X Close

We can escape Christmas lockdown The Government has pinned its winter strategy on booster success

We no longer live in a virgin (Christmas) forest. Credit: Yawar Nazir/Getty

We no longer live in a virgin (Christmas) forest. Credit: Yawar Nazir/Getty


October 26, 2021   6 mins

A family member went to get his booster jab the other day, at a drop-in centre. It involved queuing for two and a half hours, outdoors, in a car park. The other people in the queue were mainly in their eighties; several gave up and went home.

But after an autumn of absolutely pathetic numbers — for a while we were barely jabbing 40,000 a day, first and second doses combined, down from ten times that number and more in the spring and early summer — the programme does appear to have picked up a little. There were hundreds of thousands of booster jabs alone given over the weekend.

The Government has pinned its entire winter strategy on those boosters. Sajid Javid, the health secretary, has said Plan B, will not be introduced because of them. Plan B is a milquetoasty set of minor interventions, including greater use of vaccine passports, and legally requiring masks in some places. They may ask for people to work from home if things get worse. It’s not exactly Protect and Survive.

And we’re not going there. Yet.

But there is a problem, which is that Covid-19 in the UK has become really hard to predict. Last year, whatever you looked at — cases, hospitalisations, deaths — the numbers followed a simple pattern. They started going up slowly, then they went up quicker, then quicker, then quicker. Then the Government imposed a lockdown, and, a little while and a few thousand more dead people later, the numbers crashed back down again.

But this year, the pandemic is no longer doing nice straightforward exponential curves. If you look at hospitalisations over the last six months or so, you’ll see that they started a familiar-looking rise in about June, and they clambered up to about 1,000 a day in late July and then – they just stopped, and went back down a bit. Then they rose again, and back down. Now they’ve started going up again, but 
 will that carry on? Will the curve fizzle out again? Unlike last year, it’s not easy to tell what will happen next.

Adam Kucharski, a mathematical epidemiologist, explained why winter 2021/22 is trickier to model than 20/21. First, he says, in any epidemic, “When R is near 1, it’s a headache.” R is the number of people that each infected person goes on to infect, on average. So if your initial 100 cases lead to 200 subsidiary cases, then your R is 2. If R is above 1, your epidemic is growing exponentially; if it’s below 1, it’s dying away.

When R is well above 1, it’s fairly easy to predict what will happen: cases will go up, faster and faster, until it runs out of susceptible people or until policies and behaviours change so that R goes below 1 and the epidemic declines again. That’s how it was last year.

But now, thanks to vaccines and natural immunity, the number of susceptible people around is lower — we’re close to herd immunity — so even with essentially no restrictions, R is close to 1. And when it’s close to 1, smaller things can affect the course of the epidemic much more. “It bounces around,” says Kucharski. “Schools reopening, or closing for half term. The vaccine rollout and boosters. If the epidemic is increasing or decreasing, some small change can knock it the other way.”

Suggested reading
We can escape Christmas lockdown

By Amy Jones

One way to think of it is that if your R is 2.5, and, for instance, schools close for half term, then your R might go down to 2.3. It’s the difference between an epidemic that’s spreading quickly, and one that’s spreading not quite so quickly. But if R is 1.1 and you knock it down to 0.9, then it’s the difference between a pandemic that’s growing and one that’s shrinking.

It also means that individual behaviour becomes important. Around our way, it recently became very obvious that lots of schoolchildren (and their parents) were getting the disease. So when ours got the sniffles we were quicker to take them out of school, and more wary of going to shops. Presumably millions of people have behaved in similar ways. It wouldn’t have made much difference last year — the disease was spreading so rapidly — but it could be enough now to change things from an up-arrow to a down-arrow.

There’s a more interesting dynamic at play as well, says Kucharski. Imagine the first two waves of the pandemic as a forest fire in a virgin forest. Once a tree starts burning, it easily spreads to the trees around it, and, left to its own devices, the fire will carry on until the forest has burnt away. An immunologically naive population is the same. “When you have a fully susceptible population,” says Kucharski, “the simple exponential curve models will give you something sensible.”

But we no longer live in a virgin forest. Vaccinations and acquired immunity means that the large bulk of the population is less susceptible to infection. In our analogy, you could imagine that it’s a far sparser forest, with occasional clumps here and there representing groups with lower vaccination uptake. Now, if a tree catches fire, it might not spread to any others. Or it might be in a clump, and spread around that clump quickly, and then burn out. Or a spark might make it from the clump to a nearby clump. It’s much more dependent on luck and randomness.

“You have a much patchier network for the virus to spread in,” says Kucharski. “A lot more dead ends, and surges in younger groups and places with lower vaccination cover; you get pockets of susceptibility, and you get large outbreaks, but it has to work its way from one pocket to another. When you’ve got lots of these happening in parallel, you have a much bumpier dynamic, more conducive to a bobbling-along plateau than one that has clear growth or decline.”

All of which makes the epidemic much harder to predict. But there’s another layer of difficulty on top of that, which is that you’re not just predicting an epidemic: you’re predicting human behaviour. More specifically, you’re predicting the behaviour of the current government and parliament. There is not an algorithm which says “At 1,500 hospitalisations a day, we re-enter lockdown” or anything.

Other countries do have something like that — in Taiwan, for instance, there are four levels of restrictions, which are imposed on a specified set of conditions. Level 1 is imposed if there are cases imported from overseas that result in “isolated community transmission”; Level 2 is imposed if there are “domestically transmitted cases from unknown sources”, etc. If you could predict the behaviour of the epidemic in Taiwan, you’d have a pretty good basis for predicting the policy response to it.

But not in the UK. Plan B, or any further restrictions, will be imposed if the Government decides to impose them. I think that’s a bad system, and the Taiwanese method of removing the decision as far as possible from political pressure would be better. But that’s the system we have. So as well as predicting what the virus will do, we have to predict how 361 Tory MPs will respond to the virus, and how Boris Johnson and Sajid Javid will respond to them. So predicting whether we’ll end up in a lockdown is hard.

But perhaps there’s a more interesting question, which is: should we act as though we might have to, and start doing something about it now? Should we impose Plan B?

For all the current doom and gloom, we are in a better place than even the most optimistic of the government’s SPI-M-O models projections from early September. And those models now tend to forecast a decline in cases from later this month, even if we don’t impose Plan B. We’re not facing an immediate crisis.

Oliver Johnson, a mathematician at Bristol, says an autumn decline is plausible: “The key thing is it has been so crazy in schools, with 7% or 8% of schoolkids infected at any one time,” he says. “You can’t have that forever: you’ll run out of people. So it’s a case of working out when you’ll run out of people.” The little clumps of forest will burn down eventually.

The pandemic, though, has been consistently hard to predict and the great failings of the British Covid response have been trying to be too clever, doing things too late, and not thinking about risk-benefit calculations or worst-case scenarios.

This feels very much like one of those situations. It’s true that, probably, if we leave it and do nothing, things won’t get that much worse, and may soon get better. But there’s a non-trivial chance that they will get worse. Given that the costs of imposing Plan B restrictions are minor, why not take simple, low-cost steps now to avoid the unlikely, but plausible and very bad, future shit show.

