This is a stub. I really want to write a lot on this subject but I don’t have time at the moment. Why do I want to write about this? Because it touches on topics of interest to me; science and freedom. Freedom in the sense of living a life which more or less is not controlled moment to moment by some authority. Science as a way of arriving at reliable, verifiable, knowledge of the world.
The Covid situation in the UK is moving into farcical territory.
I saw a headline today “one person has died from Omicron”. This is just hysteria. If the projections that it is going to grow exponentially are correct then within a few weeks 50 people a day will be dying from Omicron.
Wow, you say, that’s serious. That is because they (the authorities and the media classes – the PR arm of power) want you to be scared. But consider this; in a bad flu year up to 30,000 people die from flu in the UK (if we include pneumonia)  Most deaths occur in the Winter months but if we take the year as a whole the average is 82 deaths a day. People die.
Of course flu + Covid will kill more people than flu alone. But it seems highly likely that there will be considerable overlap. Covid will kill people who otherwise might have died of flu. (Though there is no doubt that Covid has a higher death rate than flu for people over 70).
There are many strange features as to how the pandemic is being managed in the UK. Here are some of them:
Capacity – the bottleneck which can’t be touched
It seems to depend how you calculate it but approximately speaking there are 6000 critical care beds in the NHS. Before Covid at peak times the resource could be at 95% capacity. That is just 300 spare beds. It really doesn’t take much to cause a crisis. If the policy is, as indeed it is, to “protect the NHS” this explains the draconian measures.
What is strange perhaps is that no new capacity has been built since the start of the pandemic. There were the Nightingale hospitals which were hardly used (and then probably only so they could say they had been used a little). This was of course another money-laundering exercise. When asked why they weren’t used the public was told by the Health Authorities that there were no staff. I found that implausible at the time – there are army doctors and nurses available. It would have been possible to import nurses. But now – more than 18 months into the pandemic there is no possible convincing explanation as to why no additional capacity has been built. (Including hiring and training staff). Money can’t be the blocker; they’ve poured £37+ billion into the failing Test and Trace system with most of the money swelling the coffers of private companies. I think the blocker is probably the “closed shop” mentality of the health bureaucracy. They endlessly issue warnings about the imminent collapse of the NHS but at the same time will do everything they can to prevent any other health solutions from arising which might threaten their monopoly.
One option – which I believe was used by China and I think was used during the Spanish Flu pandemic – is to build dedicated and separate facilities to handle the pandemic cases. This has the advantage that you preserve at least some of your normal capacity to carry out operations, thus reducing the number of people who die because their non pandemic related treatment has been cancelled. It also reduces cross-infection. A 1/5 of people in NHS hospitals in the UK with Covid caught it in hospital. Which is a rather shocking figure and of course contributes significantly to the overall death rates. In Russia the tendency seems to be to dedicate one hospital in a town or city to Covid and leave the others to carry on. At least they seem to be thinking about nosocomial infection. (As an aside we can somewhat anecdotally suggest that a measure of this kind could potentially have reduced overall deaths by numbers in the tens of thousands: The Telegraph claims 11,600 people died from hospital acquired Covid by 11/21 and this report suggests 9,000 non-Covid excess deaths in just three months in March-May 2020 – and non Covid excess deaths continue to be a problem now – suggesting that non-Covid excess deaths alone may number tens of thousands).
Update 26-12-21. On 18 December the London Mayer Sadiq Kahn ordered a state of emergency in London because of rising Covid cases. On that day there were 1,534 Covid patients in London hospitals. Out of a population of approximately 9 million. The fact is; there is in normal times virtually no spare capacity in hospitals. A tiny increase can push them into crisis. The “crisis” which is leading to lockdowns (themselves indisputably harmful) is not that the hospitals are being flooded with tens of thousands of desperately ill patients. This is the impression you might get if you don’t look at the numbers. But in reality the crisis is that there is basically no capacity in the system and no willingness to expand it.
A further point. The majority of people who go into hospital with Covid recover. Increasing capacity means more people can be treated and cared for. It does not necessarily mean that we are accepting that more people will die. If 25% of people who are diagnosed as having Covid in hospital die then 75% will recover. If you increase capacity by 1000 beds then 250 more people may die. However; this should be weighed against all the costs of the current policy of refusing to increase capacity. This policy leads to lockdowns and to people staying away from hospitals or having their treatments postponed for non-Covid illnesses. This causes mortality; as we have noted above – substantial levels of mortality. The increased Covid deaths if capacity were increased and more case numbers accepted might well be compensated for by a reduction in the numbers of non Covid deaths caused by the current policy of not increasing capacity.
The vaccine strategy in the UK is fast unravelling. Predictably enough the virus is mutating and has produced an escape candidate. The data so far suggests significantly reduced protection against Omicron from Pfizer and AstraZeneca. Pfizer is pushing the need for a “booster”. But even with this booster protection is down to 75%  and there is doubt about how long this effect will last.
If and when Pi arrives it may be even more successful at evading the vaccine.
Both Pfizer and AstraZeneca offer limited protection against mild infection and transmission. In fact after 3 months AstraZeneca offers no protection against transmission. Pfizer retains some protection against transmission after 3 months but it is reduced.  (As an example of the way that the media is running on authoritarian steroids and not science look at this BBC journalist trying to bamboozle a dissenting MP into accepting that “being vaccinated is something you do to protect others”. But given that being vaccinated offers in fact very limited protection against transmission this argument fails. She hasn’t looked at the science and is prioritising her authoritarian agenda).
