Advocates for harsh Covid measures are finally waking up to what they have done.
The underreported story of the entire pandemic is excess deaths — not from Covid, but from other health conditions which were so brutally pushed to one side. There have been huge rises in the number of people dying from causes unrelated to the virus, accelerating throughout the year and showing no signs of slowing down.
Risk calculus is a funny thing. According to a new poll, the Canadians most cautious about the risk of catching Covid-19 are also the most likely to support open war between Russia and the United States.
It wasn’t a big sample, but the results were stark. Ekos Politics polled a random sample of around 1000 Canadians, and stratified the results by vaccination status. This revealed that whereas 56% of unvaccinated Canadians oppose the idea of NATO imposing a no-fly zone over Ukraine, an even greater number of the triple-vaccinated — 59% — support doing so.
So what should we expect from the sanctions? Western pundits and commentators have little doubt: the sanctions will hamstring the Russian economy, sow discontent among the Russian people and elites alike, and possibly even cause the downfall of the Putin regime. At the very least, we’re told, they will hinder Russia’s war efforts. But history suggests otherwise: see Iraq, or more recently Iran. Far more likely is that this turns out to be the latest Western strategic miscalculation in a long list of strategic blunders, of which the United States’ inglorious withdrawal from Afghanistan is just the most recent example.
After all, Russia has been preparing for this moment for quite some time. Following the first wave of Western sanctions, in 2014, and partly in retaliation against them, Putin embarked on what analysts have dubbed a “Fortress Russia” strategy, building up the country’s international reserves and diversifying them away from US dollars and British pounds, reducing its foreign exposure, boosting its economic cooperation with China, and pursuing import substitution strategies in several industries, including food, medicine and technology, in an effort to insulate Russia as much as possible from external shocks.
Two years into the pandemic, the experts are now the last to acknowledge the accuracy of their earlier predictions. This raises the question of why they changed course and sacrificed their own credibility in the process. Miller confines himself to the data, and if there’s a limitation to his book, it’s that he does not offer any compelling explanation of why the expert class threw itself a policy it once regarded as worse than useless.
It is not difficult to see why mask mandates proved irresistible to politicians. Masks are the perfect form of hygiene theatre, conveying an intuitive sense of safety regardless of demonstrable efficacy at scale. They also offload responsibility for controlling the pandemic to ordinary people. The overcrowding of ICUs can be blamed on the bad behavior of “anti-maskers”, rather than on the allocation of resources by governments and hospital CEOs. When cases and deaths spike, it is the fault of the citizenry, not the leadership.
The scientific and medical establishment’s uncritical support of masks and other dubious policies is just the latest manifestation of its lack of independence from political imperatives. After several years of finding themselves at the receiving end of rhetorical assaults from rising Right-wing populists, the experts seized on the pandemic as an opportunity to reassert their own status and authority — and that of the liberal-technocratic politicians with whom they are largely aligned.
Hayley Hodgson, 26, moved to Darwin from Melbourne to escape the never-ending lockdowns — only to find herself locked up in a Covid Internment Camp without even having the virus.
She’s just returned from a 14-day detention at Howard Springs, the 2000-capacity Covid camp outside Darwin to which regional Covid cases are transported by the authorities. In an exclusive interview with Freddie Sayers, she recounted her experiences.
Foucault saw the tendencies to try to control, normalise and rationalise everything as ubiquitous in industrialised society. ‘The judges of normality are present everywhere. We are in the society of the teacher-judge, the doctor-judge, the educator-judge… [E]ach individual, wherever he may find himself, subjects to it his body, his gestures, his behaviour, his aptitudes, his achievements.’ Foucault asked: ‘Is it surprising that prisons resemble factories, schools, barracks, hospitals, which all resemble prisons?’
…To turn Foucault on his head, you could easily argue that it is the medical staff who are the slaves, rather than the masters, in the NHS Panopticon. Those in the blue and green uniforms, the masked and overworked, are expected to metaphorically slave all day for the needs and whims of those of us who lie around all day, doing nothing but eating, reading, sleeping or messing around on the internet.
Last week, in an attempt to explain away the supply chain woes that are increasingly leading to goods shortages in America, President Biden cited a popular neoliberal fable. He observed that to make a pencil, wood and graphite must be sourced from the other ends of the world before the finished product can end up in American hands. “It sounds silly, but that’s exactly how it happens,” Biden mused, “that’s just the nature of the modern economy.” But the result, he added, is that “when global disruptions hit… it can hit supply chains particularly hard”.
Freddie visits the Austrian capital Vienna on the day that the world’s first lockdown for the unvaccinated was introduced, looking for answers. How do ordinary people feel about a third of their population being put in partial house arrest? How does it feel for the people stuck at home? And how did a liberal democracy come to this in 2021?
