In October 2020, along with Professor Sunetra Gupta, we authored the Great Barrington Declaration , in which we argued for a ‘focused protection’ pandemic strategy. We called for better protection of older and other high-risk people, while arguing that children should be allowed to go to school and young adults should be free to live more normal lives. We understood that it might lead to vigorous and heated discussions, but we did not expect a multi-pronged propaganda campaign that gravely distorted our arguments and smeared us. We are just three public-health scientists, after all. So how and why did this slanderous counterattack emerge?
In his recent book, Spike, Jeremy Farrar – a SAGE member and director of the Wellcome Trust – has provided a helpful hint: the political strategist and the prime minister’s chief adviser, Dominic Cummings, planned a propaganda campaign against the Great Barrington Declaration. Farrar’s exact words are that Cummings ‘wanted to run an aggressive press campaign against those behind the Great Barrington Declaration and others opposed to blanket Covid-19 restrictions’. Cummings and Farrar preferred a blanket lockdown strategy, believing it would avoid a winter Covid wave.
[Matt] Hancock, Anthony Fauci , Jeremy Farrar and prominent journalists also mischaracterised the Great Barrington Declaration as a ‘herd-immunity strategy ’, even though any strategy will lead to herd immunity sooner or later. Yes, the Declaration discussed herd immunity. It would be irresponsible to ignore such a basic biological fact. But to characterise the Great Barrington Declaration as a ‘herd-immunity strategy’ is like describing a pilot’s plan to land a plane as a ‘gravity strategy’. The goal of a pilot is to land the plane safely while managing the force of gravity. The goal of any Covid pandemic plan should be to minimise disease mortality and the collateral harms from the plan itself, while managing the build-up of immunity in the population. Shockingly, some politicians, journalists and even scientists denied the very existence of herd immunity . Some even questioned the existence of natural immunity  from Covid, which is a bit like denying gravity.
There is a Hayekian critique of SIP and allied policies. The knowledge of particular circumstances of time and place is widely dispersed throughout society. Individuals know more about their specific situations, including exposure risks, than could any centralized public health officials. They certainly know how many precautions they have already taken. The dispersed information cannot be aggregated in one mind, however brilliant that mind might be. The argument against central planning of public health is analogous to that against central planning of an economy.
He [Sir Jeremy Farrar] is terrifyingly sincere and really does have the interest of mankind at heart. Therein lies the problem.
There are few more obsessive fanatics than the technocrat who is convinced that he is reordering an imperfect world for its own good.
He is convinced he’s right and the Government should listen to no one else. Challenge from other scientists is normally regarded as fundamental to scientific advance. But for Farrar disagreement is a ‘hurdle’. It just gets in his way.
So, serious scientists such as Professors Carl Heneghan, Karol Sikora and Sunetra Gupta, who have had the temerity to offer opinions differing from his own, are dismissed as being ‘responsible for a number of unnecessary deaths’, although Farrar has had a great deal of influence on Government policy and they have had almost none.
This kind of attitude to colleagues is, frankly, unworthy of a scientist of Sir Jeremy’s eminence.
Anders Tegnell, the Swedish state epidemiologist, is dismissed in a brief footnote, although Sweden is a standing repudiation of much that Farrar stands for. Sweden has avoided a lockdown, yet has done much better than the UK.
Like many technocrats, Farrar believes in coercion. Otherwise, people might not do what he wants. ‘You cannot tell people to stay at home only if they feel like it,’ he says.
Ethan Yang warns against over-reacting to the Delta variant . A slice:
After a year and a half under house arrest, many people would likely choose the risk of infection over isolating themselves again. This is especially true for young people who have been disproportionately harmed by lockdowns . We must also remind ourselves that Covid-19 does not pose a real risk of fatality except for those with comorbidities and elderly populations, who are now more than 70 percent vaccinated . Vaccination provides a significant boost, but not complete protection, to infection, severe symptoms, and death, which is great news for preventing new deaths. The CDC has made this point very clear  yet they still forecast doom and gloom.
Paul Collits understands politicians . A slice:
Politicians are nowadays greedy, motivated by career, factionalised, prone to lying, controlled by outside interests, fearful of losing their power and seemingly willing to do anything to get off the hook. They are patently driven by the enjoyment of power, accessing the perks of office, protecting their mates, setting up post-political career opportunities and settling scores. There is little evidence that they are focused on problem solving (as per the rational actor model), even remotely interested in it or equipped to do it.