Covid-19 Part 22:
Extensive lockdown harm “ten times greater than benefits”

New paper just one in growing body of scientific evidence warning of the harms of lockdown

An expert in Canada, once a strong advocate for lockdowns, has written a paper warning of the immense damage caused by lockdowns. He says the effects of this will be seen in years to come.

The author of the paper, Dr. Ari Joffe is a specialist in pediatric infectious diseases at the Stollery Children’s Hospital in Edmonton and a Clinical Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at University of Alberta. The paper has the title: Covid-19: Rethinking the Lockdown Groupthink.

As it does not make any pretenses about going against the conventional line of thought or societal ‘orthodoxy’, I imagine he will find it hard to get it published. The process of peer reviewing for scientific papers is extremely flawed and academia has a very bad track record when it comes to giving fair trial to ideas that go against the grain. 

Dr. Joffe’s paper reports that the harms of lockdowns are 10 times greater than their benefits. To elaborate on this general conclusion, I have summarised the main points of his research below. 

1. He initially thought lockdowns were a good idea.

Why? Firstly, he says initial evaluations of the danger posed by the virus were gross over-estimations. As I have reported in previous blog entries, an early estimate of the infection fatality rate (percentage of total infections that result in a death) was 2%-3%. It was this number that was widely reported by The World Health Organisation (WHO) and media outlets across the world.

Therefore, when this number was used in modelling, the need for lockdown was justified, as this would mean that Covid-19 was 20 to 30 times as dangerous as seasonal influenza, or ‘flu’. This was certainly one of the biggest mistakes made by the team at Imperial College London, who famously estimated that 500,000 people could die without lockdown. We now know the model used to forecast a figure of that size used an infection fatality rate far bigger than is known now to be the case. 

Dr. Joffe explains that a median value for the Covid-19 infection fatality rate is ~0.23%. This number is 10 to 13 times smaller than the initial estimates. In addition, it is in keeping with my estimations which have never been over 0.5%, and have been as low as 0.05%. Compare this to 0.1% for seasonal influenza, or ‘flu’, and the danger is put in perspective. 

He goes on to say that:

“the median infection fatality rate in people under 70 years old is 0.05%, and that the high-risk group is older people especially those with severe co-morbidities. In addition, it is likely that in most situations only 20-40% of the population would be infected before ongoing transmission is limited (i.e., herd-immunity).”

2. Backed by many other studies, he became increasingly worried about the ‘collateral damage’ of lockdowns.

In his words: 

“This (collateral damage) can be predicted to adversely affect many millions of people globally with food insecurity [82-132 million more people], severe poverty [70 million more people], maternal and under age-5 mortality from interrupted healthcare [1.7 million more people], infectious diseases deaths from interrupted services [millions of people with Tuberculosis, Malaria, and HIV]…”

“…school closures for children [affecting children’s future earning potential and lifespan], interrupted vaccination campaigns for millions of children, and intimate partner violence for millions of women. In high-income countries adverse effects also occur from delayed and interrupted healthcare, unemployment, loneliness, deteriorating mental health, increased opioid crisis deaths, and more.”

From my own research too, the disruption to other areas of healthcare is extremely worrying. For example, 4.4 million fewer cancer screenings were performed in the UK by December 2020 compared to the same stage in 2019. This is thought to have resulted in tens of thousands of people with cancer not being diagnosed. 

Moreover, by October 2020, 3 million screenings had already been missed and the same paper estimates that 60,000 life years could be lost over the next 5-10 years as a result of this. This was before the second wave properly hit the NHS, meaning this number is set to rise meteorically.  

3. He said a formal “cost-benefit analysis of different responses to the pandemic was not done by government or public health experts”

“Initially, I simply assumed that lockdowns to suppress the pandemic were the best approach. But policy decisions on public health should require a cost-benefit analysis. Since lockdowns are a public health intervention, aiming to improve the population wellbeing, we must consider both benefits of lockdowns, and costs of lockdowns on the population wellbeing. Once I became more informed, I realized that lockdowns cause far more harm than they prevent.”

4. His cost-benefit analysis discovered first that “framing decisions as between saving lives versus saving the economy is a false dichotomy”

“There is a strong long-run relationship between economic recession and public health. This makes sense, as government spending on things like healthcare, education, roads, sanitation, housing, nutrition, vaccines, safety, social security nets, clean energy, and other services determines the population well-being and life-expectancy. If the government is forced to spend less on these social determinants of health, there will be ‘statistical lives’ lost, that is, people will die in the years to come.”

5. …Secondly he underestimated “the effects of loneliness and unemployment on public health”

“It turns out that loneliness and unemployment are known to be among the strongest risk factors for early mortality, reduced lifespan, and chronic diseases.”

He concludes by explaining that policy decisions always have been about assessing the data to hand and making decisions based on what is best for the largest amount of people. Choosing between options that all have some tragic outcome has always been the duty of those in office.  

