[Ivor Cummins, an Irish health activist and the current Chief Program Officer for Irish Heart Disease Awareness, gives his running commentary on a debate on an Irish television program concerning Covid and what he calls “Lockdown Ideology“. He’s in full agreement with Prof Lee that lockdowns do more harm than the disease itself and should be abandoned.
Amazing Debate on
Oct 23, 2020
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Published on Oct 23, 2020
Amazing Debate on Lockdown Ideology versus Scientific Approach – Unmissable!!
•Oct 23, 2020
Wow – this one really covers the reality – excellent debate, and finally we are seeing it televised on mainstream!
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Miriam O’Callaghan: Let me turn to you first Professor Lee. You really don’t believe in lockdowns! You think they’re pointless. Why?
Professor Lee: Well I think at the very beginning of the epidemic, in March, there were genuine reasons for concern.
[John A. Lee — Retired professor of pathology & former NHS consultant pathologist]
But I think for several months now it’s been clear that this virus is not the new plague that it was feared that it would be. And yet we continue to act as if it is that new plague.
We’ve also continued to act in this way despite major harms caused by lockdowns. And despite very little evidence that lockdown, social distancing, masks, and all the other things that have been introduced, actually work on a societal basis.
So we’re actually causing more harm, clearly causing more harm, both in terms of death and in terms of quality of life, by the actions we’re taking for a virus, for a disease, that’s within the envelope of many years within the last 30 years.
Miriam O’Callaghan: And yet Professor Lee, in this country right now cases are rising exponentially! So how do you stop the cases rising, if you don’t have a lockdown? Because the knock-on effect is we get more hospitalizations, more people ICU [Intensive Care Unit], more pressures on our health service. And eventually it won’t be able to cope!
Professor Lee: Well I mean, my argument is if your health service, or any health service, isn’t up to providing the care that’s needed you should increase capacity.
What you shouldn’t do is imprison your entire population and do epidemiological and biological experiments on people, which don’t have any way of being verified! Which don’t have any evidence to support them, and cause, as I said, cause cause great harm!
There’s also a problem that in this phase of the pandemic, people have equated positive tests with cases! Now this isn’t correct. This is simply wrong!
In the normal winter we never obsessively test the population for any virus to the extent to which this virus is being tested for. And the fact is, if you have a positive test, but you’re not unwell, you cannot be regarded as a case of this disease. You’re just somebody who’s got a virus!
The only people who in a normal winter turn up as cases of this disease, are people are admitted to hospital people who become seriously ill! And they’re very tiny proportion of the number of positive tests that you would do, if you tested everybody.
So the fact is that for people under 70, the infection fatality rate for this disease is 0.05 percent, which is about half of flu. And it’s likely to be even lower than that because, of course, we don’t truly know what the denominator [the bottom number in a fraction] is, because we haven’t been testing in the wider population.
And many of the tests that have been done, the antibody tests, are the wrong tests to be doing! Because we should be testing people’s T-cells, which should show that a lot of people already have pre-existing resistance to this virus.
So on very many levels the approach to this virus, both scientifically and medically, but also in terms of societally, what we’re doing is simply wrong!
My view is that we should have no more lockdown! We should go back to living life normally. We should travel normally. We should go to work. We should go out.
And people who are vulnerable, people who are at risk of disease, the elderly, if they want to, they could be advised to look after themselves. But frankly, if I’m 70, or if I’m 80, I don’t want to have many of the things that make life worth living, taken away from me by government, and government responses, that infantilize the population, and tell us that we can’t make risk assessments for ourselves, as we go about our daily lives!
Miriam O’Callaghan: Okay. Just before I bring in my other guests, I have to come back to you to that Professor Lee. That would inevitably lead to people losing their lives! People who are vulnerable, and people who are elderly. Surely that’s not acceptable?
Professor Lee: Well, [scoffing] you’re saying that nobody should die! I mean, we need to be able to have a grown-up conversation about death in our societies.
The fact is, when you get to your 80s you have a higher chance of dying of all diseases. In the UK at least the average age of death is about 82. The average age of death of Covid is a bit older than the average age of death.
So the fact is, there’s no evidence that Covid is really impacting on the overall lifespan of the population. Yes, certain people are more susceptible to this disease. And it can obviously cause a nasty disease, but the fact is, this societal response is something that has never been done before!
