Covid-19 and the Political Utility of Fear 746

The true mortality rate of covid-19 remains a matter of intense dispute, but it is undoubtedly true that a false public impression was given by the very high percentage of deaths among those who were tested positive, at the time when it was impossible to get tested unless you were seriously ill (or a member of society’s “elite”). When only those in danger of dying could get a test, it was of course not at all surprising that such a high percentage of those who tested positive died. It is astonishing how many articles are published with the entirely fake claim that the mortality rate of Covid-19 is 3.4%, based on that simple methodology. That same methodology will today, now testing is much more widely available to those who feel ill, give you results of under 1%. That is still an overestimate as very few indeed of the symptomless, or of those with mild symptoms, are even now being tested.

The Guardian’s daily graphs of statistics since January 1 illustrate this very nicely. It is of course not in fact the case, as the graphs appear to show, that there are now vastly more cases than there were at the time of peak deaths in the spring. It is simply that testing is much more available. What the graphs do indicate is that, unless mortality rates have very radically declined, cases tested on the same basis they are tested today would have given results last spring of well over 100,000 cases per day. It is also important to note that, even now, a very significant proportion of those with covid-19, especially with mild symptoms, are still not being tested. Quite possibly the majority. So you could very possibly double or treble that figure if you were looking for actual cases rather than tested cases.

I do not believe anybody seriously disputes that there are many millions of people in the general population who had covid and survived it, but were never tested or diagnosed. That can include people who were quite badly ill at home but not tested, but also a great many who had mild or no symptoms. It is worth recalling that in a cruise ship outbreak, when all the passengers had to be compulsorily tested, 84% of those who tested positive had no symptoms.

What is hotly disputed is precisely how many millions there are who have had the disease but never been tested, which given the absence of widespread antibody testing, and inaccuracies in the available antibody tests, is not likely to be plain for some time, as sample sizes and geographical reach of studies published to date have been limited. There is no shortage of sources and you can take your pick. For what it is worth, my own reading leads me to think that this Lancet and BMJ published study, estimating an overall death rate of 0.66%, is not going to be far off correct when, in a few years time, scientific consensus settles on the true figure. I say that with a certain caution. “Respectable” academic estimates of global deaths from Hong Kong flu in 1968 to 70 range from 1 million to 4 million, and I am not sure there is a consensus.

It is impossible to discuss covid-19 in the current state of knowledge without making sweeping assumptions. I am going here to assume that 0.66% mortality rate as broadly correct, which I believe it to be (and if anything pessimistic). I am going to assume that 70% of the population would, without special measures, catch the virus, which is substantially higher than a flu pandemic outbreak, but covid-19 does seem particularly contagious. That would give you about 300,000 total deaths in the United Kingdom, and about a tenth of that in Scotland. That is an awful lot of dead people. It is perfectly plain that, if that is anything near correct, governments cannot be accused of unnecessary panic in their responses to date.

Whether they are the best responses is quite another question.

Because the other thing of which there is no doubt is that covid-19 is an extremely selective killer. The risk of death to children is very small indeed. The risk of death to healthy adults in their prime is also very marginal indeed. In the entire United Kingdom, less than 400 people have died who were under the age of 60 and with no underlying medical conditions. And it is highly probable that many of this very small number did in fact have underlying conditions undiagnosed. Those dying of coronavirus, worldwide, have overwhelmingly been geriatric.

As a Stanford led statistical study of both Europe and the USA concluded

People <65 years old have very small risks of COVID-19 death even in the hotbeds of the pandemic and deaths for people <65 years without underlying predisposing conditions are remarkably uncommon. Strategies focusing specifically on protecting high-risk elderly individuals should be considered in managing the pandemic.

The study concludes that for adults of working age the risk of dying of coronavirus is equivalent to the risk of a car accident on a daily commute.

I should, on a personal note, make quite plain that I am the wrong side of this. I am over 60, and I have underlying heart and lung conditions, and I am clinically obese, so I am a prime example of the kind of person least likely to survive.

The hard truth is this. If the economy were allowed to function entirely normally, if people could go about their daily business, there would be no significant increase in risk of death or of life changing illness to the large majority of the population. If you allowed restaurants, offices and factories to be be open completely as normal, the risk of death really would be almost entirely confined to the elderly and the sick. Which must beg the question, can you not protect those groups without closing all those places?

If you were to open up everything as normal, but exclude those aged over 60 who would remain isolated, there would undoubtedly be a widespread outbreak of coronavirus among the adult population, but with few serious health outcomes. The danger lies almost entirely in spread to the elderly and vulnerable. The danger lies in 35 year old Lisa catching the virus. She might pass it on to her children and their friends, with very few serious ill effects. But she may also pass it on to her 70 year old mum, which could be deadly.

We are reaching the stage where the cumulative effect of lockdown and partial lockdown measures is going to inflict catastrophic damage on the economy. Companies could survive a certain period of inactivity, but are coming to the end of their resilience, of their financial reserves, and of effective government support. Unemployment and bankruptcies are set to soar, with all the human misery and indeed of deleterious health outcomes that will entail.

There is no social institution better designed than schools for passing on a virus. The fact that schools are open is an acknowledgement of the fact that there is no significant danger to children from this virus. Nor is there a significant danger to young adults. University students, the vast, vast majority of them, are not going to be more than mildly ill if they catch coronavirus. There is no more health need for universities to be locked down and teaching virtually, than there would be for schools to do the same. It is a nonsense.

The time has come for a change in policy approach that abandons whole population measures, that abandons closing down sectors of the economy, and concentrates on shielding that plainly defined section of the population which is at risk. With this proviso – shielding must be on a voluntary basis. Elderly or vulnerable people who would prefer to live their lives, and accept that there is currently a heightened risk of dying a bit sooner than might otherwise be expected, must be permitted to do so. The elderly in particular should not be forcefully incarcerated if they do not so wish. To isolate an 88 year old and not allow them to see their family, on the grounds their remaining life would be shortened, is not necessarily the best choice for them. It should be their choice.

To some extent this selective shielding already happens. I know of a number of adults who have put themselves into voluntary lockdown because they live with a vulnerable person, and such people should be assisted as far as possible to work from home and function in their isolation. But in general, proper protection of the vulnerable without general population lockdowns and restrictions would require some government resource and some upheaval.

There could be, for example, a category of care homes created under strict isolation where no visitation is allowed and there are extremely strict firewall measures. Others may have less stringent precautions and allow greater visitation and movement; people should have the choice, and be assisted in moving to the right kind of institution for them. This would involve upheaval and resources, but nothing at all compared to the upheaval being caused and resources lost by unnecessary pan-societal restrictions currently in force. Temporary shielded residential institutions should be created for those younger people whose underlying health conditions put them at particular risk, should they wish to enter them. Special individual arrangements can be put in place. Public resource should not be spared to help.

But beyond those precautions to protect those most in danger, our world should return to full on normal. Ordinary healthy working age people should be allowed to make a living again, to interact socially, to visit their families, to gather together, to enjoy the pub or restaurant. They would be doing so in a time of pandemic, and a small proportion of them would get quite ill for a short while, and a larger proportion would get mildly ill . But that is a part of the human condition. The myth that we can escape disease completely and live forever is a nonsense.

Against this are the arguments that “every death is a tragedy” and “one death is too many”. It is of course true that every death is a tragedy. But in fact we accept a risk of death any time we get in a car or cross a road, or indeed buy meat from the butcher. In the USA, there has been an average of 4.5 amusement park ride fatalities a year for the last 20 years; that is an entirely unnecessary social activity with a slightly increased risk of death. Few seriously want amusement parks closed down.

I genuinely am convinced that for non-geriatric people, the risk of death from Covid-19 is, as the Stanford study suggested, about the same as the risk of death from traffic accident on a daily commute. The idea that people should not commute to work because “any death is a tragedy” is plainly a nonsense.

The problem is that it is a truism of politics that fear works in rendering a population docile, obedient or even grateful to its political leaders. The major restrictions on liberty under the excuse of the “war on terror” proved that, when the statistical risk of death by terrorism has always been extraordinarily small to any individual, far less than the risk of traffic accident. All the passenger security checks that make flying a misery, across the entire world, have never caught a single bomb, anywhere.

Populations terrified of covid-19 applaud, in large majority, mass lockdowns of the economy which have little grounding in logic. The way for a politician to be popular is to impose more severe lockdown measures and tell the population they are being saved, even as the economy crumbles. Conversely, to argue against blanket measures is to invite real hostility. The political bonus is in upping the fear levels, not in calming them.

This is very plain in Scotland, where Nicola Sturgeon has achieved huge popularity by appearing more competent and caring in managing the covid-19 crisis than Boris Johnson – which may be the lowest bar ever set as a measure of political performance, but it would be churlish not to say she has cleared it with style and by a substantial margin.

But when all the political gains are on the side of more blanket lockdowns and ramping up the levels of fear, then the chances of measures tailored and targeted specifically on the vulnerable being adopted are receding. There is also the danger that politicians will wish to keep this political atmosphere going as long as possible. Fear is easy to spread. If you make people wear face masks and tell them never to go closer than 2 metres to another person or they may die, you can throw half the population immediately into irrational hostility towards their neighbours. Strangers are not seen as people but as parcels of disease.

In these circumstances, asking ordinary people to worry about political liberty is not fruitful. But the new five tier measures announced by the Scottish government yesterday were worrying in terms of what they seem to indicate about the permanence of restrictions on the, not really under threat, general population. In introducing the new system, Nicola Sturgeon went all BBC on us and invoked the second world war and the wartime spirit, saying we would eventually get through this. That of course was a six year haul.

But what really worried me was the Scottish government’s new five tier system with restrictions nominated not 1 to 5, but 0 to 4. Zero level restrictions includes gatherings being limited to 8 people indoors or 15 people outdoors – which of course would preclude much political activity. When Julian Assange’s father John was visiting us this week I wished to organise a small vigil for Julian in Glasgow, but was unable to do so because of Covid restrictions. Even at zero level under the Scottish government’s new plans, freedom of assembly – an absolutely fundamental right – will still be abolished and much political activity banned. I cannot see any route to normality here; the truth is, of course, that it is very easy to convince most of the population inspired by fear to turn against those interested in political freedom.

What is in a number? When I tweeted about this, a few government loyalists argued against me that numbering 0 to 4 means nothing and the levels of restriction might equally have been numbered 1 to 5. To which I say, that numbering the tiers of restriction 1 to 5 would have been the natural choice, whereas numbering them 0 to 4 is a highly unusual choice. It can only have been chosen to indicate that 0 is the “normal” level and that normality is henceforth not “No restrictions” but normal is “no public gathering”. When the threat of Covid 19 is deemed to be sufficiently receding we will drop to level zero. If it was intended that after level 1, restrictions would be simply set aside, there would be no level zero. The signal being sent is that level zero is the “new normal” and normal is not no restrictions. It is both sinister and unnecessary.

UPDATE I just posted this reply to a comment that this argument amounts to a “conspiracy theory”. It is an important point so I insert my reply here:
But I am not positing any conspiracy at all. I suspect that it is very easy for politicians to convince themselves that by increasing fear and enforcing fierce restriction, they really are protecting people. It is very easy indeed to genuinely convince yourself of the righteousness of a course which both ostensibly protects the public and gives you a massive personal popularity boost.

It is argued that only Tories are worried about the effect on the economy in the face of a public health pandemic. That is the opposite of the truth. Remarkably, the global lockdowns have coincided with an astonishing rate of increase in the wealth of the richest persons on the planet. That is an effect we are shortly going to see greatly amplified. As tens of thousands of small and medium businesses will be forced into bankruptcy by lockdown measures and economic downturn, their assets and their markets will be snapped up by the vehicles of the super-wealthy.

