Just when we were supposed to be coming together it seems the pandemic has created a division amongst us. The key question being how should we respond both as individuals, as communities and as authorities or governments.
Some questions arising are:
- Should we lockdown and if so how much?
- Should we enforce anti-transmission measures or should they be voluntary?
I believe the most important question should be this though:
1. Does the risk of Covid outweigh the risk of the anti-transmission measures?
And equally importantly:
2. Can we modify our anti-transmission measures to increase their benefit and/or reduce their costs?
Just so you can understand my motivations are not purely self serving it would help to explain about how Covid has impacted my personal situation.
I do have a longterm respitory condition, although I could not tell you how much risk that entails. At time of writing I am 47 years old so not at huge risk purely based on my age and my levels of fitness were good when this whole thing started.
In terms of risk to my friends and family some of my friends are in risk categories but my grand parents and mother have died of cancer at around 60 and my father is also no longer with us due to a heart condition.
I had some issues with losing access to my children at the start but I fought hard and ended up with far more contact with them than ever before, so for that I am truly grateful and in that respect the anti-transmission measures have actually hugely improved my personal life. More time with my children is beyond value to me.
However, I am very worried about a number of things:
So much focus has been given to Covid, fuelled by sensalisation in media and authorities mis-representing data for manipulative purposes, that we have forgotten about other equally or potentially even more important matters or risks.
That there is a very serious risk that the costs of the anti-transmission measures may considerably outweigh their benefits, possibly by a much larger degree than people realise.
That some of the negative and in some cases very frightening changes that are supposed "temporary" may end up being permanent, or even worse the start of a downward slide into even darker places. Particularly my concern is about authorities abusing the situation to gain power that they couldn't have dreamt of obtaining without Covid.
Sir John Dalberg-Acton, 8th Baronet. He is perhaps best known for the remark, "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."
So let's start by talking about the risk of Covid.
I am not an expert in statistics but luckily there are some around that can help! Meet David Spiegelhalter. See his wikipedia entry:
"Sir David John Spiegelhalter OBE FRS (born 16 August 1953) is a British statistician and Winton Professor of the Public Understanding of Risk in the Statistical Laboratory at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge. Spiegelhalter is an ISI highly cited researcher.
I have looked and he seems to be about as authoritative on statistics as I could find.
Here is an article by the BBC explaining how the government is accused by David and his peers of mis-using statistics:
And here is an article by David explaining the risks of Covid in more reliable terms https://www.bmj.com/content/370/bmj.m3259
This article basically explains that there is a close correlation between catching Covid and your normal risk of death.
For the general population, the risk of catching and then dying from covid-19 during 16 weeks of the pandemic was equivalent to experiencing around 5 weeks extra “normal” risk for those over 55, decreasing steadily with age, to just 2 extra days for schoolchildren
For those over 55 who are infected with covid-19, the additional risk of dying is slightly more than the “normal” risk of death from all other causes over one year, and less for under 55s.
Analogy with normal risk seems an appropriate and useful tool for risk communication of lethal risk, although it does not deal with longer term harm to survivors.
Also see this from the Office of National Statistics re the average age for those that die of Covid is around 83 years old.
So this is what we are up against. What does it mean? It means that the closer people are to death anyway, the more likely they are to die from Covid. So if you had a 10% chance to die that year, Covid has a 10% chance to kill you if you catch it.