Advice on the virus

The Health Secretary has answered some common questions people ask. These answers may be of interest to constituents.

  1. Why aren’t more people tested for the virus? Apparently the tests are not accurate until someone has visible symptoms.
  2. Why aren’t the schools closed? Young people are the least likely to develop bad symptoms from the epidemic. To keep the NHS and other essential services functioning well it is important parents can go to work.
  3. Why are people allowed into the country from places abroad with the infection? Many of the travellers are UK citizens returning home. It is difficult to stop people coming to the UK, given the large number of different ways and routes they can use, short of a complete ban on all travel which would be very disruptive.
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  1. Iain Gill
    Posted March 12, 2020 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

    why are many towns still running phlebotomy clinics? getting all the sick people in town to go to one room to queue to have their blood test sounds crazy. its cross infection paradise.

    • Hope
      Posted March 12, 2020 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

      JR, point 3 is not what is on people’s mind it is why they are not tested or put in quarantine upon return from hotspots like Italy and Iran.

      • Hope
        Posted March 13, 2020 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

        JR, where do we stand with freedom of movement with the EU?

        Will remainers and particularly Teresa May bare responsibility for this continuing because of their and her deliberate attempt to prevent our orderly departure mandated by the will of the public in 2016- four years ago?

        Is this why people from Italy allowed to enter without texting or any checks?

    • Cheshire Girl
      Posted March 13, 2020 at 6:02 am | Permalink

      I was due to go to my local surgery for a blood test two days ago, but it was cancelled the day before, without explanation.

      I’m sure it was so they could minimise the risk of people catching, or spreading the virus.

      They were not sure when blood tests would be resumed. My sympathies lay with our Medical Staff. They are going to be under intense pressure during the next few weeks/months.

      • Hope
        Posted March 13, 2020 at 9:16 am | Permalink

        And anger at the Tory govt for its abysmal failure over ten years to prepare or indeed provide health care to match its mass immigration policy to boost GDP. People will die as a direct result of its policy.

  2. a-tracy
    Posted March 12, 2020 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

    So these Countries closing schools and colleges have they considered whether the children can play out together, or meet each other and who cares for them all – what will happen to their grandparents, only 1% of the cases in Italy were 0-18! Are the children allowed to go to the shopping centres where elderly people could be doing their shopping in a bid to avoid the shops at the busy weekend. Are they going to them to go on certain known days or times.

    How long are you going to close them for five weeks! Is the long summer break going to be reduced? I’m a bit amazed by this decision.

    Wouldn’t it have been better just to say all children with coughs and temperatures couldn’t attend and their whole immediate family had to isolate.

    Children aren’t going to stay indoors for five weeks!

    Are the Scottish government and taxpayers taking on all the extra costs for Sturgeons decisions if they want to depart from a united response.

    When families gather at Christmas and then eventually go back to school there is always a big uplift in germ spreading?

    • APL
      Posted March 13, 2020 at 7:38 am | Permalink

      a-tracy: “So these Countries closing schools and colleges have they considered whether the children can play out together, or meet each other and who cares for them all ”

      Children and the young don’t seem to be susceptible to this strain of the CV. They may likely be a medium of transmission though.

      The point which I think everyone is missing, is that this virus has been spread far and wide long before it became a BBC media story.

      The outbreak into the media was Jan 20th, when the Chinese government quarantined fifteen of its own cities. An outbreak that justifies such extreme measures does not happen overnight.

      The Chinese government knew about it long before then, yet issued no travel advisories to foreign governments, and did not restrict travel of their own nationals to foreign destinations.

      We need to review the behaviour of the Chinese government. They have acted in bad faith on this as with so many other things, for example theft of intellectual property, theft of technology, and so on.

      Chinese behaviour on the CV is not a aberration, it forms a consistent pattern with their actions over the last several decades.

    • Matt
      Posted March 13, 2020 at 8:55 am | Permalink

      Children aren’t going to stay indoors for five weeks!


      Staying in is ALL children do these days. (computer gaming)

  3. The Prangwizard
    Posted March 12, 2020 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

    The problem seems to have been handled well so far here but the announcement today that maybe 5/10000 unknown people may be carriers or infected was something of a surprise. But the strategy is sensible and lets hope we can build a resistance, although for myself at 75 it’s a bit late.

    I’m glad the PM has not allowed himself to be stampeded into drastic closures which bodes well for him.

    Am grateful to all those in authority and elsewhere with level heads. I think some additional reassurance could be provided by giving figures on numbers who have had the virus and come through.

    • Cheshire Girl
      Posted March 13, 2020 at 6:06 am | Permalink

      I agree with that, especially figures for older people, such as myself, who have had the virus and recovered, like Mr.and Mrs.Abel , on the cruise ship in Japan.

    • NeverCrushedBrexit
      Posted March 13, 2020 at 11:40 am | Permalink

      I use this website, for worldwide information. It includes recovery stats-

      Not sure if Sir John allows URLs, but here it is

      • Sea Warrior
        Posted March 13, 2020 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

        I check it daily. What will surprise many people is that a number of countries are worse-affected than China. Cases/million of population, for example, has China in 11th place.

