How did Covid come to Britain?
A new study provides some important clues
Few, if any, European countries have had a worse Covid epidemic than the United Kingdom. But how did the SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the disease, reach our shores?
A remarkable new study from researchers at Oxford and Edinburgh Universities provides some important clues. Oliver Pybus, Andrew Rambaut and their colleagues have painstakingly identified 1,356 “independently-introduced transmission lineages” — i.e. separate introductions of the virus into the UK from elsewhere.
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Their preliminary analysis comes with a number of careful qualifications. Most importantly, the figure of 1,356 is “likely to be an underestimate of the actual number of times the virus has been introduced to the UK with subsequent onwards transmission.” Furthermore their analysis doesn’t include an assessment as to the size of each of these lineages (though they note that many appear to have gone extinct). Nor does the study “attempt to measure the relative contributions to the UK epidemic of importation versus local transmission.”
Still, it’s fascinating to see how these introductions break down by country of departure:
Just 0.08% of the introductions came direct from China.
The study also gives us an idea of when each introduction took place. The peak period is mid-March and the overwhelming majority of viral arrivals took place between mid-February and mid-April. At first, Italy was the most important country of departure, but then Spain took over the top spot and finally France.
On Twitter, Oliver Pybus said that the “vast majority” of inbound travellers came by air.
The researchers do not come to policy conclusions. But what are the rest of us to make of the fact that the virus was re-introduced to this country over and over again? It’s unclear just how much difference this makes to the progress of an epidemic in a country, but it does seem reasonable to assume that so many re-introductions makes it harder to suppress the virus (as countries like New Zealand have).
Instead of properly screening and, where necessary, quarantining people arriving at our airports (half of them UK residents) we left ourselves wide open. Repeatedly, we’ve let the virus into our country — and, for that matter, out of it too.
Furthermore, the study indicates that the bulk of these introductions took place when we already knew how serious the disease was — not in the early stages when we were still in the dark.
We need to be prepared for the next pandemic, because there will be one. We can either put the systems in place to disrupt the spread of disease or we can let the spread of disease disrupt us.
I do not find the results of this study as remarkable.
Indeed I would expect nearby areas to spread the virus to nearby areas,
after all this is how the Black Death spread before aeroplanes.
So even if one wanted to go back to a society, where most of the peasants never travelled more than 5 miles from their village, it would make no difference.
So talk of screening and quarantining millions of people as a solution, is just wishful thinking.
I still believe we had the virus circulating in UK without even realising it from Christmas / New Year period, brought from China who were lying about it at that stage. It looks like a lot of people already had some sort of resistance to it. Others who had cough and fever symptoms would have just thought it was something else early in the year. Old people die at that time of year from pneumonia – effectively what CV 19 causes.
Ultimately, unless there is an effective vaccine we will end up with about 70-80% getting it. If we already have a good head start on that that is a good thing – there have hardly been any cases in London for weeks now – how many Londoners are now immune ore already had some form of immunity – I refuse to believe London has become the model of social distancing especially with protests going on.
The key thing back in early Apr was not to overload the NHS and whilst there were hot spots and key resource pinch points that did not happen as it did in Northern Italy and New York. The key thing now is to open up and get our economy going again without overloading the NHS when “winter pressures” return later in the year. The more immunity we can achieve before winter the better.
New York came close to capacity, but their hospitals weren’t overloaded. Some of the surge capacity that they set up, including a U.S. Navy hospital ship in the harbor, was barely used.
One thing that was very unfortunate was that New York *thought* they’d be overloaded, so the state government and hospitals decided to hurry elderly COVID patients out of the hospital when they were on the path to recovery but were still infected. They sent these people back to nursing homes, which was a disastrous decision that sparked numerous outbreaks among a highly vulnerable population.
New York’s biggest problem was the structure of its health service, which could not work together to share resources between the various types of hospital. The worst funded hospitals were the ones needed by the most people. I agree overall New York has the capacity to cope and it was mostly an organisational factor. The hospital ship arrived well after it would have been most useful.
The USNS Comfort wasn’t used much, but that was more how it was used than when it got there.
It was there March 30 – https://www.politico.com/st…
That was right around peak daily admissions of COVID-19 patients, but before the peak of the total number of people hospitalized (because of how long patients stay hospitalized) – https://www1.nyc.gov/site/d…
It was intended to take patients who went to the hospital for non-COVID emergency care, but very few of those people showed up. It was a combination of people staying at home (avoiding accidents) and being too scared of COVID to go to a hospital even if they should have done so,
Yes, recall an emergency physician in France recollected a patient in December 2019. Fortunately samples were in the hospital freezer & were confirmed to be SARS-CoV-2.
