Amid the dire Covid warnings, one crucial fact has been largely ignored: Cases are down 77% over the past six weeks. If a medication slashed cases by 77%, we’d call it a miracle pill. Why is the number of cases plummeting much faster than experts predicted?
In large part because natural immunity from prior infection is far more common than can be measured by testing. Testing has been capturing only from 10% to 25% of infections, depending on when during the pandemic someone got the virus. Applying a time-weighted case capture average of 1 in 6.5 to the cumulative 28 million confirmed cases would mean about 55% of Americans have natural immunity.
…explained only by natural immunity. Behavior didn’t suddenly improve over the holidays; Americans traveled more over Christmas than they had since March. Vaccines also don’t explain the steep decline in January. Vaccination rates were low and they take weeks to kick in.
Trapped in lockdown between the two extremes of Coronavirus deniers and lockdown orthodoxy, Nye is intrigued by Sweden’s approach: no lockdown, no school closures, no masks. She manages to secure an exclusive interview with Chief Epidemiologist Anders Tegnell, whose steely resolve not to buckle under world mainstream media pressure means – among other things, tango dancing is allowed in Stockholm!
Claudia Nye is a BAFTA nominated filmmaker. Brought back to documentaries for the sake of the future of her children, Nye travels from UK to Sweden to learn about their unique Covid-19 strategy.
She is also a qualified Relationship Counsellor, which she’s been practicing over the past ten years. She travelled to Stockholm with photo-journalist Sean Spencer and together they made this documentary
Ivor Cummins aka the Fat Emperor – gives James the lowdown on why you can’t trust anything our governments tell us about Covid-19. If you want the facts on Coronavirus – how deadly is it? do lockdowns and masks work? how does it compare with previous pandemics? – you’ve come to the right place
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Background and Aims
The most restrictive non‐pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) for controlling the spread of COVID‐19 are mandatory stay‐at‐home and business closures. Given the consequences of these policies, it is important to assess their effects. We evaluate the effects on epidemic case growth of more restrictive NPIs (mrNPIs), above and beyond those of less restrictive NPIs (lrNPIs).
We first estimate COVID‐19 case growth in relation to any NPI implementation in subnational regions of 10 countries: England, France, Germany, Iran, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, South Korea, Sweden, and the US. Using first‐difference models with fixed effects, we isolate the effects of mrNPIs by subtracting the combined effects of lrNPIs and epidemic dynamics from all NPIs. We use case growth in Sweden and South Korea, two countries that did not implement mandatory stay‐at‐home and business closures, as comparison countries for the other 8 countries (16 total comparisons).
Implementing any NPIs was associated with significant reductions in case growth in 9 out of 10 study countries, including South Korea and Sweden that implemented only lrNPIs (Spain had a non‐significant effect). After subtracting the epidemic and lrNPI effects, we find no clear, significant beneficial effect of mrNPIs on case growth in any country. In France, e.g., the effect of mrNPIs was +7% (95CI ‐5%‐19%) when compared with Sweden, and +13% (‐12%‐38%) when compared with South Korea (positive means pro‐contagion). The 95% confidence intervals excluded 30% declines in all 16 comparisons and 15% declines in 11/16 comparisons.
While small benefits cannot be excluded, we do not find significant benefits on case growth of more restrictive NPIs. Similar reductions in case growth may be achievable with less restrictive interventions.
- The mortality rate is below 0.2%.
- For most people the risk of dying if you get infected is less than one in 500 (and less than one in 3,000 if you’re below 70 years of age).
- The disease preferentially strikes people who are anyway very close to the end of life/
- The amount of lifetime lost when someone dies of the disease is usually small.
- 2020 will likely turn out to have been a very average year in terms of overall mortality.
- 98% of people who get covid are fully recovered within three months.
- There is no good evidence that covid results in long term health consequences.
- Chinese realized early on that covid-19 wasn’t very serious, no worse than a bad flu.
- China is still reporting less than 20 cases per day.
- China is claiming that less than 5,000 people have so far died of covid in China. That’s less than Sweden, a country with less than 1% of China’s population.
