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UK Covid inquiry turns its focus to Great Barrington Declaration

Carl Heneghan gives evidence at the Covid inquiry

October 21, 2023 - 3:00pm

This week the UK Covid inquiry briefly turned its attention to one of the most visible and consequential departures from the mainstream lockdown position in 2020: the Great Barrington Declaration. 

But in doing so, the inquiry revealed an alarming lack of professionalism among senior scientists towards dissenting viewpoints and a reluctance to seriously consider these perspectives in its own assessment of the evidence. 

The central premise of the GBD was that Covid policies were causing significant social harms and that a different approach, called “Focused Protection”, was required to balance viral control with population health and social wellbeing until we reached herd immunity.

Now we have learnt that the current UK Chief Scientific Adviser, Dame Angela McLean, called prominent lockdown critic Carl Heneghan, whose views were in line with the GBD, a “fuckwit” on a WhatsApp chat during a September 2020 Government meeting. Opposing lockdown was also considered “half-baked nonsense” by fellow Sage member John Edmunds, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Heneghan, director of the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine at the University of Oxford, was among 32 senior UK academics who published an open letter against lockdown as the Government was debating the autumn 2020 lockdown. According to the Guardian, writing at the time, this revealed that there was “a schism within the scientific community over how to tackle the second wave of coronavirus in the UK”. 

But this week, in the questioning of Heneghan’s support of the Great Barrington Declaration (he did not, in fact, sign it), the inquiry revealed an alarming lack of appreciation for what the document intended to achieve. 

The first, contrary to the inquiry’s assumption, was that the GBD did not make “clear how well the vulnerable segment could be protected from infection in practice”. Yet the Declaration itself never sought to be prescriptive: “a comprehensive and detailed list of measures, including approaches to multi-generational households, can be implemented, and is well within the scope and capability of public health professionals,” it wrote.

The inquiry also sought to advance the idea that the GBD was “flawed” because it advocated for younger people to “live their lives as normal”, which has been negatively presented in large sections of the media as a “let it rip strategy”. Heneghan argued that this did not mean people would not take any precautions, and pointed to the importance of voluntary behaviour change and the experience of Sweden. This was also confirmed by Prof. Mark Woolhouse, who noted that “with the legal requirement to stay at home, I haven’t seen any good analysis that says actually that was the killer punch that was really needed.”

Earlier this week, Neil Ferguson from Imperial College again reiterated that his widely-shared mathematical model, used to justify lockdown in 2020, did not account for voluntary behaviour change or the indirect consequences of restrictions on society. Heneghan also challenged the inquiry’s simplistic framing (and misunderstanding) of herd immunity, a central concept in the GBD, and the risks of long Covid.

In general, it would appear that the position of Heneghan and other scientists who supported the Great Barrington Declaration is now subject to different standards of questioning and evidence in the inquiry. Yet, these dissenting viewpoints are critical to understanding whether the Government’s actions were necessary and proportionate. 

In response to being called a “Fuckwit” by the current UK Chief Scientific Adviser, Heneghan’s response illuminated one of the central problems with the scientific community during the pandemic:

It is not unusual to find yourself in a position of disagreement. We call it uncertainty […] The very fact that you have opposing views shows you that there is a problem within the interpretation and the understanding of the evidence, but it also shows me a position of: that sort of language would mean I would become resistant to any other’s viewpoint or discussion.
- Carl Heneghan

Indeed, it has now become clear that Sage and its subgroups relied too much on a faulty consensus and ignored minority scientific views. Understanding the events of the Covid years demands that we engage in complex questions about risk, trade-offs, viral-host dynamics and human behaviour. The history of science and medicine often shows us that, with time, those brave enough to offer dissenting voices can often end up being in the right. 

The lack of professionalism among the mainstream scientific community, together with a worrying sidelining of reasoned opposition, veers into the world of dogma.


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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Nik Jewell
Nik Jewell
9 months ago

Heneghan’s 67-page submission is a valuable resource:
https://trusttheevidence.substack.com/p/heneghan-covid-inquiry-evidence-report
The enquiry is going to be a whitewash.

Fredrich Nicecar
Fredrich Nicecar
9 months ago
Reply to  Nik Jewell

As are all enquiries, it seems.

AC Harper
AC Harper
9 months ago
Reply to  Nik Jewell

I predict the conclusion to be “The COVID Pandemic was complex and difficult to manage. Some decisions were made on poor or insufficient information, but so many people and organisations around the world were involved that no particular person or organisation bears a significant proportion of blame.”
I’ll also predict that “lessons will be learned” – which will not be implemented.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
9 months ago
Reply to  AC Harper

Your last point: those weasel words are the death knell of any enquiry, the NHS being the worst example of their use in sweeping under the deepest carpet.

Nik Jewell
Nik Jewell
9 months ago
Reply to  AC Harper

Tom Jefferson yesterday:
“We will get back on some of the issues that yesterday’s session shed light on, but in my view, this is going to go as follows: it was all Boris’s fault and Rishi’s (politely referred to as “Dr Death” in the exchange). We should have locked down harder, sooner and longer, and bang SARS-CoV-2 would have vanished like snow off a d**e. “Follow the models” will be the Inquiry’s closing motto.”
Jeremy Farrar’s Spike (June 2021) is largely an argument for this view. He is now Chief Scientist at the WHO, and the WHO Pandemic Accord takes sovereign powers from governments globally to mandate lockdowns.
This is the ‘big picture’ here, and there is little resistance in Parliament (Bridgen, Chope, McVey) to any of this. We can’t have an enquiry that concludes the opposite.
In Freddie’s interview with Jonathan Sumption, the latter homes in on the flaw in this approach. By imposing global solutions, we lose control groups. If it were not for Sweden bucking the ‘lockstep’ approach, we wouldn’t now know the extent to which many NPIs were ineffective.

