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Thursday, 2 April 2020

Voices against the lockdown

It's quite proper in a free and open society that anyone should be able to question not only the actions of government but to challenge the prevailing orthodoxy. And at times of radical government action - war, plague - questioning the rationale and objectives of particular courses of action must be expected, and is neither unpatriotic nor counter-constructive. 

We must also expect a full spectrum of fanciful suggestions and conspiracy theories, misinformation, distortion, omission and misrepresentation of fact, and many, many innocent errors. And it's often the nature of things that false information spreads more easily than the reality. As Terry Pratchett used to say, a lie can go around the world before the truth has got its boots on.

Social media is censoring the most immediately harmful lunacies to protect the most gullible, the most credulous and the most intellectually vulnerable. But already in the US, following suggestions that Chloroquine may be effective in relieving symptoms, a man has died after drinking something from his garden shed that sounded fairly similar. And both here in Austria and in the UK the nonsense is doing the rounds that the virus can be safely washed into the stomach by drinking warm water.

At the other end of the spectrum, confusion over the numbers of excess fatalities due to the virus baffles even advanced minds. If the lockdown is successful, as it is suggested it is, the R0 of the SARS-Cov-2 virus will fall below 1. A figure of 0.6 was suggested yesterday as being possible. This means there will be few overall excess fatalities. If the government is right, there's not going to be a huge bulge in the mortality figures - evidence for the lethality of the virus will be scientific and clinical.

The other advanced argument against the lockdown was put most eloquently by Toby Young - the economic argument. In The Critic, he argued using QALY figures that spending £350bn to save a few hundred thousand elderly people was a gross distortion of policy. However, also interestingly in the same publication, his arguments were comprehensively rubbished by Sam Bowman;
Taking all this together, we can attempt a rough recalculation of whether the government shutdown is worth it, from a statistical perspective. If 230,000 lives are saved (the difference between mitigation and suppression in the Imperial model Young cites), with an average age of 79.5, that is around 2,070,000 life years saved. At the statistical life year value of £60,000, that is a total benefit in statistical terms of £124.2 billion, compared to less than £66 billion lost to the economy.
I do commend the latter piece. Sam Bowman is an economist who explains succinctly and simply why the government's policy is the right one.

Take care all.


Jack the dog said...

Well, yes, but 230,000 lives saved is unquestionably a gross over-estimate.

Businesses which can operate safely, with cleaning and PPE protcols and social distancing must be allowed to operate.

This global shut down willy waving contest, who can make it hardest and most punishing, is absurd, ridiculous and astonishingly damaging.

Dave_G said...

Perhaps if the Government were honest with their reporting of fatalities FROM Covid as opposed to WITH Covid we might be less objectionable to the rapid erosion of civil rights and freedoms?

When presented with believable FACTS the majority of the public will act accordingly. It is Government deceit that creates the atmosphere of distrust and the will/desire to break with the conventions.

As ever we are poorly led and wilfully deceived for reasons we have still to figure out ongoing.

DeeDee99 said...

Looking at this from a purely financial aspect:

If the average age of those dying is 79 and many already have other underlying conditions, the monetary value of prolonging their life for several more years should include a calculation for the ongoing costs of providing them with those years.

Those costs will include:

1. Their State Pension;
2. Further, often very expensive, medical treatments which will increase as they age and may be exacerbated by the consequences of having CV;
3. At home care packages or a prolonged period in the vastly more expensive Care Home system.

Sam Bowman doesn't factor these into his rebuttal of Toby's piece.

As an example, I have a friend in her early 70s who is in the highly vulnerable group identified by the Gov. Having smoked all her life, she has chronic COPD, and has to use oxygen daily and overnight. For other reasons, she was fitted with a Stoma bag last year and is now hoping to have the operation reversed, requiring ongoing specialist tests and treatment; she has a leg ulcer and several other conditions which are also being treated, now including regular iron injections.

All in all, she is costing the NHS (ie taxpayers) a small fortune. I'm very fond of her but she has a very poor quality of life. And many others who are "being saved" will be similar. The lockdown isn't "saving their lives." It's delaying their deaths and I do not believe this should justify an extended lockdown which is wrecking our economy and destroying the lives and life-chances of many who will make a productive contribution for decades to come.

The Gov should do its utmost to increase NHS capacity (which it should have done in 2016 after Operation Cygnus), including provision of PPE and testing and after Easter start systematically lifting the lockdown for the vast majority, but requiring the highly vulnerable they have identified to remain in their homes.

Liberista said...