The Amazon founder thinks a trillion people could live in the Solar System
…The most telling moment in the interview was when Bezos was asked: “who gets to stay on Earth?” He may not have heard the question, but there was no direct response to it. If, however, we use his own numbers — 10 billion people on Earth and one trillion of us altogether, then the answer is literally the one percent.
Science journals have encouraged and enforced a false Covid narrative
Bear in mind that in the heat of this pandemic, papers printed in important journals were peer-reviewed within 10 weeks; one rattled through the process in just nine days for Nature. But, like Petrovsky, I have heard similar stories from many other frustrated experts who confronted the conventional wisdom that this lethal virus was a natural spillover event. Some could not even get letters published, let alone challenge those key papers promoting the Chinese perspective which have since turned out to be flawed or wrong.
Only now is acceptance emerging that the science establishment colluded to dismiss the lab leak hypothesis as a conspiracy theory, assisted by prominent experts with clear conflicts of interest, patsy politicians and a pathetic media that mostly failed to do its job. And yet, at the heart of this scandal lie some of the world’s most influential science journals. These should provide a forum for pulsating debate as experts explore and test theories, especially on something as contentious and fascinating as the possible origins of a global pandemic. Instead, some have played a central role in shutting down discussion and discrediting alternative views on the origins, with disastrous consequences for our understanding of events.
[T]he theory that the virus was cooked-up in a lab and accidentally released isn’t just a possibility, it’s the most likely explanation.
….What’s so compelling about Wade’s deep-dive is that he shows how the key details are easier to explain within the context of a lab leak origin. He doesn’t claim that they definitively rule out a natural origin — just that it’s more of a stretch to get all the pieces to fit together.
There has been much political opportunism all over the world in response to the pandemic. In Hong Kong, though, the prioritisation of politics over medicine has been breathtaking. From the earliest stages of the outbreak, the government here, reeling and battered after the surge of unprecedented pro-democracy protests in 2019, seized upon the spread of Covid as a major tool for quelling dissent. In February 2020, a secret report sent by the Hong Kong government to its bosses in Beijing was leaked. It allegedly contained statements by Lam describing the outbreak of the coronavirus as a “rare opportunity to reverse the situation”, her administration having been “attacked on all fronts” during the protests. She added that with the central government’s help the pandemic could be the means of ending the unrest.
To those people who, still now, object to lockdowns on civil liberties principles, this will be a chilling reminder of the centrality of the authoritarian Chinese model in influencing global policy in this historic year.
Recently, the Government agreed a £161 million deal with a British company called DnaNudge to provide 5.8 million Covid tests, as part of its “Moonshot” programme for mass testing of the population at the point of care. The CovidNudge test is “a rapid, accurate, portable and lab-free RT-PCR test that delivers results at the point of need and in just over an hour”, according to DnaNudge’s own promotional material. DnaNudge is a spinoff company of Imperial College London.
- Current lockdown policies are producing devastating effects on short and long-term public health.
- Keeping these measures in place until a vaccine is available will cause irreparable damage, with the underprivileged disproportionately harmed.
- We know that vulnerability to death from COVID-19 is more than a thousand-fold higher in the old and infirm than the young.
- COVID-19 is less dangerous for children than many other harms, including influenza.
- All populations will eventually reach herd immunity.
- Our goal should therefore be to minimize mortality and social harm until we reach herd immunity.
- Adopting measures to protect the vulnerable should be the central aim of public health responses to COVID-19.
- Those who are not vulnerable should immediately be allowed to resume life as normal.
- Simple hygiene measures, such as hand washing and staying home when sick should be practiced by everyone to reduce the herd immunity threshold.
- Young low-risk adults should work normally, rather than from home.
- Restaurants and other businesses should open.
- Arts, music, sport and other cultural activities should resume.
As always, we have to be careful before drawing out firm conclusions from data when many other factors may be involved. But we can be clear that the restrictions on family meet-ups in the Northern Lockdown areas have not managed to prevent positive cases increasing.
2:55 – Masks
• Tom Jefferson: “Aside from people who are exposed on the frontlines, there is no evidence that masks make any difference, but what’s even more extraordinary is the uncertainty: we don’t know if these things make any difference…. We should have done randomised control trials in February, March and April but not anymore because viral circulation is low and we will need huge number of enrolees to show whether there was any difference”.
• Carl Heneghan: “By all means people can wear masks but they can’t say it’s an evidence-based decision… there is a real separation between an evidence-based decision and the opaque term that ‘we are being led by the science’, which isn’t the evidence”.
9:26 – Pandemic life cycle
• CH: “One of the keys of the infection is to look at who’s been infected, which shows a crucial difference when comparing the pandemic theory to seasonal theory. In a pandemic you’d expect to see young people disproportionately affected, but in the UK we’ve only had six child deaths, which is far less than we’d normally see in a pandemic. The high number of deaths with over-75s fits with the seasonal theory”.
