New York’s suicide

I have had a bad feeling about New York City for a while, but even I am a bit surprised at the scale and speed of Gotham’s collapse. Because that is what it is. Not a collapse in the zombie-apocalypse, I Am Legend sense, but a psychological and cultural collapse, and an ongoing, early-stage political, economic and social collapse. Do you doubt it? Have you noticed that Midtown is an absolute ghost town? Apparently everyone is waiting for a vaccine to resume some semblance of normal urban life, because the virus is still out there, on the prowl, and it wants nothing more than to make you drown in your own lung juice! It’s mean and spiteful like that. Meanwhile, on Friday there were 5 reported COVID-19 deaths in all of New York State, including 3 in New York City. Total COVID hospitalizations in this state of 20 million people are down to 523. The epidemic is over.

That might come as news to Governor Cuomo, who refuses to lift the insane restrictions that are keeping the city’s malls, museums and concert venues closed and restaurants limited to outdoor seating (impossible in Midtown). Now it is estimated that up to one-third of the city’s 230,000 small businesses will close forever. Cuomo is also setting up “quarantine checkpoints” for inbound travelers, a useless but invasive measure that symbolically disconnects the city from the rest of the country – perhaps as the prelude to a real cordon sanitaire such I warned about back in March.

New York City isn’t going to recover from this. The sad truth is that the city completely destroyed itself in a spasm of hubris, cowardice and folly and you don’t come back from that, not for a long time and not without painful introspection and remorse. There is no evidence that that is going to happen, so the death spiral continues. New Yorkers either actively support or passively acquiesce to the madness that has wrecked their city. Or they flee.

Entrepreneur and angel investor James Altucher, author of Choose Yourself, has taken his own book’s advice by heading for the exit:

In early March, many people (not me), left NYC when they felt it would provide safety from the virus and they no longer needed to go to work and all the restaurants were closed. People figured, “I’ll get out for a month or two and then come back.”

They are all still gone.

And then in June, during rioting and looting, a second wave of NYCers (this time including me) left. I have kids. Nothing was wrong with the protests but I was a little nervous when I saw videos of rioters after curfew trying to break into my building.

Many people left temporarily but there were also people leaving permanently. Friends of mine moved to Nashville, Miami, Austin, Denver, Salt Lake City, Dallas, etc.

Now a third wave of people is leaving. But they might be too late. Prices are down 30–50% on both rentals and sales no matter what real estate people tell you. And rentals are soaring in the second- and third-tier cities.

I’m temporarily, although maybe permanently, in South Florida now. I also got my place sight unseen. […]

Broadway is closed until at least the spring. The Lincoln Center is closed. All the museums are closed.

Forget about the tens of thousands of jobs lost in these cultural centers. Forget even about the millions of dollars of tourist-generated revenues lost by the closing of these centers.

There are thousands of performers, producers, artists, and the entire ecosystem of art, theater, production, curation, that surrounds these cultural centers.

Most New Yorkers blame this catastrophe on the “pandemic.” And will continue to do so. But it wasn’t the pandemic that did this; again, look at the recent numbers and ask yourself why everything is still closed. The truth is that New Yorkers didn’t care enough to keep their city alive, and so it died.


UPDATE: A couple of counterpoints to this grim perspective are in order.

(1)

(2)

Pandemic guidance from the world B.C. (Before Covid)

Surely the politicians were just following the guidance of the World Health Organization when they decided to SHUT IT ALL DOWN in March? Ok, perhaps we can agree that they panicked and over-reacted; but surely the stay-at-home orders, business closures and banning of gatherings, affecting billions of people around the planet, were just standard procedure during a pandemic of unknown severity?

Well, interesting that you should ask, because the WHO’s guidance on these matters is freely available on its website, and it’s not exactly what we’ve been led to believe. Here is a document from October 2019 that should be of interest:

Available for download on the WHO site, and I’ve also uploaded it here (PDF).

Chapter 6: Social Distancing Measures has the goods. After recommending that mildly sick people stay home (“voluntary isolation at home of sick individuals with uncomplicated illness”) during a flu epidemic or pandemic, the chapter addresses the issue of quarantining “exposed individuals”:

RECOMMENDATION:

Home quarantine of exposed individuals to reduce transmission is not recommended because there is no obvious rationale for this measure, and there would be considerable difficulties in implementing it.

