Over the Easter weekend, it was reported that there is a split in the Cabinet over how long the lockdown imposed to combat the coronavirus (Covid-19) should continue. Some ministers want it extended by six weeks “to save lives”; others, including home secretary Priti Patel, want it extended by three weeks to “protect the economy”.
But there could be a more fundamental rift, alluded to in recently leaked recordings, regarding a very different strategy. That strategy could, in theory, protect the economy, but would also see many more lives lost from the disease than currently anticipated and over a far longer time frame.
In an exclusive, journalist Nafeez Ahmed reported on leaked recordings of a Home Office conference call about the coronavirus outbreak. It focuses on comments made by the government’s deputy scientific adviser Rupert Shute, whose background is in engineering and includes:
The Canary can also reveal that Shute
Fusion Forum i
Herd immunity in all but name
According to the leaked recordings, Shute argues the case for what can only be described as a version of ‘herd immunity’.
…The strategy sounds almost indistinguishable from the previous ‘herd immunity’ approach which the Government has attempted to distance itself from.
The leaked recording also shows Shute saying:
The government’s chief scientific adviser, Patrick Vallance, gave his thumbs up to the controversial herd immunity approach very early on:
Sir Patrick Vallance, the govt chief scientific adviser, says the thinking behind current approach to #coronavirus is to try and "reduce the peak" and to build up a "degree of herd immunity so that more people are immune to the disease". #R4Today
— BBC Radio 4 Today (@BBCr4today) March 13, 2020
And the British Medical Association may have inadvertently provided an indication of how herd immunity, or a version of it, could play out:
Meanwhile according to Jeremy Farrar, director of research for the Wellcome Trust, the UK could end up with the highest coronavirus death rates in Europe. If based on Department of Health figures, this would exclude deaths from care homes and the community. Many of these deaths are unrecorded as caused by Covid-19:
A whistleblower has told @Channel4News they fear Coronavirus is sometimes entirely left off death certificates in care homes and in the community, meaning the true number who die from the virus may never be properly recorded. https://t.co/l2JOEqhCww
— Ciaran Jenkins (@C4Ciaran) April 13, 2020
Likely contributing factors to the high number of Covid-19 related deaths include insufficient testing for the virus as well as problems affecting the supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) and ventilators. Another factor could be the promotion of herd immunity, given we now know it appears to be part of private government discussions.
Let’s swap the term ‘herd immunity’ – which should only be applied once a population has been vaccinated – with ‘laissez faire’ capitalism (or let the market dictate what happens). We then get a better feel as to why Shute’s preferred but controversial approach remains an option.
With experts – medical, scientific and otherwise – offering sometimes opposing advice, it’s no wonder government’s management of the outbreak appears so chaotic.
Or to put it more simply: politics and medicine do not mix.
Featured image via YouTube – ITV News
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