The UK Is Running a Dangerous Covid Experiment That Represents a Threat to the Rest of the World

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Yves here. The US is actively pre-positioning the blame cannons in case Delta becomes a problem in the US. Officials and the press have been hammering on the risk posed by areas with low Covid vaccination rates, and then marshaling data that seems to support that…due to profoundly incomplete reporting. All Covid positive tests of the unvaccinated are reported as Covid cases. But Covid positive cases of the vaccinated? They are not reported to the CDC unless the patient is hospitalized.

One MD correspondent, in a relatively low vaccination rate state, told us that one week in late June, he had Covid positive findings in >10 patients running over 2:1 for vaccinated to unvaccinated. While none of the vaccinated were sick enough to be admitted to a hospital, nearly all were sick:

Multiple COVID positive patients in my practice the past few days. Most of them with mild URI symptoms – cough and congestion – and just not feeling well. No one profoundly ill – nowhere near needing to be admitted. I have told them all to stay home. The HD [hospital director] told at least one of the vaccinated that they had no obligation to quarantine – the unvaccinated were told to stay home for 10 days. I was again chided for even sending the vaccinated to be tested.

If people are sick enough to cough, intuitively you’d think their viral load might be high enough for them to transmit Covid too. But the CDC is choosing to fly blind, in a great disservice to the American public.

And the spread of Delta in the UK, despite a better vaccination record than the US (nearly 68% having gotten at least one shot, 50.2% fully vaccinated, versus the US with 55.6% having gotten one shot and 47.9% fully vaccinated) does not bode well for them or us.

By Richard Murphy, a chartered accountant and a political economist. He has been described by the Guardian newspaper as an “anti-poverty campaigner and tax expert”. He is Professor of Practice in International Political Economy at City University, London and Director of Tax Research UK. He is a non-executive director of Cambridge Econometrics. He is a member of the Progressive Economy Forum. Originally published at Tax Research UK

This is near latest data on new Covid cases, comparing the UK and Europe, and using data from the FT:

The UK is aberrational: remember the EU is five times the size of the UK in population terms.

Throw in the USA, Australia and India for further comparison  and the UK experience is even more peculiar:

Nothing about the UK experience of the delta variant of Cvid can be considered normal.

I accept that it is also true that hospitalisation rates are lower than at the beginning of this year, and so too are death rates (thankfully). But there is no evidence that this does not mean that there is substantial harm from this illness, still. People are seriously ill with it, and significant numbers suffer long Covid effects.

Despite this very obvious fact the UK is choosing to be the outlier in its response to Covid now. We are going to abandon all public health precautions, even though the growth in case rates suggests that  there may be 70,000 cases a day by July 19. In effect, the UK is choosing to be the Delta variant incubator for the world. And, given that it is still the case that only 50% of the UK population is vaccinated (and many who are now likely need a booster, which is so far unavailable) the likelihood that we are also becoming a new variant incubator is very high indeed.

The obvious question to ask is why is this? The arrival of Sajid Javid is the obvious explanation. Like Rishi Sunak, he comes from the far right of Tory politics. Like Sunak he thinks the economy comes first. Like Sunak he does not understand economic externalities. Like Sunak he thinks that the cost of Covid can be shifted from the government to the public balance sheet by simply ending all interventions, including those on public health and for those who suffer the economic consequences of being sick. Like Sunak he believes that this will let the government balance its books. Like Sunak he thinks this the government’s priority. And like Sunak, the reason for this belief is naive ideology and not evidence.

I may of course be wrong, but this shift in the balance of power does not seem to be by chance to me. I think the toppling of Hancock was planned, albeit he did not help himself. Hancock had seen enough of the NHS to known Sunak and Javid are wrong: he had to go as a result.

And in whose interests are Sunak and Javid working? It’s certainly not that of the people of the UK: we are the guinea pigs who must get ill in their experiment.

It’s also certainly not in the interests of the UK economy as a whole. Removing all economic support for the economy at the time when another wave of Covid is being deliberately unleashed on it does not make sense: business stress will very obviously increase as a result. This is not a sound economic plan.

So who gains? As far as I can see two interests gain. One is the ideologue: finally, Ayn Rand will have her day. That is what Javid, most especially, wants. We must suffer the consequences of life without state support. That is Javid’s plan. Life in the raw is to be unleashed on us. He believes it for our own good that we must suffer.

And pharmaceutical companies gain. They are already guaranteed billions and maybe trillions in profit from Covid as a result of vaccine manufacture. The US and EU have refused to open up vaccines for all, for free: market interests have already come first. And now it seems that the aim is to make sure that new variants can develop. This will perpetuate demand for vaccines as any possibility of controlling and effectively containing Covid is abandoned. This then will create a demand for updated vaccines when an elimination strategy would remove this source of profit for the pharmaceutical companies.

So, we are to suffer the raw harshness of market-based logic so that some in that market, with rights reinforced by the state, can profit unduly. I find it very hard to offer any other explanation for what is about to happen in the UK.

What I hope is that the rest of the world realises this. I hope they call it out. I sincerely hope that they isolate us, as would be the only rational reaction, starting with a block on UK attendance at the Olympics, I would suggest. And then they might have a hope of being protected from our insanity. But it would only be a small hope. We are literally threatening the well-being of the world right now. And that is unforgivable.

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  1. Kk

    Life red in tooth and claw – not quite how billionaire’s son-in-law Sunak experiences life.

  2. fjallstrom

    I have no quarrel with the articles conclussions regarding UK, but I would like to point out that using EU in the graph hides worrying tendencies within the EU.

    If you split up on country basis and look at cases normalised by population, Portugal, Spain and Cyprus has a sharp increase, with Cyprus reporting more cases than the UK, and increasing faster. With the European football (soccer) championships and vacation traveling, and a common sentiment of tiredness of regulations and a false sense of security from vaccines (vaccines decreases deaths a lot, and in all likelihood decreases spread, but you can still get ill and spread the disease), I fear a new wave in the autumn.

