Police officers mocked by beachgoers in Exmouth

Cummings’ consequences? – Owl

Molly Dowrick www.devonlive.com

Footage on social media shows two police officers, apparently sent to disperse beachgoers, being mocked in Exmouth.

A Snapchat video seen by Devon Live appears to show a group of young men shouting “Oggy Oggy Oggy, Oi Oi Oi” and mocking police officers, a man and a woman, instead of heeding their advice near Orcombe Point.

The beach, which has been rammed with people of all ages, has been a popular spot for locals keen to soak up the sun during the past week.

The video, which has been shared on SnapChat and Twitter, has been viewed over 4,000 times, and is “proof that restrictions should have never been eased,” one social media user said.

The video comes as dozens of locals have shared photos from the beach and say people are ignoring social distancing.

One man said people have been socialising in groups of “at least 20,” while another joked “everybody and his auntie has come to Exmouth”.

While going to the beach is permitted under lockdown rules, groups of people from different households are not yet able to meet.

From Monday, June 1 small social gatherings will be allowed, with groups of up to six people permitted to meet outside and in private gardens.

But meeting up in a larger group is “not lawful,” Devon and Cornwall police say.

But another man says it’s just the “loud minority” who are breaching lockdown regulations.

It comes as Devon and Cornwall Police has admitted officers should have dispersed a social gathering in Plymouth on Bank Holiday Monday.

A spokesperson for the force confirmed two officers attended a planned live-music event at a car park and had engaged with the group.

But they did not send anyone home or enforce government guidance – which stipulates that people must not mingle in groups to minimise the spread of coronavirus.

Police say the event was “not lawful” and “in breach of current legislation” and the officers will receive “advice and training around current powers and its implementation” amid the lockdown.

What does the law say?

At a Downing Street briefing on Thursday, May 28, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced an update to the lockdown restrictions – allowing people in England to meet up to six people outside and in private gardens from Monday, June 1.

Meeting in larger groups will still not be permitted.


Dominic Cummings’ actions damage public trust. Scientists write to Prime Minister

In a letter sent to No 10 on Friday, 26 senior UK academics and health administrators warn that public faith in the government is essential if the Covid-19 crisis is to be tackled effectively.

“As lockdown is eased, and amid fears of a second viral wave, it is vital for people in positions of power to follow the rules”

After the letter, Owl posts a few key paragraphs from the covering Guardian article which describe the concern of a number of scientists about the chaotic launch of the unprepared “test, trace and isolate scheme“. Scientists are also concerned that the overall infection rate, although falling, is too high to enable further easing and will overwhelm the scheme.


Text of the letter to the Prime Minister:

We are in a public health crisis unprecedented in living memory. We have written to the prime minister because we are very concerned for the safety and wellbeing of the public. There is ample evidence that effective epidemic control requires the public to trust and respect both the messages and the messengers who are advocating action. This trust has been badly damaged by the actions of Dominic Cummings, including his failure to stand down or resign in the public interest, and Boris Johnson’s subsequent unwillingness to remove him.

As lockdown is eased, public trust and high compliance is essential to reduce the risk of a second spike in infections and deaths. It is vital for all people in positions of power to follow the rules with the same discipline as the rest of the population. The public also needs to see that the necessary infrastructure and effective systems are put in place rapidly and effectively.

A national track and trace scheme is a major undertaking. This makes it even more crucial that there is complete transparency about likely time scales and the risks associated with the strategy and plan. The public mood is fragile and unlikely to cope with another over-optimistic target-based strategy that goes on to fail. We are also concerned that the needs of people primarily affected by non-Covid-19 diseases are being neglected. For example, since the pandemic hit, there has been a 70% or more reduction in cancer diagnoses and there is an estimated backlog of 100,000 undiagnosed or untreated cancer cases (growing by about 5,000 a week). Similar backlogs are evident in every non-communicable disease.

This exceptional situation also requires urgent and detailed planning and investment. We ask that the prime minister better harness the expertise in the NHS, social care, local authorities, academic institutions and the civil service to strengthen the response to Covid-19 and its knock-on effects on other health and care provision. We would be happy to assist in mobilising an effective strategic and operational response.

