Lockdowns don’t work — why?
Lockdowns don’t work. We can discern no sign in the data that general lockdowns have any beneficial impact on epidemic mortality curves. International comparison reveals that stringency is associated neither with reduced deaths nor with increased duration to peak. Experience varies massively among countries, but not because of interventions. At first blush, this seems to defy laws of nature and physics, so we must ask why this is the case.
Our best explanation has a firm basis in modelling, and it starts with the simple observation that Covid mortality is sharply age dependent. The aged and vulnerable suffer fatality rates some three orders of magnitude greater than the healthy young, for whom Covid presents negligible risk. For months now, the most cutting-edge modellers in the world have presented paper after paper demonstrating how crucial it is to take this reality. Their names barely make it into the public domain — Wes Pegden, Maria Chikina, Federico Andres Lois and Levan Djaparidze — though they deserve to, and their perspectives ought to be taken very seriously.
A layman’s interpretation proceeds as follows. Herd immunity is an inevitable end point, not, as has falsely been assumed by pundits and politicians, a strategy. That end point will be reached virtually everywhere long before vaccine safety and efficacy has been properly demonstrated, if it ever is, and distribution resolved. On the road to herd immunity, some will avoid exposure, but most won’t. Any strategy aimed at saving lives must necessarily seek to place as many vulnerable people into the unexposed group as possible. We need to put them “at the back of the bus”.
The key to achieving this is to increase the difference between the degree of social distancing for the vulnerable and that for the non-vulnerable. Before any intervention, the vulnerable start with lower interaction, and the least vulnerable — children, being the intensely social creatures they are — start with the most. Lockdowns reduce the mobility of the non-vulnerable much more than that of the vulnerable, so lockdowns have the effect of moving the vulnerable closer to the front of the bus — and increasing their risk. This is one of the reasons why we can see no benefit in the data from lockdowns. Indeed, it is our expectation that, when the dust settles, they will turn out to have exacerbated mortality.
This insight underscores the Great Barrington Declaration, whose signatories now include tens of thousands of scientists and doctors. An objection often raised is that differential mobility reduction is difficult to achieve. We agree, but every success in this direction will count and any success at all will produce superior outcomes to general lockdowns. A stranger objection is to the notion of herd immunity, a staple of epidemiology and an underlying assumption of the very models that put the world into lockdown. Those models, overwrought in general and deeply delusional in the degree of curve-flattening they anticipated, did not take age-varying mortality into account at all.
The dishonesty involved in portraying herd immunity as a strategy is mind-boggling. Further tarnishing it with the “let it rip” slur is malign. What does the herd immunity end-state look like? When reached, the epidemic is over and the disease becomes endemic. This has clearly already happened in many places. As with the other four coronaviruses that affect humans materially, Covid will then circulate seasonally. The senescent will be at risk to succumbing to it, as they are at risk to succumbing to any number of respiratory viruses, from the common cold to influenza. All of these are routinely deadly to the old and infirm.
As pointed out by Michael Yeadon, a look at the United Kingdom’s all cause and respiratory deaths shows clearly that endemicity has already been attained. There are presently no excess hospital deaths and no excess respiratory deaths. Under such conditions, it is deeply unreasonable to continue to talk about an epidemic, making a nonsense of the re-establishment of the UK’s lockdown, which showed no sign of being helpful in its first instantiation.
What is being used to scare and confuse people is abuse of the PCR testing framework, with government insisting on maintaining cycle thresholds at silly levels. Deaths not caused by Covid are being attributed to it and cases are being registered where no disease is evident. Aside from being fraudulent, this is having perverse public health outcomes. The UK faces a wall of lockdown death, from late treatment of heart attacks and cancer, and many other causes. To deny this is to deny the effectiveness of the entire enterprise of medicine, access to which has been denied for multitudes by policy choices that are nothing less than hysterical.
The UK’s general lockdown is estimated to squander £2.4b per day — for no benefit. As Maajid Nawaz has pointed out, this could be spent to address any number of pressing health problems, with much greater effect. Myopic focus on Covid needs to end, and end now.
Nick Hudson is co-ordinator of PANDA, a multidisciplinary advocacy group mobilized against the enormous public relations machine that is fuelling fear and removing agency from people’s lives the world over. www.pandata.org