"If 230,000 lives are saved (the difference between mitigation and suppression in the Imperial model Young cites), with an average age of 79.5, that is around 2,070,000 life years saved"

2 days ago i have done the maths on the swiss data. not models or assumptions, but real data.
there have been around 300 covid19 related deaths as per 2 days ago. the deaths are distributed as follows, centering the age in the middle of the 10 years segments: more or less as there is only a bar graph
age number of deaths
35 3
45 2
55 10
65 25
75 75
85 175

no deaths below 30.
life expectancy in switzerland is 83.7 years, ill round it to 85, so a 65 years old victim constitutes a 20 years of life lost. results are as follows:
age total years of life lost
35 150
45 80
55 300
65 500
75 750
85 0

total is 1780 years. divided by the whole population, its 109 minutes per capita.
italy is of course much worse, around 6 hours per capita. but does this justify a complete lockdown with the resulting economic cost, which will be huge? in my opinion, no.
to me it looks that collective actions like complete lockdowns have a tiny collective return.
moreover i read somewhere that a drop in GPD of 5% in UK would carry an excess deaths of 300,000.
so i dont follow Toby Young reasoning
most of the data i see around is plain crap. italy has a 11% letality rate, which is simply impossible.
and no figures so far regarding survival rate in intubated. there was a study in china and recovery rate was like 2%. i think is higher in italy, around 50%, which is very low, but it seems only some of relatively young people survive the 2 weeks of intbation.
so the idea that if we only had more ventilators we would be fine is very wrong.
also bear in mind that as this disease is taking out very old and frail people, is not that once run out of those it will start killing young people. once those are gone, death rate will naturally drop.
in the 5 years run, covid19 will become a small blip in the general death rate. economic damage of lockdowns will in many case be irreversible.
lastly, italy has been on lockdown since 9th march. with an average incubation time of 5 days, there should have been a drop in new cases of at least 50% in less than 2 weeks. that has not happened.

Anonymous said...

" the idea that if we only had more ventilators we would be fine is very wrong"

I believe I heard an ICU doctor say that only 10% of people put on ventilators survive in 'normal' times. That sounds reasonable to me, all this fancy kit 'saves' some very sick people who certainly won't survive the next time their chronic diseases put them in the ICU.

My feeling is that politicians are being guided by medical people who are operating beyond their expertise, they don't know a lot about this virus and no-one has tried the mass isolation strategy before.

Economic arguments tend to be constructed so as to justify a particular policy, it is the classic 'Apples and Pears', they are non-comparable but the economist puts an arbitary value on them so as to make a comparison and that value depends on whether one is an Apple or a Pear person.

Unknown said...

There will be no facts and figures worth analysing until there is an accurate antibody test and extensive sampling of the general population.

Right now, nobody knows how many people have been infected.

And I agree with the government spokesperson who says that a bad test is worse than no test. This particularly applies to test kits made in China, which seem to have very poor quality control.

Don Cox

Dave_G said...

Testing for the virus is pointless. Simply assume that EVERYONE has it (or will get it) and work according to the appropriate figures for severity.

A prominent German virologist is questioning policy on isolation and asks the same questions of Merkel that I've been trying to get answers to - specifically the MISREPORTING of infections/deaths/causality etc.

The cure is VASTLY worse for the population (overall) than the virus itself.

I am confident that there is an ulterior motive behind this scaremongering and the evidence is growing on a daily basis -as are voices in opposition to the current policies.

This is nothing to do with a 'simple' virus - everything to do with an economic reset.

Dave_G said...

Is the real reason behind the lack of testing because if they DID test everyone (specifically NHS workers) they'd find they were ALL infected and shouldn't even BE at work?

It would certainly make their isolation policy totally ridiculous.

Span Ows said...

Both Bowman's or Young's article are fine and so are DeeDee's and Liberista's comments here; you pays your money to takes your choice. Bowman does NOT comprehensively rubbished Young IMHO, just uses other sources for figures. My line of thinking is more in line with DeeDee's. To try to claim 2 million lifeyears saved is ridiculous.

The letter from the doctor mentioned by Dave_G is below (In German)

Unknown said...

The real reason behind the lack of testing is that the tests are very advanced technology and need skilled lab staff to implement.

Tests for the antibody are still being evaluated for accuracy. If they were rolled out before they are fully proven, the false results would do more harm than good.

The same applies to the use of existing drugs as cures.

Really, this can be used as a trial run for the next pandemic, which is likely to have a substantially higher death rate.

Don Cox

Liberista said...

i agree with Deedee. isolate the people at risk, or better, recommend them to self isolate, and let everybody else go back to their life.
the risk for healthy and below 60 is very low, and the "it kills young and old alike" has been debunked by now.

there is a youtube channel run by a doctor, is called "medcram"
it makes a very good observation.
all the effort is concentrated on the population at large (general curfew) and in increasing the number of available ICU beds.
but nothing is done for those who start showing symptoms, they are told to go home and show up again when they have developed pneumonia.
too many of these, at this stage, will need IC. there is a lot to be gained there, at a low cost and effort.
but of course i do not expect the state to do such thing. there is not enough to be gained politically.

JPM said...

Broadly I agree, Raedwald.

However, it would have helped, if for years you had not fuelled the lunatic mentality by feeding, or by acquiescing to, all manner of fanciful ideas in order to get their believers to vote Tory.

In so doing, you have done your bit to undermine the whole Enlightenment principle of evidence-based reasoning.

Still, better late than never.

Ed P said...

According to this site, deaths from "Covid19" are no higher at this time of year than previous years, when it was just "Flu".

If true and accurate, there's a massive power-grab and loss of freedoms going on.

jim said...

