Coronavirus: Only an Anecdote 904


Today’s shocking evidence by Prof. Neil Ferguson that, had lockdown been implemented a week earlier, the death toll would have been halved, has the ring of truth, although it must remain a surmise (and I am aware of his past record).

But I want to give you an anecdotal example from my own family of the extraordinary government laxness at the start of this pandemic.

Whilst I was in London during February covering the Assange hearing, Nadira attended the Berlin Film Festival. She has produced a feature film in Iran, currently in post production, which she was there to promote. She therefore spent almost the whole time in the company of people from Iran involved in the film.

In very early March, a week or more after her return, Nadira developed a bad fever and pneumonia like symptoms. I advised her to call 111. It is important to remember that at this time Iran was well known to be a major epicentre of Covid-19. Nadira was phoned back by a Covid-handler from 111, and she explained the situation to him. He said that she just had seasonal flu and that Germany was not a risk for Covid-19. She explained that she had been the whole time with people newly flown in from Tehran. He stated that unless they were showing symptoms, there was no risk of infection. He said Nadira did not need a test or to self-isolate.

When I got back from London, Nadira took to her bed and remained there for a week, which is simply unheard of – she never gets sick. Cameron developed a nasty cough and we kept him off school for over a week.

Two things are in retrospect striking. The first is that Nadira complained bitterly, and continued to do so for some weeks, that she had completely lost all sense of taste and of smell. We had been gifted a particularly good bottle of wine and I thoughtlessly opened it, rather than wait until she could enjoy the taste too. At that time loss of taste and smell was not a reported marker of covid-19.

The second striking fact is that we now know that the real reason that the 111 service was so adamant to Nadira that no testing was required, is that there was in fact no available testing capacity for anybody who was not Prince Charles. That does not explain why Nadira was told she did not have to isolate. Nor does it explain why in early March NHS Scotland could not grasp the difference between being in Berlin, and being in Berlin with a group flown in from Tehran.

It is worth noting that Nadira flew back in to Edinburgh, very likely carrying Covid 19, precisely two days before the controversial Nike conference. Nadira is just one person, and I am prompted to tell the story (with her permission) by Ferguson’s admission that the failure to do anything about the thousands of people returning from Italy had seeded the virus substantially. That is only a part of it. The refusal to take seriously and test members of the public who believed, with sensible reason, they may have contracted the virus abroad, plainly contributed to the UK’s higher death rate (let alone the failure to bring in airport screening).

Of course, until an antibody test is made available, we have no evidence it was not indeed just the flu which Nadira and Cameron had. To complete the family story, I did not develop pneumonia but did come down with a number of acute symptoms of which the most startling was sleep. About ten days after I returned to Nadira from London, I went through a period where I just could not wake up: for about five days I was sleeping 20 hours a day in a proper, deep sleep. I also found I could not type to blog. I could not control my fingers, while after ten minutes of typing my hands became extremely painful and I literally could not move my thumbs at all. I had all kinds of worries, from arthritis to Alzheimers. It was only later I discovered this arthritis like condition can be a coronavirus symptom too. It now seems to have thankfully cleared up.

At precisely the same time my daughter, who lives with us, came down with eye infections so bad she was off work for a fortnight while they were treated by the Edinburgh Eye Clinic. There is some evidence now this too can be a symptom of Covid-19, though the same can be said for a huge variety of symptoms.

The only member of my family to have been tested was my sister-in-law, who works in the NHS. She was extremely ill and hospitalised for a considerable period. She self-isolated and avoided admission perhaps overlong, not wanting to be a burden on her own hospital. In this self-isolation period my brother continued to look after her and to share a bed, and yet he has at no stage exhibited any symptoms.

This is all only anecdotal. Only one of the family ever was tested, even though Nadira very much ought to have been and wanted to be. It interests me that only Cameron ever developed a cough – even my sister-in-law who was hospitalised for weeks never coughed, even though both she and Nadira had breathing difficulties. My daughter and I had completely different symptoms again. The only common symptom to us all was fever. My brother, who cannot have avoided catching the disease, had no symptoms at all.

