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Scientists, variables, theories and unforeseen consequences. Gods and monsters

Allowing scientists to dictate policy has changed some Western democracies into virtual authoritarian states.

Submitted by M. A. Richardson…

“It is an easy thing for one whose foot is on the outside of calamity to give advice and to rebuke the sufferer.”

Aeschylus – Prometheus Bound – 430 BC

Allowing scientists to dictate policy has changed some Western democracies into virtual authoritarian states, and resulted in profound imbalances and inconsistencies in approach to solving the problem of containing Covid-19. A government’s primary role is to protect its people’s security and welfare. Handing over the running of a country to unelected and unaccountable scientists has presented governments with all sorts of unforeseen consequences, including how to get their country back.

Having grabbed the crocodile by the tail, the West needs to let go before it gets dragged under.

Who exactly is in charge?

Scientists live in a rarified world of…. other scientists. Science is usually something they have excelled in and pursued their entire lives. We think of them as rational and reasoned human beings. However, science is also a competitive industry.  Our language is littered with ‘science speak’ and those words imply reason and balance.  Problem, solution, rational, reasoned, theory. They are words of ‘process’ to achieve a ‘result’.

Even with prior knowledge, the British government failed to protect either itself or its population from their own scientific advisors. When you mix politics with science you get a dangerous combination of theory and agenda, probably the most dangerous combination as history reveals. Whose truth and whose agenda?

13th March 2020. Sir Patrick Vallance chief scientific advisor to the government.

“My job as scientific advisor is to speak scientific truth to power”.

In a press conference on the 13th of March, British scientific advisors announced their theory of ‘herd immunity’. ‘Flattening the curve’ or as  Boris Johnson termed it: ”Flatten the sombrero”.  There seemed to be a contradiction. How could the curve be flattened with the aim of infecting 60% of the population to ensure enough antibodies for herd immunity, and there not be a massive rise in death rates?  In reality, to achieve herd immunity this percentage should have been closer to between 70% – 85%. With a 10% hospitalisation rate for Covid-19, even at the low end of their 60% model, the numbers would have been enormous: Britain has 53 million adults.

For an already overburdened and underfunded health service this would have been catastrophic. There would be a steep and precipitous spike of Covid casualties before the curve could begin to descend. Of the contradictions; what of asymptomatic carriers? How can you put the over 70’s and the vulnerable in lockdown for three months, yet leave private care sector workers who look after these people without PPE or being tested? The virus has been carried into care homes and infected those elderly and vulnerable people whom the government say it wants to protect. If the government had continued with this policy, health services would have been completely overwhelmed as death rates would rise rapidly over a number of months, especially without a vaccine.  At the time, many of these questions were not raised, and if they were, they were answered by government scientists with glib and dismissive replies such as “truth to power”. Over 100 health care professionals have so far died in the UK from Covid-19.

Government scientists were saying one thing and ministers another. On 15th March, Matt Hancock, himself already infected with the Coronavirus, seemed to backtrack:

“Herd immunity is not a part of it. That is a scientific concept, not a goal or a strategy. Our goal is to protect life from this virus, our strategy is to protect the most vulnerable and protect the NHS through contain, delay, research and mitigate.”

There were other ‘variables’ to consider, such as population density, environmental conditions,  climate. London, an international transport and business hub, has many thousands of people flying in and out every day, possibly and probably bringing with them a highly infectious virus. The British government has chosen to neither track, test nor quarantine these people. Perhaps the government believes this to be one means of pursuing their herd immunity policy? To date, the borders have still been left open.

On the 16th of March, Imperial College London released its data of a predicted 250,000 deaths if herd immunity were to be pursued.  Within a week, on the 23rd of March, the UK went into lockdown. Over 100,000  people still fly into Britain weekly, and foreign nationals are being flown in to harvest crops, yet thousands of British workers who applied and are willing to do these jobs on those wages are turned away. Why would a government or an employer deliberately hurt its own people?

Herd immunity, a theory, an experiment, was implemented as a ‘Cost-Benefit’ consideration, an algorithm. Did British government scientists not run the numbers before that press conference on the 12th March, or at least enter some of the demographic information into that data? Rather like giving the keys of the lab to Viktor Frankenstein, he might have a lot of data, but it doesn’t mean his theory based on that data is right or the outcome predictable.

The flaws were obvious. No one wanted to take responsibility for the outcome. The government has made two u-turns.  The first was to implement a lockdown, the second is the promise of mass testing, whereas their previous policy from March 12th was, ‘ people will no longer be tested if they are showing mild symptoms. Instead, those with the most serious symptoms will be given a blood test in hospital, and the NHS will move into a phase of prioritising the most seriously ill.’.

Key workers can now ‘sign up’ to have a test, unfortunately yesterday, the demand was so great the site crashed within minutes. The government have neither the equipment nor the manpower to implement this policy, probably for many weeks.  When tests do become available, these tests are only for key workers only, what about the rest of the population? The UK are and always were at the back of the queue in the worldwide race for test kits and equipment. The electorate will not forgive them for their arrogance, or for the people that have died, who could and should have been saved.

