Analysis comment

The WHO’s 6 reasons why the UK should not even be considering ‘exit strategy’

UK government is nowhere near meeting World Health Organisation criteria for exiting lock-down

Labour leader Keir Starmer, in common with a number of right-wing commentators and lobbyists, is pushing for the government to publish an ‘exit strategy’ saying how and when the UK will come out of ‘lock-down’, in spite of continuing high numbers of deaths and the unfolding horror of a huge toll in the nation’s care homes.

But the World Health Organisation (WHO) has six reasons why such talk is not only premature but entirely inappropriate – six tests that a nation should be able to meet before any ‘exit’ is considered.

And the UK is a long, long way from meeting any of them.

The WHO’s tests are:

  • transmission is controlled
  • health system capacities are in place to detect, test, isolate and treat every case – and trace every contact
  • outbreak risks are minimised in special settings like health facilities and nursing homes
  • preventive measures are in place in workplaces, schools and other places where it’s essential for people to go
  • ‘importation’ risks can be managed
  • communities are fully educated, engaged and empowered to adjust to the ‘new norm’

Transmission is not controlled. The government’s decision to close underground stations and reduce public transport services is forcing those who do have to travel into crowded spaces. The continuing absence of masks and other ‘PPE’ is promoting infection in hospitals and care homes – contravening rules 1, 3 and 4 at the same time.

No preventive measures are in place anywhere apart from hand-washing and the ‘2m rule’ – even though the WHO knows, and the UK government admits, that the virus can travel more than 2 metres.

Infections are not only uncontrolled but rampant in care homes, resulting in huge numbers of deaths that are not even counted in official figures. The Tories are not reporting deaths in hospital accurately either, with hospitals saying they are understating deaths by half.

Flights continue to pour into the UK even from the world’s worst-hit coronavirus hotspots – without even the most rudimentary health-checks on passengers before they are allowed to travel onward, mostly on crowded public transport.

Communities are poorly educated in the dangers of the virus and utterly unempowered – without even clarity on, for example, the wearing of masks, let alone any availability of masks to wear if they wanted to.

And the UK is about as far away as it could possibly be from being in a position to test its population even once – at current capacity it would take around twelve years to test everyone even once, let alone conduct the regular repeat testing, including of those without symptoms, needed to control the epidemic.

The government has not even shown the inclination to trace and isolate the contacts of those testing positive for the virus, never mind any plan for doing so.

In such a bleak landscape of Tory denial, laziness and ideological disregard for WHO standards and procedures, talk of ‘exits’ is utterly inappropriate.

When every day brings reports of new deaths among NHS staff and other front-line heroes and among our most vulnerable, stopping the UK’s government from herding its people to death is the immediate and overwhelming priority.

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  1. Adherence to WHO rules will cost too much in terms of cash, time and crashing the economy. The government will exit lockdown whether medically it’s the right thing or not. We probably won’t have proper tests availability till Aug by which time we will be back at work coughing and sputtering. I forecast a resurgence this winter with the government announcing they have just discovered facemasks are the answer. Cynical moi?

    1. Whether in the scenario you describe the current administration would have the foresight to have sufficient stocks of masks is debatable.

    2. Face masks cannolt prevent infection, but if everyone wears one, is following hygiene requirements to the letter, then they can lower the risk of infection.

      1. The only valid arguments against face masks are:

        1. Masks with exhale valve only protect the user.
        2. The public don’t know the limitations of face masks or how to use them effectively.

        1. is my own argument because the government, the NHS and the media are STILL silent on this to the best of my knowledge.

        2. would be valid if a three week intensive course were required to teach users – in fact the limitations, use and care of face masks could be fully explained in a half-hour YouTube / TV / iPlayer demonstration of NHS workers being taught.

        Training invalidates or at least mitigates the only other argument – that face masks give a false sense of security.
        The government needs to be called out on this or they’ll continue to use it to justify their dismal failure to build emergency PPE production facilities in the UK.
        Spitfires were built all over the country in WWII – even in Blackpool ffs.
        Captain Tom Moore’s done more for the NHS than any Tory.

