Analysis comment Exclusive

Excl: drug used by China against COVID-19 is licensed in UK. For 4 days, govt has ignored questions about it

Dept of Health also ignored enquiries about ventilator purchase plans

Interferon Alfa B was part of Chinese antiviral treatment regime. It inhibits lethal complications in viral infection

Today, Boris Johnson told the nation that the government is doing everything it can to fight the coronavirus pandemic and to prepare the NHS to save as many lives as possible.

So why won’t the Department of Health answer basic questions about two key steps the UK’s people have a right to expect it to have been taking since well before the virus took hold in this country?

China’s success in reducing mortality

Interferon Alfa 2b is an antiviral medication that was used by China in its successful fight against the virus. It does not prevent infection or cure the disease, but it attacks the multiplication of the virus within cells and combats the complications that can cause viral sufferers to become critically ill and diereducing both death rates and the burden on intensive care units.

A Yale University Press article notes that the drug, produced by Cuba, is known to be effective against viruses with a similar structure to the COVID-19 virus – and was part of China’s fight against it:

Noting how the drug works – and how broadly it has been shown to work – author Helen Yaffe writes:

Cuban biotech specialist Dr. Luis Herrera Martinez explained, “its use prevents aggravation and complications in patients, reaching that stage that ultimately can result in death.” Cuba first developed and used interferons to arrest a deadly outbreak of the dengue virus in 1981, and the experience catalyzed the development of the island’s now world-leading biotech industry…

Since its first application to combat dengue fever, Cuba’s interferon has shown its efficacy and safety in the therapy of viral diseases including Hepatitis B and C, shingles, HIV-AIDS, and dengue. Because it interferes with viral multiplication within cells, it has also been used in the treatment of different types of carcinomas. Time will tell if Interferon Alfa 2b proves to be the wonder drug as far as COVID-19 goes.

The Chinese battle against the complications of the virus has been successful: outside of Wuhan city itself and the early days of the epidemic, China’s mortality rate from COVID-19 has been 0.4-0.7%a fraction of what European countries are experiencing.

Interferon Alfa 2b

The reasons for success

According to the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Dr Bruce Aylward, this success has been at least partly because after the initial shock of the Wuhan outbreak, China has improved and refined its treatment protocols.

At a press conference after a fact-finding mission, Aylward said that the more patients medical staff saw, the more they could start identifying what kind of supportive care made a difference. So by the time patients started showing up in hospitals in other provinces, doctors and nurses there had a lot more information about what it takes to keep patients alive.

Interferon Alfa 2b was part of that protocol – part of ‘what it takes to keep patients alive’.

And Interferon Alfa 2b is licensed for use in the UK.

It would therefore be reasonable to expect that – with such information being readily available from the WHO and the press of eminent universities, the UK’s Department of Health and the NHS would have immediately begun including the drug in treatment – and building stockpiles of Interferon Alfa 2b in readiness for the huge number of critical patients the government knows are going to be at risk of death.

But it seems not.

A series of ignored enquiries

Last week, the SKWAWKBOX called the Department of Health to ask whether it was using Interferon Alfa 2b to treat UK coronavirus sufferers – if it wasn’t whether it would start, as well as what steps if any the government had taken to ramp up stocks. The enquiry was also sent by email to the Department as requested.

An answer was promised by the following day. None came.

When no response was received, further calls were made – and further emails sent.

Four days on from the original enquiry, there has not only been no meaningful response – there has been absolute silence from the Department of Health.

Boris Johnson’s claims and the Department of Health reality

At the same time the SKWAWKBOX also asked the Department of Health to confirm how many orders it had placed for new ventilators, after Channel 4’s Cathy Newman had asked Matt Hancock via Twitter and received no response.

Again, a response was promised by the next day. Again, none was received – in spite of further calls and emails.


The editor of leading medical publication The Lancet has pointed out that the Tories have wasted almost two months as the disease threatened the UK and began to take hold here:

Boris Johnson now claims the government is doing everything it can to reduce the number of UK deaths from the new virus – and to ease the burden on the NHS. He claims that he is following the best scientific advice.

But it seems, from the silence of his health department, that he is ignoring at least one drug that was part of China’s success against the disease. We already know Johnson is ignoring a large part the WHO’s prescribed steps for fighting the pandemic.

On top of that and in spite of Hancock’s implausible claims about adapting factories to produce ventilators – which would take months anyway – it appears that the government has not got round to ordering any from places that already produce them; or at the very least, that the numbers ordered are so embarrassing that the Department of Health won’t say.

The scale of Johnson’s and Hancock’s guilt for coming deaths that could have been avoided is towering.

