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At the weekend, it seemed as if more and more people began waking up to the fact that coronavirus policies of lockdowns and forced ‘vaccines’ did more harm than good.

Sweden was right

First, let’s go back to the end of July 2022 to an article in City Journal: ‘The WHO Doesn’t Deserve the Nobel Peace Prize’.

Its author, John Tierney, says that if anyone merits the Nobel it’s Anders Tegnell, the state epidemiologist of Sweden.

Excerpts follow, emphases mine:

While the WHO and the rest of the world panicked, he kept calm. While leaders elsewhere crippled their societies, he kept Sweden free and open. While public-health officials ignored their own pre-Covid plans for a pandemic—and the reams of reports warning that lockdowns, school closures, and masks would accomplish little or nothing—Tegnell actually stuck to the plan and heeded the scientific evidence.

Journalists pilloried him for not joining in the hysteria, but he has been proven right. In Sweden, the overall rate of excess mortality—a measure of the number of deaths more than normal from all causes—during the pandemic is one of the lowest in Europe. Swedish children kept going to school and did not suffer the learning loss so common elsewhere. Swedish children and adults went on with their lives, following Tegnell’s advice not to wear masks as they continued going to schools, stores, churches, playgrounds, gyms, and restaurants. And fewer of them died than in most of the American states and European countries that delayed medical treatments, bankrupted businesses, impoverished workers, stunted children’s emotional and cognitive growth, and stripped their citizens of fundamental liberties.

If it hadn’t been for Tegnell and a few other heretics in places like Florida, we would not have clear evidence to prevent a similar catastrophe when the next virus arrives …

Tegnell was aided by another worthy candidate to share the Nobel, Johan Giesecke, who had formerly held Tegnell’s job and served during the pandemic as an advisor to the Swedish public health agency. Decades earlier, he had recruited Tegnell to the agency because he admired the young doctor’s willingness to speak his mind regardless of political consequences

Politicians in Sweden were ready to close schools, too, but Tegnell and Giesecke insisted on weighing costs and benefits, as Tegnell had done in a 2009 article reviewing studies of school closures during pandemics. The article had warned that the closures might have little or no effect on viral spread and would cause enormous economic damage, disproportionately harm students and workers in low-income families, and create staff shortages in the health-care system by forcing parents to stay home with young children. Given all those dangers, plus early Covid data showing that schoolchildren were not dangerously spreading the virus, Tegnell and Giesecke successfully fought to keep elementary schools and junior high schools open—without masks, plastic partitions, social distancing, or regular Covid tests for students

The virus would eventually spread to other countries despite their lockdowns and mask mandates, Tegnell warned in July 2020 as he advised his colleagues and critics to take the long view. “After next summer,” he said, “then I think we can more fairly judge what has been good in some countries and bad in other countries.”

Sure enough, by summer 2021, Sweden was a different sort of “cautionary tale.” Without closing schools or locking down or mandating masks, it had done better than most European countries according to the most meaningful scorecard: the cumulative rate of excess mortality. Critics of Tegnell’s strategy were reduced to arguing that Sweden’s rate was higher than that of several other nearby countries, but this was a weak form of cherry-picking because two of those countries—Norway and Finland—had also avoided mask mandates and followed policies similar to Sweden’s after their lockdowns early in the pandemic …

With the possible exception of the Great Depression, the lockdowns were the costliest public-policy mistake ever made during peacetime in the United States. The worst consequences of lockdowns have been endured by people in the poorest countries, which have seen devastating increases in poverty, hunger, and disease. Yet the WHO has refused to acknowledge these errors and wants to change its pandemic planning to promote more lockdowns in the future. It has even proposed a new global treaty giving it the power to enforce its policies around the world—thereby preventing a country like Sweden from demonstrating that the policies don’t work.

The last thing the WHO deserves is encouragement from the Nobel jurors. The prize should reward those who protected the lives and liberties of millions of citizens during this pandemic, and whose work can help protect the rest of the world during the next pandemic …

Now let’s move on to last weekend’s news and views.

Lockdown and excess deaths

On Friday, August 19, The Telegraph‘s Camilla Tominey discussed lockdown, the effective closure of the NHS and excess British deaths in ‘Lockdown fanatics can’t escape blame for this scandal’.

She began with the story of Lisa King, a bereaved widow whose husband died an agonising death at home because he was not allowed to see his GP:

The father of two, 62, did not catch coronavirus. He died on October 9, 2020 because he was repeatedly denied a face-to-face GP appointment during the pandemic – only to be told that an urgent operation to remove his gallbladder had been delayed because of spiralling NHS waiting lists.

