Zero Covid

Are the Lockdown Zealots and Pro-Vaxx Fanatics Part of a Jim Jones-Style Cult?

We’re publishing a guest post by two Registered Nurses – Professor Roger Watson and Dr. Niall McCrae – about the extremism of some supporters of the official Covid narrative, particularly when it comes to the treatment of the unvaccinated. Could Zero Covid zealotry and pro-vaxx fanaticism be symptoms of a cult-like mindset, they wonder? Here is an extract:

Millions have been brought round to unquestioning faith in heroic medicine and herald vaccines as ‘miracles of science’, with slavish adherence to rules and restrictions. Indeed, in their blind obedience to the cause, many appear to have been ‘drinking the Kool-Aid’, a reference to the notorious cult led by Jim Jones. We are not suggesting that vaccine enthusiasts are at the same level of delusion as those of doomsday cults, but some parallels may be drawn. If we consider Jim Jones’s community in the Guyanan jungle as a Platonic pure form of cult behaviour, we can use such an extreme manifestation for comparative purpose.

An idealistic, charismatic figure, Jones was a civil rights activist in the 1960s. He gave his son the middle name of Ghandhi. Decrying social injustice, he recruited hundreds of black Americans, as well as numerous graduates versed in radical ideology. On November 18th 1978 the cult culminated in the murder-suicide of 918 followers, most having drunk cyanide-laced Kool-Aid on Jones’s order. How was such a massacre possible?

Theodore Millon, Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard, described a personality disorder featuring puritanical compulsion, whereby the world is divided into good and evil with no middle ground. With fanatical zeal, the self-declared good cannot bear to be in the company of the bad, which is why extreme cults take refuge outside normal society. Common to cults is a belief that humanity is in grave danger, and we can see this thinking in the more devout believers in climate change and Covid crises.

Research shows that that contrary evidence strengthens rather than undermines the beliefs of cult followers. The more compelling the facts, the shriller the reaction to the messenger. Cultists struggle to relax, which partly explains why they depend on meditative practices. Indeed, Covid culture has shown a difference in outlooks like that between progressives and conservatives. Converts to the conservative cause from the Left, such as educationalist Katharine Birbalsingh, were initially surprised to find that their erstwhile political opponents were not the ogres that they were portrayed to be. Tammy Bruce, a gay feminist broadcaster in the USA, remarked: “Something had to explain why my left elite allies were generally miserable, angry and paranoid, while the enemy was secure, comfortable, generally happy people.” Bruce came to realise the difference between idealistic engineering and conservative realism.

Covid vaccine absolutism allows no exemptions. Refuseniks will get no sympathy, and it is troubling to see the lack of lines drawn by punitive zealots. If the Government ordered vaccination of newborn babies, if unvaccinated relatives and neighbours were sent into quarantine camps, if hospital treatment were denied to the unvaccinated, would supporters of the regime call for caution? Unlikely, because that is not how cultists behave.

Worth reading in full.

China’s Extreme Zero-Covid Policies Have Not Shielded It From Its Largest Outbreak Since Wuhan

The Chinese Government has declared that the nation is going through a severe outbreak of the Delta variant, with the epidemic reaching 20 out of 31 provinces. This situation has developed in spite of China’s extreme zero-Covid measures, with the Government now telling members of the public to stock up on food supplies in preparation for further restrictions. The MailOnline has more.

Cases were concentrated in the country’s northern regions of Gansu, Heilongjiang and Inner Mongolia.  

The National Health Commission confirmed on Monday 65 new local symptomatic cases for Sunday, up from 50 a day earlier and the highest daily count since August 9th at the peak of China’s last major outbreak. 

Most of the local cases were found in Dalian, in the northeastern province of Liaoning, where nine infections were recorded on Wednesday. 

And reports from the Sichuan provincial capital said dozens of people had scaled fences and trekked through bushes to avoid being tested for Covid.

It came after the capital was sealed off by authorities for mandatory testing after a person who had visited the city became infected. Police said they had not yet verified the reports or arrested anyone and were investigating.  

The spread and rise in Covid infections comes despite the Chinese Government enforcing tighter curbs to contain the cases.

Henan province’s Communist Party Secretary Lou Yangsheng said on Monday the region would “contain and kill” its outbreak in one week. 

