X Close

The Leicester lockdown was not necessary

Signs on a Leicester high street as the local lockdown was imposed

August 6, 2020 - 9:50am

Every time there is an increase in coronavirus cases in a local area, a local lockdown now seems to be on the cards: Matt Hancock announced new restrictions last week affecting over 4 million people in Lancashire and Yorkshire, and just yesterday the Scottish government announced a local lockdown in Aberdeen.

But do they actually serve any purpose, other than being seriously damaging to local businesses and the community? One month on from the first such lockdown in Leicester, we now have enough data to make an assessment.

Given what we know from the new cases data and other measures such as NHS 111 Triage data, infections in Leicester had been increasing steadily from the start of June. During that month, testing was ramped up around the city and track and trace measures implemented. Valid concerns were raised by Leicester’s Mayor that data was slow to get through to local officials but the evidence suggests that these track and trace measures were having an effect prior to the local lockdown.

Matt Hancock announced the new lockdown measures for Leicester would start from Tuesday 30th June. Note though that, given a 5-7 day period before symptoms develop, the earliest time at which we could observe any effect of the new lockdown measures in new cases data would be about the 5th July.

The graph shows the development of new cases by test date using the 7-day average (as testing is subject to day-of-the-week effects).  New cases peaked on the 24 June implying infections peaked 5-7 days earlier, at least 10 days before the new lockdown was even announced. By the 4th July, still before lockdown could have shown any impact, new cases were down by 28%.

Quite a few new cases were found from tests on 5th & 6th July meaning the average ticked up a little. Although it might be tempting to suggest that uptick was caused by the lockdown itself, more likely it simply reflected the intensive testing efforts going on. In any case, it is clear that infections were decreasing well before the lockdown measures were announced, a conclusion backed up by the NHS 111 triage data.

Of course the real concern with outbreaks is that really serious cases will result in hospitalisation or even death. Local hospitalisation figures are not publicly available but the Public Health England Rapid Investigation Team report on 29th June 2020 confirmed that admissions had “remained steady at between 6 and 10 new COVID-19 confirmed admissions per day over the last 4 weeks.” In other words, at the time Matt Hancock made his announcement, there was no indication that local health services were likely to be overwhelmed; and they never became remotely so, despite the terrifying-looking charts showing surges of new cases. (As Freddie Sayers pointed out on these pages at the time, most of those new cases were young people).

Deaths are a lagging indicator, happening on average perhaps 20 days after infection. The 7-day average for Leicester hospitals did increase to just under 2 deaths per day by 24th June. Deaths then decreased from the 26th June (albeit with some fits and starts) to an average well below 1 death per day by the end of July.

Rather like case numbers, the situation (which never looked like reaching disaster levels) was improving well before the local lockdown could possibly have had an effect.

It is impossible entirely to exclude the possibility that the local lockdown helped cases come down faster than would otherwise have been the case, though there is little indication of that in the data. What we can say with some certainty is that the lockdown restrictions were not required to get the situation in Leicester under control.

The testing and tracing measures seem to have been enough on their own to get infections down, despite the well-publicised problems with getting enough detailed data to local health teams. Assuming there have since been improvements to the track and trace system, we should be even more confident that future outbreaks can be managed in this way, without resorting to lockdowns.

A generous reading of Matt Hancock’s decision to enforce the local lockdown is that, at the time of the announcement, he may have been uncertain that infections were already coming down and so the measures were precautionary. You might forgive that mistake once, but it is important now that the Government looks at the evidence and learns its lesson. The right response to local outbreaks and spikes should be testing, information and advice and not the imposition of costly legal restrictions.


David Paton is a Professor of Industrial Economics at Nottingham University Business School.

cricketwyvern

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

46 Comments
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
hfdileo
hfdileo
3 years ago

My concern is that the whole lockdown situation has run away with itself and we can only expect knee jerk reactions from now on. I am not convinced that the government is very interested in establishing the truth of any data (PHE, take a bow). Particularly with MSM (thanks BBC Radio 4 – interviewing Neil Ferguson!) there is a narrative being created in order to justify the fear-mongering and draconian control measures. This narrative will not be fulfilled by the absence of a “second wave”.

david bewick
david bewick
3 years ago
Reply to  hfdileo

Quite. Rather than “second wave” I would suggest what we are seeing is the result of a heavy suppression strategy that once released allows resurgence.