Last edited 9 months ago by Nik Jewell
Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
8 months ago
Reply to  Nik Jewell

The WHO thing is a red herring IMO. It’s a toothless tiger with zero power. Any sovereign nation can flip the middle finger and say no thanks, we’re not following your guidelines. What it does, however, is give incompetent political leaders a convenient excuse to implement unpopular policies they would pursue anyway – were just following international law.

Jane H
Jane H
8 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

If the UK and the other almost 200 countries sign up next year to the Global Pandemic Treaty the WHO will most certainly not be a toothless tiger. It will be a legally binding agreement although sovereignty will be respected UNLESS and here’s the devil in the detail ‘the decisions made by the sovereign nation put the health and welfare of its’ citizens at risk’.

jlhaggerty
jlhaggerty
8 months ago
Reply to  Jane H

I’m not sure how binding in the USA without the approval of Congress which won’t do it And that State Governors have great power over Health policy as was evident during COVID

Jane H
Jane H
8 months ago
Reply to  jlhaggerty

It will be written In the Global Pandemic Treaty that Congress can be bypassed during a global pandemic emergency. The details of the Treaty are being formulated now although meetings and minutes of those meetings are not being published and for something so monumental there’s a media blackout. I’m hoping there will be state governor rebellion but as for Congress that one’s been dealt with already.

Jane H
Jane H
8 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Unfortunately they are not guidelines, this Treaty is legally binding.

Phil Broom
Phil Broom
8 months ago
Reply to  AC Harper

You forgot to add, ‘my account number and sort code are at the bottom of my invoice ‘ The gravy train still rolls on.

John Thorogood
John Thorogood
9 months ago

So what does this behaviour tell us about the debate about climate change and the ruthless no-platforming of dissenting views?
Discuss…….

Robbie K
Robbie K
9 months ago
Reply to  John Thorogood

Absolutely nothing. The science and debate around climate change has evolved over a period of 40 years, as opposed to an intense couple of weeks.

JOHN KANEFSKY
JOHN KANEFSKY
9 months ago
Reply to  Robbie K

That statement is a failure of logic. The fact that they evolved in different timeframes doesn’t mean that there cannot be lessons learnt from one to the other.

The two do have common elements – groupthink, belittling of differing views, bullying and marginalizing dissent.

The most important thing a real scientist does is weigh evidence and evaluate differing interpretations fairly.

Neither has happened / is happening re covid and climate.

Robbie K
Robbie K
9 months ago
Reply to  JOHN KANEFSKY

You’re right in saying the two have common elements – after all the people behind Great Barrington are also well known climate change sceptics and deniers.
This is actually very revealing, since it shows the same group to be far from ‘free thinkers’ and more of conspiracy theorists who deserve to be dismissed from both debates.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
8 months ago
Reply to  Robbie K

Do you actually know if Sunetra Gupta, Jay Bhattacharya and Martin Kulldorff are climate change deniers.

Last edited 8 months ago by Jim Veenbaas
UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
8 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

He has absolutely no idea, and I highly doubt that someone as prominent as Bhattacharya would have a one-sided view on the climate change issue (it’s easily verifiable, actually). But, as always with Robbie, if he can’t attack someone on logical grounds, it’s useful to resort to any straw man at hand.

Last edited 8 months ago by UnHerd Reader
Stephen Follows
Stephen Follows
8 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

He doesn’t, of course, but if he cared to look, he would find that many highly eminent scientists have produced work demonstrating that ‘climate change’ is a complete nonsense.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
8 months ago
Reply to  Robbie K

Do you not know that as an academic, you cannot get funding if you don’t follow the accepted and desired narrative?

Last edited 8 months ago by Lesley van Reenen
Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
8 months ago
Reply to  JOHN KANEFSKY

The climate debate has evolved. It has become even more hysterical over the last 30 years, despite the massive failure of apocalyptic predictions – no increase in severe weather, no increase in forest fires, no decrease in ag production, no increase in poverty (until Covid policies changed that), no ice free arctic, no islands sinking into the sea etc. etc.

Kat L
Kat L
8 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

It’s not the arctic losing ice, it’s the Antarctic. I grew up in the Midwest and then moved to Texas where armadillos were pretty common; I had never seen one prior to the move. In the late 90’s to early 00’s, they started appearing 2 states up. It’s happening you just have to open your eyes. Now what is the best way to deal with is the pertinent question. Govt has proven reliably that they choose the worst possible, least effective option every single time.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
8 months ago
Reply to  Kat L

I didn’t say the planet isn’t warming and I didn’t say there was no impact. Of course a warming world will have changes. What I said is the hysterical predictions have sailed to materialize.

Jane H
Jane H
8 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

No mention of the great barrier reef now, because it’s growing back again.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
8 months ago
Reply to  JOHN KANEFSKY

The two also have the same critical principle attached: follow the money.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
8 months ago
Reply to  Robbie K

The ‘debate’ around climate change hasn’t evolved at all because it was shut down years ago.

Jane H
Jane H
8 months ago
Reply to  Robbie K

Seems like a lot of the global modelling tools have no credibility now as a large proportion of temperature gauges (thermometers) are placed in urban environments thereby skewing readings upwards! Oops!!

Last edited 8 months ago by Jane H
Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
8 months ago
Reply to  Robbie K

Yeah. We’ve watched it go from “you’re all going to freeze to death/drown in rising oceans/burn alive unless you give us money” for 40+ years.