Population: People who have had contact with infected cases

When to apply: N/A (p. 47)

Seems pretty straightforward! So, stay-at-home orders applied to the general population are out.

But what does the WHO’s document say about school closures? Here the recommendation is more subtle:

RECOMMENDATION:

School measures (e.g. stricter exclusion policies for ill children, increasing desk spacing, reducing mixing between classes, and staggering recesses and lunchbreaks) are conditionally recommended, with gradation of interventions based on severity. Coordinated proactive school closures or class dismissals are suggested during a severe epidemic or pandemic. In such cases, the adverse effects on the community should be fully considered (e.g. family burden and economic considerations), and the timing and duration should be limited to a period that is judged to be optimal.

Population: Students and staff in childcare facilities and schools

When to apply: Gradation of interventions based on severity; school closure can be
considered in severe epidemics and pandemics (p. 52)

On workplace closures (emphasis added):

RECOMMENDATION:

Recommendation: Workplace measures (e.g. encouraging teleworking from home, staggering shifts, and loosening policies for sick leave and paid leave) are conditionally recommended, with gradation of interventions based on severity. Extreme measures such as workplace closures can be considered in extraordinarily severe pandemics in order to reduce transmission.

Population: Selected workplaces

When to apply: Gradation of interventions based on severity. Workplace closure should be a last step that is only considered in extraordinarily severe epidemics and pandemics

Here’s what the WHO had to say about religious gatherings. Does this sound like a blank check for governments to ban or severely limit all religious gatherings for a long period of time – such in the state of New Jersey, where religious gatherings are STILL (as of August 3) limited to 25% of capacity or 100 people, whichever number is lower?*

RECOMMENDATION:

Avoiding crowding during moderate and severe epidemics and pandemics is conditionally recommended, with gradation of strategies linked with severity in order to increase the distance and reduce the density among populations.

Population: People who gather in crowded areas (e.g. large meetings, religious pilgrimages, national events and transportation hub locations).

When to apply: Moderate and severe epidemics and pandemics. (p. 59)

Moreover:

Ethical considerations

Avoiding crowding may have cultural or religious implications (209). Gatherings are important places to share information during influenza, which can comfort people and reduce fear. The abolition of religious gatherings may violate the devout faith of the participants and make them feel morally guilty. The guideline development group suggested that it would not be possible to cancel some events (e.g. the Hajj). (p. 59)

But I thought that going to church was the moral equivalent of “killing people”? Guess the WHO disagrees!

Bonus recommendation on contact tracing:

RECOMMENDATION:

Active contact tracing is not recommended in general because there is no obvious rationale for it in most Member States. This intervention could be considered in some locations and circumstances to collect information on the characteristics of the disease and to identify cases, or to delay widespread transmission in the very early stages of a pandemic in isolated communities.

Population: Individuals who have come into contact with an infected person

When to apply: N/A (p. 38)

*Note – some facts about the Garden State:

Total reported COVID-19 deaths in New Jersey as of Aug 15: 14,071

Share of deaths that were of residents 80 or older (as of June 4): 47%

Share of deaths that were in long-term care facilities, such as nursing and veterans homes (as of June 4): 43%

Lockdowns kill

As was extremely obvious from day one, “lockdowns” – the government-enforced suspension of normal human life – kill lots of people. This was ignored in the general panic over the virus, but the truth cannot be suppressed any longer, as a study out of the UK suggests:

Almost 2,700 people a week have died because of the effects of the coronavirus lockdown, analysis of official data suggests.

A study by economists and academics from Sheffield and Loughborough universities suggests that more than 21,000 people have died as a result of the measures, which were introduced in March.

The analysis examines Office for National Statistics (ONS) data in the eight weeks that followed the national lockdown.

Researchers said the findings show that “lockdown has killed 21,000 people” because the policy has had “significant unintended consequences” such as lack of access to critical healthcare and a collapse in Accident and Emergency attendances.

Back on March 19, I wrote (regarding the US):

A nationwide shutdown that lasts 15 days is perhaps survivable. One that continues for, say, five months probably is not. Having the entire country hunker down at home for a prolonged period of time will slaughter the economy and hurt millions of Americans, perhaps killing a large number of them through knock-on effects: stress, drink, drugs, suicide, vitamin D deficiency… At a certain point you begin to wonder whether the cure won’t be orders of magnitude worse than the disease.

