Zoe (for those not in the UK) is a voluntary app that has been tracking a decent sample of the population for COVID symptoms, test results and so on, throughout the pandemic. It has usually given a more accurate picture of the current state of play than the ONS data, plagued as that is by poor definitions and worse. Here is an interesting graph from their data:
It shows the course of the “R” number for the winter peaks of 2020-21, and 2021-22, in the UK.
Now bear in mind that last year we had the Alpha variant in an unvaccinated population, together with tiered restrictions that were, in a panic, converted to a full lockdown just after the cases peaked, as it happens.
This year is completely different. The vast majority of cases are the Omicron variant, and the population for the most part are double or triple vaccinated or else recovered from previous COVID. And on December 10th, a quasi-lockdown was imposed involving enforced working from home, a mask mandate and vaccine passports, but not the full gamut of last year’s rules: even the pubs and churches, those sinks of sepsis, remained open.
I think you’ll agree that the graphs are, to all intents and purposes, identical. Bear in mind that what NPIs are supposed to achieve is a slowing of the infection rate (flattening the curve or whatever Boris did with his sombrero) in order to reduce pressure on the NHS. They can never actually decrease the case numbers. As one can see, the rise this year, accelerating just after “Plan B” was enforced, could scarcely be more vertiginous (just as was last year’s before the lockdown), and in both years it reverses abruptly in just the same way that the Omicron spike in South Africa did without all those restrictions.
In fact the shape of both curves is just like that of every COVID outbreak anywhere, showing the expected Gompertz pattern where the outbreak runs out of steam when it encounters enough immune people. To put it another way, there is no sign whatsoever that either set of Christmas-spoilers, job-destroyers and child-tortures made a ha’porth of difference to the course of the pandemic. If you can spot even a degree of flattening, you’ve a better imagination than I have.
Although the word on the street is that vaccine passports may be withdrawn when the recent measures are reviewed on 26th January (there being no possible justification for them in this endemic of the vaccinated, though I’ll only believe they’ve gone when I see it), it is hinted that they may continue to insist on masks in public venues and, presumably, schools.
In vain does one point out the mass of evidence of all kinds that masks, especially the ubiquitous cloth masks, are worse than useless. In vain does one even point out that the report Sajid Javid used to justify school masking in fact indicates the opposite policy was the way to go. I guess the only vaguely plausible reasoning would be that masks are the one policy required both this year and last year, and so they must be what aborted the outbreaks… even though the rises came after masking was imposed.
Perhaps, in the light of such monolithic stupidity masquerading as scientific public health, constantly churned out in the media, it is not too surprising that I still find it hard to persuade people at church that they have been well and truly conned, and that it matters. They are singing through socks and suffocating through sermons for no other reason than to appease abusive lawmakers who break these arbitrary rules themselves.
But I did have no less than two small rays of hope this morning, as I was masked up to buy enough Abbot Ale and Thatcher’s Cider in Tesco to last me, in my forlorn hopes, until the masks moulder away. One was an encounter in the supermarket car-park with a fellow church member, to whom I explained my expedition. To my delight, when I mentioned masks, she said, “Well, they don’t work anyway…” Maybe the feeling is widespread, in which case it raises the question of why we don’t all simply refuse to wear the things in church (hint – the Baptist Union “health and safety guidelines” are, in fact, just the government diktats repackaged to keep the police, rather than the virus, off our backs. We follow them from denominational loyalty in lieu of assessing public health risks on the first principles I spent a career understanding).
The second, even more agreeable, experience was the checkout operator, a cheerful and obviously well-educated chap who, I suppose, is working there because a PhD in English Literature doesn’t pay the mortgage nowadays. Anyway, as I passed the time of day about the sunshine, he volunteered that nevertheless it all seems rather surreal to him. When I replied that this had been the case for the last two years, he suggested life now is rather like a John Wyndham novel. I offered 1984 in return, and he responded with “Kafkaesque,” a term I never expected to hear when paying for my groceries. But he’s joined the dots!
Whether these two conversations are evidence of the unraveling of narrative I described in my last post, or whether I have just found another couple of secret dissidents, I don’t know. But it is always comforting to know that you’re not the only one who thinks its the world that’s out of step with reality, not you.