SAGE Adviser Says That The New Omicron Variant Is “Not a Disaster”

Professor Calum Semple, a SAGE adviser, has stated that the new Omicron variant is “not a disaster”, although the WHO has labelled it as a ‘variant of concern’. Semple claims that many, including his own colleagues, are “hugely overstating the situation” and how dangerous the variant is, as they are ignoring that “immunity from the vaccination” can still, most likely, protect members of the public “from severe disease”. MailOnline has the story.

Last night the World Health Organisation branded the so-called Omicron mutation a ‘variant of concern’ as countries including Britain and the U.S. moved to shut their borders to six countries from southern Africa, the area of suspected origin.

The variant’s sudden appearance this week sparked panic in Whitehall circles, with Downing Street’s scientists warning that it could be vaccine-resistant and Health Secretary Sajid Javid threatening to reimpose lockdown if necessary.

In a rush to limit the spread, the E.U. suspended all flights to southern Africa after the first case was confirmed in Europe. Britain had already put six nations on the travel ‘red list’ and was poised to add two more last night.

But microbiologist Professor Calum Semple today urged calm, insisting that vaccines are “still likely to protect you from severe disease”.

The SAGE adviser told BBC Breakfast that he supported new travel restrictions on South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Botswana, Eswatini and Zimbabwe, but added: “This is not a disaster, and the headlines from some of my colleagues saying ‘this is horrendous’ I think are hugely overstating the situation.”

“Immunity from the vaccination is still likely to protect you from severe disease. 

“You might get a snuffle or a headache or a filthy cold but your chance of coming into hospital or intensive care or sadly dying are greatly diminished by the vaccine and still will be going into the future.”

Semple said that while it may not be possible to stop the variant coming to the U.K., it is still important to delay its arrival.

“If you can slow the virus coming into your country it gives you more time for your booster campaign to get ahead of it,” he went on. “It also gives the scientists longer to understand more about the virus in case there is anything we really should be worrying about.”

Asked what other measures he thought were advisable, Semple said he was in favour of compulsory facemasks in shops and on public transport, and handwashing.

Professor Sir Andrew Pollard, the director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, said “it is extremely unlikely that a reboot of a pandemic in a vaccinated population like we saw last year is going to happen”. Speaking to Radio 4’s Today programme, he also insisted that vaccines could be effective at preventing serious disease from the Omicron variant. 

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Two cases of the Omicron variant have been detected in the U.K., according to BBC News.

Sajid Javid said the UK Health Security Agency had detected cases in Chelmsford, Essex, and in Nottingham.

He said the cases were linked to travel in southern Africa and they and their households were self-isolating as more tests and contact tracing take place.

The new variant has also been identified in South Africa, Botswana, Belgium, Hong Kong and Israel.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will be holding a press conference at Downing Street later with the chief scientific advisor to the government, Sir Patrick Vallance, and the chief medical officer Prof Chris Whitty.

Sir Jeremy Farrar Quits SAGE After Criticising Government for Failing to Act on Predictions of Covid Disaster that Didn’t Come True

In further evidence that Government scientific advisers live in a fantasy world constructed from models that bear a tenuous relationship to real-world evidence, one of the U.K.’s most well-connected scientists, Sir Jeremy Farrar of the Wellcome Trust, has quit SAGE after criticising the Government for refusing to heed its alarmist, failed predictions. Sir Jeremy appears to be oblivious to the fact that, with reported infections dropping to under 34,000 on Tuesday, down 10% in a week, the modellers’ prognostications of doom have faltered once again. The Telegraph has more.

[I]t has emerged that Sir Jeremy resigned from SAGE at the end of last month.

In a statement, he said Government scientists had come under “huge pressure” during the pandemic.

Sir Jeremy has previously said that he “seriously considered resigning from SAGE” a year ago, after the Government went against its advice to introduce a lockdown as cases rose last autumn.

In his book, published earlier this year, he wrote: “That was the darkest moment of the pandemic. I began to question the point of giving advice to a body that chose not to use it. There comes a time when you have to ask yourself, and the people you trust, whether you are complicit with the decisions that are made as a result.”

Sir Jeremy gave a statement to Sky News on Tuesday:

Prepare to Reintroduce Work from Home Guidelines, SAGE Tells Government

SAGE says ministers should be more precise about what could trigger ‘Plan B’ restrictions this winter and believes that telling the public to work from home again is one of the most effective measures it should prepare to reintroduce. The Times has the story.

