Coronavirus - Strange times

bilky asko
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cwathen wrote: Sun 20 Dec, 2020 19.38which is exactly the attitude that was taken during the last global pandemic. It was far deadlier than Covid is ever likely to be yet it is barely a footnote in history because it was never allowed to become the obsession that Covid has.
Are you talking about Swine Flu? That was as deadly as seasonal flu, so not "far deadlier than Covid". The death toll is estimated to be a quarter of a million over two years, so it's no surprise that Covid has more coverage, being a virus that's killed almost 1.7 million people in just one year.
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cwathen
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bilky asko wrote: Sun 20 Dec, 2020 20.08
cwathen wrote: Sun 20 Dec, 2020 19.38which is exactly the attitude that was taken during the last global pandemic. It was far deadlier than Covid is ever likely to be yet it is barely a footnote in history because it was never allowed to become the obsession that Covid has.
Are you talking about Swine Flu? That was as deadly as seasonal flu, so not "far deadlier than Covid". The death toll is estimated to be a quarter of a million over two years, so it's no surprise that Covid has more coverage, being a virus that's killed almost 1.7 million people in just one year.
No I'm talking about the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918-1920 which infected a third of the world's population and killed 50 million people in two years. Even then, the word 'perspective' was not lost to the extent that it is now. I'm not saying Covid deserves no coverage or consideration, but treating it as this 'we must beat this at any cost' existential threat in the way we are may end up having consequences in the following years which none of us are quite prepared for. I'm afraid at some point the answer to the horrific question of 'well do we let people die of it then?' is actually 'yes, we do'. Otherwise...well we end up like we are now. 9 months in with no end date in sight, national debt at insane levels, businesses failing left right and centre, a jobs toll which will likely be measured in millions, a mental health crisis, undetected chronic illness at a level possibly never before seen since modern diagnostic techniques were available and an increasingly terrifying reduction in the level of democracy present in Western countries which is less and less likely to be restored the longer this goes on for.

The answer to the question 'what price do you put on a person's life' might impossible to answer, but it is certainly possible to say that the most any individual life is worth is the same as another individual life so you act for the greater good. If you have 3 people and it comes down to a choice of 1 person being left to die so that the other 2 might live then that is what you have to do. Otherwise you end up with 3 dead people in the pursuit of saving the 1 and failing everyone. Yet that's exactly what we seem to be doing with this 'we stop at nothing' approach to Covid.
bilky asko
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cwathen wrote: Sun 20 Dec, 2020 20.25 No I'm talking about the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918-1920 which infected a third of the world's population and killed 50 million people in two years.
In which case you missed out the Swine Flu pandemic, the HIV/AIDS pandemic (ongoing), the Seventh Cholera pandemic, the so-called Asian Flu pandemic, and the Psittacosis pandemic.

Your characterisation of the response to the Spanish Flu pandemic does seem rather ridiculous. Spanish Flu is hardly "barely a footnote in history", but at least in part overshadowed by the First World War at the beginning. You know, that worldwide conflict that actually contributed to the number of deaths because of the malnutrition and hushing up it caused, causing superinfections and the like?

This was a time when suitable treatments were almost non-existent, and doctors were prescribing from an assortment of drugs that may or may not have helped, as well as carrying out "traditional" methods like blood-letting. You really think that it's a comparable situation to today?

Both the Spanish Flu pandemic and the Swine Flu pandemic involved the same strain of flu. It shows how much science has come on and just how different the situations were between the two pandemics.

Wikipedia classes the article on Spanish Flu as a similar importance to the 2004 Boxing Day earthquake that killed almost a quarter of a million people in one go, Nazi concentration camps, and the American Civil War. And it's no surprise that, following on from and being exacerbated by a huge international conflict resulting in tens of millions of deaths, it's perhaps not had the same impact as a virus that is more deadly on its own, and spreading in peacetime through nations unused to deadly pandemics spreading through the air and with modern medicine in place.
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cwathen
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tightrope78 wrote:What I did not mention is that I am 42 and was diagnosed with asthma last year, my GP said I had the lungs of someone in my mid seventies (I have never smoked a day in my life and exercise 5 times a week). Rather selfishly I don't want to catch it myself as there is a strong chance it would affect me badly.

I'm not here to get into discussions with someone who has a diametrically opposed viewpoint to the one I have, that is clearly a waste of time.

