Meanwhile, evidence is mounting of the long-term consequences of quarantining the country during lockdown. There were warnings at the time that keeping people under a form of house arrest would lead to rising loneliness, mental illness, domestic abuse and childhood obesity; a growing school attainment divide between pupils from rich and poor homes; an increase in hospital waiting lists and a rise in undiagnosed cases of cancer. All of which have come to pass. Only last month, for example, a report by the House of Commons Library expressed concern that the estimated rate of absence from school in the current academic year was 7.8% – compared with 4.8% in 2019-20.
Published 20 Dec 2005.
We identified four fundamental questions underlying these claims and requested supporting studies from FLI (which according to the German Government “possesses virus isolates of H5N1”):
1.Does H5N1 exist?
2.Is it pathogenic to animals?
3.Is it transmissible and pathogenic to humans, and does it have pandemic potential?
4.Have other causes for observed disease been studied?
Our analysis shows the papers do not satisfy our four basic questions. Claims of H5N1 pathogenicity and pandemic potential need to be challenged further.
I was wrong. We in the scientific community were wrong. And it cost lives.
I can see now that the scientific community from the CDC to the WHO to the FDA and their representatives, repeatedly overstated the evidence and misled the public about its own views and policies, including on natural vs. artificial immunity, school closures and disease transmission, aerosol spread, mask mandates, and vaccine effectiveness and safety, especially among the young. All of these were scientific mistakes at the time, not in hindsight. Amazingly, some of these obfuscations continue to the present day.
Let’s begin with the evidence, and the mighty and revered World Health Organization (WHO). As the great Covid fear was getting into its stride, on March 31, 2020, the executive director of the WHO health emergencies programme, Mike Ryan, spoke on the issue.
He said at a briefing in Geneva: ‘There is no specific evidence to suggest the wearing of masks by the mass population has any potential benefit. In fact, there’s evidence to suggest the opposite in the misuse of wearing a mask properly or fitting it properly.’
The Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, in partnership with WHO and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, conducted Catastrophic Contagion, a pandemic tabletop exercise at the Grand Challenges Annual Meeting in Brussels, Belgium, on October 23, 2022.
The extraordinary group of participants consisted of 10 current and former Health Ministers and senior public health officials from Senegal, Rwanda, Nigeria, Angola, Liberia, Singapore, India, Germany, as well as Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The exercise simulated a series of WHO emergency health advisory board meetings addressing a fictional pandemic set in the near future. Participants grappled with how to respond to an epidemic located in one part of the world that then spread rapidly, becoming a pandemic with a higher fatality rate than COVID-19 and disproportionately affecting children and young people.
Participants were challenged to make urgent policy decisions with limited information in the face of uncertainty. Each problem and choice had serious health, economic, and social ramifications.
On the contrary, over 30,000 Americans appear to have been killed by mechanical ventilators or other forms of medical iatrogenesis throughout April 2020, primarily in the area around New York.
This result is not altogether surprising, as subsequent studies revealed a 97.2% mortality rate among those over age 65 who were put on mechanical ventilators in accordance with the initial guidance from the WHO—as opposed to a 26.6% mortality rate among those over age 65 who weren’t put on mechanical ventilators—before a grassroots campaign put a stop to the practice by the beginning of May 2020.
As one doctor later told the Wall Street Journal, “We were intubating sick patients very early. Not for the patients’ benefit, but in order to control the epidemic… That felt awful.”
To put this in perspective, patients over age 65 were more than 26 times as likely to survive if they were not placed on mechanical ventilators.
