Our comments on the UK Strategy: In April the UK government outlined the following 5 steps needed to unlock the country. As of May 13th, the UK has loosened the lockdown restrictions but many restrictions remain in place. Are the government’s plans realistic or is it simply delaying releasing the lockdown because of political pressures and being influenced by the same “modellers” and SAGE that made questionable recommendations in the first place?
STEP ONE: The NHS is able to cope
Government: “We must be confident that we are able to provide sufficient critical care and specialist treatment right across the UK.”
Comment: The vast 4,000 bed Nightingale hospital in London never had more than 40 patients. The other Nightingale field hospitals with a total capacity of 15,000 beds, admitted no patients at all. They weren’t needed. Other hospitals are at 50% capacity. There is enough capacity now, even if lockdown is removed and cases increase. More ventilators are not needed. There are many questions regarding the overuse of ventilators, especially at the beginning of the pandemic with many people dying as a result of being on a ventilator.
STEP TWO: A sustained fall in deaths
Government: “We need to see a sustained and consistent fall in the daily death rates from coronavirus so we are confident that we have moved beyond the peak.”
Comment: The peak of daily deaths was in April. We are in the downward curve and have been for over a month. There is also confusion about the numbers. Are deaths due to Covid or something else? Are people dying BECAUSE of Covid or WITH Covid? Most people have co-morbidities? Can the numbers be trusted?
STEP THREE: New infections dropping enough
Government: “We need to have reliable data from SAGE (Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies) showing that the rate of infection is decreasing to manageable levels across the board.”
Comment: A virus tends to work its way through a community/country and then dissipates. Its growth has never been exponential as commonly described in the media. Can SAGE (or the WHO) be trusted on this particular issue given they were committed to the lockdown strategy? The government is highly influenced by “experts”, some of whom are “modellers” who are not necessarily giving the right information. Controversy arose regarding the influence of Boris Johnson’s advisor who attended SAGE’s meetings. Can it be explained why the virus would run out of control at this time? It is looking very likely that the virus has affected the people most susceptible to it, and will not seriously affect that many more people. A second wave when lockdown is released is possible but is not likely to be anything like the first. The reason for this is that the elderly and immune compromised have already been affected. In fact, it has been the inadequate care for the elderly in care homes that created such a high mortality rate. A rise in new infections does not necessarily lead to a great increase in mortality, as it is likely to be healthy people who are now infected who may not even show symptoms. In other words, more positive tests does not mean more deaths.
STEP FOUR: Adequate testing and PPE
Government: “We need to be confident that the range of operational challenges, including testing capacity and PPE, are in hand, with supply able to meet future demand.”
Comment: The main people to protect are the aged and vulnerable. How will massively increased testing achieve the stated goal of controlling the spread of Covid-19? By ‘chasing the virus’, we will see more positive cases will be identified, but what will that achieve if most of these people are asymptomatic? Is it realistic to ask them to isolate just in case they spread the virus?
It may not be possible to contain the virus in this way. Isolating healthy people is a questionable strategy. How often do you test everybody? How does a person know whether they are positive on a daily basis? If sick then simply stay at home, whether with Covid or not. But mass testing is not necessary for this. Also, there is the question of privacy. What happens with the testing results? Where are they stored? Who owns the data?
The strategy of Test, Track and Trace is built on the same fundamental assumption: that the pandemic can be “suppressed” and that through lockdown and mass testing, the pandemic can be controlled. Is it not too late for this now? Are the profound consequences of an extended lockdown already causing too much damage to the country and the world at large? Testing is being presented as necessary to get back to normal but it may only maintain unnecessary fear and anxiety.
STEP FIVE: No risk of a 2nd peak
Government: “We need to be confident that any adjustments to the current measures will not risk a second peak of infections that overwhelm the NHS.”
Comment: Given that the lockdown has now been in place for over 10 weeks, can we really justify continuing this strategy with all the risks it involves? The criteria required for unlocking has changed. First, we had to flatten the curve before lockdown could be released. Now we have to reduce the risk of a second outbreak. What then about a third outbreak? Given the current level of spare capacity in hospitals it doesn’t look as if they will be overwhelmed. We have a huge unused capacity in the Nightingale Field Hospitals in the UK, and other NHS hospitals are underused. It is similar in the USA where hospitals are in serious financial trouble because most non-Covid activities have ceased. We don’t yet know how many people have died because of the consequences of lockdown. Also, the number of deaths in nursing homes for the elderly all over the world has been huge. Part of this has been directly caused by the lack of staff and support due to the crisis and lockdown.