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Quite so Mr. Harris, quite so

A vaccine will start to ease our collective anxiety, but the reasons why Covid-19 hit the UK hard will not be going away

The gross incompetence of the State – the actual state, not just the politicians on the top of it – isn’t going to go away anytime soon. Public Health England has been worrying about the size of Mars bars – worrying to the point of legislation I think? – rather than anything to do with contagious, epi- or pan- demic diseases.

That being just the one example of the need for the piano wire solution, no?

16 thoughts on “Quite so Mr. Harris, quite so”

  1. Personally, I don’t believe the virus could have been stopped in a Western democracy once the narrow window to shut the borders had been missed, but certainly the institutional incompetence of PHE did not help.

    Ministers take the blame and resign, civil servants are never fired, and the problems will remain until that situation changes. With Cummings gone, that will never happen.

  2. “With Cummings gone, that will never happen.”

    Cummings is a fanatical lockdowner….He’s sound on Brexit public procurement and the civil service, but also he’s an interventionist technocrat. His version of ARPA would have made the NHS look like good value for money.

  3. But the point is CoVid-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) did not hit the UK. Fewer than 99% got the disease, even fewer died. The virus SARS-CoV-2 was relative to influenza and coronavirus strain, mild or no worse. 50 000 died in UK in the 2018/2019 Winter ‘flu season; the NHS was overwhelmed.

    Millions of doses of packaged, labelled vaccine is sitting in warehouses it is claimed, since July. So a pharmaceutical product was put into full production prior to completion of clinical trials in Humans, without its efficacy or side effects being know and prior to regulatory approval.

    Given the short period from development to production – in itself a topic for marvel – how could shelf-life be established? Labelling and shelf-life is part of regulatory approval, but how can a final draft of labelling and shelf-life dating be prepared and approved if contraindications & warnings are not known? It is unknown, in my experience, for a Pharma to make full production runs of a product prior to successful Human trials or until approval us imminent. Not least it is a huge commercial risk.

    There is something not quite right about this.

    It is claimed to have 90% efficacy. What exactly is meant by this?

    1. Is it effective in preventing symptoms (disease) in 90% of people vaccinated?
    2. Is it 90% effective in preventing symptoms (and therefore disease) or reducing severity of symptoms in infected subjects?

    The two are not the same. So far it looks like No 2 as it is not being claimed it can give population (aka herd) immunity.

    So far it has been tried only in young healthy volunteers, but there is no information how it performs in those who most likely might benefit, that is people with serious underlying conditions and/or elderly 70 years plus.

    Which brings us back to the risk of production runs without such information and prescribing information being available.

    The vaccine also requires storage at -80C and sub-zero supply chain to vax site, where as it thaws must be used within five days. This makes it unsuitable for poor Countries even if they get the vax free, as they certainly will not have the infrastructure to store and transport the vax.

    There is nothing about this manufactured crisis that passes the sniff test.

  4. John B is exactly right. This vaccine will not ease my anxiety.

    Dr Mengele is going to have to stick it into my cold, dead arm.

  5. ‘but the reasons why Covid-19 hit the UK hard will not be going away’

    It was the UK government that ‘hit the UK hard.’ The lockdowns, etc., are grossly inappropriate for this disease. It is an Ebola reaction to a bad flu.

  6. “Cummings is a fanatical lockdowner….” Oh FFS Theo! After his rather well publicised quarantine excursion, you think he has any choice?
    Never ceases to amaze me how Tories will continue to cling to the festering rotting corpse of their party despite all the evidence it doesn’t give a fuck about them

  7. Bloke in North Dorset


    He’s [Cummings] sound on Brexit

    Really? I don’t know what you do for a living but Stephen Bush who makes a living out of watching politics has a different take. From this morning’s newsletter:

    Despite the fact that Cummings, not Johnson, was the one who first urged that Brexiteers should back Theresa May’s deal, he has managed to acquire a reputation in some quarters as the real guarantor of toughness on Brexit. The reality is that if anything, it’s Johnson himself who is the least inclined to back a deal, and that the exit of one set of pro-Leave backroom boys in favour of a more gender-balanced group of pro-Leave backroom people doesn’t change that.

