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The Royal Society’s lockdown report is deeply flawed

The Royal Society report entrenches simple narratives about the pandemic. Credit: Getty

August 30, 2023 - 10:00am

A report last week from the world’s oldest scientific academy, the UK’s Royal Society, “unequivocally” found that lockdowns, masks, contact tracing apps, travel restrictions, and other non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) reduced Covid transmission. 

But its shortcomings, as with the Lancet Commission report released last year and other high-profile work, reveal an unfortunate detachment from reality in our prestigious scientific institutions: better to exclude or minimise the uncomfortable outliers and data that question orthodoxy and sidestep the hard policy questions.

The result is more entrenchment of simple narratives and comfortable popular projections. Outlets as varied as the Guardian and the Daily Mail lapped up the findings because of the Society’s renown. Masks worked; lockdown slowed the spread; it was all worth it. No further questions.

Based on the findings, Chris Dye, a professor of epidemiology at Oxford who participated in the evidence synthesis, called for a 100-day global preparedness vision to support using NPIs, such as lockdown, early on during the next pandemic. Such policies would be imposed in anticipation of successful vaccines and therapeutics, already part of an existing global 100-day mission roadmap. This is our new lockdown doctrine.

The linguistic acrobatics are certainly noteworthy. Here is the most significant soundbite from the Royal Society report:

In summary, evidence about the effectiveness of NPIs applied to reduce the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 shows unequivocally that, when implemented in packages that combine a number of NPIs with complementary effects, these can provide powerful, effective and prolonged reductions in viral transmission.
- Royal Society

How can we really assess NPI “effectiveness” without considering how decisions had harmful consequences? Something can work and be powerful but still be “unequivocally” misguided. This report, as do many others, does not advance a comprehensive analysis, since it does not look at the consequences of NPIs on society. This is not necessarily wrong: all studies have limitations. Yet narrowly defining search terms limits one’s vision of reality. When the next pandemic hits, the usefulness of this type of analysis, for the hard balancing act of real-world decisions, will be limited.

This is not what society really needs from its thinking class. Hundreds of millions of people around the world were pushed into food insecurity, lost education and poverty. The report even says that such adverse effects from NPIs provide “a key question for inquiries being conducted around the world”, and calls for “another report, complementary to this one”. Yet no such report has appeared.

Moreover, just how confident is the Royal Society that this new lockdown doctrine is “unequivocally” correct? In this case, the analysis only looked at transmission reduction, not illness and deaths. It found a lack of effect when evaluating individual NPIs in isolation. It selected case studies from South Korea, New Zealand and Hong Kong but not Sweden, India, Haiti or Nicaragua: a veritable pick & mix of Covid evidence. The report relied heavily on observational studies, and the evidence review on masks contradicted a recent Cochrane systematic review

The lockdown and social distancing review mixed and matched time periods, had to juggle different effect sizes, and did not distinguish between voluntary or mandated behaviour change. Most research studies are from high-income countries, limiting how far findings can be generalised.

Importantly, the report also concluded, based on this selective evidence, that NPI “effectiveness” reduced over time and was most “powerful” when transmission intensity and cases were low. This is hardly surprising, although other studies do call this into question. But it also ignores the political determinant of the new lockdown doctrine: the domino effect. We have seen in the years since 2020 that once you impose a slew of government mandates, repealing them is just as difficult.

For the 17% of the world that could stay home (about 500 million people) during the height of global lockdown, reports are now written that render the other 83% invisible.

Sceptical academic voices remain the oddballs. Yet I remain naively dedicated to the idea that better analysis can be carried out, if only when divorced from the many powerful interests, spin and egos at stake.


Kevin Bardosh is a research professor and Director of Research for Collateral Global, a UK-based charity dedicated to understanding the collateral impacts of Covid policies worldwide.

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Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
10 months ago

This number is seared into my brain – 165 mill people slipped back into poverty. This after 25 years of continuous and significant reductions in poverty. You have to be cruel and shockingly selfish to think the trade off was worth it.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
10 months ago

This number is seared into my brain – 165 mill people slipped back into poverty. This after 25 years of continuous and significant reductions in poverty. You have to be cruel and shockingly selfish to think the trade off was worth it.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
10 months ago

The best way to deal with another pandemic like COVID would be to prevent it from happening in the first place, and the best way to do that would be to hold accountable those responsible for creating the virus in the first place and then for banning the use of established antiviral medicines in its treatment.