A CORONAVIRUS vaccine may work but will need years to take effect if it does. Even in this best case scenario, Covid-19 will probably never be truly eradicated.
In fact, Mr Tegnell says, if any country was “following the science” – the phrase favoured by Boris Johnson – sense advice to alert its population.
Long-term lockdowns and facemasks are not the answer, he believes. “I can understand some countries situations were so bad they needed to do something drastic and it was tempting to lockdown,” he says.
I believe I have identified a serious, really a fatal flaw in the PCR test used in what is called by the UK Government the Pillar 2 screening – that is, testing many people out in their communities. I’m going to go through this with care and in detail because I’m a scientist and dislike where this investigation takes me.
…In the last 40 years alone the UK has had seven official epidemics/pandemics; AIDS, Swine flu, CJD, SARS, MERS, Bird flu as well as annual, seasonal flu. All were very worrying but schools remained open and the NHS treated everybody and most of the population were unaffected. The country would rarely have been open if it had been shut down every time.
- Sweden never went in to full lockdown. Instead, the country imposed a partial lockdown that was almost entirely voluntary.
- The only forcible restriction imposed by the government from the start was a requirement that people not gather in groups of more than 50 at a time.
- People followed the voluntary restrictions pretty well at the beginning, but that they have become increasingly lax as time has gone on.
- After an initial peak that lasted for a month or so, from March to April, visits to the Emergency Room due to covid had been declining continuously, and deaths in Sweden had dropped from over 100 a day at the peak in April, to around five per day in August.
- Dr. Rushworth hasn’t seen a single covid patient in the Emergency Room in over two and a half months.
- COVID has killed under 6,000 people.
- On average, one to two people per day are dying of covid in Sweden at present, and that number continues to drop.
- In the whole of Stockholm, a county with 2,4 million inhabitants, there are currently only 28 people being treated for covid in all the hospitals combined.
- Sweden seemed to be developing herd immunity, in spite of the fact that only a minority had antibodies, was due to T-cells.
- Immunity may be long lasting, and probably explains why there have only been a handful of reported cases of re-infection with covid, even though the virus has spent the last nine months bouncing around the planet infecting many millions of people.
- Almost all cases of reinfection have been completely asymptomatic.
- People develop a functioning immunity after the first infection, which allows them to fight off the second infection without ever developing any symptoms.
- England and Italy have mortality curves that are very similar to Sweden’s.
- Lockdown only makes sense if you are willing to stay in lockdown until there is an effective vaccine.
Dr. Mike Yeadon, former Chief Scientific Advisor, Pfizer:
- The evidence suggests that a substantial number of the positive cases are false positives.
- The government doesn’t know or is not disclosing the false positive rate.
- False positive rate may be as high as 1%, which would mean most or all of the positives are false positives.
- We are finding traces of an ‘old’ virus which can’t possibly make people sick.
- The test looks for a piece of genetic code. A positive test does not mean someone is sick.
- ONS says the prevalence of the virus is less than 0.1%.
- Pillar 2 (community) testing seems to be flawed. Method of processing samples would be inadmissible if this were a forensic case.
- The number of COVID deaths is continuing to stay low and fallen for 6 months. For it to suddenly increase would need a big change in transmission.
- Young people would have been the first who caught COVID-19 because they were not social distancing. The idea that the young people are now getting it is “for the birds.”
- If positive tests are false, they will be distributed evenly in the population. This is what we’re finding.
- Mass testing is not the answer.
- Sweden is not doing mass testing and their society has had 0.06% of their population die from COVID-19. This is the same as the UK.
- We are using a test with an undeclared false-positive rate.
- Are we re-testing the positives? This is unclear.
- A second lockdown is going to amplify the non-COVID deaths.
- UK’s lockdown was too late to prevent the initial spread.
- Mass population immunity is keeping the deaths low. This is the most reasonable explanation for the differences between the models and reality.
As coronavirus cases rise in pretty much all other European countries, leading to fears of a second wave including in the UK, they have been sinking all summer in Sweden. On a per capita basis, they are now 90 per cent below their peak in late June and under Norway’s and Denmark’s for the first time in five months. Tegnell had told me the first time we spoke in the spring that it would be in the autumn when it became more apparent how successful each country had been.
