The plan

By now, it’s pretty obvious what happened. The lockdown scenario was prepared well in advance, and was sitting on the shelf, waiting to be used. Then the virus came along – probably by chance – and the global elite saw an opportunity to grab more power, so they dusted off the plan.

We can see this in the bizarre nature of the political reaction to the virus, which had two stages. In the first stage, lasting roughly through the end of February, Western governments reassured their people that there was no reason to panic, even as an estimated 760 million Chinese citizens were placed under lockdown. Meanwhile, normal public health measures were taken to monitor the outbreak and prepare hospitals for increased stress.

In the second stage, which started in late February or early March, the Western establishment executed a rapid and complete U-turn. Public officials and the media began spreading the message that this virus was the end of the world as we know it; millions will die unless you cease all social activity and stay home indefinitely. Key moments in this U-turn include the phased lockdown of Italy (starting with a dozen towns in Lombardy and Veneto on Feb. 22, extended to a quarter of the Italian population on March 8, and finally to the whole country on March 9); the curfew imposed on Hoboken, New Jersey on March 14; the lockdown of the San Francisco Bay Area announced on March 16; and the federal social distancing guidelines unveiled on the same day. On March 23, the Washington Post reported that nearly 100 million Americans were living under stay-at-home orders. Germany banned all gatherings of more than two people on March 22 and the radical lockdown of Britain began on March 23.

Thus, if we take the Italian lockdown as the starting point, there was a period of a month during which the Western world lurched from relative nonchalance about the virus to a state of total emergency in which normal life was suspended by government decree. The vast majority of these changes happened after March 8, so it would be fair to say that the seismic shift in the Western response to the virus occurred over the span of roughly a fortnight.

Now, it needs to be remembered that at the time, the death toll from coronavirus fell far short of what one would expect from a truly dangerous pandemic. By March 23, there had been a grand total of about 15,000 coronavirus deaths in the whole world – more than 10 weeks after the first known death was reported on Jan. 11. To put this number in perspective, the US experienced some 61,000 influenza-associated deaths in the severe flu season of 2017-18. The current, probably inflated, death toll stands at around 205,000 in Europe and 154,000 in the US. The global death toll has now reached 685,000; still less than the roughly one million people estimated to have succumbed to the Hong Kong flu in 1968, including roughly 100,000 deaths in the US. (Note that the US population in 1968 was about three-fifths of its current level and the world population was less than half.)

Lockdowns, moreover, are pseudo-scientific nonsense, an experimental measure pioneered by Communist China and untested in the West when the flurry of decisions were made to shut down the world. The public health benefits of placing whole populations under de facto house arrest were never clear, whereas the terrible costs of such an intervention were only too obvious. Yet all major Western nations (the US, Germany, Britain, France, Italy, Spain, Russia a bit later…) adopted the same radical policy at almost the same time, like a school of fish turning in unison.

Such an anomaly cries out for an explanation. Fortunately, the global elite likes to signal its intentions, and a remarkable scenario-planning document from 2010 prefigures the Great Lockdown of 2020 with such eerie precision that it reads more like a blueprint than a hypothesis about the future. The report, released by the Rockefeller Foundation, is titled “Scenarios for the Future of Technology and International Development,” and it covers four scenarios, the first of which is called “Lock Step.” Here is the relevant passage:

LOCK STEP

A world of tighter top-down government control and more authoritarian leadership, with limited innovation and growing citizen pushback

In 2012, the pandemic that the world had been anticipating for years finally hit. Unlike 2009’s H1N1, this new influenza strain — originating from wild geese — was extremely virulent and deadly. Even the most pandemic-prepared nations were quickly overwhelmed when the virus streaked around the world, infecting nearly 20 percent of the global population and killing 8 million in just seven months, the majority of them healthy young adults. The pandemic also 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.

The pandemic blanketed the planet — though disproportionate numbers died in Africa, Southeast Asia, and Central America, where the virus spread like wildfire in the absence of official containment protocols. But even in developed countries, containment was a challenge. The United States’s initial policy of “strongly discouraging” citizens from flying proved deadly in its leniency, accelerating the spread of the virus not just within the U.S. but across borders. However, a few countries did fare better — China in particular. The Chinese government’s quick imposition and enforcement of mandatory quarantine for all citizens, as well as its instant and near-hermetic sealing off of all borders, saved millions of lives, stopping the spread of the virus far earlier than in other countries and enabling a swifter postpandemic recovery.

China’s government was not the only one that took extreme measures to protect its citizens from risk and exposure. During the pandemic, national leaders around the world flexed their authority and imposed airtight rules and restrictions, from the mandatory wearing of face masks to body-temperature checks at the entries to communal spaces like train stations and supermarkets. Even after the pandemic faded, this more authoritarian control and oversight of citizens and their activities stuck and even
intensified. In order to protect themselves from the spread of increasingly global problems — from pandemics and transnational terrorism to environmental crises and rising poverty — leaders around the world took a firmer grip on power.

