The following is my personal assessment of how we got to where we are with Covid-19, and where we are going.
Finally I give my ideas on how, as a nation, we should organise ourselves so that we can cope with what lies ahead.
(If there is anything below that you believe is incorrect, that I’m ‘barking up completely the wrong tree’, or if you would just like to input some new thoughts and ideas, I would love to hear from you:
In my opinion ‘Stay At Home’ was the stupidest advice any government has ever given.
It was very simple, supposedly, but its lack of nuance was also its weakness.
There is a mounting body of evidence indicating that for the poorest sector of the population,
– far from ‘saving lives’, staying indoors at all times, potentially along with people who have Covid-19,
– it has actually cost them.
Potentially lots of them:
It you live in a plush Manhattan apartment, probably it didn’t really have much effect, positively or negatively,
– if you live in an overcrowded block of flats in the Bronx, staying indoors at all times, could easily have severe consequences.
Study after study has shown that Covid-19 transmits very easily indoors, but with great difficulty, if at all outdoors:
Our drama-creating, headline chasing Mass Media, in particular BBC News and Sky News,
– both converted the government’s ‘Stay At Home’ message, to ‘Stay Indoors’.
A truly awful, deliberate corruption,
– and one which not only ‘scared a lot of people stupid’, it will almost certainly have added to the Covid-19 death toll.
A far better message would have been the exact opposite of the government message in the UK,
– ‘get outdoors, stay outdoors’.
Still stay 2m apart, this is invariably a lot easier to do outside in a park, on a beach, or out in open countryside.
But more of this later….
How did we get here?
We know with reasonable confidence that the Corona virus Covid-19 originated in Wuhan, Hubei province, China.
Wuhan just happens to be the location for some of the most advanced virology laboratories in the world, they make up ‘the Wuhan Institute for Virology’.
These laboratories also just happen to have recently hosted two of the best virologists in the world, they have been working there throughout 2019.
The laboratories also just happen to specialise in studying corona viruses, and by pure chance, the virus which is now bringing almost every nation in the world to a complete standstill, as it forges a trail of death and destruction,
– just happens to be the exact same type of corona virus which for some time has been the main subject of research in these laboratories.
There are currently three main theories as to the origins of Covid-19, although the Chinese authorities regularly come up with alternative ones, they all help to ‘blow smoke’, ‘muddy the waters’… to deflect from the clear and obvious most likely origin.
‘Theory A’) “A dog ate some bat infected bat meat’.
I’m not going to comment any further on this here, it’s so ridiculous. But feel free to Google and read the many articles which appeared in our complicit Press, attempting somehow to lend it some credence. Ridiculous. Enough said.
‘Theory B’) A corona virus somehow ‘jumped’ from bats, to another species, possibly via a pangolin (yes really), and then on to a human.
‘By pure chance’ this happened in one of the extremely cruel and extremely unpleasant so-called ‘wet markets’ which can be found all over China,
– where wild animals are caged, kept in unnatural very close proximity, and eaten either raw, or in some cases still alive,
– and ‘by pure chance’, this ‘species jumping’ happened in a wet market located in close proximity to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, just a few minutes walk away.
(More of this below, I apologise for probably overusing the phrase ‘by pure chance’ when discussing this theory, but it’s very hard not to do so)
By pure chance, whilst jumping from species to species, the DNA of the virus happened to get altered in a particular way, a way which made it extremely transmitted from human to human.
One of the problems, apart from it being so statistically unlikely that this happened in a market almost within sight of the Wuhan Institute of Virology,
– is that the market which is being blamed for the outbreak by the Chinese authorities,
– is a seafood market, and, according to locals, has never sold bats.
Another problem is that in the early stages of trying to cover up the human to human spread of Covid-19,
– Chinese authorities ordered a ‘deep clean’ of the market, meaning that all potential evidence, which may have supported or disproved this theory, has long since been destroyed.
The main issue with it however is ‘what are the odds?’. More of this below….
‘Theory C’ : Covid-19 came from one of the laboratories in the Wuhan Institute, and either escaped from there by accident, or was released deliberately.
If I had to bet, I know where my money would be.
The Covid-19 virus escaped as a result of poor procedures, by accident, from one of the laboratories which are operated by scientists belong to the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
We may never know exactly how Covid-19 was created in the lab, whether it had its DNA accidentally or deliberately altered to allow it to transmit easily between humans, or exactly how it “escaped”,
– but there have suggestions from people living locally that after having been used in laboratory testing, animals were often subsequently sold in the local market.
Earning the lab assistants a few extra yuan…. this would fit in very well with what we do know.
(This would also explain why Chinese authorities/scientists were able to supply the entire genome of a brand new virus to the world so quickly…. they knew exactly what it was, because they created it.
If it had been created ‘naturally’, in a local wet market, it would have taken them a long time to analyse the genetic code to this level of detail
However there are many other ways in which Covid-19 could have escaped accidentally, as a result of poor operational procedures in the institute.
So what exactly do we know?
We know the first Covid-19 infections in humans took place in the vicinity of the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
We know that the genome of Covid-19, ‘its DNA code’, almost exactly matches one previously found only in a particular species of horseshoe bats, but with some subtle changes having occurred, changes which make it very easily transmitted between humans.
We know these horseshoe bats only live in one location, a series of caves more than 1000 miles from the Wuhan institute.
We know that horseshoe bats were being collected from this site by the Chinese military, and taken to the laboratories inside the Wuhan institute. (There is film evidence of this).
We know that the Wuhan Institute for Virology has been playing about with corona viruses found in these bats for many years, and that some of the research taking place there may have been financed by the US.
We know that in Covid-19, the virus structure has subtly changed in order to enable it to attach itself a lot more easily to ACE2 receptors,
– these receptors are found in human upper and lower respiratory tracts. Without this change it could never manage to transmit to, and take hold in humans, particularly in human lungs.
We know that laboratories in the Wuhan Institute for Virology stored corona viruses in poor/unsafe conditions.
We know that the Washington Post reported US diplomats in Beijing had written cables about the Wuhan laboratory in 2018, warning the state Department that ‘the lab’s work on bat corona viruses and their potential human transmission represented a risk of a new SARs-like pandemic’.
We know US intelligence sources are saying that shortly after the corona virus outbreak began, officials at the lab destroyed samples of the virus, erased early reports and suppressed academic papers
– and then tried to pin the blame for ‘the creation’ of Covid-19…. on Wuhan’s wet market, where wild animals are sold for consumption.
(Funnily enough, this is the exact same thing that the authorities did when the SARS virus twice escaped from a Chinese laboratory, back in 2003, they got away with it then, so no surprise they are trying this same ploy again now).
The US sources believe that ‘Patient Zero’ was an intern at the lab, who spread the virus into the local population after infecting her boyfriend.
One source described it as ‘the costliest government cover-up of all time’.
After initially accepting the wet market theory, intelligence officials in the US, Britain and Canada are increasingly focusing on the Wuhan institute,
– not least because of the level of coincidence required for the bats in Yunnan to have infected animals in Wuhan, which then passed it on to humans.
The US investigation will of course face ‘a wall of secrecy’, as already erected by Chinese authorities, a lot of data has mysteriously ‘gone missing’,
– along with some of the scientists who were originally involved in trying to highlight that a very nasty virus, extremely easily passed from human to human, was in the process of spreading rapidly out from the very location which contained the Wuhan Institute for Virology.
The Chinese authorities would have us believe that, by pure chance, a new corona virus, by some ‘fluke of nature’, managed to ‘come into being’, in a market not much more than a stone’s throw from the Wuhan Institute for Virology, and then started spreading amongst the local population.
Their theories are that either “a dog ate some bat meat”, or that some other sort of multiple jump across different species happened, possibly involving a pangolin, and that by pure chance, one of these two took place in a wet market, in the vicinity of the Wuhan Institute for Virology.
We are supposed to believe one of these two explains how Covid-19 first appeared in humans, despite the fact that there is a lot of evidence that no bats were ever sold in the Wuhan wet market, or even live in the local area,
– and that the particularly species of bat which normally hosts an almost identical corona virus, can only be found in a series of caves, 1000 miles away.
We also know that Chinese authorities have subsequently allowed these horrific ‘wet markets’ to reopen. If you really though that a virus which is wreaking havoc across the world… orginated from one of these, would you really allow them to reopen again, ever ?!
I think not.
On the other hand, if you had twice used these markets to cover up for a deadly virus escaping from a laboratory, SARS, and now Covid-19,
– then you would get them open again as fast as possible… who knows when your next virus might escape?
You can’t blame the appearance of a devastating new virus on conditions in a local wet market if they are all shut down.
