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The case for a circuit breaker Professor Karl Friston has modelled the effect of a short lockdown, with surprising results

Last night in Liverpool before the long winter. Photo by LINDSEY PARNABY/AFP via Getty Images

Last night in Liverpool before the long winter. Photo by LINDSEY PARNABY/AFP via Getty Images


October 16, 2020   6 mins

In the highly polarised debate over lockdowns, Professor Karl Friston is somewhat hard to place. He’s a member of “Independent SAGE”, a group of scientists set up to critique the Government advice which has been accused of being stocked with Left-wing activists, and he’s a signatory of the new “John Snow Memorandum” opposing the ideas around herd immunity of the Great Barrington scientists. So far, so orthodox. On the other hand, his concept of immunological “dark matter”, which he floated earlier in the summer, sent his scientific stablemates into paroxysms as it seemed to suggest that not everyone was equally susceptible to the virus — one of many concepts that seemed heretical at the time but is now uncontroversial.

His expertise is complex mathematical modelling of biological processes — he calls it “dynamic causal modelling” — which gained him global renown when applied to neuroscience and which he is now applying to the pandemic. Many people will be sceptical of the whole discipline of using maths to forecast the progress of the virus, since the controversial Neil Ferguson models and the disastrously poor IHME forecasts in the US. But Friston’s models, as well as being much more sophisticated, are different in the crucial respect of including societal and governmental effects as well as epidemiological factors; if deaths go up sharply, people start taking greater care, for example.

His models are starting to develop a track record. Back in early July, Friston appeared on Newsnight in a barely-noticed interview, and was asked if there would be a second wave. At the time, cases and deaths were falling and many people were hoping the virus was behind us altogether. “Yes, there will be [a second wave],” he told Kirsty Wark. “It’s not going to be the kind of second wave we saw in the Spanish Flu
 this is going to be a much more muted second wave.” He predicted less than 6,800 deaths from it.

According to Professor Friston, the “secondary wave” is unfolding largely as predicted — see the blue line below, taken from his report in June (the 32 months refers to the typical length of time he is assuming immunity lasts). If we proceed as we are, without national lockdowns, the model suggests that daily deaths will soon peak and start coming down. He now thinks the total deaths from this second wave will be closer to 2,500 than 6,800.

Figure 1: June projection for a second wave (Karl Friston)

Friston was recently asked by the Independent SAGE group to model the effect of a two-week national “circuit breaker” lockdown, and the results (seen by UnHerd but not yet published anywhere) he found “slightly counterintuitive”.

The first finding is that a two-week national lockdown does not, as he had hoped, bring transmission right back down to zero. “I had thought that a national circuit break would ‘crush’ the curve,” he tells me. “However, I was wrong: although the secondary peak is suppressed, it leaves us with a chronic fatality rate that is slightly higher than the summer.”

In this respect, his findings could be taken as an argument against such a circuit-breaker, with all the disruption and damage it could cause. “The modelling suggests that the window of opportunity for suppression has now passed,” he says. He concludes that the effect of a circuit breaker, in the absence of new factors such as a much more effective test and trace system, would not be to reduce the total deaths in the long term, only delay them. At some point in the future, the total deaths for the two scenarios (with and without a circuit breaker) will converge.

The only game-changer, as far as Professor Friston is concerned, would be really effective contact-tracing and supported isolation; in his view, this is the only solid argument for a national circuit-breaker and is why he is happy for his name to be among the Independent SAGE voices calling for it. It would theoretically create the low-incidence environment in which such a system could start to work much better. (Of course, in order to take this gamble, you would have to assume that Her Majesty’s Government have the competence to seize that opportunity.)

When Professor Friston modelled the longer term death forecasts with — and without — a two-week national circuit breaker, the difference was stunning. The blue line shows deaths without a circuit-breaker to the end of 2022 and the green line shows it with a circuit breaker and improved contact tracing:

Figure 2: Death rate

According to Friston, the circuit break would have the effect of stopping the second wave in its tracks and interrupting the cycle of tertiary waves, fast-forwarding us into a state akin to what epidemiologists call “endemic equilibrium” — ie when a virus continues to circulate but at a manageable, more consistent level.

The difference seems so dramatic as to be, at first glance, too good to be true. One clear shortcoming is that the model doesn’t account for normal seasonal variations in the virus. But the underlying principle is that, once the epidemic has assumed the dynamic of a wave as Covid-19 now has, with cases always going up or down, it is like a pendulum and requires interruption to break the pattern. “Perhaps a good heuristic to get one’s head around the effect of a circuit break is to think about pushing a child on a swing. Now, you want to go home and stop the swing. You will almost certainly apply a short sharp force against the direction of travel when the speed is greatest – i.e., now, when cases are accelerating,” Friston says. In dynamic systems theory, this would be described as “amplitude death” — the destruction of oscillatory dynamics with a small, well-timed change to the parameters.

So what, I ask, would a two-week lockdown need to consist of to have this effect? “It only presumes we can replicate for two weeks the levels of reduced contact that we achieved in the spring,” he says. Seems achievable enough, but what happens after the two weeks? How quickly could we resume something more like normal life? “The forecasts imply an immediate rebound from lockdown that slowly recovers to levels that are about 70-80% of pre-covid contact rates, over the next few months, and then slowly recovers over years.”

And what presumptions does the model make about immunity? If only a small minority of people have immunity to the disease, and we gradually return to normal, wouldn’t the virus start to gather pace again among the majority of people who are still susceptible?

Friston’s model presumes that 33% of the population has been exposed to the virus. From the data, he has made inferences about immunity. “Of those that have been exposed, 82% appeared to be susceptible to infection; however, 40% of these may never produce antibodies. This means that if you split effective population immunity into seropositive and seronegative proportions [ie with and without antibodies], we should have about 8% seropositive immunity and about 23% seronegative immunity (presumably mediated by T-cell immunity). In total, this means over 30% of the population could be effectively immune.”

Professor Friston’s calculations take the wind right from the sails of both sides of this debate. According to him, the second wave is not going to be as bad as the spring, despite the claims of Deputy Chief Medical Officer Jonathan Van Tam that we are back where we were in April; Friston found Sir Chris Whitty’s simplistic projections of exponential growth “unnecessarily alarmist and unsupported by quantitative modelling”.

He suggests that we are dealing with a far more moderate resurgence, which you could argue does not warrant national interventions of this kind, with all the side effects they entail. As he said to me, “to put things in perspective, the number of lives saved from SARS-CoV-2 [from a national lockdown] is about twice the number of people dying from road traffic accidents in a year — and less than half the number dying from seasonal influenza.”

But, on the other hand, no one can look at that chart and not be intrigued to see if in two weeks we could achieve such a fundamental change in the dynamics. “These damped oscillations appear to be converted into a slow drift to endemic equilibrium (of a sort) — much like cardioversion, where a fast irregular heartbeat is returned to a slow rhythm following an electrical ‘reset’”.

Is it worth attempting? If the Professor is right (and it’s a big if), faced with such long-term devastation to the economy and society, even lockdown-sceptics might be tempted to accept the hit of a bounded two-week lockdown if it were to lead to a more constant low level that would actually, finally, allow life to gradually return to normal.


Freddie Sayers is the Editor-in-Chief & CEO of UnHerd. He was previously Editor-in-Chief of YouGov, and founder of PoliticsHome.

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Andrew Harvey
Andrew Harvey
3 years ago

So lock down for 7 weeks in the spring cost about 20% of GDP, or about £560 billion. At that rate, a two week shut down would cost about £160 billion.

If you’re talking about saving 4000 lives, then that means the cost would be about £40 million per life, most of whom are within a few months of dying from something else. Even if this back of the envelope calculation is off by an order of magnitude (i.e. 10 times smaller), the NICE assumption for the reasonable cost of a QALY is only £20k and this shouldn’t even be up for discussion. It makes no sense.

Prof. Friston (and the journalists providing a platform for this insanity) really needs to buy a clue.

Bruce Wallace
Bruce Wallace
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Harvey

Yes and it’s a computer model attempting to predict the future. And the idea that a new lockdown would just be for two weeks is utopian. We’d be in lockdown for at least a month. NI has just anounced a new lockdown lasting a month.

Adrian
Adrian
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Harvey

And we are not counting collateral deaths from missed hospital treatment. that might bring the cost up to £100 million per life. You can save a lot more than one life with £100 million. The tax on £160 billion (say £16 billion) spent on the more exotic cancer drugs would go further.

Joe Smith
Joe Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Adrian

And the more economic damage there is and more spent on testing means less for health and social care spending in the future. Come the next pandemic we’ll be no better prepared if the govt doesn’t spend large amounts on increasing NHS capacity for the long term, and it probably can’t do that now because of the massive extra debt it’ll have to service.

matthew.smith.7319
matthew.smith.7319
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Harvey

Service industries and the tourism which bolster them were decimated over the Spring and Summer, when they would have generated the most income. The decline in good weather over the Autumn impacts this naturally, Covid or no Covid, so a short national lockdown should be timed perfectly to enable a return to full service delivery by Christmas, providing the economy with a well-deserved shot in the arm. I don’t doubt that if everything was opened as normal throughout December we could see record spending figures this year.

nicktoeman4
nicktoeman4
3 years ago

Locking down for half-term wouldn’t do the tourist industry much good. Locking down in term time wouldn’t do the rest of industry a lot of good either.

LUKE LOZE
LUKE LOZE
3 years ago

In one way this is sensible, possibly with ‘circuit breaker 2’ in the new year. However there are a few issues with this, the hysteria required to promote the lockdowns will kill more pubs and restaurants. More people will be broke and financially scared too.

The only justification for lockdowns is as breathing space to sort out hospital space & testing. With people like Hancock this will never happen, Apparently 40% off care homes have seen no testing in the last month, it needs to happen weekly, ideally daily.

The GBD is perhaps not just a good way for a competent country to sort out covid, it might be the only way that we can too. If our limited abilities are focused around care and health facilities it might, might just be enough.

Instead if a bad second wave hits will Covid positive people be sent to care homes again?

martin_evison
martin_evison
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Harvey

It’s still not clear that lockdowns have actually saved any lives from Covid, but they have caused fatalities and long term debt, with all the harms that go with it.

arthur brogard
arthur brogard
3 years ago
Reply to  martin_evison

exactly. but isn’t it true that clarity is precisely what no one who ‘matters’ wants?

the politicians want more and more obscurity because it hides their ignorance,. incompetence and culpability.

journalists want more obscurity because they’re parasites on commotion and harm, thrive on them.

and they are all that ‘matter’.

we don’t matter. we are unimportant. we have never been asked since day one. that’s ‘we’ the people.

‘we’ the elderly matter even less.

90 odd % of what we read is only opinion at best but what I’ve just said – isn’t it totally right?

Alan Thorpe
Alan Thorpe
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Harvey

We are the only ones who should determine the value of our life. If we accept that locking ourselves away and not working will save our life and benefit our family, then we should accept the consequences of not having any income. If we need to take a loan to make up for lost earning that must be worth the cost if our life has a financial value.

7882 fremic
7882 fremic
3 years ago
Reply to  Alan Thorpe

What an idea, to borrow money to cause great financial harm to one’s self. I wonder what kind of bank provides loans like that.

