How Bad Does It Get?

Evening Standard:

UK coronavirus news LIVE: Boris Johnson to continue to lead coronavirus response from isolation


Boris made the announcement on Twitter. In a video posted from self-isolation he said: “I want to bring you up to speed with something that’s happening today, which is that I’ve developed mild symptoms of the coronavirus – a temperature and a persistent cough, and on the advice of the chief medical officer I’ve taken a test. That has come out positive.

Boris is not symptomless. He has a temperature and a cough. Doesn’t that mean that he is unwell? And doesn’t that mean that he’s likely to start making bad decisions, or stop making decisions, precisely because he’s not well?

Conversely, if having Covid-19 has no effect on someone’s powers, then is it even a disease, with all that is entailed by dis-ease?

Who decides whether someone is sufficiently unwell that they are no longer able to do their job?

Who decides whether someone is sufficiently recovered that they are able to resume their job?

Isn’t this an important decision?

As more and more politicians and public figures test positive, are they all going to carry on working in self-isolation? Doesn’t self-isolation have any adverse effects on people’s ability to do their job? And are any of them going to need hospitalisation at some point? Will they then continue working from hospital? Or will someone else take over?

The foreign secretary and former Brexit secretary would become the acting prime minister if anything happens to Johnson during the pandemic.

Something has happened to him: he’s caught the coronavirus. So have Health Secretary Matt Hancock, and Chief Medical Officer Peter Whitty, and Prince Charles.

We might gain from this something of a measure of how bad a disease Covid-19 really is. If they all carry on working, doing their jobs normally, then Covid-19 is more or less harmless. If they’re all carted off to hospital, then Covid-19 is very harmful. If they all end up dead, then Covid-19 is extremely harmful.

So far, all concerned seem to be doing their jobs normally in isolation. So Covid-19 isn’t looking very harmful at all. But this might change.

Why is Covid-19 having so little apparent effect on Boris Johnson, but killing a thousand people a week in Italy? Perhaps part of it is that many elderly people already have conditions that put them at risk, and getting Covid-19 is enough to push them over the edge, and Boris isn’t one of these. But isn’t it also likely that Boris Johnson is receiving top rate medical care, and the rest are not? Should Boris need a respirator, he’ll have one in minutes. The rest may have to wait a few hours or days to get one. They might never get one.

About Frank Davis

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21 Responses to How Bad Does It Get?

  1. robbo says:

    I bought some overpriced paper masks and soaked them in a salt solution and dried them, I can still breath through them, hopefully the salt will destroy the beer virus

    • simplex says:

      Remember to stock up on salty tears, too. The virus can enter through the eyes.

      • robbo says:

        Better too physic the dead than give an old man advice….i,m fully aware thank you..I wont bore you with the details how ive avoided cold/flu for the past ten years!

  2. Elizabeth says:

    Quote – “Who decides whether someone is sufficiently unwell that they are no longer able to do their job?” I shall tell you from personal experience that if you are lucky enough to get this lightly, you can do your job. But if you get a stronger dose, you cannot do your job. You will be incapacitated. If you get it severely, you will be hospitalised. I am very tired of the idea that Covid19 is just flu. Why are so many people in denial? Ignorance? Poor Boris. I hope he only gets a light touch. I wish him well. Like any other ordinary person, he is doing his best.

  3. Mark Jarratt says:

    Risk analysis methodology is conspicuously absent from public comment on the mitigation countermeasures deployed against COVID-19. The acceptable level of risk, infection, and even fatalities has not been defined, so neither has “success”.
    If official risk treatments have no measure of success, there is no end point.
    The only means of reducing risk to zero is not to perform the activity (e.g. banning driving would reduce the road toll to Nil).
    Every action and daily decision made by individuals involves risk assessment. Government is removing the option to decide to accept risk, much as they have ignorantly done with smoking, based on at best dubious data and at worst ideological moralizing.
    Public health is not the only social good (health is an individual not social good, unless one supports discredited population eugenics theory). Freedom of association and economic activity are foundations of liberal democracy.
    The legal basis for imposing an equivalent to martial law is also at best unclear, with current circumstances relied upon to “justify” wilful disregard for due process.
    The risk principle of ALARP (as low as reasonably practicable) is being ignored. ALARP holds that risk treatments should not cost more than the benefits.
    Draining treasuries and closing down economic activity could be perceived as similar to the U.S. Army Colonel in the Vietnam war who stated “we had to destroy the village to save it”.

  4. Timothy Goodacre says:

    One has to remember that Boris Johnson is a classicist, therefore he has a formidable intellect. Therefore he will probably be able to keep working efficiently when others might succumb.

  5. Clicky says:

  6. Roobeedoo2 says:

    ‘How bad does it get?’

