Government and Labour reject scientific advice and let virus rip

The SAGE meeting on 21st September warned that covid cases may be doubling every week and that a package of interventions would be needed to bring R below 1. This didn’t happen. Cases continued to rise from 4,368 that day to 13,972 yesterday.

Yesterday the Prime Minster announced his new (urgent, delayed and briefed for a week) three tier system of local measures. This amounts to:
– a Medium tier of no change
– a High tier of no household mixing indoors – largely no change for authorities already under local measures, though a useful simplification, and adding Nottingham, Glossop and South Yorkshire (though they forgot to mention South Yorkshire)
– A Very High tier where non-food pubs are closed in Liverpool City Region.

So where SAGE recommends a package including closing pubs and limiting household mixing everywhere, and other measures, because R>1 everywhere, the Government closes pubs in Liverpool and limits household mixing in Nottingham and South Yorkshire. We don’t need Chris Whitty to tell us – although he has – a moment’s reflection will confirm that these measures will not bring R below 1.

Now I fully understand that restrictions are unpopular, are bad for jobs and the economy and for mental health. There is a balance to be struck here, when R is below 1. When R is above one the picture is different. Exponential growth of the virus does more harm to jobs, the economy, and mental health than any restrictions; if not yet, then with mathematical certainty it will soon. This is why the focus of policy, until now, has been to keep R below 1. There is no endgame for a R>1 strategy apart from letting rip, herd immunity and maybe 500,000 deaths.

So far, so typically rubbish. This is why local authorities have been demanding all along to be consulted and to be given a bigger role. Northern council leaders have been briefing for a week that the north is “very angry”. They must be furious at this apparent herd immunity strategy being imposed upon them, right? Wrong.

Yesterday “Mohammed Iqbal, Labour leader of Pendle Council, welcomed the news that his area had been spared being put into tier three.” This morning Andy Burnham, Metro Mayor of Greater Manchester, on the radio rejected the same SAGE advice that the Government has rejected, saying it didn’t do enough to consider the economy, apparently unwaware that R being greater than 1 is even worse for the economy.

These are not isolated examples. Labour council leaders across the north stand united in rejecting even a small part of the necessary interventions to bring R below 1. They have been consulted as they wished and have used this consultation to sacrifice the lives of their voters as leverage for more cash from the Treasury, which they won’t get. So they are sacrificing the lives of their voters for a bit of party political grandstanding and point scoring. It is as if their job is to grandstand for more money in all circumstances and any lives lost are the government’s responsibility.

I have always believed the worst of them and yet this still baffles me.

Update Since this was written Keir Starmer has called for a Circuit Break lockdown, and been backed by Ed Davey. Sadiq Khan has welcomed London being put in Tier 2/High. But Andy Burnham has doubled down and threatened legal action if Manchester is put in Tier 3/Very High.

Were this article written today, the title would recognise this division within Labour.

* Joe Otten was the candidate for Sheffield Heeley in June 2017 and Doncaster North in December 2019 and is a councillor in Sheffield.

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  • Completely disagree with this article.

    Nobody is proposing to let the virus rip however some of the worlds leading epidemiologists have called for a “focused protection” strategy whereby people vulnerable to the virus are protected whilst herd immunity is reached through young and healthy people contracting the virus as a result of living a normal and healthy life.

    SAGE effectively articulate one branch of scientific opinion but they lack diversity of opinion and there is no consensus among experts as to the best way forward. It is a bit like Economics where you have Monetarists and Keynesians.

    Boris Johnson claims he has adopted a middle way between the two camps. Unfortunately their approach is neither one thing nor the other.

    The government should be doing more to protect both the clinically vulnerable and the people vulnerable to the effects of a local lockdown.

    Is it time they updated their guidance on shielding and reversed the decision to end shielding and tell people in high risk categories that they can commute to work?

    The Government are not letting the virus rip although

  • John Marriott 13th Oct '20 - 12:40pm

    The last thing we want at the moment is trying to score party political points. Scientists do not govern this country, nor should they. It’s up to elected representatives to decide what to do.

    Seeking to apportion blame at this delicate stage does nobody any good. Although we know much more about the virus than we did in the spring it still has the ability to surprise us.

    I repeat what I wrote in another thread. Local government has a massive opportunity to make an impact if central government is prepared to give it a chance. If it resorts to squabbling as the opposition parties did at Westminster last Autumn, we might as well whistle in the wind.

  • It strikes me that there will be no consensus on how to tackle the dire state of our country and many other parts of the world due the on going Covid 19 crisis, but in my humble opinion km we have found ourselves being governed by the worst leaders possible in our time of need. They have found themselves completely out of their depth in dealing with a situation not on their agenda.

  • An issue here is that while SAGE may have produced a list of possible actions, which may be seen as recommendations, they also admit that the evidence for deploying them is not always that conclusive, and not without consequences.

    The real failing is in the shortage of testing with prompt results feeding into a proper tracing system, which results in people that need to stay at home actually staying at home.

    Unfortunately, compliance with staying at home, even when knowingly ill, is poor. If funding needs to be allocated to ensure that people aren’t scared of missing out on pay, then we should do that. Anecdotally, I’ve heard plenty of anecdotal evidence that people are going out and about for other reasons when they should be isolating, so I’d like to see more focus on getting that messaging across. Let’s stop blaming large house parties on 10pm pub closures and instead target the people who are attending to convince them it’s not acceptable.

    That’s not to say there shouldn’t be more lockdown measures, especially if targeted in particular areas, but without better compliance with the basic rules, it still may not be enough.

  • John Marriott, who knows about politics, is correct to point out the disappointing (but unsurprising) conclusion to this article.

    As someone in the ‘shielding’ category, I’d like to hear what positive policies Liberal Democrats have for the current situation. So far there’s a vacuum, just as it was a hundred years ago and which is being mirrored today.

    Given the current steep decline of the Liberal Democrats (predictable since 2010), I suggest Mr Otten dips into an essay (available on line) by Professor Michael Bentley, formerly of St Andrews University, but originally from South Yorkshire : ‘The Liberal Response to Socialism, 1918-29’. It’s in ‘Anti-Labour History, Responses to the Rise of Labour in Britain’, edited by Kenneth D. Brown.

    Bentley points out the futility of mere anti-socialism and what happened to its then Liberal Party proponents a century ago. Mr Otten should reflect on it.

  • Peter Martin 13th Oct '20 - 2:32pm

    “When R is above one the picture is different. Exponential growth of the virus does more harm to jobs…….”

    There isn’t an abrupt change between R=0.99 and R=1.01. The former will lead to a slow exponential decay in cases and the latter a slow exponential rise. The word exponential can be be misleading. It simply means that the rise or decline in the number of cases is proportional to the number of cases. The degree of proportionality isn’t specified unless we say cases double every week, or two weeks, or whatever.

    At the start of the first wave the doubling period stared off at something like 3-4 days and lengthened as time progressed. So the rate of increased slowed and wasn’t exponential in mathematical terms any longer. The present increase in the number of cases looks alarming but this surely must be because there is more testing. The increase in deaths and hospital admissions is much slower. So there are grounds for optimism and no need to panic just yet. But there’ll be more deaths whatever we do. If we concentrate solely on Covid then deaths from other causes will increase.

    It’s clearly a distortion of what both Labour and the Govt are saying to suggest the present restrictions are “letting the virus rip”. Maybe they should be slightly tighter, but there is a general consensus that we can’t lock ourselves down for the next 5 months or so.

  • Paul Barker 13th Oct '20 - 3:05pm

    The fact is though that Germany, with a larger population has had far fewer Deaths.
    That must be partly down to calm, competent Government & strong Local control but ordinary people do seem to following the guidelines much more rigorously. Its rare to see people not wearing masks in Shops or on Public Transport for example.
    Barring the Far-Right there seems to be more Political consensus as well.
    Im not sure how we as Libdems can do much to change any of those Factors in a useful timeframe.

  • Nonconformistradical 13th Oct '20 - 3:18pm
  • @ Joe Otten “These are not isolated examples. Labour council leaders across the north stand united in rejecting even a small part of the necessary interventions to bring R below 1. They have been consulted as they wished and have used this consultation to sacrifice the lives of their voters as leverage for more cash from the Treasury, which they won’t get. So they are sacrificing the lives of their voters for a bit of party political grandstanding and point scoring. It is as if their job is to grandstand for more money in all circumstances and any lives lost are the government’s responsibility.

    I have always believed the worst of them and yet this still baffles me”.