Alex Carnegie
Alex Carnegie
10 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

I agree. One can debate precisely what was wrong with the medical/pharma establishment. Complacency? Stupdity? Groupthink? Corrupt collusion? Maybe we will know categorically after all the inquiries. Possibly. But one way or another those concerned need to be held to account if only pour encourager les autres. At the risk of channeling Charles Stanhope, I can’t help recalling that historians see Byng’s misfortune as important in installing the right aggressive spirit in the Royal Navy. In the twenty first century a less extreme verdict probably suffices but we clearly need a spirit of integrity and independent judgement as well as intelligence at the top of the medical/pharma world going forward. A televised trial of those who are judged to have fallen short might drive the right lessons home. I am usually an emollient liberal but on this issue …

Last edited 10 months ago by Alex Carnegie
Helen Hughes
Helen Hughes
10 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

The other best way would be for us all to have the opportunity to live healthy, fulfilling, meaningful lives so that we have optimal immune systems and then no matter what the mad scientists throw at us it’ll be like water off a duck’s back…

Alex Carnegie
Alex Carnegie
10 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

I agree. One can debate precisely what was wrong with the medical/pharma establishment. Complacency? Stupdity? Groupthink? Corrupt collusion? Maybe we will know categorically after all the inquiries. Possibly. But one way or another those concerned need to be held to account if only pour encourager les autres. At the risk of channeling Charles Stanhope, I can’t help recalling that historians see Byng’s misfortune as important in installing the right aggressive spirit in the Royal Navy. In the twenty first century a less extreme verdict probably suffices but we clearly need a spirit of integrity and independent judgement as well as intelligence at the top of the medical/pharma world going forward. A televised trial of those who are judged to have fallen short might drive the right lessons home. I am usually an emollient liberal but on this issue …

Last edited 10 months ago by Alex Carnegie
Helen Hughes
Helen Hughes
10 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

The other best way would be for us all to have the opportunity to live healthy, fulfilling, meaningful lives so that we have optimal immune systems and then no matter what the mad scientists throw at us it’ll be like water off a duck’s back…

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
10 months ago

The best way to deal with another pandemic like COVID would be to prevent it from happening in the first place, and the best way to do that would be to hold accountable those responsible for creating the virus in the first place and then for banning the use of established antiviral medicines in its treatment.

Martin M
Martin M
10 months ago

An excellent article! Hits the nail right on the head!

Martin M
Martin M
10 months ago

An excellent article! Hits the nail right on the head!

Caradog Wiliams
Caradog Wiliams
10 months ago

Wait until we sign the (legally binding) treaty next year, which will allow the WHO to make all decisions for us – they will be able to instruct us to lockdown and ban all international travel.
Coming soon!!

Caradog Wiliams
Caradog Wiliams
10 months ago

Wait until we sign the (legally binding) treaty next year, which will allow the WHO to make all decisions for us – they will be able to instruct us to lockdown and ban all international travel.
Coming soon!!

Bruno Lucy
Bruno Lucy
10 months ago

Sweden
No lockdown, schools open, universities closed for a short period of time, restaurants open, no mask mandate, no vaccine mandate
deaths/ million : 2,33
UK :
Freak show. Everything closed, no booze except in Downing Street, mask mandate, school closed…..
deaths/ million : 3,38
average death age : 80,5 most of whom had a very short life expectancy due to other life threatening conditions.

Alex Carnegie
Alex Carnegie
10 months ago
Reply to  Bruno Lucy

When I looked at the graphs it appeared that the “extra” U.K. mortality was mostly at the peak of each surge. This might suggest that the investigations should focus as much on how victims were managed in hospitals – and in what ways the U.K. differed – as on the lockdowns.

Alex Carnegie
Alex Carnegie
10 months ago
Reply to  Bruno Lucy

When I looked at the graphs it appeared that the “extra” U.K. mortality was mostly at the peak of each surge. This might suggest that the investigations should focus as much on how victims were managed in hospitals – and in what ways the U.K. differed – as on the lockdowns.

Bruno Lucy
Bruno Lucy
10 months ago

Sweden
No lockdown, schools open, universities closed for a short period of time, restaurants open, no mask mandate, no vaccine mandate
deaths/ million : 2,33
UK :
Freak show. Everything closed, no booze except in Downing Street, mask mandate, school closed…..
deaths/ million : 3,38
average death age : 80,5 most of whom had a very short life expectancy due to other life threatening conditions.

Andrew Buckley
Andrew Buckley
10 months ago

“Commissions” and “Reports” seem to come from far too narrow a viewpoint.
A medical model review would focus solely on medical outcomes, which seems to be the case so far. But as this article and other commentators say this is only a part of the history.
I cannot see anything in the recent reports that could help pointing the way the next time we have some form of global pandemic. I absolutely abhor the idea that the WHO (independent? I think not) could be in a position of mandating a global response.
An advantage of different responses in different countries is the ability to then view early results and tweak things to, hopefully, achieve a better outcome. If everyone has to do exactly the same thing then there is no way that any mandates can ever be compared to see relative success.

Andrew Buckley
Andrew Buckley
10 months ago

“Commissions” and “Reports” seem to come from far too narrow a viewpoint.
A medical model review would focus solely on medical outcomes, which seems to be the case so far. But as this article and other commentators say this is only a part of the history.
I cannot see anything in the recent reports that could help pointing the way the next time we have some form of global pandemic. I absolutely abhor the idea that the WHO (independent? I think not) could be in a position of mandating a global response.
An advantage of different responses in different countries is the ability to then view early results and tweak things to, hopefully, achieve a better outcome. If everyone has to do exactly the same thing then there is no way that any mandates can ever be compared to see relative success.

james elliott
james elliott
10 months ago

The response to covid was an unmitigated disaster.

