Scotland to follow new modelling to defeat coronavirus?

From sam:

“The role of modelling burst into the open last Monday, when the UK government switched its strategy on the virus. Gone was the idea to allow it to pass through the population in a managed way (and build up ‘herd immunity’), and in came complete suppression. It soon became clear why.

A shocking new analysis from disease modellers at Imperial College suggested that 250,000 people would die under the old strategy. Some have reported the U-turn as a triumph for the modelling team, but that’s not the full story. Buried in the report was the admission that only “in the last few days” did the modellers update an assumption about the demand for intensive care beds. The demand had been assumed, based on pneumonia data, to be half the actual level observed elsewhere. Earlier versions of the Imperial College model, with the errant assumption, had been informing the UK and US government policy on the virus for “weeks”.

The Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who days before had boasted that the abandoned strategy was built on “the bedrock of the science”, must have felt the earth shake.

Richard Horton, a doctor and the editor of medical journal The Lancet, is one of many experts who is angry and looking for answers. The ‘new data’ was not new. Research from Chinese scientists in late January established the percentage of coronavirus patients needing intensive care. “We have lost valuable time,” Horton wrote in The Guardian. “There will be deaths that were preventable. The system failed. I don’t know why.””

The above is an extract from a piece in Open Democracy. Allysson Pollock, a professor in public health, could have told Richard Horton one reason why the system failed. It is “the lack of public health input and the decimation of the speciality and expertise in communicable disease control prior to and after the Health & Social Care Act 2012. There appears to be no public health evidence from experienced physicians in communicable disease control and their teams.

Last week the New England Complex Systems Institute presented a critique of the Ferguson paper (Imperial College) which the government used to justify its volte face – on the basis of its truly apocalyptic figures. The NECSI academics’ critique highlighted the deep flaws in the modelling in the Imperial paper, and crucially how the model failed to take account of the impact of contact tracing and testing, isolation, and quarantine. These are classic public health measures. The government’s evidence includes an important paper by Keeling et al on the impact of contact tracing on disease containment. This shows how, if basic public health measures are implemented, the transmission of the disease can be markedly reduced and the disease contained, without the draconian measures we are currently being subject to.

It is not too late to do this and it must happen especially in areas within Scotland and the North East where the number of cases are still low.

Blanket school closures across the whole country do not make sense. They should be proportionate to the situation in each local area with appropriate risk assessment and to the effectiveness of contact tracing, cordon sanitaire, etc, on containment. For example, Gateshead, Sunderland, and Northumberland have very few cases, so vigorous contact tracing of cases could be done. During the H1N1 flu epidemic only some schools were closed and then for short periods depending on the local information and risk assessment.

This useful map shows the distribution of cases and deaths in different parts of the UK for COVID-19 and also the opportunity for rapid and intensive contact tracing and local intervention and risk assessment depending on the number of cases.

Children appear to not be at high risk of COVID-19 infection and there is no strong evidence to suggest they are vectors; indeed, the Chinese evidence suggests the contrary. Those interviewed could recall no cases of child to adult transmission.

It seems our government and its task force has failed to read and above all to learn from and apply the meticulous lessons of the China WHO report.

“Much of the global community is not yet ready, in mindset and materially, to implement the measures that have been employed to contain COVID-19 in China. These are the only measures that are currently proven to interrupt or minimize transmission chains in humans. Fundamental to these measures is extremely proactive surveillance to immediately detect cases, very rapid diagnosis and immediate case isolation, rigorous tracking and quarantine of close contacts, and an exceptionally high degree of population understanding and acceptance of these measures.” [My emphasis]

“China has a policy of meticulous case and contact identification for COVID-19. For example, in Wuhan more than 1800 teams of epidemiologists, with a minimum of 5 people/team, are tracing tens of thousands of contacts a day. Contact follow up is painstaking, with a high percentage of identified close contacts completing medical observation. Between 1% and 5% of contacts were subsequently laboratory confirmed cases of COVID-19, depending on location.” [My emphasis]”

With new appointments to advise the Scottish government, it looks as if the Scottish government has, belatedly, grasped the folly of following UK government policy on covid19. If it has we have, I think much to thank Professor Pollock for.

7 thoughts on “Scotland to follow new modelling to defeat coronavirus?