The vow came after Henan recorded the largest single-day rise in local infections of the present outbreak with three on Saturday and 18 on Sunday. 

Lou said officials would improve contact tracing systems and increase monitoring of close contacts and potential cases. He added lockdowns would be implemented and expanded as necessary.  

National authorities also said on Saturday the country would continue to pursue a zero-Covid strategy. 

One expert last week insisted the current outbreak will be contained “within a month”.

Zhong Nanshan, a leading expert in China’s respiratory disease research, told China Global Television Network that China will continue with its zero-transmission policy against Covid, because the global Covid fatality rate of 2% is too high.

Worth reading in full.

People are Still Pushing ‘Zero Covid’

If there was ever a time that ‘Zero Covid’ – the goal of eliminating Covid altogether – made sense, it was when the virus first appeared in Wuhan. Had the Chinese authorities raised the alarm sooner, and scrambled to contain the virus, perhaps there never would have been a pandemic.

But there was one. Covid has now been with us for two full years (perhaps longer). Hundreds of millions have been infected, and even greater numbers have received the vaccine. At this point, you might say, ‘Zero Covid’ is a non-starter.

Yet people are still pushing the idea. A recent article in the Daily Kos – a left-wing news site in the U.S. – argues that “COVID-19 must be eliminated, not become endemic, if America is to survive”.

Is this just a case where the headline is much more radical than the article itself? No – the one thing of which the author can’t be accused is attempting to downplay his position. “We cannot live with endemic COVID-19,” he writes, “Hang on, let me say that again: We. Cannot. Live. With. Endemic. COVID-19.”

Let’s consider his arguments, one by one. The author begins by comparing Covid to the flu, noting that the former is much more contagious. Whereas seasonal influenza has a basic reproduction number of 1.4, he notes, “COVID-19 has a R0 that is over five. Maybe as high as 10.”

I don’t know where he got the figure of ‘10’ from, but even if you take the higher estimates of Covid’s R0 at face value, they correspond to circumstances in which the population was immunologically naïve.

Once enough people have caught the virus at least once, the number still susceptible to infection will be substantially reduced. Not to zero, of course, as even natural immunity wanes – but enough to forestall the kind of transmission levels we saw in the spring of 2020.

Note: this is evident not just from the protective effect of natural immunity, but also from the declining transmission advantage of new variants. As immunity to each new variant rises (particularly among the subset of individuals who’re most likely to infect others), the effective reproductive number correspondingly declines.

The author then claims that a world with endemic Covid will be one where health care is much more expensive, due to demands placed on the system by constant surges of new Covid patients. Here again, however, he ignores the impact of natural and vaccine-induced immunity.

“Endemic COVID-19,” he writes, “would behave exactly the same as epidemic COVID-19: in surges, waves, or spikes.” Would it? What seems far more likely is that endemic Covid would not behave in this way. At the very least, any “surges, waves, or spikes” will be smaller and less deadly than those observed during the epidemic phase of the disease.

The author’s next argument is that, even once Covid becomes endemic, we’ll still see a lot of deaths. But as before, he fails to take account of immunity. “If the level of COVID-19 fatalities could be dropped to just 0.5%,” he writes, “then the rate of deaths would be “just” 160,000 people a year.”

Yet ‘0.5%’ is an implausibly high estimate of the IFR for a world where Covid is endemic. In a recent Twitter thread, Professor Francois Balloux used the figure of 0.1%, adding that even this was “probably far too pessimistic”.

The author then invokes the spectre of long Covid, noting that persistent symptoms “are not rare”. However, if he’d referred to the latest estimates from the ONS, he’d know that only 2–3% of patients still report symptoms after 12 weeks, and this is before you factor in widespread immunity.

Even if ‘Zero Covid’ were achievable, which it almost certainly is not, the costs of getting there would be enormous. We’d not only need a massive annual re-vaccination program, but also constant vigilance at the border, as well as large-scale testing in perpetuity.

“Whatever the price of defeating COVID-19 may be,” the Daily Kos article concludes, “it must be paid.” And that more or less sums up the case for, and against, ‘Zero Covid’. For you can’t take a proposal seriously if there’s no estimate of costs.

