by Charlie Spedding
Throughout the Covid crisis, Boris Johnson has always said that he is ‘following the science’. Our Prime Minister has no scientific background and relies entirely upon the advice he receives from members of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage). In reality he is following the opinion of a small group of scientists while ignoring the opinion of all scientists with an alternative view. Therefore, the important question becomes: are members of Sage following the science? I intend to demonstrate that the answer to that question is no, they are not.
The advice of Chris Whitty, Patrick Vallance and their team has been consistent. They want to prevent or slow down the spread of the virus with social distancing, closures, restrictions and lockdowns. They originally said there was only very weak evidence for wearing masks but in June, when the virus was at its seasonal low point, face coverings became mandatory. We are now in January, and despite strict lockdowns or tiers since early November, Chris Whitty is telling us that hospitals are about to be overrun with surging COVID-19 cases. He and other members of Sage are blaming the public for not being fully compliant with the restrictions. We are also told that a mutation of the virus is much more transmissible, and we need harder and longer lockdowns.
A world-wide search of relevant scientific literature paints a different picture. Dr Sheldon Cohen is a Professor of Psychology at the Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. He has spent over three decades studying the connection between psychological stress and its impact on viral respiratory diseases.1 His research involves a thorough psychological assessment of his volunteers before they are placed in quarantine and exposed to viruses causing influenza or the common cold. The severity of the symptoms suffered by each individual are measured and compared with their pre-infection status. Professor Cohen consistently finds that people with the highest levels of long-term stress suffer more extreme symptoms than those with low levels of stress. He also finds that smoking and low vitamin levels are linked to poor outcomes. Factors associated with decreased risk included social integration, social support, physical activity, adequate and efficient sleep, and moderate alcohol intake. (Many may be relieved to know that teetotalism and excessive alcohol intake were both linked with worse outcomes. This may be because a drink or two tends to make us more relaxed and relieves stress for a time.)
Professor Cohen says
Social integration refers to the degree to which an individual participates in a broad range of social relationships and is generally defined in terms of the number of social roles one plays (e.g. spouse, parent, friend, fellow employee, volunteer, church member). Social integration has been found to predict lesser mortality as well as lower risk for cardiovascular disease onset and disease progression. These associations are thought to occur because social integration tends to boost positive psychological states that have beneficial effects on a range of disease-relevant physiological pathways. In contrast, a particularly low level of integration is viewed as social isolation, which is experienced as a stressful event.
Social support refers to the amount of help you receive from family and friends. It can range from practical help with basic chores, to a phone call to say ‘hello’, and all the way through to a shoulder to cry on when something sad has happened. Whatever form it takes, it improves our sense of self-worth by confirming that we are loved and other people care about us. Our social interactions are vital to our humanity and Professor Cohen’s research shows they are vital for our immunity to disease.
The use of draconian lockdowns and severe restrictions, which have been in place in one form or another for ten months, have utterly devastated our social integration and social support. The deliberate use of fear by the Sage committee and the daily reports on Covid-associated deaths by the media have put everybody under prolonged psychological stress. The ‘science’ clearly shows that this is the wrong approach. Chris Whitty is currently telling us that the new variant of the coronavirus is much more transmissible than the original. I propose that he may be mistaken and it only appears to be more transmissible because his stress-inducing, anti-social lockdowns have rendered every man, woman and child in the country considerably more susceptible to infection. In March and April 2019, when infections were peaking, healthy people under the age of 60 were minimally affected by the virus. This may no longer be true because of the wilful destruction of our social networks.
It would appear that Chris Whitty, our Chief Medical Officer, is unaware of Professor Cohen’s work. If that is true, he is negligent in his duty to the nation. However, it would not be the first time he has failed to take account of relevant information.
- There is a considerable body of evidence to show that optimum levels of Vitamin D reduce the severity of viral infections.2 He has never suggested we should supplement our diets during the winter months despite the fact there is no downside to an ideal level of this essential nutrient.
- He has made no mention of the fact that 95% of deaths have occurred in people with pre-existing metabolic disease. These conditions are frequently caused by a diet which elevates blood sugar. Research has shown that people with raised blood sugar suffer more severe infections than those with normal levels.3
- Throughout his tenure as Chief Medical Officer he has made no attempt to tackle the enormous problem of obesity and all its associated diseases. He is the top doctor in a country where 65% of people are overweight and he has no solution for it.
The only option he offers to tackle COVID-19 is to repeat and intensify lockdowns. He does not seem to realise they do not work.4 We cannot expect Boris Johnson and Matt Hancock to ‘follow the science’ when their advisers refuse to follow it.
3 Admission hyperglycaemia as a predictor of mortality in patients hospitalized with COVID-19 regardless of diabetes status: data from the Spanish SEMI-COVID-19 Registry — COVID-19 Research Collaborations (elsevierpure.com)
Charlie Spedding is a pharmacist and the author of Stop Feeding Us Lies.