    • LinJ
      Posted March 13, 2020 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

      There’s a website ”” which gives a lot of up to date information, including the numbers of those who have recovered world-wide.

    Posted March 12, 2020 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

    I see the leftist, Labour controlled Electoral Commission is calling for the local council elections to be delayed or suspended. Is there no crisis Labour and their client state allies will not exploit for political gain?

    Labour will be destroyed and so they call in a favour from their buddies at the Electoral Comm

    This is how Labour’s client state operates to protect Labour from harm.

    This government has a duty to dismantle this taxpayer financed abuse of our democracy and our political system

    • Richard1
      Posted March 13, 2020 at 8:28 am | Permalink

      No reason for that at all, voting entails going for a brief moment into a polling booth. They fear the results will be another massive endorsement of Boris.

    Posted March 12, 2020 at 8:06 pm | Permalink

    It was the great Winston Churchill who said ‘Never let a crisis go to waste’ and what we are seeing is precisely that. Calls for elections to be cancelled. Calls for paper money to be phased out. Calls for restrictions on travel, interaction with others. Calls by the usual public sector bodies to call for more funding. And on and on and on.

    Liberty, freedom and the taxpayer being totally abused by State players and the usual dependents

    • zorro
      Posted March 12, 2020 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

      Indeed, the new EU president referred to the situation as an opportunity to limit air travel/”improve the atmosphere” and, of course, delay our severing of the EU tentacles or delay talks on Brexit by all means possible….


  6. Bob
    Posted March 12, 2020 at 8:06 pm | Permalink

    Will the govt will be boosting the numbers of intensive care wards and ensuring they are adequately equipped to deal with the volume of anticipated critical cases over the coming months?

    Or will they just leave patients piled up to die in A&E corridors as usual?

    • Lifelogic
      Posted March 12, 2020 at 9:06 pm | Permalink

      We shall see. I cannot see that they will be able to cope very well, but it is a huge and dangerous task they have facing them.

    • oldtimer
      Posted March 13, 2020 at 7:33 am | Permalink

      That will not be possible. That is why the UK govt plan is to try to delay the impact and to flatten the peak of the epidemic. As seen in China and in Italy health services become overwhelmed by the virus.

    • NeverCrushedBrexit
      Posted March 13, 2020 at 11:43 am | Permalink

      “Or will they just leave patients piled up to die in A&E corridors as usual?”.

      Sorry but that’s just fear-mongering, based on an untrue claim, about the current NHS situation.

      Guardian readers lap that sort of Fake News up. But not here.

      • anon
        Posted March 13, 2020 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

        Why are we different from Northern Italy?

  7. Lifelogic
    Posted March 12, 2020 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

    Basically the government have decided there is very little they can do and many (or even most people are going to catch it anyway sooner or later). So all the government & NHS can do is try to delay and spread out the peak demand for critical care beds. This and put in place as many ventilators and ICU beds and staff as they possibly can in the time they have..

    In Italy I understand that many people have died due to insufficient hospital capacity already. If 20% of say 30 million (6 million) need a critical bed and ventilation over the next three or four months it is a bit of a problem. It seems likely that we will have well over 100,000 who will die – unless that is some miracle occurs. At least it is not killing many children or young people.

    Still we are assured the NHS are very well prepared! Hopefully someone will discover that some anti-viral or other drug treatment somehow helps more to survive.

    It is odd that the figures in China seem to be improving significantly – why would this be? Or is it, as I suspect, just not true?

    • Martin in Cardiff
      Posted March 12, 2020 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

      China is not run by US-inspired think tanks such as the IEA, where the bottom line rules, and the concepts of both the State and of Society are reviled, along with all forms of collectivism.

      Thatcher began the process of “rolling back socialism”. Subsequent Tory governments have continued that zealously, and here we are.

      The needed structures simply no longer exist.

      • Edward2
        Posted March 13, 2020 at 2:10 am | Permalink

        The UK State is bigger today than it was years ago.
        It spends more than ever before and it has more control over us.
        You are, as usual, very much mistaken Martin especially if you think more socialism is the answer.

        • Martin in Cardiff
          Posted March 13, 2020 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

          No, just less of the Hayek-IEA lunacy.

          • Edward2
            Posted March 13, 2020 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

            I can understand you would hate any non socialist ideas.
            Hayek is a bit yesterday Martin but you hang on to your token bogeymen.

      • Matt
        Posted March 13, 2020 at 8:50 am | Permalink

        We actually live in a socialist state.

        What other system kills the goose that lays the golden egg (the high street) and then goes on to hit council tax payers with 5% increases having cut services whilst introducing 5000 new households to share what’s left ?

        All whilst going woke on us.

        The NHS has had massive increases in spending on it under the Tories.

      • SM
        Posted March 13, 2020 at 10:11 am | Permalink

        MiC – I notice that in all your attacks on the West, and commendations of China, you ignore the fact that the virus appears to have started in a Chinese laboratory, situated close to an animal market not apparently noted for its hygiene.

