Every so often, it’s worth having a look at this table…

OK, I know that countries have very different ways of reporting deaths from Covid-19.

But this table, from Worldometer (excluding a couple of micro-states), gives us some idea how the UK is doing in terms of Covid-19 deaths per million of population.

Badly.

We are second in the world for the rate of deaths, after Belgium.

We are mush worse than the USA, and well over six times worse than Germany.

Yes, factors such as ageing and poverty demographics need to be taken into account.

But we are well ahead of many comparable countries. For example, our death rate is 43% higher than France.

It shows that we do, indeed, need a fast, nimble-footed enquiry to learn lessons and put things right before the feared second wave in the autumn.

What is absolutely staggering is that in 2019, an international study found that the UK was the second-best pandemic-prepared country in the world.

So what on earth happened between 2019 and 2020?

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist. He is one of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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68 Comments

  • Innocent Bystander 14th Jul '20 - 11:42am

    But if you know comparing declared covid deaths between countries is flawed then it’s pointless to compare them.
    I have never taken any notice of the “alleged” deaths from covid. The gov used to count those “who died having tested positive”. They may have tested positive for athlete’s foot and didn’t die of that either.
    Throughout, the ONS have produced (on Tuesdays),_the total mortality figures. Doctors are just garage mechanics with a thicker Haynes manual. They can put what ever cause they want on a death certificate but without a full post mortem it’s just a best guess.
    ONS just counts dead people and thus includes the ones the doctors missed and those who died because they were told the NHS is overwhelmed and didn’t present the lump, bleed, cough or chest pain to their GP but were still victims of covid. The big peak begins suddenly at the end of March and has all gone away now.
    So best compare just excess mortality and the UK still is near the top but it’s a truer measure of the toll. Sweden, is about half our excess deaths, with no lock down.
    What will be worth watching will be these excess mortality figures through the rest of the year to see if the annual total is still in excess. By that I mean, as the majority were elderly and/or with other health issues will there be a matching dip in mortality because (to speak plainly) were those who died in April and May ( where the big peak was) going to die in August and September and the deaths were premature, but expected anyway?

  • Steve Trevethan 14th Jul '20 - 11:42am

    Perhaps only a continuation of public health policies of somewhere between ineptitude and deliberate damage?
    Might the lack of foresight and preparation shown by Excercise Cygnus in 2016 be a more accurate starting point?
    Might a table produced by the World Economic Forum,aka the Davos Organisers, not be the most appropriate choice for reliable information on public health for the many?

  • My thanks for the links for the links. I remember the days when we got a picture every day at the Downing Street party political broadcasts.
    I think we are in a position that the majority of us as the people of the U.K. recognise the major problems caused to individual staff in front line services by this pandemic. We need to discuss what is needed to protect these people from these problems. People are waiting for a lead, so will at least listen.
    There is also the need to discuss the collateral damage caused by such things as the lack of clarity in government advice. Most people take the situation very seriously and there is an increasing demand for openness and honesty.

  • Innocent Bystander: you can make any comparisons you like, judge how many older people would die anyway, compare UK infection figures with other countries but in my opinion our government got everything wrong from the start and continue doing so, they are a complete shambles and other words that would not be allowed in this site. All the means to aid economic recovery would have been enacted by any government in the face of such an enormous catastrophe.

  • 2nd best pandemic prepared country in 2019. So what did happen from Jan 2019 to Jan 2020 beside Johnson’s sad win at the polls (we know what happened since he arrived).

  • The interesting question is how many excess deaths there would have been if there was no lock-down but over 65’s and those with relevant medical conditions were shielded… I think the current mortality of those outside those criteria is in the low hundreds.

    Interestingly, the Japanese got away with low mortality on the back of mass wearing of face-masks, which is may be where we are going next (anything is worth a go…).

    From a cynical political point of view those in power have heaped up their own powers, helped along by having a free (as in BOE printed) 300 billion to spend and soon will get all those powers back from the EU whilst individuals will no longer be able to escape to 27 other countries, nor go running to various EU bodies when they have trouble with their own govn… job pretty well done if you are a politician in power whose main concept is to expand their own power.

  • John Marriott 14th Jul '20 - 2:24pm

    This is NOT a competition! Comparing countries surely only works if statistics are compiled in exactly the same way in EVERY country. I would add the question of whether or not every country is being scrupulously honest with the figures it is releasing.

