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Ask HN: Is UK government insane or genius?
524 points by TheAlchemist on March 14, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 741 comments
While virtually all countries adopt the lockdown strategy to eliminate the virus spread, UK is apparently going on with 'herd immunity' strategy. It's pretty well explained in this tweet: https://twitter.com/iandonald_psych/status/12385183716516495...

Basically, the idea is to get the young infected, as the virus seems to be relatively inoffensive for young people, and thus becoming immune. Once the country reach a threshold percentage of immune population, the virus cannot spread effectively anymore, hence protecting the vulnerable ones.

My gut feeling is that this is the rational thing to do, however only in theory. In practice, people won't be disciplined about isolating vulnerable ones in the first phase, thus leading to disaster.




Their reasoning is that if the only things you can do are China-style lockdown or nothing, then the disease will just resume exponentially growing the second lockdown ends, so it's pointless to do it at all.

While that may be technically right (under some optimistic, unverified assumptions, e.g. no reinfection), it's a false dichotomy. Singapore, Hong Kong, and South Korea aren't under lockdown, they're stopping the spread by just having good testing and case tracking capacity, and good hygiene. And the longer things go on, the better they're getting at doing that. If things are getting out of hand, a temporary lockdown is effective (as it was in China), to get the numbers down while building up this kind of capacity. But lockdown doesn't have to last forever; China has already lifted restrictions in most cities.

The UK seems to be ignoring this, and I don't understand why. I suspect the real logic, as some government officials have outright said, is that a completely failed response would free up money for the NHS by killing off "bed blockers".

The social signalling around it is "prudent caution", in the sense that they are talking slowly and confidently while using big words. This gives some people the gut feeling that this must be the "rational" thing to do, but it's just window dressing. The plan is neither prudent nor cautious; it's recklessly endangering millions of lives. Experts in the UK are horrified; there's an hours-old petition against this with hundreds of academics already signed on [0]. The WHO has condemned it, and half the people I know studying abroad in the UK have fled the country over it.

0: http://maths.qmul.ac.uk/~vnicosia/UK_scientists_statement_on...


Their reasoning is that if the only things you can do are China-style lockdown or nothing, then the disease will just resume exponentially growing the second lockdown ends, so it's pointless to do it at all.

No, that is almost entirely wrong.

You can certainly disagree with their position but you should at least present it accurately. Their position is that this is a pandemic (i.e. spread too widely to eradicate this year), we have moved from the contain phase to the delay phase, and their plan is to gradually introduce measures up to full quarantine rather than jumping to lockdowns straight away. For example here are the measures planned in coming weeks:

https://www.itv.com/news/2020-03-14/elderly-to-be-quarantine...

If they manage to flatten the curve by timing measures, and if there is a second outbreak this winter, it may well save lives. The Chief Scientific Adviser and other experts are not horrified, they came up with the plan and are defending it, so no, ‘experts’ are not horrified, though some disagree (which is fine).

I’d be more worried living in the US right now given the mixture of denial and bluster which has been the response so far.


Europe right now shows the full spectrum of possible solutions. It is not as if draconian lockdowns are the only alternative. Look at Germany, for example. They've been using testing quite effectively and are also looking at primarily isolating vulnerable people.

It will take some time before we know more about how successful these strategies are. Different countries are at different phases in the infection spread which makes comparisons unfair.

If anything, the politically easy decision would be the lockdowns which shows voters strong leaders capable of "doing something" (even if the value of this "something" is at best unclear).


Germany doesn't test well at all. My wife's school in Berlin has been closed since Thursday because of a positive parent who partied in a club the same night as over 16 now infected persons.

Teachers are still waiting for test results and are supposed yo come back to work on Monday.

I can't really explain why there are so few casualties yet in Germany, but I think it's because many young and healthy people got infected (that's the case in Berlin, for instance), so hospitals aren't yet saturated.

I hope it stays that way, but I think we can expect much more deaths in the next days.


Under certain assumptions, young and healthy people getting infected would be the best course of action: http://www.overcomingbias.com/2020/03/expose-the-young.html


Europe is a chaotic mess. Germany is preventing exports of urgently needed masks and other medical supplies to Switzerland and Austria, Austria announced that no curfews were coming yesterday and today Tirol is under curfew and harsh curfew-like restrictions will be in place from Monday in all of Austria. I'm not really sure what the strategy is, the WHO recommendations after their China mission have been known for 3 weeks and there is no recommended middle ground.


Not sure I agree with your assessment.

Germany is doing pretty well at just 9 deaths on 4.5k cases. The WHO is not the only or the best source of recommendations, nor is this over in China. I'd be very surprised if they don't see another outbreak there now that this is a pandemic it will spread to Africa for example, which has a huge no of Chinese working there who will bring it back.


I'm not sure german successses are anything to do with action on the part of the government. I've been consistently surprised by the abrupt reversals in policy - with border controls or school closures going from 'out of the question' to 'tomorrow' with very little time elapsed.

I think much of Europe is a little bit like this. Germany will probably be relatively well off because German culture is fairly anti-social, Germans are typically very healthy, and the healthcare system is somewhat robust.

However, I haven't seen any sign whatsoever of a consistent or coherent response to the coronavirus. I expect whatever response eventually percolates out will be fairly rational, since german civil servants are well-paid and competent, but so far, it's been all over the place.


Antisocial: Unwilling or unable to associate in a normal or friendly way with other people.

That has not been my experience. How could the culture of an entire country be antisocial? A nation of hostile hermits?


Germany is also not reporting deaths from coronavirus if the patients had also other pre-existing conditions just to keep the number artificially low.


That's false, all recorded deaths do far were reported to have preexisting conditions.


Do you have a reference for that?


Growth in Germany is exponential. It doesn't matter how many people they manage to test if they are still going to wait and see before taking measures to reduce the infection rate.


It's worrying that the US might be doing the same thing but without openly saying it. Little is being done here about the virus. Most people can't get tested. The Senate took a vacation. The Republican Party doesn't want older and unhealthy people depending on social programs. Pray the virus away. Suffering will bring people to God.

"I think it is very beautiful for the poor to accept their lot, to share it with the passion of Christ. I think the world is being much helped by the suffering of the poor people." --Mother Teresa

This is how some people think. It seems like there are no serious people in charge. It's going to be a catastrophe like we have never experienced.


This needs heavy citation.


The problem with this reasoning is that your measure is not a direct measure of infection rates. For South Korea, they tested a large number initially, and now fewer. We don’t know if it’s actually under control without more systematic testing and therefore data on infection rates.

The other issue is that of getting the leak at the wrong time. If the UK manages to partly control it, but then realises containment will fail in say November, the peak will occur at the worst possible time in winter.

By controlling the spread and aiming for summer, best medical care can be achieved given limited resources.

This logic is not true for equatorial countries such as Singapore due a lessened seasonal effect, so they should continue with their current Methodology. I suspect others will move to the UK approach once initial social distancing process inadequate (assuming they are that is).


> We don’t know if it’s actually under control without more systematic testing and therefore data on infection rates.

Death and Active cases are a good measure. Both of these are under control in SK vs. still growing in Italy/Spain.


But the original comment said SK is now testing fewer people, so how do we know the active case numbers are under control?


> Singapore, Hong Kong, and South Korea aren't under lockdown, they're stopping the spread by just having good testing and case tracking capacity, and good hygiene.

You forgot Taiwan, who is faring much better than all three of the countries you mentioned.


And they did it all without closing their airports!

What mostly helped was lack of mainland Chinese people entering the country. Also Taiwanese wear their face masks religiously and are used to obeying the rules set by the government.

Finally (AFAIK) they have a very good health care system which handled the cases quickly and efficiently.


They instituted a 14-day quarantine for travellers from mainland China on the 24th of February and soon after for Korea, Italy and Iran. These were all already in place while other countries were pretending everything was OK and advising people arriving from Italy to go to work.


>What mostly helped was lack of mainland Chinese people entering the country

If the whole world closed their borders to China back in early Jan (and followed up with tracing and quarantine), we would be seeing this right now. Unfortunately, China was lobbying heavily against it.

Now China, being a massive exporter, has a global demand problem in addition to the local supply problem of shutting down their country for 8 weeks.


face masks don't help unless you've got covid19 and are using it to prevent spreading. If you have flu like symptoms you should be staying home anyway.


I wonder if this is in fact working - Not so much to protect oneself from getting it, but preventing the no-symptom/mild symptom carriers from spreading to others.


please distinguish between surgical masks and N95 masks.

N95 masks, fitted properly, do help prevent catching the virus. For a mask to be called N95 it has to be approved by the CDC. It’s specifically designed to block >95% of airborne particles. That’s why they’re recommended for caretakers at hospitals and frontline workers dealing with infected patients. Replaced every ~3 hours and worn in combination with goggles and ear protection, they minimize the risk of infection through mucosal membranes. They have also been in short supply.

Surgical masks do not prevent catching the virus, but they help sick people not to spread it due to the mask catching some of the spray droplets when they cough / sneeze


> Surgical masks do not prevent catching the virus, but they help sick people not to spread it due to the mask catching some of the spray droplets when they cough / sneeze

That's not true at all. There is a reason why surgical masks are used by surgeons, but for the protection level needed by medical professionals, it is used as a part of a wider system.

Used casually it prevents much of the droplets in the air from entering your respiratory system, as well as preventing a lot of touching of the face. There are studies that indicate wearing a mask decreases virus respiratory several-fold.


All the health experts I’ve heard from (and two of my immediate family members work at hospitals) have said that surgical masks do not prevent catching infections. You breathe by suction. Your diaphragm create a pressure difference by increasing the volume of the thorax and the air rushes into your lungs to compensate.

The reason the N95 filters work is because when the air is sucked in, it must pass through the filter before entering your respiratory system, and that filter is designed to filter >95% of airborne particles (and often times even higher). For the surgical masks, the air just gets sucked in from the side, the path of least resistance. So the airborne particles would also just get sucked in from the side. The masks may cause changes in behavior that lead to lower infection probability (such as reminding you not to touch your face), but dipping your hand in glitter would be just as effective.


Given the incubation period is > 14 days, and more than just a few of the patients don't show symptoms at all, you'd be spreading the virus before you know it without a face mask.


Taiwan's extremely successful strategy combines thorough testing and tracing with other measures to slow down the spread, much like what the WHO is recommending but no one else seems to be doing.

Very early on they instituted a 14-day quarantine period for anyone arriving from mainland China (later expanding this to Hong Kong and Macau), Korea, Italy and Iran. As of today, this now applies to the entire Schengen area (i.e., most of the EU).

The government has also taken over mask production (increasing capacity) and distribution (with a rationing system and an online map of where they can be bought).

Their website is very informative, with very transparent information about how many have been tested, confirmed, recovered, etc.: https://www.cdc.gov.tw/En


THe strategy in Asia seems to keep the virus under control but people in those countries are much more disciplined than European, not sure the measures they take would be as much effective in Europe.

The strategy of UK seems valid as long as you protect the more vulnerable, which they don't do.

What is the strategy after a lock down? You go back to work? It needs only one person infected to get the virus propagating again...


> The strategy of UK seems valid as long as you protect the more vulnerable, which they don't do.

The UK and devolved governments signaled on Thursday that the plan is for the vulnerable to be self-isolating for a long period; and based on the briefings to UK jornos on twitter - it'll be 16 weeks of self isolation for over 70s and those with underlying health conditions (they've not said what conditions yet) - I've seen it referred to as 'cocooning' by some.

I think the UK was doing a really good job, and has been doing a good job with this - I do think they've really misspoken when they've talked about herd immunity and have been trying to walk the term back.

You've got to bare in mind, that they aren't doing the politically easy things here. It would be easy to close the schools. Based on people I've spoken to, its going to happen soon - but I suspect they want this to happen after the over 70s and the vulnerables are into self-isolationg, and not shouldering childcare responsibilities. None of this is easy, we can't magic this virus away.


I think there's a lot behavioural science going on with the strategy here as well. A lot of the UK public now seem to realise this is serious and have automatically changed behaviour without government mandating it. Long term, that's a big win, people are bought in (seemingly) of their own volition and there is huge value in that.

The schools issue is very tricky as a lot of NHS staff will not be able to work if their children need to stay home. I can see them going to a softly, softly approach - parents working from home will be able to keep kids out of school with no consequence and they will probably extend all the school holidays a bit as well.

I can't believe this government wants to kill off the elderly out of choice, it forms a good section of their voter base, if nothing else.

I think overall it's good long term strategy, though very risky, which is never going to be perfect, but seems to have a lot of science and rationale behind it, even if not obvious at first.


>A lot of the UK public now seem to realise this is serious and have automatically changed behaviour without government mandating it.

I had no choice but go out and to do my weekly food shopping yesterday. This was definitely not what I experienced at all. Families crowding out in the supermarket with small children and grandparents abound. People coughing openly, not maintaining distance and so on.

People still have no sense of urgency to change their behaviour, and this is the critical time that we need to mobilise. Any success would be down to pure luck rather than their strategy.


