26 March 2020 — True Publica
By TruePublica: In the UK, the government response to the Covid-19 outbreak was initially to allow the population to be infected as a means of defence by creating what they termed ‘herd immunity.’ This strategy was met with clear opposition by almost all scientists, health professionals and experts very quickly. Public reaction was muted early on but rapidly turned to anger as the realisation set in that ‘herd immunity’ was a programme that, in the end, encouraged the ‘culling’ of those most vulnerable, such as those with underlying health conditions. For modern societies, this is completely unacceptable. It is immoral on every level no matter what the science or logic points to. For instance, logic tells retired (high risk) medics to stay away, but the human spirit is such that thousands have stepped forward to help complete strangers get through this deadly pandemic.
The Boris Johnson government has floundered in the face of a crisis. It has been seen to be reacting behind the curve with an inevitability that the ‘herd immunity’ strategy will indeed be how this plays out for many people. And time will tell what the eventual mortality rate will be. In the end, questions will have to be answered against two eventualities A) how many people died unnecessarily through the direct actions of government and B) how will the government pick up the economic pieces (ie who will be made to pay for it all – think 2008, banks and austerity and the 120,000 people it killed).
For now, the government has locked the country down. They have created a set of new laws quite unprecedented in British history – even surpassing government power during both World Wars. Police have been given new powers of arrest, the military have been called in to assist.
The public is aware and knows what the country is facing. It understands that an extremely high consequence response to a threat that could kill thousands is required. The public is generally behind this strategy.
And yet, the British government has reclassified Covid-19 as less of a consequence than SARS (total global deaths recorded 774), MERS (total global deaths recorded 600), – along with Avian Influenza H7N9, H5N1, H5N6, and H7N7. Listed as High Consequence Infectious Disease (HCID) is even the Andes Virus Infection (possible one global death) which infected just four people in the UK with no known deaths.
In the UK, a High Consequence Infectious Disease is defined by the government, according to the following criteria:
- acute infectious disease
- typically has a high case-fatality rate
- may not have effective prophylaxis or treatment
- often difficult to recognise and detect rapidly
- ability to spread in the community and within healthcare settings
- requires an enhanced individual, population and system response to ensure it is managed effectively, efficiently and safely
All of these criteria are fully met with Covid-19.
As of 25th March 02.30hrs GMT, there were approx 430,000 Covid-19 infections recorded around the world with approx 19,000 deaths. The UK has recorded 422 deaths, already surpassing any High Consequence Infectious Disease recorded since the last World War.
However, confirmation is updated on 21st March 2020 and reads:
“The Advisory Committee on Dangerous Pathogens (ACDP) is also of the opinion that COVID-19 should no longer be classified as an HCID.”
The government officially now states that:
“The 4 nations public health HCID group made an interim recommendation in January 2020 to classify COVID-19 as an HCID. This was based on consideration of the UK HCID criteria about the virus and the disease with information available during the early stages of the outbreak. Now that more is known about COVID-19, the public health bodies in the UK have reviewed the most up to date information about COVID-19 against the UK HCID criteria. They have determined that several features have now changed; in particular, more information is available about mortality rates (low overall), and there is now greater clinical awareness and a specific and sensitive laboratory test, the availability of which continues to increase. The Advisory Committee on Dangerous Pathogens (ACDP) is also of the opinion that COVID-19 should no longer be classified as an HCID.”
The Advisory Committee on Dangerous Pathogens (source) is made up of scientists, doctors, professors, members of NHS foundations and one Group Captain Christopher Melville OBE representing the Ministry of Defence. The role of the ACDP is – “an expert committee of the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC). Its work cuts across a number of organisations, including the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), Public Health England (PHE) and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).” Their terms of reference are – “To provide as requested independent scientific advice to HSE, and to ministers through DHSC, Defra, and their counterparts under devolution in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, on all aspects of hazards and risks to workers and others from exposure to pathogens.”
This entire reclassification of Covid-19 by the government is mystifying. Although the recommendation on this government document says – “All healthcare workers managing possible and confirmed cases should follow the updated national infection and prevention (IPC) guidance for COVID-19.“ the message seems clear – Covid-19 is not classed as a high consequence infectious disease, which it patently is. Why has the entire country been put on lockdown if Covid-19 is not a threat?
Additionally, the updated document ends with – “This guidance includes instructions about different personal protective equipment (PPE) ensembles that are appropriate for different clinical scenarios.”
Has the government covered its back to stop legal cases against it for not supplying the correct safety equipment to frontline medics who die given that many doctors are complaining of lack of PPE?
Is the government continuing with its ‘herd-immunity’ programme irrespective of what it appears to be doing (just as austerity silently killed 120,000 people) – and was this why they seemed to act so late against scientific advice?
Is the plan to get this disease through the population as fast as possible to save the economy? (Hedge funds, corporations, billionaires, Brexit deadline, etc – the main financial backers of the Conservative party?).