A fascinating article published on November 6th 2023 in the Daily Sceptic by the ‘In-house doctor’ included a link to an email thread between Neil Ferguson, Patrick Vallance and Chris Whitty. The emails were written on March 15th 2020. Figure 1 reproduces a part of one of these emails, with Ferguson forecasting that up to 469,896 people would be hospitalised, of which 182,749 would need ICU beds.
In the event, having emptied 60-70% of all hospital in-patients, the first lockdown saw our hospitals recording the lowest bed occupancy rates ever recorded, freeing up plenty of time for TikTok dance rehearsals.
It would appear that it was Ferguson’s alarmist predictions along with pressure from Dominic Cummings that resulted in Vallance and Whitty doing a reverse ferret, abandoning the orthodox, consensus position of mitigation and protection of the vulnerable on the way to herd immunity, and, instead opting for the radical, untested, Chinese Communist Party-inspired lockdown.
The rich irony, and a point seemingly glossed over by the Hallett Inquiry, is that quite possibly the very day that these emails were written may well have been the high water mark of transmission and infection in the U.K.’s first wave.
Of course, one consequence of this is that any action adopted by Johnson, Hancock, Whitty, Vallance and Co would have appeared to have been the right one. They were riding the down-wave. Infections were falling regardless of any Government action.
Professor Simon Wood produced a paper setting out in detail that the infection peak pre-dated lockdown. Prior to publication he’d spoken to Fraser Nelson (Editor of the Spectator) who followed up their conversation with an article in the Spectator on June 5th 2020 in which Nelson notes that the Norwegians had also noticed infections falling prior to lockdown some time earlier. The following month, Chris Whitty himself told MPs that the R rate went “below one well before, or to some extent before, March 23rd”.
Figure 2 reproduces the Government’s Coronavirus Dashboard chart for daily deaths in England for the period March 15th to April 18th 2020.
An ONS paper that looked at the mean time from COVID-19 infection to symptom onset, hospitalisations and death states:
- The time between COVID-19 infection and symptom onset varies between one and 14 days, with an average of five to six days.
- The median delay (lag) between symptom onset and hospital admission varies between one and 6.7 days depending on age and whether the patient lives in a nursing home.
- Time between symptom onset and death from COVID-19 ranges from two to eight weeks, with reported median times of 16 or 19 days.
Using these time lags and counting backwards from the ‘peak deaths day’ of April 8th we can see that the ‘onset of symptoms’ must have peaked about 16-19 days earlier, around March 20th to 23rd (remember lockdown one started March 23rd). However, the onset of symptoms was pre-dated by infection, one to six days earlier – some time around March 15th to 20th.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing. Ferguson, Vallance, Whitty et al. didn’t have access to these data back in March 2020, but it didn’t take long before they did. It was blindingly obvious by mid-April that infections hadn’t followed Ferguson’s curve and that, if they’d counted back, they could have seen that lockdowns hadn’t led to the down-wave but rather they’d ridden the pre-existing down-wave.
It should always be remembered that lockdowns were the unorthodox, the novel, the untested. While I suppose panic may account for the adoption of this policy in March 2020 it looks nothing short of criminal to have opted for lockdown again in November 2020 and January 2021, and still to be defending it now.