Why I No Longer Support the Lockdown

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From our American correspondent:

When the U.S. first started initiating the Lockdown of society to “flatten the curve” I was supportive. First & foremost I was struck by the fact that there seemed to be no pushback. Republican & Democrat governors, mayors and legislators all agreed that this was necessary to avoid massive loss of life. If there were any serious questions from epidemiologists, scientists or public health officials I missed them (and I sample a wide range of media sources). My home state has a Republican Governor who clearly seemed to be taking these steps reluctantly. FWIW I’m on the cusp of the at-risk group based on age and the Lockdown has affected me far less than most people.

But not long after the Lockdown started, cracks started to form on the shiny wall of certainty:

First, it turns out that the drastic steps we were taking were based on one model. That no one outside the team using it was allowed to review. We were even told that we couldn’t check the coding because it was so old & patched together that it’s too hard to follow. That’s like saying you can’t check the brakes because you won’t be able to see all the duct tape and Velcro we’re using. Further, we’re told that this software doesn’t provide the same results from one run to the next.

Next, I heard about Dr. Ferguson’s history of wildly overestimating the fatalities from mad cow disease and bird flu (50k compared to <200, 200 million versus <500 respectively). Also, the CDC’s estimate of Ebola deaths in Sierra Leone (1.4 million compared to 8k). And let’s not forget the U.S. Public Health Service’s overshoot on the number of AIDS infections in 1993 (450k versus 17k). At this point I gave more thought to the issue of modeling – prior to retiring I was an actuary and modeling was what I did for a living. A few points about how modeling works: The more complex a system is, the more difficult it is to build a good model. And, more importantly, the more difficult it becomes to test your model and confirm that it accurately mirrors the real world. And this looks like one of the most complex systems to model I’ve ever heard of. How can you test this against reality? I don’t think you can. You can run simulations and confirm it looks like you expected, but that doesn’t mean the virus behaves like your model. Another point about modeling is that the results are extremely dependent on the assumptions you’re using. And in this case two critical assumptions are how infectious the virus is and how lethal it is. We still have a poor understanding of these variables months after we started Lockdown. Then a lot of us noticed that the goal shifted from “flattening the curve” to avoid a catastrophic overflow at hospitals to Lockdown until “fill in the blank” (in some states a vaccine, in others no deaths for 14 days, etc.). And the lockdown rules are inconsistent and illogical – in Michigan you can’t buy plant seeds but you can buy lottery tickets. To add insult to injury, many of the people with their foot on our necks violate the rules (the mayors of Chicago and New York, Dr. Ferguson, etc.). I’m stunned and angry at how little attention the human costs of the Lockdown receive. We know that this will lead to increased suicides, homicides and drug overdoses. Let’s not forget more child abuse, domestic violence, depression, drug and alcohol abuse, the list of miseries goes on a very, very long way (I may write up an article just on this, the Lockdown harpies should have to admit to all the harm they’re so enthusiastically spreading). A quick aside - if you find yourself arguing against Lockdown, please God make sure to focus on the lives lost and the suffering it inflicts. I scream at my TV and PC screen when I see people who fail to make this point, our side is painted as the people who are worried about the stock market – bollocks on stilts. A recent study estimates that Lockdown will kill more people in Australia than the virus. Another thing that moved me away from Lockdown was the fact that they’re padding the stats. We know that for a variety of reasons the number of deaths from the virus are overstated. Public health officials have admitted this and there are financial incentives for hospitals and State and local governments to do so. As time goes by, we find that the number of people who’ve had the virus with little or no symptoms is far greater than we thought when we dropped the hammer on society. I’m also very concerned about the principle here. What right does someone have to tell you that you have to curtail your liberty because they think, based on a model, there’s a risk to someone else? If this is acceptable should we do it every year during flu season? If it’s OK to do anything that saves lives then the government can take one of your kidneys without your consent. The basis for arguing that this was an emergency that makes these drastic steps necessary is far too weak. I believe that if we told people the facts and asked them to voluntarily follow recommendations, we’d get a lot, perhaps most, of what we do through Lockdown. And the at-risk groups would definitely take steps to protect themselves, with plenty of help from the rest of us. Other than that…

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Bloke in North Dorset
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Bloke in North Dorset

“When the U.S. first started initiating the Lockdown of society to “flatten the curve” I was supportive. First & foremost I was struck by the fact that there seemed to be no pushback. Republican & Democrat governors, mayors and legislators all agreed that this was necessary to avoid massive loss of life.” Under normal circumstances all the great and good calling for something with no pushback would be a massive red flag with attendant flashing lights and klaxons. I would be instinctively against whatever they were telling us what we had to do. However, in this case I’d been following… Read more »

Snarkus
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Snarkus

Indeed. The move from apodiptic (hope I got that right) to prescriptive law focus has consequences. Fear from liberty hating jobsworths is one of them

Phoenix44
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Phoenix44

What is becoming clearer by the day, is the COVID is not remotely dangerous if you keep it away from the very small number of vulnerable people. What the countries with high numbers of deaths all did, was to allow it to shuttle backwards and forwards between hospitals/health centres and care homes. That looked the patter in Italy before the UK lockdown, but instead of having a close look, we went with Ferguson’s ridiculous model. So we actually sent people with COVID from hospitals to care homes, and told care homes that if they were asymptomatic, they didn’t need to… Read more »

Barks
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Barks

And New York City copied the Italian response.