    Including the Conservative Mayor Andy Street in your comments it would have shown a bit more even handedness, Joe. All we get from the Lib Dem leadership is ? Meanwhile, if you got one of them to put a bit of flesh on it, I might give your article, “the attention it deserves”.

  • Barry Lofty 13th Oct '20 - 4:11pm

    Noncomformistradical: Thanks for the link to Vince Cable’s piece for the Independent, very interesting and informative!

  • Peter Martin 13th Oct '20 - 4:50pm

    @ Paul Barker,

    “That {in Germany -PM} must be partly down to calm, competent Government & strong Local control but ordinary people do seem to following the guidelines much more rigorously. Its rare to see people not wearing masks in Shops or on Public Transport for example.”

    The Germans, true to the stereotype, were always going to be better than anyone else in this respect. In the UK most pedestrians don’t wait for the green man to appear before they cross the road. They dash across when they think it’s OK. In Germany they wait. I remember sitting on a German bus seat that had been reserved for elderly passengers when I wasn’t quite so elderly myself. There was hardly anyone else on it except one elderly German lady who had chosen to sit somewhere else anyway. It didn’t stop her admonishing in me, at length, and in no uncertain terms how I was breaking all the rules. The Germans really don’t like that!

  • “Government and Labour reject scientific advice and let virus rip” (Joe Otten).

    I have just watched Keir Starmer call for a two to three week ‘circuit breaker’. Does Ed Davey agree ?

  • John Marriott 13th Oct '20 - 5:51pm

    @Peter Martin
    The Germans disciplined? You want to try queuing at a German supermarket checkout. As for obeying the ‘Green Man’ over here, you must live in a very unruly area. Where I live, most people wouldn’t want to take their life in their hands, given the speed that most traffic approaches crossings. And then there are the cyclists!

  • At 9.28am this morning on this site I suggested we seek a complete Lock Down for a period. Once again we have missed the boat and Keir Starmer and Labour have the field.
    Frankly what is our leadership doing?
    May I suggest that the present advisors be removed forthwith and replaced by people like myself who know what is required. Bragging again I hear you say, well

  • David Allen 13th Oct '20 - 7:06pm

    Keir Starmer has at last decided to take a political risk and make an important, courageous intervention. Not before time. Two and a half cheers. But as usual, Johnson’s government is far too late and too timid. For the second time, Johnson has waited for a massive death toll before doing anything serious to counter it.

    And where are the Liberal Democrats?

  • Steve Trevethan 13th Oct '20 - 7:25pm

    Here is a detailed time list of Mr. Johnson’s actions and lack of actions. Perhaps it could be used to improve matters, although we may well be in a shutting-stable-doors situation. It might also be of help in preparing for the next epidemic when it comes.

    And another epidemic will come.

  • @Joe Otten

    Frustratingly I’m not getting it my way for the following reasons:

    1) The continuation of a) local lockdowns b) rule of six c) extreme lockdown of students d) 10pm pub curfew (credit to Daisy Cooper for criticising the latter in parliament and credit to the Lib Dem’s for not doing a Starmer and calling for a pointless non-scientific “circuit breaker”).

    At the same time

    2) Failure to do more to protect people in the higher risk categories which could include a) being advised to but not forced to get shopping delivered, avoid busy areas and not meet people indoors b) creating an infrastructure to support vulnerable people and check on their welfare c) divert testing towards carers etc.

    Essentially I see the idea that everyone in the same area lives by the same guidance regardless of risk levels to be the highest risk strategy of all, more risky than a herd immunity strategy.

  • Also > Govt are still saying high risk people can travel to work so employers can make them go in. Everyone in med/high risk should be legally entitled to work from home and take govt. funded sabbatical if that is not possible.

  • Innocent Bystander 13th Oct '20 - 7:48pm

    Just what is supposed to happen at the end of another lockdown?
    Is the virus expected to concede defeat and toddle off back to China?
    Won’t we be back to where we are now 48 hours after lockdown#2 is over?
    Will a proven safe vaccine be available in a fortnight?
    Well what??

  • Am I to understand 10 Lib Dems voted against the Regulations. All I can say, if that is correct. what planet is this party on?
    Have any of those MPs any understanding of what is happening in the country. I am speechless. We avoid speaking to other people. duck and dive to avoid others in Supermarkets, swim in few numbers in highly controlled lanes to keep safe, pubs closing and other things happening that will help to save lives, and our MP’s do this, it just beggars belief.
    What has happened to this party?

  • @Marco
    “2) Failure to do more to protect people in the higher risk categories which could include a) being advised to but not forced to get shopping delivered, avoid busy areas and not meet people indoors b) creating an infrastructure to support vulnerable people and check on their welfare c) divert testing towards carers etc.”

    Please explain marco how Dr’s, Nurses, Carers and Family members who live in multi-generational households are supposed to navigate this normal world without putting their family / patients at risk?

    Elderly and vulnerable still require access to GP’s, healthcare professionals, Carers, etc, they are still reliant on social services, or for plumbers and electricians to come into their homes from time to time to carry out repairs.
    There is no plausible plan to be able to shield those that are vulnerable to this virus indenfinatly or until a vacccine comes along, whilst the rest go about life as normal.

    The simple facts are that we are putting public health at risk for decades if we allow hospitals to become overrun with covid again, causing hundreds of thousands of direct and indirect deaths due to covid.

    I suppose it would be one way of getting the tories out of office again for a couple of decades, quite frankly, I would rather protect as many lives and public health though

  • Marco it’s pointless arguing
    Advocates, of continuing with variations on these draconian health measures seem to think that governments should be able to control the microscopic world by creating mass unemployment, randomly banning things, giving power over peoples home lives to the likes of Matt Hancock and expecting everyone to live like particularly frail septuagenarians. It has not worked and will not ever work. The wild experimental political fad has failed over the last seven months and will continue to fail not matter how long it goes on or how much wailing is involved. The good thing is that more people are waking up to this and getting angrier about it. Those who want to isolate should be allowed to do so with support, but it is time to let everyone make their own choices. The new normal is a total disaster on every level.

  • Tonight in the DAILY TELEGRAPH :

    Yes, Boris, this is the tipping point – for our trust in you. Local lockdowns, with baffling facts and figures to justify them, are just the latest punishment for a weary population

    ALLISON PEARSON 13 October 2020 • 7:11pm

    And by the way, your headline to this thread is more than a tad misleading Mr Otten. Surprised it hasn’t been removed by the editor.

  • This idea that we can just neatly separate the economy from health, shut everything down and everyone lives happily ever after is just nonsense.

    Health is intrinsically linked to the economy- people losing their jobs has a huge impact not only on their mental health, but also their nutrition. Children living in the household will likely have poorer educational outcomes and ultimately lower life expectancies.

    Add that to the harms caused by domestic violence, child abuse and suicide, which all increased during lockdown and it is very clear that the picture is nowhere near as simple as this article suggests.

    That’s before we even get to the question of how we as a country could continue to fund services like the NHS in future when we have millions more people unemployed and not paying tax.

  • @Glenn

    “those who want to isolate should be allowed to do so with support, but it is time to let everyone make their own choices.”

    Glenn maybe you can have a go at answering my question to Marco 13th Oct ’20 – 8:51pm and explain how that is supposed to happen, completely safely without risking them to this disease, whilst you go about your own jolly new normal life???
    Interested to hear your learned opinion on how you can get this to work when the medical expets cant, not only due to logisitics, but ita also downright inhumane and not something we shoudl ever do to a member of our society, we do not sacrifice the sick to favour the healthy.
    You keep harking on about commie China, but you are starting to sound lke you belong in North Korea

  • Matt
    Nothing is completely safe. What our governments are doing now isn’t completely safe. Why should cancers go untreated, heart problems undiagnosed and so on. How do you propose to make the unemployed feel safe, how are you gong to repair wrecked family lives and undo the social damage. When are we going to let other people behave like the social animals they are. Gatherings, sports, dancing, hooking up and meeting friends are normal. The new normal is a grotesque aberration.

    I’m honestly fed up of hearing those demanding a never end cycle of restrictions claim the moral high ground. I’ve buried family and friends. The medical profession actually does priorities care. Treatment is often based on cost and calculations about the effectiveness of that treatment. Age and health are factors in those calculation. Currently we’re trying to avoid these realities and wrecking the country in the process. It’s never simply about life v death or care v economics.

