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Coronavirus and the political situation


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I wonder what the results would look like if there was a election held right now in these times of covid,  

Just been reading that the Chinese city of Xian population 13 million have been ordered to stay indoors with only one person allowed to leave every few day's only for essential supplies, Sturgeon would just love that kind of power 😉

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On 21/12/2021 at 13:11, stewarty said:

lets separate the arguments.   he could get it wrong on omicron but have been correct about the initial spread going unchecked.

 

i've not read what he's said on omicron, but given he has been vindicated from March 2020, i'd be prepared to listen before just dismissing it out of hand

 

also, you seem both certain of the consequences and critical of ferguson due to a possible (i don't know) lack of analysis/data... i can't square these arguments... either there isn't enough data to know for sure, or there is.

 

 

Perhaps he's just crap at his job.

 

 

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9 hours ago, forlanssister said:

Perhaps he's just crap at his job.

 

 

Quite possibly, but also, very possibly not. 

any analysis based on early data is fraught with danger.  
 

the problem with these journalistic interpretations of scientific analysis is that it’s also fraught with danger.  More so that they have more need to sensationalise the unsensational, but also cold analysis of limited data. 
 

There has been a flood of analysis of omicron in the last week which has significantly improved our understanding of its implications, yet more data is needed. 
 

In some quarters there is a rush to claim it’s not as bad as other strains, what are we all worried about, just carry on, things will be okay…

 

vs

 

a conservative view based on some difficult but early analysis which warns that this could be a really horrible spike that causes great stress to our public services at a time when they are already massively stressed.  
 

I’ve said many times but my view is that we are far better to over react early than to under react (as we did for the first 2 lock downs, in my view), given that the implications of the latter are far longer periods of time when we can’t socialise, attend events, visit friends and family, and all the other things that contribute to our general wellbeing and health (not forgetting mental health too). 
 

so if professor lockdown is our canary down the mineshaft giving us an early warning on some potentially serious consequences… I say crack on sir.  If he turns out to be wrong, we all rest easier and can get back to our regular life much much more quickly. 
 

 

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3 hours ago, stewarty said:

Quite possibly, but also, very possibly not. 

any analysis based on early data is fraught with danger.  
 

the problem with these journalistic interpretations of scientific analysis is that it’s also fraught with danger.  More so that they have more need to sensationalise the unsensational, but also cold analysis of limited data. 
 

There has been a flood of analysis of omicron in the last week which has significantly improved our understanding of its implications, yet more data is needed. 
 

In some quarters there is a rush to claim it’s not as bad as other strains, what are we all worried about, just carry on, things will be okay…

 

vs

 

a conservative view based on some difficult but early analysis which warns that this could be a really horrible spike that causes great stress to our public services at a time when they are already massively stressed.  
 

I’ve said many times but my view is that we are far better to over react early than to under react (as we did for the first 2 lock downs, in my view), given that the implications of the latter are far longer periods of time when we can’t socialise, attend events, visit friends and family, and all the other things that contribute to our general wellbeing and health (not forgetting mental health too). 
 

so if professor lockdown is our canary down the mineshaft giving us an early warning on some potentially serious consequences… I say crack on sir.  If he turns out to be wrong, we all rest easier and can get back to our regular life much much more quickly. 
 

 

And there lies the problem. Professor Lockdown continues to do uncountable damage to the underlying health of the nation as operations get cancelled, appointments missed and diagnosis not given due to overly pessemistic forecasts and models by him as a mouthpiece of Sage. For many there will be no getting back to their regular life as the previous lockdowns have shown. Mental health issues abound across all age groups, suicides are up and anxiety has been stoked to fever pitch. 

 

It is also becoming clear that ministers are only being given one side to the possible outcome. 

 

The minutes of the last Sage meeting are illuminating for their pessimissim and lack of balance.

 

From the Spectator

Sage memo makes the case for lockdown

 

On Monday, Covid restrictions were rejected after the cabinet debated the issue robustly for the first time since the pandemic started. The Prime Minister said he’d revisit the decision, so the debate is very much still ongoing.
But it wasn’t just ministers meeting that day. Sage assembled its experts as well, with over 70 scientists and government officials in attendance. The minutes, seen by The Spectator, give an interesting summary of the official case for more lockdown restrictions.

 

Everyone is wrestling with two questions; if there are no more restrictions, how far will Omicron case numbers rise? And how will that translate into hospitalisations? If there is reason to believe that the NHS will be overwhelmed, this makes the case for more restrictions now. But if Omicron starts to level off and is so mild as to mean fewer hospitalisations than the earlier peak, as has been the case in South Africa, then restrictions could risk inflicting needless economic and social harm.