Jeremy Rolls
Jeremy Rolls
3 years ago

Hmmm so if the second wave is only going to cause 2,500 deaths (which is in the noise level of annual deaths and a lot of those 2,500 would sadly die in the near future anyway) then surely the answer is to protect those likely to die (i.e. the elderly and sick)? He seems, inadvertently perhaps, to be making an argument for the Great Barrington Declaration’s focused protection – protect those who need protecting but let the rest of us get it so we drive the immunity level up from 30+% to herd immunity?

Tim Coote
Tim Coote
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Rolls

I couldn’t understand why he’d signed a petition against GBD, as this model implies that it would be easy to avoid flooding the nhs and get to 70%+ immunity within a few months. The main cost of the suppression approach comes, it seems to me, from the unknown, but lengthy duration. A shorter route to an identifiable end would surely be more palatable.

T J Putnam
T J Putnam
3 years ago
Reply to  Tim Coote

It would, but Focussed Protection doesn’t offer it, as it’s based on a poor understanding of the CoVid 19 virus and it’s pathologies. Epidemiological models just project the knowledge and assumptions on which they are based. Focussed protection starts from an unrealistically narrow characterisation of pathologies (only deaths) and therefore the number of people likely to be affected. Further, virological knowledge of CoVid mutations and the extent and duration of immunities is partial and shifting, you can dip in and pull out bits to support all sorts of projections, including those behind Focused Protection, but it’s only going to impress people who already like the result. And a result which just says if everybody just does what they think is best for them it will all be for the best is just too tasty right now. Don’t count on it working out, though.

Andrew Harvey
Andrew Harvey
3 years ago
Reply to  T J Putnam

So everyone does what YOU think is best for them is your chosen outcome?

LUKE LOZE
LUKE LOZE
3 years ago
Reply to  T J Putnam

The problem with the ‘no guarantee’ of immunity argument is that it’s not only how we live with the the other 4 coronaviruses’, it’s largely how vaccines work.

With your thinking we’ll lockdown until the economy or/and society collapses – but you’ll know to the last dead million that you were right. Probably quoting the idiotic Imperial random number generator along the way.

John Finn
John Finn
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Rolls

Hmmm so if the second wave is only going to cause 2,500 deaths

Right – so this is a model we approve of. I get it now.

Bruce Wallace
Bruce Wallace
3 years ago

False equivelence. A government report suggests that lockdowns could cost 100,000 lives. That means saving 4,000 lives would only cost 96,000 others. I think Freddie is sufferring from lockdown fatigue. Sure I’d love us to get back to normal but it wouldn’t work out like that. The politicians and “scientific” panjandrums are going for zero covid. A hairbrained utopian project. Given that even if there were no virus left continued testing would throw up false positives anyway. There’s no escape from this madness.

Judy Simpson
Judy Simpson
3 years ago
Reply to  Bruce Wallace

Madness is what it is. In Australia, the plan seems to be zero COVID cases and is predicated on a vaccine in the near future, which may not be forthcoming (I’m not hopeful). Now that WHO have announced that trying to achieve herd immunity is “unethical”, I wonder what Plan B might be. It seems we’ll be in some form of lockdown indefinitely.

7882 fremic
7882 fremic
3 years ago
Reply to  Judy Simpson

WHO plan B is again making things better for some thing China wants. Or so I would guess.

Edward Caldwell
Edward Caldwell
3 years ago

We cannot afford any further restrictions beyond protecting the vulnerable. For the same reason that we do not have an annual lockdown for influenza outbreaks – it is not economically viable.

Russ Littler
Russ Littler
3 years ago

..has anyone thought to ask the elderly what they want? Everyone over 60 I speak to says “They’re not making me a prisoner”.

Jeremy Rolls
Jeremy Rolls
3 years ago
Reply to  Russ Littler

There is a choice of two prison sentences – everyone goes into prison (lockdown) or only those that are older/sicker go into prison (shielding aka focused protection). The first prison sentence lasts for a long time and doesn’t achieve the rehabilitation objective – so we all re-offend and have to go into prison again. The second one is shorter but does achieve the objective so doesn’t need repeating. And being more serious for a moment those who are over 60 and wish to take the risk and not shield should be allowed to take that risk.

Last Jacobin
Last Jacobin
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Rolls

25% of the population would be vulnerable or living with someone vulnerable. Lock up a quarter of the population. Explain how? And the 75% will contain a number of people who don’t know they are vulnerable and will suffer severe illness or death. How many of those are you willing to sacrifice?

Jeremy Rolls
Jeremy Rolls
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

If we can lock up 100% of the population then surely we can lock up 25% if the right support is put in place? We had a shielding programme before which came to an end in early August (perhaps one of the factors behind the recent upsurge in cases). Had we allowed the virus to wash through the unshielded population previously then the shielding could have been a lot shorter and we may not be having this conversation now! I accept your point that we don’t know who all the vulnerable people are but there again there are people walking around who think they are perfectly healthy but are about to suffer heart attacks or strokes or who have cancer but don’t realise it. I am not wishing to trivialise any of that but we live in an imperfect world and lockdowns etc. will only cause other health conditions to go undiagnosed or treated causing more deaths in the end. Plus the one good thing about covid-19 is that we have learnt a lot about how to treat it and the infection mortality rate appears significantly to be decreasing as a result.

LUKE LOZE
LUKE LOZE
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Rolls

Sadly with heart attack and strokes you’re talking about none-Covid deaths. To lockdown fanatics none-Covid deaths do not matter, they are irrelevant.

The 10,000s of deaths directly caused by the lockdown panic so far are not, repeat are not the fault of lockdown fanatics. Lockdown fanatics accept zero responsibility for their actions. 350,000 missed cancer checks, 48% lower hospital attendance for strokes or heath attacks. It’s fine, write them off, it’s not Covid, only Covid matters.

Alan Thorpe
Alan Thorpe
3 years ago
Reply to  Russ Littler

When the lockdown was introduced it was mainly the elderly that were out.

Stuart Roberts
Stuart Roberts
3 years ago
Reply to  Russ Littler

Good point!

arthur brogard
arthur brogard
3 years ago
Reply to  Russ Littler

yep. I’m old. I agree entirely. fortunately i don’t live in a city else I would find life and the attitude of the government intolerable to the point where I’d be forced into being criminal. i would have no way to avoid it.

to destroy our society without asking i take to be beyond their remit in a democracy on first principles.

to destroy our lives likewise.

and to fail to protect the elderly and frail or at least give them the chance to protect themselves is beyond that all the way into criminality.

i see them all as criminal. literally.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago

We have a perfectly good model. Namely, Sweden. And an ever better one in the form of Florida. Just get on and do it.

Bruce Wallace
Bruce Wallace
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Amen!

Terry Davis
Terry Davis
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

I agree. Use Sweden as a model, as it’s empirically based on, ie based on real facts, rather than a mathematical model such as Ferguson or Friston’s which depends on their assumptions, and we all know, particularly with regard to Ferguson’s models, if you put rubbish in, you get rubbish out.

By the way. I would suggest that Johnson knew that Ferguson, with his record of creating massively incorrect scaremongering models, would create a nonsense forecast, that would allow Johnson to follow the the opinion polls, that dictate all of his actions, with their screams for a lockdown, in the knowledge that when the inquiry comes, he’ll be able to claim he followed the science and Ferguson was to blame for the unnecessary, damaging lockdowns, that even the WHO no longer support.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Terry Davis

Yes, you are probably correct regarding Johnson and his calculations. What a piece of crap he turned out to be, at least on this issue. (Brexit is looking a little better), Ultimately I blame the media for their hysteria and inability to evaluate or present facts and statistics with any degree of competence.

Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
3 years ago
Reply to  Terry Davis

The Swedish model : Based on nearly everyone doing as they were advised

e.g. no visits at all to care homes unless you have a negative PCR or positive antibody test ;

“People wash their hands and keep a distance, avoid unnecessary traveling and gatherings over 50 are banned. Authorities are continuously keeping an eye on pubs and restaurants and shut them down if they do not follow guide-lines.”

“A lot of shops are closing down, and not to mention the whole entertainment industry (where I work). There are more events now that go by the 50 people maximum limit, but during the spring and summer I don’t think there was a single public event in my home town.”

“I think the main difference between Sweden and many other countries is that we have had the same kind of restrictions and recommendations in place the whole time. And we have a really big adherence from the population to those recommendations.” (Tegnell)

+ Limiting the numbers on public transport;

+ No in person education for 16 + and university students;

+ If you test positive right now : “You should stay at home for seven days but be tested after five days,” Tegnell adds.
Anyone affected by the rules will be contacted by an infection tracker and get more information about what applies. Decisions about rules of conduct are made by doctors, and the rules may mean that you are not allowed to go to work.
“This is not something you take the initiative for yourself. You will be contacted by the health service to get these rules of conduct formally. It is only then that they apply”, says Tegnell.

+ some basic demographic differences which make inter country comparisons utterly useless e.g. 40% of households in Sweden are single person households and Sweden has the smallest average household size in the OECD (1.99) – no young people transmitting to granny and grandpa over the evening meal.

judith.m.wright
judith.m.wright
3 years ago

Swedish Granny and Grandpa likely to be already shoved into residential homes rather cared for in community or among family. Half the COVID deaths in that country were in residential homes. Furthermore there are several reports from concerned Swedish medics, among others, that the elderly were not offered basic low-cost treatment interventions eg oxygen and antibiotics, that would have reduced their agony of dying. Enough talk about enlightened Swedish model!

croftyass
croftyass
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

and the Diamond Princess-albeit not a random population but a hell of an unintended experiment.

Andrea X
Andrea X
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

And what about all the University student incarcerated? What was the outcome of that experiment?

Steve Dean
Steve Dean
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Sweden isn’t UK though is it. They have had effective messaging, we haven’t. They have good levels of public trust of politicians, we don’t.

John Chestwig
John Chestwig
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

I know we shouldn’t take single data points as evidence, but it is at least interesting to note that Sweden has just achieved it’s lowest ever rate of monthly deaths:

https://twitter.com/latimer

Iliya Kuryakin
Iliya Kuryakin
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Death rate in Sweden is c580 per million, in neighbouring Denmark it is c116. Sweden is not a success. Japan (13 deaths per million) is a success as is South Korea (8), Singapore (8), Hong Kong (14) and Taiwan (0.3 – yes, 0.3). We need to stop being so Eurocentric when looking at this pandemic.

7882 fremic
7882 fremic
3 years ago
Reply to  Iliya Kuryakin

That is because the Western Pacific people are virtually immune to covid, it has always been endemic there. The immunological ‘Dark Matter’! AND this does put a spin on the presumption it came out of a bio-lab in China! Reminds me of the old stories of smallpox tainted blankets given to the Native Americans. Also Sweden is a great success, the fact they killed huge numbers of their old folks in homes where Denmark did not is a big part! ALSO why does no one talk of Belarus! The second country which did herd immunity, with stellar results!

Adrian
Adrian
3 years ago

Unfortunately Prof. Friston is wrong. This is a closed system model. So no-one reseeds from outside.

