June 21st

SAGE Modeller: “We Got Everything Wrong.”

Okay, that’s a slightly misleading headline because the SAGE modeller in question, Dr Mike Tildesley, who works as a sooth-sayer at the University of Warwick, didn’t actually say that. In an interview with Freddie Sayers for UnHerd, he says he and his colleagues who’ve been producing models for SAGE under-estimated the efficacy of the vaccines and over-estimated the extent to which people would return to normal after restrictions were eased. And for that reason, they almost certainly over-estimated the impact that unlocking on June 21st would have had on infections, hospitalisations and deaths. Indeed, we know their models were wildly pessimistic because if you compare the number of hospital admissions the models were predicting for round about now they are about three times higher than actual hospital admissions – and that’s the number they were predicting if the Government didn’t unlock on June 21st. Regular readers will recall that Glen Bishop pointed out in Lockdown Sceptics that the Government’s court astrologers had underestimated the efficacy of the vaccines when it published the models it was relying on when it postponed the unlocking a few weeks ago.

Here are some choice quotes from Mystic Mike Dr Tildesley:

Underestimated vaccine efficacy

I think the vaccine efficacies throughout have been slightly underestimated, shall we say, by the modelling groups, we are actually find that the vaccines are much more effective than previously we thought they would be. Now when these models are parameterised, the vaccine efficacy data came through from Public Health England, so we’re not making up these values, we are using the best estimates of values that are coming through from those on the ground that have their estimates of them.

Overestimated behavioural change

I suspect this is something else that perhaps some of these models have slightly overestimated as to what we might expect that we’ll do in terms of the R numbers. This is partly because of people’s behaviour. So just because controls have relaxed, it looks like looking at the data that actually people haven’t gone back to ‘normal’ in terms of what we might have expected prior to the pandemic. So people are still being a little bit more cautious. Maybe they’re not going to the pub in the way that they were, say, back in January 2020. And that, obviously has some implications upon these forecasts that when these models were done.

Why July 19th should go ahead as planned

Looking at the data, looking at possible admissions and deaths, there’s nothing at the moment that really worries me. And I think if we are going to get back to normal, we’ve really got to do it over the summer, when the virus is less likely to transmit anyway. Otherwise I think we’re going to be in a situation where it’s going to be really hard. So I’m hopeful 19th of July does go ahead as planned.

Worth watching in full.

Stop Press: The Telegraph‘s Science Editor Sarah Knapton has written a story based on the UnHerd interview.

June 21st “Freedom Day” Called Off for at Least Four Weeks

It is being reported across the media – so it’s clearly been briefed out by Downing Street – that the long-awaited June 21st reopening is to be delayed by at least four weeks because the Prime Minister has been convinced by his scientific advisers that the recent rise in the Delta variant makes reopening too risky. The Telegraph has the story.

June 21st will no longer herald a full return to normality after Boris Johnson resigned himself to a delay of up to four weeks in lifting the remaining Covid restrictions.

The Prime Minister will tell the country on Monday that the latest data on the spread of the Indian or Delta virus variant means it is too risky to go ahead as planned. A four-week delay would mean pushing the date back to July 19th.

It had been hoped that weddings at least would be given a special dispensation after 50,000 couples – many of whom will have cancelled or delayed earlier celebrations – booked ceremonies for the four weeks following what had been billed as “freedom day”.

But senior government sources said that while Mr Johnson might increase the current 30-person limit at weddings, restrictions on numbers would have to remain after officials from Matt Hancock’s health department warned that they could become “super-spreader” events.

The British Medical Association became the latest body to call for a delay after data released on Friday showed the ‘R’ rate at its highest since January – between 1.2 and 1.4 – with daily cases reaching 8,125, the highest number since February.

Figures published by Public Health England showed that 42,323 cases of the Indian variant have been confirmed in the UK – an increase of 240% from last week. PHE estimates that the strain is 60% more transmissible than the Kent or alpha variant, with cases doubling every four and a half days in some parts of England.

The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) is understood to have warned the Government that a third wave of Covid cases could exceed the first wave peak if the June 21st reopening were to go ahead as planned.

Worth reading in full.

Florida has been open since September 2020. Texas reopened in March. But this delay means the U.K. won’t be open until at least July 19th. I’d like to say the Prime Minister will suffer the consequences at the polls for continuing to keep the electorate under extreme restrictions, ignoring the plain evidence from the U.S. that reopening is safe, as well as the overwhelming evidence that lockdowns don’t reduce transmission. But we all know most of our fellow citizens will buy the fear they’re sold and lap up the lockdown, and likely reward the Conservatives at the next election for keeping them “safe”.

The Covid tyranny continues. 😡

Stop Press: The Sun is reporting that there will be a two-week “break clause” on July 5th and if infections are falling and hospitalisations are low, restrictions could be eased. Yeah, right.

“No One is Talking About Covid Here. It’s Over, Life is Normal” – Report From Texas

Government advisers in the U.K. have been out in force in the past week stressing that the unlocking of society will be a “gradual process” (even more gradual than taking four months?) and that face masks and working-from-home may stay after June 21st.

You can certainly see the need for this extreme level of caution. If you look at the states in America that have lifted restrictions then they have suffered extraordinary levels of infection and deaths and are really regretting their “Neanderthal thinking” and quickly getting back to normal. Oh, er, hang on, that’s right – there’s been no new surge at all.

I put this point to a lockdown fanatic friend (yes, we are still on speaking terms) and his response was a feeble “you can’t assume the virus will behave the same in different countries”. Right, well that’s handy, isn’t it? We can’t learn lessons from what happens elsewhere because every country is different. American states might have been able to re-open without suffering hospital overload or mass death (Texas reopened in full at the start of March), but that doesn’t mean we won’t. Better safe than sorry, eh? Happily, lockdown has no downsides so there’s no problem with just carrying on with it indefinitely, just in case…

Another friend, whose father lives in Texas, said his father told him this week: “No one is talking about Covid here. It’s over, life is normal.”

There could of course be another surge of Covid in re-opened states and countries, especially in the autumn or winter. But since Florida and South Dakota (among other states) were open throughout last autumn and winter, we also know there’s nothing to fear about that either, even less so now so many in the population are vaccinated.

But since when did our political leaders and their “scientific” advisers let evidence get in the way of a good lockdown, especially if it preserves for a little longer their reputation, status and power?