 

There is another twist to this. Sage is not the only outfit modelling Covid for the UK: there are now sophisticated independent forecasters as well. One is JP Morgan, whose extensive Covid research is being passed like samizdat papers between cabinet members who fear that Sage has a negative bias. ‘We anticipate the efficacy of boosters against hospitalisations holding up (with 90 per cent of over 65s already boosted) such that hospitalisations remain below 1,500 per day,’ JP Morgan says (the January peak was almost 4,000). In this scenario, British boosters save the day and Omicron is rebuffed by a wall of vaccinated people.


But the Sage memo paints a very different picture: of a vulnerable nation where more restrictions are needed for everyone quite quickly. Here are its main points:

1. Sage accepts that Omicron may have peaked in South Africa
In public, Sage officials talk about a ‘doubling time’ of Omicron to suggest that, without restrictions, its rise will be exponential. But it accepts that the virus is already levelling off in South Africa, the country with the most experience of Omicron which has not locked down. However, Sage says that assumptions about UK hospital admissions cannot be made from South Africa’s experience.


"The number of infections and hospitalisation in Gauteng appears to be declining. The reasons for this are not clear and it cannot be assumed that this will be sustained. Nor can it be assumed that the wave in the UK will follow a similar pattern, given the different populations and epidemiological situations."


2. Sage says milder scenarios should ‘not be assumed for planning purposes’

The JP Morgan scenario had Omicron daily hospitalisations at 1,500. The PCCF model developed by Prof Philip Thomas (which predicted the third wave) suggests a peak of 2,800. Both envisage no more restrictions. But no such scenario appears in the Sage papers.

Indeed, ministers are explicitly told to forget about such scenarios ‘for planning purposes’. The latest Sage minutes suggest that a ‘range of values’ have been used to create scenarios for Omicron’s trajectory but that Omicron would need to be at least 90 per cent less severe than Delta to stop the NHS from being inundated.


"In the absence of further interventions or significant behaviour change, intrinsic severity would need to be greatly reduced (by around 90 per cent) for hospitalisations to not reach the levels of previous peaks unless the wave peaks early for other reasons, which should not be assumed for planning purposes."


The 90 per cent figure appears to reference the University of Warwick’s modelling, which provides scenarios for 10, 20, 50, and 100 per cent severity, compared with Delta. Real-world data (the likes of which are not just coming in from South Africa) shows that Omicron is 80 per cent less likely to hospitalise; data from Denmark says 60 per cent. They are the only two countries to have worked this out, and it is not yet known what emphasis can be put on variant severity, vaccines at work and natural immunity. But neither findings are mentioned in the Sage minutes. Instead there is simply a reference to ‘uncertainty’.

 

The final sentence – the optimistic scenarios and other factors that could influence the extent of admissions ‘should not be assumed for planning purposes’ – unnerves ministers who want to know: why not? What are they being given: a range of plausible projections or just a selection of worse-case ‘scenarios’?

 

Neither Sage documents nor the accompanying interpretation makes this clear.

3. Sage say acting now stops longer measures later

The Sage document calls for ‘earlier interventions’ as well as a ‘short intervention… if introduced early enough’ to flatten the Omicron curve.

 

“ It continues to be the case that the earlier interventions happen the greater the effect they will have. Even a short intervention could reduce both peak and total admissions, particularly if introduced early enough. The main benefit of a short intervention would be in flattening the peak of admissions, and to allow more people to receive boosters. If measures are implemented later, when hospital admissions have risen significantly, measures may need to be in place for longer and may be too late to avert a period with very high admissions."


4. Sage rejects the idea of more limited, ‘targeted measures’

 

Ministers are told that shielding and ‘targeted’ measures are not ‘effective’ compared to ‘population-wide’ measures. This suggests Sage leans more towards a circuit-breaker (a euphemism for lockdown) than less stringent interventions:

 

“ Protective measures are important for the individual, and this is particularly the case for those who are at higher risk. However, measures targeted at more at-risk groups only (e.g. ‘shielding’) are not an effective substitute for population-wide measures if the aim is to reduce overall hospitalisation rates (high confidence)."


5. Sage cites ‘mental health’ as a reason to reject targeted measures

The document appears to look at one of the shielding options (that has been raised before by government): asking care home staff to shield, but not placing the same requirement on the rest of the population.

 

“ The group of people affected would be wider than just those the policy aimed to protect. For example, those coming into contact with residents (such as care home staff and visitors) may also need to reduce their contacts to prevent incursions of infections into the care home network. Reducing contacts may have significant negative impacts on the mental health and wellbeing of those asked to do so (high confidence). In addition, those who have previously been asked to shield may be reluctant to take similar steps again, reducing the effectiveness of such measures. If individuals are asked to reduce contacts more than the wider population, policies and messaging will need to consider potential reluctance and mental health impacts."