The messaging on vaccines has changed. No longer are they the “road to freedom” but they are there to protect against serious illness. This new message only appears to be the case if you take multiple and frequent boosters – something which is just not realistic for much of the world unless Pfizer can be made to offer them at cost and the wealthier nations simply club together to pay for a global programme. This is logistically possible but I am not holding my breath. Our leaders lament the deaths caused by Covid but they would lament a socialist initiative saving the world far more.
It is increasingly likely that the situation with vaccines will be as with flu. They help reduce risk in the most vulnerable. But they do not defeat the pandemic. Probably the ultimate answer will be natural immunity supported with vaccines to reduce risk in the most vulnerable.
The situation now is that the government is committed to pouring billions into the profits of the vaccine companies. But in reality the promises of the vaccines are – as with so many other pharmaceutical products- exaggerated. They will ameliorate the situation – not fix it. There is a denial of this reality. Pfizer is not going to enlighten anyone.
The false dichotomy of lockdown or do nothing
It is routine to see scientists making public statements “if we don’t bring in a new lockdown now there will be another 30,000 deaths by Christmas”. It is alarming to see the complete lack of scientific understanding on display here.
What science can do is use data gathered from the real world such as the R number of a virus in e.g. normal urban conditions without restrictions, combine this with clinical data and make some kind of ranged predictions about deaths if the variables do not change. How to reduce transmission (one of the variables) is from a scientific point of view very simple; increase social distancing, avoid contact between infected and uninfected people, increase ventilation etc. The how of how that is achieved is absolutely outside the realm of science. It is a question for civil society. It is not a law of science that the only way to reduce transmission is lockdowns, Covid-passes, fines and all the other authoritarian measures being enacted by government. A reduction in transmission could be obtained by voluntary acts by informed citizens without any of the apparatus of authoritarian control and fines. It is simply a horrible sight to see all these paid public scientists manifesting such ignorance about science – as they do when they make empirically untenable claims that “the science says we must lockdown”. Government is very keen to encourage these false claims because the state is opposed to civil society, which is always a threat to its unlimited power and this gives it an excuse to target civil society “in the name of science”. State power plus fake science (or, to be clear, authoritarian political conclusions falsely claimed to be derived from empirical science but in fact added on afterwards) is in the case of the Covid pandemic absolutely supplanting civil society.
Freedom and fatness
Strangely, it seems that the authoritarian trends which want to force people to wear masks despite them having only absolutely marginal medical benefit , which want to fine children (and their parents) life-destroying sums for running about, which want to pressurise children into being vaccinated and deny their parents the right to refuse despite vaccines being more dangerous to children than Covid , do not extend to telling fat people to slim down.
Based on the Economist’s risk calculator (based on reliable US data) we can note that for a man aged 55 with no health conditions the mortality risk from Covid is 0.8% and the hospitalisation risk is 11.5%. Add in obesity and the figures respectively are 0.8% and 20.3%. The staggering difference for obesity in hospitalisation rates seems to be borne out at different ages. Particularly interesting is that there is no difference to mortality rates at age 55. Even for age 75 the difference in mortality is tiny: 7.2% goes to 7.3%. But, again, a huge difference in hospitalisation: 28.1% to 40.1%. I would guess that if the comparison was between being overweight/obese v. being within recommended BMI then the difference would be even larger than just considering obesity. For cross-comparison, adding in ‘other cancers’ does not affect hospitalisation at all at age 55.
In other words; hospitals are being clogged up with people who are at no more risk ultimately of dying (largely) but who need help breathing because their weak and flabby muscles aren’t strong enough. And for this – people are being locked down and businesses destroyed. Obviously I understand that obesity is not the only factor and, conversely, that even people who are not obese can still end up in hospital; nonetheless these very significant differences are going to produce thousands more hospitalisations given the widespread levels of obesity in the population.
To be clear; I’m not advocating for e.g. refusal of treatment to the obese. But it does seem odd that there isn’t even any ‘guidance’ or advice on this question at all. Zero; despite the fact that if there were less obese people there would be far less pressure on the hospital system.
However; it seems that in the UK today while people do not have the right to decide whether or not to wear a mask, to move around and leave their homes at will (during the last lockdown), to travel internationally without huge difficulty, and to decline to let their children be vaccinated even though they may know that it is more dangerous than the disease, they do have the right to be avoidably fat and clog up health resources unnecessarily. The corrupt and self-serving political class will lecture us about how selfish it is not to get vaccinated. But I haven’t heard anything about the overweight people clogging up the hospitals. In our society it seems being fat is a fundamental human right. I would guess this is because fat people are consumers. As always the preferred solution is one which allows the corporate-government nexus to ‘deliver’ something – at profit. But the reality is that doing less of something – in this case eating – would be a much better solution. These solutions are not mentioned because they are not profitable and don’t involve state power. (A similar thing happens with ‘ADHD’. Despite even the best ADHD drugging ‘studies’ showing positive results for behavioural interventions they will still conclude that drugging is the answer.  Behavioural interventions can be done at home for free without government. But drugging is just much more profitable and engages the whole apparatus of state power).
- https://www.bmj.com/content/371/bmj.m4586/rr-6 Notice how this Reuters report spins the results which actually found no statistically significant benefit to wearing masks to “masks provided limited protection” https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-facemasks-idUSKBN27Y1YW – they are just lying.
- The study of AstraZeneca showed that for 18-39s there is greater risk of dying from the vaccine than from Covid by a factor of approximately 2:1. https://www.irishexaminer.com/news/arid-40328123.html – a factor which one imagines is even greater for under 18s. Pfizer is more likely to cause hospitalisation in teenage boys than Covid: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/sep/10/boys-more-at-risk-from-pfizer-jab-side-effect-than-covid-suggests-study