Anyway, Covid-19 being created in a local market’ is ‘one Hec of a sequence of unlikely events’, which all need to be combined together to make a massively more unlikely one.
I am not a virologist, but I do know a little bit about statistics and probabilities.
I believe that the probability of one of the Chinese government’s explanations for the creation of Covid-19 occurring, in a market within a mile or two of their ‘world leading virology laboratories’, given all of the above…
– is palpably so tiny as to be not even worth considering.
It’s difficult to calculate the individual odds of all these required circumstances happening precisely, and you then need to multiply their odds together to get the end result,
– but if you were able to do this, I suspect you would like find that the odds of winning the UK lottery are probably not much different.
So, I firmly believe Covid-19 escaped from a laboratory… and so do the makers of this documentary on ‘the origin of the Wuhan Coronavirus’ :
Whether Covid-19 is the result of genetic engineering, and/or very lax procedures, it somehow escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology laboratory and into the local human population.
Our media, and our government, seem prepared to swallow the ‘it happened one day in a market, with a bat and a pangolin, by pure chance in very close proximity to China’s most advanced virus laboratories’ story, or ‘a dog ate infected bat meat nearby’,
– one can only imagine, for financial reasons.
China represents a huge market place for our businesses. It certainly can’t be because the bat-pangolin-human, ‘just down the road from the institute’ theory makes much sense, or seems at all likely. Clearly it doesn’t, and it is by any reasonable estimation, extremely unlikely.
We may never know whether the virus was released deliberately, my guess would be that it was almost certainly released accidentally.
Viruses have been known to escape by accident from laboratories in the past. It is a matter of record that the SARS virus escaped from a laboratory in China twice, back in 2003… and that Chinese authorities initially blamed a local wet market.
It would be an enormous risk to take to allow a virus like this to spread out into the world deliberately. The results would be impossible to predict, you would have to be pretty much certifiably insane ‘to go willingly down such a road.’
I don’t believe the Chinese authorities are this crazy.
Duplicitous, deceitful, yes, clinically insane, no.
Covid-19 is very different to SARS or MERS because it transmits extremely easily between humans, and, once it establishes itself in the lungs, it can have extremely nasty consequences for the large number of the people who are now being exposed to it across the world. In many cases deadly ones.
We know that China spent some time, around six weeks, trying to cover up the initial spread of the virus, and that this cover up cost a huge number of lives across the world,
– by allowing Covid-19 to reach a large number of countries before being detected, and by not allowing governments to be able to make proper assessments as to how much damage it could do.
This delay denied the countries it reached precious extra time to make better preparations to deal with it.
We can also be fairly certain that the statistics which have come out of China, and on which many of the policies which governments adopted around the world were based, were nonsense.
The number of deaths was recently updated by Chinese authorities by around 50%. Almost certainly still way short of the real total.
Chinese authorities initially massively downplayed the number of people who have died as a result of Covid-19 in China, probably the ease of transmission of the virus, and very likely many other aspects besides.
It is difficult to dispute that we should have ‘gone into lock down’ in the UK at least two weeks earlier than we actually did, and that this, in the short term at least, would have saved a large number of lives.
However we should perhaps bear in mind that “the judgement calls” that our scientists were making, the models that they were building, and then using, and which produced the results upon which they subsequently advised the UK government,
– were based on the false information that China was providing to the world at the time.
Winners and losers
Whether it was released deliberately or by accident, there is very little doubt that China is going to be ‘the big winner’, over the next year, probably many more years to come.
Why? Simply because it is a totalitarian state.
This is a massive advantage when attempting to deal with a virus outbreak of this kind.
Chinese authorities have ‘tabs’ on absolutely all of their citizens, they know literally everything about them, and they can, and do, monitor every citizen’s precise movements, at all times.
This is the reason why China has been able to bring the virus outbreak under control, to the point of almost eliminating it in the general population, in just a few short months,
– and its industries are now about to ‘kick back into full gear’.
(Although of course they still have to deal with the potential for it to start spreading again, most likely as a result of people entering China whilst carrying it…. to counter this Chinese authorities are now strictly enforcing a 28 day quarantine period on entry to the country).
Meanwhile the rest of the world, made up mostly nations where the authorities have nothing like the same in depth detailed knowledge of citizens’ whereabouts, or their past movements, and lack the ability to exercise the same absolute control over citizens’ movements,
– is going to be struggling to deal with Covid-19 for considerably longer than three months,
– very likely it will cause massive problems for nations for most of this year, at least… quite possibly well into 2021.
The economic harm to the global economy in 2020 is going to be incalculable.
More of this in the section below, ‘where are we heading?’
– but already the Chinese are manufacturing masks, all kinds of other protective equipment, tests, and ventilators… on a huge scale, and exporting them out to the rest of the world, a world which is of course absolutely desperate for them.
A little ironic ?
We can add to this ‘irony’, that a lot of the things that they are exporting are of extremely substandard quality. They simply don’t work.
(The UK is returning 3.5 million antibody tests, because our testing revealed that they gave false results. Apparently we are ‘hoping to get a refund’.
We better… this number of faulty tests could have caused a huge swathe of wholly unnecessary casualties, with anyone tested potentially believing they had immunity to the virus, when in reality they didn’t.
Of course it’s not just the UK, China has dispatched large quantities of faulty Personal Protective Equipment to increasingly desperate nations.
Again, potentially this could have resulted in a huge, completely avoidable loss of life).
Despite the fact they now stand to benefit in a huge way, for many years to come,
– I can not believe that Chinese authorities developed and then released Covid-19 into their own population, hoping that it would spread on to the rest of the world, and they would be able to contain it quickly, whilst the rest of the world struggled, potentially for many years,
– if this was a planned virus release, surely they would have had a vaccine prepared first, and then released the Covid-19 somewhere else, many thousands of miles away?
However if China did have a desire to cripple western economies, there would be few better ways of achieving this…
Can we eliminate Covid-19 in the UK?
The pandemic we are currently faced with, in the absence of a vaccine or a safe effective treatment, both still potentially 12 to 18 months away, can not be stopped completely without locking down the entire country for months on end, and completely destroying our economy,
– but it can be delayed, slowed down, by the UK population adopting social distancing, strict hygiene, and by using personal protective equipment wherever possible/needed. A widespread antibody testing program would also be extremely useful when we have the required number of tests available.
In the absence of a vaccine or treatment, these are really the only tools in our toolbox, the only way that we can tackle the spread of Covid-19.
An effective treatment, and/or vaccine may well still be at least 12 months away, sadly we are probably very unlikely to achieve a high degree of herd immunity in this time period,
– we will almost certainly need to continue with ‘all of the above’ for at least another year.
This does not, should not mean that we all have to sit indoors for this period of time (in many ways this is the absolute worst thing we can do)
– although there are many in our mass media who would appear to want this, and who take every opportunity to lobby government ministers to both increase the restrictions on our liberty, and the length of time that they should be enforced.
(Perhaps the fact that these media reporters/journalists are themselves still able to work, able to pay their mortgages, and in some cases, have a back garden roughly the same size as a small park… means they aren’t really that bothered on a personal basis. We are not all so fortunate).
Here is just one example of how journalists seem to be revelling in this crisis, and very happy to attempt to make as difficult as they can for the general population to endure it:
– the government issued a message saying ‘Stay at home this Easter if you can”,
– BBC and Sky headlined screamed ‘Government says everyone must stay indoors over Easter!’
Staying at home, and staying indoors, are completely different things, although not to the BBC or Sky apparently.
BBC and Sky were both very happy to confuse and conflate the two.
Why? I guess it made a better story, more dramatic, more impact.
Sure, it almost certainly also meant the level of fear and anxiety was massively raised in the general population, potentially it meant that millions sweltered in their small flats, and had an extremely miserable Easter…
– mistakenly believing that they were not allowed to venture out of their front door,
– but, “who cares?”
Clearly not the BBC or Sky editing teams, producers, reporters or journalists.
They wanted drama and impact, and they were quite prepared to manipulate and change the government’s message in order to get it.
– UK government stated we should only take one outdoor exercise period, but did not put a time limit on it,
– BBC and Sky both reported that it must not exceed an hour in duration.
Even when a minister stated, on air, that “it is not time limited”, I watched a Sky news reporter try his absolute hardest to push the minister to to state that a daily exercise period should be, under no circumstances, more than one hour.
The minister flatly refused to put a strict time limit on outdoor exercise, however Sky News subsequently frequently claimed that it must not be any longer than one hour anyway.
It seems that these reporters will not be happy until they have convinced our government to issue an edict that we must all be permanently chained to our television sets.
If they were self employed, lived in a flat, would they be so keen to get the government to order an effective house arrest on the population?
I doubt it.