SAGE noted that only about half the workforce had the option to stay at home but urged ministers to prepare for the “rapid deployment” of new measures if infections continue to surge.

Facemask mandates and vaccination passports are also options but are considered to be less effective.

The advisers have also urged Boris Johnson to decide what circumstances would trigger his ‘Plan B’. “Identifying early warning metrics and triggers for intervening is key to responding rapidly,” they said. …

New modelling from SAGE suggests that hospital admissions are unlikely to hit the peaks seen in January, when 4,000 people a day were admitted. But there are concerns that Covid cases could combine with a nasty flu season to drive hospitals closer to the edge.

“Even if peak [Covid] admission levels remain well below those of January 2021, this could still put health and care settings under significant pressure, particularly if this coincides with high numbers of patients with other respiratory infections,” SAGE advisers have told ministers in the past week.

It echoes past comments made by Sir Patrick Vallance, the Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser, who has said that the Prime Minister must “go hard and go early” with winter restrictions if there is a surge in cases. …

The SAGE documents also include the suggestion that a campaign, coupled with practical and financial support, may be needed to encourage people to stay home if they have cold or flu symptoms, even if they have a negative PCR test for the coronavirus.

The experts are concerned that the pandemic has entered a highly unpredictable phase where small changes in public behaviour, or the effectiveness of vaccines, could have a large impact.

Worth reading in full.

The Modellers Keep On Making the Same Errors – And the Implications Are Huge

There follows a guest post from our in-house doctor, formerly a senior medic in the NHS, who draws attention to the errors made repeatedly by the modellers and government advisors and the huge implications of them.

Napoleon Bonaparte remarked that “history is the version of past events that people have decided to agree on”. When the official version of the pandemic is written, I wonder what analysis will be made of the role of statistical modellers and public health experts in driving Government policy over the last 18 months?

To inform this question it may be helpful to examine the recent evidence of how predictions have matched up to real events. For example, on September 8th, SPI-M-O (one of the multitudinous acronym salad bodies advising the Government), produced a paper entitled “Medium-term projections“.

Perhaps mindful of the woeful inaccuracy of previous predictions, the very first sentence heavily caveats the entire document:

These projections are not forecasts or predictions. They represent a scenario in which the trajectory of the epidemic continues to follow the trends that were seen in the data up to September 6th.

If that is the level of confidence the authors of the report have in their own abilities, one rather wonders what value this publication contains – yet this is the level of advice being given to decision-makers.

Firstly, to the “projection” of admissions. The document is in PDF format, so I am unable to reproduce it here, but the graphical representations show a 90% confidence interval fan chart for the period September 12th-28th. Hospital admissions in England are “projected” to be between 600 to 1,200 per day – a fairly wide spread. Graph One shows what actually happened – daily admissions on the blue bars, seven-day moving averages on the brown line.

It is clear that admissions have been consistently below the lower ‘projection’ for the entire period and the seven-day moving average at the end of the month was below 500 admissions per day.

The Heresy of Heresies

by Charlotte Niemiec

During the Great Plague of London in the 1600s, an increasingly panicked and ignorant Government battled to contain a disease that ripped indiscriminately through the populace and ordered the slaughter of all the city’s cats. With no understanding of the disease’s origins or how it spread, these unfortunate feline scapegoats were believed to be the vectors of disease. But while the cull – in context – can be forgiven, the consequences were catastrophic; it obliterated, in one fell swoop, the creatures whose instinct it was to keep the city’s rat numbers at bay. The rodent population boomed, along with the fleas that fed on them, giving the bacterium that caused the plauge –Yersinia pestis – a freer run than it had ever had.

The tale may be anecdotal but, almost four centuries later, it serves as a fitting analogy to onlookers of the current U.K. Government as it flails around in an attempt to get a handle on a disease not far off one hundred times less deadly.

Have we lost our heads? The Government has metaphorically (for now – the idea has in fact been mooted) culled the cats, abandoning logic and taking the most counterintuitive course of action available to it at almost every turn. To begin with, it shelved its ready-made pandemic plan in preference for a never-before-tried-or-tested lockdown regime. Not once, in the history of pandemics – including bubonic plague – have we quarantined healthy people. But for this disease, with its roughly 99.7% survival rate, it was done without question. And the people nodded.

