The stunning efficiency of the British state

Britain’s disastrous decision to abandon testing for coronavirus occurred because health systems could only cope with five cases a week, official documents show.

Newly-released papers from the Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies shows routine testing and tracing of contacts was stopped because Public Health England’s systems were struggling to deal with a handful of cases.

At a meeting on Feb 18, advisors said PHE could only cope with testing and tracing contacts of five Covid-19 cases a week, with modelling suggesting it might only be possible to increase this to 50 cases.

That’s really very useful in a pandemic, isn’t it?

PHE has, however, been excellent at stopping people doing that evil vaping thing so that’s all right then.

35 thoughts on “The stunning efficiency of the British state”

  1. So Much For Subtlety

    It would also depend on how willing they were to share. Germany seems to have let anyone test if they wanted to. America came down hard and early on anyone who even thought about testing.

    I am willing to bet the NHS does not like sharing so if the government could not do it, no one was allowed to.

  2. Trouble is, you can’t win if you think the NHS is a monolithic, badly run, inefficient, Stalinesque monster.

    NHS does something good – Isn’t the NHS wonderful

    NHS does something bad – The NHS needs more money.

  3. PHE are shite to be sure–but I don’t want to hear leftist scum like SAGE spewing the said shite.

    Their only interest would be uneven ordure-smearing towards Johnson. The next step after stitching him up for LD itself is to start ensuring he carries the full can.

    Now we are in the bad situation of having to defend Bloj–or at least ensure ALL of the House of Scum Traitors gets equal blame due because they all voted for the LD mess. ALL supported it.

    Johnson should be shitkicked because of his stupidity and hysteria. But at the moment that would equal shitkicking Brexit–and that is exactly what the scummy Remainiac left are going to be pushing for: Bloj replaced with some POS EU-crawler –Gove say or whoever. To ensure that we lose the benefit of Brexit and are on the hook for any EU bailout and eventual rejoin.

    So as much as I hate it–all Brexit supporters need to do their best to ensure that any anti-Johnson attacks get lightening-rodded to Earth by ensuring that nobody forgets all 650 POS where in favour of LD madness.

    There are –of course–limits to supporting Blojo. Any climbdown to the EU should end him. And in my book persisting with his Greenfreak capers likewise. Most esp the anti-car shite he spouts. He should have very few months to drop that shit or face all out war with British people. That simply CANNOT be accepted or allowed in any form. It is a step back towards the serfdom the globo-elite have planned for us.

  4. PHE Overling: we’ve got this dashed inconvenient pandemic thing so we need to start looking at testing, and, tracking and tracing.
    PHE Underling: I’m still busy with the healthy eating regulations, sorry, guidelines. How costly can a pandemic be compared to the £billions that the overweight and obese cost the NHS?
    PHE Overling: Yes, quite so, but if you do get a minute……

  5. What Andrew C said. The attitude to failures of the NHS is like that of some ancient religious cult – the crops have failed, we obviously didn’t sacrifice enough virgins last time!

  6. Isn’t this a bit of Hindsight being Ever Perfect from SAGE?

    Early to mid-Feb the world in general did know of the Wu-Flu…in China. It had already landed in Italy, but not to an epidemic extent. And all of Europe still thought that if they’d catch the individual cases fast enough, they could nip it in the bud.
    There wasn’t a single country in Europe that had the test capacity to deal with a local epidemic, nor was anything really known about the Wu-Flu and its actual pathology.
    Hell, the major science papers were still fighting opening up their archives for the hoi-polloi tooth and nail… With the Commercials citing “proprietary property” on some very important info doing the same.

    Nor had any country in Europe actually taken any measures at all against CoVid, except building up their testing capacity, just in case.
    This is two weeks before cases actually popped up all over the place in the continent, and a month before actual emergency measures were taken in continental Europe because things couldn’t be contained by contact-tracing and quarantine alone anymore, as became clear from the Lombardy clusterfuck.
    And the UK is roughly a full month behind the “curve” when it comes to this epidemic…..

    If anything, SAGE has proven to be a bunch of utter incompetents, especially given the fact that they effectively have a full 4 weeks’ advance warning on anything that will happen, given the variety of measures taken in continental Europe and their effects on the course of the epidemic.

    Good thing is that this is solid proof the epidemic is actually receding nicely in the UK..
    The Fingerpointing and Shedding of Blame has started.. Always a reliable canary when it comes to deciding whether the apex of a crisis has passed..

  7. It’s unreasonable to expect contact tracing to be effective for a virus like this if you have more than a few tens of cases. Here is a link to a 2009 article that explores something very similar to the way this virus spreads.

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2646474/

    The conclusion it comes to is:

    If a substantial proportion of transmission were to occur during the presymptomatic phase or from asymptomatic individuals, then infection control measures such as contact tracing and quarantine of exposures will be of limited value.

