Into the Unknown

Climate science and the stock market have this in common: both are obsessed with observation of, and speculation about, a simple time graph, showing, in the one case, movements of average global temperature over periods from months to millennia, and in the other, movements of share values over periods from milliseconds to months.

Zapping from Bloomberg to CNBC to the French BFM Business on Black Monday, I experienced some of the hot flushes that Ed Hawkins and Bob Ward feel when they get their monthlies monthly doses of average global temperature data, but speeded up and intensified. Of course, I know the flashing figures of the Dow Jones on the Bloomberg screen are quite meaningless in the bigger scheme of things, just as Bob and Ed knows that anything less than a thirty year trend is scientifically worthless. But sometimes you just can’t help yourself, can you Bob?

Now we have another unfinished time graph to pore over in the shape of the daily Corona virus infection rates.

As a kid I was deeply affected by the American funnies that appeared daily in the Singapore Straits Times (English dailies rarely took American strips.) I remember a Li’l Abner strip which neatly illustrated Schumpeter’s theory of capitalist creative destruction in the savage competition between rival hillbilly families to create the biggest hot dog. The stand offering the 10” hot dog goes bust when the stand next door offers the 12” monster, and so on, until Li’l Abner’s Gran invents the machine that turns out the endless hot dog, with each customer chopping off the quantity he wants. Later in life you learn the mysteries of how to sum an infinite series, but nothing quite struck me as much as that Li’l Abner strip.

Think of this as an open thread to discuss the curious links between past and future, the known and unknown, and the fascination of the endless hot dog in a finite world, with reference to DJIA, FTSE100, NASA/GISS, HADCRUT, etc. if you like, or not. And keep well.


  1. “Into the Unknown” is a good title. Too many people in the media who know nothing at all have expressed strong opinions, for example:

    Piers Morgan demands that the Government must “DO SOMETHING”.

    Robert Peston declares that the Government wants everyone to catch it so that they can acquire ‘herd immunity’.

    Kay Burley thinks the Chancellor should have had a test because he might have been near someone who might have the virus. Clearly she’s not aware of the criteria for getting tested.

    If only more people would acknowledge that we don’t really know what’s going to happen.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. PAUL
    Maybe it’s a simple as this:

    The world divides into people who can accept a bit of uncertainty, who know that it’s the normal state of affairs (see again Tony’s article above on Freeman Dyson and estimating optimum bomber strategy) and those who can’t.

    Saying: “we just don’t know” make you boring and won’t get you invited back on Sky News. Claiming you know makes you quotable and therefore an expert. (Take the famous Feynman quote on the fallibility of experts and repeat.)

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I clearly remember some expert from Leeds University, at the start of the BSE scare, state that millions could die. A completely unnecessary piece of fearmongering because, at that point, everyone who was going to be infected was already infected. How utterly wrong he turned out to be.


  4. A simple summation of unknowns: 2020 the year the global economy goes into meltdown, millions of people die and the global warming scam is finally put out of our misery because of an actual global crisis which completely obliterates its necessary catastrophic feed-line (not to mention its source of income). This will all be because the Chinese just couldn’t stop trading in endangered wildlife or resist the culinary delights of scrumptious soup made from bats boiled alive.


  5. Re: Coronavirus

    I’m not sure about the wisdom of shutting down the schools. School-aged children are not part of the demographic in which high mortality rates are observed. I’m not sure, therefore, that a playground full of snot-gobbling children is a scenario of concern. However, sending them home, whilst their parents are still going out to work, will only result in more children being foisted onto their virus-fodder grandparents for day care. Now that is a scenario to be concerned about!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. DAVEJR:

    That was Richard Lacy, microbiologist, “Warning of a future of hospital wards full of “thousands of people going slowly and painfully mad before dying”, he called in a Sunday Times interview for the slaughter of all BSE-infected herds (translated by the paper into the headline, “Leading Food Scientist Calls for Slaughter of 6 Million Cows”). He died last year, aged 78, but not of CJD.

    Surprisingly, the “cows cause global warming” brigade never latched onto this.

    Tuesday, 15 May, 2001, CJD scientists warn of ‘second wave’

    “Scientists are warning that the predicted size of the variant CJD epidemic may have been underestimated. Research in mice suggests that only people with the shortest incubation periods for the disease are showing symptoms of the human form of BSE. Following infection, there is a very long incubation period before symptoms of the disease occur.”

    “May have been underestimated” sounds familiar,

    Showing that good scares never die:
    “There are fears a second wave of the Mad Cow disease epidemic is on the way” 10 July 2019

    Liked by 1 person

  7. JAIME
    No-one ever found the live-bat-soup-guzzling patient zero. But I see a Chinese foreign office official is repeating “my” conspiracy theory about the US army being responsible.
    This is the first time I’ve seen ZeroHedge scoff at a conspiracy theory.