The UK study seems to focus on the effects of reduced health care access, including cancer screening and referrals, which I did not consider, but that will certainly prove to be a huge issue in the US as well:

A model created by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) predicts that tens of thousands of excess cancer deaths will occur over the next decade as a result of missed screenings, delays in diagnosis, and reductions in oncology care caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Remember that non-COVID excess deaths aren’t caused by the “pandemic”; they are caused by the misguided reaction to it, on the part of both health care providers and panicked patients:

A recent survey suggests more than a third of Americans have missed scheduled cancer screenings because of COVID-19, concerning health experts who warn this could be another fatal consequence of the coronavirus pandemic.

Prevent Cancer Foundation released survey results of more than 1,000 respondents that found about 35% of Americans have missed routine cancer screenings due to COVID-19 fears. Additionally, 43% of Americans have missed medical appointments.

Tyranny Down Under

Every day I ask myself: Is this real? Is this really happening? Still? Please note that this totalitarian absurdity is being rolled out in a country with – checks Worldometer – 232 total COVID deaths:

After reading yesterday’s “Postcard From Melbourne” I didn’t think things could get any worse in the capital of Victoria. But yesterday the power-crazed Premier of the state – Daniel Andrews, known as Kim Jong Dan – announced tough new “Stage 4” restrictions in metropolitan Melbourne, including an 8pm curfew. […]

Here is a list of the “Stage 4” measures introduced from 6pm yesterday and due to last for six weeks:

The “state of emergency” in Victoria has been upgraded to a “state of disaster”, meaning police can now enter your home to carry out spot checks even if you don’t give them permission and they don’t have a warrant.
Between the hours of 8pm and 5am, you’re not allowed to leave your homes except for work, medical care and caregiving.
Outside those hours, you may only leave your home for four reasons: shopping for food and essential items, care and caregiving, daily exercise and work. “We can no longer have people simply out and about for no good reason whatsoever,” said Kim Jong Dan.
Daily exercise can only take place within a 5km radius of your home and cannot last longer than an hour.
You cannot exercise in groups of more than two, even if they’re members of the same household.
Apart from daily exercise, you are only allowed to leave your home once a day for essential supplies and food.
In the whole of Victoria, you cannot buy more than two of certain essential items, including dairy, meat, vegetables, fish and toilet paper.
Schools have closed again, with all Victoria school students returning to remote learning from Wednesday (except for vulnerable children and children of permitted workers). Childcare and kindergarten will be closed from Thursday.
Golf and tennis venues, which were open, have now been closed.
Weddings will no longer be allowed from Thursday, and funerals will be limited to 10 people.
Face nappies anywhere outside your home have been mandatory for people in metropolitan Melbourne since July 22nd, but that rule has now been extended to the entire state of Victoria.
You cannot have visitors or go to another person’s house unless it is for the purpose of giving or receiving care. However, you can leave your house to visit a person if you are in an “intimate personal relationship” with them, even during curfew hours. So no “bonk ban”.
If you have a holiday home or were planning a holiday outside Melbourne, tough cheese. You must remain in the city for the next six weeks.
The maximum fine for breaching a health order currently stands at $1,652, but Kim Jong Dan said he would have more to say about penalties later today, i.e. he’s going to increase them.

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.

A prophecy fulfilled

You know, I really should stop predicting things. My dark imaginings have a disturbing tendency to come true.

Back in March 2019, pretty much apropos of nothing, I suggested that mass international tourism could be a temporary phenomenon. Quote:

International tourism arrivals grew by nearly 6% last year to 1.4 billion, according to figures from the United Nations World Tourism Organization. […]

That is, of course, if current trends continue. But what if they don’t? We take it for granted, but the ease and safety of global travel today is really unbelievable, relying as it does not only on technology, but also the low cost of fuel, geopolitical stability, the openness of many countries to tourism, and a global middle class that can afford to vacation abroad. The problem is, none of the above conditions are set in stone. A large-scale war, economic depression, or energy shock, among other possible disruptions, could trigger a collapse in international travel, perhaps marking the end of the era of mass global tourism.

I should have added “engineered mass hysteria and global lockdown in response to a virus” to that list of possible disruptions, but nobody’s perfect.