To be fair, if all the "take it seriously people" stay at home as much as possible, you'll be far less likely to encounter them and 90% of the people you'll encounter in public are the people who don't change their behaviour.


If that's the case, I would also encounter a lot less people than usual in my weekly food shoping. That didn't happen. There's no need to bring all out your extended family out to Waitrose, Tesco or Costco. People are still doing it, nothing's changed.


I'm not sure how people will react by say, week 4 of isolation. I've been cooped up indoors for a week and it's already taking a toll on my well being.

You will invariably have people breaking quarantine after a few weeks, especially if there is a sense of the threat subsiding.


With entertainment venues being shuttered as “non-essential” at the same time as people are worried about both their health and livelihoods, there’s a very real risk of widespread morale problems as this crisis evolves.


The plan to protect the vulnerable is four months of quarantine: https://www.itv.com/news/2020-03-14/elderly-to-be-quarantine...


It’s almost Swiftian in its satire... oh wait, they’re serious. Strange that it may be quite a few of their own voters who die. I know Boris idolizes the mayor from Jaws who says the beach is safe to keep businesses open so maybe they are that dumb or maybe they’ll be really lucky. Risking an extra 2% of 50M dead (or even 20% of that) is a big gamble. How many allies died in Normandy? 200k? Hope it’s worth it.

I’m guessing that when things start getting Wuhan level crazy people will isolate anyway and they’ll get the worst of all results.


What better plan for vulnerable people is there than isolating them? You also seem to be under the impression that the plan is for no lockdown. The government has already said that there will be increasingly tight measures over the next few weeks.

I despise the current government, and have no idea if this plan is better than alternatives, but please if you want to criticise it, do so for what it actually is, not a straw man of your own construction.


I truly wish you good luck. Planning for the virus to expand (rapidly) through the younger less vulnerable population to protect businesses and provide herd immunity is what was described. I understand they're trying to walk that back now... good idea! https://politicshome.com/news/uk/health-and-care/illnesstrea...

The actual plan and how to isolate the almost 20% of the population at high risk is not outlined here or anywhere I've seen. If you know (or anyone in the government knows) what it is, please provide a description or link. I've only seen hope... and undefined "measures".


I watched the press conference where they launched the plan. That is emphatically not what was described.


A lot of people seem confused... granted it's the Guardian, but how did so many hear the same thing incorrectly?

The idea that a "second wave" can even be avoided or that infection prevents reinfection is not known. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/mar/15/epidem...


Yes, now that there is a released plan... worst messaging ever.

The U.K.’s Coronavirus ‘Herd Immunity’ Debacle. https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2020/03/coronavir...


4400 confirmed dead on D-Day (Allied)


The capture of Normandy didn't take a single day - it took over a month with ~120,000 Allied casualties:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Invasion_of_Normandy


What could the government realistically do to protect the vulnerable? It's ultimately up to the people to be disciplined and protect vulnerable people. That will only be done by educating the people, which has been done.


I haven't checked too closely, but surely the age distribution of conservative voters is such that if they are so callous as to treat corona as a convenient boomer remover, they torpedo their own re-election chances.

So, _even if_ you ascribe to the current UK government a conspiracy-esque, cold as nails approach to just effectively _murder whole boatloads of older folks_, it doesn't actually make sense: Who would they be so cold as to just casually acquiesce to a solution that results in a lot of death, but they are still human enough to care about the country first and are willing to sacrifice the electoral future of their party?

I'm on 'do not attribute to malice that which can be explained by stupidity', modifying it slightly to 'incompetence'.


You really have to understand that this government hires "superpredictors". It's not malice, it's just incompetence. They're making decisions based on how "truthy" they sound to them.


Replace “boomer remover” with “working-class-boomer remover” and the strategy makes more sense.

Personally, I don’t think Johnson and his cronies are deliberately targeting this or that group. They just don’t care. They are scared like everyone else, and are prioritizing the survival of their immediate circles and their social status - i.e. they keep the economy working, keep an appearance of order, and ensure people they care about are “cocooned”, ready to come out when the worst is over. That is their priority. Working-class lives are not priority, that’s all. Health-service capacity woes are relatively unimportant, because people “who matter” will be prioritized anyway.

If they go to full-lockdown, they risk upsetting the existing social order (economy tanks even harder, unemployed people start rioting, etc). That is their worst fear; consider that we’ve had actual riots in London only a few years ago. Saving a bunch of working-class grandpas is clearly not worth the risk of upsetting the current social order, from Johnson’s position. He’d rather have a functioning elite ruling over rubbles, than risk the very own existence of such elite just to save “nobodies”. Add to it a sprinkle of academic Strangeloves, and there you are.


Sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistiguishable from malice


The Conservative party is fresh off one of the greatest electoral landslides in history, and is 5 years away from the next election. So perhaps they think that people will have come around to their point of view by then? I'm just grasping at straws here, it's almost incomprehensible.


> they're stopping the spread by just having good testing and case tracking capacity, and good hygiene

First, there is the best of them all you forgot to mention, Taiwan.

Second, To sum up the difference as I have posted elsewhere, it comes down to The East willing to do Social Distancing AND Wear Mask. The west simply refuse to wear mask.


HK and SK both have huge amounts of social distancing in effect (notably schools shut down). Singapore is about the only country I'd view as never having used lockdown.

Taiwan did heavy school closures but is now coming back online. Hopefully, things hold up.


Singapore is gradually increasing[1] measures now as more imported cases show up - broader travel restriction, no events of more than 250 people, and enforced WFH, among others.

1. https://www.moh.gov.sg/news-highlights/details/additional-pr...


Wow, that's a cynical view. Is this the backdrop for another push to end Obama-care? As in claiming there's going to be death-councils deciding to lives and who dies?

But, I guess this question is just begging for all of us arm-chair quarterbacks, fear mongers and un-informed to jump in with anecdotes and opinions knowing full well that only time will tell which it is.

Personally, I think only a few things are clear.

1) Our society and government is totally unprepared.

2) This is going to be a bad year financially for most of us and a terrible year for many of the poorer among us. I just hope that we don't end up pushed yet another group into homelessness.

3) It seems like most of us don't know some really basic information about disease - like:

Q: How many died in the 2017-2018 flu season?

A: 61,000 in the US.

Source: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/burden/index.html. And, nope, that's not 61 people, not 610 or not 6100. That's right, the CDC estimates 61,000 people who died in the US alone in 1 year from the flu.

Which left me wondering why hasn't more been done to stop the spread of the flu?

How many have died from Coronavirus? A: 68 as of today in the US. 3,199 in China. 6,515 WorldWide. 3,213 in China, 1,809 in Italy. Source: https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/

Time for an anecdote. My wife had a medical emergency about a month ago - before Coronavirus. The emergency room was swamped. Sick people everywhere. Some not too sick. A bunch who were really sick. The nurses were handling out masks to everyone asking them to wear them to avoid making others sick. It was crazy. I had no idea.

Why now?


Because COVID-19 has a higher infection/transmission rate than the seasonal flu and a higher mortality rate. The economy isn't shutting down because 68 people have died, it's shutting down because 61,000 people died from the flu and COVID-19 has a distinct potential of being significantly worse.


Actually, COVID-19 has lower infection rate than flu, according to WTO.


But where is South Korea going with its strategy - are they going to keep doing that forever? And whats China's long term strategy? Wuhan is still locked down.


>But where is South Korea going with its strategy

drawing the infections out so that the hospital system can stay stable and thus minimizing the amount of people who die from the disease. Not to mention that there will likely be a vaccine within 12-24 months and medication approved within the next few months.

Mind you this is in addition to South Korea having ~13 hospital beds per 1000 people, compared to ~8 in Germany and 2.5(!) in the UK. This strategy in the UK to let the virus eat through the population is insane.


Wuhan had the great majority of cases in the entire world. The other provinces of China are more analogous to individual European countries. They locked down for a few weeks and have already come back up.

The long term strategies for Korea and China are the same: carefully identify new cases as they come in from outside, find their contacts, and isolate them as soon as possible. Temporarily lock down small regions on an individual basis if necessary. They've already been doing that with some new cases coming in from Italy.


> Wuhan had the great majority of cases in the entire world.

That was true a day or two ago, but that's a bit outdated now: Wuhan at most has had a bare majority of total cases in the world now, and probably a minority. In any event, it'll be a minority in a few hours.


What I don't understand is... Won't this just flare up again in another city the size of Wuhan at some point?


Yes, but hopefully they'll identify the flare-up much more quickly and be able to contain it with more targeted measures, before things get to the level they reached in Wuhan in late January.


Once you remove community spread, you only need to deal with international travel, which can be dealt with much more cost-effectively.


Long term they are working on a vaccine and anti-virals.


> Their reasoning is that if the only things you can do are China style lockdown or nothing, then the disease will just resume exponentially growing the second lockdown ends, so it's pointless to do it at all.

Before quarantine we had many people infected not knowing they are infected, spreading the virus around.

After a few weeks of quarantine the ones infected will be known and separated from the rest, so the virus should be stopped. That is assuming the quarantine is strict.


Interestingly, to my surprise, social distancing appear more effective than lockdown (in part because full lockdowns are impossible). At least according to this simulation:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2020/world/corona-si...

The success of Hong Kong and Taiwan look like extensions of the social distancing paradigm to me.

Of course, maybe UK government recognizes that the its citizens are equally incapable of effective social distancing. Whatever the case, this looks like madness.


The labelling in the demo is vapid, insomuch as "social distancing" is merely identifying a percentage of the population to lock down.


> reasoning is that if the only things you can do are China-style lockdown or nothing,

Not nothing, the latter is what #flattenthecurve thingy is. Reducing the exponent thereby keeping the NHS load below maximum.


As Singapore, and Hong Kong are so small do the lessons learnt there actually apply in larger more connected countries?


Taiwan isn't small (~20M) and managed to handle it better than the two you mentioned.

Being an island is definitely a contributing factor though.


Singapore and HK are ultraconnected city states. If they can do it larger sparser countries should be able to do it.

Both of them have more than 5 million people so they aren't tiny either.


Also, the more time you win, the closer we get to a cure, vaccin or way to deal with it better.


Indeed, you buy up time to get more medical supplies or figure out more effective treatments. For example, China is now getting over it, but is still producing ridiculous amounts of medical equipment, which will soon get delivered across the world -- even if you must have a peak, you want that peak to be after you get this equipment, not before.


I think the development of a vaccine in a few months is unlikely. I think however the identification of somewhat effective antivirals in a few months is probable. There are already two antiviral candidates in trials, which are simpler to run than vaccine trials: remdesivir and lopinavir+ritonavir. Also, "transmitted immunity" is being (re)developed:

https://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-care/doctors-push-trea...

Antivirals won't stop the outbreak but they could save thousands of lives.


Dead on, the vaccine will just be a novelty, this will be over by then after 70-90% of the population has caught it and is mostly immune to it or dead.


the problem is that because it takes a year or two to get a vaccine out that this will all be over unless it mutates into something completely different.


About those hundreds of academics: about 90% seem to be mathematicians. I checked two at random and none of their top publications were about epidemiology. You can be a scientist, yet know effectively nothing on a specific topic.


https://www.immunology.org/news/bsi-open-letter-government-s...

The British Society for Immunology have also wrote an open letter of concern. They are immunologists and know about immunity.


In the UK, "maths" is a very broad category. It includes my field of theoretical particle physics, as well as mathematical disease modelling. All of us would be called mathematicians.

Yes, not everybody signing is a specialist in epidemiology, but so what? The point is that a good number are -- there is no clear consensus among UK experts for the UK government's position. And among global experts, there is a clear consensus against their position.


>there is no clear consensus among UK experts for the UK government's position

Well there is a huge government drive to portray that this is the case right now.

Whenever that happens, it always arouses suspicion that something is not quite right.

As a group, it's hard to imagine that UK experts in Epidemiology and related fields deviates significantly from their peers globally.


Keep signing petitions from ivory towers. That's not where political pressure on decision makers comes from.


Just in case you were not aware, in the UK any official petition with more than 100,000 signatures gets discussed in parliament [0].

0: https://petition.parliament.uk/help


The plan is supposed to be based on science, not politics, yet here you are telling me this isn't the case?

On a more serious note, petitions and other methods by experts to publicly state a position isn't just about influencing government policy. It's also a political tool in the aftermath of failed policy. Just like the current panel of experts is a political tool employed by the government to justify the biases in its policy.


> hundreds of academics already signed on

So I should listen to a bunch of students, astronomers and others over the Chief scientific officer and health scientist in the country? Riighht....


You could also listen to the Harvard epidemiology department: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/mar/15/epidem...

Or the British Society for Immunology: https://www.immunology.org/news/bsi-open-letter-government-s...

Or the two distinct open letters from UK scientists, which are now hitting 1200 signatures total: http://maths.qmul.ac.uk/~vnicosia/UK_scientists_statement_on... https://sites.google.com/view/covidopenletter/home

If you believe nobody credible opposes the UK government, you've been fed a narrative.