I think your estimate or assumption about % susceptible is far too high. Some studies have suggested 1/3rd as the susceptible proportion. Using an IFR of 0.2%, the 42,000 deaths imply 21,000,000 infections, just less than 1/3rd of the U.K. population. By no coincidence in my view, the virus is slowing as if it was running out of people to infect. This in fact is what I think is happening. The inference is that we’re almost done; there will be no second spike; the virus won’t reappear in winter & we don’t need a vaccine or social distancing.
I never made any guess as to what the % susceptible / not susceptible was. My only observation was that the various figures for London, including antibody test surveys, imply a lower level of acquired immunity than appears to be the case when you look at how long it has been since London had a significant number of new cases.
This article is very interesting. I’ve only visited Bristol once as a guest speaker on the Bible and Jewish Christian relations at the university. At the station the taxi was very late so I took a bus and was told off by the university for showing initiative. The hotel was marvellous and catered very well for my kosher requirements, which I explained to them – and then the manager added ‘ It’s a pleasure to host you – much more accommodating than all those awful vegans’. At the time I had no idea what he was talking about.
The University of Bristol felt schizophrenic and the students didn’t open their mouths, even when invited to do so during the seminar. I later complained to the Bishop of Bristol about antisemitism on the part of the university’s Anglican chaplain – and he told me a very sad story. ‘There are very few Jews in Bristol he said’ (that was obvious!), but my daughter teachers in primary school. Every day she comes home with a ghastly story about Jew hatred among primary pupils. Tell me, Irene, can you have antisemitism without Jews?’
Since then my gas and electricity company based in Bristol have informed me that Corbyn wasn’t anti-Semitic – it was simply a lie put about by Tories, and now we have rabbles taking the law into their own hands with an offensive statue, while ignoring distancing measures. No wonder we in Britain have a higher death rate from Covid than any other country in the world, including the USA.
Bristol, Cambridge, these are politically correct cities who, as the article states, appear to be doing well, but definitely not. I left, not very happy, despite glowing references for the place from a number of people I respect – but I sensed a deep malaise – have also sensed this in Durham, by the way, in York, and in other flowers of English culture, which are simply no longer able to bear the strain of their own wokeness.
On the other hand, I have a particular affection for the city and university of Liverpool where I was head-hunted to start the subjects of Biblical Hebrew and Jewish Studies in 1986. A glorious decade ensued, and my children loved it as well. But now what, a proposal to disrespect Gladstone, who did so much for the city, in the wake of BLM?
As a Jew, I recognize that if we Jews went the same way, the entirety of the Anglican church set-up in this country would be torn down, together with all the UK’s universities: most of our literary figures would also be banned, including Chaucer, Shakespeare, T.S Eliot and most 21st-century figures.
So this week I made a point of talking to every black person I met in the street to inform them (if they didn’t know already) that the wife of the biblical Moses was black and is regarded in the highest esteem by the observant Jewish community. I also phoned the black Archdeacon of Manchester to ask what we in Greater Manchester could do together to stem the hatred – much of it now morphing into yet more antisemitism. Only time will tell if this initiative ever gets off the ground “¦.!
Basically, everyone has complete freedom to think exactly how BLM wants them to think.
The study was done by Cog-UK and included some Birmingham university expertise including Prof Nick Loman. 80% of the arrivals were between 29 Feb and 26 March when it was estimated 20k people arriving daily from Spain alone. The much criticised Athletico – Liverpool match in thought to have had little impact. WHO didn’t declare a pandemic until 11th March and on 6th March the Grauniad said we shouldn’t worry about an epidemic until we actually had one.
The hindsight experts will out in force and maybe the head doom monger Neil Ferguson (his track record on epidemics is shocking) may have been more inclined to hold his tongue yesterday at the Science select committee had he read the report. A lockdown with closed borders early in February might have helped but the data at the time didn’t give this view as both him and John Edmunds have said. John Edmunds appearance on Channel 4 news on 13th March is enlightening and is available on you tube.
Just to add as I missed it off…….there is evidence that the rate of infection had already dropped before the lockdown and the results would be relatively unchanged without a lockdown. The “R” curves of the UK, Germany and Sweden are spookily similar.
