by Freddie Sayers
Saturday, 2
May 2020
Video
12:41

Nobel prize-winning scientist: the Covid-19 epidemic was never exponential

Professor Michael Levitt has been following the numbers
by Freddie Sayers

As he is careful to point out, Professor Michael Levitt is not an epidemiologist. He’s Professor of Structural Biology at the Stanford School of Medicine, and winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize for Chemistry for “the development of multiscale models for complex chemical systems.” He’s a numbers guy — as he told us in our interview, his wife says he loves numbers more than her — but then, much of modern science is really about statistics (as his detractors never tire of pointing out, Professor Neil Ferguson is a theoretical physicist by training).

With a purely statistical perspective, he has been playing close attention to the Covid-19 pandemic since January, when most of us were not even aware of it. He first spoke out in early February, when through analysing the numbers of cases and deaths in Hubei province he predicted with remarkable accuracy that the epidemic in that province would top out at around 3,250 deaths.

His observation is a simple one: that in outbreak after outbreak of this disease, a similar mathematical pattern is observable regardless of government interventions. After around a two week exponential growth of cases (and, subsequently, deaths) some kind of break kicks in, and growth starts slowing down. The curve quickly becomes “sub-exponential”.

This may seem like a technical distinction, but its implications are profound. The ‘unmitigated’ scenarios modelled by (among others) Imperial College, and which tilted governments across the world into drastic action, relied on a presumption of continued exponential growth — that with a consistent R number of significantly above 1 and a consistent death rate, very quickly the majority of the population would be infected and huge numbers of deaths would be recorded. But Professor Levitt’s point is that that hasn’t actually happened anywhere, even in countries that have been relatively lax in their responses.

He takes specific issue with the Neil Ferguson paper. “In a footnote to a table it said, assuming exponential growth of 15% for six days. Now I had looked at China and had never seen exponential growth that wasn’t decaying rapidly.”

The explanation for this flattening that we are used to is that social distancing and lockdowns have slowed the curve, but he is unconvinced. As he put it to me, in the subsequent examples to China of South Korea, Iran and Italy, “the beginning of the epidemics showed a slowing down and it was very hard for me to believe that those three countries could practise social distancing as well as China.” He believes that both some degree of prior immunity and large numbers of asymptomatic cases are important factors.

He also observes that the total number of deaths we are seeing, in places as diverse as New York City, parts of England, parts of France and Northern Italy, all seem to level out at a very similar fraction of the total population. “Are they all practising equally good social distancing? I don’t think so.” He disagrees with Sir David Spiegelhalter’s calculations that the totem is around one additional year of excess deaths, while (by adjusting to match the effects seen on the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship) he calculates that it is more like one month of excess death that is need before the virus peters out.

More generally, he complains that epidemiologists only seem to be called wrong if they underestimate deaths, and so there is an intrinsic bias towards caution. “They see their role as scaring people into doing something, and I understand that… but in my work, if I say a number is too small and I’m wrong, or too big and I’m wrong, both of those errors are the same.”

He believes the much-discussed R0 is a faulty number, as it is meaningless without the time infectious alongside.

He describes indiscriminate lockdown measures as “a huge mistake,” and advocates a “smart lockdown” policy, focused on more effective measures, focused on protecting elderly people.

I think the policy of herd immunity is the right policy. I think Britain was on exactly the right track before they were fed wrong numbers. And they made a huge mistake. I see the standout winners as Germany and Sweden. They didn’t practise too much lockdown and they got enough people sick to get some herd immunity. I see the standout losers as countries like Austria, Australia and Israel that had very strict lockdown but didn’t have many cases. They have damaged their economies, caused massive social damage, damaged the educational year of their children, but not obtained any herd immunity.

“There is no doubt in my mind, that when we come to look back on this, the damage done by lockdown will exceed any saving of lives by a huge factor.

- Professor Michael Levitt

He is philosophical about the future and sees this as a generational mistake:

I think this is another foul-up on the part of the baby boomers. I am a real baby boomer — I was born in 1947, I am almost 73 years old — but I think we’ve really screwed up. We’ve caused pollution, we’ve allowed the world’s population to increase threefold in my lifetime, we’ve caused the problems of global warming and now we’ve left your generation with a real mess in order to save a relatively small number of very old people.
- Professor Michael Levitt

It’s a view that doesn’t fit the narrative, but which we felt deserved to be heard.

Please forgive quality issues on the video: Prof Levitt was joining us down the line from Tel Aviv and we had intermittent bandwidth issues which have done our best to edit out.

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F HM
F HM
2 years ago

This highly infectious virus will continue to pass between people on this planet and no amount of unavoidably incomplete “social distancing” or “lockdown” measures will stop it. Given this, we need to accept that elimination is not a viable approach.
For my part, however, as a young Australian I believe that the suppression strategy being advocated by the Prime Minister and Deputy Chief Medical Officer is also the wrong approach. A great flaw in this strategy seems to me to be that it unnecessarily commits us, potentially long-term, to further significant restrictions on our individual liberties and to harming our economy. For instance, the ban on international travel (potentially excepting New Zealand and other “coronavirus-safe” countries), attending sporting events, larger gatherings and celebrations. How long are we (and the economy) supposed to put up with all that? Until we excruciatingly slowly, drop by drop, eventually make it to herd immunity so that we don’t have to worry anymore? That will surely take years and people will still die (mainly old people, as Professor Levitt notes; the median age of Covid-19 fatalities in Australia is currently 80 years which, notably, is very close to the average life expectancy of someone born in Australia TODAY), just at a slower rate. In the meantime, we will have to put up with significant, in some cases painful curtailments on our individual liberties and with damage to the economy (as a dual citizen with family and friends overseas, I find the ban on international travel to be particularly worrying. As a young person trying to get on with my career, the impact on the economy is even more worrying).
I think that Australia and countries that have adopted a similar approach absolutely need to speed things up. We need to get to herd immunity as fast as possible by opening up as much as possible, without overwhelming the health system. That might entail something similar to the Swedish approach (whilst better protecting our vulnerable, which many in Sweden have admitted Sweden could have done better initially). Sweden’s hospitals are not overwhelmed. So let’s show a little courage and perspective, like the Swedes, and get on with this. Covid-19 is not the black death but the ramifications of responding completely disproportionately to this exaggerated threat are, in my view, deadly.

Adrian Smith
Adrian Smith
2 years ago
Reply to  F HM

I feel the timing of all this is bad news for Australia as you are about to move into flu season, which will also be suppressed by lock down. But if you were to open up you would get a double hit on your health service at the same time. Could it cope? I feel UK must make full use of the summer months to get to herd immunity or we risk finally opening up to get the same double whammy and we know our health service, even with additional capacity, won’t cope. Sweden was able to triple its ventilated bed capacity.

The key question for Australia is what sort of death figures will the population tolerate? In percentage terms the numbers are quite small and if you can view every death as sad as no matter what age there is still a grieving family, but not view all deaths as equal, then there is hope. One problem we have in UK is the mainstream media who secretly delight in new sets of higher death figures, whilst crying crocodile tears over them.

dr.3909
dr.3909
2 years ago
Reply to  F HM

Australia has done exceptionally well in controlling this epidemic in the shortest period of time and should be very proud of the fact(boxing above your damn weight as usual).

“Decisions all have to be evidence based and they need to be proportionate to the threat posed by the virus and I don’t think it’s in our interest to completely cripple our economy in order to manage this outbreak.” Curtin University professor Archie Clements ““ who specialises in the spread and control of diseases.

“You don’t have to test everyone in the country because the natural dynamics of an epidemic in that you always see an exponential increase at the start but eventually it depletes the pool of susceptible people and the epidemic peters out.

“If we could hold off a mass outbreak until the countries most impacted begin to see a decrease in cases, there is a chance we could avoid a major outbreak.

“In that sense we’re lucky that the epidemic arrived here later than in most countries.”