    Other under-the-radar news:
    The US is sending 30,000 troops to Europe in the biggest exercise for 25 years to defend us against the communist – sorry – Russian threat – without masks (dunno if they’ll be allowed back I the country after – if there is an after.) And China is profiting from the petrol wars by stocking up on cheap oil – and also cutting subsidies for on-shore wind and solar 50% this year and 100% next year.


  8. During BoJo’s press conference about coronavirus this afternoon, the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg asked a question along the lines (I can’t remember the exact words, so I paraphrase) of “What if the scientific advice is wrong”?

    I await with bated breath a BBC correspondent addressing the climate change issue in the same way.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Geoff: Really striking news story from Zero Hedge. Quite something in terms of where China-US relations are heading. The US troop movements to Europe also seem pretty strange. Thanks for the heads-up on both. (I’m mostly unaware, as explained before.)

    England’s CMO Chris Whitty made for me a really helpful point about what’s most unknown about Covid-19, in answer to a Reuters reporter at the very end of the Boris/Vallance/Whitty show. We have no idea what proportion of people who have the infection never show any symptoms, because we have no test that can tell us that. That’s the big gap in the models – a bit like how much greenhouse-gas caused warming in the tropics affects cloud cover and thus overall sensitivity.

    What you say about being able to live with major unknowns, as Freeman Dyson was clearly man enough to do, is deeply needed. Paul’s examples of those unable to cope rightly began with Piers Morgan. I would have made the same choice. This tragic situation is doing some revealing. Let’s hope that includes the fact that the government was just waiting for the opportunity to ditch the ‘green crap’.

    This though cut through the adverse labels for me. Good man.


  10. This too will pass?
    We made the decision about 4 weeks ago to be in isolation for any necessary period and have had very limited contact with the outside world since. This is not entirely selfish. We’re both likely to be on ventilators if we got this, so, as it is possible to limit the chances, it’s a minor contribution to public health to try to avoid it.
    In regard to markets, I was of two minds, and decided to sell anything which I had felt uncertain about over the last year, and also one company which had taken on a lot of debt to perform a takeover. Still holding a rather smaller bucket of shares. Tax implications played a part here.
    I have a son who believes this will be THE big reset. It’s possible- I have no doubt that some things will change more or less permanently, but I would guess that after some period things will return to something like what we have been used to. If not- then we go forward hopefully into some different future.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt has asked to see the government experts’ behavioural modelling which is guiding its decisions on coronavirus. Why does he need to ask? Surely, such information – data, algorithms etc. – should be in the public domain. After all, it’s our behaviour that is being modeled. We and our loved ones are those who will be critically affected according to whether the expert advice is rock solid or not. I’m reading various opinions from a range of experts on the pros and cons of lockdowns, social distancing vs. a less aggressive response and there is no consensus other than that we face a pandemic and people are going to die, whatever measures we do or do not take. It seems to me that the world as a whole has been complacent for far too long in the face of the inevitable and has largely forgotten the hard lessons from the past, so alluring and hypnotic has the globally connected high tech society in which we all live become. A virus is also a living thing, which seeks to exploit the opportunity to thrive. A 7.5 billion reservoir of human bodies in which to grow and multiply is perhaps a geologically unique opportunity for the right virus.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. My purpose in this post was to pose a general question with respect to three very different sorts of time graphs; average global temperatures, share prices, and infections/mortalities from a virus. I suggest that there’s a fascination with the empty space to the right of the graph which has something peculiar about it. Of course, predictions about the future course of an epidemic or of the global economy are serious affairs, but the idea that you can tell much about the future from the shape of a graph seems to me both peculiar, and also peculiarly strongly embedded in our way of thinking.

    Benoît Rittaud, who has written a whole book about exponentials (La Peur Exponentielle)

    has a series of articles about the maths of the evolution of the corona virus epidemic starting with this one:
    If you have any knowledge of French at all, they’re well worth looking at, even if just for the graphs.


  13. Some serious questions about government policy on CV. Matt Ridley approvingly shared this thread from a King’s College lecturer, who questions the government’s modelling, in particular the fact that it appears to be not from complex modelling by infectious disease epidemiologists but from the Behavioural Insights Team.

    Meanwhile, Dellers perhaps goes over the top by endorsing Trump’s decision to ban travel from “plague pit Europe” but the fact is, that is where this disease is spreading very fast and it doesn’t take a genius to work out that it’s not a good idea to admit thousands of potentially infected carriers of the virus into one’s country. I fear it may already be too late late for the US though.

    Quick reminder:

    CV is not the ‘flu; it’s not like having cancer; it’s not like being run over by a No.10 bus.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Also this. A good thread comparing attitudes to UK scientific ‘experts’ on CV with climate experts’ advice. There is inherently no reason why we should trust the ‘science’ of UK behavioural modellers more than we trust the ‘science’ of climate change modellers; in fact, maybe even less reason because there is certainly no consensus on how to respond to CV across Europe and the world as a whole. Britain might have it right. It might have it very badly wrong.