His sudden death, in agonising pain, was completely avoidable.

As Mrs King told me at the time: “To the decision makers, he is nothing more than ‘collateral damage’, but to me, he is the love of my life.”

Tominey points out that several doctors and journalists in the UK opposed lockdown but were told in no uncertain terms how hateful they were:

we were accused of being mercenary murderers intent on prioritising the economy ahead of saving lives.

Scientists who dared to question the severity of the restrictions were, as Lord Sumption put it at the time, “persecuted like Galileo”. Falsely branded “Covid deniers” simply for questioning some of the “science” that was slavishly followed, they were subjected to appalling online abuse by a bunch of armchair experts who claimed to know better.

Two years later, those who objected to lockdowns and an effective closure of the NHS, all the way down to GP practices, have been proven right:

… they were right to raise their concerns in the face of pseudo-socialist Sage groupthink.

Official data now suggests that the effects of lockdown may be killing more people than are currently dying of Covid.

An analysis by the Daily Telegraph’s brilliant science editor Sarah Knapton (another figure who was pilloried for questioning the pro-lockdown orthodoxy) has found that about 1,000 more people than usual are dying each week from conditions other than coronavirus.

Figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) on Tuesday showed that excess deaths are 14.4 per cent higher than the five-year average, equating to 1,350 more deaths than usual in the week ending August 5. Although 469 deaths were linked to Covid, the remaining 881 have not been explained. Since the start of June, the ONS has recorded almost 10,000 more deaths than the five-year average – about 1,086 a week – none of them linked to coronavirus. This figure is more than three times the number of people who died because of Covid over the same period – 2,811.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has asked for an investigation into the data amid concern that the deaths are linked to delays and deferment of treatment for conditions such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease …

The horror stories are everywhere you look: from people dying needlessly at home like Mr King, to elderly patients waiting 40 hours for ambulances, to cancer sufferers now dying because they didn’t get appointments during lockdown, or didn’t want to be a burden.

It’s tempting to blame this on the NHS being in urgent need of reform – and that’s surely part of the explanation. We all know how staff shortages – again, exacerbated by the pandemic – are crippling the system.

But this isn’t simply a result of a lack of resources. Healthcare spending has risen sharply as a percentage of GDP in recent years.

The nettle that needs to be grasped is that these figures suggest that the country is facing a growing health crisis that has been caused by our overzealous response to the pandemic – scaremongering policies that kept people indoors, scared them away from hospitals and deprived them of treatment.

These excess deaths may well turn out to be a direct consequence of the decision to lock down the country in order to control a virus that was only ever a serious threat to the old and the vulnerable.

Had a more proportionate approach been taken, akin to Sweden’s, then would we be in this mess right now? Perhaps only a government inquiry will be able definitively to answer that question, but what’s certain now is the debate over the severity of lockdown was never about the economy versus lives – as pro-shutdown fanatics would have it – but over lives versus lives

Lest we forget that in the last quarter of 2020, the mean age of those dying with and of Covid was estimated to be 82.4 years, while the risk of dying of it if you were under 60 was less than 0.5 per cent. Who wouldn’t now take those odds compared to being diagnosed with cancer, circulatory or cardiovascular related conditions and being made to wait months for post-pandemic treatment?

None of this has come as a surprise to those running organisations like the British Heart Foundation or the Stroke Foundation, which had predicted a sharp rise in deaths because “people haven’t been having their routine appointments for the past few years now” …

The World Health Organisation said at the time that the Great Barrington Declaration “lacked scientific basis”, but nearly three years on from the start of the pandemic there has been precious little analysis of whether the raft of Covid restrictions either served the collective good – or actually saved lives in the round – compared with the lives that are now being lost as a result.

These numbers aren’t just statistics – they are people’s husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, daughters and sons. The appalling truth is that a lot of these people would probably still be here today were it not for the lockdowns; lockdowns which seemingly did little to stop tens of thousands of people dying of Covid in the UK.

We stayed at home to “protect the NHS”. It turns out the NHS isn’t there now to protect us.

The ambulance waits are a horrorshow. This is going on throughout the UK. Scotland and Wales experienced long waiting times before England did.

This photo shows a recurring scene outside a London hospital and explains the situation. Ambulances are backed up because the patients inside cannot be accommodated in the hospital:

Here’s a chart of the UK’s excess deaths this year:

Blame belongs on both sides of political spectrum

Who can forget how the media, especially the BBC, ramped up Project Fear over the past two years?

