The pandemic has opened up a deep rift within the Conservatives. It will grow | Polly Toynbee

How can Britain recover without greater public spending? The tax-cutting party has no answers

Something strange is happening within the political party famously ruthless in its pursuit of power and keeping hold of it. Its still popular prime minister, with an 80-seat majority, has only just marked his second anniversary, and has faced little threat from the official opposition so far. And yet Boris Johnson goes into the parliamentary recess up against a crescendo of howls from his own side. The rift opening up in the Conservative party is startling in its ferocity, and has revealed a new animosity towards its leader.

“Senior ministers”, “over half the cabinet”, “high-ranking MPs” are variously reported to be in rebellion against all the government’s key policies. Raising the national insurance rate to pay for NHS and social care has triggered profound existential angst about how to be a Tory after the Covid crisis. An erstwhile loyal press claque has turned angry and accusatory. What kind of Conservative is Johnson, anyway?

Continue reading…

Click here to see original article

Will Covid become a disease of the young? The world is watching England to find out | Devi Sridhar

The UK government has decided to let the virus spread among young people. Paediatricians are split over how much harm it will cause

Few issues seem to provoke such a range of opinions among experts as Covid-19 and children. When the WHO-China Joint Mission first reported on the virus in February 2020, one of the nuggets of good news was that children seemed to be relatively unaffected by it. This was surprising; like other acute respiratory infections, coronaviruses usually spread among and infect younger children. China’s strong suppression of the virus meant cases remained extremely low, preventing the virus spreading into other age groups. At the time, Covid appeared to be a disease of the elderly, the overweight and those with underlying health conditions.

One year into the pandemic, richer countries embarked on a mass vaccination programme to protect not only older age groups but entire adult populations. The success of vaccines in weakening the link between hospitalisations and deaths is clear (although the link is not completely broken). With vaccinated adults now largely protected from the severe consequences of Covid-19, the questions for children have changed. In the UK, there has been a surge of infections among children and adolescents. These will only increase when the school year starts again in the autumn.

Continue reading…

Click here to see original article

If a doctor barely knows who a patient is, the consequences can be profound | AK Benjamin

Innate biases and failure to consider what it is like to be the person in front of you can result in incorrect diagnosis

  • AK Benjamin is the pseudonym of a clinical neuropsychologist

As a clinical neuropsychologist I make mistakes, and I am not alone. Researchers interested in clinical decision-making estimate that across all medical fields diagnosis is wrong 10–15% of the time.

In many instances clinical errors are underpinned by one of a number of cognitive biases. For example, the “availability bias” favours more recent, readily available answers, irrespective of their accuracy; the “confirmation bias” fits information to a preconceived diagnosis rather than the converse. In the time-restricted milieu of emergency medicine, where I work on occasion, particular biases compound: “the commission bias”, a proclivity for action over inaction, increases the likelihood of “search satisfying” – ceasing to look for further information when the first plausible solution is found, which itself might be propelled by “diagnostic momentum” where clinicians blindly continue existing courses of action instigated by (more “powerful”) others.

Continue reading…

Click here to see original article

To mask or not to mask? That shouldn’t be the question | John Harris

In shifting Covid risk to individuals in an already battered society, the British state has set the scene for countless futile conflicts

England has now entered the strangest phase to date of its Covid experience. Though the health secretary insisted, in a tweet he eventually deleted, that we must not “cower from” the virus, the contradiction between the lifting of restrictions and most epidemiological wisdom sits in the midst of our national life like a dull headache. The same prime minister who promised his ideological soulmates a new dawn of liberty is now embracing vaccine passports, and reportedly facing the prospect of defeat in the House of Commons. Meanwhile, references to “personal responsibility” have brought a new unease to everyday life, as the government reverts to type and does what Tory administrations usually do, transferring risk from the state to individuals.

Wearing a mask now feels a bit like putting on a badge. On what the rightwing press rather laughably called “freedom day”, I did some shopping at my local Asda, observed a masked-to-umasked ratio of about 70:30, and sensed – or thought I sensed – the crackle of judgment and mistrust, passing between those who were sticking with face coverings and those who had decided to go without. Two days later, I was in Stoke-on-Trent, where the ratio in a huge Tesco was more like 60:40 in favour of masking up. Despite announcements over the PA advising people to behave as if restrictions were still in place, the fact that some were sticking to the old rules while others were not felt like a matter of dull normality.

Continue reading…

Click here to see original article