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  1. When Skwawkbox says Johnson and Hancock will have the guilt of thousands of incoming deaths on their hands, which they will being sociopaths amongst a party full of sociopaths. Lest it be poured down the memory plug hole who helped these despicable detestable dregs to have the levers of power and in the words of their leader “ would rather the democratic socialist Labour Party lose the GE than win on a platform of socialism “ or the other gobshite words “ I work every day to thwart the Labour Party”. Instead of having an honourable decent human being in charge of the country, the quislings in the Labour Party has contributed to allowing these dregs and charlatans to run amok causing unnecessary pain and suffering on a magnitude not seen since WW2.

    1. “Lest it be poured down the memory plug hole who helped these despicable detestable dregs to have the levers of power”

      That was undeniably the fault of the f….wits who voted Tory.

      1. Hmm, you seem to be doing a Pontius Pilate and washing away the sins of the PLP. “ the moderates, the centrists “ the Blairites, Labour First, Progress, the convicted war criminal plus his henchmen in working night and day to conspire with the opponents of the democratic socialist Labour Party to disrupt, dissuade and deflect from the in the words of Labour “ the common foe of the party”. Now, the country will suffer the consequences because of these quislings betrayal of a decent human being.

      2. brianbotou – But without the stupidity of those putting an X in the Tory box it would have all been for nought.

        You weren’t gullible enough to be fooled so why do you think so many ‘habitual’ Labour voters were so convinced by the lies that they took an active decision to vote against their own and their communities self interest

      3. Well we agree on somthing Steve H,but the majority will be culled amongst the aged as well who like me would never vote Tory ever..If ever there was a time for the torys to take advantage of a unique situation,this is it.and they most definatly are.The old and infirm will pick up the tab for this tory experiment.

      4. Steve H said:

        ‘… why do you think so many ‘habitual’ Labour voters were so convinced by the lies…’

        ‘Convincing’ has nothing whatsoever to do with it. To be convinced of something implies that there was doubt about whatever in the first place, and that they then had to be convinced that it was true (even though it was a falsehood). Most people trust the MSM for their information, and have no reason to suspect that they might be being fed lies. I mean when the three main Jewish newspapers, for example, all ran with the headline that Jeremy posed an existential threat etc, it was inconceivable to the majority of Jews and the population in general that it was black propaganda lies AND that it was based on numerous lies and falsehoods that THEY – and the MSM – had been disseminating for the previous three years.

        There is absolutely no point in asking why it is that ‘they’ can be duped and hoodwinked and others NOT, because that’s just the way it is, and most people don’t have the time or the inclination to check alternative sources, but then why would they anyway unless they suspected that what they were being told WASN’T perhaps true. And needless to say, those who dissemble the lies and falsehoods ALSO demonise the alternative left media as propaganda outlets, and for the obvious reasons:

      5. Allan – A quote from the article that you linked to

        And he strongly criticised pro-Jeremy Corbyn fake news sites like the Canary and Skwawkbox, as well as the right-wing site Breitbart, claiming the abuse aimed at MPs was “appalling”. 🤔

      6. And here are some clips from a Telegraph article that I happened to come across earlier (it’s self-explanatory). I would post a link to it, but it’s behind a paywall (I signed up for a couple of free articles per whatever a year or so ago):

        General election 2019: Jeremy Corbyn accused of lying over the NHS as Labour MP shouts down Jewish journalist

        Jeremy Corbyn has been accused of “lying to the public” about the Government’s plans for the NHS in trade talks with America after a fiery press conference in which one of his shadow ministers shouted down a Jewish journalist for asking about his handling of anti-Semitism.

        The Labour leader presented 451 pages of confidential documents summarising discussions between UK and US officials…….

        But international trade secretary Liz Truss branded his announcement “conspiracy theory fuelled nonsense” and a “smokescreen for the fact that he has no plan for Brexit”, adding that that “people should not believe a word that he says”.

        And the ‘article’ finishes by saying that:

        Meanwhile, Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, said Jews and other minority groups would be at risk from a rise in hate crimes if Mr Corbyn became prime minister, and that she would be “worried for all of us” under Labour.

      7. Yes, I know what he said Steve, that’s why I posted a link to it. That was the whole point, so what’s your purpose in posting the clip you posted? I don’t follow.

      8. Allan – There is plenty of evidence to support his statement that “the abuse aimed at MPs was appalling”. Throwing profanities around at anyone who doesn’t 100% agree with their own little brand of ideology appears to be the raison d’être of some who regularly post comments on here.

      9. I’ve never come across any articles on either The Skwawkbox or The Canary that were abusive towards MPs (I don’t follow Breitbart, so I can’t comment). Do you have any examples in mind?