We have a suite of tools available to us – not just Plan B, but also things like increased rapid testing – that can avoid future disruption. But, also, if we impose them now, we can undo them later easily if they’re unnecessary, or tweak them if they’re not quite right.

For instance, there are concerns that vaccine passports will damage the entertainment industry and have only a small impact on the virus. If that’s true, we can reduce their use once that’s clear.

And we should be able to avoid stringent restrictions being imposed again, and another catastrophic Christmas lockdown. “Given the tools we now have available,” says Kucharski, “it would be completely absurd if we got to that point.”

I agree. We absolutely should not need to consider a Plan C, one in which we shut stuff down, stop people seeing their loved ones, close the pubs, ruin Christmas. And we can make it all but certain that we don’t have to do that if we take small, sensible precautions now. Hopefully enough elderly people will stand in cold car parks to get their boosters; but let’s not rely on it entirely.


Tom Chivers is a science writer. His second book, How to Read Numbers, is out now.

TomChivers

Join the discussion


Join like minded readers that support our journalism by becoming a paid subscriber


To join the discussion in the comments, become a paid subscriber.

Join like minded readers that support our journalism, read unlimited articles and enjoy other subscriber-only benefits.

Subscribe
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

108 Comments
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
aaron david
aaron david
2 years ago

How about if we just… stop.
Stop the nonsense, the fearmongering, the destruction, the totalitarianism. We, and by we I mean the western world, have done more than enough damage over this nonsense to ensure a generation of screwed-up children, ruined businesses, cause who knows how many unnecessary deaths through suicide and drug overdose, all for a narcissistic generation to show how great they were, and how childish they have become.
People die. Here in the US, 2.2million a year, and COVID might, might have added an additional 500k, mostly by pushing the borderline cases who would have died in the next few years anyway. Colin Powel is a perfect example. I mean, who has heard of an 84yo dying? Oh, all of us, because that is past the average age of death.
How about if we just stop.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  aaron david

An 84 year old with cancer
.

Jacqueline Walker
Jacqueline Walker
2 years ago
Reply to  aaron david

Absolutely agree…I only skimmed this article so far ..I will come back and read it carefully (with gritted teeth) but I saw “deploy rapid testing” to “avoid disruption “…but THAT IS DISRUPTION! That is the mess we’re in and it’s that that we need to escape! When does this end otherwise. All these epidemiologists talking so wisely about “when the R is this, we do that” but when were we last in a “proper” pandemic? 1968! Most of the pontificating pundits were either not born then or children like me!!

Mark Burbidge
Mark Burbidge
2 years ago

As far as I can recall, nobody noticed in 1968. More recently in the winter of 2014/2015 weekly deaths from respiratory diseases reached 16,000. Were we put under house arrest ? NO! I agree with aaron. Just STOP !
16K deaths in the UK. ( ons )

Last edited 2 years ago by Mark Burbidge
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
2 years ago
Reply to  Mark Burbidge

In 1968 it was not even one of the main news stories

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago

A friend of mine almost died of HK flu in 68 – he was 8 years old. We all just went to school… no masks, no thought of it.

stephen archer
stephen archer
2 years ago

I was 15 at the time and both my parents in their late 40s were very ill. My father said afterwards that he thought his time was up.

Iris C
Iris C
2 years ago
Reply to  Mark Burbidge

The draft on television showed that the great majority of those suffering from Covid were school age children and we were told that they “do not get Covid” They may be infectious but how ill are they. We are never told. The number over 50 who are now getting infected is, in comparison, very very low.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  Iris C

It is not correct to say we were told children do not get it. They do not get as sick and very, very seldom ever die. That was my understanding from the early days of the pandemic and still is.

Ian Manning
Ian Manning
2 years ago
Reply to  aaron david

I couldn’t agree more, Aaron. The ludicrous level of fear mongering is truly depressing. Today, whilst walking to the gym, I passed an elderly couple (about my age!) swathed in masks in the open air and looking for all the world like rabbits waiting for the fox. It is truly staggering how much fear the scientists and the media have generated over a disease that is still statistically rare and now that the vaccines are employed, vanishingly rare. What a comment on the state of a society polluted by Facebook et al and the worst tabloid media in the world.

Last edited 2 years ago by Ian Manning
Will R
Will R
2 years ago
Reply to  Ian Manning

Funny, an equally know-all below mr stull knows that vaccines do not work. Which of you is right?

Ian Manning
Ian Manning
2 years ago
Reply to  Will R

I didn’t mention vaccines, so not sure what is your point, but of course vaccines work. I read the scientific evidence and the published data, not eyewash on Facebook, Twitter, etc. It’s called having a rational mindset!

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
2 years ago
Reply to  Ian Manning

If I were in my 60s or 70s i would be more fearful, mortality creeps up on you. But double jabbed is as good as it’s going to get and at some point you have to take your chances, breathe in and enjoy whatever life you have left. If you spend it cringing in fear and swathed up in Hazmat suits you might as well lick a Covid covered door handle and get it over with.

Graham Stull
Graham Stull
2 years ago

I am sorry to have to write this in a comment on an Unherd article, but I find the ‘contributions’ of Mr Chivers on this subject to be of such poor quality that they are of questionable value to this forum, especially as the magazine’s anchor for an issue as important as COVID responses.
I am almost too fatigued, to go through the points he makes and unpick them for the nonsense they clearly are. After 20 months of this garbage thinking, which has so patently failed in its every iteration, for which the evidence exists by the tonne, I am worn out rebutting people. But here the essential points, one last time:
Lockdowns don’t work (very well). Even to the extent they ever could, in thoery, we are well past that point today. The disease is now endemic. Everyone will get COVID, most will develop natural immunity and recovery fully. A small number, mostly those past normal life expectancy, will die. That’s kind of sad but not really.
But lockdowns do cause harm. They ruin our economies, drive people (esp the young) into depression and anxiety. They concentrate economic power among large companies and Big Tech. They reduce the flow of goods and services in our economies and make us poorer. They inhibit the sick from seeking genuinely beneficial medical care when needed. They disproportionately impact the disadvantaged, especially children.
Masks don’t work. At least not very well. Especially when imposed on people who would otherwise not wear them. This is because the virus doesn’t transmit asymptomatically, so the best advice is for sick people to stay home (alway good advice, btw). To the extent we have any idea how it transmits, it’s thought to be through aerosolised particles so tiny that nothing short of a hazmat suit will make much difference. Or it could be through the manifold animal reservoirs that now exists in every patch of woods from New Brunswick across the Bering Straights and all the way to Brittany. We don’t really know – after all SARS-CoV-2 has never been isolated. But from the epidiomological data we know masks don’t work.
But masks do cause harm. They inhibit human contact and expression. They hamper children from developing cognitive skills. They deaden our souls by robbing us of the ability to smile at strangers we pass in the park. Finally, they cost money and resources to make, and they pollute our landscapes.
The vaccines don’t work (very well). They provide some short term immunity through S antibody production, which wans to almost nothing after 11 months. Boosters may revitalise the protective effect, and therefore be effective for a small number of vulnerable population as a stop-gap measure. But mutation of the virus will almost certainly make the current vaccines redundant the longer we choose to drag this ‘pandemic’ out. They may also inhibit the production of more durable N antibodies or suppress the production of T- and B-cell immunity, which is the true key to ending COVID. The best we can hope for by doubling down on mass vaccination is an endless cycle of booster shots, piling ever more toxins into our bodies and enriching Big Pharma in a sad, dystopian cycle of medical addiction and immuno-suppresion.
But the vaccines do cause harm. They cost billions of euros/dollars/pounds to produce, diverting vital economic resources away from our economies and from the truly vulnerable. Short term adverse effects, while low in absolute terms, are relatively high – and by ‘relatively’ I mean an order of magnitude higher than for all other vaccines currently approved. These include fatigue, nausea, myocarditis, and my personal favourite: sudden death. Long term effects, in particular concerning immuno-suppression in the case of mRNA ‘vaccines’, are unknown, but there are at least theoretical pathways to imagine they could cause harm on an apocalyptic scale.
Vaccine mandates / passports don’t work. First, because the vaccines don’t work (see above). Second, because they are self-defeating in the signalling they send to the vaccine hesitant – if this jab is so good for me, why are you trying to force me to take it?
But vaccine mandates / passports do cause harm. They set truly dangerous precedents regarding medical autonomy and patients rights, not to mention personal privacy and liberty. This have always been important concerns, but in the age of digitalisation, the only ones who would not shy away form the dangers of medical-based IDs of this kind are fools and tyrants. Vaccine compulsion also divides us, and we are already far too divided. Worst of all, it creates the popular myth that the human body in its natural state is unclean, sullied and requires a State-sanctioned ceremony to be purified.
I’ll stop here. Please, Unherd, stop giving the podium to Tom Chivers on this issue. Give it to Freddie Sayers or someone with a brain.