So we know the virus came from China, we know the local area it first appeared in, we know the local market and the Wuhan Institute of Virology have both been effectively ‘deep cleaned’ to try to cover the evidence of exactly how the virus made its way into humans,
– and we know that for many weeks (probably around six) the Chinese authorities were aware that human to human transmission of a dangerous new virus was happening in Wuhan,
– but they only took actions to prevent the spread of the virus to the rest of China, not the rest of the world.
Almost incredibly, they locked down the city of Wuhan, with its eleven million strong population, so no one could leave it,
– except by air.
Wuhan citizens could, and did, fly out to nations around the world during this period. (Of course they were not allowed to take any internal flights).
And this was sanctioned by the World Health Organisation (WHO), who told nations there was no need to block incoming flights from Wuhan.
You couldn’t make it up.
If a Wuhan resident wanted to visit a relative in Beijing, the only way they could do it was to fly to another country, and then back to Beijing,
– although if what they had done was spotted, no doubt the Chinese authorities would have denied them entry, or at least put them into a 14 day quarantine.
If we had taken earlier action, ignored the WHO recommendations/guidelines, could we have avoided Covid-19 taking hold in the UK altogether?
The overwhelming evidence from around the world would suggest ‘No’.
No developed country has managed to escape Covid-19. It’s pretty much everywhere, although in different stages of spreading.
Even if China hadn’t taken the actions they did, and the WHO hadn’t been so complicit/utterly useless,
– we would have really struggled to prevent it from entering a city like London, where more than 50% of the population was born outside of the UK, with huge numbers of people travelling in and out of London airports, visiting relatives and friends.
Something approaching 100 million people land, from all around the world, in one of London’s six airports every year,
– any one of them could potentially be carrying a virus whereby they are infectious before they have any symptoms, in some cases never developing any symptoms at all,
– but still able to transmit the virus to others, who may then go on to develop very serious ones.
Could we have enforced the kind of quarantine restrictions needed, on this huge number of people, to prevent Covid-19 taking hold in our population, when we know potentially it would only take one person to ‘slip through the next’ to start spreading it and allow it to so?
Could we have ‘done a New Zealand’, effectively closed all airports, and enforced 14 days quarantine on the few returning nationals that we let in after that point?
I seriously doubt it. It would just not be practicable.
I believe our government also quickly recognised it would be all but impossible, politically unacceptable, and so didn’t really try.
Remember at around the same time as New Zealand took this action, mayor of London, Sadiq Khan was telling all Londoners that there was ‘no risk of contracting Coivd-19 on public transport’.
Now that the virus has taken hold all over the UK, there is arguably very little point in closing the airports, or imposing strict quarantine on those entering from countries with lower infection rates than we have.
Is it worth taking the trouble to quarantine people coming from China, where there is currently very little infection from Covid-19, landing in the UK, where it is currently present almost everywhere here? (Flights from New York, possibly ‘a different kettle of fish’).
If we were able to manage to reduce the number of people with the virus to a relatively small number, then there would be a very strong argument for controlling who enters the UK, and quarantining those which do,
– but given the above, it’s hard to see how in practice it could ever really be enforced successfully.
Even if we reduced the 100 million people arriving in London’s airports annually down to, say a million,
– would we be able to enforce a strict 14 day quarantine on even this number?
The “global, open for business London” that Sadiq Khan is fond of touting, is also, by the same token, a “global, open to the world’s diseases London”.
The two, to a large degree, unfortunately go ‘hand in hand’.
However, could we, should we, have taken earlier actions, ie enforced a lock down sooner than we did.
I would suggest absolutely ‘Yes’.
If we had locked down just a couple of weeks earlier, we would have bought ourselves some incredibly valuable time, maybe in effect quite a lot more than two weeks,
– and we would have been a lot better prepared, in terms of badly needed medical equipment, personal protective equipment (PPE), tests etc…
– for when we had to deal with the worst of it… which is currently looking likely to be the second half of April.
We didn’t. “We are where we are”. But…
Where are we heading?
We know that there are only three things which will allow us to return to ‘life as it was before’,
1) A safe and very effective vaccine:
– we may have one in nine months time, or may never have one (we still don’t have one for SARS or MERS)
2) A safe and very effective treatment:
– we may have one in a few months time, or we may never have one
3) Reaching 80 to 90% herd immunity, ie this percentage of the UK population has built up antibodies… having been exposed/recovered from Covid-19, and therefore will not be liable to contract it again:
– we have no idea if/when we will ever reach this position, or how long the immunity will last if we do. It could be only a few months.
Our government has not been completely honest with the nation.
It briefly tried, then rapidly backed off.
So called “herd immunity”, at least 80% of the population being exposed to Covid-19, and recovering, thereby, at least temporarily becoming immune to it, and its all too evident dangers,
– given that we may never have vaccine or effective treatments, or they might be years away still,
– is our only hope for a resumption of ‘how we lived before’, at least during 2020.
Our government was initially openly pursuing policies which it hoped would lead to herd immunity being acquired in a sufficient degree to protect the most vulnerable groups by the next ‘flu season, late Autumn.
Then the UCL report came out… and the following day policy changed.
This report remains unverified by peer groups.
Since lock down began, the UK government has steadily upped its estimate for how long social distancing restrictions will need to be in place, from an initial three weeks, to three months, then to six months, and finally, until ‘sometime next year’.
The truth is no one really knows.
No one knows how much immunity we will gain from being infected and recovering from Covid-19, or the length of time such immunity might last.
No one knows if we will be able to develop a vaccine and/or effective treatments, and if so, when they will be available to the general population.
There is mounting evidence that a significant number of people do not develop antibodies after being infected with the virus and recovering, and therefore may as easily be reinfected as someone who has not been exposed previously.
Even a very painfully acquired ‘herd immunity’ may not provide much of a defence against Covid-19.
Given the above, there is every chance that we will be social distancing for another year at least.
Every chance that we will also still be using PPE, ‘Personal Protective Equipment’ in our work places, in some leisure activities, and continuing with strict hygiene measures at all times, until well into 2021.
If we can manufacture enough masks, we may well be expected to wear them whenever we enter large supermarkets, or on all forms of public transport.
This does not mean that most of us will have to sit indoors for another year. We should never have been doing this in the first place.
Most estimate of the percentage of the UK population which has already been exposed to Covid-19, and recovered/now has antibodies…
– put it at between 5 and 15%.
It could be as little as 2 or 3%, it could be a lot more.
Until a reliable antibody test has been acquired, and testing been performed across the UK, the truth is that we have no real idea.
In order to achieve 80% of us having been exposed to Covid-19, after having first controlled the virus spread using lock down,
– the government will need to at least partially lift restrictions for all but the most vulnerable, effectively with the express intention of allowing the virus to spread again amongst the younger, healthier, more resilient section of the population.
A so-called ‘second spike’ of infections will occur.
To pretend this can be avoided is ridiculous. It will happen.
However hopefully all the measures which remain in place, social distancing etc, in particular safeguarding the most vulnerable, will mean the second spike is not too large.
In order to be ready for this, because we don’t really know exactly how large the next spike, or any subsequent spikes will be,
– we clearly needed to massively increase the capacity of the NHS.
This is a very obvious part of UK government strategy. Huge temporary hospitals have been erected all over the UK. ‘The Nightingales’.
It is also very obviously a part of their strategy that our government is very reluctant to be open and honest about.
A lot of people are going to die as a result of a decent degree of herd immunity being potentially our only option out of the situation we are currently dealing with,
(again, for more on this, see below),
– that is, until a vaccine or treatment become available. If it ever does.
Anyone who says ‘we must avoid a second spike’, is quite frankly an idiot.
Every time we release a restriction, for example allowing children back to school, we will inevitably see an increase in infection rates, another ‘spike’.
We need to expect and be prepared for this, try to keep it as small as possible, and keep the number of deaths as low as possible.
The only way we can avoid additional spikes completely, would be by continuing exactly as we are, until a vaccine or treatments become available.
Which could be next year, or could be ‘never’.
It would be economic suicide to continue with perpetual lock down, and the death toll from a failed economy could end up being many times higher than from Covid-19.
Lock down restrictions will always inevitably slow virus spread, and hopefully here in the UK, the initial one allowed the NHS to prepare, and subsequently to treat a lot more people than it might have been able to, thereby saving a lot of lives.
We badly needed to introduce the initial strict lock down as we were clearly seriously under prepared, and the NHS would have been quickly overwhelmed had it not been introduced.
A 12 to 18 month long fairly strict lock down is however, simply not a viable option, for a variety of reasons.