> If you believe nobody credible opposes the UK government, you've been fed a narrative.

That's a complete strawman. You gave a letter signed by a massively padded out list of "academics" (probably intended to scare your average layman) and when pointed out that astronomers and students probably don't have much to offer right now


Look, do you think the 4 links I posted (which are in turn a small selection of many more) indicate credible opposition or not?


I’m going to try and lay out the case in as neutral terms as I can, although to be clear I think they are probably right. They’re going to take an awful lot of stick for it though, and indeed already are.

They believe that there are basically two mitigation strategies. One is to have a very drastic early lockdown that shuts down the virus before it spreads widely. The problem with that is, once you lift the lockdown it will simply start all over again. The problem with this is lockdowns are most effective the first time you do them, and then mostly in the first few weeks of the lockdown. Do it too early, and yes it will be very effective in the short term, but later on when cases become much more prevalent the lockdowns will be less effective.

The option they are going for is to start the lockdown a little later in the cycle. The hope is this will make the lockdown more effective at a higher point in the spread. Effectively instead of a series of booms and busts, you get one longer slower initial burn and then you’re mostly done. They believe that in the long term this will make it easier to protect those most vulnerable to the virus, because you only have to do it once, at the cost of increased prevalence among people least vulnerable to it. So they see it as a better longer term strategy.


Please don't post duplicate comments to HN (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=22577808). It strictly lowers the signal/noise ratio and makes merging threads a nightmare.


Merging threads?


Sometimes there are two (or more) threads for what is essentially the same story. When this happens, Dan (or one of the other moderators) frequently chooses one thread to keep, and copies the comments from the thread(s) to be deleted into the thread to be kept. If commenters have already posted the same comment to both threads, this requires more manual cleanup by the moderators. There's a lot of moderation that happens behind the scenes here to keep the site as usable as it is.



The lockdown as implemented by Italy and France aims at slowing down the spreading of the virus. It is not meant as a strategy to overcome the virus. It is meant to flatten the curve of the exponential growth of infection to minimize overloading the health system and to provide more time for preparation and for the acquisition of best practices regarding the situation. There is no disillusion that this might somehow stop the virus. The expected total infected percentage of population, with lockdowns is still in the range of 50-60%. Italy went into lockdown on March 9th when # of new cases reached 1791 and total deaths was 463. This does not seem to qualify as a very drastic early lockdown, as stated by parent.

Given everything we know regarding exponential spread, the high percentage of cases requiring icu treatment, and the mortality rate, I fail to see how the absence of any measures to mitigate the spreading of the virus makes sense.

The assumption that there are only two viable strategies, lockdown & no measures, is a plain wrong oversimplification. There is a wide range of intermediary steps that can be taken in between to attempt to slow down the virus.

Attempting to minimize the degree of overload on the health system by applying such measures in a coordinated fashion is meant to reduce casualties caused by system overload.


Those are good points. Because Italy was hit hardest first they had very little time to prepare. The UK has had about an extra month, which puts us in a different strategic position, so we might be able to afford an approach not viable for Italy.


How does the UK have an extra month, exactly ?

It did not take Italy 1 month to to go from 1,143 (today's UK number) positives to 21,157 (today's Italy number, per https://gisanddata.maps.arcgis.com/apps/opsdashboard/index.h...), did it ?


Testing in Italy was far less, the totals for there need to be inferred from the deaths and cases and the amount of testing!


Italy had 21 deaths on the 28th feb, so 2 weeks ago.


But the response will be less pronounced here with knowledge, self isolation and a lack of kissing when greeting. A month is probably a better guess than 2 weeks, but not a single person knows is rather the point...


It takes a long time to acquire respirators and to train anesthesiologists.


But there's a third strategy that works better than either: don't lockdown, but do effective testing, case tracking, and treatment, well enough so that exponential growth can't happen in the first place. That's the policy of Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Singapore, who are doing great.


There are quite a few difference.

HK, Taiwan and Singapore all acted extremely early on, to the point where HK knew before the news broke out in China. And the culture allows you to wear mask, which seems to be something most western nation are completely against.

Most part of Europe and UK reacted very late in the cycle. Since the Virus has an extremely long stable period before any symptoms appeared or to the point where you could be infected but showing no symptoms at all. It highly likely they are already in wide spread. 500 people each inflecting two, do that 11 times and we have 1 million infected.

Then there is the death rate, at least so far it seems to be extremely mild for anyone below 50.

Not saying I totally agree with Herd Immunity, but judging from the current data and situation it is possibly the best route to go.


Isn’t that the whole point of a lockdown? After ~6-8 weeks you get the new infection rates down low enough that you basically reset the clock and have a second chance at responding like Hong Kong and keeping it in the containment phase. Then you have to keep that up for hopefully 9 months until a vaccine is available.

It’s certainly not easy, but it seems possible and it’s not clear this would be much worse on the economy in the long run. Plus it saves half a million lives, so it seems like a moral imperative to at least try.


> It’s certainly not easy, but it seems possible

If your population already has lived through similar outbreaks, sure.

But look at the US. There is a sizable portion of the population who thinks this thing is a hoax, who simply don't believe in this pandemic. How do you lock down those people? They're going to completely ignore government recommendations, and they'll scream bloody murder when government cancels events and restricts travel and assembly.

But let's say you manage to lock down the US to contain the current wave, and that you manage to ramp up testing so that you can be more sure about actual infection rates. Once it dies down in the US, then what? Ease the lock down? What about other countries where it's still rampant? What if it flares up again in the US? Go into a second lock down? You've already spent an enormous amount of political capital getting the first one through, good luck getting a second one.

> Plus it saves half a million lives

You pulled this number right out of your ass by multiplying a guesstimated death rate as measured in China, where the virus spread unchecked through an entire province, and where the medical system wasn't prepared, and you're assuming that the demographics of the people catching the virus in the UK is going to be the same.

But if your medical system is prepared, if you're quarantining vulnerable people, if you have good testing, then letting the virus roll thorough the remaining un-quarantined population won't lead to the same death rates, or the same hospitalization rates, because all the underlying factors are different.


>Isn’t that the whole point of a lockdown?

You will need a Lockdown AND Mask, or you will simply just need Mask and not even lockdown. I would argue social distancing only is not enough. But somehow even people in Italy refuse to wear mask. So I think a culture issue is also a problem there.


I don’t think masks are as effective as you think. WHO says only wear a mask:

If you are healthy, you only need to wear a mask if you are taking care of a person with suspected 2019-nCoV infection. Wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing. Masks are effective only when used in combination with frequent hand-cleaning with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water. If you wear a mask, then you must know how to use it and dispose of it properly.

https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2...


Except we have clear evidence with all the countries listed above, SK, HK, Singapore, Taiwan that wearing a mask is effective. Even in many cases without social distancing. There are little working from Home in majority of the business in those cities, They have a much higher population density that has a higher chance of being infected with coronavirus.

The mask also protects you from bad actors who are not doing any standard hygiene procedures such as washing your hands.


We don't have enough masks in Europe, and those few are needed for professionals.

Besides that, I think that especially in times like this, it is important to stick to the recommendations of experts. Here in Germany, the expert recommendation is akin to the parent comment. These recommendations are crafted by people with a lot of expertise on the subject and who care for the health of people, and I think it is not productive to fundamentally questions their advice.


>We don't have enough masks in Europe, and those few are needed for professionals.

That is the only valid argument I could possibly understand. Although I would argue we could have ramp up production line. And Medicals get priority with Mask.

>I think it is not productive to fundamentally questions their advice.

I dont know, but Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, ( We exclude China for comparison ) 200M+ Population together has far fewer death than just Italy with a population of 60M. Let alone Europe. And people are dying.

But hey, I guess as long as the people in Germany and Italy and UK are happy with what is being done then that is fine.


It's not only this reason. Even N95 masks are rated only to .3 micron. COVID-19 is .1 micron. It will prevent droplets from those already infected but I don't see how it would help in the healthy much. Maybe it slows down the air breathing out? But I don't see that helping a lot.


Arh. I see it now. When ever Mask is mentioned in the context of CJK, it meant medical mask with 95% PFE, VFE and BVE mask. Stopping size of 0.1 Micron.

Sorry I wasn't being clear enough. We knew very early on N95 doesn't work.


That’s a very good point, you’re quite right. However all three of those are relatively very small population centres with very easily controlled borders. Britain does have the advantage of being an island, but it has a large rural hinterland that the virus can ‘hide out’ in, and many dense population centres without borders, so it’s a completely different environment.

Take London. We could introduce a system of tracking and isolation within the M25, and that might work to lock down community transmission within the London population, but millions of people flow into and out of London each week so it would be completely pointless and ineffective. Meanwhile that level of tracking and isolation simply can’t work across the whole British isles. It’s administratively and logistically impractical.


> millions of people flow into and out of London each week so it would be completely pointless and ineffective

Was curious about this point in particular - checked the numbers, and Heathrow has essentially equivalent traffic as Hong Kong International.


The equivalent of the entire population of Glasgow passes through Kings Cross station in the morning rush hour. There are 4 other stations with similar flows. Over 20 million people live within an hour or 30 miles of Piccadilly Circus.


That level of population flow and population density are not as special as you are making them out to be. The transfer station nearest Seoul's most recent cluster (discovered 7 days ago) gets about 25% more annual traffic than King's Cross, according to Wikipedia (125,000 per day at Sindorim Station vs. 34 million at King's Cross annually). Despite the cluster having developed at the beginning of March, Seoul is finding fewer than 100 new patients per day. With masks, reduction in ridership, cancellation of meetings, extensive WFH, extensive testing and isolation measures, this epidemic is not as hopeless as the UK seems to be making it out to be.


I completely agree. I was shocked to hear that only people that present with symptoms that require hospital treatment are now being tested.


There are 5 other international airports that call themselves "London", not just Heathrow. And of course London also has road and train connections.


I was mainly thinking about road and rail traffic into and out of the city, including daily commuters.


That's the policy of Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Singapore, who are doing great.

All of which have tiny populations compared to the UK.

For larger nations, there simply aren't enough tests available, nor enough treatment facilities for those who are likely to become very sick if the virus spreads rapidly through the population.


> For larger nations, there simply aren't enough tests available

Why? If your nation is twice as big, then all else equal, your government has twice as much money, twice as many resources, and hence twice as many tests. China now has more tests than they need and they're the 2nd most populous nation in the world.


No amount of money helps if there aren't enough tests available to buy. What is missing are manufacturing and distribution facilities, which of course are calibrated to the normal levels of work and not to a relatively sudden pandemic outbreak of one particular virus.

China has huge resources but has managed so far to keep the infection mostly contained to one specific area. It's not clear how long they'll be able to sustain that or whether they'd have enough resources to go around if all of China were the same as Hubei.

Of course all of this also assumes that tests are effective and that you can then do something useful if you confirm that a patient is indeed infected.


> All of which have tiny populations compared to the UK.

Is 66 million really that qualitatively different than 24 million?


The honest answer is that I don't know. Perhaps I generalised too readily before, given Taiwan is quite a bit closer to the UK in population than the other two.

Even so, assuming that strategies that appear to have been relatively successful in a smaller, more densely populated country will necessarily also work in a larger and less densely populated one seems to be dubious. We know that we don't have the resources we'd need to implement that strategy in the UK right now, and I haven't personally seen any experts arguing that it's a viable option for us, so I'm cautious about extrapolating too much here.


China doesn't have a small population and has it under control. I don't think it's a population size thing.


China does seem to be on of the most interesting cases so far.

The quarantine measures, once introduced, do seem to have been viewed favourably by the experts and do seem to have been remarkably effective. This assumes we trust the reported statistics, which I acknowledge as a possible risk in this instance.

On the other hand, it may be that China has been able to achieve that in part by pulling resources from all over to focus on the main region affected. That isn't necessarily an option that will be open to other nations, particularly if their outbreaks are distributed across their whole area almost immediately.


Taiwan is 23 million people. The UK is 67 million people. The level of confidence of your comment does not seem to be warranted by your level of knowledge.


Please don't make comments like this on HN. They lower the tone and add nothing of value to the discussion.

We have explored a little whether the population of Taiwan being somewhat closer to the UK's than the other two named countries was significant in a sibling thread.

In addition, in the UK, which is the subject of this discussion, it is certainly the case that we do not currently have sufficient resources to cope with a widespread, uncontrolled outbreak. There have been a number of further announcements today regarding how the government is hoping to acquire new space for treatments, acquire essential equipment like ventilators on a much larger scale than is currently available, and bring in more trained staff to make use of these resources to help treat coronavirus patients. Even if these plans work out as is hoped, all of them will require at least several weeks to make a large difference. This isn't my opinion, it's coming straight from senior government figures and their senior medical and scientific advisors.


I'd like to ask you to not make comments like the one you did — confident assertions about things you know nothing about, that you haven't made even the most trivial effort to verify, whether that's the population of Taiwan or the general relationship between country size and testing kits per capita. Regardless of how politely you make them, statements unconnected to any concern for truthfulness lower the signal to noise ratio, and they add nothing of value to the discussion. On the contrary, calling out such recklessly false statements does add something of value to the discussion.