I am not a covid sceptic. But neither do I approve of fear-mongering. The risk to the large majority of the population is very low indeed, and it is wrong that anybody who states that fact is immediately vilified. The effect of fear on the general population, and the ability of politicians to manipulate that fear to advantage, should not be underestimated as a danger to society.

There has been a substantial increase in human life expectancy over my lifetime and a subsequent distancing from death. That this trend should be permanent, in the face of human over-population, resource exhaustion and climate change, is something we have too readily taken for granted. In the longer term, returning to the familiarity with and acceptance of death that characterised our ancestors, is something to which mankind may need to become re-accustomed.

In the short term, if permanent damage to society is not to be done, then the response needs to be less of an attack on the entire socio-economic structure, and more targeted to the protection of the clearly defined groups at real risk. I greatly dislike those occasions when I feel compelled to write truths which I know will be unpopular, particularly where I expect them to arouse unpleasant vilification rather than just disagreement. This is one of those times. But I write this blog in general to say things I believe need to be said. I am very open to disagreement and to discussion, even if robust, if polite. But this is not the blog to which to come for comfort-reading.

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746 thoughts on “Covid-19 and the Political Utility of Fear

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  • Rhys Jaggar

    What is equally as insidious is the way that treatment with hydroxychloroquine was falsely reported. Of course, if you want hydroxychloroquine to be effective, it must be administered at the right time (soon after diagnosis), at the right dosage and in conjunction with zinc. Yet there was a clearly concerted media rubbishing campaign backed by certain scientists and doctors who should face serious professional ramifications for their behaviour.

    What I think is also ridiculous is how the whole strategy has solely focussed on reducing one number (namely short-term Covid19 deaths) with zero thought as to the downside risks associated with the scenarios followed:

    1. The downside risk of increased domestic violence, alcohol/drug abuse etc.
    2. The increased levels of clinical depression and associated suicide risks of those utterly not-at-risk from Covid19.
    3. The total trashing of the economy, with the attendant lack of consideration of the ‘cost of the medical treatment’. If I said to you ‘the cost of saving this life using this treatment modality is £10mn per life saved (calculation based on 100,000 deaths at a cost of £1trn in government spending, lost GDP etc etc), would you think that evidence-based-medicine would deem that ‘cost effective’?
    4. The absolutely clear plans of the US elite to destroy traditional ways of life and then telling the over 50s to ‘become software programmers’. Have you ever heard anything more ridiculous? We have more than enough computer programmers in the U40s, what we are not going to have any longer are local pubs, coffee shops, restaurants, theatres, cinemas, fashion retailers, travel agencies and much, much more. I don’t see why we have to abandon our whole way of life just so Bill Gates can become the world’s first trillionaire. We don’t need ANY trillionaires on planet earth. We simply don’t…..
    5. The way that we can miraculously create ‘vaccines’ which ‘have to be received to be allowed to live a ‘normal’ life’ in under 12 months (hint: the only way that they could have been rigorously developed was through planning this plandemic years in advance). We are not at risk as a population from Covid19, even if some people are going to die. Forcing the U40s to be vaccinated is gross professional misconduct on the part of governments and is clearly a way of generating risk-free superprofits for the private sector. Why not change the laws to say: ‘the only products allowed freedom from downside risk are those owned communally’. That way: no risk-free superprofits.
    6. Isn’t it amazing that the second wave comes along at just the right time to bankrupt all the SMEs around the world, eh? Wasn’t that just SO well planned??

    There is not a single politician in the UK, not in England, Scotland, nor Wales, that has been remotely responsible in how they have managed this plandemic.

    They have shown themselves as slaves to billionaires and have bankrupted their own peoples just so that they can remain in with the psychopaths.

    I do not think that that will be forgotten very quickly…..

    • SA

      “What is equally as insidious is the way that treatment with hydroxychloroquine was falsely reported. Of course, if you want hydroxychloroquine to be effective, it must be administered at the right time (soon after diagnosis), at the right dosage and in conjunction with zinc. Yet there was a clearly concerted media rubbishing campaign backed by certain scientists and doctors who should face serious professional ramifications for their behaviour.”

      There are ongoing trials but so far there has not been any major reports of efficacy and worry about arrhythmias in some patients which can even be fatal.
      There is no conspiracy to try and suppress chloroquine, just lack of evidence that it is useful.

        • Brianboro

          Yes, many US doctors made this point but censorship by Youtube brought this down. Fortunately, it can still be seen on bitchute.

      • nothinguptop

        Hi SA

        I think you might want to re-evaluate this comment.

        “There is no conspiracy to try and suppress chloroquine, just lack of evidence that it is useful.”

        The Lancet published a study (since deleted) damning hydroxychloroquine, signed by 50+ “scientists” claiming data from 96000 patients from 671 hospitals.
        When asked for the data, no-one could supply it and the signatories started retracting their names.
        That’s a rather large amount of important data that was never in existence and a “study” signed by a lot of supposedly intelligent people.
        How would term such a mishap?

        Here’s some thoughts from people that might know what they are talking about and the date of the article is relevant to the lies that have been spread.

        • SA

          I am sorry an open letter is not scientific data. So the Lancet retracted a paper, but since then there has not been a study that was controlled that showed the efficacy of chloroquine in covid-19; if I have missed one please send a link.

          • Bob Bage

            You obviously don’t understand the peer review process. There are plenty of studies to show that it was effective in the first SARS-COV “epidemic” in 2003.

          • pretzelattack

            This isn’t the first SARS epidemic, it’s a different virus,and you forgot to link to some papers saying it is effective against this virus. you also don’t need to put epidemic in quote marks.

        • Clark

          “The Lancet published a study (since deleted) damning hydroxychloroquine, signed by 50+ “scientists” claiming data from 96000 patients from 671 hospitals.
          When asked for the data, no-one could supply it and the signatories started retracting their names.”

          Yes; and? Weeding out false claims is exactly what the scientific process is meant to do. It worked; the Lancet deleted the article. Nothinguptop, you have presented evidence of the procedures of the scientific literature thwarting such a conspiracy.

          The Lancet was scathing about the attempt.

          • nothinguptop

            The Lancet claim they verify before publishing.
            How long do you think it should take them to notice that the medical data from 96000 patients was non existent?
            I’d suggest looking at the file size before you even open, let alone publish.

            It was questioned on this within hours of publication. How long before they took it down?
            You should ask why you are defending something so clearly set out to deceive.


            “I am sorry an open letter is not scientific data”

            I never said it was. I said the timing was relevant, but these are people that understand the drug in question so maybe worth a read. Maybe not admittedly, but we don’t know until we do.

          • Bayleaf

            @Clark “you have presented evidence of the procedures of the scientific literature thwarting such a conspiracy.”

            Indeed. It was clearly trash science and created with an agenda in mind, which is surely the point nothinguptop was making. Ergo, a conspiracy, though I prefer the less-loaded term “hidden agenda”.

      • squirrel

        That’s not true, case studies showed efficacy for HCQ.

        There was clearly suppression. This drug, widely accepted as safe for malaria for decades, suddenly was considered too dangerous.
        A ‘hatchet job’ study was quickly published in the Lancet to promote this idea. The study was retracted when the raw data was kept secret, an outrageous move and one that should generate great suspicion.
        Meanwhile doctors who were using HCQ plus zinc were reporting cures within hours.

        We are under the illusion that medical academia operates freely. It does not.
        People will say that something does not work unless there is a clinical trial to demonstrate efficacy. That is all well and good in theory, but what if there is no political or financial will to allow such a trial to take place?

        Who has done such a trial with zinc (which is the active ingredient)? I don’t think anyone has.

        • SA

          case studies showed efficacy for HCQ.
          Where? Please send a link of a proper peer reviewed study in a scientific journal.

          • SA

            Is this good enough?
            No not really. This is an extremely loquacious metaanalysis of trials from a man with a bias to prove a point and yet he criticised conflict of interest.
            I cannot critique this review without first looking at the data and I can’t do it on my phone. I will have to wait till the morning to do so.
            But I know that Dr Raoult is a ‘controversial figure’ and I know he sold Trump the idea.
            Dr Raoult immediately dismisses a lot of publications as ‘big data’ and does this in a cursory way just because he wishes to start with an anti big pharma meme to discount any data that does not suit his purpose.
            Another thing I gleaned is that after the initial non-randomised trials on sick patients, Dr Raoult Decided that chloroquine should only be used prophylactically or early on to be effective. Choosing your patients carefully is ok but in this case needs some justification. One of the studies has a patient mean age of 43 years, not the highest risk, and also surprising 46% males.
            I will need to look carefully at the controls in this trial and other factors before I can say whether this is Hollywood science or solid science.

          • SA

            I have now had another look at this. What a mess. It is of course very difficult to critique this meta-analysis in detail but there are immediately glaring problems and that is by discreditation of the large studies and lumping them together with generalisations and innuendo of vested interests using criteria invented by the authors who themselves have vested interest and who, superficially at least have not yet published an appropriate RCT.
            In fact some of the studies quoted as showing positive results actually state that due to the small number studied (30 cases) that this is a preliminary study and needs confirmation. I am really surprised that this meat-analysis was published.

          • SA

            Some valid points. But scientific debates cannot be resolved by open letters and selective quotes. To say that using the right dose only gives a low mortality rate is not proof of anything. From my reading elsewhere , Raoult changed to giving chloroquine early but this is a group that would do well anyway. We need proper controlled studies.

        • squirrel

          There is some compelling evidence from Switzerland, who briefly suspended use of hydroxychloroquine. Thirteen days later, deaths rose dramatically. They resumed use, and thirteen days after that the deaths dropped
          graph here

          Perhaps more of a suppression has been the humble vitamin D. The link between the sunshine vitamin D and covid could not really be more striking: after China, northern latitudes first had a problem, southern latitudes only developing a problem in their wintertime. BAME communities were disproportionately affected in the UK and USA. However Africa was almost completely untouched.
          There’s many studies highly suggestive of vitamin D protecting against covid, this Italian study is pretty compelling, out of 50 patients treated with vitamin D only one required ICU treatment, while half of the control group required ICU treatment

          But our establishment does everything it can to ignore the possibility that vitamin D might function as a magic bullet treatment and also a vaccine. Matt Hancock told the House of Commons that he had commissioned a study into vitamin D which returned negative results: it was a barefaced lie, no study had taken place.

      • laguerre

        It’s highly unlikely that hydroxychloroquine is dangerous, after sixty years of use. If a study found that, you have to ask what they were doing and why. And who they are being funded by.

        The only issue is how useful it is. If some find it useful, they should be allowed to do so. I don’t quite see the reason for the anger of the medical establishment against it.

        • Giyane


          MW’s link illustrates two separate medical establishments, one taking statistics from hands on working physicians and the other using statistics collected by hospitals without hands on knowledge of the treatment given and patient response. I’m not clear whether the vested interests of big pharma , the pharmaceutical industry is a third and powerful branch of the medical establishment or whether hospital records are the same branch as big pharma.

          It seems strange to me that big pharma would ignore hands on experience. Surely they want to find a cure? But maybe the reality is that mr big will only talk to other mr bigs, I.e. hospitals, whose data was not focussed on the efficacy of the treatments.

