Friday, 20 November 2020

On the validity of a second lockdown in the UK

I believe I have stated many times before that I don't like fashion science TV, in the sense that it keeps talking exhaustively about a topic mumbling and chewing up on things that have been explored/exploited many times before, and actually outputting very little of novel valid information for the public. UnHerd TV is the opposite of this, at least, most of the times! And this is why I like to regularly look up on what they're debating because their broadcasts scrutinise real science, from real scientific backgrounds, supported by real scientific tools and opinions of really experienced science people. 

Recently, I came across an interview with Professor Tim Spector, an epidemiologist involved in the project development of an application called ZOE app. This is allegedly an app funded by the British government and that became quite popular over the past weeks for having already demonstrated that, prior to the decision of a second-imposed lockdown, the number of reported infected cases was already on a downfall.

In that sense, I committed myself to listening to the whole interview and collected the most relevant opinions that I personally believe can be demonstrative of what Professor Tim Spector, and also the UnHerd YouTube Channel have disclosed, meaning, THIS SECOND LOCKDOWN WAS UTTERLY UNNECESSARY!!! But why not read now the most revealing and relevant statements:

Who pays for the Zoe app?

The first 6 months were funded by Zoe in addition to the "citizen scientists" who were using the app and funded it. Then a fundraiser campaign came into place where about 70 thousand contributors helped maintain the app. Then in the Summer, the Department of Health started funding the project.

Does the funding by the government limit free speech?

Yes, in terms of what is said by researchers on social media, but not in terms of the data disclosed and shared in the app itself. Moreover, the researchers/scientists involved in the development of this project are not restricted in their freedom to criticise the government.

Was a second lockdown a needed approach in the UK?

If their Zoe app data had been taken into consideration, the governmental authorities would have made different conclusions and decisions considering that the data showed that, for some parts of the United Kingdom, a fall on daily reported covid cases was already a reality. That was already a reality when the UK was coming out of the tiered approach!

Even in tier 1 areas and immediately when the lockdown was decided and announced there was already a fall of in cases reported, ergo that downfall was not a result of the lockdown but already a trend that was taking place.

Different studies where the government based their decision on (e.g., Face value, REACT and ONS [the government official survey] operated almost as a decoy driving the government to such decision).

How did we go from one scenario to the other when grave impact on businesses and people lives were a risk?

Because no alternate views were shown and it was decided by the government to operate on a worst-case scenario prospect.

The fact that most likely during meetings with SAGE (Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies) the government wasn't presented with an optional plan, resulted in unavailability of options for the former. But since there is inadequate information coming from those meetings to the public, this is just speculation.

What additional risks came in with the second lockdown decision?

Loss of quality of life in terms of physical and mental health (number of suicides, extreme anxiety and depression cases), less medical appointments for the common population or special population (cancer, stroke, heart attack patients, and the like), loss of longevity, loss of economic growth or just maintenance of financial stability was not even considered, and that is an undeniable fact. And the general media supported this idea by being blunt as to just focusing on the number of confirmed cases and the number of deaths covid-wise. It's like for them the only important factor was a body count. As referred by Prof Tim Spector, "in most Novembers and Decembers in the UK, 50 thousand people die; these numbers are actually trivial compared to the expected rates. As an epidemiologist, and there are a number of people who think like myself, we should be taking a much broader view of this" and "politicians and scientists only seem to be punished when we underestimate [...] in society we are very risk adverse". There was no balancing of the different impact on different sections of society.

Were the curves coming down because of a greater degree of immunity in the population?

From what has been observed in other epidemics this is a natural occurrence as infection rates don't simply go up constantly, they respond in waves; these infections tend to lose strength when they've infected enough people or when infected new people; the infection meets an enhanced immunity against the viruses. It is possible that in certain places people who did not self-isolate or did not respect social distancing and did not get infected were indeed already immune, an immunity that is recognised to be on average present for 6 months. Different views can support different ideas in different regions showing different curves, what Prof. Tim Spector said of "micro-arguments".

Why has the conversation between sections of society and authorities become so poisonous?

Clearly not all information has been shared which created discredit in many sections of society. Decisions were made as to not discuss more than compliance, a restricted number of symptoms, "there was only two symptoms until the Zoe app uncovered the loss of taste and smell, other countries have much broader ideas and do share more".

Will lives go back to normal in Spring 2021 now that a vaccine has been announced?

"It's great to have some optimism. We have a vaccine that looks like it may work which means that if that one doesn't others will probably do. I think it's dangerous to think this will be actually working for us in the Spring; we don't know how long it lasts [...] whether it works on old people [...] We do need a plan to go back to normal to accept that continued infections and continued deaths are here for the rest of the year".

Should this new vaccine be administered on a voluntary- or mandatory-basis?

"[...] the number one group to sort out are the vulnerable. Cover them and their carers, we could effectively shield them pretty well and everyone could just put up with the virus apart from some cases of long covid; we could cope as a country and get economically back to normal [...] I think we try a voluntary approach... once we know more about it as all these vaccines are very novel... once we know more about the risks people are taking, people wouldn't necessarily accept that and one thing we are doing in the app is adding a vaccine function to it where people could take the vaccine and report the long term effects to it to feel safer about it themselves".

For downloading or just reading more on the Zoe app, please access HERE.

For viewing the full interview yourself please access HERE.

1st image kindly taken from UnHerd TV.

2nd image by by Matt Seymour on Unsplash

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