With the possibility of reseeding from foreign countries, the wave pattern would start all over again, with no gain.

I like the Prof’s model, because the shape approximates the real world graph shapes, and that is crucial. Wrong shape = wrong model.
I would say though, that the June prediction did not show the shape shown in the first graph. In fact it predicted a peak in January. I believ the reason for this was the 28 day debacle, and with that correction, the June model would have looked as above.

I paid close attention to Prof. Friston’s paper when it ame out. The next month will tell us how correct he was about France and Spain. If he was correct, then the actions of the politicians and SAGE have had little affect on the second wave. But they will not be able to admit this. They are politicians, and they believe if they see an effect it was due to their actions or lack of it, and not because of loss of viral immunity.

Adrian
Adrian
3 years ago
Reply to  Adrian

Actually, the Prof, might just be right. If that low level infection activity does keep up herd immunity, maybe, just maybe, unless there is a large reseeding event, the waves might stop.
Only, is it worth it? That is not a question a neuroscientist can answer.

7882 fremic
7882 fremic
3 years ago
Reply to  Adrian

Better modeling method. Boil a spaghetti noodle 8 minutes. Fling it at
the wall, if it sticks Lockdown, if it does not stick, NO Lockdown. Next
time you run the model Adjust the cooking time +- till the noodle does
as you wish it to do. The only model I have found is correct so far is the one Sweden and Belarus used to decide on no lockdown and heard immunity.

Duncan Cleeve
Duncan Cleeve
3 years ago

How about we carpet bomb cities, thus lowering the population, thus bringing the ‘R’ number down, wouldn’t that save lives? With the 100’s of billions already spent on dodgy unreliable tests etc we could have bought entire towns for the vulnerable and their careers to live in. How about we have a circuit breaker on SAGE, (straight jackets would be good), and the political class. Why is NHS, (No health service), not prepared, this happens every single winter.

Kathryn Richards
Kathryn Richards
3 years ago
Reply to  Duncan Cleeve

‘Why is NHS, (No health service), not prepared, this happens every single winter.’
An excellent question, especially when the Times had this headline a couple of days ago
‘Hospitals were ‘better prepared’ for Covid-19 in March, Liverpool doctor warns’

Why are we ‘saving the NHS’, if this is how they plan for something they KNOW is coming?

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
3 years ago
Reply to  Duncan Cleeve

My relatives Worked in Isolation hospitals in 1930s (Usually TB) Like Beechings rail Plans they seem alright at the time,, Unintended consequences,a decade later or so/..Shutting Small hospitals in 1960s 1970s Now look like folly?

Matthew Reid
Matthew Reid
3 years ago
Reply to  Duncan Cleeve

Worked for Walking Dead.

Bruce Wallace
Bruce Wallace
3 years ago
Reply to  Duncan Cleeve

Perhaps a thermonuclear self strike on London would be a good idea. There would be no R number to worry about there after it?

LUKE LOZE
LUKE LOZE
3 years ago
Reply to  Duncan Cleeve

With Hancock anywhere in charge the bombing would miss. Of course we could have protected the vulnerable, but far better to send infected people to care homes.

Of all the idiotic decisions so far that one stands out, I don’t know if it was SAGE, NHS chiefs or Hancock but someone needs to face trial for slaughter of 10,000+ care home residents that this caused

steve gouldstone
steve gouldstone
3 years ago

Touching though it was to read of the Professor’s faith in his own models, reading this:

.. Friston’s models, as well as being much more sophisticated, are different in the crucial respect of including societal and governmental effects as well as epidemiological factors…

gives away that this model simply contains more guesses than the other models. No one has any idea what values these effects should have, they can only be guessed.

I’m sure the values of these guesses were tweaked until the model output looked reasonable. That’s what I would do too.

But it’s not science. It may be interesting but it shouldn’t be accepted as predictive, any more than the original Fergusson models should not have been.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago

Everybody, except it seems Freddie and politicians, knows by now that all these models are worthless.

Adrian
Adrian
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

I think they are pretty good models. I’m hoping the politicians will pay more attention to him next time. If they do, they’ll avoid the scaremongering generated by vastly poorer models.

They’ll also avoid unnecessary lockdowns.

Adrian
Adrian
3 years ago

These aren’t just guesses. The model is tested for overfitting, and to be fair to Friston, his models have been pretty much the best in the past.
His models have so far predicted the current timing and rough size of the Spanish and French second waves. That model came out in June, 3 months before the peak occurred. He is pretty much the only modeller saying “for all intents and purposes it’s over”, but he doesn’t say “this isn’t worth it”, because he’s not a politician.

7882 fremic
7882 fremic
3 years ago
Reply to  Adrian

The old red on roulette fallacy. You say Black has come up twice so red must be next. But in fact red/black remain 50/50 each spin. I give his model no more credit than if he was factoring in astronomy and Chinese fourtune cookies. I say it is mere guesswork, or making inputs make the desired results. NO, quit this insanity!

F S
F S
3 years ago

All this absurd arguing over every possible statistic and looking at every piece of data and everyone suddenly becoming an expert in terms previously only known to medical professionals… it’s driving me crazy.
There was never and will never be a reason for governments to have this insane level of control over people’s lives. What used to be called house arrest is now called “self isolation.” All these terms like “lockdown” and “social distancing” as if they are actual practices that have always existed. No previous pandemic has ever had such a bizarre response and no one ever called for a lockdown because there was a pandemic in a country filled with brown people. No lockdown exists for working people who bring the middle class whatever they need while they work from home and worry about how to dress for zoom meetings.
It is well known now that most people who get this virus will be fine and those most at risk of death are ALREADY at risk of death from serious infections of all sorts. Hell, have a look at the disgustingly unhealthy old politicians who’ve had this particular virus and come out the other side just fine! Even if you are at risk it’s not like you’re definitely going to die. If you believe what you hear, everyone drops dead if they so much as walk past someone who has it. Yet by their own statistics, most people do not have it, and most people who DO have it will be FINE. It doesn’t actually matter how many people have the virus if MOST PEOPLE RECOVER from the virus. Even with the added risk to the elderly, I can never agree that the answer is to shut old people away in isolation and anyone who comes near them must do so in a HAZMAT suit.
It’s all so utterly inhuman. Treating people like they are just walking germ carriers. As if we aren’t all living lonely and isolated lives already, particularly the elderly, now people are literally scared of touching another human being!
For all time we have lived with all sorts of infections and viruses and deadly diseases. If you’re sick you stay home. If you’re susceptible to illness you take responsibility to watch out for situations where you’ll be exposed. You do not get publicly humiliated for unknowingly passing on anything to anyone, (as most of us certainly have killed someone by infecting them with flu, or something else, somewhere along the chain of infection at some time!)
Strong governments would have shown their strength by giving people the information about the virus without hysteria and hyperbole and people would’ve been able to make up their own minds as to what risks they were willing to accept according to their own health and life would have gone on. The only action needed was to revive the decimated public health systems. And I’ll give you a big tip; standing on your front step and clapping at them isn’t going to do anything no matter how good it makes you feel. Properly paid, properly trained staff, with enough of them so they’re not working 24 hour shifts and enough beds for patients isn’t actually too much to ask for, covid or no covid. I’ve heard of plenty of winter flu seasons where there have been patients in hallways and patients being turned away from hospitals near me and I live in Australia, where we still have something of a public system…why has that never been a hysteria-inducing fact until now??
The weakness of governments everywhere is evident in these panicked and ever changing responses. That’s the sad reality, it’s the weakness that’s being exposed now, not the strength.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  F S

Great post. My sentiments exactly. Thank you.

Michael Hanson
Michael Hanson
3 years ago
Reply to  F S

Wow! That’s like a definitive critique of the whole situation. Well done.

Ben Scott
Ben Scott
3 years ago
Reply to  F S

Perfect summary of the world we now live in. Thank you

Roger Inkpen
Roger Inkpen
3 years ago

It’s a rather clever new expression – the ‘circuit breaker’. It implies that if we stop all but essential activity we can stop transmission of the virus. On the face of it, it sounds more dramatic than the lockdown we had in the spring, which clearly wasn’t enough to stop the spread for several weeks. But from what I’ve read it’s no more than what they are doing in Liverpool – close certain businesses and non-family contact.

The only really effective ‘circuit breaker’ would be to do as they did in Wuhan – place everyone under house arrest. No one is proposing that!

And so what happens if numbers are still rising after 2 weeks? Make it another week? Then another? It’s pure fantasy to say it will be time-limited.

andrew harman
andrew harman
3 years ago

My first post, though have been reading for some time. I think many on here would be well advised to steer clear of forums like the BBC HYS – the imbecility of some of the conditioned, even brainwashed, posters on there would raise blood pressure to near boiling point! For myself, I am optimistic that the madness will end and that there will be an almighty reckoning resulting in destroyed – deservedly – careers.

7882 fremic
7882 fremic
3 years ago
Reply to  andrew harman

The Daily Mail BTL posting is the best, as far as I can tell they let anyone say anything and no one gets banned. A great many trolls posting TDS one liners to derail discussion, (wumao) but shout out your g-5 Bill gates vaccine nano-chip theory and it is OK. You can also call Zukerburg Satan and be for the Proud Boys and still keep posting.

Russ Littler
Russ Littler
3 years ago

Firstly, stop dressing up this further ridiculous lock down as a “Circuit breaker”. It’s not, it’s just another lock-down as was planned and pre-ordained. Secondly, where has this second round of virus come from? If the whole world was locked down (194 countries) for weeks at a time, (which they were, specifically to eliminate this virus), then how did it re-emerge? Who was carrying it? Not the people who were in lock-down, because (A) they didn’t have it to pass on to anyone, and (B) the lock-down far exceeded the life span of the virus in an individual? Before any clown says: “it came from abroad”, we must remember, that they too were in lock-down and quarantine for even longer, and then tested before flying into this country, so has this strange virus popped in and out of existence like some virtual particle? The WHO and CDC have consistently lied about the projected rate, the fatality rate, and the infection rate, so who is actually supplying these “spike” figures to the government? Are they being manufactured to push the mass vaccine agenda? Are ICU’s overflowing. The answer is NO, they are not, and they weren’t overflowing during the original lockdowns (hospitals were only operating at 53% capacity. So, if the first set of draconian lock-downs didn’t get rid of this nothing burger virus, then why would a second set of lock-downs stop it? A government that truly wanted to “save lives”, would have grasped at all possible treatments, and listened to the front line Doctors around the world who were having success with those treatments, but instead, they did the exact opposite of everything sane and logical. They deliberately went out of their way to discredit treatments with bogus studies deliberately designed to fail, they censored any new information, they struck off anyone who spoke up, and even banned the use of those treatment drugs. A government who truly wanted to “save” the sick, elderly, and vulnerable, would not have instructed NHS managers to put infected patients in care homes, and paid them a bonus to do so, they would not have used the main hospitals to treat covid patients, but instead, put them in the nightingale hospitals. They would not have told new cases to “go home and isolate for 10 days” with no treatment. (this allows the virus to replicate in the body, and leads to the cytokine storm stage). I could go on and on pointing out these anomalies, but I’m sure you get my drift. We have been lied to on a monumental scale, and are still being lied to. Anyone who thinks this is about a virus, must have cognitive issues.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Russ Littler

Thank you. You speak for millions.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

One scientist only has to open his/her mouth for another to condemn them. Brilliant!
Roll on Bastille Day, and the chance to sweep the filth from the Augean stables, before the Chinese do.