Universities have also contributed to this trend in so far that they are terrified of negative student satisfaction ratings. They have a whole administrational body (some of which are paid six-figure salaries) devoted to championing student grievances and exposing the great Unwoke amongst their midst. Unfortunately many of these students go on to work at our cultural institutions expecting the exact same coddling in their professional lives. These days the very idea of aspiring to be a responsible adult is considered an alt-right political view.
Clearly, youth is wasted on the young!
They do themselves no favours with all their no platforming, safe space-Ing tripe. This is not the real world, at least not the world I recognise or would like it to be(?). Ironic isn’t it that those who demand tolerance are most often the least tolerant people. They have no tolerance for anyone with an opinion different to theirs.
There is a clear difference between looking good, feeling good and doing good. Militant protest theatre may feel good for the participants and look good for the media, but does no good to people who need the most improvement in their living conditions.
Or, to put it another way Giles, let he who is without sin cast the first stone.
But they’ll all _claim_ to be without sin, won’t they? You won’t find any of the humility of the pharisees in this lot.
Excellent analysis. Whose values and which values are to be enforced needs to be answered before any mechanisms are discussed.
You cannot make men good by law: and without good men you cannot have a good society.
C. S. Lewis
If you have ten thousand regulations you destroy all respect for the law.
Pushing identity politics along the lines of external characteristics makes “good” look very different from goodness of character. Why can’t we agree that aggression against the person or property of individuals is wrong no matter who does it? Or is that just too simple?
The reality is some people are naturally good, most are good when it suits, bad when it suits and ambivalent the rest of the time and some people are bad. This is true for all walks of life regardless of ethnicity, sexuality, gender or religion. Even if we could agree on a common set of values, there would always be an element that does not share them and a large element than ignores those values when it suits them eg those who stick to the speed limit and tut at those over taking them, until they themselves are late.
Indeed the argument for abolishing the police is the same as the argument for abolishing the speed limit and relying on education and social responsibility to get everyone to drive at a safe speed commensurate with the prevailing conditions and their own ability – nice idea and would reduce accidents far more than speed limits but won’t work in reality.
I would like to know how did the virus come to Europe in the first place? How come Northern Italy was so heavily affected?
Channel 4 is reporting from Brazil at the moment, where some people think they had it in December or even earlier. Does it really originate in China only?
Does it matter if we find all this out? Should we not concentrate on now and the future? Although, yes, looking back will help formulate a strategy for the future. I am just a normal person, trying to carry on as best as I can. But sometimes the media and their reporting and looking for someone to blame really drives me mad!
Italy has trade links with China and Iran as they like the business. They allowed flights from those 2 countries to land up until the end of March. It is suspected that is how it got into Italy. Northern Italy is the predominant business/manufacturing end of the country hence it probably got the infections that way,
Southern Italy was relatively unaffected by comparison.
Yes, it is generally agreed by everybody that it originated in Wuhan,China.
Does it matter? No, probably right now it doesn’t. But China wants you to forget this. It has re-opened the wet market (a truly gruesome place) where it is generally thought to have begun, and it has behaved, in my view, badly both before,during and after the outbreak. I think it may also cause a lot of problems for all of us in the future.
The area between Milan and Verona, which has Bergamo in the middle, is a very popular area for local branches of Multinationals. Bergamo, the epicentre, is also a Ryanair hub.
Italy’s patient number 1 was not diagnosed by the hospital; it was the patients wife who remembered he had dined with a colleague recently returned from Wuhan who suggested that the hospital test for this.
However it was later found that the presumed patient zero has no trace of having had Covid-19, and RNA analysis suggests that Patient 1’s virus may have come from nearby Bavaria.
We also know that an Austrian ski resort may have been a hotspot before testing was being done, and it may be that Covid-19 had slowly and silently crept through Austria and Germany throughout the winter before reaching storm proportions as it moved into Northern Italy, Spain, France, Belgium and the UK.
Northern Italy is where the Italian fashion industry is based, Chinese companies desiring the ‘made in Italy’ label have bought up a lot of the smaller fashion houses and shipped in huge numbers of Chinese nationals to manufacture the garments in Italy.
The headline rightly highlights one of the key elements of the interview. The media has repeatedly compared higher infection or mortality rates in Sweden with the other Nordic countries, so it is of huge interest that the Norwegian Institute of Public Health never recommended a lockdown of the schools, It is also clear that the distinction between firm lockdown Norway and slack lockdown Sweden was a bit of a caricature. The lockdown in Norway was looser than in a lot of places. The shops remained open and they moved from two metres to one metre as the norm for physical distancing. The latter is a huge distinction in the transition between full lockdown and normalcy. Whether two metres or one metre of physical distancing is imposed by regulations could make the difference between non-viability and viability for a lot of establishments.