Covid itself could have easily been contained by sensible precautions and not having rolling news chirons.

Pfizer got rich while an entire generation was impoverished.

We need a new Nuremberg.

james elliott
james elliott
10 months ago

The response to covid was an unmitigated disaster.

Covid itself could have easily been contained by sensible precautions and not having rolling news chirons.

Pfizer got rich while an entire generation was impoverished.

We need a new Nuremberg.

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
10 months ago

I’ve had my doubts about the Royal Society ever since, a few years ago, the then President (a Nobel Prize winner, no less) declared the science of climate change was settled. A more unscientific statement is hard to imagine.

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
10 months ago

I’ve had my doubts about the Royal Society ever since, a few years ago, the then President (a Nobel Prize winner, no less) declared the science of climate change was settled. A more unscientific statement is hard to imagine.

Tyler Durden
Tyler Durden
10 months ago

The main driver of the corporate-authoritarian complex was obviously big profits for the Pharma corps who have fingers in every economic sector and media pie. In the same vein, academics were reaching out for fortune and fame by influencing state scientists to whom craven politicians were keen to relinquish control with the thought that was the best way to retain any popularity.

Tyler Durden
Tyler Durden
10 months ago

The main driver of the corporate-authoritarian complex was obviously big profits for the Pharma corps who have fingers in every economic sector and media pie. In the same vein, academics were reaching out for fortune and fame by influencing state scientists to whom craven politicians were keen to relinquish control with the thought that was the best way to retain any popularity.

Ben Scott
Ben Scott
10 months ago

Even if the NPIs did slow the infection rate (which is a dubious claim, given that this report is based almost entirely on observational studies and modelling), what evidence is there to say that this was a good thing. Assuming that the NPIs prevented infections per se, surely that leaves massive population immunity deficits for all manner of pathogens which, when people are allowed to mix again, will flare up with all manner of unintended consequences.

Ben Scott
Ben Scott
10 months ago

Even if the NPIs did slow the infection rate (which is a dubious claim, given that this report is based almost entirely on observational studies and modelling), what evidence is there to say that this was a good thing. Assuming that the NPIs prevented infections per se, surely that leaves massive population immunity deficits for all manner of pathogens which, when people are allowed to mix again, will flare up with all manner of unintended consequences.

jim peden
jim peden
10 months ago

It’s hardly credible that the Royal Society could reach this view given the evidence. See for example the Cochrane Report on the effectiveness of physical measures. (https://www.cochrane.org/CD006207/ARI_do-physical-measures-such-hand-washing-or-wearing-masks-stop-or-slow-down-spread-respiratory-viruses).
So the Royal Society has failed in its scientific duty to consider the evidence. As the article points out, the poor health and social outcomes of these interventions weren’t even considered.
I’m sorry to have to say that the scientific establishment has failed us all. It should be subject to ‘root and branch reform’.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
10 months ago

Five hours in and half the comments already deleted.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
10 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

It’s getting worse and worse, sadly.

David Jory
David Jory
10 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Patients gave me photos and videos of their Bell’s Palsy after their vaccines.
I saw more cases in less than a year than in the previous decade.
I have asked someone to present this material to the Hallett Inquiry.
The patients asked me to let their voices be heard.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
10 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

It’s getting worse and worse, sadly.

David Jory
David Jory
10 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Patients gave me photos and videos of their Bell’s Palsy after their vaccines.
I saw more cases in less than a year than in the previous decade.
I have asked someone to present this material to the Hallett Inquiry.
The patients asked me to let their voices be heard.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
10 months ago

Five hours in and half the comments already deleted.

Paul MacDonnell
Paul MacDonnell
10 months ago

It’s a sign of the unseriousness of the British scientific establishment that The Royal Society’s propaganda passes for sound analysis.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
10 months ago

Well said, but WHAT really did you expect?

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
10 months ago

Well said, but WHAT really did you expect?

Steve Farrell
Steve Farrell
10 months ago

That 17% really are twats

Steve Farrell
Steve Farrell
10 months ago

That 17% really are twats

Seb Dakin
Seb Dakin
10 months ago

Panel of Experts in experts-decide-they-were-right shock!

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
10 months ago

What “lockdown”? There was no “lockdown”. Grow up

J Mo
J Mo
10 months ago
Reply to  Frank McCusker

DARVO

J Mo
J Mo
10 months ago
Reply to  Frank McCusker

DARVO

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
10 months ago

What “lockdown”? There was no “lockdown”. Grow up

Robbie K
Robbie K
10 months ago

better to exclude or minimise the uncomfortable outliers and data that question orthodoxy and sidestep the hard policy questions.

Ha ha! Hilarious. This approach seems to suit the sceptics when the narrative is the one you want!

Gerard A
Gerard A
10 months ago
Reply to  Robbie K

So you would prefer a scientific method that ignores results which are outside the hypotheses you are testing and thus simply enable the researchers to have confirmation bias built in to their conclusions?

