Nameless One (nameless__one) wrote,
Nameless One
nameless__one

Ковидные хроники. Вакцины и локдаун.

Под предыдущей записью https://nameless--one.livejournal.com/755720.html завязалась очень интересная для меня дискуссия. В частности - узнал много любопытного про Германию от тамошних обитателей.

А ещё - в обмене аргументами с ny_quant я попытался сформулировать что именно мне не нравится в нынешней вакцинационной программе. Подумал что стоит это вытащить на более широкую аудиторию чем два человека - https://nameless--one.livejournal.com/755720.html?thread=5739528#t5739528 Мне кажется что мы там друг друга подтолкнули к тому чтобы взглянуть на ситуацию немного шире - а это всегда хорошо.

По ходу дела в дополнение к вакцинации ny_quant там упомянул локдаун. Я уже собирался ответить, но тут наткнулся на пару статей бывшего члена британского верховного суда лорда Сампшина, где он сказал практически то что вертелось у меня в голове, но лучшим слогом.

Февральская статья по поводу принципиальной приемлемости таких действий правительства - "Liberal democracy will be the biggest casualty of this pandemic" - https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2021/02/15/liberal-democracy-will-biggest-casualty-pandemic/

И свежая - насчёт того достиг ли локдаун заявленных целей - "Lockdown proponents assumed the worst when they had no evidence" - https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2021/03/22/lockdown-proponents-assumed-worst-had-no-evidence/

(заранее извиняюсь перед теми, кто не читает по-английски)

Доступ с сайту Telegraph какой-то хитрый - там то есть paywall, то нет - так что я на всякий случай скопирую оба текста под катом.

Любопытный для меня момент в первой статье - автор утверждает что в принципе можно вообразить ситуацию когда такое вот переключение на тоталитарные рельсы было бы оправдано. Но по его мнению COVID очень далёк от такой глобальной угрозы цивилизации. Я со своей стороны даже готов допустить что в феврале-марте прошлого года это было ещё непонятно. Но вот, начиная с мая, когда прошёл изначально задекларированный период под лозунгом "не обвалим систему здравоохранения" - дальнейшие lockdown-действия были просто ударом кувалдой по часовому механизму общества. Не знаю, является ли желание не потерять лицо и оправдать sunk costs единственной причиной, но то что это очень существенная причина - уверен.

Ну и чуток conspiracy theories на сладкое. Я уже несколько раз встречал мысль что Китай намеренно "рекламировал" Уханьский карантин как панацею против эпидемии и приложил руку к тому чтобы Италия последовала этому примеру. В статье Сампшина про это есть. Не хочу особенно ломать голову есть ли в этом какое зерно истины, но вот мысль о том как бы развивалась вся COVID история если бы пресса не залила западный мир картинкой из северной Италии - интересная.



The biggest casualty of the lockdown will not be the closed pubs, restaurants and shops and the crippled airlines. It will not be our once-thriving musical, theatrical and sporting culture. It will not even be the wreckage of our economy. These are terrible things to behold. But the biggest casualty of all will be liberal democracy.

Liberal democracy is a remarkable but fragile achievement. It is an attempt to meet the challenge of making governments answerable to the people, while protecting personal freedom. This is hard to do. People crave security and look to the state to provide it. To do this, the state needs extensive powers over its citizens. This is why, in democracies across the world, the power of the state has continually increased. It is also why liberal democracy is the exception rather than the rule. Democracies are easily subverted and often fail.

What makes us a free society is that, although the state has vast powers, there are conventional limits on what it can do with them. The limits are conventional because they do not depend on our laws but on our attitudes. There are islands of human life which are our own, a personal space into which the state should not intrude without some altogether exceptional justification.

Liberal democracy breaks down when frightened majorities demand mass coercion of their fellow citizens, and call for our personal spaces to be invaded. These demands are invariably based on what people conceive to be the public good. They all assert that despotism is in the public interest.

The problem is perfectly encapsulated in a recent interview with Professor Neil Ferguson, whose projections were used to justify the first lockdown last March. Before that, as Prof Ferguson related in that interview, Sage had concluded that the Chinese lockdown had worked but was out of the question in Europe. “It’s a communist, one-party state, we said. We couldn’t get away with it in Europe, we thought. And then Italy did it. And we realised we could … If China had not done it, the year would have been very different.”

China is not a liberal democracy. It is a totalitarian state. It treats human beings as so many tools of state policy. There is no personal space which the state cannot invade at will. Liberal democracies have good reasons of political morality for not wishing to be like China. Considering this issue only in terms of whether lockdowns are effective against pandemics, and whether governments can "get away with it", serves to reduce liberty from a major principle to a mere question of expediency.

We have to assume, since the Government took his advice, that ministers agreed with Prof Ferguson. Certainly that was the position of the senior minister who recently told me that liberal democracy was an unsuitable model for dealing with a pandemic. Something more “Napoleonic” was needed, said he.

Many people believe that it is OK to be like China for a time, because when the crisis ends we can go back to being like Britain again. These people are making a serious mistake. We cannot switch in and out of totalitarianism at will. Because a free society is a question of attitude, it is dead once the attitude changes.

A society in which oppressive control of every detail of our lives is unthinkable except when it is 
thought to be a good idea, is not free. It is not free while the controls are in place. And it is not free after they are lifted, because the new attitude will allow the same thing to happen again whenever there is enough public support.

