Health warning: These are my thoughts on where we are and where we may be going. They are not a statement of EC policy or thinking, merely something in the way of my musings on the issues.
Some of you will have seen Prof. Anthony Costello giving evidence to the Health Select Committee on Friday. The headline story became his forecast that the death toll (in the first phase) was likely to be in the order of 40,000. This contrasts with the forecast on 28 March by the Chief Medical Adviser that we would probably hold it to 20,000, a figure if we include Care Home deaths that we have probably already passed and which, in hospitals alone, we will likely pass by the end of this week.
But beyond that there he raised some other important issues:
- deliberate failure to act quickly enough at the start cost many lives as did the failure to implement fully, and continue with, a test and trace regime.
- flattening the curve is not enough, it needs to be pushed right down before we can contemplate easing the lockdown.
- this first wave will only achieve 10 – 15% immunity (we need at least 50% to achieve herd immunity) so we can expect a second, third or even fourth wave.
- China’s experience is relevant, they have eased (not fully lifted) restrictions , they are already seeing new cases, initially amongst people returning to China but now the first new cases from transmissions within China are appearing. The start of their second wave?
- ‘We just have to pray that vaccinologists come up with a vaccine’.
But what has happened in the 36 hours since that meeting? The World Health Organisation (WHO) has cast serious doubt as to whether infection does provide any long term immunity against further infection. It is not always the case that this immunity is given e.g. the common cold. If this proves to be the case (and it is still an if) a policy that fundamentally rests on herd immunity cannot work. Also, if infection does not provide long term protection against further infection it is likely that there cannot be a vaccine that gives this.
Up to now I have supported pursuing immunity, achieved partly in the short term, by unavoidable infection, combined with safeguarding of the most vulnerable. Then, later, by vaccination when a vaccine becomes available. I think this is the Government’s plan also.
But if there is serious doubt that this strategy will work there has to be a Plan B. I don’t think there is one, at least I have seen no sign of one and there is serious doubt about this strategy.
*** STOP PRESS***
I wrote the above last night but there are some important developments in the Press this morning that you need to look at.
Failure to act quickly enough see Sunday Times:
‘Government lost a crucial 5 weeks to tackle threat of Covid-19’ and
‘The fallout from our disastrous Covid-19 policy could tip us into the worst depression since the 1930s’
If you are not a subscriber you can see this at: https://news.sky.com/story/coronavirus-govt-missed-a-series-of-opportunities-to-lessen-impact-of-covid-19-11975328
The vaccine problem see The Observer:
David Nabarro professor of global health at Imperial College, London, and an envoy for the World Health Organisation on COVID-19, writes:
‘there is no guarantee that a vaccine can be successfully developed……the public should not assume that a vaccine would definitely be developed soon – and would have to adapt to the ongoing threat.
You don’t necessarily develop a vaccine that is safe and effective against every virus. Some viruses are very, very difficult when it comes to vaccine development – so for the foreseeable future, we are going to have to find ways to go about our lives with this virus as a constant threat.’
Lifting the lockdown (widely covered)
Talk late last night and this morning of schools opening in 3 weeks even though we have no idea at this stage what the infection and death rates will be by then. Have we stopped ‘following the science? But then later Michael Gove denying it. Are there signs here of a cabinet split between those prioritising health and those prioritising the economy? Or are they just waiting for Boris to come back and tell them what to do?
This is why we need an Exit Strategy and why we need a Plan B, both of which have to make clear the conditions that have to be met before they can start (China was down to zero cases)
Keir Starmer is right to demand a statement now on the Exit Strategy.
Dick Scroop, Secretary
Wolverhampton SW CLP
These are Dick Scroop’s thoughts on where we are and where we may be going. They are not a statement of EC policy or thinking, merely something in the way of Dick musings on the issues.