Instead of criticizing my tone, which was in fact fairly restrained, you should thank me for taking the time to correct you. For instance: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=22580049 https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=22569806 https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=22529609 https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=22505631 https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=22504690 https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=22370446

It is true that the UK does not have sufficient resources to cope with a widespread, uncontrolled outbreak, lacking for example one to two orders of magnitude in ventilator capacity; but, as should be obvious, this is not a result of the UK being a large country — the UK is much smaller than China, slightly smaller than Japan, the same size as South Korea, and slightly larger than Taiwan. But this conversation would be of higher quality if, instead of containing such your obviously false assertion and also fact-based rebuttals such as these, you had not posted the assertion in the first place (perhaps because you had read enough to see that it was false), so no rebuttal would be necessary.


Continuing to adopt such a hostile tone still doesn't further the discussion. I am happy to debate this subject, but I will not reply further if you continue to make unnecessary personal attacks in your comments.

Is it your contention that the countries you mentioned do have sufficient tests and treatment facilities available to successfully implement the "third strategy" advocated by knzhou in the comment I first replied to? I can see little evidence that would support such a claim so far, in this discussion or otherwise.

China's recent official statistics may not be entirely trustworthy: they showed the expected exponential growth curve earlier on, but then levelled off remarkably quickly. In any case, its strategy has so far been primarily one of containment, with resources focussed on one specific area, Hubei, where the outbreak was also concentrated at the start. It is not known whether China has an effective testing or tracking regime in operation at this point, nor whether it has sufficient resources to treat large numbers of people if they became seriously ill in the absence of that containment, as may yet happen when the heavy quarantine measures are eventually lifted.

Japan's official statistics have also attracted scepticism, with the suspicion that they aren't testing widely enough to get an accurate picture of how the virus is spreading.

South Korea has had possibly the most successful response so far in terms of credible raw numbers and as such it is certainly worth looking at, but the strategy there has also been primarily one of containment. Again, that doesn't tell us anything about whether SK has the resources to look after much higher volumes of intensive care patients than usual if those containment efforts fail, or if heavy lockdown measures were not attempted and instead that "third strategy" of test, track and treat were used.

The UK isn't just "slightly larger" than Taiwan, it has almost 3x the population and almost 7x the land area. As I already acknowledged in the other thread long before you replied to me, I may have chosen too strong a word when I described three countries including Taiwan as having populations that were tiny compared to the UK, but my fundamental point stands in that we should not assume a strategy that could work at the scale of Taiwan would necessarily also work at the scale of the UK.

You argue for fact-based rebuttals, but where is the evidence that your examples are countries that do have sufficient testing and treatment facilities available to employ that test, track and treat strategy rather than the stronger quarantine measures that most countries are attempting?


and much denser populations, with a lot of international travel. which have a huge culture of eating food in hawker centres which would really seem to make a big threat to containment yet they appear to be doing well.


Taiwan population is smaller, but not really "tiny" compared to UK's.


It's far too early to say whether they're doing great. Several months too early. Their lockdowns are preventing virus spread now, but at some point, the lockdowns will end, and then there is a vulnerable population waiting to be infected by a carrier coming from abroad. Will they be able to keep carriers out? Will they be able to respond to further outbreaks with more lockdowns indefinitely? Will there be a vaccine soon enough that they can protect everyone and then end the lockdowns before it all goes wrong?

I don't know enough to say that the UK strategy is correct (i hope it is - i live here, and more importantly, so do my parents). But i think the situation isn't cut and dried.

Hopefully, we will get a lot more detail in the next few days, and then the real experts can come to a consensus.


I would rather have the spread stopped/slowed domestically with aggressive measures than to do little to nothing to stop the spread thinking it will somehow solve the problem.

The UK approach here is basically just accepting that a majority of the population is going to get infected by design. That's fine. It might even be true. (It obviously will be if you don't do anything to stop it, but even in aggressive lockdowns I mean)

But it benefits nobody to have it spread quicker. Maybe life in the UK gets back to normal a little faster for people who are not at-risk or aren't treated at risk but we live in a very global society and if everyone else is locked down then it's hard to see much benefit for the UK itself.

And your parents and the portion of the population who are most vulnerable are more at risk.

An imperfect defense is better than not even trying.


There won't ever be a consensus of experts. That whole concept is one I've really come to hate over the years. When it comes to decisions about what to do, versus the outcome of replicable experiments on nature in lab conditions, there is always disagreement and there always will be. The idea that any decision can be resolved by a bunch of scientists sitting in a committee beard stroking doesn't reflect how people really work.

Amongst other problems, the term "expert" is ill defined (see discussion above about mathematicians) and there's always value in contrarianism for people who aren't directly making decisions. If they're wrong nobody will remember and there's nearly no reputational impact. If they're right, they can win fame and glory.


I believe the current UK Gov’s huge majority and long remaining term allow them to make decisions that many other countries would not be able to make at this time. I think they’re right, not that this makes things any easier, both my parents are in their mid 70’s and have health problems.


As far as I know, they did not communicate an overall strategy or comprehensive action plan. The basis of this thread are a series of tweets making assumptions about what the government strategy could be (given a lack of measures taken as a basis).

I do not understand how not communicating a comprehensive action plan is meant to be the harder choice ("a decision many other countries [...] not able to make") when contrasted with messures such as declaring national emergencies and widespread lockdowns of public life.


They held a press conference live streamed on YouTube where the PM and the two chief scientific advisors answered questions and explained their strategy for nearly an hour. The answer to one question alone took over ten minutes. You may not be aware of their communication about their strategy but it's on YouTube waiting for you.


That hour long press conference, that I’ve seen live, can be condensed in don’t do anything at all, let’s get 60% of the population infected so we’ll have herd immunity.


> The problem with that is, once you lift the lockdown it will simply start all over again.

Well, no, because the world at the end of the lockdown is not the same as the world before the disease started spreading. Some differences:

- People now know there is a dangerous disease and how to act and sanitize to mitigate its spread.

- Manufacturing and other logistics for medical providers have had the time of the lockdown to ramp up.

- Testing has had the time of the lockdown to ramp up.

- A vaccine is that much further along--which is the only viable long-term strategy.

- And most important, scientific understanding of the disease has had that much longer to develop.

Britain's "expose the youngsters" strategy has a terrible flaw, which is that we don't know if the disease is actually safe for young people! All we know are some basic statistics about messy data that was reported by overwhelmed medical systems with spotty testing.

There are reliable reports of a) some young people getting very sick from this disease, b) people who seem to have recovered going back into decline and in some cases death, and c) long-term lung damage among those who did not die.

The ideas that this disease is somehow safe for young people, and that contracting it once confers long-term immunity, are ideas that are yet to be scientifically proven. They are, for now, at best heuristics to aid triage.


Do you have some links with reliable reports of young people getting sick and other cases you told?


Singapore has had a handful of cases of children getting it. A six-month old caught it and took nearly three weeks to recover:

https://co.vid19.sg/cases/singapore-case-28-6-month-old-male...

A 5 year-old was in hospital for six days, but has been discharged today:

https://co.vid19.sg/cases/singapore-case-160-5-year-old-male...

A 17-year old evacuated from Wuhan tested positive, but never showed any symptoms during the 3 weeks he was quarantined despite having the virus:

https://co.vid19.sg/cases/singapore-case-23-17-year-old-male...

(There's more cases that can be explored on the Singaporean website.)


This is nothing like the parent implied.


Also, if an affected region locks down well enough and long enough (cf. Hubei: https://miro.medium.com/max/6812/1*pwPIo7U6pBahMZhopHYbMw.pn...), the number of actual new cases per day may fall to the point where containment becomes feasible again.


Exactly this. I don’t have published numbers to back the following, but we expect them after the weekend. Over half of ICU admitted covid-19 patients in the Netherlands are <50 years old. I get this information from friends and colleagues working in several hospitals. If this turns out to not be a fluke, the young are much more affected by this corona virus vs normal flu.


The distribution of age of corona patients on the ICU is NOT the same as the age distribution of all corona patients vs. disease severity. It could be and quite possibly is the case that many people below the age of 50 are infected but never reach an ICU. Most get better without severe symptoms, so looking at ICU admission stats is misleading if you extrapolate the data to the whole population.

I hate that this fact is spreading in the Netherlands without a proper explanation.


Do you have sources for these claims?


Why would operating as normal and mostly ignoring the problem cause a "slower initial burn"?

It won't. This is nonsense of the most obvious kind, because we're already past the stage where the virus is spreading quickly.

In fact the reverse is likely to be true. Lockdown minimises the number with the disease, but that number is not zero.

Which means that if immunity is possible (questionable for a CV, but let's pretend), immunity will spread wider and wider in each lockdown wave - and the health system won't be swamped.

This plays for time, raising the odds that a vaccine or some other treatment will appear.

Successive lockdowns will do exactly what they're supposed to do - spread out the peaks, minimise casualties over time, and minimise health system stress. (Although it will still be very high.)

What they won't do is keep businesses afloat. Mass bankruptcies are going to be a huge problem throughout the entire global economy.

Other countries understand this, and are stepping in with financial measures to help. Presumably the UK doesn't want to do this.

The tell is the fact that the government has plans to quarantine for four months - i.e. place under house arrest - over-70s who are infected. Without access to intensive care - it won't be available if the NHS is swamped - the mortality rate in this demographic is going to be higher than that of any other developed country. It could easily be twice the nominal 15% CFR for this demo in China.

It's hard to avoid the conclusion that the real plan is to cull the old and sick while pretending that's not happening.


They're not operating as normal: they're telling anyone with a cough to self-isolate for seven days. And the plan isn't to quarantine over 70s who are infected: it's to quarantine them all, when they're not infected.


It seems like trying to time the stock market. You can make an educated guess, but in the end it's still a guess.


Unless, oh I don't know, you test for the disease.


You can read some of the rationale behind the plan here:

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/...

I'll be honest, I watched the announcement on Friday in open mouthed horror. I can't claim I have a concrete refutation for either the broad logic or the specific evidence underlying it, but even the best case scenario is a disaster of historic proportions. I wish us luck. I wish the rest of the world luck if it turns out we're right and they're wrong.


You could think of this as the advantage of a decentralized world with every country making decisions and experimenting independently. Maybe the UK's approach is the right one, maybe it isn't. If it turns out to be more effective we'll learn something useful for future pandemics. If not then only the UK goes down the drain and we'll still learn something from it. Best of luck.


Well surely the advantage here would be for us to be able to observe and exploit the hard won knowledge of countries out ahead of us, but that doesn't appear to be what we're doing.


The thing is, what the UK is doing is truely experimental compared to what China, SK, and Italy have already done. And we won't know for sure what the full effects are until the end of the current pandemic. If the UK copied the lockdown and trace playbook already implemented, once this pandemic is over we'll have no data point for the quarantine old people only strategy to plan for the next pandemic with. How can you observe whether the UK strategy will work when nobody's done it before?


Just a note that this document is from 2011. I know you did not claim otherwise, but I had assumed from your comment it was a document prepared in response to the current situation.


Indeed, although I’m not sure what the utility of a preparedness plan prepared only after an outbreak has started would be, especially one created at the speed of the Civil Service. You can read more context (including the ethical framework and the individual studies used as evidence to underlie the plan) here:

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/pandemic-flu


There is no proof immunity will happen, the UK Gov is thinking in economic terms and worried about GDP.

https://www.theguardian.com/education/2020/mar/13/coronaviru...


Exactly. We have huge debts and our "economy" runs on the assumption that, if very little goes wrong, we might be able to stay afloat.

The time for creating choice on the cornonavirus response was during the last 20 years. They chose rampant financialisation, leveraging future income.

The UK has no energy security. No food security. I feel the corner we have painted ourselves into makes a prolonged shutdown far, far harder.


Genuinely curious about where you read that the UK has no energy security? It's not something I've read about before, but is something I'm pretty invested in as a UK citizen.

The one source I could find was https://www.globalenergyinstitute.org/energy-security-risk-i... which placed the UK in the top 3 countries for energy security (many years running).

Do let me know if you have some data that would change my mind! (and ditto for food security)



I fear that when the PM said that his decisions are driven by science, he means economists, not virologists.


[flagged]


Stop it. This is bigger than Brexit.


Stop it because it is incorrect or stop it because it is insensitive?


"Stop it because it's unimaginable that the UK government is intentionally trying to kill off it's old folks no matter how much money that may save the NHS, in no small part because that would be akin to a genocide for profit"


Have you heard about the Windrush scandal?

It's (probably) not about the NHS but more about "we kicked out so many illegal immigrants last year, aren't we great?" (not that these people are illegal immigrants, but hey, let's make burden of proof tests that are hard for them to pass), but, incredible how seemingly easy it is for the Home Office to be heartless to the point of killing people via red tape.


The burden of proof was hard to pass because the Windrush landing cards were destroyed due to a decision made under a Labour government.


