Jean-Francois Toussaint explains what the pandemic means for the human species
Interviewing Jean-Francois Toussaint often felt more like speaking to a philosopher than a physiologist. Coming from a professor of physiology at the University of Paris and director of IRMES, his emphasis on giving people back their “ability to taste and live” and rediscovering the joys of life might sound unusual, but this is why we found him so intriguing.
In Toussaint’s view, the Covid-19 pandemic has exposed the “ceiling” of humanity, which is evidenced by the fact that some of the worst affected regions in the world are also the most developed. This, he says, has forced us to confront the limits of our species. As such, we should turn our attention to “filling” life rather than keeping ourselves “in a cave” (lockdown) for perpetuity.
Agree with him or not, the professor is certainly taking the Covid debate in a new direction. Have a watch above and let us know what you think!
On whether there is a second wave in France
It seems as though there is a very slow and small but regular increase of around 30 to 40 deaths a day, which is concerning only in the southern regions of France. These regions were not directly affected in the first wave… This is similar to the United States where eastern regions were affected in April and in June, and southern states in July and August. It looks like it’s the same kind of situation in France.
We are the only continent in the world that has the means to track the virus to every European nose. Every nose has been targeted and what we see is that we are diagnosing people by saying that they have the virus. We then say ‘well you are sick,’ which is not the case. All they have is a fragment of the dead virus, which leads to the amplification of the PCR. It is telling us nothing about what the battle was, and we still don’t know how to tell the difference between the people who were really sick and the ones who have been cured.
On waiting for a vaccine
The question now is what hopes are there in the vaccine? Would you like a Russian or Chinese vaccine? We don’t know when it will come, from what country, and how safe it will be. So the question is: do we have to stay in a cave until something pops up and says ‘now you’re safe’. Or do we have to understand that this is not the Black Plague? It is a serious disease for which we’ve improved the treatment; in many places all over the world, we’ve seen a 30-40% reduction in mortality rates inside the hospitals… Things have improved for the patients. So we have to decide if this is now a common infectious disease or is it something new? Do we have to stay inside our bunkers, not going to school, and not providing the necessary finance for the economy and, importantly, the health economy? What will we have next year if we don’t have the necessary investment for techniques for people inside the care systems if the economy falls by 10-20%?
On the negative impact on society
Trust in people and confidence in the future is at a much lower rate than what is seen in Sweden. Young people are now the designated people for not just the transmission of the disease, but also the economic consequences which came directly from lockdown. And still we don’t have the absolute number of those who were saved by lockdown. What about the people who are dying from being isolated without human contact with their families? And suicides? We have had a lot of examples of these elements, but instead we are focused on the positive effects of this isolation. The Oxford study shows there is no relation at all between the stringency of lockdown and mortality rate in the 188 countries that have declared at least one case of Covid.
On the limits of the human species
We are having higher rates in countries that have already experienced a plateau in life expectancy growth, which means that we are touching a ceiling. We are reaching the limits of development for the human species. Interestingly, we have the highest level of death rates in that 20-55 degree northern latitude, which stretches from Japan to the United States and includes all the European countries. These countries had the highest development rates in the twentieth century but they have experienced for the last two decades some plateauing in many parameters: health, life expectancy, height, obesity and the economy. Many of those elements seem to provide clues into the highest rates of Covid-19 mortality.