  2. Here’s a copy of Starmer’s letter to Rabb in full
    Dear Dominic,
    While the Prime Minister is recuperating, I am writing to you in your capacity as First Secretary of State.
    First of all, would you please pass on my best wishes to the Prime Minister on his recovery when you next speak to him. I agreed wholeheartedly with his praise for the job the doctors, nurses and other NHS staff have done in caring for him and so many others during this outbreak. They have been a credit to the country.
    As I have said before, under my leadership, the Labour Party’s intention is to work constructively with the government on managing this crisis and helping to protect people’s lives and livelihoods. It is clear that the government intends to extend the lockdown when the review date comes this Thursday. I can confirm today that we will support this decision, as we supported the introduction of the lockdown in March.
    The question for Thursday therefore is no longer about whether the lockdown should be extended, but about what the government’s position is on how and when it can be eased in due course and on what criteria that decision will be taken.
    Ministers have argued that now is not the time to talk about this. I profoundly disagree. Overcoming this crisis requires taking the British public with you. Millions of people have played their part and exceeded government assumptions about their willingness to make sacrifices and to stay at home in the national interest. In return, the government needs to be open and transparent with the public about how it believes the lockdown will ease and eventually end, how this decision will be informed and what measures are being put in place to plan for this eventuality.
    We agree the measures need to remain in place, but to maintain morale and hope, people need a sense of what comes next. The silent pressures on communities across the country cannot be underestimated. Many will be struggling with their mental health as well as other health conditions that may not receive the attention they normally would without the virus. For some it will be heightened concerns about their jobs or how they will make ends meet. For others the challenge will be loneliness and separation from loved ones, illness or losing someone to this terrible disease.
    This lockdown is not affecting people equally. In fact, it has exacerbated existing inequalities in our country. A family living in an overcrowded flat will have particular challenges. And it is hard to imagine the daily horror of someone trapped in a home with his or her abuser. The government has a duty to do what it can to alleviate these pressures on people.
    I am therefore writing to urge that on Thursday you commit to the following:
    Setting out clearly the criteria the government will be using to inform how and when it intends to ease the lockdown measures.
    Publishing the government’s exit strategy now or in the coming week, so that when parliament has returned from the Easter recess it can be subject to proper parliamentary scrutiny.
    Outlining the sectors of the economy and the core public services (e.g. schools) that you consider most likely to see restrictions eased. This should be accompanied by a clear plan to protect workers and family members as well an assessment of the impact such measures will have on the economy and existing government support schemes.
    Any exit strategy will only be effective if the government puts the necessary planning, investment and infrastructure in place early. We would be keen to discuss this with the government at the earliest opportunity. Whatever the preferred option, it seems obvious to us testing and contact tracing will have to play a huge part. Given the difficulties the government is experiencing now ramping up to its 25,000 tests per day by mid-April, it shows why planning is needed. Or on the question of a vaccine, if this is the government’s priority, it must start preparation now to put in place a comprehensive national vaccine programme. We cannot repeat mistakes that have already been made on testing and access to protective equipment.
    I understand that there is a lot of scientific advice, analysis and forecasting on the coronavirus. However, it is political decisions by ministers that will determine what happens next. At a time of national crisis, it is more important than ever that those decisions are taken swiftly and transparently. I hope you will give this request serious consideration and I would welcome the opportunity to discuss it with you further.
    I am making a copy of this available to the public.
    Yours sincerely,
    Keir Starmer MP
    Leader of the Labour Party

    1. Joseph – To me it looks like the Leader of the Opposition doing his job of holding the government to account. Can you explain why you think it is tosh?

