Remember the events of March 2020?

It was only six months ago, yet, because of coronavirus, the world has changed dramatically for many of us in Western countries.

What was supposed to be a three-week lockdown has turned into a six-month socio-political experiment.

Science isn’t settled

On August 25, Dr Malcolm Kendrick posted yet another excellent analysis of the situation: ‘COVID — What have we learned?’

Excerpts follow, emphases mine.

During the past six months, the public have received contradictory messages:

We have learned that people who are asymptomatic can, cannot, can, cannot, can, cannot, can… spread the virus.

That the accuracy of PCR antigen testing is brilliant, useless, brilliant, useless, brilliant, useless.

That false positive tests are impossible, common, impossible, common, impossible, common.

That facemasks are useless, necessary, useless, necessary, useless… absolutely necessary.

We also know that some people are, are not, are, are not are, naturally immune. In addition, we know that having had COVID means that you can, cannot, can, cannot, can cannot – maybe you can, frankly who knows, get it again.

Let’s not forget that, in the UK, the government downgraded coronavirus as no longer being a ‘disease of high consequence’ on March 19.

On March 23, the UK went into lockdown.

Dr Kendrick says:

The only disease in history which has required lockdown, including the obliteration of many basic human rights, and the trashing of the entire economy. Yet it is not a disease of high consequence?

This happened virtually unremarked. Very quietly, you could almost say sneakily. What on earth went on here? My guess is this was done to stop healthcare workers suing the NHS if they contracted COVID at work – as almost no medical staff had adequate PPE. There may be other reasons, but I struggle to think what they may be.

Then came the hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) controversy. HCQ used with azithromycin and/or zinc, according to a strict protocol (Drs Zelenko, Raoult) can help many (not all) patients in the early stages of COVID-19.

Yet, the doctors who have documented their success with HCQ, a long-standing anti-malarial drug, have been vilified. Is it because HCQ is available by prescription and is cheap as chips, alleviating the need for a vaccine?

As a physician, Kendrick read many papers on HCQ:

… having read around the area, it seemed that hydroxychloroquine might do some good. It was certainly pretty safe, and we had nothing else at the time. Thus, I recommended that it might be used.

Then, the distorting engine was switched to full power. Driven by two main fuel types. Type one was money. Companies with anti-viral agents, such as remdesivir, did not want a ‘cheap as chips’ drug being used. No sirree, they wanted massively expensive (and almost entirely useless) anti-virals to be used instead.

This resulted in a study published in the Lancet, no less, slamming hydroxychloroquine through the floor. It turns out the study was almost entirely fabricated, by researchers strongly associated with various companies who, surprise, surprise, make anti-virals.

The other fuel type was the hybrid money/vaccine. If hydroxychloroquine (plus zinc and azithromycin) works, then there was great concern this would lower uptake of any vaccine that was developed. In addition, it would not be possible to impose emergency vaccine laws, which would make the manufacture of any vaccine far quicker and easier.

Such laws, in the US, are known as Emergency Use Authorisation (EUA). If enacted, these laws mean that a vaccine does not have to be tested for safety and efficacy before use. Just whack it out there, untested. Also, there is no possibility of suing a vaccine manufacturer if it turns out the vaccine caused serious problems.

In the US, UK, and several other countries, complete legal protection against vaccine damage is already enshrined in the law, so nothing changes here.

Bottom line — the quest for money is determining how this scenario is unfolding, and scientists cannot agree as to how. Vested interests are at play, so the science is not settled:

So, what have we learned? We have learned that medical science is not a pure thing – not in the slightest. We have also learned that the world of research has not come together to conquer COVID, it has split apart

It is said that the first casualty of war is the truth. Never has this been more certain that with COVID. In this case, first we killed the truth, then we killed science, then we beat inconvenient facts to death with a club. It is all extraordinarily depressing.

Lack of rational thinking

It has become clear that politicians and members of the public got caught up in a media-driven frenzy of fear.

Between March and June, I watched BBC News after each of the UK government’s coronavirus daily briefings.

In mid-March, prior to March 23, presenters and reporters pleaded for a lockdown, because every other country had one.

Two months later, BBC News was asking when lockdown would be lifted. They never mentioned that we were the last European nation to lock down. Therefore, it was logical that those nations had done so earlier would reopen earlier.

In between, the BBC drove us into a COVID-dominated news cycle, stoked with fear.

On August 24, John Church, an oil and gas professional, wrote a guest post on Hector Drummond’s website: ‘John Church: Burning Witches’. John Church doesn’t cite the media, but he does take the public to task for abandoning rational thinking:

It appears that human stupidity in the 21st century knows no bounds, and the mass stampede off the cliff that we have all made, with very few exceptions, is a testament to the validity of my concern. I don’t need to describe the absurdity of the world in August 2020, because one just has to open a newspaper to read about the catastrophic damage that has been done by our actions. Totally self-inflicted. All of this has been in response to a fear of death from a viral epidemic which did indeed kill some people, as is usual with viral epidemics. But not many, and the rest of us have survived with a survival rate somewhere between 99.9% and 99.99% depending on demographics, how deaths have been counted (or miscounted), and how effectively we managed to shield the truly vulnerable. But in summary pretty much every country has a survival rate well north of 99.9%.

