Chris Whitty's R number

Chris Moffett made this Freedom of Information request to Department of Health and Social Care

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Dear Department of Health and Social Care,

1. In a lecture at Gresham College in October 2018 your Chief Scientific Adviser Chris Whitty stated that when the R number of a disease during an epidemic gets below 1, it is on its way out and it dies. See You Tube link provided and watch circa 23 mins 30 secs to 24 mins 30 secs.
If this is the case then can you confirm -via Whitty himself if necessary - that Covid19 is dying or indeed dead already?

2. If for some reason you state that this is not the case can you explain why - i didn't see any caveats mentioned by Whitty in this lecture, he just states that it dies when R is below 1. I'd appreciate some scientific research that proves there are circumstances where R below 1 doesn't mean the end of an epidemic.

3. Just in case you state that because of using Lock down, social distancing and mask wearing as policies to get R below 1 - with these methods lessening the likelihood of transmission - then it is possible for R to rise above 1 again as so many people have yet to be exposed to it, can i ask why Whitty has continuously said that getting R below 1 is essential? All it will achieve is postponing the time when people get it - is this correct?

4. When coming out of the Lock down some areas of the UK have allegedly experienced an increasing R number. How is this possible if the disease is dying? Is it that many more people are getting tested than they were at the height of the pandemic?

5. How is the R number being calculated in the UK? Is it from PCR and Antibody tests or are there other methods? How accurate is the UK R number? ie is there a margin for error?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rn55z95L...

Yours faithfully,

Chris Moffett

Dear Department of Health and Social Care,

I should have had a reply by now. Is there a problem?

Yours faithfully,

Chris Moffett

Dear Department of Health and Social Care,

Hello. My FOI request should have been answered by now by law. Could you please forward the information to me as soon as possible together with a reason for the delay.

Yours faithfully,

Chris Moffett

Department of Health and Social Care

Our ref: DE-1233507  

Dear Sir/Madam,
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Yours sincerely,
Daniel Belmore
Ministerial Correspondence and Public Enquiries
Department of Health and Social Care

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Dear Department of Health and Social Care,

Thank you for your reply of the 28th August 2020 ref: DE-1233507.

I would like to submit that my FOI request be answered and therefore mark this as 'Sensitive' and 'Urgent'.
The 'R' number has been below 1 for some months now and very few people are dying from Covid19 anymore, so it is important for my questions to be answered to get confirmation that this pandemic has died out as is clearly the case and would've been expected according to Whitty's presentation in 2018, and if 'R' is only being held steady due to the extraordinary amount of testing going on?
In any other pandemic/flu season only sick people would've been tested and i suspect the disease would have been considered as having died out already, but this year, due to the voluminous testing there seems to be an irrational panic that there's still a problem when virtually all the people testing positive are asymptomatic.
I look forward to my questions being answered.

Yours faithfully,

Chris Moffett

Mr Harris left an annotation ()

When they get around to looking at your request, they'll almost certainly brush most of it off - and they would be right to do so.
The problem is that FOI is about getting access to "recorded information" that the government has. They won't tell you why Chris Whitty did X, that's not how FOI works!
You may find it useful to ask for the recorded information that Chris Whitty was relying on when he said X.
Your Q5 about how R is calculated is good. It's quite likely that they have a document defining this and under the Act they'll have to give you this (probably)

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coronavirus, including the supply of personal protective equipment, the
Government has set up an [5]online hub to compile and respond to all
offers. 

If you are clinician looking to support the NHS, please visit the [6]NHS
Professionals website for further information. 

If you are a clinician who has retired within the last 6 years and would
like more information on how to apply for the temporary register, please
visit the [7]NHS England website for further information. 

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Department of Health and Social Care

1 Attachment

Dear Mr/Ms Moffett,

Please find attached the Department of Health and Social Care's response
to your recent FOI request (our ref: FOI-1259196) and I apologise for the
delay in replying. 

Yours sincerely,

 Hazel Percy 

Freedom of Information Team
Department of Health and Social Care

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Department of Health and Social Care

Our ref: DE-1252521

 

Dear Mr Moffett,
 
Thank you for your correspondence of 1 September about the R number. I
have been asked to reply.

The Freedom of Information Act only applies to recorded information such
as paper or electronic archive material.  As your correspondence asked for
general information, rather than requesting recorded information or
documentation, it did not fall under the provisions of the Act.

 

The Act does not cover unrecorded information that officials may remember,
opinions that officials might have, official advice (apart from past
advice the Department of Health has given, where a record of this has been
kept) or requests for an official policy statement (again, apart from past
policy statements, where a record has been kept).  There is no obligation
under the FOI Act for public authorities to create new information.

 

Information on the R number has been published online and can be found at:
[1]https://www.gov.uk/guidance/the-r-number....

 

From the beginning of the outbreak, the Government’s policies have been
guided by the advice of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies,
which is led by the Chief Scientific Adviser and Chief Medical Officer for
England, and the response is kept under constant review.

 

Public safety is the Government’s priority and it has a team of public
health experts and scientists working round the clock to make sure the
NHS, the care sector and the country as a whole are fully prepared.

 

The Government understands that these are difficult times and that the
measures people are being asked to take are very disruptive to normal
life. However, it is vital those who are most vulnerable are protected,
and people are therefore being asked to act in the interests of everyone
in society.

 

The latest guidance from the Government can be found at [2]www.gov.uk.
The situation is evolving, and Government guidance and advice may change.
Consequently, you may find it helpful to seek the latest advice on
this query through the COVID-19 ‘hub’, which can be found
at [3]www.gov.uk/coronavirus and is regularly updated.

I hope this reply is helpful.

Yours sincerely,
 
Anthony Moses
Ministerial Correspondence and Public Enquiries
Department of Health and Social Care

 

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