14:00 – Covid seasonality
• CH: “The stability of the virus is far less when the temperature goes up but humidity seems to be particularly important. The lower the humidity, the more stable the virus is in the atmosphere and on surfaces… It’s now winter in the southern hemisphere, which is why places like Australia are suddenly having outbreaks.”
20:37 – Lockdown
• CH: “Many people said that we should have locked down earlier, but 50% of care homes developed outbreaks during the lockdown period so there are issues within the transmission of this virus that are not clear… Lockdown is a blunt tool and there needs to be intelligent conversations about what mitigation strategies can keep society functioning while we keep the most vulnerable shielded”.
25:20 – Nightingale hospitals
• CH: “They are the wrong structure. What you need is fever hospitals which were here until around the 1980s or 90s. They were on single floors and had isolation within isolation. Theere were no lift shafts and staff were trained, which meant that everyone was protected from each other… It looks like at leats 20% of people got the infection while they were in hospital”
27:30 – Suppression strategy
• CH: “The benefits of the current strategy are outweighed by the harms…When it comes to suppression, only the virus will have a determination in that. If you follow the New Zealand policy of suppressing it to zero and locking down the country forever, then you’re going to have a problem… This virus is so out there now, I cannot see a strategy that makes suppression the viable option. The strategy right now should be how we learn to live with this virus”
32:45 – Response to the virus
• TJ: “I am a survivor of four pandemics and for the other three, I didn’t even realise they were going on. People died but nothing changed and none of the fabric of society was eroded like this response… Do I see steps being taken at a European level about learning from our mistakes and changing policies? The answer is no…
39:30 – Politics of the virus
• CH: “We as individuals are part of the problem because sensationalism drives people to click and read the information. So it’s a big circle because we’ve created the problem — if we put the worst case scenario out there, we will go and have a look. If you want a solution, you’ve got to get people to stop clicking on this sensationalist stuff”.
43:30 – IFR
• CH: “We will be down about where we were with the swine flu: around 0.1-0.3% which is much lower than what we think because at the moment we are seeing the case fatality”.
• TJ: “If you look at the whole narrative, it was distorted from the very beginning by the obsession with influenza which was just one or two agents and nothing else existed. We’re no different now”.
• There was “massive confusion” about different Covid data between England’s health bodies. “Public Health England figures are about double the ONS figures because PHE are reporting anybody who has had a positive Covid death in the past… This will get increasingly confusing as we go into the next Winter because there could be a new outbreak and new deaths while also still reporting on historical deaths… This is a problem for epidemiologists and media… ”
• Even a “28 period cut-off is still not ideal for accurate death numbers because there is “immediate cause and underlying cause… Immediate cause means you’ve had Covid within 21 days but outside of that, it becomes the underlying cause — something that contributed to your death but wasn’t a direct cause. A 21 day cut-off would be helpful because it gives a clearer understanding of that distinction”
• “We follow excess deaths which is the most accurate information about what’s going on at that moment, but it can’t tell you what those deaths are caused by” (i.e. people not coming forward with heart attacks etc)
• “There’s an important distinction between lives lost and life years lost. One of the things we’ll be watching very closely over the next six months is how many people would have actually died in the next six months… That’s where the excess deaths really matter. If we start to see it trend significantly under for the next few months, we’ll start to come forward with information that suggests there was a group of vulnerable people that any respiratory infection would have shortened their life.”
• “In the media you’ll always hear about catastrophe and the consequences of that. One of the things we notice is that when you don’t hear anything that usually means there’s good news happening. So when Sweden looks worse you hear about it but when it’s not so bad, like now, you never see it in the media.”
“Intensive care units are getting empty, the wards are getting empty, we are really seeing a decrease — and that despite that people are really loosening up. The beaches are crowded, social distancing is not kept very well … but still the numbers are really decreasing. That means that something else is happening – we are actually getting closer to herd immunity. I can’t really see another reason.”
“I can’t say if the Swedish approach was right or wrong – I think we can say that in one or two years when we are looking back. You have to look at the mortality over the whole period.”
“I don’t think that we have more new cases, I think we are just detecting more cases”
“We found that if you have a mild case you can be negative for antibodies afterwards … in those almost all of them had strong T-cell activity. This study says that there are cases that you can have a strong T-cell response even though you have not had antibodies, meaning that you have encountered the virus and built up immunity.”
So as you read, in coming weeks, furious news stories about technical incompetence, citizen non-compliance, threats of stricter enforcement and blame in all directions, as if everything was hanging on the latest government policy, remember the humility of scientists instead of the solipsism of the political class. Yes, the Government action plan will most likely be ineffective, but politicians were never in charge of this anyway. It’s bigger than they are — the best they could ever hope to do is tinker around the edges. Coronavirus is nobody’s ‘fault’.