Covid-19 is not unique. There will be other epidemics. Some will be worse. Other issues will pose similar dilemmas, from terrorism and climate change at one extreme to obesity and censorship of politically incorrect opinion at the other. A threshold has now been crossed. A big taboo has gone. Other governments will say that the only question that matters is whether it works and whether they can “get away with it”. In a world ruled by the empire of fear, the answer will usually be “yes”.

We already have a striking example. The vaccine, which was supposed to make the lockdown unnecessary, has become a reason for keeping it in force. Because there is now an exit route, we are told that it doesn’t matter how far away it is.

Infections, hospitalisations and deaths are plunging, but millions who are at virtually no risk are being kept in house imprisonment. This is being done mainly because a selective regime of controls would be too difficult for the state to enforce. Coercion quickly becomes an object in itself.

Liberty is not an absolute value but it is a critically important one. Of all freedoms, the freedom to interact with other human beings is perhaps the most valuable. It is a basic human need, the essential condition of human happiness and creativity.

I do not doubt that there are extreme situations in which oppressive controls over our daily lives may be necessary and justified: an imminent threat of invasion, for example, or a violent general insurrection. Some health crises may qualify, such as a major epidemic of smallpox (case mortality about 30 per cent) or Ebola (about 50 per cent).

Covid-19 is serious, but it is not in that category or even close. It is well within the range of perils which we have always had to live with, and always will. According to government figures, more than 99 per cent of people who get Covid survive. The great majority will not even get seriously ill. The average age at which people die of Covid-19 is 82, which is close to the average age at which people die anyway.

The Prime Minister claims to believe in liberty and to find the current measures distasteful. Actions speak louder than words, and I am afraid that I do not believe him. He is too much of a populist to go against public sentiment. He lacks the moral and political stature to lead opinion rather than follow it.

I hope that I am wrong about this. But we shall soon know. In the next week Boris Johnson has an opportunity to show that he has some principles after all.





The "sunk cost fallacy" is a well-known source of distortion in human decision-making. A decision is made which has destructive implications. The limited benefits and immense collateral damage gradually become apparent.

It is next to impossible for those involved in the decision to change their minds. No one wants to admit that it might all have been for nothing, even if that is the truth. They have invested too much in the decision to reverse out of the cul-de-sac. So they press on, more to avoid blame than to serve the public interest. This is what has happened to governments across Europe and to the dug-in body of specialists who advise them. Their recipe is simple: if lockdowns haven't worked, there is nothing wrong with the concept. We just need more of them.

What we really need is a fresh look at the evidence by people who are not committed to their own past positions. This is what the Health Advisory and Recovery Team (HART), a group of more than 40 highly qualified scientists, psychologists, statisticians and health practitioners have provided in an "Overview of the Evidence" published last week. It is addressed to non-specialists, but is scrupulously referenced to specialist research. It will not change the minds of ministers or their advisers. But it should provoke thought among the rest of us. We cannot contribute to the science, but we can at least understand it. Those who are unwilling to do even that much have no moral right to demand coercive measures against their fellow citizens.

The HART overview concludes that lockdowns "must never be repeated". They "serve no useful purpose and cause catastrophic societal and economic harms". It calls for a return to the pandemic plans prepared over a decade for just this sort of event by the UK and other governments and endorsed by the WHO. They were based on two principles. Avoid coercion and don't go for one size-fits-all measures like lockdowns when the risks affect different groups differently. They recommended balanced public health guidance, no border closures and targeted action to assist those who are most vulnerable. These principles were abruptly jettisoned a year ago. They were replaced by an untried experiment, which there was neither time nor research to consider properly.

Not everything that HART says is convincing. But three core points in this study have never been answered by the proponents of lockdowns.

First, international comparisons are now available which show no correlation between the severity of a lockdown and the level of infections or deaths. Sweden, whose conditions are broadly comparable to ours, has fared better, with no lockdown, no school closures and only minimal legal restrictions. Comparable US states like North Dakota (lockdown) and South Dakota (no lockdown) show no significant difference in outcomes.

Secondly, the collateral costs of lockdowns are staggeringly high but governments have obstinately refused to confront them.

Our own government's studies suggest that the long-term death toll will be about 220,000, about half of which will be due to factors ranging from undiagnosed cancer to increased poverty, which are attributable to the lockdown rather than to Covid. Even that takes no account of the rapid rise in mental illness and dementia, itself a big killer. Looking at the non-health effects, we have so far suffered a 10 per cent fall in GDP whereas the equivalent figure for Sweden is just 2.6 per cent. The consequences will be with us for decades.

Thirdly, the burden of the lockdown has fallen mainly on those least at risk of serious illness or death. The extreme example is the closure of schools, which has had exceptionally serious effects on the current mental health and future prospects of the young. Yet not a single previously healthy child has died of Covid. The evidence of significant transmission of Covid by children is exceptionally thin.

We have been addled by the so-called precautionary principle, which holds that if we have no evidence of something, we should assume the worst. This marks the extreme point of our risk-averse world. The alternative view is that you must have good reasons backed by evidence if you are going to stop people satisfying the basic human need for social contact, destroy their businesses and jobs and wreck their children's lives. If you don't know, don't do it.

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  • 33 comments

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