U.S. Gen. George Patton once proclaimed: “Fear kills more people than death!” That makes as much sense as something baseball great Yogi Berra said: “No one goes to that restaurant anymore; it’s too crowded.”
These days no one goes to the restaurant because the government freaked out and shut it down. But some eminent medical experts have dared to say the response to COVID-19 has been both overbearing and unwarranted.
Dr. John Ioannidis of Stanford University says such “draconian countermeasures” may represent “a once-in-a-century evidence fiasco.”
He points out that the Diamond Princess cruise ship with 3,711 on board had only seven deaths from 700 infections. That’s a one per cent death rate despite how elderly cruise ship passengers tend to be.
By contrast, “mild or common-cold-type coronaviruses that have been known for decades can have fatality rates as high as eight per cent when they infect elderly people in nursing homes.”
Ioannidis says that if one extrapolates the cruise ship stats to regular age demographics, the mortality rate drops to 0.125 per cent. That’s close to the 0.1 per cent mortality rate for the regular flu.
Better safe than sorry, some would argue.
Not German microbiologist Dr. Sucharit Bhakdi. He says drastic anti-COVID-19 measures “are grotesque, absurd and very dangerous.”
While some fear COVID-19 will infect one million Germans and kill 30 every day, Bhakdi says typical flus kill 20 to 100 people every day anyway.
“The horrifying impact on the world economy threatens the existence of countless people. … [Medical] services to patients in need are reduced. … All these measures are leading to self-destruction and collective suicide based on nothing but a spook.”
Dr. Joel Kettner was once the chief public health officer for Manitoba and the medical director of the International Centre for Infectious Diseases. He told CBC radio: “I have never seen anything like this, anything anywhere near like this. I’m not talking about the pandemic, because I’ve seen 30 of them, one every year. It is called influenza. And other respiratory illness viruses, we don’t always know what they are. But I’ve never seen this reaction, and I’m trying to understand why.”
Remarkably, both this scenario and its reaction were envisioned 10 years ago. In 2010, the Rockefeller Foundation and Global Business Network published Scenarios for the Future of Technology and International Development. It imagined an influenza strain that had “a deadly effect on economies: international mobility of both people and goods screeched to a halt, debilitating industries like tourism and breaking global supply chains. Even locally, normally bustling shops and office buildings sat empty for months, devoid of both employees and customers.”
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The scenario even envisioned a mandatory quarantine in China, while “national leaders around the world flexed their authority and imposed airtight rules and restrictions. … Even after the pandemic faded, this more authoritarian control and oversight of citizens and their activities stuck and even intensified … leaders around the world took a firmer grip on power.”
Alas, the Canadian government was ready for just such a power grab. The ruling Liberals wanted the ability to raise taxes without parliamentary approval until the end of 2021. Fortunately, howls from the opposition reduced this to a period of six months.
Meanwhile, Toronto Mayor John Tory said the city is using location data from cellphone companies to find out where people were gathering and map it. Israel is using cellphone data to track COVID-19 carriers and quarantine those who are in contact with them.
Israel is also under lockdown. That’s too much for Dr. Yoram Lass, an Israeli politician and former director general of the Health Ministry. “Whoever thinks that governments end viruses is wrong,” he said. “I say that the numbers do not match the panic.”
Lass points out that the average age of Italians who died of COVID-19 is 81. He prefers the initial British approach, where the elderly were isolated but everyone else was allowed to live as they always did with the assumption they would develop a natural immunity. The United Kingdom ultimately abandoned that plan and instituted a lockdown.
U.S. President Donald Trump knows a protracted lockdown will do more harm than good. “We can’t have the cure be worse than the problem,” he has said. He ultimately abandoned his plan to have businesses open by Easter but still wants to quickly restart the U.S. economy.
It’s time for the world to climb out of its hiding place.
Lee Harding writes for the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.