Dame Angela was a leading light in SAGE and is currently the U.K. Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser.
Here, Lady Hallett is asking her to clarify the rationale for so-called circuit breaker lockdowns.
Like the previous statements, this is disturbing in many aspects.
First is the assumption that you have to do something, anything – the so-called ‘headless chicken principle’.
Second, the belief that short lockdowns “keep infections low”.
Writing in the Spectator, Ross Clark on November 9th 2020 asked if Wales’s ‘circuit-breaker’ made any difference. It didn’t.
On Monday morning Wales emerges from its 17 day ‘circuit-breaker’. Did it work? Not according to the rate of new infections.
During the first 12 days – when Wales was in lockdown but England wasn’t – the epidemic seems to have grown far more quickly in Wales than it did in England. When Wales went into lockdown on October 23rd, the seven-day average for new infections leading up to that date was 893. By November 5th, the seven-day average had grown to 1,299, a 45% increase. In England, by contrast, the seven day average leading up to October 23rd was 17,085, growing to 19,497 by November 5th – a 14% increase.
In the summer of 2020, politicians were alarmed at Leicester’s case rate of 135 per 100,000. On June 29th a local lockdown was imposed and more than 9,000 households in Leicester were told to get tested.
But did it impact what happened next? No.
There are many more examples of the failure of short lockdowns, and we are sure our readers can supply some examples, too.
Third, McClean says lockdowns were introduced at the last possible minute when the NHS was at the point of being overwhelmed. Instead, a four-week circuit breaker would have done the trick. Is McLean’s point that lockdowns are a waste of time if they are too late? So what was the point of the lockdowns then?
Fourth, harms are not mentioned – we can see the devastation of society and the economy now quite clearly, but harm just did not enter the debate.
There is a fifth potentially devastating and very dangerous corollary to all these statements, which we will explore in the next post – meanwhile, can you spot it, dear readers?
Oh, and for those who accuse us of abusing the retrospectoscope, (the most powerful instrument known to mankind), here are our views in the Telegraph dated stamped September 19th 2020. And in the Mail: ‘The only ‘circuit break’ in the pandemic we need now is from the Government’s doom-mongering scientific advisers who specialise in causing panic and little else.’
Then again in the Telegraph on October 14th: ‘There is no good evidence for a circuit-breaker lockdown.’
If there is one point we have learned in the pandemic, it is to take notice of laypeople’s statements that are grounded in common sense rather than dogma.
Hallett asked the sensible question of what’s the point of doing that if you know it will just come back. Indeed, what’s the point?
Dr. Carl Heneghan is the Oxford Professor of Evidence Based Medicine and Dr. Tom Jefferson is an epidemiologist based in Rome who works with Professor Heneghan on the Cochrane Collaboration. This article was first published on their Substack, Trust The Evidence, which you can subscribe to here.