First, we were told that the curbs on individual rights, such as freedom of movement and assembly, were necessary to prevent the collapse of public health systems such as the NHS in the UK. In that new authoritarian environment, it was best not ask for a pass for those with private health insurance. The mass media grabbed the opportunity to gain some readers and viewers by stoking fear porn. This oxygen balloon may give these dying industries a few more years before their financial demise. Politicians had a field day as they exercised their power grab. The young and future generations are left to hold the bag and fill the purse for all the crass policy mistakes that have been made in the name of “we did not know!”
It is now quite clear that politics, and not statistical evidence or risk benefit analysis, have determined many important public health policies. Only a single developed country forsook confinements. In spite of such temerity, this country shows a fatality rate per population which is half that of other countries of similar income per capita. We were told that with the sacrifice of confining the population, we would defeat the virus. At least that is what the Spanish PM told his fellow citizens. He even celebrated the defeat of the virus in May 2020! Then there was as second wave, soon followed by a third wave, and so on…
Those on the right of centre wanted to preserve their right to be treated at home by their doctors with readily available drugs such as hydroxychloroquine or Remdesivir. Those to the left of centre wanted masks and restrictions on free movement. Universities and health authorities provided sets of models on possible paths for the pandemic’s development, which included various scenarios. Many governments and a complicit media highlighted exclusively the worst-case scenarios. Of course, the pro-masks and pro-confinement supporters saw no evil in attending mass protests in the summer of 2020, but abused those who so much as went for a walk. The Governments of many countries had a legal basis for these restrictions, but not the Government of Spain, which has lost two cases before the country’s highest court. Nothing has happened as a result.
The FDA and other drug safety agencies threw caution to the wind when they authorized mass vaccination with experimental vaccines under emergency provisions. We were told that these mass vaccinations would result in herd immunity. As it turns out, there is no evidence that vaccination prevents contagion. South African doctors went to great lengths to communicate that while Omicron was more contagious, the hospitalization and morbidity rates were very low, This was the case in a country where a small percentage of the population had received the full course of vaccines. The often-cited evidence for the vaccine’s efficacy is that 50% of US patients in ICUs are unvaccinated. Let us assume this datum is accurate, it may still not offer statistical significance as only 61% of the US population has received two jabs.
There is also much confusion on the issues of virus lethality and evolutionary success. It is true that mutations are random; therefore, any new strain of the coronavirus could be more lethal than any of the previous strains. It is also true that evolution favours the success of less lethal variants that will be more successful at spreading among the population. This is the case precisely because the host often shows no symptoms and therefore will continue spreading the virus, and also importantly, because most hosts remains alive.
The cancel culture has risen in tandem with this pandemic and has afflicted public discourse in a very dangerous way. When the generally insufferable President of the French Republic gloats about making the lives of unvaccinated citizens miserable, he demonstrates that he is not in touch with the people he is trying to protect. Somebody should tell him that many among “the people” are growing tired of being patronized and lied to. The people are beginning to realize the great damage that this exercise in mass hysteria has produced to the intellectual and social skills development of their children and grandchildren. Keeping children out of school is undoubtedly the most extraordinary conclusion of any policy risk-benefit analysis that we can remember. The Governments of the alleged “free world” have deliberately ruined the future of many children and young adults in order to satisfy the safety demands of senior citizens. This is the parting gift of the baby boom generation to the world, very much in line with their hedonistic and egotistic ethos.
Macron is not alone in his defiling of the rights of the individual. His colleague across the Alps in Italy is capping his long career of creating havoc from positions of power in the public sector with a similar enthusiasm for Big Brother policies. In his memoirs, Stefan Zweig reflected on the imposition of passports to cross borders in Europe after WWI. He found it a shocking affront on privacy. Now some governments demand vaccination passports even though vaccinated people are as likely to be infected as those who are not. The people are also finally realizing that the average age of the victims in many western countries is over 80 years-old and that most fatalities had several co-morbidities. Some conclude that many people are dying with Covid and not from Covid.
