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TK421

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  1. TK421

    Coronavirus

    Yes, top of the page. What timing.
  2. TK421

    Coronavirus

    A Critique of Chris Whitty’s Role in the UK’s Response to the Covid Pandemic By TK421 aged 45 and three quarters Introduction The remit of this critique will be to objectively demonstrate that Chris Whitty’s (hereafter referred to as “CW”) performance in assisting the UK government to respond to the Covid pandemic has been below the standard that could be reasonably expected of someone in his position. I will seek to objectively show that CW deserves criticism for elements of his role in the response, that he has performed below expectations and that it is reasonable to conclude as such. Naturally, this critique is written from my own perspective and is viewed through my own subjective prism of living through this pandemic and experiencing it on a day-to-day basis. We all view these things slightly differently, and are influenced by our own world views, subjective biases and experiences. However, even taking these matters into account, I believe it is relatively straightforward to show that at the very least CW is deserving of criticism by highlighting inconsistencies in the views he has expressed on the record in media interviews and public appearances, and in his practical approach to tackling the pandemic. I have used various sources to support the views expressed in this critique and all of the links are provided below. Expectations of CW As the UK’s Chief Medical Officer (CMO), CW holds the very highest position available in public health. He is “the UK government’s Chief Medical Adviser and head of the public health profession”. Needless to say, his position carries enormous overall responsibility in relation to the health and wellbeing of the UK’s general population. As such, my expectations of him are very high. I would expect a person in his position to act with the utmost decisiveness and authority and, in the context of a global pandemic – where time is of the essence - I would expect him to act early and implement his plans as quickly as possible. I would expect him to be a good communicator and to be able to deliver his views with logic and clarity, in a way that makes it easy for the layman to understand. And crucially, I would expect him to have an overriding duty to act in the interests of the public he represents in his position as head of the public health profession. If CW perceives the response of the government to be too slow or inadequate, I would expect him to voice his concerns robustly, given that his overriding duty should be to the public and not the government of the day. To conclude my expectations of CW, I would refer to a BBC website article dated 17th March 2020, carrying the headline The Man With Our Lives In His Hands, which summarised his role as “the official who will probably have the greatest impact on our everyday lives of any individual policymaker in modern times”. The “Gold Standard” Response to a Pandemic The following slide has been taken from Chris Martenson’s website “Peak Prosperity”. This slide was formulated before the Covid pandemic broke. It is based upon successful policies adopted by governments in South East Asian countries in response to the original SARS pandemic (often referred to as “SARS 1”). In my view, the stages of response illustrated in this slide make perfect sense, and a lot of them are straightforward common sense. For example, the first and most important step to take is to halt inbound infections. By halting inbound infections early with a robust border control policy, such as was used by the New Zealand government, the pandemic becomes manageable at an early stage. Similarly, by adopting universal face mask use, the natural route of transmission of an airborne respiratory virus can be somewhat quelled. All relatively straightforward. Juxtaposition of CW’s strategy and response Vs the “Gold Standard” Response In order to better understand CW, his views in relation to a pandemic and how he would propose to response to one I watched a video lecture of his predating the Covid pandemic entitled “How To Control A Pandemic”. By doing this I sought to understand, to a reasonable extent, how he would approach the pandemic, what his advice would be and whether he would follow his own advice in a practical real-world situation. The video is approximately an hour long and the link to the full video is provided below. I will go into this video in some detail, with time stamp references where appropriate. The first thing I would take issue with from CW’s lecture is at 6:10 when he asserts that “being rich as a society massively hardens that society against epidemics of ANY sort”. That being the case, why does the United States currently have the highest death toll in the world from Covid, standing at 600,000+, and why is the UK’s estimated death toll in the region of 150,000? This assertion does not bear up to a cursory bit of scrutiny in the context of the Covid pandemic. Moving on, at 7:49 and in relation to the Middle Eastern MERS outbreak CW makes reference to large outdoor gatherings and states that the disease spreads from there. According to CW these gatherings are “a real worry because of people becoming crowded... because of pilgrimages”. I agree with CW on this point – large gatherings are quite obviously a concern in the context of an airborne coronavirus. And yet the minutes of a meeting held by SAGE (of which CW is a prominent member) on 5th March 2020 concluded that “SAGE agreed that there is no evidence to suggest that banning very large gatherings would reduce transmission”. These views are not consistent with each other and it would take some explanation from CW to justify how that sentence appeared in the minutes of the 5th March meeting, given his views expressed on this point in the video lecture. For the avoidance of doubt, CW was in attendance at this meeting and therefore it is reasonable to presume that the minutes were written with his full approval. Fastforward to 13.16 of the video lecture and CW makes another of his assertions: “Above all else, route of transmission is the key to controlling the epidemic”. Again, I would agree with this point of view but similarly I would argue that CW has not followed his own advice in this respect. The main route of transmission in the case of the Covid pandemic is airborne transmission. I have copied the slide below from CW’s lecture, where he correctly identifies airborne transmission as the main route in relation to previous coronavirus outbreaks (SARS 1 and MERS). This being the case, and bearing in mind that a key early stage of the “Gold Standard” approach to responding to a respiratory pandemic is adopting a policy of universal face mask use, CW’s comments and policy in relation to face masks as the pandemic spread across the UK in the first wave leave a lot to be desired. The Independent, in an article dated 4th March 2020, reported CW stating that “in terms of wearing a mask, our advice is clear: that