At first, the notion of a more controlled world gained wide acceptance and approval. Citizens willingly gave up some of their sovereignty — and their privacy — to more paternalistic states in exchange for greater safety and stability. Citizens were more tolerant, and even eager, for top-down direction and oversight, and national leaders had more latitude to impose order in the ways they saw fit. In developed countries, this heightened oversight took many forms: biometric IDs for all citizens, for example, and tighter regulation of key industries whose stability was deemed vital to national interests. In many developed countries, enforced cooperation with a suite of new regulations and agreements slowly but steadily restored both order and, importantly, economic growth.

The full report is available here (PDF). Keep in mind that this fantasy of a “more controlled world” presupposes a very deadly virus that harvests 8 million people in seven months, the majority of them healthy young adults. When all is said and done, COVID-19 is likely to kill a fraction of that number, and most of the victims will be elderly and/or people with chronic illnesses. In other words, the virus we ended up with is too weak to serve as a plausible pretext for the sort of totalitarian power-grab envisioned by the report; yet the power-grab happened anyway, as if the nature of the threat doesn’t matter. That is, of course, because the nature of the threat does not matter; the lockdowns are not about the virus – they were never about the virus!

Luckily for the architects of our new reality, most people are too stupid or brainwashed to see through the scam or too passive to resist it in any manner. The Western public marches forward as if in a daze, completely in thrall to the arbitrary commands of their new masters, the public health experts – or whoever is working through them. Perhaps it seems that the lockdowns are being “lifted” and “eased,” but that is like letting the dog outside to play. The basic relationship between the public and their new masters, established in March, remains intact: they tell us what to do, and we do it. The public has more or less accepted that the lockdowns are here to stay, modulated by experts as the alleged threat waxes and wanes. Of course, we will never be free of deadly viruses, so there is nothing stopping the experts from telling us to wear masks or avoid human contact year-round. Maybe they will discover tomorrow that masks are dangerous and ban them. And we will obey, because we must – we have accepted the principle that they rule us with an iron fist, albeit one covered tactfully with a medical glove. The plan worked.

Did the lockdowns work?

This is a good debate involving Knut Wittkowski (who has been cited previously on this blog) about whether the lockdowns worked. Short answer: no, because the number of infections in the US peaked on March 8th, before the lockdowns began. You can’t “flatten the curve” if the curve has already peaked! Weird to think that all those stay-at-home orders, business closures and sweeping suspensions of civil liberties were completely pointless. Oh well.

Color revolution in the works?

I’m getting that Euromaidan feeling from the current paroxysm on American’s streets. Aren’t you?

“The Trump Regime Is Beginning to Topple”

What the United States is witnessing is less like the chaos of 1968, which further divided a nation, and more like the nonviolent movements that earned broad societal support in places such as Serbia, Ukraine, and Tunisia, and swept away the dictatorial likes of Milošević, Yanukovych, and Ben Ali.

Keep an eye on this and note the historical parallels. I would not be surprised to see some fake/manufactured bloody event over the next few days, that will serve as a pretext for elements of the military to step in and “take appropriate action” to “defend the Constitution.”

The Japanese model

One of the more unexpected revelations of the current madness is that Japan is now more free than the United States of Lockdown. Back on February 1, I pointed out the seemingly odd fact that the country’s government had no power to quarantine Japanese citizens it had evacuated from virus epicenter Wuhan, or even force them to undergo tests.

Now we learn that Japan, which seemed to have a blasé attitude about the virus and avoided “locking down” its population like prisoners after a riot, is lifting its state of emergency after suffering a mere 851 deaths due to WuFlu. From the increasingly indispensable Peter Hitchens:

The important news was that Japan, an advanced country with several megacities and a closely-packed population of 126.5 million persons, has abandoned its comparatively mild and largely voluntary restrictions on daily life. […]

These restrictions, more mouth than trousers, were introduced a few weeks ago after various politicians and media promoted a panic about the supposed danger of Coronavirus. As ‘The Guardian’ put it: ‘Japan did not impose the kind of lockdown seen in Britain and other parts of Europe, but encouraged firms to allow staff to work remotely, and bars, restaurants and other small businesses to close or restrict opening hours. People were asked to avoid unnecessary outings, but there were no penalties for non-compliance. Since February, 851 deaths in Japan have been attributed to Covid-19. This seems to me to be a rate per million of something around 7.2 . […]

‘Mask-wearing, home-working and social distancing were all advised, but Japan’s constitution prohibits a mandatory lockdown. Businesses, including restaurants, were allowed to choose whether they remained open, and only 0.2 per cent of the population were tested for the virus.

‘”It is a mystery to everybody,” said Tasuku Honjo, professor of immunology at Kyoto University and winner of the 2018 Nobel Prize for medicine. There were “several theories” as to the reason for Japan’s success. “One is that people in this country like to be clean. They wash their hands frequently and they do not kiss and hug”, he said.

‘Prof Honjo added that other suggestions were that the widespread BCG vaccination boosted Japanese people’s immunity, and it was also possible that the genes of Asian people were more resistant to the virus than Caucasians.

