Guest article

Senior medic: lifting lock-down before mass test-and-trace is in place will cost thousands more needless deaths

Award-winning GP and former deputy chair of the British Medical Association Dr Kailash Chnd says, “We need mass testing before we lift the lockdown!”

The UK started its lock-down late, when even just a week earlier would have saved up to 60,000 lives across the course of the pandemic. To avoid even more needless deaths, the Tory government led by the invisible Boris Johnson now needs to look beyond short-term gains and produce a comprehensive strategy for the long haul. The present lock-down will expire on 7 May.

Current data indicate that the national lock-down is slowing down the transmission and most scientists agree that the real-time effective reproductive number – the so-called ‘R’ – which shows how many people a COVID-19 sufferer can infect on average, has declined , indicating a flattening of the curve of the spread of the epidemic.

But is flattening the curve the right metric to measure the success of the UK’s coronavirus strategy?

It is essential to have appropriate benchmarks to measure the success of the government’s response to the pandemic- and merely flattening the curve will simply mean allowing huge numbers of people to die over a longer period.

It is an amended ‘herd immunity‘ strategy – and lifting the lock-down at the wrong time will shorten the time-frame of the mass deaths again. Getting it wrong will mean that the speed at which cases double may decrease (or the ‘Rt’ increase) as people interact more and provide more opportunities for the infection to spread — maybe even more rapidly than we saw before the lock-down.

The benefits of the lock-down, which were gained at huge economic and social cost, could easily be lost if the government gets it wrong. Reopening without triggering a new acceleration depends on our ability to transition from population-wide mitigation – which is what social distancing does – to individual-level containment.

And that means that ending the lock-down must be linked to an ability to conduct the World Health Organisation’s test-and-trace plan on a massive scale – allowing each infected individual to be quickly identified and their contacts rapidly traced, tested and where necessary isolated, breaking the chains of transmission and starting to contain the virus, not merely mitigate its spread.

In addition, one of the government’s conditions for re-opening the country is a downward trend in infections. But we can’t know that the numbers are going down unless we have an accurate daily count, which can only be obtained through widespread testing.

Mass testing will also provide the reassurance that many need to resume normal activities. Having enough tests to regularly check employees, students and teachers would help provide confidence that we can resume work and school.

And imagine if all patients receive a test before they enter the hospital, and those who test negative can then receive care in a separate ward from those who test positive.

Patients would not be so frightened to seek care for ongoing medical issues such as cancer, pregnancy or heart disease, preventing the virus-linked deaths from other illnesses that experts believe have already occurred in the tens of thousands. Hospital staff could also optimise the use of personal protective equipment that is in such short supply.

But we are very, very far from being in a position to take this essential step. Matt Hancock said last week that we have too many cases for test-and-trace to be realistic – a damning indictment of the government’s performance and strategy so far – but we have to start from where we are, not where we should be. There is no other route out that will not cost huge numbers of lives.

In addition, the government’s long-standing failure to provide enough PPE to health staff not only inspires no confidence in government assurances that a test-and-trace scheme will be ready when the UK reviews its lock-down next month, but also leaves huge holes in the lock-down’s effects, allowing the virus to continue spreading more than it should.

Currently, the UK government has no capacity, no credible strategy and neither the ability nor the willingness to implement the watertight ‘test, trace and isolate’ plan that is vital for a successfully-concluded lock-down.

Sadly, the government has instead adopted a stop-gap strategy in place of a sustainable, robust public health strategy and this will cost us in the long run. It has already cost us.

The past two months were an opening gambit. Now the UK needs to handle the middle- and end-game well. The delays so far have made this task far larger than it needed to be.

But there is no alternative. Any attempt to lift the lock-down without such a system ready to go is doomed to failure — a failure that will kill people. The responsibility for those deaths, like many of the lives already lost, will be at Boris Johnson’s door.

