Boris Johnson today told reporters that Covid is “still a very dangerous disease” as he encouraged people to stick with self-isolation when ‘pinged’. “Don’t forget, we will be coming forward with a new system from August 16th,” he said during a visit to Surrey Police HQ in Guildford. “Until then please everyone, stick with the programme.”
He also warned against drawing “premature conclusions” from the dropping coronavirus case numbers, saying:
I’ve noticed, obviously, that we are six days in to some better figures. But it is very, very important that we don’t allow ourselves to run away with premature conclusions about this. Step Four of the opening-up only took place a few days ago, people have got to remain very cautious and that remains the approach of the Government.
The PM’s remarks may be little more than prudent caution, but describing Covid as “still a very dangerous disease” doesn’t tally with the fatality rate, always very low for most of the population at below 0.1%, and now apparently reduced further including for those at higher risk by the vaccination programme. Does Boris not believe the vaccines are effective? If he doesn’t, what was the point of them? The Government needs to sort out its messaging on this.
Beyond messaging, though, why is the Government continuing with plans for Test and Trace beyond August 16th? When do they plan to accept that the crisis is over and cease all emergency public health measures and return us to the way things were in February 2020?
It’s all very well warning about “premature conclusions” but there’s nothing premature about pointing out that the fast drop in reported positive cases in the past nine days (down over 50%) was not predicted by any Government scientists or their models. Even if it doesn’t continue (though it looks like it may, as it has in Scotland) it points to serious problems with their model assumptions about how this virus spreads and who is susceptible.
Sceptics who have been following the data and scientific studies will not be surprised by the fall in infections despite the lifting of restrictions, as there is no evidence that imposing restrictions is necessary to end a Covid epidemic and no evidence that lifting restrictions triggers an ‘exit wave’, which occurred neither in the U.K. last summer nor in the U.S. this spring. Government ministers and scientists, however, may be slower to accept the implication of herd immunity (at least for this season and variant) that the latest fall implies.
Not, though, it seems Professor Neil Ferguson, who was on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme today, backtracking on his claims on July 18th that it was “almost inevitable” that daily cases would climb to 100,000 and distinctly possible they would hit 200,000, giving us a “difficult summer”. Now, apparently, “the equation has fundamentally changed”.
We need to remain cautious, especially with the potential increase in contact rates again as the weather becomes less fine and schools return. We’re not completely out of the woods, but the equation has fundamentally changed. The effect of vaccines is hugely reducing the risk of hospitalisations and death. And I’m positive that by late September or October time we will be looking back at most of the pandemic. We will have Covid with us, we will still have people dying from Covid, but we’ll have put the bulk of the pandemic behind us.
Okay, it’s still a pretty cautious statement, and why wait till October when cases are plummeting now despite ending restrictions? But it’s the first sign of a new tune from the SAGE gloomsters. If the PM won’t listen to us sceptics, even though we’re increasingly being vindicated by events, will he listen to his failed advisers as they change their tune?