The assured results of modern public health

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Although the word on the street is that vaccine passports may be withdrawn when the recent measures are reviewed on 26th January (there being no possible justification for them in this endemic of the vaccinated, though I’ll only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.

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.
This entry was posted in Medicine, Politics and sociology, Science. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The assured results of modern public health

  1. Gordon says:

    Happy New Year, great to see some new posts on the site 🙂

    Whereas I could be considered mildly vaccine-hesitant (single jabbed, very mild Covid early January), I have been staunchly anti-mask since May 2020 when I recognised the pandemic as having mainly subsided in the uk.

    Although perhaps not the most physically damaging measures taken during the pandemic, I think mask mandates are perhaps one of the worst in terms of political authoritarianism, fear propagation and virtue signalling.

    John Lee did a few articles and podcasts in 2020 which convinced me that masks were pointless and actually damaging. I then downloaded my government exemption card, popped it in an old Glastonbury lanyard and wear it whenever I’m in the shops.

    Although I admit to a degree of bloody-mindedness, I genuinely feel that there’s a moral reason for not buying into Covid-hysteria which includes wearing masks. There’s also a moral justification, in my mind, for refusing to do “stupid” things just to appease politicians and a hysterical population, brainwashed into believing such crazed measures make sense or worse, virtue-signalling their goodness while wearing masks round their chins.

    Perhaps the most egregious case of mask-nonsense was when our local Scout troop mandated that all children parading through the High Street for Remembrance Day would have to be masked. I gave my two eldest boys, (10 and 8) the choice whether to participate and they chose to watch the parade from the side, wearing their uniforms but without masks. Disgracefully, other children were tearfully excluded from the parade for not having masks. In the end, only the Scouts in the parade wore masks, not the hundreds of other people in the parade or the thousand or so watching.

    Over the past year, I’ve taken a fair amount of flak, even when wearing my lanyard, for not being masked and sometimes I think it would be easier just to join in. But I am also encouraged by the increasing numbers of people also eschewing masks and, I’m glad to say, some shop staff too. Each of us anti-maskers not only give the knowing eye, we can also smile.

    • Jon Garvey says:

      Gordon, respect to you for your consistency. I’ve taken, for good or ill, a position of wearing a mask only to respect others in churches, Tescos etc – having no plausible reason for an exemption other than a phobia of lies. I’ve not (yet) had the courage to put on the “Placebo” mask I bought in any gathering serious enough to warrant it, but that time may yet come..

      At the same time, it’s encouraging to hear your condemnation of masks as the single most egregious control mechanism, as I’ve argued with others on our church leadership along just those lines. Indeed, I felt so devastated when the mandate came back that a dear old guy in church – himself under great strain with a hospitalised wife – came to me to say how ill I looked after a service. Most days I still don’t look much better!

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