The UK government has come up with ‘five tests’, which must be passed before any restrictions can start to be released,
– but essentially it should lift some of the restrictions, slowly, as soon as it believes we have the capacity in our hospitals to deal with the potential consequences,
– ie to deal with a resumption of the virus spreading more rapidly than currently amongst the UK population, and the people who will require a considerable amount of medical treatment as a result of contracting it.
We must expect an increase in infections when a group of restrictions is relaxed, not pretend that they won’t happen.
In fact, if a group of restrictions are relaxed and we don’t see a… hopefully small spike in infections, then it would be safe to assume those restrictions have not been serving any useful purpose,
– and they should never have been imposed in the first place.
The UK government, as those across the globe, will have to weigh the cost of additional infections happening as a result of relaxing restrictions…
– up against the cost to the economy of continuing the existing strict restrictions on our businesses, and as a result, on our ability to continue to fund our National Health Service. No viable economy, no NHS.
It must also consider the severe detrimental effect on the physical and mental well being of the population that a prolonged lock down will have.
The number of suicides is already rising. Domestic abuse is rising.
Allowing Covid-19 to spread rapidly will cost lives. Maintaining a strict lock down will also cost lives. It’s a delicate balance. There are no ‘easy answers’.
The government should be honest and clear, the primary purpose of adopting and strictly following social distancing, adopting strict hygiene routines, restricting non essential work and travel….
– is to slow down the spread of Covid-19 to the point where the NHS can cope with the number of people severely impacted by acquiring it.
Lock downs are purely a delaying tactic. Delays can be valuable, but in terms of ‘beating the virus’, delays solve nothing.
One of the main issues with lock downs, is inevitably, ‘how do we get out of them?’
There is a lot of discussion going on about potential ways forward.
Some are advocating that the ‘over 70s’ should remain in isolation, kept away from ‘mainstream society’, for much longer than the rest of the population,
– others, like the University of Woke, sorry, ‘Warwick’, have produced a report recommending that all over 50s should remain out of society, whilst the rest of it is allowed to resume.
This report advocates fines being levied on any person over 50 found to be out of their house, without a good reason, if they are unable to prove their age…
– eg they perhaps forgot to take their driving license out with them, which as they have never been required to do this before, one might imagine would be quite commonplace.
There are words which I could use to describe the people who have written this report. However I am too polite to commit them to print.
We know that age is a risk factor with Covid-19., but so is obesity, high blood pressure, and seemingly, ‘not being white’…
– there are plans to withdraw anyone with a black, Asian, minority ethnic background from front line work in the NHS’,
– so much higher is their risk of developing serious illness, and possibly dying from Covid-19:
Strangely the folk at Warwick university are not suggesting anyone ‘not white’ should remain under effect house arrest indefinitely.
A large percentage of those who become seriously ill with the virus are obese and/or have high blood pressure, arguably these are just as crucial risk factors as age,
– again, the Warwick university report has nothing to say about keeping anyone with a BMI index of over 30 locked indoors, or a blood pressure of more than 130/80.
Nope, they are only concerned with age.
How very… Warwick university.
If Warwick Uni had its way:
Over 50, white, with high blood pressure, and obese,
– you are fit to work on the front line in the NHS,
– but you may be fined on your way home for being out of your house,
In your 20s, BAME heritage, normal blood pressure, slim,
– too risky for you to work as a front line NHS worker, but you can take a full and active part in society,
– no need for you to be kept indoors indefinitely.
If we equip our front line workers properly, with all the PPE needed to keep them safe, then we should take the same approach to people potentially being exposed to Covid-19 that we take with drink, alcohol, eating to excess… participating in hazardous sports,
– provide all the facts, information, and let people make their own choices.
As a libertarian, the ease with which certain groups are discussing identifying groups of our population (funnily enough, generally ones they don’t personally figure in)
– and then forcibly isolating them, potentially indefinitely, fills me with fear.
Far more fear than Covid-19.
If people who fall into high risk groups want to be protected, then of course we should attempt to provide them with everything we can,
– however once restrictions are released in their locality, for society in general,
– if grandparents want to take the risk of seeing their grandchildren, then they should be allowed make that choice and do so.
A phased, staged release of restrictions makes perfect sense.
We should release restrictions in different parts of the UK, depending on the results of large scale antibody testing.
In the USA, different states are reopening at different times, it makes perfect sense for the UK to do something similar,
– what is right for London, at a certain point in time, very clearly may not be right for Cornwall at that same point.
Under no circumstances should we listen to a word that Warwick University’s study says, and release restrictions for adults based on age.
Apart from ‘the above’, a huge number of under 25s still live with their parents,
– so potentially could bring the virus back into these home and infect them anyway.
It’s just a stupid idea on many levels.
Maybe we should just either force or place extreme pressure of over 70s to stay out of society, ‘for the good of the rest’ ?
Telling over 70s that ‘they have a duty’ to stay indoors…. is being promoted by Esther “I love being locked up” Rantzen.
Apparently somehow the rest of society will benefit if over 70s stay out of it.
Given that over 70s, not being idiots, and being well aware that they could potentially suffer quite badly from Covid-19,
– are far more likely to follow strict hand hygiene, strict social distancing etc, than say people in their 20s and 30s,
– and therefore, as a group, are far less likely to be ‘spreaders’ of the virus,
– I’m not quite clear why Ms Rantzen believes, after having spent a lifetime of helping to create the kind of society we have enjoyed in the UK for decades, in some cases fought in a war for it,
– they should now be excluded from it. Whether they like it or not they should sacrifice their liberty indefinitely.
Perhaps if she reads this, she would like to send me an email explain.
There are two different types of tests:
– to test if you currently have the virus (you have the relevant antigens), currently via a swab taken from the back of the throat,
– to test if you have been exposed to Covid-19 at some point in the past (you have the relevant antibodies), currently via two small blood samples, can be performed at home (thumb pin prick)
For the reasons outlined above, the nature of our population make up and society, I believe there is no way that we can escape from the mess that we are in with Covid-19 via the China/South Korea/Japan route of Lockdown/Test/Isolate/Track all previous contacts. All these countries have a homogenous population, with one language, one culture, and compared to the UK, very low levels of migration.
Anyone who proposes that we could test each and every person, at home, in our approaching 70 million strong population, with between one and three million people living in the UK illegally, is frankly living in Cloud Cuckoo Land, not the real world.
Step forward Jeremy Hunt: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-8165601/Only-testing-save-anguish-lead-crisis.html
This is not to say that testing isn’t crucially important, and that our government doesn’t have a lot of questions to answer, with regard to the relatively small amount of testing that is currently being undertaken (at time of writing, early April 2020)
If we can give both the antigen and antibody tests to our essential workers, up to 25% of whom are currently sitting at home, the majority probably with a Common Cold/Flu, or someone in their household having recently had similar, then the benefits of this are massive and clear.
Huge numbers who are not currently ill with Covid-19, or who have had it and recovered, will be able to return to work immediately.
(However if they are not living alone, but have been exposed to the virus and recovered, they will still need to decontaminate fully before returning home to their families/friends who have not been exposed)
Perhaps even more crucially, at the point we are able to perform mass testing of the general population, “antibody tests”, which indicate if you have had Covid-19 previously, we will find out what percentage of the population has already gained herd immunity.
The success, or otherwise of the UK government’s current lock down policy hinges entirely around this figure.
(Currently around one fifth of those being tested for Coivd-19 antigens, ie indicating that they currently have the virus, are coming back positive.
Largely these will have been people showing symptoms and attending hospital.
This is the number of people currently with the virus present in their body when tested, it is not in any way an indicator of the number who have had it and recovered, thereby hopefully developed the antibodies to prevent them getting it again.
To determine this, perhaps in some ways far more crucial figure in the medium and long term, we need large numbers of people to undertake an antibody test. We need large random sampling of our population, taken from all over the UK.
If the results of this testing are that more than 80% of the UK population has already been exposed to Covid-19, and recovered/gained at least some degree of herd immunity, then the government should be able to lift pretty much all of our current restrictions in a fairly short space of time, and not have to subsequently reimpose them.
This is sadly currently unlikely to be the case.
If widespread antibody testing is not performed before releasing a lock down restriction, then the impact on the number of new cases which might result will be impossible to predict with any accuracy….
– ministers and scientists will be simply adopting a “let’s release the restrictions and see” approach.
Performing as much testing as possible, both to find out who currently has Covid-19, and who has had it and recovered, is absolutely vital.
The government’s strategy of setting up huge testing centres, many ‘in the middle of nowhere’, is strange to say the least.
A team of 15,000 people is being set up to try and trace and isolate the previous contacts of anyone found to be infected. This would appear to be woefully inadequate.
Far more sensible would be to have developed a mobile network of testing teams, and for these to work with the ‘trace and isolate’ team.
However for this to work, both teams will need to be huge, nationwide.