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
3 years ago
Reply to  hfdileo

The Second Wave According to Prof Sunetra Gupta of Oxford University was late April……Why Not build isolation hospitals,(UK used to have from first WW1 until 1970s?) or is it not on Boris new found hatred of ”green belts”?..

dozmorris51
dozmorris51
3 years ago
Reply to  Robin Lambert

Not a bad idea. Guess we got too cocky believing we had conquered all infectious disease.

Paul Buxton
Paul Buxton
3 years ago

We also have to consider the impact of false positive tests on the data. From what I have read, we have very little understanding of the false positive rate, but it is almost certainly not zero. The more testing we do, the more false positives we will find, and we will keep ourselves in permanant reactivity mode. This is absolute madness. The only data we can really trust is hospitalisation and excess mortality, and both of these have been trending to zero despite, as Malcolm rightly points out, the easing of social distancing since May.

Dr Leah Remeika-Dugan
Dr Leah Remeika-Dugan
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul Buxton

True enough, Paul.

The only pertinent question remaining is, ‘who is going to stop this madness and how?’

This playbook can’t be used again.

The remaining concern is that there are much more dangerous viruses out there requiring social distancing: smallpox is held in repository and researched this very moment. Ebola is the second disease requiring social distancing, also T.B.

That’s all baby, 1,2,3.

Kathryn Richards
Kathryn Richards
3 years ago

I don’t think it fair to just accuse our Government – all Governments are ‘at it’. Look at Melbourne and the rest of Europe. Let’s be honest: they are damned if they do, damned if they don’t. No matter whether a few die or many – it will be ALL their fault. Not the fault of the people who have ignored sensible measures of hand washing and most importantly, Distancing.

Malcolm Ripley
Malcolm Ripley
3 years ago

Wrong, its 100% the governments fault, BJ supporters are having a severe dose of Cognitive Dissonance. If what you say is true about “people” there would definitely have been spikes in cases after the following events :

> Packed beaches at the start of May
> Packed beaches at the end of May
> Opening of shops and maskless crowded queues outside
> BLM protest around the world
> Illegal rave in the North East
> Illegal rave in the South West

There have been clusters of cases which have occurred at food processing plants where people come in contact with animal products. Animals are known to be carriers of Coronavirus. All animals can carry Coronoavirus, including ourselves year after year after year (15% of common colds are Coronavirus).

Even IF there was a spike in cases SO WHAT !!! It’s death and ICU occupancy that matters. These continue to fall. They are currently well below normal background death rates. Total death by Covid-19 in the UK is still below flu in 2017-2018 and worldwide it is way way way below Hong Kong Flu in the 60’s when Woodstock was in full flow! We have turned into a population of pathetic snowflakes who are totally clueless about illness, death, risk and living life to the full as civilised maskless human beings.

As EXPERTS (ignored by government) state : If we had not explicitely focussed on Covid 19 nobody would have battered an eyelid except for the observation of an unusual spike in respiratory cases in the Spring.

david bewick
david bewick
3 years ago
Reply to  Malcolm Ripley

Quite correct. Furthermore they are considering closing other areas to allow schools to open. This begs the question why? Was the study by public health Holland (SAGE had this in April) and the pan European study of 586 children that tested positive for the virus (26 countries and supported by Gt Ormond St hospital) wrong? Remember the pan european study prompted the letter by paediatricians on the effects of the measures taken on children.

Jon Sweeney
Jon Sweeney
3 years ago
Reply to  Malcolm Ripley

Well said. If the information is readily available you start to question why this government is intent on ruining the economy and people’s lives??

steve jones
steve jones
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Sweeney

That is one of the main questions you need to ask. May i suggest you raise the question of who stands to benefit from this fiasco.

dozmorris51
dozmorris51
3 years ago
Reply to  steve jones

It’s not always a question of “who benefits” often as not it’s run of the mill stupidity.

Kathryn Richards
Kathryn Richards
3 years ago
Reply to  Malcolm Ripley

I am not sure that you read what I wrote. I am not excusing OUR Government. But even you must accept that virtually all governments are behaving the same. WHO are forcing this issue.
As for the experts that YOU mention, there are experts on both sides, it just depends on which ones you choose to believe. It is obvious who you believe.
Just for the record, I totally agree that we can not, should not, continue to lock down our lives and the economy. But tell that to the scared parents who won’t allow their children back to school and the Unions preventing things from opening up.