          More likely that big pharma knows that quinine has side effects which it would not be in its interests to reveal. It uses it in incredibly low doses as a preventative against malaria and it recognises the dangers of preventing overdoses in the face of covid 19 .. For example the diesel engine runs the entire world , until somebody realises it is also harming human beings.

          • MW

            The people who published that study in the link above have been embroiled in an argument with the authorities from the start.
            This article dates from the end of March:

            Why France is hiding a cheap and tested virus curePour une Europe intelligente

            Since then, they say they have successfully treated thousands of patients, with a hospitalisation/mortality rate well below the national average.
            French readers may look at this recent article:

            Chloroquine: le plus grand scandale sanitaire (français) du siècle?Le Quotideien du Medicin

          • NonDePlume

            > It seems strange to me that big pharma would ignore hands on experience. Surely they want to find a cure?

            With HCQ there isn’t really a role for pharma companies.


            Doctors are like gods – they can effectively experiment on patients ( I think this might work…. let me try ) with very little oversight.
            Pharma companies on the other hand, have to draw up a clinical trial plan and get it approved by regulators – it’s a much much higher bar to get any new treatments to patients – clinical trials cost 10-100 millions to run,


            HCQ is so old nobody owns it. So there is no commercial incentive for any pharma company to work on it.

            Or to put it another way, Pharma’s job is to come up with new medicines, not new uses for old ones – that’s the doctors role – doctors and hospitals can run the trials – as they have done, without pharma companies.

            ie pointing at pharma companies here is a bit of a red herring – they don’t really have a role in running trials of off-patent drugs – that’s what hospitals, doctors and health services are for.

        • SA

          Chloroquine can be dangerous in a setting of patients with underlying heart conditions in ITU and in whom the use of macro life antibiotics may be needed as it can precipitate serious cardiac arrhythmia. Raoult now suggests giving it early and of course it is less likely to be dangerous in this type of patients. Also this type of hype leads to shortages for patients who need the drug.

    • Ian Kiddle

      It is hard to understand the motives of those that are misleading the public about Sars-cov-2 (the virus)and covid 19 (the disease).
      The only rational explaination is that the drug companies and their major shareholders saw it as an opportunity is increase their wealth. I follow Cris Martenson and his youtube series and if you want a clear commentary on this issue he is the man. His latest, at the moment behind a paywall but probably not for long, points out how to protect yourself and how the American health authorities have avoided disseminating this information which in my opinion is a particularly egregious crime.
      He advocates, amongst other things ,Vitamin D, selenium and now melatonin as enhancers of ones immune system which he backs up with academic papers and if you become infected invermectin , zinc and an antibiotic although Hydroxychloroquinine works well too
      He backs this up with science.
      I would urge Craig and others in the over 60 with comorbidity group, as I am too, to follow the resources Martenson has offered.
      One episode can be found here but you will have to dig deeper for more information.
      PS Congratulations and thank you to Craig for the sterling work regarding Julian Assange

      • SA

        “The only rational explaination is that the drug companies and their major shareholders saw it as an “

        This is a rather strange use if the world ‘rational’
        I am no defender of big pharma, but to repeat a popular meme as a rational reason is a rather lazy way of explaining things. Big pharma and big corporations are evil, but not in the way you describe, and there is no rationale at all in inventing disease and withholding easily found currs. That is not the way it works.

          • SA

            I know how big pharma works and it is not by preventing well known drugs from being used, there is much more mileage in actually getting others to do the work and then patenting an old drug for new use, or tweaking an old drug and come up with an analogue. This has happened so many times but people just go on parroting the old: big pharma want to see many die either by preventing the use of known drugs or by devising dangerous drugs. This is not how it works.

    • Uzmark

      Rhys. Nice points.
      There has been a total lack of acknowledgement by lockdown enthusiasts that damage from prolonged lockdown including deaths, and economic destruction which were 100% certain from the start – no hindsight excuses . But the acceptance of measures with flimsy scientific basis which were quickly seen to be ineffective

    • Ilya G Poimandres

      Just on 3 – £1tn spent and say 1 million deaths averted. But these are not full lives – the average age of death is 1 year above mean life expectancy (82.4 vs 81.5) in the UK.. These people, with pre-existing conditions have on average probably one year left.

      So the calculation is closer to £1m per year of life saved, which works out at £82m per full life saved!

      And this is if you saved 1m lives. Likely the number is an order lower like you said, and this intervention is closer to hundreds of millions of pounds per life saved, even without taking into account the collateral damage of suicides and heart attacks etc etc.

      This has been by far the most wasteful intervention in all of space time. They could have let this run through, and spent the money on creating 1 million personalised genetic therapies (about £1m a pop), and given almost full lives to a million young people.

    • N_

      @Rhys – Everything that the rulers’ “admin and stage” boys (“decision celebrities” as Guy Debord called them), their “experts”, and their media chatterers are saying about the epidemic is CR*P. Most people who have been infected with the 2019 strain of SARS have beaten it, often by using the first line of their immune system without even getting any symptoms. That includes many who are in their 50s, 60s, their 70s or even older. Yet there is no “public health advice” whatsoever about how to maintain and strengthen your immune system. It has always been possible to do it using foods and supplements, but the fact that that isn’t widely known is not about to change given that said foods and supplements are not patented. That’s how much the rulers love the population they “care for” so deeply.

      The social engineering controlled from the centre is encouraging people to view their parents, their children, their neighbours, their workmates, etc., in new ways that share the common feature that they are beneficial for mindless obedience and the giving up of hope. Real-world dating has practically come to a halt!

      We are now 7 months into fascism and the only way it can be overthrown is by insurrection which is obviously not on the cards. Fascism will advance. Next on its list are:

      * Widespread food shortages and an associated clampdown.

      * An assault on the working class family – e.g. when the shelves run bare in December, the only place those who haven’t built up food stocks will be able to get their children fed will be at schools, where no parents will be allowed. Christmas will basically be turned into an “I LOVE THE STATE FOR ALLOWING MY CHILDREN TO LIVE, AT LEAST FOR THE TIME BEING” day, Union flags flying, soldiers and nurses united in happy harmony, “God save the queen” – and why is that anti-social element not clapping?

      * It is highly likely that schools – at first one school, then a few – will be turned into quarantined zones. Anyone who hasn’t noticed that Tories hate working class children with a vengeance must have been asleep.

      * Property prices will collapse. This is inevitable as demand falls through the floor.

      * Central London is not quite a “ghost town” but I would estimate that the number of people around and about in the West End and Covent Garden is about 10% of what it was before fascism. During the first “lockdown” it was maybe at only 1%, but things will never go back to how they were.

      * State-helping terrorist events are likely.

      * Petty officials are having an absolute field day, including many who have never challenged anything in their lives; who are extremely STUPID and who will believe anything that a person above them tells them, while considering that those who don’t believe it are themselves stupid (you see this all over Britain); and who when they see somebody challenge something feel a welling-up of begrudgement, disgust, and dehumanising cruelty. That will all be amped up to a new level. Typical of this type of official are schoolteachers. The police are another example. With white collars on, there are medics. There are also many nurses. Then there are aisle captains in supermarkets. There are also many punters who don’t hold any official position but who step in to “remind” refractory rule-breaking proles that they are walking on the now “wrong” side of th street, not holding their arm up at the right angle when they say the letters “NHS”, etc.

      It’s hard to escape the conclusion that Britain is one of the worst European countries to be in right now.

      • Elvis Legg

        N, I’ve had a lifelong disdain for exactly the type of officials that you describe here. They are currently revelling in this manufactured situation. All the “Thank you NHS” bollocks knocks me sick. Most hospitals and, I would guess, all GP’s surgeries have been a lot more quiet than usual and either way, those nurses and doctors working there are simply doing the job that they’ve been paid to do, much like every other mere mortal. Although unlike everybody else, these people who love to think of themselves as superheroes at the best of times have also carried out DNR orders on anybody over 65, regardless of their chances of recovery, have knowingly sent very ill people into carehomes where they can spread the illness to lots of other vulnerable people near the end of their lives and have put thousands of people onto mechanical ventilators that have made people worse and killed them in droves.

        Those giving the orders should be held to account, but those blindly following the orders are equally culpable, and there’s a lot of them, currently been lionised and fawned over by News Believers the length and breadth of the country.

  • Mary

    Many thanks Adelaide for your humanity and Eric to.

    I see what is happening as an elderly cull.

    The irony is that I worked at this same DGH until I retired in 2006 and that my eldest brother worked as an orthopaedic surgeon in the NHS for 40 years, in South Devon and in London earlier.

    • J

      I see it the same way Mary. Nothing that happened was a mistake, neither was it procedure. Just bloody minded murder of our elders.

    • Colin Smith

      There are over 12 million over 65s in the UK. The virus has killed around 0.3% of them. So it is hard to believe it could have been a cull. The ones that have succumbed have typically been those with not long for this world in any case. If there was a plan to make saving with a cull it has been at a cost three orders of magnitude higher than any possible saving. The response has made no sense on any level.

    • laguerre

      All the elderly, including me, have to do, is self-isolate. In spite of what others say, the virus will mutate itself into non-existence, as happened with the Spanish flu, but it will take a while.

  • Ewan

    This debate only makes sense within the context of our failure in the West to deal competently with the pandemic. Public health officials have been telling us since the beginning of the year (for the last 20+ years to be more accurate) what we need to do. Those who have followed their advice have not faced impossible and illusory trade-offs between public health and the economy, between the vulnerable (half the population) and those at less risk, between liberty and safety. The pressing question is whether we can use a “circuit breaker” to start doing what is needed to get control. The larger question is why we in the West have failed. The list of those who have so far dealt with things better ranges from the social democratic New Zealand to the authoritarian China.

  • `Carlyle+Moulton

    Masks, masks, masks!!!!

    In the beginning of the epidemic there was an enormous surge in the need for masks and other PPE for medical workers. This demand could not be satisfied because of global supply chains, just in time inventory management and the fact that the Chinese factories producing the PPE were closed by the epidemic. This meant that the only available methods of surpressing COVID were those toxic to the economy of mandated social distancing and throttling businesses.

    Because of the PPE shortage doctors nurses and paramedics died in large numbers including the 35 year old whistle-blower who exposed the epidemic in Wuhan. Admittedly these people were probably infected with a very large initial virus load so the virus had the jump on them.
    The PPE shortage is now over or if not it should be, and arrangement to ramp up supply very quickly should be in place.

    One result of the PPE shortage is that we seriously underestimated the effectiveness of face masks against COVID. Back in March the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s 7:30 program had a segment on two countries in Europe whose names I forget, one in Western Europe and the other in the East. Their COVID infection graphs in were in lockstep, until that is that the East European country mandated wearing of face masks in public and its COVID graph departed downwards from that of the Western nation.

    Masks perform 2 functions best considered separately. For an uninfected wearer the mask lowers the probability P of infection by about 70-80% from P to 0.3P or 0.2P. Scientists did studies on how masks would protect uninfected people from an infected wearer. Since COVID is spread mainly by small virus carrying droplets of moisture emitted by humans when they cough, sneeze, speak, sing or breathe they tested how many of these droplets were emitted by non mask wearers and mask wearers. What they found is that effectively none get through a decent mask. It may well be that the major effect of masks in lowering infection rates comes from the protection of others from infected mask wearers.

    One caveat, some P2 & N95 masks have valves and exhalations go through the valve so such masks would not protect others from an infected mask wearer. 85% of infected people show no symptoms.

