Wednesday 7 October 2020

How do we live with the virus over the winter?

This Covid-2019 is so hard to manage. After a six months it does not seem that much the Government do makes a lot of difference to managing the outbreak. Despite our breathless media, the same is true in some other countries like France and Spain. 

Heavy handed lockdowns have worked in March and April to reduce in the UK and other Countries, but only at a huge economic cost and also a big cost to wider health outcomes. Excess deaths is the real measure of how badly the epidemic is affecting a country and the UK in Europe (likely in part due to being honest about deaths) is the worst affected. This covers not just covid deaths, but also the more 'normal' killers like cancer and heart disease - both exacerbated by the refusal to treat people in hospital by the Heath Service and Government. 

But we are where we are and there are no silver bullets here to stop the pandemic short of a vaccine which at best must still be 6 months from any kind of roll-out that would have a real world impact. 

However, the Government to me has not got things badly wrong. In March they were unfairly criticised for taking the time to consider how long a lockdown could work. Here we are in October, willfully ignoring the evidence. Matt Hancock I saw yesterday basically threatening the population that increases in local covid cases will see the closure again of cancer treatments. To me, this is totally unacceptable - a punishment on the weak created by the (immune) strong and backed by the Government. It reflects the desperation of the Government to control a bored and frustrated population. 

If I had lost my job, the idea I am going to sit at home and starve is for the birds. Who cares about a virus that you are 99% likely to recover from as compared to losing your lifestyle, home and possibly family?  No chance. 

With the lack of compliance and new evidence showing lockdowns are no longer effective we need a change in how we deal with the virus and one guided by economics and wider health concerns than only covid. 

I would go for:

- End lockdowns of all types. 
- Rigorously enforce social distancing, wearing masks and basic hygiene
- Open all businesses and schools as long as they can create a socially distanced environment. Properly monitor and inspect establishments, with big fines for non-compliance. 

Only in an extreme case of say over 100,000 cases per day would be have a national lockdown and even then only for a couple of weeks to take the edge off the cases. 

The biggest challenge is around shielding, over 70's should be offered voluntary shielding by the Government for a long period, up to a year from now. This is the vulnerable group but they are also adults, if they want to take risks they should be allowed to do so, but if they want to shield they should be supported in that. 

I am no doctor, but I can see psychologically the impact of the pandemic and economically we are having a nightmare - something needs to change and the Government's science only led approach is not working in the wider interest. 


DJK said...

As you note, cases, followed a fortnight later by hospitalizations and later still deaths, are rising in all European countries. No government has the magic bullet to stop what might be a very difficult time later in the Winter.

It's easy to say no lockdown but stricter mask wearing and social distancing. But many businesses rely on close human contact, pubs most obviously. So does closing pubs, or making them unviable, count as lockdown or not? Likewise with shielding the over 70s. Most over 70s that I know are taking great care to shield themselves as it is. But you cannot prevent all contact with younger people. Is granny supposed to spend her Christmas alone this year?

I think for me the biggest failure is the lack of information about where the virus is actually spreading. Surely this should be known by now from the contact tracing system? (Probably not, given how shambolic it is.)

If we knew exactly where the virus spreads then we could have targeted measures to stop it. University dorms, for sure. But is it spreading through pubs, family contacts, offices, public transport? Nobody knows, or if they know they're not telling.

BlokeInBrum said...

I was fully supportive of having a couple of weeks lockdown in March. I felt that the government needed to buy some time in order to assess the situation and get a handle on how they were going to respond to it.
At the time, information on the virus was scarce and contradictory, as we saw with the whole situation regarding the need for ventilators. The mantra was to ramp up their production, and to "flatten the curve" so as to not overwhelm the NHS.
Here we are, 6 months down the line.
The evidence shows that the virus is not that transmissable with a section of the population probably naturally immune. The rest of us are not much at risk, with the exception on those who are elderly and already immunosuppressed.
The recent ramp up in cases is probably in response to all the schools and universities starting back up, but nowhere near the exponential growth that the doom-mongers have been bleating on about.
The sensible response at this point is to protect those who are vulnerable, but otherwise do nothing. The damage that the Government has done to the economy is immense, and the true fallout will only be felt in the coming months.
If the Tory party wanted to destroy the economy and kill the livelyhoods of those people most likely to vote for them (small businesses, enterpreteneurs, gig economy), then they couldn't have done much better. And what lessons are we teaching young people going off to University when they can be arbitrarily detained on campus very much like the Uighurs are detained in camps in China?

BlokeInBrum said...

Whats Boris going to try next, a social credit scheme like they have in China?
Perhaps permits to travel like the old Soviet Union.
This Tory Government has done an incredible amount of damage to our historic freedoms.
Do any of these statutory powers have sunset clauses or are they conveniently open ended?

DJK said...

I note the Speccie has an article about how politicians are turning against lockdowns. The Irish have declined to follow the advice of their scientific advisors. Likewise, Nicola Sturgeon (and Boris) have been threatening October circuit break lockdowns but will probably just tweak the existing restrictions. So I think that CU and BlokeInBrum represent an emerging consensus here, that we may just need to take it on the chin for now.

david morris said...

