WHO

WHO to Make Lockdowns Part of Official Pandemic Guidance

The World Health Organisation is to make lockdowns and other non-pharmaceutical interventions intended to curb viral spread part of official pandemic guidance.

The revelation comes in a report scheduled to go to the WHO’s World Health Assembly later this month. This is not part of a new pandemic treaty and does not require the endorsement of member states. The report says the implementation is already underway.

Many have raised the alarm about a new WHO pandemic treaty. However, as I’ve noted previously (and as Michael Senger notes here), there isn’t a new pandemic treaty on the table. Rather, there are amendments to the existing treaty, the International Health Regulations 2005, plus other recommendations (131 in all) put forward in a report from the Working Group on Strengthening WHO Preparedness and Response to Health Emergencies.

Most of these amendments and recommendations relate to information and resource sharing and preparation for future pandemics; none of them directly interferes with state sovereignty in the sense of allowing the WHO to impose or lift measures. However, that doesn’t mean they’re not dangerous, as they endorse and codify the appalling errors of the last two years, which began with China’s Hubei lockdown on January 23rd 2020.

And Finally…

In this week’s episode of London Calling, James and I talk about my forthcoming trip to Iceland and the eye-watering expense of summer holidays, Putin’s muted reaction to the prospect of Finland and Sweden joining NATO and whether that gives the lie to the claim that Putin was ‘provoked’ into attacking Ukraine by NATO’s eastward expansion, the imminent WHO treaty that James thinks will transfer decision-making power from national parliaments to the WHO if there’s another pandemic but which I’m more sanguine about, the woke ninjas who attacked a group of feminists in Manchester, the extension of the terms of reference of the official Covid inquiry to include vaccine harms, and, in Culture Corner, the strange resurrection of Red Dawn, whether we’re going to see Top Gun: Maverick (I am, James isn’t), Severance, which I give one-and-a-half thumbs up, and Slow Horses, which James and I think is the best thing we’ve seen on telly in years.

You can listen to the podcast here and subscribe on iTunes here.

“The Biggest Global Power Grab We Have Seen in Our Lifetimes”: How Serious is the Threat From the WHO Pandemic Treaty?

Later this month the World Health Assembly, the governing body of the World Health Organisation, will meet in Geneva, Switzerland, and among its business are amendments put forward by the U.S. Government to the pandemic treaty, the International Health Regulations 2005.

The process of creating a new pandemic treaty or amending the existing one was announced in December (though the origins go back earlier) and was a response to a call from governments, including the U.K, for a strengthened global pandemic strategy coordinated by the WHO.

In a consensus decision aimed at protecting the world from future infectious diseases crises, the World Health Assembly today agreed to kickstart a global process to draft and negotiate a convention, agreement or other international instrument under the Constitution of the World Health Organisation to strengthen pandemic prevention, preparedness and response.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, said the decision by the World Health Assembly was historic in nature, vital in its mission, and represented a once-in-a-generation opportunity to strengthen the global health architecture to protect and promote the well-being of all people.

Many are concerned, however, that the U.S. amendments will transfer significant sovereignty over public health policy to an unelected and unaccountable global organisation.

WHO Estimates of India’s Covid Deaths Are Highly Suspect

On May 5th, the World Health Organisation (WHO) issued a new report estimating global excess deaths at 14.9m for two years of the pandemic 2020-21 as the true COVID-19 mortality toll, nearly triple the official toll of 5.44m. “Excess mortality” is the difference between the number of deaths that would be expected in any time period based on data from earlier years and the number of deaths that have occurred. For countries with robust data surveillance, reporting and recording systems, this poses no real difficulty. Unfortunately, these conditions are not met in many countries. Therefore their excess mortality can only be estimated and the accuracy is a function of the reliability of the methodology and modelling used in the exercise. Given the overwhelming evidence about the flaws and deficiencies of Covid-related modelling over the last two years, and the damage caused by governments trusting modelling projections over real-world data, this should immediately throw up a forest of red flags about the WHO report.

A second reason to be sceptical is the less than stellar role of the WHO in its well-known Covid-related deference to China, the abandonment of its own summary of the state of the art science on managing pandemics from October 2019, its willingness to manipulate definitions of ‘herd immunity’ in relation to vaccines and natural immunity in order to fit with the experimental pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) that came to dominate Covid policy around the world, and its self-interest in expanding its budget, authority and role in steering global health policies and management by means of a new international treaty.

The WHO Figures on Sweden’s Excess Deaths Must Radically Change the Terms of the Covid Inquiry

Lockdown sceptics Robert Dingwall, Professor of Sociology at Nottingham Trent University, has written a barnstorming piece for today’s Sunday Telegraph arguing that Sweden’s below-average number of excess deaths for 2020 and 2021 – in the league table compiled by the World Health Organisation – should change the terms of the official Covid inquiry.