  15. Geoff Cruickshank: Really sorry for the predicament you find yourselves in. Added to the prayer list (just like Drs Whitty, Vallance and co – they too are going to need it).

    Jaime: “It seems to me that the world as a whole has been complacent for far too long”

    Some things were unknown to many but not to all. See Bill Gates in 2015 for example:

    Only a small amount of money was needed to set up the system the world needed but that also required international attention. Guess what I think was taking up far too much of that attention? Costly or what?

    Liked by 2 people

  16. Richard
    Thank you, but really we are ok, just seems sensible to keep out of it for a while, till we see where this goes.
    The closest thing I have seen to being able to predict something from a graph (or the data underlying it) is the work of Didier Sornette. Interestingly, at his Financial Crisis Observatory webpage he was listing quite a few equity sectors as in bubbles in February.


  17. Why would I turn to the Guardian at a time such as this? Well, men like Geoff Chambers have borne it for years and I feel it’s time to share in one another’s suffering. And the sketchwriter John Crace I thought made some good points in describing yesterday’s presser. Here’s a judicious excerpt, after the expected BoJo insults:

    Sensibly, Boris had once again come flanked by the new de facto joint prime ministers – the chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, and the chief scientific adviser, Patrick Vallance – and he rightly deferred to them on matters of science and epidemiology. Both men were hugely impressive: when they were sure of the numbers they said so, and when they weren’t they also said so.

    There was no artifice, no bullshit. Just cold hard truths. We were about four weeks behind Italy and the virus might not peak for nine to 14 weeks. There was almost something reassuring in their lack of reassurance. For the first time in years, the public were being treated as adults. Just about the only question ducked was the one about what constituted being “old”. Something of personal concern to those of us in our early 60s.

    Inevitably, most of the questions from the media were about whether the UK was doing enough. Other countries were closing schools, closing borders, closing down large public gatherings, closing travel. We were just advising people with symptoms to stay indoors for seven days, schools to cancel overseas trips, and people to wash their hands. With the proviso we would probably be implementing stricter measures at a later date.

    Not for the first time, it felt as if many in the country were ahead of the government in their response to the coronavirus.

    I finish with the sentence where I start to differ with the columnist. ‘De facto joint prime minister’ Chris Whitty dealt with this in the press conference itself to my satisfaction: how people start with good intentions but can’t keep it up. And then when they give up it’s at or at least closer to the peak, which is really really costly. This man speaks from experience of risking his life fighting epidemics – Ebola, the plague and the rest, in places it’s much less safe to try to practise what you preach. And his good works were recognised by a grant from none other than the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Perhaps Mr Gates had learned something from Dr Whitty before giving that truly prophetic talk at TED in 2015. (The year I helped Cliscep get started. Have I too been concentrating on the most valuable things?)

    It’s not to everyone’s satisfaction, I get that. Experts as impressive as Piers Morgan and James Delingpole differ with the two doctors flanking the PM. (Both PhDs in medicine – did David King et al have one of those? Have we by good judgment or divine grace ended up in an almost perfect situation here?) Stuart Ritchie demands to know the sources for their so-called science. To add to the sense that they don’t know what they’re doing are tweets like this:

    Or maybe there’s a connection between these two? Maybe opening up on all the sources – with the implication that all of this is up for debate, ad infinitum, just like the endless climate wars – is not a priority because Whitty, Vallance and their teams know there is so much to do and so little time in which to do it. I trust them. I know they will make mistakes. I pray for them. I thank them. And that’s it. That seems the rational approach to me. Others differ. I hope they too make it through.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. “a King’s College lecturer, who questions the government’s modelling, in particular the fact that it appears to be not from complex modelling by infectious disease epidemiologists but from the Behavioural Insights Team. ”

    Maybe, maybe not, maybe both…

    On Tuesday, 3 March, Boris Johnson revealed the government’s action plan on how to deal with the novel coronavirus and the spread of Covid-19.

    An immediate aim was to ‘flatten the curve‘ or to ‘stretch it’ or to ‘pull it down’, all paraphrases for reducing the peak of the epidemic in order to gain time for action.

    This reminded me of the way that policy was made during the foot and mouth disease outbreak in 2001 when Sir David King was the government’s chief scientist and the modelling was done, in effect, by many of the same people that are doing the modelling of Covid-19 now.

    As some of you may remember, foot and mouth disease led to the slaughter of millions of animals and some of this slaughter policy was based on mathematical epidemiological modelling. Covid-19 is different of course, but when I re-read a paper I wrote after foot and mouth I thought we might want to keep an eye on how the models and the metaphors develop and how they might influence policy and public perception in the face of the real and visceral spread of the virus. Can we avoid the shift from positive to negative perceptions?
    “Professor Sir David King: I became involved in the foot-and-mouth-disease epidemic on roughly 18 March, so the epidemic had been running for a while. What I did…was draw together a group of scientists, vets, farmers, practical people as well as epidemiological modellers and in addition modellers from the MoD so that any advice I gave would be within the capacity of the MoD to operate.