6. His analysis weighed up the “benefits of lockdowns in preventing deaths from COVID-19, and the costs of lockdowns…”

The costs were measured “in terms of the effects of the recession, loneliness, and unemployment on population wellbeing and mortality.”

It was from this that he found the costs are at least ten times as high as the benefits. The well-being of a population is affected far more by lockdowns than the virus. 

Just like I warned in my introduction back in March, it seems as though the monster we have created through our reaction to the virus is far more scary than the virus itself. 

7. Dr. Joffe supports the same ‘focused protection’ approach that I have been a big advocate for. 

This would see all our resources directed towards people in the high-risk categories, who are likely to be severely affected by COVID-19. Elderly people, especially those with other pre-existing health conditions, and those in nursing homes and hospitals would be protected by the rest of the population. The ‘Great Barrington Declaration’ laid out this principle as part of its proposal in the first half of 2020. 

8. Initial modelling and predictions innaccuracies created fear, anxiety and hysteria across the world. 

He explains that the mainstream media “focused on absolute numbers of COVID-19 cases and deaths independent of context”. This led to a hysteria surrounding the virus which in turn “elevated COVID-19 above everything else that could possibly matter”. He finishes by describing our altered state of mind and learned cognitive biases mean we act only for supposed short term gain and forget anything beyond that. 

As I have been saying for months, we have suddenly forgotten that any other health concern exists and become blinkered so badly that our only goal is to totally eradicate the virus off the face of the planet, regardless of whether it causes many more problems in the process. The economist Paul Frijters said it has become “all about seeming to reduce risks of infection and deaths from this one particular disease, to the exclusion of all other health risks or other life concerns.”

9. We need to consider the tragic Covid-19 deaths in context.

Dr. Joffe explains that, by November 21 2020, Covid-19 deaths had contributed to 5.23% of deaths in Canada. From my updated research, the total amount of deaths in Canada in 2020 was 300,310. Compare this to 15,456 officially attributed to Covid-19 and it makes up 5.1%. 

Dr Joffe also uses the example of the worldwide deaths caused by Tobacco use – a figure he says is over 21,000 per day in non-pandemic years. I researched the total yearly figures and found it was over 8 million worldwide and 120,000 in the UK. A total of 1,862,862 and ~75,000 deaths in 2020 were attributed to Covid-19 worldwide and in the UK respectively.

These numbers give some much needed perspective to the data and “3,600 (people die) from pneumonia and diarrhea in children under 5-years-old, and 4,110 from Tuberculosis. We need to consider the tragic COVID-19 numbers in context.”

10. We need to end the Covid-19 ‘GroupThink’ by taking a pause and properly assessing the data available to us.

Dr. Joffe stresses the need for education so we all can better understand the risks and trade-offs involved with any policy suggested as a response to the situation, including lockdowns. The fear and hysteria whipped up has gone too far and needs to be alleviated by the dissemination of accurate information. As it affects so many more aspects of health and society, we should not assess lockdowns purely on their effect on Covid-19. 

11. Keep schools open.

The likelihood of developing a severe Covid-19 infection as a child is very small. Even smaller still is the risk of death. It is also increasingly evident that those aged 10 years and younger are much less likely to be infected and be the source of passing on the virus.

This was my summary of the interview with Dr. Ari Joffe which can be found here. It is extremely interesting, especially because he started believing that lockdowns were not only justified but the most effective way of dealing with the situation. Many of the concepts he describes are what I have been reporting on for months. 

His commitment to questioning conventional ‘truths’ and widely held beliefs is something I admire very much, but I admire him more for questioning his own beliefs. This is something that is desperately lacking in today’s society.

The idea that a certain line of thought cannot be questioned because it is ‘right’ and ‘caring’ by default sets an extremely treacherous precedent. Anyone who has studied the slightest iota of history would understand that this policing of opinion is how dictatorships take a foothold. 

What Dr. Ari Joffe names ‘Group Think’ is a problem that seems to be becoming more and more ingrained in the fabric of our western society. The problems we are facing due to Covid-19 are not unrelated to the erosion of free speech sweeping across the UK, USA and Canada.

We desperately need to address the problem of ‘mob rule’ which, just like in this case, often means that the right thing to do is lost and the ‘trendy’ thing is preferred. The idea that because you dare question the ‘status quo’, you are an awful person needs to stop. The creation of a political orthodoxy has been incubated in universities and schools and its destruction needs to start with the millenials and well off liberal ‘elites’ who currently perpetuate it. The sooner they understand that the erosion of free speech will eventually destroy everything they hold dear, as well as their opponents, the better. As soon as free speech breaks down, so does society. For everyone. Regardless of position on the political compass. Right or left. 

What do you think? Read the next installment in the Covid-19 Review here!

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