Realist, not conformist analysis of the latest financial, business and political news

Test And Trace, Test And Trace

Covid 19

There are certain things that become mantras over on the left. Not particularly thought out positions – and yes, clearly, the right is guilty of much the same thing – which become the fashionable buzzwords to use. A fully planned and integrated transport system for example. Something we’ve seen around for a couple of decades now. The bit that’s never really examined being, well, yes, but…..how? Even, what? Do we mean trains meet buses at their stations, or are we talking trams to the suburbs, or what’s not integrated about cars?

Similarly, the democratic control of production. Well, yes, but how, or even what? Do we all vote, as a country, on what colour cars are to be? Or is it only those in the paint shop who decide that all cars are to be orange today? Or, even, what’s not democratic about individuals expressing a preference for what colour the car they’re about to buy should be?

The latest of these is test and trace. Here’s Paul Heaton:

It seems throughout a soul-sapping 2020, Heaton has managed to retain his position as one of life’s optimists. “I’m vociferously anti-government and I strongly believe this government would have fallen if we’d had the right journalists and critics,” he says. But, “let’s not fall out about wearing a mask, let’s direct that energy of argument against the government and say: ‘Well, neither of us should be wearing a mask, it should be over and done with, we should have had test and trace’.”

The bloke can definitely write songs but, this test and trace. Exactly what is meant here? And how? We see the same phrase popping up in the likes of Owen Jones’ output. We should have had, could have had, test and trace. That would have solved everything!

Well, yes, except, well, how?

Which leads to a question to you dear readers. Among countries that actually had significant infection rates who has had efficient test and trace? How did they do it? How would we have, should we have, adapted that to our own situation where we’ve that notably unresponsive NHS in the system? How much of this “test and trace” is just a mantra, like “democratic control of the economy” rather than a plan of action?

There are things about Mr. Heaton that are simpler though:

It was obviously not the first time – so what other acts of stealth altruism has he been carrying out. “That’s a secret!” he says coyly. But he is willing to say that, sitting in his inbox, is an email from his accountant that he finds particularly amusing. “It’s just him despairing, ’cos he’s saying: ‘We can save money this way,’ and I’m being opposite and contrary, which is how I was brought up. If he says: ‘Here’s a way of saving money,’ then I say: ‘Well, I want to pay more tax on it.’ That’s how I’ve been and that’s how I’ll remain.” Heaton once even tried to nationalise his back catalogue, but was turned down by the former business secretary Greg Clark. Undeterred, he is now in negotiations to pay a higher council tax.

Why negotiate? Why not just send in a cheque?

Cheques, by the way, should be made out to “The Accountant, HM Treasury”, and sent to 1 Horse Guards Road, London SW1A 2HQ. A 2nd-class stamp is sufficient

Anyone who knows Mr. Heaton might like to advise him of this.

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John B
John B
3 months ago

‘ How did they do it?’ They didn’t. There are no Countries with significant infection rates who had efficient track and trace, otherwise they would not have had significant infection rates. Test and trace can only work before the epidemic phase, that is before a virus is abroad among the population, otherwise it’s like following a tornado surveying the damage, but that won’t stop the tornado. Countries – small, island State with a tendency towards police-state tactics, which immediately sealed their borders, forced people to have tests, then if positive or if they had been in contact with a positive… Read more »

Spike
Spike
3 months ago
Reply to  John B

No. You cannot manage an endemic, an epidemic, or the start of an epidemic because you cannot manage a pathogen. Test-and-trace means using the virus as an excuse to compel everyone to take these hairtrigger tests, then to compel everyone to disclose everything that might help them subject a neighbor to it. Planners will no more succeed in bottling it up than they did predicting it would suddenly mutate and the panic could restart.

John Galt
3 months ago
Reply to  John B

The Isle of Man has managed pretty well by applying strict quarantine laws and jailing those breaking them. Whether that classifies the island as a police state or not, I don’t know, but the island’s per capita infection rates have been a fraction of the UK’s with 377 confirmed infections of COVID-19 and 25 deaths in a population of about 80,000 people.

Spike
Spike
3 months ago
Reply to  John Galt

Those are police-state tactics, and not justified by trying to “manage” a virus. The Isle has “managed pretty well” – that is, has not managed it.

In the 48 United States that are not islands (Alaska’s land border is shut), reaction varies more widely than demographics, and non-lockdown states from Florida to S.D. compare favorably to lockdown states, whose return to lockdown did not lessen a “second wave” mostly a result of that hairtrigger testing.

Chester Draws
Chester Draws
3 months ago
Reply to  John Galt

And what is the end game for Man? Unless the vaccines turn out to be 100% effective, at some point they have to abandon those quarantine laws, and they’ll start getting it.