Oz was hit badly by more than one cruise ship docking and disgorging infected people all at once (check on Wikipedia). Europe obviously has a border problem and New York has too many tourists and the largest Chinese community outside of China.

Charles Homer
Charles Homer
2 years ago

As shown in this article, to this point in time, there is only one accurate measure of how deadly the COVID-19 pandemic will eventually end up becoming:

https://viableopposition.bl

The data is strongly suggesting that politicians are manufacturing numbers to maximize fear. Eventually, society will reach a tipping point where people are so angered by the restrictions placed on them that they will choose to ignore laws put in place to shape their behaviours.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
2 years ago
Reply to  Charles Homer

Many US citizens have already reached this point and are openly defying the (mostly) Democratic governors who are prolonging the lockdown in their states for authoritarian and economic reasons. (They want a crashed economy so that Trump is less likely to be re-elected).

The British, it seems, are less likely to resist. It is very frustrating.

Arnold Fishman
Arnold Fishman
2 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

politics and public health should never be combined, but the ex mayor of Chicago Rahm Emmanual was famously quoted: ” you never let a good crisis go to waste”. I would add qui bono…follow the monies. And also add “power corrupts” paradigm. Put both together and there are huge motivations to continue tyranny in spite of all the contrary evidence.

Martin Z
Martin Z
2 years ago

This interview is just weird.

Levitt says the rate of growth is determined by R0 and ‘the time infectious’. It’s true the rate of growth doesn’t just depend on R0: it also depends on the generation time of the disease. The ‘time infectious’ is built into R0 (you can get the same R0 from a disease which is hard to catch but people are infectious for a long time, or easy to catch but not infectious for long).

He is not saying anything new at all here. But believing social distancing is not the reason for the spread to be slowing requires you to believe two impossible (or at least unlikely) things before breakfast.

Firstly, notice he is not just saying that the spread would have slowed regardless of social distancing, he is saying that social distancing *makes no difference*. So you have to believe that reducing the frequency of contacts by 70-90% *makes no significant difference* to how likely you are to catch the virus. In which case, it cannot be being transmitted by human contact. So how is it being transmitted?

Secondly, the only plausible reason the spread could slow is because large numbers have already been infected (or are immune). Again, there is no evidence that this is the case, and substantial evidence that it is not.

True that Ferguson was originally a physicist – but that was 30 years ago. He has been an epidemiologist approximately 5 times longer than he was a physicist, and several hundred times longer than Levitt. I’m afraid this interview is just an example of a smart person overreaching outside his own field – some can do it, others can’t.

You really need someone with more technical knowledge to conduct, or at least help with, these interviews.

dagos
dagos
2 years ago
Reply to  Martin Z

I have the same doubts as you. On top of that there is one more thing. He uses herd immunity to covid-19 as given. If I understand this concept correctly, herd immunity requires immunity of once infected individuals but this is something we do not know as of now.

Phil Martz
Phil Martz
2 years ago
Reply to  Martin Z

My thoughts as well. I’m a 35 year career biotechnology scientist. Something is missing here. I don’t know if its from Dr. Levitt or the writer. Dr. Levitt is proposing an alternative argument that doesn’t hold water. First, he does agree this started as an exponential process, which, by the way, is the fundamental process of any contagious disease. He also admits the growth started out “exponential”, meaning he is looking more at the numbers than at the process. Then somehow, magically, it hit a “break”. But he has no explanation for it. Well, the answer is the social distancing that reduced opportunities for transmission by 80% or more. And then there is the “herd immunity” bandwagon that he wants to jump on. Well, he isn’t being a numbers guy or a scientist about that…there is no evidence that humans gain immunity, and there are some reports of people re-catching the virus. At minimum if he really wants to promote an lockdown strategy he needs a more cogent argument.

petertimothycooper6
petertimothycooper6
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Z

No it is you who are almost laughably off base here. The virus is transmitted from the in aerosol sputum from the nose and throat. Social distancing cannot stop this. As we look back on this interview with all the figures in now we can see that the lockdowns had no effect on overall mortality.

Juilan Bonmottier
Juilan Bonmottier
2 years ago

Fascinating stuff; an interesting and much needed alternative perspective. I’m grateful to this resource for at least bringing something different, but still well thought out, to the discussion. I wonder if the Professor’s ideas will gain any traction elsewhere -if not, then it is indeed symptomatic of the sadly closed narratives of MSM.

Michael Baldwin
Michael Baldwin
2 years ago

So we have yet another scientist – and I mean a really, really impressive one this time, an actual Nobel Prize winner – raising doubts about the lockdown on purely scientific grounds.

But the part that caught my attention most was the way that just because he appeared on Fox News, CNN wouldn’t have him.

This is deliberate suppression of alternative opinions, so this is clear proof that Covid-19 has been politicised, and I’ve held this opinion for a long time.

What’s going on now I think has to be seen clearly in the perspective of what happened previously – i.e. since the Brexit vote in June 2016 and the election of President Trump in Jan 2017, the “liberal left” in politics and the media both in the UK and the US has been in a “meltdown” and non-stop proliferation of anti-Trump/Johnson/populism propaganda.

The fact those two events happened so close together were a “double-whammy” to the “liberal left” (or Blairite left in the UK) who had the twin goals of getting a political correctness supporting first woman President in the White House, and a similar male supporter of multiculturalism in the UK in the form of Jeremy Corbyn (though they considered Corbyn as far from ideal with accusations of anti-Semitism against him, probably simply due to his support of the Palestinians and so on).

So instead they got these “privileged white male” populists in Downing Street and the White House, who both were some degree of nationalism supporters, and so have been trying to get rid of both ever since, but with total failure in both cases until now.

I believe the British and American liberal/PC media jumped on covid-19 as an opportunity to get rid of both Johnson and Trump by forcing them both to carry out a lockdown, knowing the likely devastating economic and social consequences, because they believed that is the only way they could get rid of them – by effectively turning their own supporters against them.

There doesn’t seem to be any other plausible explanation for the utterly one-sided and relentless propaganda emanating especially from the British anti-Brexit obsessed Guardian newspaper, and more or less echoed by the BBC.

These two extremely powerful organs of the media convinced the public that covid-19 was of Biblical proportions, and a nervous and inexperienced Boris Johnson simply caved in to the pressure, as did eventually President Trump in America.

Now both are faced with the terrible problem of how to end the lockdown faced with a still terrified population that is resisting ending it (according to the polls anyway, which must be at least approximately true I’d guess), while the economic damage builds massively by the day.

Peter Hitchens for example, nearly the only prominent British journalist who is resisting the mainstream narrative, says he has not been able to get anywhere near the BBC with his views, despite being a very regular guest in times before the lockdown.

It appears Professor Levitt above is getting the same door slammed in his face from the “liberal/PC” part of the media.

What sort of news media is it that won’t report dissenting views even from a recent Noble Prize winner in Biology?

A politically motivated one, that’s the answer to that.

And what is its motivation?

In America to get rid of President Trump and replace him with Hilary Clinton or similar.

In the UK to get rid of Boris Johnson, stop Brexit, and replace him with somebody pro-EU, like Keir Starmer.

Who is so pro-EU he’d probably like to replace the Union Jack with the EU flag and ban the whole idea of a “traditional English breakfast” (a racist menu surely?) and allow only a “continental one”; just as market traders were long ago banned from selling things by the pound, and instead forced to do so by the kilogram, even though people born before the decimalisation era – which is millions – still aren’t comfortable with or properly understand metric measures.

In fact, speaking as an older generation person, I almost feel like this lockdown is a form of collective punishment upon the majority older generation Leave voters.

Because they are (so far) the ones who are being hardest hit and most frightened by the lockdown – having their social and family lives destroyed, and forced into isolation and a very unequal contest to get to the supermarket shelves, when many are either not motorists out of poverty, or unable to drive any more on account of age.

