The speed at which the Government is changing its advice got me looking into the reasoning for yesterday’s announcement of much tougher guidelines. The Gov’s previous strategy (the ‘delay’ phase) was one of ‘mitigation’ – that is, ‘everyone will probably get it so we just try and limit the damage’ to the population and economy. This involves, as you may already know, lowering the height of the infection curve over time to reduce the stress on resources.
However, new data from a study, including a study by Imperial College London yesterday afternoon, is proving the authorities wrong on their assumptions and their subsequent choice of the mitigation strategy, one which has also been taken by a number of other countries. There are too many unknowns to make an informed decision: we don’t know how many people get the virus and show no symptoms. We don’t know how far it spread prior to any testing from those first few cases from China/France/Italy. Since we aren’t testing anyone but the critically ill, we have been flying blind.
Data from the NHS front lines and from the Italy situation is showing that a mitigation strategy has a very real chance of NHS emergency departments being swamped with a volume of patients needing care that will outstrip capacity by 8x and result in an estimated 250,000 deaths.
The announcements yesterday afternoon are part of an attempt to make a switch to a suppression strategy – to stop people from getting the virus at all, or at least slow down the rate of infection to an absolute minimum. Suppression basically equates to maximum social distancing at all times. Despite knowing all the above, we still haven’t got there. Pubs, restaurants and bars are still open, along with the schools.
The WHO have directly accused the UK gov of not doing enough – all countries should be doing everything they can to test as many people as possible – we aren’t doing this at all. It was one of the key tools in South Korea sorting themselves out and successfully suppressing their epidemic. Aljazeera has some good stats on this here.
The UK gov got their strategy wrong, and still haven’t implemented the right strategy with what is required to correct the rate of infection to a level that can be handled.
We had already taken the decision to self isolate and pull our children from school before this advice came out (see previous post) and I expect that by the time our self isolation period ends we may be in a mandatory isolation period just as France and Italy are right now. Hopefully the right actions and subsequent decisions will be made by the government in the right time scale.
- Sridhar, D. Britain must change course – and resume Covid-19 testing to protect frontline NHS staff, Guardian, 16–3-2020, Gaurdian
- Ferguson et al, Impact of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) to reduce COVID- 19 mortality and healthcare demand, Imperial College London, 2020
- Latest Government Advice