Lock down is not the alternative to herd immunity

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Some think only in what is often called binary ways, left, right, black, white, male, female, rich poor, young, old, sick, well, us, them…

I see things differently. I have often put it like this: why should the answer to that which we do not like, automatically be considered to be the opposite of it? Why does it have to be, either, or, why can’t it be neither, and something more?!

Group think is herd mentality. But that is not quite herd immunity. But herd immunity, in theory or practice, is not one thing. And the government strategy is not one thing, not even if they have presented it thus. It seems like they are making it up as they go along, even if that is not the case.

Herd immunity works best if there is a vaccine. Nearly everyone gets immunity and this is from the vaccine, and those who cannot take that vaccine, meet so few infected, because most take it, it means the virus, or disease vanishes, or becomes rare. I was one of the earlier generations , born in the latter 60’s, who gained immunity from TB. This was of particular relevance because my father had nearly been killed by TB as a youth in Italy, pre antibiotics or vaccine. He had it twice, bad, much of one lung removed then, from teenage years. TB was more or less wiped out but is back. So too measles. Polio was another success.

Herd immunity without a vaccine is complicated. Governments who are best at governance understand complicated. So too do experts. Herd immunity, without a vaccine available, needs much of the population to catch a mild version of an illness, it needs only thus to be got, by the strongest, to mean their immunity shields, by reducing the likelihood of contact, the weakest, those elderly or vulnerable, with those infected becoming less, due to little illness circulated. It is Darwinian, but at its most well intentioned could be made to work.

But it requires things by all accounts unknown now, to work, as advised by advisers, to this government. It needs to mean that all who catch it do become immune from that. But we know some have got Covid 19, twice. We know some, not in the vulnerable sections, have possible and awful permanent lung damage. We know that, but, in fact, very little about this virus. It would also need all, and that really needs to be ALL, vulnerable people to be cocooned. That means elderly, isolated, but children with conditions, also. Yet the government, and the advisers, have not put into place such a strategy at all. They have not said we should and must isolate the vulnerable. They have in a scary and chilling voice, said, we are going to lose our loved ones. They have given us the seeming impression, that they want sixty per cent of the UK population to catch this virus?!

The policy of this government and the advice , it has been given by two men we know of, is non existent in any country other than this one. It has been criticised by more experts than imaginable, in such a scenario, and many eminent in this are, of such vociferous a view, as to be hard not to hear, but are being unheard, by those pushing the policy, as is being done, by government. Professor John Ashton, Dr Richard Hatchett, Dr. Carmen Regan, Dr Jenny Vaughn, Matteo Renzi in Italy, Rory Stewart, Dr Phillip Lee, even Jeremy Hunt! All are experts, or some, knowledgeable in ways based on direct experience of health policy and governance. All are measured and moderate. None are in tune with all that we are hearing from government. There are very many others too. Social media, often the forum of the amateur and amateurism, has an absolutely furious level of input from doctors, epidemiologists, professors, NHS staff, utterly incredulous. Some of us in support are scared for our most at risk!

Lock down is not the alternative to herd immunity. There is an in between but lock down is preferable to inaction or inevitability. So called, behavioural psychology, favoured, in “nudge” mentality, persuasion rather than dictat, is not relevant. Fatigue has no place with a semi and significant initial social distance becoming prevalent, in practice. If there are no cafes, restaurants, bars, clubs, schools, colleges, theatres , flights, to go to or on, nobody can rebel or break the so called lock down as they cannot on their own do such a thing. Cromwell shut leisure down for over a decade! It does not need house arrest, it needs the sort of spirit that meant lights out, curtains drawn, in the Blitz! Most venues for leisure closed in the capital, during much of the WW2 period. It was in fact why Sir Donald Wolfit toured the UK or performed at lunch time, bringing plays to the public!

This Darwinian experiment is out of a playbook that requires us to accept much that has not previously been heard. It needs us to listen to those who as yet have not been heard. We must be convinced to adopt an approach of gaining herd immunity. It requires more than herd mentality!

* Lorenzo Cherin is an actor, writer, and regular contributor to politics as a member of the Liberal Democrats. He is based in Nottingham.

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  • Lorenzo has eloquently described the dilemma in his characteristic style.

    It may be useful to consider what stops the virus from infecting people.
    – soap or alcohol which disrupts the surface functionality which allows the virus to attach to a human cell.
    – Antibodies in the bloodstream acquired by vaccine or a previous infection. (the latter still to be proven)
    – Avoidance of contamination by one human to another via airborne droplets or contamination of surfaces.

    Within about 3 days a virus which has not infected its next victim will probably cease to be functionable. It will probably have dried up to become just non-bioactive protein.

    The virus uses its RNA to programme our cells to manufacture copies of the virus until our cells explode, releasing masses of viruses which go on to do the same again and again. The infection process is a risk for as long as the virus exists and is able to continue existing and duplicating via is victims. With each infected person being such a powerful source, the risk of spread is still high even in a lockdown situation. Human contact would need to cease in absolute terms. Testing is not much use because the infection takes about a week to show up in the test. The most robust solution is a combination of herd immunity and a vaccine. Both will prevent the virus from reproducing. All other strategies are attempts to dodge becoming infected by an organism which reproduces itself in each victim by the trillions.