Anecdotal evidence is not without value. What the story of my family does show is that government negligence caused the most serious failure in diagnostic capacity compared to better organised countries, and thus the abdication of any possibility of effective track and trace right from the start. That seems to me a sufficient illustration of why the UK death rate has been so high.

I wish to thank all of those who tuned in for the first procedural hearing in my Contempt of Court trial. I realise it was not too gripping but please do not give up and do stay with me through the procedures as they get more dangerous. Julian Assange’s case has been marked by terrible abuse of procedure. I am severely constrained in what I can say, but I may perhaps say that today was a most happy contrast to the handling of Julian. I have no doubt your presence with me helps; and it is a massive emotional support.

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904 thoughts on “Coronavirus: Only an Anecdote

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  • Clark

    https://dash.harvard.edu/handle/1/42599304 Abstract:

    Background: Sustained spread of SARS-CoV-2 has happened in major US cities. Capacity needs in Chinese cities could inform the planning of local healthcare resources.

    Methods: We described the intensive care unit (ICU) and inpatient bed needs for confirmed COVID-19 patients in two Chinese cities (Wuhan and Guangzhou) from January 10 to February 29, 2020, and compared the timing of disease control measures in relation to the timing of SARS-CoV-2 community spread. We estimated the peak ICU bed needs in US cities if a Wuhan-like outbreak occurs.

    Results: In Wuhan, strict disease control measures were implemented six weeks after sustained local transmission of SARS-CoV-2. Between January 10 and February 29, COVID-19 patients accounted for an average of 637 ICU patients and 3,454 serious inpatients on each day. During the epidemic peak:

    19,425 patients (24.5 per 10,000 adults) were hospitalized,
    9,689 (12.2 per 10,000 adults) were considered to be in serious condition,
    2,087 patients (2.6 per 10,000 adults) needed critical care per day.

    In Guangzhou, strict disease control measures were implemented within one week of case importation. Between January 24 and February 29, COVID-19 accounted for an average of 9 ICU patients and 20 inpatients on each day. During the epidemic peak,

    15 patients were in critical condition, and
    38 were classified as serious.

    If a Wuhan-like outbreak were to happen in a US city, the need for healthcare resources may be higher in cities with a higher prevalence of vulnerable populations.

    Conclusion: Even after the lockdown of Wuhan on January 23, the number of seriously ill COVID-19 patients continued to rise, exceeding local hospitalization and ICU capacities for at least a month. Plans are urgently needed to mitigate the effect of COVID-19 outbreaks on the local healthcare system in US cities.

  • Steph

    Clark – re your invitation to discuss on subsequent thread.

    The analysis which you linked to was at https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/coronavirus-death-rate/ in which it is stated:

    ‘These findings can be valid for New York City and not necessarily for other places (suburban or rural areas, other countries, etc.), but they represent the best estimates to date given the co-occurrence of these 3 studies’
    .
    You subsequently used this best estimate to arrive at a situation in which the entire UK population would be infected by 1st August, concluding with the supercilious comment

    ‘See? One month from where we are now, to complete hospital overload hell. No “received opinion”; just the behaviour of covid-19 observed so far and some simple maths.’

    I hope that this clarifies my remark.

    I should also like to say that my original posts related to the possibility that the coronavirus response might bring about a worse outcome than the virus itself. This you do not address at all.

    My subsequent criticisms related to the tone of argument you employ towards others when making your points, and my own suggestion that your self-appointed role as arbitrator of truth might perhaps be counter-productive. This you also do not comment upon, although I certainly don’t hold that against you!

