“Dr Angelique Coetzee, the doctor who alerted the world to the Omicron Covid variant, says we are over-reacting to the threat.” A slice from Dr. Coetzee’s essay:
As chair of the South African Medical Association and a GP of 33 years’ standing, I have seen a lot over my medical career.
But nothing has prepared me for the extraordinary global reaction that met my announcement this week that I had seen a young man in my surgery who had a case of Covid that turned out to be the Omicron variant.
This version of the virus had been circulating in southern Africa for some time, having been previously identified in Botswana.
But given my public-facing role, by announcing its presence in my own patient, I unwittingly brought it to global attention.
Quite simply, I have been stunned at the response – and especially from Britain.
And let me be clear: nothing I have seen about this new variant warrants the extreme action the UK government has taken in response to it.
No one here in South Africa is known to have been hospitalised with the Omicron variant, nor is anyone here believed to have fallen seriously ill with it.
Yet Britain and other European nations have reacted with heavy travel restrictions on flights from across southern Africa, as well as imposing tighter rules at home on mask-wearing, fines and extended quarantines.
The simple truth is: we don’t know yet anywhere near enough about Omicron to make such judgments or to impose such policies.
Irresponsible epidemiologists, journalists, and public health officials have worked to scare parents about the risk to children from covid, despite the data.
Our kids have not even begun to pay the harms of the resulting school closures and destruction of their childhoods.
(Very) Long Lockdown seems to be real: Robby Soave reports that “Pandemic Restrictions May Harm Infants’ Cognitive Development, New [but not-yet-peer-reviewed] Study Finds.” Two slices:
COVID-19 mitigation policies like masks, social distancing, lockdowns, and school closures may have harmed the cognitive development of infants: Verbal, non-verbal, and early learning scores dropped among babies born during the pandemic, according to a new study from Brown University.
“We find that children born during the pandemic have significantly reduced verbal, motor, and overall cognitive performance compared to children born pre-pandemic,” wrote the study’s authors. “Results highlight that even in the absence of direct SARS-CoV-2 infection and COVID-19 illness, the environmental changes associated with the COVID-19 pandemic is significantly and negatively affecting infant and child development.”
Outcomes were worse for males than females, and children in lower socioeconomic households were worst off.
Still, this pandemic-era drop in cognitive outcomes is notable. And even if the harms end up being smaller than they appear in this study, it’s worth keeping in mind that the benefits of COVID-19 restrictions are extremely limited for this age cohort. Due to the virus’s age discrimination, young people were almost entirely spared from negative health outcomes relating to the disease itself. Only about 500 children in the U.S. have died of COVID-19, and it is likely that a significant number of those victims had other health problems or compromised immune systems. For the overwhelming majority of healthy kids, there is no good evidence that they should have to wear masks, practice social distancing, and frequently miss school.
Yet in much of the country, the restrictions on young people are currently more stringent than the restrictions on adults and the elderly. In large Democratic cities like New York City and Washington, D.C., schoolchildren are generally masked. And when it’s time to eat lunch, they do so outdoors—even as the weather grows colder.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is threatening to withhold payments to healthcare facilities unless they require the Covid-19 vaccine for their workers. This action is misguided. I am vaccinated and support the goal of increasing vaccination rates. But the CMS policy has the potential to backfire and jeopardize patient access, safety and the quality of care for millions of Americans.
Many facilities are limiting the number of patients they see because they lack staff. Rick Pollack, president of the American Hospital Association, said the new CMS policy may end up “exacerbating the severe workforce shortage problems that currently exist.” Forcing the resignation of unvaccinated healthcare workers could lead to the closing of hospitals and nursing homes, especially in rural areas where even losing a few staff could be catastrophic to operations.
Public officials cite “science,” but they’ve been flying mostly by the seat of their pants since the pandemic went public in early 2020.
“Misinformation” has become an everyday word, with social-media companies like Google, Twitter and Facebook censoring posts about issues such as climate, race and gender. By that standard, they should take down the accounts of every government in the world for how they have often mishandled informing their citizens about Covid-19.
Governments are the institutions to which people cede authority so they can live their lives in predictable ways. Governments don’t exist to cause disorder, though that looks to be their most notable product now.
The supply chain, normally a daily miracle of flexibility, is mired in sluggishness and gridlock. Workers are scarce because government’s Covid shutdowns kept people away from daily work habits too long and because the Biden administration’s emergency transfer payments suppressed work-response patterns across labor markets. We may assume that Anthony Fauci, an architect of the long lockdowns, would dismiss such criticism as an attack on science.
Responding to a ridiculous recent assertion by Ronald Klain that “stronger Covid measures produce stronger economic outcomes,” Jay Bhattacharya tweets:
This is economic ignorance on display. Lockdowns kill economic activity. That is their primary purpose. The economic harm falls especially on the poor and working class. Without stopping covid.
It’s not a coincidence that red state unemployment is so much lower than blue state.
But as we have all been taught since early last year, the ultimate goal in life is to avoid exposure to Covid – a goal worth pursuing even if this pursuit leads to premature death from causes other than Covid. (TANSTAFPFC)
At every turn of this story, we as a nation move away from our centuries-old traditions of liberty and respect for the rights of people to make decisions over our own lives. An authoritarian habit of imposing binding restrictions doesn’t just take away our freedom to do as we please but also takes away our responsibility towards other people. In essence, it makes us all lose some humanity.
The restrictions have also knocked hell out of some of our most important industries, with our world-leading aviation sector possibly suffering the most.
Even when the Soviet-style ban on leaving the country was scrapped, a complex, expensive and ever-changing list of other requirements was put in place to deter people from travelling. Thousands of jobs have been destroyed, families have been kept apart and less affluent people have been largely excluded from international travel. Meanwhile the evidence has mounted that closing borders has not stopped variants of coronavirus from spreading around the world.
When Australia and New Zealand exercised a policy of almost entirely shutting their borders, the delta variant still became the predominant variant there too. The only benefit of the millions of PCR tests taken by Brits returning from green and amber list countries in the summer was to prove that they were actually less likely to have coronavirus than people who had stayed at home.
This kind of derogatory stereotyping isn’t accidental. For mask-wearing to work as a symbol of virtue, those who choose not to wear masks have to be demonised. And that’s why the Great Covid Mask Debate is so angry and divisive. Because mask obsessives are not only saying something positive about themselves – they’re also saying something very negative about the unmasked. Face coverings may not have a huge impact on the spread of Covid — but they certainly impact on social solidarity.
Early rumours, that unvaccinated Austrians would face substantial fines or incarceration, have been confirmed by draft legislation leaked to the Austrian press.
The plan is for local authorities to summon the recalcitrant to vaccination appointments. Those who don’t accept these binding invitations will receive a second summons, and further refusal will result in a fine of 3,600 Euros, or four weeks of incarceration. Repeated refusals could result in a doubling of the fine, to 7,200 Euros. Higher fines can also be imposed if the refusal to accept vaccination is deemed to cause “a serious danger to someone’s life or health.”
The law is envisioned to remain in force for at least three years.