    Pity the poor citizens of South Africa, Frank. Military enforcement of a three week lockdown, and the sale of both cigarettes and alcohol has been banned…

    • Mark Jarratt says:

      What will draconian prohibitionist bans achieve except to anger and irritate ordinary citizens, increasing the chances of civil unrest and riots. Authoritarian top down social control with no obvious connection to the pan(dem)ic. I had a nightmare that HM QEII was infected by “woke” heir to the throne the Prince of Whales [sic], ushering in yet more nirvana thinking disconnected from reality. Now is the time to loudly say WE DO NOT CONSENT (really helped with tobacco control zealots though, not). 😬

  7. Rose says:

    Now I’m scared.

    I thought all this reminded me of Foot and Mouth and it turns out that it’s the same man that called for the mass cull and ban on footpaths near farmland.

    “Neil Ferguson, the scientist who convinced Boris Johnson of UK coronavirus lockdown, criticised in past for flawed research analysis at Imperial College in London, produced a paper predicting that Britain was on course to lose 250,000 people during the coronavirus epidemic unless stringent measures were taken. His research is said to have convinced Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his advisors to introduce the lockdown.

    However, it has now emerged that Ferguson has been criticised in the past for making predictions based on allegedly faulty assumptions which nevertheless shaped government strategies and impacted the UK economy.

    He was behind disputed research that sparked the mass culling of farm animals during the 2001 epidemic of foot and mouth disease, a crisis which cost the country billions of pounds.

    And separately he also predicted that up to 150,000 people could die from bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, or ‘mad cow disease’) and its equivalent in sheep if it made the leap to humans. To date there have been fewer than 200 deaths from the human form of BSE and none resulting from sheep to human transmission.”

    Sound familiar?

    The day they closed the countryside
    28 Feb 2001

    “THE countryside was effectively closed down yesterday with racing banned and local authorities ready to seal off public footpaths under emergency measures to halt the relentless spread of foot and mouth disease.

    The Six Nations rugby international between Wales and Ireland in Cardiff on Saturday was postponed at the request of the Irish government. Jim Scudamore, the Chief Veterinary Officer, warned Tony Blair and senior ministers that the outbreak would get worse before it got better. There were likely to be animals incubating the disease in the system, he said.

    Six new outbreaks were announced yesterday, taking the total to 18. Three of these were at abattoirs – one of them in Wales. The most recent case was confirmed last night at an abattoir in Okehampton, Devon. Thousands of livestock on these sites will be destroyed. Many more will be culled as a precaution on 19 farms designated as “dangerous contacts” in the outbreak.

    Foot and mouth has a two-week incubation and Mr Scudamore said intensive efforts were under way to trace animals that had passed through markets and come into contact with livestock connected to the original outbreak in Northumberland.”
    https: //

    Use and abuse of mathematical models: an illustration from the 2001 foot and mouth disease epidemic in the United Kingdom.

    “Foot and mouth disease (FMD) is a major threat, not only to countries whose economies rely on agricultural exports, but also to industrialised countries that maintain a healthy domestic livestock industry by eliminating major infectious diseases from their livestock populations. Traditional methods of controlling diseases such as FMD require the rapid detection and slaughter of infected animals, and any susceptible animals with which they may have been in contact, either directly or indirectly.

    During the 2001 epidemic of FMD in the United Kingdom (UK), this approach was supplemented by a culling policy driven by unvalidated predictive models. The epidemic and its control resulted in the death of approximately ten million animals, public disgust with the magnitude of the slaughter, and political resolve to adopt alternative options, notably including vaccination, to control any future epidemics. The UK experience provides a salutary warning of how models can be abused in the interests of scientific opportunism.”

      • Rose says:

        BSE never did come to a conclusive end to my mind, Roobee
        I listened to Radio 4 compulsively in those days and heard the raging debate, which the government eventually won and blamed the feed manufacturers.

        “Mark Purdey, who has died aged 52, was a maverick farmer who argued that BSE, or mad cow disease, was caused by chemicals and not contaminated cattle feed; his efforts to challenge the Government, the chemical industry and the British scientific establishment, although unavailing, were widely admired, with a former cabinet minister, Tom King, hailing Purdey’s “classic piece of scientific investigation”.

        The command post for his one-man campaign was Purdey’s remote organic farm on Exmoor, where he raised a herd of pedigree Jersey cattle, immersed himself in the mysteries of organic chemistry, and pondered a sinister series of misfortunes that persuaded him that he and his campaign had been jinxed.”

        “John Mark Purdey was born on Christmas Day 1953 at Much Hadham, Hertfordshire. He was descended from a long line of gifted eccentrics – an ancestor walked from Inverness to London to launch the Purdey shotgun firm; his grandfather, Lionel, was shell-shocked during the First World War and lobbied Lord Kitchener to recognise the condition as a genuine illness which should be treated accordingly.

