Throughout the Covid pandemic, the Scottish Government made a show of imposing stricter and longer restrictions than Boris Johnson’s ‘reckless’ Tory Government south of the border. Yet despite these additional measures, in the two years from the start of the pandemic to spring 2022, Scotland averaged 23.9 excess deaths per million weekly, writes Dr. David Livermore in Spiked. “That was by far the highest in the U.K., with Wales suffering 22.9 excess deaths per million, Northern Ireland 18.8 and England 18.6.”
This obvious failure of Scotland’s response was, remarkably, summarised in an opening report commissioned by Scotland’s official Covid inquiry and written by Dr. Ashley Croft, a public health infection epidemiologist who spent most of his career working for the military and now practises from Harley Street as a medico-legal expert witness.
He told the inquiry that:
In 2020, there was scientific evidence to support the use of some of the physical measures (e.g., frequent handwashing, the use of PPE in hospital settings) adopted against COVID-19. For other measures (e.g., face-mask mandates outside of healthcare settings, lockdowns, social distancing, test, trace and isolate measures), there was either insufficient evidence in 2020 to support their use – or alternatively, no evidence; the evidence base has not changed materially in the intervening three years. It has been argued that the restrictive measures introduced during the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in individual, societal and economic harm that was avoidable and that should not have occurred.
Dr. Livermore says he agrees entirely.
As Sweden’s already-concluded Covid inquiry found, “Several countries which did impose lockdowns… had ‘significantly worse outcomes’ than Sweden”. It also found that the restriction of individual freedom was “hardly defensible other than in the face of very extreme threats”.
Dr. Croft is similarly downbeat about the vaccines, saying “it remains unclear as to whether or not COVID-19 vaccination has resulted in fewer deaths from COVID-19”. Dr. Livermore disputes this conclusion, saying “it seems fairly clear that vaccines did break the link between cases and deaths in the spring and summer of 2021”. However, recent analysis by experts like Dr. Eyal Shahar suggests that much of the apparent effectiveness of the vaccines may be an illusion created by the healthy vaccinee effect, whereby those who took the vaccines tend, other things being equal, to have fewer underlying risk factors.
In any case, Dr. Livermore agrees with Dr. Croft that “the protection they offered was brief and incomplete”.
Long before vaccine passports were imposed on Scots in autumn 2021, there was abundant evidence that vaccines did not stop infection and transmission. This should have blown the bottom out of the case for vaccine passports. That it failed to stop them is a disgrace.
Dr. Croft adds that the “2,362 spontaneous [Yellow Card] reports suggesting a fatal outcome following COVID-19 vaccination” are “of concern”, noting such events are likely under-reported.
But the most important point about Dr. Croft’s report, says Dr. Livermore, is that it so flagrantly defies the Official Narrative of harsh but necessary lockdowns saving the population from the ravages of a deadly plague.
Irrespective of whether one agrees with his conclusions or not, Croft is to be congratulated for addressing the core question: did the Government’s restrictions, deployed at great cost and societal disruption, work?
The fact that he has even asked this question stands in contrast to the groupthink on display at the U.K. inquiry, presided over by Lady Hallett. Its first theme, examining ‘Preparedness and Resilience’, concluded last month. During the hearings, witnesses were indulged in long meanders through Brexit and Tory/Lib Dem austerity. This was despite the obvious fact that adjacent EU countries not previously governed by David Cameron and Nick Clegg experienced similar travails with the virus.
Witnesses also said that Britain had prepared for the wrong type of pandemic, with all of our plans anticipating an influenza pandemic rather than a coronavirus pandemic. But if coronavirus and influenza pandemics were so obviously different, scientists wouldn’t still be arguing about whether the 1889-94 ‘Russian Flu’ – which was comparable to Covid in terms of mortality – was a form of influenza or a coronavirus.
Unsurprisingly, Croft’s report hasn’t gone down well with the lockdown-supporting press in Scotland. He has been attacked as being ‘not an expert’ in viral pandemics. I don’t know Croft and hold no personal brief for him, but his CV indicates a much longer experience of microbiology-related public health than, say, public-health academic Devi Sridhar, who exerted much influence on Scotland’s Covid response. Military medicine – where he spent his career – takes a great interest in epidemics. They have stopped many armies, from Charles VIII at Naples (syphilis) to Admiral Vernon at Cartagena (yellow fever).
Dr. Livermore concludes that “it is telling that Scottish commentators no longer even try to say that Scotland’s lockdowns were a success… there is too much evidence to the contrary”.
“I sincerely hope that Scotland’s inquiry reflects upon this. And that Lady Hallett reads Croft’s report. It might just refocus the U.K. inquiry on the questions that really matter.”