  • It is possible that Cumming’s influence is part of this. Re Darwin and his relative Galton and early eugenics re ‘how to eliminate illness’,.He is an eccentric.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 14th Mar '20 - 9:02pm

    Thanks Peter. I do not agree though with your over all point. My thinking is we must, as said, be convinced, if we are to go for herd immunity in this way. We are, many f us, not at all convinced. We must radically and strongly challenge herd mentality, agreement with this approach alone.

    The point is we can and must shut shop on public venues, transport, leisure, but that is not the same as lock down. We are not locked in a town, we are glad to be there, and do understand why we can’t go elsewhere then. Italians are in a vibrant democratic country, not under days of Il Duce, who was in government when my father was a youngster.

    We can see social distance as a god thing. But no leadership is a bad one. We are not getting the facts but are getting taken for chumps.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 14th Mar '20 - 9:09pm

    Our other comment here, mentions, eugenics. I have a typing mistake above in mine, I said, god but should have said, good.

    Playing God is terrible. The horrid phrases Johnson and his advisers uttered sounded as if they were being content to throw people aside. They mightn’t have meant that. But it is awful.

    Everybody must see that we every one, must savour this chance to save ourselves and each other, whatever it takes.

    A reimagining of society for many and much of the future might be possible. It is definitely preferable to the alternative horrors.

  • If I understand you correctly, Lorenzo, you are advocating a greater slowdown of infection as opposed to trying to stop infection. If that is what you are suggesting then I am in full agreement. I fear that the infection of very vulnerable people will outstrip the availability of beds with the appropriate respiratory facilities. In other words, the Government advisors have been too optimistic and further reduced person to person contact is now urgent.

    This can be done by banning mass recreational activities without interfering with all the necessary activities of the country. In other words we need an adjustment (albeit a fairly large and urgent one,) rather than a change in strategy.

    I think that the terms like lockdown are problematic because they require definition otherwise they lead to misunderstandings. Clearly, we can shut down certain activities but not ALL activities. I do think that we should shut down all non-essential activities in order to measure the effect. We can then decide whether it should continue or to what extent.

  • n hunter, the medical advisors are calling the shots, not Cummings. I think your comment is a cheap opportunistic and political smear that we can do without in the midst of this crisis. People are dying and the government is trying to do the right things, whether or not they make the right choices is a matter for the experts to argue once they have the benefit of hindsight.

  • Rodney Watts 14th Mar '20 - 9:37pm

    Lorenzo, another good piece, and I have just added an appropriate comment to your earlier one.
    Peter, I like your explanation of the mode of action and infection, which applies to all viruses. What has interested me, as a long retired Medical Biochemist with research interests in the lipid (fat!) field is that unlike other viruses the coronaviruses have a lipid membrane ‘overcoat’ with ‘spike’ proteins. Goes to show you’re never too old to learn.

    Now, before I digress too far. Yes, I agree Peter, that Lorenzo has eloquently described the exceedingly unsatisfactory situation and the problems associated with particular Government advisors. @n hunter’s suggestion of Cumming’s influence may indeed be not far from the truth. I have referred to Darwinian eugenics in my comment on the previous thread, and linked to a good piece in the Daily Mail on Prof. Ashworth’s very forceful BBC 1 Question Time contribution. It really is shocking that Sir Patrick Vallance has appeared to have politicised the science, but WHO has issued a statement regarding “herd immunity”: https://www.standard.co.uk/news/health/uk-herd-immunity-coronavirus-who-margaret-harris-a4387346.html
    Once again the vulnerable in our society are threatened most. Disgraceful!

  • Tony Greaves 14th Mar '20 - 9:44pm

    (1) No-one has been proved to have got Covid-19 twice. (2) A complete lock-down (where – the whole country?) is both nonsense and impossible. After a while people would start to die from other illnesses, starvation, suicide…and some people would go mad. How long could it be enforced for – and by whom please? (3) If you carry out a (say) four-month lock-down, when the people who have survived come out the virus will not have gone away. It will be distributed throughout the country, even in small numbers. It will set off again, possibly with a vengeance. (4) There has to be a balance. There are no good ways forward. The epidemic in this country is taking place and it cannot be stopped because there are no vaccines and there are no drugs to treat it. All the powers-that-be can do is to try to manage it in ways which avoid a sharp peak and avoid a bounce-back.

  • Nonconformistradical 14th Mar '20 - 9:45pm

    ” I do not know where the bottleneck is in the development of a vaccine.”
    Isn’t the issue the testing of a vaccine to maximise safety? Not much point in having another thalidomide situation due to inadequate trials – and trials take time.

  • @Martin If infection twice is not possible (assuming the virus does not mutate in a significant way) then places like China are showing significant immunity already with very few new cases. – and this a year ahead of any vaccine.

    This is practical evidence for the herd immunity concept though it happened in an uncontrolled manner with a high cost in deaths.

    I don’t see how testing can stop the virus because you can be infectious for a week before testing positive and isolation may not be effective unless 100% practised.

  • @Martin, I agree that the EU has an important coordinating role to play but it has probably missed the opportunity in this fast moving situation.

    The reason is that health (and sport) are about the only significant areas of activity that are not EU competences. These are quite diverse activities which have evolved differently in different countries and the EU has not had the capacity, enthusiasm or determination to enforce common regulation as it has in almost every other area of public service.

    I am sure that if the EU survives the financial consequences affecting Italy and Spain then it will place Health regulation and integration high on the list of future priorities. I suspect that the British public’s obsession with the NHS has been a historical political deterrent for the EU.