Andrea X
Andrea X
2 years ago
Reply to  Graham Stull

Unherd, can we please see this comment published as a main feature on the site?

Last edited 2 years ago by Andrea X
Alka Hughes-Hallett
Alka Hughes-Hallett
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrea X

Ditto

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
2 years ago

Thirded

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrea X

No please not, it’s full of errors and merely one interpretation.

Will R
Will R
2 years ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

‘merely one interpretation’ exactly the point I was trying (badly) to make above – opinions are not facts no matter what their holders may think

Alex Stonor
Alex Stonor
2 years ago
Reply to  Graham Stull

You raised the point about presentism; coming to work when sick, penalising members of the workforce for feigning recovery rather than endure being called a malingerer, encouraging the masking of symptoms with over-the-counter medications. Can we learn to stop doing that please.

Graham Stull
Graham Stull
2 years ago
Reply to  Alex Stonor

I think that would be very good public health messaging.

Andrew Horsman
Andrew Horsman
2 years ago
Reply to  Graham Stull

This is possibly the most relevant, insightful and impactful comment I have ever read on any piece of journalism, anywhere.

Tom Chivers should be given an opportunity to respond, in full, to all of the points made as, as Andrea Re says, part of a main feature on the site. If cannot or will not do that he should no longer be invited to write for Unherd. His thinking is somewhere in the middle of 2020. It is getting embarrassing for everyone.

Alka Hughes-Hallett
Alka Hughes-Hallett
2 years ago
Reply to  Graham Stull

Pls remove Tom Chivers from the list of Unherd. I have yet to read a sensible piece from him (Covid or non Covid).

jim peden
jim peden
2 years ago
Reply to  Graham Stull

I’m glad you weren’t too fatigued to write your rebuttal – which I enjoyed immensely. I believe that the professional classes (including science journalists) place far too much stock in ‘expert opinion’ and ‘consensus’ and far too little in simple evidence and reason.
P.S. My own personal favourite for the long term is vascular dementia.

Jon Hawksley
Jon Hawksley
2 years ago
Reply to  Graham Stull

Here goes to make myself unpopular on UnHerd:
Lockdowns don’t work (very well). The numbers show lockdowns dramatically reduce an exponential increase in infections to an exponential decline. Less severe social distancing should be sufficient to hold a low rate of infections at a steady number.
But lockdowns do cause harm. Yes – they were started too late and went on too long. An earlier lockdown would have brought numbers down to a manageable number very quickly. The time should have been used to put reduced social distancing measures in place to keep R around 1. Research has been poor.
Masks don’t work. Masks do work by reducing the velocity of exhalations. If they are 50% effective that can be enough to reduce R from 2 to 1 which is enough to avoid a lockdown. Research has been poor.
But masks do cause harm. Insignificant for the small amount of time in shops, on transport etc. Perhaps more in schools but children are more adaptable than their neurotic parents, we will see when future studies are made.
The vaccines don’t work (very well). They work well enough to keep the hold the increase in current UK cases to 35% every two weeks without any significant social distancing measures. They reduce the seriousness of infections and mortality. They add to the protection given by antibodies from infection. Where they are part of measures reducing the number of new cases they will be reducing the risk of new variants. The abandonment of all social distancing in the UK in July has substantially increased the risk of new variants.
But the vaccines do cause harm. The cost is insignificant in total economic terms. The identified harm is dramatically less than the illness they protect against. 
Vaccine mandates / passports don’t work. All the indications in Europe are that they reduce the need for more intrusive social distancing measures.
But vaccine mandates / passports do cause harm. The smallpox vaccine was obligatory for travel and particularly successful. Vaccines are required for certain jobs and rightly so to protect other people. Democracy is more than capable of managing the trade off between personal freedom and protection of others without anyone getting neurotic about it.
A very unreasonable attack on Tom Chivers.
There was of course a better strategy than lockdowns and that was to help the vulnerable to isolate. A lockdown in early March 2020 could have been replaced with protection of the vulnerable in April 2020.
There have been plenty of examples around the world where lockdowns were delayed until the health services were overwhelmed. Those who are anti all responses to the pandemic need to say what they would do with a relative who was dying because they were unable to breath and all the doctors and nurses were looking after someone else?

Last edited 2 years ago by Jon Hawksley
Graham Stull
Graham Stull
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Hawksley

The numbers show lockdowns dramatically reduce an exponential increase in infections to an exponential decline.
No. Here’s my source: Published Papers and Data on Lockdown Weak Efficacy – and Lockdown Huge Harms — The Fat Emperor
An earlier lockdown would have brought numbers down to a manageable number very quickly. 
But the virus is endemic: Covid-19 will become endemic but with decreased potency over time, scientists believe | The BMJ. This is true everywhere. Leaky, ineffective vaccines mean everyone will get the virus. So even if you can change the shape of the curve (you can’t, see above), the area under the curve stays the same.
Masks do work by reducing the velocity of exhalations. 
No. Here’s my source: Effectiveness of Adding a Mask Recommendation to Other Public Health Measures to Prevent SARS-CoV-2 Infection in Danish Mask Wearers : A Randomized Controlled Trial – PubMed (nih.gov)
And here: Masking: A Careful Review of the Evidence – AIER
They [the vaccines] work well enough to keep the hold the increase in current UK cases to 35% every two weeks without any significant social distancing measures. They reduce the seriousness of infections and mortality. 
Hang on, we are 20 months into a pandemic. The vast majority of the unvaccinated have already had COVID. Likely a large number of vaccinated too. Why would you attribute any hold in cases to the vaccines, and not to natural immunity, which we know to be more durable?
The cost [of vaccines] is insignificant in total economic terms.
22.4 billion pounds in 2021/2022 for vaccines / track and trace. That’s against a total budget for the NHS of 159 bn. How can you call 15% of the total budget of one of the world’s most comprehensive public health care systems ‘insignificant’?
The identified harm is dramatically less than the illness they (vaccines) protect against.
Children and young adults have a 99.99% survival rate from Covid. Vaccine injuries are an order of magnitude greater. What you say, though, is true for the population 65+. For people in their 40s, it’s not so clear. And remember, this is only with respect to the protection afforded in the initial months after vaccination. When that wanes, the maths gets worse for you.
All the indications in Europe are that they reduce the need for more intrusive social distancing measures.
Which indications might these be? The fact that in Brussels, after the introduction of the mandates 11 days ago, case rates and hospitalisations have gone pointedly up? The fact that in France, where the passport has been in effect since the late summer, the average number of new cases is still rising? The fact that in Sweden and Denmark, where the passports and all other measures have been abolished, cases are down?
Democracy is more than capable of managing the trade off between personal freedom and protection of others without anyone getting neurotic about it.
When you threaten someone’s job or deny them access to a supermarket because they are unwilling to take an experimental therapy which they most likely do not need, for which billions of dollars are being made for pharma companies that have captured the regulators who are supposed to curtail their practices, you can’t really accuse people of being neurotic.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  Graham Stull