What on earth were we thinking ? Or was it just a case of just not thinking ? At an individual level, of course there were good analyses and examples of critical thought, but the great learning from the last four months is how society can throw rational behaviour out of the window and, in a fit of hysterical panic, just run around like headless chickens.

I would put politicians in that basket, too. Ultimately, they enacted lockdown policies.

We need to begin thinking in an informed way about death on a national level:

There is the total lack of awareness about the ‘normal’ number of deaths in any year, month or week. Over 600,000 people die in the UK every year, and this is entirely normal! … In the UK, at a rate of about 1600 per day. We never hear this on the news. We never hear it said that thirty people died from Covid, but this was actually only around 2% of the daily death count. And a slight pause for thought would lead to other observations: such as that if 40,000 people in the UK have died from this virus, then it means 99.94% of us have survived. Or how if we take the gigantic step of looking at the age breakdowns which can be accessed with three clicks from the website of the Office of National Statistics, over 90% of the deaths are from people over 60. And almost all of these people also had serious other diseases. Most of us take far more risk getting into a car, and yet huge numbers of young and middle aged people were genuinely worried for their health. And still are. What were we thinking?

Mr Church wisely asks us to consider the difference between ‘lives’ and ‘livelihoods’:

Secondly, the way we almost point blank refused to allow any thought or discussion to be made about equivalences between ‘lives’ and ‘livelihoods’. Everyone wanted to save lives (“what if it was your granny?”), but no one seemed able to think about how much saving those lives would cost. It was like the sight of the oncoming tsunami of unemployment, impoverishment, additional deaths due to untreated cancers, and the general deleterious effects of a huge recession were going to happen to somebody else.

Thirdly, he rightly says that lockdown only suppresses the virus. It doesn’t kill it:

And thirdly, our total inability to see that the lockdown was not a solution, just a delay of the problem. Even Boris told us: we must lockdown to “flatten the curve”. But you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see beyond this brilliantly flawed strategy what the problem is. As soon as you release the lockdown, you just revive the problem you were trying to solve. Because it wasn’t a solution, just a delay.

Governments will be reluctant to admit they made a mistake:

… worse, once you have locked down it becomes difficult to admit it was a mistake because, through your own sacrifice, you are now emotionally invested in the enterprise. This is known as the sunk-cost fallacy. I look around the world in amazement and see how everyone was just totally blind to this obvious issue. It’s like a giant psychotic Ponzi scheme, with the hugely sad and final outcome that it will crash. Just look at Australia and New Zealand if you want to watch this tragedy unfold in slow motion. Every attempt to release themselves results in a resurgence of the problem, and, unlike European countries, the problem hasn’t even really started there, so they still have it all to come. It is genuinely tragic to watch these once proud and free nations implode. What on earth were they thinking?

What should the UK have done? We should have kept going with social distancing and maintaining life as normal:

by mid-April it was clear we had over-reacted and we should have changed track. We didn’t. We doubled down, moved the goal posts and four months later this is where we are. Future generations will look back and remark on the illogicalities, the inability to mentally execute simple trade-offs, and the staggering numerical illiteracy of the people of the world in the early 21st century. For all our technological and intellectual prowess, we are no better than those who used to burn witches because the harvest failed.

Unsubstantiated ideas we fell for

On August 23, Stacey Rudin wrote an excellent article for the American Institute for Economic Research (AIER): ‘Save Yourself: Stop Believing in Lockdown’.

The first myth she explores is that ‘lockdown saves lives’. The West took unprecedented action based on the what China (?!) was doing:

Blind faith in lockdown rapidly took hold in March 2020 like a fire in a haystack. The spark that ignited it was terror, lit by the media’s sensationalist reporting of the “disaster” in Northern Italy, shortly followed by the doomsday predictions from fancy-sounding (“Imperial College! London!”) modelers. Those same modelers offered a lifeline: — lockdown, the long awaited real-life opportunity to test a pet theory. Too bad we never stopped to question their credibility (“they sound so fancy!”) and motives (“we’ve been waiting for this moment!”) before taking any action — particularly drastic, life-altering action

A second, even bigger credibility issue is found when we consider the first lesson we ever learned about “lockdown.” That lesson came from China. None of us — or even our parents — had ever heard of a population-wide quarantine until the Chinese government planted the idea with a highly-publicized “lockdown” of its own

This normalized the concept, preparing our minds to accept it as a scientifically-supported measure to manage infectious diseases. Then, after bombarding us with images of its citizens’ sacrifices, China predictably declared, “It worked! We defeated the virus! Disease is gone!”