    When you state

    ‘Returning to this thread presents an assault to my emotions’ and ‘ Arguments that would result in an obscene orgy of suffering and death are tenacious, lovely, warm, humane, distinguished and exceedingly knowledgable.’

    you were presumably alluding to my opinion of John Iaonnidis and inferring that anyone having an assessment of the situation which does not exactly concur with your own was a cause of mental anguish for you. When I stated that Ioannidis was at least as knowledgeable as anyone else, you made a rather flippant reply about Jedi knights.

    As another random example, above, you summarily dismiss Tiger Lily’s points, with the exception of one, as being ‘easily disprovable nonsense’. Yet many of the points made are actually undeniable facts. The government has passed legislation. It does need to legally justify the infringements on human rights as set out in international law by declaring that there is a danger to the public. Care homes have been allowed to issue death certificates without a doctor present etc etc. Tiger Lily has presented a well-constructed argument. A person may or may not agree with his/her interpretation of thos facts, but because you do not, you dismiss almost the entire post as ‘nonsense’.
    Now Clark, I do not doubt that you will have more to say and will wish to refute me further. But I hope you will forgive me if I do not respond again. Please accept that it is not impoliteness on my behalf, and i thank you for communicating, but there is a rather sad futility in wasting both our lives in this way!

    • Clark

      Steph, I request your cooperation. This need not be a waste of time; we could make much progress if we deal with one point at a time. I apologise for being such a shit person compared with you, and I hope I don’t have to live too much longer.

      • Steph

        Please believe me, I am every bit as flawed as the next person and more so than many, and I hope you will continue to patrol the internet for many years to come!

        • Clark

          Steph, the trouble is I don’t want to. Our world – England in particular – seems to have become so individualistic; I’m forever admonished to “respect views” when people are promoting blatant falsehoods and would rather fight, apparently just for the sake of it, than check their facts.

          It is ironic; for years I assisted with this website, helping Craig expose government distortion, and misrepresentation in the corporate media. This was anti-war and anti-torture activism; working to prevent suffering and death. But now the converse seems the greater issue, indeed, likely to outweigh those efforts many times over. Commenters I respected latch on to distortion, cherry-picking and blatant falsehood, and enthusiastically, and rather aggressively promote it. I think they do it for the reward of feeling contrarian,.

          You asked about balancing the damage from covid-19 against damage from taking action against it. I think it doesn’t work like that. The half a million dead figure is not an exaggeration, it is not plucked out of the air, and it is not an “MSM” ie. corporate media construct. It is the scientific consensus, the most reasonable estimate based on the evidence so far. There might be something missing that would modify that consensus if known, but there’s no reason to think so, and much less to bet on it. On the other hand there are known factors that would more than double the half million figure – hospital overload and high initial viral load in densely infected areas. Both were seen in Wuhan.

          The significance of this is that the public will not stand by while so many suffocate to death, so when figures start to rise again another “lockdown” will be called for. The April peak killed only a tenth of that number, so it’s ten such disasters over the course of years, or until a vaccine is developed, if one is even possible – it hasn’t been so far, for other coronaviruses nor for HIV.

          My take is that a protracted period encompassing ten inadequate “lockdowns” interspersed with lesser restrictions will do far more damage to the economy than one decent hammer to get infection numbers down to manageable levels. Done right, it should take only five weeks. New Zealand is down to zero new cases most days. The Republic of Ireland has had 25,000 cases, but they’re down to 16 per day. Switzerland had 31,000 cases; they’ve just risen a bit to 24 new cases per day. Those numbers are manageable with contact tracing (professional, not an “app”) and quarantine.

          The world might divide into the places that have controlled covid-19 and those that have let it run riot. Here, take a look at the following:

          https://www.endcoronavirus.org/green-zones

  • ET

    Happy note.
    There have been no new coronavirus cases where I live for 32 days now. On Friday the legal enforcement of all social distancing rules was lifted. As an island, our borders were closed from March 27. No one in or out at all initially but later relented to allow repatriation of residents or travel on strict compassionate grounds. Borders still closed. We don’t want any of you plague infested mainlanders here yet 😀

    I had my first proper pint (more than one to be fair) and pub meal yesterday since the lockdown. You’d have thought nothing had happened. People happy and smiling, chatting and joking. Staff clearly happy to be back though as one staff member said to me, they’d prefer to be my side of the bar. No masks in sight (difficult to eat and drink with one on).
    There is light at the end of the pint glass.