Never blame anything on maliciousness that can easily be explained by stupidity.


You don't study governments much, huh


I uh, ... what


> "Stop it. This is bigger than Brexit."

Well, Brexit won't kill anybody (hopefully).

But on the other hand, a year from now, the pandemic will be largely forgotten. Brexit will still be going on.


Given the damage this pandemic has already dealt to the world economy, it's going to be remembered for a long time. It'll join black death and the Spanish flu. Brexit, in comparison, will likely end up as a footnote.


The Spanish Flu (H1N1) killed between 3-6% of the entire world's population. Unlike most other flu pandemics, a large portion of the victims were young and healthy adults. You really think Covid-19 is going to be that bad?

The Black Death (Bubonic Plague) lasted for decades, killed more than 1/4 of the world's population and set human civilisation back by a century or more. It took more than 200 years for Europe's population to recover to where it was before the pandemic. Many regions never recovered economically, or only recovered centuries later. You really think Covid-19 is going to be that bad?


Yes, I think it'll be as bad as the Spanish flu, just with different age mortality profile.


Good god, making the choice of killing people for saving on pension borders on Nazi-level eugenics.


It seems the UK bureaucracy, 2019, is very capable of that...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windrush_scandal


Yes. We have eugenist advisors to senior government: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-51535367


"Have" is a strange word to use to describe someone who resigned before they ever started.


If immunity doesn’t occur, then a vaccine is also useless.


It's two different things


No it isn't. Vaccines create immunity, that's the point. Also, what diseases that don't kill you also don't result in immunity? "There's no evidence of immunity" seems an absurd statement, we can literally see the antibodies people create in response to the infection. That seems like just looking for an excuse to attack the UK.


do you ever heard of plague?


What's plague got to do with it? Plague vaccines exist that give up to a year of immunity:

https://contagions.wordpress.com/2012/02/25/generating-immun...


Flu vaccine has to be taken every year.


That's because flu isn't a single disease, it's a category of diseases, like cancer. People do build immunity to specific flu variants.


The NHS makes a huge difference. As a single entity it can pivot in a way that I wonder if other countries can come close to.

My daughters dentist commented yesterday that all her surgeries (and her team usually do 50 a week) had been cancelled. The reason? All the anaesthesiologist had been requisitioned as they will be required to do ventilation. All elective surgeries had been cancelled, and her paeds specialists sent on refresher courses for adult patients.

We're in uncertain territory here, the NHS's response may not be 100% perfect and a lot of people will argue that some minutiae could be done better, but I believe it has the huge advantage.

I wonder if other countries, and particularly the US, can manage such a coordinated healthcare response?


It's definitely at an advantage over systems like the US, but the NHS is far more federalised under the hood than you might imagine and there are lots of countries where the government or other regulators can take control of private healthcare when needed so it's not as much of an advantage as you might think.


Thinking about it from where I am right now, I don't think it is crazy.

Let's think about it again: China, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan. They are countries which are very connected to each other; and yet, somehow, they managed to contain it. It's 'herd responsibility'. The people are applying social distancing and hygiene rules, that's why it's working.

It's possible, as a knowledgeable politician, that you recognize that it's impossible to implement such measures in your country. The reasons are beside the technical abilities of your government: Your citizen are not committed enough to the hygiene. And that's not because Asians are cleaner or superior, they have been exposed to these viruses before and thus they are already trained to deal with them.

It's not the same deal for many countries of the west. We didn't have much trouble in the last few decades and thus people have forgotten why we do most of the hygiene measures in the first place.

Also, here is my first reaction, as a citizen, if the government has declared 'herd immunity' as their strategy: STAY AT HOME. I'd also probably warn the closer one and avoid contact with them too.

So the UK might win twice here: Have enough social distancing by fear (and fear is a hell of a thing as you experienced in the last few days); and also have its population adopt strict hygiene and distancing rules making it safer in the future and readier for the next disease.


"that's why it's working"

It's only 'working' while the country is on lockdown, and FYI the country spirals towards economic meltdown.

If they come out of 'lockdown', then 'it stops working'.

See the paradox here?

I really have no clue: maybe we'll develop therapies, a better understanding, maybe a vaccine, but possibly this 'herd immunity' idea at least on some scale. I really don't know.

But coronavirus is not going to disappear in a few weeks, we know that.


> It's only 'working' while the country is on lockdown, and FYI the country spirals towards economic meltdown.

Nope.

> In Taiwan, most residents carry on as normal, with offices and schools open. Many restaurants, gyms, and cafes in the capital, Taipei, are still bustling, although most premises will take temperatures and spray hands with sanitiser before allowing customers in.

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/13/how-taiwan-is-...


'Nope'

That Taiwan has 'less lockdown' doesn't respond to the fact that whatever the degree of 'lockdown' whenever it is removed, the contagion will grow again, and that any level of lockdown will have bad economic repercussions.

That Taiwan is getting away with 'less severe' lockdown is not relevant because:

a) They do have a really long list of measures (more than 120 published by their Gov.) that are unsustainable in the long run and

b) It's a selective example - most other nations need more aggressive.

c) Due to the fragility from 'a' and economic downturn around the world due to 'b' a deep recession is guaranteed in Taiwan.

The point remains: there is currently no rational answer to 'how to end the lockdown' while economies go down.


In Hong Kong, the only lockdown we've been in this entire time is forcing people from certain countries to go into quarantine. In fact, most of our cases recently have all been HK residents coming back to HK from places like London, Paris, Madrid and bringing the virus back with them.

I'd point out that the HK government has done an okay job, but by no means were the people happy with how they handled it. There were protests from the Hospital Authority demanding them to close the border to Mainland China and they outright ignored it.

The main reason why these countries are doing a good job is because of the people. You go outside and everyone has a mask on. Why? To protect each other. Everyone has been working from home from day 1 of this virus and, impressively, the panic buying only lasted a week or so. The people are in it together and I can't imagine the same ever really happening in Europe.


https://twitter.com/AdamJKucharski/status/123882151552689766... appears to give a better explanation from the modellers.

The aim is to flatten the curve, any herd immunity is a by-product but not the aim.


I think herd immunity is an integral part of the strategy. If a population never gets herd immunity, it will keep on getting infection breakouts and keep on having to impose lockdowns. The only way to stop doing lockdowns is either to prevent the ingress of the virus, ever, or eventually reach herd immunity.

The virus is everywhere now, it’s part of the landscape, so preventing breakouts is just flat out not possible, at least for large countries with lots of travel and especially with large rural hinterlands like the UK. In this view the only strategies are long term strategies.

There is a way to get herd immunity without an epidemic, and that’s inoculations. However we do not have a vaccine yet and have no idea if or when we might ever get one. So you can bet everything on red 13 and cross your fingers for a vaccine in 6 months, or pick which longer term strategy works best for your country, with its particular demographics and geography.


"Herd immunity is not part of our action plan, but is a natural by-product of an epidemic" - spokesperson for Department of Health and Social Care

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-51892402


> so preventing breakouts is just flat out not possible

Why not?


Because it isn’t possible to screen every single person entering a country like the UK, which means it is inevitable the virus will get in again and you’ll have another outbreak.

However that’s assuming you can eradicate it. That might be possible in an isolated population centre like Singapore, but the UK has an extensive rural area where the virus can hide out, slowly propagating through many different sparse populations until it gets back into an urban centre. It can survive outside the body on some surfaces for 9 days according to recent studies so it can infect someone who has light symptoms, they put it on a new surface, then when they recover up to 9 days later it can up again in someone else. This can go on for months. You might track down some of these smouldering brush fires, but not all. That’s how flu keeps coming back every winter.


> Because it isn’t possible to screen every single person entering a country like the UK

Why not? Personally, if I were put before the choice of not having more people enter my country than I can screen or killing off 1M+ of my electorate, I'd at least seriously consider the first option. Meanwhile the UK government clearly thought that even stopping the flow of people from an epi-center, fleeing quarantine (or at least tracking them) would be a grave over-reaction.

> You might track down some of these smouldering brush fires, but not all

I don't see why you can't keep it reasonably contained even with occasional flare ups. I'm not saying you are wrong, but it is certainly not self evident. Since the Chinese were willing to kiss good bye to something in the vicinity of $1T, presumably they think they can. If you keep perfecting testing and procedures and hold out till you've got a vaccine, I don't see that would not be a winning strategy.

> That’s how flu keeps coming back every winter.

Well, this is way worse than the flu and may get worse still, so we should be very motivated to kill it whilst we can. Also, looks like there'll be more where this one came from. Just taking a big hit to global life expectancy every few years will probably start to add up over the long run.


>> Because it isn’t possible to screen every single person entering a country like the UK

>Why not?

In addition to major airports we also have many minor ones and private airfields. There are 120 commercial ports, and many, many more smaller docks, quays and marinas. We have many islands and remote coastal communities that rely on these for essential supplies and no systematic way to monitor them all. Even then, sealing ourselves completely would have to include stopping goods because goods are carried by people.

Also we now know the virus can survive on cardboard for up to 9 days. We don't have 9 days worth of supplies of everything in the country and don'y have a tracking system for every shipment in or out. We know from the Brexit analysis that we can't track goods enough to tax them, so clearly we can't do the same for medical reasons.

Finally, even if such a lockdown were practically feasible and we developed the logistical and administrative capacity to do it overnight, which we can't, it would destroy our economy. That would inflict massive hardship, particularly on the old and vulnerable, exactly the people we most need to protect. Hardship and poverty kills people, and shutting down all trade and commerce until we have a vaccine, which could be several years or even indefinitely, would take us back to the stone age. It would be far, far worse even than during World War 2, and that's how severe it would have to be to prevent the virus getting in, not just for months but probably for one or more years.

Anyway thats a fantasy, we just don't have the logistical or administrative apparatus to do it fast enough for it to matter.


> However we do not have a vaccine yet and have no idea if or when we might ever get one.

https://www.jpost.com/HEALTH-SCIENCE/Israeli-scientists-In-t...


No reputable news outlets are reporting a vaccine breakthrough by the 'Galilee Research Institute'.

Serious estimates are that it will take around 18 months [0]

[0] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-51454859


If I had a dollar for every COVID-19 vaccine that will be ready "soon", I'd have quite a few dollars.


Here is a rule of thumb that will be familiar to many who manage risk in a professional capacity:

The time to get creative is when you face a capped downside on the one hand, and an uncapped upside on the other. The time to get conservative is when you face the opposite condition.

The reason for this rule is that creative policies almost never work; but when they work, they have a much higher chance of working extraordinarily well than conservative policies do.

The UK is facing a capped upside and a huge potential downside. The UK is choosing to handle this situation with a creative experiment. This experiment will, in all likelihood, not succeed. And unfortunately most values of "not succeed", in this context, map to catastrophic outcomes.

Time, as always, will tell.


It’s already too late. They’re on the Italy path.

This “herd immunity” thing is nonsense. So much so that doctors and scientists are warning against it:

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/14/coronavirus-nh...


Some are against it, others (such as presumably a majority of those advising the government) are for it. That's just good debate.

> It’s already too late. They’re on the Italy path.

Well, that's pretty much the point of the policy. 'Already screwed this year, let's try to cope, and be less screwed next year'.

I was very critical at first, but I'm more interested/satisfied with the response now, it does seem to be well thought through, even if there are also arguments against (of course there are).


It's basically:

Throw 2 or 3 hounded thousand lives away to have less economical impact next year.

I.e. pure evil IMHO.

especially because there is a non small chance that it will be more like 1-1.5 Million more death then necessary.


That’s a misconception though. Economic depression and deprivation also causes death, and staggering amounts of human misery.

Evil is reserved as a description for gross failures of moral duty. Choosing pragmatically between several terrible options with highly unpredictable outcomes does not meet that standard.


> Economic depression and deprivation also causes death, and staggering amounts of human misery.

Let's quantify things here, for a first world country with a social net.

On the one hand, we have people getting evicted from their homes and having to visit soup kitchens.

On the other hand, we have dead people (more likely, dead poor people).

Evil seems pretty fair.


> On the one hand, we have people getting evicted from their homes and having to visit soup kitchens.

Which translates directly into many years of reduced life expectancy, no?


I have trouble seeing a worse economy for a few months vs a highly optimistic 100,000+ dead having similar numbers of lost lives.


It's not just a few months though; a 0.2% recession (say) quite possibly translates to everyone in the future being 0.2% worse off, forever.


That would be true if annual returns were independent of each other which is definitely not the case.


I understand the point you and GP are trying to make.

I'm saying that the two miseries feel like apples vs oranges, given the context.

You'd have to go pretty far to convince me that (even mass) economic depression is more harmful than widespread, near-term fatalities.


That is part of the problem. It is very hard to quantify the consequences of economic depression because it affects everyone at least a little bit, and some more than others. It might cause so and so many more people to have to go through therapy, so and so many families break up over financial hardships, and the children are ever so slightly worse off and the second-order consequences aren't fully realised until 30 years down the line. It's individually (possibly) very small effects, but it hits the entire population.