Pfizer and Moderna mRNA COVID-19 vaccines were associated with an excess risk of serious adverse events of special interest of 10.1 and 15.1 per 10,000 vaccinated over placebo baselines of 17.6 and 42.2 (95 % CI −0.4 to 20.6 and −3.6 to 33.8), respectively. Combined, the mRNA vaccines were associated with an excess risk of serious adverse events of special interest of 12.5 per 10,000 vaccinated (95 % CI 2.1 to 22.9); risk ratio 1.43 (95 % CI 1.07 to 1.92). The Pfizer trial exhibited a 36 % higher risk of serious adverse events in the vaccine group; risk difference 18.0 per 10,000 vaccinated (95 % CI 1.2 to 34.9); risk ratio 1.36 (95 % CI 1.02 to 1.83). The Moderna trial exhibited a 6 % higher risk of serious adverse events in the vaccine group: risk difference 7.1 per 10,000 (95 % CI –23.2 to 37.4); risk ratio 1.06 (95 % CI 0.84 to 1.33). Combined, there was a 16 % higher risk of serious adverse events in mRNA vaccine recipients: risk difference 13.2 (95 % CI −3.2 to 29.6); risk ratio 1.16 (95 % CI 0.97 to 1.39).
The excess risk of serious adverse events found in our study points to the need for formal harm-benefit analyses, particularly those that are stratified according to risk of serious COVID-19 outcomes. These analyses will require public release of participant level datasets.
The World Health Organization will convene member states and leaders of Covid-19 immunization credential technology groups to recognize different vaccine certificates across nations and regions, a top Vaccination Credential Initiative official told POLITICO’s Ben Leonard.
TheWHO is bringing together the groups to develop a “trust framework” that would allow countries to verify whether vaccine credentials are legitimate, said Brian Anderson, chief digital health physician at MITRE and a co-founder of the VCI.
“We knew from February , never mind March, that the lockdown would not solve the problem. It would simply delay it,” Woolhouse says, a note of enduring disbelief in his voice. And yet in government, “there was no attention paid to that rather obvious drawback of the strategy”.
Instead, lockdowns – which “only made sense in the context of eradication” – became the tool of choice to control Covid. The die was cast in China, which instituted ultra-strict measures and, unforgivably in Woolhouse’s book, was praised by the World Health Organisation for its “bold approach”. “The WHO,” he suggests, “got the biggest calls completely wrong in 2020. The early global response to the pandemic was woefully inadequate.”
The World Health Organization amplified false Chinese statements about COVID-19 initially, while it dragging its feet on declaring an international emergency. Pandemic experts here clung to flu epidemic plans too, ignoring observable COVID-19 successes in East Asia and so ruling out any similar possibility of test-and-trace containment in the UK from the off.
Most public health experts then pivoted to being extremely pro-lockdown, but stuck rigidly to this even as the context, and so the costs and benefits of restrictions, changed with the vaccines and omicron.
Epidemiologists proved especially stubborn. Their modelling usually ignored the role of voluntary behavioural change entirely, so erred on the side of assuming catastrophic public health outcomes absent government mandates and restrictions. Hence, Freedom Day was dubbed “criminal” by scientists, while the government’s scientific advisers called for more restrictions last Christmas. Both proved wrong in retrospect.
The South African GP who first raised the alarm about Omicron says she was pressured by governments “not to publicly state that it was a mild illness”.
Dr Angelique Coetzee told Germany’s Die Welt newspaper this week that European governments asked her to portray the new strain as just as serious as previous Covid-19 variants, including Delta.
“I was told not to publicly state that it was a mild illness,” she said. “I have been asked to refrain from making such statements and to say that it is a serious illness. I declined.”
Asked what she meant, Coetzee said “based on the clinical picture there are no indications that we are dealing with a very serious disease”.
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.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday clarified its stance on various kinds of masks, acknowledging that the cloth masks frequently worn by Americans do not offer as much protection as surgical masks or respirators.
While this disparity is widely known to the general public, the update marks the first time the C.D.C. has explicitly addressed the differences. The agency’s website also no longer refers to a shortage of respirators.
The change comes as infections with the highly contagious Omicron variant continue to soar. Some experts have said that cloth masks are inadequate to protect from the variant, and have urged the C.D.C. to recommend respirators for ordinary citizens.
