Brendan Wren is a professor of vaccinology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

Brendan Wren is a professor of vaccinology on the London College of Hygiene and Tropical Drugs

When Well being Secretary Sajid Javid claimed on December 13 that there have been 200,000 new Omicron infections a day, it provoked widespread concern and worry amongst Britons already nervous concerning the emergence of the variant.

The determine originated with the UK Well being Safety Company (UKHSA), which is accountable for public well being safety.

On the weekend, in a unprecedented intervention, the impartial Workplace for Statistics Regulation (OSR) — the statistics watchdog — directed a stinging rebuke to the UKHSA over its assertion.

It now transpires there was no arduous proof to assist this alarming determine — as many specialists shortly identified.


Beneath stress to again up Javid’s assertion, the UKHSA stonewalled for 3 days, then revealed modelling speculated to justify the image of a variant uncontrolled.

It did nothing of the type. The truth is, it uncovered outdated modelling — the quantity was little greater than fantasy.

The true variety of new infections was extra prone to be nearer to 45,000.

In his unprecedented letter of condemnation, the top of the OSR, Ed Humpherson, criticised the Company for offering Javid with a press release ‘unsupported by the info’.

He additionally demanded a lot larger ‘transparency’ on well being knowledge in future, to boost ‘public understanding and public confidence’.

This unedifying saga has broken the credibility of the Company. Nevertheless it illuminates what so lots of the scientists, advisers and modellers accountable for formulating the nationwide response to Covid are responsible of.

When Health Secretary Sajid Javid (pictured meeting staff at Kings College Hospital in London) claimed on December 13 that there were 200,000 new Omicron infections a day, it provoked widespread concern and fear among Britons already nervous about the emergence of the variant

When Well being Secretary Sajid Javid (pictured assembly employees at Kings Faculty Hospital in London) claimed on December 13 that there have been 200,000 new Omicron infections a day, it provoked widespread concern and worry amongst Britons already nervous concerning the emergence of the variant

That bogus 200,000 determine was no aberration. It was fully in step with the gloomy narrative peddled because the first outbreaks of illness in early 2020.

Who can overlook the terrifying forecast of as much as 500,000 deaths we got in March 2020? An intuition for warning has too usually given strategy to the impulse for disaster, as epitomised by the current warning from the federal government’s Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (SAGE) that the variety of Omicron deaths might attain 6,000 a day this winter.

That’s a determine greater than thrice larger than the height day by day toll final January, when the extra deadly Delta variant was raging and earlier than mass vaccination. It will have equated to 180,000 deaths a month, greater than we’ve got seen in the complete pandemic.

After all, these numbers haven’t come to go.

Certainly, dodgy knowledge and flawed forecasts have develop into the hallmarks of a lot of the scientific institution, which has traded nearly solely in worst-case eventualities. And, whereas many voices have mentioned so in these pages over the previous 20-odd months, I’m right here to say once more: this should cease now.

Not least as a result of this technique of doom is not working. Omicron, because the South African scientists who first recognized it advised us from the beginning, was extra infectious however much less potent than the fearmongers anticipated.

The modelled tsunami of hospital admissions and deaths has not materialised. Nor has a deep disaster within the NHS.

‘The front-line will maintain,’ Chris Hopson, chief govt of NHS Suppliers, which represents hospital bosses throughout England, mentioned on Sunday.

The truth is, we could have already got handed the height of Omicron with out having launched any new restrictions over Christmas and New Yr.

In London, which has been on the epicentre of the unfold of the variant, hospital admissions have steadily declined and are down greater than 23 per cent from every week in the past.

Throughout England, general Covid case numbers are beginning to fall, and the variety of individuals on mechanical ventilators has dropped to its lowest degree since October.

In Scotland, a authorities report has disclosed that the Omicron wave north of the border is anticipated to peak this week, with circumstances dropping quickly thereafter.

Typically, hospital stays for Omicron sufferers are usually shorter than with earlier variants and few of these admitted want essential care. There are fewer individuals in essential care beds in England than on the identical time in any of the earlier 5 years.

It more and more seems as if Omicron could also be our route out of the pandemic, because the relative mildness of its signs means immunity might be constructed up within the inhabitants.

Towards this backdrop, Covid ought to quickly come to be seen as endemic, like flu and different infectious illnesses — harmful for sure very weak teams however little greater than an inconvenience to most.


Dr Clive Dix, the previous head of our sensible Vaccines Taskforce, has referred to as for a significant rethink of our method to Covid to advertise ‘a brand new normality’. ‘We now must handle illness, not virus unfold,’ he wrote.

I couldn’t agree extra. We desperately want to come back out of the Covid shadows solid by that over-inflated modelling.

Employers are struggling an immense burden. With 1,000,000 individuals in isolation with Covid final week, most of whom haven’t any signs or solely delicate ones, the financial system is prone to grinding to a halt.

Boris Johnson is said to be looking at cutting the period for self-isolation after a positive test from seven to five days

Boris Johnson is alleged to be chopping the interval for self-isolation after a constructive check from seven to 5 days 

Worse, no less than 10 per cent of employees at many hospitals had been off work. What a bitter irony that measures designed to guard us are actually actively fuelling hurt by leaving very important companies overstretched.

The paralysis must be damaged. And one key step can be to chop the interval for self-isolation after a constructive check from seven to 5 days. Three senior Ministers — Chancellor Rishi Sunak, Training Secretary Nadhim Zahawi and Housing Secretary Michael Gove — have spoken out in favour of this. The PM has mentioned he’s altering the coverage.

It’s what the U.S. did weeks in the past. However the UKHSA opposed the transfer.

It has additionally declared that 10-30 per cent of individuals should still be testing constructive on Day 6 — however provided no breakdown of this ‘umbrella determine’. What concerning the triple-jabbed? Is age an element? That is the form of very important info wanted to make essential selections.

Sarcastically, the UKHSA is now set to acknowledge that it was unsuitable in its evaluation of the U.S. place.


We should additionally finish our obsession with testing wholesome individuals, which is simply perpetuating pointless absenteeism whereas doing little for public well being. The present costly, intrusive testing routine was designed for a really totally different Covid menace.

We additionally want, because the OSR calls for, a lot larger transparency on knowledge.

Relating to Covid deaths, as an illustration, we needs to be advised what number of died from the illness and what number of with the illness. The latter will embody many individuals with terminal circumstances equivalent to most cancers or kidney failure.

Why are we not up to date usually on the proportion of intensive care sufferers who’re unjabbed? We have now heard anecdotally from medical doctors that it’s 90 per cent.

Openness is an help to public understanding and, in reality, there may be loads of excellent news on our progress towards the virus. Nevertheless it has been crowded out by wilfully concocted pessimism, cynically used to wield management.

When the pandemic is lastly over and impartial inquiries are launched, the fear-mongering on the coronary heart of the general public well being institution could properly emerge as the best scandal of all.

  • Brendan Wren is a professor of vaccinology on the London College of Hygiene and Tropical Drugs