In any case, here we are (article from July 9, 2020):

The world’s tourism industry is losing at least $1.2 trillion, or 1.5% of global gross domestic product after four months of travel being shut down, according to research from the U.N.’s Conference on Trade and Development. Those numbers could nearly double to $2.2 trillion and 2.8% of global GDP if the stoppage in international tourism lasts eight months; losses could soar to $3.3 trillion (4.2% of global GDP) if international tourism shuts down for 12 months. […]

In May, the U.N.’s World Tourism Organization released a report stating that international tourism fell 22% in the first quarter of this year compared to the same period last year. UNWTO researchers said at the time that international tourism for all of 2020 could fall anywhere from 60% to 80%. Those estimates were based on factors such as how well countries contain the spread of the virus, how long travel restrictions are in place and how long nations’ borders are closed.

Prophetic? You be the judge. Anyway, it remains to be seen how long the travel restrictions will last and/or people are too terrified (or poor) to fly to foreign lands. Governments and airlines are also doing what they can to make the commercial aviation experience as miserable as possible, so that alone will likely deter a lot of people from traveling. I suspect the global floating population of backpackers and country-hopping “digital nomads” will be cooling their heels for a while yet.

Is immunity widespread?

The former director of the Institute for Immunology at the University of Bern explains why everything you think you know about the virus is probably wrong:

This is not an accusation, but a ruthless taking stock [of the current situation]. I could slap myself, because I looked at Sars-CoV2- way too long with panic. I am also somewhat annoyed with many of my immunology colleagues who so far have left the discussion about Covid-19 to virologist and epidemiologist. I feel it is time to criticise some of the main and completely wrong public statements about this virus.

Firstly, it was wrong to claim that this virus was novel. Secondly, It was even more wrong to claim that the population would not already have some immunity against this virus. Thirdly, it was the crowning of stupidity to claim that someone could have Covid-19 without any symptoms at all or even to pass the disease along without showing any symptoms whatsoever. […]

The penny dropped only when I realised that the first commercially available antibody test [for Sars-CoV-2] was put together from an old antibody test that was meant to detect Sars-1. This kind of test evaluates if there are antibodies in someone’s blood and if they came about through an early fight against the virus. [Scientists] even extracted antibodies from a llama that would detect Sars-1, Sars-CoV-2, and even the Mers virus. It also became known that Sars-CoV-2 had a less significant impact in areas in China where Sars-1 had previously raged. This is clear evidence urgently suggesting that our immune system considers Sars-1 and Sars-Cov-2 at least partially identical and that one virus could probably protect us from the other. […]

In mid-April, work was published by the group of Andreas Thiel at the Charité Berlin. A paper with 30 authors, amongst them the virologist Christian Drosten. It showed that in 34 % of people in Berlin who had never been in contact with the Sars-CoV-2 virus showed nonetheless T-cell immunity against it (T-cell immunity is a different kind of immune reaction, see below). This means that our T-cells, i.e. white blood cells, detect common structures appearing on Sars-CoV-2 and regular cold viruses and therefore combat both of them. […]

So if we do a PCR corona test on an immune person, it is not a virus that is detected, but a small shattered part of the viral genome. The test comes back positive for as long as there are tiny shattered parts of the virus left. Correct: Even if the infectious viruses are long dead, a corona test can come back positive, because the PCR method multiplies even a tiny fraction of the viral genetic material enough [to be detected]. That’s exactly what happened, when there was the global news, even shared by the WHO, that 200 Koreans who already went through Covid-19 were infected a second time and that there was therefore probably no immunity against this virus. The explanation of what really happened and an apology came only later, when it was clear that the immune Koreans were perfectly healthy and only had a short battle with the virus. The crux was that the virus debris registered with the overly sensitive test and therefore came back as “positive”. It is likely that a large number of the daily reported infection numbers are purely due to viral debris.

This may explain why the behavior of the virus appears to be largely unaffected by government action; cross-country comparisons suggest no obvious patterns. Japan, for example, did little to combat the virus and has suffered less than 1,000 deaths, to the media’s great puzzlement.

The COVID cult

Did I not warn you, nearly two years ago, that we were living in an age of cults? Here is what I said:

We certainly appear to be living through a time of mass hysteria and apocalyptic thinking, at least in the US, which may explain the plethora of cult-related headlines. As social mood continues to darken, the prevalence and popularity of cults may well increase.