Andrea X
Andrea X
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Why has the comment being marked as “spam”? You may or may not agree, but it wasn’t spam for sure.

Nigel Clarke
Nigel Clarke
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrea X

Lots of post have gone missing on this article, and oddly enough other COVID related articles.
2 of my posts have gone missing today from this article.

7882 fremic
7882 fremic
3 years ago
Reply to  Nigel Clarke

My guess is you are a ‘wrong thinker’, so in the interest of correct thinking you had to be redacted.

Nigel Clarke
Nigel Clarke
3 years ago
Reply to  Russ Littler

Excellent Rant!

This ceased to be a public health issue months ago.

The real reasons are pretty scary.

But no-one wants to believe what is becoming obvious.

We wear masks, even though we know it doesn’t make any difference, but continue to do so anyway.

Alice could believe 5 impossible things before breakfast. How many do you think we have to believe every day, just so we can go to the shop, go to work, go for a walk, go on holiday, go out for the day….

Chris Clark
Chris Clark
3 years ago

Perhaps if the GBD had used the term “epidemic equilibrium” instead of herd immunity, everyone could get onboard and there would finally be a common-sense, compassionate and encompassing consensus among scientists.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Clark

Instead we have achieved ‘herd insanity’. The western mind has turned to mush, destroyed by 50 years of free money, unbounded welfare and hopeless education systems. I think I have reached the point where I would prefer to be governed by the Chinese.

Richard Turnbull
Richard Turnbull
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

That works well if you like what the Chinese government says. Quite a few that don’t like it end up in prison camps or worse.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago

I am fully aware of the evil nature of the CCP. But at least they are in some respects competent, and there is some level of accountability with regard to the performance of public officials etc.

Moreover, the West is travelling pretty quickly in the direction of the routing suppression of freedom of speech or dissent.

Matthew Reid
Matthew Reid
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Unfortunately, that comes back to the Western mind turning to mush, as we are constantly fed the message that China, while authoritarian, gets things done. Like Mussolini running those trains on time 😉

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Witty,Sarcasm the lowest form of…? Wuhan Laboratories half funded by EU?…

Steve Gwynne
Steve Gwynne
3 years ago

Interesting but the assumption about ‘perfecting’ test and trace is a Perfectionist Fallacy often utilised by the Left and ideological Libertarians.

Only a quarter of the population have downloaded the NHS test and trace app, people aren’t self isolating, many more don’t even agree with current restrictions as per the tier system, the model only fixates on preventable covid deaths without considering increased suicides, increased domestic violence, livelihoods lost, huge divergences in abiding with restrictions, the high rate of household transmissions, especially within ethnic minority communities.

Basically, this model needs to be weighted with variable assumptions and compared to lives lost due to other untreated conditions.

David Bell
David Bell
3 years ago
Reply to  Steve Gwynne

Don’t forget the economic impact and the forecast that every 1% drop in GDP results in approximately 5,000 deaths.

David Bell
David Bell
3 years ago

This is another model that looks interesting but runs head long into some very serious reality issues. First the good news, it appears to have learned the lesson of the Imperial model and has not set out to scare us with death rates. I suspect that is why it has not been on the BBC, ITN or Sky. A death rate of 2,500 to 6,000 is considerably less than the current Imperial/Sage promoted model (I think it is there’s) for a second wave of 20,000 deaths. So once again you can strike a zero of Imperial forecast to get to where most other people are!

Now for a bit of reality! In March we entered a 3 week lockdown which, we where told, would “flatten the curve” ie it would reduce infections and death rates. Simply put it didn’t and the full lockdown lasted for 3 months and many of the other provisions were still in effect when we entered this new phase. We also have evidence from local lockdowns in places like Lester who were in lockdown for months before any effect could be seen on infection rates.

Those who propose a “circuit break” lockdown need to explain:

1. What are it’s objectives
2. How do we define success
3. What happens if, after 2 weeks, the objectives have not been met ie it was unsuccessful
4. What is the exit strategy in the even of it being unsuccessful
5. What will the cost of a “circuit break” lockdown be on non covid 19 disease

The real issue is the first lockdown, as defined on 23rd March 2020, failed to act as a “circuit break” and it ended up morphing into something else. We need to know if the supports of this policy want that to happen again.

Carlo Dallapiccola
Carlo Dallapiccola
3 years ago
Reply to  David Bell

Therein lies the problem. You only know if the circuit break lockdown was a success as follows. (1) Have absolute trust in the model and compare the size and shape of the resulting ripple with the prediction (and then you still have the problem of deciding how close the agreement must be in order to declare it a success). (2) If it was ultimately decided that the lockdown was successful by the criteria of step (1), you wait to see if there are any new ripples or waves developing from end of the lockdown until about March 2021, when the model predicts a new ripple will develop only if the lockdown did not suppress the “oscillations.” Of course, by then you’ve already had the lockdown and so what will be said if, in fact, a new ripple develops? We make new models, new projections and new proposals to disrupt normal life?

David Bell
David Bell
3 years ago

Well put. Interesting we actually have comparative evidence coming now with different parts of the UK in lock down and other parts not. My view is the lock down areas will not show any notable change in infections over none lock down areas.

7882 fremic
7882 fremic
3 years ago
Reply to  David Bell

I like it, sort of a ‘Powell Doctrine’ thing (the Powell Doctrine says never go to war till you have your exit strategy all figured out ) Something ‘Lock Down number one’ did not have!

David Bell
David Bell
3 years ago
Reply to  7882 fremic

I had never heard of that before Doctrine before. It sounds like a good policy to have.

Fran Martinez
Fran Martinez
3 years ago

So there are 3 possible scenarios: 1) doing nothing 2) Doing a 2 week short circuit, and follow with perfect contact tracing 3) doing a 2 week short circuit with bad contact tracing.

We should weight the outcomes by the probability that they are implemented correctly. That’s by the probability of them actually happening.

Case 1) doing nothing would require nothing new so we can implement that with 100% effectiveness.

Case 2) the probability of doing a perfect contact tracing is likely less than 10% given how bad it is now.

Case 3) about 90%

In conclusion, if you do the 2 week short circuit we have 90% of chance of achieving the same of doing nothing but with the social costs of an extra harsh 2 week lockdown.

And when this happens, politicians will undoubtedly come up with scenario 4. To keep extending the lockdown over and over again.

Russ Littler
Russ Littler
3 years ago
Reply to  Fran Martinez

…what if?…there was NO re-emergence of the virus at all?. What if the figures are all completely fake and manufactured to instill fear and panic? The best way for them to get their vaccine into everyone’s veins, is to make life completely unbearable for people. To the degree where people will agree to anything? The months of lock-downs didn’t get rid of it, (circuit breaker 1) The months of Ultra-violet sunlight didn’t get rid of it. The masks didn’t get rid of it, the social distancing didn’t get rid of it, The curfew hasn’t got rid of it?…really? Luckily, it doesn’t attack policemen, healthcare staff, or shop-workers. They are somehow immune.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago

Freddie, you have done more than anyone else to bring rational and dissenting voices to the Covid debate. But surely by now you have realised that all these models are just nonsense, utter nonsense.

Steve Gwynne
Steve Gwynne
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

The only thing that is just utter nonsense is your irritating irrational biological let rip maximum herd immunity ramblings.

You are literally beyond clueless.

Adrian
Adrian
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Prof. Friston’s models are a cut above the rest. Vastly more accurate, and actually up to date with cutting edge data science. The models the government chose to pay attention to were quite the opposite.

Also, the models shown here are the only ones I have seen that propose that the shape of the death curve we have seen in multiple countries is caused by loss of immunity. And it is virtually the only model which doesn’t predict exponential deaths.

The fact that he predicted 3 months in advance that we’d have a second ripple, of the size we have, and that this is not primarily seasonal is phenomenal. If his predictions for France and Spain (made 3 months ago! and published!) are proven true over the next month, he can only be declared an utter genius, and his models should almost certainly become the mainstream.

If he was an epidemiologist, and not a neuroscientist they’d have all taken him seriously months ago.

I’m not so sure about his call on a circuit breaker, but if anyone is likely to be right, I suspect it’s him.

oxfordpat.wordpress.com
oxfordpat.wordpress.com
3 years ago

“the number of lives saved from SARS-CoV-2 [from a national lockdown] is … less than half the number dying from seasonal influenza. … Is it worth attempting?”

If somebody had approached you on 16th October 2019 and suggested halving the rate of flu deaths by stopping everyone in the country from leaving their house for a fortnight, I suspect you’d have regarded him as a nutter. So what’s changed?

Warren Alexander
Warren Alexander
3 years ago

In many ways, the most frightening aspect of Prof Friston’s work is that it shows up the stupidity of the government’s attempt to ridicule and insult people who are advocating or simply discussing alternative approaches. It is work such as Prof Friston’s, the Great Barrington group’s as well as SAGE that should be part of a proper debate within government and in the public domain that will lead to better decision making, better public understanding and public confidence in government action.

riskpearlswisdom
riskpearlswisdom
3 years ago

The model process for covid-19 requires three stages. The first is acquisition of data, second is the application of the algorithm and the last is interpretation of the results. There are some highlights of how poor the process has been: –

1) Data gathering of cases is now mixed in with positive results of the testing. False positive rate is now so high that only 7% are true.
2) The track-and-trace exacerbates the inaccuracy as people are being locked down based on the potential that the person is near someone who later tested positive
3) The definition of fatality with Covid-19 and because of is mixed. Also ethic and age is missing which are are greatest differential
4) The model SIR is a research piece and not fit for purpose beyond a very few set of people. Definitely not for policy.
5) The results were interpreted to a level of crime-against-statistics. The worst case scenario should be classifies as “unlikely” was described as “most likely”
6) The hysterical narrative is reminiscent of XR. This is not a surprise as their quoted aim is to destroy capitalism
7) If you question the doctrine such as the Doctor from Germany who spoke his mind at Speakers corner, you are a “Gammon”,”Cassandra” or you just fine them to oblivion. This particular case of the German Doctor was arrested and locked up for 22 hours.

And finally, policy response has been unbelievably inept, ignoring the fact that one cannot control a virus. You can only manage the infection rate to the capacity of the medical services.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago

The US tried the two-week lockdown. About 200 days ago, and lockdown conditions persist in some jurisdictions. The larger point is that you are not going to shutdown the entirety of society for two hours, let alone two weeks. And when certain things start being treated as exceptions – say, supermarkets or pharmacies – then the list of exceptions predictably grows because no one likes being considered “non-essential.”

Dennis Boylon
Dennis Boylon
3 years ago

Why does Sweden have no second wave? The average age of death in Sweden was 85. Is there even a virus to stop? lol. Nobody is dying but the old and frail. There is no reason for any of this.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago

Apparently a German court has just ruled against the legality of the enforced closure of bars at 11pm there. I don’t know if this is countrywide or just in one lander or city. But perhaps, just perhaps, like El Alamein, this is the end of the beginning of the tyranny.