There are many diseases that kill millions of people a year. There’s tuberculosis, malaria, Aids, influenza itself, all cause more than a million deaths a year. This year we’ll have some Covid deaths which will be more than a million worldwide. But the fact is, there are 70 million deaths every year. And next year we will have many fewer Covid deaths.
Miriam O’Callaghan: Okay. Dan O’Brien, lockdowns will be stuck with. Because I mean, as people say here, we’re largely doing it to protect our health service, so that it’s not under pressure.
Dan O’Brien: Well I think the government’s position has changed.
[Dan O’Brien — Economist & Irish Independent columnist]
I think back in March it was to protect the health system. And it was warranted at that time, because the speed at which cases and deaths were going up was horrific! And we didn’t know internationally where it would top out. You know, there was a very famous, now famous, medic in this country who predicted 120,000 people dying back in March.
Now, nowhere in the world has had that kind of death rate. Absolutely nowhere in the world, thankfully!
So now we’re in a more difficult situation where the government is saying, as the [word unclear] articulated 48 hours ago, that the strategy now is to wait until we have a safe vaccine. Now that could be many years.
And my fear is that we will get two, or three years out, we still won’t have a safe vaccine. The economy will be destroyed! We will have mass unemployment. We will have mass personal bankruptcies! We will have mass business bankruptcies. And the costs of all of that, we get to a point where we still haven’t eradicated the virus, and the government goes bankrupt! And we’re in an absolute meltdown! Catastrophic position where the virus then runs through the population anyway! I’m not saying that’s going to happen, but I’m saying that is my fear for what could happen.
Miriam O’Callaghan: But we’ve already, I suppose, got over 300 people, you know, taking up beds with Covid that are displacing other people simply, because of this illness.
Dan O’Brien: We live in a tragic situation, Miriam. There is no good outcome from this. And when something like this arrives, we are going to have tragedies. And that it, of course, we need to minimize them.
But just in terms of government’s focus, you know, it emerged today that government spending in Ireland rose in the early months of the pandemic faster than any other country in the Eurozone! The government is planning to spend more than 100,000 million Euro this year! Now, how many contract tracers can you get for 100,000 million Euros! How many extra beds can you get for 100,000 million Euros!
I think the government needs to focus on what it can do and spend less time focusing on telling other people what they can’t do!
Miriam O’Callaghan: Tomas Ryan, I think to be correct, I hope I’m right, that you think it’s not just hospital capacity. You want to eliminate this virus.
[Tomas Ryan — Assistant professor School of Biochemistry and Immunology TCD]
Tomas Ryan: Well, I agree with much of what’s been said.
[Ivor Cummins screen text: You don’t agree with much of what’s been said, … (you are a key member of “Zero Covid Island” activists)]
But to try and bring some perspective to this I think today is one of the single most hopeful and optimistic days that we’ve had in Ireland in many months.
[Ivor Cummins:“We have taken control of the people, and deployed unscientific methods”.]
Because the first time, since July, we have taken control of our own situation in this pandemic. And we’ve had our head in the sand until now at the same time lockdowns are awful and we shouldn’t have to be in a second lockdown.
[Ivor Cummins: … and in multiple analyses, proven to deliver near-zero benefits. So WHY?]
And I cannot approve of the government strategy which is to open up, and close down, and open up, and close down. We can have several lockdowns more before a vaccine comes along. And it may never come along at all.
[Ivor Cummins: Vaccine? But that will be for “last year’s virus”? What’s your point???]
Tomas Ryan: I’m saying that what we’re doing is not working.
Miriam O’Callaghan: So what would you do?
Tomas Ryan: I think that the government are not equipped to come up with an effective strategy, or to implement it.
[Ivor Cummins: But an associate prof of Neuroscience is equipped? How is this?]
And when we think about who’s suffering most now, we often pay respect, rightly, to our health care workers. But I think, at this point, in time we need to be paying a lot of honor and respect to the business community, who are going to be suffering very much in this lockdown.
[Ivor Cummins: That is not your area of interest, clearly ruinous lockdowns are the game.]
But what we really need from them, is we need them to contribute to our leadership in this pandemic, both in forming a strategy and in implementing it.