Elaine Willock
Elaine Willock
3 years ago

Would anyone trust the Who! They are corrupt and self absorbed- how aboit gates funding clean water – too mundane and not profitable enough

Michael Yeadon
Michael Yeadon
3 years ago

Why have you not responded to the statistics on EWD in recent winters, showing that the distinct elevation this spring was unusual only in its timing? That isn’t “a matter of opinion”.

Phil Thompson
Phil Thompson
3 years ago
Reply to  Michael Yeadon

I recall the elevation went way outside the statistical limits of the previous years, it was a little later and deaths had been running below the mean. The England spike was 4 times the previous high (last several) years, other parts of the UK much less so esp NI. https://www.euromomo.eu/gra

mike otter
mike otter
3 years ago
Reply to  Malcolm Ripley

Look for the seasonal flu stats UK 2014-15 – c 28,000 dead.They were available online up to about April ’20 – now they are all but invisible. Remove the faked / mistaken deaths from PHE figures and we are well below 2014-15. Competing political agendas, the need to explain the overdue economic adjustment and pure and simple stupidity and negligence by the UK ruling elite are all factors.

Lisa
Lisa
3 years ago
Reply to  mike otter

The 28,000 you quote for 2014/5 I believe is only for England, not the whole UK. The Office for National Statistics quotes total excess deaths as 44,000 for 2014/5 and for 1999/00, 48,000. In 2017/8 it was even higher, at 51,000!! I don’t know what figures they attribute specifically to flu.
So yes, if you remove the excess deaths actually caused by the lockdown, which must be quite a significant number, we should all be asking why on earth anyone would continue with action that decimates the economy. At least in the early stages we didn’t know how bad it was going to get but there is no excuse now. BJ needs to urgently get a grip and start focusing on deaths, not cases, which are meaningless – the case count has always depended on a number of factors including accuracy of tests and extent of testing. All the scientific research indicates there will not be a 2nd wave. I will be amazed if there is any evidence people in general can catch Covid twice ( with the very rare exception of those with a faulty immune system). The fact that antibody levels wane in no way means immunity is lost as the press try to assert. This waning is a normal response as often ( not always as in some diseases antibodies remain high), the body does not waste energy keeping antibody levels high. Plasma B cells which retain memory go to the bone marrow and await a 2nd encounter with the pathogen, whereupon they will quickly produce vast quantities of antibodies. These will quickly clear a second infection without anyone noticing. In addition research from Yale, Germany, Sweden and elsewhere has shown that T-cells are far more important in fighting a Covid-19 infection than antibodies. T-cells also retain long term memory. Research from Singapore has shown that people that had SARS-COV-1 have retained long term T-cell memory for the last 17 years. Colds can be caught again as there are many different strains besides the 4 cold coronaviruses. These also mutate more rapidly than SARS-COV-2 and there is research demonstrating you don’t catch exactly the same sub strain of a cold coronaviruses again. At least 3 lots of research also indicates up to 81% of people have at least a level of pre-existing immunity to SARS-COV-2 derived from cold and animal coronaviruses. Unfounded scaremongering about lack of long term immunity is used to keep the public frightened. None of the real scientific information is reaching the public. Why?

mike otter
mike otter
3 years ago
Reply to  Lisa

Thanks Lisa i wonder if the forth coming “enquiry” will manage to white-wash this?

Olaf Felts
Olaf Felts
3 years ago
Reply to  mike otter

Sadly a national scandal is being basically ignored by the national media – the recording of covid deaths. I have many family and friends who work in health care. For example one who works in the community for an NHS trust told me that she routinely gets updates on clients who have passed away throughout their service. These deaths are routinely recorded as covid deaths regardless – no testing and simply they are all recorded thus! This is deliberate policy – last Monday she was supplied with a list of the names of individuals who were receiving their service that had died in the last month. All recorded as covid regardless of actual cause of death. This is far from unusual.

Michael Saxon
Michael Saxon
3 years ago
Reply to  Malcolm Ripley

Dead right, preach it brother!

Dr Leah Remeika-Dugan
Dr Leah Remeika-Dugan
3 years ago
Reply to  Malcolm Ripley

Pathetic snowflakes, yes, because people refuse to be rigorous in their observations.

However, the fact is that lay people have an understandable lack of a working body of medical knowledge and this is being exploited.

Dog Coronaviruses et al, are not transmissible to humans and vice versa.