To protect the elderly, our NHS turned them away from hospitals and returned them to their virus-infested care homes, slapping a DNR where it thought it could get away with it – presumably to reduce the pressure on a ‘national’ health service that all but closed its doors to anyone without the disease, while imploring those with symptoms not to pay them a visit. And the people clapped.

To safeguard the vulnerable, the Government commissioned the development of a ‘vaccine’, to be trialled, tested and injected at the speed of light. No matter the consequences – the suspicious post-jab deaths, the eyebrow-raising adverse reactions, the diminishingly small efficacy rate – we are told the jab is ‘safe’ and we all must have it ‘for the greater good’. And the people queued.

The media largely ran with the Government line (and the Government’s money), no matter that the more important, more explosive stories lay on the other side of the debate; were those that rooted out the insanity, that questioned the narrative, that protected our freedoms. And the people believed it.

To further ensure its fully-vaccinated majority really is ‘safe’, the Government will now insist on a ‘vaccine passport’ to protect it from the great unvaccinated. This contradictory move is necessary, it argues, regardless of the current evidence suggesting the vaccine does not prevent infection, does not prevent transmission, may not reduce symptoms and so, logically, a vaccine passport has no scientific or medical justification. The powers that be continue to rescind more and more of our freedoms. And the people cheer.

The Government is now cycling through its tactical playbook to tempt, threaten, manipulate or blackmail the ‘selfish Covidiot anti-vaxxers’ at any cost. Some of its members resort to insults, others promise ‘kebabs for jabs’. Still others threaten to take away our fun if we don’t do as we’re told. Most of those hesitant to ‘get a vaccine’ regard such blatant and patronising coercion as ever more suspicious and double down on their conviction. A more sensible course of action, but one that the Government has not provided, is evidence that the vaccine is safe in both the short- and long-term, for every subset of the population, whether pregnant, on other medication, an allergy sufferer, prone to blood clots or heart problems. Nor has it been able to offer a compelling reason for those unlikely to be seriously affected by the disease to get a medical treatment that won’t prevent them catching it or spreading it. And the people castigate these vaccine hesitant foot-draggers.

Despite pitching Covid as a global pandemic – and therefore a worldwide problem requiring mass vaccination to ‘get us out of the mess’ – the U.K. Government has shown little solidarity with its international counterparts by sharing the spoils of war and is instead insisting on the vaccination of those so far down this disease’s pecking order as to be laughable, if it wasn’t so horrifying. Children, who rarely – if ever – transmit or suffer with Covid, are next in the firing line, despite the risks. And the people rejoice.

Primary school science teaches us that we can ward or fight off respiratory viruses by maintaining healthy immune systems, aided by fresh air, exercise and nutrition. It stands to reason then that the Government thought the best response to the crisis was to confine citizens to their homes, criminalise serious exercise, ‘fix it’ so that only fast food companies could viably function by delivering negligible nutrients to your door and then implement an ‘eat out to help out’ scheme that encouraged us to consume even more fat, sugar and chemicals for the good of the economy. And the people complied.

Next, the Government mandated face masks. Roundly rejecting their use at the beginning of the spread, it instead ushered them in after the first wave was over, in the heat of last summer, as Covid was, it was hoped, on its way out. Until then, SAGE members had repeatedly insisted that masks did more harm than good, that there was no scientific evidence available to back up their efficacy – and certainly not homemade masks hastily constructed from withered t-shirts. But, as Laura Dodsworth points out in her book A State of Fear, as the panic subsided and the Government felt its control slipping away, the masks served to remind us to be fearful, that ‘there’s a global pandemic on, you know?‘. The line changed. Masks now ‘overwhelmingly’ helped to prevent transmission and a naked face in public was a loaded weapon. And the people ceded control.

* * *

Being generous, we could blame an incompetent Government blindsided by a ‘pandemic’ that hit just as it was popping the cork on finally ‘getting Brexit done’. But the actions it took went beyond naïvety and entered the realms of the Kafka-esque nonsensical. The last 18 months have been those of U-turns and false predictions followed by denials; hirings and firings of ‘experts’ paid to find or fabricate the evidence to fit the theory; promises to follow ‘the science’, to go by ‘data not dates’ – and then do the opposite. The mainstream media has refused to ask tough questions, social platforms have censored anything that doesn’t fit the fear narrative, scientists and medics and employees across the spectrum have lost their jobs and reputations for daring to speak out or refuse injection. The nurses on the ‘front line’ who worked around the clock last year without a vaccine will now be fired if they choose not to have one. This is their reward. The elites have flourished while the proles festered.

