[I]f you believe herd immunity is only reached at 60 per cent, you should be terrified at any loosening of lockdown. If you don’t, then you must reconcile antibody testing that says 80 per cent are still susceptible with the difficulty the virus seems to encounter in marching very far past 20 percent of the population.
That is the reconciliation my hypothesis achieves. I propose that there may exist forms of human resistance to this virus that don’t show up in Covid-19 antibody tests.
[I]n focusing on that Covid antibody test alone as indicating a pass-or-fail immunity, we could be overlooking important ways in which humans may be endowed with, or acquire, other kinds of resistance.
Currently, over 8 per cent of people who were tested in ‘pillar two’ have been told that their test result is ‘unclear’. Pillar two is the strand of the government’s testing strategy that deals with at-home tests and those carried out at drive-through centres. This pillar is designed for certain key workers and those who have been randomly selected for testing.
Yet the NHS instructions given to Sarah make clear that while the test might be ‘uncomfortable’, patients should stop if they ‘feel strong resistance or pain’. In other words, she was told to stop swabbing if it hurt. The tests may be accurate in a clinical setting but the problem comes when people are expected to try to carry out the procedure themselves in the real world.
COVID-19 Infection fatality rate (IFR) estimated between 0.02% and 0.4%.
With ministers and officials involved with the country’s coronavirus strategy braced for an eventual public inquiry, this week we’re being given a glimpse of how it might play out. During a morning broadcast round on Tuesday, Work and Pensions Secretary Thérèse Coffey set the cat among the pigeons when she was asked about mistakes the government may have made. It’s clear that this is a row No. 10 does not wish to be having right now.
Coffey replied by saying ministers can ‘only make judgments based on the advice’ they are given. She went on to say that on issues such as testing capacity, if the scientific advice at the time was ‘wrong’, she would not be surprised if people think ‘we made the wrong decisions’. Those comments were quick to gain traction – with critics claiming Coffey was attempting to scapegoat scientists for the government’s U-turn on testing.
The argument that vitamin D deficiency may contribute to more severe cases of Covid is gaining ground. It is now reaching the point where it is surprising that we are not hearing from leading medical officials and politicians that people should consider taking supplements to ensure they have sufficient vitamin D.
One reason why the models failed is that they – just like most countries’ politicians – underestimated how millions of people spontaneously adapt to new circumstances. They only thought in terms of lockdowns vs business as usual, but failed to consider a third option: that people engage in social distancing voluntarily when they realise lives are at stake and when authorities recommend them to do so.
As countries plan how to leave lockdown, they can look at Sweden and ask: what happens if you don’t involve the police, if you don’t issue edicts about how many of your relatives or neighbours you can visit, and just ask people to be careful? Might that work? The Swedish experiment casts huge doubts on the models, and makes the case for trusting the public.
For maintaining a precious sense of proportion, check out some other annual global fatalities: influenza, up to 650,000. Typhoid fever, up to 160,000. Cholera, up to 140,000. Malaria, 620,000 in 2017, almost all in Africa (so who cares, right?). In 2018, tuberculosis, developing treacherous antibiotic resistance, killed 1.5 million people. Why haven’t we closed down the whole world for TB?
What is destroying lives and livelihoods is not predominantly the illness. The UK economy is not in a tailspin because it can’t survive without the labor of the 32,000-plus fatalities, however much we may miss them as individuals. This is not a natural disaster but a manmade one.
Today’s figures for the first quarter of 2020 show Britain’s economy shrunk by two per cent, but that takes into account just a few days of lockdown (and suggests that the recession started some time before). The March figure is more like it: despite only formally being in lockdown for eight days in March, the UK economy contracted 5.8 per cent that month alone. As Capital Economics puts it ‘in just one month the economy has tumbled by as much as it did in the year and a half after the global financial crisis.’
Trouble is, there will be many people who are better off sitting at home on 80 percent of their salary than going out to work to earn 100 percent of it – once travel costs, childcare, tax and so on are taken into account. For millions, there is little incentive ever to return to work. Moreover, because the government has been so generous this time around it has created an expectation that it will always bail out businesses in trouble in this way. In future recessions we will have demands for furlough schemes. Individual industries, too, will start demanding to be able to furlough employees when the going is tough. We are heading towards an idea which even Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell rejected: a universal basic income.
