I was invited today to on @NickFerrariLBC to comment on the recent letter by 22 scientists on ending mask use in schools, and opening up the UK without masks & social distancing by June 21. I was *not* told that this would be a 'debate' with Anthony Brooks, one of the signatories
This is a letter that's been signed by Carl Heneghan, Sunetra Gupta, Karol Sikora - the architects of the pseudoscience & several debunked papers that led to the Great Barrington declaration - that caused untold damage to pandemic response across the world.
Both Heneghan and Gupta predicted there would be no 2nd wave. Gupta said early last year that 50% of the population was already immune, and we would reach 'herd immunity' soon. Both opposed pandemic control - & suggested we should let the virus spread through young people.
In September, they, in opposition to SAGE advice, advised Boris Johnson against lockdown even though cases were showing exponential rises. Ultimately, the govt was forced to lockdown in Nov. It's estimated that the delay cost tens of thousands of lives in the 2nd wave.
In the interview, Anthony Brooks started by suggested that cases and deaths in India are a small proportion of the total population, and the current devastation was due to 'poor health infrastructure' and not the proportion of cases, & that the UK could 'easily cope' with this.
We know this is completely incorrect. And hugely minimises what's happening in India at the moment. Cremations suggest deaths have been underestimated by between 4x-100x in different states, and cases by ~10x.
He went on to say that 'SAGE has claimed that the UK has attained herd immunity', and that the risk to young people of being infected was very low, and that SARS-CoV-2 was like the flu.
SAGE has never claimed the UK has attained herd immunity. They suggested that opening up rapidly even alongside vaccination could lead to hospitals and ICUs being full similar to the 2nd wave with tens of thousands of deaths - warning repeatedly that opening up must be cautious.
Very clearly 'herd immunity' hasn't been reached, also given the rapid 4-6 fold rise in infection among children we saw in Scotland when schools re-opened. And none of this addresses the fact that 1 in 5 young & healthy people get long COVID
We only have to look to what's happening in Chile, where vaccination rates are just behind the UK, and hospitals & ICUs have been overwhelmed exactly due to the sort of thinking supported by these scientists.
These scientists want to remove basic protections for children/staff in schools- when 43,000 estimated children & 110,000 staff are living with long COVID. Infections rose rapidly among children, increasing R when schools re-opened prior to Easter.

The situation is better now, only because Easter break was associated with a drop in infections among children, and a drop in R in the community. We see a clear relationship between school closure & positivity.

18% of our pop is fully vaccinated and 50% partially vaccinated.
Also no mention of the threat posed by variants- the B117 variant which is a result of our 'let the virus spread through the population' strategy is now causing devastation across Europe, and the US, after having claimed tens of thousands of lives in the UK following late action.
Many of us warned that allowing transmission to continue alongside vaccine roll-out will pose a threat to our vaccines, and pandemic control. Yet, we've done nothing to address this. We now have non-B117 variants at between 15-20% in London & South-East.

I really really hope much of this is travel and surge testing related, and not rises in the community - I don't know because the data aren't provided here. But in Maharashtra and W. Bengal, we saw B.1.617 become dominant while B.1.1.7 was prevalent (small nos of sequences though)
And data from the PHE on travellers shows the same- that B.1.617 became dominant among travellers from India alongside B.1.1.7. We don't know exactly what this means, but it is really concerning.
Despite all this, we're still platforming pseudoscience, and listening to scientists whose damaging pseudoscience has directly informed policies that have led to thousands of deaths. We can't do this again- 15 months into the pandemic- we must resist this.
The media & the govt has provided disproportionate attention to these fringe voices right from the start- and has not held them to account despite so many claims having been debunked. Disinformation costs lives. This needs to stop now.
I don't normally debate scientists who push fringe pseudoscientific views because I think this legitimises them and gives false balance to discussions. I would have never agreed to 'debate' Anthony Brooks had I known this was what was planned. Why is @LBC platforming this?