        There are also reports that in quarantining vast areas and numbers of people the Chinese state is enabling (with the use of modern technology) even further lock-downs and hence future control of individuals’ privacy. But presumably it’s all worth it in the name of collectivism.

    • forthurst
      Posted March 12, 2020 at 10:24 pm | Permalink

      Wuhan has closed all 15 of its temporary hospitals. Draconian measures have been introduced to contain the epidemic. China has reduced the mortality rate from pneumonia not only by the use of ICUs with ventilation support but also with blood filtration and extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) for patient whose lungs no longer function. China is sending a delegation of experts to assist Italy with their epidemic. We know that Italy has had an excessive mortality rate as a result of a lack of resources but it would be interesting to understand why the mortality rate in Germany is currently so low. The Chinese do have a very real advantage in over the West in acting expeditiously in that they are not woke and therefore do not believe in Affirmative Action.

      • Confu fuss
        Posted March 13, 2020 at 9:31 am | Permalink

        I did not know the Chinese had sent doctors to Italy. They do do that kind of thing sometimes when they feel they have a winner

      • Oldsalt
        Posted March 13, 2020 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

        It would be interesting to know how many Chinese inhabit the part of Italy so affected relative to elsewhere.

    • Caterpillar
      Posted March 12, 2020 at 11:03 pm | Permalink


      You are correct that stopping and eradicating a contagious virus spread in a population with zero immunity is close to impossible, and even if it were possible the net outcomes are likely worse. The Govt’s advisers using the attempt at stopping the virus to already delay the peak has clearly had some effect; it is incumbent on all of us to take our responsibilities for hygiene and short isolation seriously. Knowing that properly washing ones hands could be saving a life is humbling and dramatic. I think the two points you missed were 1. Protecting the elderly and 2.the NHS flexing capacity.

      1. Today the CSA was clear that timing the social distancing of the elderly to coincide with the peak infection of the healthy young will be key to save maximum lives (I realise you will grasp this point but I’ll say it bluntly; it it were possible to just have the 80% who will have mild symptoms infected and recovered then this would be like hitting a vaccination target required to protect the others).
      2. The CMO indicated that the assumption that there was a fixed amount of critical care was not valid.

      I do think though the Govt is failing to get the newspapers to clearly report the research on washing, masks, and travel bans (which Sir John has reiterated above). It is also struggling to get the media to effectively communicate the strategy. Hopefully this will improve and the media will at least buy in and communicate for the next months. It can criticise as mich as it likes afterwards.

      Sir John,

      I do have one query in addition to your point 1. Today the CMO seemed to indicate that there currently wasn’t a test to check whether the healthy population included people who had previous exposure to, and recovery from the virus. A couple of weeks back Singapore had reported work on an antibody test. It would be nice if the CMO clarified this to maintain the openness and professionalism he has shown.

      Reply Yes, that needs clarification. We were told that current tests for the virus do not necessarily work on people not showing symptoms. That implies testing someone with symptoms can tell us whether they have some thing else, but cannot give you a firm answer on someone with no symptoms yet.

    • Bob
      Posted March 13, 2020 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

      “we are assured the NHS are very well prepared! “

      My colleague’s wife is a district nurse and she has been told nothing apart from to continue home visits as usual and masks must not be worn because they obstruct communication with patients.

      I’ll self censor my opinion as to why this is happening – draw your own conclusions.

  8. Sea Warrior
    Posted March 12, 2020 at 8:30 pm | Permalink

    Regarding Point 3: then perhaps we should stop people leaving to go to high-risk areas, so we won’t then have to let them back in. France, for example, has been hit very badly, but I am still able to book a ski-trip there if I want to, book-ended by a wonderful change-over crush at Chambery. (No, I won’t be going.)

    • Martin in Cardiff
      Posted March 12, 2020 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

      This country is a high risk area.

      Johnson says it may have a similar number of cases to Italy.

      We don’t know, as there is little testing being done. Nor will there be.

      You voted for it, so don’t complain.

      • zorro
        Posted March 12, 2020 at 10:48 pm | Permalink

        Voted for what?? Corona Virus?


        • Martin in Cardiff
          Posted March 13, 2020 at 9:44 am | Permalink

          You voted for a small state, that is, for one with no contingency for such emergencies, and exactly as offered by these Tories.

          • Edward2
            Posted March 13, 2020 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

            What contingency are you on about?
            The NHS is the main body followed by customs and immigration bodies.
            Both are state owned.
            And continue with increasing funding.

      • Edward2
        Posted March 13, 2020 at 2:11 am | Permalink

        I can’t remember voting for that Martin.
        Was it on your ballot paper in Wales?

      • Richard1
        Posted March 13, 2020 at 8:05 am | Permalink

        Imagine if that buffoon Corbyn and his gang of Marxists were in charge as you voted for!

      • Narrow Shoulders
        Posted March 13, 2020 at 8:11 am | Permalink

        If we have 10 times the reported cases Marty it is likely that so does Italy. Not all of the infected present severe symptoms.

      • a-tracy
        Posted March 13, 2020 at 8:46 am | Permalink

        Voted for freedom on movement Martin?
        Voted for a lack of information from Italy before the ski season?
        If the Italians are four weeks behind us why weren’t our schools taking ski trips to Northern Italy warned by the EU?