    1. GM

      The new wave in the autumn will be driven by something else.

      There will be a huge one before that, which is already starting.

      This virus is too contagious to be seasonal — there is a seasonal forcing that makes things worse in the winter, but the seasonal reduction in R_t is not enough to drive it below 1 in the summer.

    2. Zamfir

      Yeah, this looks overly positive for the EU. One part is that delta is further along in the UK, but seems to have the same effect elsewhere. Exponential growth is already visible in many places outside of the UK, just some weeks delayed.

      There also seems to be a testing (or perhaps reporting) difference. The UK is reporting several times more tests per capita than most countries in Europe, which explains part of the difference in case numbers.

      1. TimH

        Be interesting to see if Google and Apple modify their back-to-office plans in the near future.

  3. PlutoniumKun

    We’ve seen plenty of stupid and reckless decisions in the age of Covid, but few can match a UK government that has set a date for complete opening up precisely as a major wave is building up to the point of going exponential. At least other stupid and reckless governments have made that decision at times when the previous wave has seemed to recede.

    The policy is, quite clearly, maximum vaccine for adults and herd immunity for the under 18’s and pray that hospitalization numbers don’t rise to the point where bodies are being taken out in view of the TV cameras. The problem, as we know, is that neither seem to work, at least not without the cost of leaving a huge number of people with possibly permanent health damage.

    I suppose if nothing else we should be grateful to the UK government for giving scientists the opportunity to study a baseline of ‘what happens if you do nothing’, so we can compare it to other countries reactions. It will, if nothing else, give us plenty of good statistics. Well, it would if they were counting honestly, but I doubt they are even doing that.

    1. GM

      The “vaccination will solve the problem” storyline is already collapsing — Israel yesterday reported that vaccine efficiency in June as gone down to 64%. And Israel uses exclusively Pfizer and has fully vaccinated more people than anyone else.

      It was already absolute insanity to open up everything like it’s 2019 with rampant community spread and vaccines that are only 90% efficient, but with 64% we are basically openly back to the early March 2020 “let it rip and let the bodies pile high” approach.

      This was predicted by those of us pointing out that antibodies fade over time (because Israel started earlier and harder than anyone else, a lot of people there are now 6 months removed from their vaccination, so it’s the first place to see the problem manifest itself), that old people (who were excluded from the vaccine trials) generate weaker immune responses, and that antigenic drift matters. And viral evolution is yet to be seriously impacted by the selection pressure from the vaccines — B.1.617.2 is the result of uncontrolled spread in an unvaccinated population in India; we are yet to see the variants that will come out of heavily vaccinated populations. Speaking of which, people are right now worried about the situation in the North East of England, where cases are shooting up quite dramatically and much faster than elsewhere. Which is how people first realized something is up when the B.1.1.7 variant appeared, and also in India with B.1.617.2 — unexplained sudden vertical jumps in cases we first seen, and they were only later explained by sequencing data. So far nothing has been identified, but sequencing is usually several weeks behind real-life events. So who knows, we’ll see.

      Anyway, the point is that the moment when the vaccinated start filling up ICUs is not that far off in the future. Which is why several countries have already announced plans to give third doses, and Israel is about to take that decisions soon too.

      But that will be third doses with the 2019 virus against whatever the hell the virus evolves to in 2022 (it’s not going to be B.1.617.2, it will be something more immune evasive, likely also yet more transmissible and more virulent).

      This can then go one of two ways:

      1. The public finally wakes up, realizes that this cannot go on like that, and demands elimination.

      2. It is used as an excuse to shrug it off and say “well, there is nothing to be done, we are letting it rip”.

      I hope for 1) but I fear that the media has already successfully brainwashed the population into going for 2).

      And 2) means life expectancy going down by literally decades. Which I guess is a win for some — it “solves” in one stroke the problems of pensions and healthcare spending. The young people suffering from LongCOVID will be told to stop making it up and go to work. Most people developing some form of dementia from the neurological damage is probably a win too — that will placate the population even further…

      1. vlade

        There’s no way the virus can now be eliminated worldwide. We’re past that point.

        If you disagree, I’d like to see concrete steps that can be practically taken worldwide, in cooperation across all nations (including the likes in perpetual civil war).

        I’m dubious whether it can even be practically eliminated locally, as most of the borders – unless you’re a relatively small, distant island, like NZ – are actually fairly porous, much more than many people realise. Most of the West would have to go full surveilance state, and we see that even that doesn’t work 100%, and I doubt it would last past the next elections.

        I’m not saying I’m happy about it, but I do not believe there’s a practical way to achieve elimination anymore. IMO we will have to live with it – but as before, the cost of that is being missold.

        1. The Rev Kev

          There is learning to live with it and mitigating the worse of it with masks, social distancing, ivermectin, short snap lock-downs, etc. and there is just giving up and pretending that the whole thing does not exist any more and has gone away. Boris has gone for the later.

        2. vlade

          In a way, it’s the same as climate crisis. We’re still being sold miracle cures, when we’re past those (for many different reasons). We’ll have to face the consequences, with steep costs. The only steps we can take to mitigate some of it are so drastic that no-one will really contemplate them, and there are no practical ways of implementing them – at least until the consequences start being extremely obvious, by when it’s likely going to be too late.

          1. PlutoniumKun

            Yes, unfortunately the genie is well out of the bottle (in most countries anyway, I think some regions/countries will manage to keep it at bay). Its unfortunate that we can be certain there will be no consequences for the people who screwed up so badly last year when there were opportunities to limit it. So far as I’m concerned anyone – scientist, doctor, politician or official who argued against shutting down international travel in early 2020 should never be listened to on any topic, ever again. It was as fine an example of broadbased institutional stupidity as we’ll ever see.

