Monday, March 08, 2021

Coronavirus 51 Optimism or Pessimism?

In January 2016, at Oxgangs Primary School, Edinburgh, several tons of masonry collapsed from a wall onto an area where children sometimes walked. Nobody was there at the time, nobody was hurt, but the failure caused quite a fuss and 17 other schools were closed until their safety was assured. We have a zero tolerance approach to children being killed or injured by school roofs and walls falling down.

Today, all English school children must return to their classrooms. Many will be kept in crowded rooms with limited ventilation. It is generally accepted that transmission of the virus will increase. That will inevitably lead to more deaths and many more cases of long covid, the long term consequences of which we are yet to learn. But we seem to have got used to that. I just heard someone on the radio saying the upward spike in cases will be 'tolerable'. We are doing what our prime minister, Mr Johnson, told us: we may have to "take it on the chin".

A year ago the New Zealand prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, announced a zero tolerance approach to deaths from SARS-CoV-2. Several other countries, particularly in the eastern hemisphere, with different political systems and geographical and social settings, adopted similar positions. The results have been clear.

Today, as children go back to school, our government embarks on a deadly experiment. In weeks and months to come we will be able to see who amongst us succumbed. Today we balance optimism with pessimism. And that thought is the theme of this important thread of tweets from Professor Christina Pagel, 

Christina Pagel is Director of Clinical Operational Research Unit at University College London, "applying operational research and mathematics to problems in health care". For much of the last year she has been presenting the pandemic data at the weekly briefings of Independent SAGE.


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