Picture “Survivors” BBC TV
For blame there must be.
I can remember the last pandemic. The 1968 Hong Kong Flu event. 30,000 died in Britain. Not that I recall much being said at the time. Schools remained open, factories worked away, and we all coughed and spluttered over each other as always. Nothing outrageous in the press then. Only print news and two TV channels of course. No Internet, no Social Media. Pandemic? Yeah just another day in the office.
After years of being under pressure from falling print sales and the rise of social media the denizens of Grubb Street found they required to be more and more alarmist to draw back the crowds. Elvis on the moon, Celebrities with their tits out (sorry wardrobe malfunctions) Royalty dying off, royalty being saints or sinners or both, endless sexual scandals of politicians, all was grist to their mill. Anything, just anything, was click bait to prove to advertisers their worth in reaching target audiences. Then, late last year early 2020, joy of joys an infection blew out of an obscure part of China. Instantly they all started upping the anti with lurid stories of The Black Death (1350), The Great Plague of London (1665) then Antonine’s Plague or Justinian’s Plague anything to scare their readers witless and keep them coming back for more, hour after bloody hour. The media stand accused of severely over egging the situation out of all control simply to boost ratings and give themselves an excuse for being. And they just kept on about it. Well, it’s nice and easy you can sit in the office and dream up endless arch questions to put to politicians in your best dramatic concerned voice. This idea that you might just keep a proper distance and wash regularly was never going to be enough for them.
Finally, their political masters broke. They turned to “experts” the modellers, the epidemiological statisticians and it all fell apart.
The modelers have utterly failed the public and themselves – again.
Or – Ferguson massaging his Staats!
The masters (our politicians here and in Germany, France etc and America) have panicked. Here in Britain for some reason they turned to Imperial College and the work of Professor Neil Ferguson OBE for his take. The USA also took his advice! He is one of their chief advisors and also to the WHO and EU. That might give one pause. Interestingly, for a scientist his model has never been peer-reviewed and he has not allowed the data sets he uses to justify his conclusions to be examined. Both facts should have made politicians wary of placing too much weight on them.
And there was need, for Ferguson has form.
In 1996 There was the BSE (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy) debacle regarding a cattle disease and vCJD its human acquired cousin. Everyone knows that there was acclaimed link between the two, and this set off the greatest and most expensive food scare in history. Stephen Dorrell the minister followed John Patteson and Ferguson’s conclusions of predictions of deaths from eating beef that ranged from 500,000 to millions and acted decisively. As a result £83 billion of public money was spent incinerating a lot of elderly cows. The costs to industry and the UK economy in the years following have been many times that. The chief reason that eventually lead even the Government to doubt all this nonsense was that there was in fact no epidemiological evidence. Even in 1996 it was fantasy. Eventually Prof Roy Anderson and his team (yep that’s Fergusson) revised their estimates of those likely to die of vCJD from 400,000? To 40,000? Nope. To just 40. http://www.warmwell.com As Dr Azra Ghani, who carried out work with other researchers wrote “Our results suggest that the vCJD epidemic will continue to decline with a best estimate of only 40 cases.” The most costly blunder ever. https://web.archive.org/web/20140429192225/http://www.warmwell.com/2may18brooker.html
Still none of the shit seems to have stuck to Ferguson.
In 2001 we had an epidemic of Foot and Mouth in Europe. This is also a cattle disease. Ferguson was asked to devise the model used to inform the response. He was the lead modeller. It was simply catastrophic, and the industry continues to suffer to this day. The sight of distraught farmers seeing huge mounds of their cattle being incinerated in their fields caused such an outrage they stopped using Ferguson’s plan. Despite calls for an official enquiry this was resisted. However damning conclusions were made regarding the whole handling by the Government and Ferguson in particular. The link following is to an article in The Times by Magnus Linklater so no light piece this. http://www.warmwell.com/06oct10magnus.html A larger, more detailed (and scientific ) report follows http://www.oie.int/doc/ged/D3278.PDF It’s a long article so definitely a cuppa tea job. Private Eye even did a special on this which does Ferguson little good. https://www.private-eye.co.uk/pictures/special_reports/not-the-foot-and-mouth.pdf
Professor Michael Trusfield said of the business “a cautionary tale re the limits of mathematical modelling “ and he feels a “sense of déjà vu” about coronavirus.
Never mind the bold boy was awarded an OBE and huge wodges of research dosh!
In 2005 Ferguson tried again with Bird Flu. 200 million might die of that world-wide! Instead of 285 in Britain in six years from 2003 to 2009. How, how did he get this so wrong?
Naturally he survives again to tells us all again in 2009 about Swine Flu which he opines to the Guardian a left wing British newspaper, will infect one third of the world. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2009/may/12/swine-flu-report-pandemic-predicted He felt it had a death range of 0.3% – 1.5% and a guess that 65,000 would die. In the end only 457 died of swine flu a death rate of 0.026. More people die falling down stairs.
Ferguson was a large part of the reason we spent billions here and across the Atlantic on Tamiflu.
So, we should not be surprised that when asked about SARS2 – CoVid19 Ferguson came up with a typically fantastical scenario using 13 year old assumptions for a totally different virus which was not even a coronavirus. Whose call was it to employ him? First it was going to be 500,000 deaths in the UK and 2.2 million in the USA then it was revised down to 250,000 and then maybe about 20,000. Other professionals in the field were curious as to how Ferguson was invited back. Professor Gupta of Oxford in the Financial Times opined “I am surprised that there has been such an unqualified acceptance of the Imperial Model”. Incidentally, Oxford reckon the death rate of Covid to be in the range of 0.1% to 0.3% or in other words within the range of a sever flu outbreak.
Still in political circles, and now properly panicked by the idea of 200,000 to 500,000 deaths and a health service overwhelmed, and without doing any due diligence on these claims, the Politicians just rushed it. A single blanket Lockdown was imposed. No thought, no strategy, no testing to establish a base, just shut the shop. Well it was certainly dramatic, and it has halted the spread slightly. It’s also damaged the economy very badly. And it has done nothing to eradicate the virus which is still lurking out there! Rather than taking time to test the population as Germany did, or to regulate a form of selective quarantine by identifying the vulnerable, the old and co-morbidity groups and locking them up, they just shut down the world. Now before we get all moral and high horse, it is not a question of lives versus money. It is lives versus lives. If you want to kill people properly then give them poverty, and poverty is what will be the result of this. And you will not halt the deaths. Unfortunately for the politicians this one is a case of Sophies choice.
Despite what you hear the country is not going to stand for Lockdown until Christmas or whenever (indeed if) a vaccine ever appears. They will simply vote with their feet and go back to work whatever. Like France or America the people will tell the government and that might not be pretty. Other countries are going with the flow, easing it up after five weeks or so. Of course, they will claim that if we hadn’t had the lockdown it would have been worse. A nice unfalsifiable trick right out the Jimmy Swaggard school of prediction “Well things would have been much worse if we hadn’t prayed for you….now send money”.
So, whom to blame? Elite group think is to blame. The media desperate for click bait, the modellers desperate for glory and research funding, the politicians desperate for a quick easy fix.
Who will pay? You will. Lost jobs, a raised death rate due to foolish decisions, deferred operations, bankruptcy, evictions, domestic abuses, child cruelty, mental health decline, buggered pensions due to a crashed stock market. A depression to rival or beat the 1930’s. It’s all good eh?
Copyright David Macadam 2020 .