This feels like to me, and many other older people I know, a war on the older generation, and there has been a lot of that attitude since the Brexit vote – a resentment aka hate of “the Baby Boomers” which Professor Levitt here has picked up on and feels the need apparently to apologise for it.

I don’t.

I think the young have shown extreme ingratitude to the old who sacrificed for and raised them, for quite some time, and the appalling discriminatory attitude to the older people who saw the Brexit vote as “getting their country back”, but got labelled racists or whatever merely for trying to hang onto what they consider their birthright.

Yes, of course the older generation always makes mistakes, but so will the younger one in its turn.

As every generation always believes it knows better than the older one, but generally within a couple of decades or so becomes almost the same as them, because human nature simply does not change very quickly.

Rather, it is my view, and one held by many philosophers historically, that the mark of a nation, the degree of its civilisation, is demonstrated best by how it treats its old people.

Does it care for them and respect them?

Not only does this one apparently not respect them, it appears quite happy to see them punished and locked up, and of course, the increasing trend to shove parents into a care home at the first opportunity (and often take over their home too) is a part of that disrespect.

But this lockdown – including the clear disregard of those in care homes – is starting to look more and more like a forcible euthanasia program upon the old, who are more or less being told – don’t come out of your home while there is any risk, which quite frankly means until you are dead.

Boris Johnson needs to wake up to the trap he is in, as does President Trump.

As the professor here explains clearly – nobody is or has been under anything more of a threat personally than a bad year of seasonal flu.

But the threat to the economy and social fabric is now so great that everybody is going to suffer in awful ways if this isn’t ended as soon as possible.

And the real villains, who I believe are the “liberal media and politicians”, both here and in the US, need to learn the lesson that we are not going to elect them even if we end up with a shattered economy.

Because we will still consider Johnson and Trump the most likely to fix things, in the absence of a far saner and more convincing program from a genuine socialist party, and not the one that merely pretends to be one, like the current post-Corbyn Labour party and the hopeless and pointless Joe Biden in the US.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
2 years ago

A great post. I agree with even word. It should be published in every newspaper in the land – not that anyone reads them any more.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
2 years ago

Likewise,I couldn’t agree more.
When all other possibilities have been exhausted, the one remaining, however preposterous must the solution. (apologies to Sherlock Holmes).
In fact this appalling situation has been coming for years. The seminal year was 1965, when the fouled mouthed hypocrite, Richard Crossland, became Secretary of State for Education in Harold Wilson’s recently elected Labour government. His avowed intention was to destroy the Grammar Schools and replace them with Comprehensives.
Simultaneously, or perhaps even earlier State Education had become the almost exclusive preserve of pseudo socialist, and covert Marxist dogma, and this dreadful creed spread like cancer throughout the State system. Such cretins as Eric Hobsbawm, Ralph Miliband, and Edward Thompson became the new gods of intellectual thought. Some may recall that the first two were in fact refugees from Nazi Germany, who’s sworn intent was to destroy the country that had given them succour in their of hour of need. Incredible but true.
As over 90% of the children of this country are dispatched to the joys of Comprehensive Education, it is little wonder that all the major institutions of this nation are riddled with pseudo socialist cant and dogma, hence the vociferous ongoing campaigns against both Brexit and President Trump.
Now, as you do so presciently say, ‘they’ hope this synthetic panic over ‘Chinese Death Flu’ (CDF) will give them the chance to overthrow the democratic mandate and savour sweet revenge, whatever the cost.
There is one ray of hope. Lord Jonathan Sumption KS, one our most impressive Law Lords, and an acclaimed Historian, was an ardent ‘Remainer. In fact he came up with astonishing remark at one point in the debate, “51% cannot demand 100% of the Prizes”. Despite knowing full well that is the English system, first past the post, winner takes all etc.
However his reaction to CDF has been a masterclass of logic and moderation. It could not have been bettered. He is not alone in his views and is an inspiration to many during this frankly, frightful panic that has gripped the nation.
Your premise that to be old is feel rejected is also spot on. Some may recall during those halcyon days of Enid Blyton & Co, there was a dog food called PAL (Prolongs Active Life). Soon we ‘oldies/ ‘boomers’ will be labelled as PUL (Prolonging Useless Lives).

jencastle3
jencastle3
2 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

You’ve said some things here I agree with.

But you & others say that COVID is nothing more than a seasonal flu. Maybe that’s the situation now as the virus has progressed & is petering out (from what I understand). But when we became aware of it in China, it spread like wildfire & as another commenter has said, so many people were dying that many citizens near Wuhan fled as it was so alarming. We still don’t know China’s exact COVID death toll.

Soon after we saw high death rates in Italy and Spain. (Mainly elderly). Hospitals were overrun.(Apparently hospitals in Italy and Spain are always overrun at that time of year,. That should have been taken into account when assessing risk etc. But it was at that time, a perfect storm of rapid virus spread) Other countries wanted to avoid this.

As the virus started spreading globally there were competing views about how dangerous it was and how best to stop the spread. China did lockdown, cases went down so the logical assumption is that lockdown worked.

Governments had to quickly decide-based on the competing advice they were given – how to react. It was a frightening time. I guess they weighed up taking action to stop virus spread, and some governments chose hard lockdown. They knew it would have huge consequences and also temporarily disadvantage people with other health concerns. But they feared rapid spread…

Some say targeted lockdowns would have been better and less detrimental to society in the long term. But as commenters here have said, this is not exactly clear at this stage. I agree though that dissenting epidemiologists who were against lockdown were shunned by MSM.

I think things were unravelling very fast. In Feb-March they didn’t have the data we have now to assess the necessity of or not of lockdown more discerningly.

The other thing is, results of harsh lockdown seem to be different in different countries – some lockdowns on the face of it worked well eg. China, New Zealand Australia. Other countries haven’t done that well. But is that because they chose to do lockdown too late & so lockdown was pointless by then? This makes it difficult to work out if was a mistake or not. Also, each country’s lockdowns were not as strict as each other which complicates things too.

I think governments were in between ‘a rock and a hard place’ as the cliche goes. Having said all that, I think the consequences of lockdown are disastrous. Governments should have had more preparations infrastructure in place for pandemic emergency and they didn’t. Epidemiologists etc, have been warning of future epidemics for a long time.

I still think we have to wait for a year or so to analyse all the data to see if lockdowns were justified or not.

David MT
David MT
2 years ago

That was a brilliant read, worthy of it’s own platform.

Mike Whynot
Mike Whynot
2 years ago

It seems to me that all the data on Covid are those that have been tested and shown to be positive. There is now that we know a large group of people who now we know are asymptomatic. So models not including these asymptomatic would seem to have lots of biases.

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
2 years ago

An interesting read but I’m concerned that Levitt does not have an explanation, simply an effect he claims to have observed in the statistics. He is therefore much like the investment analysts that put their faith in technical analysis based on charts, without caring about the fundamental analysis of the companies they invest in. I’m cautious about basing policy for an epidemic on this approach.
It also ignores the politics. It may well be that the lockdown has not saved many lives but, if this is the case, we would still have been seeing deaths approaching 1,000 per day early in April. 1,000 deaths per day and no lockdown? Imagine the howls of outrage from press, politicians and the people. Simply not politically sustainable.