      • KIM TERRY
        Posted March 13, 2020 at 11:17 am | Permalink

        You are unreal Martin. Can you tell me which voting paper you put your cross on regarding Corona? You must have a different voting system where you come from but then you are special aren’t you?

    • AA
      Posted March 13, 2020 at 9:15 am | Permalink

      I disagree. France has not been hit badly. It is the media saying it is hit badly. A couple of days ago it had 33 deaths. Not a parallel but more than that number can die in a coach accident immediately.

    • Stred
      Posted March 13, 2020 at 10:53 am | Permalink

      Exactly. Doing nothing will speed up the epidemic, not slow it. Do they think we are daft, My medic relatives and friends think that they government is.

      • Stred
        Posted March 13, 2020 at 10:54 am | Permalink

        This was intended to reply to Formula.

  9. formula57
    Posted March 12, 2020 at 8:39 pm | Permalink

    All three remarks show the Health Secretary is ready to let Coronavirus rip through the population, perhaps on the reasonable grounds it cannot be stopped. Yet its advance must be slowed sufficiently to see to it that health services are not overwhelmed by sudden demand – as he will know – and it is alas unclear from the Government’s responses that it is providing for that.

    • formula57
      Posted March 12, 2020 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

      Having just (since my posting above) watched the people’s Blue Boris’s news conference of today with the chief scientific officer and chief medical officer, the Government’s responses are now more clear to me. I still lament the lost opportunities to educate the public before now.

      • Caterpillar
        Posted March 12, 2020 at 11:16 pm | Permalink


        It is an odd situation. I think it has been ‘clearly’ this strategy from the beginning but I really had to read between a lot of lines in what the media was reporting (and went reading a bunch of academic papers). I felt myself wondering whether this was part of the nudge behavioural science (just straight education might not get the behaviour required from the majority) or just rubbish UK media.

        • Stred
          Posted March 13, 2020 at 9:51 am | Permalink

          Boris’s advisor is Dr David Halpern who runs the Nudge Unit and has been attached to the cabinet office under Cameron and May. They advise ministries on the smart policies and how to get the population to comply with their aims. Halpern also works internationally and is a psychologist. The staff in the unit are almost certainly green and socialist, considering themselves as some sort of elite. It is, according to the Daily Mail, Halpern who pushed the herf immunity policy.

  10. APL
    Posted March 12, 2020 at 9:17 pm | Permalink

    Here is a question for the Foreign secretary.

    Why was the 20th January was it the first we in the West heard that the Chinese government realised they have a epidemic sufficient to impose a quarantine on fifteen, (worth repeating ), fifteen Chinese cities?

    An epidemic of that magnitude didn’t just happen the day before. It had been brewing since the close of 2019.

    Meanwhile, the Chinese authorities had not imposed a travel ban on their nationals, nor had the advised Western or other Foreign governments that there may be a risk.

    That means they knowingly allowed potentially infected and contagious people to travel to the West.

    And a question for the Home Secretary.

    Will the Home Secretary launch an inquiry into the handling of the news and public comment by the BBC. They have been responsible for spreading terror and promoting Xenophobia in the UK.

    Secondly, the BBC have been broadcasting 24/7 that people may need to ‘self isolate’ in the event they think they might have been infected.

    Yet, when sensible people take logical precautions and stock up on their food stocks to account for such an eventuality. Those people are vilified by the BBC, the very orginisation that spread the panic in the first instance.

    • Narrow Shoulders
      Posted March 13, 2020 at 8:17 am | Permalink

      Don’t know what you were reading but I heard about this virus from a wet market that resembled SARS and MERS in early December.

      • APL
        Posted March 14, 2020 at 10:02 pm | Permalink

        “in early December.”

        OK, but the Chinese government issued no travel warning, nor restricted travel of Chinese nationals out of China.

        Italy, which has something like 150,000 Chinese nationals as a result of Italy partaking in China’s belt and road initiative, seems to have been hardest hit in Europe so far.

        The behaviour of the Chinese government is not that of a government that we should be on friendly terms with, and we should certainly not be allowing free movement of people between China and the UK if this is characteristic of the Chinese governments attitude.

    • Be the Virus!
      Posted March 13, 2020 at 9:09 am | Permalink

      Yes the BBC and media have been unwittingly playing into the hands of the Virus.
      Creating panic and stress and so lowering our immune systems. Also conning us to reduce economic activity which in peas and potatoes means weakening our bodies from lack of food. It does not think. But it is keyed into our thought processes nevertheless on a objective level in the Absolute.

    • Bob
      Posted March 13, 2020 at 9:46 am | Permalink

      The BBC is not fit for purpose and should be dismantled.
      The best way to do so would be to change the BBC Licence to a voluntary subscription, and then let nature take it’s course.

      Posted March 13, 2020 at 11:14 am | Permalink

      APL. Sorry, but how many toilet rolls does a person need for a week? We have seen people with trolleys loaded up with them. In fact some were shown putting the whole bundle of them still wrapped ready for sale in the trollies. It’s pathetic. Most people shop for a week but the shops don’t empty out normally.