    It won’t please people like ‘Glenn’; but my take is that the discrepancy between deaths in the U.K. compared with many other european countries is probably down to lockdown, the releasing of which is causing spikes all over the place.

    The fact is that the virus has clearly not gone away and has the continued potential to wreak havoc around the world in countries where the medical infrastructure, if it exists at all, does not augur well as we in the northern hemisphere head from Summer towards winter.

    I see that our government is now putting the emphasis on a resilient local government to firefight any likely second wave as the colds and ‘flu season begins. It’s a pity that they stripped it of so much of its capacity over the years, isn’t it? In a funny way, this could be local government’s great opportunity to deliver, if it gets the necessary resources, and to make the case for English devolution unstoppable.

  • So no difference between places that did lockdown and those that didn’t, but we’re still going to pretend that we’re saving the country by destroying it and turning its husk into police state. Marvellous.

  • Glenn, boring.
    However the figures are misleading. They take the situation overall, reaslly since January/february and include March and April when Western Europe took their biggest hit. If we examine what has happened in the last 4 – 6 weeks there would probably be a different picture, Belgium, UK, Spain, Italy would be way down, Sweden would be way up, as for Brazil, India even the US, well.

  • John Marriott 14th Jul '20 - 3:54pm

    @Glenn
    So, give us the figures. How many countries did NOT perform any form of lockdown? Even your mates in Sweden didn’t indulge in a ‘free for all’. There can’t be that many. So, why did so many lock down, whether it was a good idea or not?

  • Nonconformistradical 14th Jul '20 - 4:01pm

    @Glenn
    If we could reply on people not behaving like this
    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jul/14/video-of-drunken-brits-maskless-in-magaluf-appals-spaniards

    you might (only might) be able to make a better case.

  • Paul Walter uses the classic tactic of “I know that but I still think XYZ”.

    However such tactic does not actually neutralise the argument that comparisons being countries are completely pointless.

    I saw an article about why Belgium had the highest apparent death toll in Europe and astonishingly it actually praised Belgium for recording Covid deaths more comprehensively than other countries.

    Therefore I wonder if the reason why the UK appears to have a high death toll is largely due to recording deaths as due to Covid when other countries wouldn’t put Covid on the death certificate.

  • John Marriott depends how you define lockdown – I would say it is legally requiring people to stay at home unless they have a valid “excuse” to go out and forcing most shops and businesses to close.

    By that definition Sweden didn’t lock down nor did Japan or even South Korea or Taiwan (possibly Holland wasn’t full lockdown?)

    Also Belarus but I don’t advocate their approach. Brazil and USA depends on the state. Think Arkansas Florida and some others didn’t lock down.

  • Sweden , Japan, Taiwan, Belarus and Iceland. Plus despite the claims South Korea (quarantines for people with the virus). There’s probably some others, but I’m pretty sure if they were being “devastated” we would have heard about it.
    Nonconformradical.
    If its against the law I’m sure the local police will deal with them.

    I think a lot of lockdown supporters are so desperate to justify the destruction it has caused they will cling to the policy despite zero evidence that it has worked and increasing evidence that this particular coronavirus is not actually anything like as deadly as the models that led to the policy were suggesting. I’m not going to shut up, about it. I think it’s a shameful faddish menace and one of the biggest mistake in history.

  • Innocent Bystander 14th Jul '20 - 5:05pm

    John, I am sure Glenn can reply for himself but the Health Foundation charts exhonerate Sweden (and condemn us) because, as we all seem to agree, every country “allocates” deaths from covid differently.
    But dead is dead. And just counting the total excess dead takes out the “cause of death” judgement and Sweden is half ours and less than most, frankly.
    I remember the profs at the start of this. Lockdown was to flatten the peak, to prevent the NHS being overwhelmed. It was never about reducing the number of infected, just spreading them out so there were not deaths from being unable to cope. If the virus is out there we will all meet up with it sooner or later. Lockdown must be irrelevant unless it stops deaths from lying on the floor of overwhelmed hospitals, but we were never there and the total deaths is what they always would have been, lockdown or not.
    The UK’s problem is probably because we are obese, lazy, unhealthy couch potatoes. No offence meant, of course.

  • John Marriott 14th Jul '20 - 5:28pm

    @Marco
    So not that many then. I wonder why? Are the rest of us just nuts? Can’t we just move on?

  • Lorenzo Cherin 14th Jul '20 - 5:51pm

    This is useful from Paul.

    It is of little interest whether countries differ in compiling methods.