    Having built that team …we modelled the epidemic on the basis of the data which was being published by the Ministry for Agriculture, Food and Fisheries, as it was then, and we produced output from the models, running them on fairly large-scale computers, in a relatively short space of time. From that we understood that with the control procedures, that is the lessons learned from the outbreak in 1967 with the control procedures put in place, the epidemic was out of control.

    The upshot was that the understanding that it was out of control—this means that the epidemic was increasing exponentially with time—meant that we had to find a new control procedure to install, so we tried to map onto our computer models a whole variety of control procedures. This included vaccination and it included different cull procedures.

    I went back to the Prime Minister once we had turned the exponential growth into exponential decay with one of these models and that model was effectively put into place. [They found a model which gave the desired result, so they used it].

    I was fully aware of the fact that 5 May had been pencilled in by many people in the media at least as a date for the general election. The general election was actually called on 7 June that year. Whether this was something to do with the modelling predictions I made or not you would need to ask the Prime Minister.”
    Christopher Booker squares up to Sir David King, the former Chief Scientist”

    In 2000, when he was appointed just before the foot-and-mouth crisis, Professor King’s speciality was ‘surface chemistry’. Yet almost immediately top of his agenda was the need to fight an animal disease.

    The man he called in to tackle the epidemic in March 2001 was Professor Roy Anderson, a computer modeller specialising in the epidemiology of human diseases but without any experience in veterinary matters.

    Shutting their ears to the pleas of the world’s leading veterinary experts on foot-and-mouth that the only effective way to stop the spread of the epidemic was vaccination, the two men flouted the law by launching their ‘pre-emptive cull’, the mass-slaughter of animals which never had any contact with the disease. As many as eight million healthy animals were unnecessarily destroyed, at a colossal social and financial cost which vaccination might have reduced to a fraction.

    The next big issue to put King in the headlines was global warming, which in 2004 he described as ‘a far greater threat to the world than international terrorism’. He was quoted as claiming that global temperatures were higher than they had been for 60 million years, predicting that by the end of the 21st century, unless drastic measures were taken to curb global warming, Antarctica would be the only habitable continent left on earth.

    Top of the politicians’ global warming agenda at that time, led by Blair and the EU, was the need to win ratification of the Kyoto Protocol by Russia, which would at last bring the treaty into force.

    Yet again we are plunged into thudding bathos, as we are solemnly told that, in order to cut our carbon emissions by 60 percent by 2050, to ensure that global temperatures rise by no more than 2 degrees, we must learn not to leave our TVs on stand-by, switch to low-energy light bulbs, use trains rather than cars and build more wind turbines.”

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Thanks Dennis – we both mentioned David King but in a somewhat different way! I never followed that CSA on the foot and mouth disease (FMD) scare or indeed the climate one. In 2020 I note that Patrick Vallance is a medic and seems to be lending important support to a CMO who, by chance, if there be such a thing, is an long-term expert in fighting epidemics, in both theory and practice. Taken together I’m willing to bet that these men are smart enough and motivated enough to direction-correct the software models in a way that didn’t happen with FMD under King or the GCMs under anyone. Models are only as smart as their stakeholders and coders working closely together – plus their willingness to face up to adverse data as feedback. I was never a fan of King as a stakeholder – probably trusted far too much by ministers and spads who needed to be far more hands-on on behalf of voters, including farmers. I don’t feel the same way today. Hundreds of thousands of lives are genuinely at stake. Boris is deferring to an excellent team with appropriate experience. But my evaluation is of course as a non-expert myself, except in software systems generally.


  20. I’m a complete non-expert regarding coronavirus. I can only take the press conferences held by the PM and his advisers at face value. Rightly or wrongly I find myself reassured by them. If it turns out that they’re wrong, at least they’ll have been wrong, I believe, with the best of intentions. I am satisfied, so far, with their explanations of their policy choices. Who knows how it will work out?

    I appreciate that people are worried. I appreciate that concern may be generated by the UK seeming to take a different approach to much of the rest of the world. Unfortunately it’s too early to tell which approach is for the best. Certainly things don’t seem to be going too well in Italy just now, but that may be simply because they’re further down the road than us.

    At least I believe that the people in the UK in charge of policy are sufficiently sincere, intelligent and motivated to do the right thing, that they’ll be watching closely developments here and abroad, and I’m sure that their policy advice will change if – but only if – the evidence suggests that it needs to do so.