  • shugsrug

    Interesting information is now becoming available about mortality rate post lock down across many countries. There seems to be a consistent rapid spike post lock down. Very odd, but consistent.
    If it is the case that virus spread started long before January 2020, maybe November 2019 or earlier, the mortality rate should have been rising earlier. Not being an expert, but I have a nasty feeling the death rate splke may at least in part be due to lock down. Certainly in Scotland.
    There is then also the question as to the lock down itself and whether it has served any purpose, and I am far from convinced that it has helped at all.

    • Clark

      Early social restrictions limit infections and prevent deaths, see my table in the second half of this comment:

      https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2020/04/backing-the-wrong-horseman/comment-page-5/#comment-939536

      “There is then also the question as to the lock down itself and whether it has served any purpose”

      In country after country, infections rose rapidly until arrested by social restrictions, whether lockdown like Wuhan, “lockdown” like England, or advisory like Sweden, Japan and South Korea. There’s nothing else that could be stopping the spread, and both patterns are very clear; check the data for yourself at Worldometers, John Hopkins gisandata, or EndCoronavirus. The highest proportion of population infected so far has been just under 20% in New York City, over 1 in 400 in that city died, but with only 20% infected it could have been five times worse. Spain had a high death toll, but afterwards, widespread random antibody testing showed that only 5% of the population had been infected, so that could have been 20 times worse. I have links for all these if you want them.

      Someone is spreading this anti-restrictions propaganda. Someone either wants everyone back at work, or they want as many deaths as possible; maybe there’s a convergence of interests at work here.

      “There seems to be a consistent rapid spike post lock down.”

      I haven’t seen this; can you link to your source or to the data please?

        • glenn_uk

          Isn’t this a bit misleading? People don’t fall down dead the instant they contract C-19 – a death will usually be about three weeks later.

          In each of these charts, we see the climbing death rate drops about three weeks after lockdowns were imposed.

          Didn’t the author know that, or are they being a bit less than honest here?

          • shugsrug

            I have no idea what the cause of the spike in death rate is, but if these charts are accurate, then the lockdown is causal. Otherwise why would every country show such an increased death rate.
            If that is the case then you must wonder why that would be the case, and ask whether the death rate due to Covid is actually accurate. I am not saying that nobody died of coronovirus at all. But it maybe that the lockdown unfortunately caused some people to die prematurely. That is surely the case in Scotland. What that may mean is that governments have killed many, inadvertently, which is sad. Unfortunately that seems to be the case. But I realise the fear of the virus and apparent risk colour people’s views.

          • glenn_uk

            I understand the point you’re making, but if the lockdown itself was causing the excess deaths, you would expect that to increase at a dramatic rate for as long as it was in effect. That did not happen, in every case the death rate was turned around during lockdown.

            The point I was trying to make above, and perhaps could have put more clearly, is this : Many people were already infected when lockdown was declared. It took them some time to die from their infection, and that figure is shown in the graphs in your link. After that point there were not as many new infections, so the death rate declined dramatically.

            To draw an analogy – banning smoking is not going to save people who are already dying of lung cancer. But that’s not to say banning smoking caused them to die, which is effectively the argument being presented in your link – people will continue to die until the benefits of the ban (or lockdown) prevent new cases.

          • Clark

            Yes, the deaths rise to a peak and then fall, during “lockdown”. There were also cities in Italy covered by lockdown but without major outbreaks, and I have read that overall mortality fell during lockdown in those cities – but I haven’t checked the data.

