1/ Like so many of us, I have been watching, aghast, as evil forces take over Afghanistan, and wondering "how can this be happening?"

It's not my area of expertise.

I think it's a proxy war.
2/ I think many of the Taliban fighters (and financial backers) are not Afghans, but extremists from other countries, who want to impose a misogynistic, illiberal culture on Afghanistan (initially). Probably ultimately on the world; but Afghanistan is weak and susceptible.
3/ But what do I know?

I hear people saying - "we cannot, indefinitely, hold the line with our military - eventually the local government must do this, and we must withdraw. We cannot continue to lose our own people's lives, and pay the vast costs."
4/ And perhaps they are right. I don't know.

I do see that, while the USA, UK and others have been in Afghanistan, life has returned to something more like normal, and human rights (the right to choose what to wear, to be educated, as well as more basic needs) have returned.
5/ This has to be a good thing. But I don't know if it's sustainable.
6/ I also hear people saying we have no right to impose our values on others. I could not disagree more! We want to support human rights; and human rights are for everybody.
7/ Nobody has the right to force a girl into "marriage" - sexual and domestic slavery - to reward a warrior. Nobody has a right to impose their views on others without a compelling reason.

People talk about "liberal democracy". But the most important word there is "liberal".
8/ Illiberal democracies are just deplorable as any other form of repressive government.
9/ Ultimately, somebody has decided that it isn't sustainable to prop up the Afghan government against the Taliban. The US decided to pull out; and apparently other countries cannot do it without the USA.
10/ Which brings us to - what could our (UK) government have done?

There has been much hand-wringing and many protestations that "we are doing our best". And my first thought was - how can I know otherwise?
11/ But then, I thought, "What would you have expected a good government to have done?" And some obvious answers start to form.

You'd have expected them to talk about it. To debate it in parliament. To make plans for what might happen.
12/ To listen to experts, and to the Afghan people.

Apparently, they decided that the Afghan government would be strong enough to keep the Taliban out. Obviously, they were very badly wrong. But I don't know why, or how predictable the actual events were.
13/ What I do know was that if they had done their homework, they must, surely, have known that this was a possibility.

And, if they'd known this was a possibility they should have planned for it.
14/ They should have known who was going to be at risk in Afghanistan if the Taliban took over.

Who had worked (directly or as contractors) for UK/allied governments, and would be at risk as a result?
15/ Who was a prominent woman, likely to be at risk because the Taliban see powerful women as a threat?
16/ These are just my off-the-top-of-my-head thoughts. I would have expected the government work with Afghan people and with with the experts in these matters to get together to draw up lists of people who needed protection, and to be withdrawn.
17/ I would have expected world governments to collaborate on plans for the worst case scenario which is unfolding.

Detailed plans should have been in place - complete with alternatives depending on what was possible - to rescue those people who want and need to be rescued.
18/ Detailed plans should have been in place, taking into account the wishes of those needing rescue, to resettle and use the skills of the refugees in countries they want to be in, and which are able and willing to take them.
19/ Of course, so many countries have amplified xenophobia and fear of refugees to gain support for damaging populism. The disaster of Brexit was created to a large extent by creating unfounded fears of immigrants.
20/ We were not where we would have liked to be, living in rational countries where people understand that refugees and immigrants are to be valued both for who they are, and also for the skills and energy they bring.
21/ In ageing countries like so much of Europe, we need carers, doctors, hospitality workers… In the UK Brexit has terribly (and so unnecessarily) exacerbated this need.

So we should see refugees as a wonderful resource; and we should be keen to make them welcome.
22/ Our government should be taking a lead on this, instead of doing all it can to drive further xenophobia, to demonstrate some sort of machismo by putting vast resources into keeping out tiny numbers of refugees who arrive by boat, and deporting people who came to the UK as…
23/ …small children after committing some minor crime.