        As for posters on here throwing profanities around at each-other, there’s so much of it now – and particularly in relation to Brexit – that it has just become normalised. Personally I rarely resort to swearing, but I’ve never been shy about calling out shills who repeatedly post derogatory and poisonous propaganda about Jeremy Corbyn, as you know.

        And calling people fuckwits – former Labour voters – because they were duped and deceived into voting Tory is totally uncalled for, AND divisive of course (and doesn’t set a very good example to younger people who come on here and are relatively new to politics). And you – and several other posters who are doing much the same repeatedly – are hardly going to win them over – ie help win them back from the Tories – should any of them happen to come on here.

      10. Perhaps you could elaborate. But then again, perhaps not!

      11. Allan – I think perhaps not, I have neither the time nor the inclination so instead I’ll give you a very brief synopsis. What really lies at the heart of your problem is your almost total lack of any self-awareness.

      12. So says he, conveniently declining to elaborate!

        Anyway, as Professor Des Freedman of Goldsmiths, University of London, said in a letter to the Guardian at the beginning of December:

        ‘Rigorous academic research shows that, in the first three weeks of the election campaign, coverage of Labour in the press has been overwhelmingly negative, with the Conservatives receiving consistently positive coverage… The most powerful sections of the UK media are simply not prepared to let citizens freely make up their own minds on Labour policies, nor to scrutinise Conservative claims systematically.’

  2. THE HAIG awaits this genocidel non government for the planned murder of a significant number of the population and the destruction of our economy.We must never forget this Tory party conspiracy to commit mass murder.and we must ensure that they answer for it in the international Court.Not incompitance not stupidity Mass Murder.

  3. My Great grandfather saw the mass murder of his people by the same people that deliberately murdered over a million people and scattered the Irish across the planet fleeing the attempt to solve the Irish problem by a genocidal government.We never forgot and neither should you.Incompetence will be used as an excuse but we know that this is planned just like the Irish famine and the people this time can fight back against tyreny and planned attempt to murder.

    1. My family suffered the same fate Joe and continued to do so under the hands of state sponsored death squads in the occupied six countries.

      1. Brianbotou….IT was Bernadette Devlin that first made me realise that the working class were every bit as despised as the Irish Catholic population in the late 60S with the Peoples democracy movment for cival rights(the vote)job and housing apartheid as well.And I Will never feel more proud of when Bernadette crossed the floor of the Housr of parliament and thumped the home Secretary for the murder of innocent civilians by British troops……Thats the establishment for you Tory and our treacherous right wing moderates sing from the same Hyme sheet and are more to blame than the genocidal Torys who always shown hatred for the working class.

  4. The official Chinese government figure is 80,881 cases and 3,226 fatalities for mainland China as of 18 March 0500hrs (Beijing time). This is somewhat above the figure from Skwawky and a higher mortality ratio. There have been many stories on Chinese social media about the Interferon drug family suggesting an almost magical efficacy (“Drug used in cat leukaemia could be a cure” etc). The Chinese authorities have tried to stamp down on this. The Chinese are aware of the initial success in ‘locking down’ to successfully hinder virus transmission but are very concerned that 95% of the population of Wuhan have not been in contact with it therefore there is no herd resistance and the whole region is very susceptible to a ‘second wave’ if the virus breaks out again. They have mentioned the 1918/1919 flu epidemic where the second of the three waves killed 5 times as many as the first.
    Epidemiology is not simple or glib or best served by half truths and gimmicky headlines to play the blame game as the Chinese medical authorities will tell you.

      1. Joseph, please try and get a grip on reality. As you know I am a traditional working class socialist, I like facts and evidence, not the sentimental and hysterical ramblings favoured by others.
        Please tell me of any factual inaccuracies in my statement or if you have evidence I am incorrect.
        Otherwise get back to the wine bar with your fellow travellers and stop posting your pathetic piffle.

      2. Plain citizen – Perhaps it would be helpful if you posted a link to your source material so that others can evaluate it as well.

    1. With China and its stats you need take into account when using them now. China has brought down their infection rate by 97% over the past three weeks it now stands in the 30s and has done for a while.

  5. That was another Broadcast from the Conservative and unionist party based in Boltons new version of the Labour party(Right wing fascists posing as independent minded but voted Tory and handed the town to the torys .in council and mps barr one lone Labour mp..Dont start giving lessons sunshine to lifelong socialists and whoever pays you must have money to burn.

