This was originally published on Twitter on 9 January 2021.
The Government is making the same mistakes as it did in the first wave. Except with knowledge.
The Government’s strategy at the beginning of the pandemic was to ‘cocoon’ the vulnerable (e.g. those in care homes). This was a ‘herd immunity’ strategy. This interview is from March.
This strategy failed. It is impossible to ‘cocoon’ the vulnerable, as Covid is passed from younger people to older, more vulnerable people. We can see this playing out through heatmaps. e.g. these heatmaps from the second wave.
The Government then decided to change its strategy to ‘preventing a second wave that overwhelms the NHS’. This was announced on 8 June in Parliament. This is not the same as ‘preventing a second wave’.
The Academy of Medical Sciences published a report on 14 July ‘Preparing for a Challenging Winter’ commissioned by the Chief Scientific Adviser that set out what needed to be done in order to prevent a catastrophe over the winter period.
Around this time, the Great Barrington Declaration was published. This changed the rhetoric from ‘herd immunity’ to ‘focused protection’. This was and remains non-mainstream from a scientific point of view, but was popular amongst a group of commentators.
Cases were increasing rapidly, and SAGE (the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies) called for a ‘circuit breaker’.
At the same time, a focused protection-supporting group of scientists were invited to Downing Street to present the alternate view. Politically, this enabled this headline to be written.
Cases grew. Another tier system was introduced to attempt to control the virus.
In a fantastic acheivement of science, the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was approved on 3 December https://nature.com/articles/d41586-020-03441-8. Since then, the Oxford/AstraZeneca and Moderna vaccines have been approved.
A new variant was discovered with increased transmissibility. This caused a ‘lockdown’ as the NHS was now in crisis mode and there was ‘a material risk of the NHS in several areas being overwhelmed’. The Government’s second strategy is failing.
However, this ‘lockdown’ is not stringent. Many more people are allowed to send their children to school allowing the virus to mix in children and their parents.
The Prime Minister made a strange comment on 6 January. The word ‘cocoon’ was back. Remember that from March?
Matt Hancock has now given an interview setting out the Government’s new, third, strategy.
The strategy is about ‘manageable risk’. Risk to those that may die or live with the effects of catching Covid, or risk to the Government?
We are now back to vaccinating the vulnerable – focused protection if you will.
It appears that the Government has adopted a hybrid strategy – vaccination for the ‘vulnerable’, and herd immunity or focused protection for those that are not. There is no discussion of vaccinating children and the under-50s. It is clear that many more lives will be lost.
Update 10 January 2021
I am pleased to say that Matt Hancock stated today that all adults will be offered a vaccine by Autumn. This is good news. There is a race between vaccination and infection. It is important that restrictions (the ‘cry freedom’ quote) are not released prematurely.