Continuing from yesterdays post, I came across this article from Lockdown Sceptics which puts into perspective what I have bee saying, only more succinctly. The article says it all. I am staying on this topic because it is so important to all of us, as similar decisions may be taken by the Government on this sort of flimsy data to re-enforce a lockdown where any of us happen to live.
What on earth does the Government think it’s doing? What possible reason is there for reimposing a full lockdown on Leicester? In an act of sheer lunacy, Matt Hancock announced this morning that non-essential shops have been told to close today and schools asked to shut their doors to the majority of children from Thursday. Pubs, restaurants and hair salons that have been gearing up to re-open on Saturday have now been told to remain closed.
The rationale, needless to say, is that Leicester has seen a “surge” in cases, with over 900 new cases in the past two weeks. Confusion surrounded this figure since the published data for Leicester recorded just 80 new positive tests between June 13th and 26th. But Hancock now says there were in fact 944.
How do we know the increase in cases isn’t simply an artefact of increased testing in Leicester? We don’t, obviously. The 80 figure is based on Pillar 1 data, which are from tests done in hospitals; the 944 figure is based on Pillar 2 data, which are from tests done at Government centres or at home and processed by commercial labs. But surely the hospital data are more reliable than the community data – although these are all PCR tests and they’re all notoriously unreliable (see this Off-Guardian piece). And if the number of new cases being discovered by hospitals is low that suggests there isn’t a “surge” in new cases in the community. Deaths, too, are low, although, to be fair, if the alleged rise in cases has only happened since June 13th you wouldn’t expect to see any corresponding rise in deaths yet. On June 29th, only two people died from COVID-19 in the whole of the Midlands. According to the FT, the rise in infections is mainly among younger people (as it is in southern and southwestern US states) which means we’re unlikely to see any corresponding rise in deaths.
Let’s suppose the Pillar 2 data are accurate and there have been 944 new cases in Leicester between June 13th and 26th. That’s an average of 472 new cases/week. Assuming an infection fatality rate of ~0.25% (almost certainly an over-estimate), that means ~1 person/week will die if the infection rate remains where it is. And even that’s over-egging it, given that a majority of the new cases are among younger people.
Is it really worth reimposing a lockdown on Leicester to prevent one person/week from dying? I looked at the NHS England data for hospital deaths and of the five people who died from coronavirus on June 29th four were 80+ years’ old.
So the people of Leicester are being asked to close schools, shut non-essential shops and keep their pubs, restaurants and hair salons shuttered for two more weeks in order to prevent the deaths of two people aged 80+? Setting aside the civil liberties argument, is Matt Hancock confident that more than one person per week won’t die as a result of reimposing the lockdown? I’m thinking of cancer operations being postponed, the increased risk of suicide and domestic violence, and elderly people who may die of thirst or starvation because their relatives aren’t allowed to visit them.
What an absolute shower this Government is. If I was the Mayor of Leicester, I’d just point-blank refuse to comply. This report on Sky says the Leicester lockdown has “legal underpinning” which sounds like a mealy-mouthed way of saying its not legally enforceable.