The only way to transmit the above (generally) is by directly injecting a dog coronavirus to a human when it’s homogenised after culturing it in a virus’s vax medium. That’s how it’s done.

Masks will suppress the average person’s immunity and their natural “fighting chances” at the next onslaught from this horrific and criminal playbook.

Nick Faulks
Nick Faulks
3 years ago

The idiocy in Melbourne is none of my business. Leicester has been brutalised in my name.

Dr Leah Remeika-Dugan
Dr Leah Remeika-Dugan
3 years ago
Reply to  Nick Faulks

What’s happening to our natural brothers and sisters in Melbourne is, in my opinion, everyone’s business – as it could be a test case of social engineering for others — next.

Humanity is not going to survive this narrative unless we push back peacefully and potently before the game ends badly.

david bewick
david bewick
3 years ago

There is no evidence that any lockdown works. They are, with monotonous inevitability, too late to affect the issue. The main lockdown is no different. Peak deaths on 11th April and evidence that infections were falling before the lockdown. We await the results of the damage the lockdown has done. For example hospital deaths are well below the 5yr average for many weeks and inversely deaths in domestic settings are significantly above.

Ben Scott
Ben Scott
3 years ago

“Important now that the Government looks at the evidence”.

Is there any particular reason or sign that they would start doing that now?

steve jones
steve jones
3 years ago
Reply to  Ben Scott

There are two options regarding a governmental response. The first is that they are completely incompetent and don’t have a clue what they are doing. The second is that they know exactly what they are doing.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  steve jones

So far the evidence points overwhelmingly to your first proposition.

Yet at the very outset of The Great Panic we were clearly warned of the likely consequences by no lesser person that Lord Jonathan Sumption, KS. Brilliant!

dozmorris51
dozmorris51
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

My money is on the first option.

Paul Carline
Paul Carline
3 years ago

Does anyone seriously believe anything Matt Hancock says? The whole thing has been a lie from Day 1. As Mike Pompeo let slip: “It’s a live exercise”. I think the purpose of these random smaller lockdowns (though Manchester and Melbourne aren’t exactly small) is to test the public reaction. If they get away with these cons they will be more confident of getting away with the more draconian measures people are expecting later this year or early next year. That means there’s a small window of opportunity for a wave of resistance that might cause them to back off – though I doubt it. Given the sheepishness of the response so far, it seems unlikely that we will see anything like the wonderful Berlin protest.

Elaine Willock
Elaine Willock
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul Carline

We have to see that kind of action in the U.K.

Michael Saxon
Michael Saxon
3 years ago

For a long time I’ve believed governments are the most dangerous institutions known to Man. Two factors come into play: the will to power and the Fuehrerprinzip (leader worship). When governments have an excuse to shift to tyranny they will take it and the people will often just accept it because they default to putting safety and a blind faith in govt. (the god in situ) before freedom. When both come into play we end up with a fascist style govt and a willingness to suborn personal freedom to ‘the public good’.

Dr Leah Remeika-Dugan
Dr Leah Remeika-Dugan
3 years ago
Reply to  Michael Saxon

Massive thumbs up

Dr Leah Remeika-Dugan
Dr Leah Remeika-Dugan
3 years ago
Reply to  Michael Saxon

Yes, it’s an oxymoron.

Suppress the people for the public good.

You couldn’t make it up. ñ˜Âčマ

Adrian Smith
Adrian Smith
3 years ago

Yep totally ridiculous Sweden is now showing that lockdowns only have a marginal effect. If there is a rise in cases in an area become more stringent about social distancing – make 2 meters mean 2 metres and do the hand sanitising more diligently. Advise those living outside the area not to make unnecessary trips into the area and those in the area not to make unnecessary trips out of the area and let things subside again naturally. Anything more than that does more harm than good.

John Vaughan
John Vaughan
3 years ago
Reply to  Adrian Smith

You’re mistakenly focusing on the virus which we can see does little damage compared to the damage done to our children seeing masked sheep dodging each other, instead of embracing as humans should. Suicides, domestic violence and unemployment have rocketed as a result and you want us to keep away from each other? Please think!

Dr Leah Remeika-Dugan
Dr Leah Remeika-Dugan
3 years ago
Reply to  John Vaughan

Thank you

Dr Leah Remeika-Dugan
Dr Leah Remeika-Dugan
3 years ago
Reply to  Adrian Smith

Hand sanitisers cause the evolution of more pathogenic species.