You are very patient Graham. I haven’t met a person who is pro lockdown who doesn’t have money in the bank and food on the table. So you can add ‘entitled’ and ‘lacking empathy and imagination’ to your essay. Sod the hundreds of millions who have been tipped into poverty by lockdowns – which do not work.

Jon Hawksley
Jon Hawksley
2 years ago
Reply to  Graham Stull

Graham – The numbers show lockdowns dramatically reduce an exponential increase in infections to an exponential decline. You say no and quote papers listed by The Fat Emperor website which I feel might have a biase. My source is a spreadsheet of all case numbers worldwide I have accumulated from data on Worldometers.info. The data from China, Italy, Spain, France and the UK for the first lockdowns all show an exponential rise and decline before and after the time they started their lockdowns.
An earlier lockdown would have brought numbers down to a manageable number very quickly. You say but the virus is endemic. Yes.  My comment is that with cases doubling in less than a week earlier lockdowns would have reduced the peak and brought case numbers down more quickly, that buys time with lower mortality. Yes everyone remains at risk of getting it so how best to use that time. Vaccinations buy time but they also reduce the illness of those that still get it. Boosters buy more time.  If as you say potency decreases over time then the area under the curve will reduce and it was worth buying time.
Masks do work by reducing the velocity of exhalations. You say no and quote two sources, the first only studies the effect on those wearing masks whereas my comment concerns reduced transmission from people wearing masks. Your second source is an emotive article on a website that appears to have a mission.  A quick read showed arguments like there was a mandate for masks but cases went up. As I said research is needed, it needs to pick out all confounding causes.
They [the vaccines] work well enough to keep the hold the increase in current UK cases to 35% every two weeks without any significant social distancing measures. They reduce the seriousness of infections and mortality. You argue that after 20 months the reduction is due to natural immunity which I agree is more durable. The number of reported cases and antibody testing do not support the view natural immunity is at that level.
The cost [of vaccines] is insignificant in total economic terms. You have countered with the cost of 22.4 billion pounds in the UK but that includes track and trace. My comment is on vaccines. I totally agree a colossal amount of money was wasted on the mismanagement of track and trace which should have been trace, test and accumulate data on transmissibility, at a much lower cost.
The identified harm is dramatically less than the illness they (vaccines) protect against. I think we are in broad agreement on this provided booster shots are given.
All the indications in Europe are that they reduce the need for more intrusive social distancing measures. You ask about the indications. At the moment it is only indications, the much lower level of cases and it is hard to separate the effect of mask wearing. In France cases are 12% of the UK on a two weekly basis. When I left France on Sunday there were no cases withing 15 miles of where I lived. I agree that R has recently increased to the UK levels. Separating out of different factors needs a worldwide standardised database that includes social distancing mandates and environmental factors to which AI can be applied to ascertain correlations for particular factors and then closer research on causation. It would be interesting to see data on cases arising on flights under different requirements for vaccines and testing.
Democracy is more than capable of managing the trade off between personal freedom and protection of others without anyone getting neurotic about it. You argue against this. In my view no one has a right to a particular job if it harms someone else. Society then has an obligation to help the people who suffer to protect others. We probably agree that big Pharma is not the best way to help people be healthy.
There is some overlap in our views but probably a big difference on “freedoms”. Possibly because of my lifestyle I have not found any of the social distancing measures irksome and am comfortable wearing a mask even if it is only to reassure others. Though you have to get used to reading eyes in the absence of a full face. I agree the actions by Governments to protect some has hurt others and that needs to be remedied. The developed world has increased productivity over the last 70 years to give an average income that is substanially greater than the required income for basic needs so we can afford it. I still think a better focus would have been to ptotect the vulnerable

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Hawksley

Mr Stull seems to think that making statements in a patronising tone is a convincing argument.
Thanks for taking the time to correct his errors.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Hawksley

Methinks you watch the likes of Sky and CNN – NYT and The Guardian. My advice is to move away from corporate news which is not disinterested and is simply part of the big money complex. You have a wealth of catching up to do.
Chivers needs all the fans he can get, but thankfully the quality of debate, experience, intelligence, curiosity and knowledge on this site means that they are few and far between.

Last edited 2 years ago by Lesley van Reenen
Jon Hawksley
Jon Hawksley
2 years ago

I do not watch Sky and CNN – NYT and The Guardian. I read UnHerd because I am curious about why people think what they do as part of a wider interest in how the brain holds and selects information. The articles and comments are illuminating though I have yet to use it to discern peoples watching / reading habits. I love the panache with which you make your comment.

Last edited 2 years ago by Jon Hawksley
Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Hawksley

There was of course a better strategy than lockdowns and that was to help the vulnerable to isolate. A lockdown in early March 2020 could have been replaced with protection of the vulnerable in April 2020.

I totally agree with this part and cannot understand why this was not the focus. The Swedish approach effectively.

aaron david
aaron david
2 years ago
Reply to  Graham Stull

Excellent post, and to sum up, every single one of your issues, all of which you describe perfectly, is what is termed a Collective Action Problem. They all take people working in perfect harmony, all having the same beliefs in the efficacy of each prophylactic.
That will never happen.

Edward De Beukelaer
Edward De Beukelaer
2 years ago
Reply to  Graham Stull

Just to add to this list: what about the existent knowledge on how epidemics work and the fact that nobody knows what happens with a pandemic when you introduce vaccines in the middle of it, especially in the case of a fast mutating virus…. Please Mr Chivers go and interview the scientists you do not see or hear on the news to educate yourself… alternatively go and do lazy work for a tabloid.

Graham Stull
Graham Stull
2 years ago

It’s a good point. We don’t know but perhaps in a few years we will find out!

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
2 years ago
Reply to  Graham Stull

Your know it all analysis misses the up to one million people who are immune suppressed and completely vulnerable – or are they too trivial to mention and should just be left to die?

