UK Chief Scientific Advisor 13th March 2020 Quotes

BBC Radio 4 Today program 13th March 2020 time index = 2h:11m:40s — 2h:22m

nb these are summarised retypings, not exact transcripts
(available at which starts 2 minutes earlier.)

Q: Could we start with sports events. What’s your reasoning for thinking at the moment they should go ahead?

A:Our reasoning is based on which interventions will pull down the peak and broaden it. 

The biggest effect is the measure announced yesterday: If everyone with a fever or a new persistent cough stays at home for a week and should reduce the peak by 20%.

The 2nd measure is home isolation for entire househould if one person is ill.

In terms of protecting the vulnerable, and this is the one that is really critical, that needs to be done when you have transmission in the country at a level where they are at risk. So those are the key things.

Stopping mass gatherings is eye-catching but they are very much more minor (which is not to say that we will not do it). You are much more likely to catch in a small space from someone you know. I think it is more likely that there will be transmission in pubs where people are aggregating to watch a sporting maatch than in the stadium itsekf.

At the moment, the things that people should do are to stay at home, for a week, if they have symptoms. I completely agree with Jeremy Hunt’s point that we must really look after care homes and get that right.

Q: “Your wider thinking: Serious people look at Wuhan, Hong Kong, Singapore and look at the very drastic action they have taken and the falloff that has followed. Why is that not the model for us?”

A: UK is in close contact with Singapore team, they have done selective school closure where they had cases, not general closure. The measures we have just taken are actually quite extreme and other measures may come into play. One of the things we need to do is monitor this outbreak very carefully and react in advance of things, but not just go for things because they seem instantly attractive.

Q: Is your fear that those actions taken in other places, may lead to covid19 coming back more aggressively in the Autumn?

A: That is exactly the risk that we see from previous epidemics, that if you suppress something very very hard when you release those measures it bounces back, and it bounces back at the wrong time. So our aim is to try and reduce the peak, broaden the peak, not to suppress it completely also because most people get a mild illness to build up some degree of herd immunity as well, so that more people are immune to this disease and we reduce the transmissions at the same time we protect those who are most vulnerable from it. Those are the key things we need to do.

Q: So that is quite fascinating the herd immunity idea. In many respects it would be a good thing would it for the disease to be spread quite widely now would it rather than later?

A: What we don’t want is for everyone to get it in a small amount of time so that we swamp and overwhelm NHS services. So that is the flattening of the peak—you can’t stop it—so you should end up with a broader peak, during which time you would anticipate that more people would get immunity and that becomes part of the protective process.

This is likely to become annual.
… [discussion on future years]…

Q: Will you publish more of your models and data?
A: Yes. This is a collective scientific effort we need all of the input we can get to get this right and we must be prepared to change our minds as the evidence changs and you cannot go in with a fixed plan that is immutable. 

Q: When it comes to individuals who fall seriouslyu ill are you learning more about what works and brings them back to full health?

A: It looks like there are 2 phases to this illness. A 7 day mild viral phase and for most people that’s it. For a small number of people there is a second phase which starts after about 5 days which seems to be a reaction of the body to the virus. So then that illness is a reaction of the body to what was the viral infection. .. It’s about supportive care, oxygen therapy, ventilation in the most critically ill.

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