  • Rodney Watts 14th Mar '20 - 10:10pm

    May I encourage readers to also read & comment young medical student Harry Mayall’s article on antimicrobial resistance. In the longer term this is of greater importance.

  • @George, If it helps to give you confidence, China now seems to have developed herd immunity, albeit at a high cost in lives. I believe the current new infections total about 8 people.

    If this proves to be the solution then herd immunity is the correct strategy but at a rate of infection that is slow enough not to overwhelm the NHS ICU beds capacity. It is in this last respect that the Government may need to reduce people contact by reducing mass events.

  • Taiwan learnt the lessons from sars.
    Thats why they had far better surveillance measures and reacted quickly to this outbreak, hence the reason for their low infection rate despite their close link to china.

    Surely it must be worth a try to slow the spread of this virus as quickly as possible by closing down unnecessary services as suggested and encourage social distancing.

    If we can slow down the spread, allow the NHS to manage those already infected without becoming inundated. Yes there are going to be some who are extremely sick and some critical, but surely by slowing down the infection rate, it will give NHS staff and other medics around the world breathing space to treat fewer patients with MORE DETAIL and attention and finding out what existing medications are more effective at reducing symptoms.
    It would also give Pharmaceuticals a chance to develop better antiviral meds to treat the symptoms with the hope that in 12-18 months a working vaccine can be developed.

    Yes this virus is going to raise its ugly head again in the winter BUT the lesson to learn here is the lesson from Taiwan, we would have in place better surveillance as we would be expecting the next breakout imminently, we would be able to isolate people far more quickly and contact trace more effectively this time around I imagine.

    We are assuming that this virus emanated from China in Late December and did not arrive in the UK till late February, this is of course entirely speculative at this stage and it is not unreasonable to think that this virus could have been around for a bit longer and china and even us were putting down deaths to the general flu season.

    I just think we have a responsibility to give everyone a fighting chance at this and if that means delaying the spread of this virus and getting a reprieve for 6 to 8 months to then have a bigger fight, then so be it.
    But guess what, we can train our arses off over the next 6-8 months to prepare for the fight we know is coming this time, increase hospita beds, intensive care beds, the development and purchase of Thousands more respirators and whatever other equipment the NHS needs.
    Surely this is a more sensible approach, it certainly seems more humane

  • A couple of people above have suggested that China has developed herd immunity because of the small number of new cases that are being reported. The population of China is about 1.4 billion: the number of people who have contracted Covid-19 is a minute fraction of that, even allowing for unreported infections and people with the virus who show no symptoms, so China has not developed herd immunity but have, hopefully, controlled the epidemic in other ways.

  • So what happens when there is a concentrated outbreak in one area and an attempt at mass exodus to a “clean” area?

  • The government kept talking about ‘slowing down the spread to avoid a sharp peak’. However, I am still confused why allowing major events, in which thousands of people were in close contact, would not have the opposite effect.

    The WHO, and many other experts, have critivised the way the UK is tackling the spread. I’m no expert but, whilst other nations are taking proactive measures, we seem to be driven by events rather than taking decisive action.
    Firstly there was no need to curtail major crowd gatherings then, after the organisers took it upon themselves to act, it became official policy. Schools were not to close; now N. Ireland is closing schools for 16 weeks.

    Long term…How many who recover from severe infection will need lifelong medical care? And finally…It is over 100 years since the deadly influenza epidemic and, although we have vaccines. its return still kills tens of thousands every year. Will this virus be the same?

  • John Marriott 15th Mar '20 - 9:32am

    To all of you expressing an opinion on the way forward, may I recommend that you view the comments from the South Korean Foreign Minister on the Andrew Marr Show this morning? Excellent, even inspirational. Is anyone listening? If not, they ought to be.

  • I think we need to calm down and stop the hysterical overreaction. According to the reports the vast majority of people who have contracted this strain of coronavirus have got over it or have barely even noticed they had it. What we are talking about is a virus that like a lot of other viruses is a greater risk to older people and to those with underlying health issues. It is not a zombie apocalypse.
    I am pleased that it’s cutting down on air travel and getting people to wash their hands properly.

  • Graham Jeffs 15th Mar '20 - 10:03am

    Glenn – what you say is absolutely correct – and it applies to healthy people almost irrespective of age. Now the idiots are talking about getting everyone over 70 to stay at home – a great strategy for discouraging panic buying. I’ll take my chance!

  • James Fowler 15th Mar '20 - 11:14am

    What concerns me about the article are the very breezy analogies/justifications for full lock down, which despite a bit of strategic fence sitting is what this article is really arguing for. Here are a couple:
    1. ‘Cromwell shut leisure down for over a decade!’ I think we need to ask whether this was successful, feasible or desirable, and note its association with other policies like the rule of the Major Generals.
    2. ‘Most venues for leisure closed in the capital, during much of the WW2 period.’ While some locations may have closed, I very much dispute the overall import of this assertion. I invite the author to ask any surviving GI whether most ‘venues for leisure were closed’ in London during the war.
    Gaffes like these make me wonder about the quality of some of the other arguments presented, which have been well drawn out by other contributors.

  • Laurence Cox 15th Mar '20 - 11:17am

    Well said Glenn; there are too many people being hysterical on here, including Tony Greaves who really should know better. If we go a fortnight, a month if you really want to be on the safe side, without new cases then that means the virus has died out in this country. It will not hang around indefinitely waiting to infect people when they come out of lockdown. Even a reappearance, providing it is on a small scale, means that we can go back to containment to stop it spreading.