 

6. Omicron is spreading within the NHS

 

Hospitalisations with Omicron are increasing but the numbers remain uncertain. Pillar 1 testing data in Manchester indicate a doubling time of around 2–3 days for patients and staff testing positive for Omicron infection. This suggests that Omicron is getting into hospitals at a similar rate to its spread in the community.
This certainly reflects data from London hospitals.

 

7. What Sage does not say: length of hospital stay

As each day passes, new data on Omicron comes rolling in but it’s striking how little of the more encouraging news is referenced. Take, for example, the length of stay in hospital. Sage has this to say:

 

“ Hospital occupancy will be affected by length of stay as well as admissions. Changes to treatment plans e.g. treating more patients at home, or increased use of antivirals, may affect admissions and occupancy. Occupancy scales approximately linearly with length of stay."

 

In a ‘significant early finding’ South Africa found hospital stays with Omicron were closer to 2.8 days than 8.5 days, so this is a major variable which could have a game-changing effect on whether the NHS can cope. Again, ministers are given no hint of this in the Sage briefing note. Length of hospital stay was one of the variables that allowed JP Morgan to critique the LSHTM modelling and come up with a less alarming scenario where no more restrictions would be needed.

 

The document is phrased as if Sage is collectively making the case for lockdown: in reality Sage is a huge number of experts most of whom wish to provide advice but not lobby government for anything. But over the pandemic, Sage advice has tended to be edited and summarised by those inside government lobbying for more restrictions.

 

Nor are Sage attendees the decision-makers who ultimately decide whether or not we lock down. This morning, when talking about lockdown, Prof Graham Medley, chair of the Sage forecasters, said: ‘I am not making the decisions.’

It’s an important point: Prof Medley is an academic asked to model various scenarios by government officials, mindful of how risk lies on both sides. He has done more than most to open a window on how the whole process works. The academics on Sage are not responsible for how their advice is presented to ministers.

It’s cabinet that ultimately makes the call. The question they must ask is if they are being given the full picture by Sage, how to balance the risks involved and how many still-important questions need an answer before any decision to lock down again can be taken.

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The very article you quote undermines the criticism of professor lockdown at the same time.  But in any case, I’m bowing out of his defence because that wasn’t my intention beyond pointing out that some of the criticism was over the top.  
 

at the very least, there are legitimate debates about the data, it’s implications, and how that shapes health policy. 
 

it’s governments who make the decisions, so regardless whether there are elements of the government v sage process that are not as effective as they could be, it’s ultimately down to ministers to make the call. 
 

right now the Welsh and Scottish governments have made their call, and they’ll be judged on that.   As will the UK government on theirs.  

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38 minutes ago, stewarty said:

the Welsh and Scottish governments have made their call, and they’ll be judged on that.  

Nationalists have proven time and time again that they won't judge the SNP on their policies (other than the constitutional one) or competency.

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26 minutes ago, Gonzo79 said:

Nationalists have proven time and time again that they won't judge the SNP on their policies (other than the constitutional one) or competency.

Partisan voters vote in a partisan manner.  Am shook

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What say the augurers?

 

 

Boris: What say the augurers?

Professor Neil Ferguson: They would not have you to stir forth to-day. Plucking the entrails of an offering forth, they could not find a heart within the beast.

 

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We think, of course, that science has rather progressed since the time of Julius Caesar. We no longer rely on priests to predict the future by means of studying the flight of birds or by slaughtering animals and rummaging around in their entrails. Science has triumphed over religion to the extent that the belief in the truth of Christianity is in inverse proportion to the amount of Christmas lights decorating the outside of a person’s home. We may still be culturally Christian, but few indeed believe the literal truth of the Christmas story. ln Hertford, Hereford and Hampshire miracles hardly ever happen.

 

Our lifestyle and the progress that has made our lives so much more pleasant and longer lasting than previous centuries is undoubtedly due to the scientific discoveries on which we rely without question. We don’t question the science of aeroplanes nor generally of medicine. We do not think that Television sets will send out dangerous rays that will kill us, nor on going to the doctor and being told to take these pills for a couple of weeks do we search the Internet to look up all the possible side effects. Scientists today are as respected as Caesar respected the augurs.

 

Some scientists have had an extremely good pandemic. Those doctors who devised new techniques to treat Covid have undoubtedly saved huge numbers of lives. Those scientists who created vaccines in record time have doubtless saved still more. Without them we would have been able to delay Covid by means of lockdown and social distancing, but eventually we would have had to face it without any protection at all. It would have killed far more of us.

 

But while these scientists have had a good pandemic, those who have attempted to predict the future by means of epidemiologic modelling have done no better and sometimes worse than those who attempted to tell Caesar what would happen by means of chicken entrails.

