Tuesday, November 21, 2023

UK Covid-19 Inquiry: Module 2

The currently ongoing Module 2 describes its aims thusly:

This module will look at, and make recommendations upon, the UK’s core political and administrative decision-making in relation to the Covid-19 pandemic between early January 2020 until February 2022, when the remaining Covid restrictions were lifted. It will pay particular scrutiny to the decisions taken by the Prime Minister and the Cabinet, as advised by the Civil Service, senior political, scientific and medical advisers, and relevant Cabinet sub-committees, between early January and late March 2020, when the first national lockdown was imposed.

I’m particularly interested in this period, as it’s the time that the expert scientific analysis and advice from SAGE was so woefully inadequate. I’ve blogged about this at length, but just to recap, the scientists were mistakenly thinking that the doubling time of the pandemic was about 5-6 days (various numbers appear in the SAGE minutes) and that we shouldn’t take too stringent measures as there was a genuine risk that by doing so we’d put the pandemic off to the following winter when it would add to the normal seasonal pressures on the NHS. They were quite anxious that we should get through it over the summer of 2020 instead.

Vallance misled the Science and Technology Select Committee a while ago about this, claiming that SAGE had recommended lockdown on the 16th or 18th of March. This is contradicted by the minutes of those meetings, and even if you try to argue that the minutes may not be completely definitive on that, it is also contradicted by his accompanying statement that their change of heart was due to correcting their estimate of the doubling time (to 3 days), which the SAGE minutes document very precisely to the 23rd March. He’s due to give evidence to the UK Covid-19 Inquiry on Monday, so I await with interest to see whether he will correct the record or also mislead them.

This error was not just an inconsequential comment in a committee that no-one cares about, but has been widely reflected in press comment. For example, the usually excellent Lewis Goodall on Xitter:

1 comment:

Entropic man said...

Did you read Report 9?

I know some epidemiology. My wife and I ducked for cover as soon as I read it.