Public Health, Broken Heart

She must have nerves of steel. I stand firmly with her.

Professor Sunetra Gupta interview with Nick Hudson of PANDA ~ Pandemics Data and Analysis is at YouTube Tea With a Scientist, 55 minutes of intelligence and heart.

A direct copy-paste from The Daily Mail, 30 October 2020

Professor Sunetra Gupta is an infectious disease epidemiologist and a professor of theoretical epidemiology at the Department of Zoology, University of Oxford. Her fee for this article has been donated to The Childhood Trust, a charity which fights to alleviate the impact of child poverty.

Professor Sunetra Gupta (pictured) said at the heart of their proposal is the recognition that mass lockdowns cause enormous damage for the poorest and disadvantaged

Lockdown is a blunt, indiscriminate policy that forces the poorest and most vulnerable people to bear the brunt of the fight against coronavirus. As an infectious diseases epidemiologist, I believe there has to be a better way. 

That is why, earlier this month, with two other international scientists, I co-authored a proposal for an alternative approach — one that shields those most at risk while enabling the rest of the population to resume their ordinary lives to some extent.

I expected debate and disagreement about our ideas, published as the Great Barrington Declaration.

As a scientist, I would welcome that. After all, science progresses through its ideas and counter-ideas.

But I was utterly unprepared for the onslaught of insults, personal criticism, intimidation and threats that met our proposal. The level of vitriol and hostility, not just from members of the public online but from journalists and academics, has horrified me.

I am not a politician. The hurly-burly of political life and being in the eye of the media do not appeal to me at all.

I am first and foremost a scientist; one who is far more comfortable sitting in my office or laboratory than in front of a television camera.

Of course, I do have deeply held political ideals — ones that I would describe as inherently Left-wing. I would not, it is fair to say, normally align myself with the Daily Mail.

I have strong views about the distribution of wealth, about the importance of the Welfare State, about the need for publicly owned utilities and government investment in nationalised industries.

But Covid-19 is not a political phenomenon. It is a public health issue — indeed, it is one so serious that the response to it has already led to a humanitarian crisis. So I have been aghast to see a political rift open up, with outright abuse meted out to those who, like me, question the orthodoxy.

At the heart of our proposal is the recognition that mass lockdowns cause enormous damage.

We are already seeing how current lockdown policies are producing devastating effects on short and long-term public health.

The results — to name just a few — include lower childhood vaccination rates, worsening cardiovascular disease outcomes, fewer cancer screenings and deteriorating mental health.

Such pitfalls of national lockdowns must not be ignored, especially when it is the working class and younger members of society who carry the heaviest burden.

I was also deeply concerned that lockdowns only delay the inevitable spread of the virus. Indeed, we believe that a better way forward would be to target protective measures at specific vulnerable groups, such as the elderly in care homes.

Of course, there will be challenges, such as where people are being cared for in their own multi-generational family homes.

I am certainly not pretending I have all the answers, but these issues need to be discussed and thrashed out thoroughly.

That is why I have found it so frustrating how, in recent weeks, proponents of lockdown policies have seemed intent on shutting down debate rather than promoting reasoned discussion.

It is perplexing to me that so many refuse even to consider the potential benefits of allowing non-vulnerable citizens, such as the young, to go about their lives and risk infection, when in doing so they would build up herd immunity and thereby protect the lives of vulnerable citizens.

Yet rather than engage in serious, rational discussion with us, our critics have dismissed our ideas as ‘pixie dust’ and ‘wishful thinking’.

This refusal to cherish the value of the scientific method strikes at the heart of everything I, as a scientist, hold dear. To me, the reasoned exchange of ideas is the basis of civilised society.

So I was left stunned after being invited on to a mid-morning radio programme recently, only for a producer to warn me minutes before we went on air that I was not to mention the Great Barrington Declaration. The producer repeated the warning and indicated that this was an instruction from a senior broadcasting executive.