Bill Bailey
Bill Bailey
10 months ago
Reply to  Robbie K

IF this is the same report Profs Heneghan and Jeffeson slated, the irony is the ‘outliers’ were the only truly hard science blind randomized trials. The mass of observational ones favoured the Government narrative. Of course if you prefer observations to hard science, I suspect big Pharma and Sage would be pleased.
The Diamond Princess showed the reality on COVID very early on. It wasn’t the new black death.
Ironically, Trump, widely lampooned over his ‘informed’ hunch that the mortality rate would be less than 1% when the WHO was screaming 3.4% is proven yet again to be correct.
One of the more amusing BBC Radio programs is the Radio 4 one which tries to explain why when Trump said ‘It got out of a Wuhan Lab’ – that was ‘False News’ BUT when Biden said it, it was ‘Real News’.
BTW For some reason Asia seems far more willing to investigate and report on the ideas that the Western MSM claimed were ‘Conspiracy Theories’ (though technically I suppose they should be Hypotheses) such as ‘Escaped from a Wuhan Lab’. In fact there were many that implicated the US in it. All the usual suspects laughed that out of court or perhaps I should say Congress. Until it turned out Faucci was up to his ears in it and the Scientists publicly denying it was created in a lab, privately emailed each other saying it was. On the evidence so far, I’d say the COVID hysteria was based heavily on the Climate Change record of mood manipulation. Model it then lie through your teeth when reality contradicts the model.

Gerard A
Gerard A
10 months ago
Reply to  Robbie K

So you would prefer a scientific method that ignores results which are outside the hypotheses you are testing and thus simply enable the researchers to have confirmation bias built in to their conclusions?

Bill Bailey
Bill Bailey
10 months ago
Reply to  Robbie K

IF this is the same report Profs Heneghan and Jeffeson slated, the irony is the ‘outliers’ were the only truly hard science blind randomized trials. The mass of observational ones favoured the Government narrative. Of course if you prefer observations to hard science, I suspect big Pharma and Sage would be pleased.
The Diamond Princess showed the reality on COVID very early on. It wasn’t the new black death.
Ironically, Trump, widely lampooned over his ‘informed’ hunch that the mortality rate would be less than 1% when the WHO was screaming 3.4% is proven yet again to be correct.
One of the more amusing BBC Radio programs is the Radio 4 one which tries to explain why when Trump said ‘It got out of a Wuhan Lab’ – that was ‘False News’ BUT when Biden said it, it was ‘Real News’.
BTW For some reason Asia seems far more willing to investigate and report on the ideas that the Western MSM claimed were ‘Conspiracy Theories’ (though technically I suppose they should be Hypotheses) such as ‘Escaped from a Wuhan Lab’. In fact there were many that implicated the US in it. All the usual suspects laughed that out of court or perhaps I should say Congress. Until it turned out Faucci was up to his ears in it and the Scientists publicly denying it was created in a lab, privately emailed each other saying it was. On the evidence so far, I’d say the COVID hysteria was based heavily on the Climate Change record of mood manipulation. Model it then lie through your teeth when reality contradicts the model.

Robbie K
Robbie K
10 months ago

better to exclude or minimise the uncomfortable outliers and data that question orthodoxy and sidestep the hard policy questions.

Ha ha! Hilarious. This approach seems to suit the sceptics when the narrative is the one you want!

Doug Mccaully
Doug Mccaully
10 months ago

This is a report into reduction of physical transmission by use of masks and social distancing, other reports will look at other issues. So we have dilemmas and trade offs needing to be made, and no doubt we will do things differently the next pandemic but the dilemmas are the same ones we have faced in every plague since we stopped being hunter gatherers. Babylonians, Greeks, Romans, mediaeval chroniclers all attest to this, the basic rules don’t change, this is a very old lockdown doctrine. There is a reason why outlier studies are outliers,  they are poorly peer reviewed and not corroborated by other studies, this is how science works. I wonder how many people who quote the Cochran report on masks have actually read it, or its peer review? If they did, they would see that Cochrane says its report is inconclusive, and it has been poorly peer reviewed. Incidentally, there never was a simple choice to be made between lockdowns and social/economic harm, there is a ton of evidence from around the world to back this up. We make our hard choices based on the hard evidence. If the choices are hard, we don’t cherry pick the evidence to make our choices easier.

Jim Haggerty
Jim Haggerty
10 months ago
Reply to  Doug Mccaully

So why was lockdown never included in any pandemic planning prior to 2020? How can you divorce if it was effective in saving lives without considering the lives lost from lockdown, deferred cancer screening & drug abuse, etc. Who was it effective for? the laptop class or the working class delivery person forced to support their family by delivering groceries to those laptop folks staying safely at home. God forbid the working stiffs live in a multi generational household with the grandparents

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
10 months ago
Reply to  Jim Haggerty

Lockdowns were fine for the 17% of the population who could work from home.

