Friday 22 May 2020

The end of the strangest period in world history since when?

The terraces reopen in Romania on Monday week, June 1. On June 15, the interiors of restaurants will re-open with special rules about distancing. The madness is coming to an end.

The numbers of infections and deaths are falling almost everywhere, whether or not they have lockdowns.

Interestingly, the US states that haven’t imposed lockdowns - there are 5 of them, I think - are coming clear of the virus at pretty much the same rate and at the same time as those that did.

The number of reported cases (an unreliable statistic in any country) only continues to increase by more than 2% per day in the Indian sub-continent, Brazil, Indonesia, Russia and Mexico. We shall see what happens there.

It may be that in the end the loathed and derided President Bolsonaro of Brazil will look justified in his attempt to prevent his country having a lockdown (the states imposed one anyway).

In some ways allocating blame for the Corona-19 panic is pointless, but it is also necessary to understand how this folly, worthy of the ironic pen of Gibbon, happened. 

The people most to blame for this world catastrophe, even more than the Chinese Communists, are the WHO, which idiotically and unforgivably said the virus in Wuhan had a 3% mortality rate, and the Western media which simply refused to report distinguished epidemologists and others who dissented from the need for lockdown.

The average age of those dying of covid-19 in the UK is over 80, and fully a third are residents of care homes where average “stay” (a euphemism I’m afraid) was only 30 months from admission before the virus anyway. 

Our statistics agencies are only now following Italy’s lead and publishing the comorbidities of those dying from covid-19, and it is now clear just how extreme is the amplification of risk. 95% of victims dying with covid-19 have serious pre-existing conditions: not just background illnesses, but severe enough to be mentioned as causes of death on death certificates. The most prevalent are dementia and diabetes (a quarter of cases, each), hypertension (a fifth) and serious lung, kidney or heart disease (around a sixth each). In both the UK and Italy, the average victim had three comorbidities severe enough to be causes of death on a certificate.

....Even taking all deaths where covid-19 is mentioned on the death certificate regardless of age or comorbidities, looking at the total toll: 43,000 lives is less than 2018’s excess winter deaths and would count as a bad, but by no means remarkable, influenza year.

Imperial College haven’t had a good war, and after their performance in other recent epidemics perhaps they will now pass their mantle onto another team. Preferably one that can code to levels fit for publication, never mind policy: it is increasingly awkward to hear the Prime Minister quoting their forecast that, were it not for lockdown, the UK could have been looking at half a million deaths when, at the tail-end of the epidemic, there are only 320,000 deaths worldwide.

...In mid-March, Stanford’s Nobel laureate Michael Levitt (biophysicist and professor of structural biology) discussed the “natural experiment” of the Diamond Princess cruise ship, a virtually perfect sealed petri-dish disproportionately filled with the most susceptible age and health groups. Even here, despite the virus spreading uncontrolled onboard for at least two weeks, infection only reached 20% of passengers and crew (an “upper bound” to infection levels?); Levitt concluded that we must have high levels of innate immunity that can clear the virus. And using very simple mathematics (not “15,000 lines of uncommented code” like Neil Ferguson) he demonstrated that the virus’s spread had never been exponential but rather has been running out of steam from day one. Who listened?
The eccentric biostatistician Knut Wittkowski the end of March wrote a compelling but neglected paper showing how the emerging data backed up his view that “respiratory diseases [including covid-19]… remain only about two months in any given population”.
...Covid-19 might not be “just flu”, but that’s because there’s no “just” about flu.
I recommend this article by a 'technology entrepreneur' called Yinon Weiss in the very useful , headlined

How Fear, Groupthink Drove Unnecessary Global Lockdowns

To put things in perspective, the virus is now known to have an infection fatality rate for most people under 65 that is no more dangerous than driving 13 to 101 miles per day. Even by conservative estimates, the odds of COVID-19 death are roughly in line with existing baseline odds of dying in any given year.
... I don’t place most of the blame on people like Ferguson. If you are a hammer everything looks like a nail. I blame government leaders for failing to surround themselves with diverse viewpoints and to think critically for themselves.
It would be highly embarrassing to force citizens to quarantine themselves only to later admit it was all a colossal blunder, so it is easier for politicians and modelers to claim the lower death rates were based on the lockdowns themselves. It was a success!
But several inconvenient thorns keep bursting that narrative -- and none larger than Sweden...
... the [IHME] model predicted up to 2,800 daily deaths within 11 days and a final death total as high as 75,000 if Sweden didn’t enact strict social distancing measures.


  1. Paul this is a superb analysis. Are you OK if I share on Facebook ? Regards Mark