Sunday, October 25, 2020

Coronavirus 42 A Picture

Looking at covid is like seeing light from a distant star. What we're seeing now is the result of events a month ago. Almost all the people who are going to die from covid over the next month have already been infected. New UK reported infections are running at about 20,000 per day, the actual number of new infections may be three or four times as many. The numbers are doubling about every two weeks, implying exponential growth with the R in the region of 1.3. We still don't have an accurate figure for the infection fatality rate; it varies greatly with age, a lot less than 1% for the young but perhaps 10% for the over 80s. Something a little under 1% is a reasonable estimate of the average. You can do the arithmetic as well as I can to make a guess as to how many thousands will die over the next few weeks. And that's just those who are already infected, not counting those who will catch the disease in the coming days and weeks. The debilitations of long covid may affect perhaps ten times as many as die.

All this could have been avoided had the government acted promptly on the advice from the scientists. Further deaths could be avoided if the government acted on the advice now, but it is clear that they have little such intention, at least until other policies have been tried and have been shown, by the body count, to have failed.

Among the leaders of the scientific opinion is Sir David King. His frustration at seeing the government ignore the science early in the pandemic led him to convene Independent SAGE. This is a group of leading experts in their fields who work to parallel the government's own SAGE group, but do so in an open and transparent way, where ideas can be reviewed, challenged and improved upon in the true manner of science. They have published a seriies of reports making public their findings and have held weekly briefings that are publicly open and accessible. 

Disastrously, the work of IndieSAGE seems to have been completely ignored by the government. It has also been largely ignored by BBC News so a goodly proportion of the public are still unaware of its recommendations.

Sir David King, now in his 80s, has led a stellar scientific career and served as the government's Chief Scientific Adviser. But he will be the first to say that the work of Indie SAGE is the collaberation of a first class team of scientists who are working to mitigate the disaster we are facing. At last Friday's Indie SAGE briefing, Sir David, as he has done each week, ended the session with a few words of summary. This week I was particularly struck by a moment of deep sadness engraved on his face. Perhaps it was the realisation that his team had the answers, had developed a plan that would give the nation the best possible outcome, and yet the government would not listen; thousands more avoidable deaths would ensue.

What could I do, beyond staying at home, as I have done pretty much since March, so as to minimise the risk of contributing to the spread of the virus? I got my paints out and made this sketch, based on a screenshot from the YouTube feed,  to honour Sir David and draw attention to the work of his team. Thank you to all of Independent SAGE for attempting to be part of the solution.

Professor Sir David King FRS.
Chair of Independent SAGE
Oil on canvas 40 x 46 cm


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