Trishia A
Trishia A
2 years ago

The high end estimate of flu SEASON deaths in the USA for 2017-18 was 90,000.
Your looking at “1000 a day” fails to look at the averaged out numbers over the course of flu seasons. A peak is only a peak. It’s only a useful number when comparing to other peaks.
Otherwise, you need to look at full season data, on a per capita basis.

olivps
olivps
2 years ago

Unlike epidemiologists who can fail the numbers by hundreds of thousands and still remain with their jobs, common people need to stop and start reasoning: is it possible to go to a beach and keep 2 m distance from my neighbour? What kind of facial mask should I wear when swimming? Should I have my private airplane, train or bus to go to work? Etc, etc… Just by trying to figure out an answer to my questions everyone with a brain will realize how absence of common sense can be fatal.

sten
sten
2 years ago

As a Stanford PhD graduate, I am proud to see a Stanford professor expresses an alternative interpretation of the statistics. To argue with alternative perspectives from several disciplines is the core of the scientific process. I agree with Dr Levitt that we need smarter look down strategies that both look at the larger system and over a larger time span, with the goal of saving maximum life-years with good quality with minimal harm to the society. For example, protect the elderly and other risk groups, while letting the rest get Corona at the pace the capacity of the hospitals can manage to obtain herd immunity so the vulnerably can come back out safely in not too distant future.
As a Swede, I so far agree with our nations balancing strategy, except our failure preventing the spread of the virus into care homes. I therefor urge that we immediate copy and mandate the following best practice:
– security control when persons and objects enter the building where temperature and other symptoms are checked,
– persons are not allowed in if they have been in contact with persons with corona in the last 14 days,
– face mask all the time on all personnel, visitors and residents except when alone in their rooms
– 1,5 m from each other in common areas,
– zoning of rooms in green, yellow and red for cohort care,
– sanitation of objects and persons when moving from red to green or yellow zone,
– training and compliance monitoring
– provide resources and adapt regulations necessary for the above measures.
– fine tune these measures, when other nations and we over time learn what works and not.

George Thomas
George Thomas
2 years ago

Thank you for this clear and cogent interview. In India, the lockdown has imposed terrible misery on millions of people. Based on poor information and even poorer planning a lockdown was imposed with four hours notice. Migrant labourers are stuck without food and water. The poor are packed into slums which will ensure rapid spread of infection.

hillsonthehill
hillsonthehill
2 years ago

We need to protect those most at risk, care homes and the care industry have been neglected, they needed to have better strategies and better planning, but they still seem to be floating rudderless. I agree with Prof Levitt, there is very little risk to the majority of us, we need to let the herd immunity spread widely so the elderly can come back out safely, otherwise the nightmare will continue indefinitely for them.

pete5
pete5
2 years ago

I was reading this and it says hes a numbers guy, OK that’s always a good sign, and very big plus….but then he says: “it was very hard for me to believe that those three countries could practise social distancing as well as China” While the whole scenario seems plausible, this particular part of it is weak. I’m not convinced that social distancing has not been responsible for the slowdowns after two weeks.

As far as I know, China and Italy both enacted pretty extreme measures. But even if the governments didn’t enforce strict quarantines, human nature probably led many people to be more careful anyway, which may have contributed to a slowdown. I could be wrong, but where’s the data, wheres the numbers?

Kenneth MacKillop
Kenneth MacKillop
2 years ago

My cold-hearted assessment from the beginning of this pandemic has been that the pathogen is extraordinarily weak, at least for a large majority of individuals.

The novel virus seems unusually impotent in its ability to invade cells and replicate, in comparison to flu or even common cold. Upper respiratory symptoms seem typically mild or absent. Incubation period is long.

Many signs that humoral immunity plays a small role.

But if the virus gets a foothold in lower lung it can be serious or lethal, clearly.

I think that analysis of the pandemic, in the fullness of time, should have a lot to teach about deficiencies of human health in urban societies.

Phil Martz
Phil Martz
2 years ago

Wrong!, You should watch some of the Medcram or other videos from doctors and patients who have experienced this. This virus is incredibly insidious, confusing and halting immunity responses in the body and then attacking any available endothelial cell it can…heart, arteries, liver, kidneys, skin.

Kenneth MacKillop
Kenneth MacKillop
2 years ago
Reply to  Phil Martz

I was not commenting from the point of view of those treating ARDS patients in ICUs. But even from this point of view, there is nothing terribly new about CoVID-19 although it does appear to generate a form of pneumonia that has some possibly unique or at least differentiating characteristics.
I WAS commenting from an epidemiological point of view. The degree to which this virus does NOT lead to serious complications, or even necessarily any detectable symptoms, for very many except elderly and those with comorbid conditions (usually chronic) is fascinating to me.
I would challenge anyone to identify any other respiratory infectious disease even remotely similar. Flu certainly is NOT.

On the other hand, WHO records ~4 million deaths (if I recall correctly) from ARDS worldwide. Sepsis from malaria and other causes, and ARDS generally, has been long-studied clinically. Cytokine storm is almost always involved I believe.

What I think you are calling attention to are clinical developments long recognized in ARDS from almost any cause — “cytokine storm” and so forth.

Right now my state of Massachusetts is probably the worst in the USA in terms of new cases/deaths, mimicking but lagging NY. I am very well aware of the clinical situation and following the state-reported data on a daily basis. There are ~3500 hospitalizations statewide now, which is 5 per 10k of population — very high, but nothing close to overloading the system.
Much more than even the epidemiology of CoVID-19, I am interested in the underlying biology. I have a quite severe form of CVID (a primary/genetic immunodeficiency). I form virtually no antibodies to any common pathogens at all — most with CVID form less (than in immunocompetent’s do) but easily measurable/detectable quantities.

So I have more of a stake in this, and more insight and knowledge, than most including medical pro’s. I had notably unique respiratory symptoms for ~10 days, including a dry cough that I could easily suppress at will. This was before I was even aware of the clinical symptoms of CoVID-19 and well before any lockdowns anywhere in US. But looking back, I am pretty sure I was infected by SARS-CoV-2. It was trivial, even for me at the age of 61 1/2.
However, I am not basing my assessment of SARS-2 as a weak pathogen on my own single case, but on the population-wide stat’s.

Kenneth MacKillop
Kenneth MacKillop
2 years ago
Reply to  Phil Martz

Virulence of pathogenicity in viruses is a function of several quantifiable (in theory) parameters:
a. ability to enter the cytoplasm of cells via the membrane
b. ability to harness the cellular machinery to replicate inside
c. ability to evade biochemical degradation outside cells (i.e. evasion of humoral immune response)
d. ability to outpace cell-mediated immune response (i.e. innate and T-cell response)
Once ARDS-type complications are in play, only (d) is of significance. Microthrombi appear to be very prevalent in ARDS/CoVID-19 — this is one of the possibly unique characteristics. It results from common but heavily compromised microvascular ill health in lung.
I would argue that (a) is very weak, in comparison to flu, for SARS-2. It is believed that the virus might be dependent almost exclusively on the ACE-2 receptor.

This is tied to the spike glycoprotein which dominates humoral antigenic potential. This is very weak in SARS-2, and this is why it requires so much time for any symptoms to appear (if they do at all, which they do not in those many whose immune system eliminates the virus before any humoral response even occurs).

For the same reason, once substantial replication occurs in tissues and virus leaks back out into blood/lymph, (c) is enhanced.

These are some of the biological properties of interest IMO. There is a relationship, almost surely, between the weakness of pathogenicity (one could call this “insidious” if one likes) and the characteristics of ARDS if this develops. I have pointed out some above.

To explain further, humoral-immune (i.e. B-cell) response will usually ramp up continuously against a viral pathogen as it replicates and viral load increases, until this peaks and declines.
I lack this capacity totally for most pathogens. I do not respond to a flu shot for example. I do not respond to Pneumovax-23 in even a single antibody titer. My a/b titers are zero both before and after vaccine challenge, generally.

I believe that immunocompetent people will respond much more similarly to me when infected by SARS-2 because of its molecular properties. In other words, humoral response plays little to no role. Some experimental evidence for this is here (unpublished research):
http://www.columbia.edu/~jl

The humoral immune system is only one element of the overall. It makes the rest of the system very much more efficient, and serves as a first line of defense. But it is not necessary — otherwise I would have been long ago dead.

For those personally concerned about risk, make sure your vit D status is adequate and preferably optimum. Read up on the antimicrobial peptides (e.g. defensins, cathelicidins) — this is one element of immunity key to CoVID-19 IMO.

And “be not afraid”.

