Sage Advice just released ( 12/10/20 evening ) and ignored by Government commentary from Playbook website
SAGE ADVICE: Downing Street is facing an increasingly dangerous situation this morning following last night’s sensational document dump from the Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (SAGE) — which revealed No. 10 rejected advice from its experts to implement a “circuit-breaker” lockdown to get on top of the coronavirus in September. The SAGE minutes from a Zoom meeting on September 21 show in stark terms that Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty, Chief Scientific Adviser Patrick Vallance and the government’s other scientific advisers are now publicly at odds with the policy being pursued by Boris Johnson and his ministers. You can expect the prime minister’s critics to spend today asking whether the government is doing enough to prevent a disastrous death toll during the second wave, why it rejected the advice of its experts, and whether ministers can still feasibly claim to be “following the science.”
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: The docs contain bombshell after bombshell. Playbook takes you through them below …
TOP LINE 1: SAGE minutes show ministers were advised on September 21 to “consider for immediate introduction” a package of potential restrictions, from a short circuit-breaker lockdown to get the virus back down to manageable levels (rejected), banning indoor household mixing (only happened in some especially badly affected areas), closing all bars, restaurants, cafés and gyms (rejected), putting university and college teaching online (rejected), and telling people to work from home (which the PM did do the following day).
TOP LINE 2: SAGE told ministers to act quickly, harshly and nationally. “The more rapidly interventions are put in place, and the more stringent they are, the faster the reduction in incidence and prevalence and the greater the reduction in COVID-related deaths. Both local and national measures are needed; measures should not be applied in too specific a geographical area.” Instead, more than three weeks then passed before Johnson yesterday announced a three-tier, highly localized plan to fight the second wave.
TOP LINE 3: SAGE conceded its advice would have a negative economic impact as well as potential non-COVID public health consequences, telling Whitehall policymakers that “measures will urgently be needed to mitigate these effects.” This suggests the economic argument ultimately quite simply won out over the public health concerns. Playbook readers will remember that on September 22 — the day after this advice — Johnson sided with Chancellor Rishi Sunak and his Cabinet hawks who wanted to protect the economy, over the doves who sought stronger measures.
TOP LINE 4: “A more effective response now may reduce the length of time for which some measures are required,” SAGE said in September, suggesting the decision not to take its advice could mean harsher measures are required in the coming weeks, which could also go on for longer.
TOP LINE 5: The SAGE advice also heaps pressure on the government to answer whether its 10 p.m. hospitality curfew is backed by any scientific reasoning. This document would appear to suggest not, stating: “Curfews likely to have a marginal impact. Low confidence.”
TOP LINE 6: SAGE also tore into the state of the government’s Test and Trace system. According to the experts, the “low levels of engagement with the system coupled with testing delays and likely poor rates of adherence with self-isolation suggests that this system is having a marginal impact on transmission at the moment.” Test and Trace has cost £12 billion and is the government’s flagship policy to deal with the second wave.