wearing a mask if you don’t have an infection reduces the risk almost not at all. So we do not advise that”. This is an astonishing piece of advice for a person in his position to give to the general public. CW knows that the main route of transmission is via airborne transmission, and is on record advising against the use of face masks and instead recommends the public to wash their hands regularly. This one contradiction alone is enough to completely condemn CW and his role in the response to the pandemic. I could finish writing this critique and immediately conclude that he is not fit for purpose on this point alone. Now, I can understand why he gave this advice and made the statement in the terms he did, because at the time there was political pressure to provide the NHS with adequate PPE. The view was that face masks should be reserved for the NHS and other health professionals. This is not a view I agree with. It is unfortunate that there is a division of responsibilities between the so–called “science” and the political response. I am digressing slightly, but in my opinion this division of responsibilities is not helpful and should not exist. All it leads to is a lack of accountability, where the politicians can say they were “following the science” and conversely the scientists can explain away any advice they give by saying that the advice was given but a political decision was made. We have seen this countless times throughout the pandemic. Nevertheless, even against this backdrop I find it to be completely intolerable and unconscionable for CW to expressly advise the UK public not to wear face masks. Is this really the standard of behaviour and speed of response one would expect from the person leading the scientific response to a pandemic? Clearly not. It is woefully inept and dangerous to the UK public, in my view. Furthermore, CW’s advice in relation to face masks flip-flopped from advising the public not to wear them to going as far as to recommend wearing them outside. In January of this year, he said this: “If people for example are crowded together in a queue outdoors, if they’re really huddled together round a market stall or something – that is a risk with this virus – and in that situation there might be some logic to people thinking about wearing masks”. In the space of nine months, he has veered from not recommending face masks at all to endorsing wearing them outside. And this is the man who says that controlling the main route of transmission is the most important thing “above all else” in controlling the pandemic. Moving on from face masks, at 45:50 CW introduces a new slide (see below) to demonstrate that airborne/influenza and respiratory type viruses are the highest risk on the UK’s National Risk Register, by some considerable margin. I simply ask, do you think the speed of his response, accuracy of his advice and level of urgency he has shown during this pandemic is commensurate to this level of risk? Finally, at 48:40, CW expresses his view that banning travel and screening at airports are “utterly useless”. This has been proven to be incorrect, by countries such as Australia and New Zealand. Mistakes Made I have touched upon this above and in relation to face masks have given full comment, so will limit this section of my critique to other mistakes made by CW and his contemporaries. Firstly, there is the controversial topic of herd immunity. As the pandemic was emerging and spreading to the UK, it appeared to many commentators in the media and press that the UK was endorsing a strategy of herd immunity. The theory was that by allowing general immunity to build up quickly in the population the impact of the virus would be absorbed relatively quickly, allowing society to reopen and normal life to return in a shorter period of time. Now, it is difficult to find any direct evidence of CW endorsing this policy, yet when his colleague Sir Patrick Vallance spoke about it, CW was conspicuous by his absence and there is certainly nothing on record to indicate CW speaking out against herd immunity prior to the implementation of the first national lockdown. In mid-March, Sir Patrick Vallance gave a number of media interviews appearing to endorse a strategy of herd immunity. “Our aim”, he told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme, is to “try and reduce the peak – not to suppress it completely, also because most people get a mild illness, to build up some degree of herd immunity whilst protecting the most vulnerable”. Note the use of the pronoun “our”, indicating that this was a collectively agreed strategy and one which I would suggest was endorsed by CW. He certainly did nothing to distance himself from Sir Patrick Vallance’s comments in relation to herd immunity, and therefore I believe it is reasonable to infer that he agreed with this strategy at that time. Vallance’s comments go some way to explaining why Boris Johnson’s government was reluctant to implement the lockdowns and social distancing measures that were already in place in many parts of Europe and the world. As Chief Medical Officer, I would suggest that CW should have intervened at this point and made a stronger case for an immediate lockdown, and should have distanced himself from any reference to a policy of herd immunity. Suffice to say, he did neither. The second area where I believe CW and his contemporaries have fallen way short is on border control. As stated above, in his video lecture CW asserts that banning travel is “utterly useless”. This view has been superseded by real world events. Many countries have successfully implemented rigorous border control policies in order to counter the threat of the pandemic. As far as the UK is concerned, action has been slow and indecisive. A porous “traffic light” system was eventually introduced, but it has proven to be inadequate as new variants take hold and prosper in the UK. I have provided two links below to articles from the Daily Telegraph dating back to March 2020. Unfortunately, these are behind paywalls but the headlines make CW’s approach to this issue clear: “Banning flights and screenings will not stop coronavirus spread” and “How Chris Whitty’s early advice set the template to keep UK border’s open”. CW’s remarkably casual approach to border control was also the subject of a BBC website article dated 13th March 2020, where it was explained that the UK’s approach to border control was based upon computer modelling with the intention of spreading the peak of the pandemic “until the summer months”. Evidently this did not work, with the UK experiencing an horrific death toll in the months immediately preceding the summer. CW’s haphazard approach to border control is mirrored by his reluctance to recommend other stringent measures, which other countries implemented early on in the pandemic, such as school closures and banning mass gatherings. As at 13th March 2020 (from the BBC website article referred to in the paragraph above), CW and his colleague Sir Patrick Vallance argued against banning mass gatherings and school closures. Instead, their advice to the public was to wash their