  21. After an initial sluggish response, Trump seems to be stepping up to the mark. He’s considering adding UK to the travel ban which would be a severe embarrassment to Boris and a very public rejection of the UK’s coronavirus ‘containment’ strategy. However, US cases could rise exponentially too and he will need more than words and cash.


  22. Re: the unknown region to the right of the end of the wiggly line.

    I look at graphs of sea level rise and see a hundred plus years of gradual increase and infer that what went before will continue. This is perhaps weak evidence, but the alternative (a sudden inflection) seems less likely because it is based not on observation but modelling.

    For this outbreak, I cannot simply follow a straight line into the unknown because whatever else we know, we know that the pattern of case incidence is likely to have a unimodal pattern and the cumulative cases something like a logistic curve. When either curve is on what looks like an exponential upswing, we really have no idea when it will peak and cannot guess how high the peak will be. So to my way of thinking it is equally valid to suppose the peak will be high or that it will be low, until an inflection provides more evidence for the latter or a continuing exponential growth starts to rule out lower scenarios.

    As to the infection modelling, I don’t believe it for a second. I would hardly believe it if it was a model of fungus spreading in a potato patch, so when the model is one with a massive unknown called human behaviour right at its heart I am inclined to write it off altogether and rely on pure mathematics.

    A long time ago I studied population dynamics and spent a while studying virus dynamics. At the time the buzzword was “chaos” and researchers were looking for endogenous patterns in virus populations (infection rates). I’ve just looked at Google Scholar and it seems they still are. The point of course about chaotic dynamics is that (if they really are endogenous) you can’t predict the future at all unless you know the present not just roughly but exactly.

    I am hoping that a small shift in transmission rates can send this thing into oblivion. I fancy my chances if I catch it, but as an asthmatic I think it won’t be a whole lot of fun. Good luck everyone!

    Liked by 1 person

  23. @Jaime Jessop says: 13 Mar 20 at 12:11 am

    “Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt has asked to see the government experts’ behavioural modelling which is guiding its decisions on coronavirus. Why does he need to ask?”

    I agree, but not for your reason.

    don’t need a “behavioural expert” to tell me, it’s common sense.

    tell some/all UK people now to self isolate & nothing much happens in the next 1/2/3 weeks to scare them (like dead bodies on the street outside) what do you think will happen?

    on another thread Richard Drake says:
    “With CV we could be looking at 80% or 50m being infected and ~1% of those dying = 500,000 deaths.”

    if that really begins to come to pass all UK people will self isolate anyway.


  24. Jaime: That seems a good article on herd immunity, thanks. Not least because it admits that the person who’s accused the government of basing its strategy on herd immunity is the journalist Robert Peston. The second example Paul gave of someone claiming to know more than he does in the first comment on this thread. But here’s another today, being corrected by a long-time Bishop Hill contributor:

    It is really irresponsible to do this. Trust in the government advisers is key to people taking seriously the instruction to self-isolate if one gets CV symptoms. And that (pace DFHunter) is important from now. It will really save lives.


  25. we know that the pattern of case incidence is likely to have a unimodal pattern

    Actually, it will almost certainly have a bimodal pattern. That’s how almost all flus and colds go. There’s a first surge, followed a couple of months later by a slightly smaller second.

    Though, if memory serves, Spanish Flu was trimodal, with the second round being the more deadly.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. @Chester yes, trimodal: but the treatment was “stay cheerful and take boric acid.” Is it irrational to hope for a vaccine in due course?


  27. @Richard Drake says: 13 Mar 20 at 10:18 pm

    not sure what “pace” means in your comment to me?

    anyway, all the figures given are worst case model guesses, from your earlier comment – “(With CV we could be looking at 80% or 50m being infected and ~1% of those dying = 500,000 deaths)”

    do you really think we will see anything like “500,000 deaths” Richard?

    why believe these model guesses are any different from worst case climate model/prediction guesses?

    ps – just back from costa adeje Tenerife & no panic anywhere to be seen.


  28. pace – preposition: contrary to the opinion of —usually used as an expression of deference to someone’s contrary opinion

    You’d said:

    on another thread Richard Drake says:
    “With CV we could be looking at 80% or 50m being infected and ~1% of those dying = 500,000 deaths.”

    if that really begins to come to pass all UK people will self isolate anyway.

    I wasn’t disagreeing with that but I was indicating that that would be too late to save a lot of lives.

    I was basing those numbers on the plausible worst case mentioned by Chris Whitty.

    We’ve got maybe 16 weeks before we know if it’s really going to be that bad. That does depend on people obeying instructions.

    I’m glad you and others were able to enjoy Tenerife. That’s the right thing at the moment, given the very low risks at the moment.

    However, the human race has no immunity from this little pathogen. And it is pretty infectious. I trust Whitty and co that they’ve set the plausible worst case about right. It should motivate everyone to take the steps advised.


  29. Bill, I would take Robert Walker’s advice with a large pinch of salt if I were you. He insists that the disease is not airborne and it’s really hard to get, even in a crowded tube.

