The few SAGE minutes that are available show little evidence of any disagreements or heated discussions. Their proposals after infections rose this Autumn are just ever more stringent lockdowns on the social and economic life of the country until case rates start to fall. Current infection levels are simply due to the failure of the over-centralised Track and Trace which was supposed to stop localised outbreaks spreading (“Whack A Mole”).
People are tired of continuous emergency measures when nothing else is changing. The basic numbers (14 day isolation, 14 day quarantine) have not changed since March despite the availability of rapid testing. This is destroying the travel industry, aviation and airports. Why can’t we pay for 20 minute tests which PHE refuses to authorise? How is it that China managed to test 9 million people in 5 days in Qingdao thereby eliminating the entire outbreak, whereas in the UK you can wait up to 5 days for one individual result!
Scientists outside of SAGE who disagree with their conclusions risk being castigated and ostracised. Has SAGE perhaps though become an echo chamber of group think, or do they critically assess and evaluate past positions? How do they balance the downsides of lockdown measures such as increases in cancer and heart disease deaths, effects on jobs, domestic violence, mental health and suicides ? If so then how do they balance these against the benefits of their recommendations ?
The latest infection rates per 100,000 population show that the UK is actually doing rather better than most other European Countries.
Notice the kink in the UK data due to the Excel reporting bug. In general though UK cases are now growing far slower than France and more recently Italy. This is even more evident if we include The Czech Republic and Belgium. Note also how cases are now rising too in Germany.
Italy had one of the worst outbreaks in Europe early in March and its hospitals in Lombardia were overwhelmed. Italy too is experiencing a delayed second wave and rates are approaching those in the UK. However I discovered this interesting article in Corriere della Sera about the views of one of their leading Virologists Prof. Palù . His views contrast starkly with the more pessimistic views of SAGE.
Here is my translation of his key points:
“There is far too much alarmism. Of course there is a second wave, because the virus never stopped circulating even though in July cases were falling thanks to the summer weather, outside living, and high UV that kills the virus. Now the return from holidays, change of season, reopening of the economy and above all the return to schools has reversed that trend.”
“I am against any new lockdown as a citizen because it would be economic suicide, as a scientist because it penalises the education of the young who are our future, and as a doctor because it would mean that the sick especially those with cancer would not have access to be cured”. And all of this to confront an illness Covid-19, which has anyway a low lethality. We have to put a stop to this hysteria”.
“Forget the PCR cases data. Point 1: Up to 95% of cases are asymptomatic so cannot be defined as sick. Point 2: Certainly these people have been infected but that doesn’t mean they are contagious i.e. can infect others. They can only be contagious if they have a high viral load, but currently available tests can’t distinguish this in time to avoid these infections”.
“Only the numbers in intensive care really matter.”
Giorgio Palu, Prof of Virology & Microbiology, Padova,
It is clear that there is a balance between curbing Covid protections through lockdowns and the damage done to other health threats, the economy, mental health, children’s education and jobs. NPIs only make sense if there is a vaccine available say within 3 months. Otherwise lockdowns just delay the inevitable.