Doug Mccaully
Doug Mccaully
10 months ago
Reply to  Jim Haggerty

I don’t disagree with any of your criticisms of British lockdown policy, it was criminally botched by Boris and co. Cancer screening etc was always going to suffer, the NHS was overwhelmed, and the prime reason for lockdown was to prevent the complete meltdown of the NHS. No cancer screening then. By pandemic planning prior to 2020, are you referring to Cygnus? If so, you’re right, lockdowns weren’t specifically mentioned, but you’d have to address HM govt on that one. There were lockdowns in the Spanish flu pandemic a century ago, and the evidence is that they did slow infections down. Don’t forget that covid was a new disease, to which we had no immunity, unlike flu.

Gerard A
Gerard A
10 months ago
Reply to  Doug Mccaully

Most of the population didn’t need immunity. It was, unlike Spanish flu, dangerous in the main only to the ill, fat, and to a lesser extent elderly. In fact the highly skewed nature of vulnerability to Covid makes any analysis very tricky. To paraphrase, anyone who can say “unequivocal” doesn’t understand the problem

Doug Mccaully
Doug Mccaully
10 months ago
Reply to  Gerard A

‘Most of the population don’t need immunity’ is such a broad statement its difficult to find a clear meaning. Deaths were the tip of the iceberg, many more people became seriously or quite ill, many developed long term physical problems. By the way, covid carried off many thousands of young healthy people, and ninety percent of the deaths in the UK were of the over eighties. Because we got off more lightly than worst predictions doesn’t invalidate the seriousness of the pandemic. We had a new virus, with no treatment, which was running amok in China, Iran, Italy, and was coming for us in short order. Those countries which took sensible responses had far fewer deaths than we did. The percentage of people infected with Spanish flu, who died from it, was 2.5%, not much more than that of covid, or maybe even the same [depending on how you crunch the numbers] yet Spanish flu killed between twenty and a hundred million worldwide, and in a much less interconnected world than ours. If we don’t take this stuff very seriously, then we’re playing Russian roulette with the population.

Last edited 10 months ago by Doug Mccaully
Doug Mccaully
Doug Mccaully
10 months ago
Reply to  Gerard A

‘Most of the population don’t need immunity’ is such a broad statement its difficult to find a clear meaning. Deaths were the tip of the iceberg, many more people became seriously or quite ill, many developed long term physical problems. By the way, covid carried off many thousands of young healthy people, and ninety percent of the deaths in the UK were of the over eighties. Because we got off more lightly than worst predictions doesn’t invalidate the seriousness of the pandemic. We had a new virus, with no treatment, which was running amok in China, Iran, Italy, and was coming for us in short order. Those countries which took sensible responses had far fewer deaths than we did. The percentage of people infected with Spanish flu, who died from it, was 2.5%, not much more than that of covid, or maybe even the same [depending on how you crunch the numbers] yet Spanish flu killed between twenty and a hundred million worldwide, and in a much less interconnected world than ours. If we don’t take this stuff very seriously, then we’re playing Russian roulette with the population.

Last edited 10 months ago by Doug Mccaully
Gerard A
Gerard A
10 months ago
Reply to  Doug Mccaully

Most of the population didn’t need immunity. It was, unlike Spanish flu, dangerous in the main only to the ill, fat, and to a lesser extent elderly. In fact the highly skewed nature of vulnerability to Covid makes any analysis very tricky. To paraphrase, anyone who can say “unequivocal” doesn’t understand the problem

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
10 months ago
Reply to  Jim Haggerty

Lockdowns were fine for the 17% of the population who could work from home.

Doug Mccaully
Doug Mccaully
10 months ago
Reply to  Jim Haggerty

I don’t disagree with any of your criticisms of British lockdown policy, it was criminally botched by Boris and co. Cancer screening etc was always going to suffer, the NHS was overwhelmed, and the prime reason for lockdown was to prevent the complete meltdown of the NHS. No cancer screening then. By pandemic planning prior to 2020, are you referring to Cygnus? If so, you’re right, lockdowns weren’t specifically mentioned, but you’d have to address HM govt on that one. There were lockdowns in the Spanish flu pandemic a century ago, and the evidence is that they did slow infections down. Don’t forget that covid was a new disease, to which we had no immunity, unlike flu.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
10 months ago
Reply to  Doug Mccaully

165 mill people slipped back into poverty. Is it ethically possible to ignore this number?

Doug Mccaully
Doug Mccaully
10 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Do you really think there was a simple choice between fighting covid and prosperity? Come on. There is a long list of countries which effectively fought covid, thus preventing the inevitable economic damage that comes from an out of control pandemic. I can give you a list if you like.

Hendrik Mentz
Hendrik Mentz
10 months ago
Reply to  Doug Mccaully

Does your list include South Africa: millions locked into informal settlements living cheek by jowl or stuffed into taxis. Zero social distancing, zero masks and way down, comparatively, in terms of Covid deaths (whatever a Covid death means). As Iain McGilchrist argues, the emissary is now in charge.