‘Another hypothesis was that Japan was hit by an early, weaker strain of the virus before it was able to mutate.’

Perhaps, as Hitchens suggests later in the post, the virus just behaves according to its own logic and is largely unaffected by government action. If true, this would imply that the costly lockdown policies imposed on billions of people around the world were completely pointless. I suspect that is the case and that attempting to control this respiratory virus by shutting down society and commerce will be remembered, like the totalitarian movements of the twentieth century, as a spasm of hubris and folly — very possibly the largest, most damaging mistake in human history.

I have to remind myself every day how crazy it is that businesses and places of worship are STILL closed or operating under severe restrictions in many states, despite the tapering off of the epidemic and the lack of scientific evidence that these policies serve any public health purpose whatsoever. There is a human tendency to rationalize whatever is happening as “normal,” no matter how bizarre and ridiculous it is, as long as it is endorsed by the right authority figures — a tendency strengthened in America, I believe, by the decline of intellectual standards, the atrophying of independent thought, and the “zombification” of the population through many years of exposure to mindless mass media degeneracy. One blogger has suggested that the purpose of disaster movies has been to condition the population to accept real-life horrors with glassy-eyed complacency. That seems plausible to me, and the events of the past couple of months really make me wonder what insane violations of human dignity the people of the West, specifically the US and England, will not accept if they are solemnly assured that they are necessary to protect public health. Perhaps we will see screaming people plucked off the street by men in hazmat suits and stuffed into metal cubes in the backs of pickup trucks. But the evils of the new age are likely to be more banal, less sensational and therefore invisible to the majority of the demoralized Western public.

In any case, Japan’s admirable refusal to buckle in the face of relentless panic-mongering stands as a powerful rebuke to manufactured corona hysteria and the novel, insidious form of despotism that has quite suddenly installed itself over much of the world.

Open the churches

The spirit of liberty is not completely dead in the US. Sunday should be very interesting. Still, it’s absolutely incredible that so many states still have restrictions on religious worship, two months into this alleged crisis. Does the First Amendment mean anything anymore, or are today’s Americans so demoralized, propagandized and zombified that they simply don’t care? The whole debate over the virus has been framed as saving lives vs. saving the economy — basically, health vs. money. But there is so more to human life, and what it means to be an American, than that.

New York State has generously allowed religious gatherings of no more than 10 people to take place. Here’s an article from April 28 detailing the restrictions across the country:

According to the report, which reflects executive orders in effect as of April 24, only 10 states are preventing in-person religious gatherings in any form. These states include Alaska, California, Idaho, Illinois, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Vermont and Washington.

In 16 states, residents may continue to attend religious gatherings with no limit on their size, while 21 states and the District of Columbia allow residents to partake in these gatherings if there are 10 people or fewer, according to Pew Research Center. Connecticut and Oregon have a higher threshold of 50 and 25 people, respectively.

Some of the states without size limits on religious gatherings, such as Florida and South Carolina, categorize religious worship as “essential,” according to the report.

In other words, as of April 24 (I couldn’t find a more recent report), the majority of states (31) had either banned religious gatherings in any form or limited their size to 10 people, making it effectively impossible to hold normal religious services. The assault on religious liberty, and the general lack of outrage over it, is to my mind the most serious and shocking aspect of the fake emergency that has been foisted upon us.

But at least we’re not Britain! Peter Hitchens performs a depressing autopsy:

We will never get out of this now. It will go on for ever. We will not be free people again.

Even when we seem to be free we will be like prisoners on parole, who can be snatched back to their cells at a moment’s notice.

I think I now understand why this period has come to be known by the repulsive word ‘lockdown’, an American term which describes the punishment of rioting convicts in a penitentiary, by confining them in their cells for long periods.

I hate this word, because it does not seem to me to be fitting to describe free people in a free country.

But we are no longer such people, or such a country. We have become muzzled, mouthless, voiceless, humiliated, regimented prisoners, shuffling about at the command of others, stopping when told to stop, moving when told to move, shouted at by jacks-in-office against whom we have no appeal.

We are learning, during this induction period, to do what we are told and to become obedient, servile citizens of a new authoritarian State. We are unlearning the old rules of freedom. […]

But now the new Strong State, growing in our midst for decades, has finally become powerful enough to emerge in all its naked nastiness. Or rather, all the proper institutions of a civil society have grown so weak that the Strong State can now get its way.

The married family, the independent middle-class, able to make a decent living on the basis of hard-won qualifications, the political parties, Parliament itself, the Opposition, the Monarchy, the Armed Forces, the Church (pathetically anxious to close itself), the Civil Service, most of the media, the BBC, are just husks of what they were 50 years ago.

Read the whole thing if you want a really chilling glimpse of where America is heading. Perhaps the function of Britain today is to serve as a cautionary tale for the rest of us. We cannot let America became Airstrip One. End the lockdowns, now. And those pushing such totalitarian madness as “contact tracing,” fever-screening cameras, mandatory vaccination and all of the rest of it are welcome to fuck right off to England, China, or some other hellhole where the ability to leave your home or worship God is not a fundamental right, but a privilege granted by a faceless bureaucracy.