John Galt
3 months ago
Reply to  Chester Draws

Because of it’s lack of direct connection to the mainland (except by plane or a 4+ hour ferry journey), the Isle of Man is able to operate normally, albeit in isolation. People can shop, go to work, school, the pub without disruption because anyone entering the island via plane or boat is subject to quarantine regulations and severe sanction for violation. Where regulations have been breached people have been fined or jailed as the Manx government views COVID-19 (rightly or wrongly) as a serious threat. I agree that it appears draconian, but it has provided the Manx with a much… Read more »

Spike
Spike
3 months ago
Reply to  Chester Draws

25 deaths suggests that someone has already “start[ed] getting it” and hoping the entire island will be antiseptic didn’t work, past tense. The end game is the population becomes resistant, either from getting it and getting over it, or by vaccine.

Bongo
Bongo
3 months ago
Reply to  John Galt

25 deaths in a population of about 80,000 people.
A notional country of around 80 million people with around 25,000 deaths could be described as having done rather well presumably. I think IoM has done ok but so has other remoter territories such as Cornwall ( 242 deaths from 569k population ) and it had a tourist season and has a land border.

Esteban
Esteban
3 months ago

Seems to be just a slightly different version of the socialist utopia dream. We could have done it right!

Charly
Charly
3 months ago

Is this the Housemartins/Beautiful South guy?

Some great music. Hull 4 London 0!

Charles
Charles
3 months ago

Considering that contact tracing was one of the essential tools that was used to eliminate smallpox, it should be obvious how important it is. However, it is simplistic to claim that test and trace would have solved everything – it is merely one tool. If you use it to find infectious patents, it is not sufficient to make a note of them on a register – you also need tools such as quarantine and isolation. This was why there were specific smallpox isolation hospitals which, towards the end, would often stand empty until a case was discovered and then be… Read more »

Chester Draws
Chester Draws
3 months ago
Reply to  Charles

Some motivated thinking there, but little of it joined up.

Even now some people are seriously considering opening schools which will provide a path for infection to get around any lockdowns,

Small children are poor carriers of CV19. Sweden never shut its junior schools and the result was not swathes of teachers falling ill.

They didn’t shut down their old folks homes either, which did turn out to be a bit of a mistake.

Still, no serious lockdowns and a much better result than the UK. Maybe because lockdowns don’t work?

Charles
Charles
3 months ago
Reply to  Chester Draws

From “The Corona Commission. Elderly care during the pandemic. Ministry of Health and Social Affairs, summary of SOU 2020:80” available at https://www.government.se/4af26a/contentassets/2b394e1186714875bf29991b4552b374/summary-of-sou-2020_80-elderly-care-during-the-pandemic.pdf – on page 1: “We find it most likely that the single most important factor behind the major outbreaks and the high number of deaths in residential care is the overall spread of the virus in the society.”. The fact is that lockdowns do work and this is very clearly shown by the case of Sweden which has done much worse than similar countries (i.e. its neighbours). Doing better than the UK is a very low bar –… Read more »

Addolff
Addolff
3 months ago
Reply to  Charles

Wrong Charles: A new study published by Frontiers in Public Health concluded that neither lockdowns nor lockdown stringency were correlated with lower death rates. Researchers analyzed data from 160 countries over the first 8 months of the pandemic, testing several factors—including demographics, public health, economy, politics, and environment—to determine how they are correlated with COVID-19 mortality. “Stringency of the measures settled to fight pandemia, including lockdown, did not appear to be linked with death rate,” the researchers said. The researchers found that the criteria most associated with a high death rate was life expectancy, though higher COVID death rates were… Read more »

Chester Draws
Chester Draws
3 months ago
Reply to  Charles

Sweden has done better than Belgium (hard lockdowns), Italy (hard lockdowns), Spain (hard lockdowns) etc. And don’t worry Germany and the Netherlands are closing in on Sweden quickly too. Sweden is mid-table for Europe, despite the least preventative measures.

The low rates of the other Nordics are an interesting feature, but not explicable by lockdowns, because those fail elsewhere.

Estonia was cock-a-hoop how they had avoided Sweden’s failure due to lockdown, and now are finding that, actually, lockdowns merely delay, they don’t cure.

jgh
jgh
3 months ago

Nope, higher council tax would need to be sent to the local council. Who will probably lose the cheque somewhere. What he could do is hire a skip from Direct Services and send it back empty, and order another one, daily. It’s actually fairly easy to get put into a higher tax band, just write to the council and tell ’em your house is worth more than it is. They’ll quickly put you in a higher band. It’s getting into a lower band that’s difficult. You don’t need to negotiate it, any more than you need to negotiate how much… Read more »

Spike
Spike
3 months ago
Reply to  jgh

No, y’see, what he needs is to be SEEN paying more money to government, just as badly as he needs to be seen as “vociferously anti-government.”

Michael van der Riet
Michael van der Riet
3 months ago

There’s no public virtue in a postage stamp.

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