  • Innocent Bystander 14th Oct '20 - 1:48am

    Glenn is correct and a ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown is as nonsensical as the last one.
    Where is the virus supposed to go? Back to China?
    I suppose in the clutching at straws fantasy world we now inhabit it somehow dies out as we can’t pass it on to fresh hosts.
    Except, of course, for the vast numbers of people who will be at school, in shops, in support services and essential infrastructure who will all be moving around.
    So the whole point is undermined before we even start and the virus will still be there, patiently waiting for those who mistakenly believe they are sheltering to emerge.
    So to those raging at Marco and Glenn rage in vain, you will face this virus, sooner or later. No scientist, or opportunistic politician, can stop this now.

  • John Marriott 14th Oct '20 - 8:06am

    Well, here we go again. Back to the ‘Matt and Glenn Show’! I really don’t know what to think any more. I’m not a ‘perfect human specimen’ like a certain person over the pond. I know that the economy is tanking. I know that Sir Edward ‘Boom Boom’* Leigh MP and his Cornerstone buddies are telling me to grow up and let them live their lives. I know that COVID hasn’t gone away and there’s still no vaccine yet; but could be ‘contained’ by another short circuit lockdown; but I want my young grandchildren to stay at school as remote learning doesn’t really suit children of their age (now as for university students that’s a different matter). And on top of all that I’ve just come down with a cold, which I just hope is not something else!

    Ah well, time to take the missus a cup of tea in bed before I take my next Lemsip! Perhaps if I go back to sleep I might wake up and it will all have gone away – including COVID, Trump, Johnson, Brexit etc.etc. and even the ‘Matt and Glenn Show’.

    *That’s his nickname amongst his opponents in his Gainsborough Constituency – or at least that’s tge one that might get past the LDV editors!

  • Steve Trevethan 14th Oct '20 - 8:57am

    “China Daily” has an interesting article on pandemic management using forward planning, alertness, efficient “track and trace”and speedy response. Its title is “Be prepared says epidemic control expert”.
    Perhaps we might learn from the Chinese?

  • jayne Mansfield 14th Oct '20 - 9:04am

    @ John Marriott,

    Here is a fact. Hospital beds are filling up with COVID-19 patients once more.

    Taking your missus a cup of tea in bed when you are ill yourself? You are a martyr to the feminist cause.

  • @Glenn

    “Why should cancers go untreated, heart problems undiagnosed and so on”

    They shouldn’t, but the problem is Glenn, by allowing this virus to let rip, you are putting all those people you mentioned at risk. It becomes dangerous for them to leave their homes, it becomes dangerous for them to attend GP services and it becomes dangerous for them to enter hospital settings where covid is ripe.
    Even in sterile hospital environments it is difficult to contain the virus.

    How do you propose dr’s, nurses, carers to navigate this “normal world” whilst keeping their patients safe?

    What you are advocating makes no clinical sense whatsoever.

    Hospitals demands on Oxygen reached critical points due to the amount of people requiring ventilation, that means elective surgery had to be cancelled. Anaesthetists are required to work in ICU units for people who are on life support, meaning they are unable to carry out elective surgery.

    By not getting on top of covid, our public health is going to be diminished for hundreds of thousands of people with years of backlogs and untold suffering.

    Sorry John, I didnt realise only your voice mattered on here and others should ration their thoughts.

  • John Marriot
    I strongly disagree about university education. Those students who have enrolled are indebting themselves to pay for it. They debts should be wiped out and universities should be disbarred from enrolling students until they can deliver the service they are advertising. They certainly should not be expecting anyone to pay for their halls of residence when the campuses are closed. Put it this way, if you hired someone for an extension to your home and they locked you in a potting shed and told you needed to learn how to build it yourself on line you would not be pleased. Universities are behaving very badly and the attitude towards the youngsters duped into paying for them is appalling.

  • Matt
    I’m not going to argue with you. I think the lockdowns and restrictions are futile and cruel. I have little time for their proponents. I think they are an irrational in political fad and pretty much as useful as a tiger horn. That is where I stand. It’s isn’t a debating point for me.

  • @Glenn

    That’s fine with me if you do not want to debate it.
    However, whilst you keep posting and filling this site with your anti-lock down opinions, I will keep challenging you and posting my opinions and why I think you are wrong.

    It is not right for only your voice to be heard. This is a Liberal forum after all

  • Adrian Collett 14th Oct '20 - 10:30am

    Thank you Joe for standing up against this vile “let the virus rip” approach. As one of those with multiple vulnerabilities (diabetes, asthma, a past incident of pneumonia, two past incidents of anaphylaxis, male in my 60s), but nonetheless functioning normally, and I like to think contributing to society, I feel that the message I am getting is “hurry up and die so that we can save a few branches of Pret A Manger”. The UK is a very uncomfortable place for many of us to live today and it bothers me greatly that some contributors to this debate don’t seem to care about this. The economic impact is terrible, but businesses can be rebuilt. Lives cannot be restarted.

  • John Marriott 14th Oct '20 - 12:05pm

    Universities, hey? Well, for what it’s worth, many just treat students as cash cows, period. From my experience, albeit some fifty four years ago, if you cut out the socialising and ‘living away from home’, most cerebral subjects, such as English, History, MFLs, could be studied from home and relevant lectures and tutorials could be conducted on line. After all, that’s surely what the Open University has been sort of doing for the past fifty years or so. The difficulty comes with practical subjects that require ‘hands on’ experience such as the sciences, medicine and engineering. This is clearly an exceptional year and therefore we need to take exceptional measures. Quite frankly, given that the sort of conditions that most students now live in (Halls of Residence, with shared kitchens), it’s not surprising that the virus has spread so fast. I reckon that the only comparable Petri dish would be found on your average cruise liner.

    @Jayne Mansfield
    Me, a martyr? Considering that we have been together for over fifty years, we tend to have shared most things except, perhaps, for giving birth. It’s nice that you were able to work a bit of feminism into your comments, so please indulge me for a moment as well. Having a famous name like yours, you might not agree with me when I say that; “The Girl can’t help it”. (Actually, we usually take it in turns to go downstairs to make the early morning cuppa, which also usually entails emptying the dishwasher!)
    What’s up? Lost your sense of humour?

  • Joe Otten, Matt et al

    The proposal is not to let the virus rip. I am going to keep repeating that as often as necessary.

    The idea of focusing protection on the vulnerable has not been tried before so it cannot be written off as unfeasible. It requires imagination and for people and public officials to apply their minds to it which they are currently refusing to do.

    The Great Barrington declaration does contain proposals for how to manage the situations that would occur for example suggesting that for carers etc a negative Covid test or positive antibody test would be required.

    I would propose that risk is household based so your risk level is the most vulnerable member of your household. This might mean that millions of people were in protected groups but not the vast majority of working age people.

    I would point out that multi- generational households were also vulnerable during lockdown as this led to people spending more time indoors and therefore may have been more likely to pass on the virus indoors.

    The aim should not be to wait for a vaccine because herd immunity should be achievable before then and a vaccine will not be offered to everyone so natural immunity will inevitably be part of the solution whichever approach is taken.

    I genuinely believe the approach described offers more protection to people vulnerable to the virus and to people who are vulnerable to lockdowns.

    I know I’m in a minority at the moment and I welcome different views.

  • @John

    What’s up? Lost your sense of humour?”

    Sorry john, I did not realise that asking me to shut up and that I would just magically dissapear over night was being humerous.

    I have hardly posted on this site for weeks, because it tends not to be good for the blood pressure in the current climate, but I do lerk in the background and see the amount of posts from Glenn and his fellow anti-lock down protestors flooding this site with their opinions.
    From time to time I will jump in with my own opinion and provide a counter argument to theirs.
    I care a great deal about us having a healthy economy just as much as I care about us having a healthy NHS and we need to find a balancing act to protect both, you can not have one without the other.

    I care a great deal about Mental health and people with long term physical health conditions whose lives are being upended by this virus and being treated like second class citizens from peoples whose arguments are, we should simply be shielded away from the virus and allow everyone else to live and walk this earth as normal without any credible plan of how that can either logistically work or is even humanely ethical.

    So I do tend to get a little horse when someone dismisses my opinions and deep emotional feelings and just wishes I would dissapear

  • jayne Mansfield 14th Oct '20 - 12:36pm

    @ Innocent Bystander,
    ‘Where is the virus supposed to go? Back to China?’

    Well Innocent Bystander, it will go wherever a host takes it. It ain’t going to book its own flight.

    As someone who on good scientific advice went into lockdown two weeks before lockdown became official advice, and have remained in lockdown contrary to any bluster from Johnson, seeing and speaking to family on zoom only, I and others like me are only too aware that we are likely to meet with the virus at some point, although those fortunate enough to do so will follow the science and avoid situations and environments where there is likely to be a high viral load.

