Tag Archives: scientific

#SackWhitty and #SackVallance, people are saying – before they’ve even made their broadcast

Chris Whitty: the Chief Medical Officer is facing calls for his removal – before he has even had a chance to broadcast to the nation alongside Chief Scientific Adviser Patrick Vallance.

New hashtags on social media are calling for the UK’s chief medical officer and chief scientific adviser to be sacked – before they’ve even had a chance to address the public on television.

The broadcast was scheduled for 11am today (September 21) but platforms like Twitter have already been filling up with attacks on Chris Whitty and – notably – Patrick Vallance.

The attacks don’t make much sense.

In fairness to the advisers, we don’t know what their advice to the government has been. Their meetings have taken place behind closed doors and when they have faced the public it has always been under the shroud of shared responsibility – a line has been taken by Johnson government ministers and the advisers are obliged to support it.

So comments like this…

… seem premature.

Worse still is the “blame game” that some people are playing:

“Bent science”? We don’t know that the gentlemen concerned have been bending science in any way at all.

We do know that the politicians have been as bent as the figure “8”, trying to delay lockdown to keep the economy going, trying to shorten lockdown to prevent the economy from being harmed more than it already has been… trying to continue making money for their party donors while people die (or suffer serious health consequences).

And it’s the politicians who have been misusing emergency procurement procedures to funnel vast amounts of public money into the hands of private firms – some running companies that have been dormant for years – that happen to be run by friends of theirs; the socialism of the very rich.

So This Site tends to come down on the side of those who have been standing up for the scientists:

So let’s give them the benefit of the doubt – for a little while, at least.

But let’s also remember…

… other scientific opinions are available.

Johnson’s ‘herd immunity’ is a nonsense: Covid-19 antibodies fade within months

Boris Johnson’s entire strategy for coping with Covid-19 has been proved to be useless  – according to the science.

Oh yes, yes – Johnson appeared to give up on ‘herd immunity’ when he put the UK into lockdown in March.

But for lockdown to succeed, we all had to stay away from possible infection until the virus had no way of reproducing and passing from person to person.

Johnson’s strategy ensured that there were always people circulating who could be exposed to it. Think about the NHS staff with their inadequate PPE (personal protection equipment), or care staff who carried the disease between homes after the Tories ordered infected residents to be sent there.

And Johnson has kept infection rates up by easing the lockdown for sectors of the community – schools, for example. Pub-goers. Commuters…

All of it was for nothing if he thought he was immunising the nation incrementally because it turns out that Covid-19 antibodies don’t last.

Like the common cold, it seems it will be possible for the virus to infect us all on a regular basis.

That’s the finding of research by Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS foundation trust – and also by the Spanish Ministry of Health.

So the easing of lockdown before Covid-19 was eradicated has done nothing but prolong the crisis in the UK; Johnson would have been better-advised to make the lockdown much harder (and he probably was). It would have been for a much shorter period.

But it seems unlikely this bull-in-a-China-shop prime minister will acknowledge his own stupidity and change course.

All in all, it suggests that the conspiracy theorists are right and he’s simply using the pandemic as a way of culling the population.

Given the evidence, why else would anyone follow a plan as ridiculous as Johnson’s?

Source: Immunity to Covid-19 could be lost in months, UK study suggests | World news | The Guardian

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Here’s why schools should stay closed and why anyone saying otherwise may have a political agenda

School: even in exam conditions, teachers will struggle to keep pupils two metres apart.

Perhaps you think it’s not a big deal.

Ever since Boris Johnson announced that he wants schools to reopen at the beginning of June, the idea has become a raging controversy.

He didn’t say that scientists support this notion – for a very good reason, it seems:

Let’s have a look at the article, from Schoolsweek:

The Department for Education’s chief scientific adviser admitted he has not assessed whether guidance on reopening schools is effective, adding the current advice is “draft” and “will be developed”.

Appearing in front of the Parliamentary science and technology committee today, Osama Rahman also admitted the DfE had done no modelling on the impact on transmission rates of starting to reopen schools after the May half term break.

During a hearing that left some MPs visibly bemused, Rahman also suggested the government guidance issued yesterday on safety is a “draft”, and will be reissued after further consultation with Public Health England.

He also said the decision to reopen schools was made by cabinet, not the DfE.

Asked about the transmission rate among children during the hearing, Rahman said the evidence is mixed, and there’s a “low degree of confidence in evidence they might transmit it less”.

