The great 20th-century pandemics, comparable in so many ways to their 21st-century heir, accounted for myriad private tragedies. Yet, unlike this novel coronavirus, their public, political significance was negligible. They were treated as public-health challenges, problems for clinicians, virologists and epidemiologists. And there were arguments at the time that more should have been done to mitigate their harm. But there was no sense of a world ending. No talk of a new normal. No attempt, that is, to reorganise the entirety of societal life around the threat they posed.
Sky News host Alan Jones says he has warned time and time again the political leaders who are the architects of this coronavirus response will not be able to escape the criticism that is now finding its way into the public place. It comes as an economist in the Victorian Department of Finance and Treasury, Sanjeev Sabhlok, on Wednesday penned an article in the Australian Financial Review announcing his resignation from his position.
- Policies are a sledgehammer to kill a swarm of flies.
- The Spanish Flu killed killed at least 50 million out of 1.8 billion people out of worldwide.
- To compare with Spanish Flu, COVID-19 would need to kill 210 million people. It has only killed 0.9 million.
- 60 million people worldwide normally die each year.
- There are strong scientific arguments against lockdown.
- The data was clear from February that the elderly should be protected but this wasn’t done.
- Epidemiological models have badly exaggerated the risk.
- There was never any reason to mandate measures such as face masks.
- COVID-19 is no worse than the Asian Flu.
- Lockdowns cannot eradicate the virus.
- We have already developed herd immunity to COVID-19 and will continue to manage it through herd immunity.
- Flu is much more dangerous than COVID-19.
- COVID-19 will settle into an endemic state just like flu.
- Hopefully vaccines will be important in protecting the vulnerable.
- Another way to protect the vulnerable sector is to allow the population to develop natural immunity.
- There’s no reason to think the virus will mutate into a lower level of virulence.
- During the 1918 flu because of a large number of ‘immunologically naive’ individuals but this is not the case with COVID-19.
- Most of us have some degree of coronavirus immunity and therefore some protection to COVID-19.
- The current H1 influenza strain is antigenically identical to the 1918 flu. H1 flu doesn’t kill as many people as the 1918 flu because most people already have cross immunity.
We spoke to Sunetra Gupta, Professor of Theoretical Epidemiology at the University of Oxford and head of the team that released a study in March which speculated that as much as 50% of the population may already have been infected and the true Infection Fatality Rate could be as low as 0.1%.
In her first major interview since the Oxford study was published, she goes further by arguing that Covid-19 has already passed through the population and is now on its way out. She said:
• Many of the antibody tests are “extremely unreliable”
• They do not indicate the true level of exposure or level of immunity • “Different countries have had different lockdown policies, and yet what we’ve observed is almost a uniform pattern of behaviour”
• “Much of the driving force was due to the build-up of immunity”
• “Infection Fatality Rate is less than 1 in 1000 and probably closer to 1 in 10,000.”
• That would be somewhere between 0.1% and 0.01%
On lockdown policy:
• Referring to the Imperial model: “Should we act on a possible worst case scenario, given the costs of lockdown? It seems to me that given that the costs of lockdown are mounting that case is becoming more and more fragile”
• Recommends “a more rapid exit from lockdown based more on certain heuristics, like who is dying and what is happening to the death rates”
On the UK Government response:
• “We might have done better by doing nothing at all, or at least by doing something different, which would have been to pay attention to protecting the vulnerable”
On the R rate:
• It is “principally dependent on how many people are immune” and we don’t have that information.
• Deaths are the only reliable measure.
On New York:
• “When you have pockets of vulnerable people it might rip through those pockets in a way that it wouldn’t if the vulnerable people were more scattered within the general population.”
On social distancing:
• “Remaining in a state of lockdown is extremely dangerous”
• “We used to live in a state approximating lockdown 100 years ago, and that was what created the conditions for the Spanish Flu to come in and kill 50m people.”
On next steps:
• “It is very dangerous to talk about lockdown without recognising the enormous costs that it has on other vulnerable sectors in the population”
• It is a “strong possibility” that if we return to full normal tomorrow — pubs, nightclubs, festivals — we would be fine.
On the politics of Covid:
• “There is a sort of libertarian argument for the release of lockdown, and I think it is unfortunate that those of us who feel we should think differently about lockdown”
• “The truth is that lockdown is a luxury, and it’s a luxury that the middle classes are enjoying and higher income countries are enjoying at the expense of the poor, the vulnerable and less developed countries.”