    Also, this virus is not like influenza, which has a natural reservoir in water fowl that travel all over the world. Whether it comes from bats, snakes or pangolins (three species suggested as sources) in China, once we can eliminate it in the human population (which may take several years in countries where the health service is poor) we should not expect it to come back. After all, both SARS and MERS have not reappeared.

    What we really need to think about is why people need to travel. Cruise ships have proven to be a hotbed of infection for Covid-19, as they are for other germs like norovirus. Similarly flights, particularly long-haul flights, can take the virus from one continent to another faster than any health service can respond. Going forward, we need to change our habits by travelling much less and, where we do travel, more locally. This will, coincidentally, reduce global warming as well.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 15th Mar '20 - 12:22pm

    Cromwell may have “shut leisure down for a decade”, but I don’t think that’s exactly an example we would wish to emulate, is it? Cromwell didn’t close the theatres out of concern for public health, although I suppose he would have argued that it was for the spiritual health of the nation!
    As liberals, we need to be very wary of attempts to restrict freedom. For example, it was probably right that the party cancelled Spring Conference, but I would be uneasy about an actual ban on large gatherings. This could be used, for example, to prevent political protests if a large number of people were likely to take part.
    I would rather see the government issue advice and guidelines, rather than bans. There is, after all, so much conflicting advice from different “experts” that it seems best to let individual people, businesses and organisations decide what decisions to make.

  • I usually do my shopping on sunday morning; in at 9.30, pay and out by 10.05..

    This morning it was like Christmas eve…people with two trolleys piled high, queues 5-10 deep….
    I bought a loaf of bread and a dozen eggs and asked the front of the queue if I could go through; no problem..
    What the hell has happened to the UK?

    Just read that over 70’s will be asked to ‘self isolate’ for up to 4 months; perhaps I should’ve bought two loaves?

  • My local Morrisons was a bit busier but only queued about a minute for the autoteller, still plenty to buy, only thing I noticed that was sold out was the vitamin C (as in other supermarkets, I had to order mine online). Let us hope there are no power cuts down the line and all the frozen “stockpiles” don’t rot. May have to remove all the shopping trolleys and limit people to a basket each down the line.

    Back in the old days, this would have passed off as bad flu year, 21 dead and 20 in ICU according to the TV last night.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland – “As liberals, we need to be very wary of attempts to restrict freedom. For example, it was probably right that the party cancelled Spring Conference, but I would be uneasy about an actual ban on large gatherings. This could be used, for example, to prevent political protests if a large number of people were likely to take part. I would rather see the government issue advice and guidelines, rather than bans. There is, after all, so much conflicting advice from different “experts” that it seems best to let individual people, businesses and organisations decide what decisions to make” – well, until recently I held a similar belief, until I read about the Smurf gathering in Paris.

    George Kendall – “And if cancelling those leads to people congregating in warm pubs, that may be counterproductive.” – then close the leisure sites.

    “Will this virus be like the 1918 pandemic, and regularly return and kill people very year? The experts I’ve been reading think yes. And the consensus seems to be that this will kill millions. My mind can imagine a loved relative dying before their time, but I struggle to imagine that grief multiplied by millions” – even in the Spanish Flu, evidence from the US suggests that social distancing worked well, hence St Louis vs Philadelphia.

    “However, I have a suspicion that the government will sometimes be following public opinion, rather than acting on advice from epidemiologists. And, let’s be honest, every government of any colour and or country will, to some extent, follow public opinion rather than scientific advice.” – current government policy is based on a scientific hypothesis, not on scientific evidence. Thus, the UK is risking becoming a contrarian against the international scientific establishment.

  • Laurence,

    Tony Greaves comments are realism and facing the issue “There has to be a balance. There are no good ways forward. The epidemic in this country is taking place and it cannot be stopped because there are no vaccines and there are no drugs to treat it. All the powers-that-be can do is to try to manage it in ways which avoid a sharp peak and avoid a bounce-back.,”
    Air Travel and cruise ships are limited areas of social interaction and irrelevant in the big scheme of things. Tens of millions travel everyday by bus and tube and continue to do so. Where I work we can shut down University lectures and go online for tuition seminars, but there are many overseas students here in student accommodation with no where else to go. Prisons and detention centres are going to be a particular problem to manage where infection can spread quickly.
    Supermarkets and online deliveries need to stay open and be staffed. Over 70’s can self-isolate but most of the working population cannot realistically do so until symptoms develop.
    Businesses engaged in producing tissues and toilet paper, vitamin c, face masks, testing kits and other protective equipment crucially ventilators will need to step up manufacturing exponentially and bring-in staff to do so. This needs to happen now
    Doctors, Nurses and paramedics will be working extra shifts.So too will the police.
    What is happening in Italy (where deaths have reached 1662 and rising) is where we should expect to be in a few weeks time. Hoping the virus will die out in a fortnights time is not realistic. No responsible government can take a blase attitude to a public health issue on this scale.

  • This article has been poorly researched, poorly thought out, and poorly assembled. Am surprised it got published, especially with the fake news howler of people being able to get Covid-19 twice. But there were plenty of other howlers in there that somehow got past the editorial team.

