A politician speaks

I’m not sure a strategy of escalating measures is appropriate in the circumstances. It seems to me that what is required to deal with coronavirus is drastic preemptive action rather than reacting to a worsening situation. Why, for example, only ban gatherings of over 500 people. Is infection less likely to spread in a group of 499 than in a group of 501? Surely, on average, the same percentage of people will be infected. if the infection rate is 60% then in a gathering of 1000 people 600 will contract the disease. Two gatherings of 500 people resulting in 300 new infections each give exactly the same outcome. It does nothing to stop the spread of the disease.

Fortunately, a combination of good sense and fear is likely to more effective as it deters people from assembling in groups of any size. Self-isolation after symptoms are in evidence also does nothing to stop the spread of the disease as it is, by definition, a measure taken after the disease has already spread. What stops a pandemic in its tracks is a total cessation of any physical contact or proximity between individuals initiated the moment the virus is detected in the population. This may not be practicable. But the precautionary principle would require us to take this ideal as our starting point and scale back only when and to the extent cannot be avoided.

Escalating towards the most effective measures in response to data about the spread of the disease cannot be effective as you will always and necessarily be acting too late. It’s not epidemiology. It’s just good sense.

So why isn’t it happening? What other reason than political cowardice?

The UK Government is arguably further behind the curve than many other governments. But I see no cause for smug superiority while our own First Minister makes idiotically contradictory statements in which she claims “all possible steps” are being taken then immediately refers to steps which are not being taken as a matter of choice.



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20 thoughts on “A politician speaks

  1. What empty platitudes issue from the FM. The WHO advice is to test, track, contain. Health is devolved. But no public testing is going on in Scotland, or efforts to track and contain those infected and their contacts. Plane loads of passengers from Italy and Spain were allowed to disembark from Scottish airports in the last couple of days with no efforts being made to test them or even issuing advice that they should quarantine themselves for two weeks. They were allowed through airports and on to buses, taxis, trams. Norway has this weekend closed its airports and ports. Foreigners (tourists) landing at Bergen this weekend were being asked to either return home or self-isolate for two weeks. Drive through testing centres are being set up in other countries that have managed to contain the spread. Channel 4 on Friday night had news of a ten minute testing kit that will be available to pharmacists next week. Sturgeon should requisition supplies and set up drive through testing centres that identify and monitor infected people.

    In the virtual abdication of responsibility by both UK and Scottish governments the best we can do is to self isolate and avoid public transport and crowds of any size.

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  2. People are too busy right now grappling with the situation and the best course of action to take. Once this is all over the political carnage is going to be extensive and the higher the mortality rate then the more severe the retribution will be.

    Leadership is what is required right now from the Scottish Government. If they are unable or unwilling to provide it, then, regardless of the reason, they will be swept away with the rest.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I totally agree Peter. This situation requires immediate and far reaching emergency action without causing the herd to stampede. It’s also an utter disgrace that the Tories are suddenly throwing enormous amounts of fiat money around under the illusion that the economy is back on an even keel.
    We should have been trying to get ahead of the curve before it starts going verticle and stopping the rate of increase at the beginning. The Tories are gambling with the lives of the most vulnerable in our communities. On another note where is the utter outrage by the WASPI women at the Tories ability to suddenly find unlimited amounts of money to deal with these events when many of them will be badly affected by this virus. Where is the SNP’s and Labours and the other opposition political parties response to this. The cynic might suggest that there could be significant savings to be had by the virus’s impact on the older members of our communities.

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  4. Taking a wild guess, I suspect you are not among the least vulnerable, Peter, so here’s hoping that you stay safe and well, in anticipation that we can continue to spar for some time to come! Which somewhat frustratingly for us both it may have to be. While I have long shared your impatience over lack of action, and regret that we are where we are now precisely because delay always offers increased opportunity for “events” to intrude and impose, so very forcefully as in current circumstances.

    That having been said, perhaps we can at least be thankful that are not trying to run a full-on indy campaign right now. Small mercies. Our common cause may be temporarily inconvenienced, but most certainly it is neither diminished nor going away.

    All the best.

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    1. We need to keep reminding people that since Thatcher our NHS, social care, everything in the public sector has been sold off, pared to the bone all to support the financialisation of the economy, which has brought us crash after crash, and left support services like the NHS and care without any resilience to deal with the kind of pandemic we are now facing.