    It is plain. Countries that took this seriously, early, proactive were able to contain and limit it.

    UK< US< Sweden, terrible.

    New Zealand, Japan, Taiwan, terrific.

    Libertarian nonsense, causes chaos.

    Liberalism is not that.

  • John Marriott – The lockdowns were mainly due to panic, fear, political pressure and copying China.

    The point people miss is that the less stringent countries were actually following the scientific advice they received. Norway and Denmark’s public health agencies didn’t back lockdown but were overruled by politicians.

    If there is a second wave expect more countries to follow Sweden’s example.

    Lorenzo needs to do his homework if he thinks Japan locked down.

  • Lorenzo
    If you do the maths Sweden has a death rate of about 0.25 with the average age being around 83 years old. It is fifth on the chart behind strict lockdown countries, Belgium, Spain, Italy and the UK. What ever they did its better than any of those countries.
    Taiwan did not lockdown. It simulated one then decided it was not needed. Japan briefly advocated voluntary social distancing and then gave up because the effects on economy didn’t look good.
    If the alternative to cheering on the destruction of the country and living in a police state is being called a libertarian, then I can live with it even though I’m not one. I know what I call societies that tell there unfortunate citizenry how to dress, where to stand, who they can meet and which withdraw the most liberties. It’s a lot worse than called “libertarian”.

  • I don’t think I’d use the word ‘Libertarian’ to describe you, Glenn’ but I won’t go any further than that. I would, however, strongly advise you to turn the volume down and avoid using the Taliban adjective if you want people to take you seriously and to avoid them switching off before they even begin to read you.

    It would also help if you could indicate your qualifications and expertise in the area you seem to be so vocal about.

  • RIP (from) Covid……. my friend Brian Arrowsmith, who played 378 matches and captained Barrow AFC in the football league. A brave courageous kind man….. just lived long enough to see the Bluebirds get back into the Football League after 48 years of absence.

    RIP (from) Covid…….. my kind and gentle friend Claire…. who served the small village of Co’path so well for so many years as a caring village post mistress.

  • This trend of calling people Libertarian when they say something that used to be seen as Liberal does get on my nerves.

  • David Raw
    I’m using it to poke fun. Enforced face coverings, bans on cinema, dancing and so on. I find the analogy comical. I like to imagine you all sat huddled in caves waiting for the latest rulings of Boris Johnson as interpreted by Matt Hancock. It amuses.
    My qualifications are the same as everyone else on here. You’re all just as vocal about it as me, you just don’t like the idea that some people think you supported a society wrecking very damaging bad bad thing. But they do and I’m one of them.

  • It isn’t necessary to be qualified. We can all have an opinion on the level of state intervention we think is appropriate. Scientists advise of the risks but the public decide via our elected politicians.

  • John Marriott 14th Jul '20 - 8:29pm

    OK, all you libertarians and conspiracy theorists, if COVID-19 returns with a vengeance in the Autumn, guess who will be amongst the first to stay at home? I suppose that you are against the mandatory wearing of face masks as well. As one of your ‘lazy couch potatoes’, or at least one, who, although admittedly a little overweight, would still like to feel that he might look forward to a few more years watching his grandchildren grow, I would have more faith in your pronouncements if you had the decency to tell me who you really are.

  • @ Glenn, ‘poking fun’, amused ? When another 148 people have died today ? I think I can add a lack of maturity and common sense to the over generous Libertarian.

  • John Marriott
    I’m a Lib Dem voter and I’ve posted hundreds of comments on LDV about a variety of subjects for nearly ten years.

  • David Raw
    I’m not amused by death. I’m amused that people are expecting everyone to applaud the destruction of the country, ruining the arts, putting people out of work, expecting teenagers to live like septuagenarians and turning the country into a police state, based on flawed models and a political fad borrowed from China. All with not a shred of evidence that it actually works . But I will add that it is a really bitter and angry amusement, not a jolly chuckle. Being a parent, I get to talk to young people. They’re not happy either . As I said you just dislike the fact that I think lockdown supporters have done a very bad thing and I won’t back down.