There is little purpose in using tests to check asymptomatic children to see if it is safe for them to come to school. When children are infected, most are asymptomatic, and the mortality risk is lower than for the flu. While adult-to-adult and adult-to-child transmission is common, child-to-adult transmission isn’t. Children thus pose minimal risk to their teachers. If a child has a cough, a runny nose or other respiratory symptoms, he should stay home. You don’t need a test for that.
Sweden was the only major Western country that kept schools open for kids 15 and younger throughout the pandemic, with no masks or mass testing. How did it turn out? Zero Covid-19 deaths among 1.8 million children attending day care or school. Teachers didn’t have an excess infection risk compared with the average of other professions.
The study looks at the cases of 122 people who have died in the region outside of a hospital setting – either at home or in accommodation for the elderly – and whose deaths were attributed to Covid-19. Half of this group were aged 88 or over. Of the 122 cases, 111 were judged to have extensive comorbidities (the presence of one or more additional conditions) and 11 had moderate comorbidities. Not one of those who died, in other words, were in good health. In only 15 per cent of cases was Covid-19 judged to be the direct cause of death. Covid-19 was a contributory cause in 70 per cent of cases, and in the remaining 15 per cent death was judged to have been caused by another underlying cause – most often heart disease. The study can be read here, in Swedish.
The choice we face is stark. One option is to maintain a general lockdown for an unknown amount of time until herd immunity is reached through a future vaccine or until there is a safe and effective treatment. This must be weighed against the detrimental effects that lockdowns have on other health outcomes. The second option is to minimise the number of deaths until herd immunity is achieved through natural infection. Most places are neither preparing for the former nor considering the latter.
The question is not whether to aim for herd immunity as a strategy, because we will all eventually get there. The question is how to minimise casualties until we get there. Since Covid-19 mortality varies greatly by age, this can only be accomplished through age-specific countermeasures. We need to shield older people and other high-risk groups until they are protected by herd immunity.
Among the individuals exposed to Covid-19, people aged in their 70s have roughly twice the mortality of those in their 60s, 10 times the mortality of those in their 50s, 40 times that of those in their 40s, 100 times that of those in their 30s, and 300 times that of those in their 20s. The over-70s have a mortality that is more than 3,000 times higher than children have. For young people, the risk of death is so low that any reduced levels of mortality during the lockdown might not be due to fewer Covid-19 deaths, but due to fewer traffic accidents.
What accounts for Sweden’s high Covid death rate among the Nordics? One factor could be Sweden’s lighter lockdown. But we suggest 15 other possible factors. Most significant are: (1) the “dry-tinder” situation in Sweden (we suggest that this factor alone accounts for 25 to 50% of Sweden’s Covid death toll); (2) Stockholm’s larger population; (3) Sweden’s higher immigrant population; (4) in Sweden immigrants probably more often work in the elderly care system; (5) Sweden has a greater proportion of people in elderly care; (6) Stockholm’s “sport-break” was a week later than the other three capital cities; (7) Stockholm’s system of elderly care collects especially vulnerable people in nursing homes. Other possible factors are: (8) the Swedish elderly and health care system may have done less to try to cure elderly Covid patients; (9) Sweden may have been relatively understocked in protective equipment and sanitizers; (10) Sweden may have been slower to separate Covid patients in nursing homes; (11) Sweden may have been slower to implement staff testing and changes in protocols and equipage; (12) Sweden elderly care workers may have done more cross-facility work; (13) Sweden might have larger nursing homes; (14) Stockholmers might travel more to the Alpine regions; (15) Sweden might be quicker to count a death “a Covid death.” We give evidence for these other 15 possible factors. It is plausible that Sweden’s lighter lockdown accounts for but a small part of Sweden’s higher Covid death rate.
- Exposure to Covid-19 is similar in Stockholm and London, based on antibody tests, despite different lockdown strategies.
- The research, published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, found that 17% of people tested in April in Stockholm had developed antibodies.