Bloke in Germany
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Bloke in Germany

Professor Ferguson will surely become the first person to be awarded the Nobel Prizes in Medicine and Economics simultaneously.

Nessimmersion
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Nessimmersion

ignobel surely

Michael van der Riet
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Michael van der Riet

For so exceptional a person, surely no less than the Peace Prize?

Bloke in Germany
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Bloke in Germany

Oh yes, all three in the same year. No question.

Bloke on M4
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Bloke on M4

“And, more importantly, the more difficult it becomes to test your model and confirm that it accurately mirrors the real world. ” The biggest problem with Ferguson’s model is that it assumes that without full lockdown, people will behave as they did. So, Ferguson might understand modelling of how a disease spreads, but you need to have some economics or psychology in there to consider people’s personal incentives once they become aware. And that’s why you need things open, you need things reviewed. Maybe Ferguson fiddles around in his room doing this stuff, but when government pays for, or plans… Read more »

Spike
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Spike

Ferguson’s model of COVID, like all accepted models of future “global warming,” assumes human beings will not learn, adapt, and innovate. They are all crap.

Ahem
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Ahem

Yes the IHME model likewise failed miserably at modelling the non-lockdown case. This matters a lot, because it was the alleged difference between non-lockdown and lockdown that was used to bounce people into lockdown. The 13 April IHME projection for Sweden, for example, overestimated the daily death rate in early May by a factor of 5 and required them to go into immediate full lockdown for the projection to even be that low. The predicted death total for Sweden has since been lowered from 18K to 5K with no requirement for a lockdown https://covid19.healthdata.org/sweden and the number of ICU beds… Read more »

BniC
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BniC

British Columbia recently published information that they had 180 excess deaths of which 110 were Covid, and Covid deaths were over 90% from care homes. There’s also been an increase in opioid overdose deaths that had been declining previously.
So it’s highly likely that we end up killing as many people from lockdown as we ‘saved’

Esteban
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Esteban

Bloke on M4 notes something I didn’t address because I wasn’t 100% sure, but I think is true – the 2.2 million deaths estimate assumes no change in behavior. That is, if the gov’t doesn’t make us do anything we’ll all carry on exactly as we did before. Your 80 year old mum with health issues will still go to a crowded concert and won’t wash her hands more often, etc. If so, the 2.2 million was a lie in my book. Anyone who stretches the truth this far to sell you something shouldn’t be trusted at all.

Bruno
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Bruno

Oh dear, yet another who can’t be arsed to Google the answer before sounding off. Yes, Ferguson’s model is just that: a way of modelling different scenarios. Try listening to Giesecke and him debating the questions with Freddie Sayers, for starters: https://unherd.com/2020/04/which-epidemiologist-do-you-believe/ Channel 4’s 13 May doc on S Korea’s response also worth a watch. Why were they so much better prepared? Because they’d had S ARs. Why haven’t they needed lockdown? Because they stamped it out and continue active test, trace, isolate programmes. Would the UK or US put up with health authorities accessing all credit card data in… Read more »

Michael van der Riet
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Michael van der Riet

You don’t perhaps think that prior exposure to the 2018 SARS gave the Souks immunity? The null hypothesis is that containment measures achieve nothing, and there’s no proof to the contrary.

Bruno
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Bruno

Doubtful, surely, given the way it spread between the. Cult church members in Daegu?

Mohave Greenie
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Mohave Greenie

Subs!

I don’t know if it was a formatting problem or just poor editing. The last two thirds of the blog post was one massive paragraph. It made it difficult to follow the argument.

Michael van der Riet
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Michael van der Riet

I agree mostly, except for the padding bit. How much is the padding? Ten, twenty per cent? Livable with. How many potential deaths are in the pipeline? It appears that once a patient goes critical, the mortality rate gets as high as a third. And it takes a couple of weeks or longer. The numbers are within the ballpark. I have tried my hand at economic modeling only to run up against two massive problems, the first being Thomas Baynes, and the second being that economics is a study of human behaviour, and humans are irrational and unpredictable, even in… Read more »

Esteban
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Esteban

Bruno asks “Would the UK or US put up with health authorities accessing all credit card data in order to track and trace?”, and answers “No”.

We’ve put up with far, far worse – jobs lost and businesses going down in flames, civil liberties trashed, increased deaths from suicides, homicides, drug overdoses, families can’t have a funeral, people on their deathbed can’t have a family member to comfort them. I don’t know how you can think tracing credit card data would be a bridge too far.

BTW, what does TTT mean?

Spike
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Spike

Americans already had a lot of financial privacy stripped from us in a previous crackdown-on-the-innocent following the 2001.09.11 attacks, including an affirmative requirement for banks and other businesses to tattle on us. Never mind that this information did not go to “public health” authorities but the trusted and esteemed FBI and the totally unpolitical IRS. Those citing a precedent for violations of liberty never have to explain why the precedent is comparable, or even prove that the current crisis is a crisis.

Bruno
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Bruno

Sorry, TTT = test track, trace. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/coronavirus-test-track-and-trace-plan-launched-on-isle-of-wight
I doubt the UK version will work or be taken seriously.
And then you have to isolate those you identify, another problem if they don’t want to…