    There does appear to be a lot of projection on to Cummings, from both sides.

  8. Dear Mr Worstall

    Covid cases and death statistics are so compromised as to be not worth considering.

    For England & Wales, all-cause mortality to Week 44 (Friday 30 October), deaths are 505,862, and forecast (divide by 44 multiply by 52) to be 597,837 for the year. This is about 11% above both 2015 and 2018 totals.

    Current excess deaths are 57,098 above the five year average.

    Split by age groups:

    0-44…….. (59)
    45-64.. 6,965
    65-74.. 8,159
    75-84 18,933
    85+…. 23,166
    Total.. 57,164

    There’s a 66 error in there.

    Under 45’s are more or less unscathed, even the 45-64 (20 year) group got off lightly compared with the 10 year groups 65 and above.

    According to Age Concern in the UK about 3.4 million people are aged 75-84 and 1.6 million 85+.

    It would be interesting to find out why the novelty of this virus does not seem to affect the young. One might expect novelty to wear off with age. Co-morbidities will affect the elderly more, and more so the older they are.



  9. I’m not sure that Cummings is or was a fanatical lockdowner but anyone who has ever taken the trouble to look at his impenetrable and unstructured blog will know that he’s a sucker for models and convoluted data sandcastles in the air. He certainly doesn’t appear to have raised a whimper at the SAGE meetings that he attended.

    I’d agree that he’s interventionist and am delighted that his attempt to resurrect Harold Wilson’s “White Heat of Technology” will have left Downing Street in a cardboard box.

  10. BiND
    On Brexit, yes, Cummings briefly favoured May’s ‘deal’ when it looked like Brexit was lost. But I read that as a purely tactical half-a-loaf-is-better-than-none holding position. Without Cummings, Leave would never have won the referendum in the first place…

    It has been reported that Cummings was immediately convinced by Neil Ferguson’s model and that he sided with Vallance et al on the need for a lockdown. Apparently, Cummings soon persuaded Gove of the need for a lockdown, while BoJo and Sunak remained understandably somewhat sceptical and reluctant. Cummings was also strongly in favour of the second lockdown and kept Gove well briefed for the Quad meetings.

    I have sampled Cummings’ blog,too. There’s no evidence there that Cummings is the semi-fascist caricature that remainiacs insist he is. Rather, he comes over as a right-of-centre economic interventionist and an angry data geek with some radical proposals for making things work better.

    “After his rather well publicised quarantine excursion, you think he has any choice?” Cummings reportedly favoured lockdown as soon as he had read Neil Ferguson’s report on the results of his model – ie before the Barnard Castle episode.

  11. DP

    I believe that the nearly 58k excess deaths occurred overwhelmingly in March and April. I checked the ONS reports regularly and for at least 8 weeks from July onwards there were actually fewer weekly deaths from all causes – a sort of reverse excess mortality.

    I have also been told that the 2017/8 and 2018/9 winter flu strains were milder than usual. Putting these together there is a plausible scenario, backed up by the very advanced average age of those dying, of a larger than usual number of extra-vulnerable individuals being “carried forward” into 2020 and succumbing in large numbers to Covid. If it wasn’t Covid an averagely severe winter flu could easily have had the same effect on this population resulting in a similar number of “excess deaths”.

    Finally over the 5 year period against which excess deaths are calculated the UK population has officially increased by around 1.5m but in all probably the actual figure is higher. At an average lifespan of 75 years even that extra 1.5m would be responsible for at least 20,000 of the excess deaths i.e. the bigger the population the more people are going to die each year.

    These and many other reasons are why few people mention actual death number but boy oh boy do they love going on about positive cases (any chance of some reliable stats comparing positives with the number of tests carried out?).

  12. Negative excess mortality demonstrates that most of those who died during the first wave were already in the last few months of life. Note that the current media focus is not on excess deaths (the only ultimately reliable statistic, as it doesn’t rely on interpretation and opinion) but rather on “death within 28 days of a positive test” (howsoever caused).

  13. “the reasons why Covid-19 hit the UK hard” seem to me to be unknown. The importance of state incompetence is merely an assumption.

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