      • APL
        Posted March 14, 2020 at 10:05 pm | Permalink

        Kim Terry: “Sorry, but how many toilet rolls does a person need for a week? ”

        I don’t know, but looking at the video’s on line, some of the people who were hording toilet rolls were of sufficiently large stature that they may well have needed more than the average person.

    • LinJ
      Posted March 13, 2020 at 11:59 am | Permalink

      Well said, APL. As soon as the Press embarked upon its ”be afraid” campaign the Government should have countered it with proper high profile advice, information and instruction, instead of allowing the MSM (including the BBC) to take the initiave and get going with its panic-spreading headlines.
      Unless, of course, that suited the Government’s agenda too, for reasons that may become apparent down the line.

  11. margaret
    Posted March 12, 2020 at 9:18 pm | Permalink

    Bolton has started a drive through testing service for those who are scared but not symptomatic .. The reasoning seems contradictory.

    • a-tracy
      Posted March 13, 2020 at 8:44 am | Permalink

      Is this service free through the NHS margaret or private? The worried well are always the biggest strain on the NHS.

    • Oh no
      Posted March 13, 2020 at 8:52 am | Permalink

      It is. It is human illogicality and politics in the broadest sense

  12. steve
    Posted March 12, 2020 at 10:11 pm | Permalink

    I’d like to see greed buyers put to shame on national TV, no pixelation of faces etc.

    I’d also like government to severely penalise certain supermarkets that allow the greedy to empty the shelves leaving nothing for anyone else.

    These selfish represent the very worst of society.

    • formula57
      Posted March 13, 2020 at 9:40 am | Permalink

      We might best brace for seeing very much more of all manner of the worst of society in the coming months.

      Posted March 13, 2020 at 11:11 am | Permalink

      Steve. So would I. Our supermarkets have had no toilet rolls for several days now. All was ok until pictures of empty shelves in other areas of the country were published in the newspapers. Lo and behold, two days later, no toilet rolls to be seen anywhere and even more worrying, no soap, hand wash or disinfectant. Are they drinking it?

  13. Ian Wilson
    Posted March 13, 2020 at 5:48 am | Permalink

    I feel the government have it about right – crippling the economy will also kill people if they cannot feed themselves or heat their homes, with probable rise in suicides. With cases rising by around 50% day be day it cannot be stopped

    This is outside my expertise, but filling stations seem a major risk area when we grip nozzles which have been held by hundreds of others. Should we be advised to hold the nozzle with a disposable paper towel? (Gloves presumably wouldn’t help as contamination could be transferred taking them off)

    Reply The medical advice as relayed to MPs is that you cannot catch it through the skin of your hands. It is if you put your hands into your mouth/nose/eyes after picking up the virus that it gets into the system. That is why they say wash your hands after possible contacts. Wearing gloves which attract the virus also requires you to avoid subsequent contact with the mouth. I cannot personally vouch for this advice, not being a medic and not seeing the data on which it is based.

    • Ian Wilson
      Posted March 13, 2020 at 8:04 am | Permalink

      Many thanks for this explanation

    • Stred
      Posted March 13, 2020 at 9:40 am | Permalink

      Wipe alcohol based hand get after touching anything that others touch including handles and even when washing my family medical professionals turn off the tap with their elbow.

      • anon
        Posted March 13, 2020 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

        turn the tap on,wash the tap,wash your hands,use your elbow.

    • Bob
      Posted March 13, 2020 at 9:56 am | Permalink

      @Ian Wilson
      1. Use the disposable gloves available at the pumps and carry a bottle of hand sanitiser to clean your hands when you feel the need. It should be min 70% alcohol and contain some skin moisturiser.
      2. Fill your tank to minimise the number of petrol station visits.
      3. It might be best for now to suspend use of your loyalty card and whenever possible use the contactless feature of your credit card to pay.

    • everyone knows
      Posted March 13, 2020 at 11:46 am | Permalink

      People should also wear masks John, but the govt has had their people in the MSM demonize masks as it makes public CCTV ineffective.

      FFP3 anti virus masks are 97% effective at 0.3 microns.

      • hefner
        Posted March 13, 2020 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

        According to some pictures from electronic microscopes, coronavirus has a typical size of 125 nanometers, so two of them could nicely go through the 0.3 micron mesh even holding ‘hands’.

    • Oldsalt
      Posted March 13, 2020 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

      Ian Wilson –
      So best wash before and after going to the loo.

  14. /ikh
    Posted March 13, 2020 at 7:18 am | Permalink

    Hi Sir John,

    What a lot of people including MSM journalists don’t seem to understand is the science. Epidemiologists have found that the transmissibility of covid-19 has an R value of 2. That means that every person that contracts covid-19 will ( on average ) infect two more people.

    So one infects two, infects four, infects eight, infects sixteen, … 1024 , 2048, etc. This, no matter what the govt. does, guarantees that pretty much everyone gets covid-19 no matter what is done.