Tim Gardener
Tim Gardener
2 years ago

To misquote Churchill, “Never in the field of human history was so much debt and misery and fear incurred by so many for the sake of so very few.”

wendajones
wendajones
2 years ago

As a 69 year old I don’t identify myself as one of these abhorrent baby boomers! I’m an environmentalist and I don’t want to die as an incidental of a statistician’s sums. Also he’s in favour of Sweden’s response but Sweden doesn’t acknowledge asymptomatic spread and therefore does not advocate face masks. if we had done so right from the beginning then maybe we wouldn’t have hade so many deaths which would surely have been a good thing? But neither would we probably be approaching herd immunity. It’s complicated!

Erik Grahn
Erik Grahn
2 years ago
Reply to  wendajones

You are incorrect. Noone has said there is no asymptomatic spread. What they did say was that asymptomatic children were not the driver of the spread.

Inger Outzen
Inger Outzen
2 years ago
Reply to  wendajones

As already said, it is incorrect. Unfortunately, there are many misconceptions about what we do in Sweden. For example, that we have no restrictions and that asymptomatic spreading is not acknowledged. Whether we have done right or wrong can probably not be assessed until after one or two years. Death figures as well as spread effects are so far calculated differently in each affected country.

Nick Dove
Nick Dove
2 years ago
Reply to  Inger Outzen

One of the reasons there are misconceptions about Sweden is that there are mixed messages about herd immunity. Officials are saying, on the one hand, that the policy is not explicitly to achieve herd immunity, but then are indicating estimates (soon to be published more precisely?) that Stockholm county has been 20% infected. The major problems with this are: 1) that to get to herd immunity (people quote 60% but for measles and polio it is meant to be well over 90%) will result in 3-5 fold more infections and many more fatalities, 2) infection rates have been much lower outside Stockholm, 3) It will be almost impossible to protect the fragile elderly if a large minority of society, including many of the people who care for them, are infected over the next couple of months (I hope Sweden has massive stocks of PPE for all who care for elderly, or are ready to pcr test them all every few days)

Nick Dove
Nick Dove
2 years ago
Reply to  Inger Outzen

One of the reasons there are misconceptions about Sweden is that there are mixed messages about herd immunity. Officials are saying, on the one hand, that the policy is not explicitly to achieve herd immunity, but then are indicating estimates (soon to be published more precisely?) that Stockholm county has been 20% infected, and talking up how herd immunity could be achieved in weeks. The major problems with this are: 1) that to get to herd immunity (people quote 60% but for measles and polio it is meant to be well over 90%) will result in 3-5 fold more infections and many more fatalities, 2) infection rates have been much lower outside Stockholm, 3) It will be almost impossible to protect the fragile elderly if a large minority of society, including many of the people who care for them, are infected over the next couple of months (I hope Sweden has massive stocks of PPE for all who care for elderly, or are ready to pcr test them all every few days)

Inger Outzen
Inger Outzen
2 years ago
Reply to  wendajones

As already said, it is incorrect. Unfortunately, there are many misconceptions about what we do in Sweden. For example, that we have no restrictions and that asymptomatic spreading is not acknowledged. Whether we have done right or wrong can probably not be assessed until after one or two years. Death figures as well as spread effects are calculated differently in each affected country.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
2 years ago

Governments always seem to listen to the wrong people. This guy’s mathematical analysis matches my instincts.

Leigh Dixon
Leigh Dixon
2 years ago

A detailed honest analysis, if ever one will be done will uncover the truth about the deaths of the elderly, namely to what degree were they caused by inappropriate treatment, e.g. ventilation without proper patient consent. If I was to put on my “conspiracy theory hat” I might suspect that the hospital system found a convenient excuse to dispose of a lot of unhealthy”boomers” that would otherwise need treatment when the next round of annual influenza comes along.

Adrian Smith
Adrian Smith
2 years ago

Freddie,

Congrats on another well handled interview. When you do another one could you get whoever it is’s view on what level of herd immunity is enough.

Also if you get another American can you get them to put what has happened in New York into perspective – I note New York City has only achieved 20% herd immunity despite being by far the hardest hit city in the world – getting close to 2/1000 deaths.

All the interviews you have done seem to agree that not overwhelming the health service is key. New York failed in this regard (more due to a system that can’t work together than to an overall lack of capacity). If you get the right person could you ask how close did UK really come to overloading the NHS given the various measures (not just Nightingales) that were taken to increase capacity.

Criticisms of Prof L’s position I would have are:

He bases a lot of his views on data from China, which we know was faked at the time and is probably still being faked now. However his conclusion that we never saw the dreaded exponential growth is born out in other countries data, where growth looks linear and not exponential.

He also puts a lot of emphasis on face masks. The evidence is very weak on that and Sweden did not go down that path, but looks to have peaked without overloading its expanded health service.

Really new and interesting things he said were R0 only tells half the story and is meaningless on its own. Using the economists measure for deaths is a bit of a controversial one to sell, but is ultimately the only worthwhile measure, given that we all die sometime of some thing.

My estimate is we will see about 100k excess all cause deaths in 2020 (about 2 months worth) and will be 50k below average in 2021 because around half of the previous excess has simply been advanced. Time will tell of course.

Michael McVeigh
Michael McVeigh
2 years ago

Many thanks Freddie, for the super content you are bringing.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
2 years ago

Yes, Freddie is the journalist to have emerged from this whole scam with his reputation enhanced.

Kenneth MacKillop
Kenneth MacKillop
2 years ago

Presumably SI would not change during the course of an epidemic, and is a fixed property of the virus.
R does change. Increasing acquired (herd) humoral immunity is one reason. Thinning of the herd (i.e. death of weakest, or natural selection) is another — Giesecke mentioned this factor.
If speculation that many exposed do not develop antibodies is true, acquired cell-mediated immunity (i.e. in T cells) may play a substitute role. Innate immunity should not change with time, other than by herd thinning.
Research literature, as new and immature as it is for SARS-2, seems to confirm that SI is larger than for flu.
Microthrombi seem to play a special role in CoVID-19 pneumonia. Vitamin D adequacy is likely a universal prophylactic as Dr. Malcolm Kendrick proposes.
Antivirals are unlikely to be effective IMO — they interfere with basic cellular metabolism relatively unselectively (regardless of claims).
Columbia Univ unpublished study confirms that common-cold coronaviruses are weak humoral antigens, as SARS-2 appears also to be:
http://www.columbia.edu/~jl
Though herd immunity appears to be slow in development, so will be vaccines. These may help eventually if CoVID-19 becomes persistently seasonal, but probably not in time for the next cold season in Northern Hemisphere.
It is probably a better idea to create special hospital facilities for CoVID-19 and other pneumonias, purpose-built. They should have special ventilation design and so forth. That would free up the conventional hospitals to return to normal services. Central/national governments should focus on this type of thing. It would be much less expensive than shutting down business.

Paul Davies
Paul Davies
2 years ago

If at any stage this scientist has been relying on the accuracy of the figures from China then I simply cannot believe that any of his subsequent conclusions have any validity.

Jill Armstead
Jill Armstead
2 years ago

Prof Whitty maintains in his Greshams College lecture that herd immunity can only be achieved in conjunction with a vaccine.

njssproperty
njssproperty
2 years ago

Whilst I cannot find the intellectually arrogant lucidity in me to disentangle the info-mess we’re all in, I would say this: what brought us all here over the last decade is too much calculation and not enough intelligent philosophy.

It is simply not worthy of Sapiens to knowingly select to sacrifice certain lives, whoever they may belong to, in the name of “getting it right” and arriving at heard immunity, that imprecise holy grail brandished by the technically as yet uncertain claimants that it is better to be cruel to be kind. This view of the planet is what is rotten at its core and could guide it to its demise.

Unless LOVE comes first.

biveselov
biveselov
2 years ago

Brilliant interview. Thank you very much!

gsdorp
gsdorp
2 years ago

Brilliant boomers pay-back time comment!