            I heard last week from the caretaker in my building, a Filipino, that his mother died 4 days ago from covid, and the entire family are now quarantined at home, with two members seriously ill and nobody able to earn money. Its far away from the public eye, some small town in the north of the country, but I’m sure this is repeated thousands of times around the world, especially in places that nobody in power or influence cares about. People in my building have been very generous in raising money to help the family, but there is only so much we can do.

        3. GM


          If China governed the whole globe, it would be no problem to eliminate it (note: I do not in any way wish for China to rule the globe, but they are one of only half a dozen competent governments in all this)

          There is a recipe book for what to do, and one just has to follow the algorithm.

          Modern technology makes it a lot easier

          What does China do when there is an outbreak (there was another rerun of it in Guangdong recently)?

          1. Hard proper lockdown, with even food distributed centrally so that people don’t have to leave their homes
          2. Isolation centers are set up
          3. The whole population is tested, the infected are sent to the isolation centers
          4. Rinse and repeat until elimination

          Did any Western government even try to do that? No.

          Well, until they do, there can be no talk about how it is “impossible”

          1. vlade

            “Most of the West would have to go full surveilance state, and we see that even that doesn’t work 100%, and I doubt it would last past the next elections.”

            I asked for implementable solutions. China everywhere is not one that is implementable, at least not until it’s way too late.

            Australia, Taiwan, and even way more authoritarian Vietnam have trouble controlling it now, despite their track and trace not being overwhelmed, and being able to deal with pre-Delta variants efficiently. Delta only now hit China in Yantian, and we’re to see whether they will be able to control it (as opposed to claim to control it).

          2. Irrational

            Add cull all dogs, cats, mink and other pets/farmed animals which can catch COVID from us and transmit it back to us.
            I tend to agree with vlade that elimination is no longer possible.

          3. JMM

            Well, that’s true if you trust China’s numbers. I particularly don’t, they look too good to be true.

          4. Bruce Elrick

            I think US governments (federal, state, local) all realize that a true hard lockdown would result in widespread civil unrest but perhaps going all the way to civil guerrilla war.

      2. Peter Thom

        I don’t recall anyone I trust making the blanket statement that vaccinations will solve the problem.
        But the stats tell us they clearly make a difference. In the US during May, 99.2% of all COVID deaths were among unvaccinated people.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          “Anyone I trust” is quite the carveout.

          Rochelle Walensky said that anyone who got a vaccination would not catch Covid, as did some of the early promotional ads.

          And actions speak louder than words. This is clearly the only plan. The active repudiation of masks is stunning.

          1. saywhat?

            The active repudiation of masks is stunning. Yves Smith

            Well, I think the reasoning is that masks can only delay someone from being infected – hopefully until after they are vaccinated to greatly reduce the symptoms and likelihood of hospitalization – not permanently avoid infection.

            Also, that once properly vaccinated, that it is probably better to be infected with one of the current variants and perhaps achieve additional immunity from that than to delay infection and perhaps be faced with a more dangerous variant later on but with no additional immunity. So no masks for the properly vaccinated.

            For those not vaccinated, masks make sense to flatten the curve re: hospitalizations.

            1. GM

              Something that is forgotten is that vaccines are not a magic binary thing.

              It is a kinetic problem and even the best vaccine can be broken if there is sufficiently much of the virus to overwhelm it.

              However, the vaccines were tested during the times when people were masked.

              But people are now unmasked, which means they are getting higher initial doses of the virus, which will lower the efficiency a bit.

              On top of that, there are issues of antigenic drift and immune escape, and of waning neutralization titers over time.

              We may well end up needing boosters less than a year after initial vaccinations.

              Even I thought we would last at least a year without that, and I am not known as an optimist….

              And despite that we are set to still be vaccinating against the 2019 virus (which no longer exists) well into 2022…

              1. synoia

                I have come to the conclusion that the only safe way to travel is with a car and a sleeping bag.

                Minimal contract.

          2. antidlc

            The active repudiation of masks is stunning.

            Yes, it is stunning.

            However, Fauci backtracked somewhat this weekend on Meet the Press.


            Fauci: “Go The Extra Mile” And Wear A Mask, Even If You’re Vaccinated
            Posted By Tim Hains
            On Date July 4, 2021

            Dr. Anthony Fauci joined NBC’s Chuck Todd on “Meet the Press” to tell those who have already been vaccinated for COVID-19 to “go the extra mile” and wear a face mask when traveling to a place with a low vaccination rate.

            Just 5 days ago, he said:

            “The CDC continually monitors the situation and I’m sure would remain flexible, that if any changes are warranted based on the evolving situation, they would then make a change in their recommendation. But right now, it doesn’t look that way,” Fauci said in an interview Wednesday on CBSN. “It looks like they’re going to continue to stay by their original recommendation.”

    2. ahimsa

      last try to avoid skynet…

      I tried to calculate vaccine efficacy against Delta variant using the numbers from Public Health England including all confirmed Delta cases in England, 1 February 2021 to 21 June 2021.

      My simple calculations revealed Vaccine Efficacy in fully vaccinated over 50’s group of 64% against mortality and 67% against emergency care or hospitalisation. So approximately only 3 times more effective than not being vaccinated and quite similar to the findings in Israel. It seems bizarre to me that this has not been widely reported on in the UK.

      Interestingly Public Health England divided their confirmed cases into age groups of over and under 50’s. They also breakdown the cases into fully vaccinated, single dose over 21 days, single dose under 21 days, and unvaccinated (and unlinked category?). Unfortunately they do not differentiate between vaccines so, there was no way to differentiate between PfizerBiontech and Oxford-AstraZenec (the two main vaccines in the UK). It does seem PfizerBiontech is better against the Delta variant and they have differentiated between vaccines in their estimates of efficacy against the Alpha variant in a different paper.

      Source Data: see Table 4 in “SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern and variants under investigation in England” – Technical briefing #17 (25 June 2021)

      1. ahimsa

        I really feel one aspect of vaccine efficacy claims which is not widely recognised or reported enough is this:

        Different vaccines have different efficacies against different outcomes for different variants in different age/risk groups.

