COVID-19 Unmasked at Last… We’re the Sceptics Right?
On Wednesday, my mum was interviewed by her local newspaper as she left IKEA. ‘What brings you to IKEA during a time like this?’ the journalists asked her. The implicit question was how she could be dumb enough to risk her life for furnishings.
She gave quite an answer, which I don’t know how to translate from German…
During a lockdown without precedent, my mum managed to move home from Austria to Germany. She drove to Germany, went house hunting, bought a house, and moved her belongings from one of the worst hit regions of Europe. All of this across borders that were ‘closed’. She also bought furniture, opened bank accounts, and did everything else that goes with moving house to a new country. All without wearing any masks or taking precautions. All during a lockdown.
She also took the time to explain to any mask-wielding passers-by that COVID-19 can now be spread through the ears, just to highlight the absurdity of it all.
And she’s not the only one ignoring COVID-19 and the lockdown rules. Here in the UK, you’d be hard pressed to find a journalist or politician who did follow the rules. There are more bricks and glass houses in UK politics than at a Black Lives Matter protest march.
Between the six people living in my home right now, international borders have been crossed about eight times since the lockdown began. Between some of the worst hit areas such as Spain, Tokyo, and the UK, too.
Most outrageous of all to COVID-19 enthusiasts, we’ve got a newborn at home!
With ‘unsubscribe’ spiking on the Daily Reckoning Australia list faster than infections during any COVID-19 outbreak, I better explain myself…
What if the COVID-19 sceptics were right?
I’m not much of a COVID-19 sceptic. At least, I wasn’t until this week.
But what if the COVID-19 sceptics were right? What if it really is barely worse than the flu?
If you thought we’d settled that, you’re right. We have now. It really isn’t worse than a severe flu outbreak after all.
A Stanford meta-analysis of 12 studies which looked into COVID-19 concluded:
‘Seven of the 12 inferred IFRs [Infection Fatality Rates] are in the range 0.07 to 0.20 (corrected IFR of 0.06 to 0.16) which are similar to IFR values of seasonal influenza.’
The US’ Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has their best estimate for IFR below 0.3%.
Oxford University now has ‘a presumed estimate for the COVID-19 IFR somewhere between 0.1% and 0.41%.’
The assumed IFRs that justified lockdowns? Imperial College’s and the CDC’s initial projections were about fourfold higher.
Here in the UK, the government’s panel of scientists claim the R rate ‘could be as low as 0.5 outside of hospitals’, with most infections coming from medical settings, as the Daily Mail summarised it.
The irony being that hospital patients were sent out of hospitals to keep them available for the pandemic wave that never materialised, thereby spreading the disease to places like care homes, where COVID-19 really was deadly. Several vast hospitals set up in record time saw next to no patients, but did exacerbate equipment shortages instead.
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Jason Kenney, premier of the Canadian province of Alberta, was brutally honest about it all:
‘For most Albertans, the risk of death from other pathogens, accidents, and traffic fatalities is actually higher than it is for COVID.’
Smarttraveller.gov.au promptly issued travel advice: ‘Do NOT go to Alberta!’
OK, that last bit isn’t true. COVID-19’s risks are actually low in Alberta because Albertans are unusually immune to coronaviruses…
This week will be remembered as the one which unmasked COVID-19. Where we began to laugh nervously about the whole thing, within a metre of each other. Because the actual data has replaced models and analysis has replaced assumptions.
The good news is that the scientists which recommended the lockdown can claim even worse shemozzles have since emerged. Over the last week we’ve also discovered that COVID-19 medication effectiveness data was provided by some sort of scam firm which employed an adult content model, the (scientific) models used to analyse the pandemic data were mathematically flawed and not vetted all along, and China and the WHO colluded to withhold the real data early on.
All around the world, the actual data is streaming in. And it’s upending what we assumed about COVID-19. The assumptions which justified the lockdowns that destroyed our economies.
Not that the data is proving very accurate just yet. I mean governments can’t even count dead people properly. The Financial Times explained what happened in Spain recently:
‘This week Spain reported what should have been cause for huge celebrations: according to the official coronavirus statistics, there were no new deaths in the 48 hours to midday on Tuesday.
‘Yet on the same day, at least two regions — Madrid and Castile-La Mancha — reported 17 deaths from the virus between them. The health ministry insisted it had not been informed of any death that had taken place in the previous 24 hours.
‘“The figures are driving us crazy,” said Jeffrey Lazarus, head of the Health Systems Research Group at the Barcelona Institute for Global Health.’
You and everyone…
The coronavirus crisis isn’t over
The UK news is being lambasted for publishing a chart which shows UK COVID-19 deaths were higher than in the entire EU for a particular day. Only it wasn’t even close to true once you adjust for such a long list of data quirks that I can’t list here.
Despite data delusions, the conclusion is already getting through. The lockdown was a mistake and COVID-19 is about as dangerous as a severe flu, especially for most of the population. Those truly at risk are identifiable and could’ve been protected. They were in a few places like Florida, where they are an especially significant part of the voting population…
But don’t feel relieved. The coronavirus crisis isn’t over. What if the lockdown was more dangerous than COVID-19? And still is?
This idea has been around for a while now. But it struck home when a body struck the pavement outside my flat a few weeks ago.
In fact, the main reason the in-laws living in my home now decided to end their post-travel self-quarantine early, before moving in with us, is that one of us saw the suicide unfold. The distress led to an unscheduled break in the quarantine rules, which made the whole exercise pointless thereafter.
So, don’t go telling me the lockdown isn’t dangerous. I’ve seen its costs play out firsthand.
And those of you who point to excess deaths figures as proof of COVID-19’s danger are missing the point. Excess deaths don’t separate COVID-19 casualties from deaths caused by the lockdown. It’s not the right measure.
The harsher the lockdown, the higher the share of deaths from the lockdown as opposed to COVID-19 fatalities. And, worst of all, the more people who die from the lockdown, as opposed to COVID-19, the more justified the lockdown looks under an excess deaths measure! It’s a self-justifying policy that kills people.
Now, if you’d asked me four months ago which branch of science is least credible, I’d already have chosen epidemiology. Why is a long story, which involves explaining why economics isn’t a science. But I don’t think anyone needs to hear my explanations anymore.
Most extraordinary of all, we still don’t really agree on who got it right, even with the results largely in. We still don’t know whose policies to follow and each nation’s policies are still wildly divergent.
In Florida, they prioritised care homes to save hospitals. In the UK they prioritised hospitals at the expense of care homes.
In Sweden and the UK, they used the same science, according to the UK’s disgraced science Professor Neil Ferguson, to come to opposite policies. Professor Ferguson advised the UK’s lockdown response, while taking a decidedly Swedish response personally when it came to visiting his mistress…
Sweden’s top scientist recently apologised for the lack of a lockdown like the one in neighbouring Norway. But locked down ‘Norway wonders if it should have been more like Sweden’, according to the UK newspaper The Telegraph…
Anyone who thinks science provides certainty must be struggling…
But, unless you’re in the category of people at risk of COVID-19, I hope you now know you don’t need to hesitate before you go rioting and looting in protest of police brutality in Minneapolis this weekend…
Until next time,