hands and to self-isolate if they had symptoms. Again, their logic was based upon computer modelling. I would submit that this style of leadership, if that is what it can be called, is not suitable for a pandemic where time is of the essence. By refusing to recommend policies such as closing schools and banning mass gatherings at an early stage, and instead placing the emphasis on the public to self-police, the spread of the virus was surely exacerbated with fatal consequences. In view of the above, the UK’s very high death toll and the severe economic consequences the UK has suffered one could reasonably expect CW and his contemporaries to have learned from their mistakes, perhaps by looking towards other countries and territories - with better outcomes and good track records in relation SARS 1 - in order to see what they did differently, to establish what worked/did not work and to adapt accordingly. But there seems to be none of that; no contrition, no period of reflection, no asking what went wrong, no acknowledgement that mistakes were made, no humility, no willingness to learn from mistakes and/or try something different. When CW does change tack, for example with face masks, it is always too little, too late (a consistent theme of the UK’s response in general). The UK government did eventually introduce a mandatory face mask policy, but it was several months after the peak of the first wave and introduced at a time when circulation of the virus was low. We deserve better from our Chief Medical Officer, who sat passively by. CW is a compliant individual who tailors his advice to suit whatever is politically expedient for his paymasters, and rarely challenges his political counterparts openly. A good example of this is the Dominic Cummings incident, which involved clear, multiple and flagrant breaches of lockdown rules. CW refused to publicly condemn Dominic Cummings, and was happy to hide behind Boris Johnson’s insistence that his medical advisers should not be dragged into political controversy. I would argue that CW should have publicly condemned Dominic Cummings’ behaviour in order to reinforce the important public message about observing lockdown rules, and similarly following the recent revelations regarding Matt Hancock. As stated earlier in relation to my expectations of CW, his overriding duty should be to the public and protecting public health. Instead, CW is content to hide behind a political shield. He benefits from the questionable division of science and politics, a dichotomy upon which many bad decisions can be conveniently explained away and leads to a chronic lack of accountability. CW’s style is passive and vanilla. I ask my readership; can you think of one decisive intervention CW has made during the entire pandemic that has made a real difference? I cannot think of any such occasion. Instead, I find u-turns and inconsistent views, inadequate, cumbersome and slow responses, inertia and a lack of backbone/moral compass in relation to matters such as Dominic Cummings’ breach of lockdown rules. Some Counterbalance In defence of CW it is prudent to acknowledge that he can only operate within the larger framework of which he is a small (but significant) part. I have no doubt that if Chris Whitty were not in situ as Chief Medical Officer during this pandemic, then someone equally as compliant and politically malleable would be. There are structural and institutional issues at play, for which CW cannot be blamed personally. Nevertheless, CW is happy to operate in this environment so he is worthy of valid criticisms. Similarly, he is not solely response for the scientific/medical response. In my view he is highly culpable for the UK’s poor pandemic performance, but he is far from alone; Sir Patrick Vallance, Jonathan Van-Tam, Dido Harding, Dr Jenny Harries, Dr Susan Hopkins, Dominic Cummings and the UK government must also take their slice of the blame pie. Sir Patrick Vallance and Dr Jenny Harries, in particular, for their comments in relation to herd immunity and mass gatherings are highly culpable. Conclusions By many objective metrics the UK has suffered badly during this pandemic in comparison to other countries. The UK currently sits at 19th in the world on deaths per million of the population and would probably be higher if it were not for the government’s policy of limiting the total number of deaths to those who have died within 28 days of a positive test. Globally, only six countries have higher total death tolls and total numbers of cases than the UK. In Europe, the UK has the highest total number of deaths (by some margin, if the Office for National Statistics figures are used). Furthermore, in England alone it is estimated that more than two million people have suffered from long Covid. Economically, my understanding is that the UK has suffered one of the worst economic downturns out of all developed countries during the pandemic. Regardless of any comparison, it is surely unarguable that the economic fallout has been disastrous and has not been helped by the UK’s public health response to the pandemic. The pandemic has had a tremendously detrimental effect to the UK public both in terms of the death toll and loss of livelihood. And these matters merely scratch the surface – there is also the cultural impact, the negative consequences on the population’s mental health, their education and so on. The impact will be felt for decades to come, perhaps forever. I would argue that as Chief Medical Offer, CW must shoulder a due proportion of the blame for all of these consequences for the reasons I have elaborated upon throughout this critique. Links and references Coronavirus: Chief medical officer tells public not to wear masks | The Independent | The Independent Banning flights and screening arrivals will not stop coronavirus spread, says Chief Medical Officer What SAGE knew about coronavirus and large gatherings before Cheltenham Festival - Gloucestershire Live Government shift in face coverings policy as searches for ‘face masks’ spike dramatically in the UK • THIIS Magazine Learn to live with Covid in similar way to flu, says Prof Chris Whitty – video | UK news | The Guardian Chris Whitty warns people to distance despite English lockdown easing or risk a second wave – as it happened | Politics | The Guardian Coronavirus: Whitty and Vallance faced 'herd immunity' backlash, emails show - BBC News Exactly who said what about herd immunity and when, despite government's denials - Mirror Online Chris Whitty: 'No delay' in government's coronavirus response ; ITV News Chris Whitty says people should think about wearing masks in busy outdoor places - Mirror Online Revealed: how Chris Whitty's early advice set the template to keep UK's borders open during Covid crisis Coronavirus: Why is the UK not shutting schools like other countries? - BBC News Chris Whitty: The man with our lives in his hands - BBC News Boris Johnson gags medical experts to stop them discussing Dominic Cummings row | The Independent | The Independent Long Covid: More than two million in England may have suffered, study suggests - BBC News
  3. TK421