        Note, the Absolute Risk Reduction in the low risk age groups is sometimes meagre. Again, based on the data for confirmed Delta cases from Public Health England I attempted to calculate the vaccine efficacy against mortality for the under 50’s. I should point out the unvaccinated & vaccinated under 50’s groups were of quite different sizes: (~53,000 vs ~3,700), which makes sense since a much higher proportion of over 50’s have been vaccinated.
        While there were no deaths in the vaccinated group there were only 6 in the considerably larger unvaccinated group (x14 larger). I came up with an ARR of less than 0.01% but this may not be valid due to the issues mentioned above).

      2. ahimsa

        Showing my work..

        Breakdown of deaths in confirmed Delta cases in England, 1 February 2021 to 21 June 2021 for OVER 50’s:

        Deaths in Vaccinated: 50/3,546 = 1.4%
        Deaths in Unvaccinated: 38/976 = 3.9%

        ARR: 3.9% – 1.4% = 2.5%
        RR: 1.4% / 3.9% = 0.36
        => 64% Vax_Efficacy against mortality

        Source Data: Table 4 in “SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern and variants under investigation in England” – Technical briefing #17 (25 June 2021)

  4. vlade

    Germany just allowed in UK and India arrivals. Woohoo.

    TBH, my feel is that majority of people now again considers the pandemic a solved problem, and until they see real bad outcomes in high numbers, they will do so. Not just in the UK, but also in Europe, and I suspect in the US too.

    And there’s little to no goodwill left for the governments to be able to do much about it.

    So until a more deadly version of Delta shows up, filling up the hospitals and morquest again, I doubt anything will happen.

    I do wonder how long NZ will last, as the last bastion.

      1. vlade


        The billionaie-friendly Conservative govt is no longer there. Right now, getting into the NZ is pretty damn hard for anyone. ChrisPacific should be able to provide a better view, but my feel is that if a billionaire wanted to come to the NZ now and bent the rules, they might find out that NZ not as friendly to them as they thought it would be.

        1. Jeotsu

          Yesterday the NZ government started openly discussing building purpose-designed managed isolation border facilities. Commentators are speaking in terms of 2 to 3 more years of controlled borders, and 5+ years before anything like a return to pre-covid ‘normal’.

    1. lyman alpha blob

      Let Trump be president again and it will suddenly become a yuge problem once more.

      My prediction was that Biden wouldn’t do much more than Trump did and just declare the pandemic over once vaccines started, and the media would go along. So far that’s pretty much been the case.

      In my state for two years running the pandemic suddenly became a minor concern as soon as Memorial day rolled around and tourist season started. Public health doesn’t appear to be the driving factor in these decisions.

      1. Mao "No Landlords Now" Zedong

        Of course not. The public is disposable. Only their consumption is essential. For now.

    2. Medbh

      “And there’s little to no goodwill left for the governments to be able to do much about it.”

      One of the things I’ve found upsetting about this situation is that I could not understand the governments behavior. I’m sure they are soulless enough to prioritize the economy above all else, but there’s also been a bunch of articles about the negative impact of uncontrolled spread.

      I wonder if the government is afraid of losing control. They don’t want to teach the public that they can be ignored without consequences. There are too many people who are enraged and outright defiant, and you can’t arrest half the country.

      The government knows there will be catastrophic consequences, but the people who would take measures are going to continue to do so anyway, and the defiant ones wouldn’t change their behavior even with the orders.

      1. JBird4049

        The government no longer has people who have experienced even worse epidemics than COVID; into the 1970s diseases like smallpox were a real and constant, often lethal, threat everywhere. Vaccines are the reason for this, which is why people in their 60s and older, believe in them, and why they trust the government in this. For an effort lasting over a century, the various state and local governments successfully contained the various diseases. However, the current leadership worldwide is increasingly ideological, ignorant, inexperienced, and unable to deal with public health in general, which does not jibe with a lifetime of previous experience of our older generations. Heck, it does not jibe with my experiences either.

        To be fair, our leadership in previous centuries were not that good either, but the injuries and deaths from the many, many infectious diseases concentrated their minds as it were. Too much death and sorrow to ignore or play games with. No, I expect to see people regularly ravaged by COVID just like they were with polio, mumps, measles, and chickenpox much like how I lost my hearing to rubella or how I knew people who were crippled by polio.

        Eventually, the minds of our leadership will be properly concentrated and the absolute fools, in regards to disease, will go, and we might even beat this disease. However, the cost during that process is going to really hurt us all.

        1. Medbh

          That’s a good point, and echoes what my dad/step mom said when covid first came out. They said it reminded them of the polio breakouts, and how they weren’t allowed to go swimming because of it.

          My dad has been much more cautious about covid than I would have anticipated, and I imagine some of that is because of his childhood experience. He knows that people can get sick, disabled, or die, and it’s better to be cautious.

          1. Keith.newman

            The 60+ comment applies to me (68 yrs). I too knew people crippled by polio and the fear it caused.

            1. wilroncanada

              My wife and I (before and after we were married) for many years visited a friend of her family who lived in an iron lung in a convalescent hospital in Vancouver. One of the few times I ever cried was at her son’s wedding, held on the hospital grounds so she could attend. Her son and granddaughter are both physicians–he is now retired. She died soon after the wedding
              We still have a picture in our dining room painted by her neighbour in the next bed, painted by mouth.

  5. The Rev Kev

    It looks like the UK is going to be experiencing a live-fire exercise in a health response designed by an ex-banker in consultation with Harvard University. Good luck with that one. And that crack about Ayn Rand was no joke either. So enamoured with Ayn Rand is Javid, that his wife once threatened to leave him if he did not stop reading ‘The Fountainhead’ aloud to her. So it looks like Boris is going to get his ‘herd immunity’ after all – one way or another.

