So, are we all hugely overreacting? Some thoughts after chats with epidemiologists and statisticians this morning.

I can perhaps best sum it up in the words of one SAGE member who told me: "It's not that we're panicking now. It's that last time we didn't panic enough"

Yes, deaths and hospitalisations are low. But there are signs that they are rising.

And the key thing to remember is that there is a delay. There are roughly 21 days between infection and death.

So if you're seeing a large increase in deaths, then you're already too late.
Looking at the number of deaths relative to cases is also a misleading game, because we are now testing so much more, and catching so many more cases.

So it is not correct to say "look how much lower deaths are relative to cases than back in March"

You cannot compare the two.
And this is where comparisons with Spain and France can be useful. They are further along the second wave than us, so it's effectively like looking forward in time.

And the data there shows that the death rates are increasing. Image
They aren't increasing as quickly, that much is true.

We've got better treatments, we understand the virus better, so that will affect the numbers of deaths.

But they are increasing.
And yes, overall numbers are low now. In Spain there are 2.3 deaths per 100,000 people.

Compare that to 24 deaths per 100,000 people back in April.

But Spain had the same number of deaths as it does now in late March.

Just 3 weeks later, it had hit its peak.
Exponential growth is fast. And it's better to get on top of it sooner rather than later.

The bigger the outbreak gets, the faster it spreads.

So delaying to see whether stricter measures are needed is self-defeating.
And also, as one epidemiologist points out, if the virus is spreading amongst young people now, the death rate will not be rising at the same speed as the infection rate.

As it spreads into older populations, which is likely, that death rate will rise a lot faster.
Now, having said all that, there is a case for optimism. One Oxford statistician said there is no reason to assume that exponential growth will happen.

The context is radically different. Back in early March Boris Johnson was still wandering the country shaking people's hands.
We are now as a society taking mitigating measures that we weren't before. But we can't be sure.

And the Government was badly burned by not doing enough, soon enough, the first time. It is understandable they would want to avoid making that fatal mistake again.


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More from @mattuthompson

14 Jan
Baffling. London is 6th out of 7 English regions in terms of the numbers of vaccines given out.

Yet it has the highest infection rates in the country, and is one of the most populous regions.

The Midlands has given out nearly twice as many doses.

Also, the @standardnews has reported on City Hall's concerns that London is getting fewer jabs than it should here:…
Statement from @SadiqKhan on London’s vaccine shortage:
Read 5 tweets
14 Jan
These two things can be true:

1) The DUP might have forseen that Brexit would be challenging in the context of Ireland. Not like they weren't warned.

2) They were still betrayed by Johnson, who literally stood up at DUP conference and said he would never create a sea border.
The DUP's great mistake was arguably not to support Brexit in the first place, as many Remainers are gloating today, but not to support Theresa May's compromise.

That would have left NI in a much better place from a Unionist perspective than Johnson's deal.
Although that of course is only in hindsight, post-betrayal. Harder to see at the time that May's imperfect deal was better.

You could make a kinder argument that the DUP took Johnson at his word, and that was actually the mistake.
Read 5 tweets
13 Jan
Vaccine minister @nadhimzahawi now in front of the Science Committee. I will be watching so you don't have to ;)
Vaccine minister @nadhimzahawi tells the Science Committee that the Govt is not releasing the number of doses it expects every week, because of the way each batch of vaccine has to be checked, so the numbers "move around".
Chair Greg Clark asks if Zahawi is confident the Govt's target of 14m vaccinated by mid-Feb will be met.

Zahawi: "I'm confident we will absolutely meet our target, though there will be daily fluctuations”
Read 16 tweets
24 Sep 20
NEW: Chancellor Rishi Sunak announces a new "Jobs Support Scheme".

The Government will support the wages of people in work, for those working at least a third of their normal hours, paid as normal

The Govt will increase those wages to cover 2/3 of their pay.

VAT cut is extended for the hospitality industry.

5% VAT will apply until the end of March, rather than January.
This is an important clarification. The Govt will pay 22% of the extra wages. Effectively splitting the cost of the top up with the employer.

Employers will pay over half the salary of any workers on the scheme. Image
Read 5 tweets
11 Sep 20
So fed up of the Good Friday Agreement being completely misunderstood and used as a political football by both sides.

Take it from somebody who keeps a copy of the thing in his living room.

It has precisely nothing to say about a hard border. Zip. Nada.

The only mention of border infrastructure is in a passage on removing Troubles-era “security installations”.

It has nothing else to say. So the argument becomes one not about the letter of the agreement, but the “spirit”

So what on earth is the “spirit” of the agreement?
Well. It is primarily about consensus. And also about creating a space in which Irish people in NI are able to feel connected to Ireland, and British people to the UK.

Thus, so the argument goes, erecting barriers on the island North and South would risk that fragile consensus.
Read 6 tweets
10 Sep 20
Statement from @mhclg on COVID secure marshals:

"Local authorities are best placed to determine the model of deployment and responsibilities of marshals in their areas."

Local authorities to me this morning:

I'm also told that "numbers, recruitment, and remuneration" for these COVID marshals are for local authorities to decide.

And yet local authorities have not been given any information on extra funding for these roles, if any.

Suffice to say without extra money, no marshals.
Latest from No. 10 on COVID marshals:

- No extra money for them
- Up to councils to recruit them and decide what they do
- No powers to issue fines or any enforcement

Sounds awfully like it was a nice line in a speech, & any details are just being outsourced to councils.

Read 5 tweets

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