Professor Maggie Rae, president of the Faculty of Public Health, Professor Elio Riboli, Imperial College London, Professor David McCoy, Queen Mary University London, Professor David Hunter, University of Oxford, Professor Trish Greenhalgh, University of Oxford, Mike Gill, former regional director of Public Health, south-east England, Professor Raj Bhopal, University of Edinburgh, Professor Martin McKee, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Professor George Davey Smith, University of Bristol, Professor Ruth Gilbert, University College London, Professor Neil Pearce, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Professor Helen Ward, Imperial College London, Professor Mark S Gilthorpe, University of Leeds and Alan Turing Institute, Professor Adrian Martineau, Queen Mary University London, Professor Allyson Pollock, University of Newcastle, Dr Rochelle Burgess, UCL Institute for Global Health, Professor Paolo Vineis, Imperial College London, Anne Wilson, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, Dr Tim Colbourn, University College London, Professor Majid Ezzati, Imperial College London, Professor Deborah Ashby, Imperial College London, Professor Sonia Saxena, Imperial College London, Professor Richard Healey, University of Portsmouth, Professor Deborah A Lawlor, Bristol Medical School, Professor Guiqing Lily Yao, University of Leicester, Dr Nisreen Alwan, Southampton University

To continue  from www.theguardian.com

……..Just days after the health secretary, Matt Hancock, unveiled the new test, trace and isolate scheme to combat Covid-19, the top health experts say the public mood is “too fragile to cope with another over-optimistic target-based strategy”, and urge transparency over timescales and risks for the national scheme.

They say people need “to see with their own eyes that the necessary infrastructure and effective systems are put in place not just rapidly, but effectively”.

They also say there is now a high risk of an uncontrolled spike in new infections, hospitalisations and deaths from Covid-19 over the summer.

One of the letter’s main authors, Prof David McCoy, director of the centre for public health at Queen Mary University, London, described the test, trace and isolate system – which aims to quarantine people with Covid-19 and those who have been in contact with them – as “a mess”.

“It is not a system,” he told the Observer. “It is just a fragmented collection of different programmes with nothing really holding them together. We needed to have spent much of April organising the test and trace programme and that was not done. We have wasted the time we had bought ourselves.”

Part of that failure could be blamed on Dominic Cummings, he added. “Firstly he breached the lockdown rules but also as the chief adviser to the prime minister he has to take some responsibility for the failure of the government to make a proper response to Covid.”

These experts’ concerns were also shared by other scientists who worry that daily rates of new cases are still too high to make test and tracing programmes feasible. Current infection rates suggest tracking operations will be quickly overwhelmed, they say. “The total number of cases a day is still substantial and there is evidence of decreasing compliance to restrictions and people moving farther away from their homes, increasing the chance of spread to previously unaffected areas,” said Prof Rowland Kao, at Edinburgh University…..

……Prof Devi Sridhar, also at Edinburgh University, said the current daily rate of thousands of new cases was unacceptably high. “Watching carefully what’s happening in east Asia and combining this with what we know so far about this virus, it does indeed feel like mistakes are being repeated,” she said. Daily new cases should be cut to double digits, or low hundreds at most, she said, while test, trace and isolate procedures are put in place and core infrastructure built up.

Graham Medley, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and a member of the government’s Sage scientific advisory group, agreed that the UK was taking a risk over the loosening of lockdown because of its current relatively high incidence of infections. “There is less room for mistakes,” he added. “The precautionary principle suggests that if you are unsure about the risks, especially when the outcomes have a large impact, then you should err on the side of caution.”

Four other members of the Sage committee, Prof John Edmunds, Sir Jeremy Farrar, Prof Calum Semple and Prof Peter Horby, all warned on Saturday that the government was taking a serious risk by easing the lockdown while 8,000 people a day were being infected.

Covid-19 spreading too fast to lift lockdown in England – Sage adviser

Government advisers have voiced unease over the decision to lift England’s lockdown while thousands of people a day are still becoming infected with the coronavirus, warning that loosening restrictions could easily lead to a second wave.

Sarah Boseley www.theguardian.com 

“We cannot relax our guard by very much at all,” said John Edmunds, a professor of infectious disease modelling at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine who attends meetings of Sage, the scientific advisory group on emergencies.

There are still 8,000 new infections every day in England without counting those in hospitals and care homes, Edmunds said. “If you look at it internationally, it’s a very high level of incidence.” World Health Organization statistics suggest it is the fifth highest in the world.

“The issue is, clearly there’s a need to try and get the economy restarted and people back to their jobs and so on, and also there’s a social and a mental health need to allow people to meet with their friends and families,” he said.

“I think many of us would prefer to see the incidence driven down to lower levels because that then means that we have fewer cases occurring before we relax the measures.

“I think at the moment, with relatively high incidence and relaxing the measures and also with an untested track and trace system, I think we are taking some risk here.”