That's hard to weigh against a concrete number of very concrete deaths and serious recuperation periods.


mass economic depression affects certain groups more than others.

Near-term fatalities affect certain groups more than others. Those with access to medical services (or can pay for more of it) will be less affected.

Which side being worse is a determination you have to make for yourself.


Funnily enough recessions are associated with lower overall mortality rates.

Something to remember the next time people harp on about GDP being the most important metric for a country's advancement.

https://medicalxpress.com/news/2019-02-recession-greater-dec...


There was an op ed recently from a former member of the Johnson government that stated "It is time the economists took over from the doctors, before the real pandemic [economic recession] spreads."

So that, told me all I need to know about the cruelty and stupidity of the UK government at this time.


Just to correct this, the statement was made by Omar Hassan, who was head of inward Middle Eastern investment while Boris Johnson was Mayor of London, and was never part of the Johnson government. Here's the article the quote comes from:

https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/coronavirus-deaths-trum...


Thanks, I didn't realize that.


It is basically nothing like that in any way. If it works, it will not be at the expense of extra "sacrificed" lives, that's nonsense. The basic idea is to isolate the vulnerable and eventually protect them with herd immunity. You are allowed to opine that this will fail dismally, but you're not allowed to just make shit up and accuse people of sacrificing lives. Have an ounce of shame.


How are going to isolate the vulnerable population? They also neglect that the vulnerable population clusters. Old people socialize with other old people. A bunch of immune school kids don’t provide much herd immunity to a nursing home.


They might if they were the kids of people working at the nursing home. I am not sure if this strategy will work either but I get it -- every infected and recovered individual is another control rod pushed into the out-of-control atomic pile.


The problem is that most of the people in the nursing home are the residents. If none of them get the disease, The R0 in the nursing home is still going to be well above one. The minute one person who is infected shows up at the nursing home, it races through the whole place.

Meanwhile, in the schools, the intention is to get the rate of kids that are immune as close to 100% as possible. That will be difficult without deliberately inoculating them, because they will develop herd immunity at about 66% in their population and it won't spread in that population anymore.

In the nuclear reactor analogy, it's as if you put in half the control rods, but only the ones on the left side of the reactor. That might make the left side strongly subcritical, but the right side might still be critical, even if with an even distribution of the same number of rods, the whole reactor would be subcritical.

This plan is not going to work and it will kill millions of people in Britain unless Chloroquine or something else ends up being a silver bullet for treatment.


> The basic idea is to isolate the vulnerable and eventually protect them with herd immunity.

so what about those who had to suffer to give this herd immunity? If i were a UK citizen, and i got infected, there's a non-zero chance that i will also need a ventilator. Any, even a tiny misstep will cause the numbers to grow beyond the amount of beds available. That i am asked to take this risk is absurd.

Full isolation and quarantine is a more conservative way - for myself at least. Even if the economic damage is severe.


> such as presumably a majority of those advising the government

Why? Politicians have shown several times that they prefer to listen to a minority of scientists that tell them what they want to hear, rather than a majority that doesn't.


if that is the case, it seems reasonable that it is indeed the majority. under your hypothesis the "majority that doesn't" isn't advising the government in the first place.


Worse, politicians (particularly Health ministers) have disporportionately high infection rates.


Not sure why Health ministers are getting shade for testing positive?

I'd rather my top health officials actually have contact with those under them, than sit in a glass bubble.


They don't follow basic advice (e.g. don't shake hands, touch your face, etc), they don't close down mass events, they don't close schools "because we're not at that stage yet". The time to close them is before we reach "that stage".

Number of cases is a trailing indicator, which also only covers those tested.


"I was very critical at first, but I'm more interested/satisfied with the response now"

It sounds more like you're at the bargaining stage now, rationalizing why it might be a good approach because it's happening and you hope for the best.

It sounds insane. Italy quite literally did the same model. Now they're in the worst of both -- mass quarantine / enormous economic damage AND the brutal human toll.


Well it's not how I'm behaving on an individual level for sure, I'm concerned about unknown long-term effect and don't want it.

But I can see how it might make sense on a wider societal level, assuming everyone doesn't behave like me. (Which they don't, I've observed plenty of people complaining about how it's just 'media scaremongering' and 'just like Brexit'.)

I definitely think we're (almost every country is, save maybe Singapore) past containing it; so I can see how a relatively controlled exposure might actually be a good policy as far as managing resources, economy, and next season...


Nobody thinks it’s a good idea. It’s just nonsense. There is no debate.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/mar/15/epidem...


One point neglected in discussions is the effect of spreading it to other territories that are not adopting a similar strategy. The majority of cases in the English-speaking Caribbean to date have been from persons who traveled to the UK recently.


If the UK government's policy is to deliberately allow widespread infection of the population, the logical response from other countries will be to ban entry to people traveling from the UK.


I can see the idea behind that gamble. You take short term pain for long term gain.

Except... A vaccine is expected to be ready in 12 months!

So the long term should be pain free either way!


It's not "nonsense". It's real. It works for almost every other virus out there (even colds and flu, even though it's imperfect: new seasonal cold and flu strains don't become pandemics, because many people have some immunity from previous infections). If you let a large enough fraction of the UK contract and recover from COVID-19, we have every reason to suspect that the society will develop good enough herd immunity to make further pandemic-scale propagation impossible. This part is good science, and reasonably well understood.

The question is on the impact side. The reason this theory seems to work is that the seeming danger from COVID-19 is all on the elderly and immunocompromised. If you can prevent them from getting the same disease everyone else is, then they'll be protected by the herd -- new clusters won't form and infect them.

So this all comes down to those assumptions:

1. The virus is genuinely of low danger to the young and healthy

2. The vulnerable can be adequately protected during a pandemic of the general population

If either is wrong, we're looking at a staggering disaster. Are they wrong? We have no fucking idea. I'm not even on the continent and I'm terrified.


> It's not "nonsense". It's real. It works for almost every other virus out there (e

You're failing to take in consideration that the virus incubation period is on average 1 to 2 weeks, and those who manage to recover from the disease take about 2 weeks from diagnosis to confirmed cure.

This means that you're comparing 4 weeks of exponential growth with 2 weeks of constant recovery.

Sure, those who survived the disease will be immune afterwards. That's great for herd imunity. But the thing you fail to understand is that as the disease increases exponentially, when that time arrives the whole nation has already become infected, and it's too late by then because health services will be unable to cope with the demand and a lot of people will die due to lack of basic medical care.


> But the thing you fail to understand

No no, I understand that. But the thinking is, and it seems to be backed by data, that the health system will be able to cope with a full-population maximal pandemic, as long as it is limited to the much less vulnerable segments of the population. The ICUs in Italy and Hubei were filled, for the most part, with elderly patients. The math, such as it is, checks out.

The risk management analysis, again, is IMHO batshit crazy. But the theory seems about as sound as it could be given the data we have.


> No no, I understand that. But the thinking is, and it seems to be backed by data, that the health system will be able to cope with a full-population maximal pandemic, as long as it is limited to the much less vulnerable segments of the population.

It really doesn't seem that you're getting it, because the whole point of this exercise is that it's quite patently obvious that no health care service in the world is able to keep 10 to 15% of their population in intensive care, which so far is the expected incidence of cases that require medical care.

If that was the case then no one would be bothered with yet another flu-like viral infection.


> the expected incidence of cases that require medical care.

Among the general population!

Among people under 50, the best data we have is that the fraction needing ICU care is something like 0.2% (I think, I'd have to look it up again).

The intent is to quarantine the at-risk and let it propagate in the "safe". I genuinely think it's you who's failed to understand the plan. You're arguing against something that is not the stated UK policy.


Thanks for being devil's advocate.

I too think it's too risky, FWIW. I read a while ago there might be permanent damage as well, but maybe that was hocus.

Edit: Business Insider reported HK doctors found some people have 20-30% reduced lung capacity after recovery: https://www.businessinsider.com/coronavirus-recovery-damage-... (n=12)


> Among people under 50, the best data we have is that the fraction needing ICU care is something like 0.2%

Any chance you remember where you found this statistic? I have been looking for any details on hospitalization rates by age range, but haven't had luck so far.


Do we actually have evidence that this quarantining is possible or working?


> 10 to 15% of their population in intensive care

Estimates are closer to 10% of the infected getting severe cases, and some small-ish fraction of those requiring intensive care. (The higher percentage numbers are usually an artifact of low testing rates of infected people.)

Also, epidemiology suggests that 20-70% will get it. So, we’re looking at ~1% of the population in the hospital at once.

The rest of your points stand; we don’t have nearly enough hospital capacity for 1% of the population.

Note that with a two week active phase, the pandemic would have to drag on for 20 weeks to get that number to 0.1%. I doubt there is capacity for that either.


What is the age distribution of the ICU requirement? Is it really in the ballpark of 10% for all age groups?


The plan also relies on flattening the curve like other countries' plans. They're just calculating that people won't stay in lockdown for months, and that if they put one in place now people will start emerging just in time to hit the peak of the infections.


Recovery is exponential too - it just lags behind the new cases.


There are 200 Viruses, vaccines only exist for 20 or so. For some you can hardly build immunity (e.g. Dengue fever).

"Sure, those who survived the disease will be immune afterwards." There have been reports of re-infections in China and Japan. This may be mistakes - the never were cured - but this could also point to something more severe. Proceed with caution.


3. the immunity gained through an infection holds for a long enough time (how long would need to be checked with the infection rate), which we do not know yet

Additionally, we know nothing of the long term effects even for the "young and healthy". Mortality rates for people 10-39 is 0.2%, 40-49 it's at 0.4%, 50-59 1.3%, 60-69 at 3.6%. Serious conditions develop in a bigger proportion of cases, so you are looking at 4-10% of under 60 population in ICU with unknown long term effects.

Translation: good luck!


Yes, the idea that only those 70+ are "at risk" is weird. But they probably can't afford to isolate everyone 50+ - both from an economic and herd immunity viewpoint - so they will risk losing 3.6% of people aged 60-69 and 1.3% of people aged 50-59.

According to https://www.statista.com/statistics/281174/uk-population-by-...

8.96 million aged 50-59, 7.07 million aged 60-69.


> unknown long term effects

Ultimately, it’s a just a really inconsistent cold. The vast majority of cases are mild. However, if it spreads to the lungs, it’s worse than the flu.

As far as I know, there’s no evidence that it’s any more exotic than that.


There are reports from China of significant lung scarring among patients who had to be hospitalised.


This is the concerning thing for me, as an asthmatic if I stop taking meds I'm already 30% down on lung capacity, adding another 20% on top of that is scary. That 20% can't be mitigated by meds either.


This ignores the risk of spreading the virus to other populations.


And if the worst case occurs, with millions of elderly and immunocompromised dying, there are billions in potential savings in pensions and old-age healthcare, as well as improvements in housing affordability and overall reductions in national CO2 emissions.


Herd immunity works because:

1. Vaccines, immunitized people don't get sick in the process of imunization, don't need hospitalization, don't die

2. Slow and gradual imunization over multiple years.

Neither of this is uphold all other cases of herd imunization in history I'm aware of always had a massive price in human lives.

Also it only works if the virus doesn't mutate to much, party of the reason the flu is still around even through you would believe we got herd imunization in last many decades since the flu is a think.

> 1. The virus is genuinely of low danger to the young and healthy

Except it's not really that low it's only compared to old people low.

And it's close to practically impossible to only affect young people without having idk concentration camps for young people with strict separation from the older people (like over 20?,30?) for a duration of over a month and still 2 in 1000 or so dying. AND it's anyway to late for that measurements as it's already to widely spread in the UK eitherway.


That is... not a good description of herd immunity at all. It has nothing to do with vaccinations or time scales. Wikipedia's is quite clear: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herd_immunity

The idea is that once a significant fraction of the population has some immunity to an infection, the ability of an infected person to spread the virus (a term called "R0" in the jargon) is fundamentally impeded by its ability to find infectable targets. So the R0 drops, and so does the exponent to the growth. Once that exponent goes below 1, the number of cases drops over time instead of growing, and new infection clusters can't start.

This works. It's why we don't have things like measles outbreaks (or didn't, until the anti-vax crowd messed things up) and why newly mutated flu strains can't find purchase and become pandemics.


Newly mutated flu strains don't become pandemics because they aren't severe enough for people to care, they certainly proliferate.


You seems to think that people who is against the idea either doesn't understand what herd immunity is, or doesn't understand the plan. We understand both, we just think that the risk analysis is wrong.

Specifically with the GP, his argument is that herd immunity gaining through large percentage of the population being infected in a short amount of time is a bad idea. Normally we got herd immunity via vaccination of the population, since it is much safer than being infected. That's why vaccination was mentioned.


cough

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/15/uk-coronavirus...

Imagine going ahead with this instead of... doing something.

And no, the NHS doesn’t have the capacity to handle this. So...


“Strategy”.


Here, we can stop “debating” dumb st:

https://www.buzzfeed.com/alexwickham/coronavirus-uk-strategy...


