Tuesday, 21 December 2021

With one bound, PM leaps out of frying pan


“We will not hesitate to act!”, declared the PM yesterday as he announced that his government has, in fact, decided to hesitate rather than act. Despite all the warnings from scientists and those working in the NHS that after Christmas is too late for any action to have a meaningful impact on the spread of Omicron, the government has decided to wait until there is hard evidence that the number of hospital admissions is too large for the NHS to cope with before taking any action to reduce that number. The Cabinet clearly understand neither what exponential growth is, nor that the lag between infections and hospital admissions means that waiting until they’re already too high means not only that even more drastic action is required, but also that hospitalisations will continue going up for a week or two even after action is taken. It amounts to a policy of waiting until there are too many, and then loading on even more. And even if, as we all hope, most infections are milder than with previous variants, there will still be many, many additional premature deaths as a direct result of government hesitation, purely because of the sheer number of people likely to be catching the disease.

We know that the headline figure of around 90,000 per day new infections is an understatement. Many of those infected will either be asymptomatic or else driven to avoid taking a test by the government’s total unwillingness to provide adequate support for those who are unable to work. At a doubling rate of every two days (current estimates are between 1.5 and 3 days), the number infected will double twice between now and Christmas Day, and another three times by the end of the year. Unchecked, that could mean 2.8 million recorded cases a day by the end of the month. The ‘good’ news (for the government’s spin doctors at least) is that the headline figures will never reach that level. The UK only has capacity to do around 800,000 tests per day, and there is no way of increasing that capacity in line with the rate of infection. By the end of the year, the headline figures are likely to have reached the peak allowed by that capacity constraint – and also to have been rendered utterly meaningless as any reflection of what is actually happening as a result. On the particular measure of infection rate, the UK government’s policy of  ‘waiting until we have more data’ is equivalent to ‘waiting until events render the data meaningless’.

There is one other piece of ‘good’ news for the PM in all this as well. Watching the numbers soar out of control is likely to divert attention – for the time being at least – away from parties and rule-breaking. Whether encouraging people to worry instead about catching Covid, and about which of their friends and family will be hospitalised or die, is an entirely positive change is another question entirely.

1 comment:

dafis said...

The UK Government is driven by big business. Hospitality, both small scale and large chains, want their customer base to be comfortable about going for a drink and/or a meal. Their landlords, many of the bigger ones also donors to the Tory party, need thriving tenants not businesses who are closing down every few days due to Covid phobia. And the real elephant(s) in the room, Big Pharma, are on a rolling bonanza as each mutation offers up a new problem to solve which inevitably means dipping into the public purse in a big way. Boris is unable to balance the demands of these different groups. But are they so different? By failing to be prompt in his responses Boris has let the side down repeatedly. The truth is that lockdown is anathema to him given that he is a bit jack the lad and doesn't like to feel confined inhibited or restricted. But that is good enough for us the common herd just not for him and his kind.