    So the Govt can not do anything to stop the spread covid-19. All it can do is try to flatten the peak curve of infection and minimise the economic damage to people and the economy. Everybody who is going to die from covid-19 will do so and nobody can change that.

    I think that the Govt. is doing a good job of minimising the impact and is avoiding knee jerk reactions to damaging restriction that other countries are taking.


    • APL
      Posted March 13, 2020 at 7:29 am | Permalink

      “I think that the Govt. is doing a good job of minimising the impact and is avoiding knee jerk reactions to damaging restriction that other countries are taking.”

      Fair point.

      But we need to understand why we are compelled to find ourselves in the situation.

      The Chinese government didn’t wake up on January the 20th and suddenly find they had to quarantine sixteen cities.

      The trend of the desease among the Chinese population must have been well known well before the 20th. But the Chinese government took no action to restrict travel, specifically:

      1. No warning to outside governments to avoid travel to China.
      2. No restriction on their own nationals to travel abroad from China.

      There is a large contingent of Chinese Nationals living and working in Northern Italy, one result of the Belt and Road initiative that Italy recently signed up to. That may go a long way to understanding why Italy has been so badly stricken.

      The Chinese government has not acted with good faith on this issue, just like the act in bad faith with regard to intellectual property.

      Secondly, the BBC has been at the fore front of the manufactured hysteria. Something needs to be done about the reckless conduct of the BBC commentary on this issue. Something needs to be done about the BBC.

    • rose
      Posted March 13, 2020 at 8:59 am | Permalink

      I agree with this. HMG and its internationally distinguished and experienced advisers have explained just about everything they can, given that they are still learning about the virus and its victims. It is clear a vaccine cannot be expected before 12-18 months, as corners will not be cut as they had to be over Ebola. Therefore, herd immunity can only be achieved by people catching it, and this must be timed inasmuch as that is possible, to avoid peaking in the winter.

      The Lord Haw Haws, grandstanders, and weaponisers of the virus, those who are trying to topple Trump, the PM, and Brexit, by undermining the authorities, add up to a formidable force to resist.

      • Stred
        Posted March 14, 2020 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

        Some other countries are likely to rush the testing of s vaccine by paying volunteers to test for side effects. The long delay in the usual testing will mean many deaths and if s vaccine was marketed privately the rewards would be enormous. It could be ready in six months according to my medically qualified friend.

    • Stred
      Posted March 13, 2020 at 9:33 am | Permalink

      China, Singapore and Korea have reduced the virus by isolation. The science is correct in the exponential spread and this is what the government advisors in the cabinet office have persuaded Boris to follow, unlike the scientific advisors in most other countries. Their aim is to infect the population before next winter to suit the NHS and create herd immunity. In doing so, as admitted by Boris, many families will lose loved ones. When the plan goes horribly wrong, with many young people being badly affected or dying and care homes emptied as in Italy, the government will be held responsible.

    • GilesB
      Posted March 13, 2020 at 9:39 am | Permalink

      Flattening the peak enables more people to receive specialist care.

      With specialist care many people will survive who would otherwise not do so.

    • Bob
      Posted March 13, 2020 at 10:06 am | Permalink


      “Everybody who is going to die from covid-19 will do so and nobody can change that.”

      With adequate treatment some people who may otherwise have perished could survive, so I don’t understand what you’re trying to say.

      Posted March 13, 2020 at 11:05 am | Permalink

      Well said IKH. It is the responsibility of us all to try and stay safe for ourselves and loved ones. The government doesn’t have all the answers and it seems to me that each government in other countries have and are experiencing criticism for their actions no matter which actions they implement. this is new and may continue for some time. we have to all do our best and get on with it. No country will cope well with high numbers. Italy is struggling and so will we but we can at least try to minimise disruption and infection.

    • Caterpillar
      Posted March 13, 2020 at 1:46 pm | Permalink


      I agree the Govt/advisers are doing a good job on this, unlike the media. I think though that the job is even better than you indicate. By flattening and timing the peak to be in the summer there will be fewer winter respiratory diseases being treated in hospitals hence more critical people can be supported. There is also more time to prep, not only hospital resources but instructions for preparing to protect the most vulnerable whilst the less vulnerable get through the disease – in the limiting case herd immunity drives R less than 1. If R remains above 1 and there is no vaccine by next winter the consequences of the virus reappearing may well be worse than the bad Spring and Summer months we have ahead of us.

      I have got to admire the CSA who has had to sit through some amazingly unhelpful interviews, conducted in a background of unhelpful comments from _ _ _ _.

  15. Christine
    Posted March 13, 2020 at 7:32 am | Permalink

    Protect the vulnerable and elderly by isolating them at home. Ensure they all have a contact on the outside who can provide food and check up on them. Allow the virus to spread through the healthy population to hopefully build an immunity. There is no point isolating everyone as we will have to come out at some point in the future. Keep schools open so parents can work. Protecting the NHS is key. So far I think the Government has the right approach but only time will tell.

    • Oldsalt
      Posted March 13, 2020 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

      Surely better to stamp on the outbreak asap in order for the NHS to build resources to better cope rather than the present system of inviting the virus now to overwhelm the scarce facilities putting even more people at serious risk of losing not only loved ones.

