Once again, not so subtle leaks to the press are being used to trail imminent governmental announcements. In this case, the newspapers have led with the idea that there will be significant lifting of the lockdown after the weekend. And Mr Johnson finally gets his opportunity to be the bearer of good news to his flock.
Closer scrutiny reveals an entirely different picture. The number of new admissions to hospital with coronavirus has not peaked. Even with the most optimistic look over the data, it is at best on a plateau, and a high plateau at that. Let’s be clear on this. Far from beating the coronavirus into submission, the lifting of significant parts of the lockdown is an economic decision.
Economic decisions taken in the face of opposing science rarely makes long-term sense. So, bowing to pressure from the economists and industry, the government will loosen the lockdown. Since we are not yet on the downward part of the graph, there will be a rapid acceleration in the number of cases. This will inevitably result in a further lockdown of more extreme nature simply because of the numbers involved. A couple of weekends of busy public transport, crowded parks and beaches and we should be well on our way to a massive surge in the number of cases.
It’s easy to control a trickle of cases (relatively speaking) with the health service just below capacity than it is to slow a deluge of cases extending way beyond capacity of the country’s intensive care resources. When people require intensive care treatment for coronavirus, the mortality is about 20%. That assumes the best of treatment and adequate facilities. The mortality amongst patients requiring intensive care but unable to receive it because of bed limitations will be nearer 100%. That’s why it’s important to stay below the NHS saturation level. We are close to it at present. The consequences of removing the lockdown too soon may trigger a deluge of new infections and send the death toll into the stratosphere.
No wonder the scientists are twitchy. They know full well that releasing the economic brakes too soon will result in a second infection wave of apocalyptic proportions. And this is too soon.
If we would only pay attention and look back to 1918 and sequence of events then, we would learn how to deal with this. But once again we are doomed to repeat the lessons of history rather than learn from them.
So, here is the chain of events. Government relaxes lockdown on Monday. Two weeks follow in which people use the parks and beaches for recreation not exercise. People visit relatives they haven’t seen for a while. By the end of the month, the number of new cases per day has doubled to around 10,000 day. Intensive care units are saturated and we are beginning to see a rise the death rate which will peak in mid to late June at around 2000 per day and continue at that rate until the autumn. Well on target, as I predicted a couple months ago to hit a UK death toll between 100,000 and 200,000. You read it here first.
This is a very textbook pandemic.