“If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen.” –Samuel Adams

“Unconscionable”

My sense is that the establishment is beginning to retreat from the insane policy of putting America under house arrest over a microbe. One sign of this is the abandonment of the grave warnings that millions will die from this modern Black Death. It’s notable that the CDC director is now saying that “you’re seeing the numbers [of deaths] are going to be much, much, much, much lower than would have been predicted by the models.”

Also interesting is Bloomberg’s decision to devote a lengthy article to Michael Burry’s powerful denunciation of the current policy. Burry is the Aspergery investor played by Christian Bale in The Big Short. Here is what he says:

“Universal stay-at-home is the most devastating economic force in modern history,” Burry wrote in an email to Bloomberg News. “And it is man-made. It very suddenly reverses the gains of underprivileged groups, kills and creates drug addicts, beats and terrorizes women and children in violent now-jobless households, and more. It bleeds deep anguish and suicide.” […]

He said he began speaking out because of how people were suffering from measures taken to contain the pandemic. “Unconscionable,” is how he described job losses in the U.S., which have caused a once-unthinkable 10 million people to apply for unemployment benefits in the past two weeks. […]

“This is a new form of coronavirus that emanated from a country, China, that unfortunately covered it up. That was the original sin. It transmits very easily, and within the first month it was likely all over the world. Very poor testing infrastructure created an information vacuum as cases ramped, ventilator shortages were projected. Politicians panicked and media filled the space with their own ignorance and greed. It was a toxic mix that led to the shutdown of the U.S., and hence much of the world economy.”

The public has already demonstrated its willingness to go along with martial law-like restrictions on a thin pretext, so perhaps the next step will be to push the envelope further, for example by banning outdoor jogging during the day. Or the lockdowns may simply be maintained for the next 18-plus months, as Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel has proposed, causing the complete collapse of the United States.

On the other hand, it’s obvious that the lockdowns have already inflicted profound damage on the economy, and if not ended soon, could bring about the kind of widespread immiseration seen in Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union – to say nothing of mass civil unrest. Perhaps that is the goal. But if it’s not, then the people running our country may be preparing to loosen the lease a bit – for now.

Questions for Merkel

Stamford, Connecticut is a ghost town, with virtually everything closed after 9:30pm and only a few furtive-looking people roaming the streets. Identical green signs on restaurant windows advise that they are open for takeout. However, the convenience stores and big chains (McDonald’s, Subway) are the only establishments that aren’t closed and locked at this time of night. My favorite restaurants are all shuttered, two of them possibly forever. Quiet, dark and nearly deserted, the city center feels post-apocalyptic.

Thus, with 401 laboratory-confirmed coronavirus “cases” (is that the right term for infections, which may not manifest symptoms?), a city of 130,000 people has been effectively shut down. How long will this last? It’s not clear.

The public may be under the impression that there a consensus among the experts about the wisdom of this approach. There is not. In Germany, a distinguished medical research scientist had some pointed questions for Angela Merkel a few days after the Chancellor announced a nationwide “contact ban,” and I am posting the full text of this important document here:

Open Letter from Professor Sucharit Bhakdi to German Chancellor Dr. Angela Merkel

An Open Letter from Dr. Sucharit Bhakdi, Professor Emeritus of Medical Microbiology at the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, to the German Chancellor Dr. Angela Merkel. Professor Bhakdi calls for an urgent reassessment of the response to Covid-19 and asks the Chancellor five crucial questions. The let­ter is dated March 26. This is an inofficial translation; see the original letter in German as a PDF.
Open Letter

Dear Chancellor,

As Emeritus of the Johannes-Gutenberg-University in Mainz and longtime director of the Institute for Medical Microbiology, I feel obliged to critically question the far-reaching restrictions on public life that we are currently taking on ourselves in order to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

It is expressly not my intention to play down the dangers of the virus or to spread a political message. However, I feel it is my duty to make a scientific contribution to putting the current data and facts into perspective – and, in addition, to ask questions that are in danger of being lost in the heated debate.

The reason for my concern lies above all in the truly unforeseeable socio-economic consequences of the drastic containment measures which are currently being applied in large parts of Europe and which are also already being practiced on a large scale in Germany.

My wish is to discuss critically – and with the necessary foresight – the advantages and disadvantages of restricting public life and the resulting long-term effects.

To this end, I am confronted with five questions which have not been answered sufficiently so far, but which are indispensable for a balanced analysis.

I would like to ask you to comment quickly and, at the same time, appeal to the Federal Government to develop strategies that effectively protect risk groups without restricting public life across the board and sow the seeds for an even more intensive polarization of society than is already taking place.

With the utmost respect,

Prof. em. Dr. med. Sucharit Bhakdi

1. Statistics

In infectiology – founded by Robert Koch himself – a traditional distinction is made between infection and disease. An illness requires a clinical manifestation. [1] Therefore, only patients with symptoms such as fever or cough should be included in the statistics as new cases.