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

Or must the hundreds of millions worldwide (who have been pushed into poverty (I have seen estimates of 250m) by lockdowns be ignored? Have you considered them? Can you see the difference in scale? The immune suppressed must unfortunately take every precaution not to get the disease, but it cannot be at the expense of the rest of the world. And especially the young.

Graham Stull
Graham Stull
2 years ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

They are certainly not too trivial to mention. Some thoughts on the immuno-suppressed:
Is this one million number including all who have any degree of immuno-suppression?
How does their condition leave them against other, non-coronavirus pathogens, such as influenza?
What is the CFR for people in this group for COVID?
How many of the million would test positive for antibodies? After all, these people were also around in April 2020…
And most importantly, what is the strategy for protecting them indefinitely, given that the virus is endemic and everyone, vaccinated or not, will end up getting exposed to it?
After 20 months of restrictions and rules, the onus is on those who would advocate for restrictions to present evidence, for this group or others, that can justify continued draconian restrictions.

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
2 years ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

They should shield and get vaccinated?

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  Graham Stull

Excellent comment Graham.

rodney foy
rodney foy
2 years ago
Reply to  Graham Stull

“stop giving the podium to Tom Chivers on this issue”
The more I hear comments about silencing some of Tom Chivers’ views the more I want to hear them. I want UnHerd to continue to be about all opinions, irrespective of their popularity

Ian Manning
Ian Manning
2 years ago
Reply to  Graham Stull

Fourthed! Although I am not sure he is right on the vaccine front. so much of the rest makes so much sense.

Last edited 2 years ago by Ian Manning
Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
2 years ago
Reply to  Graham Stull

Well said. The hysteria is getting wearing. I got Covid in January, mild case and, I’m pretty sure, fully recovered. Yet I felt obliged to also get the 2 jabs even though having had it I don’t think I should have needed to. How many of the officially unvaxxed are already carrying antibodies?

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago

“the numbers followed a simple pattern. They started going up slowly, then they went up quicker, then quicker, then quicker. Then the Government imposed a lockdown, and, a little while and a few thousand more dead people later, the numbers crashed back down again.”

But Sweden, Florida, South Dakota, Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, had numbers going up – DID NOT LOCKDOWN, and the numbers crashed down again, several times. Chivers, you of all should not be conflating causation and correlation.

In summertime ice cream sales boom, as do the number of stabbings, thus….

“Given that the costs of imposing Plan B restrictions are minor, why not take simple, low-cost steps now to avoid the unlikely, but plausible and very bad, future shit show.”

Because FREEDOM! Remember that outdated concept? I just cannot believe how weak, malleable, craven and cowardly, and sheep like, the modern citizen is to give up all their rights because some Politician like Boris and Biden ordered them to – with no actual legal right to do so. Release the prisoners from the jails to protect them, and lock the citizens in their homes….

“Plan B is a milquetoast of minor interventions, including greater use of vaccine passports, and legally requiring masks in some places. They may ask for people to work from home if things get worse.”

‘Internal Passports’ like USSR, 1940s Germany, Mao’s China? Masks with no proven point but to maintain project fear and to make the people know every second who is in charge? (and it is not them). ‘Work From Home?? Imprisoned in your own house? Without even being convicted by a jury?

What next? And all causing 10X the harm that the response prevents. This 2 years of covid response is likely to plunge the globe into the worst depression ever seen in history – It already has destroyed education, millions of business, is killing public transport, commercial real estate, the inflation from paying people to not work wile doubling imports has destroyed savings and pensions – and inflated all real asset prices, made the super wealthy 50% more RICH! will have killed over a million third world children from reduced Western economic activity (UNICF, UN, says that), impoverished billions in the developing world, caused vast numbers of health issues in a very great many of the people by closing the hospitals and doctors except for covid, run up National Debt to levels we can NEVER pay off, increased drug and alcohol dependence – made millions of young unemployable wile at the same time reduced the needed skilled workforce as millions just Dropped out of the employment rolls for good…. And, THIS IS really big to me – Robbed me of my FREEDOM! I spent my life giving the finger to authority, and have been beaten for it several times – and did it during this episode – but still – they win, they will not let me on a plane to travel…….

Milquetoast? Destroying freedom and the country and the world?

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Freedom is for a tiny fraction of the population – most people would be overawed by a free world.

Freedom means that people could break into my house because they are free to do so – we don’t have the legal right to shoot them, as you do.

Freedom is for those who live by themselves in the backwoods. In a huge city, freedom = chaos.

A survey was does in Russia ten years after the fall of the USSR. A significant proportion of people wanted to return to the old times. Most of those saw St$$in as a god.

For those without imagination freedom is scary.

Ian Manning
Ian Manning
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Your observation about the survey in Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union is misleading (and possibly mischievous?). There is no correlation between restricting freedom on deeply suspect scientific grounds (Covid passports) in an established functioning democracy and the corrupt chaos that was the early years of the Russian Federation. Anyone would opt for some semblance of order rather than economic and social mayhem. There is no comparison between the two positions and you undermine your argument by stating it.

Will R
Will R
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

” spent my life giving the finger to authority,”infantile posturing – You want a medal or something?
” destroying freedom and the country and the world ” get a sense of perspective for heavens sake . Oh and put that dummy back in the pram

David Uzzaman
David Uzzaman
2 years ago

The most sensible small precaution I intend to make is to stop reading rubbish like this. Vaccination has taken the edge off a pandemic that killed mostly old and ill people. It never was the Black Death and our response was disproportionate to the threat. Enough time, money and pleasure has been wasted. Let’s draw a line and march towards the next disaster.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
2 years ago
Reply to  David Uzzaman

“killed mostly old and ill people” – that’s alright then.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago

No-one said it is ‘alright’. All that people are saying is that the young should not sacrifice their freedom, health and futures for people who do not have many life years left. Perfectly sensible.

Will R
Will R
2 years ago

Indeed – the implied position of those who say ‘only xxx’ people died or ‘its not like spanish flu’ … as long as it doesn’t affect them, its fine …

Ian Manning
Ian Manning
2 years ago

No, of course not, but it is factually correct.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
2 years ago
Reply to  Ian Manning

It wasn’t merely a factual statement being made, there was an implied opinion that it didn’t matter, and that is what I found unacceptable.

Last edited 2 years ago by Linda Hutchinson
Sheryl Rhodes
Sheryl Rhodes
2 years ago

But the larger point, which should be non-controversial, is that vaccines now HAVE protected the old and ill. Shouldn’t we change our outlook completely, and re-set our minds to imagine that it’s January 2020 and what we are facing is basically a bad flu year?

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago

The assumption threaded throughout this piece is that lockdowns bring down cases. But so often (even Chivers touches on it), even without lockdowns (witness South Africa second wave) the epidemic curve rose and then
. fell. We need to just stop the lunacy and get on with life – some people die, that is also the rhythm of life. The governments could start suggesting that people lose weight and exercise more – how is that for a novel, pragmatic idea that would definitely have an impact on deaths.
I am also curious as to the safety of the booster. The original decision of the FDA technical team was that that booster safety wasn’t established and that over only 65s and high risk individuals should take them and others should avoid them. That was as recently as last month. One of our commentators (doctor with biophysics and biochemistry background) also mentioned a few times that previously mRNA treatment had to be discontinued in cancer patients because of toxicity. Why not a separate article on this.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
2 years ago

Quite a smug response. I probably agree that lockdowns don’t bring down cases but they might well bring down deaths and that is the main point.

