In other words, lockdowns (whether necessary or not) probably delayed the evolution of the virus into a milder form. That is now happening, and is our least worst option given that eradication is impossible and the virus may become more transmissible in response to vaccination.
In general, there is not nearly enough thinking along the lines of “Darwinian medicine” within the medical establishment, as Randy Nesse has long argued.
As things stand, the libertarian cause has not simply been defeated, but routed. Instead of “learning to live with Covid”, society looks set to learn to live with restrictions.
A coddled and frightened public that is reluctant to leave the lockdown rabbit hole has badly needed to hear harsh home truths. That while the vaccination campaign has proved tremendously successful, and Covid for now no longer threatens to overwhelm the NHS, more people will die. That it is as good as inevitable that new variants will emerge. That Long Covid will continue to affect a minority of people. But that, with children’s education being trashed, the nation’s mental health on a precipice and disastrous inflation possibly rearing its head, the risks of not reopening have become too great.
Think about it for a moment: the state is poised to introduce a system akin to mandatory vaccination. Citizens will be compelled to give up potentially vast quantities of personal data as a basic condition for access to everyday services.
It is a dark turning point for the West. As it was with lockdowns, the only major country already experimenting in this unchartered territory is authoritarian China, with its notorious social credit system, which bars blacklisted non-compliant citizens from basic goods like train tickets and loans.
Richard Smith, former editor of the BMJ, writes that medical research has become so dishonest that “We have now reached a point where those doing systematic reviews must start by assuming that a study is fraudulent until they can have some evidence to the contrary.” Another slice:
Research fraud is often viewed as a problem of “bad apples,” but Barbara K Redman, who spoke at the webinar insists that it is not a problem of bad apples but bad barrels if not, she said, of rotten forests or orchards. In her book Research Misconduct Policy in Biomedicine: Beyond the Bad-Apple Approach she argues that research misconduct is a systems problem—the system provides incentives to publish fraudulent research and does not have adequate regulatory processes. Researchers progress by publishing research, and because the publication system is built on trust and peer review is not designed to detect fraud it is easy to publish fraudulent research. The business model of journals and publishers depends on publishing, preferably lots of studies as cheaply as possible. They have little incentive to check for fraud and a positive disincentive to experience reputational damage—and possibly legal risk—from retracting studies. Funders, universities, and other research institutions similarly have incentives to fund and publish studies and disincentives to make a fuss about fraudulent research they may have funded or had undertaken in their institution—perhaps by one of their star researchers.
A major problem is the mindless fixation of our political and media class on the absolute number of Covid cases recorded, in the absence of vital context relating to the number of tests conducted and the link with hospitalisations and deaths. Yes, we’re registering around 50,000 daily Covid cases – levels last seen in January. But the UK is now conducting way over twice as many tests each day as back then. We should focus, instead, on the share of tests that are positive, a far more indicative measure of the true extent of Covid.
“The lockdown of 11 million people is unprecedented in public health history, so it is certainly not a recommendation the WHO has made,” the World Health Organisation’s Beijing representative said in January last year, referring to the Wuhan lockdown. The people of Wuhan became trailblazers for the 11 million Australians locked down across Victoria and NSW, and the hundreds of millions of others in between.
Eighteen months on, all the features of the Wuhan response – lockdowns, mandatory masks, surveillance and border closures – have become standard practice, despite each specifically being ruled out by the WHO in 2019.
The WHO understood such extreme measures in free societies would have profound and enduring economic, social, constitutional and political ramifications. Real life wasn’t a game of SimCity, where elite public servants, largely immune from the costs of their own decisions, could dial restrictions up and down.
Why the West junked all its pre-2020 disease management advice remains the most concerning and unanswered question of our time. In 2017, the US government updated its pandemic plan, spelling out clearly what governments should do based on the severity of any pandemic. It’s not surprising the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention hasn’t yet declared the severity level for Covid-19 because it would fall around category three based on its own criteria: in other words, not nearly severe enough to justify the measures used to contain it.
Stanford University professor of medicine Jay Bhattacharya says there has long been a tension in public health between advising people how to be healthy and forcing them to be.
“There’s also a norm in public health that there has to be unanimity in messaging … you have to all say the same thing, think the same thing,” he says.
That makes sense for smoking, for instance, where the link with cancer is overwhelming. But for Covid-19, where debate rages about the disease and its origin, let alone the best way to deal with it, censorship is inexcusable.
The professor himself was censored by social media back in April for appearing with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on a live panel, where some experts questioned the benefits of compulsory mask wearing. “I thought it was good governance for the public to see a governor speaking publicly with experts, but instead it was removed from YouTube,” he says.
A tremendous number of government and private policies affecting kids are based on one number: 335. That is how many children under 18 have died with a Covid diagnosis code in their record, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Yet the CDC, which has 21,000 employees, hasn’t researched each death to find out whether Covid caused it or if it involved a pre-existing medical condition.
Without these data, the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices decided in May that the benefits of two-dose vaccination outweigh the risks for all kids 12 to 15. I’ve written hundreds of peer-reviewed medical studies, and I can think of no journal editor who would accept the claim that 335 deaths resulted from a virus without data to indicate if the virus was incidental or causal, and without an analysis of relevant risk factors such as obesity.
My research team at Johns Hopkins worked with the nonprofit FAIR Health to analyze approximately 48,000 children under 18 diagnosed with Covid in health-insurance data from April to August 2020. Our report found a mortality rate of zero among children without a pre-existing medical condition such as leukemia. If that trend holds, it has significant implications for healthy kids and whether they need two vaccine doses. The National Education Association has been debating whether to urge schools to require vaccination before returning to school in person. How can they or anyone debate the issue without the right data?
Most striking, the CDC has never systematically collected and reported the No. 1 leading indicator of the pandemic—daily new hospitalizations for Covid sickness. Instead, the CDC offers the lagging indicator of hospitalization for anyone who tests positive for Covid.
The CDC data on natural-immunity rates is similarly disappointing. The CDC reports this measure in fragments on their website, but it’s outdated and some states are listed as having “no data available.” The low priority given to this indicator is consistent with how public-health officials have played down and ignored natural immunity in their drive to get everyone vaccinated.