In other words, a new infection – as measured by the COVID-19 test – does not necessarily mean that we are dealing with a newly ill patient who needs a hospital bed. However, it is currently assumed that five percent of all infected people become seriously ill and require ventilation. Projections based on this estimate suggest that the healthcare system could be overburdened.

My question: Did the projections make a distinction between symptom-free infected people and actual, sick patients – i.e. people who develop symptoms?

2. Dangerousness

A number of coronaviruses have been circulating for a long time – largely unnoticed by the media. [2] If it should turn out that the COVID-19 virus should not be ascribed a significantly higher risk potential than the already circulating corona viruses, all countermeasures would obviously become unnecessary.

The internationally recognized International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents will soon publish a paper that addresses exactly this question. Preliminary results of the study can already be seen today and lead to the conclusion that the new virus is NOT different from traditional corona viruses in terms of dangerousness. The authors express this in the title of their paper „SARS-CoV-2: Fear versus Data“. [3]

My question: How does the current workload of intensive care units with patients with diagnosed COVID-19 compare to other coronavirus infections, and to what extent will this data be taken into account in further decision-making by the federal government? In addition: Has the above study been taken into account in the planning so far? Here too, of course, „diagnosed“ means that the virus plays a decisive role in the patient’s state of illness, and not that previous illnesses play a greater role.

3. Dissemination

According to a report in the Süddeutsche Zeitung, not even the much-cited Robert Koch Institute knows exactly how much is tested for COVID-19. It is a fact, however, that a rapid increase in the number of cases has recently been observed in Germany as the volume of tests increases. [4]

It is therefore reasonable to suspect that the virus has already spread unnoticed in the healthy population. This would have two consequences: firstly, it would mean that the official death rate – on 26 March 2020, for example, there were 206 deaths from around 37,300 infections, or 0.55 percent [5] – is too high; and secondly, it would mean that it would hardly be possible to prevent the virus from spreading in the healthy population.

My question: Has there already been a random sample of the healthy general population to validate the real spread of the virus, or is this planned in the near future?

4. Mortality

The fear of a rise in the death rate in Germany (currently 0.55 percent) is currently the subject of particularly intense media attention. Many people are worried that it could shoot up like in Italy (10 percent) and Spain (7 percent) if action is not taken in time.

At the same time, the mistake is being made worldwide to report virus-related deaths as soon as it is established that the virus was present at the time of death – regardless of other factors. This violates a basic principle of infectiology: only when it is certain that an agent has played a significant role in the disease or death may a diagnosis be made. The Association of the Scientific Medical Societies of Germany expressly writes in its guidelines: „In addition to the cause of death, a causal chain must be stated, with the corresponding underlying disease in third place on the death certificate. Occasionally, four-linked causal chains must also be stated.“ [6]

At present there is no official information on whether, at least in retrospect, more critical analyses of medical records have been undertaken to determine how many deaths were actually caused by the virus.

My question: Has Germany simply followed this trend of a COVID-19 general suspicion? And: is it intended to continue this categorisation uncritically as in other countries? How, then, is a distinction to be made between genuine corona-related deaths and accidental virus presence at the time of death?

5. Comparability

The appalling situation in Italy is repeatedly used as a reference scenario. However, the true role of the virus in that country is completely unclear for many reasons – not only because points 3 and 4 above also apply here, but also because exceptional external factors exist which make these regions particularly vulnerable.

One of these factors is the increased air pollution in the north of Italy. According to WHO estimates, this situation, even without the virus, led to over 8,000 additional deaths per year in 2006 in the 13 largest cities in Italy alone. [7] The situation has not changed significantly since then. [8] Finally, it has also been shown that air pollution greatly increases the risk of viral lung diseases in very young and elderly people. [9]

Moreover, 27.4 percent of the particularly vulnerable population in this country live with young people, and in Spain as many as 33.5 percent. In Germany, the figure is only seven percent [10]. In addition, according to Prof. Dr. Reinhard Busse, head of the Department of Management in Health Care at the TU Berlin, Germany is significantly better equipped than Italy in terms of intensive care units – by a factor of about 2.5 [11].

My question: What efforts are being made to make the population aware of these elementary differences and to make people understand that scenarios like those in Italy or Spain are not realistic here?
References:

[1] Fachwörterbuch Infektionsschutz und Infektionsepidemiologie. Fachwörter – Definitionen – Interpretationen. Robert Koch-Institut, Berlin 2015. (abgerufen am 26.3.2020)

[2] Killerby et al., Human Coronavirus Circulation in the United States 2014–2017. J Clin Virol. 2018, 101, 52-56

[3] Roussel et al. SARS-CoV-2: Fear Versus Data. Int. J. Antimicrob. Agents 2020, 105947

[4] Charisius, H. Covid-19: Wie gut testet Deutschland? Süddeutsche Zeitung. (abgerufen am 27.3.2020)

[5] Johns Hopkins University, Coronavirus Resource Center. 2020. (abgerufen am 26.3.2020)

[6] S1-Leitlinie 054-001, Regeln zur Durchführung der ärztlichen Leichenschau. AWMF Online (abgerufen am 26.3.2020)

[7] Martuzzi et al. Health Impact of PM10 and Ozone in 13 Italian Cities. World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe. WHOLIS number E88700 2006

[8] European Environment Agency, Air Pollution Country Fact Sheets 2019, (abgerufen am 26.3.2020)

[9] Croft et al. The Association between Respiratory Infection and Air Pollution in the Setting of Air Quality Policy and Economic Change. Ann. Am. Thorac. Soc. 2019, 16, 321–330.

