Covid-19 : why the panic?

Covid-19 policies have been almost as incomprehensible as climate policies in another context where science was replaced by dogma and where civil liberties and economies were ruined. Until very recently, anyone suggesting alternatives such as not locking down the population or not vaccinating everyone to deal with the epidemic was considered a believer in conspiracies or mentally ill, again just like in the climate question for those questioning net zero carbon emissions. The climate question is dealt with in another blog.

Is Covid-19 dangerous?

The Covid-19 virus is highly contagious and unpredictable, but not at all dangerous for the vast majority of the population. The UK government removed it early on from the ‘high consequences infectious diseases’ list and very few people under 60 die from it although many die with it. This fundamental point is still ignored, but putting it simply, very few people die from Covid without having other serious diseases from which they would have died anyway. This is not a question of being heartless, but is a question of realizing that Covid, like flu or pneumonia often leads to death of old and ill people. The average age of Covid-19 related deaths is around 83 years old so identical or even slightly older than general life expectancy in the Western world. Nearly all victims have serious pre-existing illnesses such as heart disease, cancer, obesity or diabetes and indeed 80-90% of the victims are in rich Western countries where these diseases are more prevalent than elsewhere. As of March 2023, Covid-19 has officially claimed 6,9 million victims after over 3 years of existence during which time over 200 million people have died from other causes. The exact number of Covid deaths is unclear and it is true that the World Health Organisation (WHO) suggest 3 x more victims with under-reporting in poor countries or those where totalitarian governments who do want the true figures to be known. However in the West, the numbers are exaggerated as mentioned above with many registered as dying from Covid died with it and not because of it.

(There is no international agreement about how to define a Covid death. In the USA different states have different methods, some countries separate deaths from influenza and other respiratory diseases from Covid whereas in others they are counted together. Some countries require multiple formalities on death certificates, others less so and others don’t have formal certificates. All of this makes exact calculations impossible.)

The history of Covid-19 is well-known. The Chinese authorities initially denied any problem before belatedly changing their mind and in typical totalitarian fashion, locked down Wuhan to prevent the virus spreading. However, about 20 000 of the Wuhan population left before the lockdown and at the beginning the Chinese government did not prevent people travelling overseas. Some Chinese already infected arrived in Northern Italy where they work in textile factories, the virus spread and faced with an unknown epidemic, the Italians panicked by copying the Chinese first by confining districts, then whole cities, regions and then the whole country. Governments did not prevent Chinese visitors arriving until later and with hindsight perhaps they should have done so earlier, but viruses spread with or without border controls. The idea of closing down whole populations seemed absurd at the beginning and to many it still does, but the Italians copied the Chinese on a precautionary basis and were themselves copied by many other countries equally panicking. Prior to Covid, anyone in the West suggesting these policies would have faced serious mental health questions.

Statistics at the start of the epidemic did indeed show total death figures as higher than normal based on the previous 5 year period, but these extra deaths were far fewer than the number of supposed Covid-19 deaths. In the UK anyone dying for any reason within 28 days of being tested Covid positive is defined as dying from it and at the beginning there was no time limit. Covid death figures were clearly exaggerated as the UK government accepted by reducing the official death total by 5377. (The fact that only 1 Doctor and no longer 2 is now required to sign the death certificate adds to the suspicion.) Covid deaths are now fewer than dying from accidents during house repairs or electrocutions and it has even been suggested that teenagers are more likely to die putting on their trousers, presumably by falling over and killing themselves. 1500-2000 people die in France/UK every day depending on the season and about 600 000 every year, but until recently politicians continued with their apocalyptic speeches. There is now some sense of proportion with the official line being that “we have to live with Covid.” Many have been saying this as soon we knew something about the disease 3 years ago.

Lockdowns (or ‘house arrest’) – curfews – restrictions on movement 

This policy was absolutely unknown in modern times to deal with any epidemic and locking away healthy people is unknown in human history. At the beginning of the epidemic, little was known about the disease, but lockdown were deemed necessary to prevent hospitals being overrun when this seemed possible as Covid-19 spread around the world. Even if the initial lockdowns were perhaps justified, it became obvious very quickly that hospitals would never be overrun and it was later discovered that the virus was already declining when the first lockdowns were decided. To liberate beds, stupid decisions were made to transfer older patients from hospitals to care homes where they died after spreading the disease to others.

It is increasingly recognised that lockdowns were a cure worse than the disease. Figures are not yet definitive and perhaps never will be, but what is certain is that putting all medical eggs in the Covid-19 basket has consequences. Concerning physical illnesses, patients have died, are dying or will die from missing medical checks, non-treatment of existing illnesses or delayed operations. Concerning mental illnesses, a lack of normal interaction and communication with others has led to a big increase in suicides, drug abuse, family violence and other related mental health issues that have yet to be seen and quantified.