Even then I suspect they will struggle would struggle to gain any kind of grip on the virus spread, we have between one and three million people living in the UK illegally, who may well not want to be traced and/or isolated,
– and if we did somehow manage to achieve isolating almost everyone with the virus, how are we going to maintain this, are we going to keep our airports closed for months, quarantine everyone who comes here?
There is another option being discussed, allowing people who have been tested and shown to have been exposed to Covid-19, ie developed antibodies and a degree of immunity, to return to work,
– whilst keeping everyone else “locked down”.
Initially this sounds reasonable, except there could be a very serious ‘unintended consequence’,
– if you are ‘laid off’, or have had to suspend your business, and are perhaps in danger of losing your house, because you can no longer pay the mortgage,
– how tempted will you be to try to get infected, in the hope that you won’t become too seriously ill (or die),
– and then, on recovery, you’ll be able to get a certificate and resume work?
I would suggest desperate people tend to do desperate things…..
Another suggestion being touted is to ease restrictions on young (under 25 years old) people well in advance of everyone else.
Again, the potential pitfalls of this are surely easy to see…. most young people still live with their parents, or even in some cases, particularly ethnic minorities, also with their grandparents, only a small percentage live on their own,
– these young people will inevitably bring the virus home and infect the rest of their family.
The availability of an affordable, easy to produce effective treatment would of course be ‘a game changer’.
The ideal scenario is that an existing drug will be found to be effective with Covid-19, would mean a whole lot of testing to make sure that is is relatively safe can be skipped.
But even if it’s a new drug, or drug combination, if looks promising, and you have patients who will almost certainly die if they don’t receive medication to help them fight the virus, then probably you can ‘take a punt’ on giving them experimental drugs, in a way that you could never do with a vaccine. (see below)
If you give a drug to someone who is almost certain to die if you don’t, then if they recover but experience some serious issues from it a year or two down the road, you could argue it was still very much the right thing to do.
On this basis it’s possible we could have an effective treatment considerably in advance of a vaccine. However we may also never have one. We simply don’t know at this stage.
Work is going on all over the world to find both a treatment and a vaccine.
Many possible drug treatments are currently in testing.
Trump in the US is currently pinning his hopes on HCQ, “hydrochloroquine”. 30 million doses are in the process of being distributed across America.
Opinion is currently divided on how effective the drug can be when treating Covid-19 patients. We should know fairly soon.
If a safe, very effective, easy to manage drug can be found, it changes everything. Tt would mean that government’s can lift restrictions,
– and in a very short space of time, given how infectious the virus is, it will spread rapidly into the vast majority of the population, meaining herd immunity, 80 or 90% of the population building up antibodies, will be rapidly achieved.
‘Life as it was before’ can return.
‘The Holy Grail’ is obviously a safe and highly effective vaccine, widely available and administered. All restrictions could immediately be lifted.
Unfortunately this is very unlikely to be available before the end of this year, quite possibly not until well into next year. Maybe never.
Just as you can potentially take some risks in testing a drug treatment, on very ill patients, clearly you can not take the same kind of risks in administering a vaccine to otherwise fit and healthy ones.
A vaccine for Covid-19 could end up being given to literally billions of people.
If it turns out that the vaccine causes major health problems in a large proportion of the people who receive it, six months, a year, or even a year down the line,
– the implications would be extremely serious.
I would this is one of the reasons why many potential vaccines are currently being developed and in testing, but we are very unlikely to see one being available to the general population, in any country before 2021.
Understandably a lot more regulations surround vaccines.
One important point to note however is that it is expected that the massive advantage of a vaccine over ‘herd immunity’,
– is that the immunity provided by it may well last several years, and also provide immunity against new mutations of the Covid-19 virus,
– whereas immunity from having had, and recovered from Covid-19, may only last for a few months, and may not protect against the mutations which will take place in future.
There are five main paths out of the current situation being considered/adopted by nations across the world,
– until a fully tested vaccine for Covid-19 becomes widely available, or an effective treatment for it, or a high degree (80 to 89%) of herd immunity in their population is reached.
Note: Virologists say that the massive advantage of a vaccine over ‘herd immunity’, is that the immunity provided by a vaccine is usually much stronger than the immunity acquired from contracting and recovering, developing antibodies,
– vaccine generated immunity may last several years, and also protect against new mutations of the Covid-19 virus,
– whereas immunity from having had, and recovered from Covid-19, may only last for a few months, and may not protect against the mutations which will inevitably occur in future.
i) Test, identify those infected, isolate the infected, track all their previous contacts, isolate them also.
(This approach has been used by China and South Korea)
Identify everyone your population infected with the virus using mass testing, isolate all the infected, track all their previous contacts. Close all borders, enforce a very strict quarantine on anyone that you allow into the country for at least fourteen days, to prevent new outbreaks.
Requires the state to have knowledge of all its citizens, and their whereabouts, their previous movements, at all times.
China complimented this policy with severe lock downs, South Korea largely managed without them, but only because it had records of all its citizens, who were very compliant:
– anyone infected was interviewed and willingly provided the authorities with their precise movements over the previous two weeks, enabling all their previous contacts to be traced, tested, and if found to be infected, also isolated.
Population can then be released from lock down, after just a few months, however as very little herd immunity will have been built up, it is highly likely that another ‘spike’ of infections will occur, and it could be bigger than the first.
In order to prevent this, constant retesting and monitoring is therefore required.
Finally, carry out a huge vaccination program of almost the whole population as soon as a fully tested vaccine becomes available.
Civil liberties are severely compromised, but only for a short period. The economy is not significantly damaged, companies and individuals need only modest support. National debt does not spiral.
We have between one and three million people in the UK illegally, we could never hope to test all these people simply because we don’t know where they are, or who they are, trying to trace who they had been contact with over the previous two weeks would clearly be impossible.
Low mortality, low impact on economy, but this option is simply not feasible for the UK.
ii) “Acquire herd immunity through periodic lock downs / releases, flatten the infection curve’,
– accept that 80 or 90% of the population will eventually become infected, and that these lock downs will be needed until they are.
The most vulnerable 10 to 20% will be protected and not become infected, as the disease will slowly disappear from the main body of the population.
Intermittent lock downs could be required for 18 months, or longer, however long it takes to build up to 80 or 90% infected/recovered.
In between lock downs the economy has a chance to recover, at least a little, during the periods when the most severe restrictions are lifted for the general population (they must remain constantly in place for the most vulnerable).
Companies and individuals will need repeated significant financial support, but this strategy will hopefully avoid collapsing the economy.
National debt will rise significantly. Civil liberties are periodically severely compromised for most of us, for the most vulnerable, constantly compromised for the next 18 months, possibly longer.
The ‘periodic lock down strategy’ should restrict new infections to a rate that your health service can cope with, and largely within the youngest / most able to cope with the virus section of the population. There will still however be a large numbers of Covid-19 related deaths.
Vaccinate the most vulnerable once a vaccine becomes available, in twelve to eighteen months time, maybe, release the most vulnerable from lock down.
Herd immunity will hopefully eventually be achieved, but if only a small percentage have been exposed / developed antibodies to this point,
– a badly damaged economy will almost inevitably result, with significantly higher national debt, a lot of our civil liberties being periodically taken away for most of us, worst case, for the majority of the next 18 months,
– and a significant number of Covid-19 related deaths.
(If 80% of 67 million become infected, and 1% of these die, that’s well over half a million people in the UK. Yes, some of these would have died anyway, but there will still be a lot of extra deaths, we know that not all victims are elderly, and/or have underlying health problems).
The severity and frequency of the lock downs imposed during this period will depend on the capacity of the NHS to cope.
However the health of the economy, and the effects on physical and mental well being… also need to be considered,
– can you really keep ‘stopping and starting’ an economy in this way, how many people will die as a result of recurring periods of great anxiety, fear and the huge stress that accompany them?
Will the economy survive? How many people will die as a result of a failed economy.
It’s vital we ensure that ‘the cure’ does not end up being worse than the disease.
A vaccination program would be instigated if/when a vaccine was found, starting with the most vulnerable in society, those who had not been exposed.
This appeared to be the option which was initially favoured by the UK government. Civil liberties greatly impacted. Moderate mortality, severe damage to the economy.
iii) “Implement a potentially 18-month-long, severe lock down”… until a fully tested vaccine/treatment available.
Businesses would need huge financial support, individuals would need huge financial support, the national debt would spiral, damage to the national economy would likely be immense. Almost certainly there would be no economy at the end of it.
Civil liberties would be severely compromised for up to a year and a half, however death rates would be low.
Instigate a huge vaccination program once a vaccine is available. (Almost zero herd immunity will have been built up)
This option is probably not an option for any country. Low mortality, financial ruin.
iv) Carry on with life exactly as we always have done, simply accept that many people will die as herd immunity builds.
