What the PM got wrong
We have just been treated to an address to the nation by Boris Johnston. He has been under pressure to move the country forward through this crisis and to give the people reassurance and hope. In this regard, he was justified in highlighting successes to date: the lockdown has protected the NHS; deaths have been minimised; core services such as food provision has been maintained and testing capacity has been expanded.
Less successful has been our ability to protect the economy: inevitably, GDP and the economy generally has been virtually shut down. More poignantly, personal careers, finances and home life have been decimated and emotions have been tensed. There is an increasing awareness that the payback will impact not only the foreseeable future but the future generations that are our raison d’être.
So, Boris has drawn on “science, data and public health” to create his roadmap for the way out of this crisis. Crucially, he omitted to draw on that ingredient, common sense. A quality which it seems is not even on the desirable list of criteria in the person specification of his advisors. His mistake, and those of his kin, has been not to learn from our experience of the virus so far. They remain driven by dogma and the blinkered preconceptions of an officialdom constrained by a lack of basic scientific understanding and a mediocre scientific establishment.
Simply, he has overlooked the novel information that this virus differentially affects subpopulations of the community, it mutates to the extent that a therapeutic, as opposed to a commercially profitable, vaccine is not feasible and social distancing in bars and restaurants is farcical and unrealistic.
Instead, Boris should have learned from the experiences of Sweden and Japan, admitted the over-emphasis on lockdown and returned the nation to their schools and workplaces. Yes, the young and the medically healthy would get infected in the same way as they have annually with colds and flus. This is a pre-requisite to overcoming the pandemic. The vulnerable groups, which the experience of the epidemic over the last eight weeks has clarified, need focussed shielding and protection. A relapse in the R figure may be inevitable: a peak among young, fit people will cause largely mild disease (and herd immunity) but is unlikely to stretch an increasingly latent health service.
This COVID 19 response group has already been ahead of the curve on advice regarding this epidemic. Let’s hope it won’t be too long before the powers that be wake up to the inevitable wisdom of what is written here.