Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Reaction in Britain to what Neil Ferguson has done has been too harsh

Neil Ferguson

Regarding Neil Ferguson: UK coronavirus adviser resigns after breaking lockdown rules

Thanks to Neil Ferguson tens of thousands of lives were saved in the UK and US since it was only after the Imperial College London report on March 16 that both Boris Johnson and president Trump imposed a lockdown.  In his defense, Mr. Ferguson said: "I acted in the belief that I was immune, having tested positive for coronavirus and completely isolated myself for almost two weeks after developing symptoms”. He obviously believed that he did not present a danger to anyone any more. How true was that?     

There is no definitive answer yet to how immune one is after having been infected and the individual’s risk of getting reinfected and their contagiousness to others. So Neil Ferguson’s statement was probably based on insufficient data that his immunity would be at least for a few months (see below) and he took a risk, however small but still a risk, and he was therefore wrong in doing what he did. In addition, it was hypocritical of him to go against the very rules he decided others should keep.

In a country where actions have consequences he resigned, which is fine.

However, my point is that the good that he had done by saving the lives of tens of thousands of people in the UK and the US vastly outweighs this error of judgement, and this has not been adequately recognized in the UK.

What really should be investigated is why was there such a delay in implementing the lockdown and whose idea was it to try reaching herd immunity so fast.  Because when you look at Israel, where I live, the figures are stunning.

Israel has 16314 cases and 238 deaths with the population of 9.2 million so it has 27 deaths per million population which is ten times less than Sweden has per million. I just cannot imagine that Israel could tolerate 2380 deaths which would approach the number of deaths in the Yom Kippur war. How to explain such numbers? Israel imposed strict restrictions early on and a lockdown at the very beginning of the exponential curve. I personal believe that it helped that Netanyahu has Master of Science degree from MIT whereas Boris Johnson studied humanities at Oxford and Trump has a bachelor’s degree in economics from the Wharton school so Netanyahu was much more receptive to the scientists’ advice. In addition, the health care providers (Maccabi for instance) monitors remotely every mildly infected person three times a day. 


This may be complicated by the fact that we don’t yet know the duration of immunity to natural SARS-CoV-2 infection (it could be as short as a few months or as long as several years).

Even more challenging will be understanding what an immune response means for an individual’s risk of getting reinfected and their contagiousness to others.

Based on the volunteer experiments with seasonal coronaviruses and the antibody-persistence studies for SARS and MERS, one might expect a strong immune response to SARS-CoV-2 to protect completely against reinfection and a weaker one to protect against severe infection and so still slow the virus’s spread.