Doug Mccaully
Doug Mccaully
10 months ago
Reply to  Hendrik Mentz

South Africa didn’t handle covid well, I believe. Things were arguably made worse by a lower baseline level of disease resistance due to widespread HIV, then there’s the overcrowding and poverty you mentioned. We’ve known forever these things accelerate pandemics. Check out Senegal, a poor African country which did really well [not the only African country to do this] in keeping deaths low and keeping its economy going.

Hendrik Mentz
Hendrik Mentz
10 months ago
Reply to  Doug Mccaully

My point is that there was never a Covid pandemic in South Africa. I live here. I’ve seen the expanding cemeteries adjacent to migrant townships, consequential to HIV. There was nothing comparable during ‘Covid’. Where I live as part of a small rural mostly brown community where there was active resistance to being vaccinated by a large number of residents, people got sick and they recovered. There were a few deaths, granted, like there were before and after. So maybe look for your mooted mishandling elsewhere, as this post seems to suggest.

Doug Mccaully
Doug Mccaully
10 months ago
Reply to  Hendrik Mentz

You make some interesting points and of course I’ve never visited South Africa but there certainly was a covid pandemic there. You had just over 100,000 deaths from it, you even had your own variant which became dominant worldwide. As for the debate over what to put on the death certificates of chronically ill people who are carried off by covid, there are standardised rules for judging this, applicable across a broad swathe of illnesses, not just covid, so no one is fiddling the figures. My sense of South Africa is that it was in a poor state to combat covid whatever it did. By the way, My only accusations of mishandling are to my own govt. only

Doug Mccaully
Doug Mccaully
10 months ago
Reply to  Hendrik Mentz

You make some interesting points and of course I’ve never visited South Africa but there certainly was a covid pandemic there. You had just over 100,000 deaths from it, you even had your own variant which became dominant worldwide. As for the debate over what to put on the death certificates of chronically ill people who are carried off by covid, there are standardised rules for judging this, applicable across a broad swathe of illnesses, not just covid, so no one is fiddling the figures. My sense of South Africa is that it was in a poor state to combat covid whatever it did. By the way, My only accusations of mishandling are to my own govt. only

Hendrik Mentz
Hendrik Mentz
10 months ago
Reply to  Doug Mccaully

My point is that there was never a Covid pandemic in South Africa. I live here. I’ve seen the expanding cemeteries adjacent to migrant townships, consequential to HIV. There was nothing comparable during ‘Covid’. Where I live as part of a small rural mostly brown community where there was active resistance to being vaccinated by a large number of residents, people got sick and they recovered. There were a few deaths, granted, like there were before and after. So maybe look for your mooted mishandling elsewhere, as this post seems to suggest.

Doug Mccaully
Doug Mccaully
10 months ago
Reply to  Hendrik Mentz

South Africa didn’t handle covid well, I believe. Things were arguably made worse by a lower baseline level of disease resistance due to widespread HIV, then there’s the overcrowding and poverty you mentioned. We’ve known forever these things accelerate pandemics. Check out Senegal, a poor African country which did really well [not the only African country to do this] in keeping deaths low and keeping its economy going.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
10 months ago
Reply to  Doug Mccaully

Is there a long list of countries that effectively fought Covid and prevented economic damage? Many in the west survived lockdowns without driving vast numbers into poverty, but we are certainly still feeling the economic shocks today, namely inflation and high interest rates. It’s the poor countries that pay the price, because any decline in the economy drives people into poverty. And it really doesn’t matter what their Covid policies were. They suffer because of the global economic decline.

Doug Mccaully
Doug Mccaully
10 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Senegal, understanding that it didn’t have the resources to beat covid, closed its borders early, tested all arrivals, banned large gatherings for a time, supported by Senegal’s Muslim clerics. Result: as of mid 2022, 1,190 recorded deaths out of a population of 16,3 million. Ghana did well, as did Liberia. I accept that some African countries were naturally better placed than others, and maybe South Africa, with its endemic HIV and TB has an added burden. In the far east, rich countries like South Korea and Malaysia did very well, as did poorer Vietnam. New Zealand, Australia, Greece, Czech Republic, Slovakia etc. UK, dreadful. No country escaped economic damage from covid, it was a catastrophe visited on the world. You’re right that the poor suffer most, whatever the policy. Tragically, that’s always the case.

Doug Mccaully
Doug Mccaully
10 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Senegal, understanding that it didn’t have the resources to beat covid, closed its borders early, tested all arrivals, banned large gatherings for a time, supported by Senegal’s Muslim clerics. Result: as of mid 2022, 1,190 recorded deaths out of a population of 16,3 million. Ghana did well, as did Liberia. I accept that some African countries were naturally better placed than others, and maybe South Africa, with its endemic HIV and TB has an added burden. In the far east, rich countries like South Korea and Malaysia did very well, as did poorer Vietnam. New Zealand, Australia, Greece, Czech Republic, Slovakia etc. UK, dreadful. No country escaped economic damage from covid, it was a catastrophe visited on the world. You’re right that the poor suffer most, whatever the policy. Tragically, that’s always the case.