Derrick Byford
Derrick Byford
8 months ago
Reply to  Robbie K

Wrong. Too many parallels. Almost total reliance on models – usually starting from invalid assumptions (RCP8.5 springs to mind) – see climate moderate Pielke Jrs devastating expose of the errors and continuing disingenuous use of it by so-called scientists.
Failure to accommodate inconvenient evidence. Useful idiots to regurgitate agenda-driven fear-mongering etc etc.
BTW what is a “climate scientist” – how many with a deep understanding of, and can assimilate all the following??
solar cycles, orbital dynamics, fluid dynamics, thermodynamics, chaos theory, ocean currents, cloud formation, atmospheric chemistry, land use, UHI development, satellite telemetry, volcanic activity, statistics, computer modelling, solar radiation, milankovic cycles, weather history, economic development etc etc

Albireo Double
Albireo Double
8 months ago

They must think we’re stupid.
Science, by definition, seeks contrary views, and to be proved wrong – this is its strength. So there’s no such thing as “settled science”. It’s a contradiction in terms. An Oxymoron.
Science that is described as settled has moved to being a view, or opinion.
A view or opinion that is made by denigrating the holders of differing views, has often moved to being an untruth, or lie.
It’s consistent. It works with COVID, Climate Change, Critical Race theory, Gender self-identification, and more.
Hell, it even worked when people were telling us in the 1970’s that the oil would run out in five minutes’ time.
Never failed yet.

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
8 months ago
Reply to  Albireo Double

“They must think we’re stupid.”
Absolutely!
And you keep proving us right!

Albireo Double
Albireo Double
8 months ago

Your comment falls well short of your usual standard of occasional mediocrity. Perhaps you should take a little nap and try again.

Andrew Dalton
Andrew Dalton
8 months ago
Reply to  Albireo Double

His Open AI bot must have crashed. He didn’t even say “swivel-eyed loon.”

Susan Grabston
Susan Grabston
9 months ago

Groupthink and arrogance created lockstep lockdowns; shame and fear will maintain its legitimacy in post hoc evaluation. We had a national protocol for a pandemic which was not dissimilar from the GBT – it was ignored.

Doug Mccaully
Doug Mccaully
8 months ago
Reply to  Susan Grabston

Are you referring to the CYGNUS epidemic readiness exercise of 2016? It accurately the mess we got into and made recommendations, none of which were implemented. The study was kept under wraps, and we ran down of stockpiles of PPE.

Stephen Walsh
Stephen Walsh
9 months ago

Not only did Dame Angela McLean refer to Prof. Carl Heneghan in those terms, she also called Rishi Sunak Dr. Death for devising “Eat Out to Help Out”. Yet she was appointed Chief Scientific Advisor in April 2023 regardless. Heaven help us when the McLean and Starmer combination supercharge the bully state.

Last edited 9 months ago by Stephen Walsh
Dumetrius
Dumetrius
9 months ago

If whining about ‘lack of professionalism’ is all you’ve got, you’re in trouble.

AC Harper’s predicted outcome wording is probably right, but it is also accurate.

I ignored lockdowns pretty much – and justifiably – but it was a dangerous time to do it, and a baseline for that was that you had to expect to have no allies.

Karl Juhnke
Karl Juhnke
9 months ago
Reply to  Dumetrius

Some of us expect professionals to be held to a professional standard. Obviously you don’t, yet you say AC Harper’s predicted outcomes from these unprofessional professionals is accurate. Then despite agreeing with unprofessional professionals that they didn’t have enough information etc you were able to justify ignoring lockdowns. So we have you cruising around and ignoring what you saw as accurate information at the time from unprofessional professionals whilst most of us followed community expectations, although we didn’t necessarily agree. Then although your actions seemed dangerous to you (and others?) you went ahead with them anyway. So you are correct in not expecting any allies. That’s what happens when you have no regard for others. I publicly disagreed with the lockdowns and agreed with The Great Barrington Declaration, but I was not so arrogant and full of self importance that I was willing to disregard the bulk of the community at that time.

Dumetrius
Dumetrius
9 months ago
Reply to  Karl Juhnke

My actions were not only not dangerous, they did not seem dangerous to me.

Can we agree on this thing where you don’t make false assertions about my state of mind – it’s going to be a disaster for you, since you are not privy to it? Geddit?

I was pretty sure I’d 1. not had covid. 2. was unlikely to get it, and 3. I was right.

I’m also right here.

The fact is that the whining about lack of professionalism is thin pickings for an article, and it points to a lack of anything more substantive.

The lack of substantiveness derives from inherent problems with the GBD – its lack of detail on shielding the vulnerable etc

The degraded public health infrastructure in the UK , community nursing and the like, meant there was no infrastructure to put in place any detailed strategies in this area, even if the writers of the Great Barrington Declaration had thought fit to include some.

Which they didn’t – they probably knew, just as anyone with experience in the sector knows – that the infrastructure wasn’t there and they’d look fools if they got into it in greater detail.

So they restricted themselves to windy proclamations.

Last edited 9 months ago by Dumetrius
Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
8 months ago
Reply to  Dumetrius

The intent of the GBD authors was not to map out a detailed plan. It was meant to spark meaningful discussion and warn people about the dangers of full lockdowns.

Rocky Martiano
Rocky Martiano
8 months ago
Reply to  Dumetrius

Despite the degraded public health infrastructure in the UK we managed to waste tens of billions on unused PPE, a track and trace system that didn’t work and fraudulent handouts through the laughably leaky business support schemes (which wouldn’t have been necessary if the GBD recommendations had been implemented). Why couldn’t a fraction of that money have been spent on shielding the vulnerable?