“Judge me in a year,” said Anders Tegnell, Sweden’s State Epidemiologist, in July 2020, when his country was being attacked for sticking to its pandemic plan rather than adopting the novel intervention of lockdown. The latest World Health Organisation figures add to the evidence that has been accumulating since summer 2021. Sweden managed the pandemic more successfully than most, with much less disruption of everyday life and economic activity.

The WHO has published estimates of excess deaths globally for 2020 and 2021. This approach covers all deaths from Covid, whether formally diagnosed or not, together with collateral damage in deaths from other conditions that went untreated. Looking at Europe, where official data are usually robust, Sweden had half the excess death rate of the UK, Germany or Spain – and a quarter of that of many Eastern European nations.

In turn, the U.K. tends to be mid-table, in line with other large Western European countries, while Eastern European countries have had much worse experiences. There is a widely-circulated view that the UK has had a uniquely bad pandemic. The data simply do not support this.

Nor do they support the view that the outcomes have much to do with the restrictions adopted by different governments, how soon they began, or the stringency of enforcement. The question, then, is how governments came to adopt highly restrictive policies in the first place. This must be the starting point for any national inquiry. Why was the experience of emergency planners, and two decades of pandemic preparation, abandoned everywhere except Sweden?

Worth reading in full.

Beware a More Transmissible and Deadly Variant, Warns Bill Gates (Who Has a Book to Promote)

Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates has warned there is a “way above 5%” risk the world has not yet seen the worst of the Covid pandemic. MailOnline has more.

The tech mogul and philanthropist said he did not want to sound “doom and gloom” but warned there was a risk an “even more transmissive and even more fatal” variant could be generated.

He said the risk of that happening is “way above 5%” and would mean the world has yet to see the worst of the pandemic.

It is not the first time he has made such a prediction. In December 2021, he warned his millions of Twitter followers to brace themselves for the worst part of the pandemic having previously cautioned in 2015 that the world was not ready for the next pandemic.

Gates told the FT: “We’re still at risk of this pandemic generating a variant that would be even more transmissive and even more fatal.

“It’s not likely, I don’t want to be a voice of doom and gloom, but it’s way above a 5% risk that this pandemic, we haven’t even seen the worst of it.”

COVID-19 has killed an estimated 6.2 million people worldwide since March 2020, but case numbers and deaths have been dropping in recent weeks.

Gates’s warning comes after Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organisation (WHO), this week warned that people still needed to be weary of the virus, and that decreases in overall testing and Covid surveillance in many countries left the world at risk to a resurgence of the virus.

Gates – who releases his new book How to Prevent the Next Pandemic on Tuesday – advised governments across the world to invest in a team of epidemiologists and computer modellers to help identify global health threats in the future.

More epidemiologists and computer modellers?!? Based on their track record of the last two years. I don’t think so!

Worth reading in full.

Prepare For Winter Lockdowns, Says WHO

The U.K. and other countries should impose moderate lockdowns this winter to stop the virus “just infecting everybody”, WHO Special Envoy on COVID-19 Response Dr. David Nabarro has said. The Express has the story.

Following the 23,791 new Covid cases recorded on April 24th in the U.K., WHO Special Envoy on COVID-19 Response Doctor David Nabarro warned British people: “Prepare for more surges” over the winter. “Hospitals and Public Health officers are already hard at work as they know what is coming down the pipe”, said Dr. Nabarro. 

Speaking with Dr. Nabarro, Sky News presenter Niall Paterson asked: “Should we all be looking ahead to what it might be coming down the pipeline in autumn and winter this year?”

He continued: “We have always seen that deep over the summer because respiratory illnesses are transmitted the same way”

“But should we be preparing for a surge coming later on this year?”, he asked Dr. Nabarro.

Dr. Nabarro responded: “Absolutely, my language is like this.”

He firmly said: “Prepare for your surges, prevent transmission when the virus is around and protect people who are most at risk.” …

Referring to China’s no-tolerance Covid approach and strict Covid lockdown in Shanghai, the WHO chief also claimed: “I think it will take a few months for leaders around the world to come together and work out the best way to deal with Covid.”

He continued: “Right now there is still a bit of debate ‘do you try to prevent Covid completely with really strong measures as applied in China or you basically let things go and let the virus do what it wants to do?”

Referring to WHO guidance over coronavirus, he reiterated: “Those of us in the World Health Organisation what we tend to do is say ‘look it is a middle path. That middle path is to keep that virus back and to stop it just infecting everybody because it can have long-term effects”, the WHO chief explained.

“At the same time, however, try not to lockdown the whole society, because the economical and social consequences are terrible.”

Mr Nabarro concluded: “And it is that middle path than more and more countries are moving to.”

Looks like the neverendemic has a while to run yet. Will they ever let it go?

Worth reading in full.

Ex-WHO Scientist Claims Omicron BA.2 Variant is as Infectious as Measles – But What Do the Data Show?