I don’t understand why there are so few black MPs and business leaders. It troubles me a lot. Other minorities at least have some recognisable representation at this level. If this just reflects racism why is there this disparity between different minority groups? While the aspiration to excel is there in sport for black people – male and female – it maybe isn’t marked in all walks of life. Understanding this paradox is even more important than investigating why covid has struck down a disproportionate number of black people
I’ve just had a look at the stats for MPs. Ten percent of MPs elected last year are non-white. Ten percent of the UK are non-white, ergo in Parliament they are represented in proportion to their numbers in the UK. That sounds fine to me. As for the Covid issue – if you look at the per capita death rate in Africa, India, Bangladesh etc it’s extremely low. Which means that if they are disproportionately dying in higher numbers in the northern hemisphere there has to be something else going on – lack of vitamin D has been suggested as a reason. Darker skins act as a natural sunblock, and we don’t get enough sun anyway – everyone in the northern hemisphere is short of vitamin D, so it’s probably worse the darker your skin. Take a supplement.
If you consider the age profile of the BAME community Vs the white comunity and consider the age profile of MPs (we want our MPs to have a good deal ofreal life experience though admittedly far to few really do), arguably BAME are over represented in parliament.
In my mind what made Nelson Mandela a truly great man was not what he did before he spent years in prison, nor that he spent years in prison but what he did to attempt to reconcile all the people of his country when he got out of prison. Sadly the spirit of Mandela’s work has not endured in South Africa. However if more of the people tearing down statues really thought about this aspect of Mandela’s greatness, they might get a lot closer to achieving what they appear to be protesting for.
The worst hit country in Europe is Belgium, by a long chalk, but just looking at national figures hides another factor; how ‘concentrated’ outbreaks have been.
Lombardy is by far the hardest hit region in Europe, but most of Italy has only had mild outbreaks.
Contrast that with the UK where there has been no region hit as hard as Lombardy or Madrid, but there there have been many outbreaks spread around the country. However, national figures for the UK and Italy are very similar, masking this difference.
France had bad outbreaks in the Isle de France and Alsace (Strasbourg), but only mild outbreaks elsewhere.
I’m wondering if this RNA data is collated on a regional basis, I think this would be far more interesting when trying to evaluate the diffusion of the virus.
It didn’t come up in the interview, but Sweden’s large Somali community has been mentioned as one reason why its infection rates and mortality rates are higher than its Nordic neighbours. In this respect, Norway is not like Denmark or Finland. There are actually more Somalis per capita in Norway than in Sweden.
I am also guilty of “cancelling” others on the basis of a comment, a look, or what car they drive. We are all given to snap judgments about people frequently based on very little. Social media certainly takes ostracism to a new and possibly horrible level. Any word or phrase misconstrued can be the kiss of death to a reputation. It’s time for more love, compassion, tolerance.
This information, sketchy as it is, only comes to light now? And not through the NHS or PHE.
In Portugal we have had for months now daily reports of the origins by country of C19 cases (accumulated).
Spain tops the list, followed by France. Switzerland and the UK are high up too. Italy is way down the order – flights from Italy were suspended early on.
How come the UK with its far better funded health service lacked this useful basic information?
If the woke crowd knew who John Newton was they would probably want to throw him into the sea too – he would certainly have reddened their godless ears for them in one of his six-hour sermons. But British abolitionists and black Americans owed less to Newton than to his friend William Cowper, whose anti-slavery poems supplied a language for the 18th century campaign that survived, namelessly, into the 20th: Martin Luther King and Barack Obama, at important moments in their careers, quoted Cowper without knowing it.
Mobbing is about collective anger aimed at an individual or a symbol such as a statue. The Christian ideal, love thy neighbour, is about love. They spring from entirely different emotions and have opposite aspirations.
The mob attack aspires to devour its target, the culture of cannibalism via Twitter. The Christian ideal seeks to form a congregation of the faithful for mutual help and support.
Unfortunately, the Christian ideal was too difficult to implement in practice. It often served as justification for religious wars and the Church’s political power, evolving to the current secular age. It prompted Mark Twain to comment that “Ours is a terrible religion. The fleets of the world could swim in spacious comfort in the innocent blood it has spilled.”
In times past, Christians engaged in mobbing and literally killing infidels, apostates, heretics like Galileo, held inquisitions, etc. Now the mobbing is secular.
