Still in Lockdown …
The Lockdown continues. As far as politicians, experts and journalists are concerned we’re getting back to ‘normal’, or rather the ‘New Normal’. Suddenly, there are no headlines shouting about how many have died – but there are reports about how that lockdown might be lifted. You’ll be pleased to hear that Union bosses will be involved in talks about when schools might be reopened (link). Also, this week’s trade negotiations with Barnier have finished until May 11th. More on those talks below.
Meanwhile, there are headlines that Matt Hancock has finally ‘delivered’ 100,000 tests a day (link,paywalled) and that he’s planning to ‘ramp up’ those tests to 200,000. Very nice, but according to Labour this isn’t good enough because a number of those tests are the ‘home test kits’ and thus shouldn’t count towards the Hancock number. NHS bosses aren’t happy either:
“Hospital chiefs criticised the rush to get as many people as possible swabbed in what some in government likened to a “get out the vote” operation. Saffron Cordery, deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, said: “We should test with a purpose, not for its own sake.” (link, paywalled)
Testing NHS staff wasn’t ‘for a purpose’ then? Interesting! ‘Tis also a pity that Labour isn’t as concerned about the death rates where COVID-19 deaths are ‘assumed’ by doctors signing death certificates as they are about test kits possibly ‘not being used’ but counted. Whatever happens, it’s not good enough for Labour. “We’re all in this together” doesn’t apply.
For the weekend, Johnson will ask business leaders for their suggestions how to lift the Lockdown, SAGE will meet on Tuesday – looking at that R0 number – and I expect that this 2m-distance rule will be lifted because:
“The World Health Organisation only recommends staying one metre apart, and following the less rigid approach would allow Britons to travel and work more freely when restrictions are eventually lifted.” (link)
The WHO is never wrong … we must do as they say! And now ‘Our MSM’ can finally turn to another ‘blame game’ – one which doesn’t bode well for the elderly. The DT has collected ‘experts’ opinions’ and explanations to the question of “why did we do so badly”, with the top place going to the explanation that it’s because of our ‘elderly and unhealthy population’ (link, if you must).
I’m actually feeling quite sick after reading that particular expert’s opinion because he implies that if our population were younger we wouldn’t have such a death rate, i.e. if we didn’t have so many old and ill people our death rate would have been so much better.
One factor hasn’t been mentioned which was reported by clinicians both in the USA and in France: obesity (paywalled link, in German). There’s only one article about that – in the Financial Times, locked down behind a paywall – and their interpretation is that people are fat because they’re poor … That poverty is one main factor in Covid-19 deaths is lovingly illustrated in an article in The Times:
“People in the poorest parts of England are dying from Covid-19 at twice the rate of those in the richest areas, according to new analysis. Data from the Office for National Statistics also showed higher death rates in urban areas, and experts said that officials should take the findings into account when deciding how to ease lockdown.” (link, paywalled)
I can already hear Labour demanding more money for “The Poor” and for those living ‘in urban areas’ – we’re a ‘rich country’, after all, and can afford this! More taxes to pay for ‘Our Sacred Cow’, especially for all those PHE fat cats on salaries of £200,000 pa, to pay for the Lockdown devastation, to pay for care homes, for green stuff: anyone who pays taxes is rich!
Let me draw your attention to a fine article in the Spectator, by Dr John Lee, a recently retired professor of pathology and former NHS consultant pathologist. It’s about proper science. He starts with an observation which hasn’t influenced the CV-19 debate at all so far:
“Nothing makes sense in biology, except in the light of evolution,’ the splendidly named biologist Theodosius Dobzhansky wrote in 1973. It’s a good rule of thumb. Despite near-miraculous advances in medical science we remain biological beings, subject to biological laws. None is more central to our understanding of disease than evolution. Yet this theory remains poorly understood and poorly utilised in medicine. And an evolutionary perspective raises important questions about the drastic action we have been taking to confront Covid-19.” (paywalled link)
He next explains why evolution, especially in regard to CV-19, is important when looking at the Lockdown:
“Evolution is driven by inaccuracies in biological copying. Covid-19 is caused by a single-stranded RNA virus, a type particularly susceptible to copying errors. So much so, in fact, that viruses of this group are often referred to as ‘quasi-species’ because they are so variable. It’s likely that some particles of this virus infect their victims with a slightly less severe form of Covid-19, making them less ill. And so, on average, those people will be more likely to continue with their normal daily activities outside of a lockdown, going to work or out shopping. In short, they will be more likely to spread the virus to others.”