  • Innocent Bystander 14th Jul '20 - 10:08pm

    David,
    According to the ONS 10,393 persons died in the week ending 3 July (about 1,500 a day not 148) but that is fewer than the five year average. All of them sad but death is what happens to all of us. We just have to come to terms with it. A religion helps.
    I have distrusted experts since the invention of the television set. If you are a scientist wanting fame and attention (and they all do) forecast the biggest volcano, the largest tsunami, the most destructive asteroid (and the greatest death toll) and you will be asked to give interviews continuously. If you try and give a balanced view you will be ignored by the media so go big! go hype!
    So after the pandemic we are sternly warned about a second spike, then an autumn spike, then a winter resurgence which will kill millions and it will be lapped up.
    They say obesity is a big risk factor. It certainly took our podgy PM. I have noticed in my many travels that continentals, and orientals seem much slimmer, overall, than the sights that wobble along the average British High Street. That could well be the UK problem.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 14th Jul '20 - 11:07pm

    Glenn, and thanks to David, John

    Sweden did badly. Taiwan, Korea, japan, are extraordinary in their enthusiasm for masks, as well as public order, voluntary , and institutional. The Uk are liberty loving. Great stuff, not in a pandemic. liberal, sorry that some think it an inconvenience to hear it, is not that. Lloyd george, conscription, Grimond, banning demonstrations outside parliament , advocated during terrorism era, Roy Jenkins, Prevention of terror,act, that era, FDR, Liberal self described, strong state, internment, ww2, JFK, Liberal, self declared, sent troops to enforce desegregation in schools.

    There is a crisis, Trump, failure, Ardern, brilliant. I know who we on here like more, who are social liberal perhaps, too, social democrats!

    What lockdown? Voluntarly communal participation, as responsible individuals, together.

    Sounds better than Stop Brexit or Vote Leave!

  • “ I suppose that you are against the mandatory wearing of face masks as well.”

    There is a lack of convincing evidence that they work and Newsnight exposed that the WHO changed their stance due to political pressure.

    That said mask wearing doesn’t bother me as much as house arrest.

  • Lorenzo
    Sweden did not do as badly as Britain, Italy, Belgium or Spain. All had very strict lockdowns. It made the same mistake we did. They transferred vulnerable patients from hospitals to care homes to clear space in hospitals for a flood of patients that did not occur. It’s infection rate is dropping just as it is everywhere else. The models we used predicted a death rate in Sweden of 40, 000 by May 1st and 100000 by August. It was out by 94,455. Sweden has done far better than the models predicted. I know all you nice people who think I’m being horrible want to believe it’s all been worth destroying the country, making millions unemployed, and all my usual points for. But there is no evidence for it. The mask argument is changing the subject to deflect from the utter disaster inflicted on the world by the political fad for lockdowns, which by the way create their own health risks in the form of undiagnosed cancers, heart attacks and various other diseases and ailments.

  • Paul Murray 15th Jul '20 - 8:39am

    There is a perfectly simple way of determining the number of deaths due to coronavirus. Instead of looking at “official” national figures which use widely differing criteria such as a death due to coronavirus, versus a death with coronavirus, simply look at excess deaths versus the 5 year trend.

  • “Belgium is recognised as being almost too honest in her report of Covid-19 fatalities.”

    So why is the UK not being recognised for the same reason?

  • Innocent Bystander 15th Jul '20 - 9:09am

    Paul,
    Correct. As at end week 27 the UK has had 53,979 excess deaths over the five year average although for the past three weeks the death rate has been below the average rate.
    It will be interesting to see the eventual annual total (2018 was 616,014) because if that excess has disappeared it means that the April/May deaths were premature, but were likely to occur soon anyway.

  • David Garlick 15th Jul '20 - 9:10am

    @innocent Bystander
    I also distrust people not prepared to share their name and adopt a name containing ‘Innocent’. You may have a good reason to keep your identity to yourself. Sadly my judgement is that I don’t trust your motives.