Although the media don’t legislate, judging from the response to the pandemic, they heavily influence what our MPs do.

So, who is to blame?

Someone thinks it is Michael Gove, who was the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster from 2019 until September 2021. He was also a Minister for the Cabinet Office at the same time.

talkRADIO host Julia Hartley-Brewer says Gove bears a lot of the blame for coronavirus policy. Interesting:

What about the Left? Labour’s Keir Starmer held Wales’s First Minister Mark Drakeford as a paragon of wisdom during the pandemic. Drakeford’s government made ‘non-essential’ shops close and supermarkets put tape over the aisles the Welsh were forbidden to shop in. That meant they could not buy greeting cards, party favours, toys, books or shoes. That’s only a partial list, by the way. That lasted for a few months.

Following Drakeford’s example, Keir Starmer wanted earlier and longer lockdowns in England. So did other Labour MPs.

They voted for every Government restriction in Westminster. Boris must have been relieved.

However, this brings up the definition of ‘liberal’. How I wish that we had not adopted this American perversion of the word. ‘Liberal’ in its original definition is akin to ‘libertarian’. It certainly isn’t ‘leftist’.

Rapper and podcast host Zuby brought up the subject last Saturday:

Here comes the conflict of blaming, because both sides of the House of Commons voted in unison on pandemic policy:

Vaccine harm

Then there is the vaccine harm done to young hearts via myocarditis.

Dr Aseem Malhotra is opposed to vaccines being given to children. Here he links to a study from Thailand about the adverse effect a second Pfizer dose can have on one in six teenagers:

Apparently, the Thailand study did not get much publicity at home:

Neil Oliver’s editorial on coronavirus

On Saturday, Neil Oliver delivered an excellent opening editorial on pandemic policy, which he said should be a sacking or resigning offence:

He rightly pointed out that those responsible feel no remorse.

Dan Wootton’s coronavirus hour

Dan Wootton had a blockbuster coronavirus hour in the first half of his GB News show on Monday, August 22. It was marvellous:

His opening Digest was brilliant:

The transcript is here:

The damage, both to our health, our economy and our future way of life, has been obvious to me since the first national lockdown was imposed in March 2020, following the playbook of communist China.

My overarching mission on this show has been to have the important conversations about the most damaging public health policy of all time, which the vast majority of the media, the establishment and our so-called leaders want to avoid at almost any cost.

This was my opening night monologue on the first night of this channel in June 2021 that, at the time, sparked total outrage from all the usual suspects, who campaigned to see me reprimanded by Ofcom for daring to question the efficacy of lockdowns on a national news channel.

I said then: “Lockdowns are a crude measure. Mark my words, in the years to come we will discover they have caused far more deaths and devastation than the Government has ever admitted.

“They should be wiped from the public health playbook forever more. But, tragically, the doomsday scientists and public health officials have taken control.

“They’re addicted to the power and the Government are satisfied its 15-month-long never-ending scare campaign has suitably terrified the public into supporting lockdowns.

“But if we don’t fight back against this madness, some of the damage will be irreversible.”

It was always going to take some time to get the devastating statistics to back-up the idea that a policy of lockdowns was catastrophically wrong – but it was obvious to me what was just around the corner.

Those statistics are now coming in thick and fast; the conclusions are unavoidable and undeniable.

This striking front page of the Daily Telegraph, suggesting the effects of lockdown may now be killing more people than are dying of Covid, should be leading every news bulletin in the country.

Here’s the front page to which he refers:

He discussed the statistics I cited above and rightly pointed out that The Telegraph is the only media outlet (besides GB News) talking about it:

Instead, our dramatic excess death toll is virtually ignored by the BBC, ITV News and Sly News, which used to trumpet Covid death figures on an almost hourly basis

The officials who terrified the public on a daily basis, backed up by a crazed media and gutless politicians, have blood on their hands.

A small group of honourable folk – many of whom now appear regularly on this show, like Professor Karol Sikora – shouted from the rooftops that delays and deferment of treatment for a host of conditions like cancer, strokes, diabetes and heart disease were going to be responsible for thousands upon thousands of deaths in years to come.

We tried to warn people and wake up the rest of the population, while being dismissed as Covidiots, deniers and the anti-vaxx brigade.

And yet, there’s still no apology. Still no acceptance of a gigantic error.

In fact, the same irresponsible and evil idiots who got us into this mess want lockdowns, mass vaccination and muzzling to return this winter.

We cannot and will not rest until the true damage of lockdowns is exposed and accepted so we learn the mistakes of our recent history.