Australia and New Zealand may well have the most stringent CoVid related constraints on their citizens among western democracies. Their insularity and remoteness has always been a source of exceptionalism and may explain the docility with which most of the population there has taken to perma-lockdown The Djokovic visa case is intriguing; certainly, it does not shed a very good light on the independence of the Australian consular services. The number-one ranked tennis player in the world and defending Australian Open champion applied for and obtained a visitor visa. Apparently, while he was flying down-under, the Australian Immigration minister revoked his visa because he did not accept Djokovic’s medical exemption for not being vaccinated. He was detained on arrival and incarcerated in a government designated quarantine hotel. His lawyers won an appeal but lost the case at yesterday’s hearing. The court of public opinion had already sentenced Djokovic because of social media photos that show him socialising while allegedly infected with Covid. The people has already ruled that his visa should be revoked as a punishment for his bad behaviour. He has been deported.
Perhaps one of the most extraordinary developments in this story is Rafael Nadal’s public condemnation of Djokovic’s position on vaccination. Djokovic’s older nemesis has used this opportunity to pontificate on individual responsibility and equality before the law. How soon he forgets that just a couple weeks ago, he tested positive for Covid just a few days after having a mask-less had lunch with King Juan Carlos. It is interesting that Nadal, one of the most successful athletes in history, would not see the irony in this story. Perhaps, subtlety is better suited to Federer’s style.
In a recent interview, Rochelle Walensky, the Director of the Center for Disease Control (CDC) stated, “You know really important study if I may just summarize it. A study of 1.2 million people who were vaccinated between December and October and demonstrated that severe disease occurred in about 0.015% of the people who received their primary series and death in 0.003% of those people. The overwhelming number of deaths, over 75%, occurred in people who had at least four comorbidities. So really, these are people who were unwell to begin with. And yes, really encouraging news in the context of Omicron.”
Anti-vaccine suppoters have been using this statement to justify their views. Immediately, the media fact-checked the story to reinforce Walensky’s intended message which is that when it comes to vaccinated patients, Covid is generally fatal only for those patients who have four or more comorbidities. This would be a great endorsement for vaccination if the unvaccinated who die did not also show comorbidities. Unfortunately, for Ms Walenski line of argument, it turns out that they do.
Since the outset of the Pandemic fatalities occur overwhelmingly among people who are older than 70. In the case of Italy, a country for which there are very good statistics from the public health agency, 80% of fatalities were older than 70 with an average age of 82. This data will surprise nobody who has been looking at these figures for the past two years. What may surprise some people is that the Italian public health services detected a statistically significant incidence of comorbidities among patients who died of CoVid.
The authors’ conclusion in the paper “Comorbidity status of deceased COVID-19 in-patients in Italy” published by Aging Clinical and Experimental Research in June 2021 was:
In those deceased in-hospital due to COVID-19 in Italy, disease combinations defined by multiple cardio-respiratory, metabolic, and neuropsychiatric diseases occur more frequently than expected. This finding indicates a need to investigate the possible role of these clinical profiles in the chain of events that lead to death in individuals who have contracted SARS-CoV-2.
The best thing about the vaccination drives is that these vaccines seem to be a good prophylactic, the worst aspect is that they reinforce the slippery slope towards authoritarianism that has taken hold of some of the world’s oldest democracies since 9/11. With the rise of authoritarian regimes and their apparent success in tackling the big issues that afflict people’s lives, the “free world” is succumbing to political polarization and inane debates.
It is high time to accept that the Cold War is not over yet. China and Russia are aggressively confronting our political system. If we continue to fall in the trap of accepting the efficacy of the lack of transparency of these primitive polities, we are doomed to fall into the abyss. While most in the West are more concerned today about domestic politics, we would be well advised not to give up seven centuries of halting, yet steady progress, in the development of just societies since humanism flourished during the Renaissance. Some western countries experimented with collectivistic political systems in the 1930s and 1940s with terrible outcomes for all.
It is one’s duty as a citizen to question authority and received wisdom. This is not heresy, as the rising wave of the cancel culture would like you to believe. The unquestioning mind is the source of the success of all evil. Nefariously, censorship is rampant and encouraged, not only by government but also by the other 50% on the other side of any contentious issue. The sooner we realize this is a dangerous path to take, the better for all.