The fastest route back to ‘normal life’ would actually be to simply lift all restrictions and allow the virus to spread ‘like wildfire’ through the whole population. It is so infectious that in something like a month the vast majority of us might well have acquired it.
Of course the very serious problem with this approach is that, even with its hugely increased capacity, in terms of ventilators and ITUs,
– the health service of any country which did this would be quickly and massively overwhelmed.
Unable to treat the majority of serious of cases, a huge number of additional people would die as a result, many of whom might have survived had they been able to receive the appropriate level of care.
Instigate huge vaccination program for the entire population once available.
This option is not an option for any country. Civil liberties are not affected, economy takes only a small hit, but extremely high mortality rate, almost certainly ‘political suicide’ for any government.
v) Implement an initial lock down, take control of mortality rates, build up health care resources, PPE supplies,
– then once there is a significant surplus of health care capacity and PPE, slowly release restrictions, but continue with social distancing, use of PPE, strict hygiene, continue to protect the most vulnerable, and perform as much testing as possible at all times.
As restrictions are released, infections rates and mortality rates will inevitably rise again. Unless there is a huge spike, there should not be any reintroduction of the latest restriction released, no ‘backward steps’ taken.
Once mortality rates begin to drop again, release more restriction(s).
Businesses need to reopen, and stay open. Repeatedly ‘stop/starting’ will destroy our economy.
It might not be possible to put exact timescales on, but we should have a clear plan of in what order we will restart everything.
We should have a clear exit strategy. A plan. We should be told the sequence in which restrictions will be lifted.
People will continue to get sick and die from Covid-19. Civil liberties will gradually be returned. Mortality rates may still be ‘moderate’, but it provides the best opportunity for economy to remain intact and eventually thrive again.
Businesses will have some sense of certainty, individuals will have confidence that restrictions will slowly be released, and not just periodically reimposed, ‘on / off, stop / start’…. mental health will be better protected.
It’s something of a compromise, but a sensible one. There is no ‘easy answer’ to the situation we find ourselves in.
I sincerely hope this is the option which the UK will adopt over the coming months.
Different countries across the globe are addressing the Covid-19 pandemic in different ways.
Let’s be clear, lock downs are not a ‘solution’, they are simply a delaying tactic. They delay virus spread.
If you can ‘delay’ virus spread until an effective treatment or vaccine are available, you will have saved huge numbers of people from dying from Covid-19, however every day of lock down damages the economy of the country performing it.
If this turns out to be many months, the number of people who will die from a failed economy could turn out to be more than the number who have been saved from Covid-19.
In the UK, no functioning economy, no finances to keep the NHS running.
This is the dilemma facing every government across the world.
Sadly it’s not something Piers Morgan seems to be able to appreciate, but most intelligent people seem to be starting to do so.
Delaying the virus spread by means of an initial lock down makes perfect sense, no country in the world was properly prepared for a pandemic on this scale, the UK certainly wasn’t.
The delay in virus spread from ‘locking down’ could have been, should been used to ramp up the capacity of the NHS (and to a large degree was, fortunately the army was involved in organising the set up of the Nightingale hospitals, and did an amazing job),
– but also to acquire huge numbers of effective tests, both antigen and antibody, and to ensure sufficient Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) was available, not just for doctors and nurses, but anyone working in hospitals or Care Homes.
Acquiring and distributing PPE
The stories about UK companies trying to offer to supply large quantities of PPE to our government, but receiving no response, and as a result shipping huge amounts that they have stored in the UK…. off to other countries,
– are many, and inexcusable.
Acquiring tests and developing a plan to use them productively
The same goes for testing, bureaucracy and red tape have bedevilled the provision of testing, laboratories have offered their services and not been taken up on them.
At the time of writing (early May 2020), no coherent plan has been published specifying how we are going to use all the tests that we now have in production. Random testing is clearly going to be of very little benefit.
I have strong doubts that testing is going to get us very far in terms of controlling the outbreak of Covid-19 in the UK, not least because we have between 1 and 3 million people living here illegally, and they are not going to want to tracked or traced, “thank you very much”…
– if testing is going to play any part in quelling the spread of the virus, and not just in working out who has it/has not got it,
– and can go back to work,
– then we need a proper plan.
Several months in, we still don’t have one.
There has been no proper coordination, ‘goal posts have been moved’.
Companies have offered PPE, either from stock piles or newly produced, to the UK government and been ignored. Laboratories have offered testing capacity, and these offers have been ignored. Very, very poor.
PPE and testing kits are almost certainly going to be needed on a huge scale for at least the next 12 months,
– we should involve the top people from the business, and from our military in acquiring and making sure that sufficient PPE and testing kits are available to those who everyone who needs them.
It can no longer be left to the UK government, our Civil Service, and NHS procurement teams. They have proven themselves to be either overwhelmed or incompetent, or both.
Almost every country across the globe acted differently with respect to Covid-19, which got it right?
There is much speculation as to which of the five strategies listed will prove to be ‘the best’.
As always this will depend to a large degree on how they are judged, and when.
This judgement can not be purely made on Covid-19 deaths.
We need to take into account deaths from all the other ‘standard’ causes also, many of which are likely to rise dramatically as a result of the intense focus on preventing virus deaths,
– and the accompanying large scale reallocation of resources which has taken place, in the UK and across the world.
Economic damage, as a result of actions taken to prevent Covid-19 spread/deaths, will also lead to increased mortality.
We have to look at overall deaths rates, and we have to study them in a year’s time, or even two years’ time. Only at this point will we be able to make a proper assessment of ‘who did the right thing, and who didn’t’.
We will also need to assess the respective state of national economies, a year or two years hence,
– because if an economy has been severely damaged,
– increased death rates from non-Covid-19 causes can be expected for many years to come.
Countries which locked down really early, very successfully contained and prevented the initial spread of Covid-19, and resulting illnesses, deaths,
– currently ‘look great’ when tables are viewed showing ‘death rate by country’.
They are heralded by many as ‘having done the right thing’.
Greece is a classic example.
Greece ‘looks great’ in the Covid-19 death rate tables now, they may not ‘look so great’ in 18 months’ time.
Greece wasn’t doing well economically before Covid-19, how will its economy look after a prolonged lock down?
We keep hearing that our government is ‘following the science’, but I’ve heard some scientists ‘praising Greece’s approach to the Heavens’,
– others saying it will be a complete disaster for the Greeks in the medium / long term,
– mostly because their very early lock down has prevented any herd immunity whatsoever from building up in their population,
– so, when they release restrictions, they are at huge risk of a very rapid and large out break occurring.
The only way they will be able to prevent this, is by constantly monitoring everyone in the country, and enforcing extremely strict quarantining,
– bit of a problem when tourism represent 18% of GDP, as it does in Greece.
Or did, prior to Covid-19.
We will see ‘who is right’ in time. But not for a long while yet.
Lock downs delay virus spread. However lock down also cost a lot of money, and cause a lot of damage to economies, and lock downs have to end at some point.
We have yet to see what happens when, the lock downs, of various severity, are gradually, or in some countries, possibly not so gradually released.
Only after we have seen the effects of this, will we have any real idea of which country went down the best route.
Very likely, we may have to wait at least another year at least before we can make any really sound judgements.
If we don’t have a vaccine or treatment available, and antibody testing reveals that the percentage of people who have already acquired immunity is relatively small, or it turns out that herd immunity is very short lived,
– it’s going to be a really tough year, maybe 18 months in the UK.
How are we going to cope with it,
– what do we need to do next?
Clearly we can not maintain a strict lock down, with most businesses suspended, for another 18 months. Equally we can not keep releasing restrictions and then reimposing them. Repeatedly ‘stop starting’ our businesses and economy, will be a rapid road to financial ruin.
The UK population ‘won’t wear’ even periodic severe lock down for another full year and a half.
Nor should it.
Repeated periods of lock down wouldn’t just result in massive economic harm, the damage to the physical and mental health of the UK population would be immense.
So what can we do?
We can, we need, we must, develop ‘a new way to live’,
– a way that protects our physical and mental health, and the health of our economy, as best we can,
– controlling the spread of the virus as best we can, and at the same time protecting the most vulnerable in our society.
First up we need to stop fooling ourselves that sitting indoors for a few weeks will get us through this problem. Very clearly it won’t.
We will only be able to resume ‘life as it was before’, once either we reach a very high level of herd immunity, 80 to 90 percent, or we have a vaccine and/or treatment available.
Even if we manage to achieve a high degree of herd immunity, we will still need to be very careful to protect our most vulnerable.