 

There are different sorts of science and our government has not done enough to distinguish between them. While we accept that economists have a certain expertise and that there are economic principles that are useful in understanding how economies work, we also recognise that economists cannot predict with certainty which stocks will rise tomorrow and which will fall. They cannot tell exactly on which date the stock market will crash nor indeed whether Brexit will be advantageous economically for Britain or disadvantageous.

 

The modelling that George Osborne and friends used to predict disaster if voters dared to vote to leave the EU turned out to be no more accurate than the modelling that Professor Neil Ferguson and the rest of the SAGE experts used to predict the various waves of Covid. Of course, they claim not to be predicting at all, which is a nice get out clause for augurs. If we tell you not to step forth Julius and you get murdered in your bed, don’t blame us. If modelling doesn’t predict the future, why is it used by government to inform policy any more than chicken entrails?

 

It is clear by now that the epidemiologic modellers have very limited power to predict what will happen with Covid. Sometimes they have said if you open up Covid will rise and lots of people will die, but the opposite occurs. At this point the scientific method ought to discard this method of attempting to explain the world. But it doesn’t. SAGE is still full of such modellers. They still publish respected articles in prestigious journals. Government still listens and the public is expected to obey.

 

The problem in universities at the moment is that large numbers of academics are teaching nonsense. Men can become women. Critical race theory. Culloden has an important connection to slavery. All of these experts are held up by each other. They peer review each other’s papers. No one dares point out the lack of clothing on the emperor. It is as if we are caught in the age of phrenology. Will the future look at us and laugh that we could have believed such things?

 

There is a limit to human knowledge. We cannot predict the future. No one guessed that in March 2020 we would have Lockdown and a pandemic that would last into 20202. Even in January and February of that year we were still going on holiday and reading reports of an illness in China with minimal concern. The modellers of SAGE did not tell us to close the borders weeks before Lockdown. They initially told us that masks were useless and then without any real experimental evidence they told us we must wear them. They told us to wash our hands, but later pointed out that Covid was air borne.  

 

It is not that these people are charlatans. But they do think that they know more than they do. If there is one fault with scientists it is their certainty that science is the only way to arrive at truth and that no truth can hide from science. It is this that turned Christmas into the gaudy spectacle of lights and trees and excess consumption.

 

The Archbishop of Canterbury knows that he lives in a secular country, for which reason he comes across as bossy little Lib Dem councillor. Jesus would not have needed a vaccine, because if he caught Covid he could have cured himself just as he cured a man with leprosy and if he had died it would not have mattered because he would have risen again on the third day.

 

The Christmas story approaches the limit of our understanding, because it deals with miracles. Everything that is important about Christianity is miraculous. A virgin birth. Water turns into wine. Some loaves and fishes feed five thousand. God becomes man, dies and rises again. Without the miracles you have nothing and you certainly wouldn’t be celebrating it two thousand years later. Odd then that we do. The Church rather hides the miraculous in favour of the left-wing lectures and wonders why it declines.

 

But we reach the limit of our understanding every day when we face the future. None of us know what will happen with Covid next year. It will I think fizzle out into milder versions until it is just like every other coronavirus floating around. But I don’t know that. There might be a new more deadly variant that kills every animal except amoebas. The Greens would naturally be delighted as the planet would be saved from the fossil fuel burners. But saved for whom?

 

We face the limit of our understanding each moment when we choose and exercise our free will and when we sense ourselves as not being material objects, but rather something quite different. When we judge an action to be moral or immoral, we likewise implicitly think of it as free and not caused by a sequence of material causes. But each choice then becomes a minor miracle for science cannot really explain it. Science only deals with the physical and every cause is mechanistic. For which reason it never quite grasps humanity.

 

Ceasar’s augurs were right. He should not have stepped forth that day. He should have stayed in Lockdown. But they didn’t really know what was going to happen and nor does Professor Ferguson. Human beings are not to be corralled by Ferguson’s models, because we are free and each of us is miraculous. Science can no more grasp the miracle in each of us than it can predict with certainty how people will react to a mutant variant and how many of them will get sick.

Human beings are complex, free moral beings. We are not determined and we will resist those who try to control us. We face the limits of our understanding each moment for none of us can guess what will happen tomorrow let alone next year. Covid reminded us of this. It’s why we need faith and hope to face that future.

 

That is the message of Christmas. It is a message that we have lost somewhere amongst the paper wrapping and the tinsel. Look inside and you will find something miraculous that you might just have overlooked. It is the eternal in time.

 

Have a very Happy Christmas and let us all hope for better times ahead.

 

 https://www.effiedeans.com/2021/12/what-say-augurers.html?m=1

Edited by forlanssister
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