[Ivor Cummins: You claim expertise in real-world strategizing – as an associate neuroscience prof? Come again?]
And the way to think about this, is not to look at the UK, or the US, where we’ve seen evidently high death rates, which we still don’t want to experience.
[Ivor Cummins: In UK, driven by prior soft season dynamics. US similar …]
We need to reverse engineer the best countries in the world.
[Ivor Cummins: Inappropriate use of “engineer” … engineers make logical decisions.]
Australia, Taiwan, South Korea, and New Zealand. And we need to apply those lessons to Ireland, …
[Ivor Cummins: These regions have utterly incomparable dynamics – but you compare them to Ireland???]
Miriam O’Callaghan: [words unclear] comparison, sorry for cutting across, are invidious. I mean, I think what’s interesting is, do you think we should be longer than six weeks at the moment? And if so, how long?
Tomas Ryan: It depends on what the goal is. Philip Nolan’s stated goal is fifty to a hundred cases a day.
[Ivor Cummins: Philip Nolan is still using Imperial College modeling!!!]
Miriam O’Callaghan: Well, what would be your goal be?
Dan O’Brien: My goal would be aggressive suppression towards zero community transmission.
[Ivor Cummins: “Aggressive Suppression” – of a now endemic virus – with epidemic phase long since gone? Come again?]
Miriam O’Callaghan: How many weeks would that be?
Tomas Ryan: Starting from here we think roughly 10 to 12 weeks.
[Ivor Cummins: 10 to 12 weeks of societal destruction. When multiple analyses (including on in Lancet) show near-zero mortality benefit.]
Miriam O’Callaghan: Where? Schools open, or closed?
Tomas Ryan: If you want to get there faster, it’s a fact that this will be faster if schools are closed.
If we make the choice to keep schools open, which we do for very, very good reasons, it is going to be a little bit slower.
[Ivor Cummins: Associate prof of Neuroscience. I have no words.]
Miriam O’Callaghan: Close the borders?
Tomas Ryan: I think that we shot ourselves in the foot on borders in summer.
[Ivor Cummins: You shot yourself in the foot – with “Zero Covid Island” – unscientific and tragically disastrous cost/benefit.]
If we had kept our borders closed we would have maintained low transmission for a good amount of time. The crucial way of thinking, ..
Miriam O’Callaghan: One thing about that, someone wrote to me about this. I mean, what about the hundred thousand, you know, journeys of trucks that come through Dublin port alone, every year bringing in vital supplies, making sure we have jobs and exports. What would you do about them?
Tomas Ryan: You manage it. There are many different ways of managing that.
[Ivor Cummins: Associate prof of Neuroscience – knows how to manage endemic virus?]
If you look at Australia, which is a better example for us than New Zealand, because it’s a Commonwealth of semi-autonomous States with their own health systems, their own chief health officers.
[Ivor Cummins: Associate prof of Neuroscience – makes unscientific comparisons again.]
They have land borders with each other. And they have different rates of Covid in different States.
[Ivor Cummins: That is not the reason for their dynamics – that’s a “just so” story.]
And they’ve managed this practically by limiting travel across the border. Allowing travel across the border for border communities. But the crucial feature is keeping numbers low.
[Ivor Cummins: Keeping #Casedemic – based on PCR testing, unfit for purpose.]
And we’ve had a lot of discussion about how the contact tracing system has evidently fallen apart this week.
[Ivor Cummins: Moot point – with an endemic virus, it won’t help regardless.]
That was always going to happen, because we had exponentially growing case numbers, but we did not have exponentially growing testing and tracing capacity. The testing and tracing situation really failed in August. That is when we lost control.
If you can’t stop your numbers going from 20 to 50, or going from 50 to 100 a day, how can you stop them going from 1,000 to 2,000 per day.
[Ivor Cummins: #Casedemic – PCR tests not fit for purpose in endemic scenario.]
Miriam O’Callaghan: Professor John Lee. Come back on that, on what you’ve heard from Tomas Ryan there.
Professor Lee: Well, we’ve had too much of this during this entire pandemic. We hear epidemiologists giving some modelling based suggestions for what we should be doing with our lives.
And the fact is, they’ve been conclusively wrong! Consistently, forever basically, about this!