But even with all this home-grown (albeit linked to populism elsewhere in the world) xenophobia, we should long ago have stopped deporting Afghans "because it's safe now that the Taliban are out".
24/ And we should have made plans to rescue and resettle thousands of Afghan refugees.

And to do so in a timely way. "20,000 over five years" is a joke - how many will have survived Taliban reprisals five weeks from now, let alone in five years?
25/ (As @RussInCheshire pointed out, 20000 over five years amounts to 0.25 refugees per town in the UK, per year.

20k was supposed to sound a lot; but it is next to nothing. Of course we could take many more.)
26/ We need to learn from other countries. Germany took in many Syrian refugees - and they were soon contributing more than the costs of rehousing and training them. See aljazeera.com/economy/2019/6…
28/ The economic benefits that they bring is not, of course, why we should be taking refugees. We should do it because it's the right thing to do.
29/ But we need to be confident that we'll benefit from doing so, in order to contain Farage and the other right-wing loons who run so much of the Brexity government and the excremental British press.

30/ I'm not convinced that Raab's delegation and/or failure to make a phone call was of any consequence.
31/ But I am convinced that the government knew (or should have known) that a rapid Taliban take-over was a reasonable possibility, even if they didn't know it would definitely happen.
32/ The government should have made contingency plans.

And they clearly didn't.
This thread is now also available as a blogpost: peterenglish.blogspot.com/2021/08/afghan…

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More from @petermbenglish

5 Sep
Maybe the JCVI decision does make sense. Thread.

I've revisited their terms of reference. They're all about cost-effectiveness.

They appear to have framed the benefits of vaccinating 12-15-yos exclusively in terms of the short term healthcare costs that would be avoided.

They appear not to have considered the wider benefits to children's.

Such as a reduction in disruption to education.
Such as distress when parents or grandparents get ill, can't work/earn due to Long Covid, or die.

Or the harm to the 1 in 7 children who get Long Covid, or the minority with permanent organ damage.
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30 Aug
We know SARS-CoV-2 can infect the brain.

So can measles, which occasionally causes SSPE - a progressive and invariably fatal brain disease, which typically becomes apparent years after measles infection. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subacute_…
About a century ago something - almost certainly virus - caused an epidemic of encephalitis lethargica. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Encephali…

How do we know that SARS-CoV-2 won't do something similar, possibly years after infection?

The answer is that we don't. It might do this.
That's one reason why I worry so much about the "children aren't at risk" messaging. It will be years before we will be able to say this with confidence.
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11 Aug
1/ Are we still at the point [genuine question] where a dose of Covid vaccine given in eg UK or USA deprives somebody in a poorer country from a dose?

And if so - is that because we haven't done enough to ramp up production?

What should be our priority now?
2/ Should we be boosting production in Africa, Asia, South America, and elsewhere?
3/ Will there come a point where the argument that we shouldn't vaccinate [lower risk groups] in rich countries until higher risk groups in poorer countries have been vaccinated becomes irrelevant, because there's enough manufacturing capacity everywhere?
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28 Jul
I was just told "my son went to the Latitude festival, and he and all the people he went with have Covid".

This begs so many questions!
Transmission is predominantly airborne, and mainly occurs when aerosolised respiratory droplets can accumulate, and you spend enough time in the space to breathe in an infectious dose.

That's what most of us believe.
An anecdote like this suggests so many hypotheses that could be tested by investigating transmission patterns at events like Latitude.

Who are the people the son went with? What did they do together? Can you identify clusters or chains of transmission?
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27 Jul
1/ There's been a lot of talk about Covid-19 becoming "endemic".

Which means it circulates normally.

It doesn't mean "trivial" or unimportant.

(Long thread.)
2/ (A version of this thread is available at my blog: peterenglish.blogspot.com/2021/07/will-c… .)
3/ Polio was endemic in many countries in the mid-twentieth century. Smallpox ditto, for a much longer period. Both caused death and disability.

Populations which had been exposed to them had lower mortality rates; but that didn't mean the disease was trivial.
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