  8. Bloke in North Dorset

    When people hold up Germany as being a successful system and you agree and point out its insurance based and decentralised you get accused of wanting to sell the NHS to Donald Trump or claims that they spend more and if we spent the same on the NHS we too would be that good, if not better.

    They conveniently forget that Germany allows private health care and that money has been included in the amount spend.

  9. AndyF,
    We don’t need to speculate or build models – test & trace has been proven to work in Singapore and South Korea.

  10. @AndrewM

    You forgot the “combined with the effective incarceration of the entire population” bit there….

    But hey…details….

  11. South Korea has never been as fully locked down as the UK; Singapore’s lockdown has been broadly similar to the UK.

  12. This track and trace stuff – “This includes your family or other people you live with, as well as people you have been in direct contact with, or within 2 metres of, for more than 15 minutes“. It obviously isn’t that infectious then is it?

  13. I’ve long wondered, are we to suppose that this bug leaps through the air from one person to another, that infected persons have some emanation or cloud of fug which infects anyone within two metres?

    Because even if that were true, and possible, shirley the entire world would’ve been infected, or as near as dammit, months ago.

  14. Subsequent to the publication of the track and trace protocols I have been asked to clarify certain points for key and essential workers in government employment.

    Q. I am a lazy bludger, how do I get out of it?
    A. Simple, get your phone near someone who might have the lergy

    Q. But I might catch it!
    A. Probably not, 99.74% survival rate,

    Q. But I’m still scared.
    A. Get your contact tracing done in the open air, with lots of passers by. If you are still worried, get your child to wave your phone at people at bus stops.

    Q. My kid won’t do that without a bribe
    A. You can apply for a refund of expenses for a video game in the usual way

    Q. But once I’ve got off work, will I have to self isolate?
    A. No, just leave your phone at home.

    Q. But I need to stay in touch
    A. (sigh) Haven’t you heard of burner phones?

    Q. What happens after 14 days self isolation?
    A. You can do it all over again, using the same method. As many times as it takes for the bone-idilitis to clear.

    Q. So eventually I’ll have to go to work?
    A. Are you kidding? This is a government IT project, of course it won’t work. Until it does your job is safe.

  15. …test & trace has been proven to work in Singapore and South Korea.

    South Korea was successful in minimising its population’s exposure to Sars-COV-2. The consequence of this is that it must maintain the stance for a very long time. There is no immunity, they are totally vulnerable. Hence they keep having to return to their partial lockdown every time there is a new outbreak. Like now. Plus the population is under permanent state / corporatist surveillance and anyone is subject to instant incarceration. Maybe fine for South Korea but I don’t want that here.

    We are moving from the idiotic lockdown to the Swedish system. In the end, unless the disease miraculously evaporates, everyone will adopt the Swedish system.

  16. @ Edward Lud
    What we are *told* to believe is that the virus travels on droplets, such as the one that you can see when you breathe out on a frosty morning. So yes, a cloud of fug which is normally invisible.
    The two metre rule is an extension of the WHO guideline of 1.5 metres because PHE accepts that most people don’t know what 1.5 metres looks like so they said 2 metres in the hope that people will stay two paces apart which is roughly 1.5 metres for most people.
    The WHO guideline is based on experimental data that most droplets fell to the ground in 1.5 metres.

  17. The question is what to do about dreadfully incompetent bureaucracies like PHE. Suppose, as a wild exercise of the imagination, that a bunch of politicians took office who knew that the likes of PHE are a bloody menace. What could they do about it?

    If you simply scrap it and replace it by a small infectious diseases unit, that might be an improvement. For about 25 years, tops, because after that first generation it too will decay into a hopeless jobs-for-the-boys morass. Then what?

    It’s always interested me that The Left, who want the state to run everything, seem to devote no thought at all, not an iota, to the question of how to make arms of the state competent. Why might that be?

  18. “The WHO guideline is based on experimental data that most droplets fell to the ground in 1.5 metres.”

    yes.. but the really micro-stuff travels much further. It is effectively airborne, carried by airflow, etc… Even after the moisture in the micro-droplets has evaporated. Coronaviruses also don’t become inactivated that quickly…

    Of course.. the trick there is dilution… In the open air, the virus may spread easily 20 meters downwind, but the titer ( which determines how much you inhale with each breath ) is ridiculously low past a couple of meters. Down to levels where the virus has to compete with every other gribbly or allergen out to Get Us.

    Badly ventilated rooms/spaces … weeellll….. You get a rebreather effect… Not Good… Con Crud/Tube-TB is a Thing, for a reason..
    But open air? Crossing the street is far more risky. Not even Paris-level risky, but quiet country-town risky.