A former World Health Organisation (WHO) official has claimed that the BA.2 subvariant of Omicron has a basic reproduction number (R0) of around 12 (each infected person passes it on to 12 others), making it as infectious as measles, the most contagious disease known, and nearly six times as infectious than the original Wuhan strain (with an R0 of 2.5). Here’s the report in MailOnline.

Professor Adrian Esterman, a leading epidemiologist in Australia, said BA.2 is 40% more transmissible than the original variant.

He claimed it would have a basic reproduction number (R0) of around 12, meaning if left to spread unchecked every infected person would pass it to a dozen others.

It would make the sub-strain five times more infectious than the original Wuhan virus and one of the most contagious diseases known to science.   

The claim would explain why the mutant virus was able to outstrip its parent strain in the U.K. in about a month and undermine China’s Zero Covid policy, which has until now managed to suppress every version of the virus.

Explaining his methodology, Professor Esterman said: “The basic reproduction number (R0) for BA.1 is about 8.2, making R0 for BA.2 about 12. This makes it pretty close to measles, the most contagious disease we know about.”

The R0 number is the average number of people each BA.2 patient would infect, if there was no immunity in a population or behavioural changes. 

But most scientists say there is no reason to be concerned over the variant because it is just as mild as the original Omicron.

The BA.2 subvariant is now behind almost every case in England, or 83% of infections last week, according to official estimates.

It became dominant three weeks beforehand, accounting for 52% of all infections in the week to February 20th. 

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimates cases have been rising since mid-February, with one in 25 people in England estimated to have been infected last week.

Hospitalisations are also creeping up, but the majority appear to be incidental – when someone tests positive after admission for another illness. 

Anders Tegnell Lands Job at WHO

Anders Tegnell is leaving his post as Chief Epidemiologist of Sweden to take up a role at the World Health Organisation. Reuters has the story.

The man who became the face of Sweden’s no-lockdown pandemic policy, Anders Tegnell, is stepping down as chief epidemiologist to take up a role at the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Swedish Health Agency said on Wednesday.

Tegnell, whose almost daily news conferences had Swedes glued to their screens for much of the pandemic, will become a senior expert at a WHO group tasked with coordinating the Covid vaccine response between health and vaccine organisations.

Tegnell proved a polarising figure at the Health Agency. He was forced to have police protection after he and his family received death threats but his face has also featured on T-shirts with the slogan “In Tegnell we trust”. Some people even got Tegnell tatoos…

When much of the world scrambled to lock down as the coronavirus spread like wildfire in winter and spring 2020, Sweden stood out by opting for mild and voluntary measures. It kept schools open while most restaurants, bars and other businesses never shut. Mask were never recommended.

Tegnell, 65, argued that lockdowns were not sustainable and that voluntary measures could achieve the same results without damaging the trust between authorities and the public.

I hope he wasn’t pushed out in Sweden following the official inquiry, which while affirming his general no-lockdown approach, also criticised the lack of earlier action on masks, shops and restaurants and, pointedly, criticised the Government for following his advice too closely.

Sweden has recommended against Covid vaccines for children under 11, so perhaps Tegnell will take some of that scepticism about the safety profile of these vaccines to his new role. We might also hope he will be a sceptical influence in any development of future pandemic guidance to avoid lockdowns and other draconian measures being normalised.

Worth reading in full.

More ‘Experts’ Urge Boris Not to End Covid Restrictions

Yesterday, SAGE and the NHS Federation raised the alarm about the Government’s plans to phase out all Covid restrictions. Today, it’s the turn of the BMA. All we need now is a joint letter from the authors of the John Snow Memorandum and we’ll have the full set. MailOnline has more on the latest doom-mongering.

The end of COVID-19 restrictions in England is premature and “not based on current evidence”, according to the British Medical Association.

Experts have warned an absence of testing and self-isolation will lead to a surge in cases in the country.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he will present his plan for ‘living with Covid’ when Parliament returns from a short recess on February 21st, with an aim of lifting the requirement to self-isolate by February 24th.

Dr. Chaand Nagpaul, chair of the BMA council, told the Guardian the decision was “not based on current evidence and is premature”, adding: “It clearly hasn’t been guided by data or done in consultation with the healthcare profession.”

He said case rates remained exceptionally high, with one in 20 infected last week, according to the latest Office for National Statistics survey.

The Government has formed a strategy for living with Covid, which is expected to include the scrapping of free mass testing.

Meanwhile, all the indicators suggest Omicron is on the way out.

Yesterday it was revealed UK Health Security Agency bosses logged 47,685 positive tests over the past 24 hours, a fifth down on last week’s count.

The rolling seven-day average number of daily cases, considered a more accurate measure, has dipped to below 47,000, mirroring levels seen at the start of December before Omicron had properly taken off.

Daily hospital admissions across the UK have fallen by 8% over the same time-frame as the pressure on the NHS continues to recede. And deaths have fallen by 18%, with 158 victims recorded today.

What was that about the decision to lift restrictions not being guided by data, Dr. Chaand Nagpaul?

Worth reading in full.