Scientists look to ‘prove’ a theory. All well and good when it is done in a lab in controlled conditions, but when it is unleashed on the general public who have other considerations in their lives, it is surely reckless. It has ruined thousands of lives and businesses, many will never recover their health or financial wellbeing. Both strategies employed by the British government with regard to Covid-19, given the demographics, are extreme, and lockdowns of either part or, all of a population are a severe infringement of the civil liberties and freedoms in a democracy. Fear does not give good counsel. In the case of a new and dangerous pathogen, one would think caution and respect might be the best approach rather than panic and desperation. The British government’s handling of the outbreak of Covid-19 can be described as shambolic and inconsistent at best, and negligent and possibly criminal at worst.

In South Korea, the approach has been to protect the public without the need for the introduction of draconian measures such as lockdowns. South Korea’s Deputy Minister for Health and Welfare Kim Gang-lip said of lockdown methods:

“Such an approach, is close-minded, coercive, and inflexible.”

To contain and observe the virus, they consider that to test and track and to mitigate unnecessary risk until you know what you are dealing with and find solutions, is far more effective. The numbers prove them to be right. In addition, without lockdown, the South Korean economy could function on at least a basic level. They have tested 100,000 people daily since the beginning of the outbreak, have drive through and walk-in centre testing, and test and track. Everyone is encouraged to wear a mask. As to infringement of civil liberties vs public safety issues, Choi Jaewook from Korea University and senior official at the Korean Medical Association added:

“Disclosing information about patients always comes with privacy infringement issues, but should be strictly limited. It should not be about their age, their sex, or their employers.”

Kim Woo-Joo, Professor of Infectious Diseases Korea University College of Medicine:

“South Korea is a democratic republic, we feel a lockdown is not a reasonable choice,”

Since infection can gain entry to the system through the eyes, as well as the nose and mouth through ACE2 receptors in the mucous membranes, Kim also recommends wearing glasses, especially in enclosed spaces where the ‘aerosol effect’ spread is possible. He is critical of the World Health Organisation’s advice that masks were not necessary. He said that the WHO’s possible motivation for this advice was:

“to discourage the public hoarding of masks because medical professionals needed them more and masks in the US and the West are in short supply.”

Masks should be KF94, N95 or higher spec. When questioned as to the importance of wearing a mask he added:

“Why else would they be worn in hospitals? During SARS (2003) and MERS (2015) masks were proven to work”.

To date, no health care workers in South Korea have been infected by Covid-19.

“That experience showed that laboratory testing is essential to control an emerging infectious disease. The MERS experience certainly helped us to improve hospital infection prevention and control.”

Kim considers that anyone with a sore throat, fever or cough should be tested. In South Korea you can also pay for a test even if you have no symptoms or think you may be asymptomatic, If you test positive you are refunded by the government.

Compared to Europe and the UK, fatalities in Germany are extremely low. To date approximately 5,600 deaths in Germany, compared to 19,506 reported in the UK,  26,976 in Italy and 22,524 so far in Spain. Germany have four times as many ICU beds as the UK and a very strict regime of testing, isolating and treating early.  Twenty one percent of Germans are over 65, yet only 20% of cases in Germany affect the over 60’s,  In the UK, Spain and Italy, 50% of cases of Covid-19 affect the over 60s, significantly higher than in Germany. German hospitals are also well equipped with PPE.

In the US, many companies have effectively been requisitioned by Trump to produce PPE, ventilators and any other equipment their health services and workers need to deal with this crisis, so much so, they have an excess. But even Trump is beginning to regret letting his Chief Scientific Adviser, Anthony Fauci, take centre stage. Leaders are elected to lead not to be outflanked by unelected advisors who have little place on the podium, and certainly not at the centre of the room. Middle-class Americans across many US States are protesting as they see their economic future slipping away. Rightly, they want to get back to work, to claw back the last few months’ losses, to save their businesses and their futures.

When Covid-19 first hit Wuhan City, a city the size of London, with a population of 11 million, China systematically began to buy up supplies of any PPE they could procure from around the world in order to protect their own population. They knew Covid-19 would potentially be a huge threat to their entire country and its economy. China’s methods of containing the virus in Wuhan were brutal. People were locked in their flats to die or dragged from their homes into hospitals.  Before lockdown was enforced, 5 million people left the city in an exodus from train stations and on last flights out of the airport. On 23rd January, China closed its internal borders isolating Wuhan and many other cities in Hubei province. China’s external borders having been left open would see the virus spread worldwide.

China had created a demand for medical equipment and they had 98% of the supply. They had complete control of how much to charge for that equipment, even if the product was substandard, and they could decide when it would be received. It had total control of the supply chain. China began, and still is, selling supplies back to countries they procured equipment from in January, in some cases at huge mark-ups, sometimes as in the case of swabs, at 100 times the price they would have paid before the outbreak.

