Sage – a useful herb, not to be confused with SAGE
Well, there’s interesting: a critique of the sainted SAGE Whitty has actually appeared in one of the broadsheets! Staying with covid: the EU is in such a mess over the Oxford vaccine that words fail not just me. Here at home there’s the Integrated Armed Services Review which has turned into such an impenetrable thicket of what “we” would be capable of that it’s beyond the understanding of mere mortals.
Looking at this review first, all I was able to pick up with some certainty from the various reports was the announcement that “we” will expand our stockpile of nuclear warheads by 40% and that “we” might use nuclear weapons:
“[…] if faced with a threat from devastating “emerging technologies” such as cyber and artificial intelligence, the Government’s landmark foreign policy review has warned. […] A Government source said the emerging technologies included “game changers” such as cyber, AI, encryption and laser directed energy weapons.” (paywalled link)
I wonder how BJ can square the circle of using nuclear weapons with saving the planet through Zero CO2, but what do I know about such ‘High Politics’ … !Speaking of which, ‘our friends’ across the Channel are in a total, self-inflicted mess. Seventeen EU member states, not least Merkel- and Macron-Land, have suspended the AZ Vaccine because of the danger of blood clots. This wasn’t based on worries for the health of their people though, as this revealing statement shows:
“Nicola Magrini, head of Italy’s medicines agency, said that the decision to suspend vaccinations was “a political one” that his country reached only “because several European countries, including Germany and France, preferred to interrupt”.” (link, paywalled)
Do we detect a bit of Me-Too-itis? Apparently, they’ll go back to administering that vaccine because the EMA, the EU Medicinal Agency, has reassured them again that this was blown out of all proportions. They’ll give their official verdict tomorrow. Here is a good report on this whole issue, well worth reading. Brussels has meanwhile accused member states of ‘stockpiling’ the vaccine while halting their vaccination drives which means that countries are facing a Third Wave (paywalled link).
Tempers over there are fraying. Germans for example are incensed that some can now travel to their beloved sunny beaches of covid-free Mallorca without having to go into quarantine when returning while at the same time German pubs and restaurants remain closed. They do have a point.
Meanwhile, the French have found another variant, homegrown, it seems, in the Bretagne. This is especially dreadful because people infected with this variant have negative PCR tests (paywalled link in German). No, don’t ask how they detected this variant – I have no idea! – but clearly we must be very afraid! As antidote to ‘mutant-fear’ I highly recommend this article by Michael Yeardon and Marc Girardot – very much worth reading despite its scientific language.
And so to the attempted Whitty whitewash. There’s an intriguing article in the DT. At first glance it looks like they’re blaming Whitty for the mess that got us the first lockdown a year ago – until it doesn’t:
“The question to Chris Whitty was short and to the point: should Britain close its borders? His answer was equally concise: “There’s no point – the virus is already here.” With those words in a meeting last March, Britain’s border policy was set in stone, not by Professor Whitty but by the Cabinet ministers surrounding him who chose not to query the logic of Prof Whitty and his Sage colleagues.” (paywalled link)
It’s astounding, isn’t it, that in the end, everybody was wrong and thus nobody can be blamed: Whitty was only stating ‘the science’, the Cabinet believed him because they were, after all, ‘following the science’ – blindly, as some now acknowledge:
“Prof Whitty’s view on closing borders is referred to by virtually every minister or official who was working in government at the time when they were asked about the border policy. For many, it is a catch-all excuse and explanation for government decisions that may have cost lives. Others now say they should have interrogated the facts behind the expert view rather than blindly following it.” (paywalled link)
There are more instances of mild regret creeping in, see this next, but Whitty is blameless because he also only ‘followed the science’:
“Prof Whitty’s all-important opinion was based on the prevailing view of the expert committee he heads, and other members of that committee say the scientists should take their share of the responsibility for the decision. One member of SAGE said: “The central question is, why did the expert community in Britain not believe that suppression was possible? There was a very strong view amongst the medical experts that once you got community transmission, that was it, and the best you could do was flatten the curve.” (paywalled link)