Nicholas Croft
Nicholas Croft
8 months ago
Reply to  Karl Juhnke

There was evidence in the medical literature – preprints – as early as April 2020 on WHO was most at risk.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
8 months ago
Reply to  Dumetrius

We moved from New England to Florida when Florida was considered Covid Death Ground Zero. Still haven’t gotten the virus, still haven’t submitted to the shot. And we’re both in our 60s.

Fran Martinez
Fran Martinez
8 months ago

We now know who the real fuckwits are.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
8 months ago
Reply to  Fran Martinez

The mere use of that very unscientific, uncivilized term speaks volumes of the character of one Dame Angela McLean.

jim peden
jim peden
8 months ago

The GBD (which I am happy to have signed) was virtually a restatement of the October 2019 WHO pandemic guidelines hastily revised in March 2020 to sanction lockdowns, masks, and other previously untried interventions. Decades of experience of handling pandemics without beggaring us all were cast into the fire with the stroke of a pen.

Paul T
Paul T
8 months ago

One thing the inquiry should specifically study is that of the national “tone” during these events; what were the press and Labour (as HM Opposition) saying about the government’s performance, what were the press reporting from other countries. Were they, Labour and the press, being consistent from one week / day to the next? How much of the tone was directed by aggressive and partisan hindsight? How did that tone square with the eventual position the UK found itself in; about the middle of the pack on major events? Why did there appear to be different rules for Boris’ Birthday Cake when compared to Keir’s Beers?

Yes, the tone of the national debate (which is rarely in the hands of the government) which was directed principally by the press and the Opposition needs to be reviewed as, from my observations, it was used solely to undermine, contradict and blame the government for everything and anything.

Ralph Hanke
Ralph Hanke
8 months ago

I urge that we consider that COVID damage may be considered at two levels of analysis. Population level and individual level.

At the individual level, if my friend dies from COVID it is indeed a tragedy because, well, it was my friend.

At the population level, if 10,000,000 out of 8,000,000,000 people had died from COVID—which is .125 % of the human species—we see the human species could easily have soldiered on.

The problem, as I perceive it, is that we find it difficult to swallow those 10,000,000 individual tragedies.

And so we readily commit what is known as the population fallacy: what is best for the individual is best for the population as a whole. Which differs from the ecological fallacy, which has us claim that what is best for the population is best for the individual.

Surely we were caught between a rock and a hard place. And that place may very well contributes to the polarization of views surrounding COVID.

George Tyrebyter
George Tyrebyter
8 months ago

I signed the GBD. Thousands of other medical, scientific, and public health professionals signed the GBD. The GBD would have led to a path like Sweden’s where the government did not shut down, commercial activity would not have stopped, and yet vulnerable populations would have been protected.

JĂŒrg Gassmann
JĂŒrg Gassmann
8 months ago

 … veers into the world of dogma

What marvellous understatement!

Paul T
Paul T
8 months ago

If we could distill the whole covid disaster down to 30 simple yes / no questions and we could have had a perfect outcome that would have been lovely. After all, it’s only 30 questions so there must be an easily discernible perfect course through those questions right?

Unfortunately those 30 questions have 60 potential answers and there are an infinite number of combinations of those answers; there is consequently no possibility to get a perfect outcome which we know is the case since no country had a perfect outcome.

Why do we have to have an expensive inquiry that is gong to say just this?

j watson
j watson
9 months ago

The points about danger of Group-Think are well made and seems as if many in scientific community recognise that and open to serious reflection. That’s obviously what we need.

The issue remains that proponents of the GBD continue to evade giving policy examples of how they’d apply the theory. And they certainly don’t therefore have any modelling as a result. If we are to learn this has always been the question.

GBD should not get too loosely conflated either with voluntary Lockdown behaviour. Both lack modelling. A reliance on Sweden as test-case only holds so far given Sweden is c150th in pop density and UK c30th.

Last edited 9 months ago by j watson
Nik Jewell
Nik Jewell
9 months ago
Reply to  j watson

I’ve just written the same as a reply to AC Harper, but it’s been “held for approval”.

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
8 months ago
Reply to  j watson

We don’t need to model voluntary actions, we now have real world examples, Sweden, Zanzibar, several US states. And I’m not sure how we got onto the GBD – Heneghan makes it clear he didn’t sign it.

laurence scaduto
laurence scaduto
8 months ago

The States offer many wonderful comparisons in lockdowns, masking and vaccination. The problem is that the group-thinkers won’t stop monkeying with the data. Six becomes nine with a wave of the hand.
But using the dashboard of data that the NYT published every day it was impossible to make a good case for any of the popular NPIs.
Of course the real problem is that so many of us were happily ignoring the rules. As usual.

Doug Mccaully
Doug Mccaully
9 months ago

Its interesting that as far as I am aware, no country on the planet managed to put in place a ‘comprehensive and detailed set of measures’ to protect the vulnerable, without using lockdowns. Sweden certainly didn’t.

Robbie K
Robbie K
9 months ago
Reply to  Doug Mccaully

Totally agree. No country attempted this delusional concept of ‘focussed protection’.

Doug Mccaully
Doug Mccaully
8 months ago
Reply to  Robbie K

Its a bit of a fuckwitted idea isn’t it

Andrew Dalton
Andrew Dalton
8 months ago
Reply to  Robbie K

Totally disagree. Every country implemented a general lockdown that failed in the goal of protecting the vulnerable AND trashed economies, ruined education and worsened medical outcomes for every condition that wasn’t covid.
Oddly enough, Sweden wins in terms of all-cause excess mortality rates from 2020-22.