    “It is very difficult to get this virus. Even if you are in a tube crowded together with others – for things like the flu you need to be there for 15 minutes or so to get it. But for this disease – so far there is no evidence of it being passed on to anyone else in public transport.”

    Yet, one of his own references (a public information article from WHO) says this:

    “Maintain at least 1 metre (3 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.

    Why? When someone coughs or sneezes they spray small liquid droplets from their nose or mouth which may contain virus. If you are too close, you can breathe in the droplets, including the COVID-19 virus if the person coughing has the disease.”


  30. On the issue of ‘will people self-isolate?’, the NHS certainly does not appear to trust people to do that. They’re putting GP surgeries on lockdown. When I went to collect my prescription yesterday, they had a notice saying all face to face appointments were cancelled, except emergencies. The doors were locked. People were queueing outside. To get in, I had to answer questions about whether I was ill, had a fever, had been coughing etc. Bizarrely though, a visit to the dentist was no problem – operating as normal, no third degree about CV symptoms, just the usual pleasant receptionists and my heroic Polish dentist still poking around in people’s mouths with nothing but a surgical mask and gloves to protect her.

    Liked by 1 person

  31. In the Telegraph today:

    “It is spread by droplets expelled by coughs and sneezes, which can contaminate the environment at distances of 6ft 6in (2 metres) and 19ft 8in (6 metres) respectively, and just one single droplet can be enough to carry an infectious dose.
    How the coronavirus spreads and how to protect yourself

    A study from the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) suggests the virus can survive in the air for around three hours and on certain surfaces for as long as three days. Disease particles can live for up to four hours on copper, 24 hours on cardboard and two to three days on plastic and stainless steel.
    Human coronavirus – how long does it last on surfaces

    The National Centre for Infectious Diseases in Singapore also found the virus could spread around buildings via air conditioning systems or even on a draught.

    New research from the Hunan Provincial Centre for Diseases Control and Prevention showed an infected Chinese man passed the virus on to nine other people on a bus including two people sitting 14ft 9in (4.5 metres) away. One traveller caught the bus half an hour after the infected man alighted.”

    But it’s not airborne, you can’t catch it on the tube and wearing a proper face mask is a waste of time (according to the CMO). Hilarious – if such misinformation wasn’t so serious.

    Boris has back-tracked on the large public gatherings ban apparently.


  32. There’s always a silver lining. It’s going to be a good time if you always wanted to bump someone off.

    It’s actually pretty serious. Keep washing those hands. I also trust the GMO and deputy GMO on face masks. But I’m certainly glad that there’s freedom to take a different point of view on that kind of level and act accordingly. But freedom is being curtailed, quite rightly.


  33. I wouldn’t normally post a link to Russia Today, except heavily tongue-in-cheek, or with many caveats. However, leaving aside the tabloid style RT adopts, and with all the usual caveats, this might just be worth a read:

    “Liberal ideology & virtue signaling put before people’s HEALTH, as Macron, Merkel defend open borders amid Covid-19 spread”


  34. Richard, as the CMO and deputy CMO are advocating that the ‘herd’ quickly acquire immunity, this would necessitate that they are infected quickly before summer – hence the advice that masks are not effective (if their strategy is to be successful). They won’t be honest and say that outright of course (it would cause riots), which means that the population who trust the experts genuinely think that masks are not effective, including those most at risk of dying or getting a serious illness. But not to worry, old folk will be safely ‘cocooned’ anyway. The UK government is conducting a high risk experiment on the population, in spite of the evidence that mass lockdown stops this virus in its tracks and gives us time to plan for another serious outbreak this winter (more ICUs, maybe even a vaccine). The weather is still cold; CV will continue to spread like wildfire. It probably won’t stop until it gets much warmer, but by then it may be too late – the young and healthy will have acquired immunity and ceased to be spreaders and the sick and elderly will be in body bags.


  35. Wow, this is getting really, really bizarre now. The GWPF is actually peeved that ‘alarmists’ who question the government’s strategy (based on scientific advice) are being called ‘sceptics’! The world just turned upside down. First it was sceptics legitimately questioning climate alarmists (with scientific consesnsus on their side) and that was OK, but now you’re an alarmist if you question government scientists who most definitely do not enjoy global consensus re. their strategy for tackling this virus! This is just really, really weird what’s happening now.


  36. You accuse me of paranoia because you disagree with me, but you have no evidence that I’m paranoid. I wish you wouldn’t do that. It’s insulting. But it seems that’s where we’re at now.


  37. @JAIME JESSOP 14 Mar 20 at 7:35 am

    That’s was one case in some 80,000 in China. Trust the UK MSM to report an outlier.


  38. Bill, I don’t think it’s an outlier. See the other references. I think it’s fairly certain now that CV is airborne and can be contracted via inhalation or touching infected surfaces, then transferring the virus to your mouth, nose or eyes if you touch your face without washing.