“..some people die, that is also the rhythm of life”. That is fine as long as you are not one of those “some people”. I think you would change your mind if a doctor stood in front of you and told you you were going to die – soon.

“people lose weight and exercise more”. That must be coming from someone who exercises and doesn’t have a weight problem. I agree with you here but such advice would take a couple of generations to affect the whole population. Not good advice for today.

I would point something out. Over the last 70 years $trillions have been spent getting people to live longer. Cancer treatments have a general aim of prolonging life after cancer. Every month on the average is considered to be a step forward. What has been the point of this work if someone’s life is pronged after cancer but then they die next month of Covid.

Rhythm of life! Yuk!

stephen archer
stephen archer
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Most people without a complex would probably not consider Lesley’s comment to be smug. It could be argued (without any proof) that lockdowns might well increase deaths due to massively reduced treatments and operations in hospitals and other health care, and there doesn’t seem to have been too many doctors in the UK who could stand in front of you to tell you you were going to die soon (and they normally wouldn’t anyway) since they seem to be too panicked over havĂ­ng face to face appointments.

Last edited 2 years ago by stephen archer
Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
2 years ago
Reply to  stephen archer

“without any proof”. Then it’s just an assertion, or at the very best a theory with no supporting evidence. You have put forward soem possible mechanisms, but actual data are absent (at least from your post).

Last edited 2 years ago by Linda Hutchinson
stephen archer
stephen archer
2 years ago

Yes, that’s why I wrote “(without any proof)” and “might well”. Of course they’re assertions, just like the majority of content in these comments. No supporting evidence ? yes, true, but no-one has categorical evidence at the moment, lest of all myself.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

I so agree

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

But Chris, I am ‘some people’. I am older. I don’t expect the young to forfeit their health, futures and freedom for me. It is a completely bizarre notion. It should be one’s choice whether to mask up, lockdown, stay in and the like. I certainly don’t choose to spend my 60s cowering terrified behind closed doors. What sort of life is that? Something is going to get us all and we are all going to die. Just face up to it.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
2 years ago

I think you are completely missing my point. It is very easy to be in your 50s and see the ‘future’ as 20 or 30 years away. Yes it will come but not tomorrow.
I meant that if you were told that you would die soon you would be shaking in your shoes. The future is always some vague time in the distance but ‘soon’ could mean tomorrow.

Ian Manning
Ian Manning
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Chris, just what is it with this hierarchy of disease now, with Covid at the apex? In your last sentence one could substitute dozens of other fatal diseases for Covid. Why has Covid become the ‘gold standard’ of human ailments? It’s all part of this whole international hysteria. Death is just as tragic whether from ‘flu, measles, pneumonia, hepatitis, etc or Covid. Death is a great leveller.

Andrew Horsman
Andrew Horsman
2 years ago

“One way to think of it is that if your R is 2.5, and, for instance, schools close for half term, then your R might go down to 2.3. It’s the difference between an epidemic that’s spreading quickly, and one that’s spreading not quite so quickly. But if R is 1.1 and you knock it down to 0.9, then it’s the difference between a pandemic that’s growing and one that’s shrinking.”

Maybe the author should take his own advice from last week and stop trying to be so damn clever? R is an abstraction, a theoretical construct, not a reality. Reality is vulnerable kids locked up at home and being abused by parents, reality is innocent people locked away in inhuman “quarantine hotels”, reality is the abominable spectre of legalised apartheid that is so-called vaccine passports.

Wake up, Tom, and begin to comprehend the possibility that none of this is really about the management of a novel coronavirus by caring, competent medical advisors, and to understand that underlying it all there could well be a truly radical anti-human evil that would have us all living confused, afraid, and dependent on their medical & digital technology for our very existence. Your theories and your naive belief that this is being done all in the name of good by people in full control of their thoughts and actions are all going to collide with reality sooner or later (and probably sooner than later). We’re not in Kansas any more.

Andrea X
Andrea X
2 years ago

I am commenting only to say that I have NOT read the article.
After two in two days from the Spectator I have had quite enough.
But what about the one in the Telegraph saying that cases will drop considerably in the run up to Christmas?

Anyway Unheard, why of late you seem to have become quite… “already-herd”?

Bashar Mardini
Bashar Mardini
2 years ago

Lets try another way
The entire notion of lockdown, of social restrictions, of mandates, of passports, all must be purged from the common lexicon
This thing is over. Never again.

Caroline Watson
Caroline Watson
2 years ago

If herd immunity is the way out, as it clearly is, however it is achieved, why is ‘stopping the spread’ among healthy children and vaccinated adults a desirable aim? We should be holding Covid parties.

Jon Hawksley
Jon Hawksley
2 years ago

Only if the vulnerable are not invited and are not looked after by people attending the parties. If you do go to a Covid Party to get immunity the data shows it is best to be vaccinated first – this will boost the immunity and reduce the severity of the illness.

andrew harman
andrew harman
2 years ago

There seems to be some scientists now who are saying Plan B / restrictions would actually have a detrimental effect as it would just delay things and kick the can down the road. It would just delay the endemic equilibrium.

Alan Thorpe
Alan Thorpe
2 years ago

More modelling nonsense. We all know that the models have been completely wrong.
Why is it that the flu vaccinations are for specific strains but the covid vaccines apparently work for all strains. Answer, they don’t. Look at table 2 in the covid surveillance reports and the issue is exposed for all to see, except for the government and Tom. The infection rate is considerably higher for those who have been vaccinated and the infection rate is increasing week by week.
It is time we had answers to what is blindly obvious. The vaccines do not work as claimed.

stephen archer
stephen archer
2 years ago
Reply to  Alan Thorpe

I believe that they do work as claimed. It has been stated quite clearly over the last 6-8 months that they’re not 100% effective, that their efficacy decreases over time and will be substantially lower after 6-8 months, that they do not provide immunity but only lessen the severity of illness, and that they do not prevent spreading. Taking this into account the consequences we are seeing in terms of cases, hospitalisations and deaths among the old and infirm are entirely predictable and clear, particularly when I suspect a large proportion of the population have discarded earlier advice on distancing, hand hygiene and avoiding crowds. All this should be blindly obvious.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  stephen archer

In a few short months the Pfizer vaccine went from 95% efficacy to about 30% efficacy. The thing blindingly obvious is the steep trend line down, the fact that people have been taken for a ride, the fact that ludicrous vaccine passports are being mooted for no logical reason as you can still catch and transmit the disease and the fact that many of the masses still find excuses for this inefficiency and overreach.

Jon Hawksley
Jon Hawksley
2 years ago

It is worth looking at the Zoe Covid study data.