Most countries followed similar policies of curfews, lockdowns and other restrictions on movement, but countries or regions trying to live more or less normally did not suffer more than others as seen in comparisons between different States of the USA. Sweden’s approach of very limited restrictions saw fewer deaths proportionate to its population than most of the rest of Europe. Total deaths in Brazil with a similar policy to Sweden are considerably lower than in Peru with very strict lockdowns. Lockdowns do control the virus spreading short-term, but do not eliminate it and the virus returns when the lockdown ends or eased. The Australia and New Zealand response of isolation from the rest of the world accompanied by prolonged lockdowns was never a permanent solution and as the epidemic comes to an end, Covid death figures are similar in these countries as elsewhere. China continued for too long with an absurd zero Covid policy for political control reasons more than public health, but abandoned it when protests became too visible.

The only long-term answer to Covid is collective (‘herd’) immunity just like any other virus; natural selection occurs and there is the risk of large numbers of deaths at the beginning. However, the vast majority of the population did not die and many tested positive for Covid-19 have limited symptoms or none. “Beating the virus” or “declaring war on the virus” are empty slogans since viruses as molecules cannot be made to disappear. Vaccines should be part of the answer, but hopes for mass immunity were dashed since transmission of the virus and contagion are not controlled. It is claimed that serious forms of Covid are avoided by vaccination, but then most of the public would never be seriously worried by this virus without vaccination. Effective vaccines usually take years to develop and are never 100% successful; viruses mutate into new forms as seen with the flu every year and many new forms of Covid-19 have already emerged. An approach targeting those at risk would have been better than a collective sledgehammer as was said in the famous Barrington declaration, scorned at or ignored by politicians and other health ‘experts.’

The economic consequences are catastrophic with a massive increase of public borrowing, debt and taxation. As the WHO now state in their advice against lockdowns and as common sense suggests, poorer countries suffer far more than the richer. Everywhere, future spending on health and associated social services will be much less than planned since huge resources were spent on one disease at the expense of all others like cancers which are much more serious and affect far more people. Indeed one of the reasons for protests about retirement age reform in France today is precisely that the public do not understand why it is essential to save € 10-15 billion per year when the French government, like many others, spent hundreds of billions on Covid. This type of example is copied everywhere so the politicians will have to live with the consequences of their stupid policies.

It leads to the obvious questions about why the collective panic? Various theories exist:

  1. those believing in a new global ‘reset,’ prefer world governments making decision not national governments; therefore medical decisions should be made by the WHO with citizens tracked and traced on smartphones;
  2. over precautious politicians were frightened of health litigation claims by those falling ill or their families if they die;
  3. ‘big pharma’ lobbying for a new and profitable vaccine rather than cheap existing drugs; when government advisors have major financial interests in pharmaceutical companies, it hardly inspires confidence in their independent advice;
  4. a Chinese government plot to paralyse Western capitalism, something denied by the Chinese and unlikely since if the consequence is Western economic collapse, the Chinese are faced with ruined export markets and no Western tourists;
  5. the idea that “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely” with politicians drugged by their ability to control everyone’s lives and helped by the supine general public contacting the authorities about people breaking Covid rules.

Perhaps a mix of all the above reasons explain the situation over the last 3 years, but as said at the beginning, those questioning Covid policies were accused of conspiracy theories and treated, like in the climate debate, as either dangerous fanatics or mad. Social network censorship existed for those suggesting the virus escaped from the Wuhan laboratory deliberately and not from transmission by bats or animal markets. Even mentioning the Chinese origin was ‘racist’ and banned by some media. Censorship on that last point has been lifted for the moment, but as in climate, challenging the consensus is not welcomed and criticism about the inefficient and perhaps dangerous vaccines is still officially or unofficially censored as are opinions about alternative therapies with Doctors banned from practicing.

Civil liberty consequences were absolutely catastrophic with enormous restrictions on ordinary daily life and rules changed, modified and reversed at breath-taking speed. Mask wearing was described as useless, then useful, important, essential and then obligatory, but masks get dirty in pockets or bags. The idea that masks prevent infection on windswept beaches is medically ludicrous or indeed outdoors in general as is now admitted. Many doctors suggest that all that is required is for people to wash their hands adequately and frequently and avoid coughing and sneezing over each other. Drones and helicopters were used to check public mask wearing and social distancing, peaceful protest was made a crime, people were physically forced to wear masks and Doctors lost their right to exercise or arrested for giving their medical opinions in public. Some of the nonsense that went on that politicians are trying to avoid talking about can be seen here:

Testing for the Covid-19 virus was always unreliable with large numbers of false positives or negatives if done by laboratories and even more with self-testing. Any negative result (even if accurate) cannot prevent catching the virus the next day. Many politicians seemed to be out of touch with reality claiming to rely on the ‘science’ about the predicted number of deaths, especially models from Imperial College London that have been proved completely wrong in the past concerning other supposedly catastrophic epidemics. In worst case scenario models, mad cow disease was predicted to kill 150 000 in the UK and it killed 177 people. 150 million were said to be at risk from bird flu and the total deaths were 282; swine flu UK estimates suggested 65000 potential deaths and it killed 457. The scandal is why did anyone continue to take any notice from the same people?