[10] United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division. Living Arrange­ments of Older Persons: A Report on an Expanded International Dataset (ST/ESA/SER.A/407). 2017

[11] Deutsches Ärzteblatt, Überlastung deutscher Krankenhäuser durch COVID-19 laut Experten unwahrscheinlich, (abgerufen am 26.3.2020)

Here is a widely watched video from two weeks ago in which Professor Bhakdi attempts to dispel the corona hysteria:

Germany has decided to keep the contact ban in place until April 20, at which point… well, again, it’s vague. Merkel said that restrictions can only be eased if new infections do not double within a 10-day period. On the other hand, her chief of staff is saying this:

“Should we be able to quantify the success of our measures in the coming days, we’ll work out a strategy for the time after April 20,” Braun said. A vaccine needs to be in place before the country can fully return to normal life, he said.

A vaccine will not be widely available for at least 12-18 months. The famous Imperial College London paper, which I cited previously, touches on the issue that lockdowns need to be maintained or the virus will come roaring back:

The main challenge of this approach is that NPIs [non-pharmaceutical interventions] (and drugs, if available) need to be maintained – at least intermittently – for as long as the virus is circulating in the human population, or until a vaccine becomes available. In the case of COVID-19, it will be at least a 12-18 months before a vaccine is available. Furthermore, there is no guarantee that initial vaccines will have high efficacy. […]

However, if intensive NPI packages aimed at suppression are not maintained, our analysis suggests that transmission will rapidly rebound, potentially producing an epidemic comparable in scale to what would have been seen had no interventions been adopted.

This basic problem, which seemingly everyone wants to dance around, may explain why China is again going into lockdown mode after having allegedly won its battle against the virus:

Henan province in central China has taken the drastic measure of putting a mid-sized county in total lockdown as authorities try to fend off a second coronavirus wave in the midst of a push to revive the economy.

Curfew-like measures came into effect on Tuesday in Jia county, near the city of Pingdingshan, with the area’s roughly 600,000 residents told to stay home, according to a notice on the country’s official microblog account.

Special approval was required for all movement outside the home, it said.

After months of restrictions to contain the spread of the coronavirus, China has reported a decline in domestic cases of Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus. On Wednesday, the National Health Commission reported 36 new infections – all but one imported cases.

China also recently ordered all cinemas to close again after re-opening 500 venues.

In the US, the experts are working on a plan that will involve more than a year of intermittent lockdowns combined with (enforced) social distancing until the vaccine arrives:

“It’s like a fire. If you don’t completely put it out, it will come back. You have to keep suppressing it,” Michael Osterholm, professor and director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, told The Daily Beast. […]

Repeated periods of social distancing might not be popular. But neither would “promoting an 18-month total lockdown of the country,” he told The Daily Beast. “So, how do you try to thread a rope through this needle?”

The article further supports my contention that “lockdowns” do not have a proven track record of success:

The authors of the paper, a preprint posted at medrxiv.org that hasn’t yet been peer-reviewed, determined that one long period of stringent social distancing could potentially backfire in a greater resurgence of infections come fall and winter, unless other interventions are put in place. The finding was consistent with the course of the 1918 influenza pandemic, during which cities that had low peaks during the first wave of infections—thanks in large part to social-distancing measures—were at a greater risk of a higher second wave after those interventions were lifted.

The issue is time. Obviously, if you lock everyone in their homes forever, the spread of an infection is more or less impossible. But that’s not a viable strategy. The question is whether a reasonably-brief lockdown is an effective approach, given the risk of a second wave of infections – to say nothing of the colossal economic damage and health costs of suspending social life and forcing people to stay home.

In related news, Bill Gates is calling for a full national lockdown of the US, Chinese-style, including beaches and sit-down restaurants from coast to coast.

A powerful rebuke

Jonathan Sumption, the former UK Supreme Court judge whom The Guardian has described as “the brain of Britain” and “the establishment personified,” has delivered a powerful rebuke to the country’s embrace of authoritarian methods in its war against the Microbe that Ended the World. I believe Lord Sumption’s reflections also apply to the incredible stay-at-home orders being imposed across the US in places like Maryland and Virginia. Peter Hitchens provides the transcript. Please read it:

The real problem is that when human societies lose their freedom, it’s not usually because tyrants have taken it away. It’s usually because people willingly surrender their freedom in return for protection against some external threat. And the threat is usually a real threat but usually exaggerated. That’s what I fear we are seeing now. The pressure on politicians has come from the public. They want action. They don’t pause to ask whether the action will work. They don’t ask themselves whether the cost will be worth paying. They want action anyway. And anyone who has studied history will recognise here the classic symptoms of collective hysteria.