Much blame should be laid at the Government’s door for frightening its citizens and turning them into nodding, clapping, cheering automatons. But the people are not themselves entirely blameless, and tyranny does not operate in a vacuum. We are responsible for collectively swallowing the lies, the deceit, the buried evidence, the false predictions, the censored questions, the fairy tales told from Rose Gardens dreamed up in Barnard Castles in the air. Gullible en masse, we have refused to believe the evidence of our eyes, dropping last week’s headlines down the memory hole in favour of the latest scare, forgetting that the Government promised no further lockdowns, no vaccine passports, no jabbing of the under-18s, abandoning that most precious of resources: common sense. Why?

In the now oft-quoted Nineteen Eighty-Four, Winston Smith considers that:

In the end, the Party would announce that two and two made five, and you would have to believe it… the heresy of heresies was common sense. And what was terrifying was not that they would kill you for thinking otherwise, but that they might be right. For, after all, how do we know that two and two make four? Or that the force of gravity works? Or that the past is unchangeable? If both the past and the external world exist only in the mind, and if the mind itself is controllable – what then?

What then, indeed. If we are to regain control of our minds, to reassert our rights – to bodily autonomy, to question authority, to protest against tyranny – and claw back our freedoms and roam where we will, we must stand firm, speak out and reject the Party line. Because, as Winston determines: “Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows.”

Charlotte Niemiec is a freelance journalist.

The Figures Don’t Match Up To the Fear, a Doctor Writes

There follows a guest post from our in-house doctor, formerly a senior medic in the NHS, who says the widely trailed tsunami of hospitalisations has not only failed to arrive after ‘Freedom Day’, but we seem to be on the downslope of the ‘third wave’.

The philosopher Soren Kierkegaard once remarked: “Life can only be understood backwards, but must be lived forwards.” I have been reflecting on that comment, now we are three weeks since the inappropriately named July 19th ‘Freedom Day’. Readers will remember the cacophony of shrieking from assorted ‘health experts’ prophesying certain doom and a tidal wave of acute Covid admissions that would overwhelm our beleaguered NHS within a fortnight. Representatives from the World Health Organisation described the approach as “epidemiologically stupid”. A letter signed by 1,200 self-defined experts was published in the Lancet predicting imminent catastrophe.

Accordingly, this week I thought I should take a look at how the apocalypse is developing and then make some general observations on the centrality of trust and honesty in medical matters.

Let’s start with daily admissions to hospitals from the community in Graph One. Daily totals on the blue bars, seven-day rolling average on the orange line. Surprisingly the numbers are lower than on July 19th. How can that be?

Perhaps there are more patients stacking up in hospitals – sicker patients tend to stay longer and are hard to discharge, so the overall numbers can build up rather quickly. So, Graph Two shows Covid inpatients up to August 5th. Readers should note that Graph Two includes patients suffering from acute Covid (about 75% of the total) plus patients in hospital for non-Covid related illness, but testing positive for Covid (the remaining 25%). How strange – numbers seem to be falling, not rising. This does not fit with the hypothesis – what might explain this anomalous finding?

Maybe the numbers of patients in ICU might be on the increase – after all, both the Beta variant and the Delta variant were said to be both more transmissible and more deadly than the Alpha variant. Graph Three shows patients in ICU in English Hospitals up to August 5th. It shows a similar pattern to Graph Two – a small fall in overall patient numbers in the last two weeks. I looked into the Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre ICU audit report up to July 30th. This confirms the overall impression from the top line figures. Older patients do not seem to be getting ill with Covid. Over half the admissions to ICU with Covid have body mass indices over 30. Severe illness is heavily skewed to patients with co-morbidities and the unvaccinated. Generally speaking, the patients have slightly less severe illness, shorter stays and lower mortality so far.

Finally, we look at Covid related deaths since January 1st, 2021, in Graph Four. A barely discernable increase since the beginning of April.

So, whatever is going on with respect to the progress of the pandemic, the widely trailed tsunami of hospitalisations has not arrived yet – in fact, we seem to be on the downslope of the ‘third wave’.

What the Modellers Still Don’t Understand About Herd Immunity

Bristol’s Professor Philip Thomas has a new piece in the Spectator this week. Readers may recall that I criticised his previous pieces for what seemed in my view to be wildly over-the-top predictions of the likely scale of the Delta surge.

