Day 48 and the Elephant in the Room

As much as I’m for a slower pace of life and spending more time at home I can’t think of all that much that is positive right now. The past few weeks have been extremely challenging for most and to say reality is looking rather bleak is an understatement. We may as well be in the scene of Edvard Munch’s “Scream”. Those weary eyes and strong frown lines above the many concealed faces are telling a story; within that story is anger, fear and brokenness. A cloud is hanging over us. Be that as it may, some light is beginning to emerge through the cracks in the visors of our big global gas-lighting act. While we still don’t have all the answers about the nature of virus SARS CoV-2, and the pandemic Covid-19, we do NOW know enough to be less risk averse, setting better guidelines and health policies without any further compromise to the economy and to the social well-being of people.

When and how did we go so wrong?

There are lies, damned lies and statistics – Mark Twain

On 16 March Professor Neil Ferguson of Imperial College London released a harrowing paper which according to his initial calculations (that other experts couldn’t quite understand) threatened a global death rate ratio of 15% for Covid-19. His warnings came with some spurious projections that 2.2 million deaths in the US and 510 000 deaths in the UK would be a reality if governments refused to act. Five days later 10 Downing Street sounded the alarm and ordered a national lockdown; and other countries around the globe swiftly followed suit. No more than a week later Ferguson retracted his statement under the guise that lockdown “had worked”, and on March 25 revised his death toll estimate to as little as 20 000 for the UK.

Meanwhile a university professor at Oxford, Sunetra Gupta published a paper around the same time suggesting that 50% of the population in the UK and in Italy had already contracted the virus and were well on their way to developing herd immunity. This was in stark contrast to the “unqualified acceptance of [Ferguson’s] the Imperial model” – in the words of Professor Gupta. This sentiment flanked by Professor Mike Cates at the University of Cambridge consequently urged lawmakers to consider alternative models for their Covid-19 response efforts. However for some unfathomable reason they didn’t!
On 5 May 2020 Ferguson resigned from his position as a government advisor for contravening his very own lockdown policy by secret rendezvousing with his married mistress. Unfortunately the horse had already bolted and governments not only took such harsh actions of extreme social distancing but have since held doggedly on to them without any good exit strategy.

Ferguson is also no stranger to controversy, after overestimating deaths from several infections: in the foot and mouth outbreak of 2002 he warned of 150 000 deaths, while there were 200. In 2005 he was responsible for widespread panic after he warned of a possible 200 million deaths during the bird flu epidemic. In the end, there were 292. In 2009 he warned of a potential 65 000 UK deaths from Swine Flu, when in fact it had killed 457 (a mortality rate of under 0.0026 per cent).
In February 2020 he responded to his critics with the following statement: “I much prefer to be accused of overreacting than under-reacting”

With regard to the Covid-19 pandemic many scientists are now revealing estimates of a global death rate to be in the region of 0.025 to 0.625 per cent; comparable to seasonal flu, according Stanford University Professor John Ionnidis.

Commentary on Covid-19 and Voices Against “Lockdown”

  • According to Professor Ben-Israel of Tel Aviv University the virus is short-lived, peaks around 40 days before declining at a rapid rate regardless of the measures put in place. He has been a vocal proponent against lockdown.
    Professor David Spiegelhalter at the University of Cambridge has also condemned governments’ – in his words – “embarrassing handling” of the pandemic, stating that the risk it poses to young people are exceedingly low, while the concerns it poses to greater public anxiety is equally paramount. He believes government’s use of statistics have been grossly misleading.
  • Nobel prize winning scientist (and South African born) Michael Levitt, a Stanford University professor who has been closely following the pandemic since early January, has emphatically stated that lockdown “is a huge mistake!”. Based on his analyses of available data on virus behaviour and spread he strongly disagreed with Ferguson’s Imperial College model and believes government’s greatest oversight has been neglect in disease mitigating measures to protect the elderly, who he admits has been the predominant risk group in the pandemic, accounting for most of the excess death.
  • Dr Jay Bhattacharya, professor of Medicine and doctorate in economics at Stanford, is one of the world’s leading experts on assessing and determining health policies on vulnerable population groups and has authored many publications. He has stated that Covid-19 is only as deadly as the flu and in a media statement: “a universal quarantine may not be worth the costs it imposes on the economy, community and individual mental and physical health. We should undertake immediate steps to evaluate the empirical basis of the current lockdowns”.
  • Another Stanford University Professor (of medicine, epidemiology and population health, and considered among the world’s 100 most cited scientists with over 1000 papers to his name) Dr John Ionnidis has argued against the justification of lockdown based on Covid-19 infections being much more widespread and less lethal than originally thought. He has been a huge contributor to the pandemic efforts in being part of a team that set out to do early serology testing in the US.
  • A very vocal character on lesser known media platforms has been Professor Knut Wittkowski; now a retired professor of Epidemiology after a 30 year career in research, academia and industry. He has concurred with the sentiment that Covid-19 is the equivalent of a seasonal flu, and doesn’t warrant the harsh impacts to society of lockdowns and broken economies.

It seems the trusted institutions we once held in high esteem are facing tremendous backlash from respected scientists and investigative journalists across the globe, questioning the relevancy of the current response to a pandemic that is now being described all over as a severe flu and nothing more. The World Health Organisation, CDC and NICD may have a lot to answer for in its selection of scientists to lead this battle. A picture is emerging that lockdown causes more excess death than the virus itself. And shouldn’t science be open to discussion amongst its professionals while being subject to revision and review when any new evidence becomes available?

Was a Lockdown too Harsh?

Do not use cannon to kill a mosquito – Confucius

This is the first time in history we have isolated healthy people, instead of a more precision approach of isolating the sick and truly vulnerable. It is now a little late in the game and I suppose we need to look onward – towards the next question: How do we exit from this and ensure that life does in fact GO BACK TO NORMAL?

Our lack of trust in institutions should allow us to come out of this stronger than before, our strength being the renewed ability to question everything and not take any single view as gospel or for granted. We now know our personal sovereignty depends on it.

It has exposed flaws in global and local leadership in the event of a crisis and the mainstream media has been perfectly complicit in this with their dogged suppression of alternative views (like the scientist views mentioned above) while frightening society into submission. The coverage of this has been in itself a global intention experiment coaxing the collective psyche into creating something bigger than the real story. The media has not highlighted the importance of human health entering into this pandemic either, nor how to support it. The media has if anything looked to disempower it. Studies have suggested for example that something as simple as Vitamin D optimisation through sunlight exposure or supplementation would have greatly assisted in reducing mortality.

And finally the media has not given much coverage to the other “front line heroes of this battle”: that is you, me, all of us … from jobs lost, to single parents without income having to feed and educate a family; the disenfranchised having to ration their food, to those reduced to begging for it. Our true heroes are the ones finding a way to survive, not just from loss of personal sovereignty but from the virus too.

Stay positive, stay well.