    At this stage, I wonder what is going through the mind of the EU. What would have happened if Brexit had not happened and the UK was going to go through with this idea as part of the EU? Could they still close their borders to her? What is the EU going to do now? See how it goes to see if they cannot do the same? Shut off visitors from the UK if it starts to blow up in their faces? All you can say is that for a novel virus, this is certainly a novel approach. And what it amounts to is this – ‘You’re on your own.’

    If it ‘works’, I do wonder if this idea will also spread to other sectors of the government like social security. It means that government would abandon some of their responsibilities and defer to ‘market forces’ instead. Market forces controlled by their mates. Maybe the government is hoping that by the time the next general election rocks around in 2024, that it will be all over but the shouting so that the government can go to the people and say ‘See, we gave you back your freedom again.’ And forget about the cost of doing so. The government had better hope that there is no serious variation of this Coronavirus in the works. I would point out that MERS-CoV is also a Coronavirus. And it had a fatality rate of about 33%.

    1. GM

      At this stage, I wonder what is going through the mind of the EU. What would have happened if Brexit had not happened and the UK was going to go through with this idea as part of the EU? Could they still close their borders to her? What is the EU going to do now? See how it goes to see if they cannot do the same? Shut off visitors from the UK if it starts to blow up in their faces? All you can say is that for a novel virus, this is certainly a novel approach. And what it amounts to is this – ‘You’re on your own.’

      The EU is going along with largely the same policies itself.

      1. Michaelmas

        The EU is going along with largely the same policies itself.

        Quite. Sweden is in the EU and has run an even more b*tsh*t COV19 policy than the UK, thanks to Anders Tegnall.

        It would be pretty to think that on the other side of this someone will go after the likes of Tegnall and others for crimes against humanity.

    2. chuck roast

      I’m sure that many are concerned that perhaps the Tories ultimate goal is the destruction of the NHS. Can it disintegrate under the pressure? Maybe they will do British Rail to it. The PE swine take over the operations, and the government maintains the infrastructure. A sure prescription for both mega-profits and a chronically ill population.

  6. Tim Worstall

    It’s always worth checking what Richard Murphy says against some form of reality:

    “We are going to abandon all public health precautions, even though the growth in case rates suggests that there may be 70,000 cases a day by July 19.”

    Well, no, not really.

    “The UK is aberrational: remember the EU is five times the size of the UK in population terms.”

    He’s looking at that chart and thinking that it’s the number of cases. It isn’t, it’s the rate per 100k population. It actually says so on the chart.

    But then expecting a professor to grasp charts is obviously too strict for modern academia, eh?

    1. marku52

      Statement one is arguable. Exponential growth always looks like that.

      Statement 2 is correct. It is cases / 100K

  7. Mike

    Oh boohoo, so what is your actual solution proposed in the article to fight covid? Are you going to lock the population down forever and get rid of covid that way? That is not the solution. I am guessing the UK is like the US in the regard that anybody who wanted a vaccine by now could have gotten it. That said there are multiple ways to get to herd immunity, one of them obviously is if people get sick. Most sources are trying to say it is mostly the unvaccinated, again the people who at this point don’t want the vaccine. Your source above noting the vaccinated getting sick even concedes that they are mildly sick.

    I do support your argument though about the seemingly large control big pharma has in its pursuit for vaccine profits.

    1. Mikel

      There won’t be any “herd immunity” with a virus that constantly spreads and mutates. There is no permanent immunity. Catch it and anti-bodies are only good for a matter of a few months. The variants (Delta an example) appear to be getting worse. Vaccinated people are still getting sick. It’s not like chicken pox where you catch it and have LONG lasting immunity. The vaccines aren’t like the polio vaccine or some others where you get the vax and are good for YEARS.
      Any carrier is an incubator for variants. As long as it spreads, it can mutate.
      It’s a virus of unkown origin… origins that are still being debated.

      1. HotFlash

        It’s not like chicken pox where you catch it and have LONG lasting immunity. \

        I am so old (how old?) that kids my age had chicken pox parties, ditto for measles. No vaccines back then (early/mid /50’s) and the idea was to get ‘childhood’ diseases over in childhood as they were so much more devastating for adults. I was vaccinated for tetanus, diphtheria, and whooping cough plus boosters, and later Salk and Sabin for polio, but intentionally was exposed to and had chicken pox, measles, and mumps. The Christmas pictures from that year were very sad.

        Fast forward to spring of 2019, woohoo shingles!!! Fun for months. From ‘dormant’ herpes/varicella zoster virus left over from chicken pox 6 decades prior! And now ‘they’ want me to take a novel vaccine that includes actual corona spike mRNA after testing that lasted what, (much) less than six months and was never tested on my demographic in any case? And don’t get me started on thalidomide, which I also remember. I am not a risk-taker by nature but with information can make a decision that I can be comfortable with. So far I am not seeing that information. I’ve had personal experience with late-breaking bad effects and ample evidence that Big Pharma is not my (or anyone’s) friend. So, call me ‘vaccine hesitant’. I am old, but seem to take after my dad’s side of the family, so another 25 years is not out of the question for me. I really don’t want this vaccine to bite me in the, um, upper leg, which is where the shingles did.

    2. Lou Anton

      > Are you going to lock the population down forever and get rid of covid that way? That is not the solution.

      Change “forever” to “for weeks at a time when outbreaks occur”, and I think that’s the only real solution that’s worked so far.

  8. Boomka

    Should we worry about UK being an incubator given that the combined population of other incubator countries is multiple billions?

    UK is trying to imagine what’s it’s going to be like to live with an endemic COVID that is always circulating similar to flus and colds, and their bet seems reasonable enough to make. Russia and Brazil are following similarly open approaches but without high vaccination rates, and at least in Russia the population seems on board with it. Big chunks of USA also live without observing meaningful restrictions, again primarily because people in some states seem to want it this way.