A panel discussion followed:

Cardiologist Karl Sikora gave his view and found it astonishing that health experts, including former SAGE member, behaviourist Susan Michie, whom they did not name, want everlasting masks and lockdowns:

Susan Michie, by the way, has just taken up a plum job with the WHO. Says it all, really.

Neil Oliver told Wootton that he was not optimistic about no future lockdowns, which is one of Liz Truss’s proposed policies:

And, finally, the Fairbrass brothers from Right Said Fred presented their scepticism over coronavirus policies. They’ve lost a few gigs because of it but also picked up a new set of fans:

Conclusion

This past weekend really gave me a lot of encouragement about examining coronavirus policies more closely.

For once, it seemed as if a lot of news items and editorials hit at the same time.

I do hope this augurs well for the future.

Thanks to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, England is now the freest country in the Western world.

On Monday, February 21, Boris announced the lifting of the remaining coronavirus restrictions. Some of this began yesterday. However, much of the lifting comes into effect on Thursday, February 24, with the remainder finished by April 1.

He gave a statement to Parliament first, which he followed with a televised coronavirus briefing — press conference — at 7 p.m. that evening.

This was the nub of his statement to the House of Commons (emphases mine):

As we have throughout the past two years, we will continue to work closely with the devolved Administrations as they decide how to take forward their own plans. Today’s strategy shows how we will structure our approach in England around four principles. First, we will remove all remaining domestic restrictions in law. From this Thursday, 24 February, we will end the legal requirement to self-isolate following a positive test, and so we will also end self-isolation support payments, although covid provisions for statutory sick pay can still be claimed for a further month. We will end routine contact tracing, and no longer ask fully vaccinated close contacts and those under 18 to test daily for seven days. We will also remove the legal requirement for close contacts who are not fully vaccinated to self-isolate. Until 1 April, we will still advise people who test positive to stay at home, but after that we will encourage people with covid-19 symptoms to exercise personal responsibility, just as we encourage people who may have flu to be considerate to others …

The testing, tracing and isolation budget in 2020-21 exceeded the entire budget of the Home Office; it cost a further £15.7 billion in this financial year, and £2 billion in January alone, at the height of the omicron wave. We must now scale this back.

From today, we are removing the guidance for staff and students in most education and childcare settings to undertake twice-weekly asymptomatic testing. And from 1 April, when winter is over and the virus will spread less easily, we will end free symptomatic and asymptomatic testing for the general public. We will continue to provide free symptomatic tests to the oldest age groups and those most vulnerable to covid. And in line with the practice in many other countries, we are working with retailers to ensure that everyone who wants to can buy a test. From 1 April, we will also no longer recommend the use of voluntary covid-status certification, although the NHS app will continue to allow people to indicate their vaccination status for international travel. The Government will also expire all temporary provisions in the Coronavirus Act 2020. Of the original 40, 20 have already expired and 16 will expire on 24 March. The last four, relating to innovations in public service, will expire six months later, after we have made those improvements permanent via other means.

Secondly, we will continue to protect the most vulnerable with targeted vaccines and treatments. The UK Government have procured enough doses of vaccine to anticipate a wide range of possible Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation recommendations. Today, we are taking further action to guard against a possible resurgence of the virus, accepting JCVI advice for a new spring booster offered to those aged 75 and over, to older care home residents, and to those over 12 who are immunosuppressed. The UK is also leading the way on antivirals and therapeutics, with our Antivirals Taskforce securing a supply of almost 5 million, which is more per head than any other country in Europe.

Thirdly, the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies advises that there is considerable uncertainty about the future path of the pandemic, and there may of course be significant resurgences. SAGE is certain that there will be new variants, and it is very possible that those will be worse than omicron. So we will maintain our resilience to manage and respond to those risks, including our world-leading Office for National Statistics survey, which will allow us to continue tracking the virus in granular detail, with regional and age breakdowns helping us to spot surges as and where they happen. And our laboratory networks will help us understand the evolution of the virus and identify any changes in characteristics.

We will prepare and maintain our capabilities to ramp up testing. We will continue to support other countries in developing their own surveillance capabilities, because a new variant can emerge anywhere. We will meet our commitment to donate 100 million vaccine doses by June, as our part of the agreement at the UK’s G7 summit to provide a billion doses to vaccinate the world over the next year. In all circumstances, our aim will be to manage and respond to future risks through more routine public health interventions, with pharmaceutical interventions as the first line of defence.

