by Henry Hill
Tuesday, 4
January 2022
Analysis
17:00

What have Scotland and Wales’ Covid rules achieved?

Not a lot, suggests the latest data
by Henry Hill
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon (L) and Wales’s First Minister Mark Drakeford (R)

This Christmas provided yet another opportunity for the devolved administrations to set themselves apart from Westminster in their response to Covid-19.

Boris Johnson, constrained perhaps by last month’s unhelpful revelations about the underground party culture apparently gripping Downing Street, elected to let both Christmas and New Year’s Eve proceed as normal.

Both Mark Drakeford and Nicola Sturgeon, by contrast, decided to impose restrictions. Cue press stories about Welsh and Scottish revellers crossing the border, their nights saved by our precious Union.

With those events now behind us, it seems extremely unlikely that England will see a January lockdown. Even Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary has started to talk about “learning to live well with the virus”.

Scottish and Welsh voters, by contrast, will be forgiven for wondering what they missed the party for. According to the Scottish press, just a single Omicron patient north of the border needed intensive care in the last five weeks.

A closer look at the data doesn’t suggest the First Ministers’ interventions have made much difference. Go to the charts for cases in England, Scotland, and Wales, and set the time span to the last month.

What do we see? In each country, the trend line showing the seven-day average is pretty much the same shape, trending gently upwards.

This shouldn’t surprise us; according to this document from SAGE, the only intervention that has anything more than a ‘moderate’ impact on infections is a full lockdown. The impact on the R rate of closing restaurants, clubs and so on is small.

In the same document they warn of potentially “high indirect impacts” from such interventions in the form of loss of income for the hospitality sector. How many Welsh and Scottish businesses in the sector saw their anticipated end-of-year bump spent in England instead?

If we look at ‘patients in hospital’, England’s seven-day average starts to trend upwards around December 25; in Scotland and Wales there is a much less pronounced uptick.

But the goal of restrictions was not to hold admissions down per se — that simply delays the wave, as it has overseas — but to prevent the Health Service getting overwhelmed. And the Government seems upbeat that even in London, the ‘epicentre’ of the epidemic in England, we may be past the worst: admissions are dropping, and the number of intensive care beds needed is unchanged.

So far, then, the Government seems to have been vindicated in its decision not to impose restrictions. The English hospitality sector received a welcome boost; people got to enjoy the holidays with their friends and family; the NHS has not fallen over.

Will Sturgeon and Drakeford take the lesson? The devocrat reflex is too often to be different for the sake of being different.

But if their different attitudes towards Covid-19 persist into 2022, it could create political tensions. As I noted before, it’s only cash from HM Treasury that makes even partial shutdowns economically viable. If England is managing without restrictions, how long will Rishi Sunak be prepared to keep signing those cheques?

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Adam Bacon
Adam Bacon
9 months ago

Meta-analysis of worldwide lockdowns over the last 2 years shows no correlation between severity of lockdown restrictions and outcomes, primarily excess deaths.

How long will we carry on the delusion that lockdowns are the solution to a pandemic.??

All government advice in this country (and Sweden) prior to March 2020 stated this. Sweden resisted herd mentality and stuck with this policy, and has been vindicated.

The rest of us have dug a deeper and deeper hole with our collective cognitive dissonance..

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
9 months ago
Reply to  Adam Bacon

Amazing how people determinedly persist with the notion that lockdowns work.

Edward De Beukelaer
Edward De Beukelaer
8 months ago
Reply to  Adam Bacon

Why are we surprised, It has right from the beginning been about governments boasting they did the best thing (mine is bigger than yours … very sad)
Interesting to watch the below intervention, you have to get through the first boring minutes and leave the end out though: David Navarro from the WHO saying: vaccine programmes in the west is a macho thing of governments: ”this government is better than the government in another country”…
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OSLYI8cw5sc&list=PLeRQg2pVwzrtmpzNH4Gc5FpxNtBXhLgto&index=1&t=122s

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
8 months ago
Reply to  Adam Bacon

The harms created by these policies have long reaching consequences. The policies were only possible in these modern times – work from home and Amazon impossible sans the Internet. As you note, analyses prove the measures ineffective, certainly known to authorities. But they can’t stand to admit error – sad itself. And a compliant press refuses examination.

Jürg Gassmann
Jürg Gassmann
8 months ago
Reply to  Hardee Hodges

@Hardee Hodges – it was only ever the solidly middle class who could adapt to lockdown, with jobs that could be done remotely, pay not impacted and even benefiting from reduced costs, living with enough rooms and devices to allow every member of the household to work effectively online. Supermarket personnel, nurses, police, firefighters, road crews, cleaning, utilities, deliveries – all the disrespected jobs – were deemed “essential workers” and had to show up, while both public transport and child care were cancelled. Lockdowns sacrificed the health, safety and well-being of the working people for the an imagined protection of the well-off. It is the most catastrophic peace-time policy failure in civilised history, and one of the most despicable.

Andrew D
Andrew D
9 months ago

The Chinese have just locked down an entire city on the basis of three asymptomatic cases. No doubt Sturgeon and Drakeford would commend this as a sensible precaution and evidence of strong leadership. It’s what they would do, given half the chance

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
9 months ago

Will Sturgeon and Drakeford take the lesson? The devocrat reflex is too often to be different for the sake of being different.