Kenneth MacKillop
Kenneth MacKillop
2 years ago

Hmmm …. agreed that lockdown is ineffective and a “huge mistake”.
But I think the prof gets one thing upside down. He makes a claim that a larger/longer “infectious period” (IP) — in epidemiology this would be the product of the “serial interval” (SI) and “reproduction number” (R) I think — generates a faster rate of transmission (i.e. spread).

But for the same R a larger IP would imply a lower rate of spread (longer => slower). This is the inverse of what Leavitt said in his example if I heard right.

I invite anyone else to instruct me on my misconception if I am somehow mixed up, rather than Leavitt.
I have the impression that, compared to flu, CoVID-19 has a remarkably strong and uniformly positively-sloped relationship between age and death incidence (percentage). And I have the impression that it spreads more slowly.

Seems to me that transmission rate is inversely related to SI for each “primary case”. And SI = IP / R. That is, the ratio rather than product of R and IP.

In aggregate, rate of new cases would be proportional to # of primary cases (nPC). So rate of spread = nPC / SI = nPC * R / IP, if we linearize and simplify to the essence of a model.

In prof’s example of half the R and twice the IP, one would get 1/4 the transmission rate.

jencastle3
jencastle3
2 years ago

Based on your very detailed comments in this section, I’m curious. Are you a doctor, epidemiologist, scientist? I ask because you’ve given a very complex and detailed analysis of the situation. Maybe you should ask Unherd or other websites, programmes, to interview you?

Kenneth MacKillop
Kenneth MacKillop
2 years ago

I have listened to a number of interviews of Knut Wittkowski. My only (minor) problem with all of them is that he keeps talking about a mere four weeks (or less) as the period of substantial contagion. I presume this is based upon typical seasonal flu.

I think one or both of two factors seem exaggerated by KW wrt to SARS-CoV-2 in his explanations.

I guess that SI is larger/longer. And I have some ideas why, biologically.

And I suspect that, for related reasons, many previously infected will not test positive for antibodies.

KW and other epidemiologists seem to confidently infer how close to herd immunity a region is from a falling rate of new infections/deaths/hospitalizations.

Based upon serology testing so far their assessments seem overly optimistic.

But if a large percentage of those infected possess “innate immunity” rather than “acquired immunity” (as I suspect), this would square things better.

Alan Gray
Alan Gray
2 years ago

I would really like to see a breakdown of deaths attributed to Covid-19 by 10 year age periods versus deaths by all other causes. This would convince me that Covid-19 is not too much worse than, for example, the flu.

Jean Redpath
Jean Redpath
2 years ago
Reply to  Alan Gray

This is available on the excellent ONS website, albeit with a 2 week delay, with new releases every Tuesday. What characterizes COVID-19 is a short period time period where there is an extremely high number of deaths compared to the usual.

Overall, there is a 17 percent rise in mortality In the year to date, compared to the previous 5 years. There is around a 10 percent rise in number of deaths compared to the five-year average mortality attributable to Covid-19 for all age-groups.

https://www.ons.gov.uk/peop

If you look at similar data available in the same week to date for 2018 (a worse flu season than 2019), there was a 10 percent overall rise in mortality to week 17 compared to the 5 years previous to 2018.

In 2020, there is also a slight rise in mortality due to other causes, particularly in the 65-74 age group, where it is 4 percent (rise in other causes compared to previous 5 years). It is unclear whether that is due to undetected COVID-19 or to lock down effects, such as failure to seek care in time.

The number of deaths attributable to COVID-19 began dropping in week 17. Given that there is a lag of approximately 6 weeks between infection and death these deaths likely relate to infections picked up before the lock down commenced.

For people under 45, the number of deaths to date for all causes is very similar to 2018 (6279 in 2020 versus 6119 in 2018).

This is more serious than the normal or even moderately bad flu (such as 2018), but that does not mean that lock down is the proportionate or rational response.

Arnold Fishman
Arnold Fishman
2 years ago

As the doctor says, many of the worst countries that will be economically crippled or more at risk for the future are those who are extremely political. But I would also add another factor. Follow the monies. Huge amounts of money is being collectivized in very political countries…huge amount of money is being fed into the coffers of the pharma-vaccine-industrial complex. Not only that but those who are seeking to grow the survellient state are using these draconian methods the are being employed to grow themselves. both of these vectors are taking on a life of their own and are using this latest virus as a very large potential growth medium.

and.romeda
and.romeda
2 years ago

No sh*t. Been saying that and trying to break the hypnosis since March 24th (Peerless Reads, YouTube). It would be simpler to say what’s true (there is a virus) than to list the lies the governments (UK especially) and Herr Gates have told. Bit late, but if you want to start your education… and then do the chart updates in particular. https://www.youtube.com/wat

David Bardell
David Bardell
2 years ago

The arguments are well made but only history will tell. It’s hard to criticise the government for being cautious
One important point made by Prof. Levitt almost in passing is that we’ve ( I include myself as a ‘boomer’ ) allowed the world’s population to increase threefold.
Population growth is every bit as much a threat to future generations as is climate change and we certainly should take government to task for avoiding this difficult area and avoiding taking legislative action

Kenneth MacKillop
Kenneth MacKillop
2 years ago

Prof’s accuracy of prediction of # deaths likely reflects the fact that CCP’s reported data followed a “formula”, and prof picked up on that formula.

Epidemic got well out of control in Wuhan before any measures were taken. Almost half of the city’s population actually had left already! This seems remarkably unciommented upon by Leavitt or most others. For 5+ million to pick up and leave their homes, they must have been plenty spooked and seen a lot of coffins and corpses while the authorities continued to lie.

3k deaths is not plausible. Likewise, it is unlikely that, though the CCP probably came up with a formula to report by later on, anyone in China likely has much idea how many deaths due to CoVID-19 there were during the first two months or so. Who would have been counting?

The canned formula likely was derived from standard historical epidemiological models for flu or some such.

CCP did a good job, apparently, of containing most of the epidemic to Hubei, although I doubt reported data in other provinces has much to do with reality either. Commerce sure seems to have been decimated before international demand started falling off, exporting companies were shut down in Guangdong and other regions (clearly due to workforce contagion, unplanned, without notice and suddenly).

CCP also did a good job of spreading virus to the rest of the world simultaneously, by shutting down travel into and out of Wuhan/Hubei while keeping international travel going full steam for as long as they could.

It is pathetic how easily charmed by the commies so-called intellectuals are. I think I will mark down the prof’s grade as “incomplete” for now.

Wuhan will benefit also from a more substantial thinning of the herd than Western countries that have hospitalized almost all comers, at least for some time going forward. This also goes unnoted by most.

Also, Wuhan’s latitude is ~30 deg. north of equator, similar to that of Houston, Texas. Epidemic is already extinguished in Houston, having barely gotten going at all. Solar radiation makes a lot of difference. Houston is typical of the more southerly USA in general too — not anomalous.

Virtually no spread in India either. I don’t think much of anything is going on in Mexico.

David Barnett
David Barnett
2 years ago

The Diamond Princess data indicate worst case conditions. Those data do not justify the general lockdown.

bruno.marchesi
bruno.marchesi
2 years ago

It’s needed to consider the ratio of people that don’t die, but needed an hospital bed, or ICU to achieve that. That is not a consolidated data just yet. Also, another diagnostics have been made, for example, atherosclerosis in infants, massive brain injuries in sub-60 yo people. Personally I’m a strong enthusiast of selective isolation, but opted for the hard one (meaning, out only for food, medicine and urgent work needs). No wonder many prepaid ‘reviews’ and ‘opinions’ are being published, for this has been a massive gigantic impact in worldwide economics. Interests are boiling up. Often times, the kind of interest that do not care that much how many lives will be consumed in order to keep the wheel turning.