Isla C
Isla C
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Let’s hope so.

Steven James
Steven James
3 years ago

I could retire if I could place spread bets on the accuracy of experts ‘modelling’… We all of course know the initial lockdown saved 450,000 lives if Ferguson’s ridiculous predictions are to be believed!!!… The blame for the thousands of excess deaths lie firmly at his door,.. and I have about as much faith in this latest bit of guess work.
My gut feeling was with the Tegnell, Heneghan,Gupta etc approach at the start and I’ve seen nothing to convince me otherwise

Richard Pinch
Richard Pinch
3 years ago
Reply to  Steven James

lockdown saved 450,000 lives if Ferguson’s ridiculous predictions are to be believed!!!… The blame for the thousands of excess deaths lie firmly at his door,..

No they do not. The famous 510,000 figure was a Reasonable Worst Case estimate, adopted at SAGE 11 as such, and RWCs are explicitly not predictions. So the answer from SAGE to the question “Can existing resources cope if we do nothing?” (which is the sort of question a RWC scenario is intended to answer), was “No”, which I maintain was the correct answer to that question at that time.

It’s as mistaken to say that lockdown saved 450,000 lives as it is to say that modelling was responsible for lockdown. The praise and blame for the results of the government’s policies belong firmly to the government — advisers advise, ministers decide.

Steven James
Steven James
3 years ago
Reply to  Richard Pinch

Fair comment, I accept the last bit re advisers…. But I still don’t think lockdown made a great deal of difference, there is evidence that lockdown came after the peak of infections(April 8th)…. We’ll never know because it’s counter factual, so agree to disagree…. It is probably sensible for Ferguson and co to over estimate their predictions as it’s win win.. He’s a mathematician so I take the opinion of the people I mentioned over his very chequered past performances

david bewick
david bewick
3 years ago
Reply to  Steven James

Peak deaths were 8th April, peak infections were actually prior to the lockdown (around 15/16th March). The Imperial model that came up with the 0.9% fatality rate was based on 6 flights out of Wuhan, 687 people of whom 6 tested positive.

Dennis Boylon
Dennis Boylon
3 years ago
Reply to  Richard Pinch

Donald Trump has used this. They predicted well over 2,000,000 US deaths. Trump claims he saved 2,000,000 lives!

Carlo Dallapiccola
Carlo Dallapiccola
3 years ago

I’m not sure I would care so much about dampening down ripples of decreasing intensity beginning as late as April 2021 and extending into 2022. First, they represent very small amounts of excess deaths, and, second, it seems likely that by then the effects of vaccination will be kicking in, further dampening the size of the ripples.

It seems like a dangerous idea to continue down the road of using mathematical models to propose very drastic measures such as those we have all been subjected to this year. Where does it end? Shall we also model seasonal flu deaths this way and propose short “circuit breakers” each Winter in order to reduce the deaths? What metric do we use for when these are to be implemented? A prediction of > N deaths? Sounds hugely dystopian to me.

Richard Pinch
Richard Pinch
3 years ago

I think that this article makes it clear that modelling leads to the conclusion that the predicted or projected outcomes depends crucially on assumptions about behaviour.

Ieuan Owen
Ieuan Owen
3 years ago

I think this argument can be me either way. I’m relieved by his serpositivity and negativity argument – this fits very much with the data and common sense. We are close to a level where the virus is present but more in the background. My challenge around a circuit breaker is not that it would save lives but that it’s desperately impractical. Willing to give it a go but I don’t know if I trust the politicians to do it right and to only stick to two weeks.

eloyacano
eloyacano
3 years ago
Reply to  Ieuan Owen

Your point about sticking to the two weeks is a good one. The governments keep moving the goalposts. Today, they say two weeks. Then it becomes four. Then it becomes 16. That’s exponential growth for you, eh?

saradesaulnier
saradesaulnier
3 years ago
Reply to  Ieuan Owen

Here in Canada we did “14 days to flatten the curve” ” 7 months ago! And here we still are…. half open, slowly closing back down, with no end to the nonsense, in spite of a very moderate death rate. I wouldn’t trust governments as far as I could throw them to do what they said they would do. They move the goal posts almost daily, and certainly seem to be looking for a complete eradication of the virus, which is wholly ridiculous at this point.

Ben Scott
Ben Scott
3 years ago
Reply to  saradesaulnier

Indeed. How long did it take for the narrative to go from “flatten the curve” to “new normal”?

Probably about the same it will take to go from “circuit breaker” to “new new normal”

Jeremy Stone
Jeremy Stone
3 years ago

It is not clear whether the “circuit-break” depicted in the second chart is sufficient to brake the oscillations, or requires extensive testing and tracing (as mentioned elsewhere in the interview). If we could believe that a really tough lockdown of duration 14 or 21 days would actually stop the infernal machine, it might be worth it. The variant that relies on continual testing and isolation in perpetuity is not credible, whatever the causal dynamics say; we have a proven track record of being unable to do it. However, the interesting thing about his second chart is that even without the circuit breaker successive waves get smaller and appear to converge on the same endemic equilibrium over a couple of years. So the total life cost of not doing the circuit breaker is the sum of these decreasing wavelets, and this integrates to some finite number (unless there is some other force at play, it is not divergent, and not an incremental rate per annum, as shown in the inset chart of cumulative deaths).

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Stone

My old friends Sharon and Trace would be more use than Track and Trace.

Go Away Please
Go Away Please
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Stone

I’m not sure but I think that the graph is suggesting something like saving 4,000 lives between now and end 2022 if we apply the circuit break now whilst we are on a rising amplitude.
I’m taking this from the smaller inset graph where the red text says this, but like you I am puzzled. Freddie didn’t explain that particularly well, but if it didn’t make that level of difference there would not appear to be much point to this article.

David Bell
David Bell
3 years ago
Reply to  Go Away Please

Which is interesting. So if the “circuit break” saves 4,000 lives, how many does it cost? If it takes 1% of GDP that costs 5,000 lives. I think the cost/benefit suggests no lockdown is better than a lockdown

Go Away Please
Go Away Please
3 years ago
Reply to  David Bell

You’re very likely correct. I’m all for cost benefit analyses and tried to argue exactly this sort of thing in March, but after a few months I simply gave up. It dawned on me that most people weren’t seeing things this way and no attempts to show them the numbers had any impact at all. And by numbers I don’t mean just the £, but also the deaths from all causes. Nothing made a difference.
It is much more about people’s sense of morality, values and the idea that every death matters. I’m resigned to a circuit breaker lock-down any day now.

David Bell
David Bell
3 years ago
Reply to  Go Away Please

I think the cost/benefit is now very obvious and those calling for the “circuit break” lock down have become blinkered, or obsessed with Covid. I’m hoping the government can hold it’s nerve because those areas (Parts of Scotland, all of NI and now all of Wales) will end up having to make brutal choices in 2/3 weeks over coming out of lock down while their cherry picked states are going the wrong way or extending lock down for every longer periods while watching people with no infection suffer deprivation. I am hoping the evidence this provides will prove why the WHO has called for an end to lock downs.

Your statement on “morality” is very interesting because it highlights something that is now very evident. When the WHO called for lock downs we had to follow their advice because that was “following the science”. Now following the WHO advice is going against the “science”. This is a typical “progressive” attitude were we start with the answer and work back to the question by being selective with the “science” we quote!

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Stone

It could break keir Starmer ..he is Worse than Jeremy Corbyn….”No but yes..but no” or Victoria Pollard..

Nigel Clarke
Nigel Clarke
3 years ago

Why are posts being taken down?
Why are perfectly legitimate post disappearing?

This comments section is becoming a little like CiF in the Graun

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Nigel Clarke

Yes, I see that the brilliant and totally truthful post by Russ Littler was removed. See my comment below about freedom of speech here and in China. Increasingly there is no difference.

david bewick
david bewick
3 years ago

It’s worth noting that the IFR as peer reviewed and published by the WHO attributed to Prof Iaonnidis is 0.23% and in the under 70’s is 0.05%.

Richard Pinch
Richard Pinch
3 years ago
Reply to  david bewick

Even more worth noting is that the summary oof that preprint (BLT.20.265892) says

Conclusion The infection fatality rate of COVID-19 can vary substantially across different locations and this may reflect differences in population age structure and casemix of infected and deceased patients and other factors. The inferred infection fatality rates tended to be much lower than estimates made earlier in the pandemic.

The figure of 0.23% was the median of reported rates ranging from 1.63% down to zero.

Joe Smith
Joe Smith
3 years ago

We know from experience that it’s easier to get into lockdown than out of it, so how much economic damage is this likely to cause? And the idea that two weeks would be enough to get a really effective track & trace system in place is implausible.

MagentaPen 07mm
MagentaPen 07mm
3 years ago

Good article, good read. The case for any further drastic action, much less a circuit-breaking lockdown isn’t indicated by the data. If we were looking at those projections a year ago, none of us would seriously be considering risky and draconian measures that would surely cause widespread economic, psychological, and other non-infectious-disease suffering. Perhaps rush to find a vaccine and encourage wide-spread mask wearing. But we would not have seriously considered lockdowns for the amount of deaths we’re seeing, particularly amongst the non-vulnerable <70 years old population, which is almost everyone.

Carlo Dallapiccola
Carlo Dallapiccola
3 years ago

Spot on. But now we have a populace that has been carefully conditioned to be extremely fearful of this particular risk to their health, to the point where nobody can really say what the “all clear” and return to normality looks like. As long as there will be covid dashboards everywhere we look, there will be people insisting that we have too many infections and too many deaths.

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
3 years ago

“…You will almost certainly apply a short sharp force against the direction of travel when the speed is greatest ““ i.e., now, when cases are accelerating…”

Perhaps it’s just that the swing analogy is not a particularly good one, but… You would never attempt to stop a swing when the speed is greatest. You would wait till when the swing is about to turn. The swing is momentarily at rest at it’s zenith, and it requires much less force to ‘catch’ it at this point and apply the slowdown. If you attempt to apply counterforce when the speed is greatest, you’re liable to get knocked off your feet if the child’s feet catch you.

stephensjpriest
stephensjpriest
3 years ago

Interview on you tube

MP Chris Green, The First UK politician to resign from government over the crisis – 16th Oct 2020

you tube watch?v=7eBSwspojh4

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago

Yes, a man with some integrity.

Richard Pinch
Richard Pinch
3 years ago

The blue line shows deaths without a circuit-breaker to the end of 2022 and the green line shows it with a circuit breaker and improved contact tracing

So, not comparing like with like. As the article makes clear, the effect of a circuit-break on its own is to postpone cases rather than to have any significant effect on the total numbers in the long-term.

I used a simple SIR model yesterday to look into the results of Medley et al on circuit-breakers. It was based on R0=2.8 and 5 days infectious period. Since it’s a homogeneous population level model, I wouldn’t rely on it for accurate numerical predictions, but it gives a qualitative picture of the sort of behaviour one can expect. I’ll give the rough figures to illustrate that behaviour.