    I agree with Craig that we need to open up the economy more than we have done so far but that may not be full opening. Part of the strategy would involve mandatory mask wearing in public places and work places where there is more than one person. That does not mean that everyone must wear a mask all the time just most people most of the time when they are not engaging in an activity that makes it impossible such as eating, drinking, smoking or swimming. I imagine swimming in a mask would be akin to water-boarding oneself. So people sitting on a beach should wear masks but take them off when going into the water. Diners in a restaurant should not wear masks when eating but staff should wear masks.

    The trick is to keep the virus reproduction ratio below 1 until enough vaccines are available o immunize all who want to be immunized. This has to mean no slacking off of mask wearing because the only known infection is 100km away.

    There are masks and masks, some are better than others. A good mask should be made of vegetable materiel not synthetics, should be washable, should have a stiffening strip that one can fit to the bony part of ones nose and not have a valve.
    Mask wearing men need to shave regularly. I have noticed some mask wearers don’t cover their noses and other put the mask around the cartilage tip of the nose where it does not seal, eg US presidential candidate Joe Biden.

    • nothinguptop

      “Masks perform 2 functions best considered separately. For an uninfected wearer the mask lowers the probability P of infection by about 70-80% from P to 0.3P or 0.2P. Scientists did studies on how masks would protect uninfected people from an infected wearer. Since COVID is spread mainly by small virus carrying droplets of moisture emitted by humans when they cough, sneeze, speak, sing or breathe they tested how many of these droplets were emitted by non mask wearers and mask wearers. What they found is that effectively none get through a decent mask.”

      Do you have a link to this study please Carlyle?

      I’ve read different and I’ve seen one(linked below) that backs your claim and the main takeaway from that was “low confidence”.

      • `Carlyle+Moulton

        I have looked through the COVID19 related links that I saved in my browser but cannot find the original article that I saw several months ago in May I think.

        However I did a google search on this search string:-

        “face masks effective preventing spread of respiratory diseases by infected wearer”

        After the first couple of hits google listed some common questions of which the following is the relevant one.

        Why wearing masks in public is important for protection from COVID-19?

        The main value of wearing a mask is to protect other people. If the person wearing the mask is unknowingly infected, wearing a mask will reduce the chance of them passing the virus on to others. For people at increased risk of severe COVID-19 themselves because of older age or chronic illness, physical distancing is most important. If you cannot maintain physical distance, wearing a mask is an important protective measure. Sep 4, 2020

        • nothinguptop

          Thanks for the honest reply Carlyle.
          I have to say that I disagree strongly.
          I’ve read quite a lot about masks and the conclusions appear to be, detrimental to the wearer and a hub for propagation and spread.
          That’s before we get to the psychological problems which are huge, particularly for children.

          I posted this on page two, but I think it’s good reading(happy to be shown that’s not the case).

          I don’t claim it’s the answer to the whole question, but it does raise some of its own about the consensus view and those leading us in that direction.

        • Roger

          If masks are so helpful in stopping the spread of the virus, why hasn’t their use been advocated, nay demanded, during previous winters to stop “ordinary” (but ‘deadly’) flu. By cutting the numbers of flu sufferers this way, pressure on hospital beds would be lessened and the NHS ‘saved” and work absences reduced. Professor Tan stated during one of the No 10 press conferences that in the current circumstances, the value of mask wearing was negligible.

          • pretzelattack

            roger, because ordinary flu isn’t nearly as deadly, is much better understood, and there are vaccines.

  • mrjohn

    in ten to fifteen years time we are going to wonder where all the dehumanized teenagers have come from

  • Peter

    Craig, you write: “Populations terrified of covid-19 applaud, in large majority, mass lockdowns of the economy which have little grounding in logic. The way for a politician to be popular is to impose more severe lockdown measures and tell the population they are being saved, even as the economy crumbles. Conversely, to argue against blanket measures is to invite real hostility. The political bonus is in upping the fear levels, not in calming them.”

    As other commentators have said, normally, you are spot on the money but you are way off on this. Firstly, in the passing, as someone who has argued that effective lockdowns coupled with other measures are needed, the hostility is TOWARDS me from nut-jobs who trivialise Covid and have done so from virtually day one. (P.S. Not you! You have argued a legitimate point of view without underestimating the degree of seriousness involved in terms of potential deaths.)

    As to lockdowns having no logic, then yes, I agree, if they are imposed on their own, lockdown fatigue can very quickly set in if it is seen by the public as a war of attrition with no “exit strategy”. However, “We can look to many of the Pacific Rim nations, like China, New Zealand, Taiwan, and Vietnam, which collectively have under 1,000 new infections per day, compared with 55,000 per day in the U.S., to see what a multi-pronged, comprehensive control strategy entails. We must identify cases by widespread testing and then isolate the infected. We need to trace contacts and quarantine the exposed. We should promote the full range of tools for personal protection: face masks, distancing, and avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated indoor spaces. And we have to provide financial, community, and social support to those affected by the pandemic, including those who have lost their jobs or who or are at home isolating due to infection or quarantining after exposure.”

    Physician and professor of global health and public policy at Duke University, where he directs the Center for Policy Impact in Global Health.
    Quoted from Time

    As for the lockdown in the UK becoming more severe, what lockdown? Yes, there are now so-called tiers but we have nowhere near the level of lockdown (or voluntary participation from the public) that we did several months ago. I can assure you, freedom is in no danger of being overrun as many individuals decide to put their own personal freedom ahead of even a pretence at protecting those most vulnerable. (For those reading this in Scotland, head up to Sheriffhall Roundabout – never been busier!)

    Or expressed another way: what do you think poses more threat to the freedom of citizens, so-called tier lockdowns which appear to be being flouted in many cases with the police admitting they cannot successfully enforce the measures, or your friend Mr Julian Assange being sent to America? If/when that comes about, that one act will have a more chilling effect on potential dissent than any lockdown measures. (I hesitated to use this example as I know it is quite sensitive to you, to put it mildly. However, I feel your focus on the threat to individual freedoms through Covid-measures is way overblown.)

    Your approach is disappointing for someone whose work I genuinely admire. It reminds me of the way certain writers at the Guardian and other MSM outlets tried to turn young against old: “You haven’t got a future because of all these baby boomers! Let’s tax the elderly!” Nothing to do with almost 40 years of neoliberal policies ripping up the fabric of society in favour of the 0.1%, of course.

    It is also reminiscent of how the AIDS pandemic played out in the 1980s. Initially the media – and many of Joe Public, if we are honest said “Ah! They brought it on themselves by their weird sex lives and anyway it is only the gay community that is affected.” See the similarities? “Ah, well, they did have an underlying condition; and anyway they were all about to die anyway!” The AIDS debate only really changed once it started to infect the general population as a whole. God forbid that we will need to go down that road before those vulnerable in our society are shown some respect.

    Those who claim to be progressives don’t abandon the most vulnerable to the idea of survival of the fittest. Shield them, you say? There are 1.9 million intergenerational households in the UK. In America it is even worse, “The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that over 40% of Americans are at increased risk of infection due to pre-existing medical conditions, so all of these people would have to be shielded.” From the same article cited above.

    There is a conspiracy going on but it is one of the MSM downplaying the utterly incompetent and, indeed, criminal way in which this current Tory government has “fought” the virus in the UK. That is the issue that progressives should be highlighting.

    • buster deals

      Sorry Peter but you’re wrong. Like you I followed the story from day one and I can still remember the shots of the “patients” who dropped dead on the streets of Wuhan. I bought the official story for about three weeks and then I saw the first graph of deaths against age (from South Korea with the peculiar age distribution. There was literally not one death in the first three age groups. “That looks strange”, I thought. I could not recall an epidemic with those demographics ever occurring before.

      And it went on like that. PCR tests as diagnostics! Well one of my earl;y heroes in my speciality was Kary Mullis and I remembered that he had warned that the PCR test was not to be used as a tool for diagnostical purposes . And then there was the paper From China (I have a link somewhere) where the five authors reported that 8 out of 10 of the results were false poitives. And it just went on from there. The whole charade just fell apart before my eyes.

      It’s all complete BS and you, Peter, are just another sucker.

      SHAMDEMIC! SCAMDEMIC! NODEMIC (relates to Nocebo)

      And thank you Craig! Ever since I read you’re early stuff you’ve been rising in my estimation. Thank God you’re not a Galloway or a B or a Tim Anderson.

      You have my greatest admiration, Craig. Thank you!

      And may you have a long and satisfying life

  • Patrick Hertel

    All quite spiffing if you only look at (near term) deaths.
    What this virus does to lungs and the heart alone will only come to the fore when all those >65 get older.
    Okay, they didn’t die …. right away.

      • pretzelattack

        died before their time steph. if you get hit by a drunk driver when you’re 70 and would have died at 80 you got killed by the drunk driver. nobody is shocked when the drunk driver is prosecuted, and “what the hell are we wanting here” is not a legal defense.

        • Steph

          ‘Died before their time’? What kind of statement is that!! ‘Would have died at 80’ How can that possibly be known? What if you died at 80 by being knocked down by a drunk driver? Would that be ‘before your time’? The fact is that we all depart this world at some point, and the notion that all can pass away peacefully in their sleep at age… well I’m not sure what your idea of the correct age for dying is… is complete fantasy. Hardly anybody does. There are dozens and dozens of causes of death listed by the ONS, none of which are particularly appealing, but sooner or later we all succumb. Quite why coronavirus has been singled out as a cause so spectacularly exceptional that the whole world must stop in its tracks, therefore deliberately inflicting misery and hardship upon billions of people, is totally beyond me I’m afraid.

  • Natasha

    Some perspective:

    On average 56 million die globally every year. So far 1.13 million have died from Covid-19 (c2% of global average annual deaths).

    In 2017 for example tuberculosis – (curable with prolonged treatment i.e. rich people) – killed 1.18 million, road traffic killed 1.24 million, Diarrheal diseases – (preventable with access to clean water) – 1.57 million, etc., meanwhile cardiovascular disease the biggest killer claimed 17.79 million lives, cancers 9.5 million, & respiratory related 5 million etc.

    Conclusion: Covid-19 lock-downs are designed to save lives, but the consequent destabilising of the global economy exposes lock-downs as an extremely inefficient way of saving lives. Equivocations raised about data collection & analysis methods have little impact on this conclusion.

    • SA

      So Natasha we now have 57.13 million deaths instead of 56 million that is an incremental rise of 2%. Oh that is OK then. Nut we are still in October and who knows.
      Simple arithmetic is not going to throw any insight into a new evolving disease by taking a single artificial endpoint.

      • Natasha

        SA you miss the point: global death data is simply and only context, not a prediction nor an opinion. Nor is it “arithmetic” it is data: let those who would offer us their plans and analysis and subsequent actions stand beside data so we can contextualise and assess the merits of such plans and actions: do they “add up”?

        As such by missing the point SA, the “simple arithmetic” you offer us on the data provided, “incremental rise of 2%” together with sarcasm: “Oh that is OK then” not only further misses the point, but is a logical error: any claimed increment must account for the fact that nobody disputes e.g. co-morbidity is a significant factor plus any number of other factors affecting any observed “incremental rise”.

        Data doesn’t have an opinion. People have opinions. Data simply exposes the merits of such opinions. Annual Global death data is very poorly reported in the media:-

        “… there is a disconnect between what we die from, and how much coverage these causes get in the media…. it’s clear that the news doesn’t reflect what we die from. But there is another important question: should these be representative? There are several reasons we would, or should, expect that what we read online, and what is covered in the media wouldn’t correspond with what we actually die from…. [for example] terrorism: it is overrepresented in the news by almost a factor of 4000 … As media consumers we can be much more aware of the fact that relying on the 24/7 news coverage alone is wholly insufficient for understanding the state of the world. This requires us to check our (often unconscious) bias for single narratives and seek out sources that provide a fact-based perspective on the world. This antidote to the news is what we try to provide at Our World in Data. It should be accessible for everyone, which is why our work is completely open-access. Whether you are a media producer or consumer, feel free to take and use anything you find here.”