In June, he predicted “an enormous final wave“, in which the virus “would quickly seek out the one-in-three Britons who are still susceptible: mainly the not-yet-vaccinated” and peak in the middle of July (the bit he got right) “at anywhere between two million and four million active infections“. According to the ONS, around 951,700 people in the U.K. were PCR positive in the week ending July 24th, and that appears to be the peak, which is less than half of Professor Thomas’s lower estimate.

He now admits: “The situation is better than I bargained for at the beginning of June and also better than my estimates a month later.” In fact, it’s so much better, that he thinks “the decline in active infections can only mean that England is about to reach the herd immunity threshold for the Delta variant”. By which he means that “around 86% of England’s adults and children must now be immune”. On this basis he argues that it is “extremely unlikely” that there will be a new Covid surge in the coming winter.

The problem with this analysis is it is still based on the SAGE assumption that herd immunity is a once-for-all-time thing, that was made harder to reach by the more transmissible Delta variant, but which we have now just achieved, mostly through vaccination, and it will now keep us safe.

The SAGE Models are Already Wrong

In a recent article, we considered the implications of the U.K.’s spring rise in infections, given that before now the assumption has been that coronaviruses are seasonal at northern temperate latitudes. Do we have to dismiss that hypothesis in light of the ‘Third Wave’?

Here we argue that, contrary to Government claims, the British summer is indeed finally impacting viral transmission, with sharp falls in positives reported across the U.K. In England, reported cases have more-or-less halved in a week, from 50,955 to 25,434.

This sharp fall runs counter to all three of the most recent SAGE models driving Government policy, which predict rising infections leading to peaks in hospital admissions in high summer – and by implication falsifies the assumptions upon which these models are based.

Parsimony predicts the summer troughs and winter peaks evident for SARS-CoV-2

In spring and summer 2020 and winter 2020-1, SARS-CoV-2 infections parsimoniously followed the pattern of seasonal respiratory viruses, falling away in the summer months and rising again in the autumn, with peaks in deaths occurring between mid-November 2020 and mid-April 2021 in different northern temperate countries.

Although falling infection levels were sometimes prolonged into early summer or began to rise again in late summer, there were no peaks in fatalities in summer or early autumn 2020. 

Most notably, while cases in Sweden rose in a pattern close to the European average in early 2020, they persisted much later, continuing to a plateau in late spring and early summer, before falling away sharply from the end of June. Hospitalisations and deaths fell more smoothly from the mid-April peak, however, and showed no corresponding rise in late spring and early summer.

Similarly, while infections began to rise in late summer in some countries – such as France – there was no substantial increase in deaths before mid-autumn. Summer 2020 appears to have broken the link between infections and serious illness in the absence of vaccination. 

Sweden has so far emerged relatively unaffected by the Delta variant. Although this variant was detected in Sweden – as it was in most other European countries – infections in Sweden nevertheless fell with the onset of summer. As Sweden’s State Epidemiologist Anders Tegnell remarked in an interview on June 18th, 2021 (at about 8 minutes 25 seconds), “the number of cases in Sweden are falling rapidly, very rapidly I would say, much more rapidly than we ever thought was possible”. Tegnell also makes some sceptical points about asymptomatic transmission and mass testing, so beloved of the U.K.’s SAGE committees.

Recent peaks attributable to the Delta variant have occurred in countries such as Denmark, Belgium and the Netherlands, but these outbreaks too may have peaked as they appear to have in the U.K.

SAGE scenarios – anything can happen in the next eight weeks…?

Turning to the latest (July 6th) scenarios of the SAGE’s SPI-M-O modelling groups, we find hospitalisations could be between 50 and 10,000 per day by August 31st depending on the R value. SPI-M-O note these scenarios are not forecasts or predictions, leaving open to question their purpose with regard to Government formulation of policy. 

Previous over-estimations of hospitalisations are attributed to: 1) the cancellation of ‘Freedom Day’ on June 21st permitting more vaccinations to be administered and transmission to be delayed due to restrictions; 2) less than anticipated mixing between adults since late April to mid-May; and 3) the effectiveness of vaccines against the Delta variant.

There appears to be no suggestion of an emphatic effect of spring and summer on behaviour, the virus or viral transmission, which would have been considered conventional wisdom until mid-March 2020.

Warwick University

The Warwick models predict the current rise in hospitalisations will persist to peak in late summer or early autumn, which may or may not be accompanied by a small wave – based on the mean estimates – from late December 2021 or early February 2022 depending on supposed “precautionary behaviour”.