    Lockdown and so called ‘circuit breaks’ are a way of limiting spread and buying time so that there is more time for the scientific community to study the virus and means to protect the general community.

    As I have already pointed out, since the loosening of lockdown we now have a resurgence of the virus and hospital beds are once more filling up with COVID-19 patients.

    @ Joe Otten,
    My understanding is that the northern leaders, and in particular Andy Burnham have been arguing against further restrictions unless they are accompanied by aid for the local economy. There needs to be a double pronged approach and I agree with him. He is also quoted as repeating the words of scientists that a tier system will not make a significant difference so the likelihood of more pain with little, if any, gain.

  • @Marco
    “The aim should not be to wait for a vaccine because herd immunity should be achievable before then”

    Only the science does not support that view, we do not know that “natural herd immunity” can be achieved. Therefore you are endorsing a dangerous experiment that will naturally cost a lot of lives through covid and non covid deats and untold suffering and put the NHS at a huge risk

    “We know that other coronaviruses (including Sars, Mers and some cold viruses), don’t produce a lasting immune response like measles does. And studies of COVID-19 show that, even in hot spots where there have been large numbers of cases and deaths in the last few months, less than 10% of the population show evidence of an immune response from the infection.

    This suggests that the natural rates of resistance are a long way from the 85% that could be needed for herd immunity. And that means that, without a vaccine, the virus could become endemic, permanently present in the population like the coronaviruses that cause colds.
    Research shows some people can get the same strain of a common cold coronavirus more than once in a single year. And most countries have seen outbreaks of COVID-19 even when they thought they had the infection more or less under control.”

  • I’m on this site because I’m Lib Dem voter. I’ve contributed to various debates and threads for ten years or more. I happen to disagree with the lockdowns. I’m fairly certain I’m not the only liberal who does have concerns about the leap into the very fashionable but completely untested fad being inflicted on the country. People keep acting like this is some sort of historically proven practice, when actually it has never been tried in history at any point ever and demonstrates no better results than the multiple other different options tried across the world, including those that did very little if anything at all . Peru locked down and has terrible results, Japan didn’t and as good ones. We allegedly locked down too late and have terrible results. Belgium locked down early and has terrible results. Months of dragging the country to ruin did nothing to stop the spread and yet now we told they will miraculously work if they are continued for more months or we adopt the latest buzz idea of “circuit breakers”. I think you lot have let rip with the crazed maniacal madness and people liked me are just shocked and exasperated that is in continuing despite its lack logic , the damage it has caused and its obvious failure to show positive results.

  • John Marriott 14th Oct '20 - 1:20pm

    So, you “get a little horse (sic)” when someone disagrees with you. Does that make you a ‘one trick pony’?😀 To continue the analogy, I reckon that stable door has been left open for far too long.

  • @John, I have no idea why computer spell corrected me from sore to horse, my fault for not checking that one.

    “the damage it has caused and its obvious failure to show positive results.”

    And what damage do you think would happen without lock-downs, social disatncing, contract tracing and other containment measures?
    You have apposed every single measure that the government has tried to intoduce.
    So what do you believe would have happened had the virus been allowed to just run it’s course, what sort of country do you think we would be living in now?, No country as far as I know have just allowed the virus to run its course, even sweden has had rules and restrictions (its just the swedes have been better at following the rules, hence the reason for not requiring government to use harsher enforcements measures) how do you forsee the state our NHS would be in right now and the economy for that matter if the virus was just allowed to let rip?
    There is no evience for natural herd immunity being achieveable yet and given the relation to other coronaviruses it is actually unlikely.

    The only option that our Government and the countries around the world have at present is to have intermittent constraints and controls in order to control the virus and to limit the amount of infections in a stable way in order not to overwhelm the health servies Until a Vaccine or proven antivirals can be found.

  • Innocent Bystander 14th Oct '20 - 3:27pm

    We don’t know if all those measure had any beneficial effect or not. We don’t even know what Sweden would have been like if they had taken no measures at all.
    That’s the point. We have no evidence. Only opinions.
    The lockdown was not, repeat not, sold as eradicating the virus. Only flattening the curve to prevent overwhelming the ICU capacity. We never came near that and now are so far from it that the NHS is advertising for customers now.
    The new story appears to be that lockdown is to protect the vulnerable until a vaccine arrives.
    Utterly absurd clutching at straws. Indefensible, unworkable and impractical.
    A vaccine has to be safe, above all else, and give protection for a long period.
    Even the Oxford wonder vaccine has had a test subject develop spinal myelitis.
    You are not sticking that in me.
    These vaccine programmes are being pushed at reckless pace under intense political, not clinical drivers. Normal timescales are out of the window, corners will be cut, they will have to be – no other choice.
    No thanks, My prediction is that they will be rolled out in indecent haste then as hastily
    recalled . Just study what happened to the Sars 1 vaccine ten years ago.
    Very much no thanks.
    Herd immunity is much derided. But it’s the only game in town. Sorry.

  • Jenny Barnes 14th Oct '20 - 3:35pm

    Failed to get a track and trace system working
    Sent students to university to fund the landlords – most degrees could have been taught on-line, hands on subjects would have involved many fewer students
    Set up an eat out to help out scheme to get people into restaurants
    Let the pubs open (think Wetherspoons)
    open up the schools / no masks… children might not suffer, but they’ll surely spread it.
    Encourage people to fly places for holidays
    Dominic cummings = no trust, one rule for the elite, one for the little people

    Just about everything they could get wrong they have.
    Where’s the opposition from anyone?

  • Matt
    I’m not going to engage with you beyond pointing out the evidence does not support huge differences in countries that did or didn’t use lockdowns. The onus is on advocates of the radical experimental use of these lockdowns to prove that they work better than more traditional methods of disease control, of which there isn’t any Every time this is pointed out you all resort to wailing that opponents are tying to kill folk. Personally, I suspect that lockdowns have made little to no difference at all on the progress of the virus and that the whole thing is the biggest self inflicted disaster in history, whipped up by the over egged pudding models of serial alarmists, panic , too much faith in the power of the state, moral outrage in the press of the something needs to be done variety and a fear/resentment of other peoples liberty.

  • jayne Mansfield 14th Oct '20 - 3:54pm

    @ Matt,
    Whilst I agree with much of what you are saying, I would hate to give you with the impression that I have supported the chaotic measures of this shambolic government.

    The joker, also known as Boris Johnson, and his government of mediocrities have been responsible for numerous avoidable deaths because of their lack of planning, their choice of outsourcing to private corporations with no experience of dealing with the requirements that have been necessary to suppress the spread of the virus. I would also add the lack of action against Cummings, Jenrick et al. which undermined the ‘we are all in it together’ spirit of community cohesion and effort that is of fundamental importance.

    We have a Prime Minister and a government who are not fit for purpose. I am sorry if this offends those who think that an approach to the pandemic should not be political, but Johnson has turned down Keir Starmer’s offer to work with the government too many times, and in my opinion, one has to be naive to think that this government’s entire approach to the pandemic has been underpinned by anything other than a particular political ideology rather than health concerns.

    We have local authorities, the NHS, public health and social care structures, Regional Directors of Public Health, all of whom have the experience and knowledge necessary to manage the pandemic better than those who government have chosen to do the job. Rather than provide the funding to the experts, millions have been, and continue to be given to organisations who lack this experience and knowledge, test and trace being just one example.

  • @Glenn

    “Personally, I suspect that lockdowns have made little to no difference at all on the progress of the virus and that the whole thing is the biggest self inflicted disaster in history”

    That’s your personal view, but can you back it up with science?
    Why do you constantly refuse to answer any questions that are put to you? You claim to be a Liberal, but all I see you doing is coming on here to shout your opinions and objections with no real engagement whatsoever. As soon as you are asked a difficult question your reply each time is “I am not going to debate”
    You answer no questions and provide no proof to back up any of your assertions to back up your way is better

    I have been trying to find UK econonomic forecasts on what would have happened to uk if the virus was allowed to rip through the country, to date I have not been able to find any, only A FT article and a link to

    The paper analyses four sorts of costs: the costs of lost lives; the lost work days of the sick; the medical costs associated with higher incidence of disease; and the costs (primarily economic) of social distancing, both officially imposed and spontaneous. The overall conclusion is overwhelming. The least costly option is strong suppression: it saves lives, massively reduces medical costs and even lowers the economic costs of social distancing over the course of the epidemic. 