        • SA

          Data that is evolving in a new pandemic, cannot be compared to data that is mature and stable. Moreover what you are suggesting is that instead of looking at the overall trend of improving mortality and increasing life expectancy, we should be thankful for small mercies, only 2% rise!

          • Steph

            SA, you seem to be a person with informed and firm opinions on this, and it is obviously close to your heart. Please see my comment above in response to pretzyl. What is it about coronavirus which makes it so totally different from every other cause of death, be it war, famine, plague, pollution, accident, alzheimers, lung cancer or heart disease, which warrants the deliberate imposition of misery and hardship upon billions? Please don’t just say ‘it doesn’t have to be like this’ because, rightly or wrongly, it is. Sure, some places seem better able to organise themselves but they are still impacted by others that don’t. This self imposed response to a percieved danger is completely unlike any other in history. Why?

  • Athanasius

    A society without cultural roots is a society without fortitude or resilience. We’ve spent the past sixty years in cultural revolution systematically destroying everything that came before, and now we can’t face up to the single, simple axiom that what can’t be cured must be endured. Instead, we’ve got a society full of Helen Lovejoys more concerned with perceiving of themselves as “compassionate” and “caring” than they are with making the hard, utilitarian decisions necessary for the greater good. That’s the problem with that kind of narcissist – no matter what their intentions, they always make everything worse.

  • Cubby

    Craig, I agree with a lot of what you say in your article. At first I thought it was just going to be another punt for herd immunity like so many others that are constantly in the media at present. It wasn’t, of course.

    I would point out the following which your article did not cover:

    1. Other countries have managed to get the virus under some level of control without extreme damage to their economies.
    2. It does not have to be a choice between deaths/illness and the economy if the situation is managed effectively.
    3. If the situation is not effectively managed the Government does NOT have to let businesses go to the wall.
    4. No one will know truly how many people will die/get ill if the virus was left to its own ends. Is this a risk anyone should be willing to take/advocate.
    5. It is a sign of greater humanity when comparing today’s approach to such a virus compared to previous times.
    • Ken Kenn

      Very wise words.

      I can only comment on the UK as I know a bit about it compared to other countries but here goes:

      If people remember the UK government was loathe to close down the UK as Johnson said that the British public would not tolerate it.

      Once the oaf was given forecast death figures and how even 1/10th of the deaths forecast would overwhelm an already understaffed and underfunded health service after 30 years of Thatcherism and ten years of pointless austerity he put up weak initial lockdown.

      In other words the very party responsible for all the mess in the Trusts ( Invented by New Labour from memory though to be fair) shat themselves when they realised what was about to happen.

      Namely the totally depleted Trusts would utterly collapse if the virus got out of hand.

      For this reason they Un – blocked beds in the Trusts and flung around 26k of ill and old people back into the Community and Care Homes – untested.

      At the time media presnters ( they are not journalists ) like Peston et all were busying themselves with niceties such as cracking jokes about Corbyn sat on his own in parliament.

      Because he and his fellow MSM self -styled journalists were busying themselves with trivia these elderly and vulnerable people dis-appeared.

      Only now are some catching up with what happened – which could be deemed as the Yanks say Culpable Homicide.

      In other words the government knew that what was happening would cause deaths – without a doubt.

      Starmer had good question:

      How do you get out of Tier 3?

      The answer from Johnson will be – You go into the newly invented Tier 4 or maybe 5.

      I note very carefully that most Tier 2 and 3’s are in Labour voting areas – no surprise there.

      The simple idea for myself as to why this lot were intent on sending kids back to school was so as that if the kids went back to school their parents could go back to work – simple as that and the economy would regrow slowly but surely.

      But even with that unspoken policy the jobs the parents were supposed to go back to were dwindling or no longer exist.

      This is what animates Sunak and the few thinkers in the cabinet.

      There are said to have been prior to the virus around 28 million + people ‘ In work.’

      9.5 million were furloughed and 3.1 million Self Employed got something ( not much – but something).

      Now I’m no Stephen Hawking but there appears to be ( apart from essential service workers ) possibly more than 10 million workers in a workless or lower hours Twilight Zone here.

      London in Tier 2 appears to be empty and the big Cities are in Tier 3.

      You cannot revive an economy by relying on Tory Shires – or Heaven forfend the good people of Surrey ( Tier1).

      Therefore, not only was the Tory government’s strategy a killer its economic policies are adding to more deaths and certainly more poverty.

      We can all argue the toss about figures until the cows come home but in my mind the changes to life and the economy will not be reversed in the next few years – vaccine or no vaccine and hopefully if Covid dies down it will still not go back to how it was- it is irreversible and permanent.

      The question for us lower orders is how do we make sure that we don’t go down with the already smitten and the one’s to come – and come they will?

      p.s. There is a lot of talk about ‘ Inquiries once this over ‘

      I am much more in favour of Court Cases and imprisonment.

      This lot are the mirror opposite of Jesus’s words – ‘ Forgive them for they know not what they do.’

      As an aethiest THEY knew damn well what they did and why they had to do it – the bad news for us all is that THEY are going to do it again.

      My conclusion is that the government ( and Starmer to certain extent ) are more dangerous in respective ways than the actual virus.

      They both need to be removed.

    • Cubby

      Reports of a recently announced study of 365k people who have had the virus shows that any immunity they have had after getting the virus only lasts up to 4 months. So it looks like another reason for going for herd immunity bites the dust. I always thought it was wrong for all these commentators to casually assume immunity would be a definite result of having the virus and surviving. It was wrong of the bampot Johnston to take the herd immunity approach in the early days of the virus just as it was wrong for that other bampot Trump to pronounce he was immune after getting it.

  • Ascot2

    Missing in many of these discussions is any assessment of the damage that COVID might be doing to the public at large. I hear and read reports, some from quite respectable publications, that long term affects of the disease can be reduced sperm counts, and ongoing blood and cardiac problems, some experience loss of hair. A friend of a friend reports that her sense of smell was lost for several months and, when it came back, it had significantly changed how she perceived each smell. It was as if the change was in the brain not the nasal components. Other reports too refer to lasting, measurable, brain damage sometimes called “brain fog”. Now too we hear that other animals are getting it. Hundreds of thousands of mink are “put down”.
    Until we know much, much, more about COVID I would suggest we would be wise to over, rather than under, react.
    I am in no way an authoritarian, but in times of severe crisis it is sometimes necessary to take drastic action. Other countries that have taken strong action have shown what needs to be done for this to be successful. We need dramatically increased levels of community wide testing, managed isolation, tracing of contacts backed up with ongoing local monitoring of communities using methods such as registering one presence at places where others are congregating. Sewage monitoring, and community wide random testing can tell authorities how well the controls have worked and indicate when things can start getting back to normal.
    Nothing in my opinion is worse than the current wishy-washy approach currently in place in most countries.
    If politicians worry lest they go too far, they should look at the recent elections in New Zealand where the government was awarded a landslide victory for the “extreme” actions they took to obliterate the disease.

    • Cubby

      Ascot2 – I would just like to say that imo NZ actions were not extreme just effective and sensible.

  • Ken Dearden

    If our politicians had acted swiftly and decisively when the pandemic first came to light, we wouldn’t be having this discussion now, very few people would have died and the country wouldn’t be approaching bankruptcy.

    One of the biggest and most costly mistakes was to centrally manage the medical aspect of the pandemic instead of letting the existing, experienced NHS infrastructure deal with it. Testing, Tracking and Tracing would have been undertaken much more effectively under local control with health experts experienced in such matters.

    Alas, we are where we are.

    First and foremost, ideally, we need to put people before profit. That comment is directed mostly at those who have made and continue to make a tidy sum out of the pandemic and the misery it has caused.

    In practice, our leaders are trying to strike a balance between protecting people from infection as well as treating those who are ill, whether caused by the virus or not and, at the same time, ensuring that our economy, such as it now is, sustains the minimum further damage.

    As far as the death toll is concerned, while a large number of deaths have been attributed to Cobid-19, mostly the elderly and those with underlying illnesses, we have to add to that the number of deaths indirectly caused by the virus and there is as yet no figure available, so to start quoting actual numbers is meaningless. How many cancer patients have died or have been condemned to death who would otherwise have survived if their treatment had not been cancelled or delayed? How many suicides have occurred as a result of people being subjected to “lockdown”? I am sure there are other categories of deaths one could add to the list and the true figure of casualties may never be known.

    As a civilised society, we have a responsibility to support those who, due to the pandemic, have found themselves out of work.

    In reality, we have entered the age of survival of the fittest and in so doing, we have put the first nail in the coffin of our civilised society. The future for mankind is looking increasingly bleak, our activity pushing the world slowly but surely towards its sixth extinction level event.

  • Mary

    Here we go. Back to Astra Zeneca.

    ‘Vaccine hopes rise as Oxford jab prompts immune response among old as well as young adults
    LONDON (Reuters) – One of the world’s leading COVID-19 experimental vaccines produces an immune response in both young and old adults, raising hopes of a path out of the gloom and economic destruction wrought by the novel coronavirus.
    The vaccine, developed by the University of Oxford, also triggers lower adverse responses among the elderly, British drug maker AstraZeneca Plc, which is helping manufacture the vaccine, said on Monday.
    A vaccine that works is seen as a game-changer in the battle against the novel coronavirus, which has killed more than 1.15 million people, shuttered swathes of the global economy and turned normal life upside down for billions of people.’

    Matt Hancock denies conflict of interest in Patrick Vallance holding vaccine company shares

    ‘Sir Patrick Vallance reportedly holds shares worth £600,000 in pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline’

    Reminder. Craig wrote about Barnard Castle and Cummings’ visit there.

    Join up the dots.

    • Eric McCoo

      Exactly Mary. See this for another angle on the business of vaccination.


      Professor Sarah Gilbert is Professor of Vaccinology at Oxford University and the programme director for a Wellcome Trust Strategic Award on Human and Veterinary vaccines at the Jenner Institute.

      • NonDePlume

        If you read the story, the person that died was on the control arm – ie one of those that didn’t receive the vaccine ( or rather an existing vaccine for meningitis which presumably has been already given to many many millions of people )

        These trials are large, involving ~10, 000 of people around the world – that means, by chance, people will die or get sick during the normal course of events. Every single adverse health event to investigated for a possible link to the treatment .

        Just people somebody died while on the trial doesn’t mean it was due to the trial. Having said that it might be – most medicines have risk factors ( look on the side of the bottle, or read the insert ) – then a second question is- is the risk worth the benefit?

        Just like heart surgery, a percentage die on the table, but over all the benefits out weight the risk.

        Tricky thing medical treatment development – but that’s why you have regulators.

        • Elvis Legg

          One person dies from a virus: IT’S A TERRIBLE TRAGEDY! SHUT DOWN SOCIETY!!

          One person dies during a clinical trial for a vaccine: Ah, these things happen. No worries.

    • NonDePlume

      The markets don’t seem to agree with you – Patrick Vallances shares in GSK are at the same price or slightly less than they were back at the start of lockdown.

      Astrazeneca shares are up – but that’s just part of a long term trend if you look at the share price over the last 5 years.