SNP education spokesperson Carol Monaghan then asked for clarification. Was it true that “we’re putting together hundreds of potential vectors that can then go and transmit. Is that correct?”

Mr Rahman’s response – “Possibly, depending on school sizes” – may have contributed to Ms Monaghan’s conclusion that, as a former teacher, she “did not think the profession will be satisfied or put at ease with what they are hearing”.

Asked what scientific evidence base underpinned the decision to reopen schools to pupils in reception, year 1 and year 6, and what modelling had been done, Mr Rahman said the Department for Education had not done any modelling at all.

He was unable to provide any proof that any scientific evidence had contributed to the decision to seek the reopening of schools at the beginning of June. He believed the Cabinet had made that decision, following advice from SAGE – albeit filtered through Education Secretary Gavin Williamson.

Rahman also admitted he had made no assessment on how effectively actions proposed by the government for schools to reopen safely can be implemented.

Perhaps it is unsurprising, given this background, that education unions united to declare that they would only support the reopening of schools “when it is safe to do so”:

The statement says:

“We all want schools to re-open, but that should only happen when it is safe to do so. The government is showing a lack of understanding about the dangers of the spread of coronavirus within schools, and outwards from schools to parents, sibling and relatives, and to the wider community.

“Uniquely, it appears, school staff will not be protected by social distancing rules. 15 children in a class, combined with their very young age, means that classrooms of 4 and 5-year olds could become sources of Covid-19 transmission and spread.  While we know that children generally have mild symptoms, we do not know enough about whether they can transmit the disease to adults. We do not think that the government should be posing this level of risk to our society.

“We call on the government to step back from the 1st June and work with us to create the conditions for a safe return to schools based on the principles and tests we have set out.”

The principles and tests include:

  • Safety and welfare of pupils and staff as the paramount principle
  • No increase in pupil numbers until full rollout of a national test and trace scheme
  • A national Covid-19 education taskforce with government, unions and education stakeholders to agree statutory guidance for safe reopening of schools
  • Consideration of the specific needs of vulnerable students and families facing economic disadvantage
  • Additional resources for enhanced school cleaning, PPE and risk assessments
  • Local autonomy to close schools where testing indicates clusters of new covid-19 cases

Doesn’t that seem reasonable? Not to Gavin Williamson!

He said: “Sometimes scaremongering and making people fear is really unfair, and not a welcome pressure that is to be placed on families, children and teachers alike.”

Amazingly, he has had support from a Labour MP – Barry Sheerman:

Fortunately, this chap faced an instant backlash:

So it seems we are being asked to believe the unions are scaremongering, despite the evidence from Mr Rahman that shows they aren’t.

What do you think?

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Coronavirus: Outrage follows revelation that Dominic Cummings attended SAGE meetings (oh yes he did)

Not a scientist: Dominic Cummings.

What was the point of Dominic Cummings attending SAGE (the government’s scientific advisory group for emergencies) meetings if not to influence them?

And, considering his right-wing, eugenicist, economy-first, “if a few pensioners die, too bad” views, is it any wonder Boris Johnson is facing cross-party demands for Cummings to be barred from any further meetings?

Former Brexit secretary, David Davis, is among those calling for Dominic Cummings and Ben Warner, an adviser who ran the Tories’ private election computer model, to be prevented from attending future meetings.

He voiced the concerns of many when he said Cummings’s presence could alter the advice offered in meetings.

And he added: “We should publish the membership of Sage, remove any non-scientist members, publish their advice in full, and publish dissenting opinions with the advice.”

Other people who attend SAGE meetings have also said the Downing Street advisor’s presence made them uneasy.

According to another Guardian report, one said they felt Cummings’ interventions had sometimes inappropriately influenced what is supposed to be an impartial scientific process.

A second Sage attendee said they were shocked when Cummings first began participating in Sage discussions, in February, because they believed the group should be providing “unadulterated scientific data” without any political input.

Tends to indicate that Cummings is affecting what’s said at these meetings, doesn’t it?

And how can we trust the “science” that the Tories say they’re following if it come from him?

Downing Street has been (rather desperately) trying to claim that political “advisors” don’t make any difference, but then why would these two SAGE attendees say the following?