One of the checks and balances on rampant bad scientific research is to continuously assess how new ideas fit into the framework of the bigger picture. A new piece of information may seem perfectly reasonable and well-documented, but the domino effect of its implications gives you another way to test its validity. When multiple lines of seemingly rock-solid evidence contradict one another, that’s a good sign that something is wrong, even if you don’t yet know why. Whenever a thread seems out of place, it’s time to pull on that thread until you can figure out what exactly is going on.
…”Trusting the science” is not (and never has been) about trusting results or trusting experts. Trusting the scientists is what got us into this mess. For science to function properly, we must NOT trust the scientists. Instead, we must trust in the messy self-correcting process that allows truth to boil to the surface even if every participant in that process is flawed.
“Science is the belief in the ignorance of the Experts”
— Richard P. Feynman
Science is the relentless competition between measurable pieces of evidence, the ruthless gauntlet of debate, the willingness to question even the most “obvious” of assumptions, and the humbleness to test and retest any and all assumptions against hard evidence, most especially when those assumptions are our own.
The omicron epidemic is being driven by young, vaccinated people, according to mounting data from countries as diverse as the UK, Denmark and South Africa.
The new variant has now been detected in more than 60 countries, including 24 in Europe, with a similar pattern of infection and characteristics being reported across the globe.
…Data from Denmark – a world leader in genetic sequencing – shows that, of 3,437 omicron cases detected, just over 70 per cent have been among those younger than 40, according to the breakdown from the Statens Serum Institut published on Monday.
Some 75 per cent of these cases were in fully vaccinated individuals, the institute added, confirming that even the double jabbed can carry the virus.
The £37billion Test and Trace scheme is already being dismantled – despite fears of a devastating winter Covid crisis.
A leaked dossier has laid bare plans to axe the shambolic system in 2022. But a major step in winding it down will come next week.
The Sunday Mirror understands the contact tracing system run by Sitel and Serco will be wound up early over crippling costs.
Up to 10,000 contact tracers and call handlers were last week told their jobs were being axed, insiders said.
In briefings by managers, teams were told there was “no money left”.
HARARE, ZIMBABWE — At a busy market in a poor township outside Harare this week, Nyasha Ndou kept his mask in his pocket, as hundreds of other people, mostly unmasked, jostled to buy and sell fruit and vegetables displayed on wooden tables and plastic sheets. As in much of Zimbabwe, here the coronavirus is quickly being relegated to the past, as political rallies, concerts and home gatherings have returned.
…But there is something “mysterious” going on in Africa that is puzzling scientists, said Wafaa El-Sadr, chair of global health at Columbia University. “Africa doesn’t have the vaccines and the resources to fight COVID-19 that they have in Europe and the U.S., but somehow they seem to be doing better,” she said.
There is “no evidence” that school closures significantly reduced the spread of Covid, a study has found.
The research, published in the journal Nature Medicine, used data from Japan, where each municipality is responsible for the closure of schools in their areas.
…”Empirically, we find no evidence that school closures in Japan caused a significant reduction in the number of coronavirus cases,” they said.
“If opening schools leads to the spread of Covid-19, spikes of cases would occur in the control group; however, these were not observed. The implication is the same: school closures do not help reduce the spread of Covid-19 significantly.”
…Separate research, published earlier this year, found the UK had closed schools for longer than anywhere in Europe other than Italy over the past 18 months.
Some psychologists and educators worry that such impairment in facial processing can lead to a spate of challenges with socialization and communication. Kids may find reading people’s emotions through masks particularly difficult. And for children who are meeting new classmates for the first time while masked, recognition difficulties can slow down the getting-to-know-you process and, in the long run, hinder the development of trust. England opted not to require children to wear masks in elementary school, at least for the time being; according to The New York Times, both the Conservative and Labour Parties are concerned that masks make communication harder for kids. The World Health Organization also recommended that schools weigh potential “psychosocial development” concerns when deciding mask requirements for children ages 6 through 12.