Yeah, like, the parents of all the kids will get it and many will die. Others will infect everyone at work.

This seems like a obviously bad idea.


Most parents that have young children aren't in their 70s


But they have parents who are. Maybe in UK this works, different cultures have different degrees of socialization between adult children and their parents.


I'm not sure what your point is here, the comment I replied to said that many of the parents of kids will get infected and die.


This is a smart observation. The UK is now taking the conservative view because it's the long term view, that this will likely become a recurring seasonal virus (or a one-time virus that keeps knocking on your door until you get it), and therefore there's not much point in a national "lockdown" to "stop" the virus, because as soon as a nation relaxes its lockdown the virus will simply pick up right where it left off.

Herd immunity is the goal for the UK government; they are explicitly saying they want ~60% of the population to get the virus. The only concern for the UK government is to space out the rate of infection so as to avoid overloading hospitals. So they are banning large gatherings, but not doing a lockdown per se, if that makes sense. Slow the pace, but let it continue. (They may do a strategic lockdown later if necessary to flatten the curve, but right now is certainly NOT the time to do a lockdown, according to their strategy, because at this stage it would be motivated by an attempt to "stop" the virus rather than an attempt to flatten the curve.)


This approach is definitely negligent to the point of criminality. There's no practical way to keep younger and healthy people away from older or less-healthy people and once the virus spreads to the less healthy people it will likely spread further.

(I've been doing the arithmetic for this stuff all day but here goes).

The UK's population is about 66 million. Sixty percent infected is 39,600,000. A 1% death rate (which, per above, you can't escape by "just infect young people" or something, jeesh) implies 396,000 dying. That many people dying, spread out evenly over a year is 1084 people dying per day but 10,840 people arrive sick at hospitals. Which is something the UK surely can't deal with. So with the health care system overwhelmed, the death goes to 5% or more and you have 2 millions deaths, much the WWII casualties etc.

Also, the "herd immunity" reasoning is wrong in the sense that we don't cultivate herd immunity to black plague, Ebola or small pox because they are deadly enough that we containment. Covids is in this special deadly "sweet spot" where it doesn't seem deadly enough to isolate in small area but too deadly to allow to run rampant across a city or nation. The answer that's forced on nation is mass city-by-city quarantine. Harsh but China's Wuhan experience was nowhere near the horrors that this "herd immunity" plan promises.


Herd immunity doesn't happen for Ebola because it's not that infectious compared to covid19. Ebola spreads when an infected person coughs up infected blood over someone. That's pretty easy to contain - people don't walk around spreading Ebola with no symptoms.

Herd immunity in this case isn't something you choose to cultivate or not. With such an infectious disease you're going to get it sooner or later; that's the UK's point. Trying to wipe it out through self isolation won't be globally 100% effective and if it's not it'll just come back. Ultimately only the population carrying lots of antibodies will end transmission for good.


With such an infectious disease you're going to get it sooner or later; that's the UK's point.

I believe it's mistake to claim that the disease will inevitably become endemic in the fashion of the flu. It certainly reach that level but costs would be massively catastrophic in a multitude of fashions. Oppositely, that of the different nations who've contained the infection show that is possible to eliminate it from a region and so a world-wide effort could eliminate it world wide as well.

One factor is that the disease is much more deadly than the early commentators (notably in the Atlantic) believed and aside from making "everyone get infected, OK?" horrific, this gives a strong marker for the disease and a strong incentive to act.


So far nobody has shown it can be eliminated from a region. To show that would require that transitional controls on movement of people end and yet the disease doesn't come back.

This is a disease in which people can be infectious yet show no symptoms. How do you stop infected people moving between regions? Do you think a "world wide effort" is going to successfully encompass places like Africa, central Asia, even Latin America? It's out now, it'll be circulating for a long time.


Except if it became seasonal there's going to be vaccines (with my faith in the medical research). And if the death rate is as high, everyone is going to get it. Making the sacrifice that british public is going through now senseless.

Also, it becoming seasonal could also be a self fulfilling prophecy due to its policy.


Yeah this basically reads to me as UK doesn’t give a shit about it’s seniors since death is inevitable.

Once a vaccine that works is out I’m sure most of the world will get it. The lockdown is all about preventing (early) deaths.


A vaccine is 1-2 years away. It's likely the majority will be infected before then.

It is unclear if you can continue playing whack-a-mole with quarantine measures for the next 1-2 years. It's possible but unlikely, at least in the West.

The UK's gambit is that by timing stricter quarantine measures they can cut the head off the peak, while slowing down spread due to some immunity in the population. This may work if the risk groups can indeed self-isolate for 4 months, and if more ventilators can be manufactured at speed.

It will still be devastating.

It will be interesting to see what happens in China after people return to work.

Either way, I think we are looking at bans on international travel to continue for many months to come.


That is a complete misreading of what they are trying to do, which is flattening the curve and making sure more people can be treated with the medical resources they can measure and substantiate.


> which is flattening the curve

You are NOT flattening jack shit by having all your young population become infected!! [0]

They are NOT gonna mass transport ALL the elderly population to a far away island and isolate them there, they all are gonna get infected and the NHS is going to collapse because of it

There already have been cases documented of people getting infected because of unsealed bathroom toilet pipes on apartment buildings... [1]

[0] https://youtu.be/C98FmoZVbjs?t=693

[1] https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/health-environment/artic...


> therefore there's not much point in a national "lockdown" to "stop" the virus, because as soon as a nation relaxes its lockdown the virus will simply pick up right where it left off.

I haven't seen anyone address this concern among the people who think the UK's strategy is insane.

Yes, if you lock down society, you will halt the spread of the virus dramatically.

But for how long? When do you lift the lock down? When it's died out in your country? How long will that take? What if it hasn't died out elsewhere? Are you going into another lock down right on the heels of the first one?

And how do you get people to comply with it? Hell, there's plenty of people in the US who are completely convinced that the coronavirus is a hoax or a conspiracy or something something Trump Democrats Obama Liberal But Her Emails. Less than two weeks ago President Trump called the thing a hoax!

The UK strategy takes this into account and rolls with it. They know it's going to infect a majority of the population eventually, so let's just get it over with as quickly as possible, while protecting the vulnerable in society, and then herd immunity kicks in and after that your country is protected no matter what other countries do.


But no lock down strategy is about halting the virus!

They are about slowing it, so that the load on the health care system isn't too grade.

Current data show that dath ratio in case of slow spread can be reduced to 1%, potential even less. While with overload it's more like 5% and with collapsing overload even potentially more.

Also work slowing the number of total infected people without usable medicine against it can potentially be drastically reduced. Especially if we find some usable but imperfect medicine in the near time which reduces ICU cases.

Also let's remember 1918:

The first wave killed the old, the second wave killed the young, the third wave killed without discrimination.

I.e. we are still in the first wave, it's not impossible that a mutation occurred which makes it especially deadly against the young (through maybe quite unlike). Just consider what happens if that overlaps with the UK plans and they notice it to late. It would be a lost generation.


> They are about slowing it, so that the load on the health care system isn't too grade.

Again, the load on the health care system depends completely on the demographics of the people who get infected.

By isolating and quarantining people in risk groups, the load on the health care system will be much lower.

The gamble is this: By letting the virus spread indiscriminately through the part of the population that is not at risk, the load on the health care system will be manageable, the death rate will be nowhere near the current measured ones, and once the virus has passed, you have herd immunity in your population.

But if you argue for harsh lock down of everything now, you are also gambling. You are gambling that you can delay the spread until there is a vaccine, without knowing how far away a vaccine is. You are gambling that all the other countries get a handle on the virus, without knowing if they will.


Uh huh... is the UK isolating and protecting people in risk groups? Because the last time you could safely get infected, and be guaranteed medical attention, was two weeks ago. The NHS is already at capacity right now. There's certainly no danger of accidentally containing it too much.


> There's certainly no danger of accidentally containing it too much.

Actually, there is. The UK strategy explicitly aims to avoid a peak come autumn/winter, you want it to go through enough of the population before summer ends. Too fast and it overwhelms the NHS right now, too slow and it will overwhelm the NHS in November.

I completely agree that it is a risky strategy, but unlike the general sentiment in this thread, I don't think it's an obviously bad strategy, and I absolutely think that everyone arguing against it are also engaging in a lot of wishful thinking regarding people's willingness to self-quarantine and obey government recommendations aimed at containing it.

Try harsh containment measures in the US, and 20% of the population is going to go "fuck you it's a Democratic hoax/Chinese conspiracy/Deep State population control scheme, nothing's gonna stop me!"

At least the UK strategy takes the unwillingness of the population into accord, locking down all retirement homes is much more doable than locking down everything.


>Too fast and it overwhelms the NHS right now

The NHS is already overwhelmed. Right now. We are firmly in "too fast" territory. There is no amount containment, starting from now, that will be too much - the exponential growth is already getting away.


Are there any examples of countries isolating vulnerable people (elderly, obese, breathing problems, smokers)? It doesn't seem like that is actually viable at all.


It's an explicit part of the UK's strategy, it's been pointed out throughout this thread.

Also, why would that be less viable than locking down all of society the way for example Italy has done?


Yeah, I know that's the UK strategy, that's why I asked if there are any examples of it being done, because it doesn't seem plausible to me. For starters if everyone is out getting infected rapidly, who will be taking care of the vulnerable people?


>They are about slowing it, so that the load on the health care system isn't too grade.

This isn't really a plan, it's mostly wishful thinking. We expect herd immunity to kick in at around 60% prevalence, which in the UK would be ~38 million cases. ~10% of cases require hospitalisation, so that's ~3.8 million hospital admissions. At the last count, NHS England had a grand total of 4123 critical care beds. Unless we remain in isolation for the best part of a decade, the healthcare system is going to be substantially overwhelmed and care will have to be rationed.

We may get a vaccine, but that'll take at least 12 months and we don't know how well it'll work; until we know how rapidly SARS-CoV-2 mutates, we can't assume that a vaccine would end the epidemic. It is a strong possibility that COVID-19 will become a regular seasonal affliction like influenza.

There are no good options and we're not even sure which are the least bad options. Strict isolation measures will kick the problem down the road for a while, but at the risk of a whole bunch of other problems. How long will people tolerate being confined to their homes? How long can the economy withstand a huge reduction in productivity and spending? What happens if the lockdown fails and social unrest occurs just in time for the next winter flu season?

We need a lockdown to buy us some time, but we also need to face up to the reality that a lockdown isn't a solution but merely a stopgap.


> ~10% of cases require hospitalisation

That depends on the demographics that get infected! Stop pulling these numbers out of your asses as if they're universally true!

That number is based on the virus hitting everyone equally, and central to the UK strategy is that you avoid that, that you instead quarantine and isolate the at-risk people, and build herd immunity among the remainder, not among the entire general population.

This entire post and all the comments is one giant "holy crap the UK strategy is bananas!", but it seems no-one understands the rationale behind it!

Come on! There are legit arguments against it, but your argument isn't it!

> We need a lockdown to buy us some time, but we also need to face up to the reality that a lockdown isn't a solution but merely a stopgap.

The whole mad point of the UK strategy is that you'll reach herd immunity without massive hospitalisation and death, and that once you're through it, you're done, the virus will die out in the UK, no matter what the state the rest of the world is in, no matter when a vaccine is finished, no matter if other countries fight intermittent outbreaks or not.


But how can anybody be sure that conservative policy (lockdown, I assume) would work for UK (or any other nation beside China)? They probably have to factor in the chance of success. They can fail in implementing conservative option (which might not be so conservative after all), and ruin the economy as a side effect. I imagine this as a choice between these: - long struggle with uncertain outcome in terms of life lost but with certain economic ruin - short struggle with uncertain outcome in terms of life lost, with small economic ruin

I’m neither epidemiologist nor politician in power, so I can entertain myself with these thought experiments. In the end, I have little choice (and knowledge or firepower), but to do as instructed by local authorities.


The economy is a tool to get people goods and services. It is less important than life & death on a mass scale. 0.1% to 1% of the population unexpectedly dying is huge.

If the government was implementing a plan that they had considered and prepared over a number of years, carefully assessed the evidence and weighed the options? Costs and benefits have been weighed and it is hard to ask for more.

Government has no idea what is happening and it decides to go in and see how bad it is? Not a great time to prioritise the non-essential parts of the economy.


> 0.1% to 1% of the population unexpectedly dying is huge.

A lot of people seem to be focusing on mortality rate, but data from China and Italy show that people who get severe symptoms, but survive COVID-19 will live with lifelong scares, that make them vulnerable for say the next flu season.

So while 0.1-1% may die, we are talking about upwards of 10% of people being put out of commission. It's also wrong to say that younger people aren't hurt by this, there are plenty of young people with chronic illnesses, and limited immune systems. And even if they do survive, it may not be worth living.


This is pretty scary. Not only do SARS cause scarring which decrease quality of life, we are on our 3rd ARDS-causing outbreak in the past 2 decades. So potentially tens of millions worldwide with lifelong lung damage and huge risk of getting taken out in the next round.


do you mind sharing some sources regarding the long term effect of covid-19? i am worried about it, especially since i haven't heard much about it so far (might be too early to tell). thanks.