        Expelled from Haileybury for post-A-level high jinks, Purdey was accepted to read Zoology at London University but instead went to Ireland to establish an organic farming community, later moving to Pembrokeshire.

        As a birdwatcher in boyhood, Purdey had witnessed the quivering death of a blackbird in a field that had just been sprayed with pesticide; he remained haunted by the image, convinced that the use of such chemicals — derived from military nerve gas — was tantamount to detonating a toxic bomb, with incalculable poisonous side-effects.

        In 1984, when the Ministry of Agriculture ordered him to treat his cattle with a systemic organophosphate (OP) treatment for warble fly, Purdey refused to comply, took his case to the High Court and won. Finding himself front page news, he was swamped by letters from other farmers who suspected that OP treatments had ruined their health.

        Although untrained, Purdey studied the science, becoming convinced that OPs were also the root cause of BSE in cattle. Moreover, he discovered that, compared with other countries, cattle in Britain had been given exceptionally high doses of systemic OP (phosmet). With the government blaming BSE on contaminated meat and bone meal feed, Purdey questioned why the disease had not occurred in countries which had imported the same feed from Britain.

        The tide of public opinion started to turn Purdey’s way following his BBC television documentary about OPs and human health, screened in 1988: the then Poet Laureate, Ted Hughes, wrote offering “a million congratulations”.

        But following his family’s move from Wales to the west country, Purdey began to be blighted by mysterious circumstance: someone started firing guns over his property and blocked his driveway with a lorry; Doberman dogs were unleashed to chase his cows. After they had decided to sell up, the Purdeys’ new farmhouse was burnt down the night before they moved, driving them into hiding.

        Purdey’s farm vet died in a mysterious car crash, echoing the strange death of his solicitor, who unaccountably lost control of his car and hit a wall; phone lines to his farm were vandalised, and there were other similar, unexplained, incidents.

        These continued into 1994, when the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF) invited Purdey to London for talks about his theory, which by then was gaining ground, especially abroad. Summoned to meet the EU farm commissioner Franz Fischler, Purdey was disappointed to be fobbed off because, according to Fischler, his (Purdey’s) work had not been peer-reviewed.

        In 1997, funded by well-wishers, Purdey commissioned scientific trials which showed that phosmet did increase susceptibility to BSE, a finding which prompted the Government to announce that it would finance research into Purdey’s BSE theory. But it never happened: none of his proposals attracted funding, his ideas remained unresearched, and financial support from the public — believing the Government had stepped in with grant aid — ebbed away.

        In the end Purdey’s hypothesis was rejected not only by the BSE inquiry led by Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers but also by the subsequent expert committee headed by Professor Gabriel Horn, of Cambridge University, which concluded that the BSE epidemic had been caused by feeding infected sheep remains to calves.”

        High-dose exposure to systemic phosmet insecticide modifies the phosphatidylinositol anchor on the prion protein: the origins of new variant transmissible spongiform encephalopathies?


        “Compulsory exposure of the UK bovine to exclusively high biannual doses of a ‘systemic’ pour-on formulation of an organo-phthalimido-phosphorus warblecide, phosmet, during the 1980s (combined with exposure to the lipid-bound residues of ‘bioconcentrated’ phosmet recycled back via the intensive feeding of meat and bone meal), initiated the ‘new strain’ modification of the CNS prion protein (PrP) causing the UK’s bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) epidemic.”

  8. waltc says:

    Apparently the difference between relatively light and fatal cases is the person’s own immune response to the virus. An over-reaction to it is what kills. That would vary from individual to individual. And since so far we don’t know the reason for the difference in response levels, there’s no predicting who is which. As for continuing to work or not, I’ve had a bacterial pneumonis twice in my life. The first time, in my twenties, I literally became delirious and it hurt so much to breathe that in my fevered state, I considered whether it was worth the pain and effort. (i could not have worked.) Luckily there were still house calls and a late night shot of whatever antibiotic was an almost instant success. The second time, wasn’t even close, mentally or physically, and tho I felt lousy for about two weeks, and IIRC slept a lot and took oral antibiotics, I could have run a country between naps.

  9. Frank Davis says:

    25-Year-Old California Man With No Underlying Conditions Dies Of COVID-19

    If he’d been a smoker we’d have been told. If he’d been a smoker he wouldn’t have had a cytokine storm.

    7. Nicotine stimulation plays a key role in suppressing cytokine production, can significantly down-regulate and delay inflammatory and autoimmune responses in the central nervous system, and could further attenuate neuro-inflammation.

  10. Dirk says:

    More than one hundred thousand masks imported from China are destroyed by the Dutch government because those masks do not comply with safety regulations

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