Hendrik Mentz
Hendrik Mentz
10 months ago
Reply to  Doug Mccaully

Does your list include South Africa: millions locked into informal settlements living cheek by jowl or stuffed into taxis. Zero social distancing, zero masks and way down, comparatively, in terms of Covid deaths (whatever a Covid death means). As Iain McGilchrist argues, the emissary is now in charge.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
10 months ago
Reply to  Doug Mccaully

Is there a long list of countries that effectively fought Covid and prevented economic damage? Many in the west survived lockdowns without driving vast numbers into poverty, but we are certainly still feeling the economic shocks today, namely inflation and high interest rates. It’s the poor countries that pay the price, because any decline in the economy drives people into poverty. And it really doesn’t matter what their Covid policies were. They suffer because of the global economic decline.

Doug Mccaully
Doug Mccaully
10 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Do you really think there was a simple choice between fighting covid and prosperity? Come on. There is a long list of countries which effectively fought covid, thus preventing the inevitable economic damage that comes from an out of control pandemic. I can give you a list if you like.

Rocky Martiano
Rocky Martiano
10 months ago
Reply to  Doug Mccaully

“Incidentally, there never was a simple choice to be made between lockdowns and social/economic harm, there is a ton of evidence from around the world to back this up.”
Would you like to provide links to some of this evidence? 
Simple choice, of course not. There are never simple choices in a complex situation like a pandemic. But choices to be made…there most certainly were. Why the monofocus on NPIs, for which the evidence is….well, inconclusive? Why was the collateral damage of these NPIs never properly taken into account?

Last edited 10 months ago by Rocky Martiano
Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
10 months ago
Reply to  Rocky Martiano

Well there is one paper, referenced in the RS offering that sort of addresses your questions :
Cross-Country Comparisons of Covid-19: Policy, Politics and the Price of Life  Balmford et al August 2020
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7400753/
It attempts to answer the question “How much was a life calculated to be worth during the early part of the pandemic in different countries”
The writing style in this paper is quite discursive and maybe even a bit cynical so it’s more interesting than most + they have some quite accurate modelling of mortality (confirmed by actual numbers after the fact) answering the question “What would have happened if we had done nothing ?”
It doesn’t deal with actual collateral damage and how one would determine that over 2,3 … 10 years. That data is still being gathered e.g. the number of people off work due to ill health in the UK now / next year; what effect has / is long covid having on the working population; how will the covid cohort of children (the ones in F/T education from 2020 – 2023) fare over the next 1 – 10 years; what are the mental health stats / outcomes over the next 5 years + and so on.
How anyone will make any sense of such data given the other confounders in life (cost of living / housing difficulties / exigiencies within the NHS / which “crisis” is the MSM screaming about today / how cold is this coming winter going to be ? etc) I have no idea.

Doug Mccaully
Doug Mccaully
10 months ago
Reply to  Rocky Martiano

Are books links? You might read Devi Shridar’s ‘Preventable.’ She’s a Professor of Global health, and a policy adviser for the Scottish, and UK govts, WHO, etc etc. You might read ‘Failures of State’ by a couple of ‘Times’ journalists, or ‘Spiked’ by Jeremy Farrar, head of the Wellcome Trust and SAGE adviser to UK govt. You might read Laura Spinney’s book on the Spanish flu outbreak of a century ago, where these debates were played out, nothing new under the sun. The advantage of books is that they give context to individual links. I’m not minded to dig out individual links, there are plenty out there and easily accessible. What’s an NPI by the way?

Rocky Martiano
Rocky Martiano
10 months ago
Reply to  Doug Mccaully

NPIs are non-pharmaceutical interventions (as stated in the first paragraph of the article). Maybe you didn’t read it?
The people you have quoted such as Devi Shridar and Jeremy Farrar are, like most of the government-appointed advisors, hardline proponents of NPIs, so hardly surprising they’d agree with what was done to us in the name of ‘science’.
The whole issue is that there were not enough contrarian voices on SAGE and the various other committees to provide some balance to the arguments, so the fanatics got their way pretty much on the nod. No evidence of any serious consideration of the harms of lockdown and other collateral damage which are now manifesting themselves in our daily lives.

Last edited 10 months ago by Rocky Martiano
Doug Mccaully
Doug Mccaully
10 months ago
Reply to  Rocky Martiano

A bit of an uncalled for smartarse reply there. The people I’ve mentioned are frontline scientists advising government in an emergency where delay literally cost lives. There was some unbalanced thinking, over reliance on computer modelling and not enough practical thinking, and no doubt they’ll do better next time, but by and large they did well, unlike the government. There was plenty of consideration of collateral damage but that’s the nature of dealing with difficult dilemmas, you have to make tough choices. Disagreeing with you doesn’t make someone a fanatic.