Hand washing (20 seconds is arbitrary at best unless you’re planning to work in a surgical theatre) is sufficient — and better.

A few SECONDS after hand washing, our skin repopulates our natural flora of bacteria and human virome (called the human microbiome) which is a GOOD thing.

However hand sanitisers suppress the good human microbiome, which allows an overgrowth of more pathogenic species.

We are not meant to live in a hospital sanitary environment. It’s not beneficial to the prosperity of our natural immune system function.

chris sullivan
chris sullivan
3 years ago

euromomo stats are updated every week and give a good overview of excess deaths. It is disturbing that the covid deaths are not put in perspective daily alongside the historical average of excess deaths so that people will be less prone to panic and the govt might be better able to balance ill-health due to economic stress. LIFE HAS A 1% per annum death rate. Most seem to believe than no-one much ever dies ‘normally’. How bizzare !!!

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
3 years ago
Reply to  chris sullivan

Life is ”Dangerous” Wow….Whoever Votes lib-Lab-Cons-Plaid-Snp-Green has a LOT to answer for..get rid of Political class,

John Vaughan
John Vaughan
3 years ago

In ‘Organizing Hope’ published last December, my chapter begins with Mill’s dictum “If only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing him than he, had he the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.” My current book, which I am racing to finish, includes Einstein’s comment “Few people are capable of expressing opinions which differ from the prejudices of their social environment” and these 2 show the crux of the problem. We are Homo Sapiens Sapiens but we refuse to think, acting like brute creatures following the alpha rather than using the self-consciousness that evolution has brought us. Just observe the last election: of the 2 leaders on offer, we had a privileged, racist buffoon versus one who had fought all his life for the underdog and we chose the ‘alpha’!

Dr Leah Remeika-Dugan
Dr Leah Remeika-Dugan
3 years ago

The author, David Paton mentions a ‘generous read’ of M.H. decision.

The enactment of Medical Martial Law does not indeed owe anyone a generous anything – quite the contrary. Drastic measures require solid scientific robustness before these types of decisions are made.

The key foundation is in the author’s statement here: “Quite a few new cases were found from tests…”

Increased tests produce, for one thing, increased “cases” so I should think we should quarantine all goats and pawpaw plants – maybe even cull a few tomatoes, mosquitoes, and bananas while we’re at it.

Fundamentally there is no pandemic from this very very real viral like entity.

The tests have NO provenance, as the primer for all Covid tests is based on an unpurified sample of mixed tissues from and NOT on an isolated virus.

What began as a pandemic has now become an IQ test.

Chuck Burns
Chuck Burns
3 years ago

Each time there is an increase in Corona Virus cases means we are getting closer to herd immunity. The Leftists, politicians, and bureaucrats have conveniently forgotten why the distancing and lock down were suggested in the first place. It was to “lower the curve” to keep hospitals from being overwhelmed. Now they falsely tell us that an increase in cases is something bad when it is to be expected. We need the 80% of the population to be infected and gain natural immunity. The solution to this virus is not a vaccine. The solution is to stop using the virus as a political tool by end justifies the means Leftists and ignorant politicians and Bureaucrats.

Olaf Felts
Olaf Felts
3 years ago
Reply to  Chuck Burns

Well Chuck best of luck with that – zero sign currently. Mind one ray of light for you. Perversely most people I speak to are appalled at what they see as a total titanic over reaction by Government and mainstream media. I find it peculiar as this is discordant with what is generally supposed (sic). What is troubling is how pacified people have become. Keep voicing your concerns as must of all of us that discern the absolute folly and corrupt nature of all this covi lunacy.

loreleihunt3
loreleihunt3
3 years ago

The challenge in Leicester was that there was significant illegal working, in workplaces where social distancing measures were not in place. The workers were not reporting illness or going for tests. The statistics were not a reliable indicator of what was happening in the city. These are businesses which routinely flout regulations on pay and conditions. The problem is well known and has been widely reported in the past. It’s the poor behaviour of a small number of employers that cost Leicester’s wider business community so dear. Local and national politicians have failed to deal with these issues and were disingenuous in their responses to initial reports of the rise in cases. The pandemic is very good at getting into our weak spots and highlighting long run problems we are failing to tackle – like funding for social care, enforcement of regulation and obesity.

Peter KE
Peter KE
3 years ago

The U.K. approach to the pandemic has been nonsense and Hancock is an incompetent.