In the name of protecting “our NHS” from being overwhelmed, we have all been under varying degrees of house arrest (depending on which police service we enjoy) for around three weeks now, and so far it could be said that lock-down appears to be largely working, if we consider that the NHS does still appear to be functional, albeit using rather different consultation-at-a-distance techniques.
Being a healthy, not very sociable but retired home-owner in a currently sunny and leafy Hampshire, the impact on my life has been perfectly bearable so far, but I do feel huge sympathy for working flat-renters with young families for whom employment has been shut down, rent bills are piling up, and sitting in a sunny garden drinking tea is not an option. I can think of nothing so dispiriting as chasing up and filling in a variety of absurd forms in an attempt to secure what may well turn out to be an inadequate hand-out delivered too late to appease the bank, whilst your employer or business goes down the pan.
This lock-down had better be worth it.
It is clearly critical to assess just how big a pandemic Covid-19 is shaping up to be, so let’s go…
As someone who studied statistics at college (late ‘60s) and had the basics well and truly drummed into my head by our formidable statistics lecturer, I am appalled at the numbers being put about by the WHO, and the way that they are being used uncritically and inappropriately by all and sundry:
- Meaningless under-estimates of numbers infected collected by unknown process and unstandardised diagnostic methods – only randomised sampling to estimate the number of infections per thousand of population, using a proven and consistent diagnostic test (assuming such exists – that’s another topic altogether…) would produce properly comparable and useful estimates.
- Inflated overestimates of numbers dying – since nearly all those who died have suffered additional medical conditions, and death certificates are recorded by overworked medics whose primary motivation is to save lives rather than to record cause of death with the pedantry demanded by statistical rigour, we can be sure that “Covid-19” is significantly over-represented.
But never mind if the WHO stats are seriously flawed, we can fall back on the reported overall death rates from all causes by country – for Europe the website Euro Momo obliges, albeit slightly behind reality to allow for reporting processes. In a true pandemic, we would expect to see a death rate rising noticeably above the normal.
Overall, we do not.
Even in Italy, deaths peaked in 2017 at least as much as today, and in many other countries (including Sweden, which has no lock-down to mitigate the effects) overall death rates are bumbling along well within the usual historic range.
Now it is fair to note that week 13 tends to mark the tail-end of the winter deaths peak, and this year is seeing some unusual increases in some countries, but nothing that could be classed as unprecedented overall – even in Spain and Italy, figures are within the highs of 2017.
So whilst none of this may be considered absolutely conclusive, it does pour cold water on the idea that everything is spiralling dangerously out of control across the continent – the Black Death this is not.
So if it isn’t such a raging pandemic after all, why all the fuss?
It has been mooted in the Telegraph that this lock-down might have to continue until a vaccine is available.
Really? Get serious! Hasn’t the NHS heard of Chloroquine et al, drugs that have already been tried and found effective in other countries? Drugs that have been used for other purposes for many years and are known to be safe? It isn’t like it’s a secret; Donald Trump has been actively bullying the FDA to authorise chloroquine, and has been promoting it with success across America. Are our government and our dear NHS deaf and blind?
Why is it not being trialled in the UK when it is reported to be saving lives in Europe and America, and our NHS is in such crisis that the whole UK population has been locked-down “with consequences that no man may foresee”?
If “our NHS” continues to cling to this let’s-wait-for-a-vaccine idea, then an upwelling of serious discontent will be unstoppable. We may be under house arrest but that will not stop like-minded people sharing notes via telephone and internet. If we really want the economy to collapse entirely and public forbearance to go to the dogs, then maintaining lock-down whilst waiting for a vaccine to be tested and approved in n months time looks like a copper-bottomed way to do it.
Maybe Sweden will turn out to hold the key – if the Swedes can get the rate of new deaths falling without imposing a lock-down, then it seems to me that the case for lock-down collapses. It is even possible that the count of daily deaths in Sweden is now trending down since 3rd April – so if that trend continues, our UK lock-down will begin to look like ineffective and unsupportable overkill – in which case it will be instructive to observe our Government’s reaction.
I have just heard that our prime minister has been moved into intensive care – is he to be denied the drug that could save him?