Beware, this pandemic is nowhere near over
16 February 2022
NOOSA – Most longstanding readers will remember December 2011 when Peter O’Neill was trying to wrest control of Papua New Guinea from prime minister Michael Somare.
It was a strange time. While the courts were trying to work things out, the country had two prime ministers, two police commissioners, two army commanders and two of a lot of other positions.
Eventually the Supreme Court made a decision and life went back to getting ready for Christmas.
I was reminded of this today when sitting down to write this article.
Life in Australia at present is a bit like living in two almost identical universes. In one, it seems that everything is just about normal. In the other, the one in which I live, it looks family but is not.
This other Australia is frequented by people who do not believe everything is normal, that is, Covid-safe.
Not all of these people are like me and carry conditions highly likely to be made worse by catching Covid.
Strangely, perhaps, one of my afflictions is a neurological illness almost identical to what is termed ‘Long Covid’. People with my condition who caught Covid have ended up much worse. For me that would be disastrous.
But even if I was as fit as a Mallee bull, I would still belong to the second group – the avoiders. The people who do not want to catch Covid because of the substantial risk, especially if you’re older, of acquiring a very unpleasant collection of chronic illnesses.
So, in this second and cautious Australia, we maintain protocols like social distancing, mask wearing and avoiding crowded rooms.
The price we pay for this is to be increasingly told by many governments and their lick-spittle health bureaucrats and tame scientists that we have things all wrong.
Well, we’ll see how that pans out.
So far, this cadre of let-it-rippers have shown excellence in trying to deny that their policies are resulting in hundreds of deaths of people in aged care and in thousands of children catching a disease that nobody is really sure won’t have future repercussions.
And of course, they never speak of the Long Covid which seems to affect between 15% and 40% of people depending on factors themselves not much understood. One of them, a Dr Coatsworth, would like you to chuck your mask away, snowflake.
I believe that we cautious folk have science on our side. As you might expect, I keep in close touch with the science – the real science not cowboy science, and from credible research institutes not politicised ones, and published after peer reviews in trustworthy medical journals not as eyeball-baiters in the tabloid press.
The Danish immunologist Professor Kristian Andersen runs a highly-regarded research laboratory in California. It’s part of the prestigious Scripps Research Institute.
Andersen uses the term ‘endemic delusion’ to describe what he says is “the unrealistic belief that the Covid pandemic is over” which preaches “that we can get back to 2019 life by suppressing the fact that we need to keep innovating and fight the virus”.
In fact, I equate that delusion to what I see beginning to happen around me in Australia.
However Andersen believes the delusion is best exemplified by what is happening in his native Denmark.
“Denmark effectively declared the pandemic over about two weeks ago,” he writes. “It declassified the virus so it's no longer a ‘critical disease’, and ended all restrictions.
“This is despite the fact that cases, hospitalisations and test positivity are higher than ever - with deaths rapidly rising.
“Yet all of this is basically ignored by Danish media, mostly by focusing on ICU numbers, which are stable, but ignoring that deaths are going up.
“And endlessly focusing on ‘with Covid’ versus ‘of Covid’, ignoring the fact that it's all ‘Covid’,” Andersen writes.
This is a nasty and offensive habit that’s been picked up by the bad guys in Australia, who now make a distinction between whether you die ‘with Covid’, which seems to be OK, or ‘of Covid’ which they don’t like.
In truth the distinction should be whether it was Covid that caused death to occur or whether you would still be alive if you hadn’t caught Covid, no matter how old you were or what other conditions you had.
“Choosing a strategy is far from easy,” writes Andersen, “however, whatever the strategy, it must be based on realistic expectations and not delusion.
“Sadly, the strategy in Denmark is based on the latter.”
I suppose like, in Australia, it’s also based on false equivalences, half-truths, dodgy statistics, cherry picking, ignoring contrary evidence and sometimes downright lying.
Andersen concludes by saying that if people “simply declare the pandemic over – when that is very much not the case - we stop innovating and fighting, which will only prolong the pandemic and make it worse.
“We need to innovate our way out of this - better vaccines, drugs, masks, tests and systems,” he says.
You can link here to a podcast in which Dr Andersen and Dr Andy Slavitt, President Biden's senior advisor on Covid, discuss Denmark’s decision to lift all Covid restrictions, what we know about the new Omicron sub-variant and other timely issues.
The World Health Organisation is also concerned about ‘endemic delusion’.
“This pandemic is nowhere near over,” says director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “Now is not the time to give up and wave the white flag.
“We can still significantly reduce the impact of the current wave by sharing and using health tools effectively, and implementing public health and social measures that we know work.”
His emergencies director, Michael Ryan, picks up the argument: “Omicron may be less severe on average, but the narrative that it is a mild disease is misleading.
“Make no mistake, Omicron is causing hospitalisations and deaths, and even the less severe cases are inundating health facilities.”
I also found a piece by Dr George Lundberg, ‘Human race keeps trying to make itself extinct’, to be particularly interesting.
Lundberg is a clinical professor of pathology at Northwestern University in Illinois.
“Covid-19 is a particularly voracious and devious evolutionary wonder for which humankind so far is no match,” he writes.
“Our wondrous technical science may eventually win out. But the frailties of human knowledge, attitudes, and behaviour - and the resulting lame social and political entities that drive mass decision-making - are so unreliable and subject to nefarious manipulation as to cast real doubt on a favourable ultimate outcome.”
Dr Lundberg sees this beginning third year of the pandemic to be particularly troubling.
“With so many reactionary governments in the throes of ‘freedom über alles’ (freedom above everything), a large portion of humankind is left to an ‘every person for themselves’ mode,” he says.
“Who survives will depend upon wealth, education and individual protective actions, such as vaccination, isolation and masking, much to the harm of ‘the masses’ and a valiant, but likely overmatched, healthcare workforce.
“Public health and prevention thinking have been undermined by many. Those old human traits of ignorance, hypocrisy and greed continue to render many humans easy targets for political and economic exploitation.”
And so too the colourful prose of Dr Eric Feigl-Ding, an epidemiologist and health economist who is a senior fellow of the Federation of American Scientists in Washington DC:
“My God,” he exclaims on Twitter, “Danish political leaders have completely lost their frigging minds releasing all Covid-19 mitigations — these are exponentially surging deaths not cases!
“This is what happens when a country’s leaders gaslights its own citizens. Covid is not over.
“There is complete ‘endemic delusion’ going on right now in Denmark and many other countries.
“I’m not the only one that thinks Danish leaders are being completely irresponsible.
“Say what you will about ICU, but the hospitalisations and deaths don’t lie.”
Of course, the fight for reason and science is far from totally absent in Australia. I can think of many scientists, and even a few journalists and politicians, who understand that the toughest battles, far from being over, still lie ahead of us.
But the endemically deluded are in for a rude shock.
As for those who have great influence over public health policy and who have made the cynical decision to let ‘er rip…. I hope my cautious ways and unpredictable health allow me to ive long enough to see you brought to account.
Latest report of Covid deaths in Queensland (39) apparently includes numbers underreported in January.
Question is does CHO need revisit his January comments, and take away some of earlier ‘lulling’ tones?
Posted by: Lindsay F Bond | 17 February 2022 at 10:49 AM
A pay packet position, 'allay fear', is after all but a proposition.
Authority in governance has similar stand off with crocodiles.
Nip, crocs mostly don't, gnash they are famed to do.
Posted by: Lindsay F Bond | 17 February 2022 at 07:10 AM
Many thanks for this. The Cochrane website also has plenty of meaningful research articles:
Posted by: Bernard Corden | 16 February 2022 at 10:41 PM