I demanded an explanation and, with seconds to go, was told that the public wouldn’t be familiar with the meaning of the phrase ‘Great Barrington Declaration’.

And this was not an isolated experience. A few days later, another national radio station approached my office to set up an interview, then withdrew the invitation. They felt, on reflection, that giving airtime to me would ‘not be in the national interest’.

But the Great Barrington Declaration represents a heartfelt attempt by a group of academics with decades of experience in this field to limit the harm of lockdown. I cannot conceive how anyone can construe this as ‘against the national interest’.

Moreover, matters certainly are not helped by outlets such as The Guardian, which has repeatedly published opinion pieces making factually incorrect and scientifically flawed statements, as well as borderline defamatory comments about me, while refusing to give our side of the debate an opportunity to present our view.

I am surprised, given the importance of the issues at stake — not least the principle of fair, balanced journalism — that The Guardian would not want to present all the evidence to its readers. After all, how else are we to encourage proper, frank debate about the science?

On social media, meanwhile, much of the discourse has lacked any decorum whatsoever.

I have all but stopped using Twitter, but I am aware that a number of academics have taken to using it to make personal attacks on my character, while my work is dismissed as ‘pseudo- science’. Depressingly, our critics have also taken to ridiculing the Great Barrington Declaration as ‘fringe’ and ‘dangerous’.

But ‘fringe’ is a ridiculous word, implying that only mainstream science matters. If that were the case, science would stagnate. And dismissing us as ‘dangerous’ is equally unhelpful, not least because it is an inflammatory, emotional term charged with implications of irresponsibility. When it is hurled around by people with influence, it becomes toxic.

But this pandemic is an international crisis. To shut down the discussion with abuse and smears — that is truly dangerous.

Yet of all the criticisms flung at us, the one I find most upsetting is the accusation that we are indulging in ‘policy-based evidence-making’ — in other words, drumming up facts to fit our ideological agenda.

And that ideology, according to some, is one of Right-wing libertarian extremism.

According to Wikipedia, for instance, the Great Barrington Declaration was funded by a Right-wing think-tank with links to climate-change deniers.

It should be obvious to anyone that writing a short proposal and posting it on a website requires no great financing. But let me spell it out, since, apparently, I have to: I did not accept payment to co-author the Great Barrington Declaration.

Money has never been the motivation in my career. It hurts me profoundly that anyone who knows me, or has even a passing professional acquaintance, could believe for a minute that I would accept a clandestine payment for anything.

I am very fortunate to have a house and garden I love, and I couldn’t ask for more material wealth than that. Far more important to me are my family and my work. Yet the abuse continues to flood in, increasingly of a personal nature.

I have been accused of not having the right expertise, of being a ‘theoretical’ epidemiologist with her head in the clouds. In fact, within my research group, we have a thriving laboratory that was one of the first to develop an antibody test for the coronavirus.

We were able to do so because we have been working for the past six years on a flu vaccine, using a combination of laboratory and theoretical techniques. Our technology has already been patented and licensed and presents a rare example of a mathematical model leading to the development of a vaccine.

Even more encouraging, however, is that there is now a groundswell of movements — Us For Them, PanData19 and The Price of Panic, to name but three — seeking to give a voice to those, like me, who believe that the collateral damage of lockdown can be worse than the virus itself.

On Thursday, a broad coalition was launched under the banner of Recovery. Drawing people from across the mainstream of political views, the movement is calling for balance and moderation in our response to Covid-19, backed by a proper public debate and a comprehensive public inquiry.

I am delighted that it has received such a level of support.

For, ultimately, lockdown is a luxury of the affluent; something that can be afforded only in wealthy countries — and even then, only by the better-off households in those countries.

One way to go about shifting our perspective would be to catalogue all the ways in which lockdowns across the world are damaging societies. At present, I am collaborating with a number of colleagues to do just this, under the banner

For the simple truth is that Covid-19 will not just go away if we continue to impose enough meaningless restrictions on ourselves. And the longer we fail to recognise this, the worse will be the permanent economic damage — the brunt of which, again, will be borne by the disadvantaged and the young.