If we do nothing, new cases rise to a peak around day 57, on which about 7% of the population are new cases, then fall off to negligible around day 90, by which time about 94% of the population have been infected, and that is where it levels off. (Deaths depend on the assumed IFR which I’m not going to discuss here). The herd immunity threshold is 64% but cases still occur even after the infection rate has slipped below 1: I’ll call this the “tail”.

Next I tried simulating a “circuit break” of 21 days (roughly two infection cycles) at various points, assuming that during the break the rate of interaction would fall by a factor of 3.5, then rise back afterwards. For example, a circuit break on day 40 postponed the peak to day 81, but still around 7% and the number infected levelled off at 93%: essentially the same. A break on day 70, after the peak, reduced the overall infection rate to 92%.

What did make a difference was having the circuit break pretty well at the peak, say at day 56. In that case there was a second much lower peak around day 96, and a much lower limiting infection rate of 75%.

My intuitive explanation for this is this. Break too early and you simply postpone the peak (by a time pretty much the same as the length of the break). Break too late and the bulk of the cases have already happened. Break dead on the peak, when the number of cases has just reached herd immunity and you can remove a significant number of the cases in the tail.

Of course, the dynamics for the UK as a whole are far more complicated ” we have cross-cutting regional and age-related differences, for example. So my overall conclusion is that circuit breaks can push the peak later in time but not change the level, except where the break happens to coincide rather precisely with a peak in a sub-population, in which case it can make a difference to the long-term case figure. This is the sort of thing Medley et al were looking at.

Although I’m not sure about the “immunological dark matter” or other reasons for pre-existing immunity, it happens that the SIR model accommodates that particular refinement quite easily by changing the initial S percentage from 100% downwards and a corresponding increase in R0. For example, one might assume an initial 50% immunity due to T-cell resistance or indeed any other reason, in which case the estimate for R0 needs to be doubled. The qualitative results are the same: without intervention there’s an exponential rise to a peak, then a fall, with long-term case number the bulk of the susceptible population. Again, the only time a circuit break has an effect is the period just around the peak.

Adi Dule
Adi Dule
3 years ago
Reply to  Richard Pinch

So basically it cuts the tail if done properly. This is the best explanation I have heard (although I am not convinced that it may actually work. Maybe once in 50 years if we have a 50 years pandemic). I wonder though why those SAGE scientists are in the business of terrifying people rather than explaining this stuff

Richard Pinch
Richard Pinch
3 years ago
Reply to  Adi Dule

Yes, but you need to know exactly when the peak is going to occur. To quote Piet Hein on making toast:

There’s an art of knowing when.
Never try to guess.
Toast until it smokes and then
twenty seconds less.

Dennis Boylon
Dennis Boylon
3 years ago
Reply to  Adi Dule

They are more social engineers than they are scientists.

david bewick
david bewick
3 years ago
Reply to  Richard Pinch

I remember Graham Medley in a BBC interview saying the time for a lockdown is either so early that it catches everything (also destroys everything) but better is to get it as close to the peak as you possibly can which is borne out by your comments I think? I also remember a German epidemiologist whose name I can’t begin to remember who said you can never lockdown at the right time because that time is only known in hindsight.

Carlo Dallapiccola
Carlo Dallapiccola
3 years ago
Reply to  Richard Pinch

What I would like to understand is the mechanism behind the period (time span) between these bounces, or waves. In Friston’s “do nothing new” model, they seem to occur at regular intervals separated by about 5 months. What are the dominant factors that set that time scale? And why is it so long? Naively I would expect it to be shorter, given the relatively high transmissibility of the contagion. Is it because some pockets of the population reach HIT, and then the contagion takes a while (5 months) to circulate around and find new pockets of highly susceptible individuals?

Adrian Smith
Adrian Smith
3 years ago

Whilst I find both his predictions credible – the no circuit break seems to already have happened in lockdown free Sweden and his circuit break is like South Korea which got its act together on track and trace very early, it is founded on the flawed assumption that effective track and trace would happen in UK. The blunders on this already have in my view doomed it as an effective measure for ever more.

I was sceptical from the outset and have personally done everything I can to be as un track and traceable as possible. I have little doubt that others who have already wasted 2 weeks of their lives self isolating when they were not infected are also taking similar steps. All that also presumes the technology and process which has, to put it mildly, been a total cluster to date can magically transform into something that does actually do what it says on the tin. Having Scottish MPs totally disregard all the rules even after a positive test does not help either.

Andrew Harvey
Andrew Harvey
3 years ago
Reply to  Adrian Smith

You know that Laos and Cambodia have lower Covid death rates than Korea? What do you think their test and trace regimes are like? Korea’s ability to contain Covid is not because they test and trace. It was never going to be a serious issue there whatever they did. Britain could have the greatest test and trace system imaginable, but it’s never going to give us the innate immunity seen in East Asia.

david bewick
david bewick
3 years ago
Reply to  Adrian Smith

I keep hearing about SK and Taiwan and so on and how they have the house in order on test and trace. However, no-one seems to want to say how they actually do it and how it would transfer to a western democracy. SK uses draconian and intrusive measures written into law. Their most draconian measure of using tags for those isolating was removed on grounds of human rights. Other measures couldn’t be applied in Europe as they drive a coach and horses through privacy laws and GDPR. Other south eastern countries use isolation camps so you don’t isolate at home. Test and trace continues to outperform its European counterparts and is above the level expected from a study commissioned by SAGE in March. It remains built upon a test that is unreliable and will never make a major contribution as compliance is so destructive.

Frederik van Beek
Frederik van Beek
3 years ago

‘He now thinks the total deaths from this second wave will be closer to 2,500 than 6,800’.
Well, to me that’s hardly a wave at all…from a statistical point of view it’s not even worth mentioning compared to influenza.

Andrea X
Andrea X
3 years ago

The “John Snow Memorandum”?
WTF!!!
How many such things are doing the rounds? Is that the new “copy and paste it on your timeline 10 times to win a prize”?

Clach Viaggi
Clach Viaggi
3 years ago

Why not put on this circuit breaker just the susceptibles? Over 70s and immuno depressed.
They may need to stay longer than 2 weeks, but it’s definitely more substainable of a general lockdown.
So we combine the Great Barrington declaration principles and Friston model.

Last Jacobin
Last Jacobin
3 years ago
Reply to  Clach Viaggi

Still comes in at around 25% of the population when you take into account those who live in the same household as the vulnerable (susceptibles). Still waiting for someone to give me an answer as to how we isolate that number of people, how long we do that and how many unexpected cases of death and severe illness from the virus we are prepared to tolerate among those who aren’t identified in advance as vulnerable.

Andrew Harvey
Andrew Harvey
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

If isolating 25% of the population is too hard then the answer is most certainly not to isolate 100% of the population.

Why do some people find that even vaguely difficult to understand?

And it wouldn’t be too hard. Every person over the age of 60 could have been provided with free ocado deliveries for life, deliveroo on demand, an iPad, free broadband, a Netflix subscription (and a brand new Ferrari) for the amount of money destroyed by the first lockdown.

Bruce Wallace
Bruce Wallace
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Harvey

They could all have been provided with a hazmat suited personal butler. it really is a crass argument. If a tenth of the resources lost through lockdowns had been focussed on shielding the vulnerable we would be in a better place. Similarly we could have invested in covid quarentine hospitals stoping the aquired infections. Similar protection plans for care homes etc.

David Bell
David Bell
3 years ago
Reply to  Clach Viaggi

NO need to put immuno suppressed people on lockdown unless they have other factors. The only people who need to go into lockdown are immuno compromised people.

This comes from evidence collected of people who have contracted Covid 19 and take immuno suppressants.

Michelle Johnston
Michelle Johnston
3 years ago

In New Zealand the view is you need 28 days to break the cycle not 14 days. Auckland was in Level 3 from 13th August to 23rd September track and trace worked and all close contacts were put in government isolation facilities. The costs are not yet available but each life saved in the first lockdown cost 40,000,000 NZ dollars in additional debt and lost output assuming deaths double influenza like the UK so very badly managed. I think in a densely populated country it would have effect but with out world class T & T and poor self isolation the cost benefit ratio is questionable.

Bruce Wallace
Bruce Wallace
3 years ago

Yes but what now for NZ? What if the virus floats in on the air or comes in from abroad? Is NZ to remain cut off from the world forever?

starogorodsky
starogorodsky
3 years ago
Reply to  Bruce Wallace

Their PM has just successfully won the reelection. So task one completed. Now they will think what to do with all those little citizens. May be really lock them down and close borders indefinitely if they are so supportive? :-))

BTW – NZ’s 2nd lockdown was exactly because the virus floated to the country with frozen food cargo. Hahaha!! Good luck NZ!

Ted Ditchburn
Ted Ditchburn
3 years ago

I have almost given up trying to wrap my head around this stuff (which is a bit unlike me really).

The drug companies and such who seem to massage their share prices with an announcement a day about a vaccine, and the endless supply of experts from different fields who come up well argued and authoratative and completely contradictory theories ten times a day.

I think more important than the number of deaths is national cohesion…to that end I would advocate a Saturday night programme like the old national lottery programme at the climax of which a giant penny is tossed by some contraption to decide these things…so : Heads we lockdown, Tails: we loosen up back to hand washing and swerving off pavements….then whatever it is, it is what it is and we get on with it.

Olaf Felts
Olaf Felts
3 years ago

Sweden and Florida.

Bruce Wallace
Bruce Wallace
3 years ago
Reply to  Olaf Felts

And South Dakota.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Olaf Felts

Yes, they are the models to follow. as I have said here before.

Carlo Dallapiccola
Carlo Dallapiccola
3 years ago

Here’s the thing…even if you manage to convince a pro-lockdown person of your position, based on IFRs and tradeoffs between covid deaths and lockdown-induced deaths and other very negative consequences, you will invariably find that they just pivot to long covid and other potentially long-term effects for the survivors. There is little to go from there because the research on long covid is sparse and compelling statistical analysis of it almost non-existent.

Bruce Wallace
Bruce Wallace
3 years ago

Because it’s bullshit. Post viral fatigue etc has been around as long as flu. Meanwhile the list of long covid sequelae grows by the minute. Brain damage, total organ failure, blood clots yada yada yada. A new story is that covid can be transmitted in semen. It’s all hyperbolic BS.

Kenneth MacKillop
Kenneth MacKillop
3 years ago

The “circuit breaker” would of course be a hair-trigger device based upon the totally inappropriate PCR testing data, which has little to no correlation at all with (many weeks) later fatalities over the course of the pandemic. And the correlation is continually decreasing toward zero with time, of course. As I said below — “diminishing returns”. This is a law of human nature.
I was glad to hear Prof. Balloux state the obvious — PCR testing is worse than inappropriate. It is misleading and deleterious in informing any good public policy decisions. Not only is it a waste of money/resources in and of itself, but it will continue to lead to even more costly and wasteful policy decisions by politicians.

Clinical diagnosis has been almost totally removed from the equation (a first in history wrt pandemics, I think), leaving only the data from a manufacturing process (PCR) inappropriately redeployed as a diagnostic method. Even the best epidemiologists now have little to no reliable and appropriate data with which to analyze, except for fatalities which come only with weeks of lag. And even the fatalities data is overcounted of course, attributing any death “with CoVID-19” to death “from CoVID-19” and then some more.