There is very little doubt that our government massively failed in its duty to protect Care Home residents in the early stages of the pandemic,
– we have to throw ‘a ring of steel’ around them, we have to provide everyone who is working there or visiting, with all the PPE they need.
This is going to be ‘a marathon not a sprint’.
We need to find a way to get people out of their houses, back to work, into their local parks, and local countryside, as safely as possible,
– simply telling people that they should stay indoors, or in their garden, if they are lucky enough to have one, is not going to be feasible for an 18 month period.
Stalling our economy for 18 months is not feasible, even ‘periodically’, ‘on and off’.
Telling people they can not enjoy outdoors pursuits for this amount of time, is not feasible,
– it’s not even sensible in the short term in many cases.
I believe government advice has been seriously flawed in one key respect from pretty much the outset…
Imagine a household with three or four generations living together:
– one member is a key worker, working for the NHS,
– this household member, aged 30, becomes ill, but only mildly, with Covid-19. Or it’s suspected at least.
Government advice was for the Covid-19 sufferer not to leave the house for at least 7 days, everyone else to stay indoors for two weeks.
Study after study has shown that Covid-19 spreads by droplets through the air entering the human body, via a cavity, mouth, eyes, nose,
– and by living on certain surfaces, touched by someone infected, and then touched by someone else, and subsequently entering their body when they touch their mouth, eyes or nose.
By far the most common, easiest location for Covid-19 transmission to take place, from person to person, is a shared home.
There may be several elderly people, and/or people with underlying conditions in this example household.
My advice to them would be, every day, for the next seven days,
-“go the nearest open countryside or park, take a picnic lunch, and spend as long as you can away from the family home.
Obviously everyone in the household should keep social distance from other humans whist they are outside, almost always very easy in a park, pretty much never a problem in open countryside.
This is where they should be heading for ideally… but “get out of the house as much as you can for the next seven days”.
Our government’s advice was to stay in.
All other family members must stay in close contact, under the same roof, as someone with Covid-19. All day. Every day.
I would suggest “Goodbye Grandpa, Goodbye Grandma” … was very likely the frequent consequence of adhering to this advice.
We will never know the number of people who have died as a result of following this ‘stay indoors for two weeks with someone who has Covid-19 advice’,
– but it could be very large,
Interestingly the US is taking a very different stance to the ‘stay indoors’ advice we have in the UK, their advice for some time has been ‘get outside and stay outside as long as you can’.
Makes a lot more sense to me.
Irrespective of whether sunlight can destroy the virus (mooted by some),
– any kind of breeze is likely to blow infected droplets away before they can be inhaled by someone else if you are outside.
I realise I may be accused of ‘inciting people to break the law’ here, but if you live in a household with a number of others, and want to minimise your chances of getting infected with Covid-19,
– then my advice is get outside, keep your distance from everyone else of course, ideally find some open countryside nearby if you can, or a large park,
– and stay there for as long as you can.
(Don’t forget to wear sun cream though!)
I am not advocating ignoring any of the other guidelines, which are largely very sensible.
Wash hands thoroughly, maintain at least a two metre distance from everyone else, only go in shops when you have to, don’t visit the houses of family and friends, and don’t travel long distances for no good reason. All eminently reasonable.
Staying at home, particularly staying indoors, when you have a large open space relatively nearby, stupid. Get out there and enjoy it safely.
The UK, almost however you view the statistics, has suffered more deaths from Covid-19 than most other European nations, some of these with reasonably similar ‘populations profiles’ to our own.
What the possible explanations for this?
A) “Delay in locking down”
– possibly… although this may actually provide some benefit in the long run, if we have built up some herd immunity as a result.
B) “Chronic lack of PPE”
– almost unquestionably.
We clearly had nowhere near sufficient quantities to protect our front line workers, whether they were working in hospitals, in Care Homes, on the buses or in supermarkets.
C) Lack of reliable tests
We were slow to move on testing.
The ability to be able to test whether people had the virus, or just a Cold/’flu, all over the UK, quickly and easily,
– would have enabled a large number of crucial front line workers to be able to go back to work much more quickly than they did.
Whilst this probably led to some extra, otherwise avoidable deaths, it probably wasn’t a huge factor.
This manifested itself in a number of ways, I would suggest two large examples are/were:
. sending people out of hospital, and into Care Homes, without first testing to determine whether they were carrying/shedding Covid-19
– must have cost untold numbers of lives.
. telling people who live in large, multi-generational households, that they must stay indoors, with someone who very likely has Covid-19, for at least a week, possibly two,
– personally I wouldn’t be surprised if this also caused a large number of avoiding deaths.
If you don’t want to contract Covid-19 (and who would), then the safest place to be is outside.
Study after study has confirmed that the virus finds it almost impossible to transmit ‘in open air’. If you maintain the, by now ingrained 2 metre social distance, then there is hardly any risk of contracting Covid-19 from someone outdoors.
In a recent study of outbreaks in China, from a total sample size of more than three hundred,
– just one outbreak occurred outdoors, and it involved just two people. Probably a courting couple, not maintaining any kind of social distance.
Well worth a read: https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.04.04.20053058v1
E) How deaths are recorded in the UK
We are recording deaths as caused by ‘Covid-19’, when many of them were not. We have ‘double counted’ some deaths.
If someone in the UK dies with Covid-19 in their body, they are almost certain to be recorded as a ‘Covid-19 victim’. Even if they had serious health issues, and almost certainly would have died within a few days anyway.
The antigen tests, which are supposed to report whether a patient has the Covid-19 virus in their body, are notoriously unreliable. If someone is tested just prior to dying, they may well get a ‘false positive’, that is to say, the test say they have Covid-19, when in reality they don’t.
Doctors in the UK are being encouraged to enter Covid-19 on death certificates, as the ’cause of death’, if, in their opinion, it was ‘the most likely, on the balance of probabilities’ reason.
In other words, no testing has taken place, the doctor just puts it down as the cause of death for someone, because he thinks most likely that’s what killed them.
If an elderly person dies in a Care Home, where several others have died in quick succession, and Covid-19 has been detected in the Home previously, every chance the doctor will assume that’s what killed the latest person, and enter it on their death certificate,
– when in reality it may well have been something else altogether.
And finally ‘double-counting’:
– it’s perfectly possible for someone who is taken from a Care Home to a hospital, dies en route, or soon after arrival, to have their death included both in the hospital records, and at the Care Home.
The two totals are currently commonly being added together, to get ‘the true number of Covid-19 deaths in the UK’…. this may actually be resulting in more deaths being counted than are actually taking place.
A,B,C,D and E all probably play their part in explaining why the UK death count appears relatively high, when compared with other, ostensibly similar nations across the globe.
We need to be able to shop as safely as possible, work as safely as possible, and ‘play’ as safely as possible, including outdoors, until we can return to ‘life as it was before’, via one of the three possibly methods (vaccine, treatment, high percentage of herd immunity)
This will mean focusing on addressing the important things, the high risk things, like large gatherings of people, particularly indoors, and not on the relatively unimportant ones, the ones with very low risk, such as sunbathing and picnicking.
Much, in my opinion, stupid focus was put on these relatively tiny risk activities in the early stages of lock down.
We need to make shopping in supermarkets as safe as possible, this the most obvious common transmission site, outside of the home.
Police need to stop harassing people out walking perfectly safely in the countryside, at a considerable distance from anyone else, by using drones, and to stop pouring dye into natural beauty spots.
(Hang your heads in shame Derbyshire police: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/coronavirus-lockdown-police-turn-the-blue-lagoon-black-xqx626zqc)
If you are outside and keeping two metres or more from everyone else, then we know that you are not at any significant risk of catching the virus.
We need ‘safety police’, not ‘enjoyment police’. We can stay safe and also still enjoy ourselves, including outdoors.
In fact it’s imperative that we do so.
Enjoying outdoor activities is greatly beneficial to our immune systems, and we really need our immune systems to be working at their very best with Covid-19 around.
If you are able to drive a short distance to a nearby area of countryside, where you can exercise even further away from other people than perhaps is possible in your local park,
– then you should be encouraged to do this, not threatened with fines or worse. If you are very easily able to maintain a distance of more than two metres from other people when you get there, then you should be allowed to stay there as long as you wish.
If you live in the middle of a city or large town, do not have access to a car, and are only able to get to your local park,
– then ‘a rota system’ may need to be introduced to ensure too many people do not all use it at the same time, eg people living in certain post codes could perhaps be permitted to use a particularly popular park between 10 and 12, people with other post codes between 12 and 2pm, etc.
The ‘knee jerk’ reaction of “quick let’s shut everything” needs to stop.
It’s not sensible, not necessary, and it could even move us down a path towards civil unrest. Forget concerns over the countryside and beaches, this is ‘the place’ that we really need to avoid visiting. If people can see measures are sensible, they will follow them.