            It’s all consistent with governments imposing restrictions barely in time, a couple of weeks late, and that was at just about the time that covid-19 deaths were just showing up. I guess that governments were acting on the numbers of detected infections, and that they were waiting to see if relatively nearby countries would really be affected – when they should have been paying attention to the WHO – that’s what it’s there for. But dismissal of UN agencies is a common theme among arrogant Western governments; compare Assange, Iraq, the Chagossians etc. etc. etc.

  • shugsrug

    Clark
    I did post a link to the article that contained some of the information I cited, but it has disappeared. No t sure why.

    • Clark

      I’ve had a look at John Pospichal’s article on medium.com; those are the covid-19 mortality spikes, and just what was expected if governments were complacent and late to respond – the WHO declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on 30 January:

      “Acknowledging that cases have been reported in five WHO regions in one month, the Committee noted that early detection, isolating and treating cases, contact tracing and social distancing measures – in line with the level of risk – can all work to interrupt virus spread.”

      The WHO criticised and warned again and again through February, and were almost frantic through the beginning of March, but Western governments kept waiting to see if it would really happen, and only acted when they saw large outbreaks in Europe:

      https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/events-as-they-happen

      Sunetra Gupta outlines her position here:

      https://unherd.com/2020/05/oxford-doubles-down-sunetra-gupta-interview/

      I think the big argument against this is that outbreaks so far have been severe but localised, so they must have been contained by the social restrictions. If we’d seen the deaths roughly evenly distributed across each country, the Gupta argument would have far more evidential support.

      The geographical distribution is also where to look regarding whether antibody tests are a reliable indicator of prevalence. I haven’t looked at this data, but New York springs to mind; a very high death rate, and antibody tests indicating 19% to 20% of the population had been infected. That’s high for covid-19 results; the overall figure for Spain was around 5%.

      To me, the current scientific consensus still seems the most credible interpretation. I’m busy today but I’ll try to get back to this later for some political aspects.

      • Clark

        Part of the problem is that expressing positions contrary to the international scientific consensus gets scientists into the “news” media – the publicity itself is a temptation. We’ve seen thirty years of the same effect regarding climate change.

      • Clark

        “…outbreaks so far have been severe but localised”

        I suggest comparing Wuhan with Hubei Province (I linked to a paper about that, above I think), New York City with New York State, and taking a look at the Bergamo outbreak in comparison with other regions in Italy. There is also this map for the UK – I think it’s an old one; I don’t have time to check:

        https://www.ons.gov.uk/visualisations/dvc811/multimap/index.html

        London and Birmingham, with a moderate corridor between them, and much lower rates in most other places. These distributions suggest that most of the population hadn’t been exposed at the time the data is relevant to. That can be correlated against antibody test result distributions, and I don’t think Gupta’s hypothesis is going to hold up.

  • Clark

    Notable that everyone has lost interest now that this is no longer the front thread, init? Publicity ops, ego, or some of each?

  • ET

    Reading on Moon of Alabama how UK gov witheld Leicester city stats from Leicester local government. Astonishing and an outrage in so many ways. The article is worth a read as is the link within it to the “dozens of screw-ups.”
    Surely there are some things that transcend spin?

  • ET

    A before and after lockdown survey from a small italian town.

    https://arstechnica.com/science/2020/07/tracking-covid-19s-spread-through-an-italian-town/?comments=1

    “The survey at the end of lockdown shows just how effective Italy’s policy approach was. At this point, there were only 29 cases of active infections, or 1.2 percent of the total population. More significantly, only eight of those were new infections. The authors estimate that, prior to lockdown, each infected individual was transferring the virus to an average of 2.5 additional people. During the lockdown, that value dropped to 0.4, a rate at which the pandemic can’t be sustained.”

    • Clark

      “0.4, a rate at which the pandemic can’t be sustained.”

      Yes. Covid-19 is actually quite easy to drive to extinction. If everyone everywhere had three weeks supplies, and didn’t meet anyone else for three weeks, it would be driven extinct.

      I keep getting the feeling that it’s a lesson from nature. Individualism is our weakness; a brief interlude of unity would deliver us.

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