Here’s the opening of Daniel Halperin’s and Monica Gandhi’s new piece in the Wall Street Journal: You don’t need to wear a mask outdoors. That applies whether you’re vaccinated against Covid-19 or not, regardless of your age, and despite the other qualifications in the Centers for Disease Control’s latest guidance, released Tuesday. In this 20-minute interview, Prof. Carl Heneghan decries the evidence-free adoption of certain measures meant to suppress the spread of SARS-CoV-2. Daniel Hannan continues to write wisely about the disproportionate overreaction to Covid-19. Two slices: The trouble is that lifting restrictions is an altogether tougher proposition than not imposing them in the first place. People tend to anchor to the status quo. Governments are reluctant to relinquish the
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You don’t need to wear a mask outdoors.
That applies whether you’re vaccinated against Covid-19 or not, regardless of your age, and despite the other qualifications in the Centers for Disease Control’s latest guidance, released Tuesday.
The trouble is that lifting restrictions is an altogether tougher proposition than not imposing them in the first place. People tend to anchor to the status quo. Governments are reluctant to relinquish the powers they assumed on a supposedly contingent basis. Just as with post-war rationing, bureaucrats fear chaos if controls are lifted, and struggle to understand the (admittedly counter-intuitive) notion of spontaneous order. Freedoms, as always, need to be prised from the cold grip of the administrative state.
Supporters of the Swedish approach did not argue that it was exactly like Britain or, indeed, that it was doing everything perfectly. Their contention, rather, was that Sweden was the control in the global experiment. Back in March 2020, when the rest of the world locked down, closures were sold as the only way to halt exponential spread. Sweden disproved that contention as early as May 2020 when, without closing shops, schools or restaurants, it saw a decline in case numbers.
That should have been that. Plainly, a country could protect itself without a complete shutdown. Cases would peak with or without draconian measures. Indeed, Professor Simon Wood, a statistician at Edinburgh University, has shown that the rate of new infections had already started to decline before the imposition of each of the three British lockdowns.
That, though, is an unpopular message. It suggests that at least some of the suffering we have gone through over the past year – not just the economic losses, but everything from ruined education to poor mental health – could have been avoided. To repeat, the argument is not that lockdowns are wholly ineffective, but that their cost is disproportionate.
Why am I saying this now? Because it is sensible, immediately after an event, to write yourself a memo to which you can refer next time. There will be more pandemics – whether derived from the Coronavirus or from new sources. And, given the state of our media discourse, they will now be met by calls for new lockdowns. Yet gathering evidence suggests that our closures were wrongly targeted, excessively harsh and, above all, too long.
And those of you who are confident that the Covidocracy rules in a scientifically informed manner might wish to note this reality. And also this reality (on the disgraceful treatment of Martin Kulldorff.) Two slices from the latter:
The Centers for Disease Control pulled a world-renowned expert off a vaccine safety advisory committee after he publicly disagreed with the agency’s pause of the Johnson and Johnson COVID vaccine.
In an email, the CDC’s Dr. Amanda Cohn said Dr. Martin Kulldorff of Harvard Medical School was being removed for communicating to the public his expert opinion, which differed from what the CDC was saying publicly at the time. Four days later, however, the CDC reinstated the use of the vaccine, effectively adopting Kulldorff’s recommendation after punishing him for publicly communicating it.
“I’m really happy Martin has been willing to say what a lot of people are thinking. It’s not easy for an academic to do that, which is scary. It’s scary that academics feel like they can’t express an alternate view,” [Harvard medical-school professor Jeffrey] Brown said. “The fact that Martin and Bhattacharya, that people are criticizing them for pretty basic epidemiology and public health, is insane. It chills debate when perfectly reasonable opinions are shunned.”
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) published new data showing that almost seven in 10 adults now have antibodies against Covid, in a leap towards herd immunity
The sunny picture sharply contrasts with the modelling presented by the Government’s scientists less than a month ago, when Boris Johnson warned that normality was “still some way off”, and promised to stick to his roadmap “like glue”.
Papers released then by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) said that a full release from restrictions in June could trigger a wave of Covid hospitalisations as bad as those in January.
But the slew of new data adds weight to claims that many of their central assumptions were far too negative, or based on extremely partial information.
Consider the case of the pandemic. The prevailing narrative, especially among academics like me, is that lockdowns are both required and effective. So, if I am not fervently supporting lockdowns, then I am assumed to be opposed to any form of restrictions. This has been the reaction from across the academy when I have variously suggested: that the stay at home messaging was so effective that it might have resulted in more life years being lost from missed cancer treatments; that middle-aged decision-makers might have been unduly influenced by their own fear of dying; that the life experiences of younger people have been seen as a luxury good whilst we focus on the life expectancies of older people; and that it unethical to scare people into believing that their own risks from the virus are higher than they really are.
Why are people who behave in this way, and who brag about doing so, not derided as nut-cases by those who are quick to dismiss as nutcases others who aren’t so keen on life under the Covidocracy? (DBx: I don’t deny that many nutty things have been said, and continue to be said, by some people who oppose lockdowns. It’s a big world, with absolutely large numbers of people taking each of the many positions that it’s possible to take on Covid. Nor do I believe that these anti-lockdown people should be immune to appropriate criticism. But this fact is striking: A disproportionately large number of ‘scientifically’-minded individuals who are quick to denounce nutty statements, foolish actions, and mistaken predictions by anti-lockdowners are silent about nutty statements, foolish actions, and mistaken predictions by pro-lockdowners. It’s as if expressions of hysteria about Covid are a vaccine against being the object of criticism.)