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More from @dgurdasani1

28 Apr
I keep hearing that the UK should open up now... because Israel! There's seems to be a misunderstanding about what actually happened in Israel. Israel has had fairly strict mitigations in place & schools were opened only after 57% of the population was fully vaccinated. Thread
I keep hearing that because infections in Israel have declined during vaccination, this is a sign other countries can open up. What people forget is that Israel didn't follow a vaccine-only policy, but a multi-pronged strategy aimed at containing transmission during roll-out.
Here are a few examples:
Schools in Israel only opened on the 18th April after 57% of their population was *fully* vaccinated, and children wear masks in schools.

They had a mask mandate outdoors & indoors until very recently (much stricter than the UK)

Read 10 tweets
27 Apr
The govt has recently started trials in schools to replace 10 day quarantine for contacts with daily testing with rapid (LFD) tests for 7 days. The govt is using these as 'green light' tests contradicting both MHRA & CDC recommendations. 🧵

There is very little transparency around this - to my knowledge the govt has not released ethics documents. It's clear from the information sheets provided to parents that consent is being sought only from children/parents who are willing to substitute isolation with testing.
This doesn't make any sense from an ethical perspective because the entire bubble is exposed to risk when a child who's been exposed is not isolating and rather being tested with LFDs that are known to miss infections, which is why they are only recommended as 'red light tests'
Read 26 tweets
24 Apr
Concerning that in India, not only is the cost of Covishield (Astra/Oxford) vaccine above the $3 max price set by Astra, but this cost is not being borne by govt, but rather by the public (esp for those <45 yrs). Current pricing is $5.3 and $8+ through state & private hospitals🧵
The Serum Institute is the manufacturer of Covishield in India, and originally sold 100 million doses to central govt for a price of $2 per dose. The govt has decided to split vaccine roll-out between central govt (50%) and state govt & private sector (totally 50%) from May.
This means that anyone over 18 can now access vaccination through the state & private sector - these are not free, though. People 18-45 yrs have to pay between $5.3-$8 for a dose, while vaccines are free for over 45s through the govt vaccine centres.
Read 8 tweets
24 Apr
The cases in India show no sign of peaking - and they will not, because no action is being taken to prevent this in most parts of India. Cases in all states rising exponentially now & nothing imposed except night/weeked curfews in most places. Why? 🧵
Here's the situation in India - every state has its own decision making capacity & what we're seeing now is exponential rises in *all* states. There is no part of India that is spared, but exponential rises have started at different time points - some later and some earlier.
What is absolutely clear is that even the places that are not where Delhi is will be there unless they do something to prevent this- because the rate of growth looks similar across all places - it's just at different points.
Unfortunately most state govts are not doing much.
Read 13 tweets
23 Apr
I've been avoiding writing about this because it feels too close to the bone at the moment. But important to discuss- so here goes. What's unfolding in India is absolutely tragic & horrific (and was preventable). Unfortunately, it's likely to get worse before it gets better. 🧵
We've been seeing rapid growth in the pandemic, which hit some parts of India (e.g. Maharashtra, W. Bengal, Delhi) earlier than others - but cases are now growing exponentially in every part of India. India has had >300K *reported* cases and >2000 *reported* deaths in 24 hrs.
Deaths & cases are being substantially underreported. The positivity rate in Delhi is 36% and testing isn't available for many. It's estimated that deaths are being underreported by ~10x, with level of underreporting varying from place to place.
Read 25 tweets
21 Apr
One of our government's 4 tests was not exceeding NHS capacity. An interesting discussion with @Kit_Yates_Maths recently with @OwenJones84, where he astutely pointed out that this hasn't been defined got me thinking about how we might go about defining this.

A few thoughts. 👇
So when is NHS capacity overwhelmed?
Is it when we run out of oxygen in hospitals?
Is it when we run out beds despite surge capacity?
Is it when we run out of ventilators?
Is it when we start creating surge capacity by using resources from other routine care settings?
Worth remembering surge capacity is often created at the cost of routine care - public & private. Also when we create surge capacity, the number of staff treating the patients are often still the same- it's just the no. of staff per patient has changed.
Read 12 tweets

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