Fourthly, we will build on the innovation that has defined the best of our response to the pandemic. The vaccines taskforce will continue to ensure that the UK has access to effective vaccines as they become available, and has already secured contracts with manufacturers trialling bi-valent vaccines, which would provide protection against covid variants. The therapeutics taskforce will continue to support seven national priority clinical trial platforms focused on prevention, novel treatments and treatments for long-covid. We are refreshing our biosecurity strategy to protect the UK against natural zoonosis and accidental laboratory leaks, as well as the potential for biological threats emanating from state and non-state actors.

Building on the five-point plan that I set out at the UN and the agreements reached at the UK’s G7 last year, we are working with our international partners on future pandemic preparedness, including through a new pandemic treaty; an effective early warning system or global pandemic radar; and a mission to make safe and effective diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines available within the first 100 days of a future pandemic threat being identified. We will host a global pandemic preparedness summit next month.

The pandemic treaty concerns me. Will it supersede individual nations’ laws and liberties?

Boris put the focus on common sense and personal responsibility. People took exception to his taking credit for restoring our liberties — ‘they were ours all along’ — but he was the one who took them away on March 23, 2020, at 8 p.m.:

Covid will not suddenly disappear, so those who would wait for a total end to this war before lifting the remaining regulations would be restricting the liberties of the British people for a long time to come. This Government do not believe that that is right or necessary. Restrictions take a heavy toll on our economy, our society, our mental wellbeing and the life chances of our children, and we do not need to pay that cost any longer. We have a population that is protected by the biggest vaccination programme in our history; we have the antivirals, the treatments and the scientific understanding of this virus; and we have the capabilities to respond rapidly to any resurgence or new variant.

It is time that we got our confidence back. We do not need laws to compel people to be considerate to others. We can rely on our sense of responsibility towards one another, providing practical advice in the knowledge that people will follow it to avoid infecting loved ones and others. So let us learn to live with this virus and continue protecting ourselves without restricting our freedoms. In that spirit, I commend this statement to the House.

I watched the Coronavirus Briefing at 7 p.m. and sincerely hope it would be the last one.

Boris was flanked by Sir Patrick Vallance, Chief Scientific Officer, and Sir Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Officer.

Boris spoke first, then we had Chris ‘Next slide, please’ Whitty’s presentation. I do not understand why Downing Street couldn’t have given him a clicker to advance the slides himself.

Listening to Whitty and Vallance, however, gave me a different impression. I wondered if I was alone:

Then I found a Guido Fawkes post, and one of his readers wrote:

Chris Whitty is literally stood there contradicting everything Johnson just said in Parliament. He is advising wearing face masks and self isolation. Emphasising this a ‘gradual series of steps’.

Vallance emphasising the next variant could be more severe. I can’t believe what I am hearing. It’s quite clear they do not agree at all with the announcement. They still quite clearly want a very slow and gradual lifting of restrictions and mass surveillance testing all the way to summer with rapid lockdown again if we a get any rise in infections.

They need to be removed.

I agree that SAGE needs disbanding or a deep reorganisation. Everyone on it is in lockstep. SAGE needs a variety of voices from the medical establishment, with more libertarians. They exist. They just haven’t been invited. It seems as if SAGE nominates its own members, all like-minded people.

I was most surprised to see Whitty say that the vaccine was good for pregnant women and their babies:

As expected, reporters were clearly unhappy with Boris’s announcement. A few accused him of playing politics in order to keep his job.

Later that evening, Toby Young told Dan Wootton of GB News that journos have comfortable houses and gardens to enjoy. They don’t need to worry about lockdowns or self-isolation:

On Monday, Wootton launched his own lockdown inquiry, which he says will be a recurring topic on his show for some time. He rightly blames the media for stoking fear every minute of the day:

Top oncologist Prof Karol Sikora agreed with Wootton about Project Fear:

Public health official Prof John Ashton and Dr Steve James, the unvaccinated consultant anaesthesiologist, joined Wootton. Having just returned from France, Ashton championed masks and asked what the problem was in wearing them. It doesn’t seem he understands the full picture there:

Dr James said that he is not against vaccines. He supports those who want to take them:

Dr. Jay Bhattacharya told Wootton that ‘lockdown’ should become a ‘dirty word’:

Freedom Day feels a bit like Groundhog Day. We’ve been here before:

Still, let’s hope it is definitive this time.

Thanks go to Boris but, more importantly, to the 101 rebel Conservative MPs who opposed an Omicron lockdown before Christmas. They put the frighteners on Boris — and with good reason.

Following on from my post of last week, below is a continued timeline about herd immunity and the coronavirus crisis in Britain.