High minded ideals like redemption and divine justice in the afterlife are of modest help in reigning in the human need for tribal violence by “us” against “them”.
If they are tearing down whole systems of State Policing they may remove the faults but I’m supposing they will erase some merits too. The nuances of systemic racism will be hard to pin down and root out in the PD#2, I am sure it will also be hard to pin down what is good.
Greta Thunberg needs help from a skilled psychiatrist, all those who pander to her delusions are denying her the help she needs. It is a sad irony that the tolerance of diversity (something I try to embrace) which underpins the woke message is totally absent when it comes to tolerating anyone who is not totally on message and is itself driving intolerance. Phobia used to mean “fear of” or “hatred of” not “does not fully agree with / unsure about”. The more MSM, celebrities and politicians pander to the woke crap through their own virtue signalling, the more real extremist will be speaking what the majority of ordinary people really think and feel but don’t feel able to say for themselves anymore and that is a dangerous place to be.
Of your two options at the end of your costs from Option A & B, I’d choose B every time. Any idea that we’d be able to prepare effectively & spend wisely is for the birds. Should we have closed all the airports? For months? Many people if permitted to travel would swap to rail, car/ferry.
Option A has the virtue of not trying and not wasting effort on actions which would probably be good responses to the wrong problem.
Very deep and profound. Thank you.
The dialectic seems to be between the Rousseau value of innate goodness (as self characterised by the self defined goodness of the Liberal movement) without the need of a corrupted (conservative) State and the Hobbsian value of innate badness (as self characterised by the self defined badness of the Conservative movement) which does need a (liberal) State.
However both contain their own fundamental flaws since the Liberal movement needs a (proxy liberal) State to enforce and protect innate goodness (cooperation) from the forces of competition and how does the Conservative movement create a (liberal) State if the underlying value is innate badness (competition).
I say this because I struggle with this,
“For Hobbes, there are no generally shared values and the good society is enforced from the top by authority. For Rousseau, the good society has the potential to emerge naturally from humans’ instinctive goodness if only we can reorganise it the right way. But for both, humans are first and foremost individuals who can ” and should ” pursue their individual instincts and desires.”
since the purpose of the Hobbsian State is to avoid a war against all on the basis that individual instincts and desires are innately bad (competitive) and need to be kept in check. Whereas yes, for Rousseau, the innate goodness (cooperation) of people will lead to an enlightened society.
Clearly the fundamental flaws of both the Rousseau/Liberal and Hobbsian/Conservative perspectives is that in the ecological world, rather than just the abstract human world, cooperation does not exist in isolation from competition and competition does not exist in isolation from cooperation.
In this respect, the tendency of the prevailing self definition of the Liberal perspective excludes competition (whilst being competitively opposed to the Conservative perspective) and the tendency of the prevailing self definition of the Conservative perspective excludes cooperation (except as a form of State enforcement of competition).
Consequently, as you point out, both unwittingly (or wittingly) potentially grant freedom to ideologues and sociopaths whether within the community under the guise of equality, diversity and inclusion or within the State under the guise of required authority.
In this respect, the dialectic (including its fundamental flaws) of the culture war needs to be framed within Pluralistic Democracy since it is within the framework of Democracy that the validity and the invalidities of both perspectives can be reasoned out for the common or highest good.
Is democracy a value that can be shared and accepted by both. Yes I think so, because neither are calling for the abolition of democracy and both are being given sufficient freedom of expression within our democracy.
This means the Liberal perspective that Conservatives only justify inequality and competition in order to enrich themselves can be countered with the Conservative perspective that Liberals only justify equality and cooperation in order to enrich themselves.
Somewhere in the middle (the centre ground), Society is balanced with the State, equality is balanced with inequality, inclusivity is balanced with exclusivity and Unity is balanced with Diversity.
Interestingly the introductions to this country look at the period from mid February onwards .
However as a frontline GP I saw my first outbreak of covid 19 on the 1st December 2019.
Since that time I have seen many more clinivsl cases throughout December and January .
I have been able to confirm using an approved PHE antibody test that those early cohort have had Covid19.
Proving exactly where it came from is proving more difficult but China at the moment seems to be the most likely source of the initial infection.
Britain is an island (big news, ring the bells). Unlike Canada with hundreds of entry points (not only airports but the largest undefended open border in the world with the US) where a madman could threaten the flow of food and medical supplies if we close the border., Britain could easily have blocked itself from hundreds of source, buying precious time. But ideology and incompetence.
we were allowing our own citizens back in the UK. There were thousands of them overseas and wanting to come back.
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