  16. Narrow Shoulders
    Posted March 13, 2020 at 7:57 am | Permalink

    Only time will tell if the response is the correct one. Drastic measures remain available if necessary.

    I am no fan of our Prime Minister but I thought the three amigos hit the right notes of realism, statesmanship and optimism for the nation yesterday. He appeared to actually know hat he was talking about and have considered his response.

  17. Narrow Shoulders
    Posted March 13, 2020 at 8:04 am | Permalink

    I found it ironic last night on Question Time when the gentleman called for the closing of schools in case his children brought home the infection to his wife who has heart problems.

    Notable that the isolation he wanted for others did not apply to him where he sat in a crowd.

    This is what we have to deal with.

  18. Sakara Gold
    Posted March 13, 2020 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    Last night I listened, intently, to the PM briefing the nation on the change in response status. That decision, allegedly based on scientific advice, may come back to haunt him and this govenment. This strategy, apparently based on the “herd immunity” theory is flawed in many respects and has been criticised by several medical professionals today, who think it is highly likely that this virus will mutate into a more lethal form.

    Richard Horton, the editor of the Lancet Medical Journal is one of those disappointed. He tweeted:-

    “It’s a mistake. As one UK expert epidemiologist put it to me last night, their decision is “very disappointing – the UK should have moved to more aggressive social distancing measures immediately”

    Many EU states including the Irish government agree. It seems that the EU, in closing schools, does not want their kids coming home and infecting their parents and grandparents.

    Jeremy Hunt, a man who knows the NHS intimately and who chairs the Commons health and social care committee, is also hightly critical. Interviewed last night on BBC Newsnight, he opined that he was “personally surprised that we’re still allowing external visits to care homes”. He added that the evidence from countries who appeared to have been successful in turning back the virus showed they “moved very early” on introducing social distancing.

    The “herd immunity” theory seems to hold that if we allow the Wuhan coronavirus to spread – unhindered – through the population some form of immunity will be evident on those who recover. If this theory was correct, people would only get the common cold (also a coronavirus) once – influenza also mutates every year and we have to get vaccinated with a different strain. The government’s chief scentific advisor Sir Patrick Vallance’s presentation last night – with his extremely frightening epidemic graph – was highly patronising. I listened to him attempting to justify his advice to the government on BBC R4 just now, the interviewer was not convinced that his strategy is correct and neither were the journalists at yesterday’s presentation.

    The highly educated British public was expecting more. Having failed to lock down our borders, or even test school parties returning from skiing holidays in Italy during the last half term break, the government has condemed the nation to millions of fatalities and gross disruption to our economy. Sir Patrick Vallence’s scientific advice is clearly going to make things worse.

    • Stred
      Posted March 14, 2020 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

      Correct. Well said.

  19. Old person
    Posted March 13, 2020 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    When the people have largely forgotten the effects of the Spanish flu and two World Wars, it is perhaps reasonable to ask the question why all the cottage hospitals were closed. The economic reasons were clear (bigger hospitals are cheaper), but the cottage hospitals provided a service and provided jobs in the rural economy. Minor accident, procedures and care facilities were delivered by staff known to the patients reducing strain on the A&E of town/city hospitals. These cottage hospitals could also be used to isolate patients in small numbers.

    That being said, the UK is not going to start building isolation hospitals in 7 days.

    What will probably be required is large buildings enclosing a high volume of air. Apart from some warehouses, aircraft hangers would fit the bill. There is no need to isolate the patients as they are all infected. The beds could be well spaced to protect the carers, and ventilation to the air outside would provide further protection (aerosol virus lasts 4 hours).

  20. Peter
    Posted March 13, 2020 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    Whatever is done the government will get criticism from some.

    Do too little? Negligent

    Do too much? Unnecessary panic.

    ‘The buck stops here’ according to one American President.

    That applies even when it is not your fault.

    • Martin in Cardiff
      Posted March 13, 2020 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

      No, if it took action to restrict infection to a tiny percentage of the population, as China has done then it would, in time, rightly be commended.

      However, if it allows 60-80% to become infected with hundreds of thousands dead – as it appears to be willing to do – then how do you think history will remember it? Especially if the rest of Europe do succeed in controlling it?

  21. ukretired123
    Posted March 13, 2020 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    Whilst the govt recognise what’s coming they are pragmatic not to cause pandemonium!

    As some folks will knee jerk into panic and paranoia Boris is smart enough to recognise we can only deal with it in the old-fashioned management proven way.

    Whilst MSM have real news for a change the doctors / scientists in places like Liverpool University deserve praise and are working flat out against the clock. Hopefully they can find the link between the DNA deaths and the corona virus before it peaks.

    Intelligent proactive planning and attention to detail are the proven ways not pandering to other countries are guessing thrashing around headlines.

  22. everyone knows
    Posted March 13, 2020 at 11:44 am | Permalink

    Please research the better governance being conducted by Putin, yes Putin, over this matter. Who has a land border with China but acted in the interests of the people, not big business.

