SAGE minutes from 21 September released last night reveal that 3 weeks ago, when infections were running at 6,000 a day, the Government received advice for 5 key interventions. It chose to implement just one of them. Now infections are running at 14,500 a day and hospitalisations are rising sharply in the north. Far from March where the Government appeared to follow SAGE recommendations to the letter, now the approach seems more à la carte…
The number one suggestion from SAGE – “A circuit-breaker (short period of lockdown) to return incidence to low levels” was rejected, as was banning of household mixing and closure of hospitality – in that order. Strangely the Government also rejected the idea that “university and college teaching to be online unless face-to-face teaching is absolutely essential” – a seemingly low cost intervention. The scientific advice said interventions that should be considered immediately are:
a. A circuit-breaker (short period of lockdown) to return incidence to low levels.
b. Advice to work from home for all those that can.
c. Banning all contact within the home with members of other households (except members of a support bubble)
d. Closure of all bars, restaurants, cafes, indoor gyms, and personal services (e.g. hairdressers)
e. All university and college teaching to be online unless face-to-face teaching is absolutely essential.
Indeed Chirs Whitty, speaking of the baseline ‘Tier 3’ measures last night said “the base will not be sufficient I think that’s very clearly the professional view” – saying measures in the highest risk areas of the country are not enough. The Government, however points to the economic harm a lockdown would instigate, as the primary reason to avoid one. The minutes do also go on to say “All the interventions considered have associated costs in terms of health and wellbeing and many interventions will affect the poorest members of society to a greater extent.”
SAGE, however also did conclude it had “high confidence” that “The more rapidly interventions are put in place, and the more stringent they are, the faster the reduction in incidence and prevalence, and the greater the reduction in COVID-related deaths.”
The Government’s middle way ‘balanced approach’ in practice means both those calling for ‘Circuit Breaker’ lockdown and those calling for “focused protection” of the vulnerable, whilst the rest of life returns to normal, feel that the measures are wrong. If you stand in the middle of the road you get hit by traffic from both sides…