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Source: United Kingdom – Executive Government & Departments

The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) have released the latest batch of minute sand documents. 

Prof James Naismith FRS FRSE FMedSci, Director of the Rosalind Franklin Institute, and University of Oxford, said:

“We are not stuck in a loop but the winter will be difficult.

“Science and medicine are moving at record speed, there will be a vaccine, there will be highly effective medicines and already discoveries have lowered the death rate from infection.

“Scientists advise and in a democracy it is politicians, as our elected representatives, who decide.

“What is being decided now is how best to reduce harm between now and spring of 2021.

“SAGE is doing its job analysing the data and giving advice.

“SAGE has analysed the test track and isolate system, stating it has had at best a ‘marginal’ impact.  Since the minutes were taken, the performance of track trace isolate has not improved.

“It is re-assuring that SAGE are clear eyed about this and not misleading themselves about the effectiveness of the current system as a means to control viral spread.  It is for politicians, not SAGE, to decide how much money should continue to be invested in the system and what if anything needs done about it.

“SAGE’s advice was that a nationwide lockdown was more likely to work in terms of reducing viral spread.

“The government has opted to wait and see if less stringent measures can avoid a severe second wave.

“Of course, we all hope that the current measures will be enough.  As SAGE clearly states, lockdowns and social restrictions cause serious harm.

“There is a risk that we will end up having to lock down again (perhaps with a different name but in effect the same thing).  If we do so the duration of lock down will be likely be longer as a result of delay.

“Despite wishing otherwise, there are only difficult choices and competing risks.”

Dr James Gill, Honorary Clinical Lecturer, Warwick Medical School, said:

“Looking over the SAGE documents, it is important to recognise that data analysis and expert opinions are the guiding factors in their recommendations.

“The team outlines that making some choices, such as keeping schools open are possible, but necessitate harder choices in response – such as activating the two week “circuit breaker” lock down to curb case rises.

“In many ways it’s simple maths:  If Choice A allows for increased in Covid 19 transmission, then it should be paired with Action 1, to attempt to mitigate that risk.

“It does make sense – schools are a potential mixing pot for both people and virus.  So stopping households mixing in response would appear to have a direct effect of mitigating any school induced spread.

“Unfortunately the politics of these decisions is difficult, and thus action slow, almost in direct contrast to the SAGE documents discussing need for rapid intervention.  The team acknowledges harms will occur with any of their advised actions, but stress their recommendations balance the risk of COVID19 fighting measures against their consequential health and social harms.

“Discussions about Covid and the expected winter impact have been on going for most of the year.  The latest SAGE documents double down their previous advice for caution and strengthening of COVID interventions, which only appears to have been given lip service in the latest government measures.  I hope that the SAGE recommendations are rapidly given the appropriate weighting in further government decision making, as currently, their scientific base suggestions appear regrettably diminished by comparison to the politics.”

‘Summary of the effectiveness and harms of different non-pharmaceutical interventions, 16 September 2020’: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/summary-of-the-effectiveness-and-harms-of-different-non-pharmaceutical-interventions-16-september-2020

‘NPIs table, 17 September 2020’: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/npis-table-17-september-2020

‘Fifty-eighth SAGE meeting on COVID-19, 21 September 2020’: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/fifty-eighth-sage-meeting-on-covid-19-21-september-2020

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MIL OSI United Kingdom