Scotland’s unscientific mishandling of Coronavirus

Scotland’s unscientific mishandling of Coronavirus

by Douglas Brodie
article from Tuesday 30, March, 2021

I BELONG to a sceptical minority who believe Scotland’s handling of the Coronavirus pandemic has been a disastrous overreaction (as for the UK), during which politicians have taken the Scottish people (and themselves) for fools, egged on by the irresponsible, fear-mongering mainstream media. 

Nicola Sturgeon’s roadmap for recovery threatens dictatorial continuation of lockdown restrictions into the summer and beyond – yet it was accepted without demur by Holyrood politicians. This provoked me into sending the following details to the all-party Scottish Covid-19 Committee, which to me epitomises the abject failure of the establishment political class in the handling of this crisis. 

Dear Committee members, 

My main argument I wish to make is there is no proof that lockdowns and other Non-Pharmaceutical interventions have had anything more than a marginal influence on the passage of the virus and that for whatever reason – panic in the face of scientific uncertainty (pardonable, but only for the initial outbreak), fear, lack of rational thinking, unquestioning gullibility or some ulterior motive – you have disregarded a wealth of evidence to this effect to pursue your disproportionate and damaging lockdown policies. It seems clear that the “cure” of ineffectual, never-ending lockdowns is worse than the virus itself. And please note I have never denied that SARS‑CoV‑2 is a dangerous virus, especially for the very old and chronically ill and that the many deaths that have occurred are very sad. You failed, however, to keep the virus threat in perspective and you jettisoned the proper, well-established science. 

Your disregard for the “proper” science is neatly captured within the following FT graph comparing Sweden with UK and Scotland Covid-19 daily deaths. As you should know, highly urbanised Sweden applied light-touch mostly voluntary lockdown, minimal social distancing, kept junior schools, shops, pubs and restaurants open, did not require people to stay at home and did not mandate facemasks yet it has ended up with about 30% fewer per capita Covid-19 deaths than the UK and with a lower excess mortality last year than most of Europe. They have been living normal lives from the outset (by 2019 WHO pandemic guideline standards) whereas we are still stuck in lockdown dystopia

 

The main points to note from this graph, referring mainly to the UK for clarity, are: 

  • If the vertical scale is switched from Linear to Logarithmic, the March-April upwards spike is shown as a curve rather than a straight line (= exponential) showing that infections and then deaths were already slowing before the start of recorded data in early March. The UK first wave peak on 13 April could not have been due to lockdown which only started on 23 March. 
  • The first wave trajectory of minimal lockdown Sweden was of a similar profile (but with a lower per capita peak) to that of full lockdown UK. 
  • The fall in UK Covid-19 daily deaths from the initial peak to mid-year was closely matched by the fall in minimal lockdown Sweden showing that, counter-intuitively and contrary to the repeated assertion by politicians, the UK fall was notprimarily due to the enforced lockdown but rather to the gradual build-up of herd immunity and the seasonality of the virus. Boris Johnson is now asserting that if we had locked down sooner the outcome would have been much better but the reality is that the same Gompertz-type trajectory applied to almost every afflicted country (with geographical variations) regardless of the degree of lockdown applied. This effect was noted in many expert studies early in the pandemic, such as here and here, but these were inexplicably ignored by the UK authorities. The UK’s fall over this period was faster than Sweden’s, possibly because of the UK lockdown, but that would only have prolonged the UK epidemic according to the rationale stated by SAGE for the initial 3-week “flatten the curve” exercise. 
  • The rise in UK daily Covid-19 deaths up to the end of December followed the profile of a typical winter season of respiratory fatal diseases. The sudden rise from then to the end of January followed the profile of the first wave which was unexpected as there is reportedly nothing in the scientific literature about a coronavirus exhibiting a second wave. Although it was bad, it was nowhere near as bad as the 4,000+ Covid-19 deaths per day predicted by SAGE. Maybe the virus reached places with low herd immunity that had been spared in the first wave. Maybe it was an aggressive bout of flu with confusion from the double-counting (Note 5) of flu and Covid-19 deaths and the as yet unaddressed death attribution muddle between dying “from” versus “with” Covid-19, possibly exacerbated at this worst time of the year for deaths by a general degradation of community health due to the curtailment of normal NHS services and the cumulative stresses of lockdowns since 23 March 2020. Whatever the cause of the January spike, it has left the UK with the worst major country per capita Covid-19 death toll in the world despite a lockdown which could hardly have been more strict, rated among the toughest in the world. 
  • The 23 January UK peak and the steep February fall in daily Covid-19 deaths can have been only marginally due to the vaccine roll-out which had barely begun at the start of January, or to the enforced UK lockdown as the trajectory closely matches that of minimal lockdown Sweden. In fact, the same fall in Covid-19 infections and deaths has occurred across much of the northern hemisphere, regardless of the degree of national lockdown applied. 
  • From beginning to end, the Covid-19 deaths trajectory of strict lockdown Scotland with its resultant massive collateral damage has been almost identical to that of minimal lockdown, minimal collateral damage Sweden. 

Sweden took the path of following the proper, well-established science because their constitution prohibits their politicians from infringing on the peoples’ human rights. Ignore the Nordic outliers. Florida is a similar exemplar for successful light-touch virus restrictions. Further USA evidence shows that states which locked down fared worse than those which did not. This analysis of about 200 countries suggests that the more stringent the lockdown, the higher the Covid-19 death toll.  

The independent experts of the Health Advisory and Recovery Team (HART) conclude in their recent paper Covid-19: an overview of the evidence that “Lockdowns serve no useful purpose and cause catastrophic societal and economic harms. They must never be repeated in this country”. As to variants, this recent analysis by a former Chief Scientific Officer at Pfizer concludes that “To date, no robust scientific evidence proves that any of the [SARS‑CoV‑2] variants identified are more transmissible or deadly than the original”. 

Your self-delusional policy of virus suppression and even eradication (zero Covid) has been a reckless, dishonest, unscientific experiment on the people of Scotland with no medical precedent, no credible evidence that lockdowns yield anything more than marginal benefit and no cost/benefit analysis to show that the cure is not worse than the disease. Moreover you have implemented it with a grossly disproportionate authoritarian attack on the hard-won basic freedoms of the Scottish people. You have furthermore infantalised the Scottish people by scaring them witless with uncontextualised, unscientific state-sponsored propaganda and emotional blackmail, refusing to accept that they can make common sense decisions for themselves. You have needlessly destroyed many viable businesses and careers and caused untold collateral mental stress and health problems. You have been party to bringing about the worst UK economic downturn in 300 years, adding £1 billion to the national debt for every additional day of lockdown, to be repaid by our children and grandchildren. You have taken the anti-scientific precautionary principle to an absurd extreme.  

Finally, I deplore your setting-up of an Extinction Rebellion-style Scottish Covid-19 Citizens' Panel as it is obvious from their report that they have been coached or brainwashed into “toeing the party line” on your misguided Chinese lockdown orthodoxy and draconian zero Covid leanings. This stance was glibly endorsed by “Professor Sturgeon” – an unqualified politician playing dangerously at being a virology expert – when she attended your recent meeting (search the minutes for “zero covid”). You should listen instead to proper experts, for example The madness of Zero Covid

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Douglas Brodie is a sceptical layman with a BSc from Glasgow University, 20 years retired from a career in computers and telecommunications and hates being taken for a fool by politicians. 

The above article is an updated version of an email sent in early March to the Scottish Covid-19 Committee. The broader geopolitical threats relating to the mishandled Coronavirus crisis will be covered in a later article. 

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