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Do we trust the experts in regard to COVID-19?

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DustyBin

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I was going to post this in the restrictions thread but it’s now locked.... The discussion had probably wandered a bit OT in any case so I thought it best to start a new one.

I generally have the greatest respect for experts in any field, and I’ll happily admit to feeling reassured by the presence of Whitty, Valance, Van-Tam et al. when the virus first ‘arrived’. Remember, this was an indiscriminate killer, Ebola-like in its virulence. We all saw the footage of bodies in the streets of Wuhan (real?) and the overflowing hospital wards in Italy. I was, as I expect the majority of people were at the time, actually quite worried. We then saw huge numbers of deaths, many the result of misjudged policies (sending infected people back to care homes being the obvious example) and a genuine misunderstanding within the medical community as to how best to treat those infected (the use of ventilators being one example). The latter I can forgive as this is after all a novel virus. Since then things have settled down, we’ve got better at protecting the vulnerable, although a LOT more could be done, we have much more effective treatments and the virus may or may not have mutated into a less deadly strain (nobody seems to know). Meanwhile it continues to transmit, largely harmlessly, through the population which may or may not be building herd immunity (again nobody seems to know). Whilst this should be good news, according to the experts it isn’t. Whilst deaths remain relatively low in number and are overwhelmingly of those we know are vulnerable, the infection rate is rising as per the infamous ‘non-prediction’ graph and therefore further restrictions are required. Little is said about the massively increased testing capacity we now have, or the fact that educational establishments have reopened for example, just that infections are increasing and deaths will follow. It is therefore very difficult to overlook the possibility that the experts are following a narrative. Why is anybody’s guess, but on the face of it there are so many facts and so many variables simply being overlooked that people are beginning to question their expertise, or at the very least their honesty.

In defence of the experts, their role is to provide advice in their areas of expertise, and it is for the government to then make informed policy decisions based on this advice and that of experts from many other unrelated disciplines. Whitty openly stated this months ago. I don’t believe this is actually happening which is in part why we are seeing a ‘beat the virus at any cost’ policy. When the problems associated with such a policy are so glaringly obvious, it’s perfectly understandable why people are becoming at best frustrated, at worst mistrusting of those they see as driving policy decisions.
 
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Bletchleyite

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While Whitty and Vallance are concentrating solely on medical impact (as is their job), I trust them to do that as they are instructed to do and they have done it all along.

I don't trust the politicians. Not one little bit.
 

DustyBin

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While Whitty and Vallance are concentrating solely on medical impact (as is their job), I trust them to do that as they are instructed to do and they have done it all along.

I don't trust the politicians. Not one little bit.

But are they? I think it’s a legitimate criticism that they are ignoring the wider public health impact of the restrictions being imposed. Their job titles are not ‘Chief COVID-19 Officer’ and ‘Chief COVID-19 Advisor’ respectively are they? They appear to be fixated on this one virus, and if they aren’t they really need to communicate that they aren’t a lot better.

Agreed re politicians incidentally!
 

ComUtoR

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It is therefore very difficult to overlook the possibility that the experts are following a narrative.

It is the press, social media, and politicians that are creating the narrative.
 

A0wen

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While Whitty and Vallance are concentrating solely on medical impact (as is their job), I trust them to do that as they are instructed to do and they have done it all along.

I don't trust the politicians. Not one little bit.

But they have very different roles - the medical experts don't have to worry about the impact on the economy for example, or enforcing restrictions they may deem essential. Whereas the politicians have to balance the needs for a functioning economy, not overwhelming the health service and not allowing the virus to spread - and in the case of the last of those, they can put limits in place but unless people are sensible and follow the rules it won't succeed, yet people then blame the politicians for it not succeeding.......
 

Wuffle

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While Whitty and Vallance are concentrating solely on medical impact (as is their job), I trust them to do that as they are instructed to do and they have done it all along.

I don't trust the politicians. Not one little bit.