Doug Mccaully
Doug Mccaully
10 months ago
Reply to  Rocky Martiano

A bit of an uncalled for smartarse reply there. The people I’ve mentioned are frontline scientists advising government in an emergency where delay literally cost lives. There was some unbalanced thinking, over reliance on computer modelling and not enough practical thinking, and no doubt they’ll do better next time, but by and large they did well, unlike the government. There was plenty of consideration of collateral damage but that’s the nature of dealing with difficult dilemmas, you have to make tough choices. Disagreeing with you doesn’t make someone a fanatic.

Rocky Martiano
Rocky Martiano
10 months ago
Reply to  Doug Mccaully

NPIs are non-pharmaceutical interventions (as stated in the first paragraph of the article). Maybe you didn’t read it?
The people you have quoted such as Devi Shridar and Jeremy Farrar are, like most of the government-appointed advisors, hardline proponents of NPIs, so hardly surprising they’d agree with what was done to us in the name of ‘science’.
The whole issue is that there were not enough contrarian voices on SAGE and the various other committees to provide some balance to the arguments, so the fanatics got their way pretty much on the nod. No evidence of any serious consideration of the harms of lockdown and other collateral damage which are now manifesting themselves in our daily lives.

Last edited 10 months ago by Rocky Martiano
Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
10 months ago
Reply to  Rocky Martiano

Well there is one paper, referenced in the RS offering that sort of addresses your questions :
Cross-Country Comparisons of Covid-19: Policy, Politics and the Price of Life  Balmford et al August 2020
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7400753/
It attempts to answer the question “How much was a life calculated to be worth during the early part of the pandemic in different countries”
The writing style in this paper is quite discursive and maybe even a bit cynical so it’s more interesting than most + they have some quite accurate modelling of mortality (confirmed by actual numbers after the fact) answering the question “What would have happened if we had done nothing ?”
It doesn’t deal with actual collateral damage and how one would determine that over 2,3 … 10 years. That data is still being gathered e.g. the number of people off work due to ill health in the UK now / next year; what effect has / is long covid having on the working population; how will the covid cohort of children (the ones in F/T education from 2020 – 2023) fare over the next 1 – 10 years; what are the mental health stats / outcomes over the next 5 years + and so on.
How anyone will make any sense of such data given the other confounders in life (cost of living / housing difficulties / exigiencies within the NHS / which “crisis” is the MSM screaming about today / how cold is this coming winter going to be ? etc) I have no idea.

Doug Mccaully
Doug Mccaully
10 months ago
Reply to  Rocky Martiano

Are books links? You might read Devi Shridar’s ‘Preventable.’ She’s a Professor of Global health, and a policy adviser for the Scottish, and UK govts, WHO, etc etc. You might read ‘Failures of State’ by a couple of ‘Times’ journalists, or ‘Spiked’ by Jeremy Farrar, head of the Wellcome Trust and SAGE adviser to UK govt. You might read Laura Spinney’s book on the Spanish flu outbreak of a century ago, where these debates were played out, nothing new under the sun. The advantage of books is that they give context to individual links. I’m not minded to dig out individual links, there are plenty out there and easily accessible. What’s an NPI by the way?

Jim Haggerty
Jim Haggerty
10 months ago
Reply to  Doug Mccaully

So why was lockdown never included in any pandemic planning prior to 2020? How can you divorce if it was effective in saving lives without considering the lives lost from lockdown, deferred cancer screening & drug abuse, etc. Who was it effective for? the laptop class or the working class delivery person forced to support their family by delivering groceries to those laptop folks staying safely at home. God forbid the working stiffs live in a multi generational household with the grandparents

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
10 months ago
Reply to  Doug Mccaully

165 mill people slipped back into poverty. Is it ethically possible to ignore this number?

Rocky Martiano
Rocky Martiano
10 months ago
Reply to  Doug Mccaully

“Incidentally, there never was a simple choice to be made between lockdowns and social/economic harm, there is a ton of evidence from around the world to back this up.”
Would you like to provide links to some of this evidence? 
Simple choice, of course not. There are never simple choices in a complex situation like a pandemic. But choices to be made…there most certainly were. Why the monofocus on NPIs, for which the evidence is….well, inconclusive? Why was the collateral damage of these NPIs never properly taken into account?

Last edited 10 months ago by Rocky Martiano
Doug Mccaully
Doug Mccaully
10 months ago

This is a report into reduction of physical transmission by use of masks and social distancing, other reports will look at other issues. So we have dilemmas and trade offs needing to be made, and no doubt we will do things differently the next pandemic but the dilemmas are the same ones we have faced in every plague since we stopped being hunter gatherers. Babylonians, Greeks, Romans, mediaeval chroniclers all attest to this, the basic rules don’t change, this is a very old lockdown doctrine. There is a reason why outlier studies are outliers,  they are poorly peer reviewed and not corroborated by other studies, this is how science works. I wonder how many people who quote the Cochran report on masks have actually read it, or its peer review? If they did, they would see that Cochrane says its report is inconclusive, and it has been poorly peer reviewed. Incidentally, there never was a simple choice to be made between lockdowns and social/economic harm, there is a ton of evidence from around the world to back this up. We make our hard choices based on the hard evidence. If the choices are hard, we don’t cherry pick the evidence to make our choices easier.