    As far as I can tell it is a balancing act. Yes Lock downs and social distancing measures are more costly in the short term
    however, not surpressing the virus to managable levels will be more costly in the long term, from both an economic and public health perspective and until this virus is better understood and effective treatments are found, that is not a risk that governments can take

    @jayne Mansfield

    I agree entirely

  • David Evans 14th Oct '20 - 4:30pm

    I’m not sure why some here are upset about Joe making political points here. The conservatives and Labour have both been making it political almost since Day 1. First the Conservatives did what they always do when they can find an excuse, throw huge amounts of money at their supporters – be they friends of Brexit, or just people who run businesses. But when it comes to individuals trapped in the gig economy – it’s just Universal Credit for you.

    Likewise what have Labour done?
    1) Agreed with the Conservatives and
    2) Demanded much more money for their particular city.
    Oh yes and
    3) Nnow it is absolutely clear the Tories have messed up (i.e. about two months too late) call for a two week Circuit Breaker lockdown (i.e. at least four weeks too short).

    We on the other hand remain unnoticed, except among ourselves.

  • Matt
    I’ve been polite. I tried answering your question. You don’t like the answers and frankly I think you just want someone project your fears and anger onto. Find someone else.
    But cool, story bro.

  • @ Matt et al

    I don’t accept that I am endorsing a “dangerous experiment”. It is based on mainstream science and was the traditional, established way of dealing with pandemics pre-Wuhan. It is lockdowns that are the experimental approach as Glenn notes. They might seem like a no-brainer at first but existing pandemic plans didn’t actually recommend them.

    The scientific argument is that firstly the number of cases at the outset was far higher than realised, which in turn means that the infection fatality rate is much lower than originally assumed. The virus may well have been spreading in January and February undetected and already reached the peak in some areas prior to lockdown.

    Secondly the herd immunity threshold may well be considerably lower than 85%. Antibodies are only the tip of the iceberg and a lot of immunity comes from T-Cell immunity and cross immunity from other Coronaviruses. The threshold could be as low as 20%.

    This would all imply that the Imperial College modelling is wrong and the 500k deaths figure was always inflated as they a) overestimated the fatality of the disease and b) underestimated prior immunity. This was not the first time that Imperial modelling was accused of exaggeration (see bird flu, SARS and foot and mouth disease).

    If you accept the above premise then the cost-benefit analysis of lockdown changes dramatically, the cure starts to look worse than the disease and alternatives such as focused protection come into play.

    This is not me making these arguments it is very well qualified experts albeit not the ones currently advising the Government:

  • jayne Mansfield 14th Oct '20 - 7:51pm

    @ Innocent Bystander,
    All opinions are not equal, some opinions can be backed up by evidence. The problem is that for reasons best known to themselves, some choose to ignore it, preferring to spread misinformation gained from dubious sources.

    When did you last check ICU bed capacity? Do you know what this means if there is a surge in serious cases?

  • jayne Mansfield 14th Oct '20 - 9:10pm

    @ Jenny Barnes,
    Sending students to university during an ongoing pandemic does confer what some seem to consider a benefit. It has become the modern equivalent of the pox party.

  • Thank you Marco.
    At the start of this fiasco I was somewhat sanguine. I could sit in my garden listening to old happy hardcore tunes with some gin, a couple of glow sticks and the odd smoke. It was annoying, but just about tolerable. Now I’m angry about the destruction and control freakery involved. I see it as a descent into madness: ugly, destructive, illogical and fear driven.

  • @Marco

    Thank you for those links.

    I watched the Scientist TV Debate at the very start of this pandemic which Professor Sunetra Gupta who you have refered to took part in. Not one of the other scientists where in agreement with her and to be quite frank she came across as cold and blaise.

    The problem with the links you provided comes back to the same old questions, not once do they come up with a credible plan on how to shield and protect the elderly and not once do they mention how the NHS is supposed to cope with soaring infection rates and hospitilisations from covid and the knock on effects that this would have on non-covid related deaths.

    Those scientists that are in the Lets go for “natural herd immunity” accept that there are cost to lives in covid and non covid related deaths (though they never state how many) on a theory as yet unproven that natural herd immunity can be achieved

    What it comes down to is 2 opposing camps

    Scientists on one side who want to supress the virus in stages and keep the R rate down to a manageable level and save as many lives as possible

    and those in the other camp who accept that lives have to be lost in order to reach natural herd immunity.

    Both options comes with a human and an economical cost.

    But I will always side with the scientists whose position it is to save as many lives, rather than the camp who accepts that there are those that need to be sacrificed.

    Thats what it comes down too in simple terms for me and nothing you or anyone else could say would change my thinking.

    All Lives Matter, young or old, sick or healthy.

    We can recover the economy, we can not recover sacrificed lives

  • Innocent Bystander 14th Oct '20 - 11:32pm

    I do try and track that data and the latest was 285 ICU beds occupied by Covid patients out of well over 3,000 ICU beds. At least I think that is the latest published data as the next is due 12 Nov.
    Also they report 2,000 ordinary beds occupied by covid victims (out of 113,000).
    There may have been announcements of later figures at briefings, but they (i think) are the official ones.
    As to herd immunity, there is nothing else. The notion is not an evil one. It is how we humans have survived. Vulnerable people should shelter as best they can until the virus has infected enough ‘healthy’ people so they can safely emerge. I have heard some scientists claim that such immunity doesn’t last.
    Well, that must mean we have no hope and are all going to die.
    Great news prof, don’t slam the door on your way out.
    Those who are waiting for a vaccine need to read how the Sars 1 vaccine went before they get their hopes up for the Sars 2 one. There may never be one.
    BTW the economy is probably now irrecoverable with the double blow of Brexit and Covid.
    My prediction is that there will be a run on sterling, a massive downgrading of the UK credit rating and all the terrible consequences we have seen in countries which have crashed their economies. Public sector pensions, for example, suddenly stop being paid but I am sure those who are hit by that will be able to comfort themselves with the notion that lives are more important than money.

  • Peter Martin 15th Oct '20 - 7:10am

    We’ve not heard the term “flattening the curve” so much recently. In the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic, different US cities employed different strategies to combat the spread of the virus.

    The evidence is that those who intervened the least had the worse outcomes.

  • The latest government figures are here:

    With more detail on the healthcare side here:

    You can choose to look by NHS region. For the North West, they currently have 1501 Covid patients and 135 patients on ventilators. At the height of the first wave of Covid they had 2890 Covid patients and 350 on ventilators.

  • @Innocent bystander @ Marco

    “As to herd immunity, there is nothing else. The notion is not an evil one. It is how we humans have survived.”
    Latest research papers

    “The arrival of a second wave and the realisation of the challenges ahead has led to renewed interest in a so-called herd immunity approach, which suggests allowing a large uncontrolled outbreak in the low-risk population while protecting the vulnerable. Proponents suggest this would lead to the development of infection-acquired population immunity in the low-risk population, which will eventually protect the
    vulnerable. This is a dangerous fallacy unsupported by scientific evidence.

    “Such a strategy would not end the COVID-19 pandemic but result in recurrent epidemics, as was the case with numerous infectious diseases before the advent of vaccination. It would also place an unacceptable burden on the economy and healthcare workers, many of whom have died from COVID-19 or experienced
    trauma as a result of having to practise disaster medicine. Additionally, we
    still do not understand who might suffer from long COVID. Defining who is vulnerable is complex, but even if we consider those at risk of severe illness, the proportion
    of vulnerable people constitute as much as 30% of the population in some regions.
    Prolonged isolation of large swathes of the population is practically impossible and highlyunethical. Empirical evidence from many countries shows that it is not feasible to restrict uncontrolled outbreaks to particular sections of society. Such an approach also risks further exacerbating the socioeconomic inequities and structural discriminations already laid bare by the pandemic. Special efforts to protect the most vulnerable are
    essential but must go hand-in-hand with multi-pronged population-level strategies”

  • @Innocent Bystander 13th Oct ’20 – 7:48pm
    “Just what is supposed to happen at the end of another lockdown?
    … Well what??

    Good questions. From my learnings about Corona Virus’es and what we are seeing with CoViD-19, I suggest it seems we are just going to have to live with CoVid-19 and whatever comes next…

    I suggest from the (scant) evidence so far, adults who have had CoVid-19 don’t tend to get it as badly subsequently, additionally, children tend to get it more mildly than adults. which would suggest the way to live with coVid-19 will be to treat it like we treat other childhood ailments such as chicken pox, mumps etc. namely ensure children catch it (although as we know this is not without risk). The challenge would seem to be to manage the exposure the existing adult population who haven’t had CoViD-19 (assumed to be the majority) to CoViD-19 so that they are able to get medical assistance etc. and thus we get to a point where the majority of the population have been exposed to CoViD-19 and have some degree of immunity; this I suggest is a multi-year project.