  • Denis Mollison 15th Jul '20 - 9:26am

    As someone currently engaged in a research programme on modelling the pandemic, a few brief comments:
    1) Covid-19 is significantly less lethal than SARS, Ebola or bubonic plague. We could have decided to put up with it, the `herd immunity’ strategy, accepting that in the region of 1% of the population, mainly old people, would die, and perhaps a similar number would suffer serious side effects or longterm damage. Some politicians have argued for this, but I don’t know of any countries that have explicitly decided to do it (Brazil, possibly?).
    2) In most developed countries the disease when we all behave as we did before the pandemic has a reproduction number of approximately R=3. It needs to be reduced to below 1 to get numbers of infected decreasing.
    3) The best way of doing this is to catch it early, with a good contact tracing and isolation methodology targeting each infected case. In the UK we did not have a good contact tracing and isolation methodology in place in time.
    4) The alternative is to reduce infectious contacts through behavioural restrictions on the general population. Because we still do not know precisely which contexts are most risky, this has to be broad brush, i.e. some kind of lockdown. [Lockdowns have been used to combat epidemics for centuries, if not millenia.]
    5) Once the number of cases has been brought down to a level where contact tracing can work effectively, lockdown can be lifted, in combination with risk-reducing rules of various sorts (e.g. mask-wearing in indoor public places).
    6) You only have to look at examples of premature lifting of lockdowns – e.g. in many US states, to see that lockdowns are not a `political fad’. If we had acted early and decisively – testing or controls on arrivals from infected countries, plus good quality contact tracing – we could have avoided the need for lockdown, or had a just a short sharp lockdown like New Zealand. But we didn’t, indeed the UK government has fallen well below best practice, and I hope there will be a good independent inquiry to make sure we do better when (not if) the next pandemic comes along.
    7) For explanations in popular style, with plenty of good detail, I recommend Tomas Pueyo’s writings – e.g. https://medium.com/@tomaspueyo/coronavirus-learning-how-to-dance-b8420170203e

  • Belgium is only being “recognised” as almost “too honest” by those who want to maintain the idea that lockdowns have been a success . They are straining to find a reasons why it has a higher death rate than countries that did not impose lockdowns or even its close neighbour, the Netherlands which employed much less restrictive measures . The one possibility they will not consider is the one that points to lockdowns being a disastrous political fad.

  • John Marriott 15th Jul '20 - 10:31am

    Crickey, you lot. Give it a rest! Lockdown happened in most parts of the world and is likely to continue to happen both on a large and a small scale into next year at least. So, please can we stop trying to score debating pints off each other and MOVE ON? Even returning to Brexit might be a relief. Or, what about pulling a few more statues down?

  • Innocent Bystander 15th Jul '20 - 10:41am

    David,
    I accept your criticism and years ago I used my real name. Unfortunately my name will appear in a Google search, and some did, and then they told me why I thought what I did, why I should think something else and why opinions don’t count if they come from certain backgrounds .
    And I only offer opinions, I don’t stoop to personal attacks, I don’t try and trick or deceive and this discussion board is only a harmless diversion, as the LibDems have less chance of forming a government than I have of becoming Pope or Joanna Lumley’s toy boy and I’m not a catholic (or a boy).
    I hope to offer a different perspective amongst the group think and also hope that the party succeed one day in achieving PR (when I expect it to dissolve but its people re-emerge to form Christian Democrats, Social Democrats or Reform Democrats and then one of them might well form a govt.)

  • As always, people would do well to pay attention to and listen to Professor Denis Mollison.

  • “110% of deaths in Belgium were due to Coronavirus”

    Seriously! Sceptics of the figures can probably rest their case there.

  • “[Lockdowns have been used to combat epidemics for centuries, if not millenia.]”

    When?

    There is a precedent for brief localised social distancing e.g during the 1918 flu pandemic.

    Otherwise the precedent is to quarantine the sick only but not the healthy.

    During the 1968 pandemic which was more deadly than COVID there was no lockdown.

    When has there ever been such widespread legal lockdown across entire nations and most continents?

  • Laurence Cox 15th Jul '20 - 11:32am

    There is a good deal of justified criticism for how badly the UK has done in responding to covid-19, but we shouldn’t assume that the EU was much better. Here is an article in today’s The Guardian:

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jul/15/revealed-the-inside-story-of-europes-divided-coronavirus-response

    Only the sort of european super-state that the brexiteers were so concerned about could have had the structures to handle this sort of crisis adequately; as it was, the rotating EU council presidency meant that the health minister at the time was from Croatia and had just been fired by his PM over a financial scandal. The delay while Croatia appointed a new health minister and he got up to speed proved crucial in allowing the virus to spread.

    While I am still solidly pro-EU, it behoves all of us to recognise that the EU as it is now configured cannot guarantee quick and credible responses to unexpected catastrophes.

  • Marco 15th Jul ’20 – 11:15am……“[Lockdowns have been used to combat epidemics for centuries, if not millenia.]”………When?…….There is a precedent for brief localised social distancing e.g during the 1918 flu pandemic………Otherwise the precedent is to quarantine the sick only but not the healthy.

    Try the Derbyshire village of Eyam during the Great Plague.of the 1660s…

  • Martin – I’m sure you know what you are trying to say but it makes no sense to me.