      So if you are following the money, there doesn’t currently seem to be any belief by those that follow the money as their job that there will be any benefit.

      • Dredd

        I reckon Vallance should have put his money into the manufacture of hand sanitizer gel or detergents: that way, he’d definitely clean up. 🙂

  • Trish Shuker

    I have been looking on Worldometer stats at Sweden Belgium and the UK. Sweden because they have not had a lockdown and their citizens do not have to wear face masks; Belgium because it has the highest number of deaths per million, and the UK as it’s where I live.
    On 1 October the deaths per million for Sweden were 583, Belgium 864 and UK 621. On 25 October Sweden was 586, Belgium 931 and UK 660. That is a rise of 3 deaths per million for Sweden, 67 for Belgium and 39 for UK. Dr Johan Giesecke, a Swedish doctor who works for the WHO has said it is too soon to compare Sweden’s approach to other countries. But the difference in these figures is quite noticeable.

      • Trish Shuker

        Belgium’s Worldometer stats are showing 939 deaths per million for 26 October. That is a rise of 8 per million in one day. You would have to go back to 9 September for Sweden, to find a rise of 8 million. So SIX WEEKS for Sweden’s death rate to rise by the same total as ONE DAY for Belgium. Surely if lockdowns, social distancing and face masks worked it should be Sweden with the high deaths per million.

        • NonDePlume

          It’s clear that the profile of deaths in Sweden is different from Belgium – Sweden has a longer lasting first peak and no apparent second one.

          I’m not sure why you want to compare Belgium and Sweden over a small rise right now. Surely the best way to compare them is the overall death level?

          And why choose Belgium – surely Denmark would be a better comparator to Sweden in terms of similar country – Denmark has a number of 122 – less than a quarter of the Swedish one….

          So Denmark as 122, Sweden 582 and Belgium 939 – lots of variation – but I;’m not sure that variation backs up your argument about lockdowns…..

          • NonDePlume

            ie Sweden hasn’t done particularly well – it’s just Belgium – for whatever reason, has done particularly badly.

  • Martin Smith

    “The hard truth is this. If the economy were allowed to function entirely normally…”

    With all respect Craig (and I am great supporter of all you’ve done) the hard truth is that when restrictions are loosened and life begins to return to normal it is accompanied by rising infection rates (

    These increases invariably lead to a rise in hospital admissions and deaths, as evidenced by the following UK figures:

    Daily Covid hospital admissions: 1st Sept: 132 / 1st Oct: 510 / 20th Oct: 1142
    Total number of Covid Patients in hospitals: 1st Sept: 828 / 1st Oct: 2475 / 22nd Oct: 6074
    Covid patients on ventilation machines: 1st Sept: 82 / 1st Oct: 341 / 21st Oct: 711
    Daily Covid deaths: 1st Sept: 3 / 1st Oct: 64 / 21st Oct: 169
    Total Covid deaths per month: Sept: 793 / Oct (until 21st): 2233

    The above numbers may appear small (and do not include care homes) but they demonstrate a worrying exponential rise. Furthermore, these increases have occurred with only a limited reopening of the economy and social life. A majority of the workforce still work from home, most of the older vulnerable population are in some form of isolation, trains and busses are half empty, and care homes have strict anti-Covid measures in place.

    This challenges the view that “shielding the vulnerable” can be achieved alongside a “full” reopening of the economy and return to normal life. There are a number of reasons why:

    A) Almost half the adult population is technically vulnerable.
    B) How do you completely isolate and sever connection between the “vulnerable” and the rest of society and the economy? Once the virus enters a family or care home, for example, all residents are at risk.
    C) And for how long have the “vulnerable” to remain entirely cut off from family, friends and daily life? Until an effective vaccine is available?

    The danger of the “shield the vulnerable” argument is that it distracts from the real issue. Namely, it is very hard to reopen the economy and return to normal life while the virus still has a significant presence, as it will just begin replicating.

    This is why, in the absence of a vaccine, only a Zero Covid strategy is viable. Measures to restrict the transmission of the virus (lockdown, masks, social distancing etc) are not enough. They have to be accompanied by an effective Test, Trace, Isolate and Support programme to root out the virus and reduce its presence to close to 0 before one begins a gradual reopening of the economy.

    This is the approach taken by China, Vietnam, Taiwan, South Korean and New Zealand. They represent a combined population of 1.6 billion whose Covid death toll is around 5158 (a much lauded Sweden’s is 5933). And whose economies and normal life are back up and running – with Test, Trace and Isolate ready to pounce and isolate the virus wherever it reappears.

    But a Zero Covid strategy comes with a caveat. It can only be delivered via a coordinated public health approach – i.e. NHS, GP Practices, Councils, and Public Health experts working in tandem on a clear and unified strategy. Needless to say, the Tories are ideologically and strategically opposed to any strategy led by the public sector, especially when it entails pumping vast sums of money into a sector they have spent the last decade underfunding.

    The Tories would rather direct these vast sums to their friends in the private sector. This has resulted in a corrupt, uncoordinated and incompetent Test and Trace programme and the fiasco we now face. Whilst disastrous for the country, however, what this approach will help establish in the longer Tory game is a privately run health network to run parallel to the NHS.

    How to deal with the Covid crises and why we are failing is not a mystery.

    • NonDePlume

      I do believe you’ve hit the nail on the head.

      Excellent points.

      Politically and ideologically – effective government is the last thing many on the right want to demonstrate.

  • Sid

    “I am very open to disagreement and to discussion, even if robust, if polite.”

    One of the things that saddens me about this, is that here we are again… Another polarising topic. I find that people can be so nasty to each other, so patronising. I’d rather sit down with a pint and talk face-to-face. There, we would enlighten each other, or agree to disagree, but I’m sure we would find common ground. I don’t think anything gets solved online. What we need, is to come together. We have more in common with each other than what sets us apart.

    The current situation is very worrying. I am more scared of a totalitarian government than I am a virus. I am also very scared of people so loyal to independence, that they blindly follow the SNP without any criticism whatsoever, and are calling for even more state control, and consequences for those who don’t tow the line. Has no one read a history book?

    I feel very sad for our elderly. Quantity of life has been chosen for them over quality of life – many are suffering.

    I don’t want to listen to ‘conspiracy theories’. I hope this is just the work of bumbling incompetent governments. But when you look at the data, the information, the maltreatment… All this, for that?? It just doesn’t add up.

    • SA

      I am much more scared of an incompetent ideologically driven government and in combination with the virus. There are other ways, but the virus can’t be changed.

    • Susan

      Take heart, Sid. Here is a topic that is not ‘polarising’. Enjoy!

      “Hospitalized COVID-19 patients who were taking a daily low-dose aspirin…had a significantly lower risk of complications and death compared to those who were not taking aspirin. Aspirin takers were less likely to be placed in the intensive care unit (ICU) or hooked up to a mechanical ventilator, and they were more likely to survive the infection compared to hospitalized patients who were not taking aspirin”

  • laguerre

    Sooner or later the virus will mutate it self out of existence. Every time it replicates, there is a danger of error in the copy. That’s what happened with the Spanish flu, when we didn’t know much, medically speaking.

    • Dredd

      Can a virus “mutate itself out of existence” by adapting to its environment and morphing into a safer form that doesn’t kill its host and can therefore outcompete the original? Fair question.

      Unfortunately Coronaviruses are a bit special in that they can tolerate a high level of mutation without changing their functionality, due to a methyltransferase exonuclease known as nsp14 which eliminates recalcitrant mutations by capping the original RNA sequence. So it’s quite unlikely to evolve into harmlessness of its own accord. The chances of stumbling upon a random saviour mutation are slim – and could take generations, if not millenia.

      But perhaps some boffins could design a bespoke mutation that evades nsp14 and triggers the same antibodies, so it could in principle outcompete the original and build up a level of herd immunity? Well, the science of “lethal mutagenesis” is in its infancy as an alternative approach to vaccination, and hasn’t yet proved its validity. There are distinctly dystopian overtones to tinkering with the mechanisms of life. It’s extraordinarily risky: a new variant could itself mutate into something nastier – and who wants to take responsibility for that? Does anyone want to volunteer as a test host?

      • NonDePlume

        The virus kills us by accident rather than design – it needs to hijack our cells to make more of itself and spread, but often the lethality is an accident, or even a misjudged over active anti-viral response by the host.

        ie you are missing the other part of the equation – humans evolving. Now humans do that a lot slower than viruses as there is a huge difference in replication cycle times. However, if you are taking about genetic engineering, then it could be equally applied to humans.

        That said neither solution is remotely sensible – an effective vaccine is probably a matter of months away.

        • Dredd

          Outcompeting a virus by natural selection of course relies on the fact that lethality is not an optimal design choice. In the case of SARS-CoV-2, it’s mostly the asymptomatic patients that are driving the pandemic. If SARS-CoV-2 behaved more like Ebola or MERS, it would be much easier to contain.

          Thanks for highlighting the possibility of humans evolving to defend against the virus, but I’m not quite sure how that would that work in terms of natural selection. Would the mutation occur randomly in one individual, from whom all future resilient humans would then descend? (There could be an exciting movie script in this idea!) Perhaps it could evolve by synchronicity in several different humans, thereby preserving some measure of genetic diversity? Or maybe we have some as yet undiscovered Lamarckian method of adapting in situ and modifying the gametes? I certainly don’t discount the intriguing possibility that the immune system might adapt and transmit its immunity independently of the genome, but I’m not sure whether that’s science future or science fiction.

          • NonDePlume

            In this case I don’t think natural selection in humans would play a significant role – even over the timescales it would normally require ( many generations ) – as the people who die are typically past reproductive age.

            ie even if the virus killed half the over 80s, it wouldn’t make much of a difference to genetic inheritance of the children born ( the occasional male billionaire fathering children in his 80s to a much younger wife ).

            On the other hand direct genetic engineering could be done quickly – however I’m not suggesting it would be a good idea.

            In terms of trying to mutate the virus – the problem there is you can’t catch all the existing virus and modify – you can only put out a new strain and hope it outcompetes the existing strain – in some ways a sort of self spreading vaccine.

            Again I don’t think that’s a good idea. Very hard to control.

          • Dredd

            Agreed, NdP. The only plausible hope of impending mutagenetic rescue would rely on rapid viral mutation – though I have serious doubts about the likelihood of that outcome. However, these are uncharted waters and there is always a tantalising hope. We live in interesting times.

      • laguerre

        Not that I mind, but disppearance is what has happened to most such vrisuses. Spanish flu, SARS, etc. What else happened to them, other than mutation weakened them?

        • Dredd

          Herd immunity. The people who couldn’t withstand the Spanish flu virus, died – with a bodycount somewhere between 17 and 50 million. The survivors developed immunity. No genetic mutation was required.

          I’m not sure we’d willingly tolerate such a high death toll these days, given that we’re alert to the mechanism of transmission (wear the masks, folks!). But the emerging data suggests the case fatality rate for SARS-CoV-2 is considerably lower. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out; I wouldn’t rely on any Fergusonian computer models to predict what happens from here on.

    • SA

      I don’t think you are right there. Viruses can mutate to become virulent, that is how evolution works. Why? Because mutations are chance events, some cause bad effects and some cause the organism to survive better. The deleterious mutations will be quickly eliminated leaving those that give a survival advantage who then survive better. This is the case with viruses, unless you are a creationist and don’t believe in evolution.
      Also the flu virus does mutate and in some years cause much more fatalities than others. This constant mutation bypasses the underlying immunity in the population and that is why a new vaccine has to be produced every year.