A look at A E-P's piece in the Fanzine biz section is worth a read. Now A E-P is a proper misery having predicted 12 of the last three recessions but today his analysis makes sense.

He tells us that what counts is a large scale viral antibody sample test. If most of us have got the lurge and not died or become seriously ill then we already have herd immunity. Then we can cancel the lock downs and get back to normal and my investments will not fall off a cliff. Bad luck on those who get it but c'est la vie, the numbers will not be sky high.

Or the tests might show a low level of infection, social separation has worked, but the disease is dangerous. Not such good news really, social separation is very very expensive and cannot last too long. In this case vaccination (or induced herd immunity) is the only way out. A safe, tested and mass available vaccine might mean at least only some of my investments fall off a cliff, if only I can last that long.

Now being a proper misery A E-P suggests that the reality might well lie somewhere in between. This whole wretched business might take a while. Let us wait for a believable set of tests - and hope.

Mark said...

Wondered where you had been.

How's your beloved EU getting on? Pretty desperately if you managed a post with mentioning it.

Can't wait to see your next bit if trolling if you think you can better this.

Fuck me we're bringing the enlightenment to an end now!?

Jack the dog said...

Ed P

Hector Drummond is just a blogger so fa r as I know he has no particular expertise or knowledge.

So I would be wary of using his statitics to base public policy prescriptions unless you have another more authoritative source.

However, the general thrust of what he says and of what many others are saying is absolutely correct. It seems beyond doubt that the complete lockdown of Western economies is anything but a kneejerk panic induced overreaction and that progresive relaxation of these measures with a view to restarting the economy is essential.

Dave_G said...

I find it particularly appalling (but unsurprising) that the Government and media are playing politics with the NHS by means of a "won't someone think of the children" attitude in respect to their working during this 'crisis'.

Deflection politics writ large.

Nessimmersion said...

Hector Drummond is not using "his statistics", he is using the stats as published by the UK Office of National Statistics (ONS).
All that he is doing is putting the stats in graphical form and promoting discussion.
One of the problems with the whole Great Panic is that so often special knowledge is alleged to be required to debate policy, no special knowledge is required to pay the eye watering taxes that will be required after this farrago.

Ed P said...

Jack le Chien & Nessimmersion

Yes, ONS figures (which we can probably trust).

I await (with not very bated breath) publication of the figures for seasonal flu deaths, heart failures,etc.
As Dave-G said above, how many have died WITH rather than FROM CV19?

(I'm convinced there are humanoids in government basing policies on 1985 & Brave New World, rather than seeing these tracts as warnings.)

Span Ows said...

Ed, Jack, Ness et al. Links to the governments own figures have been posted in the comments over the last 10 days by others and by me.

Up until 20th March there is NO rise and and in fact 2020 is below the last 5 years average. The wek just gone and next week will be the eye-openers.

Anonymous said...

Raedwald said:

'Social media is censoring the most immediately harmful lunacies to protect the most gullible, the most credulous and the most intellectually vulnerable. But already in the US, following suggestions that Chloroquine may be effective in relieving symptoms, a man has died after drinking something from his garden shed that sounded fairly similar..'

"This is Beginning of the End of the Pandemic" - Dr. Stephen Smith Announces COVID-19 Game Changer


Dave_G said...

The BBC are almost wetting themselves over the fact that across the globe the figures for Covid infection has risen to ONE MILLION - O - M - G !!!!!!

Or, in less hysterical fashion, this figure represents 0.013% of the global population.

As ever, quoting "large numbers" (and the global warmists are the usual suspects in this habit) makes the issue sound far more dramatic than it really is.

With the lies told about Covid deaths and the misrepresentation of infections etc we MUST question the policies behind the ridiculous impositions on movement and working.

Edward B said...

The lock down is not about protecting people. It is to smooth the workload on the NHS and save politicians from pictures of overloaded NHS hospitals. No matter the cost to the economy.

Dave_G said...

A person (or couple) driving to a scenic place and walking 'alone' pose no threat to anyone or anything, including the NHS - it's THIS level of hysteria and restriction that is bringing about a (potential) backlash from the public.

But, as you suggest, 'won't someone think of the children.....?'

Unknown said...

The problem is that people drive to the same scenic place, park next to each other, stand near each other to admire the view, and queue for a cup of tea from the travelling sandwich van.

Also, they visit the petrol station and get too close in the shop.

What you say may be true in the North of Norway, but Britain is crowded.

Don Cox

Dave_G said...

In the current crisis? Rubbish. People know how to behave and they no more likely break the rules re 2m separation whilst away from home than they would AT home.

Britain may be crowded but we aren't standing shoulder to shoulder for God's sake!

Anonymous said...

From Spain: It's against its nature that Power (Money) recognizes that it doesn't know. But it doesn't know. Pro-fylaxis (pre-caring) is the very and unique death: it's waiting for living (in the Future). Future is the kingdom of death; it's the Kingdown of Money. Money is Credit and Credit (credere) is to believe. Against believing is thiking. Against thinking is knowing.

Please, do not care. Do not fear.