Harrass people sunbathing in the open countryside, many tens of metres from the nearest other human being, you will rapidly lose public respect and compliance.
We need to start focusing on making our shopping safer, and not on persecuting sunbathers and picnickers. As long as these people are keeping a safe social distance, sunbathers and picnickers are clearly not putting themselves or anyone else at any significant risk.
Sports need to restart, both professionally and at amateur levels. Some will be much easier than others, golf and angling involve no contact with your opponent, they could very easily begin again, even at amateur level, with just a few extra rules and procedures, in almost complete safety.
If all players are tested and certified ‘virus free’, most other sports could also resume in a relatively short time frame, albeit probably initially ‘behind close doors’ at a professional level.
(Any professional players who complain ‘it’s not the same without a crowd’ and refuse to play, should have their pay docked. Severely.
Refusing to play without a crowd present should be deemed a breach of contract. I would bet most reserve players would be glad of the opportunity to shine in front of a huge world audience.
Overpaid professional sports people might think ‘it’s all about them’, but it isn’t. It’s about resuming our lives as far as we can, as best we can, whilst living with a dangerous virus still present in our population…. until a fully tested vaccine or really effective treatment can be found for it.
People all around the world are being asked to sit at home, at the very least our, often incredibly well paid sportsmen and women, could entertain us by providing some competitive live sport for us to watch.
I have also seen highly paid professional players say they ‘would not be able to play because they would have the health and well being of their friends and family weighing too heavily on their minds’.
It’s a good job our doctors and nurses, cleaners, supermarket workers, bus drivers, paid far less in the majority of cases, don’t feel the same way, and take the same approach. It’s a horrible time, but ‘life must go on’).
We can do this, but we need to use common sense, not ‘sledgehammer’ draconian laws, with even more draconian interpretations placed on them, by over zealous police forces.
We can not allow fear to rule our lives. Or we may as well not have lives. Take sensible precautions yes, live in a state of perpetual fear and anxiety, no.
Our government, and even more so mass media, has been spreading fear like it was confetti at a Wedding, in order to get people to comply with lock down. To a large degree it has been a successful policy.
However at some point restriction are going to need to be lifted, and Covid-19 will still be around… and a lot of people are going to find this mentally very difficult to deal with… the ‘bombardment of fear’ has been so great, and gone on for so long.
Our police have been handed great power over us. Far more than they have had, certainly since the second world war.
We police in the UK by consent. Most of us have huge respect for our police, and support them in carrying out their often very difficult roles.
If this respect and support is lost, through abuses of these extreme new powers, it could take many years to regain it. Potentially this could be long after Covid-19 has ceased to be a serious threat.
By all means break up social gatherings, enforce ‘the 2 metre rule’, remind people to maintain strict personal hygiene, particularly hand washing,
– but stop harassing elderly couples with drones, miles away from anyone, out walking their dog in the countryside,
– stop pouring dye into local pools,
– if people are maintaining a good distance from each other, and not travelling long distances to get there, leave them to enjoy their sunbathing and picnics,
– and get rid of the web sites springing up, encouraging people to ‘grass’ on their neighbours, for the smallest of transgressions.
Do we really want to live in a society where you get reported to the police by your neighbour for going out walking your dog twice in one day,
– even though by any reasonable estimation, on both occasions you did so in complete safety?
I know I don’t.
Police appear to have taken to walking around informing people that “this isn’t a holiday”, “you’re not supposed to be enjoying yourselves out in the sunshine”.
There is nothing wrong with “treating this like a holiday” in some respects,
– as long as you view this as a holiday where you have to abide by some strict, but very simple rules. Exactly as you would do if for example you had travelled to Saudi Arabia prior to this outbreak.
“It’s not rocket science”.
We need to recognise that our immune systems need to be at their peak performance in order to be able to deal with the virus when we get it, as 80% of us are very likely to do. Sunlight and exercising outdoors are two large keys to maintaining a healthy immune system.
Fear, anxiety, stress, all of which are going to be massively increased by sitting indoors, watching endless ‘Corona Virus updates’, which mostly just list the latest death counts from around the world,
– are known to kill. Fear, anxiety and stress damage our immune system.
Subjecting ourselves to 18 months of all three of these, could do us all a huge amount of harm, short, medium and long term.
“The cure could very easily end up being much worse than the disease”.
The availability of an effective vaccine changes everything, enables ‘normal life’ to resume, but is not likely to be until at least 2021.
The availability of an effective treatment changes everything, enables ‘normal life’ to resume, but we have no idea if/when we’ll have one.
Reaching the point where 80 to 90% of the UK population has built up antibodies, through exposure to Covid-19, so called ‘herd immunity’, enables ‘normal life’ to resume, but until we have performed widespread testing across the country, we have no idea when this will be.
So we have no real idea when will be able to resume our normal lives, via one of the above.
All of these could be just a few short weeks away, but also quite possibly not until next year.
The lock down we have currently was probably essential,
– partly due to China covering up the initial outbreak,
– partly due to our government (and many others) not realising how serious this was going to be, how rapidly things would develop,
– partly due to having ignored the recommendations of “Exercise Cygnus” in 2016 (where our ability to cope with a pandemic was tested, and found to badly wanting),
– partly due to not organising ourselves very efficiently in the early stages of the UK outbreak, even once it did,
….we were without doubt seriously under prepared for what was about to his us.
As a consequence of this our NHS would have been quickly overwhelmed by a huge initial spike in cases had we not taken this action to slow the spread of Covid-19 amongst the UK population.
It “bought us time”, allowed to do a lot of the preparation that we should have done already, increase NHS capacity, acquire personal protective equipment, extra ventilators, testing facilities etc.
However we can not stay in lock down until next year. Or even just ‘mostly in lock down’.
Our economy will not survive, you can not keep ‘stopping and starting it’, we can increase our borrowing to a large degree, to help businesses cope with a short shutdown, but ultimately no economy, no NHS.
The population of the UK will simply not comply with almost endless months of lock down, with no end point specified.
So we need to work out a way keep the vital parts of economy healthy, and ourselves.
It’s imperative that we work out a way to keep our economy afloat until one of the three things above are achieved (a vaccine, treatment, or large degree of herd immunity).
We will likely need to work more from home, use personal protective equipment and employ strict social distancing when we are at work, follow very strict hygiene, adopt new rules and procedures, organise ourselves differently, innovate in many, many different ways, but we can do it.
We should move forward in stages, definitely not based on age, or BMI, or ethnicity, perhaps by ‘area of the country’, as determined by the result of large scale antibody testing.
In the US, states are reopening at different speeds, so are regions in Germany, it could make sense for the UK to do the same,
– ‘what’s right for London may not, almost certainly will not be right for Cornwall’.
Of course there will be issues with people travelling from one part of the UK to another, but this will always be the case, whatever strategy is adopted, we have devolution, laws in Scotland and Wales are already considerably different to laws in England.
However the staged lifting of restrictions is managed, it is imperative that we consider leisure time as well as work, and for physical and mental health reasons, continue to utilise our glorious parks, beaches and countryside, wherever possible.
If we are smart and sensible, we can do this safely, just as we can devise ways to continue working in safety.
We put a man on the moon 50 years ago, we can surely work out how to carry out our work, and also enjoy outdoor leisure time, whilst still protecting ourselves and others from a very nasty virus.
It’s vital to keep our morale up. Vital to stay as hopeful, happy and positive as we possibly can. Yes we need to prevent a very nasty, potentially deadly virus from taking a large number of lives, but we also need to live.
We can do this. Of course we can. Even if it’s for another 12 to 18 months, we can devise ways to work, and play, including outdoors, whilst still protecting the most vulnerable in our society.
Sitting indoors for months, watching endless Covid-19 death count updates, whilst our businesses fail, our economy nosedives, and fear, anxiety, stress and depression spiral, will cause our physical and mental health to deteriorate rapidly. It’s not an option. It can never be an option.
So let’s organise, innovate, get back to work, and restart our leisure activities,
– whilst at the same time staying safe, positive, and looking after each other.
(Some will be easier than others, for example golf, the vast majority of time on a golf course is spent a great distance from other people normally, it’s a non-contact sport, I’ve played in years gone by and apart from paying in the clubhouse, not been within two metres of anyone else for the whole round.
How hard can it be to organise playing golf safely? Clearly it would not be difficult at all).
If we start addressing these things properly, and with Common Sense, not purely ‘knee jerk shut downs” we will get through this just fine,
– and we will have learnt a huge amount about ourselves, exactly what is important in life, what isn’t, and what we need to differently, along the way.
Take care, stay safe, and stay well.