Life is full of odd little ironies, but around the edges of such amusement there lurks the ever present stupidity of experts.
Professor Neil Ferguson, the man who in 2008 founded a centre for modelling viruses, gets a grant from the Medical Research Council of £2 million a year. This is in recognition of his ability to be wrong about pretty much everything from Avian flu to mad cow disease, but when you read the cv of the outfit praising its own extensive experience in such areas, there is little to give you a hint about the wrongness Thing.
It is estimated that cattle slaughtered on the advice of Ferguson cost the farming community and the Government £8 billion. So by the end of 2019, his Centre had cost the taxpayer a further £20 million in grants: thus, we have to see him as more a drain than a radiator when it comes to the modelling of stuff, and improving public health.
Nice work if you can get it, but Professor Ferguson is the gift that keeps on giving. He is at present in self-isolation because he’s got COVID19. Three days before diagnosing himself, he had been in a crowded meeting with Matt Hancock and Boris Johnson, and several days later they too went down with it. At a key moment in what is supposed to be a crisis, BoJo found himself in intensive care, and has only turned the corner in the last 36 hours.
Building a virology business by infecting everyone is a novel approach, but rather more to the point, on the basis of Fergie’s Fantastic Futurology, most of Britain has been locked inside their homes for three weeks….and that’s just been extended by….three weeks. The loss of gdp over that time is going to be close to a trillion Pounds; so when it comes to a cost/efficiency study of Our Prof, he has a lot of ground to make up.
Right, now – sit down before you read this next bit from The Times, and try not to weep at my italicizations…this is the rationale for the lockdown extension:
‘Ministers are resisting growing demands to set out an exit strategy from lockdown as the government revealed that it believes that less than 10 per cent of the population has had the virus….Britain’s options for lifting restrictions are narrowed by initial evidence indicating that the epidemic has a long way to run, with the vast majority of the population still vulnerable to infection.’
Ah, I see. Er….let’s now imagine an alternative scenario in which somebody had read the emprical stats about C19, and not told everyone to stay indoors counting the knots in various door-jambs. Do you know, I really have this gut feeling – call me irresponsible if you like – that if we hadn’t been told to do that, a good 60% of the population would have had the virus by now, and the majority wouldn’t be vulnerable to infection.
Let’s stick with stats and ignore professorial modelling. 99.8% of us would not be dead…….and 140,000 fatalities might have occurred during 2019 – I say “might” there because of the non-recorded mild symptoms: don’t forget, 95% of all Covid cases are mild, and 85% of cases needing treatment are for those aged over 80. Penultimately, take on board the fact that 360,000 older people die every year anyway; and that before lockdown, none of those figures had spiked. In fact, they were 5,000 less than normal.
So a reasonable assumption from all that is – worst case scenario – an increase in the ‘natural’ per annum death rate in the UK of almost exactly 0.1%…around 70,000 people.
Nobody wants that, but we would have far higher immunity…and have kept the £900 billion of gdp we’re about to lose.
That’s a cost per life saved of £128 million…causing dangerously low herd immunity, and thus the likelihood of a return of COVID(20?) next winter.
The madness of a strategy via which we lose a quarter of our gdp, cut our immunity by two-thirds and put 70,000 lives before the health of 70 million cannot be overstated. It can only benefit two élites: politicians keen to hide public health starvation, and Big Pharma out to make money from serums offering immunisation.
We simply cannot go on bottling out on the Big Calls on the basis of academic advice, political sensibilities, and monetary considerations.
Churchill didn’t alert the people of Coventry to the imminent bombing attack being planned by the Luftwaffe, because he knew this would alert the Germans to the fact that we’d cracked their Enigma code. He balanced the loss of lives against the catastrophe of a failed invasion of Europe, and took the right decision.
But above all, we must grow some wisdom and common sense somewhere in the corridors of power. To wheel out Neil Ferguson again after three previous failures was a gross dereliction of duty, and we have Whitehall to thank for that. The sooner Cummings is given his head to root out these useless, greedy amateurs, the better.