The media panic about Omicron (and then pi?)

Slightly amusing that they’ve (the WHO) has skipped over naming it Xi.

The reality of the situation with Covid was brought home to me by these figures. Germany has 22,000 ICU beds. Currently 4000 of these are occupied by Covid patients. The state bureaucracy is screaming “emergency” and officials are agitating for more lock-downs. [1] Hang on. 22,000 ICU beds and 4,000 occupied by Covid patients? That doesn’t sound like the disaster which is being portrayed in the media. The reality appears to be (in Europe) that the driver for lockdowns and Covid passes (not to mention shooting people in Holland) is the desire of the state health bureaucracy to keep their hospitals in a pristine, as-normal, state. They are offloading the problems from the disease onto the population.

In the background note the change in messaging from state officials across Europe; “your path to freedom is getting vaccinated” has mutated into “we will need lockdowns, masks and social distancing as well as vaccinations to control this”.

The media acts as usual in cahoots with the state bureaucracy, in this case spreading the carefully calibrated messages of panic. Enough to ensure compliance with any rules and orders but not too much to cause social disorder.

My personal thoughts on this. If the question is:- would you rather a) live a life of permanent restrictions, where you can’t go to a café (I’ve been vaccinated but have, no doubt like many people, paperwork problems), travel to another country, go to a concert etc. and as a result stand a better chance of not dying from Covid or b) accept the risk and live a normal life – I would choose b). Especially when I consider that under the age of 70 the risk if I catch Covid is comparable to the risk from flu. [2] And while it rises after that [3] it is still a risk I’m prepared to take; I keep fit and will take vaccines which will substantially reduce the risk to a level I can accept.

There is a false dichotomy presented in the media who simply amplify the pronouncements and worldview of state bureaucrats. The endlessly repeated message is that the choice is between do nothing or state mandated restrictions. This is entirely false. The third alternative is based on scientifically literate individuals assessing risk, including to others, and taking responsible decisions. This alternative is suppressed because it does not involve the state. It is a choice at the level of civil society.

A question; why despite all this state organised and media mediated panic do we never hear the simple medical advice; by keeping fit and within the recommended weight for your age and height you can very significantly reduce your risk from Covid? This is a medical fact. Using the Economist’s [3] calculator which is based on US CDC data we see that for a 70 year old male with no medical conditions (other than perhaps being overweight) the risk of hospitalisation from Covid is 24.4%. Add in obesity and the figure is 35.6%. The data claims that obesity will not lead to higher mortality – just higher hospitalisation. It is a fact then that obese people are placing the health system under significant strain; due to their obesity they need oxygen support. (I would assume that these figures would be comparable in the UK). Being obese is not an unavoidable condition. If people would lose weight they could very significantly reduce their risk from Covid. I have never heard or seen this mentioned once in the media since the start of the pandemic despite having read countless articles about Covid, including countless pronouncements from highly paid state health bureaucrats. Yet here is something free and easy which would made a huge difference to the trajectory of the pandemic. Strange.

In response to Omicron governments are rushing in lockdowns and quarantines. The UK once again is behaving like King Cnut and trying to keep Omicron out by introducing mandatory PCR tests and isolation for all new arrivals together with Test and Trace. This is some idea dreamed up on paper by a state bureaucrat somewhere – presented to Ministers who, spineless careerists that they are, will do whatever the bureaucrats tell them for fear of making a mistake. It might work in a single theoretical location with a population of 10. It won’t work in the UK with tens (or hundreds?) of thousands coming in each day. It didn’t work for Delta. The futility of such a scheme is confirmed by a scholar from the respected John Hopkins Centre: “Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, said travel bans were not an appropriate response. ‘First of all, we know that travel restrictions do very little to stop the spread of COVID-19,’ Adalja told Al Jazeera.” [4] And border controls are indeed as the South African Health Minister says [4] contrary to WHO recommendations. [5] All this is utterly shameless – because it is so pointless. Why does it happen? I think the central reason is that democratic governments always need to be seen to be doing something to justify their existence. The health bureaucrats also need to be seen to be doing something to keep their jobs. The media reports this performance and plays the role of compare or host. (Not the role they should play – of questioning what is going on). It is all an elaborate theatre driven by careerist self-interest, presented as responsible governance, played out to a docile audience who have little choice but to comply. Thoroughly dystopian.

What concerns me about the current wave of lockdowns is this; the logic is that if we need lockdowns now, when vaccination rates in Europe are high (68% in Germany), then we will need them forever. The virus is unlikely to simply go away. It is highly likely it will continue to mutate. It is likely that it will play a role in society like flu; as a carrier-off of the old and frail. Vaccines will help but not save everyone. At some point society has to make a choice; permanent lockdowns and travel restrictions and social distancing or accept that there is a new way of dying – to add to all the existing ways. And then just live our lives!

Notes

  1. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/nov/26/germany-at-crossroads-as-covid-cases-surge-across-europe
  2. https://www.bmj.com/content/371/bmj.m3883/rr
  3. https://www.economist.com/graphic-detail/covid-pandemic-mortality-risk-estimator
  4. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/11/26/who-designates-new-covid-strain-omicron-variant-of-concern
  5. https://www.reuters.com/world/who-cautions-against-imposing-travel-restrictions-due-new-variant-2021-11-26/ (I can’t find the source I want. Possibly a victim of Google censorship. But it is in fact part of WHO standing policy to caution against travel restrictions as a response to pandemics).

Author: justinwyllie

EFL Teacher and Photographer