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  5. The only aim now can be to protect the most vulnerable, in the hope that treatment is found for them. The countries that have stemmed the tide have easily controlled borders and tend to ignore or be shut out from the advice of the China-owned WHO. (Taiwan and Singapore spring to mind.) Countries keen to have commercial links with China (such as Iran and Italy) were given the virus before the Chinese Communist Party was prepared to admit the problem.

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  6. There’s another good piece from one of Peter’s sparring partners, James Kelly who also references an excellent article by an epidemiologist in the Guardian.

    If you’re in a vulnerable group the best policy seems to be to reduce social contacts to as low as possible. Don’t take risks as it’s impossible to know who’s a carrier and has no symptoms.

    Hope to continue reading your excellent expositions, Peter.

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  7. It seems one of the reasons the big public gatherings (outside of churches, that is) of 500 was given as the cut off point, is those one over 500 tend to have some element of emergency service provision,as cover. Say Police/Ambulance, etc.
    That appears to be the reason they came to that decision.
    Tho, one would have thought comon sense would ask see that gathering of large numbers in same place would still be a problem.
    But yet again, this very night, we had a tory MP from somewhere in deepest England tell us on Radio Four “WESTMINSTER HOUR” that Scotland had “resilience” issues, when asked of the different approaches between Scotland and England!!!

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      1. No. But they came to that particular number to keep the Police and Ambulance free for other things.
        So they keep telling us, anyway.
        That is why they went for gatherings above 500.
        Tho, I find it bizarre they couldn’t have set a lower limit, if they feel there is a risk of infection, etc.
        But according to reports on News, the Scottish Govt, doesn’t actually have the power to limit gatherings, but can only “Advise”, which is even more bizarre!

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  8. Policy emanating from Westminster with regard to this pandemic is tantamount to a State sponsored cull of the feeble and aged members of our society and on current form the Scottish Government, led by Nicola Sturgeon, would appear not yet to have grasped the truly critical nature of the crisis.

    I would concur with Stuart Mackay but the concept of leadership has been forfeited in the quest for universal acclaim and no more obvious is this the case than when viewed from the perspective of honestly prosecuting the case for Scottish Independence. The crisis now facing our country requires decisive government measures be taken to protect our communities and self discipline on the part of the populace. Selfies with the First Minister are no longer a panacea!

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    1. I think that view is utterly without merit. Scottish government are fully aware, better than anyone, how serious this health emergency could get. I agree that the independence case is not going in any decent direction but that’s surely on hold until this crisis is over.
      One fight at a time.

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      1. I don’t see why the push for Independence should be stopped for this Flu thing.
        We now have well known SNP figures even telling us, we must wait ’till next year, such as that Inverclyde councillor.
        This is unacceptable!!
        This epidemic is a glaring reason why we shouldn’t be hanging around waiting for London to say “No”, over and over. And they ain’t gonna be saying “Yeah” at this time.
        Scotland should be declaring its Independence over this very debacle, the way London rule prevents us from doing half the things we ought to be. Like having those coming from other countries screened at airports, and the staffers at those airports properly protected, and advised, etc .Instead we are now getting hit with more of this wait, and see, ’till it’s all over mush from SNP figures, we expected better of.
        This whole thing is getting me real angry now.
        Especially when in a store and I see the insanity of panic buying, as just recently in a supermarket.earlier today.
        And to add this stupid selling out from SNP we see from them, is really the absolute pits!

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      2. mogabee4 I seem to recall in the recent past a similar defence in respect of the Scottish Government’s position regarding the Section 30 process and of how politically ‘fully aware’ they were in pursuing that course of action. Needless to say the sheer folly of that tactic has been mercilessly exposed for what it is and we can only hope that the strategy and tactics deployed in the fight against this most virulent pandemic are based on best practice as expressed by Dr William Hanage in his article in The Guardian and not by the whims of a Westminster government mired in deceit! Devolved NHS Scotland notwithstanding.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Unfortunately, the “independence case” was “on hold” long before this crisis was upon us. So desperate are the SNP’s apologists I have even seen the odd one or two taking the line that it’s just as well the independence project wasn’t in full swing. As if Nicola Sturgeon was “fully aware” of the impending public health emergency.

        Liked by 1 person

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