When I signed the Great Barrington Declaration on October 4, I did so with fellow scientists to express our view that national lockdowns won’t cure us of Covid.

Clearly, none of us anticipated such a vitriolic response.

The abuse that has followed has been nothing short of shameful.

But rest assured. Whatever they throw at us, it won’t do anything to sway me — or my colleagues — from the principles that sit behind what we wrote.


Meanwhile, for anyone interested in data, this link is useful.

EuroMOMO is a European mortality monitoring activity, aiming to detect and measure excess deaths related to seasonal influenza, pandemics and other public health threats.

Official national mortality statistics are provided weekly from the 26 European countries in the EuroMOMO collaborative network, supported by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO), and hosted by Statens Serum Institut, Denmark.

The covered population mortality represents a total population of approximately 295 million people in the network, as of 1 January 2020.

Stop the Nonsense

How is this normal or acceptable?

Hi ya folks. I just want to say. It’s just been like a prison in here. We’re shut down. We can’t see our family. And I think when you’re my age, you deserve to see your family. And so what you want is a lot of happy faces, round about you. So please try and help, and do all you can. There must be loads of others like me, waiting to see their bairns…. I’ve got good carers, and the staff is really good here, the food is good, everything… But this is what you want, your bairn in front of you, when you’re old.

In late 1889, a new virus killed 1m people. It affected the old and men more than the young and women. It returned for a smaller 2nd wave in late 1890. Genomic evidence suggests it was OC43, a coronavirus that now causes common colds. More at New Scientist: An Uncommon Cold

Review from Baby Milk Action on the exploitation of companies feigning humanitarian motives to promote their products amidst pandemic fears.

Impact on infant nutrition as per this one example from British Medical Journal about disruption of breastfeeding in India which starts:

In mid-April, Arun Gupta came across a string of photographs on social media that sent alarm bells ringing in his head. The photographs1 showed police officers, state administrators, and representatives of non-profit organisations such as the Ladli Foundation Trust distributing infant formula, including the Nestle products Lactogen and Cerelac, as part of pandemic relief efforts during India’s lockdown.

In Adelaide, Australia, four newborn babies in a single month are reported to have died from treatable cardiac conditions. This Guardian article omits to mention that available interstate specialist care was denied due to lockdown.

Morning Television in the UK thought this was a nice way to reintroduce their breakfast hosts to the audience. Science a la 2020.

Philip Schofield and Holly Willoughby drumming up anxiety on breakfast TV

The Tom Woods show is a podcast series by Tom Woods, an author, historian and libertarian. Episode 1758 is an interview with Nick Hudson who founded PANDA ~ Pandemics Data and Analytics. This group are seeking to make a collective impact on pandemic response using scientific data that follows logic rather than fear in order to protect lives from the impacts of bad science and politics. Hudson has a lot to say, including:

There is a lot of bad philosophy of science going on … The narrative is:

there’s a new, deadly virus, we are all susceptible to it, if we don’t lock down and wear masks we are all going to die, even when you’ve recovered you can get it again, even if you have an asymptomatic case you can have long term effects. So it’s a chain of ten or twelve statements.

And the astonishing thing about it is, there’s not one weak link in the chain – every single last element of that chain is totally incorrect and contradicts the science …

The real story: we have a relatively mild virus for the most part of the population, in fact milder than the flu for most people; slightly more severe for the very old. It is not a new virus but an individuum of an existing virus, not a new species, and therefore we have T-Cell immunity that protects many people in the population, if you get it your B-Cell and T-Cell memory kicks into action and gives a protective effect that lasts for a long time. There’s nothing exceptional about the disease in terms of long term effects relative to other diseases that we live with consistently and without locking down and wearing masks. So every element of the story is untrue.