      1. Steven….I know you think it’s clever to ask ,but we have your loud support for the knight and that answers everything for anyone with a sense of morality that collaboration with the right wing government or their little helperslike the knight is basically a life or death issue.and anyone that supports them shows contempt for the elderly and the vulnerable.and that must be brought to account in the international Courts or on the Streets. MURDER is murder and dressed up as euthanasia will not justify what’s happening in the UK and I am still surprised at your support.You know better Steve and it’s now time to face reality.There is no leader of the opposition….and we the people are being murdered and where’s the opposition …?. Just collaberation

    2. I do think the Governments fudge,lies and ineptitude has resulted in murder by any other name, among health workers and Care Homes in particular. They were far too late and have lied about testing capacity from day one. Keir Starmer would do best to be harder on that, as well as call for a plan. But not in hysterical tones. That is not leadership. I don’t need foaming at the mouth one sided unhelpul and useless comment , without a way forward thank you, particularly when my son is risking his life every day to save lives in ICU at Kings. He wants a planned exit, rather than the lies and chaos that have characterised response by Government so far, and where my son had no PPE for three weeks.

      1. Poetrymuseum….my brother died in bed last week alone and probably frightened in a good care home without the family to comfort him , or a priest to give him the last rights.Anger is justified for the disgusting conditions that care workers and patients are being exposed to The knight doesn’t get angry or cummingsor Hancock and a whole bunch of collaborators who show no emotions because they Ďo Not Care.We need to get angry before any more elderly and unsuspecting public die …If we showed a little more anger and red blood in our veins then we might still have a Labour leader and even a Labour PM instead of a public school jamboree with the laughs on the back of the working class.

  3. Relax the quarantine prematurely and the second and subsequent waves could be harder to deal with than the first. People will be exhausted and angry, there’ll be no goodwill left for carers and everyone will be blaming everyone else – seeing it already locally and from Trump.
    I’ve seen idiocy piled on incompetence all my life but apart from Trump, nothing as useless as this shitshow of Tories.

  4. The WHO-tests need to be fulfilled and confirmed as such before talking particulars about any ease up of restrictions. I would see the WHO – tests as the basis of any plan with the desired outcome of easing lock down measures. We are talking serious investment here and nurturing our NHS back to health.

  5. Public Health; Public Safety; Public Control……why we had steel pens @ Hillsborough.

    We live on a collection of islands, but Lockdown came 2 months too late. Complete lockdown for 3 weeks should stop the chain of contact transmission but it cannot work without isolation. Airports are still open to receive flights from New York.

    Figures indicate that deaths from Covid 19 in GB will will be as great, if not greater than any other european country. This island fortress did not protect us……….no isolation allowed.

    A message from residents of care homes….’what is good enough for Boris is good enough for me’.DNR Boris, make him an offer he couldn’t refuse & get him to sign it!.

  6. Fortunately, Boris has bailed out of the pandemic issue completely, and is now solely concerned with something called Brexit (remember that?). If Boris ever had complete control of the pandemic discussions, there would have been no shutdown. We were lucky in that some ministers went against the fat boy’s warped views. We might suspect that sane ministers have agreed to step forward on the understanding that Boriski takes a back seat, and only deals with the simple stuff, like Brexit. End result: Boriski is not tainted by the Covid epidemic issue (or at least that’s the plan!).

  7. Just for perspective (which you won’t get from the MSM) : Week 14 (ending April 5th) showed the first upturn in cumulative mortality beyond the norm of the last few years. Even the, the figure remains below that of 2018 – a bad ‘flu year.

    It’s serious – but he constant quoting of raw figures without context or time frame is misleading.

    It’s reasonable to expect that this upturn of mortality will continue for a period – but the exact path is guesswork. Anyone who has worked on even simple projection models knows how wide are the error margins and the susceptibility to initial assumptions.

    The key issue remains a lack of a vaccine to help create population immunity. Beyond that, much else is uncertain, the data (and the disease) confusing. And the problem is that proper data will only be available in hindsight. I guess that figures published this week will again show an increasing rate – but then … ???

    Results from different countries give a far from clear picture, and no-one can be sure of the effect of containing spread in terms of extending the life of the virus and creating secondary waves,

    Given the alternative dire economic, medical, social and constitutional effects of lockdown, it is hardlly a strange request to ask for a strategy of how to move forward.

    Starmer – whatever you think of him – is only doing what any LOTO should do in holding the government to account and asking questions that should be asked, particularly if you’re paying attention to the way in which this health crisis may used to push a wider agenda and has pushed the Tories to a 50%+ lead in the polls.