    In this context we can see that the UK has the NHS resources to handle more cases, our understanding and treats for CoViD-19 have progresses and so in some respects allowing the R value to increase, allows this capacity to be utilitised, hastening the day when the vast majority of the population have been exposed. Not a comfortable thought that one day each of us is most likely going to have a personal encounter with Sars-Cov-2…

  • Despite this threads attempt to politicise the response to the pandemic I watched Ed Davey (BBC 10.25am) echoing, almost word for word, Keir Starmer’s approach..

    Regarding the supposed health/economic dichotomy, I note that both the scientific and the IMF statements agree that a short ‘circuit breaker’ approach is most effective at slowing the virus spread and less damaging to the economy..

  • @ Matt

    There are indeed lots of scientific research papers on this, some supporting suppression/lockdown and others supporting the openness/immunity case. If we went through them all we would be here a long time… We may need to agree to disagree.

    On the issue of ethics the authors of the article you link to don’t make any mention of the various ethical boundaries that have already been crossed such as using the force of the law to isolate healthy people and restricting access to health care without having assessed the harm this would cause. It is amazing that they don’t question the ethics of policies that are demonstrated to do harm to people but suddenly the notion of segregation along age/risk lines (which would be essentially voluntary) is deemed “unethical”.

    In terms of the economy the last two major pandemics in 1957 and 1968 led to a high mortality rate in terms of deaths per million and largely spread through the population unchecked. Yet economic growth figures in 57-58 and 68-69 appear to be about average. I would conclude that epidemics by themselves don’t cause economic damage.

  • Innocent Bystander 15th Oct '20 - 1:22pm

    I had already read that Lancet paper along with others denouncing herd immunity.
    They have the consistent theme in them that the only way is ethics, but when they have to end, instead of plausible ways forward they peter out vaguely and inconclusively. The paper you printed actually made me laugh with “multi-pronged, population-led strategies”.
    That’s what we need. Give Mat Hancock a prong.
    Meanwhile the virus runs from host to susceptible host and did throughout the previous lockdown and will through the next because, of course, millions will for many reasons never be in lockdown.. It will still be there when you emerge.
    The magic bullet is the fabled vaccine. You may have noticed that’s gone a bit quiet recently and there are the familiar signs of the reverse ferret.
    Study what damage the vaccine against Sars 1 did before you get too hopeful for the still nonexistent vaccine for Sars 2.
    So we are back to herd immunity.

  • @Innocent Bystander

    I am assuming you are reffering to phase 1 trials of Sars which caused the liver damage in ferrets?
    I am confident that Phases 1-2 and 3 have not shown the same concerns of the covid-vaccine or we would have heard about them by now and the vaccine would not have made it into phase 3 trials.
    For transparency purposes, are you an anti-vaxer? I am not, have had every vaccine under the sun as I have travelled extensivly in Thailand and Bali and never had a reaction to any vaccine ive been hit up with.
    Ive always looked on vaccines on the flip side of my care free druggy days where I used to stick untold drugs up my nose which was cut with god knows what chemicals that had the potential to do organ damage, but I chose to do it anyway, just as today where I smoke and put harmful chemicals in my body that I know can cause damage. But that is a personal choice.
    I have actually had the honest conversation with my elderly parents 76 and 80,both of whom have underlying conditions that would likely kill them if they were to catch covid, they have asked me about opinions on covid vaccine and all the scare stories they have heard from anti-vavers.
    We discussed the potential of long term side effects from a vaccine, that whilst could give them protection against covid, could result in them getting some possible long term side effects. They decided that should a vaccine become available, they would rather have the vaccine, if that meant they could return to life as normal as possible with friends and family and without living in fear and under so many restrictions, even if it meant causing some further health complications for the remainder of their lives, they would still at least be alive, something that they wouldn’t be were they to contract covid.
    To my mind, that is coming to a sensible, perosnal and as informed as possible, personal choice.
    I do not believe anyone should be discouraging anyone not to get a vaccine due to their personal beliefs.

  • David Evans 15th Oct '20 - 2:40pm

    While noting Expats note that ‘both the scientific and the IMF statements agree that a short ‘circuit breaker’ approach is most effective at slowing the virus spread and less damaging to the economy’, I wonder what a Circuit Breaker approach really means.

    Lockdown as practiced through April and May brought the rate down but brought the economy to its knees. When introduced on 26 March there were 1,700 hospital admission per day. It took until 20th May for the figure to drop to 850 consistently.
    wasn’t until mid June that the number of cases per day fell to less than 1,000.

    So a Circuit Breaker like that for eight weeks might just halve the numbers. So what chance of a two week breaker of any sort achieving anything?

    I’m afraid Boris Johnson, Kier Starmer and almost everyone else is unwilling to face up to the fact that the respite brought about by lockdown and the summer lull has been squandered and they never said a word.

    Until it was way too late.

  • David Evans 15th Oct '20 - 2:42pm

    Please ignore the random part sentence above. It was an error I corrected, but then didn’t fully remove.

  • Innocent Bystander 15th Oct '20 - 2:50pm

    Hello matt,
    I deny being an ant-vaxxer. I and my children have had plenty. But they were all well proven.
    I apologise for my reference to reverse ferret, it might have misled non Private Eye readers.
    The Astra Zeneca, the Johnson & Johnson and the Eli Lilley programmes have all hit unexpected adverse reactions under trials.
    Those who think Covid is a death sentence may well chance the vaccine but these programmes are under intense political pressure which is a recipe for disaster and I will risk Covid. I trust scientists like I trust garage mechanics, plumbers and electricians.
    That is, only up to a point.

  • @David Evans

    Surely the purpose of a circuit breaker would be to buy the Government some time to get a Proper working track and trace system in place? There is no point in us shifting the task on to local government without them having the proper infrustucture in place to manage it, and besides that would just give central Government ammunition to absolve themselves of reposnsibilty and to start blaming local governments.

    Yes, there needs to be outrage at the Government for messing this up in the first instance, but that is not going to help us out of this mess in the mean time.
    We dont need a world class system, we just need a tried and tested system that works like Taiwan or whatever other country has the most effective system.

    The time should also be used for better education on covid transmission and social responsibility. Governments and political parties chuck millions of pounds at targeted advertising through social media during elections when they want to reach a targeted audience, maybe they should be adopting the same tactics now and try to turn opinions and behaviour of those who are firecly resisiting and contributing towards the rising infection rates

  • Hi Innocent Bystander

    Thanks for the engagement, I wasn’t actually accusing you of being an anti-vaxer, I was just asking for reference and stating my own position on it.
    There are no doubts that there are concerns around an early vaccination program, hence the reason why I had a pretty difficult conversation with my parents about it , beings they are likley to be one of the first in line to be vaccinated due to age and health conditions. They had their own concerns due to what my mother had been reading and thats why I tried to have an open and frank conversation with them about the realities of catching covid and the impact and reestrictions that it is having on their current lives compared to the risks of taking a vaccine that might turn out to have some side effects which wont be known in the short term and could result in further health complications.
    Trust me, it is never and easy conversation to have with elderly parents when they are talking about their mortality, how many years they potentially have left and the quality of those years, in a life with covid which is restricting their quality of life.
    It was through that discussion that they decided they would take a vaccine with the unknown risks, if it led to them having less covid restrictions and leading to a better quality of life albeit with potential added side effects.

    But I am still of the opinion that until a vaccine or effective antiviral treatments can be found, we have no choice but to continue with periodic lock down measures and social distancing measures and curbs on our freedoms to keep this virus to as lower levels as possible.
    The costs to the economy and long term public health are far to great to do anything else in my opinion

  • David Evans 15th Oct '20 - 4:46pm


    Heck, I don’t think we can afford to give the Tories that long!

  • @David Evans

    “Heck, I don’t think we can afford to give the Tories that long!”

    Maybe it’s time to start briging back the calls for a Gnu?

    Many were arguing for it during Brexit because they argued that the Tories were not competent and could not be trusted to deal with it.
    Maybe during this crisis, we should be arguing for it once more? The problem is, in reality would the other parties want any involvement and to take on the responsibility?
    I know Labour wouldn’t as they have shown their true colours over this and flip-flopped all over the place in the name of political opportunism.