    So UK is not as unique in their thinking as the article tries to make it seem.

    1. saywhat?

      Besides which, there’s the question of whether unvaccinated OR vaccinated are the more dangerous breeding vessels for variants.

      Not that vaccination should not be used to save life and health, when the relative risk warrants it…

    2. Lupana

      Except that evidence suggests strongly that COVID is like neither the flu or a cold. 600,000 + people lost to it in just over a year here in the US. And if we let it keep spreading, who knows what mutant surprises it can come up with..

      1. Boomka

        I didn’t say everything about COVID is like a cold/flu. Just the part where it becomes ever present, circulating through the population all the time. Nobody in the UK seems to believe zero COVID is a remotely possible future.

        The UK is trying to figure out what is the endgame for something like this. They don’t think it’s politically viable to have restrictions permanently, so they are making a bet that if enough of the vulnerable are vaccinated, the death counts will settle at some kind of long term equilibrium, say 10k deaths a year, which becomes comparable with flu deaths, and public will consider as acceptable price for normal life.

        The ministers are quite open about this being a bet/gamble, so yes, it’s an experiment – but not an unreasonable one to run if you think your democratic base demands something like this.

        1. PlutoniumKun

          The UK is not ‘trying to figure out what is the endgame’. The government has made an entirely political decision with no scientific merit, based on politics. There is nothing inappropriate with taking a risk in the face of scientific unknowns, once that is a calculated risk.

          But this is entirely different from taking a high risk approach because it is seen as politically expedient.

  9. Mark James

    I disagree with the assumption of the writer:
    I would like to bring to your attention some empirical evidence that undermines the current coronavirus narrative being pushed. I make use of the mortality data that originates from the ONS, which I have interpretated, (attached) I suggest that you verify the source and my interpretation.

    Annual deaths and mortality rates, 1938 to 2020 provisional

    Short hyperlink:

    In overall terms mortality level have not varied significantly.
    Technocrats are just increasing the percentage attributed to coronavirus, while reducing others to compensate. So, in effect they are manipulating mortality numbers by reallocation, that’s why the flu and other diseases are in decline while coronavirus deaths increase.

    Though deaths are currently their highest since 1990, when adjusted for population growth they are comparable to those of the period 1990 – 2003.

    1. vlade

      I see. That’s why ONS statistics are outside 6 z-score limits for a number of weeks in 2020 and 2021.

      Like this one.


      The UK population had trivial growth between 2015 and 2021, cca 0.5m, annualised less than 0.15% So it’s very much NOT due to population growth.

      You entirely ignore that mortality was improving pretty much continuously (never mind including WW2 years in your data), so saying “hey, nothing to see here, it’s the same as average for the last 100 years” is, well, ignorant at best, trolling at worst.

      The absolutely best you can claim here is that many of the people who have died might have died anyways, so their lives were shortened by months, not years. But even that is a claim that’s pretty hard to prove one way or another, and we know that there are people who would not have died but for CV.

  10. samhill

    It’s pretty obvious to me what Italy, where I’m at, is up too, with practically all the over 50 plus vulnerable population vaccinated with two doses the infamous hospital curve can not be pushed up beyond the med system’s capability any more. Below, it it’s out of sight out of mind and people will go about their business with little political pressure to scare our lost and blundering pols and rulers. I was worried the justifiably lauded spring vaccine push here would stall once the over 50s were vaxxed and that’s how it is playing out. As long as the politically hazardous hospital curve can’t be exceeded no more worries for the leadership, you are on your own, and don’t forget to get your semi-annual booster. I would apply this the rest of EU and all the countries not bothering with eradication plus vaccination China and Asia style.

  11. Mikel

    Something else crosses my mind. With nothing about the virus or vaccines providing LONG TERM immunity, the origin of the virus becomes extremely important to figure out.
    When dealing with death-cult publich health policy and systems that thrive on “sickcare”, maybe a virus of natural evolution would be more likely to become more benign in order to live with “us” longer. In other words, left with just hoping the Delta variant is an outlier in the longer story to come….

    1. samhill

      According to youtube’s Doc. John Campbell problem with covid is that it is at its most contagious before symptoms appear. That is, unlike influenza and many other diseases you don’t spread it when you are most sick and staying in bed isolated away from people or dying before you can spread it, where it would benefit the virus to become less virulent. Covid for now is evolutionary indifferent to how lethal it is, not much incentive for it to get less lethal and not disincentivized to become randomly more lethal either. Its incentive for now is to become more contagious and bad luck and bad outcomes can’t be ruled out, which is why eradication plus vaccination is the only proper policy. We’ve done it several times in the past, shouldn’t be a big deal but even the worst leaders during the Cold War in the West were better than the best leaders today. Has there been a single thing throughout the neoliberal era that hasn’t gone straight to hell? Well, except for asset inflation.

    2. Ping

      It felt like living in The Twilight Zone when lab origin was verboten to examine when finding out how Covid was engineered, if it was, would be extremely important understanding and forecasting evolution. Yet the subject is still crickets to avoid public scrutiny of bio-labs. What else are they cooking up?

      Dems won’t subpoena Peter Danzig’s Eco Health’s documents collaborating with WIV gain-of- function research with Fauci’s funding and collaboration. And Fauci is still presented as guy-you-can-trust health expert.

      Any surprise there is lack of trust?

  12. Medbh

    I don’t see covid getting under control until we have immediate, comfortable (saliva), free testing. Two of my kids got sick last week with 104 temperature, nausea, runny nose, sore throat, and a few days later coughing. I had previously purchased a Binax now test, and it came up negative. However, I read that it sometimes takes a while for a test to turn negative and I was worried that we weren’t getting a good sample because both of my kids found the nasal swab uncomfortable. I also can’t find out how long it takes before a test turns positive. Everything I’ve read says 2-10 days from exposure, but what if you don’t know when/how you were exposed?

