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’.
- Professor Karol Sikora says that COVID-19 behaves like pandemics in the past.
- Society is scarred all over the world.
- The virus will go but the fear will do the damage.
Note: YouTube has taken down the video. Please go directly to UnHerd’s site:
Professor Karol Sikora has become something of a celebrity in the UK over the past months for his expert commentary on the pandemic, and his unusual tendency for optimism rather than pessimism.
Virus ‘getting tired’
– In the past two weeks, the virus is showing signs of petering out
– It’s as though the virus is ‘getting tired’, almost ‘getting bored’
– It’s happening across the world at the same time
Existing herd immunity
– The serology results around the world (and forthcoming in Britain) don’t necessarily reveal the percentage of people who have had the disease
– He estimates 25-30% of the UK population has had Covid-19, and higher in the group that is most susceptible
– Pockets of herd immunity help *already* explain the downturn
– Sweden’s end result will not be different to ours – lockdown versus no lockdown
Fear more deadly than the virus
– When the history books are written, the fear will have killed many more people than the virus, including large numbers of cancer and cardiological patients not being treated
– We should have got the machinery of the NHS for non-corona patients back open earlier
Masks and schools
– Evidence on masks is just not there either way so it should be an ‘individual decision’
– We should move to 1m social distancing which means restaurants and bars could reopen
– More schools should reopen in June as ‘children are not the transmitters of this virus’
– We should be getting back to the ‘old normal’ not a ‘new normal’
A rise in the Covid-19 infection rate actually means that lockdown is working
When you read diaries of people who lived through the revolution in Russia, you find them looking on in disbelief as the vast, centuries-old empire of the Romanovs melted into nothing in a matter of months. Few then accepted that the world they knew had gone forever.
Freddie Sayers talks to Professor Hendrik Streeck about why he thinks lockdown measures were initiated too quickly, and how his findings show a Covid-19 fatality rate of 0.24-0.36%. The deadliness of Covid-19, measured by the “Infected Fatality Rate” or what percentage of infected people end up dying, has become an issue of global significance.
- COVID-19 is less deadly than initially thought
- Fatality rate between 0.24-0.36%
- Transmission between families seems low
- Enclosed spaces with large gatherings seems to spread the virus
- Waiting for a vaccine seems unrealistic
- We will not be able to eradicate COVID-19 without a vaccine but there has not been any successful vaccine against any coronovirus
- COVID-19 will be like any coronavirus
- We may be able to manage the virus with basic hygiene
When our American cousins cry “Live Free or Die” and take to the streets to protest overweening state authority during lockdown, whether they know it or not, they are honouring the tradition of English liberty.
- UK policy on lockdown and other European countries are not evidence-based
- The correct policy is to protect the old and the frail only
- This will eventually lead to herd immunity as a “by-product”
- The initial UK response, before the “180 degree U-turn”, was better
- The Imperial College paper was “not very good” and he has never seen an unpublished paper have so much policy impact
- The paper was very much too pessimistic
- Any such models are a dubious basis for public policy anyway
- The flattening of the curve is due to the most vulnerable dying first as much as the lockdown
- The results will eventually be similar for all countries
- Covid-19 is a “mild disease” and similar to the flu, and it was the novelty of the disease that scared people.
- The actual fatality rate of Covid-19 is the region of 0.1%
- At least 50% of the population of both the UK and Sweden will be shown to have already had the disease when mass antibody testing becomes available
Summary from 21st Century Wire.
As Parliament keeps the whole population under house arrest, there are very few voices of dissent