That seems a good explanation for all the reports from ordinary people about having had the virus, some worse, some not at all bad, without the need to go to hospital. He continues:
“In contrast, the particles that cause more severe Covid-19 disease will be spread less since the people who feel worse will circulate less. Hence the evolutionary effect: more severe versions of a new virus tend to decrease quite quickly over time, because the milder versions get spread around more.” (paywalled link)
Next, here’s his argument why the Lockdown might have been a bad thing:
“So, lockdown might actually be slowing the tendency of this new disease to get milder with time. Which raises an important question: might the lockdown be causing more harm than good — in this way as well as many others? Are our actions […] opposing a helpful evolutionary tendency of the virus, as well as economically hindering our ability to deal with it? The epidemiological models are silent on this. What’s worse, their predictions of how the virus behaves will be inaccurate if such an effect is present.” (paywalled link)
Well, epidemiologists need to know maths, not biology, never mind evolution! Here’s the conclusion:
“But for now the question remains: is it better to lock everyone down in hope of reducing a wave of severe cases, but with no real understanding of the wider effects on the virus or society at large? Or would it have been better to adopt what’s often described as the ‘herd immunity’ strategy and let the virus continue to circulate among younger, fitter people, diminishing its severity, while doing our best to protect and support those with greater vulnerabilities? Should we be rapidly reversing lockdown to help the virus help us? In this view, spread of the virus by people with no symptoms is a good thing because it helps the virus get milder more quickly. We have embarked on a drastic path without even considering the possibility.” (paywalled link)
Ah – but ‘Our MSM’ were in full screech-mode about ‘herd immunity’ being the worst thing possible! We really cannot expect even their science correspondents to understand biology, never mind evolution. As for Johnson and his cabinet: they just caved in to ‘Fear&Hysteria’ because they didn’t have a clue either, before they fell for the siren song of ‘500,000 will die’ by Prof Ferguson.
I hope and wish Dr Lee’s points will inform the debate in the HoC next week, mentioned by the inimitable Sir John Redwood in his diary today (link) where he lists questions about numbers – questions to which we all want answers.
And so to those Brexit trade negotiations. Our friends at facts4eu have published a devastating report on the economic effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the EU economy, based on the EU statistics out for the first quarter of the year, before their lockdown bit – do read it for yourselves, here.
As we all know, with an extension we’d be expected to pay into Brussels’ coffers – their budget talks will start towards the end of the year. Brussels will do anything to scare us into Remain, from ‘tantrums’ (link) to demands for separate rules for fish landed imports in NI (link), turning a blind eye to Dutch supertrawlers literally hoovering up fish in our coastal waters while our fishermen had to stay in harbour because of the Lockdown. Here’s a report with a nice map and here’s what our fishermen had to say.
That trade talks with the USA have been given ‘the green light’ to start next week (link) is welcome news. Me – I just want to know how come that it’s again us who observe the rules – lockdown this time – while EU member states blithely disregard them – be it Dutch supertrawlers or French Gendarmerie allowing “refugees” to cross the Channel, to be picked up by the Border Force, corona virus infected or not.
As we’re entering into another Lockdown weekend with sunshine and showers let’s hope it will be the last one and that restrictions will be lifted. ‘Quarantine’ goes back to the Italian ‘quarantena’, meaning “forty days”. It was first used in Venice during the times of the Black Death (not racist!). All ships were required to be isolated before passengers and crew could go ashore during that period.
Those 40 days will be over tomorrow, and if it was good enough for Venice during the Black Death then it ought to be good enough for us in this modern age of high-tech and high-tech medicine.