Old news, perhaps, but it will be interesting to see how much of this, if any, is mentioned at the Government’s hearing, scheduled for 2022.

May 2020

On May 17, 2020, journalist Robert Peston tweeted about a conference in Edinburgh that could have been a super-spreader event:

One of Peston’s readers said that he was partly to blame, because, in March, he wrote an article for The Spectator‘”Herd immunity” will be vital to stopping coronavirus’.

It begins with this (emphases mine):

The key phrase we all need to understand is ‘herd immunity’ – which is what happens to a group of people or animals when they develop sufficient antibodies to be resistant to a disease.

The strategy of the British government in minimising the impact of Covid-19 is to allow the virus to pass through the entire population so that we acquire herd immunity, but at a much delayed speed so that those who suffer the most acute symptoms are able to receive the medical support they need, and such that the health service is not overwhelmed and crushed by the sheer number of cases it has to treat at any one time.

Infection figures were starting to recede in May. This could partly be explained by a month of glorious weather, apart from two days. It was one of the warmest and sunniest on record. I fantasised that I was in Cannes.

On May 18, Freddie Sayers of UnHerd interviewed Prof Karl Sikora, the Founding Dean and Professor of Medicine at the University of Buckingham Medical School and an ex-director of the WHO Cancer Programme:

Prof Sikora said:

The serology results around the world (and forthcoming in Britain) don’t necessarily reveal the percentage of people who have had the disease.

He estimates 25-30% of the UK population has had Covid-19, and higher in the group that is most susceptible.

Pockets of herd immunity help *already* explain the downturn.

Sweden’s end result will not be different to ours – lockdown versus no lockdown.

On May 10, Nic Lewis wrote a post about the UK and Sweden for Climate Etc.: ‘Why herd immunity to COVID-19 is reached much earlier than thought’.

It says, in part:

A study published in March by the COVID-19 Response Team from Imperial College (Ferguson20[1]) appears to have been largely responsible for driving government actions in the UK and, to a fair extent, in the US and some other countries. Until that report came out, the strategy of the UK government, at least, seems to have been to rely on the build up of ‘herd immunity’ to slow the growth of the epidemic and eventually cause it to peter out.

The ‘herd immunity threshold’ (HIT) can be estimated from the basic reproduction rate of the epidemic, R0 – a measure of how many people, on average, each infected individual infects. Standard simple compartmental models of epidemic growth imply that the HIT equals {1 – 1/R0}. Once the HIT is passed, the rate of new infections starts to decline, which should ensure that health systems will not thereafter be overwhelmed and makes it more practicable to take steps to eliminate the disease.

However, the Ferguson20 report estimated that relying on herd immunity would result in 81% of the UK and US populations becoming infected during the epidemic, mainly over a two-month period, based on an R0 estimate of 2.4. These figures imply that the HIT is between 50% and 60%.[2] Their report implied that health systems would be overwhelmed, resulting in far more deaths. It claimed that only draconian government interventions could prevent this occurring. Such interventions were rapidly implemented in the UK, in most states of the US, and in various other countries, via highly disruptive and restrictive enforced ‘lockdowns’.

A notable exception was Sweden, which has continued to pursue a herd immunity-based strategy, relying on relatively modest social distancing policies. The Imperial College team estimated that, after those policies were introduced in mid-March, R0 in Sweden was 2.5, with only a 2.5% probability that it was under 1.5.[3] The rapid spread of COVID-19 in the country in the second half of March suggests that R0 is unlikely to have been significantly under 2.0.[4]

Very sensibly, the Swedish public health authority has surveyed the prevalence of infections by the SARS-COV-2 virus in Stockholm County, the earliest in Sweden hit by COVID-19. They thereby estimated that 17% of the population would have been infected by 11 April, rising to 25% by 1 May 2020.[5] Yet recorded new cases had stopped increasing by 11 April (Figure 1), as had net hospital admissions,[6] and both measures have fallen significantly since. That pattern indicates that the HIT had been reached by 11 April, at which point only 17% of the population appear to have been infected.

How can it be true that the HIT has been reached in Stockholm County with only about 17% of the population having been infected, while an R0 of 2.0 is normally taken to imply a HIT of 50%?