      • laguerre

        Self-evidently viruses are in principle capable of mutating into a more virulent form. But I didn’t want to go into detail. I believe there are around six variants on the go at the moment, which are different from the variant(s) of the spring. They’re subject to the normal features of mutations: more severe = kills patients before they can infect others. Milder = spreads easier, but doesn’t kill. There exist variants of the virus which have already disappeared, such as the spring one.

    • George+McI

      “the virus will mutate it self out of existence.”

      Only after it’s served its purpose.

  • Bill

    The 0.66% of 70% of 66M is too simplistic.
    Let’s use your figures. Imperial College use 80% of the population and I suspect they may have a better idea than you or I but let’s go with yours.
    There’s one other figure that is important. 4%. That’s the hospitalisation rate. That means that if 70% of the population catches the virus, then 1.8M people will need hospital treatment. That’s a big number, but it’s worse than that.
    Imperial’s modelling says that if the virus is unconstrained, then at the 2 week peak, 50% of the population will be infected.
    Think about it. 900,000 people will need hospital treatment. At the same time. It’s not possible.
    So what will happen? They will die. They will die in care homes. They will die at home. They will die in the streets.
    And then the survivors will have the problem of disposing all those bodies and sorting out all their affairs. That’s an awful lot of insurance policies to deal with, pensions to cancel, wills to process and it goes on.

    • NonDePlume

      You make a good point – however I do wonder if the Imperial model is too simplistic. If you look at how the virus has spread in the UK – it’s hasn’t been even – all at the same time – it was London first, then the midlands and then the north. It was the big cities, now it’s moving to the smaller towns.

      If you look at how it’s spread in the US – back in Apr New York was a hotspot, now it’s not – in some ways, in the US, it’s really been one big wave that was rolled across the vast country.

      There is also evidence that spreading is in clusters – with super-spreaders creating clusters, rather than a more even spread.

      ie you are unlikely to get a UK wide 2 week peak – it’s likely to be spread out a bit more, with local peaks. Though, whether that makes much of a difference if health care is provisioned locally is a good question.

      • Bill

        ” I do wonder if the Imperial model is too simplistic.”

        Maybe. But we have many opinions and few facts. And the opinionated (here) seem to think so much of themselves that they can readily override the views of those who do this for a living.
        I said “unconstrained”. We have constrained it and the point is that we need to continue to constrain it otherwise we face the real prospect of carts in the street collecting the dead.
        The only question is what is the “best” way of constraining it. “Vaccine by Christmas” is magical thinking.

        • NonDePlume

          I’d choose empirical data over models any day of the week.

          Here’s some data for New York.

          Look at the graph for cases and deaths and note how there hasn’t been much of a resurgence as yet in NY. Is that because measures are better there or is it because previous high peak of infections has left a substantial part of the population immune slowing the spread now?

          I honestly don’t know.

  • NonDePlume

    A shielding strategy in essence has to cut society in two – those who are shielded and those who are not, with very little mixing inbetween.

    A key question becomes how do you drawn the line for that split? In a democracy you could argue that should be a choice – however there are issues.

    If you work in the care of the elderly which which side of the line does that place you? If you want to continue to do so do you need to cut yourself off from non-shielded society?

    For those older people that live in multi-generation homes – and want to be shielded – how does that work? Is the government going, in effect, to do an evacuee programme – shipping the vulnerable to safe places in the country side? I guess Butlins is probably under utilised at the moment….
    Or does the government pay everyone in that household to stay home? What happens if the breadwinner in the family is a keyworker – the rest of us need them to work?

    The other problem is with the politics of allowing people to choose. If the government is offering an all expense paid trip to Butlins for the duration – is it only over 90s, over 80? over 70, 60, 50? 40 with heart condition ? etc – is there some sort of assessment of individual risk, forms to fill in etc.

    There with both be the politics of envy ( so and so allowed to not work ) and the politics of blame ( the government said this person didn’t need to be shielded and they died ).

    None of these things are insurmountable, and indeed the current situation has its own problems. But it’s not just as simple as saying, ‘shield the vulnerable’ – society would need to be mobilised on a large scale – it’s not just a question of old people saying at home – not everyone has their own home they can shield in.

    • SA

      Excellent. This is where the great barrington declaration fails. To theoretically find a solution to a problem does not negate the need to prove that it is feasible. In this case it is completely not feasible.

    • Martin Smith

      Yes, like the Butlins idea. They’re sitting empty. Requisitioning all 3 Butlins resorts to isolate the infected would be a good start – easy to feed and look after everyone!

  • DiggerUK

    Nobody seems to care enough to mention, or even question, why it is essential in the fight against Covid to have all elections banned. A reading of The Coronavirus Act 2020 has these sections:-
    Postponement of elections, referendums, recall petitions and canvass

    59 Elections and referendums due to be held in England in period after 15 March 2020
    60 Postponement of elections due to be held on 7 May 2020
    61 Power to postpone certain other elections and referendums
    62 Power to postpone a recall petition under the Recall of MPs Act 2015
    63 Power to make supplementary etc provision
    64 Northern Ireland: timing of canvass and Assembly by-elections
    Postponement of elections: Wales
    65 Elections due to be held in Wales in period after 15 March 2020
    66 Postponement of National Assembly for Wales elections for constituency
    67 Power to postpone local authority elections in Wales for casual vacancies
    68 Power to make supplementary etc provision
    Postponement of elections: Scotland
    69 Postponement of Scottish Parliament elections for constituency vacancies
    70 Postponement of local authority elections in Scotland for casual vacancies

    …….so, no chance of Indyref2 in Scotland…_

  • Lapsed Agnostic

    Craig states: ‘I do not believe anybody seriously disputes that there are many millions of people in the general population [of the UK] who had covid and survived it but were never tested or diagnosed.’

    I dispute it. I think it’s less than a million. Let’s do some maths. In July the ONS published the results of a survey – the first available – of around 36,000 random people in England (outside of care homes) who were tested weekly for Covid by PCR between April 26 and June 27. Overall, 0.32% of them tested positive. Assuming infection rates were the same in Scotland, Wales and NI, this equates to roughly 210,000 infections in the UK (0.32% of a 66,000,000 population).

    During that period, approx 40,000 people were hospitalised with Covid. Prior to the period, around 80,000 had been hospitalised; thus all things being equal, it can be assumed that 420,000 people had been infected previously. So altogether there were somewhere around 630,000 people who had been infected up to the end of June, which is just under 1% of the UK population. At that stage, there had been around 35,000 excess deaths outside of care homes, which would make the infection fatality rate around 5.5% (35,000 x 100 / 630,000).

    Since then a further 600,000 or so have tested positive. If we assume, as SAGE do, that in this era of mass testing, around two-thirds of infections are being detected, it means approx 900,000 more infections. So altogether there have likely been around 1.5 million infections in the UK, of which 850,000 have been diagnosed by PCR testing and 650,000 – rather than ‘many millions’ – have not.

    Hope this is of interest. Sources available on request.

    • NonDePlume

      PCR test picks up people with the virus at the time of the test. A couple of weeks after the symptoms go, the test goes negative again.

      There is also a lag between being infected and hospitalisation – ie those in hospital at the beginning of the test period Apr 26 – Jun would have been infected before it- when case levels were likely much much higher.

      You need to look at the antibody survey – which is likely to be a more reliable estimate of the number of people who have been exposed.

      Office for National StatisticsCoronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey pilot: England, Wales and Northern Ireland (25 September 2020): §5. Incidence rate in England

      • Lapsed Agnostic

        Thanks for your reply. I agree that PCR tests only pick up people with detectable viral RNA at the time of the test. The survey recorded anyone who had ever tested positive in any week over the period. It’s possible that one or two people might have slipped through the net, but only a small fraction.

        The lag between the tests being carried out and any subsequent hospitalisation would only be a few days. It might affect things slightly, but not by much. My sums are fairly crude, but as with all Fermi calculations, many of the errors cancel themselves out.

        I’ve had a look at the ONS serological survey you linked to. The antibody tests were supplied by EuroImmun AG. Their specificity (number of negative tests / true number of negative cases) is the key bit. The company claim it’s 99.6%; independent studies put it at 93%. This figure can easily explain why a true infection rate of 1.5% can give a measured rate of 6% due to false positives.

        Sources available on request.

  • Tony

    Welcome aboard Craig. I wish I could reassure you that things will get better from here. Unfortunately, we have the fight of our lives ahead of us. Such luminaries as Dr. Mike Yeadon have discovered this (he is being shadow banned on social media, the same as you).

    • Dredd

      Dr Yeadon has a formidable educational background but he’s hardly a “luminary”. The little I’ve seen of him so far suggests he has a level of epidemiological understanding that would embarrass an undergraduate. His notion that for a lockdown to be effective, it should result in a sudden drop in infection rates or mortality (rather than follow the Gompertz curve) completely neglects the effects of the obvious social mediators and incubation periods. He also seems to imply that excessive PCR cycles (i.e. many more than recommended in the testing protocol) can produce false positives via an act of spontaneous RNA creation. It’s not easy to put those missteps aside.

      Unfortunately I find his blustering in interviews rather difficult to endure, so I’d be pleased if you can you direct me to a website or document which sums up his take on SARS-CoV-2.

  • Wall of Controversy

    Unless I’m misunderstanding, you seem to be advocating for a return to the government’s original response to the pandemic which, let’s face it, was catastrophic; its blatant failure being the actual reason they “U-turned” in the first place because Bojoke and co would have loved to keep the economy open but as the death toll spiked they had no choice but to initiate the first lockdown. That said, in fact they never did U-turn at any stage but switched from balls-out “herd immunity” in which “a few loved ones will be lost” to a subsequent policy of herd-immunity-by-stealth where the R-number was kept bobbling around 1 in order to allow the necessary cull (to reach herd immunity) to take place at a slow enough rate that the spread of deaths meant

    i) no-one would detect a noticeable rise in excess deaths and, most importantly,

    ii) the hospitals wouldn’t be overrun again.

    But that approach began failing about a month ago when they reopened the schools and colleges and so we have gone back to square one basically. Why instead of this half-baked nonsense of repeated lockdowns without any exit strategy, haven’t we introduced an effective track and trace system (using existing environmental health officers instead of Serco) plus border controls as was applied in the eastern hemisphere (obvious examples being South Korea and NZ)? That way our economies would have mostly been kept open too. Europe has been and remains a total disaster zone and making comparisons between national responses here is all a bit of a tallest dwarf competition.

    • SA

      It is interesting to see that these failures, at least in the UKG case, are often interspersed with self congratulations or false promises.
      The record of failure is however there to see and the current rebellion and divisions, rather than attacking the science , should be directed at the government’s poor record in implementing the science rather than pretending to do so.
      At the outset, there was no PPE even for essential services, these became available but took a long time to get to the general population. Isolation was advisory and not practically implementable, no attempt at any logistic provisions for those who need to shield or isolate. Then there was the care home disaster followed by the testing fiasco which, 7 months later has not been resolved. And this was quickly followed by the tracing debacle. It is right to rebel against this government but not by making it easier for these incompetent politicians.

  • John Monro

    Oh deary, deary me, Craig. What a can of conspiracy worms you’ve opened in this posting about Covid-19 pandemic. I can’t believe the number people who still accept the usefulness of a totally useless quack medication promoted by quack purveyors etc. etc.

    You’ve all along been a bit dubious about the severity of the Covid 19 if I can recall your prior postings correctly. I’ve argued against this all along. You’ve continued in your mistaken assumptions and arguments.