  • I read some of these epistles and want to cry. All I can say is get out of your gardens and houses and see what has been happening at night in the pubs and other places of recreation where people have let themselves down, big time and endlessly debating whether we should lockdown completely, partially or herd approach whilst the virus bites deeper by the day, the hour and the minute, killing and imparting grievous bodily harm to folk of all ages, serves little purpose. Strong action is required, go and visit your local hospital and listen to what is said, especially by patients who are struggling with their breathing, who thought this would never happen to them, talk to the police, who have been facing turmoil nearly every night, I could go on and on. For God’s sake act..
    Keeping pubs open and sending students to University was doomed from the start, a fatal combination, two almighty virus spreaders. But we are where we are. The only way to get it under proper control is a Lock Down, sorry Glenn, and then do not make the same mistakes again, The Chancellors £10 off meals just helped to ferment the torment that is now fast growing everywhere. We need to act and act very , very strongly.

  • John Marriott 15th Oct '20 - 6:14pm

    This much I know
    1 While there are a few effective treatments for COVID sufferers, there is no known cure.
    2 At the moment there is no proven vaccine against COVID.
    3 If you lockdown you halt the spread.
    4 As soon as you open up, even with measures in place, the virus takes off again.
    5 Some people, if they catch the virus, are in more danger than others.
    6 The spread of the virus is worse in cold weather.

    So, what do we do? It all depends on whether you can take the majority of our citizens with you. We managed to do so in WW2. Can we do the same in peacetime. But, surely, what we are witnessing is war by any other name.

    Given that most of the world is in a similar position, let’s not worry about racking up even more debt. We really are in it together. Let’s get on top of this damn virus and let’s make sure it doesn’t happen again!

  • David Evans 15th Oct '20 - 6:18pm

    @Matt – I think you are misunderstanding me here. The simple fact is that we, as a nation, are in a mire and there is no quick easy way out. None of the governing parties: Conservative, SNP, Plaid or in the DUP/Sinn Fein in NI nor Labour anywhere have been willing to really understand or face up to the implications of the virus nor the consequences of decisions made (Sorry, I honestly haven’t noticed the position of our party or the Greens, SDLP, or Alliance has been, so I can’t judge them).

    We are facing huge problems and none of our politicians, commentators, infuencers or anyone else can undo the past mistakes nor the inevitabilities we face. So a Government of National Unity would be no use, even if each of the parties would put the national interest ahead of party interest (which they won’t – with the exception of one which destroyed itself too soon in an effort to save the country from a much smaller national disaster ten years ago and possibly the Alliance party).

    That’s it.

  • Nonconformistradical 15th Oct '20 - 7:29pm

    @John Marriott
    “We really are in it together. Let’s get on top of this damn virus and let’s make sure it doesn’t happen again!”
    I’m afraid I’m not holding my breath. Especially when some people in positions of major influence appear to think the rules don’t apply to them – they appear to think they’re not in it with the rest of us.

  • John Marriott
    It is not a war. Viruses are not impressed by stiff upper lips, decrees, resolve, rhetoric or much else. The only war it remotely resembles is Little Boot’s battle against the gods of the sea.
    Anyway I’m off to do my bit for Johnson’s war on microbes by heroically opening a bottle of plonk and bravely watching something on Netflix. Make’s you proud, dunnit?

  • John Marriott sums it up exactly.

  • jayne Mansfiled 15th Oct '20 - 9:41pm

    @ Innocent Bystander,
    Apologies for not responding to your post addressed to me.

    You quote Professor Sunetra Gupta, but may I say that as with Professor Neil Ferguson, she is a theoretical epidemiologist and both have created models which are to a dependent upon assumptions.

    If one looks back to March , she and her team at the Department of Zoology, University of Oxford offered a predictive model that assumed that Covid-19 had arrived on these shores a month earlier than thought. It was argued that these extra weeks would have made a difference because the virus would have had enough time to spread to as much as 2/3 of the population thereby achieving a degree of herd immunity . Their research also assumed that only a small proportion of the population would be at risk.

    I admire Professor Gupta’s motivation, her concern is for the poorest in societies around . the world. Unlike her, I am not a biologist, nor an economist. However, as someone who has worked with some of the poorest and marginalised people, people who because of malnutrition, constant assaults on their bodies by various infections and already precarious economic, social and environmental situations, they are more likely to become overwhelmed by covid -19 and die from it. As far as the economy is concerned, in my experience, they will continue to put their lives at risk because they cannot afford not to. My approach to health and the economy is that Health =Wealth.

    I find the argument that vulnerable groups should be shielded somewhat baffling. As Professor Greenhalgh Chair in Primary Care. Health Sciences, Oxford University points out, Covid affects all demographic groups, there have been deaths in all ages, genders, ethnic backgrounds as well as in those with pre-existing conditions. Long Covid affects tens of thousands of young and healthy individuals .

    She and 22 counter signatories argue that shielding is impractical. There are no examples of segmentation and shielding policy having worked in any country. Rather, appropriate relaxation or stringency is the key to control the virus.

    What happens when we come out of lockdown or a circuit breaker? Hopefully an efficient and effective mass testing, tracing and isolation policy will be in place because that is the key to control of spread.

  • @jayne Mansfiled

    “I admire Professor Gupta’s motivation”

    I don’t, the 3 professors who wrote this petitiony Martin Kulldorff, PhD, a Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, Dr. Sunetra Gupta, PhD, were toasting with champagne at the petition signing.
    I find that rather disturbing considering the fact that they are advocating sacrificing untolds lives either directly or indirectly from covid, whilst encouraging the rest of the population to get infected and achieve a mythical natural herd immunity which is yet unproven, whilst not even offering any scientific credible evidence on how you shield the vulnerable long term whilst allowing a virus to rip
    or even doing a cost analysis of the amount of lost lives or the ability of health services to cope with such a strategy and the costs to the economy.
    That is not someone to me worth admiring.

  • It’s not so much that vulnerable groups should be shielded as the reality that we’re wrecking peoples social lives wailing that nature is unfair. There is nothing you can do about it. You get your three score years and ten or a few years more here or there but mortality is basically as fixed as childhood, puberty, and fertility . You will be a kid, you will be fertile and at some point you will die. There are no ifs or buts about it. The important thing is to enjoy it while you can.

  • John Marriott 16th Oct '20 - 8:06am

    At last I think I know where you’re coming from. Unless I have totally misunderstood what you’re driving at, you seem to be inferring that it’s really all about “wrecking people’s social lives”. Your reference to “opening a bottle of plonk” as an accompaniment to watching Netflix in an earlier post would seem to back that up. By the way, why not try something on YouTube? Most of its offerings can be much more educational and are usually at least based on reality.

    Nobody is denying you the right to have an opinion. For example, your choice of being a vegan is yours, as long as you don’t try to ram it down the throats of us poor weak carnivores, which, in fairness, you don’t.

    What I cannot understand is your apparent inability to see that the actions of some can have a counterproductive reaction as well. The disgraceful scenes, particularly in high infection areas like, in their most Blatant form, Liverpool the other night are a clear example of what I mean.

    As someone who sees the sense in trying to produce in forestry terms a ‘fire rake’ or, if you prefer, ‘short circuit’ to the inexorable spread of what can, in some people, turn out to be a deadly virus, I also accept that this comes with an inevitable economic cost. But to base your rationale on people’s right to ‘live now, pay later’ or indeed, just to have a good time, be it in a pub or restaurant, on the ski slopes of Austria or the sunny beaches of the Costa del Sol is not one that I and it would seem that the majority of LDV contributors appear to support.

  • Innocent Bystander 16th Oct '20 - 8:22am

    Thank you Jayne, but it wasn’t me who invoked the learned prof.
    My approach has simply been simply to question the underlying logic behind our current course of actions which are framed in denial of the facts and desperate group think.
    You mention the latest craze (after ‘circuit breaker’) which is Track and Trace.
    More indefensible nonsense.
    That tactic is for when you are at the stage of having a couple of “Typhoid Marys” out there or that bloke who went to a conference in Singapore, stopped at a French ski resort and then went to a pub in Brighton.
    That’s explicable. But when you have possibly millions of hosts running around, the notion that you can catch them all, and their dozens of contacts, and somehow isolate them with none of the copies of the virus being missed, is beyond nonsense.
    All we are frantically doing is mere activity, frenzied activity but which the virus will ignore.
    Activity to appease those screaming “Do something!!!!!” but which, on consideration, can not possibly have a beneficial outcome.
    As to the charge of not caring for the victims my TV set had two interesting items, last evening. In one the Chief Executive of the Royal Berks, the huge regional hospital for Reading, was asked how many ICU beds were occupied by Covid patients. Her answer was “one”.
    The very next piece was from a cancer support agency who were expressing their deep concern that the number of referrals for cancer investigations is tens of thousands fewer than normal.
    So my position remains that this utterly disproportionate, even hysterical, response to a medical emergency which was completely brought under control by the end of May (at least to the same level of danger as scores of other afflictions) is killing thousands from old fashioned bowel cancer. But at least they are not getting this height of fashion virus which, for the vast majority (virtually all) is completely recoverable.