Exactly.
We’ve suffered longer and more damaging lockdowns in Scotland with no improvement in results. Our biggest cities are no match for the density and size and connectiveness of Greater London, the Leeds-Manchester-Liverpool urban area or Birmingham/West Midlands, yet we see no advantage.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
8 months ago

What have Scotland and Wales’ Covid rules achieved?
Maybe a resurgence in support for the Union

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
8 months ago

Maybe the opposite.

Al M
Al M
8 months ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Causation/correlation can always be debated, but there has been a gradual shift from pro independence to retaining the Union in Scotland over the course of the past two years.

David Wildgoose
David Wildgoose
8 months ago
Reply to  Al M

In Scotland perhaps. Here in England, seeing the glee with which the Devolved Administrations get to use Covid as yet another excuse to indulge in bashing the English…well, seriously, what are the benefits of Union for England? Because I’m not seeing any.

David Slade
David Slade
9 months ago

The official explanation from the Covidians being interviewed on TV for this discrepancy is that the restrictions in Scotland and Wales simply haven’t been given enough time to work yet (!)

This explanation completely ignored the fact that Omicron hit the UK at a time when the discrepancies in levels of restrictions already existed, so Scotland and Wales had a stricter baseline. If the idea of controling a virus via vicariously controlling people had any impact, the lower rates in the devolved nation’s should have been instantaneous relative to England; even if only by increment.

But – the official line – they just ‘have not had time’. How can you argue with that?

Al M
Al M
9 months ago

“Will Sturgeon and Drakeford take the lesson?“

No. When nothing dreadful happens they will take the credit and give themselves a pat on the back. As usual.

Tim Hurren
Tim Hurren
8 months ago

About a month ago the Scottish Government published an official report that was probably commissioned to show how effective their tighter Covid restrictions were. As far as I can see it actually demonstrated that their measures made little if any difference to outcomes when compared to England. I wonder why the media in England has virtually entirely ignored or overlooked this important research? Maybe it has had better coverage in Scotland but I doubt it. Following the science seems to be selective!

Andrew Currie
Andrew Currie
9 months ago

“As I noted before, it’s only cash from HM Treasury that makes even partial shutdowns economically viable.” Yes, that’s right, you have noted it before, over and over again, please give it a rest! While you’re at it, you might care to acknowledge that HM Treasury receives money from all over the UK, not just England, and that the Barnett formula is a mechanism devised, and retained for over 40 years, by….that’s right, HM Treasury.
For what it’s worth, despite being a native of Wales, I do not believe that Middlesbrough should be subsidising Monmouth, or Oldham Edinburgh. Rather than the cumbersome use of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland (which is nowhere mentioned in this article for some reason) as block funding units, it would be far fairer to adopt smaller divisions such as the old European Objective One areas. What’s to stop the Treasury doing this?
Incidentally, I agree that there is no correlation between covid restrictions and beneficial health outcomes, but I don’t think that’s what this article is really about.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
8 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Currie

I totally agree with you. It is sometimes forgotten that the Barnet formula includes money paid to England as well. So the poor areas of the North are also beneficiaries. The point is that the UK is ruled by London’s 16 million people and the rest depend on handouts. This is like almost all countries in the world.

I am English and live in Wales. I can almost hear the sneers when Wales and Scotland are mentioned in these articles. If England were separate, the sneers would be for Lancashire and Yorkshire.

Andrew Currie
Andrew Currie
8 months ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Thank you Chris for your comments, although apparently the UK is actually worse than most as far as regional economic disparities are concerned (according to the following study from the University of Sheffield at least):
https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/news/nr/uk-higher-regional-inequality-large-wealthy-country-1.862262

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
8 months ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Edinburgh (finance) and Aberdeen (despite the oil slump) areas are still net value contributors to the UK – the only two such areas in Scotland and possibly outside SE England.
But SNP’s hardcore support is in sinkholes like Dundee and Clydeside, so that’s where the funding goes.

David Wildgoose
David Wildgoose
8 months ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

That’s simply not true. The Barnett formula is the additional money paid to out to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland based upon Treasury spending in England. There is no “Barnett funding” for anywhere in England, and any spending in poor areas of the North is made more expensive because it additionally results in yet more subsidies for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The old cry was “No Taxation without Representation”. It should now be “No Representation without Taxation” – taxation should be fully devolved to go along with the devolved Parliaments.

Jürg Gassmann
Jürg Gassmann
8 months ago

Nicola Sturgeon could have used her powers to liberate Scotland. Instead, she put herself in thrall to the execrable Devi Sridhar, and subjected Scots to a self-destructive nonsense-on-steroids regime. Scottish independence is dead for a generation.

Michael Sinclair
Michael Sinclair
8 months ago

Lockdowns are a middle class luxury, paid for by the poorest and young in a sensless exchange of lives. They show no understanding of the nature of a virus – and underline the lack creativity in politics and government in regards to managing targeted vaccination. They have not worked – costed billions – and led to a ‘pandemic’ of societal disconnect. A world first in stupidity, and for each and every politician and scientific ‘adviser’.

Fran Martinez
Fran Martinez
8 months ago

Now Florida, Madrid, England, and Sweden do not lockdown and the curves behave exactly the same as the ones that do. When will people learn that (regardless of what SAGE might say) they do not have an impact in covid but many negative impacts in a lot of things?

Last edited 8 months ago by Fran Martinez
Martin Goodwin
Martin Goodwin
8 months ago

Masks don’t work either.

T Doyle
T Doyle
8 months ago

Scotland and Wales are like banana republics.