Last edited 8 months ago by Andrew Dalton
Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
8 months ago
Reply to  Doug Mccaully

Who exactly did general lockdowns protect? They didn’t protect older people with the resources necessary to properly isolate. They could do that regardless of lockdowns. They didn’t protect people living in senior care homes. They didn’t protect older people living with children who worked outside the home. So who does this leave us with? I suppose seniors living with people who were paid to stay home from work.

Doug Mccaully
Doug Mccaully
8 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

OK. The virus seriously kicks off in the UK in March or so 2020. Jabs went into the first arms in December or so, by April/May or so of 2021 we had vaccinated enough people for the death rate to fall off a cliff. That left a period of maximum danger of maybe nine months, and its during that time the lockdowns took place. In the UK lockdowns were botched, and were reactive to massive infection and very high death rates. In more sensibly organised countries lockdowns were introduced earlier and were able to choke off increases in infection rates because there were fewer infections. What competent lockdowns did was to keep death rates low, until the vaccine took over. Competent lockdowns did protect elderly people because their families and those looking after them had lower infection rates. There are plenty of countries which were able to do this, I’ve already given a list, with death rates. 

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
8 months ago
Reply to  Doug Mccaully

What countries implemented effective general lockdowns? As far as I can tell, the death rate for Covid was largely determined by population density, the health and age demographics of a community, the physical isolation of a community, the resources available for a community to vaccinate people. That’s why when you factor in these variables, the death rate really wasn’t that much different between Florida and California.

You can’t simply look at the death rates of a country without taking these things into account. And you can cite stats that Sweden had so many more Covid deaths, but it’s equally easy to show evidence that its all-cause mortality rate was amongst the lowest in Europe.

As far as I can tell, the only people who benefited from general lockdowns were vulnerable people living with family who were paid to stay home. How many people did this really save?

Now we have to account for the damage caused by general lockdowns, the damage to the economy, the damage damage to the social and mental health of children.

Doug Mccaully
Doug Mccaully
8 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Malaysia, South Korea, Senegal, Australia New Zealand Greece, Czech Republic Slovakia etc all had general lockdowns and all had lower population adjusted death rates than we did, some extraordinarily lower.
Death rates are highly influenced by population density, demographics, social spending, baseline health etc but when you compare like with like, Sweden Denmark and Norway, for example, Sweden’s death rate was twice as high as its close neighbours, though lower than other countries more naturally prone to quick spread of epidemics. If you implemented Swedish methods in Naples for example, you’d most likely have carnage.
Do you really think there was no damage to social and mental health of children in countries with runaway death rates and no or ineffective lockdowns? The virus messed us up far more than [properly administered] lockdowns.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
8 months ago
Reply to  Doug Mccaully

And like I said, Sweden had lower all cause mortality than its neighbors. You can’t simply wave that away.

Here’s something that I don’t think can be denied. 165 million people have been pushed into poverty because of Covid. The number of people living on less than $2 a day decreased every year starting in 1998. That trend ended in 2020. Of course, the overwhelming number of these people are from Africa, where Covid deaths were not nearly as prevalent. The economic and social damage caused by lockdowns has been overwhelming and undeniable.

Doug Mccaully
Doug Mccaully
8 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Sweden had twice the covid deaths of its neighbours, this is very well recorded, including in Sweden’s own covid report. How do you know 165 million people were pushed into poverty by covid? How do you strip out wars, climate change, all sorts of things, blaming everything on covid is unscientific. In any case, the fact of covid pushing people into poverty has nothing to do with lockdowns, many African countries didn’t have lockdowns. Africa is a big place and you can’t simply say covid deaths weren’t as prevalent, its going to take years to produce accurate data on this. Senegal, for instance, recognised that their health service wasn’t strong enough to fight a runaway epidemic, and imposed lockdowns. They had remarkably few deaths. South Africa had many deaths, but its a relatively urbanised country with very high levels of AIDS and TB. You claim the evidence of economic and social damage caused by lockdowns is overwhelming but you haven’t given me evidence for that.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
8 months ago
Reply to  Doug Mccaully

Extreme poverty decreased continuously and consistently for 25 years and then suddenly stopped in 2020. There’s no question it was Covid and I don’t think anyone seriously disputes that.

There are many reasons. Many poor nations implemented lockdowns themselves. Markets were shut down etc. Others poor nations didn’t implement lockdowns. For some people, poverty arrived with manufacturing and business disruptions caused by supply chain isuues.

The biggest reason poverty continues to increase today is inflation and interest rates. According to the UN, increased debt servicing costs have reduced expenditures on social programs.

Clearly, I’m not going to change your mind about lockdowns, but none of this is surprising. People were well aware of the dangers caused by lockdowns long before Covid hit. This isn’t radical thinking on my part.

The sad part of it all is crap rolls downhill. We in the west are still suffering from lockdowns today, but it’s nothing compared to the pain for people in poor nations.

Doug Mccaully
Doug Mccaully
8 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

I don’t doubt that covid disrupted trade and increased poverty. That’s covid, not lockdowns.
No ones disputing the fact that lockdowns were harmful, but rampant covid was worse. Viet Nam is another poor nation which instigated effective lockdowns, had a very low death rate, and a quick economic recovery. The evidence is there, buckets of it, but if you simply call it crap then so be it. 

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
8 months ago
Reply to  Doug Mccaully

Global trade was disrupted as a result of political decision and this decision was to lock entire countries down. This happened against long-standing WHO guidelines, against warnings of UNICEF (see 2020’s “COVID-19 and Children” report) and against the past experience of country-wide lockdowns in Sierra Leone in. 2014. In short, COVID didn’t throw vast swathes of the “third-world” back into poverty. Lockdowns did.