Have a good Christmas doing whatever you want. I know I'll still have a good one.
I'm very sorry to hear of your position, and obviously you need to do what is right for you. The government also needs to do what it can to support you. But the rest of society cannot keep being told they're 'selfish' for not wanting to destroy (or in some cases, lose) their lives to protect yours. You have no idea why it might be important for my health or that of my family to do what I'm going to do over Christmas. This thing does work both ways and it can't all be about those at risk from Covid forever. Restrictions for a period of time yes, and even now, reasonable interventions such as wearing masks and reasonable social distancing measures such as the rule of 6 and 2 metre distancing yes. Taking on the anti-vax brigade so that people do take the vaccine when offered to help end the pandemic, yes. But beyond that, no, not any more. If there is no tipping point when the cost of affording such protections to a tiny minority are deemed to be too great, then we will have done more harm than good. I appreciate our individual perspectives will have given us diametrically opposed viewpoints, but I don't understand why in general terms it is so difficult to understand the reasoning behind the viewpoint, even if you don't agree with it.
Billy Asko wrote:In which case you missed out the Swine Flu pandemic, the HIV/AIDS pandemic (ongoing), the Seventh Cholera pandemic, the so-called Asian Flu pandemic, and the Psittacosis pandemic.

Your characterisation of the response to the Spanish Flu pandemic does seem rather ridiculous.
Just as people in WW2 referring to 'the last war' meant WW1 without explicit qualification that they didn't mean other wars that happened in between, I would have thought given the level of comparison with the Spanish Flu that has gone on this year that when referring to 'the last pandemic' it was obvious that is what I meant. I stand corrected if that was not the case.
Spanish Flu is hardly "barely a footnote in history"
Sorry then, I must have missed all the history lessons on the Spanish Flu pandemic at school and how much it was discussed in the media prior to this year. Either way, the point being made was that there was an even more deadly pandemic but against a backdrop of needing to get to the end of WW1 and the need to get the world back on it's feet, perspective had to be found and it was not allowed to become an international obsession.

What we were sold in March (probably in the full knowledge that it was never going to be like that) was the potential death of 500,000 people and to prevent that from happening we were going to lock down for a few weeks as part of a package of a few months of some sort of intervention and then it would all be over by the summer. That was proportionate intervention based on the (claimed) level of risk to life and the damage from the intervention. Although we have never fully reopened we were at least getting there in July and August. But since September we have clearly entered a new phase of absolute paranoia with governments wary of being accused of failing to act making rash knee jerk decisions even though the modelling driving the action keeps being exaggerated. The sudden announcement of the never before mentioned 'new highly infectious strain which might increase the R by 0.9' which has actually been around for 3 months and both the sweeping response from the UK government (with a raft of 'early data', 'may', 'might', 'we think' qualifiers in it just in case it is wrong) and now governments around Europe trying to maroon us even though the strain is going to be in their countries any way and likely will have been the driving force of the 2nd wave is the icing on the cake.

One simple question though - is there any point for you at which you will consider the long term effect of the attempt to fight the virus and whether it will all have been worth it? Do you in any way worry what the post-Covid world will be like and whether the cost to achieve it was too great? And why are we not at that point yet? What more needs to happen?

Let's be honest (because the government aren't) - mass vaccination is never going to be complete by Easter. This thing isn't nearly over and won't be over in another 12 months. How many will be unemployed by then? How many will have died of the effects of the restrictions? How much more of our basic liberty will we have ceded possibly never to get it back? If there isn't a change of focus away from Covid obsession we will still be here in 12 months having this discussion. Is there any point for you? Any at all?
gottago
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Judging from what I can see from a few sources the actual death rate percentage of Covid vs the Spanish Flu is about the same at around 2-3%, and that's after a century of complete and total change in healthcare, hygiene and living standards, so if anything surely Covid's the more deadly illness of the two.

I think you're missing the point of lockdowns somewhat. Strictly speaking it's not primarily to protect people who might get Covid and suffer from it, it's to protect the health service from being overwhelmed. If it was the other way round then the country would go into lockdown every year to protect people from dying from the flu. But the NHS has the capacity for it and experience of dealing with it so it's not an issue, even though hundreds die from it.

