On Wednesday 4th March, Prof. Chris Whitty (CMO) told Sky News: “In terms of wearing a mask, our advice is clear: that wearing a mask if you don’t have an infection reduces the risk almost not at all. So we do not advise that.” A mandatory requirement in many countries, the World Health Organisation's first recommended the use of face masks in public at the beginning of April as the coronavirus spread globally. The UK advice has been patchy. By 28th April Nichola Sturgeon was recommending their use in particular circumstances, while the UK Government were still considering evidence from SAGE. By the 11th May, in the documents provided by the UK government to explain the Boris Johnson (chaotic) broadcast of the night before, people in England were told to cover their faces in some public areas. Meanwhile the Northern Ireland & Wales administrations have their own versions of the advice. Oh, and if you've worked out you need to wear one, don't use a medical on
Apparently, Einstein never said "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." But whoever did say it, it's a great quote. It seems our great leader, Boris "Winston" Johnson has decided we can do lots of extra things while somehow hoping to get the same result (R<1). Insanity ? Yep.
It's taken seven weeks to get the R value below 1, maybe only just below 1. How will slackening lockdown (in a vague, confusing BoJo way) keep it below 1 ? Can't see it myself. Let's stay alert and see if the number of new cases starts to increase in a week's time ? Sadly I predict the death toll will soar away soon after.
Prof. Chris Whitty is a leading epidemiologist*. But when did we last see him at a press conference ? Maybe his learned views don't fit with the political narrative ? On Tuesday 7th April he told the daily press conference: “We all know that Germany got ahead in terms of its ability to do testing for the virus, and there’s a lot to learn from that.” Or maybe he's just sick of nodding to the increasingly tenuous "following the science" mantra. Stop press - he's back. Looked like him anyhow at the press conference on 11th May. Towed the line. Oh wait, looks like he might be wired up, Dominic Cummings has the button ? * Christopher John MacRae Whitty CB FRCP FFPH FMedSci is an English physician and epidemiologist who is Chief Medical Officer for England, Chief Medical Adviser to the UK Government.
The R number is the number of people (on average) each infected person infects. Anything over 1 means the disease soars away again. As an example Boris Johnson's personal R number is probably more than four. Hancock, Whitty, Cummings, Carrie as a quick list. He's a disaster. Apparently the R number is below 1. That's good. Some politicians, when pressed, have even tried to be more exact: 0.6-0.9 ? But (of course ?) it's higher in care homes - higher than 1 then? We currently have a daily count of five or six thousand new cases a day (reported, based on tests) then there's all the other people who've had it, stayed at home, had it, didn't know, etc. not in those figures. So could it be ten thousand new cases a day then ? twenty thousand ? Who knows ? So how the hell can anyone tell what the R number is ?
It's widely accepted that the UK came late to lockdown and when it did come, it was looser than many nearby countries, giving many people the excuse to bend the rules with little fear of being found out. We were told that the idea was to "flatten the curve", reduce the R number below 1 and protect the NHS. Well, to some extent that worked, or at least, is working. The NHS has coped (and the new hospitals have hardly been used) although for some reason our deaths per million figure (yes, apples with apples !) is higher than Italy !!