In China, many companies require up front payment made on the same day. For example, the antibody test-kits supplied to the UK, which turned out to be unreliable, were paid for up front without being tested by UK officials, and the UK had to go and pick them up from China with the threat that otherwise those goods would simply be sold to someone else. It is a suppliers dream. So £20 million pounds of British tax payers money went to the country that created the demand for the product in the first place. Those antibody test-kits sit in boxes in a warehouse in the UK in the hope that perhaps the component parts can be ‘re-purposed’.

Never before have so many nations been held captive to one supplier. Preferential treatment for supplies has been given or withheld by the CCP to countries either sympathetic or hostile to their regime.

April 6th 2020, The Asia Times reported:

“China imported about 2.5 billion healthcare items, including visors, masks,  gloves and ventilators, between January 24 and February 29, according to a report by China’s national customs authority, leaving frontline medical staff in scores of countries without protective equipment just as the virus hit. Now those Covid-19 infected nations are having to buy it back at often highly inflated prices, according to various reports, handing the Chinese a diplomatic if not commercial coup as they dictate where supplies of essential life-saving equipment is and isn’t shipped.”

A look at the Chinese Customs Authority Website, under the ‘statistics’ tab makes interesting reading, especially with regard to ‘semiconductors’ and ‘circuit boards’ being imported in March. This will tell you much about the Chinese agenda in the tech industry and their huge internal market.

http://english.customs.gov.cn

To be clear, this situation has arisen because of years of the West choosing to have its product produced in China. Outsourcing. This includes the practice of selling or the stealing of IP. The result is a hollowing out of the West’s industrial manufacturing and intellectual product base and future expertise, all for short-term financial gain through cheaper means of production and labour costs and therefore profit.  In the US it is called ‘unbundling’,

“in some cases, unbundling doesn’t mean a company has sold off its bundled product line, division, or subsidiary. It could mean it has split operations into different businesses while still maintaining control of each business. When this type of unbundling occurs, the newly-formed companies usually have a great opportunity for success in the future.”

China have capitalised on this trend at the expense of the West and become exponentially more powerful and wealthy because of this shortsighted and immoral practice of Western businesses and corporates’ greed. This model favours the big corporates that make huge profits by outsourcing which squeezes homegrown companies out of the market.  It allows big buyouts and M&A’s, as smaller to medium-sized companies producing quality goods can no longer compete and are cut up and sold off, or become a subsidiary where their IP is farmed out to China or Asia to a huge and growing market. For the West, this is economic suicide.

There is disbelief that one country, China, run by the CCP, now controls the means of production and supply of basic everyday medicines and their component parts and equipment. Electorates are wondering how our governments’ could have let this happen?

In country’s that have imposed strict security measures over their electorates, there is an unease and scepticism towards both the government and their scientific advisors, as people have watched their economies crash and their most basic human rights removed.

As with any experiment, it has produced a number of variables, and you can’t help but think our leaders are now trying to regain control of these variables, rather than of the virus itself.

“Power newly won is always harsh”  – Hephaestus – Aeschylus – Prometheus Bound – 430 BC

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.

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jenny 234
jenny 234
April 27, 2020

Neil Ferguson is hardly a scientist

Elephant In The Room
Elephant In The Room
April 27, 2020

I’ll be honest, I’m not entirely clear what you are trying to say here. You discuss variables, but then your whole message becomes confused because you’ve just lumped them all in together. It’s a very long article that needs clarifying.

What is the key point you are trying to put across?

JanetC
JanetC
April 27, 2020

The writer’s opinion about the US response to the pandemic is flawed. Yes, Trump regrets Fauci’s advice, but only because Trump has denied this pandemic from the beginning, and Fauci gives him the true scenario, which Trump can’t handle. Trump is only interested in Wall Street, while Fauci is interested in the health of the country. If Trump had listened to his CDC and medical advisors back in January, we wouldn’t have to be shut down in April. These shut downs are a direct result of Trump’s failure to test, contact trace and selectively quarantine in January, February and March… Read more »

Regula
Regula
April 27, 2020

This author speaks mostly of his own dissatisfaction in life. The article is a confused rant on all what is wrong with the west and then absolves the west to accuse China of being at fault for the west’s misery, from producing the world’s goods to being one of the world’s most advanced research and technical nations, which this author sees as grave faults of China. To clarify: “Herd immunity” refers to Darwin’s theory of the survival of the fittest. While animal herds cannot fight that, since they have very limited means to cure ills, when it comes to humans… Read more »

gwynn oneill
Reply to  Regula
April 28, 2020

So true, what you are saying, and saying in detail, not vague generalities.

Olivia Kroth
April 28, 2020

“China have capitalised on this trend at the expense of the West and become exponentially more powerful and wealthy because of this shortsighted and immoral practice of Western businesses and corporates’ greed.”

Of course, China has capitalized … Why not? A Communist country, gaining capital out of western stupidity. Who would have thunk it. Aren’t the Chinese clever?

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