If we're just going to ignore Covid and return to normal life what do you propose we do with everyone who is critically ill with the effects of Covid? Turn them away at A&E? Have them die at home with no support whatsoever? Good luck getting the economy back on its feet when they're even more scared to go outside than now because they know they could now end up suffocating to death with no medical assistance. And I don't think the mental health of the nation would be much better either.

At the end of the day the majority of people don't want to get sick, the economy's going to suffer as a result regardless. Sweden's approach has been seen as a failure, it wasn't worth the amount of death for an only somewhat better economy. Scrap lockdowns and while some people's mental health will improve, others' will worsen as they feel the firsthand impact of an increase in Covid rates.

It's lose-lose either way but lockdowns are the least worst option.
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cdd
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If we're just going to ignore Covid and return to normal life what do you propose we do with everyone who is critically ill with the effects of Covid
This is a misrepresentation I hear quite a lot, I don’t think I’ve heard anyone suggest Covid should be “ignored” and yet that’s how those calling for more moderate measures are repeatedly depicted.
Strictly speaking it's not primarily to protect people who might get Covid and suffer from it, it's to protect the health service from being overwhelmed.
I hope you’re right. It won’t take that much vaccination before overloading the health service is no longer a credible threat. Unfortunately I fully expect the goalposts to be moved again, as they have been repeatedly, and either for low priority procedures to resume (shifting the threshold of “overload” downwards) or deaths in younger people and long Covid to be the new talking point. It would not be right to shut down society so that cataract surgery can go ahead or a small number of deaths can be avoided in my opinion.
Sweden's approach has been seen as a failure, it wasn't worth the amount of death for an only somewhat better economy.
I have relocated to Mexico at present which has been quite an insight in terms of different ways of handling Covid.

Their case statistics are worthless because you have to pay to get a Covid test. But their excess deaths are comparable, though they have a younger population.

In the early part of the pandemic I understand from family members that they followed closely with lockdowns but those have not been repeated.

We now have mask wearing (more so than in the U.K., despite not being mandated), social distancing, hand sanitiser everywhere, and in the region I’m in an outright ban on alcohol sale anywhere for quite a long time.

But no dining, shop or movement restrictions.

There is a high rate of Covid deaths but not the fear inducing rises and falls as in Europe. In other words an equilibrium has been reached.

People have acclimatised and are acting normally with places relatively busy. So that doesn’t tie in with the “people don’t want to get sick so they’ll stay indoors” assertion. An assertion that is plainly disprovable by the way, since if it were true, those who want less social activity wouldn’t have to try and mandate it through authoritarian measures.

I know countries are not directly comparable and you may in any event dispute that Mexico is taking the right path considering the amount of death. But at least its leaders can know that any loss of livelihood was caused by the virus itself, not their responses in terms of lockdowns. And I would argue that letting people decide for themselves how much they wish to restrict their social activity is more democratic then imposing it on everyone top-down.

However I would note that when you say of Sweden:
it wasn't worth the amount of death for an only somewhat better economy
...how do you factor the massive amount of debt the U.K. has accrued in the outcome of having (as you say) an only somewhat worse economy? It’s disingenuous to compare economies without factoring that in.
cwathen
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It's lose-lose either way but lockdowns are the least worst option.
Obviously we're not going to agree, although I understand and follow all your points - in March and April I had the same viewpoint. My viewpoint changed because I felt we had reached a tipping point when the level of damage caused exceeded what could be credibly repaired within a reasonable amount of time whilst at the same time the potential death toll had been very obviously over-modelled and at that point I've become convinced that eventually we will have killed more people than we've saved if this approach doesn't stop.

And I'm afraid I really don't buy the argument that the economy will magically recover from this level of damage quickly - even if Covid is declared over tomorrow we are already looking at a situation which will take years. And certain sectors may suffer from a complete lack of new businesses which will do nothing to help the jobless - who in their right mind is going to open a shop or a pub any time soon?

But the question which what I reluctantly label 'your side' has to answer and never does, is 'is there a limit?'. Do you have your own 'tipping point' on this situation even if you don't believe it's been met yet. And if so what is that point? And if you're saying (as I feel many people are) that there is no such point and we just must carry on with this for as long as it takes, even with no realistic clue of how long that might be, then I would suggest that is as out of touch with reality as those who claim Covid is all a hoax.
bilky asko
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cwathen wrote: Mon 21 Dec, 2020 09.52One simple question though - is there any point for you at which you will consider the long term effect of the attempt to fight the virus and whether it will all have been worth it? Do you in any way worry what the post-Covid world will be like and whether the cost to achieve it was too great? And why are we not at that point yet? What more needs to happen?