Using the Chinese Covid-19 plague as an excuse, rulers across the world have imposed the kind of restrictions on the plebs that you normally don’t even see in wartime. Yet the only danger to is a flu-like virus which accidentally leaked from a Chinese research lab and which is almost only dangerous to the elderly. Moreover, Covid-19 kills many fewer people than Alzheimers and Heart Disease.

So, we now know the key groups to protect against the Chinese plague and those who will hardly be affected by the Chinese plague. Yet countries across the world are imposing totalitarian restrictions on all their citizens which are wrecking their economies and destroying people’s lives. In Australia & Canada, special centres have been set up to detain people who repeatedly break lockdown restrictions.

And in the UK a "Conservative" government is seriously considering the introduction of ‘Covid Marshals’ who will have the power to arrest anyone breaking lockdown rules.

Now our rulers have got the taste for controlling our lives, one could wonder whether they will ever give up their new power over us. Or (vide the misuse of RIPA legislation) will we see similar powers used and abused to fight such fictitious threats as ‘Climate Change’ or supposedly to ‘Protect the Environment’, or to combat whatever other imaginary threat they can think of?

Sobers said...

"Rigorously enforce social distancing, wearing masks and basic hygiene"

Why do you think these measures have any effect? If they did why are normal flu deaths completely unaffected by them?

Anonymous said...

"If they did why are normal flu deaths completely unaffected by them? "

I thought flu deaths had declined considerably. Unfortunately Public Health England don't seem to be adapting to the CV19 world.

"GP consultation rates for influenza-like illness(ILI) remain below baseline intensity thresholds in all UK schemes."

Well what sodding use is that? GPs everywhere are telling people not to visit, and are doing most stuff by phone.

Anonymous said...

The government have badly, badly screwed up.

I supported the initial lockdown, which should have given them time to start up a proper Track/Trace setup and come up with a number of strategies. And I support "circuit-breaker" lockdowns, but that support comes with an expectation of some basic competence.

Instead we've currently got a pincer movement of Boris Bluster and Liz Truss in full School Matron mode, really could replace them with Sid James and Hattie Jacques to little change.

It has been a litany of screw ups, many avoidable without the benefit of hindsight, and letting the few good ideas get skewered by hindsight.

And the complete lack of responsibility. Own the fuck ups.

Sobers said...

"I thought flu deaths had declined considerably."

They always do over the summer. But there's no evidence that they have had any step change in prevalence due to the introduction of masks or social distancing, or even the lockdown. Flu deaths have tracked their long term average consistently over the entirety of 2020, and are currently running well above Covid ones, not that you'd notice from the hysteria in the media.

Anonymous said...


Or a massive pool party, like they just had in Wuhan.
I have to disagree with the excellent host of this blog on the SD aspect. I don't want any of it. Social distancing, vaccine, lockdown. I'll take my chances. Sign away my right to NHS treatment for COVID/to die on a ventilator, if necessary. Sick of all of it.

"But you might die". Pffff. Live is barely worth living now anyway.

Anonymous said...

CU for PM!

E-K said...

Get rid of social distancing too.

Shield the vulnerable but only if they want to be.

Otherwise there is going to be NOTHING left.

dearieme said...

"the Government's science only led approach"

You can't be science-led, only scientist-led.

Unfortunately the scientists served up to ministers were selected (I assume) by our Rolls Royce civil service. Hell, they even selected a mathematical modelling charlatan with an appalling record of over-prediction.

Personally I'd hope that had I been in charge I'd have wanted advice also from some doctors - in the sense of clinical people - and non-scientific people; God save us, even economists.

E-K said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
E-K said...


No balanced risk assessment was taken - and that includes on the deaths by unemployment and ensuing refugee crisis that is going to hit the developing world that supplies our goods.

And certainly no assessment on the impact of CCP led China stealing a march on the Capitalist West.

This could not have been handled worse in my view.

The Cowboy Online said...

"I would go for:

- Rigorously enforce social distancing, **wearing masks** and basic hygiene"

"I am no doctor,"

You're no doctor but you could be mistaken for a politician.

CityUnslicker said...

Thanks for the comments, well this has been a shit show really all around does not seemt to be improving.

one element that still annoys meis track and trace. It only works on a small scale when there are a few cases and an army of people to track them. as soon as there is community spread it fails. We are not China with the big stick or sweden with the big just wont work here.
however, individual responsibility and hygiene could work better, but the media seek to undermine this by infantalising everything.

Also, the spread is in care homes and hospitals in the main still - but the Government still wont say this which is worrying.

iOpener said...

Until hospitals are actually clogged, do nothing.

When hospitals start to get clogged with covid cases, if ever, cancel hospital treatments that are merely elective, then if clogging continues, cancel more serious treatments and so on.

Is there any sane, decent, person who would give up his elective surgery spot to allow treatment of a serious covid case?