CORONAVIRUS | WEIGHING THE RISKS


This is an interim post in the mini-series of three that I’m publishing on coronavirus contingency planning. I felt compelled to publish this in-between post after an exchange on Facebook between a doctor-friend and me. In this post I’m questioning whether exhorting one’s family, friends and acquaintances to ‘stay safe’ is in fact inimical to getting us out of the Covid-19 pandemic crisis. In publishing this post, I’m reminded of my psychiatrist-wife’s advice always to separate the issue from the person. So, if a friend and you should disagree about something, argue the issue robustly by all means, but protect the friendship. With that excellent advice in mind, here goes …

Doctor Finlay’s Case Book

In the past few days on social media, I invoked a rebuke from a doctor-friend and best-buddy of mine; let’s call him Doctor Finlay. I’d put up the following post on Facebook:

Just a controversial thought. During the Falklands War, as we were boarding the Landing Craft to go ashore at San Carlos, I don’t recall anybody saying, “Stay safe”. Have we become a totally risk-averse society?

Doctor Finlay responded promptly by pointing out that going ashore in the Falklands War was the same as healthcare staff and other key people going to work in the face of Covid-19. Fair enough; there are similarities, albeit being in a situation knowing that another human being is hellbent on killing you day and night with weapons of modern warfare does have a certain uniqueness as you try to do your job. Doctor Finlay went on to say that Covid-19 could well hit us in waves, and we’d need to be prepared for this. Fair enough; I agree. Next, he made it clear that Covid-19 could well be with us forever. Fair enough; I agree. Key point: Doctor Finlay then said that ‘Stay safe’ was not about being risk-averse; it was about understanding the danger and adjusting to it. I’ll abstain on that interpretation of ‘stay safe’ for reasons I’ll explain below. Finally, rather worryingly, Doctor Finlay said that neither our economy nor our society was disintegrating. He said both were resilient and ‘adjusting amazingly’. On that one, I’d have to disagree …

Choosing just one of many such analyses, here Oxford Economics declares that ‘high frequency indicators for the UK suggest economic activity collapsed in mid-March and has shown no sign of recovery since’. That’s not an ‘amazing adjustment’, other than in the wrong direction. Meantime, in society, the rates of suicide, domestic violence and children calling abuse helplines are all rising sharply. Again, not an ‘amazing adjustment’ in a positive sense for society as far as I can see. That said, I do always try to work with facts.

Doctor Finlay signed off by telling me to ‘behave!’. Well, fair enough because I did say that my Facebook post was controversial!

Stay Safe

My Facebook post and Doctor Finlay’s reply got me thinking about the risks associated with the Covid-19 pandemic. In fact, long before that social media exchange, I’d given considerable thought to Covid-19 risk management. I’m talking here about the risk associated with not ‘staying at home’ (contrary to the lockdown requirement) compared to the risk associated with switching off the economy (the consequence of lockdown). In other words, is the risk of harm associated with not ‘staying at home’, greater than the risk of collapsing the economy – which is the reality of our current circumstances. The government’s judgement today is that we face greater risk of harm (death by Covid-19) by going about our normal business than we do if we ‘stay at home’. Therefore, by law, we ‘stay at home’.

The prevailing mantra is ‘stay safe’. When we exchange the valediction ‘stay safe’, what we’re saying to each other is that we should prioritise protecting ourselves from risk; it means we must not be harmed. Although Doctor Finlay would disagree, what we’re doing by chirping ‘stay safe’ to each other is building a national subconsciousness which defaults to risk aversion. Indeed, it reflects the Health & Safety culture and precautionary principle approach which now pervade our society, and which have costs and benefits to our way of life. As the Covid-19 crisis proceeds and the economy and our normal social functioning disintegrate, we’re telling ourselves – by chanting ‘stay safe’ to each other – that above all else we must not risk death by Covid-19. That’s what ‘stay safe’ means.

Here’s the worrying thing: polls show that the British are more nervous about ending lockdown than almost anyone else in the world. We’ve had it drummed into us at every waking moment to ‘stay home’ and ‘save lives’ whilst telling each other to ‘stay safe’. It’s small wonder, therefore, that we’re not minded to come out of the bunker any time soon.

But is this the correct strategy? For how long should we chant ‘stay safe’ to each other before we should start chanting ‘let’s do it!’ to each other? What determines the moment at which we’re sufficiently ‘safe’ to start heading towards whatever post-lockdown normality looks like? On balance, will we be happier as a society in the long run having stayed at home, locked down for a protracted period keeping ‘safe’, or would we be happier as a society in the long run if we behaved normally and kept the economy functioning? On what basis is the government calculating that ‘stay at home’ until further notice will make us happier than going about our lives in what was a normal fashion up until 23 March this year?

