Lockdown – a nationwide prospective study (update 1)

It’s hard to be sure as yet, but there now seems a definite downturn in the latest overall ONS “cases” data, for 4th January. The problem is that if it’s real, it begins on 1st January, 4 days before lockdown. Therefore if it continues, without a clear change in slope, lockdown is both ineffective and unnecessary. I’ll keep updating. Here’s the chart:

Latest data on cases – A real downturn? If so, not caused by lockdown

As I showed in a comment on the first post on this subject the government’s own charts, at the event announcing lockdown, showed a downturn in cases in London and the Southeast which actually began on 24th December, beginning to bend even before that.

Today the Daily Mail has posted official charts showing the coincidence of today’s improvement with lockdown, and a similar coincidence with the second lockdown and improvement. This is deliberately misleading as both improvements preceded any possible effect of lockdowns, and indeed cases began to rise sharply during the last week of Lockdown 2. The charts, if properly dated, show non-correlation.

The Mail notes the clear improvement in London, attributing it to a late effect of Tier 4. But in fact the tide began to turn only 3 days or so after Tier 4 was introduced, too early for causation, so if anything the change correlates with Tier 3 rather than Tier 4, let alone Tier 5 lockdown. More probably it is nothing to do with public restrictions whatsoever.

The question, though, is why the apparent “success” of lockdown, in terms of the test results definite in London and encouraging across the nation as a whole, makes no difference whatsoever to the government’s determination to tighten things up further this week. We have the usual preparatory draconian “what is necessary” broadcasts by dead-eyed Chris Whitty (who is supposed, we thought, to be informing government on science, not pre-empting their policies), and the similar “this will hurt me more than it hurts you” ministerial leaks in the press.

Plus, of course, we have the scary anecdotes about collapsing hospitals, young victims and so on. Major supermarkets are enforcing “single shopper” policies in lockstep – great if you’re a single Mum with a toddler or infant excluded from school (just leave them outside in the buggy – what could go wrong?).

All this we are used, by now, to seeing as the behavioural softening-up processes for harsher restrictions a little less than the worst called for by SAGE. This makes the government look moderate and compassionate, disguising the fact that they have consistently refused to publish their cost-benefit analysis, which must undoubtedly go along the lines of that made in Canada by Ari Joffe.

On any measure it would show mortality from collateral damage an order of magnitude higher than any possible count of lives saved from lockdown, and far more if one considers that the average years of life taken by a COVID death is 1-2, whereas just one teenage suicide costs 60 years of life. It’s callous, not compassionate.

The soaring total number of tests is still the same main panic-point, but is of course a totally meaningless statistic given the numerically and regionally variable sampling base. However you may remember that the percentage of positive tests in the last week of data for my post on 5th January was 13%. Now it is 9%. If the government believes its own meaningless data, then things were improving very significantly – a 4% drop in cases – across the nation the day before lockdown.

I’ll do a further update when the data gets updated to include the lockdown period.

About Jon Garvey

Training in medicine (which was my career), social psychology and theology. Interests in most things, but especially the science-faith interface. The rest of my time, though, is spent writing, playing and recording music.
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2 Responses to Lockdown – a nationwide prospective study (update 1)

  1. Jon Garvey says:

    On a related topic, the DOE are going to introduce daily testing in schools to enable, they say, a quicker return to normal. No doubt SAGE has advised them thus, more the fool SAGE.

    But a paper on the Centre for Evidence Based Medicine website shows the sheer folly of this. It actually used Parliament as an example, the Speaker having suggested a similar daily testing scheme there “to get back to normal.”

    But the authors point out that if a test has a false positive rate of only 1% (a highly conservative estimate for PCR), then in a school of 1000, 10 normal kids will be sent home to self-isolate for 10 days each day. By the end of a fortnight, 10% of your students (and staff) will be off, and that percentage will continue to cycle forever if there is no COVID.

    If there is some virus about, then you must add in all the false positives in those who were infected months ago and still test positive – estimated by some at 90% of all PCRs.

    This is almost certainly what is happening in the NHS, where hospital staff are being tested twice weekly and we hear reports of up to 30% of staff off sick. Many of those will have tested falsely positive and be self-isolating, rather than stressed. Given that bed occupancy is not far off usual levels for the season, that policy-induced staff absence, together with the policy-induced closure of 10,000 beds for social distancing. explains why there seems to be a bed crisis.

  2. Jon Garvey says:

    OK – it seems Priti Patel admits that lockdown is working (which of course means cases were going down before it started, but hey). So the draconian closure of nurseries, the 3 meter distancing and so on won’t be needed… just the sterner policing of what people are allowed to do.

    So if it doesn’t work, you toughen up, and if it works, you can… toughen up. Sound like an abusive relationship to you?

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