Even if one could understand why lockdown was imposed, it very rapidly became apparent that it had not been thought through. Not in terms of the wider effects on society (which have yet to be counted) and not even in terms of the ways that the virus itself might behave. But at the start, there was hardly any evidence. Everyone was guessing. Now we have a world of evidence, from around the globe, and the case for starting to reverse lockdown is compelling.
- You cannot understand the significance of this virus simply by looking at the raw death figures
- The policy response to the virus has been driven by modelling of Covid – not other factors
- We don’t know if lockdown is working
- We should ease the lockdown to save lives
- Lockdown is not sustainable
- Lockdown directly harms those most likely to be affected by coronavirus
- Lockdown directly harms those who will be largely unaffected by coronavirus
- The health service has not been overwhelmed nor likely to be
- The virus is almost certainly not a constant threat
- People can be trusted to behave sensibly
Intubation and ventilation were billed as the only way to treat Covid19 patients in the early days of the outbreak, but now some medical professionals are questioning the practice.
Perhaps it is not surprising, then, that according to this article 66% of UK Covid19 patients put on ventilators are dying. A recent study found that, in New York, 88% of ventilated Covid patients died. In Italy it was over 81%, in Wuhan it was 86%.
Conversely, South Korea has reported good early results treating Covid19 patients with other forms of oxygen therapy, or “non-invasive ventilation”.
The question arises: If ventilators are not recommended for respiratory infections, may do more damage than they prevent and are less effective than non-invasive ventilation, why are they being so widely used?
Well, one possible reason is that, according to the WHO guidelines, non-invasive ventilation could contribute to the spread of the virus via “aerosolisation”. This is repeated in guidelines from the CDC, ECDC and other national institutions.
The UK’s NHS goes one step further again, with their March 19th protocol actually calling mechanical ventilation the “preferred” option over non-invasive ventilation or other oxygen therapies.
This leaves wide open the possibility that hospitals are using treatments known to cause harm, simply to avoid the hypothetical spread of the virus.
A team led by Gabriela Gomes of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine argues that it is wrong to assume that herd immunity will only be achieved when 60 per cent of people have been infected. It is more likely, they argue, that the true figure lies between 10 and 20 per cent. The 60 per cent figure, they say, is based on the idea that we are all equally likely to contract the virus. In reality, there is a wide variation in an individual’s susceptibility to becoming infected. People who are frail or who have greater exposure to the virus – perhaps because they are working in an intensive care unit – are in practice far more likely to contract the disease. As the epidemic progresses the pool of easily-infected individuals dries up and the virus has to search out new victims who are less-easily infected.
One next step should be making the lockdown voluntary, not mandatory. People can be asked — not ordered — to be careful. To keep their distance, not take undue risks. Return to work, where it’s safe to do so. Send young children back to school. Sweden has tried this approach and found a strong public response. Travel to Easter holiday hotspots was down 94 per cent; city streets, even now, are almost deserted. Sweden’s logic is that economic repair can happen more quickly if the pandemic is controlled by public consensus, with liberties protected.
As the world went into lockdown, Sweden opted for a different approach to tackling coronavirus: cities, schools and restaurants have remained open. This was judged by critics to be utterly foolish: it would allow the virus to spread much faster than elsewhere, we were told, leading to tens of thousands of deaths.
I’m happy to say that those fears haven’t materialised.
[D]oes any of what is out there add up to a watertight case for compelling people to wear masks in public or at work (outside a healthcare setting)? The threshold for compulsion must surely be higher than ‘maybe’ and ‘perhaps’. But if it really is the case that the threshold for regulatory compulsion is being approached, it should be a simple matter for our scientific advisors to present it to us and allow time for it to be critically discussed in relation to a real-world setting, before government imposes measures upon us all.
“Barely a day goes by without a politician saying that they will be ‘led by the science’. But what we are seeing with Covid-19 is not ‘science’ in action.”
It seems that the British government’s assumption that COVID-19 would infect 80 percent of the population was borrowed from a 2015 flu pandemic planning report.
It’s a question of liberty, not epidemiology