  23. Mark
    Posted March 13, 2020 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

    There is a very good statistical analysis of why general testing is not useful here

    Perhaps journalists would help if they tried to explain such things, rather than displaying their ignorance in whipping up hysteria.

    • Caterpillar
      Posted March 13, 2020 at 5:30 pm | Permalink


      I read a research paper which examined lawyers and doctors understanding of the theorem of Bayes, the results were sadly unsurprising.

      On where to focus tests the CMO and CSA were clear and clearly informed. The new continuous cough and elevated temperature indicators to self-isolate are sufficient for this, any false positives from this indicator self isolating just limits the spread of other respiratory diseases, but it will catch many of the most infective at their most contagious. They also stressed that tests in hospital would be ramped up to protect staff and patients therein and control transmission therein. Hospital infection was a problem in China.

      The CMO and CSA are on the ball, but sorting the media and the opportunist politicians out is a tough ask (but presumably in the plan). The lack of understanding of probability, statistics, maths, modelling, basic science in both the media and some politicians is frightening. I think one thing that needs to come out at the end of this is how to ensure the next generation of school leavers understand some real basics…

      … and if only journalists could take logarithms in their headlines.

  24. Roy Grainger
    Posted March 13, 2020 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

    One interesting comment just in passing by the CMO yesterday referred to herd immunity – this is the effect whereby if about 60% (I don’t know the exact number as I’m not an expert like Rory Stewart) of the population has had the virus and so have immunity then it becomes very difficult for it to circulate in the general population. As this virus will reappear next Winter, and probably on an annual basis thereafter, in the absence of a vaccine for it this is probably the best way to protect against it – countries who have shut down to try to eliminate it now will suffer again when the next wave comes.

  25. Yorkie
    Posted March 13, 2020 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    I went to my nearest small supermarket last night at 9pm. Yes 9pm. I expected to find some shelves empty. I expected toilet rolls unavailable as some people were said to be stockpiling and panic buying. I was the only customer. The shelves were full. Completely full, no-one refilling shelves. A stack of toilet rolls was near the cash till above my height and twice my height wide.

    “I thought toilet rolls are in short supply? I don’t any but…” “Oh they’re the only ones we’ve got” “Should be enough ” I said “If I wanted any.” She smiled.

    I got similar smiles and scowls when I asked all through the latter part before the Election when online supermarkets delivered my full orders, One deliveryman, there were female ones too said somewhat angrily when I asked if there were any shortages of food “NO. It’s Project Fear” Others were less well armed with a slogan and simply said “No, not at all, there has never been”(smile)
    So we British in my locality at least, as always, are not easily frightened into panic by our media, our Establishment.
    The clock is ticking on this Virus threat. One hopes it is not the case it is Project FearII” or this time, this time, there should be arrests

  26. NeverCrushedBrexit
    Posted March 13, 2020 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    During my life in the UK, I have noticed over the years, the number of men who never wash hands after using the urinal. Straight out the door!

    Once, when working for a company, I saw the Manager of the in-house restaurant, flush the cubicle toilet and go straight out the door! I never ate in the restaurant again!

    Where are the TV adverts reminding us of the need to wash our hands more frequently?
    I heard Boris and the “Happy Birthday mantra”, but that’s it.

    Also, there are so many trivial surveys carried out in this day and age.

    How about surveys to find out the awareness of this call for greater hand hygiene and the response.

    Given that hand-washing is central to the fight against CV, we should be properly pushing the advice and monitoring the effects of a publicity campaign.

  27. Sadness
    Posted March 13, 2020 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    Oh and I hope for my Country I am wrong. I really do. I wish to be proved wrong, for once

  28. Sea Warrior
    Posted March 13, 2020 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

    I wonder how often the government ‘war-games’ its responses to an epidemic/pandemic. I would suggest that this is something that should be done yearly, so that when the crisis comes along the key-players have had the benefit of having seen it all before. A question for PMQs, Sir John?

    • Bob
      Posted March 13, 2020 at 9:31 pm | Permalink

      “I wonder how often the government ‘war-games’ its responses to an epidemic/pandemic.”

      Theresa May’s cabinet wasted the last three years trying to scupper Brexit when they could have been doing something useful.

  29. Trumpeteer
    Posted March 13, 2020 at 8:16 pm | Permalink

    And providing $50 Billion for the USA Virus Defense and buying up oil for the special reserve which I take to be the strategic oil reserve for the USA.( Should help the oil price maybe and all stock markets, pension funds, economies, in my opinion).
    A questioner asked about the UK exemption in light of the number of extra Virus detections by the UK. He replied and I paraphrase ” it is worrying and “we” the USA is reconsidering that exemption.
    #My opinion….we are not handling our (UK) virus problem with economical calmness of action.

  30. Edward2
    Posted March 13, 2020 at 9:47 pm | Permalink

    But UK cases are spread across many different areas.
    You can’t lock down the whole UK.

    And the government isn’t allowing hundreds of thousands to die.
    That is just your ridiculous fantasy.

    • Edward2
      Posted March 13, 2020 at 9:47 pm | Permalink

      Posted in the wrong place.

  • About John Redwood

    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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