MB Reed

Author and mathematician


The Boris Variant

With the latest testimony from Dominic Cummings, the public and the media in the UK are finally realising they were lied to by government earlier in the pandemic. But the goverment’s defence is always that they are ‘being guided by the science’. And the scientific advice is always ‘based on the evidence’. Sounds reasonable. But suppose you were to read tomorrow that “to pay for the cost of the pandemic, the government has decided to disband the country’s armed forces, and sell off all military bases and equipment. However, a government spokesman reassured the public that ‘we will keep the situation under constant review, and we will not hesitate to recruit a new Air Force if we have clear evidence that the country is being bombed. Our focus is always on protecting the country and saving lives’.” That is the Evidence-Based (EB) approach we are seeing over and over again - the same sequence of excuses for inaction being parroted: “There is no evidence for…” “The evidence is ambiguous…” “Such measures would now have only a limited impact, and might actually be counter-productive…” until “We will introduce these measures on a precautionary basis…” and finally “Of course it’s very easy for people to complain with hindsight that we should have acted earlier…”

I prefer the “Bleedin’ Obvious” (BO) approach, to quote Basil Fawlty. That it’s BO that wearing masks limits the transmission of an airborne virus (as has been done throughout Asia for years). That it’s BO that the borders should have been closed at the start of 2020 (as Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan and others did so successfully) with the virus overwhelming the health services in Italy and Spain. And, for that matter, that it’s BO that a novel bat coronavirus first found in Wuhan most likely came from the Virology Institute in Wuhan which was busy creating novel bat coronaviruses; but that’s another story.

A case in point is the introduction of the Indian Variant to the UK. The basic facts were played down by the national media - the only clear report I could find is from the Yorkshire Post on 16th May

Essentially, the first case of the variant in the UK was identified on 28 March, but quarantine was not introduced until April 23rd, during which time over 20,000 potentially infected travellers entered the country. Throughout April, if government ministers or Public Health England (PHE) were questioned, they just repeated that this was a ‘variant under investigation’ not ‘of concern’, they are keeping a close eye on the situation. “There is currently no evidence to suggest that disease from the newly identified variant is more serious than previous ones, nor is there current evidence to suggest vaccines are less likely to work against it”, PHE said on 16 April, though India had seen 100,000 new cases per day by 5 April. Warnings from independent experts were ignored; when finally one expert’s alarm at the variant spread was widely reported, he was patronisingly dismissed by a govt expert as being a bit pessimistic.

This is the evidence-based approach. The EB sequence of bullshit ended on 23 May with the Health Secretary announcing that “After studying the data, and on a precautionary basis, we’ve made the difficult but vital decision to add India to the red list”.

Now the Daily Mail is reporting unspecified ‘sources’ saying that “Ministers were told about Indian Covid variant on April 1 but did not tell public until April 15 - and did not put India on travel ban red list until April 23”, finally speculating that the delay was due to ongoing negotiations for a UK-India trade deal. The sources have now come up with the excuse that they feared restricting travel would prompt India to stop selling its vaccines to the UK!

What that report doesn’t mention is that:

  • Both Boris Johnson and Narendra Modi had elections coming up in May;
  • Boris Johnson was due to make a four-day visit to Delhi - his first international trip as PM - to sign the trade deal on 26 April, only cancelled at the last minute;
  • The deal was in fact signed virtually on 4 May, with little fanfare.

My BO conclusion is that Johnson wanted photos of him as an international statesman in Delhi, to appear on the front pages and boost his party’s election chances. Environment minister George Eustice admitted as much on 18 April, saying that Boris Johnson’s trip to India should go ahead despite rising cases in the country: “It is important that business and the business of politics if you like does continue.”

And the result: 75% of the exponentially-increasing UK covid cases are now Indian variant. France and Germany have closed their borders to UK travellers, and the plan to lift national restrictions on 21 June will be cancelled. More importantly, the govt’s own SAGE experts now predict a ‘third wave’ of 1,000 deaths a day from this variant by the summer. As I hope I’ve shown, ministers were not just ‘incompetent’ and ‘dithering’. They knew what they were doing, and were warned of the consequences. I honestly believe that this merits charges of corporate manslaughter - at the very least - being brought.

There is so much more to say:

  • Why was a hotel quarantine system introduced over a year late?
  • Why were those thousands of UK citizens in India in the first place, when the UK was in lockdown and people were being fined for travelling just a few miles?
  • It is only now admitted that the first vaccine jab gives low protection, and the second should be given after 8 weeks, not 12;
  • The farce of the UK’s ‘toughest in the world’ border restrictions;
  • Why is it suddenly now permissible to suggest the ‘lab leak’ theory of Covid’s origin without being labelled a swivel-eyed conspiracy theorist?

I’ll aim to blog about these in the coming weeks.