Hysteria is infectious. We are working ourselves up into a lather in which we exaggerate the threat and stop asking ourselves whether the cure may be worse than the disease.

Q: At a time like this as you acknowledge, citizens do look to the state for protection, for assistance, we shouldn’t be surprised then if the state takes on new powers, that is what it has been asked to do, almost demanded of it.

A: Yes that is absolutely true. We should not be surprised. But we have to recognise that this is how societies become despotisms. And we also have to recognise this is a process which leads naturally to exaggeration. The symptoms of coronavirus are clearly serious for those with other significant medical conditions especially if they’re old. There are exceptional cases in which young people have been struck down, which have had a lot of publicity, but the numbers are pretty small. The Italian evidence for instance suggests that only 12% of deaths is it possible to say coronavirus was the main cause of death. So yes this is serious and yes it’s understandable that people cry out to the government. But the real question is: Is this serious enough to warrant putting most of our population into house imprisonment, wrecking our economy for an indefinite period, destroying businesses that honest and hardworking people have taken years to build up, saddling future generations with debt, depression, stress, heart attacks, suicides and unbelievable distress inflicted on millions of people who are not especially vulnerable and will suffer only mild symptoms or none at all, like the Health Secretary and the Prime Minister.

Q: The executive, the government, is all of a sudden really rather powerful and really rather unscrutinised. Parliament is in recess, it’s due to come back in late April, we’re not quite sure whether it will or not, the Prime Minister is closeted away, communicating via his phone, there is not a lot in the way of scrutiny is there?

A: No. Certainly there’s not a lot in the way of institutional scrutiny. The Press has engaged in a fair amount of scrutiny, there has been some good and challenging journalism, but mostly the Press has, I think, echoed and indeed amplified the general panic.

Q: The restrictions in movement have also changed the relationship between the police and those whose, in name, they serve. The police are naming and shaming citizens for travelling at what they see as the wrong time or driving to the wrong place. Does that set alarm bells ringing for you, as a former senior member of the judiciary?

A: Well, I have to say, it does. I mean, the tradition of policing in this country is that policemen are citizens in uniform. They are not members of a disciplined hierarchy operating just at the government’s command. Yet in some parts of the country the police have been trying to stop people from doing things like travelling to take exercise in the open country which are not contrary to the regulations, simply because ministers have said that they would prefer us not to. The police have no power to enforce ministers’ preferences, but only legal regulations which don’t go anything like as far as the government’s guidance. I have to say that the behaviour of the Derbyshire police in trying to shame people into using their undoubted right to take exercise in the country and wrecking beauty spots in the Fells so that people don’t want to go there, is frankly disgraceful.

This is what a police state is like. It’s a state in which the government can issue orders or express preferences with no legal authority and the police will enforce ministers’ wishes. I have to say that most police forces have behaved in a thoroughly sensible and moderate fashion. Derbyshire Police have shamed our policing traditions. There is a natural tendency of course, and a strong temptation for the police to lose sight of their real functions and turn themselves from citizens in uniform into glorified school prefects. I think it’s really sad that the Derbyshire Police have failed to resist that.

Q: There will be people listening who admire your legal wisdom but will also say, well, he’s not an epidemiologist, he doesn’t know how disease spreads, he doesn’t understand the risks to the health service if this thing gets out of control. What do you say to them?

A: What I say to them is I am not a scientist but it is the right and duty of every citizen to look and see what the scientists have said and to analyse it for themselves and to draw common sense conclusions. We are all perfectly capable of doing that and there’s no particular reason why the scientific nature of the problem should mean we have to resign our liberty into the hands of scientists. We all have critical faculties and it’s rather important, in a moment of national panic, that we should maintain them.

Flatten the economy

Mad MaxNearly three months after the WuFlu outbreak was first reported to the World Health Organization, the total official global death toll of this once-in-a-century pandemic remains modest – even trivial, on the scale of the human population – notwithstanding relentless wall-to-wall media coverage, social media hysterics, and deliberately scary-looking “trackers” like that sinister map from Johns Hopkins. Although the death toll will certainly rise a great deal in the coming months as the virus spreads, it is currently a tiny fraction of the ~1 million global deaths from each of the influenza pandemics of 1957-58 and 1968; neither of which brought society and commerce to a screeching halt.

We don’t know if the repressive measures that are being taken to “flatten the curve” in the West, such as turning Britain into an Orwellian dystopia where you are only permitted to walk your dog once a day, will be beneficial overall, given the speculative nature of the epidemiological models used to justify them and the (unaccounted-for) public health costs of putting hundreds of millions of people under de facto house arrest. But it seems obvious that if these mega-interventions continue for the duration that is apparently required for them to be effective, then they will trigger a violent collapse of the global economy, and with it, widespread immiseration, political chaos and a truly Biblical scale of human suffering and death.