    I looked online and there was supposed to be 10+ tests at a CSV. I got there and they said they were sold out, and I should ignore what it says online because the inventory is only updated every 3 days. I drove to another store in a different suburb, and they were also sold out. I drove to a 3rd store, they said they didn’t have it, but eventually found some in the back. The test is advertised as $30 ($9 off listed price), but the store wouldn’t honor the discount because they said that’s the online price only, even though the website says you can ship it or pick it up in store.

    I also looked around for a saliva test, but it can only be ordered online in Wisconsin and you have to be supervised (via zoom call) while taking it. I ordered that on Friday, received it on Saturday and sent it back the same day. It says it will take 24-48 hours to get the results. We haven’t gotten it, although I’m sure we lost a day from the holiday.

    The bottom line is that I spent 2 hours driving around town in a car while I had really sick kids at home, I spent over $100 on testing, and I needed a computer and internet access to do the salvia test. It’s been 5 days since my kids got sick and I still don’t have results I’m confident about. It was a very stressful week, and I have abundant resources and education. It shouldn’t still be this hard or complicated.

    1. Katiebird

      That is incredibly stressful — there should be drop in sites for those saliva tests. I hope the results are negative an trustworthy.

      1. Medbh

        Thankfully, my kids are doing better. The crazy fever is gone and only the runny nose and cough remains. Hopefully we’ll get the results today, and I can stop worrying about it.

        I’m still mad about the situation, as it’s been more than a year that covid hit. Why aren’t the saliva tests readily available? Isn’t this supposed to be one of the strengths of capitalism? I would have paid serious cash to avoid the nasal swabs and get a fast result. They provide them to students at UW Madison, but I’m out 5 days and still waiting for the results.

        This is another example of why the government’s covid response makes no sense. If they really were trying to control infection (especially since people can infectious while asymptomatic), they should be trying to test as many people as possible. But the CDC is advocating the opposite position and telling vaccinated people to not be tested even with exposure, which just encourages asymptomatic transmission.

        I can cope with the government doing terrible or immoral things, as I expect it from them. But it’s unnerving when the decisions seem inexplicable. It makes me wonder what information they have that I don’t.

  13. Eustachedesaintpierre

    Michelle O’ Neill of Sinn Fein here in NI has accused Boris of being reckless, so likely that there will be a battle with the DUP over easing of restrictions – but hopefully there will eventually be a compromise which will lessen the impact. Robinson is much preferable to 21 day Poots, who would likely have tried to leave it to the will of God as understood by him of course.

  14. Phillip Cross

    It’s not like they have that many restrictions in place over there at the moment. Have a look at this video of wild scenes in London from after the England vs. Ukraine match.

    My worthless prediction:
    By the 19th, all the kids will have started UK school summer holidays, and the so spread will slow down somewhat, and perhaps even peter out a bit. If you look at previous spikes, the 19th should be sitting on the down slope anyway. All the Covid “professional wrongsters” will feel vindicated and crow about it on Twitter and NC comments.

    1. Redlife2017

      Actually many state schools aren’t finished until 23 July. Javid / Williamson have both said that this should open the way for large assemblies at the end of year. So we will have multiple super spreader events over the next few weeks such as the Euros and then shoving parents and kids together inside at the end of that week (it’s the cross pollination of classes that had been minimized previously). All these people will be expected to go to work, where there are no requirements on ventilation…

      Honestly, I would be rather surprised if the Euros and then people already giving up on masking, etc. (go to King’s Cross for an example) doesn’t easily get this into 100,000 a day in the next 3 weeks. Even Javid thinks it’s going to get to that level and refuses to say what this means for hospitalisations:

      Questioned about what this could mean for hospitalisation rates, currently at about 300 admissions a day, Javid said the government had “a number of models that we look at internally” about how this could progress, but declined to give any projections.

      Prof Neil Ferguson is being optimistic, because, hey, why not – nothing wrong with taking a bit of a punt:

      “The challenge is, there’s still the potential of getting very large numbers of cases and so if we get very high numbers of cases a day, 150,000 or 200,000, it could still cause some pressure to the health system. This is a slight gamble, it’s a slight experiment at the moment, and I think it’s justifiable and I’m reasonably optimistic, but policy will have to remain flexible.”

      I like people taking a “slight” gamble with me getting Long Covid. Super cool.

      1. Phillip Cross

        That’s interesting, the state school my cousin teaches at has the kids finishing next week.

  15. thoughtful person

    I’m not sure if anyone mentioned it, but here in the US at least, case counts won’t be comparable as any cases amongst the vaccinated are not counted unless it’s a hospitalization. FWIW

  16. Edgar, not Edmund

    As if we needed confirmation of the “Strategy”, this just in from @POTUS on Twitter:

    “We’re closer than ever to declaring our independence from COVID-19, but the fight is not over yet. Powerful strains like the Delta variant have emerged.

    The best defense against these deadly variants is simple: get vaccinated.”

    Time to rewrite Tom Lehrer’s “Plagiarize”:
    Vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate! But always be sure to call it, Sound Public Health Policy!

  17. PhilJ

    UK Gov’t policy seems to boil down to “enough voters want us to open up and future hospitalisations are looking low enough that we’ll do what’s politically expedient.”

    Everyone (voters included) can see that case numbers are rising, vaccines aren’t stopping it and that long covid is a thing. I liked the above analogy to climate change and not enough people voting for the long term greater good. That said, asking people to vote for locking themselves down for the next x quarters/years for ‘unseen others’ is a tough sell.

    Honest question: is the big Pharma/UK Gov’t collusion being a little over egged? Scary if not.

  18. RonD

    What is the solution? How can we mitigate the spread? I don’t see a way to do it without lockdowns and/or mass vaccinations. What else is there to do? Big billboards telling everyone to wear a mask when indoors? Stay four feet from others indoors? I don’t know…. I don’t want to go into lockdown again. I’m tired of it. The selfish side of me is saying, those that don’t want to get vaccinated deserve what they get. Those that are high risk should take the precautions necessary to keep themselves safer, and the rest of us can start living our lives more normally. And what level of mortality is acceptable? 10,000, 50,000, 80,000 deaths in the U.S.? But I just get frustrated about it all sometimes.