    Contact transmission is a far greater problem, but the 1.5/2 meter distancing implies no hugses and handshakingses and stuff…
    Combined with bog-standard sanitary practices ( which does NOT include killing off your natural skin defenses with alcohol/acetone concoctions…) there is very little risk of transmission there as well.

    Then again.. stupid people be stupid.. *shrug*

  19. @AndrewM,

    South Korea is an unusual case in that the infection was largely limited to two discrete areas. Currently they are engaged in a state sponsored game of “whack a mole”. Some days they seem to be winning only to have an new group break out. They had a month of having between zero and a dozen new cases a day. Since then they have been a couple of new peaks with 79 new cases on May 28th.

    Singapore yesterday had 506 cases down from 611 the day before. It is a single city state with a population less than 10% of ours and an authoritarian government. Neither comparable or arguably “working”.

  20. @Adders

    This track and trace stuff – “This includes your family or other people you live with, as well as people you have been in direct contact with, or within 2 metres of, for more than 15 minutes“. It obviously isn’t that infectious then is it?

    Well plenty of people do seem to have caught it from contacts “in passing”. A cough in an enclosed environment. Sitting downwind of the air con system in a restaurant with an infected person upwind. Sitting in the same church seat as infected person sat at an earlier service.

    I think the issue with the tracing isn’t that “under fifteen minutes or further than 2 metres” is perfectly safe. It’s just safER. And you need a cut-off otherwise you’re trying to trace hundreds of people instead of dozens and that’s impractical. But sometimes one person actually does infect hundreds (the SKorean gay clubs thing) and you really do need to track everyone…

  21. It’s unreasonable to expect contact tracing to be effective for a virus like this if you have more than a few tens of cases.

    Except here in the US, where idiot governors want to institute contact tracing now so that they have a way of getting a bunch of new people on state payrolls permanently.

  22. Re whack-a-mole. You can treat that game as “play to win”, but only if you think you can permanently isolate your country from the outside OR you think every country in the world, including those in total chaos with crappy health systems, will eliminate the virus OR you think there’ll be a vaccine.

    Alternatively it’s a strategy of “play-to-delay”. Delay until… What?

    My feeling is that there are a lot of people “scoreboard-watching” the international death tolls but it ain’t even half time yet. Pretty clear you don’t want this bug anywhere near your old folks homes and those who fail to protect them will be judged particularly harshly, but other than that way too premature to decide who has “won” at this thing.

    Though beyond mortality rates, can’t help thinking the Chinese leadership will be rubbing their hands in glee at the US riots, the chaos of the “virus of democracy” they want to protect China/HK from, and the prospect of buying up any Western firm of potential strategic value on the cheap in a few months…

  23. [email protected] – Maybe you’re correct concerning the possibility of “catching it in passing”, but this applies just as equally to the Flu, common cold or Norovirus (although the evidence of the Diamond Princess, USS Theodore Roosevelt and The Charles De Gaulle doesn’t support your case).

    We were led to believe that this was way more infectious than the flu and way more deadly to boot, but as it stands 371K have died, which is less than the ‘average’flu year (389k) and way less than the highest flu year (650K) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6815659/.

    Also agree @1212 regarding nursing homes, but thanks to Andrew Cuomo and the NHS, a lot of the fuel has now been burned…..

  24. dearieme,

    “The question is what to do about dreadfully incompetent bureaucracies like PHE. Suppose, as a wild exercise of the imagination, that a bunch of politicians took office who knew that the likes of PHE are a bloody menace. What could they do about it?”

    A lot. The first problem is finding people who know it’s a bloody menace and care enough to fix it. Most MPs and ministers are pretty shit. They waste tons of time on pointless wank.

    When people start electing people with local authority management experience or private sector management experience (and both of whom care about making things better, to the point where they’ll take risks with their careers), you’ll get better government.

    You won’t get anywhere with lawyers, teachers, journalists, trade unionists or wonks.

  25. “test & trace has been proven to work in Singapore and South Korea.”

    There was a very good twitter thread from a westerner who lives in SK that described how the system worked there. If anyone in this country thinks such a system could be imposed on the ‘diverse’ elements living in and entering this country, I’ve got a bridge for sale……

  26. But, John77, what I had in mind was, what if you’re walking along the street, neither talking, nor sneezing, neither mouth-breathing, nor coughing, then, is it said the infected are enveloped in a fug?

    And again, if that’s true, it must be the case that just about everyone in the world would by now have had it, assuming the fug is even remotely catching.

  27. Dearieme

    Regarding PHE, may I remind you of Robert Conquest’s Three Laws of Politics, particularly 2 and 3?

