First the good news. While we all stay cooped up at home, the lockdown has had a positive impact.
These results are from one of our leading data authorities. The findings by Imperial College London were based on swabbing more than 100,000 people between 13-24 November.
The React-1 study is highly respected and gives us the most up-to-date picture of Covid-19 in the country.
Its researchers estimated the virus’s reproduction (R) rate had fallen to 0.88. That means on average every infection translated to less than one other new infection, so the epidemic is shrinking.
Run alongside pollster Ipsos MORI, the Imperial study involved testing a random sample of people for coronavirus, whether or not they had symptoms.
The results of these tests suggested a 30% fall in infections between the last study and the period of 13-24 November.
Before that, cases were accelerating – doubling every nine days when the study last reported at the end of October.
So the lockdown seems to have worked and averted an acceleration of infections which could have swamped hospitals. For once there seems a reasonable counter-factual, if we hadn’t locked down, there would have been needless excess deaths.
Too often we blast Government for being ineffectual, this time they got it right – though at the cost to the survival of many businesses and perhaps to the treatment of other aspects of the nation’s health than catching COVID-19. Despite this – the general good has been served.
The General Good
Where the virus is at its worst is now in the East and West Midlands. Where there appears to be particularly high virulence is around universities, where much of the infection is asymptomatic. Very sensibly, students will be tested in the next few days
Universities are opening temporary testing centres where hundreds of thousands of students will be checked for Covid this week before they leave.
Students have been asked to take two tests, three days apart.
If they test negative, many students will leave university in the “travel window” starting from 3 December.
Our students pass exams to make it to college, they study hard and have to show a degree of intelligence. So what is behind some of the nihilistic behavior reported at Nottingham University, a seat of learning at the heart of the pandemic’s current swirl of infection?
Just because you are asymptomatic doesn’t mean you haven’t got it. Police reported they could make no arrests as the students dispersed as soon as they turned up, we can only guess at the R where this happened (St Peter’s Court- Radford). If you have relatives at Nottingham Uni right now, how you feel about seeing them at Christmas?
The general good is served by making sure that infected people stay put and do not spread, no matter how impervious they may feel to the virus. Precisely the same should have been said to Americans who insisted on travelling long distances for thanks-giving. This BAU behavior risks the USA having a death-spike at Christmas. Following the science is a better way.
Continue to follow the science with COVID-ARG.COM
I am very grateful to be able to publish the work of the Covid 19 actuaries, which I have been doing since March.
Initially I kept a library of all posts but this has been made redundant by the launch of their website which will in time become a key resource for those researching the history of the pandemic.
Spending time understanding the science is what Government should, and be and large, is doing. We should not allow aberrant incidents (such as the Barnard Castle eye test) to lead us astray, the main event is the management of the virus till we have an effective virus and – despite all the mis-management along the way, we have in the UK done this so far.
The work of the scientists, chronicled by the actuaries and disseminated so effectively on social media, is a counter-blast to the Cov-idiocy of those who see sense in super-spreading.
All’s well – if it ends well (but it hasn’t yet)
Many people will feel the need for family congregations this Christmas and if the Government allows this, then these should go ahead. But we need to be responsible now, for that to happen. As we come off lockdown this Wednesday, our behavior will be critically important to the lives of those for who COVID will not asymptomatic.
Running around the City and the West End over the weekend, told me that social distancing has more or less been dispensed with. This may seem fine, if we are wearing masks outside, but it is not fine inside public places such as shops.
This week should also see the sanctioning of the first wave of inoculation, the end is in sight. Let’s make sure that we end this terrible thing – happily.
I have no firm evidence but I’m confident that whatever the government decrees families and friends will meet at Christmas. If the government sets the rule as strictly as the medical science might suggest then I think it will lead to more people ignoring it completely. Higher compliance with more relaxed rules might achieve lower infection rates in January.
And compliance isn’t necessarily an age issue. I know plenty of older people who either don’t understand the severity of the illness or the complexity of the rules, delight in pointing out the contradictions “I can’t meet in my large garden but I can in the supermarket!”, or take the attitude that they’re going to die at some point, don’t want to spend a substantial part of their remaining years in isolation and desperately want to see family.
It’s a great shame that similar consideration, and notice, was not also given to those planning Eid and Diwalhi celebrations.