New Zealand Extends Lockdown in Futile Attempt to Eliminate Virus

New Zealand has extended its lockdown, introducing more restrictions as the Delta variant spreads beyond Auckland. MailOnline has more.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced 32 new coronavirus cases on Sunday in Auckland, the country’s largest city, which has been in lockdown since mid-August.

There were also two cases in the Waikato region, some 91 miles south of Auckland, prompting Ardern to bring parts of that region into a five-day lockdown.

She added that the government will decide on Monday whether Auckland’s 1.7 million residents will remain sealed off from the rest of New Zealand.

Ardern enforced what was meant to be a ‘short and sharp’ nationwide lockdown in mid-August in response to the Auckland outbreak, which now stands at 1,328 cases.

But while the rest of the country has largely returned to normal life, the North Island city has remained in lockdown.

“We are doing everything that we can to keep cases confined to Auckland, and managing them there,” Ardern said.

While New Zealand was among just a handful of countries to bring COVID-19 cases down to zero last year and largely stayed virus-free until the latest outbreak in August, difficulties in quashing the Delta variant have put Ardern’s elimination strategy in question.

Worth reading in full.

Is This a Dystopian Satire? No, it’s Daily Life Down Under

Steve Waterson, the Commercial Editor of the Australian, has kindly given us permission to reprint his latest column. It’s another jeremiad against Australia’s staggeringly incompetent ruling class, as they frantically try and spin their mismanagement of the coronavirus crisis as a mature, statesmanlike response. Meanwhile, the regulations that ordinary Australians have to cope with grow ever more ridiculous. Sit down to drink, but stand up near a park bench; exercise, but don’t rest; go shopping but don’t browse; under no circumstances talk to anyone you know, despite the masks that afford magic protection from nanometre Covid dust… “The list is a never-ending carousel of hilarity,” says Waterson.

Well, that was worth waiting for. Finally a tiny glimpse of the modelling that has underpinned government decision-making on our Covid response, and very convincing it is too. And unbelievably, literally unbelievably, precise.

Let’s not go through the various conditional predictions of the virus’s impact, especially the “worst-case” scenario, which happily generates a number far short of “everybody dies”, which I would regard as the worst case.

Instead here’s what the Doherty Institute says could happen if we suffered a six-month uncontrolled outbreak with only 60% of the population vaccinated: there would be 737,971 infections and 5,294 deaths. Note the super-scientific accuracy: not 737,970 or 737,972 infections; why, that would just be sloppy guesswork.

I’m teasing, of course (it’s one of the few pleasures not yet forbidden in these joyless times), and have no doubt the statisticians are doing their very best with the data; so let’s assume they’re correct that almost three-quarters of a million would be infected, of whom 5,000 would die.

Many of us in the anti-lockdown corner are asked how many lives we would sacrifice to see the country open up again, our accusers triumphantly certain there is no decent answer because, as the NSW Premier told us in May, “no death is acceptable”.

She and her interstate counterparts would rather smash our lives and livelihoods in pursuit of their ridiculous, hubristic ambition.

If a foreign power were causing damage on this scale we would regard it as an act of war, when deaths in defence of the country would become acceptable again.

Perhaps we should bite the bullet and say 5,000 predominantly old people taken prematurely is a sad but tolerable price to pay for the restoration of our freedoms and the repair of our society – as long as it’s not my precious grandparents. Oh wait, mine have already died of old age, like all my ancestors since humans first wandered out of the African Rift Valley. It happens a lot, I understand. And by the way, those 5,000 projected deaths assume we could find no other way of protecting the vulnerable, which is hard to believe.

Australia Uses Helicopters and the Army to Enforce Lockdown Rules

The enforcement of lockdown rules in Australia has jumped to another level, with the army knocking on doors to check that people who have tested positive are self-isolating and helicopters blaring the message: “This is public health order – do not break rules – you will be found and fines issued.”

Police are also checking IDs to ensure that citizens are not outside their ‘exercise radius‘, and those not wearing face masks are being hit with $500 fines. MailOnline has more.

[On Sautrday], up to 1,300 police officers swarmed Sydney and set up a network of roadblocks in a massive show of force to avoid a repeat of last week’s violent anti-lockdown protest.

Some 250 fines, each worth $500, were issued across the city today, with one man arrested after travelling on trains outside his local Government area without a reasonable excuse.