Let's be honest (because the government aren't) - mass vaccination is never going to be complete by Easter. This thing isn't nearly over and won't be over in another 12 months. How many will be unemployed by then? How many will have died of the effects of the restrictions? How much more of our basic liberty will we have ceded possibly never to get it back? If there isn't a change of focus away from Covid obsession we will still be here in 12 months having this discussion. Is there any point for you? Any at all?
I'm not sure that is "one simple question", and all of that above seems to entirely misrepresent the other side of the argument to you. Again.

I am not calling for unfettered measures - this isn't a pandemic of Black Death proportions, and even then there would be a limit to what would be worth doing. Catastrophising over the measures that have been taken up to now and their negative effects just seems to bear no relation to the reality of the situation.

Yes, unemployment is up, to 4.8%. That's not nice for those who have lost their jobs, but that's coming from a record low since the mid-70s. Liberties have been lost in plenty of other countries - it's a necessary part of taking any meaningful measures to combat the spread.

Ultimately a lot of your argument seems to be based on a feeling of what you think is the impact. Do you have any evidence that more people will die under this current regime than under the one you'd like? Or, is it as you allude to elsewhere, more of an opposition to the economic cost? People don't tend to care about economics much when they're dead, so it's not the most persuasive argument.

On the face of things, it's easy to agree with the notion that if the current measures end up killing more people overall than the system you propose, then we shouldn't stay with the current measures. But there are confounding factors - we know that the mutation that has caused these latest restrictions are larger than previous mutations. With further spread, you are more likely to create an environment to produce a mutation that no longer responds to the current vaccines, and this mutation we have is worryingly close to that level. This prolongs the virus, and may produce a strain with worse symptoms, for example.

An increase in deaths in the short term to prevent a prolongation of the virus, measures against it, problems it causes, and more deaths in the long term, is surely a fair trade-off. And that's still taking your presumption at face value that it really is worse now than it would be under your alternative plan.
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cwathen
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I am not calling for unfettered measures - this isn't a pandemic of Black Death proportions, and even then there would be a limit to what would be worth doing.
OK, where is that limit?
Yes, unemployment is up, to 4.8%. That's not nice for those who have lost their jobs, but that's coming from a record low since the mid-70s
I think those numbers are rather suppressed however. The furlough scheme is keeping a lot of people in jobs they will never go back to, had it ended when planned prior to the second lockdown then the figure would have jumped up. Also we are still shedding jobs by orders of magnitude greater than we are creating them by - it is only going to keep getting worse. And the bulk of those job losses are concentrated in the retail and hospitality sectors where many of the employees in them are not qualified to do anything else and will likely stay unemployed for a very long time.

That is before we even get into how many employers have done a redundancy consultation then proposed that the employee takes a cut in hours (or out rightly a cut in salary for the same hours - perfectly legal as long as the salary doesn't drop below minimum wage) as an alternative to redundancy and so the employee has kept their job whilst facing a loss in income they can't afford and can't replace. Technically the employee would need to agree to the proposal and if the employer was making what might be deemed fundamental changes the employee could fight it, but to do so they would need to resign, then have a delay in getting any benefits because they had resigned, then take the matter to an employment tribunal (which at best would take several months) then almost certainly have to present their case in person whilst the employer would have a solicitor to represent them. In practice, many will just agree to it and store up the trouble in the hope they will be able to find a better job before they run out of space to juggle, but in this market they may not. However nothing like that will count as unemployment.
Liberties have been lost in plenty of other countries - it's a necessary part of taking any meaningful measures to combat the spread.
I know, I'm not saying at all it is only the UK (or that our loss of liberty is worse than other countries either). But the point is, in a democratic country basic rights such as the ability to go about your daily business without interference from the state, even if not explicitly written down in a constitution, were taken for granted. It has also always followed (in the UK anyway) that fundamental changes in the law go through and are approved by parliament; they cannot simply be willed into existence on the whims of the Head of Government. Whilst (as this year has shown) this was always something the state could take away, the point at which that would ever happen was not known (I suspect not even by the very states that have done it), and that was a good thing. You may well justify the measures as being necessary in this specific case (you may even be proved right), but once any case has been identified which justifies curtailment of basic liberty, it surely is not too much of a stretch of the imagination to believe that you can't quite ever undo that and put that genie back in the bottle. So what happens next time when the same population control measures are used over something else which you think doesn't warrant them? It might not even be a public health emergency. It's too late by then.
Ultimately a lot of your argument seems to be based on a feeling of what you think is the impact. Do you have any evidence that more people will die under this current regime than under the one you'd like? Or, is it as you allude to elsewhere, more of an opposition to the economic cost? People don't tend to care about economics much when they're dead, so it's not the most persuasive argument.
Two things - I have no evidence and it is based on my feeling of the situation. You've got me there, I have none. But equally you have no evidence that this isn't happening either. What is telling though is that in order to try and quell the Tory rebellion over Tiers MK II, exactly this kind of impact assessment was asked for and also agreed to by the government. Surely the easiest way to shut this argument down entirely would be to provide evidence and modelling of the impact in a way which hasn't happened, you have to wonder why an impact assessment wasn't made public before. And then we found out why - after a promise to provide it, followed an (admittedly weaker than expected) claim that this kind of analysis can't be done. Really? We can't model economic change based on external stimuli? Since when? It surely isn't jumping into the territory of tin hat wearing to believe that said analysis has been done and didn't make pretty reading so wasn't published or (possibly worse) it was assumed to be in place (after all BoJo is known for being light on detail) but actually wasn't done.