  • jayne mansfield 16th Oct '20 - 8:30am

    @ Matt,
    I don’t believe one can divorce the covid 19 pandemic from political values. Professor Gupta has seemed keen to dissociate herself from certain values. I quote:-

    ‘There is a sort of libertarianism argument for the release of lockdown, and I think that is unfortunate that those of us who feel we should think differently about lockdown.

    The truth is that lockdown is a luxury and it’s a luxury that the middle classes are enjoying and higher income countries are enjoying at the expense at the expense of the poor, the vulnerable and the less developed countries.’

    I am prepared to accept what she says, although I disagree with it, the very people she says are likely to suffer if the economy suffers because of a policy of suppression, are the very people who are already vulnerable to illness and death. It is within the gift of governments to mitigate this financial and social vulnerability by making self protection a
    realistic choice enjoyed by the middle classes that she mentions.

    Clearly you are more of the view that the lady doth protest too much.

    In my last post I absentmindedly referred to counter signatories rather than co- signatories

  • Nonconformistradical 16th Oct '20 - 9:01am

    @Glenn & John Marriott
    “What I cannot understand is your apparent inability to see that the actions of some can have a counterproductive reaction as well. The disgraceful scenes, particularly in high infection areas like, in their most Blatant form, Liverpool the other night are a clear example of what I mean.”

    On the subject of disgraceful scenes – yes they were disgracefull but maybe it is worth reading Richard Kemp’s blog on this at

    But Glenn – John is right in my view on his point about actions which have a negative impact.

    “…… But to base your rationale on people’s right to ‘live now, pay later’ or indeed, just to have a good time, be it in a pub or restaurant, on the ski slopes of Austria or the sunny beaches of the Costa del Sol is not one that I and it would seem that the majority of LDV contributors appear to support.”

    Quite. Just having a good time is not a high priority right now in comparison with putting peoples’ lives at risk, possibly overwhelming medical resources etc.

    I am concerned about the extent to which actions such as closing pubs in particular regions is likely to impact the scale of the pandemic. I can see people living within the outer parts of such regions (or maybe the inner ones as well) going outside their area to visit a pub not subject to the same restrictions., risking spreading the virus more widely.

    Perhaps one route which could be explored is allowing pubs in high risk areas to be open only to a restricted number of customers – maybe with a registration system. And maybe with the customers being prepared to pay a bit more for their booze – “Support your local pub” – while drinking a bit less of it. As long as we could be sure that the pub staff benefit from that. But I would worry about resources to enforce it.

  • John Marriott
    No you’ve got me wrong. I can live quite happily on my own, listening to music, watching films and so on. I’ve done it for years. I absolutely see the actions of some have an effect on others. The difference is that I don’t want to stop other people leading normal lives, so that I feel in control. I think the disgraceful thing is shutting society down, giving ministers power over peoples home lives and acting like it is driven by altruism when really it’s just fear of mortality and the desire to boss other people about , coupled with too much faith in the power political leadership. The point of the “heroically opening a bottle plonk” thing was actually about the absurdity of pretending that sitting on one’s bottom, doing what one would do anyway, is a sacrifice. I think what is being done is cruel, pointlessly destructive, short sighted and is leading to nowhere good.

  • @ Jayne Mansfield

    “Covid affects all demographic groups, there have been deaths in all ages”

    According to the ONS, 89.3% of Covid 19 deaths have been among the over 65’s (47500 out of 53187).

    42% of deaths were among those aged 85 and over (22424 out of 53187)

    1.1% of deaths were among those aged 44 and under (590 out of 53187)

    Risk is clearly related to age and it is misleading to claim that there is a high risk to all age groups.

    Talk of “long Covid” is probably designed to continue the fear based messaging but existing illnesses like pneumonia also can take a long time to recover from.

  • jayne Mansfield 16th Oct '20 - 12:32pm

    @ Marco,
    Try reading what is written before responding.

    I was quoting the words of the Oxford Professor of Primary Care Sciences. Where in my post does it refute that some are more vulnerable to serious illness and death?

    May I say that your dismissive attitude to the effects of long covid on fit individuals and your analogy with those suffering from post pneumonia and other viral and bacterial infections is unbelievable. Post covid syndrome is of a different order to the post viral syndrome we have seen previously.

    The answer to fear is knowledge. I would argue that people are fearful because of dishonesty, hubris and the mixed messages and conflicting advice that they have been given.

    There is not going to be a return to ‘normal’ for a very long time. It isn’t going to be over by Christmas. Human beings are adaptable and adapt we must to the new reality and that means a change in behaviour from all members of society.

    I find this thread very revealing when it comes to values of some of its commenters.

  • t now seems that, instead of three distinct tiers, there are ‘allowed variations’…It also seems that £12m can be £42m if it helps to ‘divide the North’…

    With each passing day the government’s strategy (if it could be called that) is unravelling..There cannot be a ‘circuit breaker (cb)’ as Starmer, Davey, Sturgeon and Drakeford are in favour, so it seems that the tweaks will be tweaked until the country will be in ‘cb mode’ in all things but name.

    I live in an area of very low incidence but we are receiving an ever increasing number of visitors from areas of higher incidence..Yesterday, on dog walking, I met two women from Nottingham who admitted that ‘they felt unsafe in their hometown’…This shows, at least to me, that a region by region approach is doomed to failure. My son lives on Essex/Suffolk border and his rules do not apply in the next village (a mile or so away)…

    In my late 70’s, I’m at risk..I, and ‘senior management’, social distance and stay away from crowds…Are we safe; who knows?
    However, best wishes to all, in this time of uncertainty..Stay safe!

  • Jayne Mansfield

    Yes I did read it and I know you didn’t say that but the implication of the article you linked to along with the heath message generally is that there is a significant risk to all age groups which jars with the facts.

    I was not dismissing the idea of long Covid more that people underplay the effects of flu/pneumonia etc. which are deadly but can be manageable. We are not given any context about long Covid and its effects ie how much more of a concern is it than pre existing risks. Don’t make any assumptions about it.

    I don’t see any reason for you to take the high ground in terms of values. You acknowledge the effect of the Covid response on global poverty but that doesn’t alter your position. Your values don’t come across as any better than anyone else’s.

  • James Fowler 16th Oct '20 - 10:55pm

    So we’re back to ‘we must do this or 500,000 may die’. Well, it’s a very strong argument – perhaps slightly tarnished by having been wheeled out back in March and proved somewhat exaggerated… More worryingly, it’s also the justification to do anything you want short of endangering 500,001 people.

  • I would argue that people are fearful because they are surrounded by propaganda on billboards and fed messages from speaker systems in railway stations, on trains and on buses 24/7 telling them that other people are untrustworthy disgusting bags of germs who have to be masked and separated in case they infect you. To enforce this they are threatened with fines and police action. They are receiving reduced medical care, reduced dental care, reduced mental health support, and in some cases have died because of it. This is for a virus that seems to be mostly asymptomatic (according to the tests) and for which we are explicitly told not bother the NHS with because it is 99+ percent certain you will get over at home without any medical care, whatsoever. It honestly amazes me that this anti-human/anti social failed experiment is still being spun as some sort of progressive celebration of togetherness rather than being seen for the suspicion fuelled and fear driven descent into the hyped up regressive authoritarian hysteria it so obviously is.

  • Peter Martin 20th Oct '20 - 8:13am

    Is the “‘we must do this or 500,000 may die ….argument …..somewhat exaggerated… ” ?

    We did have a lockdown in late March which worked quite well. What would have happened if we had just “let the virus rip”?

    As it was, we had 40,000 deaths with around 5% of the population infected. If it had been 50% infected that would scale up to 400,000. The NHS managed to cope with the reduced infection rate due to the lockdown but it wouldn’t have coped otherwise. So there wouldn’t have been much in the way of medical assistance for those who needed it. The death rate would have been proportionately much higher.

    So 500,000 does look a plausible, even a conservative, “doing nothing” figure.

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