It comes after Prime Minister Scott Morrison had launched a four-stage plan back to freedom but said 80% of adults would have to be vaccinated before the border can begin to open.

Sydney’s five million people are under a strict stay-at-home order because of a worrying surge of nearly 3,000 infections since the middle of June.

Authorities have this week outlined even tighter restrictions for some worst-affected suburbs, including mandatory testing and mask-wearing outdoors. 

From Monday, some 300 army personnel will help police go door to door to ensure people who have tested positive are isolating. 

New South Wales Police Commissioner Mick Fuller told a news conference: “The sheer volume of increase over the last week, the level of compliance has gone from hundreds into thousands.”

The military personnel will not be armed and will be under police command, he said. …

[Australia] is faced with the spread of the much more infectious Indian variant that is proving able to overcome lockdown measures. Many highly vaccinated countries are now re-opening, but Australia is sticking to its ‘Zero Covid’ strategy while its vaccine drive lags behind the rest of the world.   

Sydney’s latest surge of cases has been traced back to an unmasked, unvaccinated airport driver who got infected last month. Since then, Australia’s biggest city has reported 13 deaths.

Worth reading in full.

Neither Zero Covid nor Vaccinations will Allow us to Return to Normality: We Must Learn To Live With Covid

We’re publishing on original essay today by Dr. Lee Jones, a reader in International Politics at Queen Mary. He argues that trying to suppress a virus that has an infection fatality rate of 0.05% for the under-70s is pointless and the sooner we learn to live with it, the better. Here is an extract.

Lockdowns and other societal restrictions were never recommended in pre-Covid pandemic planning by the World Health Organisation or national governments, because they were of unproven and dubious efficacy and came at tremendous cost. That most countries collapsed into some form of lockdown, throwing out their existing pandemic planning, thus indicates decisions taken in moments of panic, amid mounting, media-induced fear among the general public.

In most (though not all) countries, governments lacked the necessary authority to resist such pressure and hold to existing plans, which focused on delaying the spread of new diseases and mitigating their impact. Crucially, moreover, in many places, including Britain and Australia, the state was also very poorly prepared to do even this. Successive governments failed to invest in necessary capacities, outsourcing planning and preparedness to local authorities and private companies. Consequently, existing systems soon collapsed, adding to the sense of panic. As the U.K.’s Deputy Cabinet Secretary told the Prime Minister’s chief adviser on March 12th – the day that test-and-tracing was secretly abandoned because the U.K. could only handle five tests per week – “I’ve been told for years there’s a whole plan for this. There is no plan… I think we are absolutely fucked.”

Lockdown was thus the result of panic and state failure. It appealed to politicians because it gave the public what they seemed to be clamouring for, and bought time to organise a better response. The trouble is that justifying and securing compliance with such draconian measures entailed a colossal propaganda effort that has permanently skewed public perceptions of the virus, and inverted the proper relationship between state and citizen. As Laura Dodsworth chronicles in A State of Fear, the U.K. Government deliberately mobilised behavioural psychology to instil fear into the population to increase compliance with lockdown measures. The media has followed suit for its own purposes.

A conformist culture ensued in which dissenting voices – even among world-leading scientists – have been silenced, censored, or subjected to abuse. Sceptics are derided as “Covidiots”, “selfish morons” and people who want to “kill granny”. The proper relationship between citizen and state in a democracy has been turned on its head, with the Government telling the public what to do, rather than vice-versa, and demanding that people stay home to “protect the NHS”, when the NHS’s job is actually to protect us.

Worth reading in full.

Australia’s Loony Zero Covid Policy Gradually Drives Entire Country Mad

In Australia, the state of Victoria, with more than six million people, has been put into lockdown because of 18 cases. Yes, you read that correctly. There are now 12 million Australians confined to their homes due to fewer infections than you’d find in the average British pub.

We’re publishing a guest post today by Steve Waterson, the Commercial Editor of the Australian. This piece originally appeared in the Weekend Australian, but Steve has given us permission to republish it.

So away we go again, hunting to ground the absolute beast, the out-of-control killer virus that runs rampant at light speed, vaulting from customer to customer in a fleeting cafe encounter.

Contact tracers scramble tirelessly to chase down the asymptomatic covidiots, while their masters, responding to the hour-by-hour health advice, are forced against their will to impose a snap lockdown, perhaps a circuit-breaker, to flatten the curve towards zero transmission, but for no longer than necessary.

