London: The media left and right continues its relentless attack on scientists, and the government’s management of the Covid-19 crisis. It is as if only negative and critical headlines are what attracts the most readers. One point that scientists keep making is that the scientific world is uncertain and scientists do not all agree, scientists (in this case epidemiologists and virologists) make hypotheses which are scrutinised, peer reviewed and debated, they are used to being challenged and accept they may be right or wrong or a bit of both, that is the nature of developing science, and the nature of research into Covid-19. The fact that scientists keep repeating is that there is simply not enough data, yet. And this reality is not compatible with politics, where politicians want definitive advice. Thus the politicians are putting a lot of stock in the advice of “modellers”, however the results from modellers are also inconsistent as they also do not yet have the correct data to generate perfect models.
As the coronavirus has progressively paralysed the population, it has become apparent the UK needs the data on the number of obviously Covid infected, asymptomatic, recovered and the coronavirus free population, everyone agrees this can only be achieved through repeated mass testing.
In the light of the above it is understandable the quandary the government is in, as to be guided by the science is not an exact science, the science guidance is as evolving and progressive as the Covid-19 pandemic.
Now it seems British Citizenry was so compliant and obedient to the lockdown instructions that the first wave of Covid hospitalisations was not as numerous as was feared, and the NHS was not overwhelmed, proving that social isolating has been really effective, almost more so than was desirable. Now a furious second wave is predicted, Chris Whitty Chief Medical Officer has hinted it the peak could be worse than the first prediction. It feels like folks are being prepared for a longer lockdown, perhaps with a little intermittent easing to allow just enough manageable cases to become infected.
As if the above wasn’t bad news enough irrelevant stories come out such as Boris did not attend initial COBR (Cabinet Office Briefing Room) meetings and the government might use their medical advisory committee SAGE (Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies) as a human shield for decisions made at the outset of the pandemic. The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) responded swiftly to refute the shaggy tale of hearsay in The Sunday Times last week, and Michael Gove’s weak rebuttal and defence of the Prime Minster has been noted with frowns.
Public Health England reacted quickly to reject some wrongful claims and accusations made by The Sun newspaper about advice to the public and provisions of PPE. Since then First Secretary Dominic Raab admitted that distribution logistics are hampering the effort to test 100,000 people a day, as pledged by DHSC Secretary Matt Hancock. Current stories from the Boris bashing camp include he is finishing a book during his convalescence at Chequers and that the Tories will impose a 10% wealth tax to pay for Covid-19.
There is a public rift between MP’s and within the Cabinet about ending the lockdown, as things stand the four Ministers in charge (Raab, Sunak, Hancock, Sharma) are adamant it is still enforced. Rumours claim that Johnson will be back on Monday, it is a fact his leadership is necessary. This reporter speculates he will return with some element of good news and possibly a mini-reshuffle.
On Thursday Hancock announced a new census type virus infection and antibody study, covering 20,000 households and up to 30,000 people over the next twelve months, to track Covid-19 in the general population.
The important news is that cancer, diabetic, stroke and heart attack patients are being urged to seek medical help as the NHS while has capacity to treat them, Hancock said that routine surgery would resume shortly.
Sir Patrick Valance, Chief Scientific Advisor, has warned that the flattening of the curve in UK is artificial, it is not a natural peak suggesting the virus has burnt itself out, it is brought about only by effective socially isolating. A recent report (No9 dated 16 March) from Imperial College makes dire reading “our most significant conclusion is that mitigation is unlikely to be feasible without emergency surge capacity limits of the UK and US healthcare systems being exceeded many times over. In the most effective mitigation strategy examined, which leads to a single, relatively short epidemic (case isolation, household quarantine and social distancing of the elderly), the surge limits for both general ward and ICU beds would be exceeded by at least 8-fold under the more optimistic scenario for critical care requirements that we examined. In addition, even if all patients were able to be treated, we predict there would still be in the order of 250,000 deaths in GB, and 1.1-1.2 million in the US.
In the UK, this conclusion has only been reached in the last few days, with the refinement of estimates of likely ICU demand due to COVID-19 based on experience in Italy and the UK (previous planning estimates assumed half the demand now estimated) and with the NHS providing increasing certainty around the limits of hospital surge capacity.
We therefore conclude that epidemic suppression is the only viable strategy at the current time. The social and economic effects of the measures which are needed to achieve this policy goal will be profound. Many countries have adopted such measures already, but even those countries at an earlier stage of their epidemic (such as the UK) will need to do so imminently.”

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