Jon Hawksley
Jon Hawksley
2 years ago
Reply to  stephen archer

Agreed – if you look at the data in the heat maps on the coronavirus.data.gov.uk website you will see that last year the infections were spread across all age groups with a mortality of 2%. This summer infections have been mostly in the unvaccinated younger age groups. Currently the infections are mostly in school children but the age band for their parents are also affected. Mortality is 0.4% of total cases because there are far fewer cases in the elderly. The Zoe Covid study has very large data sets showing the decline in protection from vaccination over time, the difference between pfizer and astrazeneca, the reduction in hospitalisations of vaccinated people who do get infected and the benefit of being both vaccinated and infected. The data clearly shows vaccines help but they do not protect those with compromised immunity enough to save as many lives in the vulnerable as was hoped. The vulnerable still need to protect themselves.
The models are not all nonsense, the Wuhan data reliably predicted both the exponential growth in cases elsewhere and then decline from lockdowns. That decline was so dramatic that it is likely that lesser social distancing measures would hold R at 1 once cases were low enough. There has been a tailing-off of cases in a particular variant with a new variant intially showing the exponential increase. There might be correlations to weather, I suspect humidity being more of a factor than temperature. The biggest failure is not making the best possible use of all the data available worldwide to learn as much as possible and finetune social distancing.
Tom has an uphill task explaining this.

Ian Manning
Ian Manning
2 years ago
Reply to  stephen archer

You say ‘and that they do not prevent spreading’. I believe you are wrong on this. I have read many times that they do reduce the rate at which you would spread the disease, although they do not prevent it altogether. You also assert the importance of ‘ hand hygiene’. However, the CDC in the US for one have definitively rejected any connection between Covid transmission and surfaces. Google it!

Sheryl Rhodes
Sheryl Rhodes
2 years ago
Reply to  stephen archer

In the first several months of vaccine roll-outs, we certainly were NOT told that vaccines don’t prevent spreading. That was the whole justification for governments to impose mandates.
Now the goal-posts have been shifted and the message that I am getting anyway is that mandates are justified because vaccines do prevent some spreading and also that we will prevent stress and expense for the medical system because there will be fewer severe cases.

Last edited 2 years ago by Sheryl Rhodes
Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
2 years ago

Ah, Tom Chivers. Hard pass.

Phil K
Phil K
2 years ago

No convincing argument here. My takeaway from it is ‘ I don’t really know what to think and so I’m going to play safe – go to plan B’.

D M
D M
2 years ago

I am 75 and triple jabbed. I am still slightly worried about getting covid. The current situation is not ideal but it is manageable by avoiding the most crowded enclosed spaces. Younger people may be much less worried. By and large, and I know there will be exceptions, risk of infection can be limited by being careful. We have to have herd immunity by vaccine or infection to eradicate the disease and we are tantalisingly close to this. Thus I am perfectly happy to continue without plan B for the moment and see what happens over winter. I can’t see what further lockdowns can do as we have to have herd immunity eventually and now is probably our best chance before even the booster vaccines become less effective. Claiming that there will be a Christmas lockdown without extra measures seems like doom mongering – we cannot possibly predict this with any certainty.

Last edited 2 years ago by D M
aaron david
aaron david
2 years ago
Reply to  D M

I am 50, double “jabbed” as the English say, and I also have MS, for which I take an injectable immunosuppressant, as my body is trying to eat itself alive.
I have as much fear of COVID as having pneumonia or a car crash. Yes, they could kill me, but the list of things that could kill me is astonishingly high. And, most importantly, my life isn’t worth society self-destructing. No way, no how, as we Americans say. And in this you are correct, we need to all take personal responsibility, and THAT can be backed up by the governments. Push for greater amounts of sick time, earlier retirements for vulnerable populations, but, and this is the most important part, keep society functioning, stop fear-mongering.

D M
D M
2 years ago
Reply to  aaron david

Agree

Ian Manning
Ian Manning
2 years ago
Reply to  D M

Being of a similar age and Covid status to you, D.M., I agree with much of what you say, although the main reason I will avoid crowded places is because I hate them, not because of any fear of catching Covid! My only quibble is your use of the phraseherd immunity by vaccine or infection to eradicate the disease’  (my emphasis). Although no expert, from what I have read, it is very doubtful that Covid can be eradicated. I seems it will become probably endemic, like ‘flu. Thus, now we have the vaccines reducing the risk to as low a level as possible, surely the only sensible course is to continue as we are without once again ‘hobbling’ normal society? This continuous clamour from the scientists and medics for yet more masking, distancing, ventilation, home working, etc. is simply not sensible or healthy long term. (And don’t get me started on hand sanitising! Totally pointless re. Covid, apparently.) In the meantime, we now have fears of outbreaks of other viruses – ‘flu, respiratory diseases, etc – which now may be much worse than usual because of reduced immune systems due to the Covid restrictions. The last thing we want now is to add a twist to this spiral with yet more unnecessary masking, distancing, etc. Ignore the fear mongers, take control of your life again.

D M
D M
2 years ago
Reply to  Ian Manning

I agree that we can’t expect to eradicate it – I didn’t choose my words carefully -but I think we can likely reduce it to a level which is not of weighing concern ( perhaps just local outbreaks) and hopefully assuage the fear mongers. Of course we may need more vaccines, at least for vulnerable people, to keep it reasonably well at bay .And of course we should keep society open with minimal interventions.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
2 years ago
Reply to  D M

Chivers point – rightly or wrongly – is that exactly *because* we cannot predict with any certainty how it will go, it is worth taking some limited preventative measures to reduce the risk of very bad outcomes. FWIW I agree with him, but it can certainly be discussed.

My compliments on an evidence-based and consistent argument for not doing anything for now. Those are very rare indeed, be it on Unherd or in government.

Andrea X
Andrea X
2 years ago

Where the €&# is Graham Stull’s excellent comment?
I have come back here to see how the conversation has evolved, but I cannot see it.

Andrew Horsman
Andrew Horsman
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrea X

This is really serious.

Unherd’s editorial team need urgently to explain why that comment, and the comments on the comment, was removed. Was it because he got too close to the truth? Or was it because he or others commenting offended the sensibilities and ego of Unherd’s science editor? Were Unherd threatened with legal action by one of the many malevolent and powerful corporate or political actors behind this attack on humanity? They can’t tolerate it when people go beyond bluster and opinion (which can often distract from the truth) and stating hard facts.

To those cowards who may have demanded the comment’s removal: we are not scared of you. You can bully people with your money all you like. The truth will come out. When it does I will be calling for mercy for the perpetrators and reconciliation, and I hope my approach shall win out. Others may be less forgiving.

To Unherd’s editorial team: you need to find the strength and courage to resist these bullies. They like to pretend they are more powerful than they are. If you are not fighting them you are joining them. You owe your readers a clear explanation of why that comment was removed.

To Graham Stull: please could you repost your comment? I wish I had saved it somewhere. If someone else did so please could they repost it.

Last edited 2 years ago by Andrew Horsman
Andrea X
Andrea X
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Horsman

I was giving them the benefit of the doubt… but I do wonder.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrea X

That is a disgrace… I will write to Unherd to complain. I suggest others do to.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrea X

I have now written to Unherd for an explanation.

Andrea X
Andrea X
2 years ago

Where did you write?

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrea X

support@unherd.freshdesk.com
They do reply to you. I have pointed out to them previously that there are some mischievous people about who flag another point of view and the comment immediately goes into moderation and can be there for some time.
This is very sad as largely this group self-censor and only occasionally do you see heated debate. Even the heated debate is not abusive. Unherd will begin losing their subscribers if this continues.

