s probably more of a factor than population density in determinising their natural R rate.

    Hope this helps you too!

    https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/web/products-eurostat-news/-/DDN-20170905-1

  • I don’t see why Sweden are a good example to hold up.

    Sweden are doing quite badly, comparatively, in terms of deaths from Covid. As of today they stand at 605 deaths per million population according to Worldometer. That is the 18th worse country figure in the world. They are worse than the Netherlands, Ireland, Switzerland, Portugal, Hungary, Canada etc etc. They have about the same death rate as France (which has 651 deaths per million).

    https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/#countries

  • Peter Martin 13th Nov '20 - 8:43am

    @ Geoff,

    The German strategy will be shown to be clearly superior only if we do develop a workable vaccine. If we don’t they’ll only be storing up more problems for the future.

    This is why Chris Bowers is quite wrong in a more recent LVD posting, today , IMO, to downplay the importance of vaccine development.

  • Peter Martin 14th Nov '20 - 11:20am

    @ Geoff,

    Theoretically you could be right. The 2003 experience with SARS showed how it was possible practically too. But that was a different disease with far fewer, if any asymptomatic carriers. Anyone who went down ill could be more easily identified. Covid19 has been a more ‘successful’ virus because of a large number of asymptomatic and low symptom carriers.

    Many, if not most, don’t even know they have it. The virus will be endemic in the population, probably, for ever. Like previous coronaviruses we’ll settle down with it. In time It will become just another nuisance virus. Just like ‘Spanish’ flu is still with us. Anyone who doesn’t die from something else in the meantime will almost certainly be infected at some point in their later life.

    That is unless an effective vaccine is developed.

  • Peter Martin 15th Nov '20 - 8:14am

    @ Geoff,

    I agree that rigorous infection controls in care homes and hospitals is necessary at the moment. My rationale is that we all have to do what we can to minimise the spread of the virus, and this includes semi-lockdowns generally, until we see the introduction of an effective vaccine next year.

    But let’s suppose, for the sake of argument, that’s not going to happen. What then? I’d say the only effective strategy would be to let the virus spread through the population in a controlled way to prevent the NHS being overwhelmed at any one time. I personally wouldn’t want to live the rest of my life in a bubble to guard against all possible infections – including Covid. I’d prefer to take my chances just as all previous generations did when there wasn’t the same prospect of a vaccine.

    Maybe we can offer everyone a choice but I can’t see that many would want to be totally isolated from society.

  • Peter Martin 16th Nov '20 - 2:12pm

    @ Geoff,

    Most viruses do tend to evolve into less deadly strains with time. The virus needs a living host to thrive and not a dead one.

    However, it is far too soon to say this has already happened with Covid19.

    Reasons for a lower mortality include:

    1) Better awareness on the part of medics on the simple and effective treatments. Including which drugs to use with the correct doses.

    2) The availability of antibody treatment via drug plasma.

    3) The reduction in the number of very elderly patients contracting the disease.

    4) The number of asymptomatic and mild symptom cases which are being detected now but wouldn’t have been detected during the first wave.

    Yes, the wave is taking longer to build but that’s to be expected. There is a generally a better awareness of the importance of infection control. We’ve been in a state of various degrees of lockdown since March. We had large gatherings at sporting matches then whereas haven’t since. We are, for example, all wearing masks now whereas we were slow to do that during the first wave.

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