Well, in the last few months a vast and sinister new cult has taken over the English-speaking world. It is the cult of COVID-19. At its core is not a charismatic leader, but a mysterious virus that must be appeased and propitiated through an array of bizarre rituals. These include “social distancing,” i.e. the avoidance of human contact, and the universal wearing of masks. It does not matter, of course, that these behaviors have no scientific basis, nor that the epidemic in the US is for all intents and purposes over:

From the CDC:

Based on death certificate data, the percentage of deaths attributed to pneumonia, influenza or COVID-19 (PIC) decreased from 9.0% during week 25 to 5.9% during week 26, representing the tenth consecutive week during which a declining percentage of deaths due to PIC has been recorded. The percentage is currently at the epidemic threshold but will likely change as additional death certificates for deaths during recent weeks are processed.

I could be mistaken, but my sense is that the initial fear of the virus has worn off as the daily death numbers have dramatically declined. But this has not loosened the grip of the cult, as we see by the flurry of mask edicts that are being issued in places such as Pennsylvania, Kansas, Oregon and Texas, and the closure of beaches across Southern California for the Fourth of July weekend. What began as COVID panic or hysteria has hardened into a COVID religion, a kind of formalized belief system that one must simply obey.

Peter Hitchens considers the situation in his country of Britain:

When this madness began, I behaved as if a new and fanatical religion was spreading among us. Be polite and tolerant, I thought. It may be crazy and damaging but in time it will go away.

Now it is clear that a new faith, based on fear of the invisible and quite immune to reason, has all but taken over the country. And it turns out to be one of those faiths that doesn’t have much tolerance for those who don’t share it.

My guess is that about 85 per cent of the population now worship it and will continue to do so. The rest of us are, as each day goes by, a persecuted minority, forced to go along with beliefs we do not hold.

Its evangelists will not leave you and me alone, but constantly seek to force us to join. This is why I make such a fuss about the demand to make us all wear muzzles. This is not about health.

There is simply not enough evidence to compel us to do so. It is an attempt to force submission on Covid unbelievers.

That is why it spreads, despite the absence of any good case for it. […] In Texas, of all states, the governor seeks to make muzzles compulsory in all public places.

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.

Revolt against the health dictatorship

Reuters has an amusing account of Brazilian President Bolsonaro’s war against the global public health dictatorship. The former Army captain rejected coronavirus hysteria and essentially staged a military takeover of his Brazil’s Health Ministry, thereby avoiding the weird fate of locked-down countries such as the US and Britain:

In mid-March, Brazil took what seemed to be a forceful early strike against the coronavirus pandemic.

The Health Ministry mandated that cruises be canceled. It advised local authorities to scrap large-scale events. And it urged travelers arriving from abroad to go into isolation for a week. Although Brazil had yet to report a single death from COVID-19, public health officials appeared to be getting out in front of the virus. They acted on March 13, just two days after the World Health Organization called the disease a pandemic.

Less than 24 hours later, the ministry watered down its own advice, citing “criticism and suggestions” it had received from local communities.

In fact, four people familiar with the incident told Reuters, the change came after intervention from the chief of staff’s office for Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro. […]

The about-face, given scant attention at the time, marked a turning point in the federal government’s handling of the crisis, according to the four people. Behind the scenes, they said, power was shifting from the Health Ministry, the traditional leader on public health matters, to the office of the president’s chief of staff, known as Casa Civil, led by Walter Souza Braga Netto, an Army general. […]

Brazil now has the world’s second-worst outbreak behind the United States, with more than 374,000 confirmed cases. More than 23,000 Brazilians have died from COVID-19.

“So what?” Bolsonaro said recently when asked by reporters about Brazil’s mounting fatalities. “What do you want me to do?”

😂😂😂

Cabinet members tried numerous times to persuade Bolsonaro to endorse a nationwide lockdown, according to a person with direct knowledge of the discussions. Bolsonaro refused, the person said, believing the virus would soon pass and that health officials were exaggerating the need for physical distancing that had proved effective in other parts of the world.

Note: physical distancing has not “proven” effective in other parts of the world. There is no proof of this whatsoever.

“The masses aren’t able to stay at home because the fridge is empty,” Bolsonaro said to the media on April 20 outside his official residence in Brasília.