A Lockdown Sceptics reader kindly transcribed Dr Clare Craig’s appearance on talk RADIO on Sunday. Here it is.
Mark Dolan: What’s your view about the suggestion this new strain of COVID-19 – and we know that viruses mutate, that’s what they do, multiple times – do you think it’s possible that it’s 70% more transmissible?
Dr Clare Craig: No, I don’t think it is. I think we have to wait for more evidence. So, there are over 3,000 different strains that we’ve seen since the beginning, and people have been working really hard trying to see if any of these differences are meaningful; and what they’ve actually found now is that there’s a strain that’s been around since September, actually, and they’ve started to see an increase in positivity in the lab for this strain but what they reported recently… So they’ve got this new committee called NERVTAG who are looking into it and NERVTAG have said that the positive samples for this new strain are weak positives, are hard to sequence, and have a much lower death rate. Actually the death figures are quite small, so it’s not reliable, but you’d have expected to have seen 20 deaths and they’ve only seen four. So what that looks like to me is they’ve got a problem in the labs. That’s the kind of scenario you would see if one of the lab techs had Covid and was accidentally shedding RNA into the samples that they were testing.
Dolan: Might that explain for the isolated nature of this new outbreak and that it hasn’t manifested globally?
Dr Craig: It would explain that. It would also explain the situation you were just talking about with Grant Shapps, of weddings where there’s an apparent outbreak but nobody has any symptoms.
Dolan: It does seem a little absurd too that Matt Hancock, Health Secretary, yesterday said that we should go around pretending we’ve got the virus. We’ve reached a new level of sort of, what can you call it? Sort of surreal theatre now around this pandemic.
Dr Craig: Yes. I mean, the crazy situation seems to be that: they have one hypothesis about what’s causing all the test positivity, and it’s the most obvious hypothesis, you know, that we still have some Covid out there; but they don’t seem to have the imagination to think about every other possibility and to check it. And they had one strategy, which was lockdown. Now these people are meant to be scientists, and when you do a lockdown – and it’s the first time that we’ve ever done this – it’s essentially an experiment. So having done it, you have to take a look at the results, and I don’t think any of these scientists have been looking at the results; they just keep repeating the experiment. And we’ve seen, again and again, that these lockdowns do not have the impact that they’re meant to be having. So I think in the very first lockdown – and I would say actually that I wasn’t a lockdown sceptic for the first one; I think I probably should have been, but I was wrong, and I learned from what we found in the first lockdown: which was that the virus kept spreading; that it was weeks later, four or five weeks later, before we had the last peaks and deaths in certain pockets of the country. And it was those pockets of the country that peaked last and had the least deaths that did see a bit of an autumn outbreak of Covid, so it was like the tail end of the first wave, what you saw in the autumn.
We’ve had lockdowns in Wales, we’ve had the lockdowns in the north-west, and every time there’s a lockdown, the case rates increased, and there’s nobody seems to be able to put an answer to that, except for the fact that, when you have a lockdown, you maximise the testing, and, when there’s a testing problem, you’re going to get the maximum error rates from maximum testing.
Dolan: I must say that, you know, I’ve been a stuck record about the fact that there doesn’t seem to be any focus on the human impact of these Covid measures. The debate around the science of lockdowns is certainly a vigorous one to be had, but what we can say, and we can be definitive about this, is that businesses are closing, lives are being ruined, for a population that, by-and-large, are not under any kind of mortal threat from COVID-19; the death rate from this awful virus is mercifully low. However, something of a slam-dunk argument is surely the notion of overflowing hospitals. What is the answer to that, because it does seem like an ace card to be played by the Government?
Dr Craig: I would agree; however, the data does not back that up. So, while we have seen increased numbers of people labelled with Covid in the hospitals, the number of people in the hospital in total isn’t changing, and that’s what you see when you’ve got a labelling problem. You can increase and increase the number of Covid patients, but if that isn’t affecting the total number of patients, then it looks like you’re just misdiagnosing the people that would be in hospital anyway, and that does seem to be the situation we’re in.
But I will say that I think a lot of doctors have got themselves… not just doctors, actually, people who work in hospitals – some of them are coming away fearful that they’re being overwhelmed, and that kind of fear comes from a situation where the flow of the hospital breaks.
So, when you’re trying to keep people separate because they’re Covid positive, or Covid negative and vulnerable or whatever, you stop the bed management being smooth, and that means you can’t get people from A&E into a bed. So A&E can back up, and it can look like the hospital is being overwhelmed, when actually the data shows that it isn’t; it’s just a management problem, because we’re testing all of these people. And, added to it, we’re testing all the staff, and we have mass staff absences from all the testing which obviously does overwhelm the NHS. That’s a real problem.
And we have to get this testing right, because people will die if you don’t staff the hospitals properly. And if you’re sending asymptomatic people home who should be staffing the hospitals on the basis of a potentially wrong test result then, you know, we’re going to end up killing people.
And that’s just a UK problem. I think it’s really important to emphasise that, although the government predicted two hundred thousand deaths from the first lockdown alone in this country, so, absolutely, there are massive, massive implications of all of the interventions we’ve had, even the small interventions; but, on a global scale, what’s happening is horrific. The World Bank reckon there’ll be 150 million in new, extreme poverty. The World Food Programme reckon 217 million people will be starving. And that is because we’re not showing the proper leadership. Our country used to show world leadership and, now, we’re just behaving like a sheep, like all of the other countries, instead of trying to sort this problem out properly.