Lockdown – For How Long?

In my previous worst-case post I posited that 325,000 British people could die of Covid-19. This is fewer than the official UK government’s worst-case, do-nothing Covid-19 death rate of 510,000 (from Imperial College modelling). The source of my lower figure assumed certain risk mitigation factors (eg behavioural changes and health and social care equipment and learning curve effects). Notwithstanding, 325,000 Covid-19 deaths would be shocking.

However, what has yet to be fully disclosed as equally, if not ultimately more shocking is the disintegration of the economy and the transformation of our way of life if we try to ‘stay safe’ for even a few more weeks, let alone many months or a year or more. Can we seriously keep the country in lockdown until a vaccine is discovered? Even if lockdown is relaxed, it’s inconceivable that we should spend potentially months or even years, wearing flimsy face masks, living our lives two metres from every other human being outside of our homes, waiting for a Covid-19 vaccine (which might never come).

Crunching the Numbers

So, on what basis do we decide what to do?

Every year in the UK about 600,000 people die of natural causes or some illness or other, excluding Covid-19. The population of the UK is 66,650,000. This means that I have a 1% chance of dying this year from anything other than Covid-19. The Covid-19 UK mortality rate today is 384 deaths per million, but this is under lockdown rules and without a clear understanding of the prevalence of infection across society (currently thought to be about 5%). So, as far as we know at the moment, I have a 0.04% chance of dying of Covid-19. I suppose that could mean I’m ‘safe’. Perhaps the mortality rate should be 0% to declare unequivocally that I’m ‘safe’? Who knows? Who decides and how?

Under my worst-case scenario (325,000 deaths) I have a 0.5% chance of dying of Covid-19, ie about ten times worse than the current measured mortality rate (0.04%). Under Imperial College’s free-for-all worst-case scenario (510,000 deaths) I have a 0.8% chance of dying of Covid-19. So, with fewer lockdown restrictions (325,000 deaths) or no lockdown restrictions (510,000 deaths), I face an overall risk of dying of any cause over the next year in the range 1.4% to 1.7% (you can do the maths). Can you see where this is going?

From a purely personal perspective (you’ll have your own attitude to risk), to keep my risk of dying below 1.75%, I’m being expected to buy into the deepest and swiftest global economic collapse in 100 years, if not in all history. Furthermore, I must buy into a dystopian social arrangement which has me confined to quarters and, when allowed outdoors for ‘essential’ reasons, I must treat every other human being as my potential killer. Developing herd immunity is a non-starter. Moreover, nobody can tell me how or when this Kafkaesque state of affairs will end. The situation is, arguably, absurd and certainly unsustainable.

It’s a Tough Decision (Understatement)

I understand and accept that politicians faced with taking decisions under these circumstances are under excruciating pressure. It’s not easy. One of the measures of a civilised society is how we look after our most vulnerable. Whilst it may be a utilitarian approach simply to look at the bottom line (maximising happiness for the maximum number of people), every death is a person, with a family and friends. If one were being cynical, one might call the politicians’ response expedient. Governments are generally unwilling to kill off the electorate – even if it would save the economy – as it tends to be unpopular with voters.

That said, there has to be a balance. If we get to a point where the lockdown harm is outweighing the benefits, then obviously restrictions will have to be lifted. The economy is closely linked to the nation’s health; research shows that the 2008 recession knocked three months off the average lifespan. What seems to happen is that in an economic crisis we increase our chances of dying prematurely. According to Fraser Nelson, a Swiss study has already looked at the effect of lockdown on alcoholism, depression and suicide, and suggests the most vulnerable 2% of the population could see their life expectancy cut by almost a decade. These findings challenge Doctor Finlay’s assertion that in an economic crisis we ‘adjust amazingly’.

The government now has a matter of just a few weeks at the most to provide details of our release from lockdown. We have to weigh the risks of death by any cause, including Covid-19, against the risks of socio-economic meltdown with all that that entails for a generation and maybe more. Forget having a 1.7% chance of dying this year. If we keep this up for much longer, we’ll have a near-100% chance of destroying 100 years’ worth of socio-economic development and all of the adverse health impacts and other national and global geopolitical and socio-economic risks that go with it.