“When a very senior civil servant or a very well-connected person interrupts, then I don’t think anyone in the room feels the power to stop it. When you get to discussing where advice might be going, there have been occasions where they have been involved, and a couple of times I’ve thought: that’s not what we are supposed to be doing.”

“He was not just an observer, he’s listed as an active participant… He was engaging in conversation and not sitting silently.”

Another Downing Street claim was that it is “entirely right” for its political advisers to attend meetings of the group, implying – one may expect – that they have been at SAGE meetings from the start.

No!

Sage was first convened to advise on swine flu in 2009, and there had been almost 50 meetings between then and the start of the coronavirus crisis.

And guess what? “There is no evidence in the publicly available minutes of those meetings of any Downing Street officials or political advisers attending.”

Coming back to Cummings’s remarks about pensioner deaths, it should be clear that neither SAGE nor the “science” the Tories say they’re following will have any credibility until that committee is given back to the scientists.

Source: Top Tories join calls to bar Cummings from scientific advisory group | Politics | The Guardian

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Is this the reason Lancet editor said government advisors were lying on Covid-19?

Dominic Cummings: he can’t give advice on science, so why has he been attending Sage meetings on handling coronavirus?

Dominic Cummings and a data scientist from his Brexit campaign, Vote Leave, have been influencing the scientific group advising the government on coronavirus, it has been revealed.

Is this the reason Lancet editor Richard Horton reckons “supposedly independent medical advisors” have been telling “manifest untruths” – lying – to support a “political regime whose credibility is rapidly collapsing”?

We have already heard that Cummings was involved in a meeting in late January, when Covid-19 was played down as “just a bit of flu”.

He apparently said the UK would be better able to resist a second wave of the disease next winter if 60-80 per cent of the population became infected and the survivors developed “herd immunity”.

Cummings was paraphrased after speaking at a private engagement at the end of February, in which he said the government’s strategy was “herd immunity, protect the economy and if that means some pensioners die, too bad”.

Now The Guardian has claimed that both Cummings and Warner have been taking part in meetings of the group, raising questions about the independence of its scientific advice.

The government’s former chief scientific adviser Sir David King is quoted in the article, saying Cummings may have been reporting his own “interpretation” of Sage advice to Boris Johnson.

Mr Horton wrote in the Lancet criticising Dr Jenny Harries, England’s deputy chief medical officer, at the end of March. She had stated that England had a “perfectly adequate” supply of Personal Protective Equipment.

We all now know that this was not true.

Mr Horton wrote: “I am sure Dr Harries believed what she said. But she was wrong and she should apologise to the thousands of health workers who still have no access to WHO-standard PPE.”

On Sunday, Dr Harries seems to have made matters worse by saying: “The UK, regardless of the position that we may be in now, has been an international exemplar in preparedness.”

It sounds like propaganda.

And what about when government ministers say they have been “following scientific advice”?

If they’ve been getting this advice from Dominic Cummings, then it cannot be considered to have any value at all.

Source: Revealed: Dominic Cummings on secret scientific advisory group for Covid-19 | World news | The Guardian

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Coronavirus: The Tories’ catalogue of failures means people who should have lived WILL die

Chris Whitty: the Chief Medical Officer has now self-isolated with symptoms of the coronavirus himself. Doesn’t that suggest there’s something wrong with his ideas?

Those of you who have been following This Site over the past few days will have read article after article exposing the failures of the Conservative government – firstly to anticipate, then to combat the coronavirus crisis.

So it should come as no surprise that these failures have ensured that NHS workers and people who contract Covid-19 will die, who should be saved.

And the pedigree of the man making that claim should not be doubted: Richard Horton is the editor of what is possibly the most highly-regarded medical journal of them all: The Lancet.

He said measures implemented “far too late” had left the NHS “wholly unprepared for the surge of severely and critically ill patients”.

As a result, it had been plunged into “chaos and panic”, with patients and NHS staff condemned to “die unnecessarily”.

He pointed to an article in The Lancet, already referenced by This Site, stated on January 24 that the coronavirus was on the verge of becoming a global pandemic and urged the government to ensure that the NHS was prepared.

But Boris Johnson and his government didn’t bother. Successive Conservative governments over the previous 10 years had systematically dismantled the UK’s capability of tackling a pandemic like Covid-19.

The strategy to deal with it was last updated in 2011 and is hopelessly out-of-date.

The dedicated government Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Team, tasked with tackling this type of crisis, vanished around 2011.