    Expats – Eyam is one village. What else have you got?

  • Martin
    Show me the evidence that Japan, South Korea, Iceland, Belarus, and Sweden all have higher death rates than France, Spain, Spain. Italy, Belgium , America, and the UK. You can accuse me of what you like, but you have nothing in the tank that counters the central argument which is the failure of Lockdowns to deliver more positive results than any other policy. Actually, to me a better analogy than WWI is that lockdown advocates are like medieval doctors insisting on draining evermore blood from their unfortunate patients despite no evidence that it cures anything at all.

  • Peter Martin 15th Jul '20 - 12:09pm

    @ Denis,

    Thank you for your comment. It is good to read something which looks perfectly sensible!

  • Doug Chisholm 15th Jul '20 - 12:46pm

    My partner is from Taiwan they have no lockdown because they stopped the virus at the airports. They have very effective track and trace and the authorities phone people in quarantine every day.

    The Taiwan dollar has surged against the pound.

  • Dennis Mollison
    Lockdowns of entire countries and economies are a political fad. What were used for centuries were quarantines for the infected and they were used to combat things like black death. At no point in history have societies locked down to stop the spread of a virus that sadly is a health risk for people who were already at a high risk of death from serious underlying medical conditions and advanced age. The other reality is that environments where you could more effectively control the spread of the virus, like care homes, actually have higher infection and fatality rates. So we’re supposed to believe that we can stop the spread of the virus at a national level in a population of 60million people who are often interpreting the recommendations very loosely , but we can’t stop it spreading in the enclosed controlled environment of a care home with the help of trained health professionals! To me that looks pretty much like the definition of a political fad.

  • Denis Mollison 15th Jul '20 - 1:02pm

    @Marco
    This recent book claims that lockdowns became common policy in combatting the plague around the C17
    https://www.rfi.fr/en/europe/20200407-17th-century-florence-when-lockdown-became-the-template-to-fight-pandemics-coronavirus-covid-19-plague
    “When the epidemic finally ended, about 12 per cent of the population of Florence had died. This was a considerably lower mortality rate than other Italian cities: in Venice 33 per cent of the population; in Milan 46 per cent; while the mortality rate in Verona was 61 per cent. ”
    You’re right that lockdowns were not used in a coordinated or global way in the 1918 flu pandemic. The evidence suggests it would have been much better if they had.

  • I do wish your attention to detail extended to getting the good Edinburgh Professor Denis Mollison’s name right, Glenn. I also have a hunch he’s much better informed than you are, so this will be my last comment to you. Maybe when you’ve finally established that the earth is flat I’ll tune in again.

    I’m also pleased to report it’s been announced just now that for the seventh day running there have been no further Covid deaths in Scotland…….. the product of a well informed and effective Scottish government….. the very antithesis of the shambles currently in Downing Street.

  • Denis Mollison 15th Jul '20 - 1:33pm

    @Glenn
    Why do you keep calling lockdowns a “political fad”? They’re a public health measure, advocated by public health scientists. They’re by no means perfect as interventions, and in a number of countries including the UK serious mistakes were made, such as moving patients into care homes without testing.
    But overall they’ve been successful. In the UK, we went from exponentially growing numbers of cases to a flattened curve to steadily decreasing cases – here in Scotland we’ve had no deaths for several days now.

    Lockdowns have become a political issue mainly because politicians have resisted them – so you could say they’re the opposite of a political fad, whatever the abusive term for that is. But the politicians – particularly Johnson and Trump – were wrong. Just look at the way cases were growing in early March, and how the growth stopped after lockdown, and you’ll see it doesn’t need sophisticated modelling to be confident that locking down a fortnight earlier would have meant hugely fewer deaths.
    And the lockdown in Wuhan in late January was astonishingly effective – but we thankfully don’t have the degree of population control that was part of that success.

    In the other direction, look at what’s happening in US states that have eased up on lockdown.

    Of course “lockdown” isn’t the only effective intervention, and other countries may have found equally or more successful ones; we’re continually trying to learn from others’ experience. But if you think we could have stopped the exponential growth of cases in in the UK March by some different strategy, tell us how. My answer would be by having an effective local contact tracing system in place, when instead we got faffing around with ineffective App projects. The reliance of this government on the private sector in its response to the pandemic warrants investigation – see https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/dark-money-investigations/vast-sums-spent-no-one-knows-why-covid-reveals-why-uk-transparency-law-must-change/

    Denis (with one “n” please)

  • The problem with giving examples of how the plague was dealt with in the 17th century is that this predates modern medicine and modern virology. In 2020 we have a level of understanding that allows us to avoid the medieval approach of lockdowns. We can restrict behaviour known to transmit the virus by banning large gatherings and advising people to work from home where possible without resorting to clumsy approaches such as forcing people to stay in their homes unless they have an excuse to leave.