A Decision Must Be Made

Andrew Lilico echoed my point in a newspaper article on 30 April. He argued that ‘we have two routes by which this could all be over quickly. Either the Swedes could prove to be right about lethality being no higher than feared, or new therapies could cut lethality. It could well be worth waiting a few weeks more to see. However, at that point, unless evidence emerges that Covid-19 lethality is worse than feared, we really must bite the bullet – even if that means tens of thousands more deaths whilst we achieve herd immunity. We cannot allow this to drag on for years, changing our whole way of life indefinitely. Whatever path we take, the whole situation must be over within a few months. Maintaining strong social distancing for years in the hope a vaccine turns up cannot be considered an option. And that is not a matter for medical scientists to decide on our behalf’.

This is why the likes of my dear friend, Doctor Finlay, should not be allowed to influence significantly what must be a political decision. There is no ‘amazing adjustment’ going on in our economy and our society in the face of Covid-19; there is simply socio-economic destruction, much as Doctor Finlay believes – but will not be able to prove – otherwise.

Mr Lilico emphasises that ‘the whole situation must be over within a few months’. That would take us to, say, the end of July. By then, the UK economy won’t be so much as on its knees; it’ll be on its back on the canvas being attended to by the team doctor. The number of suicides, incidents of domestic violence and children pleading for help to counsellors will have risen, probably exponentially. The portents for high unemployment are already looming large, with all of the economic and social ills that go with potentially millions of people being out of work.

First, Do No Harm

Here’s the rub. Doctor Finlay’s attitude to tackling the Covid-19 pandemic is characterised by the maxim, ‘primum non nocere’ (first, do no harm). My wife is also a doctor. I know that doctors are magnificent at protecting and preserving life and we should be inordinately grateful for what they’re doing right now in protecting us from the ravages of Covid-19. Doctors will encourage you to ‘stay safe’ until the cows come home; that’s what they’re paid to do; moreover, that’s genuinely what they want you to do.

However, as a general rule, I can’t think of any practising doctors who distinguish themselves in the fields of economics and politics. I feel I can say that having lived with an extremely competent doctor for forty years (light-hearted quip, by the way). I feel I can also say that in the light of Doctor Finlay’s unfortunate illusion that we’re ‘adjusting amazingly’ to Covid-19; sorry, we’re absolutely not.

Let’s Do It!

Meanwhile, as an erstwhile soldier myself, I’m characterised by mission focus and risk analysis. I’m also a semi-retired businessman with twenty-five years’ experience in commerce at board level and as a company owner-director. Now self-employed, I’m being hit hard financially by this crisis (although nowhere near as hard as many people). I’m having great difficulty seeing how the future will unfold and how I can plan to get back to business. All I can see are two black curtains deliberately drawn in front of me with a head poking through between them, smiling sweetly and telling me to ‘stay safe’. I’m confident in saying that the economy is heading for catastrophe and our society is being turned upside down. That’s what the hard evidence is telling us; there are no ‘amazing adjustments’ taking place. Consequently, we need to move swiftly from a ‘stay safe’ culture to a ‘let’s do it!’ culture. Yes, I know, it’s a staggeringly difficult political decision. However, we’re at a critical stage where if we maintain lockdown and everything that goes with it for much longer, we’re stuffed.

It’s important to recognise that we each view life through our own lens. Doctor Finlay’s lens has ‘first, do no harm’ etched on to it, and mine has ‘stick to the mission’. The mission is to get back to normal, before it’s too late. So, please can we swap the mantra ‘stay safe‘ with ‘let’s do it!‘. That’s what we muttered to each other undramatically as the Landing Craft ramp went down.

Finally, I hope I’ve adhered to my psychiatrist-wife’s advice and focused objectively on the facts and the issues in this post and, moreover, protected my friendship with Doctor Finlay.

Keep buggering on.

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See you down the pub … eventually.

33 comments

  1. Chris Emblen · · Reply

    I was with you all the way until you brought Andrew Lilico into it. While he often speaks sense his central argument on Twitter that his sons right to play rugby outweighs my families right to have my parents alive and healthy for as long as possible.
    There has to be a way out of this lock down soon and he is probably correct it is likely to be confirmed treatment, protection for the vulnerable (though possible that is the 50% of adults who are overweight) but as I have challenged him to choose who dies and to have the conversation with their family why his Children are more important, not their health, just their chosen sports.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. moraymint · · Reply

      Thanks Chris, and you’ve distilled the issue down to the agonising decision we face as a society. I mean there is no easy answer here. We have no Covid-19 immunity test; we have no Covid-19 vaccine; we have no Covid-19 herd immunity. All we have is a ramped-up NHS. We could now decide to try and save the lives of every British citizen for as long as possible. That would mean spending the rest of our lives wearing a comfort-blank around our heads (a facemask) and never coming within 6 feet of any other fellow citizen. That would give us the best possible chance of protecting my 89 year-old Mum’s life and the lives of my two daughters (32 years and 25 years respectively). But how sustainable is that way of life?