Regrettably, they may have to slam their state borders shut (only as a last resort) so medical facilities will not be overwhelmed, to save lives and keep people out of harm’s way in this unprecedented, existential war. After all, they’re simply following the science, and they make no apology for that.

Hasn’t it been illuminating, these past 18 months, watching the verbal gymnastics of our politicians and their supporting cast of advisers and enablers, as they contort language and meaning to support their twisted edifice of hysterical illogic? The banal retreat into cliche, exaggeration, oxymoron and jargon, all wind and no substance, largely unchallenged, it’s sad to say, by a media pack trying to outdo each other with doom-laden headlines.

Australia Agrees Plan to Abandon Zero Covid Strategy

As infections surge during winter and with half the country now under restrictions in the ‘Zero Covid’ state, the national Government in Australia has finally accepted that trying to keep Covid out forever is no way to run a country. The cabinet has agreed plans to end restrictions and reopen borders as the country shifts to a vaccine strategy that treats Covid “like the flu”. ABC reports.

National Cabinet has agreed to a four-stage plan that would see Australia transform into a vaccinated nation that manages COVID-19 with few restrictions.

The goal, as Prime Minister Scott Morrison said, is for Australia to begin treating COVID-19 “like the flu”.

It would mean governments shift from focusing on case numbers to focusing on rates of hospitalisation and death as Australians learn to live with low rates of mild illness in the community.

To get to a point beyond lockdowns and border closures, Australians will need to roll up their sleeves and get vaccinated, but leaders are yet to agree how many jabs it will take to open up.

However, as the Swiss Doctor notes, the country’s vaccine programme has not exactly got off to a good start.

Australia still has a very low, single-digit vaccination rate; moreover, the country currently relies on AstraZeneca, which achieves only a 60% protection rate against symptomatic infection with the ‘Indian variant’, and which will be phased out due to several fatal and severe reactions in young adults. Thus, Australia is likely to face a fierce uphill battle against the coronavirus during the ongoing winter season

The media hysteria is in full swing down under, with the Australian Associated Press telling readers that the Delta variant is “twice as contagious as the original virus and can be spread through fleeting contact that lasts just seconds”. Oh dear, where’s a fact checker when you need one? Glad not to be in Australia right now.

Singaporean Ministers Announce That Country Must Learn to Live With COVID-19

Singapore has recorded fewer deaths from COVID-19 than almost any other country with reliable data: only 36 to date, which equates to a rate of just six per million. (The U.K.’s official COVID-19 death rate is 1,890 per million.)

And according to the World Mortality Dataset, Singapore has had zero excess mortality since the pandemic began. On the other hand, the country did take a sizeable economic hit last year – with GDP falling by 5.4% (compared to only 2.8% in Sweden).

What’s more, Singapore has not recorded more than 100 cases in a day since August of last year. If any advanced country has come close to “Zero Covid”, it’s Singapore.

Despite that record, three Singaporean ministers have announced that “COVID-19 may never go away” and “it is possible to live normally with it in our midst”.

Writing in The Straits Times, Gan Kim Yong, Lawrence Wong and Ong Ye Kung (the ministers for trade, finance and health) say that “COVID-19 will very likely become endemic”. This means that “the virus will continue to mutate, and thereby survive in our community”.

In other words, the Singaporean Government is under no illusion that it will be possible to eliminate COVID-19, contrary to the claims of the “Zero COVID” movement. Indeed, a survey by Nature of 119 experts found that 89% believe it is “likely” or “very likely” that SARS-CoV-2 will become an endemic virus.

“We can’t eradicate it”, the ministers write, “but we can turn the pandemic into something much less threatening, like influenza.” How do they propose to deal with the virus going forward?

First, they intend to proceed with their vaccination program, which aims to have two thirds of people vaccinated by August 9th. Second, they intend to continue testing, but “the focus will be different”. For example, the country will cease “monitoring COVID-19 infection numbers every day”. Third, they intend to keep using and developing effective treatments for COVID-19.

As Yong, Wong and Kung conclude, “History has shown that every pandemic will run its course.” Though one might object that even the few remaining measures are no longer necessary, the ministers seem to understand what they’re talking about. Their article is worth reading in full.