      1. PhilJ

        Thanks Slim.

        Is IVM being mainly used to treat/prevent serious hospitalisation? Somewhat analogous to a v. cheap vaccine in that respect.

        I’m not sure it would resolve the long-term covid and new variant petri-dish risks.

          1. RonD

            My six year old daughter is on Ivermectin now, thanks to Yves Smith introducing Pierre Kory and the FLCCC to me. She started about two weeks ago. I feel just a little bit more comfortable with this setup for her.

            Thanks Naked Capitalism

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      You appear to have great faith in the efficacy of the vaccines. Tired or not I suggest you might want to continue wearing a mask and keeping away from crowds and closed air spaces. We might be able to endure a brief shutdown — IFF the powers that be actually closed down for a few weeks. A few old-fashioned Public Health measures like testing, quarantines, and exposure tracking might have gone and still might go a long way toward controlling the Corona pandemic — with or without a vaccine. The masking has already been reasonably effective at controlling the regular flu — which has a vaccine already — and it probably really complicates facial recognition programs and pokes a thumb in the eye of the panopticon.

  19. Hacker

    High fevers are very stressful, especially in your kids.

    High fevers are not an indicator for COVID-19 according to the nurse at my health plan phone consult and then my primary care doctor last September. I was tested for many other things, of which a tick borne illness called anaplasmosis was to blame for me.

    You are correct that testing must get easier to get things under control.

    I currently have a cold, probably. Three out of four of my fully vaccinated family have got it. We’ve received different vaccines, and one also had COVID-19 at college last November. The only time I did the nasal swab test at the CVS drive thru, they seemed to rush me through it, so it wasn’t horribly uncomfortable, but also not as valid as it could be. Do I bother doing that again when the likelihood is low? The tests need to be easier to catch the edge cases like mine.

    1. Medbh

      Another issue that makes the situation so challenging is that covid symptoms overlap with many other common conditions. I found this chart to be helpful. However, it contradicts what you heard from other medical staff, as it still lists fever as a covid symptom, although maybe you were referring more to the fever being really high.

  20. R

    I am watching our UK data like a hawk (and it is beautifully presented here in maps and charts and histograms and heatmaps – national healthcare for the win!).

    Cases are rising fast. In my college town, reopening of the bars coincided with the university exam season and the Euro football championship, with the result that the district of the town I live in (where the University is) has had case rates of close to 1% and the 20-24 year old demographic in the city as a whole has had rates of 1-2%. The increases in young children seem to be Delta-induced, infection seems much readier, and as a result the parent age groups (30-50) are also spiking. There are even cases among the 70+, which have had zero cases since March when vaccination kicked in.

    – There is no hospitalisation to speak of, about one patient a week, and minimal mechanical ventilation.
    – There are no deaths. These are all lagging indicators but if you look at a very good chart a redditor produces daily ( the UK nationally has low serious case rates, much lower than headline cases.
    – case growth in the city is decelerating and will peak shortly; it has already peaked among students whose term has finished and who have gone home.
    – schools are starting to break up for summer (private schools this week and last, state schools end of July).

    It is definitely an experiment, relaxing controls. Some of them are too much too soon – reducing mask use to personal choice destroys its collective health benefit – but at this point, the majority of the population wants to travel and socialise carefully and a large minority wants to party.

    I think it is a gamble by the government (including SAGE) that deliberately rushing for the exit wave in summer is better than losing control of NPI’s in winter, when there may be a resurgent flu season and the NHS is already spectacularly overloaded with waiting lists. A false choice – there is always elimination but they cannot countenance that.

    The only ominous sign is the outbreak in the NE which is taking hold in 30+ adults rather than students and children. It does not appear to a new variant but, if it is, that could be trouble.

    1. ahimsa

      Thanks for the link. I hope you are right!

      Just took a look at with daily summaries for whole UK:

      CASES: People tested positive in last 7 days: 186,422 UP 61,281 (49.0%)
      (Latest data provided on 6 July 2021)

      HEALTHCARE: Patients admitted in last 7 days: 2,092 UP 472 (29.1%)
      (Latest data provided on 30 June 2021)

      DEATHS: within 28 days of positive test – in last 7 days: 142 UP 24 (20.3%)
      (Latest data provided on 6 July 2021)

  21. Rainlover

    Ron D: “The selfish side of me is saying, those that don’t want to get vaccinated deserve what they get.”

    Ahem. I’ve put off writing this comment for some weeks, but here goes. I have multiple myeloma, a blood cancer, and have been on chemotherapy for it since March. I’ve been carefully watching advice for cancer patients re the various vaccines. According to the information I’ve been given by various healthcare providers and institutions that specialize in cancer treatment, one must be off chemotherapy for at least four weeks before taking the vaccine. However, studies of cancer patients (I’m sorry I don’t have a link here) who have taken the vaccine show little to no antibody production due to highly suppressed immune function resulting from chemotherapy.

    Even if I were able to take the vaccine, I am reluctant to add freewheeling RNA to a system that is already full of mutated genes. (Multiple myeloma causes/is made more virulent by these mutations.) I wear a N95 mask everywhere I go and take all the rest of the precautions recommended here at NC although again, my ability to add medications while on chemotherapy is limited. So please be careful when saying the unvaccinated deserve what they get. My choices are driven by factors that do not affect the majority of the population.

      1. Rainlover

        Thank you. Alas, although chemotherapy can prolong one’s life, MM will get you in the end. It is not curable.

        1. Janie

          Wishing you well. My husband had a form of MM and lived 20 plus years after the diagnosis, with long periods of the disease in remission, and died in his early 80s of something unrelated. Here’s hoping you will have a similar outcome.

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