    1. Everyone is conservative about what he knows best.
    2. Any organization not explicitly right-wing sooner or later becomes left-wing.
    3. The simplest way to explain the behaviour of any bureaucratic organization is to assume that it is controlled by a cabal of its enemies.

  28. As mentioned It’s the droplet size that’s key, the science on this goes back a while to a German chap who named them Flugge Droplets.
    What people seem to be missing constantly is the 15 minutes bit of the rules, someone jumping out of the way in the supermarket is just reacting to the distance rule, same with people I’ve had out on the trails nearby who won’t pass unless you stand off to the side. Similarly see the story BBC has about an underground work who was spat on and died of Covid, there really is a fear that you can catch this just from walking past someone.
    Our Provincial Health Officer said the risk of catching it walking past someone in the park was ‘infinitessimal’, but the local authorities still shut the parks

  29. @ dearieme
    Rhetorical question – the left don’t care about the apparatus of the state being shit because they are running it and so don’f give a fuck. Plus they are asshats who couldn’t do a good job if they tried.

    @ MyBurningEars
    The idea of the Chinese buying up companies on the cheap is fanciful – they have already stolen the Intellectual Property so why bother. What we can do however is stop them accessing our markets to sell back that stolen tech.

    @ Bloke on M4
    People with “local authority management experience” are the incompetent twats who buy loss making shopping centres and start “green” consumer energy companies with council taxpayers money. In all cases these will lose money.

  30. The current ‘swab’ test has a false negative rate of ~30%. Having had this done last Monday (I was feeling a bit grotty, but had no specific Covid symptoms – my results came back negative 30 hrs later), I can see why self-administered tests aren’t all that reliable. Basically, you have to rub a cotton bud on a lengthened stick against your tonsils for a few seconds (and then stick it far up your nose), which is fairly unpleasant because of the gag reflex. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn that a significant proportion of self-tests aren’t done correctly* and I think the 30% false negative was based on tests being performed by medical professionals.

    * No one observes you at the test centre, and if you can’t drive there, you get sent a test kit in the post.

  31. @Yanners

    “The idea of the Chinese buying up companies on the cheap is fanciful – they have already stolen the Intellectual Property so why bother”

    Not just about the IP though is it? Also about getting balls in a vice. Power and influence you exert. And the option to buy up and run down your competitors, sending more of the work to China where it is more “efficient”, while you nab their customers and contracts.

    I used to work with someone who worked with an agency bringing kids of seniorish CCP types to the UK for education (think city/provincial level officials, industrialists, not the very top brass but all certified – I saw the paperwork – long-term CCP members, certified atheists etc, all the hoops you need to jump through to be able to do highish level business or administration there). Agency head drove (though rumours it was hired) a gold Rolls-Royce. Got to look the part as she was selling a crock of lies (promising things could be fixed for 14 year olds to be guaranteed into Oxbridge etc).

    Anyhow, guy I worked with told me of an interesting chat he had with one of the well-connected Chinese on the other side of the operation. Yes the middle-brass were sending the kids away as insurance policy, can’t be sure about the top-brass changing direction – especially if one of your middle-brass rivals becomes more influential and now you’re the target. Kids getting western passports is a big draw, gives you options. But moreover, the top-brass were actually okay with this. Bit riskier for them to send their own kids abroad, looks a bit dodgy if they’re giving themselves that kind of option, but plenty of them still do it. However they have zero problems with the middle-brass doing it. No fear of brain drain with thousands of smart young Chinese coming to the West, getting a good education, staying here and doing well for themselves.

    Actually very keen on the idea. In ten years, twenty years, it means there’ll be a lot of Western companies, universities and other organisations with Chinese folk at the top. Fifty years and you’re talking the next generation, so senior politicians and civil service departments. Not a “takeover” as such (though look at Australian universities to see where this could be going – not just the students and the influence over campus speech but the senior staff) but definitely “useful”. People who speak your language, get the culture, values and perspective. People you can do business with.

    Buying up western businesses is a similar thing. A toehold. Get your own people there, in different sectors. Be a player, have a voice. “Useful”…

  32. Mr Ears, horrifying.

    But how is it any different from the consequences of mass immigration from any other source?

    Either way, we’re taken over.

  33. Good work Tim. It was Sunday Telegraph front page main story

    No surprise, ignored by BBC Marr ‘papers review’ – NHS/PHE does no wrong

    Go back a bit and
    Health officials ignored offers of coronavirus testing help as anger mounts at Government’s failure to ramp up capacity; 31 March

    Pathetically weak Hancock wouldn’t intervene and bypass (or close obstructive, killing people) PHE to use private sector or even Unis

    However, Kindergarten Gruppenführer Hancock does like bullying public

    Hancock disobey and everyone will be banned from leaving home

    `The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power – pure power.´

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