Day: 11 May 2022

“The Biggest Global Power Grab We Have Seen in Our Lifetimes”: How Serious is the Threat From the WHO Pandemic Treaty?

Later this month the World Health Assembly, the governing body of the World Health Organisation, will meet in Geneva, Switzerland, and among its business are amendments put forward by the U.S. Government to the pandemic treaty, the International Health Regulations 2005.

The process of creating a new pandemic treaty or amending the existing one was announced in December (though the origins go back earlier) and was a response to a call from governments, including the U.K, for a strengthened global pandemic strategy coordinated by the WHO.

In a consensus decision aimed at protecting the world from future infectious diseases crises, the World Health Assembly today agreed to kickstart a global process to draft and negotiate a convention, agreement or other international instrument under the Constitution of the World Health Organisation to strengthen pandemic prevention, preparedness and response.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, said the decision by the World Health Assembly was historic in nature, vital in its mission, and represented a once-in-a-generation opportunity to strengthen the global health architecture to protect and promote the well-being of all people.

Many are concerned, however, that the U.S. amendments will transfer significant sovereignty over public health policy to an unelected and unaccountable global organisation.

China Digs In and Tightens Shanghai Lockdown in Unrelenting Pursuit of Zero Covid

Shanghai officials over the next few days will further restrict access to food and hospitals in the city, the most severe phase of its extended lockdown yet. BBC News has the story.

Commercial food deliveries are not allowed and access to hospitals for all but emergencies must first be approved. Neighbours of COVID-19 cases and others living close by are also being forced into government quarantine facilities. Shanghai is now in its seventh week of city-wide restrictions.

Confirmed cases have fallen significantly from their peak, but authorities have not yet been able to hit the target of what they call “societal zero”, where no cases are reported outside of quarantine facilities.

Despite the tougher measures, Shanghai officials insist that people living in half the city’s districts are now free to leave their homes and walk around.

State media has shown propaganda videos of departing medical workers visiting city landmarks together and taking photographs.

Official notices from local committees of the ruling Communist Party, seen by the BBC, detail several restrictions imposed under what officials call “silent periods” for the next three days. These include only permitting Government food deliveries, not allowing residents to “step out” of their front doors and requiring approval from the committee for anyone other than emergency cases to access hospitals…

The tightened measures come just days after China’s president Xi Jinping re-iterated his commitment to the controversial ‘Zero-Covid’ strategy. In a paper published in the health journal the Lancet earlier this week, senior Chinese health officials said the lockdown would “buy time to vaccinate more people”.

Their comments come after the head of the World Health Organisation called China’s Zero-Covid strategy unsustainable.

“When we talk about Zero-Covid, we don’t think that it’s sustainable, considering the behaviour of the virus now and what we anticipate in the future,” Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Tuesday at a news conference.

The clip was widely shared on Chinese social media before being blocked by censors. More than two years after COVID-19 first emerged here officials figures show around 90% of the population nationwide has been vaccinated. But only 38% of the more vulnerable – those over 60 – in Shanghai have the full protection [sic] of three vaccinations.

Buy time to vaccinate? How much time do they need, if 16 months isn’t enough?

This lockdown thing is really starting to get out of hand…

Worth reading in full.

Our Ministers Didn’t “Do Okay” Against the Coronavirus

Matthew Syed’s latest article in the Sunday Times is titled “Now we know our ministers did OK against Covid, but I hear no apologies”. And while Syed may not have chosen the title (that was probably his editor), he did write this: “The truth is that on the whole, and with only a few exceptions, ministers did their best in unenviable circumstances.”

Syed’s basic argument is as follows. The recent WHO report reveals that, in terms of excess deaths, Britain “is roughly in the middle of the bunch when compared with similar nations”. Therefore, those who slammed the Government for its handling of the pandemic were wrong, and really ought to apologise.

The article isn’t all bad. For example, Syed skewers those unhinged left-wing commentators who accused the Government of pursuing ‘eugenics’ for not locking down sooner, and chides his fellow journalists for asking ‘gotcha’ questions, rather than trying to get useful information out of politicians.

Yet for every swipe he takes at those who say the Government didn’t do enough, he also takes a swipe at those who say the Government did too much. And his basic argument – the one I outlined above – doesn’t work.

Patient Satisfaction With Doctors Hits Record Low as Face-to-Face Consultations Become the Exception

Public satisfaction with family doctors in Scotland has plummeted to a record low since the first lockdown when they began to refuse to see patients in person, a study has found. The Telegraph has the story.

The Scottish Government-backed survey of 130,000 patients revealed that 67% said they had a positive experience of care provided by their GP practice, a fall of 12 percentage points in two years and 23 points compared with a decade ago.

Meanwhile, a quarter of people said they had not found it easy to contact their practice, a rise of 10 percentage points compared with before the pandemic.

Guidance was issued to GP practices not to see patients unless essential for clinical reasons at the start of lockdown in 2020, in an effort to prevent COVID-19 spreading.

However, while all legal restrictions have now been lifted, many doctors have not returned to normal and the SNP’s health secretary recently admitted that a “hybrid” model of appointments has become permanent.

The latest survey, which began in November 2021 and asked about experiences over the previous year, found that 57% of patients had a telephone consultation, whereas the figure was 11% before coronavirus.

Just 37% had a face-to-face consultation compared with 87% two years previously.

The shift away from in-person appointments has led to concerns that patients may be reluctant to seek help as they fear being interrogated about health conditions by receptionists, that the system is inaccessible to those with poor English and that signs a GP may have picked up on in-person will be missed.

Doctors, like many workers especially in the public sector, seem determined to keep the new, more convenient patterns of working they discovered during lockdown. But in many cases these patterns are just not as good for getting the job done and doing it well. When it comes to medicine, that can be the difference between life and death.

Worth reading in full.

News Round-Up

If you have any tips for inclusion in the round-up, email us here.