  39. Here’s a plonker at the Telegraph outrageously smearing those who dare to question the government’s Covid-19 strategy with the nasty taint of anti-vaxxers. We’ve been here before. I’m surprised that outside of the climate domain, some people don’t seem to have cottoned on to the fact that it’s exactly the same strategy being employed here as has been used in the attempt to shut down climate sceptics. ALL questioning is legitimate, if it is based upon facts and knowledge, even though that knowledge is necessarily limited and imperfect. I personally will always choose knowledge over blind faith in experts, especially when those experts don’t even enjoy consensus with other experts, especially when, if you look at what those experts are saying, you can find glaring logical inconsistencies in their argument.

    “As the anti-vaxxers show, a gut feeling is no substitute for science, or for rationality. All sorts of decisions that may seem counterintuitive to a lay person will be readily explained by an expert. It is for this very reason that now, with coronavirus presenting the most profound public health crisis in living memory, we should not be tempted to gainsay the advice of the experts – in particular the Chief Medical Officer, Chris Whitty, and Sir Patrick Vallance, the government’s Chief Scientific Adviser, who yesterday gave such a clear and measured explanation of why the UK is reacting as it is to Covid-19.”


  40. Tiniest specks of death,
    Thousands on the point of a pin,
    But no angels are they,
    Becrowned but hardly magisterial,
    Spring loaded,
    Mini, mini, hand grenades
    Whether from hands washed or not,
    Afflicting the elderly and those with underlying conditions,
    (Two strikes and I’m out!)

    Yet news today
    Of man’s (and woman’s) indomitable spirit,
    From balcony to balcony across Italian cities, towns and villages,
    Arias of defiance resound,
    Renewing bonds forged in more pleasant, less fearful times.

    Singer beneath Bridges

    Liked by 1 person

  41. Very good Alan.

    Jaime: This is what I meant by paranoia – the lack of any expression of uncertainty about people’s motives here:

    Richard, as the CMO and deputy CMO are advocating that the ‘herd’ quickly acquire immunity, this would necessitate that they are infected quickly before summer – hence the advice that masks are not effective (if their strategy is to be successful). They won’t be honest and say that outright of course (it would cause riots), which means that the population who trust the experts genuinely think that masks are not effective, including those most at risk of dying or getting a serious illness.

    Now that you understand what I meant by it, an apology about your certainty about my own motives, which I know for certain you got wrong, would be fine.


  42. Richard, we very much should be arguing amongst ourselves but not slinging personal insults at each other. I accept that I made a statement which implied I was certain about motivation. That makes me guilty of being presumptious but it only leaves me open to the accusation of paranoia if my statement was totally illogical and irrational. The fact is the gvernment have expressly stated that their strategy is for the majority of the populace to be exposed to Covid-19 in order to acquire herd immunity. That needs to happen soon because when it gets much warmer, the virus will probably subside. A surgical mask doesn’t protect you from the virus but it does stop you from effectively spreading it. A respirator mask will greatly reduce your chance of becoming infected by an airborne virus. Both types of mask will inhibit the spread of Covid-19, as will banning large public gatherings and closing schools. So, if the government’s strategy is to work, it is highly unlikely that they would take measures or give advice which would inhibit the fast spread of Covid-19. That wouldn’t make sense. I just don’t think they have the honesty to actually say to the public that yes, masks are useful, but we don’t want you to use them or stop going to concerts, football matches, festivals etc. because the whole bloody idea is for people to become infected quite quickly now, so hopefully we can avoid another spike next winter. The problem with their strategy is that they have no real idea just how quickly people will become infected, whether this will push the NHS to breaking point in the next few weeks or how they will effectively ‘coccoon’ vulnerable groups. We’ll only know if they were correct when, come April/May, there are not thousands of horror stories about Granny or Granddad dying in their own home coughing up their destroyed lungs because there were no hosptal beds available.


  43. But what do I know, I’m not an expert, nor is Piers bloody Morgan or all the other irresponsible scare-mongers out there questioning the government’s response to this acute health crisis. Which is not to say that there are not experts out there who are seriously questioning the government’s response:

    Then there’s an expert in another domain (climate science) who doesn’t think much of the government’s strategy either:


  44. JAIME JESSOP says:
    14 Mar 20 at 11:07 am

    I’ve read the WHO report from China, and it is clear that when the Chinese began tracing almost all the victims were found in clusters. Some of these were based around families and others around workplaces. This suggests that the virus need a significate amount of time to infect other victims. It doesn’t mean that the sort of transmission found on that tramcar is impossible, just that it has been shown to be rarer, suggesting that airborne transmission is less effective than contacts.

    Liked by 1 person

  45. JAIME,

    I think you are being illogical and irrational because you have missed an important point.