Doug Mccaully
Doug Mccaully
8 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

So covid appeared, and over the next few months we watched with gathering horror as a new virus about which we knew nothing, and for which we had no treatment, cut a swathe through Italy, Spain, Iran, India, New York etc, killing tens of thousands, making vast numbers of people seriously ill, and overwhelming health services, knowing that it was weeks before it hit us too. Are you seriously suggesting that didn’t affect global and domestic trade? That’s just not sensible. Most third world countries which experienced an increase in poverty didn’t lock down. I know the WHO report you mentioned, nowhere does it come down against lockdowns, it cautions against poorly implemented lockdowns [as we had in the UK] and it mentions the downsides of lockdowns, which no one denies. When it references Sierra Leone, it refers to the Ebola outbreak, not an air spread virus, totally unlike Covid. 

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
8 months ago
Reply to  Doug Mccaully

I don’t even know how Covid itself could significantly impact the economy. What’s the mechanism? It wasn’t really a threat for working age people.

Doug Mccaully
Doug Mccaully
8 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

People didn’t go out, they earned less, they bought less, they travelled less, they didn’t buy houses or cars etc. People who are scared of what the future might bring don’t throw their money around.

Last edited 8 months ago by Doug Mccaully
Andrew Dalton
Andrew Dalton
8 months ago
Reply to  Doug Mccaully

All-cause mortality. It’s not like Jim hasn’t said that about three times, but keep hand waving it away. Do you think people who died from Covid are worth more than people who died from something else?

Doug Mccaully
Doug Mccaully
8 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Dalton

Well here in the UK we had 229,000 covid deaths. We had increased deaths because of disruption to cancer care, heart care etc. but that was caused by the fact that the hospitals were full to bursting with covid patients, not because of lockdowns. One of the interesting stats is that excess mortality [all cause?] went down in effectively locked down countries but went up in un locked down countries. Norway, -19 deaths per 100,000, Sweden +102, Taiwan -24, South Korea -9, New Zealand -50, US +182, UK + UK + 180 etc. This was replicated throughout the world, with local variations. Stick to the evidence and keep the cheap shots to yourself.

Last edited 8 months ago by Doug Mccaully
Nicholas Croft
Nicholas Croft
8 months ago
Reply to  Doug Mccaully

What was the average age of those who died with Covid?

Doug Mccaully
Doug Mccaully
8 months ago
Reply to  Nicholas Croft

Make your point

Julian Newman
Julian Newman
8 months ago
Reply to  Doug Mccaully

Doug – I am not sure what you mean by “Covid deaths”. As I understand it, any death where the deceased had had Covid was recorded in the UK as a Covid death, even if the immediate direct cause of death was something different. Of course this effect of sloppy recording may have been exaggerated, but also it may have varied from country to country, or even from one local authority to another. Until random samples of the data and recording practices have been double checked for rigour, I doubt that any firm conclusions can be reached in either direction. I don’t think this issue has been raised in the UK’s Covid enquiry. It ought to have been.

Doug Mccaully
Doug Mccaully
8 months ago
Reply to  Julian Newman

I’m sure this issue will be looked at in the UK covid enquiry. There is quite good evidence, though I can’t quote if from memory, that in the early acute phase, covid deaths were under reported due to the newness of the situation and the craziness of those times, who knows. Putting covid as the cause of death in the UK works like this: If you have a chronic illness, heart disease, diabetes etc, but could reasonably look forward to years more of life, and get covid which carries you off, then the cause of death is covid. This is the standard way of attributing cause of death in this country. Thanks for your polite tone, its not always the case.

Last edited 8 months ago by Doug Mccaully
Andrew Dalton
Andrew Dalton
8 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

The only people who benefited from lockdown were the laptop class and bureaucrats.

iambic mouth
iambic mouth
8 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

It’s indeed interesting to observe how the apologists of lockdowns univocally ignore the damage lockdowns did to the third world and, especially, to children in the so-called third world. Leaving aside c. 350 million people thrown into food insecurity, UNICEF reported a 13% increase in learning poverty that would cost around $21 trillion in lost income. Half a billion children globally missed 1.5 year of schooling (just look at Christakis famous/infamous study in JAMA Pediatrics how many years of live lost it cost in the USA). Not to mention the global rise of child slavery, forced labour, forced marriages, job displacement, missed jabs, treatments and so on, and so for – one could list those detrimental effectsfor hours on end.
And, to paraphrase Hoover Institution’s Peter Robinson:
“In March 2020, just as the nation was being locked down, the New Yorker Magazine published a review of a new book by two Princeton economists, and the book was titled “The Death of Despair and the Future of Capitalism.” The central finding was that unemployment leads to an array of pathologies – drug abuse, depression, alcoholism, etc. – which cut short people’s lives. The headline of the review was “Why the Americans are Dying from Despair?” the subhead read, “The unfairness of our economy can be measured not only in dollars but also in deaths.” In other words, as the economies were being locked down, The New Yorker published a review of the book that made it very clear that economists do understand the correlation between unemployment and deaths. In fact, every single percentage increase in unemployment suggests an increase in a certain increase in alcoholism, depression, and death; it’s all well understood.
Then, the lockdown comes, and the entire argument about the death of despair among economists disappears. As long as the argument is useful to attack capitalism and free markets, we will trumpet the arguments in The New Yorker. But if the argument is used to question the policy of the lockdowns, it goes down the memory hall.”
My thesis is that anyone who still, in 2023, claims that lockdowns were a success, has their rational reasoning damaged by high levels of cortisol and tachykinin-2, induced by irrational fear-mongering pedalled by the media all over the world. Yes, lockdowns we success, in the same way that Roman conquest resulted in peace and prosperity. Calgacus’ famous words quoted by Tacitus, “Solitudinem faciunt, pacem appellant” – are equally as applicable here.