Ah – so this is where BJ’s PR remark about ‘squashing the sombrero’ came from! I hope there will be further reports into what changed the collective covid government’s mind from ‘curve flattening’ to lockdown … Meanwhile, fingers are pointed at travellers who were able to go skiing during the February half-term because borders remained open:
“As wealthy Britons headed to the ski slopes, the danger of holidays in the EU seemed negligible. By the time they returned home, Italy had put its northern cities into lockdown following a surge in cases, and on Feb 25 the Government included travel to northern Italy as a risk factor for catching Covid. “By the time we clocked that Covid was being seeded by people coming back from half-term holidays it was too late,” said one government official. “It wouldn’t have made a difference if we had closed the borders in March.” (paywalled link)
Lovely, isn’t it: a whiff of class struggle – blame ‘Teh Rich’ – and a glimpse into the minds of ‘government officials’ who speak of people – ‘those ‘wealthy Brits’, one presumes – as ‘seeding covid’. After having painted this picture of ‘we’re blaming everybody’, from ministers wanting to keep borders open to people taking their February skiing holidays, we come to the nitty gritty, to criticism of SAGE:
“At its very first Covid meeting on Jan 22, Sage noted that the sub-committee on New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats “does not advise port of entry screening, irrespective of the current limited understanding of the epidemiology”. It also “does not advise use of screening questionnaires, pilot declarations or requiring confirmation of exit screening at Wuhan”. Temperature checks on people arriving in the UK and other forms of screening were dismissed as “unlikely to be of value and have high false positive and false negative rates”.” (paywalled link)
Were the SAGEs happy to ‘let the virus rip’? Gasp! Moreover, they were aware of the uselessness of ’other forms of screening’ i.e. tests, because of false +ve and -ve rates! What happened to that assessment? We know, don’t we, what or rather who did: the Director General of the WHO who came out with ‘test-test-test’ a short while later!
That’s what happens if one follows the WHO from one about-turn to the other. That’s what happens when one ‘follows the science’ and parks one’s brains, letting oneself be dazzled by experts because one’s own science education is so woefully inadequate. Also, who would dare blame one afterwards if decisions prove to have been disastrously wrong in retrospect! There’s more:
“On Feb 3, after Italy had already banned flights from China, Sage estimated that if the UK reduced imported infections by 50 per cent it would “maybe delay the onset of any epidemic in the UK by about 5 days”, while a 95 per cent reduction “maybe buys a month”. Sage decided there was no point in disrupting travel for anything less than a month’s extra grace for the NHS, and that the restrictions required to do so “would require draconian and coordinated measures because direct flights from China are not the only route for infected individuals to enter the UK”. (paywalled link)
And here comes the washing-of-hands, always with regret, always with ‘it wasn’t us, guv!’:
“A spokesman for Prof Whitty said: “The CMO’s advice was at all times in line with Sage. As Sage minutes show, the advice was consistently that short of a complete border closure from all destinations measures would delay, but could not fully prevent, entry of the virus. It was a statement of fact that the virus was already present at the start of March, and not a reason not to take border measures.” (paywalled link)
So there you have it: covid was here already, but that didn’t mean measures to close the borders shouldn’t have been taken! It wasn’t the fault of the SAGEs! Nobody, you understand, is to blame – except those rich Brits who went skiing, it seems, not even our delightful MSM and their Project Fear & Hysteria, aptly demonstrated by the editor of The Times in his editorial today:
“The pandemic has taught government that in order to feel safe, we are willing to put up with much greater sacrifices of our liberty than it had previously imagined. This lesson will not be forgotten. At every stage of the pandemic, there has been a tendency to underestimate the public craving for safety, and support for tough measures to protect it.” (link, paywalled)
Were “we” really willing to put up with those sacrifices? Were “we” really craving for safety at the cost of our liberties? We weren’t asked, were we! Methinks this is yet another attempt by the Westminster cabal to wash their hands in innocence, this time blaming all of us, not just some “covid-seeding wealthy Brits”, for the mess we find ourselves in, through no fault of our own.
These are only the first attempts at explaining away the covid lockdown mess while avoiding blame. Keep them in mind for the time when we start to find out who all actually robbed us of a year of our lives!