    If the epidemic in the UK follows that in Italy, then we will have a few thousand deaths, maybe a few thousand more who will need hospital treatment and very, very more who will have what seems like a bad cold and will wonder what all the fuss was about. We know that almost all the people who die from this virus are elderly and/or those who have certain medical conditions. If that particular demographic is considered there can be the realisation that these are the same group of people who are likely to die in any winter. When the Statistical Office publishes its next report in the autumn I will very surprised if the figures for Excess Winter Deaths are anything other than within normal bounds for the last decade.

    It seems to me that, if you cut through all the waffle, the government’s response to this virus is much the same as the ideal, depth climate sceptic’s shrug of the shoulders and a hearty “So What”

    Liked by 1 person

  46. OK, well, I’m actually growing weary of arguing about this. It’s not the ‘flu and it’s not just the elderly and the sick who are going to die. Many young, healthy medical workers continually exposed to this horrible virus will probably succumb too. NOBODY on the planet has EVER been exposed to this virus before Dec 2019. My attention now is focused on me and my loved ones and because I have hypertension I am in a higher risk category, so I’m going to make as sure as possible that I am not one of the government’s immunised (or not) sheep. The coming months are going to be very, very testing for us all and I wish everyone the best and hope you stay healthy, well fed and have plenty of loo rolls!


  47. Jan, 2018: “The flu has taken the lives of a 20-year-old Arizona mom, a 21-year-old Pennsylvania fitness enthusiast, and a 51-year-old Massachusetts mother of two in recent weeks.”

    Even just “The flu” can kill young, healthy, individuals. Some people get unlucky and lose the genetic lottery, regardless of health.


  48. The Spanish ‘Flu took many millions of young lives; in fact it actively selected to kill the young and healthy rather than the old and sick. Covid-19 – like modern seasonal ‘flu – kills mainly (but not exclusively) older and more vulnerable people. Unlike the modern ‘flu, it kills at least 10 times as many people of all ages – 70 times as many in the case of Italy at the moment.


  49. The obsession with herd immunity of those wanting to reduce trust in the government is plain wrong:

    A Department of Health and Social care spokesperson said that Sir Patrick’s comments had been misinterpreted.

    “Herd immunity is not part of our action plan, but is a natural by-product of an epidemic. Our aims are to save lives, protect the most vulnerable, and relieve pressure on our NHS,” he said.

    “We have now moved out of the contain phase and into delay, and we have experts working round the clock. Every measure that we have or will introduce will be based on the best scientific evidence.

    “Our awareness of the likely levels of immunity in the country over the coming months will ensure our planning and response is as accurate and effective as possible.”

    We’re all amateurs here. But I remain extremely impressed with the men and women who’ve been put in charge of this challenging, but not insurmountable health issue in the UK. Particularly the compassion, that I feel is totally genuine, of this guy (taken from an earlier version of the article):

    Ten more people in the UK have died in the last 24 hours after testing positive for coronavirus, bringing the total number of deaths to 21.

    The UK government’s chief medical adviser, Prof Chris Whitty, said all were patients in “at-risk” groups.

    The reported deaths were all in England, including London, Birmingham and Leicester.

    The total number of confirmed cases in the UK has reached 1,140 while 37,746 people have been tested.

    Prof Whitty said: “I understand this increase in the number of deaths linked to Covid-19 will be a cause for concern for many. The public should know every measure we are taking is seeking to save lives and protect the most vulnerable.”

    He gave his “sincere condolences” to the friends and families affected, adding “every single one of us has a role to play” in reducing the spread of the virus.

    All of those who died had underlying health conditions and were over the age of 60.

    I’m afraid I didn’t get the same feeling when I listened to President Trump, by chance, on Radio 5 Live yesterday as he began his big ‘National Emergency’ speech. I was talking to a friend about this today, someone who has existing respiratory issues and is worried about dying. She’s honest like that. But when I mentioned Trump seeming to think it was all about him she mentioned that superb episode of Frasier when the eponymous radio psychiatrist overhears a focus group discussing his programme and he becomes obsessed with the one guy who doesn’t like him. At that point we both broke into gales of laughter and, I don’t know why, thoughts of dying receded. I don’t know what will do that for you this evening but I wish it for all.


  50. “I have been absolutely level about numbers” said Prof Whitty on Thursday in response to Beth Rigby from Sky News. I believe him. This is where he said it on The Guardian’s YouTube stream. He knows it matters enormously that he is trusted to be doing this at all times.


  51. @Jaime Jessop says: 14 Mar 20 at 5:28 pm
    “I have hypertension” – now your worries make sense, stay safe.

    @Geoff – I’m techy/pissed because my pension fund is linked to the stock market & I wonder if unlike the global temps it will keep going down!!!
    anyway, losing money is nothing compared to losing life so hope all here & family keep well.

    ps – sorry if I came across as hard hearted in earlier comments, it’s a mad time for all.


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