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10 comments

  1. This government has no excuse for failing to test and tracing all health care workers. There are no good excuses for failing to screen and trace all passengers arriving here. They should have been screened before departure for the UK, then on arrival, and quarantined for fourteen days. These safeguards should have been started since the beginning of February. It is not rocket science. It is not as complicated as this Tory government pretends. It is difficult to believe that not one of them has common sense.🌹🌹🌹

  2. Total propaganda, the lock down is so they can finish 5G, ALL public places including schools, your children are at risk when go back, btw, this about bills vaccine, oh the 5 g has nothing to do with con vid 19, but that’s what they’ll claim, your doctors and nurses will be on bills death list too, as well as the police, all these deaths are being counted whether it’s this a stroke a heart attack a road accident or anything, to justify this ridiculous hoax
    When the swith on the wigig 5g ect the weaponry oxygen deprivation microwaves will simulate respiratory problems, that’s why we saw the poor Chinese dropping dead, they had no oxygen and we’re breathing co2, reference the Fullerton informer, Joe imbriano.
    Vic UK I’ll gladly send anyone the link

  3. Starmer will know of the egregious injustice applied only to the poorest 99% of society. Ethnic minorities are the main victims of the perverse “Joint Enterprise”. Funny how it has never been applied to the bankers, or the Grenfel cladding suited bandits, or to Mandelson and Faulkner, or Michael Gove and his “dinner party” guests, or Cameron and his guests and the supplier of the body parts of dead pigs. Odd isn’t it❓❓❓

  4. Fascinatingly selective reporting of one GP’s view in comparison with a wider take from the generality of the body of expert epidemiological opinion on lockdown – a substantial and growing portion of which is concerned about the counter effects of panic measures rather than the desirability of extending them.

    This sort of unsubstantiated fictitious tabloid speculation crap is really stupid :

    “… even just a week earlier would have saved up to 60,000 lives across the course of the pandemic.”

    The figure is equivalent to about five weeks of all deaths from all causes!

    1. “across the course of the pandemic” doesn’t mean “the pandemic to date” – you get that 60,000 will be a far smaller proportion of total deaths if it lasts a year, right?

    2. We have never had a complete lock-down. The favourite mode of transport of the bourgeoisie aka aeroplanes, continues to spread the pandemic all over the world. If world leaders had decided to take immediate action four months ago & close airports, this pandemic would have been terminated. Individual countries have also failed to act, preferring to treat people like cattle via ‘Herd Immunity’, survival of the fit-test. The gov’t/MSM agenda is now eliminating any pretence of lock-down, without Test; Trace & Isolate. Keep dragging it out!

  5. mass testing for who , not the masses just those they deem essential to enable them to control the rest …permanently

  6. The original UK spread grew rapidly from relatively few ‘asymptomatic but infected’ individuals and they were in only a few locations.
    Today there are inevitably many, many times more carriers and they’re all over the country.
    Any relaxation in quarantine – without testing and contact tracing ALREADY IN PLACE NATIONWIDE AND WORKING WITH PROVEN EFFECTIVENESS – will result in an even more rapid, enormous and possibly unstoppable increase in transmission, sickness, misery, poverty, hunger and death.

    (Unless it turns out that there really are genetic/lifestyle factors operating that can predict any individual’s vulnerability or immunity with confidence – or the first vaccine tested is 100% effective and can be produced in sufficient quantities – or there’s a miracle and the virus mutates into harmlessness.)

    1. My second sentence didn’t convey my meaning very well – there’ve been graphs published showing a shallow ripple-like progression of small peaks and small troughs over up to a year.
      My point is that the graph only looks like that if it starts from a similarly tiny base each time there’s an upswing.
      Starting from a premature pause in quarantine measures it begins its climb from a tiny dip in numbers and balloons rapidly from there – so the graph would resemble a stepped pyramid more than the ripples in a pond shape the government is trying to sell.

  7. Forty plus thousands dead. At least forty times forty thousand grieving the avoidable loss of relatives and friends. This grief is due to GOVERNMENT FAILURE. No ifs. No buts. Government failure full-stop.

    NHS England’s Medical Director Stephen Powis, said if deaths were kept below 20,000 then they would have “DONE VERY WELL.”

    On Saturday DESPITE care home deaths ➕ deaths in the community still being EXCLUDED from daily press conference MISLEADING figures, UK hospitals DEATHS exceeded 20,000.

    R.I.P. 711 more AVOIDABLE lives lost today in England, 47 in Scotland 47 and 23 in Wales in NHS hospitals.

    NHS hospital deaths on Saturday totalled 18,084 in England, 1,231 in Scotland and 774 in Wales. Therefore, in LESS than TWO WEEKS, UK NHS hospital deaths have DOUBLED. Today Monday UK NHS hospital deaths alone, will be around 21,000. A TRUE Labour government would not have failed in this tragic manner. 🌹🌹🌹

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