    The current international mood is very reminiscent of the mood in America (and to a lesser extent internationally) on and in the aftermath of September 11th. Turning what was a very real and legitimate concern and threat into mass hysteria, where all perspective was lost, and frantic emotionally driven demands for “something to be done”, leading to extremely damaging and heavy-handed actions taken by governments that did long lasting and monumental harm. And a poisonous climate where those dissenting from extremely heavy handed actions by government were ridiculed and labelled as incompetent, or worse treacherous. The difference being that the calls for reckless heavy-handed interventions and cultivation of nastiness in 2001 came from the right, whereas this time this recklessness and nasty culture is coming from the left.

  • Expats: I suggest five loaves and two small fish. There is a precedent for this somewhere.

    I had the same ‘Christmas Eve’ experience on Friday. People’s behaviour is not (quite) irrational – once the ‘worst case scenario’ figures were out, a lot of people decided to plan for the worst. Seems to me that there is going to be an awful lot of wasted food over the next few weeks.
    I am of an age where I am likely to be told to stay at home for my own safety. I am a great deal healthier than many people several decades younger than I. I am absolutely prepared to self-isolate if I develop the slightest cough or sniffle. I am not at all sure that I am prepared to have my liberty restricted to that extent while I do not pose any more of a health threat to the general population than healthy younger people. As a reasonably intelligent and mature human being, do I not have the right to decide for myself what actions are best for my own safety?
    And if I do catch the virus now, the chances are that having then developed a useful level of immunity (as one does with most of these things), I will be better-placed to be able to help those who are ill or isolated for sensible reasons.

  • Frank Little 15th Mar '20 - 4:15pm

    It would help if people contributing to this thread would state their credentials and/or experience. This is not a criticism. It is intended positively, as I know that there are many members who are doctors or other health service workers.

    Clearly it is too late to impose the sort of restrictions which served Taiwan so well. What worries me about the government’s approach is that Covid-19 could remain circulating within the population as chicken-pox does.

    (I write merely as one who has had virtually all the childhood diseases and whose asthma is annually aggravated by seasonal colds.)

  • Margaret 15th Mar ’20 – 4:01pm
    …………….Expats: I suggest five loaves and two small fish. There is a precedent for this somewhere…………
    But he ended up with tons of leftovers; my bins aren’t big enough.

    ………………And if I do catch the virus now, the chances are that having then developed a useful level of immunity (as one does with most of these things), I will be better-placed to be able to help those who are ill or isolated for sensible reasons…………

    On a more serious note…Without testing how would you know you’ve actually had the virus or just a spring cold?

  • expats 15th Mar ’20 4:38pm

    How will anyone, now that we’re apparently not testing everyone any more?

  • @margaret

    “How will anyone, now that we’re apparently not testing everyone any more?”

    That is actually one of my biggest fears. I fear that the uk citizens are now about to be lead into a false sense of security.
    Even at the start of this, people who should have been tested were not.
    111 was only allowing tests for people who had returned from abroad who had been to known hotspots or come into contact with a confirmed case.
    Now we are not going to be testing at all and only testing those that are very ill and present in the hospital.
    There are many people who are just being told to self-isolate and not tested to confirm.

    Because of this we are going to see confirmed cases around the EU constantly rising
    With a much lower figure for the uk.

    It is going to lead people into a false sense of security that things are not so bad here in the uk and they are then less likely to head government advice.

    I could be wrong, but that is how it feels

  • Lorenzo Cherin 15th Mar '20 - 5:24pm

    A good mix but shall deal with a few.

    I advocated a measure of outrage about the virus, and have for years as someone who disagrees with the imbalance of humans and planet and animals, as mentioned in other articles.

    I argue that it is not lock down or lock step, it is knowing we are not different in this country, so need to be convinced if to adopt a separate approach.

    I do not think to know reports of people who have got it twice, from China, as reported in papers such as the Telegraph, is to spread fake news. There are, I mention to James, no howlers, or lack of research here, merely, awareness and understanding, as many are concerned. Not a good contribution to be so waspish, many of us merely argue for more debate and a positive and definite response.

    I do not, as Catherine mentioned, want any of Cromwell, but say this to make us realise, we can stop much activity without it meaning we become authoritarian. Is France or Denmark so much worse with civil liberties, they have closed, much in public.

    We can see this as a way to be very forward in our policies and create a better set of community.

    There is too much negativity about doing something more, as if those measures are some how not measured.

    Thanks to those who enrich with respectful debate.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 15th Mar '20 - 5:36pm

    Frank you mention the credentials, we ought to be in favour of equality as well as experts, anybody can have an opinion if they can articulate it well, here better, for a society, party, all.

    Rodney, thanks, much valued comments, though satire to talk of eugenics as an aim here, rather than concern that is based on policies.

    George, bans on gatherings are known to make a difference, it is not that we lock anybody in, merely keep as many people distant.

  • “The coronavirus epidemic in the UK will last until next spring and could lead to 7.9 million people being hospitalised, a secret Public Health England (PHE) briefing for senior NHS officials reveals.”

    If this leak is true then I am convinced more than ever that we should be attempting lockdowns now like other countries.
    We need to give the NHS staff and resources time for this fight.
    Even 3 months to get in place more ventilators and critical care beds.

    I really do not appreciate comments from people accusing some of us of being hysterical.
    Well I am sorry, some of us cannot help it when we are presented with stories like this.

    Some of us are not ready to lose and let go of loved ones.

    Another chilling consequence of this virus.
    There are 850,000 peeople in the uk suffering from dementia. Developing a fever can result in rapid delirium and a deterioration in dementia patients, sometimes they spring back but often they don’t and it causes a rapid deterioration in the disease.