    Coronavirus

    Lighten up, fwend.
  4. TK421

    Coronavirus

    You're the one who's married.
  5. TK421

    Coronavirus

    It'll be worth the wait. It is nearing completion and could be up as soon as tonight.
  6. TK421

    Euro 2020(21)

    As a neutral, I just want to see a decent game and England get completely twatted.
  7. TK421

    Coronavirus

    The Red Bull will deffo work.
  8. TK421

    Coronavirus

    Traitor!!!
  9. TK421

    Coronavirus

    22,868 cases, 3 deaths.
  10. TK421

    Coronavirus

    Let's not go bowling.
  11. TK421

    Coronavirus

    The papers are referring to Javid as "lockdown sceptic". Not good.
  12. TK421

    Fish and Chips

    You should batter her.
  13. TK421

    Rate the last film you watched...

    First Saw is excellent.
  14. TK421

    Euro 2020(21)

    Good intensity.
  15. TK421

    Euro 2020(21)

    Get Totti on.
  16. TK421

    Coronavirus

    https://www.cnbc.com/2021/06/25/delta-who-urges-fully-vaccinated-people-to-continue-to-wear-masks-as-variant-spreads.html WHO urges fully vaccinated people to continue to wear masks as delta Covid variant spreads
  17. TK421

    Coronavirus

    How polite.
  18. TK421

    Coronavirus

    No, they don't share my views.
  19. TK421

    Coronavirus

    It's not practical to take them regularly.
  20. TK421

    Coronavirus

    No I didn't. What's your point? If you don't answer, I'll just assume you're on the wind up as usual with nothing insightful to say.
  21. TK421

    Coronavirus

    No. I don't have any faith in the lateral flow tests. The FDA said they should be thrown in the bin. I ask again, what is your point? https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/jun/11/us-health-agency-gives-innova-lateral-flow-covid-tests-scathing-review Innova tests’ performance not proven and they should be returned to manufacturer or thrown in bin, says FDA.
  22. TK421

    Coronavirus

    Yes, I'd imagine so. I think that applies to pretty much everyone. What's your point?
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