Monday, 23 March 2020

Coronavirus confusion, parts one and two

Two letters sent to the Times and Daily Mail respectively:

Trevor Phillips suggests (“Science will save us from snake oil salesmen,” Times, 23 March 2020) the Prime Minister is “managing the lonely task of balancing scientific insights with social and economic costs..” having observed that he is being “guided by the science.”


The difficulty is there is not one stand-alone Independent “science” to which we may safely defer. Science advances by one paradigm (comprehensive understanding that excludes competing views) being replaced by the next  (ie flat-Earthers were superseded by spherical-Earthers).


Unfortunately the evidence from various professional practitioners in medical safety seems to have strengthened the conclusion that the Prime Minister has literally created a “politicised” science via his too-narrowly focused Chief Scientific Officer and Chief Medical Officer. They have apparently ignored key social science studies in their advice.


Personally,  I have lost all confidence in their decision-making. They pigheadedly rejected what continental Europeans were doing for a crucial three weeks, let the virus rip through the population then did a U-turn after the cat was well and truly out of the bag and wandering free: it is an absolutely catastrophic strategy. 


Mr Johnson publicly gives the impression he is merely following scientific advice; but this oft repeated assertion is manifestly misleading. He is in the political grip of his Rasputin-like influencer, his chief policy advisor, Dominic Cummings and, in my view, has recklessly endangered the health of millions of people living on the British Isles through incompetence.


You report on March 23 that No 10 has denied the report by Tim Shipman, the political editor of you sister paper, The Sunday Times,  that Mr Cummings had told a private meeting that the strategy the UK should adopt was “herd immunity, protect the economy, and if that means some  pensioners die,  too bad.”


Mr Shipman’s credentials as a stellar lobby reporter are unchallengeable: he is currently the Society of Editors’ political journalist of the year, no less.


In addition, the Prime Minister has inexplicably completely ignored the UK Government’s own “Biosecurity Strategy” issued as recently as 30 July 2018. The then Security Minister, now Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, ended his Foreword to the report with these words:


“We cannot predict all the ways in which this risk landscape will evolve in the future, but it is by breaking down barriers, working in a co-ordinated way across and beyond Government, and thinking globally that we will be best prepared to meet the threat of significant disease outbreaks (however they occur).”


It is a great pity this sound advice has not been followed.
Could you explain to readers why you devoted a two page spread to the thousands who took advantage of the great sunny weather in the weekend to explore the great countryside outdoors  with a highly critical banner headline in Monday’s Daily Mail of “Stay away Covidiots!”?

After all, your Saturday Travel Section headed “Splendid Isolation” recommended readers to  travel to “brilliant bolt-holes” in Wales, Lancashire and the Shetland Islands, with the positive invitation to readers that there has “never been a better excuse to get away from it all.”

Did the writer of your Daily Mail Comment on Monday, who wrote” unfortunately, countless thousands flocked to sun drenched beaches, parks and Beaty spots- sadly raising the risk of catching, or transmitting, the malevolent infection“ not consider maybe your readers followed the advice of your travel writers and ignored those medical professionals trying to curtail the Covid-19 threat?

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