    When you are a family living with dementia, you cling to every day that the disease stays mild or early stages and you dread what is to come. You want to build as many happy memories and moments as you can in the time that you have.
    This cruel new virus has the potential to rob people of those far to early.

    Some of us scared stiff, call me a snowflake or a hysterical fruitloop if you will. But this is the reality of what some of us are living through and it’s painful.

  • Rodney Watts 15th Mar '20 - 9:59pm

    @James Fowler
    “What concerns me …… are the very breezy analogies/justifications for full lock down, which despite a bit of strategic fence sitting is what this article is really arguing for”.
    You appear here to be taking up @ Lord Tony Greaves’ points 2) and 3) which are fair comment if complete lock down were what Lorenzo really was arguing for. I took it to mean more severe measures to encourage restricted contact, but not complete lockdown. I think you are right about the level of shutdown of London leisure centres.
    Very hard to find any GI’s though -they were American soldiers.
    @ James Pugh:
    “This article has been poorly researched, poorly …… Am surprised it got published, especially with the fake news howler of people being able to get Covid-19 twice. But there were plenty of other howlers in there ……………..
    @Frank Little ” Credentials” PhD Medical Biochem & Pharm.

    James, you would have been far, far more accurate if you had used Tony Greaves’ point 1) ‘No one has been proved to have got Covid-19 twice’ Certainly not fake news: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2762452 (American Medical Association) ‘Positive RT-PCR Test Results in Patients Recovered from COVID-19’ This is a research letter by Chinese medics at University of Wuhan Hospital. I understand that the well known problem in biochem. labs of false negative results may have played a role here, and the authors are looking to extend their studies to more patients.
    Nevertheless the possibility of reinfection is there — as a child about 65 years ago I was told that you can’t get chicken pox twice. I haven’t but it is now known that in rare cases the virus can be reactivated to cause shingles. This looks a possiblity with COVID-19 as Frank fears, but already in China they have already got a vaccine and a new antiviral. More are on their way, so although things don’t look so bright for us at the moment, once clinical trials are approved, I am optimistic.

    Whist I was writing this comment Lorenzo has added two with Margaret, Matt, Expats and Frank Little with on point comments, together with a nice bit of humour from expats. With regard to testing, and telling which virus is responsible for symptoms, the Chinese are now using regular lung CT scans, which also overcomes the false negative result problem. Quite frankly I am amazed at how much progress has been made by the Chinese in so little time.

  • Phil Beesley 15th Mar '20 - 10:43pm

    I recall from the foot and mouth cattle epidemic that simple tests may be unable to determine the difference between ‘active infection’ and a subject who has recovered or been vaccinated. In the long term this logically means that simple tests — not particularly simple and quite time consuming, of course — become less indicative of the capacity to spread the virus.

    (Thanks to Rodney Watts for explaining that more complex tests are being developed.)

  • Rodney Watts 15th Mar '20 - 10:47pm

    You have all my sympathy and understanding. I am also a person of faith (have to be aged 79) and will pray for you and yours. I am also believing that the timescale for vaccine and antivirals availability will be shortened.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 15th Mar '20 - 11:00pm


    You are a terrific part of these debates, please keep in contact, if you like on facebook private messages welcome, or write via here to the site, glad to give my e mail and as we self isolate, stay as friends, supporting one and all


    Under any circumstances what you do here, engage and discuss, is very well taken, by an author of a piece on this excellent site,
    here you are accurate, my call is for a voluntary effort to support far more of what is necessary, social isolating of many, with social responsibility come out of the personal too. Nothing about it is a lock, but a door closed opened again when safe.

  • Most of the fatalities have occurred in people over 80 years of age and even then mostly amongst those with underlying health problems (in Italy people being treated for 3 or more conditions). As you age the fault lines in you genetic structures increase. A lot of treatments for long term health issues supress the immune system. This increases the mortality rate from a lot of viruses. So in most relatively healthy people Novel Coronavirus is going to be akin to a bad cold or mild flu. Instead of demanding lock downs and bans on public gatherings we should be looking at better hygiene standards in care homes and hospitals and more support for the elderly and the sick. Otherwise, what we are going to face is people’s social interactions grinding to a halt.
    Personally, being a vegan environmentalist, I think looking at the link between animal slaughter and disease is sensible. I also believe that anything that reduces traveling pointlessly across the globe is a good thing.

  • @Rodney Watts

    Thank you, that is very kind of you and I am touched.


    Again, thank you, not so sure many on here agree with you, most probably think I am an annoying nut and not contributing much to the debate apart from fear.
    Well I am prepared to be nutty everywhere if it will get some attention in the right places and force Bumbling Boris in front of the media to speak to the nation.
    looks like we are going to get daily updates from Boris now.
    The more he is held accountable by other parties and the media, the more comfortable I hope to be.
    I need some respite lol.

    Btw I sent you a request on FB as u suggested, thank you again

  • Lorenzo Cherin 16th Mar '20 - 12:45am


    As a vegetarian, agree,but also think we can stop many things now, in a consistent way, mass slaughter of animals, mass gathering of humans!


    FB friends from here!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Am I alone, after listening to the government spokesman (Raab?) on R4, in believing that the UK has given up on any attempt (other than asking those most at risk to self isolate) to restrict/slow the spread?
    Most other countries, including the US, are restricting travel, closing nightclubs and bars/restaurants, increasing testing, etc.; the spokesman stated that OUR experts are still of the opinion that none of these measures are necessary.
    Why the discepancy in tactics; are our experts more informed than others?

