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UK Covid-19 Messaging – Episode 2

For the start of our UK “Covid-19 messaging” series please click here.

This is the message Boris Johnson apparently wanted to impart to the citizens of England on May 22nd 2020:

Then came the news that BoJo’s “senior aide” Dominic Cummings had risked spreading the virus by driving from London to Durham. By the morning of May 24th the front pages of the “conservative” mainstream media looked like this, with thanks once again to Neil Henderson‘s Twitter feed:

On the evening of May 24th Boris retweeted a message from 10 Downing Street, then somewhat unusually stood behind the lectern at the Covid-19 daily briefing and refused to throw his top aide to the dogs. Try starting to watch the video at around 4:30:

The following morning I found myself agreeing with a Daily Mail headline for probably the first time in living memory:

Alternative points of view were less critical of Mr. Cummings’ actions:

I wonder how the Times’ promised “cabinet backlash” will pan out? I also cannot help but wonder how many Great British citizens will ignore the messages imparted in any future Tweets by Boris Johnson.

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Sir David King convenes Alt SAGE Covid-19 committee

Idly perusing the online version of The Sunday Times in anticipation of more BoJo bashing I instead stumbled across some discreet Dom bashing from an illustrious source. According to an article by Caroline Wheeler, Deputy Political Editor of the Sunday Times:

The government’s former chief scientific adviser is convening a rival panel of experts to offer advice on easing the lockdown.

Tomorrow Sir David King will chair the first meeting of the group, which is designed to act as an independent alternative to the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE).

The move comes after weeks of unease about the transparency of SAGE decision-making. It has emerged that 16 of the 23 known members of the committee, which meets in secret, are employed by the government.

The independent group will broadcast live on YouTube and take evidence from global experts. It aims to present the government with “robust, unbiased advice” and some evidence-based policies to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic.

The committee will formally submit its recommendations to the health and social care select committee, heaping pressure on Boris Johnson as he draws up the government’s lockdown exit strategy.

The whole idea sounds crazy, until you consider how the official Covid-19 daily briefings are already spinning like crazy!

Sir David also has his very own Twitter feed, via which he announced:

Getting back to Caroline, she added:

Speaking before tomorrow’s meeting, which will be followed by a news conference, King said: “Science is fundamentally a system based on peer review. When it comes to scientific advice of any kind, transparency is essential.”

He added: “I am not at all critical of the scientists who are putting advice before the government . . . but because there is no transparency the government can say they are following scientific advice but we don’t know that they are.”

Dominic Cummings, a top aide to the prime minister, has attended the secret meetings of SAGE.

“Cummings is an adviser to the prime minister. And the chief scientific adviser is an adviser to the prime minister. So there are two voices from the scientific advisory group and I think that’s very dangerous because only one of the two understands the science,” King said.

The committee has a draft agenda and is seeking to end the pandemic “with the fewest casualties possible”.

Currently the YouTube URL at which tomorrow’s Alt SAGE meeting will be broadcast has not been revealed, so…..

[Edit – May 12th]

The Independent SAGE committee have just published their recommendations. We “retweeted” them forthwith!

To summarise the committee’s recommendations to Her Majesty’s Government concerning “Transitioning from lockdowns and closures”:

Four key components to managing transitions and modulating restrictive measures

  1. Public health and epidemiological considerations must drive the decision-making process.
  2. Available capacity for dual-track health system management to reinstate regular health services, while at the same time continuing to address COVID-19.
  3. Leveraging social and behavioural perspectives as tools for responsive engagement with populations.
  4. Social and economic support to mitigate the devastating effects of COVID-19 on individuals, families and communities.

Six conditions should be used as the basis to implement/adapt transitioning of measures

  1. Evidence shows that COVID-19 transmission is controlled.
  2. Sufficient public health and health system capacities are in place to identify, isolate, test and treat all cases, and to trace and quarantine contacts.
  3. Outbreak risks are minimized in high vulnerability settings, such as long-term care facilities (i.e. nursing homes, rehabilitative and mental health centres) and congregate settings.
  4. Preventive measures are established in workplaces, with physical distancing, handwashing facilities and respiratory etiquette in place, and potentially thermal monitoring.
  5. Manage the risk of exporting and importing cases from communities with high-risks of transmission.
  6. Communities have a voice, are informed, engaged and participatory in the transition.

Four cross-cutting mechanisms that are essential enablers throughout the transition process

  1. Governance of health systems.
  2. Data analytics to inform decisions.
  3. Digital technologies to support public health measures.
  4. Responsive communication with populations.

We “tweeted” a question to the powers that be:

We haven’t received an answer as yet.

Watch this space!