    Political antipathy towards him here effectively results in the Spivs being given a free pass to simply burble, whilst endorsing their PR strategy of inducing blind panic.And, incidentally, the WHO is far from the ultimate authority on all this; there is a range of opinion and analysis amongst immunologists and virologists etc.

    1. “… minister warns no return to normal without vaccine”

      What did I just say about other agendas?

      This one is pretty transparent, and certainly needs questioning.

      1. RHThe boy who missed the point….The knight is part of the problem and is no opposition at all.Apart from supporting the right wing agenda you seek to denigrate the WHO and are seemingly lapping up the Trump and right wing propaganda.and repeating add verbatum

      2. Your capacity for distorting what you read through partisan political blindness induced by non-think is truly amazing, Joseph.

        As a reminder, my comment was :

        “the WHO is far from the ultimate authority on all this”

        … which is self-evidently true, given the degree of dissension by experts.

        Apart from that – you have to be really dim to consider that criticizing the Tories and subservience to them is ‘supporting the right wing agenda’.

        Equating that with support for Trump is really daft. If pretty typical from the man who lionizes China as a political model.

        By all means criticize – but do get the brain in gear first instead of going into automatic senseless rant mode.

  8. Just an exercise in joining up the dots :

    Note The Canary’s story about BBC journalists’ silence on the leaked Labour Party report, in comparison to the coverage of the original antisamitism smears at :

    Now consider the information that you are getting in daily Covid-19 press conferences – the focus and the “facts”.

    Now consider whether you are getting a complete picture..

    … and then consider the relationship between the two issues.

  9. There will 3- 4 ish over the next 12-18 months with new hotspots arising as SARS- Covid 2 spreads. Hence the Coronavirus Act initially planned to last until Nov 2021.
    The Behavioural Insight Team(nudge unit) refer to it as ‘behavioural fatigue’

    1. “over the next 12-18 months”

      If you can accurately predict over that period, you should have a Nobel Prize!

      The main element of present knowledge is that no-one knows.

  10. 1. Agree nowhere near ready to exit. However we must have a plan as Neil Ferguson, whose Imperial research stopped the mad ‘herd immunity’ of Vallance and Hancock in its tracks, sets out in the Gdn today a call for a plan of huge priority of importance, this side of finding a vaccine. Planning is what was weak in the UK when the pandemic broke, and caused delays that cost many lives.2. This is largely a ‘health’ exit strategy and links into a poverty exit strategy and a commensurate mental health exit strategy. Having a plan in the absence of a vaccine includes enough tests, tracking and tracing systems, & enough masks, for the whole population. It means basic needs provided for all people -with NO falling through the cracks, healthy food for families and a decent roof, and the means for home schooling support. It is socialism adapted for a society in a health crisis. Rayner and Starmer may be agreeing with Ferguson, but their message is not working because they do not express it well, and are therefore seen to be irrelevant. For example they have highlighted unfairness of schooling in poorer families, versus m/c families where support, laptops, ability to home school is more likely (not always but mainly true) that many parents would not send kids to school, that if they did refuse, they should not be fined, etc… Starmer has not thought through the nuts and bolts. It is impossible for a fully or even semi returned school to practice social distancing, and if allowed would result in more transmission, in the rest of society and teacher deaths. If the lockdown exit plan includes school returns people need to be clear that they expect teachers to also die in larger numbers as a consequence. A plan takes time but we must plan. There will be no vaccine for at least 18 months.

    1. They stopped talking about Herd imunity,but Cummings experiments in euthanasia has carried on with the Herd Agenda very much alive and well and the public gullible enough to swallow the dailey propagandaof lies and rigged death rates.I would hope that the public realise what’s happening before any more virus deaths are covered up

  11. Slightly misleading article. I have no time for Starmer, but, as the text of the letter clearly shows, he’s simply requesting that the government gives the public a sense of “what comes next”. He’s not suggesting that any exit strategy is deployed as the article seems to imply, he’s just asking for the government to give us more information. I don’t see anything wrong with that at all.

