Flat White

Lockdowns: an alibi for government to shun scrutiny of neglect of public health preparedness

3 September 2021

4:00 AM

3 September 2021

4:00 AM

The Australian Bureau of Statistics’ monthly update on mortality has the eye-catching statistic that in every single week from 1 November 2020 to 31 May 2021, more Australians died than the average in the 2015–19 five-year period (Figure 1). To the end of August, 97 people died with Covid in 2021. In comparison, 3,475 (6.3%) more people died until the end of May this year from all causes than the five-year average. That’s 3,371% more all-cause excess deaths in the first five months than the total Covid-related deaths in eight months. The daily excess death average was 2.6 times higher than the single worst day for Covid mortality (9 deaths on 16 August).

Excess deaths testify to the accumulation of both undiagnosed and untreated illnesses. The biggest contributors were jumps of 6% for cancer, 9.2% for diabetes and 17.1% for dementia and Alzheimer. These are among the categories we would predict to be worst hit by the known effects of lockdowns that degrade the capacity of the health system to treat illnesses in a timely manner. The Daily Mail UK recently ran a feature about ending the obsession with Covid figures and refocussing on the really big killers like heart disease, cancer and dementia. Interestingly, they used a graphic like my Figure 5 from the previous article here.

Ten weeks into increasingly tougher restrictions alongside accelerated vaccine take-up, NSW’s high daily ‘cases’ (meaning the not very reliable number of positive tests) crossed the 1,200 barrier by the end of August. Rather than accept that lockdowns are ineffective and vaccinations are leaky in preventing infections, the government still blames rising cases on insufficient public compliance with its divine edicts.

Meanwhile Canberra, having locked down on 12 August with just one positive test, continues to record new Covid cases. Chief Minster Andrew Barr believes ‘lockdown measures are effective in reducing the spread of the virus but it is concerning that we are still getting cases infectious in the community’. Barr is adamant that a run of zero cases in the community would be essential to any easing of restrictions. On Tuesday he announced a further two-week extension of the lockdown. He explains: ‘We do not want all of the hard work over the last few weeks to go to waste by opening up too early’. This includes compulsory masking even when outdoors, despite zero evidence of their utility in stopping transmission through casual interactions when outdoors.

Meanwhile in Sydney’s western suburbs on Monday, a confused little girl sat in her father’s lap after he was arrested for not wearing a mask in a Covid hotspot. He couldn’t comfort her because he’d been handcuffed. The fact that there was no one else in sight anywhere around him was of no consequence to the cops. The distressing story got over 3,000 outraged comments in The Daily Mail.

Across in New Zealand on the same day, a woman died of myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle, which authorities said was ‘probably due to vaccination’. She had been given the Pfizer vaccine just days before. New Zealand has had exactly one Covid-linked death in 2021 and, following a single Covid case in Auckland on 17 August, the whole country was put into lockdown. But an actual death linked to a Covid vaccine? No fuss, it’s a known but incredibly rare side-effect, the benefits vastly outweigh the risk, next arm for the jab, please.

Could one of Barr’s colleagues, or his chief of staff, please tell him he’s dreaming, give him the memo that zero Covid is a chimera and explain to him the sunk cost fallacy? Also, could the health bureaucrats please produce the evidence on which they insist, months of repeating cycles of lockdown in Victoria and NSW, plus more than 18 months of global experience to the contrary notwithstanding, that ‘lockdown measures are effective in reducing the spread of the virus’.

Then turn the topic of the conversation to Sweden on vaccines, cases and deaths. Between them the four examples of Europe, India, Israel and Sweden (Figure 2) show the folly of pinning all faith and hope on vaccination as the exit ramp from the world of Covid Dystopia. Data from the ten most and least vaccinated US states similarly call into question the effectiveness of vaccines in stopping infections spread (Figure 3). Policy interventions govern human behaviour more than they seem to shape virus behaviour.

Table 1 documents that in England the fully vaccinated comprised 15.7% of Delta cases and 54.2% of deaths; the unvaccinated, 50.3% of cases and 34.1% of deaths. One could infer from the table that (1) over two-thirds of all deaths were among the vaccinated and so vaccines double the risk of death; and (2), if infected, the chances of dying are 0.855% if fully vaccinated but only 0.167% – five times lower – if unvaccinated. Such an inference is seriously misleading.

A more accurate interpretation is to look at the data by the two age groups separately. The elderly dominate the vaccinated while the young the unvaccinated group. Those aged 50 and up are 3.3 times more likely to die if unvaccinated. For the under-50s, the figures drop to 0.05 for the vaccinated and 0.03 for the unvaccinated. Anti-vaccination campaigners could mis-claim that for under 50s, the risk of dying increases by 67% with vaccination.

However, the actual shift is of the magnitude of 0.02%, so this is just statistical noise. It could be the result, for example, of healthy young vaccinated people not seeking or being required to test for the virus. An equivalent ‘the truth but not the whole truth’ claim by pro-vaxxers, reported for example in The Guardian on 27 August, is that the risk of blood clots is nine times higher after infection than after vaccination. True, but: the overall UK risk of catching Covid is around 8%, skews heavily towards older people and falls steeply for younger people. Whereas the risk of clotting after vaccination is equally distributed. To be meaningful, the cost-benefit equation between risk of fatal infection, impact of vaccines on cutting that risk, and risk of serious complications from vaccines must be age-segregated.

Lockdown policy has facilitated the house arrest of entire populations even though the imprisoned people have neither committed any crime nor are most of them sick. The Australian Human Rights Commission has been missing in action as the institutional focus of resistance to the most serious inroads on human rights in Australian history. Germany recently decided to stop using the infection rate as the yardstick for deciding when to impose and lift lockdown restrictions. Several scientists believe the UK should do the same and abandon mass testing as it no longer serves any medically useful purpose.

One of the heroes of the anti-lockdown movement has been Stanford University epidemiologist Jay Bhattacharya. Co-author of the Great Barrington Declaration, which in an interview with Unherd TV on 24 August he claimed has been amply vindicated, he has achieved rock star celebrity as the face of the antidote to Faucism. He combines depth of expertise, familiarity with the current scientific literature, an obvious humanism animating his concern for the impact of lockdowns on the poor peoples and countries, and sober and measured presentation.

In an op-ed for The Sunday Express (UK, 22 August), Bhattacharya notes that at a cost of US $125 each, the virus tests in the UK and US have cost a total of $90 billion. ‘If the goal is to save lives’, he writes, ‘that money would be better spent bankrolling vaccination programs for older, vulnerable people in poor countries. Tests should be reserved for the sick’. Or, in our case, the equivalent would have been better invested in a major upgrade of our hospitals and ICU infrastructure.

Lockdowns have given governments a diversionary alibi to deflect scrutiny of their criminal neglect of the state of public health preparedness despite repeated warnings of a global pandemic over the years.

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