  • The EU is moving to block sales of ventilators outside of its territory, will food be next if it starts to run low? What bad timing on the UK’s part to leave now.

    Those born post 1950 have had a fantastic run of freedom and chance at the good life, like no generation before. An extra 1000 deaths a day is the potential downside from this virus, huge mental angst from kids “killing” their grandparents through to the general populace having its bubble burst… just as well that the human race is so adaptable,

  • Matt
    I don’t think that of you at all. Judging from the rise in face masks and the empty supermarket shelves, I suspect it’s people like me who are seen as blithe or even callous. But I don’t want to see lockdowns and self isolation enforced on everyone over the age of 70 and people exhibiting symptoms of hay fever because of an over hyped threat of something that is around 98 or more percent non lethal. I’m sorry but I think that asking people with health issues and the elderly to sit in their houses all day is going to cause more problems than the virus. I also think using authoritarian communist China as a model is a very bad idea. Now, lets say that this virus does last until next spring, what damage is a year of mass hysteria and overreaction going to do?

  • Glenn 16th Mar ’20 – 8:48am………………. I’m sorry but I think that asking people with health issues and the elderly to sit in their houses all day is going to cause more problems than the virus……………..

    As far as I’m aware ‘self isolation’ won’t prevent the elderly from going for walks, etc.; it just means that close interraction with other people is ruled out.
    My wife and I are in our 70s so we’re planning to increase walks, with our dog, in the fields/beach. At the moment we are usually alone so we might even be healthier after 4 months of such a regime.
    IMO the government has been reactive rather than proactive so it’s up to us to look after ourselves. However, even with delivery of essentials, washing the goods will be tedious to say the least.

  • @Glenn.

    Lock down does not have to mean that people are completely housebound for months on end.
    It is surely about closing schools, pubs, restaurants large events for the shortest period of time in order to vastly reduce infection rates.
    It gives the NHS and the Government some time to get the facilities in place in order to fight this virus from the best possible position to give the most people the best possible chance of surving this.
    Yes I know that for 80% of people this is going to be a mild disease, but for 20% it isnt, it is going to be a severe disease and for some of those critical and others fatal.
    What the NHS needs more than anything to combat this is “Oxygen”
    Even those that are categorised as serious can soon slip into critical with a lack of oxygen treatment and other resources.
    And as I keep saying there are millions of families with loved ones with underlying conditions who are at grave risk from this, they are not ready to lose loved ones early.
    Just think how awful that is, if a parent, grandparent or child is hospitalised and you cannot even visit them through their darkest time, you cannot say goodbye if god forbid you lose them.
    The Government has to go all out to avoid that scenario happening on a mass scale.
    This just feels like the Government is giving up.

    As I said at the beginning lockdown does not have to mean months on end locked in doors, we have vast areas of countrysides, woods and lakes. where people can get outside and limit contact with others and reduce cabin fever. It is about reducing mass gatherings and infection spread.
    That also means that we must continue testing everyone with symptoms so that we can continue to isolate those that need it.

    On what planet is it sensible to sit back and wait when we know what is coming from looking at the rest of Europe, surely you implement measures Now to try and prevent that stage as long as possible to get resources in place

  • An Australian DR Professor Paterson has said that they might have found an effective medication to treat the virus

    “He explained that when the HIV medication lopinavir/ritonavir was given to people infected with the coronavirus in Australia it led to the ‘disappearance of the virus’.
    He told Australian news site news.com.au: ‘It’s a potentially effective treatment.
    ‘Patients would end up with no viable coronavirus in their system at all after the end of the therapy.'”

    Medics are finding what is and isn’t effective at treating this virus as this situation progresses before a vaccine can eventually be found.
    If this is true, then surely it makes sense to delay this spread like other countries have done and give pharmaceuticals and countries some space to stockpile some of these meds.

    If people cant see the benefits of this delay if it works then I really do not understand what kind of society we have become or what on earth we will have turned into at the end of all this.
    You can recover the economy, you can not recover lost lives.
    We have been through depressions and great depressions before, surely the priority is saving as many lives now.
    I certainly will not accept a situation where we asked to sacrifice X amount of people for the greater good because that’s how it seems mentality has become in certain quarters

  • Matt
    I just think the whole thing is unnecessary. Yes, I get that self isolation need not mean not going out, but it increases the number of people who do not seek medical advice in an emergency, the number of people who’s absence is not spotted, stigma around health and adds to the air of hysteria. For what? A virus similar to flu that kills less people.
    What none of you demanding lock downs and isolation are able to explain to me is why a virus with a low death rate which even if you catch it in most cases you are going to experience as a cold requires all this economic and social disruption. Are we going to get variations on this every year or so? What the cases show is something akin to the flu or a cold, not the Red Death or Captain Trips. I’m sorry, but I am not going to go along with this hysterical overreaction. I don’t support it and I don’t think it should be encouraged. I think it is infinitely more dangerous than the virus it is supposed to combat.

  • @Glenn

    “What none of you demanding lock downs and isolation are able to explain to me is why a virus with a low death rate which even if you catch it in most cases you are going to experience as a cold requires all this economic and social disruption.”

    The stats in Italy alone do not support your assertions.

    This is a brand new virus that we do not know enough about yet.
    The medical professionals and scientists need enough time to evaluate and come to a more reasoned conclusion.
    I repeat you can rebuild economies you cannot recover lost lives that could have been avoided and unnecessary before there time.