V Z
V Z
2 years ago

The notion of “lockdown” is not a scientific notion. Lockdown is just one possible political implication of a “social isolation”. “Social isolation” thus may be reached by various means depending on country’s and regional culture and state of public health. Between strict political lockdown with fines and arrests and “do nothing”, herd immunity approach, there is an entire range of carefully calibrated and time-adjusted measures that could be adopted if politicians and their “herds” did not resort to simple but short sighted solutions. Secondly, all statistical data related to pandemic is questionable. Professor references R0 and mortality rate as modeled. However it is important to point out that mortality and R0, among other factors are heavily influenced by the situation with the system of public health. If hospitals are close to the overflow, both R0 and mortality rate will be on significant increase. And that in turn depends on the number of complications requiring hospitalizations. Thus what each country has to do depends in big part on hospital and rehabs capacity as well as availability of PPE, tests and tracing. There is no and should not be a one size fits all approach.

Tim Lundeen
Tim Lundeen
2 years ago

@Michael Levitt — thanks for being a voice of sanity in all this! But please, ditch the bluetooth earpieces if you want a long life. https://www.saferemr.com/ is a good place to start researching the actual science.

marksviljoen
marksviljoen
2 years ago

I find both great concern and even greater coincidence in the fact that the median age and average personal wealth of the mega rich and world’s leaders, who collectively decided the fate of the common man, make them the most health risk averse, with the least to lose and apparently willing to gamble all of the common man’s stakes for their own benefit.

rbotelho
rbotelho
2 years ago

Has Professor Levitt published his critique to digest his detailed interpretation of the evidence? This is the best critique so far about the macro-level “lock-down” miscalculations and the best summary for smart or micro-level lock-down practices. In a year, we will know whether this miscalculation was a huge mistake or not.

The upside of this purported miscalculation is that it has given us pause to reflect about how the economic depression is benefiting planetary health and to enhance our awareness of how much the Baby boomers have screwed up the future of humankind. The macro-level lock-downs will create a psychosocial pandemic for years to come, but will this adversity have long-term benefit of developing a new civilization and economy for sustainable development.

Covid is the canary in the coal mine of personal, population and planetary health.

How can we cope with the long game of the psychosocial pandemic? Lead, innovate and amplify how to thrive in overcoming VUCA stresses. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/1-host-covidwithcovid-leadership-innovation-webinars-amplify-botelho/

Kenneth MacKillop
Kenneth MacKillop
2 years ago

Papers such as this one suggest issues relating to my analysis:
https://www.nature.com/arti
The observations and concerns raised are that an engineered (e.g. vaccine-generated) humoral response may actually worsen prognosis for CoVID-19/ARDS patients, by enhancing cell entry for example. I think this should be a bigger concern for the newer methods of vaccine design/manufacture, which are the very ones being promoted due to lower R&D times. I would be more hopeful for the Regeneron method, for example, than for MAB, mRNA, and other fundamentally non-biological techniques.

One of the huge problems in both medical and pharmaceutical industries is that the thinking is predominantly non-biological, and I would argue anti-scientific.

Antivirals, vaccines and all other pharmaceutical interventions are likely to be disappointing with CoVID-19. Meanwhile, there is a lot of reason to believe that high-dose IV ascorbate is legitimately effective — this is underpinned by human biology in acute deficiency/exhaustion of, and huge potential demand for, intracellular ascorbate in lymphocytes/leukocytes.

For those interested in ICU interventions, this type of method is what should be more broadly studied and used in-clinic until proven ineffective. So far the CoVID-19/ARDS case history indicates efficacy but adoption is scarce.

And once again, high-dose vit C has been used for ARDS (e.g. sepsis) and cancer for many decades by a few, with good results. The medical problem is not new and unstudied. It is just that no powerful interest will promote, and most will actively work against — e.g. simple unjustified public dismissal. An uninquisitive, unskeptical public is easily fooled. That includes governments and politicians.

Kenneth MacKillop
Kenneth MacKillop
2 years ago

P.S. Regarding my earlier hypothesis that prof was reading synthetic data from a historical model of (probably) flu, there is continuous negative feedback at work for almost all respiratory diseases. The first is developing herd resistance (eventually so-called immunity). Another is early thinning of the herd — this will be especially powerful for a novel and lethal pathogen, for which vaccinations, natural immunity and medical inventions do not exist (or are overwhelmed as in Wuhan).

Any halfway-credible model would have this built in. Hence, one would expect “sub-exponential” growth or “sub-geometric” progression — this could only be realized with no negative feedback. Biological systems and organisms are full of negative feedbacks — always.

Even prof seems to comment upon the remarkable predictability, day-by-day in the Chicom data from Hubei (once it finally was reported, probably months after the epidemic got going). Many others also did. Unlike prof, most concluded that simple model synthesis was responsible. The same tends to be true of Chicom economic data, especially during periods of exogenous shock and other acute influences.

The Chicom’s are big and sophisticated propagandists — i.e. liars. So were the Nazis.

They are also massive IP thieves. Already BrightGene (Chicom company) has announced a successful copying of remdesivir (trivial for a patented product — the published patent is the instruction manual, by legal requirement) — without entering into any cooperative agreement with Gilead yet. This is not usual, to say the least, for companies that respect patent law. This belies the protestations that BrightGene might seek licensing by Gilead. They have already made infringement a publicly-annouced fait accompli.

Unfortunately politicians, academics and the public (mostly) do not at all appreciate the enormous risk, time and investment involved with developing real physical products. The CCP does — that is why it promotes and supports theft on a scale never before seen.

Kenneth MacKillop
Kenneth MacKillop
2 years ago

Here is another intentionally provocative comment. Let’s see if I get any well-informed reply.
This is where I will be a bit critical of true epidemiologists such as Knut Wittkowsky even though I think he is doing a huge public service by speaking up and his broad conclusions and recommendations are wise.

While KW et al have been correct about the low fundamental fatality rate, despite higher rates in a limited number of urban areas, they seem to have been overly optimistic about the rate of contagion and hence progression of herd resistance.

This augments my proposition regarding lower humoral response, and hence lesser progression of herd resistance via endogenous antibody production.

That is unless a large percentage of those exposed test negative for antibodies, even discounting the limited sensitivity of the available ELISA products used in the early studies so far. This seems possible to me but has not been proposed by the epidemiologists themselves, as far as I know. Confirmation, if any, of this will be slow to develop due to the Catch-22 problem — normally antibody testing would be relied upon to test for spread. Regular antigen testing in a guinea-pig population/experiment would have to be employed. This might not be even feasible given modern regulatory constraints. I would volunteer for a cohort, I think, although I would probably be rejected due to my genetic condition.

Based upon the public statistics and also the research literature, it seems clear that the serial interval estimated for SARS-2 is much smaller than that for MERS and SARS-1 but larger than for flu. And flu is the standard of comparison generally alluded to for epidemiology.
This means that the virus is not as contagious as flu (to me, at least). That despite a lot of public claims that it is extraordinarily contagious, which seem completely unfounded to me. I think people are confusing a high percentage of mild or absent symptoms, not seen with flu, with rate of spread.

I notice that Giesecke has adjusted his estimate of herd immunity out by half a month now, for Sweden, to end of May.

Most of my optimism is more based upon increase in solar radiation (i.e. summer) than anything else, for my region.

I would raise a further question regarding negative feedbacks. Does serial interval increase not only with lockdown measures (a bad thing, but undisputed) which are discrete perturbations, but also as a natural epidemic phenomenon via negative feedback, for CoVID-19 more than for flu?
Because SARS-2 is such a weak pathogen generally, and so reliant upon a degree of susceptibility present only in the minority of population(s), is there a negative feedback simply because the susceptible become infected (whether they recover or not) earlier and are disproportionally reduced as a fraction of the ongoing still-uninfected population(s)? I suspect this effect would be insignificant or secondary for flu, but might be larger for CoVID-19. That would be bad news.

rbotelho
rbotelho
2 years ago

Can you ask Professor Levitt to provide his publications about his interpretation of the evidence?