      This must be the most extraordinarily challenging time in at least a century.

      Like

      1. Chris Emblen · · Reply

        The thing that distorts the discussion is the ‘age’ question. Andrew Lilico right posed on Twitter “What 85 year old Grandparent would want their Grandchildren locked up for an extended time”, many in the media talk about 89 yr olds, or frail people at the end of life.
        The problem is in the UK the average age of people in ICU is 63. Because of the health of our Nation is appears we are particularly vulnerable, overweight and obese appear particularly susceptible to poor outcomes.
        I lost a close GP friend to this awful disease, he had a long, fruitful and productive life ahead of him.
        As Dr Findlay rightly points out, we have no weapons against this thing……yet.

        The herd immunity strategy can only be followed once immunity after contracting the disease is guaranteed and currently this hasn’t been. What Politician would condemn every person who enjoys a few too many beers, or Pizza over lentils to an increased risk of dying?

        Like

  2. reallyoldbill · · Reply

    Without making any judgement on the substance of your arguments, I am, however, surprised at the offence seemingly taken by so many to a simple phrase, “stay safe”. I would be willing to bet a reasonable sum that most people who interpret that as being patronising will, at some point in their lives and probably on a regular basis, have used similar terms like, “drive carefully” or “have a safe flight” when saying goodbye to a departing friend, spouse or relative. It is a good illustration of how the same words or phrases can be interpreted differently by individuals. Perhaps we are back to the glass half full to some and half empty to others divisions in personalities?

    Even if the present restrictions are lifted in total, I would suggest that until the pandemic is completely over, many people will continue to use that phrase without implying any deeper meaning than simple best wishes for your health. I personally see many things in life which cause me greater concern, among them the now almost religious-cult belief that we should stand outside and applaud the NHS every Thursday evening. Without taking away any respect for the work they do, it is, just as with soldiers going to war, police facing armed criminals and firefighters entering burning buildings, what they voluntarily signed up for. Worth pointing out though that all the above are also “public sector” so perhaps the critical comments about “all the public sector” need to be tempered with that recognition?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. moraymint · · Reply

      Thanks as ever, and good points Bill. I know exactly what you mean about the ‘stay safe’ phrase. I suppose the point I was trying to make is that the otherwise innocuous phrase has moved from being a thoughtful valediction to being emblematic of the attitude of millions of people (the majority, it seems) which is to stay under cover at all costs. But, yes the phrase in itself is a kindly use of words – which seem to me to have been hijacked.

      Point taken too about ‘the public sector’: they’re not all lazy bureaucrats, by any stretch!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Donna · · Reply

    Well argued Mr Moraymint – and I’m firmly in your corner. This lockdown has to be lifted (not entirely, but significantly) before the damage to our economy and therefore our standard/way of life is irreversible.

    If it’s extended further, London and other large cities/conurbations may still “bounce-back” when it’s eventually lifted, although I doubt the bounce will be as high as anticipated by our rulers. But small towns across the country won’t. They were already suffering from decades of under-investment and dying High Streets. Lockdown will be the killer blow for many of them. The delightful small West Country town I now live in has two main sources of income; tourism being one of them. Many of the small, independent pubs and cafes here will struggle to survive, even IF they manage to eventually re-open, which is by no means guaranteed. The town’s other income-source will also be massively affected by Wuhan Flu.

    The risk-averse society we have become is not conducive to the long-term public good and the Government’s Wuhan Flu “Project Fear” campaign was irresponsible. A “keep calm and carry on” public information campaign would have been far better. Encouraging people to worry about what are, statistically, tiny risks leads to anxiety, OCD and depression and I predict a surge in these mental health conditions and all the usual consequences for the individual and their families.

    The State-sanctioned Health n Safety culture has led to a generation of young adults we call “snowflakes” because so many have/appear to have no resilience. And that’s before we get on to a generation of school-children, many of whose education, and therefore life chances, will have been permanently damaged by 3 months or more of, effectively, no education.