Eminent medical experts were threatened with disciplinary action if they treated their patients with more than simple paracetamol and some governments seem to have a vendetta against various Doctors who do not subscribe to official ideas about Covid-19. In France it was decided that hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) would only be available with a medical prescription despite being freely available for many years and it was then banned completely as potentially dangerous, a decision following a nonsense article in ‘The Lancet’ that was withdrawn by the authors when checked. (The obvious point about checking before publishing hardly needs to be made.) The WHO having originally recommended that this drug be withdrawn for the reasons in the article then changed their mind and describing HCQ as dangerous when it has already been used to treat 3 billion (not million) patients worldwide is difficult to understand. (Unofficially, many Doctors take HCQ themselves.) It is hardly surprising conspiracy theories exist when alternative treatments such as ivermectin, vitamin D or zinc are neglected or even forbidden with everything said to depend on vaccines.

Covid rules are now relaxed, but became increasingly difficult to enforce with civil disobedience as shown in ‘liberty convoys’ and other protests. The public was muzzled not just physically, but mentally with many people behaving like zombies, incapable or unwilling to question the rules. A not insignificant minority of population remain masked everywhere avoiding eye contact with others. The will to work declined because of financial support from governments that has to end and also for psychological reasons about going outside and the supposed risk of meeting other people. Some people are still frightened to leave home without considering that the risks of catching this virus outdoors is less than inside their homes. Anyway, passing life locked away is not what life should be about.

For nearly 3 years, the media and politicians exaggerated the crisis barely distinguishing between those tested positive with those dying. If millions of people are tested, then more will be found positive than if few are tested; it’s not rocket science as the expression goes and the only relevant factors should be hospital admissions and deaths directly from this virus which were never much worse than a bad flu season. Nobody is suggesting that the Covid-19 virus is unimportant, but it is not the (so-called) Spanish flu of 1918 which killed 50 million people when the world population was less than 2 billion compared to 8 billion today and which infected 25% of the world population at the time. It is even less the Black Death which killed between one third and one half of the population in about 3 years in the 14th century. Covid-19 was a serious challenge, but required a sense of proportion that most governments did not show. Although the epidemic is not finished and unfortunately more will die, there is no reason to believe that Covid-19 will suddenly kill hundreds of millions since the profile of existing victims is well-established. Of course it is easy to be wise after the event, but this relative lack of danger for most people was well-known within a few weeks of the virus being discovered. Public health policy should have been based on encouraging vulnerable groups to take extra precautions by perhaps self-isolating, by allowing Doctors to prescribe treatments and by encouraging basic measures of personal hygiene for everyone.

Everyone now agrees that the vaccinations do not prevent catching this disease nor transmitting it to others and being double masked and injected 4 times does not change this fact. The only question is whether the vaccines prevent catching a serious version of Covid and evidence is now extremely shaky on this point since the virus has muted endlessly and the original vaccines are no longer relevant. Whether effective new versions of the vaccine can be created remains to be seen. Figures show a direct health risk in some cases from Covid vaccines, particularly among young people who run almost no risk from Covid. There have been far too many examples of sports people collapsing and suddenly dying, young people suffering heart attacks, pregnant mothers losing their babies and so on. The number of Covid vaccine side effects is far higher than with other vaccines especially in non risk groups like young people.

How to explain excess deaths now observed in many countries?

Recent bad news concerns excess deaths well above the average of the last 5 or 10 years where Covid is not the cause and not mentioned on death certificates. These deaths are from cancers, heart disease and diabetes and there are 2 possible reasons: either the vaccines are themselves dangerous and lead directly to these deaths or the figures are the result of a lack of care during lockdown where other illnesses which were left untreated or undiscovered. The video below gives lots of details and as a quick comparison, see the statistics in European Union countries. Excess deaths-mortality rates are now being reported across the globe and the highest figures correspond to the high vaccination rates and long lockdowns with some countries are now seeing excess deaths are more than the Covid deaths. Health policy was redefined as avoiding catching a relatively unimportant virus and not as a psychic, social and physiological whole. The trends below have been confirmed in 2023, but whether public inquiries ever discover the reasons is questionable. As we reach the end of the Covid epidemic, the opinion of this author and many others is that Covid policy was an enormous international health scandal.