    With all due respect to Prof Mollison and others we have heard too much from mathematical modellers which is why Imperial Colleges dodgy figures were accepted so readily. There are other experts such as Professor Sunetra Gupta at Oxford who didn’t support lockdown.

    The claim that cases were increasing exponentially is dubious and based on guesswork. Some scientists claim we had already passed the peak and that the public were already complying with social distancing voluntarily therefore the lockdown on 24th March was unnecessary.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 15th Jul '20 - 2:08pm

    Thanks to Denis Mollison, echoes of David Raw in that many on here who can see that far from being as good as, say, new Zealand, scotland, is doing far better than the UK government.

    There was a very mild supposed lockdown, few can really say was other than essential. Those who say the reverse are really encouraging the sort of stuff they object to the description libertarian for, but, as David has said too, that is a compliment really, when irresponsible might be also too gentle.

    Latest research has shown the virus is far greater a damage to health than any thought, for doing lasting harm.

    liberals dislike doing or aiding, doing harm.

    It is the reason we adhere to Mill. Not putting people through the mill!

  • richard underhill 15th Jul '20 - 2:34pm

    15th Jul ’20 – 1:53pm
    We should be grateful to Xerox for the ideas that made working from home possible without commuting, altering town planning or inventing computer networking.

    Get enough signatures and an item can be placed on the council agenda, but homes with adequate front gardens are unlikely to sign if they can concrete over the lawn. Not very green, the rainwater runs off and carries dead leaves into the drains.

  • Dennis Mollison
    I call them a “political fad” because they would not have happened at any other time in history for the level of threat involved and will not happen in the future. You insist they are successful, but show me the evidence that countries that did not use them have worse results.
    IMO, The way to lower the death rate was to concentrate efforts on securing care homes and support for the vulnerable. This is a virus that is a threat to people with underlying health conditions and the elderly. For the vast majority of the population it is experienced in a mild form or as asymptomatic.
    We don’t know how successful Lockdowns were in Wuhan. It occurred in a secretive police state. This willingness to swallow the CCPs line is also symptomatic of faddish politics. It became very fashionable very quickly to demand that we do something similar to what China did without examining the context. And now we are where we are.

  • richard underhill 15th Jul '20 - 3:05pm

    David Raw 15th Jul ’20 – 1:10pm
    May I politely agree that the government in Downing Street is a shambles?
    The general election in 2019 was a purge of pro-European MPs followed by a purge of pro-European ministers.
    Please remember what happened in South Africa after the introduction of the universal franchise. The largest party put their most thoroughly thought through candidate as number one on their party list, and having emerged from the election with the largest number of MPs they nominated him for President, which is what the electorate had thought they had already done. He then decided to use his moral authority to end inter-communal violence, weapons should be thrown into the sea. He would stand for election only once, as George Washington had done, disproving the predictions of some of his opponents.
    It is said that “every man has his price” so what price Nelson Mandela? FREE!!
    A large company in the food industry offered one million US dollars for his charities, asking only that he should be photographed with their Board of Directors, but he was unwilling to let down his constituents as happened in other places and in other times.

  • Denis Mollison 15th Jul '20 - 3:31pm

    @Marco
    Exactly what are your quaifications for pontificating on this, other than a belief that “we’ve heard enough from experts”?
    – some quick points –
    – I thought I made it clear that many of the details of lockdown are arguable – it was always obvious that if you went out as much of the day as you liked but kept distant from other people you wouldn’t be spreading the disease, so the `1 hour’s exercise’ rule could only be justified in terms of social psychology
    – I referred to the Florentine lockdown of 1630 because someone queried how far back lockdowns go. I also referred to the intermittent and inadequate lockdowns of the 1918 pandemic, by which date there was a reasonably modern understanding of flu transmission
    – I’m not a great fan of the Imperial model, but the key modelling argument was one I and others had already done on the back of an envelope – if no intervention was undertaken, a new disease with 1% fatality would be likely to kill something not far short of 1% of the population
    – Sunetra Gupta’s upper bound estimate that half the population might already have had a (mostly asymptomatic) infection has not been borne out as testing has progressed
    – who are the scientists who say we had already passed the peak before mid-March? I do agree that some of the public were self-imposing interventions a week or two earlier, before the governement got is act together (e.g. cancelling football matches). But to claim that the publ.ic would have voluntarily done just the right thing to match what the official lockdown achieved is as good an unverifiable example of being wise after the event as I’ve ever seen.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I’d like to get back to reading up for a meeting discussing what we can learn from Covid-19 to help us avoid future pandemics. A key element of that discussion is to identify how to do better in real time, i.e. not with the benefit of hindsight.