Not OP, but I remember reading about this. The summary was it's too early to establish long term damage. The scarring is present, but its bound to be on patient who recovered a mere few weeks ago.


> The economy is a tool to get people goods and services. It is less important than life & death on a mass scale.

It's not as simple. GDP per capita is strongly correlated with life expectancy. In other words, people die sooner with worse economy.


or die _even sooner_ with this herd immunity strat.

On an individual level, i would not want this, even if it's "better" for the UK in the long run. As an individual, it's unacceptable for me to take this sort of risk, and i would not agree to it if i had a choice.


I agree with what you just wrote. But, the premise is wrong, I think; We don’t know if lockdown now vs lockdown later (in UK’s case) will result with 0.1% vs 1% of life lost, respectively.


Let's do math!

I'll use US numbers, because I know them.

The current worst case scenarios on the table are between 1% and 5% of the individuals catching the disease dying (there are better numbers, but we're worst casing it). For achieving herd immunity, numbers like 40-70% of the population infected and recovered are bandied about.

So worst case, you're looking at 1.3-11.6 million deaths in the US.

Now, the US government values the lives of its citizens at $7-9 million dollars a piece.

That puts the economic cost of this strategy, in the US, at $9.1-104 trillion dollars.

That dwarfs what is happening in the stock market right now; shutting down the entire US economy for a year makes sense when faced with that magnitude of potential loss.

I assume the math is similar elsewhere.


> The current worst case scenarios on the table are between 1% and 5% of the individuals catching the disease dying (there are better numbers, but we're worst casing it). For achieving herd immunity, numbers like 40-70% of the population infected and recovered are bandied about.

Yes, those numbers apply if it spreads indiscriminately throughout your entire population.

But we know the virus is here, we know who is in the risk group, which means that if you isolate and self-quarantine people in the risk group, and let the virus slowly roll through the rest of the population, you will get a much lower death rate.

There's a ton of variables that determine the death rate, and yet everyone is just staring themselves blind at the first best numbers we have. No. Come on. It depends on the quality of the care available, it depends on the knowledge of doctors who have experience with it, but most importantly it depends on the demographics of the people who get infected.

> shutting down the entire US economy for a year makes sense

Except "the economy" is made up of millions of individuals. Some will still have an ok quality of life, but many people won't. They'll be fired, or their companies will have gone bankrupt, they'll have no money, no food.. Then what? Do you think hungry people won't food riot just because there's a quarantine? Or go stir crazy? Or ignore it? Or spread propaganda that the entire thing is a hoax so that the New World Order can take over?


> Some will still have an ok quality of life, but many people won't. They'll be fired, or their companies will have gone bankrupt, they'll have no money, no food.. Then what?

The point isn't to actually shut down the entire economy.

The point is that when you are talking loss numbers in the trillions, interventions that cost hundreds of billions or even "smaller numbers of trillions" to avert the big losses make economic sense; helicopter dropping a trillion dollars to allow people besides tech workers to self-isolate and socially distance themselves for a few months could be cheap, in the long run.


> The point is that when you are talking loss numbers in the trillions

The main part of my argument above is that you pulled that number out of your ass, you didn't address any of my points against why that number is baseless, yet you continue using the number.

Your number is a worst-case "cost" of doing absolutely nothing and just letting people die, and then you say that your suggested strategy of dumping cash on the population is much cheaper. While true in itself, the error is that you're equating the UK strategy with the worst-case doing-nothing strategy, and that therefore your strategy is better.

The case for the UK strategy is that by letting the virus spread uncontrolled through the not at risk population, health care systems won't ever be overwhelmed, death rates will be much, much lower than current measured ones, and you'll emerge on the other side with a herd immune population, without doing too much damage to your economy, and the at-risk population won't ever get infected in the first place. And by doing that, the total death toll will be lower, than having the virus slowly go through the entire population, at-risk or not.


>letting the virus spread uncontrolled through the not at risk population

Sounds excellent. Did we remember to tell the virus?


Or at the very least, to divide the UK into two non-interacting populations of at-risk and not-at-risk individuals?


I don’t understand how we can have reliable mortality/morbidity statistics when it’s only been out for a few months, and many people that get it don’t even get diagnosed with it and so aren’t counted in the survivors. How can there be a representative sample of data available yet?


We work with what we have, and update as more information becomes known.

At the very least, we have a current floor that 0.002% of the total Italian population has died from the disease so far; conversely, we know a minimum of 21,157 have contracted it in the same population, and 1,966 have recovered, so the mortality rate is probably less than 90%.

Now those two numbers are very far apart, so you might be inclined to wait and see whether the final number will lie, but the problem with that is, once the final number is known, it is too late to act.

We either have the option of acting now, as seems best with our current information, and correcting course as the new information reveals itself, or doing nothing at all, and waiting for better information, and our current information says that doing nothing at all is not the best option.


> Now, the US government values the lives of its citizens at $7-9 million dollars a piece.

Wait, where does that figure come from?


I mean, honestly it varies department to department, and when you start talking "lives" versus "YoQL": https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Value_of_life#United_States


COVID-19 is rapidly becoming the centre of attention for the entire global medical community and every government on the planet. It threatens the wealth of billionaires and the power of the powerful. I have a remarkable amount of faith that progress on treatments and medical practices will be swift and impressive.

Delaying the pain by a month or two could well be an extremely good move.


You're betting on 1) a therapy being found in that interval, 2) that therapy being highly effective (no significant side effects), 3) easily available 4) affordable 5) you still have medical personnel with which to apply it.

I wouldn't take those odds.


One more, by the way: that the virus doesn’t mutate.


> The economy is a tool to get people goods and services. It is less important than life & death on a mass scale.

This just isn’t true. The definition of an economy is a system to determine the production and allocation of scarce resources.

To the extent that those resources include food, shelter, and other elements required to stay alive then the economy literally is the determinant of life and death.

Furthermore, significant contractions of economic activity cause death in measurable predictable ways.

All of this closing down of the economy is — literally — killing people as we speak.


(warning: conspiracy theory, but at least an original one)

I'm thinking this only makes sense in the context of Brexit. Brexit will be a massive hit to the competitiveness of British businesses... somebody in government is hoping to counteract this by taking an approach different to the rest of Europe. If the UK's approach works, it will end up economically ahead of all the other European countries, something like the US post-WWII (but to a lesser extent).


> I'm thinking this only makes sense in the context of Brexit. Brexit will be a massive hit to the competitiveness of British businesses

Bad theory. This virus could have been used as an excuse to lock down borders while the rest of Europe got economically destroyed by the virus.


No it already spread to the UK so it was to listen for that


That seems like the exact gamble. IMO, the US has taken the right approach. Keep things going until it starts to replicate in the community, then get aggressive before the hospitals are overrun.

Some communities will have too many cases, but most will hopefully be ok. And we will have a first step of Hurd immunity, concentrated on people most likely to transmit later like package delivery, restaurant workers, drivers etc.

The US should have had testing procedure set up early to relieve stress for citizens.


> Keep things going until it starts to replicate in the community, then get aggressive before the hospitals are overrun.

How is that not a bad strategy? By this point the disease will have some sort of transmission inertia, so establishing containment just before hospitals are overrun pretty much guarantees they will be overrun.


We won’t know for 2 weeks. If the hospitals are overrun, that is a massive policy problem. If they aren’t, it’s a massive policy success.

Math was known and the results fall on our politicians


The US approach has been awful. Things are running completely out of control. The "aggressive before the hospitals are overrun" thing won't work.

Herd immunity means something like 60% of the population get it and maybe 1.3 million Americans die ghastly deaths.


I don't think killing a larger portion of Britons than of Continental Europeans is going to be good for the British economy.


That's ignoring intent they expressed to implement very long isolation measures for the elderly. Thier approach might be flawed, but let's debate it based on what has actually been stated.


They can intend what they please, but the facts show that you can't save the elderly without quarantining and social distancing of the non-elderly. "Stiff upper lip" is such a caricature of Britishness that I wonder if Johnson is doing it as a piece of patriotic method-acting. It is not a medically sensible method to fight COVID-19.


.. fewer elderly to take care of?


Although I'm personally offended, being unimaginably (for me) old, this does make some sense. After all, many countries have been angsty about demographic inversion. And SARS-CoV-2 could resolve that within a decade or less.


Apologies for the offense, but I was being serious for the reason you mentioned.


NP. I was mostly joking about the offended part :)


The other interesting factor is how it will impact Gerontocracy which is the norm for most eastern and western governments alike. We see this playing out in in Iran.


Counter-point: is Brexit Britain actually going to be worst off than post-pandemic EU or what's left of the EU?

I don't think the risk of this pandemic approach is worthwhile, especially given how poorly the EU is doing in general. Terrible economy, catastrophic pandemic response, and the symbolism of countries closing borders on fellow EU states are all quite telling.

By contrast Britain almost seems like it dodged a bullet - although they seem to have jumped in front of a train instead with their pandemic gamble.


Only the EU economy has been doing pretty well - much better than the UK has been.

I think that their strategy is more smoke and mirrors - they're looking for the massive uproar so that the public understands that what we're facing is the real deal and will accept the harsh restrictions to freedom better once they have to be made.

The damage caused by an extra day or two of waiting will be small in comparison to the benefits of good compliance.

Plus don't forget that it's the weekend. No schools. The schools won't be open on Monday.

Dominic Cummings and his team are sharp and extremely good at manipulating the exact group of unthinking idiots who would otherwise ignore curfews and restrictions..

I should also add: all of the other Western countries are doing the same thing, UK included. Do whatever is possible to keep the health system working until. Eventually you get herd immunity either via people getting it or a vaccination.


Britain reminds me of the drunk guy who falls down a flight of stairs and then rolls back onto their feet unharmed.


the uk is bust - germany is injecting 600 billion in the economy, while the uk a mere 30. the uk NEEDS people to work so they keep the country afloat.


The UK can raise as much cash as Germany so it is a choice they are making.


may be a conspiracy theory, but as the uk gov is injecting only 30 bil in the economy while germany is injecting 600 billion shows the uk is financially in a weak position. if the country stops working the economy is bust. the uk _needs_ to be ahead of europe to stay afloat, so that these measures as a state of war, in which economic sovereignty can be lost unless some people die on the battle front.


You're confusing two different measures.

The UK government has increased spending by £30B, £12B to be spent on tackling COVID 19.

The Bank of England has suggested lending £190B to businesses in need.

The roughly equivalent numbers appear to be 12B and 600B (Euros) for Germany.

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/mar/11/budget-2020-...

https://www.bankofengland.co.uk/news/2020/march/boe-measures...

https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/world/coronavirus-germa...

https://www.pionline.com/markets/germany-lines-600-billion-v...


thanks for the clarification, still a pretty small number considering. all i am saying is these numbers might explain the logic behind going against all scientific advice.


Yeah, it will make Britain Great Again as it gets rid of the old population and increases its competitiveness. It almost feels natural that after getting rid of the migrants it's time to get rid of some less desired locals as well.


In a very dark-humour fashion, it sounds like this would change the balance of brexiters-vs-remainers fairly drastically too. No longer ~50/50. ;)


This is NOT a creative experiment.

It's exactly the same as everything that's being done, no one knows what's best, they are all creative or none are.

We have no idea what the downsides are for massive lockdowns. Look at the deaths that happened over summer in Britain when the heatwave struck. What will happen to the elderly in a lockdown?

Lockdowns are not conservative. They are what the rest of the world's doing so they are politically conservative for weak governments.


Lockdown has been shown to work in wuhan and china, except for the political willingness and population willingness in western democracies.


We don't know that yet. This hasn't even begun. We have another 6 months before we'll understand anything. Wuhan might just break out again.

Following others lead is only political conservative. It's the learned behaviour of risk managers, push responsibility to others even if it's not the best action. They are there to manage internal risk.


Great point - but - shutting down the economy is not a 'conservative' policy, it's up there with 'extreme risk'.

Many sectors will crumble, it will ripple through the economy like dominos, credit dries up, investment halts, you get into an economic death spiral. There's very real possibility existential meltdown which will indirectly cause a lot of pain and death.

So 'lockdown' is 'conservative' from the viral perspective, from any other perspective, it's 'very risky'.


"Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM"


Interesting way of managing risk. Curious - Does this rule of thumb have a name?


I think you can draw a direct line between the personality of Johnson and adoption of this strategy.

Covid19 will unfortunately kill a lot of people. As a silver-lining, it may also kill populism.


Populism seems to be "democracy that I don't like the result of".


To add to your risk management analysis, I believe we're looking at more of a capped downside if you consider the timing. It's better to come down with it now, before hospitals are overflowing with the sick. We're just at a point where hydroxychloroquine is gaining traction as a treatment, so we have a viable response. We won't have a definitive cure or vaccine for several months, before which the number of people who are contaminated will skyrocket.


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