A recent paper (Gomes et al.[7]) provides the answer. It shows that variation between individuals in their susceptibility to infection and their propensity to infect others can cause the HIT to be much lower than it is in a homogeneous population. Standard simple compartmental epidemic models take no account of such variability. And the model used in the Ferguson20 study, while much more complex, appears only to take into account inhomogeneity arising from a very limited set of factors – notably geographic separation from other individuals and household size – with only a modest resulting impact on the growth of the epidemic.[8] Using a compartmental model modified to take such variability into account, with co-variability between susceptibility and infectivity arguably handled in a more realistic way than by Gomes et al., I confirm their finding that the HIT is indeed reached at a much lower level than when the population is homogeneous. That would explain why the HIT appears to have been passed in Stockholm by mid April. The same seems likely to be the case in other major cities and regions that have been badly affected by COVID-19.

On that topic, Prof Sunetra Gupta, one of the signatories to The Barrington Declaration which came out that summer, entered the picture. Prof Gupta is the Professor of Theoretical Epidemiology at the University of Oxford. Freddie Sayers of UnHerd interviewed her on May 21:

The accompanying article says:

Her group at Oxford produced a rival model to Ferguson’s back in March which speculated that as much as 50% of the population may already have been infected and the true Infection Fatality Rate may be as low as 0.1%.

Since then, we have seen various antibody studies around the world indicating a disappointingly small percentage of seroprevalence — the percentage of the population has the anti-Covid-19 antibody. It was starting to seem like Ferguson’s view was the one closer to the truth.

But, in her first major interview since the Oxford study was published in March, Professor Gupta is only more convinced that her original opinion was correct.

As she sees it, the antibody studies, although useful, do not indicate the true level of exposure or level of immunity. First, many of the antibody tests are “extremely unreliable” and rely on hard-to-achieve representative groups. But more important, many people who have been exposed to the virus will have other kinds of immunity that don’t show up on antibody tests — either for genetic reasons or the result of pre-existing immunities to related coronaviruses such as the common cold.

The implications of this are profound – it means that when we hear results from antibody tests (such as a forthcoming official UK Government study) the percentage who test positive for antibodies is not necessarily equal to the percentage who have immunity or resistance to the virus. The true number could be much higher.

Observing the very similar patterns of the epidemic across countries around the world has convinced Professor Gupta that it is this hidden immunity, more than lockdowns or government interventions, that offers the best explanation of the Covid-19 progression:

“In almost every context we’ve seen the epidemic grow, turn around and die away — almost like clockwork. Different countries have had different lockdown policies, and yet what we’ve observed is almost a uniform pattern of behaviour which is highly consistent with the SIR model. To me that suggests that much of the driving force here was due to the build-up of immunity. I think that’s a more parsimonious explanation than one which requires in every country for lockdown (or various degrees of lockdown, including no lockdown) to have had the same effect.”

June 2020

On June 4, Freddie Sayers interviewed Prof Karl Friston, a computer modelling expert, world-renowned for his contributions to neuroscience. He had been applying his ‘dynamic causal modelling’ approach to the Covid-19 pandemic:

The accompanying article says that his Bayesian models were showing that up to 80% of the population might be naturally immune to coronavirus:

His models suggest that the stark difference between outcomes in the UK and Germany, for example, is not primarily an effect of different government actions (such as better testing and earlier lockdowns) but is better explained by intrinsic differences between the populations that make the “susceptible population” in Germany — the group that is vulnerable to Covid-19 — much smaller than in the UK.

As he told me in our interview, even within the UK, the numbers point to the same thing: that the “effective susceptible population” was never 100%, and was at most 50% and probably more like only 20% of the population. He emphasises that the analysis is not yet complete, but “I suspect, once this has been done, it will look like the effective non-susceptible portion of the population will be about 80%. I think that’s what’s going to happen.”

Theories abound as to which factors best explain the huge disparities between countries in the portion of the population that seems resistant or immune — everything from levels of vitamin D to ethnic-genetic and social and geographical differences may come into play — but Professor Friston makes clear that it does not primarily seem to be a function of government coronavirus policy. “Solving that — understanding that source of variation in terms of this non-susceptibility — is going to be the key to understanding the enormous variation between countries,” he said …

His explanation for the remarkably similar mortality outcomes in Sweden (no lockdown) and the UK (lockdown) is that “they weren’t actually any different. Because at the end of the day the actual processes that get into the epidemiological dynamics — the actual behaviours, the distancing, was evolutionarily specified by the way we behave when we have an infection.”

Most significantly, it would mean that the principal underlying assumption behind the global shutdowns, typified by the famous Imperial College forecasts — namely, that left unchecked this disease would rapidly pass through the entire population of every country and kill around 1% of those infected, leading to untold millions of deaths worldwide without draconian action — was wrong, out by a large factor. The largest co-ordinated government action in history, forcibly closing down most of the world’s societies with consequences that may last for generations, would have been based on faulty science.

