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expert reaction to SAGE documents published on Friday 26 June

The government have published* the latest round of documents from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE).

 

Prof Keith Neal, Emeritus Professor of the Epidemiology of Infectious Diseases, University of Nottingham, said:

On “Fortieth SAGE meeting on COVID-19, 4th June document”

The SAGE meeting notes from the 4th June on the situation update make interesting reading.  Numbers 5,6 and 7.

“They confirm that a significant amount of the total cases are acquired in hospitals or care homes.  Including these cases in overall community models is highly inappropriate as control of COVID-19 is different for the different routes.  Social distancing in all it’s nuances for the community and infection control in hospitals and care homes.  When meat plant and similar outbreaks are added into the R currently being published there will be further distortion as these are managed as specific outbreaks, not more social distancing.

“The fact that models (on 4th June) were reporting 35,000 cases daily compared to actual people based methods such as the ONS and the Zoe app of 7-8000 is clearly worrying.  They can NOT both be right and highlights the problems for the decision makers with such disparate key information.”

 

Prof Paul Hunter, Professor in Medicine, UEA, said:

On “SPI-M-O: Comments on Social Distancing Measures” document (20th May)

“As highlighted by the authors of the document, the figures are based on a single mathematical model and cannot be taken as precise predictions but can only present general principles.

“The issue over how much impact school closures have/have had on the transmission of COVID-19 is still not adequately resolved with different groups coming to somewhat different conclusions. Based on our own work and also work by Brauner and colleagues from Oxford, school closures may well be the most important step in reducing transmission. But this is still open to debate.

“Only a small proportion of children are currently back in school and last week PHE has reported that between 15th and 21st June there were 44 new acute respiratory outbreaks were from schools where 23 tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. This is a marked increase on the previous week. If outbreaks are being identified in schools so soon after June 1st when only a small proportion of students are in school then this is quite concerning and would suggest earlier anxieties about COVID-19 and schools were not misplaced. As pointed out in the SAGE documents, an effective test track and trace system should be able to suppress the R value sufficiently to allow schools to reopen fully without allowing the epidemic to spread. However, early indications do not look good that such a system will be effective enough to mitigate any increased risk associated with schools returning in September.”

 

 

* https://www.gov.uk/government/groups/scientific-advisory-group-for-emergencies-sage-coronavirus-covid-19-response

 

All our previous output on this subject can be seen at this weblink:

www.sciencemediacentre.org/tag/covid-19

 

Declared interests

None received.

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