7882 fremic
7882 fremic
3 years ago

If you are sitting at home when the circuit breaker pops, and you are left in darkness, and the refrigerator defrosting, the heat off, the clocks resetting, TV off, and so on. The problem is only one thing set the breaker off. It acted on that, but also everything else. It is a good analogy.

Richard Pinch
Richard Pinch
3 years ago

I think that since Prof. Friston has been frank enough to share these predictions, as predictions, with us, we might look at a previous prediction of his. On 18 September, “Independent SAGE” published a slide deck with a graph looking remarkably like Figure 1, with acknowledgement “*Modelling from Prof Karl Friston’s group at UCL”.

Perhaps the main difference is that the red (highest) peak in the September graph is around mid-November, at 50 deaths (by eye, the axes aren’t labelled very well). For today, the number of deaths in all models is in the range 20-40. In reality, the out-turn was more like 117 (7-day moving average).

So given that the predictions got worse between June and September, I think it would help us if we heard from Prof. Friston addressing the discrepancies between the models he has already published and reality before asking us to pay serious attention to his later work.

blanes
blanes
3 years ago

You are being duped. Check out the World Economic Forum’s “Great Re Set” Its on their web page and champions the need for a One World Government. Wake up people.
https://www.weforum.org/vid

stephensjpriest
stephensjpriest
3 years ago

Hi unheard

Mark Dolan: “We are killing Britain”
you tube watch?v=F3oLyFQcGok

Mark Dolan: “We are killing Britain. We can’t do this forever. This virus isn’t going anywhere. Don’t be fooled by talk of a quick fix vaccine. That’s nothing more than snake oil.

Kenneth MacKillop
Kenneth MacKillop
3 years ago

Another modeller living in the world of his own imagination, thinking that he can fathom the mix of human behavior of an entire society.
I tend to think, just glancing at the “results” or prediction made by the model, that it is obviously wrong. The model seems to incorporate a substantial buildup of immunity between each successive “wave” (without lockdowns). OK.

And each successive wave without successive lockdowns is a scaled down version of the previous one, reflecting the continuing buildup of immunity with time and between time of potential successive lockdowns. OK.
Not only does the model predict virtually perfect isolation for all but the 1st lockdown, reflected in visible successive waves vs. invisible waves. Freddie has already pointed out how the already-recorded data illustrates only limited increases in isolation from lockdowns — some reduction in transmission but nothing close to what the model predicts (models that incorrectly predict the past are a problem 🙂

But the model implies NO change in behavior with each successive lockdown — i.e. no change in increases of isolation from lockdowns — in PERPETUITY! This is not how humans behave socially. There is NO possibility of such an outcome, and the natural thing to expect are continuously “diminishing returns”, as with all things human and societal including finance and investment.

Great Barrington Declaration reflects knowlegeable and experienced thinkers living in the real world. This model looks absurd to me. How do such academics continue to earn a living, “selling” untested and untestable “ideas” to others in the governmental economy, paid for by others who strive in the world of markets and true wealth production?

This is truly childish nonsense.

Kenneth MacKillop
Kenneth MacKillop
3 years ago

Similarly childish is the zero-CoVID nonsense, seemingly based upon a notion that the immunological world is driven by millenial notions of political correctness rather than biology. Despite a stunningly strong correlation of risk of fatality with age for CoVID-19, which is really unique in the world of viruses, all of society must nevertheless attempt the impossible, at enormous cost to all, for the sake of discrimination by a virus which is not PC.

Again, academic social/societal parasites.

Andrew Thompson
Andrew Thompson
3 years ago

I totally fail to see the problem with protecting the vulnerable (adequately I mean) and letting the rest of us get back to belly work! Nothing will stop this virus it has to run its course surely I’m not the only person to believe this?

Dave Tagge
Dave Tagge
3 years ago

I’d be very interested after reading this article to hear Prof. Friston’s overall views in more detail – perhaps another interview with Freddie Sayers if both of them have the time for it? – because I’m having a tough time reconciling some of Prof. Friston’s views. That suggests to me that a detailed explanation of Prof. Friston’s perspective could be quite interesting.

(1) It’s not clear to me how Prof. Friston’s views about immunological dark matter and much greater prior spread of SARS-CoV-2 than detected are consistent with multiple statements in the John Snow Memorandum, which he signed. Specifically, quoting from it: “Furthermore, there is no evidence for lasting protective immunity to SARS-CoV-2 following natural infection” and “Once again, we face rapidly accelerating increase in COVID-19 cases across much of Europe, the USA, and many other countries across the world. It is critical to act decisively and urgently. Effective measures that suppress and control transmission need to be implemented widely.” Those each, in their own way, are tough to square with his view that a “second wave” is likely to be relatively moderate in the UK, presumably in large part because 33% of the UK’s population has already been exposed to the virus. (The term “lasting protective immunity” is admittedly rather vague. Does, for example, sterilizing immunity lasting 1-2 years in most people, followed by many years of immunity that reduces the severity of any subsequent COVID infection, qualify as “lasting protective immunity”?)

(2) If the UK’s experience to date matches Prof. Friston’s idea of about 33% of the population exposed, resulting in “about 8% seropositive immunity and about 23% seronegative immunity (presumably mediated by T-cell immunity)”, doesn’t that suggest that really effective contact-tracing and supported isolation is pretty much doomed to fail? Yet, he advocates for that idea. My reasoning is that 30+% of the population exposed/infected must surely imply that well over 50% of those exposed are asymptomatic, or at most have very minor symptoms that can’t be distinguished from a minor cold or slight seasonal allergies. So, doesn’t that imply that “really effective contact-tracing” requires a starting point of testing everyone with even minor sniffles and then tracing the contacts of those who test positive? Perhaps I’m missing something: does Prof. Friston think that many of those without significant symptoms either can’t (or, statistically speaking, at least largely don’t) transmit SARS-CoV-2 to others?

To repeat my initial point, I’d be interested in hearing more from Prof. Friston that could help explain these apparent contradictions.

Zaph Mann
Zaph Mann
3 years ago
Reply to  Dave Tagge

Very well put. There has been too little attention paid to the three studies (May-June) on blocking any infection from immune systems (as you say, presumably mediated by T-cell immunity and other immune response) which renders the measurement of seropositive immunity as less important or reliable. What since? Silence.

stephensjpriest
stephensjpriest
3 years ago

Hello Unherd

‘It’s a massive claim; I think the pandemic is fundamentally over’
Former chief scientific advisor with Pfizer Mike Yeadon has said he believes the coronavirus pandemic is drawing to a close, despite rising cases in parts of the UK.

You Tube Watch watch?v=QMlfxnCJppE

Truth about the claims scaring us all to death: Soaring infections, teeming hospital wards, and terrifying death rates… but do the numbers justifying crippling new lockdowns REALLY stand up to scrutiny?

DAILY MAIL news/article-8845533/Coronavirus-Soaring-infections-death-rates-claims-justify-lockdowns.html

Lyn Griffiths
Lyn Griffiths
3 years ago

Why discuss models, when we are dealing with people, for if they do not follow the rules, as in this summer. When to be seen from June/July onwards walking the streets in protest followed by many other protesters following in their footsteps with their own personnel grievances, and some of these to appear to have been simmering for years.
They walked the streets of the UK and travelled the public networks of the UK. Where in some cases they transmitted the virus to places it may not have arrived otherwise.
So, to ponder that if some of the people are not willing to be controlled and to consistently break simple rules laid down, and it only for a short period of time.
The government can put in as many suggestions, rules or implementations to stop the virus. But as we are dealing with people, and in mass, and they involved, and if not curbed until a vaccine is found, they will without doubt keep on spreading C19.
For the government can only do so much, but the people of the UK who do care on the other hand can help, by curbing those who are not vested in our health and well being within the community of the UK. By dealing with the problem within family environments as a starter, for the government needs our help.

Nigel Clarke
Nigel Clarke
3 years ago

OK, interesting article and interesting approach…I thought. Then there was this…

“…Friston’s model presumes that 33% of the population has been exposed to the virus. From the data, he has made inferences about immunity. “Of those that have been exposed, 82% appeared to be susceptible to infection; however, 40% of these may never produce antibodies. This means that if you split effective population immunity into seropositive and seronegative proportions [ie with and without antibodies], we should have about 8% seropositive immunity and about 23% seronegative immunity (presumably mediated by T-cell immunity). In total, this means over 30% of the population could be effectively immune…”

This is what is technically termed “a guess”.

T J Putnam
T J Putnam
3 years ago

Lots of conjectures necessary to make this interesting range of projections, different assumptions about existing exposures and resulting immunities are obviously going to produce very different curves, for example.
Underneath all this Friston reiterates a fundamental truth known since the Spring: lockdown type restrictions alone do not gain control of the virus, they just gain time to introduce a sustainable management strategy. As the French say, it’s not the confinement but the deconfinement that counts. Several Western governments and peoples have failed to grasp this or failed to focus on pursuing it, but the English failure to implement integrated test, trace and isolate policies is the worst. The main point of a circuit breaker is to fix this.

Andrew Harvey
Andrew Harvey
3 years ago
Reply to  T J Putnam

Sorry, but where has test & trace (or, for that matter, any containment strategy) worked outside of East Asia?

You really don’t wonder why it’s the case that a small number of countries right next to each other (each following completely different strategies, btw) were able to contain COVID-19, but no one else anywhere in the world was able to duplicate that success, no matter how draconian the lockdown or efficient the testing system was?

Test and Trace is never going to work with a virus that leaves most people asymptomatic. Repeated lockdowns to implement a system that is never going to work is just going to destroy the economy and, in doing so, kill millions.

starogorodsky
starogorodsky
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Harvey

By the way WHO now says asymptomatic people do very rarely pass the virus to somebody else and that we basically shall not trace them.
1st – it was a big lie about being asymptomatic but being able to kill your randma
2nd – it would be probably enough to ask people to stay home if the feel sick and check temperature in public places and airports

Nigel Clarke
Nigel Clarke
3 years ago

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago

Lockdowns are what happens when people insist that govt “do something,” no matter how counter-intuitive that something is. It also stems from a public that largely outsources all risk in life to unaccountable third parties. Not a single bureaucrat or politician behind the edicts has suffered a personal cost as a result. Not one has missed a paycheck, not one is wondering when he/she will be “allowed” to reopen. Not one is dealing with the rest of the fallout that is afflicting millions.

Andrea X
Andrea X
3 years ago

What is the “4 months second wave” in pink in the drawing?

Go Away Please
Go Away Please
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrea X

I think it might be immunity lasts just four months rather than 32 months.

Last Jacobin
Last Jacobin
3 years ago
Reply to  Go Away Please

Thanks for that explanation. Would have been helpful in the article.

