Exit strategies and collateral damage

Professor Neil Ferguson was on The Andrew Marr Show this morning. He’s one of the authors of the paper that catapulted us into lockdown a few weeks ago. This has apparently given him the unfortunate nickname of Professor Lockdown although, to be fair, he was one of many authors and while their paper steered government policy, it was ultimately the government who made the decision.

The Andrew Marr interview is very good (I’ve pasted it below) but if you’re looking for some quick and easy answers to when this will end you’ll get none. They simply don’t know. At one point – when answering a question on how we’re going to get out of this – he says, “exit strategies are very problematic”.

This echoes what Graham Medley said this weekend in an article in The Times, where he’s quoted as saying Britain has “painted itself into a corner” with its social distancing strategy because it’s unclear how it can end. From the article in The Times, Graham Medley says, “There will also be actual harms in terms of mental health, in terms of domestic violence and child abuse, and in terms of food poverty.” …
If we carry on with lockdown it buys us more time, we can get more thought put into it, but it doesn’t resolve anything — it’s a placeholder.

This article from the BBC on how to understand the death toll talks about this “collateral damage” in more detail.

Prof Robert Dinwall, from Nottingham Trent University, says “the collateral damage to society and the economy” could include:

  • mental health problems and suicides linked to self-isolation
  • heart problems from lack of activity
  • the impact on health from increased unemployment and reduced living standards

Others have also pointed to the health cost from steps such as delaying routine operations and cancer screening.

Meanwhile, University of Bristol researchers say the benefit of a long-term lockdown in reducing premature deaths could be outweighed by the lost life expectancy from a prolonged economic dip.

And the tipping point, they say, is a 6.4% decline in the size of the economy – on a par with what happened following the 2008 financial crash.

It would see a loss of three months of life on average across the population because of factors from declining living standards to poorer health care.

It was a lovely weekend here in Scotland this weekend. I did lots of gardening and jumping on the trampoline. Elizabeth lost a tooth last Friday and was upset when the tooth fairy didn’t turn up on Friday night 😬. It turns out the tooth fairy was self-isolating. Here’s the message Elizabeth found on Sunday morning along with £2.


3 thoughts on “Exit strategies and collateral damage”

  1. I sometimes shake my head at the ridiculous questions being thrown at the scientists and politicians. Perhaps they should just hold up a copy of James Gleick’s book “Chaos Theory”, and tell the media to go read it. The most infuriating questions are those repeating previous ones. Still – at least we don’t have an orange politician calling questions “nasty”, or “fake”, or trying to blame anybody for what’s unfolding.

      1. It was a bit of a “fashionable” book to read back in the late 1990s – the first mass-market book about chaos really – when that whole branch of mathematics became popular. I have a copy of it somewhere 🙂

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