  • Denis Mollison I didn’t say we’ve heard enough from experts I said we’ve heard enough from
    mathematical modellers who are not the only experts out there.

    I would like to hear more from virologists, behavioural scientists and so on. I would more research into the negative effect of lockdown on public health and I would like acknowledgement that scientists don’t all agree and are a bit like economists where you have Keynesians and Monetarists.

    Your misquoting was therefore quite disingenuous.

    I don’t need to be qualified to comment as we all have critical faculties as Lord Sumption points out

    https://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/philosophy/lord-jonathan-sumption-coronavirus-covid-19-lockdown-liberty-freedom-response-thomas-poole

    and we can evaluate the information given by the experts. As we have been subjected to an experiment not tried since the advent of modern medicine that is therefore what we are doing.

    It is ultimately a political decision whether to lockdown as lockdown relates more to how you enforce the recommendations. The public health agencies in Sweden Norway and Denmark did not recommend lockdown but in the latter two were overruled by politicians.

    On your point about Sunetra Gupta she now concludes that many people have acquired immunity from other Coronaviruses eg through a common cold but maintains that a large proportion of the public have been exposed to the virus.

    https://unherd.com/2020/05/oxford-doubles-down-sunetra-gupta-interview/

    On the point about passing the peak see the the Centre for evidence based medicine https://www.cebm.net/covid-19/covid-19-uk-hospital-admissions/

    If hospital admissions peaked late March/early April then presumably infections would have peaked 1-2 weeks prior to that.

    Also I think your 1% infection fatality rate is out of date and most scientists think it will be much lower than that.

  • @ Marco “Denis Mollison I didn’t say we’ve heard enough from experts I said we’ve heard enough from mathematical modellers who are not the only experts out there”.

    And what, Mr Marco, is your area of relevant expertise ?

  • David Raw I don’t need expertise as I have already explained I am referencing experts which does not require me to be one myself. What qualifies you to praise Sturgeon?

  • John Marriott 16th Jul '20 - 8:03am

    65 comments so far – and here’s the 66th at 8.03am. Is there really anything more to say on the subject? Paul Walter really has mined a rich seam here!

    With neither side of the lockdown argument apparently prepared to concede, why don’t we wait and see what happens in a few months time when it gets colder? One thing is pretty certain. It would be a very brave ‘Leader’, who was prepared simply to let the virus rip, without shutting something down!

    FREEDOM!!

  • James Fowler 17th Jul '20 - 12:52pm

    @ Glenn – I agree with much of what you say. In economic terms the lockdown policy was the equivalent of spotting a burglar in your house and then deciding the best way to get them out was to burn the house down. But it goes deeper than that. Blanket policies like these are by their nature disproportionate and iniquitous. They create great social destruction and a great moral disorientation. They perpetrate economic violence against the most vulnerable.

    What saddened me so much was not that people obediently complied, but that so many have eagerly insisted upon and embraced the closure of social space and the restriction of social contact to retreat into a truly privatised world. The alacrity with which this opportunity was seized has left me wondering what pent up dislike and fear of others and desire for seclusion and purity secretly existed before, and have now been allowed to rush out under the guise of doing the right thing.

    There will be a great moral and social price to pay for sanctifying this conduct, which has already condemned hundreds of thousands to unemployment, killed many who would otherwise be alive, and caused millions of children to forgo education. These are moral issues. I see the decision to lockdown as it played out in our country as a choice by the secure to shut their doors and leave the insecure to get on with it, while telling themselves what great set of people they were/are for doing so. To me, the deeper message from these extraordinary times points to a understandable though minor fear which has been massively leveraged to ‘take back control’ of personal private space on a whole new level.

  • James Fowler
    Pretty much my thoughts. I find it very depressing.

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