    There was no justification for a full nationwide lockdown, as Matt Hancock effectively admitted to Nick Ferrari on LBC this week. The Government knew that outside London and a few other hot-spots, mainly Birmingham, Sheffield and a few other areas, cases of the virus were very small. They could have locked the hot-spots down and prevented flight to safer areas, and put in place less stringent containment measures elsewhere. But they decided on a nationwide lockdown so we would “all be in it together.” In other words, they didn’t follow the science, they made a political decision. They basically decided to kill my small town (and many others) in order to demonstrate solidarity with London and other heavily infected areas.

    Your doctor friend is wrong. “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger”. And Whuhan Flu hasn’t AND WON’T kill the vast majority of us.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Two letters to the MSM that indicate that Covod-19 death rates are probably inflated. Maybe some doctors don’t want to attend care homes for fear of catching CV:

    SIR – ‘My mother died last week in a care home at the age of 98. When my brother registered her death, as expected, the cause given was “frailty due to old age”, but he was surprised to see that the doctor certifying the death had added “presumed Covid-19”, an inclusion that also shocked the home’s manager.

    The day before our mother died, my brother was allowed to sit with her for an hour. His temperature was checked before he was admitted, but there was no form of isolation and none of the home’s staff were wearing personal protective equipment.

    If doctors are attributing all deaths in care homes to Covid-19, it makes a nonsense of any statistics and does great reputational damage to both individual care homes and to the care industry as a whole.’

    ‘My mum works in a care home in Nottingham. They’ve had three deaths in the past two weeks, which is a normal number for them (they offer end-of-life care). The local GPs have recorded the cause of death as COVID-19 in all three cases, even though the people in question were showing no symptoms of the virus and had previously been tested and found to be negative. The residents of the care home are being frequently tested by Public Health England. No cases of COVID-19 have been detected so far. The care home manager was quite proud that their strict infection control procedures seemed to be working and is now quite upset that COVID-19 deaths are being recorded at the home. In this area of Nottingham at least, it seems that GPs are assuming the cause of death is COVID-19 without any evidence at all. I’m not sure how widespread this practice is, but if it’s even moderately repeated across this UK, this has obvious implications for the accuracy of the national statistics.’

    Liked by 1 person

    1. moraymint · · Reply

      Bizarre, if anything?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Chris Emblen · · Reply

        I work with GPs and if there are any signs of symptoms, and many Care Home residents are being tested now, they are entering suspect Covid-19 as a contributing factor, not as cause of death which it is in many, many cases.
        If they do not they are hounded, especially by those on the left, for ‘under-reporting’.
        When this is over we will see the true figure by excess mortality, though that will include of and as a result of the lockdown/clearing of beds.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. From behind DT paywall – must read:

    The tragedy of the Covid-19 pandemic appears to be entering the containment phase. Tens of thousands of Americans have died, and Americans are now desperate for sensible policymakers who have the courage to ignore the panic and rely on facts. Leaders must examine accumulated data to see what has actually happened, rather than keep emphasizing hypothetical projections; combine that empirical evidence with fundamental principles of biology established for decades; and then thoughtfully restore the country to function. Five key facts are being ignored by those calling for continuing the near-total lockdown.

    Fact 1: The overwhelming majority of people do not have any significant risk of dying from Covid-19. The recent Stanford University antibody study now estimates that the fatality rate if infected is likely 0.1 to 0.2 percent, a risk far lower than previous World Health Organization estimates that were 20 to 30 times higher and that motivated isolation policies.

    In New York City, an epicenter of the pandemic with more than one-third of all U.S. deaths, the rate of death for people 18 to 45 years old is 0.01 percent, or 10 per 100,000 in the population. On the other hand, people aged 75 and over have a death rate 80 times that.

    For people under 18 years old, the rate of death is zero per 100,000. Of all fatal cases in New York state, two-thirds were in patients over 70 years of age; more than 95 percent were over 50 years of age; and about 90 percent of all fatal cases had an underlying illness. Of 6,570 confirmed Covid-19 deaths fully investigated for underlying conditions to date, 6,520, or 99.2 percent, had an underlying illness. If you do not already have an underlying chronic condition, your chances of dying are small, regardless of age. And young adults and children in normal health have almost no risk of any serious illness from COVID-19.