Nick Dove
Nick Dove
2 years ago

Mr Sayers asked one properly challenging question (for the rest of the interview he was more of a story facilitator, which I am not criticising). He suggested that a large number of people will still need to die to achieve herd immunity. Professor Levitt did not address this. In fact, the impression I got was the Prof Levitt has not extrapolated the death rates to herd immunity, otherwise the “one month of deaths” will be a major underestimate (I have not trawled for all his articles so maybe he had in which case I apologise to him).
In any event, there may indeed be a handful of places that have achieved 20% infection rates (and let’s assume for a moment that this almost always results in immunity), but the vast majority of regions and countries are well below this. Even NY State was estimated to be at only 13-14% infected last week. To get to 60% (let alone a more realistic 90+%) will result in a large number of more deaths. And then one needs to consider the rest of the World, where younger populations will be offset by poorer healthcare systems resulting in vast numbers more deaths.
Putting aside exaggerated figures from Imperial, these are the real reasons why the herd immunity approach is dangerously wrong-headed.
Furthermore, massively slowing the spread, as achieved in Taiwan, China, S Korea, gives time for treatment drugs and vaccines to be developed and tested.
Finally, although Prof Levitt alluded to protecting the fragile and elderly while trying to achieve herd immunity, he did not address how this can be achieved. Fragile and elderly people interact with a significant number of people for care and healthcare. The only way to protect the fragile in an environment of high infection rates is to test all of these people repeatedly and, to mitigate false negatives and very early infections, use extreme PPE in all interactions, which is not easy while, for example, changing a nappy. So, again, it was vital to attempt to slow the spread while ramping up testing (which sadly most countries were/are incredibly slow to do), and stockpiling PPE.

R Prout
R Prout
2 years ago

Some very obvious flaws in what Prof L said. 1) The Chinese didnt not (and neither did any other country) raise testing exponentially. Therefore the tail off he saw in reported cases was simply caused by testing not keeping up with cases. 2) The Chinese did not declare the figures accurately in Jan/Feb. They later corrected by adding nearly 50% as many cases again later. See corrections feb 14 and 15. They very likely are still not accurate. 3) Sweden is almost in lockdown (90% reduction in travel from mobile data). So nothing much can be concluded from their data as an example of no-lock-down 3) Basic error not to check reliability of data you are using to draw exceptional conclusions.

Rod Lucand
Rod Lucand
2 years ago

After reviewing statistics, it’s easy to say “You all are wrong”. Governments made decisions without any statistics. They were brave at making decision based on projections only. This is an uncharted territory and savings lives will never be a wrong decision. Professor Levitt spoke out in early February,when through analysing the numbers of cases and deaths in Hubei province he predicted with A HIGH MARGEN OF ERROR that the epidemic in that province would top out at around 3,250 deaths. He was short for over 40% from actual figures (4,500+).

David Barnett
David Barnett
2 years ago
Reply to  Rod Lucand

It is far from clear that the unfocussed lockdown policy has saved any Covid-19 deaths over a more focussed policy, and some theoretical reasons to fear may have enhanced the severity of the severe cases.

At the same time, the policy may have caused a lot of non-Covid deaths (preliminary indications are the excess non-Covid deaths are double the excess caused by Covid).

In other words, it is not a case of lockdown equals deaths saved, but lockdown skews which deaths we will get, and when.

hitme1000000
hitme1000000
2 years ago

Whatever, for me it all come back to numbers.

The world population is around 7.800.000.000 people.
The average life expectation in the world is 71 years .

This means, every day around 300.000 people past away !!!!!!!!

And now in the last 4 months maybe 300.000 people died of the corona virus.

How many people are gone every day of smoking, drinking, sugar, airpollution…………………………………….and , so what is behind all this to be so scared ?

ken best
ken best
2 years ago

Amazingly, the professor was correct in suspecting the model in this interview on May 2nd.

On May 16th, the Telegraphs said:
Coding that led to lockdown was ‘totally unreliable’ and a ‘buggy mess’, say experts.

On May 5th, Foxnews said:

Ferguson himself resigned from his advisory role earlier this month
after reports emerged that he defied his own lockdown advice by letting
his married lover visit him on two occasions.

Dac Tta
Dac Tta
2 years ago

The Prof is Simply wrong On who are the winners and losers – UK 30,000 deaths , economy in deep
Freeze. Australia – which is vastly more exposed to China and Chinese visitors students families – , 100 dead and economy already recovering. Same for South Korea. Early strict enforcement plus face masks distancing.

mitltopiltzin
mitltopiltzin
2 years ago

Los casos de Suecia y algunos otros, que no tomaron medidas de encierro radicales, parecen decir, que esa medidas radicales le son indiferentes a la pandemia. Pero, todos los gobiernos del mundo que tomaron medidas de encierro, ahora tienen que vender la idea de que sus medidas nos han salvado. Claro, un encierro que evidentemente causa y causará muchísimo más daño que el que se proponía evitar.

Richard Pinch
Richard Pinch
2 years ago

You ascribe to Prof. Levitt the suggestion that “the total number of deaths we are seeing, in places as diverse as New York City, parts of England, parts of France and Northern Italy, all seem to level out at a very similar fraction of the total population.”. This statement is incorrect, and in two ways. Firstly, sad to say, the total number of deaths has not yet levelled out in those regions. Secondly if we take current figures, it is still not correct. The total death toll in New York City from https://www1.nyc.gov/site/d… is between 16000 and 20000, depending on how cases are counted, out of a population of about 8.5 million: that’s about 2 per thousand. The death rate for England as a whole from https://www.england.nhs.uk/… is a quarter of that of New York City, and for London, the most obviously comparable region, it is less than a third that of New York City. These are not “very similar”.

You also ascribe the suggestion “After around a two week exponential growth of cases (and, subsequently, deaths) some kind of break kicks in, and growth starts slowing down. The curve quickly becomes “sub-exponential”.” This is also not supported by the data from https://ourworldindata.org/… . Brazil, for example, has had a sustained exponential growth in death rate of about 5% per diem for the last 50 days.

pamalah23
pamalah23
2 years ago

This is not just like the flu. We don’t know who is going to be effected besides elderly, and obese (much of USA). Some people are having ongoing destruction of different systems in their bodies it may not be getting it a second time they may never have left it. We just don’t know yet. People are ending up with their lungs destroyed or their kidneys deeply damaged. maybe we’re just saying let’s let the this disease kill everybody that it would normally kill in our society and the rest of the people can live.
I don’t know yet if this is a conspiracy of Gates to take over more of the world. This is something not seen before and I’m thankful that there are different voices trying to make some sense out of what is going on.
Humans are fallible. Then mostly we don’t want to admit it.

heatherhill0077
heatherhill0077
2 years ago

Thank you for your unbiased reporting of this seemingly planned Fake Pandemic, which I believe is the machinations of the large Globalist group pushing world wide Vaccinations. I respect greatly your style of interviewing all your guests. You are a breath of fresh air in the world of MSM which is so corrupt and biased there are few places to find out what is really going on.

jfyiii.mail
jfyiii.mail
2 years ago

These guys don’t seem to be well informed on European countries. I have Co workeers in Germany and the police give tickets to people not effectively “distancing”. They are serious about it.

Also the claim Thad we did not need social distancing because the rates are allowing seems to ignore the impact of social distancing.

He also seems to be conviently opposite the majority scientific opinion. Just like the 1% of scientists who claim the climate changes we are seeing are not humans fault. If I remember there were also dissenters on cigarettes causing cancer, the bad effects of DDT, and other long settled topics. We even have some physicists today who claim the world is 10000 years old.

It seems we will now find out what happens when at least some people believe all is safe again. Me, I’m staying very distanced. When this comes back I don’t want to be hospitalized. However, those to you who want to believe this go ahead, lick a park bench evev, and show us how safe you are.