The crucial document for getting the right messages to the public – the Communications Strategy – was written in 2012 and is wildly inaccurate in its assumptions about how and where people now get their information.

Worst of all, the government guide to dealing with the fatalities of a pandemic – the deaths – was written in 2008 and had never been updated.

Perhaps we should not be surprised, then, that the Conservative government’s response to coronavirus – throughout February – was wrong.

The Lancet article warned that “preparedness plans should be readied for deployment at short notice, including securing supply chains of pharmaceuticals, personal protective equipment, hospital supplies and the necessary human resources”. But this warning was ignored.

Mr Horton lays the blame for this on Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty, Chief Executive Officer of the NHS in England Simon Stevens and Chief Scientific Advisor Sir Patrick Vallance.

Vallance’s was the mind behind the ridiculous “herd immunity” scheme to allow us all to become infected and if millions of vulnerable people died, that was a reasonable price to pay if the rest developed a resistance to the virus.

It didn’t last long but valuable days were wasted and, of course, while the overarching strategy was “do nothing”, nothing was being done to make the UK ready to fight the disease.

And when the government finally adopted an acceptable approach, the NHS was caught unprepared.

It didn’t have pharmaceutical supply chains ready – note the call for volunteers to ship medicines where they’re needed.

It didn’t have the necessary human resources.

And it didn’t have personal protective equipment, despite protestations to the contrary. As part of his article, Mr Horton called on England’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Jenny Harries, to apologise to health workers for saying the UK has “a perfectly adequate supply of PPE” and supply pressures had been “completely resolved” on March 20.

She was wrong, and it means doctors are risking their own health, if not their lives, every day by having to assess patients with respiratory symptoms, without the equipment necessary to protect themselves.

Worse still, the government didn’t follow basic World Health Organisation (WHO) advice. According to Mr Horton: “They didn’t isolate and quarantine. They didn’t contact trace. These basic principles of public health and infectious disease control were ignored, for reasons that remain opaque.”

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: all the way down the line, Boris Johnson and his government have had to be dragged into doing the right thing – always late and never willingly.

Already more than 1,000 people have been acknowledged to have died.

And it seems clear that more will follow – who would have lived if Mr Johnson and his ministers, their advisors and the leaders of the NHS had simply done their jobs properly.

Source: Coronavirus: UK response means NHS staff and patients will ‘die unnecessarily’, Lancet editor says | The Independent

Conservatives try to become the party of the North East – Unemployed in Tyne and Wear

Here’s something unintendedly humorous, flagged up by Unemployed in Tyne and Wear from an article in yesterday’s (October 5) Newcastle Evening Chronicle:

Is there a General Election on the horizon or something ? The Tories are getting all concerned about the North East.

Growing the economy in the North of England and closing the wealth divide with London and the south east was one of the major themes of the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham… The focus may seem surprising given that the party has few MPs in the North East.

The Chancellor’s plan is to turn the North into an economic powerhouse rivalling London by investing up to £15 billion on local transport links, picking a scientific speciality for universities to become world-leaders in, possibly building a high speed line across the Pennines, linking the North East and North West, and giving cities more autonomy and cash – if they agree to transform local government by introducing directly-elected mayors.

Major announcements at the conference included plans to freeze working-age benefits – including benefits received by working people on low salaries – for two years. This means cutting benefits in real terms, because of the effects of inflation.

Conservative leader David Cameron, in his conference speech, announced plans to raise the income tax personal allowance to £12,500. This would take one million more workers out of income tax entirely and give a tax cut to 30 million more, Mr Cameron said. An estimated 51,000 North East workers would pay no income tax at all because of the change. Many others would pay less tax. Isn’t this because wages are so poor to start with ?

Mr Cameron also announced plans to raise the threshold at which people pay the 40p income tax rate from £41,900 today to £50,000. It means a tax cut for many people earning above-average salaries. Mr Cameron said the 40p tax was supposed to be for the rich, but it’s currently paid by some senior nurses, teachers and police officers.

But critics pointed out that the Conservatives had failed to explain how they would pay the £7 billion cost of cutting tax.

Labour Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls said: “Nobody will be fooled by pie in the sky promises of tax cuts in six years’ time when David Cameron cannot tell us where the money is coming from.

“Even the Tories admit this is an unfunded commitment of over £7 billion, so how will they pay for it? Will they raise VAT on families and pensioners again?”

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