I don't trust Whitty and Vallance or SAGE either - look at their links to Gates and Imperial
 

MikeWM

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Vallance should have gone immediately his continuing interest in GSK was disclosed. Whether it is unduly influencing his decisions or not, it is a totally unacceptable conflict of interest, not least for the other pharmaceutical companies.
 

Bletchleyite

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I don't trust Whitty and Vallance or SAGE either - look at their links to Gates and Imperial

The Bill Gates conspiracy theory is absolute garbage and is grossly insulting to a man who has been rather more of a philanthropist in his approach in latter years than a good many other rich people. Please don't believe it. It truly is nonsense.

What on earth agenda do you think Imperial College has? They aren't really in a position to have one as they have no power (other than over their students) - they are genuinely saying what they believe.

Seriously, get yourself a tinfoil hat.
 

Yew

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The Bill Gates conspiracy theory is absolute garbage and is grossly insulting to a man who has been rather more of a philanthropist in his approach in latter years than a good many other rich people. Please don't believe it. It truly is nonsense.

What on earth agenda do you think Imperial College has? They aren't really in a position to have one as they have no power (other than over their students) - they are genuinely saying what they believe.

Seriously, get yourself a tinfoil hat.

I agree that the Gates stuff is utter garbage, I'd be more concerned about their investments in vaccine companies.

I suppose Imperial College could have a lot of blame placed at it's door if all of this kerfuffle based on their modelling appears to be wrong. "Imperial Modelling causes unprecedented international damage" would not be a good headline to have; but again, that seems unlikely.
 

scarby

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...the virus may or may not have mutated into a less deadly strain (nobody seems to know). Meanwhile it continues to transmit, largely harmlessly, through the population which may or may not be building herd immunity (again nobody seems to know). Whilst this should be good news, according to the experts it isn’t.

I think you make a lot of very important points - good post. In particular the points above are critical to what is happening across Europe, because as you say, "nobody seems to know". Therefore at this stage, public health officials are very reluctant to say "Well, less people are dying or being hospitalised, so we don't need to increase restrictions even though the infection rates are rising."

That said, there has been a distinct policy change, particularly in France, which ordered home confinement across the country for two months in response to the emergence of the virus. Now although the virus has emerged again, they have ruled this out, and even their highest level of restrictions imposed this autumn is nowhere near as severe as what they did in March.
 

TheGrandWazoo

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But are they? I think it’s a legitimate criticism that they are ignoring the wider public health impact of the restrictions being imposed. Their job titles are not ‘Chief COVID-19 Officer’ and ‘Chief COVID-19 Advisor’ respectively are they? They appear to be fixated on this one virus, and if they aren’t they really need to communicate that they aren’t a lot better.

Agreed re politicians incidentally!
Given that there was no Covid 19 before December, arguably no one is an expert. What we do have are epidemiologists who use their knowledge and experience in similar situations to inform the government.

Naturally they err on the side of caution but it’s the government who take advice from numerous parties to define policies.
 

adc82140

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Which goes back to my point on the other thread. The members of SAGE should not be talking directly to the media implying that their opinion represents the whole panel and government policy. Obviously today's briefing by Van Tam is government approved, but the stuff picked up by the media over the weekend, and duly exaggerated is dangerous. At the beginning of this, the membership of SAGE was confidential, and they were forbidden to talk to the press. The messaging was therefore a lot less muddled.
 

LAX54

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It also depends on which 'expert' they listen to ! a lot of experts differ wildly in their interpretation. Infection rate might well be rising, and that could be a good thing {?} but how many are mild / semi mild, and how many are really serious ?

Also watching TV today, and there was a slide saying the stages, the last one said 15 to 30 days between infection and death or discharge..talk about breed panic in the population ! surely discharge then death in the way it's presented ?
 

Yew

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Naturally they err on the side of caution but it’s the government who take advice from numerous parties to define policies.

What is caution though, doing anything we can that might help to 'defeat' the virus, or not taking socially damaging actions unless we're certain that they would help.
 

brad465

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As this is an unprecedented situation, while there are experts handling this it's acceptable I think for them to be wrong often because there's virtually no precedents for some of what's happened this year with regards to this pandemic. Furthermore what I think some do but shouldn't do is think that being an expert is the same as being "omniscient"; they have the best knowledge in their respective field, but no-one is capable of being right on everything.
 