- This compares with 17% of Londoners tested in April and May, and 5%-10% of people living in Geneva.
The epidemiologist in charge of Sweden’s coronavirus response has dismissed the scientific evidence for mask-wearing as “astonishingly weak” and suggested that making face coverings mandatory could backfire.
Anders Tegnell, the face of his country’s distinctive light-touch approach to Covid-19, said it was “very dangerous” to believe that facemasks on their own could control the spread of the disease.
He also conceded that Sweden had failed to protect its old people’s homes against the virus but said the number of new infections in the care sector had dwindled away to a negligible level since the height of the outbreak four months ago.
Dr Tegnell has steered a markedly different course from those plotted by most other European countries, leaving bars, restaurants and most schools open throughout
- Sweden’s GDP fell 8.6 in Q2 2020, the country’s worst quarterly decline in modern history.
- The Scandanavian nation markedly outperformed the rest of Europe. Its GDP drop in the second quarter was lower than the 12.1 average experienced in the Eurozone, as well as the 11.9 average across the whole of the EU.
- Sweden outperformed several European countries, including Spain (18.5 percent fall), France (13.6 percent), Italy (12.4 percent) and Germany (10.1 percent).
Swedish health experts say struggle against pandemic is ‘marathon not a sprint’
The country has one of the highest death rates from coronavirus in the world
Anders Tegnell’s refusal to impose lockdown is held up by critics as a warning
But is it possible the Scandinavian nation made the right call in the long-term?
- Article based on experience working as a doctor in the emergency room of one of the big hospitals in Stockholm, Sweden, and of living as a citizen in Sweden.
- Unlike other countries, Sweden never went in to complete lockdown. Non-essential businesses have remained open, people have continues to go to cafés and restaurants, children have remained in school, and very few people have bothered with face masks in public.
- COVID hit Stockholm like a storm in mid-March. One day I was seeing people with appendicitis and kidney stones, the usual things you see in the emergency room. The next day all those patients were gone and the only thing coming in to the hospital was COVID. Practically everyone who was tested had COVID, regardless of what the presenting symptom was. People came in with a nose bleed and they had COVID. They came in with stomach pain and they had COVID.
- Then, after a few months, all the COVID patients disappeared.
- At the peak three months back, a hundred people were dying a day of COVID in Sweden, a country with a population of ten million. We are now down to around five people dying per day in the whole country, and that number continues to drop. Since people generally die around three weeks after infection, that means virtually no-one is getting infected any more.
- The risk of dying is at the very most 1 in 200 if you actually do get infected.
- In total COVID has killed under 6,000 people in a country of ten million.
- Sweden has an annual death rate of around 100,000 people. Considering that 70% of those who have died of COVID are over 80 years old, quite a few of those 6,000 would have died this year anyway.
- COVID will never even come close to major pandemic numbers like 1918 flu.
- If herd immunity hasn’t developed, where are all the sick people? Why has the rate of infection dropped so precipitously?
- The reason we test for antibodies is because it is easy and cheap. Antibodies are in fact not the body’s main defence against virus infections. T-cells are. But T-cells are harder to measure than antibodies, so we don’t really do it clinically.
- Sweden ripped the metaphorical band-aid off quickly and got the epidemic over and done with in a short amount of time, while the rest of the world has chosen to try to peel the band-aid off slowly.
- I am willing to bet that the countries that have shut down completely will see rates spike when they open up. If that is the case, then there won’t have been any point in shutting down in the first place, because all those countries are going to end up with the same number of dead at the end of the day anyway. Shutting down completely in order to decrease the total number of deaths only makes sense if you are willing to stay shut down until a vaccine is available. That could take years.
- COVID has at present killed less than 6000 in Sweden. It is very unlikely that the number of dead will go above 7,000. An average influenza year in Sweden, 700 people die of influenza. Does that mean COVID is ten times worse than influenza? No, because influenza has been around for centuries while COVID is completely new.
- So it is quite possible, in fact likely, that the case fatality rate for COVID is the same as for influenza, or only slightly higher, and the entire difference we have seen is due to the complete lack of any immunity in the population at the start of this pandemic.