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The government is not even greeting people at the airport from Mexico with advice and checks ( ref R4 1pm today ).

The mortality information on Swine Flu is currently uncertain ( could be as high as 9% - but probably far lower as far more cases in Mexico probably exist. Even 0.5% -the lowest likely estimate for pandemic flu used in UK planning- would probably lead to 150,000 deaths [assuming 50% infection rate] in the UK ), but could be very alarming.

The truth is the civil service, as dumbed down and diversified by Labour, just can't function with an evolving situation. ( See the foot and mouth fiasco for details ). There is just no leadership evident at the moment. ( Brown's of jetting round the world ).

I've just sat in a public body meeting and asked questions about preparedness and the answer has been - we haven't been told about that yet. We are waiting for guidance. Combine that with the spiders web of responsibilities and fingers pointing in different directions and we have a potential disaster on our hands.

We should start calling for the military to be put in charge now - before Vince Cable does. They are the only people with the skill set to manage this sort of uncertainty.

The current government reaction is arrogant and inflexible.

As I said in Centreright the sums do not appear to add up.

The BBC reported last night on the news that 1500 people in Mexico had gone down with the virus. Of these 150 had died. This in a population that totals 120 million.

Yet somehow we are expected to believe that people from the US, NZ, Canada, Spain, and the UK all came into contact with some of these 1500 people. That is very high odds.

Worse, this low level of infection in Mexico, that has a high death rate, turns into a highly infectious but mild infection outside of Mexico, for the couple from that returned to Scotland managed to pass on the virus to 30% ( 7 out of 22 ) of the people they came into contact with.

It seems to me there is a great deal more infection in Mexico that the Mexican Government is fessing up to. That would explain the strangely high death rate in Mexico, and the high infection rate here.

In light of this questions about the World Health Organisation need to be asked, for I gather they have been on the case for about a month now, so they must have knowledge of what has been happening on the ground in Mexico, yet they have been pushing the message of, don't panic, don't panic, don't put in travel restrictions, Oooops its already gone beyond any hope of containment. Its complacency in the extreme followed by too late. I hadn't realised that public health policy was modelled on bolting the stable door after the event order of things, and that goes for our Government as well, for they too have been playing Russian roulette with public health here, preferring to put 60 million people at risk than inconvenience a few hundred travellers. What order of priority is that?

@Iain - the lack of deaths currently outside Mexico is easily explained by postulating some basic figures.

If mortality is 0.5% ( a conservative estimate/guess ) then 138 cases (which aren't treated early on with anti-virals ) are needed for a 50% chance of at least one death. This number will need to be far higher given the current treatment to those lucky enough to be early cases. ( They are lucky because they have hospitals, doctors nurses and drugs to treat them. If the worst happens, many will not. )

Given that the virus has been confirmed as the same I think we could be clutching at straws with the hope it just kills people in Mexico.

I am truly horrified by the governments disorganised response so far.

It could be argued that we should worry people, but I think the real risk is a breakdown in civil order here, given the low level of trust politicians and civil servants currently enjoy in the UK. The only way of holding things together is to be open, demonstrably fair, and straight with people. The British people can be trusted, they just don't like being conned.

If you think the government is not trusted here you should see Mexico! Most of my family live in Mexico City,they believe the number of deaths is far higher than has been admitted by their government.
However there has been no breakdown or disorder there as yet.
The worrying thing is that cases have been found in many parts of the country including Cancun and Peurto Vallarta which are absolutely full of foreign (including British) tourists.
As for our government,I heard Brown say this morning that we are one of the best prepared nations on earth for a pandemic.I'm delighted to hear that, just as delighted as when he said that were one of the best prepared nations to weather the credit crunch. We are, aren't we?

At the time of the SARS scare they were planning mass graves for 300,000 deaths so perhaps they are well prepared.

@Victor - the problem is they seem to see their plans as a script to be followed until those graves are full.

The failure to handle people returning from Mexico just demonstrates we have a mass "its not my role in the plan" mentality operating. ( Just listen to Radio 4's The World at One today to get a full example of Govt incompetence ).

We then have govt minister telling us we don't need face masks or such and of course there's enough anti-virals, if they can be trusted.

By the way Govt planning forsees a worse case of 750,000 deaths ( assume 2.5% fatality rate p21 - setting the scene "Pandemic flu: A national framework for responding to an influenza pandemic"). Current figures from Mexico could indicate worse.

And when all of this hysterical, absurd fearmongering is over and you're exposed for the fools you are, will you then kindly shut up? I'll be coming back to make sure you have. And here's a CAST IRON prediction for you: not one person in Britain will die of swine fever, not one.

Well. in preparing for the worst, I am inordinately pleased to see that the NHS has managed to hold on to £175,000 that Rose Gibb has just failed to get out of Maidstone NHS Trust after the C-difficile scandal there.
Now , will the trust spend the moolah on Tamiflu?

"And here's a CAST IRON prediction for you: not one person in Britain will die of swine fever, not one."

I made that prediction about Avian bird flu and I was wrong - a swan died in Scotland.

"And when all of this hysterical, absurd fearmongering is over and you're exposed for the fools you are, will you then kindly shut up?"

Numerate Doctor, no, but as you describe yourself as numerate, perhaps you would care to explain the discrepency between the number of cases that Mexico has confirmed 1500, the number of deaths 150, that these 1500 hundred casees seem to be able to infect tourists, and the fact that is swine flu seems to be easliy passed on out side of Mexico. Something doesn't seem to add up.