Richard Scott

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As this is an unprecedented situation, while there are experts handling this it's acceptable I think for them to be wrong often because there's virtually no precedents for some of what's happened this year with regards to this pandemic. Furthermore what I think some do but shouldn't do is think that being an expert is the same as being "omniscient"; they have the best knowledge in their respective field, but no-one is capable of being right on everything.
It is acceptable to be wrong, what's not acceptable is them not admitting that and that they aren't changing their ideas in light of new evidence.
 

DustyBin

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That’s demonstrably not true.

One of the key NHS figures, Stephen Powis, was saying this morning that they know more about the virus and treatment now than in March.

I’m not sure that makes it demonstrably not true.... Of course they know more about the virus and treatments now than in March, even I do! But that doesn’t address the apparent stubborn refusal to reconsider our response to the virus at strategic level.
 

Bletchleyite

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I’m not sure that makes it demonstrably not true.... Of course they know more about the virus and treatments now then in March, even I do! But that doesn’t address the apparent stubborn refusal to reconsider our response to the virus at strategic level.

If we are reaching the point of the NHS being overwhelmed, shown by the reactivation of the Nightingales, there is no other path. Letting it rip and denying people healthcare is not an acceptable option (will you choose to die rather than take no healthcare provision if you are unlucky enough to have a bad case?). Moving from suppression to mitigation is an option, i.e. only kicking in restrictions when healthcare is at risk, but we seem to be near enough there anyway.
 

trebor79

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I don't trust Whitty and Vallance or SAGE either - look at their links to Gates and Imperial
Vallance should have gone immediately his continuing interest in GSK was disclosed. Whether it is unduly influencing his decisions or not, it is a totally unacceptable conflict of interest, not least for the other pharmaceutical companies.
Tinfoil hattery of the highest order.

Vallance, Whitty et al are very good at what they do and fully understand the trade offs. For all we know they may be being asked by the government to brief only upon the COVID aspect and not on the collateral damage. Whitty did at least allude to that collateral damage in his last briefing.

Yes, I trust the experts. Where it falls down is the government pursuing zero covid strategies without pausing to think whether that is desirable, affordable or achievable. It's clear the government has asked them to advise what measures can be used to supress transmission, rather than wheat measures could be used to protect the elderly.
that said, I was a bit disappointed this morning when Van Tam just said "it sadly isn't possible" to protect the elderly. We haven't even tried, and there are many many things that could be done to achieve that.
I don't trust BoJo and his supporting cast of clowns at all. They simply aren't capable or competent.

What is caution though, doing anything we can that might help to 'defeat' the virus, or not taking socially damaging actions unless we're certain that they would help.
Good question. I think given that we know this virus is not particularly dangerous unless you're at a point in life where *something* is going to get you before too long I'd be erring on the latter approach.
If we are reaching the point of the NHS being overwhelmed, shown by the reactivation of the Nightingales, there is no other path. Letting it rip and denying people healthcare is not an acceptable option (will you choose to die rather than take no healthcare provision if you are unlucky enough to have a bad case?). Moving from suppression to mitigation is an option, i.e. only kicking in restrictions when healthcare is at risk, but we seem to be near enough there anyway.
People were denied healthcare in the first lockdown. Wouldn't it be better overall to let the virus do it's thing, accept there's little non-emergency healthcare for 3 months and then carry on? As things stand we're going to be in this on/off cycle indefinitely (exactly what lockdown sceptics predicted way bay in March) and that is going to harm more people overall.
 

Bletchleyite

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I was a bit disappointed this morning when Van Tam just said "it sadly isn't possible" to protect the elderly. We haven't even tried, and there are many many things that could be done to achieve that.

I thought that was wrong, and wondered if Bozza had told them to say it. The graphs he showed indicated what happens when you don't have shielding. He does not have data for what happens when you do.
 