None of the Warwick models predict a fall in hospitalisations in summer 2021 nor – by implication – a fall in infections.

Imperial College London

Imperial College offers two models, based on optimistic (upper figure) and central (lower figure) estimates of vaccine effectiveness, adjusted according to estimates of the speed of change in behaviour and the R value. 

Both models predict peaks in the early autumn, possibly delayed to mid-autumn if changes in behaviour are slow. Using these assumptions, the mean estimates presented for hospitalisations are higher than in the Imperial models. 

Central estimates of vaccine effectiveness with sudden relaxation in precautionary behaviour appears to predict mean daily hospitalisations of about 2,500 to about 12,000 per day by the end of September depending on the R value. Imperial have produced a further model based on pessimistic estimates of vaccine effectiveness (not shown).

Of the Imperial models, only the gradual relaxation of restrictive behaviour scenarios indicate a fall in hospitalisations, but in both instances this simply delays a peak in hospitalisations and – by implication – infections until the early autumn. Neither model anticipates an imminent fall continuing into summer, nor a winter peak between December and February.

London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM)

LSHTM present similar models based on a further set of assumptions and predict a peak in hospitalisations in mid-summer, varying in size according to the extent of reduction in transmission (five to 20% reduction at medium mobility is shown in the figure).

Again, the LSHTM model precludes the current reduction to a baseline as in summer 2020.

The ZOE Symptom Study, which provides invaluable independent comparator to reported positives figures, appears to show infections to be rising to July 20th, but only since the method of estimation was revised. Comparators such as ONS and REACT-1 are out of date.

Implications of the models

None of the SAGE models predict a sharp fall and summer lull in infections. Rather, the SAGE report states “the prevalence of infection will almost certainly remain extremely high for at least the rest of the summer”.

We are left with two competing hypotheses:

SAGE predict a continued rise in infections, accompanied by hospitalisations and deaths, peaking in mid-summer or early autumn. There may be a further small wave from late December or early February, or none at all.

Parsimony predicts cases will fall to baseline as summer advances, much as occurred in Sweden last year – a late spring or early summer cold that does not cause significant morbidity or mortality. The summer disappearance will be followed by a resumption in the autumn rising to a peak in infections and deaths in winter proper.

Are the SAGE models already wrong?

Although summer peaks in infections in seasonal respiratory viruses are rare, they are not unknown, particularly in novel varieties and, it may be noted that – unlike in Sweden in 2020 – the spring rise in infections in the U.K. arose from a low base and involved a new variant – the Delta variant – and was preceded by the vaccine roll-out.

While vaccination is argued to be the key factor in keeping hospitalisations and deaths figures low, these measures were also low in the late spring 2020 wave of infections in Sweden. It is possible that nosocomial and care-home outbreaks have also been prevented, in part due to the seasonal fall in general demand for hospital beds in the spring and summer. The most recent ONS report shows overall excess deaths in England and Wales to be higher at home than in care homes or hospitals. Nevertheless, it is striking that reported positives in Scotland have been falling since the end of June.

Hospitalisations in Scotland are also falling from a peak approximately a week later.

The rest of the U.K. is now following the trend in Scotland, which showed a rapid fall in infections from the end of spring and beginning of summer, as Sweden did in 2020. Are we simply experiencing a late impact of seasonality on suppression of spread, which has finally taken effect?

Reported positives peaked just prior to ‘Freedom Day’ in England and about three weeks earlier in Scotland. There is no sign of any stall in the falling trajectory of infections in either country, as could be attributed to the relaxation of restrictions on ‘Freedom Day’. This would be not at all surprising to those who observed the lack of impact of ‘opening up’ in Texas and Florida some months ago.

On the basis of current infection data, the SAGE models are already wrong.

So must be the assumptions of virus transmission and effects of Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions – and lack of effect of nature – on which they are based.

It begs the question as to why the Government and media have again so enthusiastically engaged with consistently disappointing predictions leading to such damaging public health policy.

None of this should be a distraction from the point that lockdowns cause a good deal of harm to physical and mental health and to the economy, far outweighing any presumed benefit – if any can be shown. The models, NPIs and lockdowns are about politics, not science.

The co-authors are a PhD epidemiologist trained at a Russell Group University and a retired former Professor of Forensic Science and Biological Anthropology.