    You put one point of view and argue it reasonably cogently – and indeed others, much more expert than you, have argued this from the very beginning and throughout this pandemic, perhaps most obviously Sweden’s epidemiologist, Anders Tegnell. The UK’s epidemiologist was rumoured to have murmured something about “herd immunity” before being shot down in flames by a very large number of his professional colleagues both in the UK and overseas.

    But I’m sorry, you’re wrong – let me rephrase this, as no-one can possibly know for sure what’s wrong or right in the face of a totally new global viral pandemic – you are almost certainly not right. There are some basic principles of control of any pandemic, which have been worked out for years, some indeed during the mediaeval Black Death, and those countries that have observed them most diligently are those that have minimised the course of the pandemic, and here in NZ we’ve for the most part effectively eliminated the infection in the community and been able to preserve a functioning, but reduced, economy. The most important are these – social distancing, wearing masks in public, testing and re-testing, tracing and isolating, and testing again. Important too is isolating, as best as possible, those vulnerable to serious infection, the obese, diabetics, hypertensives, immune compromised and those over 70 years old – their best protection being the reduction of the virus in the community to absolute minimal levels. Even it you can’t completely eliminate community spread, this will lower it to a low, tolerable level where most business can continue and allow the health system to cope and continue functioning, treating cancer and serious illness promptly and effectively as well as victims of the Covid 19 virus.

    Indeed Sweden and New Zealand could be considered an unplanned but well executed controlled experiment in how best to deal to this pandemic. The results won’t be in for some years though. What I would say, that here in NZ life is basically normal, with occasional not too onerous interruptions. We have lost some money, quite a lot, because we have become, like other countries, rather over-reliant on and blasé and greedy about international tourism, apparently representing near 13% of our economy. But such tourism would be vulnerable to any major economic downturn, not just viral. Sweden has also suffered considerable economic damage, it’s not been avoided, hence their €39 billion economic protection and stimulus bill and they’ve suffered a much higher number of deaths than their geographic and cultural neighbours.

    The problem is that your argument that you can protect the vulnerable sections of the community even while the virus is raging in the community, is facile. You cannot do this. The risk is not low, you are significantly downplaying the potential severity of this virus. “The risk to the large majority of the population is very low indeed” you write, so what, the risk to a very substantial minority is very high indeed. 18.5% of your (Scottish) population is over 65. You also have a pretty unhealthy population, with 65% of all adults overweight and nearly 30% clinically obese. You have a great number of people living in poverty, indeed many in dire poverty (around 20%) . These vulnerable people are brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, grandmothers, grandfathers, child-minders, workers, bus drivers, checkout operators, nurses, professionals etc etc. They are not a separate or separable part of your citizenry. The infected healthy have to mix and do mix every day with their vulnerable close contacts.

    Here in NZ we have 900,000 people of Maori and Pacific Island descent, who are racially predisposed to more serious infection. Additionally, rates of diabetes, obesity, hypertension, poverty, overcrowding, general ill health, access to medical care are all problematic. I could rationally postulate a 5% mortality or life-threatening illness in such a population, meaning you could see at the fading of this pandemic something like 30,000 or more dead Maori and Pacific Islanders. Apart from being politically intolerable and racially vile, it’s morally repugnant. You mightn’t have the same racial issues in Scotland, but I can absolutely assure you that you have the same problems and an equally vulnerable class of citizen living in your community, you certainly did when I trained in medicine in Glasgow, and from what I read, things haven’t changed that much – for instance, don’t you have the highest rates of drug addiction in Europe and have the Scots foregone their beer and whisky?

    You even suggest that for a healthy adult, the risk of dying of Covid is the same as dying during your daily commute. You quote the Stanford study. Well, I’m not sure if we’re reading the same study, but for the healthy 55 year old the risk of dying of Covid is 50 times that of dying in a car accident.

    There is no solution to the Covid 19 pandemic that can preserve the economy any better than any alternative way. Your solution is none at all, it will see huge numbers of your fellow citizens dying or suffering serious long term health sequelae that could ultimately shorten their disabled lives and the damage to the socio-economic well being of the nation hardly altered at all.

    The best thing for any nation is reduce this pandemic to a very small minimum, which can be contained for the most part as described above. We cannot know how quickly a vaccine could be available, I am quite hopeful one will be widely available within one year, and much sooner for some of the vulnerable population. In addition, you should also understand, that if the country had followed your ideas, the virus would have totally overwhelmed the country, as it did in northern Italy and Madrid, and the months that have elapsed with partial control of the virus have seen a considerable improvement in the management of the more serious cases, with less people dying and being seriously impacted – another benefit of keeping the virus under control.

    I am not “fear mongering”, nor are the vast majority of professional epidemiologist, public health practitioners, economists etc, who are, in their uncertain knowledge, but the best we have, advising us. Nor are you being vilified, I am merely stating you are wrong; the difference between us being measured in several tens of thousands of dead people in Scotland.

    • James

      John Monro – I kind of agree with you -except for one point – I don’t think you’ve understood Sweden.

      We went to Sweden for our summer holidays and it was completely clear to me that Swedes were being very careful. The newspaper images you see of Swedes sitting in close proximity at restaurants are `experimental errors’ – a photographer, after a long and hard search, found one exceptional place where this was going on and took a picture of it which went viral – but from what I saw in Sweden over the summer, this simply isn’t the normal state of affairs. I did not see this.

      The Swedish government has given information and has made `recommendations’, but they haven’t put them into law, so the police aren’t enforcing them. Nevertheless (from what I saw) people are following government advice. So it seemed to me to be a lock-down in all but name.

      In the initial stages, Swedish care homes were badly hit because of bad care-home policies, so they made a very serious error there. If you remove the care-home deaths, then their death rate isn’t too bad.

      Clearly we don’t need gestapo-style policing – we don’t need infringement of basic civil liberties and human rights – if people are presented with the information and given the opportunity (as far as possible) to keep safe, then the result is good.

      The official Swedish position was never `herd immunity’; their official position was always that they wanted something sustainable and I think they got it.

    • Contrary

      Good post John. My sister lives in NZ and they do seem to have a fairly normal life now – but the lack of tourism is a big worry for the economy. Her partner’s business relies on migrant labour, and they have to pay for the two week strict quarantine for anyone coming into the country – which causes some complaints, especially as she thinks it’s 5-star accommodation, but 3000 dollars seems pretty good price for a two week stay full board with army protection, and for the community freedoms it allows her.

      My previous post on the matter in Scotland is here:

      I think that education and behaviour change of the public is key – people happily spread diseases every day without knowing what they do. And governments and pharmaceutical companies are happy for us to do so (unless it is too lethal of course, like tuberculosis or measles etc) – for mild diseases. The majority of people don’t even know what a virus actually is, let alone understand the differences between them, so how can they ever judge for themselves what the actual risk is, or know how to not spread it?

      I find the the number of ill-informed and speculative comments on the current pandemic exasperating and quite worrying – how DO we get an understanding of infection control into the public psyche?

      (Please note that I don’t have any medical knowledge, but do have a background in some microbiology – I KNOW that my understanding is weak and that I only have a very vague notion of how the immune system works for instance. Why don’t others realise how little they know? And how do we get the knowledge base improved without everyone having to do a medical degree? The information being put out just now is obviously too confusing and most people don’t know enough to judge good information from bad.)

    • Bramble

      Well said. I hope one of the lessons of the pandemic will be that the “vulnerable” include those in low quality housing with low paid (or no) jobs, people moreover most exposed to the cracks in the NHS caused by the past decade of deliberate erosion (even though many come from BAME backgrounds and many are employed in the “care” sector). I hope, but with no expectation of fulfilment. The common response to the pandemic has been to ignore the high death rate (mostly concealed because it comes from dark and neglected corners of the community) and concentrate on the economic harm done to the healthy and better off, who expect as a right better outcomes for themselves whatever happens to the “others”. There is an underlying complicity in the herd immunity strategy which has enabled it to continue in a covert way (aided by the endless flood of conspiracy theories). Once the old, unfit and poor are culled, the rest will proceed to sunnier uplands beyond. These survivors, like Trump in his “Triumph of the Will” photo op, will be standing maskless in a country no longer burdened by the under class, by the disabled, by the elderly. Happy Days!

  • SurferDave

    I support most of your views, and I feel indebted to you for the reporting you did on the Assange trial, however one thing you missed with the Covid-19 is you are looking at mortality only, we have too short history to know whether or not those apparently recovered are in fact so, and there seem to extreme consequences often for many mild case. Loss of smell is common, and glossed over but it indicates a serious attack on the brain and central nervous system. I am yet to hear that people recover their sense of smell, I would call that an extremely serious consequence.

  • Johny Conspiranoid

    Is it possible for a UK citizen to go to Cuba, Russia, China or Iran for test and treatment?

  • Paul Eden

    Totally agree. The arguments, like so much in public discourse have been turned into black v white which effectively shuts down alternative, sensible voices from speaking out.

  • Christopher Barclay

    Sturgeon and her supporters can promote strict lockdowns because they do not see themselves as responsible for the economy. As with the Democrats in the US, the SNP and Labour see economic collapse as offering electoral advantage. Then there is the class issue. Many white collar workers can comfortably work from home, assuming that their homes will still be supplied with electricity, gas and water while the supermarkets remain stocked. The work done by people in these industries is taken for granted. As therefore are the people.

    I agree with this article except for the comment about security checks on airlines. Were there no checks, many planes would have been blown out of the sky. The principle of these checks pre-dates 9/11. Craig is old enough to remember the Black September hijackings when the hijackers were free to bring arms onto planes. Ever since then there have been checks involving metal detectors.

  • Minority Of One

    Robert Kennedy Jnr delivered an excellent speech a couple of days ago, about covid-19 and the way big pharma et al are using it to bring on authoritarian leadership everywhere. “An International Message of Hope for Humanity From RFK, Jr.”. It was on behalf of the USA-based “Children’s Health Defense”, which I have not heard of before, but he hits the various nails on the head. I recommend watching the whole 18m 50s.

    Article including video:

    Video on YT:

    • SA

      “Now let me tell you what we need to do to win this battle. The only way we can win it is with democracy. We need to fight to get our democracy back, to reclaim our democracy from these villains who are stealing it from us. You notice the people who are getting richest from this quarantine are the same people who are censoring criticism of the quarantine. Who is becoming the richest? Jeffrey Bezos. 83 billion dollars he’s made. And he owns Amazon and he is censoring books that criticize the quarantine. Zuckerberg who owns Facebook, who’s made tens of billions of dollars by this quarantine. And he is censoring information that is critical of the quarantine. He censors my Instagram. He censors my Facebook. My Twitter page is also censored. And all of these people are the people who are making billions of dollars on the quarantine. “

      This quote from the speech by JFK Junior is of course true. But that train has long ago left the station. There is no democracy and there has not been for a while and there has been the rule by the corporations. The system not tinkering with the details, has to change. But the mistake is here to try to ascribe a natural phenomenon: the spread of a new virus, however it came about, to be the deliberate act rather than the very deliberate act of exploiting the crisis for the benefit of co-corporations and capitalism. But I am not sure JFK is advocating socialism.
      JFK is one of the most eloquent and prominent anti-vaccine warriors and it is a pity that he directs his energies to the wrong place whilst pretending to make the right noises. The denialist movement is very heavily dominated by the right, but this right is different from the corporatists right, they inhabit a different compartment in the swamp.

      • SA

        Your distrust of machines should be more discriminating, otherwise there is a real danger of returning to live in cages. More important than distrusting machines, which are, after all, tools, is distrusting the system.

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