Witless and Unbalanced

SAGE Member Mark Woolhouse Was “Told to Correct His Views” After Criticising Witless and Unbalanced’s Infamous ‘Graph of Doom’

Senior epidemiologist and Government coronavirus adviser Professor Mark Woolhouse claims he was told to “correct” his views after he criticised what he thought was an “implausible” graph shown at an official briefing – Patrick Vallance and Chris Whitty’s notorious Graph of Doom from September 21st 2020. Sky News has the story.

The Edinburgh University academic is deeply critical of the use of lockdown measures and says “plain common sense” was a “casualty of the crisis”.

Speaking to Sky News, Prof Woolhouse seemed concerned about a possible “big-brother” approach to the control of information about Covid.

He says he was told to watch what he was saying following a briefing given by Chief Scientific Adviser (CSA) Sir Patrick Vallance on September 21st 2020.

Sir Patrick said at the time: “At the moment, we think that the epidemic is doubling roughly every seven days.”

Fifty thousand cases a day were being predicted by mid-October.

“There was a lot wrong with the projection,” Prof Woolhouse says. He calculated the doubling period as every 10 or 11 days, rather than seven, and, in his opinion, there was “no reason to expect the epidemic to accelerate suddenly”.

He observes: “If this projection had been extended for another week we would be talking about one hundred thousand cases per day. Another month would have given us close to half a million. Per day. An exponential projection will give you any number you like if you run it for long enough.”

Prof Woolhouse felt the predictions were “so implausible” that he was concerned about a loss of scientific “credibility”.

After seeing the graph, he says he “quickly posted what was intended to be a reassuring comment through the Science Media Centre saying it was highly unlikely that the U.K. would see so many reported cases per day by mid-October”.

“As it turned out, we barely reached half that,” he says in his new book on the pandemic called The Year the World Went Mad.

However, his “objections did not go down well”.

“After a flurry of emails I was invited to ‘correct’ my comments,” he says.

“The invitation was passed on to me by a messenger so I cannot be sure precisely where in the system it originated.”

Nor did not end there, he says. “A couple of weeks later I was asked to give evidence to a House of Commons Select Committee. This generated another flurry of emails over an October weekend from two senior Government scientists concerned that I might criticise the CSA’s graph before the MPs.”

When asked where the message telling him to “correct his views” came from, he says he simply doesn’t know the source, but it was “not from a random person”.

Clearly angry, he insists it “wasn’t my views that needed correcting, it was the projections”.

Then almost the exact same thing happened at the end of October, he says, ahead of the November lockdown.

The article includes a number of other fascinating and revealing anecdotes from Prof Woolhouse’s book and is worth reading in full.

SAGE Stood Down, Signifying End of Pandemic

The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) has been stood down in a clear sign that the Government believes the Covid crisis is over. The Telegraph has more.

Although the group “stands ready if required” it will no longer meet regularly, the first time it has halted its ongoing response since January 2020.

The decision was taken after the Government acknowledged that Britain has entered a new phase of its response, and follows the lifting of all remaining legal restrictions in England as part of Downing Street’s Living With Covid plan.

The devolved nations have their own scientific advisory groups and are emerging from the epidemic on slightly different timelines.

The Telegraph understands that the Government will continue to receive Covid advice from other expert bodies, such as the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), as well as from Sir Patrick Vallance, the Chief Scientific Advisor and Sir Chris Whitty, the Chief Medical Officer.

Professor Carl Heneghan, Director of the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine at the University of Oxford said:

The standing down of SAGE signifies the end of the pandemic in the U.K. This is a remarkable turnabout of events given that just before Christmas, SAGE advisors were warning infections could hit two million per day and were pushing for further restrictions. The Government will need to review whether SAGE is fit for purpose when it comes to pandemics. Particularly given its lack of clinical input and its overreliance on modelling – which we now know is no more than ‘guesswork’ – and its tendency to fixate on a particular set of assumptions.

“Four More Weeks to, Er…” – The Weakest Excuse for a Lockdown Yet

What justifies a lockdown? That’s the question which, 16 months after the policy was introduced into Western democracies as a draconian tool of disease management, we still don’t have a clear answer to. First sold to the public as a way of mitigating peak health service demand during the initial pandemic wave (and thus supposedly saving lives by ensuring more people could get treated – ignore the irony that the overuse of ventilators during those first few weeks likely increased the mortality rate), the justification has evolved over time. In November it was a “circuit breaker” to save Christmas, though Christmas was not saved. In January it was to buy time to allow the most vulnerable to receive at least their first vaccine dose, though it turned out that was not enough to restore our freedoms.

Yesterday the Prime Minister and his scientific flunkies Chris Witless and Patrick Unbalanced unveiled the Government’s latest excuse to keep the restrictions going. “The objective of this short delay,” said the Prime Minister, “is to use these crucial weeks to save thousands of lives, of lives that would otherwise be lost… by vaccinating millions more people as fast as we can.”

Sir Patrick elaborated on three benefits to the delay:

  1. Some protection for over-18s as they will have been offered one vaccine by July 19th.
  2. More protection for over-40s as more of them will have had both their vaccine doses.
  3. Reopening will be near to the school holidays when no mixing in schools will take place.

What none of the three explained was why these benefits justified four more weeks of restrictions, which hospitality leaders have said will mean a £3 billion loss to the industry during what should be one of its busiest trading periods.

The vaccines are “not 100% effective”, Vallance said, as though anyone had ever suggested they were, “and therefore avoiding a very large peak is very important. Realistically, if we ever got a very large wave, there would be a very large number of people in hospital”.

But would there? If the vaccines are as good as they are reported to be at reducing serious illness – Vallance described them yesterday as “spectacularly more effective than we ever could have hoped for” – then even if there are lots of cases in the young, why should hospitals get overrun?

Vallance explained that it was only because of the vaccines that they weren’t already looking at new lockdown measures: “If we didn’t have the vaccinations we’ve got, we would be looking at what lockdowns would be needed.” This is despite him also acknowledging that: “This is a virus that’s going to be with us forever.” Together these statements imply that lockdowns, too, are going to be with us forever, hanging over us, threatened whenever over-zealous public health advisers can persuade a risk-averse Prime Minister that the latest variant or virus is going to, well, what? As I say, that’s the question that still hasn’t been answered.

The latest restrictions are intended to “reduce the peak by 30-50%”, Vallance said. But will it be a big peak or a small peak? “Thousands of lives” will be saved, said the Prime Minister. But how many thousands? After all, thousands of lives are lost in the U.K. to contagious diseases every year – mostly though not exclusively among the very frail and otherwise unwell. If restrictions on social interaction are justified merely to save “thousands of lives”, why not impose them every winter? Or keep them in place permanently to prevent people getting too close and spreading their germs? That’s the logic of this mad, totalitarian approach to disease control (even if we allow, for the sake of argument, that lockdowns are effective at controlling COVID-19, a theory for which there is no real-world evidence).

The Prime Minister made much of a recent “doubling” in Covid hospital admissions, though on the Government dashboard hospital admissions are still short of doubling.