Mandatory Face Masks and Advice to Work From Home Should Be Reintroduced to Keep Figures “Under Control”, Say SAGE Scientists

Just how final was the July 19th “terminus date“? If Government advisers in SAGE have anything to do with it, then not at all. Some have argued that a number of restrictions, such as mandatory face masks and advice to work from home, should be brought back at the beginning of August if hospitalisation levels increase to keep the figures “under control”. And it’s hard to imagine the Government standing firm against this pressure, given that both a minister and the Chief Medical Officer have said Brits will “of course” face a new lockdown if the NHS comes under further pressure. The i has the story.

Scientific advisers have warned that Boris Johnson should be prepared to act in the first week of August to prevent the NHS becoming overwhelmed by the end of that month.

Modelling has suggested that the central case for U.K. daily hospitalisations at the peak of the third wave – expected at the end of August – could be between 1,000 and 2,000, with deaths predicted to be between 100 and 200 per day. …

Last week Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty said hospitalisations were doubling roughly every three weeks. 

This would suggest close to 1,500 admissions by the end of the first week of August, well above the trajectory for the central case scenario for the third wave. It would point to 3,000 at the peak by the end of that month, which would match the peak of the first wave in April 2020.

Insiders stressed there is a lot of uncertainty in the modelling, and the picture will change all the time depending on vaccine take-up and people’s behaviour after July 19th.

But if admissions are outstripping the central estimates, SAGE scientists have advised that some non-pharmaceutical measures should be reintroduced, such as mandatory face masks and advice to work from home, in early August, halfway between the July 19th unlocking and the predicted peak at the end of August.

This early intervention, they argue, would prevent the NHS becoming swamped in a late summer crisis. …

Last week, when the Prime Minister gave the go-ahead for the fourth and final stage of the roadmap in England, he accepted that some restrictions may have to be reimposed if the situation worsened.

A source said what was needed was “less of an emergency brake and more of a gear change” in readiness to keep the third wave “under control”.

While mandatory face masks would be the “easiest” route to curb transmission, with minimal impact on the economy if it were kept to public transport and essential settings like supermarkets, this would have to be weighed against the “totemic” impact it would have on the public if they were ordered to cover up once again.

But others are arguing that the Government should be prepared to take tougher action.

Professor Dominic Harrison, Director of Public Health for Blackburn, said: “Any return to non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) to control spread would have to focus on those that give the biggest suppression effect. 

“Essentially we might expect a reverse through the lockdown lifting steps with each ‘reverse step’ being introduced to match the scale of the surge in cases.”

Worth reading in full.

Cloth Face Masks Might Make You Feel Better but They Won’t Protect You From Covid

A standard face mask acts as nothing more than a “comfort blanket” and offers little protection against Covid, a scientific adviser to SAGE has said ahead of the partial easing of the mask mandate on Monday. The Telegraph has the story.

Dr Colin Axon, who has advised the Government on minimising the risk of cross-infection in supermarkets, accused medics of presenting a “cartoonish” view of how tiny particles travel through the air.

He warned some cloth masks have gaps which are invisible to the naked eye, but are 500,000 times the size of viral Covid particles.

“The small sizes are not easily understood but an imperfect analogy would be to imagine marbles fired at builders’ scaffolding, some might hit a pole and rebound, but obviously most will fly through,” he told the Telegraph.

The mask debate has been reignited this week after the Government published “Freedom Day” guidance recommending their continued use. It led to Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, enforcing their continued use on the London Underground.

Dr Axon said the public need to be offered a wider view of the science behind face masks, rather than the “partial view” of information being pushed by medics over their effectiveness.

“Medics have this cartoonised view of how particles move through the air – it’s not their fault, it’s not their domain – they’ve got a cartoonish view of how the world is,” he said.

“Once a particle is not on a biological surface it is no longer a biomedical issue, it is simply about physics. The public has only a partial view of the story if information only comes from one type of source. Medics have some of the answers but not a whole view.” …

An Oxford study last summer concluded that masks were “effective” in reducing the spread of the virus.

However, other studies have cast doubt on their effectiveness. A subsequent Danish study involving 6,000 people concluded that there was no statistical difference in infection spread in non-wearers, while data on U.S. states with non-mandated usage failed to show a correlated uptick in cases.

“The public were demanding something must be done, they got masks, it is just a comfort blanket,” Dr Axon noted. “But now it is entrenched, and we are entrenching bad behaviour.”

Worth reading in full.