@Numerate Doctor - are you arguing that swine flu certainly isn't a risk or that we shouldn't discuss it here ? ( Even with current educational standards people are able to multiply a percentage with a population number to get an idea of possible impact. Speculation on the mortality rate is already quoted in mainstream press articles today, so I think the cat's out of the bag on that one.)

The political issue here is leadership and management in a potential crisis.

We saw in the last but one disease outbreak that the government was unable to cope with a rapidly changing situation, which was only bought under control by the Army. ( Perhaps something to do with the military pushing responsibility to the lowest level possible to people who solve problems rather than the box ticking wait for the message on high procedure following civil service mentality ).

If we're lucky your guarantee will be bankable, but a government should prepare for the indicated scenarios, and a loyal opposition should be all over them making sure they have.

"And here's a CAST IRON prediction for you: not one person in Britain will die of swine fever, not one."

Numerate Doctor - you may be numerate but I doubt that you are a doctor (of medicine at any rate!) as if you were, you'd know that "Swine Fever" is a totally different disease to "Swine Flu".

Swine Fever - http://www.defra.gov.uk/animalh/diseases/notifiable/csf/

"you'd know that "Swine Fever" is a totally different disease to "Swine Flu"."

LOL, perhaps that is why he was prepared to give a cast iron guarantee why no one would die from Swine Fever!

Iain and Sally

What about those who have their feet in the trough?

Ron Paul - a Congressman, a classical liberal and a physician - provides a much needed sense of perspective in this message:


We are prepared and lets have no more wild stories just yet. We have some medications and we have a population that is going to survive. It may well be that the grave stone industry is first to emerge from the recession. Lets lay off the attacks on our national preparedness and soft pedal on terrifying the folk. This virus is now spread around nicely so it will take its course. The Anti-viral drugs that we hold 50% coverage of our population in terms of treatments. Most of our population that is vulnerable has had a number of courses of immune boosting inoculations over the last ten years. We are not as prepared as we should be 100% coverage in the run up to a world pandemic was possible but the government cut corners. This flue has yet to kill outside Mexico, which is interesting. However the 1918 pandemic came in 3 waves each more severe than the one before. Flu is quite a life threatening event but most people die of respiratory complications, and thankfully we have all the drugs we need to fight that. So lets not get over worried right now and lets not panic the population because its pointless what will come is what we get.

There are things we can do nothing about and there are things where action can make a difference.

Three days ago the government could have stopped flights of more people going to Mexico and screen and quarantined all those who returned, instead of just declaring they will start doing it today (Alan Johnson in Parliament). Perhaps they could only have delayed the first wave out break by 1-2 months, but that could be half the vaccine development time, and would have left the first wave in Summer which would be very unfavourable to high numbers of flu cases. Its starting to look like that was wasted as the PM flew around the world and worried about his image and expenses claims.

Instead planes loads of people have been allowed to fan out across the country having spent 8 hours in close confinement with lets assume one case on each plane.

The government could have quarantined those who returned - but they thought it wasn't worth the political bother.

These are just the opening moves and its clear there is a lack of leadership, over view and speed of response. This must be improved immediately.

This evening suspected cases are being investigated in London and LA country has autopsies being carried out on a 33 year old and a 45 year old. California has announced a state of emergency.

There is no drive, urgency or direction evident from the top. ( Perhaps I am being unfair, but that's the view from cheap seats away from govt. )

Note: Australia is preparing to enact Quarantine powers to, if necessary, detain people. And is tracking down people of risk flights.

Our unelected leader is ..... in Poland and arguing about expenses.

Even the BBC camera man at the airport meeting those heading off to who knows where in England has a face mask.

This has the potential to be the key political issue of the day, maybe the year, maybe even more than the budget.

There now has to be a real questions about elections in June.

Ok maybe those of us who are wanting attention for this will look silly in a few days time - but I'd rather that than have nobody kick the govt hard to get its act together now. They need to know they will be held to account.

Re : "Man in a Shed"

The trouble is I could just could see our unelected leader using this to delay the elections in June - it is the only way he will keep his supporters in power.

Graham - I almost said the same thing, but thought I'm putting myself far enough in front of events as it is !

Note this quote just in from Andrew Lansley reported in the Telegraph as the govt just announced an order for 30 million face masks ( which means they don't have enough and want to say they're on order for the TV )

Andrew Lansley:

"The Labour Government were warned by the industry and urged by us for years that they needed to get a stockpile of face masks ready for front line staff.

"It is now unlikely that we will be able to get these masks by the time we need them. I only hope that NHS staff do not suffer as a consequence. This does not inspire confidence that Alan Johnson is in control of the situation.

This is followed by the news that the system for distributing anti-viral drugs being organised by the govt won't be ready for quite some time.

I should have added that there is another system for distributing the drugs which exists currently.

But given the failure to use quarantine, these inadequacies are all beginning to add up very fast.

Regarding planning, I suggest the best way of judging if the government is prepared, or not, is to look at their plans yourself. Most of the information that you need is on the DH website. The main plan can be found at:


A HEALTH WARNING spotted on another blog:

Remember who's running this country. It's the same lot who had foot and mouth 'under control', let it spread throughout the country and when it was all over, they let it loose again. The same lot who inspired the comeback tour of tuberculosis. The ones who thought it logical to put more infectious diseases inside hospitals than outside them. Every other country might stamp on this disease straight away, but Labour will cherish it and provide it with free accommodation and benefits, subsidised travel and viral rights. As with all the others. To Labour, even a virus is more important than the population of this country.

Knowing this Government there will be no checks at ports and airports.

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