Jonathan Story
Jonathan Story
3 years ago

What are the assumptions of the model?

david bewick
david bewick
3 years ago

Rather tired of modelling when we have some real life evidence around us. As Churchill said “however beautiful the strategy you should occasionally look at the results” The cost benefit of lockdowns is now better understood in terms of QALY and as Andrew Harvey points out so well the discussion makes no sense. I would also say that the idea of a two week lockdown? Really? It would inevitably drag on until the desired result came about and based on the current performance of lockdowns and restrictions that’s likely to be some time. We are back to Einstein’s definition of insanity I’m afraid.

In terms of immunity or susceptibility the French aircraft carrier gave cause for head scratching but those that should’ve looked at it probably didn’t bother. Wonder how only half the crew were infected? https://www.navalnews.com/n

Adi Dule
Adi Dule
3 years ago

Sorry Freddy but I cannot understand the logic of “short and sharp” lockdown and why being “short and sharp” would make any difference. The way I see it is if this virus is so contagious and widespread, thar there is nothing we can do to stop it no matter how social distanced we stay and no matter how many strange vudu stile rules we follow and no matter how many lockdowns we do – either sharp and short or thick and long. It may also spread throughout animals if we suppose all humans will get clear of it. In practice all this is a rebranding of a terrible idea and should have been exluded all together as an option after the results it produced in the UK, Spain and Italy if compared to Sweden. I.e.zero results. I think if we so a reducting in transmission during lockdown this was just the sezonal effect of the spring and summer.

Maureen Spears
Maureen Spears
3 years ago

There are lots and lots of systems for betting successfully on horse races. If any of these worked there would be a lot of rich people. The basic fact is that we do not know enough about Covid and we are basically placing a bet on which course of action is going to produce a winner. However, we do know about the economy, destroying it, and the effects of such action. In my opinion we should continue to observe those things which we know seem to help stop spread the virus and the individual should decide what risks he/she is prepared to take. The destruction of whole industries, together with the loss of jobs, is not justified.

If we are still worried about the NHS being overwhelmed, then surely it is not fit for purpose. It has had six months to prepare for post lockdown – it must have anticipated a rise in infections once the populace were freed. I do not refer to those in the front line, but the managers and planners.

Einstein, I think it was, said that if you keep repeating an action, hoping to get a different result, you are doomed to failure. It is easy to blame politicians – they are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. We are not going to get a Messiah. The current situation reminds me of the clergy arguing about how many angels could stand on a pin head. The way forward is to weigh the known facts not to rely on differing models – that is what they are – models. Nobody can predict the future.

stephensjpriest
stephensjpriest
3 years ago

MP Chris Green, The First UK politician to resign from government over the crisis – 16th Oct 2020
INTERVIEW
you Tube /watch?v=7eBSwspojh4
* * * * * * * * * * * *
From Daily Telegraph Letters

Although I am able go to shops and restaurants, I miss being able to talk to shop attendants and waiters, and having a laugh. I am hard of hearing, so cannot make out what people are saying while they are wearing a mask.

I feel isolated and lonely, as I cannot speak to anyone.

Godalming, Surrey

* * * * * * * * * * * *
My wife and I live in Essex and so from today cannot receive visitors from another household.

My daughter and her family, whom we haven’t seen since February, were coming for Sunday lunch tomorrow. That has now been cancelled.

This daughter lives in Suffolk. Another lives in Hertfordshire and a son in Cambridge. None are allowed to visit us for the foreseeable future.

However, we could visit each of them. I’m afraid the logic escapes me.

Saffron Walden, Essex

*********************************
I live in a small isolated rural village in Essex with no Covid-19 cases. I am incandescent with rage.

A Doctor From
Good Easter, Essex

Robert G
Robert G
3 years ago

Can someone please help me to understand the portion of the article that discusses the effect of a two-week lockdown?

FIrst, the article says that total deaths would be delayed rather than prevented: “At some point in the future, the total deaths for the two scenarios (with and without a circuit breaker) will converge.” The article then goes on to declare that the results of forecasting the effects of a circuit breaker are “stunning” and “dramatic,” with the projected achievement of epidemic equilibrium.

So, does the professor believe the circuit breaker would prevent deaths? Or only delay them? Is the key factor that allows for epidemic equilibrium contact tracing? It’s not clear to me from the article.

Carlo Dallapiccola
Carlo Dallapiccola
3 years ago
Reply to  Robert G

My understanding is that, yes, it is the pairing of effective contact tracing with the “circuit breaker” lockdown that makes the crucial difference in this model. To me, that is one of the biggest weak points. Every major Western nation has been talking about expanded testing capabilities and effective contact tracing as the way to suppress the epidemic, to little avail. Remember, this was one of the primary goals of the first lockdown: to buy time to expand testing capabilities and ramp up a contact tracing program. I have seen nothing to indicate that within a few weeks, upon coming out of a second lockdown, miraculously this will all work. It is clear that Western nations have no desire to make use of the mandatory digital contact tracing employed by several Asian nations (due to privacy concerns), and so the program will always be plagued by the various inefficiencies currently in play.

Robert G
Robert G
3 years ago

Thank you. So, the professor compared the status quo on one hand, to a scenario with a two-week lockdown, improved contact tracing, and supported isolation on the other. I’d be curious to see a forecast with the improved contact tracing and supported isolation, but without the circuit breaker. Perhaps such a forecast would reveal that lockdown is not an essential element of success. That would seem to be the logical conclusion, if the model forecasts that lockdown would not reduce deaths in the absence of tracing and isolation.

Carlo Dallapiccola
Carlo Dallapiccola
3 years ago
Reply to  Robert G

I think the response is that contact tracing is effective only once the number of cases is very low, otherwise it’s a Sisyphean task.

7882 fremic
7882 fremic
3 years ago

The circuit breaker lockdown PLUS no one stepping on a crack in the pavement for 2 weeks, gives the least deaths in his modeling. Although I worry about some of his modeling assumptions.

Dave Tagge
Dave Tagge
3 years ago

Good comment from Carlo, which I believe takes into account political and social reality.

If the U.S. or Western European countries did enact mandatory digital contact tracing, I could see it accomplishing something that seemed heretofore impossible: causing about half the population who own smartphones to leave them at home routinely. That’s not to say that *everyone* would, but I’d expect a logical correlation. Overall, those more likely to feel comfortable going to public places where they’re around other people – restaurants, bars, movie theaters, etc. – would also be more likely to resist the privacy intrusions of digital tracking.

Mitsu Hadeishi
Mitsu Hadeishi
3 years ago

Excellent article. This is, unlike a lot of speculation on the topic, a very reasonable argument. In countries like South Korea, the virus has been controlled without a national lockdown — by using contact tracing and isolation. There was a “second wave” here but it was controlled without a full lockdown — just some moderate social distancing tightening — and contact tracing and isolation — and mask wearing. And at the peak of the “second wave” the infections in Seoul never even got to the level of New York City at its *low* point. But — that requires robust contact tracing and isolation — something that Western countries except for New Zealand and Australia seem to be having considerable difficulty with.

Absent contact tracing it does seem like the best control approach might be very short circuit breaker lockdowns combined with mask wearing and moderate social distancing (avoid large crowds indoors, etc.)

7882 fremic
7882 fremic
3 years ago
Reply to  Mitsu Hadeishi

In countries like South Korea, the virus has been controlled without a
national lockdown — by using contact tracing and isolation
I do not believe that at all. Vietnam’s virtual missing it all together (.3 deaths per million). No, I believe in the ‘Dark Matter Immunity’ theory of natural immunity other than by antibodies. AND I think China, Koreas, Taiwan, Thailand all have natural immunity from the virus being endemic there for aeons. The mask thing also comes from this, West Pacific habits of masking at any sniffle, and then lack of covid problems gave the West its mask drive, although the mask is pointless I believe.

stephensjpriest
stephensjpriest
3 years ago

Hello Unherd

Dr Matt Strauss says public health “was not in favour” of lockdowns at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, telling Dan Wootton “it was kind of outraged social media mobs that forced their hand a little bit.”

youtube watch?v=QcTKeEvxv0Q

Jonathan Patrick
Jonathan Patrick
3 years ago

Does anyone else find the article confusing? First the article says that the circuit breaker would have no impact and then it says it would save 4000 lives a year. Which is it?

stephensjpriest
stephensjpriest
3 years ago

Now Watch This ðƾ’” 8 Months Of Madness ðƞ€Š”ñℱ‚マ What On ðƾƒ Are We Doing? Ă°ĆžĆœÂ„
Alex Belfield – THE VOICE OF REASON
7 months alone. Is this a price worth paying?…

youtube atch?v=UXakzX8Lo08
****************************
If the Test works — Why the False positives?
If the Masks work – Why the Six Feet?
If the Six Feet work – Why the Masks?
If all Three work – Why the Lockdown?
If all Four work – Why the vaccine?
If the Vaccine is Safe – Why the No Liability Clause?
If SARS-CoV-2 exists – Why has it not been isolated?

Fran Martinez
Fran Martinez
3 years ago

So you already had more than 2 weeks of ‘circuit breaker’. Where is the super effective test and trace that was going to take the cases rapidly to zero?

It seems to me that instead we went in the most likely scenario: the lockdown that achieved nothing.

The problem with mixing science and politics (and I’m a scientist) is that Prof. Friston will not have to pay any consequences for providing the theoretical justification to a hugely damaging lockdown. So he can say whatever he wants with no repercussions. Even his model was suggesting that the lockdown will achieve nothing. But then he came up with an unfeasible scenario where test and trace magically started working, to justify the politics. Shame on him.

David Radford
David Radford
3 years ago

Despite a more sophisticated model being used, Circuit Breaker still seems an each way bet. The Symptom Study Tracker of 4m+ people indicates only 1 in 5 people who should isolate actually do so. The 4 out of 5 who don’t are not just the young as some people think, they are of all ages and types,of people. Getting them to do the right thing is the key to success in my opinion.

david bewick
david bewick
3 years ago
Reply to  David Radford

I’m afraid that a track and trace system must have an output and that is isolation. In a consensual society it would seem to me that it would be a triumph of hope over expectation. Your 1 in 5 tallies to the number of 18% I saw recently since when I’ve seen a number of 11% compliance. At this level of compliance and with the false positive rate of the PCR test testing and tracing becomes worthless.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  david bewick

Sharon ‘n Trace far more useful than Track ‘n Trace.

Last Jacobin
Last Jacobin
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

It wasn’t funny the first time.

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
3 years ago

Another hashed ‘Model ”As predictor… The Science establishment has cried ”Wolf” on CJd,SARS,HS1N1,etc…I favour herd immunity as per Professor Gupta,Professor Carl Heneghan,dr Karol sikora..The Worst of the Epidemic has passed. Shield Over 80s and Start attending to backlog of Cancer, etc serious illnesses….i would like to see Connections between Astra Zeneca,GSKline etc & Government advisors..What with this & UK media,USA media,taking Osmin bin laden scandal off youtube, Hilary clinton,Joe Biden,barack obama are alleged to have put SEALS to assassinate him,shot a double ,Put a heat seeking missile&Killed the SEALS taskforce! &had to pay $156 billion dollars hush money…the Death of the Media &Democracy is the Worst Virus??

Judy Johnson
Judy Johnson
3 years ago
Reply to  Robin Lambert

Robin, I apologise but I am not quite clear as to your point. Could you summarise please.