    1. I’m afraid that opposition to Starmer – like previous adherence to the Tory Brexit policy – overrides an ability to look at the real issues and the related facts.

  12. The government’s strategy of ‘herd’ and ‘immunity’ is in place with the Cabinet. They accept
    that the vast proportion of Covid 19 victims are elderly and those with underlying health conditions ie “economically inactive”!!!

    1. Sorry – but that doesn’t make any sense when the key issue is whether the indeterminately extended ‘lockdown’ policy of the government is the right one.

      ‘Herd immunity’ is bandied about as a term for a ‘strategy’, when it’s just an unexceptional phenomenon that vaccines seek to achieve.

      If you want a return to more normal life, herd immunity – or the otherwise demise of the virus as a threat – is necessary. Waiting for a vaccine is travelling in a state of hope – not a strategy, and becomes less and less sustainable over time.

  13. ”If you want a return to more normal life, herd immunity – or the otherwise demise of the virus as a threat – is necessary.”

    Hows about YOU ‘volunteer’ to be a guinea pig, then?

    Go on, dicky – Do us all a favour and put yerself up for self-developed immunity, why dontcha?

    Go on – Become the ‘modern day’ James Phipps.

    And as you’re that eager for ‘herd immunity’, why not actually go and flout the coronavirus restrictions repeatedly and cop a load of fines – All of which will also make you a financial martyr to your case, as well as a (potential) physical one?


    Then shut your trap; and keep it shut.

    1. Are you really are too thick to understand, Toffer? (If you can’t grasp basic issues of category error, you really shouldn’t be joining the game when you don’t even know which end is the opposition’s)

      … and you really shouldn’t advertise the fact so obviously.

      Anybody partnering you in a darts match needs to be aware of your ability to miss the board. Not the sharpest dart in the box, either!

      .. and yes – before you start your usual whine – I *am* being patronizing. Who wouldn’t be in the face of infantile bawling?

      1. RH, it’s people like you that are the problem, always right pushing a dangerous view even when there’s evidence against.
        You sound just like a Tory always have in my eyes.

        Regarding death certificates advice to doctors is that they can write pneumonia and do not have to mention COVID-19. Is that a deliberate attempt to underestimate deaths due to COVID-19?

        The latest comparable data for deaths involving COVID-19 with a date of death up to 3 April, show there were 6,235 deaths in England and Wales. When looking at data for England, this is 15% higher than the NHS numbers as they include all mentions of COVID-19 on the death certificate, including suspected COVID-19, as well as deaths in the community.

        “The 16,387 deaths that were registered in England and Wales during the week ending 3 April is the highest weekly total since we started compiling weekly deaths data in 2005.”

      2. Hi, Masmit. Regarding your comment about doctors recording the cause of death as pneumonia, as opposed to COVID-19, to conceal its prevalence:

        Pneumonia is an inflammation of the lungs, preventing adequate uptake of oxygen. It has many causes, but bacterial and viral infections are high on the list. In the absence of adequate testing (to identify the cause of the pneumonia), a doctor can only state that the cause of death is pneumonia with any degree of certainty. Post-Shipman, doctors are careful not to write anything on a death certificate that they can’t state definitively is accurate.

        So, people dying of pneumonia have that recorded as the proximate (immediate) cause of death, but, without having been tested, the doctors are reluctant to list thee coronavirus as the ultimate cause of death, because they can’t be sure of it.

        I’m the only one of my family not to have worked in the NHS. I’d be inclined to think that doctors are only certifying what they know to be true, as opposed to trying to conceal evidence of the spread of the virus (broader testing is, clearly, required). I’d certainly hope that to be the case.

      3. Stark, the comment was a doctors word for word, are you saying they are lying now.

      4. Not at all. Just that I’ve been told that doctors tend to only put on a death certificate what they’re sure of. Pneumonia is something that they can be sure of, so they put that down. The cause of the pneumonia, without a decent level of testing, may not be possible to determine accurately, so they might not be willing to put coronavirus on the certificate without that definitive proof.

        That’s what I was told, anyway, by a doctor.

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