Last edited 8 months ago by iambic mouth
JĂŒrg Gassmann
JĂŒrg Gassmann
8 months ago
Reply to  Doug Mccaully

If you really believe (firmly with all your heart) that, contrary to all evidence, lockdowns work, then you should have objected to a generalised lockdown.
Protecting the vulnerable only works if the the protection of the vulnerable is stronger than the protection of the non-vulnerable. If everyone is equally protected, then the vulnerable are just as exposed as the non-vulnerable.
It may take longer, but it does not change the dynamic.

Doug Mccaully
Doug Mccaully
8 months ago

None of what you’ve just written makes sense to me. I’ve given reams of specific evidence and received precious little response to it, other than harrumphing. What is this evidence you’re talking about, I’d love to know.
Your remarks on protection of the vulnerable are strange. The vulnerable are only as protected as those who look after them and associate with them. If these people are more protected [by lockdowns] then the vulnerable are more protected, as Sweden found out to it’s cost. By ‘It may take longer, but it does not change the dynamic’ I take to mean that lockdown or no lockdown, in the end, countries have the deaths they inevitably have, correct me if I’m wrong. This might be true if there were no vaccines but there are, so the lockdowns gave us increased levels of protection during the 14 months or so prior to effective levels of mass vaccination.

Doug Mccaully
Doug Mccaully
8 months ago

Sunetra Gupta’s idea of herd immunity is unusual. She seems to be equating established infections like colds and flu with the more dangerous, highly infectious covid, from which we had no immunity at all, and claiming that we could achieve a herd immunity without a huge number of deaths. Remember what the common cold did to the native population of the Americas.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
8 months ago
Reply to  Doug Mccaully

That GBD was released in October, 2020. The nature of the disease and its threat was well understood by then. We knew that it was dangerous to only a small subset of the population. We also knew the flu was more dangerous to another subset of the population.

Doug Mccaully
Doug Mccaully
8 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Covid was way more dangerous than flu in October 2020. Without a vaccine, we could reasonably have expected at least one more spike in deaths of up to1000 deaths a day, for maybe several weeks, maybe several spikes, and the collapse of the NHS, and we didn’t know when of even if we would get an effective vaccine at that time. Behind every death from covid we saw hundreds of seriously ill people, many with life changing conditions, about 1.8 million people in the UK have long covid, mostly contracted in pre vaccine days. There are plenty of notifiable diseases in the UK than don’t usually kill you, but we take them extremely seriously because of the harm they cause, but the problem with perceptions of covid is that if a person doesn’t die of the virus they’re invisible.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
8 months ago
Reply to  Doug Mccaully

The only people I know who got Covid -sometimes twice – are those who got the shot(s).

Doug Mccaully
Doug Mccaully
8 months ago

No one is suggesting that the shots give lifelong immunity, its not that kind of virus, but the shots gave those people enough immunity for the virus not to kill them and almost certainly not to give them long covid. You can’t get covid twice if you’re dead.

Nicholas Croft
Nicholas Croft
8 months ago
Reply to  Doug Mccaully

Way more dangerous, to a small subset of the population. Agreed. Hence GBD.

Doug Mccaully
Doug Mccaully
8 months ago
Reply to  Nicholas Croft

229,000 deaths aint small

Last edited 8 months ago by Doug Mccaully
Nicholas Croft
Nicholas Croft
8 months ago
Reply to  Doug Mccaully

How many 80-84 year olds die per year?

Nicholas Croft
Nicholas Croft
8 months ago
Reply to  Doug Mccaully
Doug Mccaully
Doug Mccaully
8 months ago
Reply to  Nicholas Croft

OK you’re not being callous but you are being thoughtless. I can’t get on your link but 229,000 is 229,000, it isn’t diminished by comparing it with something else. In a country of knocking on 60 million people the background death rate will be very large, but that doesn’t diminish covid deaths. 229,000 is similar to all UK deaths in the second world war, for example.
If you haven’t seen my post on the unpleasant manner of death that pre vaccine infected people suffered, then take a look, it will concentrate your mind. Then there’s the serious illness that’s invisible because it seems you have to die in order to be visible, in covid terms. What else can I say? Beware of turning into an armchair eugenicist, its a slippery slope.

Last edited 8 months ago by Doug Mccaully
Nicholas Croft
Nicholas Croft
8 months ago
Reply to  Doug Mccaully

Agreed, ghastly way to go.
But, gosh, that’s a bit of a leap. Clever turn of phrase though “armchair eugenicist”.
I’m positing, well, I’m not, your ONS is – that the 229,000 was part of the normal background death rate, hence the “with” covid as opposed to explicitly and only “from” covid.
Or rather the – exclusively – “from” covid was a MUCH smaller number. About ..0.03%.
Shame you can’t download the excel spreadsheets.

Last edited 8 months ago by Nicholas Croft
Doug Mccaully
Doug Mccaully
8 months ago
Reply to  Nicholas Croft

I’m being deadly serious about the armchair eugenicism. There’s a callousness about some of these over detached analyses. Sometimes its willed callousness, more often its a failure to join up the dots. Ethics, as taught in med school wouldn’t accept that we effectively abandon the elderly and vulnerable because their safety doesn’t carry enough weight in the grand scheme of things, and that’s the logic of what I think you’re saying. I’m not sure what you’re saying about my figure of 229,000 deaths. These are people with covid as cause of death as written on their death certificates. I’m not trying to pick a fight with you by the way, but having spent a working lifetime trying to heal the sick, I can tell you that any clinician I’ve worked with would find this logic morally unacceptable.