  • Can we please have less talk of mass hysteria, “breezy” analogies, hysterical overreaction, and so forth? Those who advocate more laissez-faire policies should put forward a rational case for their views. Not just try to pin insulting labels on those who disagree with them.

  • David Allen
    Actually, I find its mostly the other way round. Anyway, I suspect you’ll all get your way on lockdowns and increased government powers, so I’m not going to say another thing on issue.

  • Peter Hirst 16th Mar '20 - 4:24pm

    As I understand it, two interrelated issues distinguish Covid 19 from other viral infections, namely its ease of transmission and that there is no immunity. So until immunity is built up, prevention is virtually impossible. Transmission can be delayed and much of the advice is based on that. Much depends on how many get infected and the likelihood that infectivity is relatively short lived and exposure prevents another infection.

  • David Allen 16th Mar '20 - 4:32pm

    “What none of you demanding lock downs and isolation are able to explain to me is why a virus with a low death rate which even if you catch it in most cases you are going to experience as a cold requires all this economic and social disruption.”

    Quite how much disruption we’re talking about is a moot point. Banning mass gatherings and big sport, closing bars and restaurants except for takeaways, and self-isolating the most vulnerable, is not huge disruption. Going on to close schools and shops would be more serious. A lockdown like Wuhan or Italy would be more serious still. There needs to be a sensible debate where the balance lies. “Do-nothing” is not within the bounds of a sensible debate.

    Let’s assume the Government’s medical advisors have got it right: about 80% of Britons will get the disease, and the mortality rate will be 1%. Then, we will have something like four hundred thousand coronavirus deaths. Is that not rather more serious than the “it’s only a cold” rhetoric makes it out to be, pray?

  • Nonconformistradical 16th Mar '20 - 5:07pm

    ” A virus similar to flu that kills less people.”

    One essential point you haven’t taken on board as far as I can see is that – while it isn’t guaranteed to be fully effective – older and vulnerable (healthwise) people are offered vaccination for seasonal flu. Not everyone offered a jab does take up the offer – I do – but can you please tell us what the death rate from seasonal flu might be if the vaccine wasn’t available?

  • Phil Beesley 16th Mar '20 - 9:28pm

    Nonconformist radical: “…but can you please tell us what the death rate from seasonal flu might be if the vaccine wasn’t available?”

    That is two questions, really. The answer to both is ‘unknown’ owing to the fact that flu is an exacerbating factor in the illnesses of people who are already poorly. Everything is a guesstimate but I recall one stat.

    Fatalities to seasonal flu, with partial population vaccination: Tens of thousands, probably less than 50,000.

  • As a result, the report — which its authors said had “informed policymaking in the UK and other countries in the last weeks” — said: “We therefore conclude that epidemic suppression is the only viable strategy at the current time.”

    A suppression strategy, along the lines of the approach adopted by the Chinese authorities, “aims to reverse epidemic growth, reducing case numbers to low levels and maintaining that situation indefinitely”.

    It requires “a combination of social distancing of the entire population, home isolation of cases and household quarantine of their family members”, and “may need to be supplemented by school and university closures”.


    They also I estimate the likely death toll of the failed plan to be

    In this scenario, the Imperial College team predicted as many as 250,000 deaths in Britain.

    So enough of the it’s only flu we cannot afford such stupidity, even if shutting down people who say it isn’t ” nice ” because giving house room too stupidity is much worse than not being ” nice”

    Second source

    New modelling suggests that social distancing measures like the ones announced by the government today could prevent hundreds of thousands of deaths from the Covid-19 virus.

    Research from Imperial College London published today models what might happen if countries did nothing to try to prevent the spread of the coronavirus: more than half a million deaths in Great Britain.

    Measures aimed at slowing but not stopping the spread of the virus could cut the number of deaths to around a quarter of a million.

    Only more drastic “suppression” measures like social distancing of the entire population – one of the measures announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson today – will cut deaths to tens of thousands of deaths instead of hundreds of thousands, depending on different variables.


  • @frankie

    Problem is Boris has not locked down anything, he has left it down to the conscience of the public and has merely “advised” these measures.

    I can’t help feeling that this is a cop-out, The government wanted to stick to their plan but were under pressure to do something different, so they have decided on a half-way approach where the Government can blame the people if it does not work.

    One cannot help but be worried when you see the scenes in Benidorm of British holidaymakers who are still over there and refusing to adhere to the countries lockdown. Drinking in the street, laughing and coughing at the police and singing we have coronavirus.
    If this is a sign of how “some” of the British are going to behave during this national emergency it is a bit frightening.
    We are going to have another divided Britan were 1 section is going to want to be part of the national effort and fight this virus and put the lives of others and the NHS first, then there will be a 2nd group who could not give a hoot and will want to continue on as normal, no matter what the consequences of others.

    And as I say that I think my god Frankie is going to draw a parallel with Brexiteers here, please dont make me regret this post frankie 😉

  • Matt,
    They intend to make it compulsory in a few weeks if it doesn’t work. The only thing I’d say is

    Wetherspoon has announced a huge beer festival to take place at all of its pubs, with pints costing less than £2.50.

    There will be a focus on beers brewed by female brewers from the UK and overseas at the 12-day real ale festival, which takes place from March 25 until April 5.


    As of nine hours ago. I’m sure they will see sense, I await their response.

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