Yet that crazy, nation-wrecking strategy is precisely what is being rolled out around the world. The US is extending its “social distancing” guidelines to April 30, while the UK government is signaling that social distancing measures will be in place for three to six months; while similar measures are being taken in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, India (which has imposed a total ban on leaving the home for 21 days)…

It would appear that the epidemiologists have staged a global coup d’état. The Anglo-American policies are heavily influenced by Neil Ferguson’s team at Imperial College London, whose March 16 study recommended the adoption of Chinese-style “suppression” measures:

We therefore conclude that epidemic suppression is the only viable strategy at the current time. The social and economic effects of the measures which are needed to achieve this policy goal will be profound. Many countries have adopted such measures already, but even those countries at an earlier stage of their epidemic (such as the UK) will need to do so imminently.

Our analysis informs the evaluation of both the nature of the measures required to suppress COVID-19 and the likely duration that these measures will need to be in place. Results in this paper have informed policymaking in the UK and other countries in the last weeks. However, we emphasise that is not at all certain that suppression will succeed long term; no public health intervention with such disruptive effects on society has been previously attempted for such a long duration of time. How populations and societies will respond remains unclear.

But for how long? Earlier, the study notes:

The main challenge of this approach is that NPIs [non-pharmaceutical interventions] (and drugs, if available) need to be maintained – at least intermittently – for as long as the virus is circulating in the human population, or until a vaccine becomes available. In the case of COVID-19, it will be at least a 12-18 months before a vaccine is available. Furthermore, there is no guarantee that initial vaccines will have high efficacy.

Elsewhere in the Discussion section, the authors write (emphasis mine):

However, there are very large uncertainties around the transmission of this virus, the likely effectiveness of different policies and the extent to which the population spontaneously adopts risk reducing behaviours. This means it is difficult to be definitive about the likely initial duration of measures which will be required, except that it will be several months. Future decisions on when and for how long to relax policies will need to be informed by ongoing surveillance.

The measures used to achieve suppression might also evolve over time. As case numbers fall, it becomes more feasible to adopt intensive testing, contact tracing and quarantine measures akin to the strategies being employed in South Korea today. Technology – such as mobile phone apps that track an individual’s interactions with other people in society – might allow such a policy to be more effective and scalable if the associated privacy concerns can be overcome. However, if intensive NPI packages aimed at suppression are not maintained, our analysis suggests that transmission will rapidly rebound, potentially producing an epidemic comparable in scale to what would have been seen had no interventions been adopted.

In his testimony last Wednesday, Ferguson seemed to offer another possibility:

Ferguson said the current strategy was intended to keep transmission of the virus at low levels until a vaccine was available. Experts say that could take 12 to 18 months and Ferguson acknowledged it was impractical to keep the UK in lockdown for so long, especially because of the impact on the economy. “We’ll be paying for this year for decades to come,” he said.

The UK government is aiming to relax restrictions on people’s movements only when the country has the ability to test more people for the virus, said Ferguson. Some have criticised the UK for not following the advice of the World Health Organization to “test, test, test”. But Ferguson said community testing and contact tracing wasn’t included as a possible strategy in the original modelling because not enough tests were available.

He said the UK should have the testing capacity “within a few weeks” to copy what South Korea has done and aggressively test and trace the general population.

But if the country’s deputy chief medical officer is to be believed, Britain is going to be on some form of lockdown for months. What most people don’t seem to understand is that the massively complex, interdependent nature of the world economy means that switching off large parts of it for an extended period of time is likely to bring the whole system crashing down. I don’t expect infectious disease experts to consider this, but then again, who put them in charge of the world?

Magic money machine

Money MakerThe US is plowing $6 trillion of imaginary money into a faltering economy to blunt the effects of the great WuFlu Panic. For context, that sum is larger than the annual GDP of Japan and way larger than US federal revenue in FY 2019 of $3.5 trillion:

An emergency stimulus package to bail out the US economy amid the coronavirus pandemic will total $6 trillion — a quarter of the entire country’s GDP, the White House said Tuesday.

Trump administration economist Larry Kudlow said the package would include $4 trillion in lending power for the Federal Reserve as well as a $2 trillion aid package currently being hammered out by Congress.

“This package will be the single largest Main Street assistance program in the history of the United States,” Kudlow said at the White House coronavirus task force briefing Tuesday evening.

Included in the package is Congress’ almost $2 trillion emergency bill, which, when passed, will issue direct checks for American families, bailouts for the airline industry and a $350 billion loan program for struggling small businesses.

The other $4 trillion will allow the Federal Reserve to make huge emergency bailouts of whatever entity it chooses — a measure that was used to prop up Wall Street firms from collapse during the 2008 financial crisis.

This raises interesting questions about the nature of money. What does it even mean at this point? What is a dollar actually worth, if the US can just conjure a quarter of its GDP out of thin air? Why even collect taxes? This mega-bailout may stabilize things for a while, but our fake economy seems to be on its last legs.