    Fact 2: Protecting older, at-risk people eliminates hospital overcrowding. We can learn about hospital utilization from data from New York City, the hotbed of Covid-19 with more than 34,600 hospitalizations to date. For those under 18 years of age, hospitalization from the virus is 0.01 percent, or 11 per 100,000 people; for those 18 to 44 years old, hospitalization is 0.1 percent. Even for people ages 65 to 74, only 1.7 percent were hospitalized. Of 4,103 confirmed Covid-19 patients with symptoms bad enough to seek medical care, Dr. Leora Horwitz of NYU Medical Center concluded “age is far and away the strongest risk factor for hospitalization.” Even early WHO reports noted that 80 percent of all cases were mild, and more recent studies show a far more widespread rate of infection and lower rate of serious illness.

    Half of all people testing positive for infection have no symptoms at all. The vast majority of younger, otherwise healthy people do not need significant medical care if they catch this infection.

    Fact 3: Vital population immunity is prevented by total isolation policies, prolonging the problem. We know from decades of medical science that infection itself allows people to generate an immune response – antibodies – so that the infection is controlled throughout the population by “herd immunity.”

    Indeed, that is the main purpose of widespread immunization in other viral diseases – to assist with population immunity. In this virus, we know that medical care is not even necessary for the vast majority of people who are infected. It is so mild that half of infected people are asymptomatic, shown in early data from the Diamond Princess ship, and then in Iceland and Italy.

    That has been falsely portrayed as a problem requiring mass isolation. In fact, infected people without severe illness are the immediately available vehicle for establishing widespread immunity. By transmitting the virus to others in the low-risk group who then generate antibodies, they block the network of pathways toward the most vulnerable people, ultimately ending the threat. Extending whole-population isolation would directly prevent that widespread immunity from developing.

    Fact 4: People are dying because other medical care is not getting done due to hypothetical projections. Critical health care for millions of Americans is being ignored and people are dying to accommodate “potential” Covid-19 patients and for fear of spreading the disease. Most states and many hospitals abruptly stopped “nonessential” procedures and surgery. That prevented diagnoses of life-threatening diseases, like cancer screening, biopsies of tumors now undiscovered and potentially deadly brain aneurysms. Treatments, including emergency care, for the most serious illnesses were also missed. Cancer patients deferred chemotherapy. An estimated 80 per cent of brain surgery cases were skipped. Acute stroke and heart attack patients missed their only chances for treatment, some dying and many now facing permanent disability.

    Fact 5: We have a clearly defined population at risk who can be protected with targeted measures. The overwhelming evidence all over the world consistently shows that a clearly defined group – older people and others with underlying conditions – is more likely to have a serious illness requiring hospitalization and more likely to die from Covid-19. Knowing that, it is a commonsense, achievable goal to target isolation policy to that group, including strictly monitoring those who interact with them. Nursing home residents, the highest risk, should be the most straightforward to systematically protect from infected people, given that they already live in confined places with highly restricted entry.

    The appropriate policy, based on fundamental biology and the evidence already in hand, is to institute a more focused strategy like some outlined in the first place: Strictly protect the known vulnerable, self-isolate the mildly sick and open most workplaces and small businesses with some prudent large-group precautions. This would allow the essential socializing to generate immunity among those with minimal risk of serious consequence, while saving lives, preventing overcrowding of hospitals and limiting the enormous harms compounded by continued total isolation. Let’s stop underemphasising empirical evidence while instead doubling down on hypothetical models. Facts matter.

    Scott W. Atlas, MD, is the David and Joan Traitel Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution and the former chief of neuroradiology at Stanford University Medical Center. A version of this article originally appeared in The Hill

    Liked by 1 person

    1. moraymint · · Reply

      Yes, thanks John. I’m a DT Subscriber and saw that excellent article …

      Like

      1. The article indicates that the UK, bar one or two exceptions such as Sweden and South Korea is in the middle of executing one of the biggest cock ups in its history. Tens, if not hundreds of thousands of highly skilled and highly paid people e.g. airline pilots, maintenance engineers and Airbus employees will be made redundant and there will be no jobs for them to go to.

        The political class now have to keep lockdown going to justify their actions regardless of the economic carnage. They’ll be long out of office when we, our kids and theirs will still be picking up what pieces of whats left.

