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SAGEGATE: How Government Neutered Science to Save the Economy and Chase the Ghost of Herd Immunity

After a comprehensive investigation into five months of SAGE documents Nafeez Ahmed arrives at some shocking findings

SagegateHow Government Neutered Science to Save the Economyand Chase the Ghost of Herd Immunity

After a comprehensive investigation into five months of SAGE documents, Nafeez Ahmed arrives at some shocking findings

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The UK now finds itself in the worst of all worlds. With nearly 70,000 excess deaths due to the Coronavirus, the country’s COVID-19 death rate has been the worst of all the G7 countries. 

Simultaneously, its economy is likely to suffer the worst economic damage of any developed country, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). 

How did we get here? To find out, I reviewed newly released documents from the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (SAGE) to see if they could explain the decision-making process that led the country into this dire state of affairs.

What I found was some crucial failures – which have largely been ignored by the mainstream press. 

The minutes of SAGE meetings identify three fundamental breakdowns in the Government’s decision-making process which have yet to be rectified. 

The first is an ideological obsession with protecting the economy at the cost of lives – rooted in an unswerving assumption that protecting public health automatically means putting the economy at risk. There has been a constant implicit concern that public health and economic prosperity operate at odds in some sort of zero-sum game. 

The second is a point-blank refusal to ever seriously consider trying to suppress the Coronavirus, which appeared to dovetail with the assumption that allowing it to run through the population would facilitate ‘herd immunity’ – despite not a shred of scientific evidence behind this idea. For months, the Government seemed ready to accept that at least 500,000 people could end up being killed as a result of this strategy, but was unwilling to reconsider its approach. The Prime Minister’s chief strategist, Dominic Cummings, was present at the relevant SAGE meetings.

The third is an insistence on rushing to lift lockdown restrictions prematurely and haphazardly, against consistent scientific advice – a decision that seems to have been made with the input of the Treasury. Within just two weeks of restrictions being put in place, the Government began exerting pressure on SAGE to identify ways to lift them. Despite SAGE repeatedly warning that lifting restrictions too early without a robust test and trace programme would lead to a resurgent epidemic and renewed deaths, the Government went ahead and did so anyway.

Not a single mainstream media outlet has investigated the SAGE documents in detail so the bigger picture of the Coronavirus crisis in the UK remains little understood.

But an integrated analysis of the SAGE material dated from February to June throws unnerving new light on how a fatal cocktail of economic ideology; scientifically groundless speculations about herd immunity; and an arrogant failure to pay attention to successful best practice strategies around the world led to catastrophic outcomes. 

Read all three parts of the investigation below:

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