Nicholas Croft
Nicholas Croft
8 months ago
Reply to  Doug Mccaully

Oh. I think see where you’re coming from.
No, “just let them die” is utterly monstrous. Couldn’t be further from my thinking, core values or intent. Apologies if my sloppy writing suggested otherwise.
I’m suggesting 229k is er, a little over-egged? And there’s evidence to back it up.
https://pandauncut.substack.com/p/actuarial-and-statistical-problems

Last edited 8 months ago by Nicholas Croft
Doug Mccaully
Doug Mccaully
8 months ago
Reply to  Nicholas Croft

Thanks for this, This is what I look for in discussion sites, discussion, not ranting. I semi skimmed your link and I’m afraid as far as I’m concerned this is armchair eugenics on steroids. Its becoming increasing recognised that the experts relied too much on stats and not enough on clinical knowledge and direct observation. This guy is all stats and no clinical knowledge at all, cue alarm bells. His provocative politicised hyperbole, his wild, unevidenced claims are a world away from sober, cautious incremental medical science. Serious science lives and dies by peer review, as far as I am aware, there is none, probably because this doesn’t present as serious science. The article claims that countries with similar population characteristics experience different outcomes [ not evidenced] but this doesn’t appear to be true, compare Sweden with the rest of Scandinavia for instance. Stats linking increased global starvation with lockdowns are very dodgy. What about civil wars, climate disasters etc? Most of these countries didn’t lock down so the only link can be with the fact of the pandemic. The article makes outrageous claims: Universities are too close to big pharma, but they aren’t in big pharma’s pocket. Social distancing increases infection risk to the vulnerable? Common sense and observation says it doesn’t. Putting Covid on death certificates was a ‘political’ judgment not a clinical one? That’s outrageous. The thought experiment is ridiculous. Patients unnecessarily put on ventilators [evidence?] Ventilator mortality rate of 90%? In the UK it was about 60%. Govts bought vaccines before their efficacy was determined? The Russian and maybe the Chinese vaccines proved to be not as good, and both govts used these out of national pride but the rest is bunk. Testing was done at top speed, safe corners were cut, but the vaccines were demonstrably safe, both at report stage, and as history has shown. Is he suggesting we didn’t vaccinate? To quote this guy ‘let that sink in.’ I wouldn’t buy so much as an ice cream off this bloke.

Administrator ble
Administrator ble
8 months ago
Reply to  Doug Mccaully

More peer review from the CDC. ie Who was most at risk.
https://www.cdc.gov/pcd/issues/2021/pdf/21_0123.pdf

Doug Mccaully
Doug Mccaully
8 months ago

Thanks for this and thanks for the civil tone. I worked with elderly people for 18 years before going on to specialise in something else. Consider this: an 80 year old man happily living in a care home, loving family etc, but he has congestive cardiac failure. He gets covid in pre vaccine days when covid was a death sentence for people like him. The virus prevented effective oxygenation of his blood via his lungs. His damaged heart beat faster and faster to compensate, his blood pressure went up, his distress was enormous. Inevitably his heart finally failed. What effectively killed him, covid or a heart attack? The balance of probabilities is that covid will appear on the death certificate as cause of death because it would take a leap into abstraction to claim anything else. That’s all this paper seems to be saying.

Last edited 8 months ago by Doug Mccaully
Warren Trees
Warren Trees
8 months ago
Reply to  Doug Mccaully

There are a lot of things that are invisible here. Like the mental health crisis, educational issues, long-term unknowns with the “vaccines”, broken families and homes due to unemployment and the wide swings in economic activity from printing trillions and trillions of dollars. It will take decades to realize the impacts of the great lockdown.

Doug Mccaully
Doug Mccaully
8 months ago
Reply to  Warren Trees

I agree with you, but it is a false premise for people to suggest the choice was between these harms and no harms. The alternative was worse. 

Doug Mccaully
Doug Mccaully
9 months ago

If your house is on fire you don’t sit back and reach a careful consensus as to your next move, you act quickly and decisively using proper risk management principles which are, the bigger the risk the greater need to act decisively and quickly before the virus gets out of hand. That’s what Sage recommended, and that’s what govt. incompetence and dithering prevented from happening.
‘Focused protection’ as described in the declaration is tinkering, and gambling with untested methods, and hoping for the best, and not one country on the planet achieved ‘focused protection.’ Certainly Sweden didn’t, their death rate for their frail elderly was as dreadful as ours was. There wasn’t a schism in the scientific community, there was a large consensus with a group of outliers. Dissenting voices weren’t sidelined, they were used by govt as an excuse for doing too little and too late, and here we are, 220,000 deaths later.
We can’t compare herd immunity for already endemic but mild corona viruses with Covid. Achieving natural herd immunity would have meant a continuation of the infection spikes which produced 1400 deaths a week at their worst, until the epidemic burned itself out, and that could have meant a huge number of deaths. The only approximate herd immunity we achieved for covid was via mass vaccination, which rendered the disease less lethal, meaning that only then did we have a chance of achieving natural herd immunity without an overwhelming number of deaths, hence current govt. policy. Nowhere does the article mention the need to prevent the NHS from collapsing, the prime reason for lockdowns at the time. Angela Mc Clean shouldn’t have called Hennigan a fuckwit, but so what, we’re not snowflakes.

Robbie K
Robbie K
9 months ago

There’s valid reasons why McLean made such an observation.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
8 months ago
Reply to  Robbie K

So, I assume that this is the level of scientific debate that you’d happily promote? Ad hominem is a logical fallacy, not a scientifically valid proof for a very good reason.