The lifeline. The island of escape. Thank you, China — because of you, we will not die.

Little did we know that decades of public health work unequivocally established the opposite: “There is no basis [in science] for recommending quarantine either of groups or individuals.” 

The second myth is that everyone must avoid getting COVID-19:

Some people, particularly the very elderly with serious comorbidities, should indeed try to avoid infection. But for the millions of people at low risk, COVID should be treated the same as the flu. They should circulate normally, serving humanity by exposing themselves to the virus without hysteria, as the Swedes did. This will minimize overall mortality by reducing the duration of the epidemic, freeing the high-risk elderly from confinement earlier, and avoiding all of the lockdown deaths and other traumas. It is a scientific fact that every epidemic ends at the threshold of “herd immunity” — not before.

The alternative we have chosen — an epidemic identical in size, but longer in duration, with people at statistically zero risk hiding inside their homes getting more stressed, fatter, and sicker — is utter madness. The most tragic part is Imperial explained this to us on March 16, and posted it online for everyone to see:

Once interventions are relaxed . . . infections begin to rise, resulting in a predicted peak epidemic later in the year. The more successful a strategy is at temporary suppression, the larger the later epidemic is predicted to be in the absence of vaccination, due to lesser build-up of herd immunity.”

While Imperial designed lockdown as an ICU-capacity management strategy, it apparently did not foresee the difficulty in persuading people terrified by lockdown to go right back out and live two weeks later. “All clear! We have thousands of ICU beds staffed and ready for you! Good luck!”

I will come back to the ICU-management strategy versus extended measures tomorrow. It was the subject of a debate in the House of Commons this week!

The third myth is that people aren’t safe without masks:

Established science says that masks and distancing don’t work, anyway — COVID-19 spontaneously shows up on naval ships 49 days into isolation, and similar viruses have appeared during the 17th week of perfect Antarctic quarantines. But at least you will feel like you’re doing something.

The fourth myth is feeling stupid for having fallen for lockdown:

There is no shame in falling for such a sophisticated propaganda scheme. Most people did. A few shining stars have since emerged to admit their mistake, quietly adopting the Swedish approach.

The fifth, and final, myth is that coronavirus is more dangerous than the flu:

Nope. As stated above, in terms of mortality impact, Sweden already proved that COVID-19 is indeed similar to the flu. The diseases are similar in other respects — both can have long-term health effects, both kill random outliers (the flu even kills young teachers), and both can cause hospitals to overflow, as influenza did as recently as two years ago. They have similar survival rates: ~997 out of 1,000 for COVID, ~999 out of 1,000 for flu. Over fifty percent of Americans don’t even get the flu shot, yet we have destroyed the planet to “stop” COVID-19.

Why did it happen? Because the media chose to depict this virus as Black Plague — and we believed it. Now that we know that the media can do this, we can understand why the U.K. Prime Minister — and others in his position — was afraid of its powers. He reportedly imposed lockdown because he was threatened as follows: “If he didn’t lock down, journalists will ask him on national television to accept responsibility and apologise to the families of those who have died as a result of Covid-19, because the rhetoric would have been that it was his fault for not locking down. In other words, the media had a three-step plan: (1) convince us that politicians have the power to stop death, (2) put the politicians in the position of needing to do what the media suggests will “save our lives,” (3) watch as we drive ourselves over a cliff.

The media cannot do this without our participation. We can stop them immediately by refusing to believe their superstitious, pseudo-scientific proposition that this is the only disease in history that needed a politician-imposed lockdown to abate. They cannot trick us into burning down our own houses once we simply stop believing that politicians have the power to stop death. Standing firmly on this foundation of scientific truth, we will finally be at peace, realizing that COVID-19, like every disease in history, will infect a certain number of people, kill a minute percentage of them, and then move along, lockdown or no lockdown. 

We really must stop believing otherwise. Our credulity is destroying us

As we enter September, not much is really opening back up. Sure, it might be doing so on paper, but, in the UK, many people are still working from home. That has a huge impact on local economies in cities. London is still a ghost town. Think of all the shops that rely on intensive daily trade: from sandwich places to shoe repair shops.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, had a restaurant programme that ran throughout August from Mondays to Wednesdays: Eat Out to Help Out. I’m sure it helped the restaurant trade to some extent, but if people need to travel in a mask on public transport, including taxis, then it will be some time before we can return to normality.

Furthermore, if department stores have to be one-way and COVID-compliant, no one is going to be shopping for the pleasure of it, especially if they have to wear masks. Online orders beckon.

In the beauty industry, some close-contact procedures on men and women were banned for months.

I had expected better by now, but, then, I was foolish enough to think that the lockdown was only going to last for three weeks.

How wrong I was.

How wrong our government is to persist with ever-changing rules on how businesses can and cannot operate.

If Boris and Rishi expect things to start humming along, they’re going to have to persuade Health Secretary Matt Hancock to let go of the strings and let us manage our own lives — sooner rather than later.