        Never in the history of human endeavour have so few cocked it up for so many!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. moraymint · · Reply

          I fear, but hope fervently that you and I are wrong …

          Like

  6. I agree. I think we (humans) will muddle through this and come out the other side (maybe) stronger for it. However, not everyone.
    “Who decides?” is always the most important question. And we are probably, as with many things, about split 50/50 on the issue. Those that lean toward risk taking and those toward risk averse.
    The decider is up against it (rock &/a hard place).
    I very much agree with the position that as a society (UK & USA) we’ve been conditioned, for the last 50 years, to “expect” comfort without struggle, or unearned well-being. That we are entitled to a good life. We’ve become a “therapeutic culture”. (Not a bad thing – just not realistic. We have become conditioned to the idea of “having our cake … , etc.)
    We’ll see how it all shakes out. Well, I probably won’t because I’m 70 and the results of the decisions will linger long beyond my natural life, I suppose.
    Cheers.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Martyn Edwards · · Reply

    MM

    This was an extremely interesting and well-written expose covering the relaxation of lockdown as viewed through the opposing prisms of qualified professionals with fundamentally different mindsets dictated by their respective careers.

    I agree with your views.

    Dr Finlay’s words “adjusting amazingly” are both naive and dangerous, insulated no doubt as he is by public sector certainties from private sector realities. What surprises me is that such well-educated and intelligent people fail to realise that their mindset is determined by their track record and that they fail to see the bigger picture. No private sector = no public sector. The largesse of public sector salaries / pensions is not only socially divisive, but also a contributory factor to excessive government indebtedness and inevitable collapse.

    I find the words “Stay safe” patronising and offensive. The public sector have been paying homage to this mantra for at least 15 years. It is afraid of taking risks.

    Having said this, while I would like to see a staggered reversion to status quo as soon as practicably possible, I doubt that this will happen, not because of government refusal to do so, but as a result of public response. Attitudes towards being in close proximity to others are hardening. There will be a significant drop in travel using public transport, attendance at sporting / cultural events and trade fairs.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Dr Finlay · · Reply

    Dearest Moraymint Dr Finlay here!
    I read your post with interest but am so horrified I’ve picked up the pen.
    Your arguments are over simple and based on a false premise. Oh alluring but ultimately dangerous. Very dangerous!
    First we, the world, are a war with this virus. This is “total war”.
    Second at the start of the war we have NO weapons. None, zip, nothing. Our only tactic is to “ run for the hill”, hide, spread out.( Lockdown) Not great.
    Some brave souls inadequately armoured will try to bring us food and tend our sick, injured and dying. They will die in large numbers.
    If we do that and remain cohesive we buy time.
    We buy time to reorganise, improve protection, support each other and learn.
    We find ways of detecting the enemy( tests), avoiding the enemy, destroying the enemy( drugs) and making it impotent( vaccine).
    Time. So important.
    Leadership, cohesion, resourcefulness.
    The economy will need to change to a war footing fully and effectively. Useless citizens need to keep out of the way. Bugger the fluff and floss economy we are at WAR!! “ “don’t you know there is a Pandemic , stupid!”
    Now once and if we have repulsed the first wave/spike and the enemy is weakening R fight back> win the war> get on with the new world.
    Dr Finlay was on the Frontline for 40 years. In business for 32 years and politics for 20 years.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. moraymint · · Reply

      That’s the spirit!
      However, my fundamental point remains: the longer we prioritise protecting ourselves from death-by-Covid-19 without building herd immunity and without a vaccine (but accepting that testing, tracking and tracing have a role to play), the more life-threatening will be the collapse in economic activity.
      As with all such matters, only time will now tell. You’re quite rightly and thankfully focused on fighting Covid-19. I’m watching like a hawk all the leading indicators of economic collapse.
      Let’s compare notes in 6 months time – but enjoy a few virtual curry nights before then …

      Like

  9. Cannon · · Reply

    Roger has indeed hit the nail on the head. The dividing line is firmly between public and private sector. On a positive note, my impression is that ministers are (at last) beginning to move toward easing restrictions.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. deejaym · · Reply

    Thank you again MM.

    Another thoughtful post.

    The whole Keep Safe thing grated on me from the beginning. Without a doubt its going to be adopted by the Left as a stick with which to push their agenda…

    KBO !

    Liked by 2 people

    1. moraymint · · Reply

      I cringe when people say, ‘stay safe’ to me, and I never say it to anyone else …

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Jason · · Reply

        The clapping stuff gets me too

        A neighbour who berated me for not lying supplicant at the altar of the NHS every Thursday got short shrift from me

        My response ‘I’ll clap them when they stop f***ing dancing on TikTok‘. Which I find one of the most distasteful things at the moment (to those who’ve died and the wider community who are going to suffer massively because of all this)

        Liked by 2 people

        1. moraymint · · Reply

          I can’t bear to, and I don’t watch those insane little of videos of public sector workers (the police seem to do it too, don’t they?) prancing about in hospitals and other places. As soon as I glimpse one on social media, I scroll down …

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Jason · · Reply

            We’re very much in the same wavelength (I’m an ex-matelot so that’s probably why)

            Liked by 1 person

      2. Robert Graham · · Reply

        Almost as bad as “Have a good day”.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. xantilor · · Reply

          Worse. “Have a good day” doesn’t have sanctimonious overtones.