The reproductive R rate is between 0.7 and 0.9, said Edmunds, who is part of several groups of mathematical modellers who combine their data to calculate the number.

Without any sort of containment, R would be between three and four, he said, meaning that each infected person would transmit the virus to three or four others.

The aim of the lockdown was to suppress it below one, at which point the number of new cases continues to shrink. But if R reaches one, and allowing more social mobility could easily allow it to rise, the number of people becoming infected each day remains the same.

That could mean 8,000 cases a day, he said. “If there’s a 1% fatality rate, that’s about 80 deaths a day. If there’s a0.5%, that’s 40 deaths a day. So that’s the number of deaths per day that we might expect to see going forward.”

It was for ministers to decide what to do, he said. That impact on health had to be set against the wider impact of the lockdown on society and the economy. “That’s clearly a political decision. It’s not a scientific decision,” he said.

Mark Woolhouse, a professor of infectious disease epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh and also a member of the Sage modelling group, Spi-M, said there was very little chance of eradicating the virus. “That was the World Health Organization’s strategy in the early stages of this pandemic. That’s a strategy they only formally abandoned a few weeks ago. And given that yesterday saw the highest number of cases reported globally ever, global eradication doesn’t look like happening any time soon,” he said.

The relationship with Covid-19 we have had for five months “might turn out to be a lifelong relationship”, he said. It is not possible to maintain physical distancing for ever and there is no vaccine yet. “A second wave really is a clear and present danger,” he said.

He was not making predictions, he said, but intensive surveillance, large-scale screening, effective contact tracing, isolation of cases, quarantine for international arrivals and some residual physical distancing “is a possible new normal”, he said.

The South West has the highest coronavirus R-rate in the UK

(See also later post on South West R value has risen to 1, say experts.)

Ministers had refused to publish a breakdown by region but Manchester Mayor Andy Burnam released them, and they have been reported by the Mirror.

This alarming headline, however, is not supported by the Covid-19 symptom tracker data   which is sowing a fall of 17% n estimated infections over the past week across the UK. It also shows current estimated symptom rates in East Devon at an all time low of 0.3%. Owl suspects that the R-rate estimates below might be lagging events. Owl has been following the Weston hospital closure which now looks to be due to the hospital itself becoming an infection hot spot.

The chart below from the symptom tracker also show that, after a long period when symptom rates held constant,  they appear to be falling again.

The South West continues to have the lowest infection rate in the UK.


Visualisation of daily Covid symptom progress shown as numbers of cases per million

The South West has the highest coronavirus R-rate in the UK

Charlotte Becquart www.cornwalllive.com

An ‘R’ number for each region in the UK has been revealed for the first time – and the South West has the highest.

The number, also known as ‘reproduction rate’, represents the coronavirus infection rate. If it goes above 1, new restrictions and tougher social distancing measures could be needed.

The South West is estimated to have the highest infection rate with 0.9. The North East and East Midlands are thought to have the next highest, followed by the North West.

However it is thought to be the highest because of a recent rise in cases in the Bristol and Weston-super-Mare areas. The South West region includes an area as far as Gloucestershire. Devon and Cornwall has had just 13 new cases of coronavirus from lab-confirmed tests in the last seven days.

It comes as Government advisers said they are worried that easing lockdown measures from Monday will come too soon and could cause a spike in the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

All regions were deemed to have infection rates “decreasing” or “likely decreasing” apart from the South West.

(Image: The Mirror)

Ministers had refused to publish a breakdown by region but Manchester Mayor Andy Burnam released them, the Mirror reports.

He tweeted: “Not a great deal of ‘room for manoeuvre’, as the Chief Scientific Adviser told the @10DowningStreet briefing.”

The data was compiled by the Centre for Mathematical Modelling of Infectious Diseases at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Officially the UK as a whole has an R of between 0.7 and 0.9 but Chief Scientific Officer Sir Patrick Vallance has said a slight increase could be dangerous.

Burnham said lockdown restrictions are being eased too soon, as “the R number was still quite high”.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think we have arrived at quite a dangerous moment.

“This is premature, this easing of the lockdown.

“Test and trace is not fully operational and it should be, in my view, before these steps are taken.”

Two members of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) also spoke out about the issue, expressing concerns that easing lockdown measures from Monday could cause a spike in the spread of COVID-19.

Scientists Sir Jeremy Farrar and Professor John Edmunds said ministers were taking risks by following their current plans.

They expressed concern at allowing the gradual reopening of shops and schools and larger gatherings to meet in private while the number of new cases each day remains “relatively high”.