Last edited 2 years ago by Lesley van Reenen
Andrea X
Andrea X
2 years ago

It is back now 😉

Stephen Lodziak
Stephen Lodziak
2 years ago

Tom Chivers writes well on non-Covid topics so it’s hard to know if he really believes this or not. My theory is that he is Unherd’s way of saying we cover both sides of the story. Like the BBC.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
2 years ago

My theory is that he writes well on all topics. This article is a model of a calm descriptions of the facts, apart from his, clearly labeled and argued, opinions on what we ought to do. It just seems that on COVID many people here cannot tolerate a calm description of the facts.

Edward De Beukelaer
Edward De Beukelaer
2 years ago

….. reading all the comments…. (and remembering previous ones) we could consider to hold a vote to see whether Tom Chivers can stay in or is out… or maybe we have to keep him to have a political-business-medical voice for opinion balance…

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
2 years ago

Once again, we hear “doing things too late“. This is clearly a common theme, repeated at every opportunity as if an established unarguable fact, and my wife, who watches more television than I do, agrees.
On the other hand, statistics was included in my university education, and I read the statistics carefully, although they are seldom set out well, if stated at all, and I don’t agree. 

Will R
Will R
2 years ago

Nice work Tom, winding up the “I’m right and you’re wrong” merchants. I can hear the red-faced knee jerk spluttering from here 😉

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
2 years ago

I just stood in a queue for an hour for my booster. I met maybe 50 people and listened to a lot of conversations. People who were anti-vac were described as criminal, loutish, toffs, selfish…

It is half-term and there were children and parents. One parent was angry and bitter about anti-vaxers because her mother had died from Covid last year.

This is how cut off people on UnHerd have become on this subject. Plenty of theory as long but no action. Plenty of philosopher quotes which are totally meaningless.

If you don’t believe me go and stand in one of these queues to find out. You will find many volunteers, trying to do their best to help others, not just thinking about themselves.

Graham Stull
Graham Stull
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Hi Chris,
Not quite sure what your point is. Is it to tell those of us who disagree with the current vaccination policy that they are not a majority voice? I don’t think that comes as news to anyone on UnHerd. There is a reason, after all, why we are posting to this forum and not, for example, the comments site of CNN or the BBC.
Is it to tell us we are wrong? If so, then you will need more convincing arguments than just “people in a queue disagree with you, and a random parent blames you for the death of her mother.”
Is it to virtue signal that you got a booster shot? I don’t know your circumstances, but please believe I sincerely hope it helps you, and that you positively thrive.
Is it, as the last line suggests, to accuse us of being selfish? If so, then I think you are badly mistaken about the motivations of those who are critical of the current Covid / vaccine narrative.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
2 years ago
Reply to  Graham Stull

My point is quite clear. If you actually get away from your computer and your academic world and go and talk to real people, people who have never heard of Nietzsche, you will find those people doing work in the community, helping in national emergencies, picking up litter, etc. Literally thousands of people are out there trying to make things easier for others, not theorising or quoting some other person who also happens to be sitting behind a computer ( or is dead, and therefore of no relevance).
I can read. I’ve actually read of Nietzsche’s works many times and they are hugely entertaining – but meaningless. So what, you say? Like all of these things they are written by people outside of normal life – freaks, pseudo-intellectuals, the prosperous, well meaning people who shut themselves away from real life. You mention CNN and the BBC in the same breath as UnHerd. That is crazy. UnHerd is nothing. Just an entertainment but the contributors really take themselves seriously.

Graham Stull
Graham Stull
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Ah I see. Forgive me for being slow. My ethereal cyberbrain was too busy cogitating 19th Century German philosophy, as the wheels of my virtual barouche mercilessly crushed orphans and stray dogs, barreling along the cobbled streets of Genoa.
Perhaps, though, there is some middle ground; something in between verbose pontification on Unherd, and eavesdropping banal gossip from the government vaccine queue? Something that marries practical good natured everyday-ism with the wisdom of those who devoted their lives to exploring deeper truths?
As one German philosopher, much maligned in this comment thread, so eloquently put it:
Bleib nicht auf ebnem Feld! Steig nicht zu hoch hinaus! Am schönsten sieht die Welt Von halber Höhe aus.

Graham Stull
Graham Stull
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Chris,
I’ve come back to this because, on mature reflection, I think my last few comments were unnecessarily flippant and to be honest, bordered on trolling you. I’m sorry for that.
In fact it behoves me to acknowledge your very good point – i.e. we can tap away at our computers from positions of smug comfort, and easily forget about the people who just put their heads down and get on with it, in good faith, whatever the political weather.
It’s worth remembering. I should endeavour to be more humble and intellectually honest.
Have a good evening.
Graham

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
2 years ago
Reply to  Graham Stull

Appreciated. Thanks.

Andrea X
Andrea X
2 years ago
Reply to  Graham Stull

Where is your comment, Graham??? Did you delete it or have you been… cancelled?

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrea X

There is no delete option….

Edward De Beukelaer
Edward De Beukelaer
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Dear Chris, just out of interest: have you considered that the people you mention, who scold what you call ‘anti-vaccers’ (note: they may be misguide science-hesitant), that these people were scared the wits out of them by governments and unifocal scientists and then told time and time again that the only way out was a vaccination program? Does it then not seem logic that they react in the way they do?

Mel Bass
Mel Bass
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

You were in a queue for boosters, talking to people who wanted boosters, so you would hardly expect to hear alternative view points there. I do get out from behind my computer and work with a variety of people from non-academic demographics, who vary widely in their views – some are very pro-vaccine, some just want to get on with their lives either way, and some are mildly to vehemently anti-vaccine (like one character who tried to convince me that the jabs contain alien DNA!). I’m not disputing your experience, but there are many other people in the community, who often lack science education, who may not quote philosophy or even know what it is, who quietly pay lip service to it all, but who are deeply disillusioned by all the covid responses, including the vaccines. They may not argue particularly eloquently (unless you count the use of the f-word as noun, verb and adjective to be eloquent), but they are just as bitter and cynical about relatives who’ve contracted covid or died of it after being double-jabbed, or the side-effects that some have suffered. My point is, that it really depends on who you talk to, and it’s always a danger to find yourself in an echo chamber.

Ian Manning
Ian Manning
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Chris, like Graham Stull, I was unsure of the exact point you were making but, as someone new to Unherd, it seemed as if you might be implying that the majority opinion on this subject posted on Unherd was ‘anti-vax’. That’s certainly not what I have inferred so far. Whilst I am deeply sceptical of the government and scientific line so far, I am certainly not anti-vaccine. Their production seems to be a tour de force by the epidemiological world and now with 3 of them in my arm, I couldn’t be more grateful! However, that doesn’t stop me seeing the continuation of this panic mode as deeply depressing and worrying for the future of our free way of life. Now that may sound paranoid to some, but what else are lockdowns, mandatory mask wearing or Covid passports other than a draconian restriction of individual liberty on the back of a disease which, though serious, is still statistically rare and even rarer for the triple vaccinated? If a government can get away with this on the back of an emergency, one can see what’s behind the move to restrict freedom of protest with the Police, Crime, Courts and Sentencing Bill or the attempt to restrict access to a free vote with the introduction of compulsory voter ID at polling stations. Neither of these can be justified by the facts but for a proto-authoritarian Government like this one, the Covid restrictions have been a God send. We acquiesce at our peril.