When I put this to Professor Friston, he was the model of collegiate discretion. He said that the presumptions of Neil Ferguson’s models were all correct, “under the qualification that the population they were talking about is much smaller than you might imagine”. In other words, Ferguson was right that around 80% of susceptible people would rapidly become infected, and was right that of those between 0.5% and 1% would die — he just missed the fact that the relevant “susceptible population” was only ever a small portion of people in the UK, and an even smaller portion in countries like Germany and elsewhere. Which rather changes everything.

With such elegant formulations are scientific reputations saved. Practically, it makes not much difference whether, as per Sunetra Gupta, the 40,000 officially-counted coronavirus deaths in the UK are 0.1% of 40 million people infected, or, as per Karl Friston’s theory implies, they are more like 0.5% of 8 million people infected with the remaining 32 million shielded from infection by mysterious “immunological dark material”. If you are exposed to the virus and it is destroyed in your body by mucosal antibodies or T-cells or clever genes so that you never become fully infected and don’t even notice it, should that count as an infection? The effect is the same: 40,000 deaths, not 400,000.

However, on Sunday, June 7, SAGE member Prof John Edmunds was still backtracking on his earlier claims about herd immunity from March. He was all about lockdown and told the BBC’s Andrew Marr that the UK should have locked down sooner to prevent deaths:

Speaking of lockdown, Britons were increasingly angry about being told not to leave the house, especially when people were protesting with no social distancing:

June in the UK — Part 1: the angry, yet law abiding, silent majority (June 3)

June in the UK — Part 2: angry silent majority questions lockdown (June 5; masks; no arrests for destructive protestors, two for eccentric Piers Corbyn)

June in the UK — Part 3: the angry silent majority on lockdown (June 5)

June in the UK — Part 4: coronavirus and the public’s anger about health during lockdown (June 5)

June in the UK — Part 5: the hypocrisy surrounding coronavirus and social distancing (June 6, protests)

—————————————————————-

Writing a year later, I do wonder whether getting vaccinated is really worth it for most of us.

Unfortunately, we have to do it to have any semblance of normality.

I’m a big believer in natural herd immunity, less so the artificially engineered type.

More to follow on herd immunity next week.

Before reading this, here are Parts 1, 2 and 3 of a series on coronavirus and lockdown.

It seems that the British silent majority were largely fine with obeying the rules that Boris Johnson’s government set until the end of May.

By then, they began asking questions about the duration.

During the first two months of lockdown, they understood that the reasons were not to put too much pressure on the NHS.

However, as Boris and his ministers are taking only ‘baby steps’ (Boris’s words) to release us, many wonder what the real plan is.

Rightly or wrongly, suspicion is rife:

There is also the question about the NHS and the need for treatment outside of COVID-19.

Those of us who watch the daily coronavirus briefings from the government can’t help but notice the messaging, especially from Health Secretary Matt Hancock:

I missed this little titbit from the coronavirus briefing on Friday, June 5. Hancock said, ‘As the NHS reopens’. Hmm:

Yet, Britons are still missing out on non-coronavirus NHS treatments that are urgent:

I couldn’t agree more with this next observation from Prof Karol Sikora:

Then we have the unknown consequences of Big Data intrusions into our lives:

This is now climbing up the chain to stain Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the champion of his soi-disant ‘Government of the People’:

The goalposts have clearly shifted since Boris’s stonking victory in December 2019:

Lockdown has now gone on too long:

Despite what the government and scientists say on the weekday coronavirus briefings, other statistics find their way through the established narrative:

Yet, part of the blame also lies with the proportion of the British public who are afraid of re-engaging with society the way they did before lockdown:

Those who are afraid can stay at home. Let the rest of us get back to real life.

This London Assembly member from the Brexit Party is spot on. Lockdown must end:

Social distancing will end up being a killer, too:

One hopes it doesn’t come to this:

One wonders whether there is such a thing as conservatism any more:

Or is the WHO driving this? They must think we are stupid. Perhaps we are:

We will never be in a risk-free, virus-free world.

Ending on Boris, for now, this is something I missed. Then again, I don’t listen to BBC Radio 4. Even if I had, I would have thought that Boris’s father Stanley was voicing his own views, not his son’s:

Boris is still better than his Labour counterparts — Jeremy Corbyn (then) and Keir Starmer (now).

However, his polling will take a dive unless he restores what he called the People’s Government.

More tomorrow: coronavirus and the June riots.

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