  6. Steven H, 55 out of the 59 seats that the democratic socialist Labour Party lost were in Labour seats that had all, except for the 2017 GE, been steadily losing support. All of these constituencies had voted leave, all of these constituencies had supported Jeremy Corbyn, all had voted with their feet when they felt the party had betrayed them, just like New Labour had betrayed them, when Starmer Thornberry and co had refused to acknowledge democracy, just like the PLP, “ moderates, centrists “, Blairites, Labour First, Progress, Nathan Yeowell, Luke Akehurst etc had refused to accept democracy. Moreover, when these PLP MPs were standing on the same platform as senior Tories, BoD and other enemies of The Democratic Socialist Labour Party singing from the same hymn sheet spouting the same fabricated AS charges, to misquote Animal Farm, the Quislings looked at the Tories and they looked at them neither could tell the difference!

  7. To Steve h and rob: rob’s figures and mine for deaths and total cases are very close. My mandarin is not perfect so I also took the figures from an English language Chinese newspaper (SCMP, go on their website) which re published Chinese government statistics. I said 80881 cases to robs 81116.
    For deaths I said 3226, rob 3231. These are hardly massive discrepancies so why the crackpot hysterical reaction?!
    To Joseph: if you honestly think the Tory party has infiltrated the Chinese CP and these stats are bogus and part of a Tory plot, you need a lot more help than I thought.
    Tell us about your grand daddy in the Cork brigade of the IRA, it’ll make you feel better and be just as relevant as the rest of your outpouring.

    1. Its a fuckin news paper you tool ! You think that those jurnos will tell the truth .Hysterical , no , angry , yes , why , cos folks like you are perpetuation incorrect info .
      Under normal conditions of debate here , not a problem , it can be dismissed without any real consequences. BUT not now , if you are a socialist as you purport to be , then it is your DUTY to get it right for the sake of your fellow comrades .If you can’t then STFU

      1. Hi Rob. Like I said the figures were firstly in Mandarin in an official Chinese government publication. You aren’t suggesting the Chinese Communist Party would ever lie surely. If you admit that your whole belief system in revolutionary socialism would collapse immediately. Develop some non hysterical critical faculties and become a traditional Labour socialist like the pragmatic majority.

      2. great response PC , you have confirmed my suspicions esp with the not so subtle sarcasm in the body of your text .Note when you ref to the CCP , it is communism and not socialism two very different things and ANY real socialist would know the difference , further more , an interesting turn of phrase you use referring to it as “your whole belief system ” surely that should be OUR common belief system don’t you think , that is if of course you actually believe in socialism which is now clear to me ,,, you don’t
        Anyhow what do I care , it’s simple from now on to deal with any of your comments ,,,

    2. Plain stupid your twisted rambling betrays your politics,and I cant tell you about my grandfather who coffed his guts out after being mustard gassed fighting on the Somme,but a natural Tory bigot like yourself would assume all of us with an Irish Catholic background are guilty of somthing…!Now back off and get in your box.

  8. Plain citizen Many of your type do assume,thats why the Torys and unionist party survive.They feed on lies bigotry and perpetuate the myths against people like me and still remain in control of the system via the establishment and little helpers like yourself.This time its not starved Irish famine victims,but the working class British,and hopefully they will not get away with the Herd agenda of Genocide this time.You should be ashamed of proping up the establishment.

    1. “With confrontation lies many failures. With infiltration lies a climb to ascendancy and power”. Trotsky.

  9. To get back from the usual crap about Labour’s main failing being it’s departure from Tory policy over Brexit – I, like others, are interested in any potential intervention that might help with this virus.

    As yet, I haven’t been able to locate much in the way of scientific papers on the efficacy and trialing of the Interferon version mentioned here. There’s a bit on possible amelioration of severe pneumonia, but I can’t find much else beyond the usual questionable news sources

    Are there any references that I’ve missed?

  10. To Rob: my belief system is built on evidence not hysterical hopefulness. My aim is to achieve a just and fair society by doing what works. You are a pie in the sky romantic, what I call a ‘wine bar socialist’. Divorced from reality but arguing over esoteric principles with a glass in your hand. Pontificating over how the working classes would be far better off with you and your fellows in the metropolitan elite in charge. No wonder Mao had you lot shot or sent to work in the fields when he gained power. Study your history and get off this site.

  11. P.C ARGO fuck yourself .
    I think you’ll find the majority here would see you off this site quite happily .You are nothing more than Johnsons little helper , just as bad being extreme LW Communist as a extreme RW fascist.
    Now let the grown ups debate discuss and exchange real factual information and you can take your Tooting Popular Front student politics with you .

  12. “Now let the grown ups debate… ”

    You wish. There’s precious little of that around.

    1. Its there if you care to look and stop shutting it down with proclamations of fake information and hysteria .

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