He also speaks about the role of PANDA in regaining the territory of open science. International support is growing quickly. They are backed by Professors Gupta, Levitt, Bhattacharya and Kulldorff, who he describes as “being very brave in standing up in institutions that are probably not too comfortable with the views they are taking. Certainly in a profession that is dead against them”. PANDA Doctors has been established to support doctors who are speaking out against the malarchy, and PANDA Lawyers has been established to defend them. The aim of PANDA is to grow their following so that they become a voice that has to be listened to.

“Two new peer-reviewed studies are showing a sharp drop in mortality among hospitalized COVID patients. The drop is seen in all groups, suggesting that physicians are getting better at helping patients survive their illness.”

Studies Point to Big Drop in Covid-19 Death Rates

Please. Let the nonsense stop.

Declaration of Inspiration

Some people are just inspiring. Nick Hudson is an actuary who co-founded the South African non-profit Pandemics – Data and Analytics. The Australian mainstream media have ignored the Great Barrington Declaration which is perhaps one of the most significant movements of this year, if not beyond. Meanwhile, upon signing the Great Barrington Declaration, Hudson had this to say.

This is a turning point. I’ve signed the Great Barrington Declaration and you should too.

We established @Pandata19 in April 2020, because we perceived the global reaction to Covid as overwrought and damaging to the point of causing a great tear in the fabric of society.

Massively exaggerated epidemiological models, social media propaganda and exaggerated reporting struck fear into the hearts of nations. A cry went up to emulate the Wuhan lockdown, though such measures had been eschewed by all pre-Covid science, and for good reason.

The corrupt, the fearful and the inept among scientists and politicians alike heeded and amplified that cry, embarking upon a great intrusion against civil liberties and pursuing health policies that quite clearly would harm more than help.

Courageous voices that spoke out against this derangement were suppressed, and open science, a key contributor the huge progress achieved over the last century, was trampled upon, in favour of trumped up authoritarian measures mired in arbitrary and senseless regulations.

That such voices were silenced is a great tragedy. What they said had the potential to save many lives, because they spoke common sense. To save the vulnerable few, the many needed to carry on with their lives.

By doing so, the vast majority, to whom Covid presents negligible risk, would continue to build the wealth that sustains our healthcare services, and the immunity that would cause the epidemic to wither before it could attack the vulnerable.

Instead, as the evidence rolls in that lockdowns and other non-pharmaceutical interventions have yielded no benefits, we now must contend with the reality of livelihoods destroyed, unraveling social bonds, psychological damage and devastating health consequences.

Yet those mistaken scientists and inept politicians double down, spurred on by corporate greed, proposing a “great reset” and a “new normal”, which threaten vast swathes of humanity with a dystopian future.

All around the world, citizens are beginning to conquer the fear that governments told them they must have to be good. They—scientists, doctors and the general public alike—need to unite and push back against the prevailing Covid narrative.

I sign this declaration for the same reason we at PANDA have worked tirelessly against vast arrayed forces; that, knowing what we knew, we would never be able to look our children in the eyes if we did anything else.

I sign this declaration because, in doing so, I stand alongside scientists of courage and integrity. I know, viscerally, the costs their stand entails, and how important it is that they receive our support.

I sign this declaration because it is a crucial step in reasserting open science, liberty and humanity. We must uncancel the cancelled, unsilence the muzzled and order the disordered. There is no more important struggle.

Join authors Professors Jay Bhattacharya, Sunetra Gupta and Martin Kulldorff, and initial signatory Michael Levitt. We are grateful to have them not only as PANDA’s Scientific Advisory Board, but as vital inspirers of the foot soldiers in the great effort that lies ahead.

If you are a doctor, look out for the launch of PANDA Doctors, an initiative to unite and support medical professionals who are raising their voices. If you are a lawyer, join PANDA Lawyers, which will be key in providing that support.

Whoever you are, do what you can to promote this message, to calm the fear in your own community and to point its members in the direction of a flourishing future.

PS: Please recognize too the role played by Jeffrey Tucker (Editorial Director) and Stacey Rudin (Writer) of the American Institute for Economic Research, in bringing this project to fruition.