  1. The UK government (and to a lesser extent, the Scottish government) has played an absolute blinder—blind to the actual science of coronavirus that is. Its only because much of the print media is Boris-friendly, the BBC and Channel4 have been nobbled that they get away with incredible incompetence.
    This morning, having previously rebuffed an EU procurement proposal on essential Covid-19 PPE, ventilators etc (which is now delivering, cheaply and promptly), they bung a certain Singapore resident a contract for equipment his company has never built before—just because? Or because he donates to Brexit and the Tories?

    A bung to the Tories granting “herd immunity” to the economic down-turn.

    Will Tim Martins Wetherspoons now get licenced as treatment centres for the infected Oldies?

    Liked by 3 people

    1. On the subject of ventilators and their manufacture by companies with no expertise in their manufacture eg car makers. Boris and co have made much of the fact that he has phoned said car manufacturers – 10 days ago – to enlist their help.

      Last night on CH4 news there was a report from New York which is one of the worst hit areas in the US. Governor Cuomo was shown talking about getting car manufacturers to make ventilators but he said they would not be ready until June at the earliest! Rather let the cat out of the bag.

      Boris and co like to make announcements in such a way that they give the impression it is all happening and being delivered as he speaks when that is far from being the case. The Dyson announcement is a case in point. Has he any manufacturing facility in the UK or is it all overseas?


  2. Good news and about time. Never been comfortable or confident of the advice coming from Bo-Jo’s other two stooges on the podiums beside him. Always get the impression that they are there simply to deflect mounting criticism of the UK Gov and they way they are handling this crisis. From the very beginning and despite all the evidence from rWorld it seems they have been almost surprised by how this virus has escalated and the steps only now being taken to address the problems that should have been foreseen. ‘Too little too late’ is very often used and feel very apt in this case.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. The way China and South Korea handled it was extreme measures AND mass testing and contact tracing.
    In such a crisis surely the precautionary is just plain common sense.
    The way Britain thinks it knows best contrary to all evidence is astounding. ‘But we have untested models’
    I haven’t read any scientific analysis but if Handcock is speaking the truth, which would be a first, the millions of home testing kits could be a game changer.
    The cry wolf story has never been more apt.


  4. It appears that the UK Gov is changing how it collects and reports the data on positive cases. Yesterday I noticed, as did Stewart, the Scottish figures were reported but not England’s.
    This from the Daily Politik:
    “”So yesterday’s death rate in England due to coronavirus was lower than the previous day. Great news eh?

    No! The government has changed the reporting arrangements.

    To begin with, yesterday’s figures weren’t even for a full 24 hours

    Then, for no rational reason other than obfuscation, they have decided they won’t add anyone to the numbers who’s family hasn’t given permission. It’s an anonymous number! why does permission matter?

    A further twist to this is that the death will only be put down to the virus if a test has been done, and there is no evidence to suppose that mandatory tests are being done on fatalities during this period.

    Why does this matter?

    Well, apart from the obvious… we would like to be kept informed as to how this thing is progressing… down the track, the death rate and frequency will be the most valid measure of how effective goverenment actions have been. Spikes and troughs in the death rate can be correlated to actions taken, or not taken. With accurate data our leaders can be held to account and be praised or condemned.

    Watch the spin continue to ramp up over the next few weeks so that by the end of this what actually happened and what we have been led by the nose to think happened will be two different things. If you think that’s not happening right now, then I have a garden bridge you might like to buy.””


  5. Good article but not at all sure about this bit
    ‘They should be proportionate to the situation in each local area with appropriate risk assessment and to the effectiveness of contact tracing, cordon sanitaire, etc, on containment.’
    The reason total measures are needed is because of the way this virus spreads without many infected people showing any symptoms for days and some none at all. If one person leads to 10 other levels of contact that is 59,000 people getting infected and that can happen before it is even detected. With ordinary flu that number would be 14.
    So if one infected person or carrier travels to a low risk area like NE England and goes to a school and then those kids go to their homes and visit parents and grandparents. Well a new source has been created. This is how we got here. The UK was the ‘northeast’ to China. We have to break the links in the chain.

    The maths
    1.3^10 = 13.79
    3^10 = 59.05


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