          Like

  11. derekbernard · · Reply

    I support your analysis. Time to get back to business.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Jason · · Reply

    I have several friends who work in the public sector (health police fire etc)

    The complete lack of understanding of how are economy works and where the wealth is actually generated is astounding

    Their main worry is ensuring their pensions are ‘safe’. What they actually do comes a distant second

    I think there are going to be a lot of unhappy people once the cataclysm unfolds over the next few years

    As a side note another friend (who’s private pension has collapsed) asked me when I thought the stock markets will recover. My response was no one can tell our only prior example is the 1929 stock market crash and Resultant depression and world war. He went white when I said it took until 1954 for the Dow Jones to recover to 1929 levels

    Liked by 2 people

    1. moraymint · · Reply

      Hear, hear …

      Like

  13. I echo your thoughts. From speaking (at a safe social distance, I might add) to various people there appears to be a big divide on opinion based upon their own circumstances & employment.
    The NHS (my wife is an A&E nurse practitioner) aren’t overwhelmed so they are happy with the lock down.
    Teachers/state educationists are happy with the lock down – staying at home with no children to teach.
    The whole public sector invariably working from home are happy with the lock down – working from home at their pleasure, no travelling to work & under limited (if any) pressure.
    The common denominator being they are all state funded – are all earning 100% of their previous incomes & in general are having a positive experience of the lock down in terms of employment/salary.
    Whereas the people that generate the wealth that enables the UK to have a strong public sector are longing for the lock down to end. They see the bigger picture economically.
    All public sector employees (including our politicians/civil service) are not being compromised economically, hence they see no reason to end the lock down if there is even a remote chance that they could fall victim to COVID_19.
    Better safe than sorry is their mantra, but I fear in years to come when we all end up paying for the panic that this level of caution will be counter productive.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. moraymint · · Reply

      You’ve hit the nail on the head, Roger. There is a case for saying that for politicians and all the public sector lined up behind them, as they are, voting to end lockdown would be like turkeys voting for Christmas. What incentive is there to do it? It’s bloody scary when you think about it and, at the risk of hyperbole, probably unprecedented in history. Not to worry: Dr Finlay tells us that we’re ‘adjusting amazingly’!! He’ll beat me up for saying that LOL!

      Like

    2. Chris Emblen · · Reply

      I think the comment is unfair on the NHS, I do not know of one Public Sector employee “Happy with the lockdown”. If your wife is I suggests she is in a tiny minority. Yes they are quiet because they were told to, and as an earlier MM blog pointed out, quickly build capacity in case the peak was as predicted. Plan for the worst.

      At the same time as the hospitals were doing this GP practices were radically reshaping how they deliver care, away from face to face and doing us much remotely as they safely can. Putting in place sites and visiting teams that be separated depending on if they had Covid symptoms or not or were in the most vulnerable category. They took up caring for the patients the hospitals couldn’t see.

      In my area alone the number of consultations conducted online, and many, many can be, rose from 5,000 a month to 15,000 a month in 6 weeks. We had to quickly roll out all of the infrastructure to support this. This is all to keep patients (and staff) safe(r) as was the expert advice.

      BUT at the same time patients have chosen to stay away for understandable reasons and this is our fault not the NHS. A&E is quiet because we aren’t having car accidents, getting drunk in town and falling over or are simply too wary to attend. We now have the sight of local GPs making YouTube videos asking people not to hesitate if they, or more importantly their child, is sick.

      The Local Authorities massively ramped up local services to ensure that those who were locking themselves away could receive the support they needed, people normally doing planning applications were calling people to check they have food. Like MM I have been involved intimately in 2 campaigns and the activity level, the dedication and the speed to action of many we all love to castigate has been on a par with anything I experienced in the military. They still have a lot to learn about command structures and devolved decisions but we should clap them.

      So while I agree with the above comment that many in Public service do not understand how the economy works (I do) do not think for a second that people have been sitting with their feet up. I and many, many of my colleagues have worked unbelievable hours to try to ensure that services can carry on through this, albeit in a different way. And we will continue to do this as we transition to a ‘living with Covid’ phase and hopefully a post Covid phase.

      Like

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