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What would 2022 be like if we didn't panic about COVID?
Lockdown policies were never planned but created real human costs that will linger for years. We are seeing them now in 2022.
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What are the real long-term effects of the COVID panic that swept the world in 2020?
It was a panic. Let’s not pretend otherwise. All perspective was lost. We threw out the meticulously prepared pandemic response plans and instead played panic politics of the crowd.
We can see that now. COVID is still doing what respiratory viruses do. Vaccines didn’t work. “Experts” lied. Maybe some thought they were noble lies. But they were bald-faced lies with enormous consequences.
Even writers at The Economist magazine, who have stoked panic with its excess death charts, seem to be now noticing the damage.
I blame policymakers, but not to the degree many do. It wasn’t evil political leaders that forced lockdowns on billions of people. It was fear of the masses who wanted tough actions. If ignoring COVID got votes and support, COVID would have been ignored. No lockdowns. No masks. No panic.
COVID led to crowd behaviour amongst the broad populace and the political classes in a vortex of panic, that was electorally popular and economically destructive.
Now that the panic is subsiding I want to reflect on what 2022 would have been like in an alternative world. Let yourself imagine what 2022 would be like had COVID still existed but the world treated it as the normal respiratory virus it is, with no lockdowns, no panic, no rushed vaccines, but with some age-targeted precautionary measures.
This will be the first of many posts looking at different aspects of the COVID fallout that is still with us today. The questions we should be asking are things like
What would death rates from all causes look like?
Or birth rates?
What would inflation and economic growth be like today?
What are the disparate impacts on the world’s poorest?
Many sensible people tried to warn of the broader consequences of mass lockdowns and that the costs would massively outweigh the benefits by orders of magnitude.
The world’s leading epidemiologist John Ioannidis wrote on 17th March 2020 that
… we don’t know how long social distancing measures and lockdowns can be maintained without major consequences to the economy, society, and mental health. Unpredictable evolutions may ensue, including financial crisis, unrest, civil strife, war, and a meltdown of the social fabric….
The best advice from the very beginning was to stay home if you are sick. Eat well, exercise and get fresh air. Yet we took the path of chaos instead.
Today I will look at excess deaths in 2022. It is a topic covered in this recent podcast.
Excess deaths counterfactual?
Way back in November 2020, UNICEF released a report about “averting a lost generation” of children, who were not only missing school but in many parts of the world were missing basic health services that relied on open borders and travel to be delivered. They noted the following (p5).
Measures to address COVID-19 have sometimes crowded out other vital health intervention for children, such as vaccines or maternal and newborn care, threatening to undermine progress on mortality and morbidity. For example, reductions in life-saving interventions and increases in undernutrition could result in more than 2 million additional under-five deaths in a year.
Now, excess deaths from non-COVID causes are elevated around the world. Dr John Campbell recently looked at deaths in the United Kingdom, which in 2022 have been about 15% above historical norms.
The point I’m making here is, we had all these lockdowns, we had this mass vaccination campaign, we had people bouncing up and down about it—politicians and medical officers and scientific officers strotting over the tele every night—and now we’ve actually got higher levels of deaths and no one seems to be commenting on it at all.
This trend is happening in many countries.
In Australia, the national statistics agency is regularly releasing death data and since October 2021 there has been a noticeable increase in excess all-cause mortality (see chart below).
In 2022, there were 111,008 deaths that occurred by 31 July and were registered by 30 September, which is 16,375 (17.3%) more than the historical average. In July there were 17,936 deaths, 2,503 (16.2%) above the historical average.
These are massive numbers.
It is also worth keeping in mind the relativities of COVID-related versus non-COVID-related deaths in terms of human lives lost. The Australian Bureau of Statistics notes that “[t]he median age for those who died from COVID-19 was 83.8 years (82.3 years for males, 86.0 years for females).” But the median age at death from all causes is actually lower, at “79.4 years for males and 84.8 years for females.” It is true that those who died from COVID lived longer than those who didn’t.
If excess non-COVID deaths are happening to younger people, with many more years of life ahead of them, then we have a real problem.
Partly some of these deaths will be due to delayed medical treatment. This is very real. The United Kingdom is seeing a massive degradation of their medical system recently, which itself is the result of COVID policies, not COVID the disease.
As a brief sidenote, there is a slow demographic trend happening in the background when looking at death data. The death rate is expected to reach a minimum point in the 2020s as the baby boomers start dying and with an ageing population, there should be more deaths by the end of this decade than there were at the beginning.
But the enormous and sudden changes we are seeing in the rate of deaths in 2022 are not this and must be due to radical social changes of the COVID era.
Does anyone think we would be seeing such elevated excess deaths in 2022 if we treated COVID like the very normal respiratory disease it is?
We knew early on it was mainly a risk to the elderly.
We could have kept borders open. People could have stayed at work and done their normal social activities. Socialisation and loving human relationships are known to have huge health benefits. We put a stop to that.
It seems clear to me that the excess deaths of 2022 that are happening globally are a direct result of the crowd behaviour of 2020 and the disastrous policy choices that resulted from it.
We ignored that human longevity does not fall from the sky. It is the result of the activities we humans do every day collectively, including things we don’t often consider to be directly health-related. In the below article from back in 2021, I explained that rich countries produce not only material economic wealth, but longevity. You cannot separate the two.
Yet we pretended we could. And now we are living, and dying, with the consequences.