RomeoCharlie71

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It might not be possible to entirely protect the elderly by locking them in for 6 months, but there are options we have to increase their protection - e.g. having shielding as an option (with food parcels, medication deliveries) and offering free medical grade masks to those who want them.

Of course this comes at a cost to the government, but that doesn't seem to matter these days...
 

DustyBin

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If we are reaching the point of the NHS being overwhelmed, shown by the reactivation of the Nightingales, there is no other path. Letting it rip and denying people healthcare is not an acceptable option (will you choose to die rather than take no healthcare provision if you are unlucky enough to have a bad case?). Moving from suppression to mitigation is an option, i.e. only kicking in restrictions when healthcare is at risk, but we seem to be near enough there anyway.

But are we really reaching that point? I don’t doubt that individual hospitals and maybe even trusts are under pressure, but is this even as a result of COVID-19? As I understand it the Nightingales weren’t actually used last time when deaths were at 10x the current number. And why, according to Van-Tam, is it not possible to protect the vulnerable? As per usual, the experts have spoken and I have more questions than answers!

It might not be possible to entirely protect the elderly by locking them in for 6 months, but there are options we have to increase their protection - e.g. having shielding as an option (with food parcels, medication deliveries) and offering free medical grade masks to those who want them.

Of course this comes at a cost to the government, but that doesn't seem to matter these days...

Yes yes yes, it really shouldn’t be that difficult!
 

MikeWM

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Tinfoil hattery of the highest order.

You think there is nothing wrong with one of the top medical scientists in the country - giving guidance to the government as to what actions to take - having a financial interest in *one* of the big pharma companies? That's about as blatant a conflict of interest as you can get.

Note I didn't claim it was influencing his advice. It is unacceptable either way.
 

Richard Scott

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That’s demonstrably not true.

One of the key NHS figures, Stephen Powis, was saying this morning that they know more about the virus and treatment now than in March.
I didn't say that applied to everybody, I said it's acceptable to be wrong but not acceptable to change your views in light of new evidence which some don't be seem to have done e.g. Whitty.
 

Bletchleyite

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People were denied healthcare in the first lockdown. Wouldn't it be better overall to let the virus do it's thing, accept there's little non-emergency healthcare for 3 months and then carry on? As things stand we're going to be in this on/off cycle indefinitely (exactly what lockdown sceptics predicted way bay in March) and that is going to harm more people overall.

There would be no emergency healthcare either. Would you foresake being treated if you caught it?
 

Bikeman78

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I was going to post this in the restrictions thread but it’s now locked.... The discussion had probably wandered a bit OT in any case so I thought it best to start a new one.

I generally have the greatest respect for experts in any field, and I’ll happily admit to feeling reassured by the presence of Whitty, Valance, Van-Tam et al. when the virus first ‘arrived’. Remember, this was an indiscriminate killer, Ebola-like in its virulence. We all saw the footage of bodies in the streets of Wuhan (real?) and the overflowing hospital wards in Italy. I was, as I expect the majority of people were at the time, actually quite worried.
I think I'd stopped worrying by mid March. Prior to taking my son out to ride some HSTs, a week before lockdown, I had a nose on the internet. Even then it was clear that the risk to children was tiny and that the elderly were at greatet risk, especially those with other health problems.

On a personal note, my dad is at risk and hasn't done a lot since March. He gets food delivered, or goes to the shops when he knows they will be quiet. He is reasonably happy for me to stay over, after spending a day riding on trains. That's his choice. If he told me to stay then I would.
 

Yew

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If we are reaching the point of the NHS being overwhelmed, shown by the reactivation of the Nightingales, there is no other path. Letting it rip and denying people healthcare is not an acceptable option (will you choose to die rather than take no healthcare provision if you are unlucky enough to have a bad case?). Moving from suppression to mitigation is an option, i.e. only kicking in restrictions when healthcare is at risk, but we seem to be near enough there anyway.
I disagree, we have around 3000 hospitalisations nationwide. Getting them ready just in case is reasonable, but it feels more of a precaution than an urgent rush.
 
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