Norman Swan v Peter Hitchens

Normal Swan has apparently become the guru of choice in Australia on the Corona Virus: Australia’s Coronavirus Guru Is Taking His New Celebrity Status Seriously. Perfect for the job: “seems calm, consistent, and knowledgeable. His delivery has been appropriately urgent, without lurching into panic.” An MD as well, which is useful for treating medical problems, not necessarily for statistical analysis to determine just how dangerous the CV is.

And on the other side we have Peter Hitchens: Is shutting down Britain – with unprecedented curbs on ancient liberties – REALLY the best answer?

Dissent at this time will bring me abuse and perhaps worse. But I am not saying this for fun, or to be ‘contrarian’ – that stupid word which suggests that you are picking an argument for fun. This is not fun…. If I did not lift my voice to speak up for it now, even if I do it quite alone, I should consider that I was not worthy to call myself English or British, or a journalist.

With Swan, if you want standard-issue but calmly stated hysteria you can find him on the ABC. This is Peter Hitchens, standing up for our traditional liberties in the face of the left and the far-left. This is only part of what he wrote. You can read it all at the link.

Here I am, asking bluntly – is the closedown of the country the right answer to the coronavirus? I’ll be accused of undermining the NHS and threatening public health and all kinds of other conformist rubbish. But I ask you to join me, because if we have this wrong we have a great deal to lose.

I don’t just address this plea to my readers. I think my fellow journalists should ask the same questions. I think MPs of all parties should ask them when they are urged tomorrow to pass into law a frightening series of restrictions on ancient liberties and vast increases in police and state powers….

It may also be the day our economy perished. The incessant coverage of health scares and supermarket panics has obscured the dire news coming each hour from the stock markets and the money exchanges. The wealth that should pay our pensions is shrivelling as share values fade and fall. The pound sterling has lost a huge part of its value. Governments all over the world are resorting to risky, frantic measures which make Jeremy Corbyn’s magic money tree look like sober, sound finance. Much of this has been made far worse by the general shutdown of the planet on the pretext of the coronavirus scare. However bad this virus is, the feverish panic on the world’s trading floors is at least as bad….

What can one say to this? In a pungent letter to The Times last week, a leading vet, Dick Sibley, cast doubt on the brilliance of the Imperial College scientists, saying that his heart sank when he learned they were advising the Government. Calling them a ‘team of doom-mongers’, he said their advice on the 2001 foot-and-mouth outbreak ‘led to what I believe to be the unnecessary slaughter of millions of healthy cattle and sheep’ until they were overruled by the then Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir David King.

He added: ‘I hope that Boris Johnson, Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance show similar wisdom. They must ensure that measures are proportionate, balanced and practical.’
Avoidable deaths are tragic, but each year there are already many deaths, especially among the old, from complications of flu leading to pneumonia.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) tells me that the number of flu cases and deaths due to flu-related complications in England alone averages 17,000 a year. This varies greatly each winter, ranging from 1,692 deaths last season (2018/19) to 28,330 deaths in 2014/15.

The DHSC notes that many of those who die from these diseases have underlying health conditions, as do almost all the victims of coronavirus so far, here and elsewhere. As the experienced and knowledgeable doctor who writes under the pseudonym ‘MD’ in the Left-wing magazine Private Eye wrote at the start of the panic: ‘In the winter of 2017-18, more than 50,000 excess deaths occurred in England and Wales, largely unnoticed.’…

We are warned of supposedly devastating death rates. But at least one expert, John Ioannidis, is not so sure. He is Professor of Medicine, of epidemiology and population health, of biomedical data science, and of statistics at Stanford University in California. He says the data are utterly unreliable because so many cases are going unrecorded. He warns:

‘This evidence fiasco creates tremendous uncertainty about the risk of dying from Covid-19. Reported case fatality rates, like the official 3.4 per cent rate from the World Health Organisation, cause horror and are meaningless.’

In only one place – aboard the cruise ship Diamond Princess – has an entire closed community been available for study. And the death rate there – just one per cent – is distorted because so many of those aboard were elderly. The real rate, adjusted for a wide age range, could be as low as 0.05 per cent and as high as one per cent.

As Prof Ioannidis says: ‘That huge range markedly affects how severe the pandemic is and what should be done. A population-wide case fatality rate of 0.05 per cent is lower than seasonal influenza. If that is the true rate, locking down the world with potentially tremendous social and financial consequences may be totally irrational. It’s like an elephant being attacked by a house cat. Frustrated and trying to avoid the cat, the elephant accidentally jumps off a cliff and dies.’

Epidemic disasters have been predicted many times before and have not been anything like as bad as feared.

But while I see very little evidence of a pandemic, and much more of a PanicDemic, I can witness on my daily round the slow strangulation of dozens of small businesses near where I live and work, and the catastrophic collapse of a flourishing society, all these things brought on by a Government policy made out of fear and speculation rather than thought.

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