Regarding 'an opposition to the economic cost'. I'm not sure whether this is what you're saying or not, but I don't understand how readily we seem to have been able to detach the economy from life. As I have said in this thread before, the very nature of living in a country based on capitalism is that you need money to stay alive. Contrary to what Daily Express reading right wingers believe, there isn't a huge proportion of the country 'scrounging benefits', nor to what the ultra left believe are there really very many rich oligarchs with more money than could be spent spending in a lifetime of using it to wipe your bottom with. Actually, most people get people get their money from having a job, and most of those again have very little room for manoeuvre (if any at all) if they suddenly lose their job and can't quickly find another one if their employers become unviable and none of those left are looking to recruit. So ultimately, the cost of long term economic damage is a loss of life - I don't see how those dots can't be joined together.
gottago
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cdd wrote: Mon 21 Dec, 2020 12.59
If we're just going to ignore Covid and return to normal life what do you propose we do with everyone who is critically ill with the effects of Covid
This is a misrepresentation I hear quite a lot, I don’t think I’ve heard anyone suggest Covid should be “ignored” and yet that’s how those calling for more moderate measures are repeatedly depicted.
I'm not going to respond to all your points because, frankly, I'm too miserable generally to construct a decent counterargument right now.

But I will respond to this point. How is this a misrepresentation? If the rules are relaxed somewhat the cases will go up and the hospital admissions increase. That's what we saw this year in the UK and we had to go into a second lockdown because of it. If we don't go into additional lockdowns the NHS reaches breaking point. So where do those patients go? Yes Nightingale Hospitals are on standby but they must be staffed by doctors and nurses from the existing hospitals so all you're getting is extra beds and even more stretched treatment.

I very much recommend watching the BBC's Hospital this series which shows them dealing with the impact of Covid from March till today. Every aspect of the NHS is greatly affected by it and it only gets worse across the board when lockdowns aren't in force.
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cdd
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If the rules are relaxed somewhat the cases will go up and the hospital admissions increase. That's what we saw this year in the UK and we had to go into a second lockdown because of it. If we don't go into additional lockdowns the NHS reaches breaking point. So where do those patients go? Yes Nightingale Hospitals are on standby but they must be staffed by doctors and nurses from the existing hospitals so all you're getting is extra beds and even more stretched treatment.
I agree that preventing the NHS from being overwhelmed - and forced to prioritise who to treat - is important. Your view however appears to be that it is infinitely important.

Accordingly your view appears to be that any measure that can be taken to prevent that outcome, no matter how dramatic, must be taken. Even if it means people losing businesses they’ve spent their lives building, millions becoming unemployed, poverty increasing, education of young people being disrupted, people becoming less healthy through sitting on the sofa, large increases in young suicides, the loss of heretofore unquestionable civil freedoms and a massive deficit that will constrain future spending and degrade the quality of future public services. And it doesn’t matter how bad any of these problems become, as long as we don’t overwhelm the NHS right now. Do I understand your position correctly?
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