Posted by Richard Willet Posted on 23 September 2020

Prophets of Doom predictions by Whitty and Vallance ‘were only about influencing behaviour’ – of course it’s all a mind-game for which we should not fall

The disconnect between scientists and ministers in England could not be more stark.

On Monday, the government’s two most senior pandemic advisers – Prof Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance – set out the scale of the problem, raising the prospect of 50,000 cases a day by October.

On Tuesday, ministers provided their answer – closing pubs early, asking people to work from home and making face coverings mandatory in a few more situations. But that was about it. In Northern Ireland and Scotland, they went further, banning visits to other people’s homes. But even that fell short of the mini-lockdowns and “circuit breaks” floated last week.

Is the public tiring of the fight?

Clearly, there need to be trade-offs between containing the spread of the virus and minimising the impact to society.

But there is more to the past two days than that.

There is a recognition within government the public is tiring of the battle against coronavirus.

Estimates suggest only one in five people is self-isolating fully when asked.

And you need only to listen to government adviser Prof Robert Dingwall to realise the problem ministers are facing. Last week, he warned the public was “just going through the motions” and had become “comfortable” with the idea that thousands would die just as thousands died with flu each year.

And this is the context in which Prof Whitty and Sir Patrick took to the screens in Monday.

The decision to present the 50,000-cases scenario was discussed carefully in advance I understand.

It was based on cases doubling every week from now until the middle of next month. This was happening at one point at the end of August and start of September. But it is far from a given that it will continue – in fact even now the trajectory looks to be below that.

They could have referenced the trends Spain and France were on – two countries they mentioned in other parts of the briefing. But they didn’t. If they had, this is what it would have looked like.

Read More: Last throw of dice before the really tough call

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