The fact is these simplistic and biologically naive models do not work on a population basis. They do not capture many of the important things in viral spread. These viruses, remember, have been around since the dawn of time. They’ve actually spread amongst our species since before we were on two legs.
The fact is these things can spread whether, or not, they spread at very low population density.
So the fact is, if we’re implementing these lockdowns and these other measures, which are hugely disruptive, and hugely damaging, the only thing that they may do, is slow down the spread of the virus a little bit.
But the fact is, in six months, or a year, or two years, or three years, or however long it takes, this virus will spread throughout the population. And we will be where we’re going to end up being.
[Ivor Cummins: (What he thinks Tomas Ryan is thinking) “Prof Lee is hammering home the reality – what’ll I do next?”.]
The only difference will be how big of an “own goal” would be caused in the meantime, by the measures which would cause direct harm, which are greater than the virus!
I say the only way you can actually maintain a reasoning for doing this, is in the belief that this is such a lethal virus, and if we don’t do it, as we’ve heard several people say, the number of beds in intensive care, will be overwhelmed!
The fact is, in the UK, for example, we set up the Nightingale hospitals very quickly in March. Within four weeks there were thousands of extra beds. It’s perfectly possible for governments to do this!
There is simply no excuse for imprisoning the population! It’s simply not fair to young people! It’s not fair to anybody under the age of 70. And it’s not fair to people over the age of 70, as I said. Because it removes many of the things that make life worth living. There’s simply no justification for it. In the science, or the medicine.
Miriam O’Callaghan: Dan O’Brien?
Dan O’Brien: Well, you know, it’s a question about proportionality. And just to put a figure on it. How many young people have died in the Republic [of Ireland] under 25? There has been a solitary death from Covid!
And we are asking, we have taken kids out of school, we have ruined the lives of young people just as they’re getting out to that point of independence, and living lives. Like these are hundreds of, millions of people. We’ve had a solitary death! We really need to ask, how much punishment are we going to put younger people on, in particular, force people into mass unemployment, when the risk to those people is so, so low?
Tomas Ryan: I agree with much of this. But life looks pretty good in Australia right now.
[Ivor Cummins: Australian again, … Korea – all incomparable across multiple technical vectors.]
And in South Korea they never even had any lockdowns. We have health problems, we have economic problems.
[Ivor Cummins: That was in April – remember – during the actual epidemic? The cause of disaster is now the Lockdown Ideology.]
The cause of them is a virus! We control this problem by getting the virus numbers low, so that our public health doctors can keep them low.
[Ivor Cummins: Associate prof of Neuroscience talks private sector mentality, …]
And for that I think we need a private sector mentality with how we execute testing and tracing. We haven’t had that. We need to properly resource our public health positions. And we need leadership from the front, from government.
[Ivor Cummins: Yes leadership – to stop these unscientific lockdowns – now. Prof Lee here has explained the technical reality perfectly.]
And rolling lockdowns is not acceptable to anyone. So we need to make a decision to have an aggressive suppression campaign, that gets us to not always absolute zero, not eradication, but elimination of transmission in the community, most of the times.
[Ivor Cummins: I give up. Just go to website: Www.GBDeclaration.org]
Dan O’Brien: Well can I say that we pick the countries that are closest to us and behaviorally most like us, all of Europe.
Why don’t we talk about a country like Malta? Which is also an island close to Europe. I think, you know, to cherry-pick Taiwan, countries around the world, who knows whether their positions will be sustainable. They may find that locking themselves off from the rest of the world will not be sustainable. In two, or three years they end up opening up and going through it in a delayed way. So let’s look at the countries around us.
Miriam O’Callaghan: Professor John Lee, I mean, it’s a debate. It’s a really interesting debate that everyone’s having all over the world at the moment. But people are saying:
“Let’s hold out for the vaccine!”
But you’re not so sure that’s the panacea at all, sure you’re not.
Professor Lee: Well I think it’s quite unlikely that we’ll have a vaccine that’s effective for this virus, or that’s effective for very long for this virus.
The UK had a Common Cold Institute for 43 years, which was solely tasked with producing vaccine to similar viruses to this one. And it was shut down, because they never had a success.
The fact is these viruses are very adept at evading our antibodies, or evading vaccines that are introduced for them. So that the idea that somehow we’re gonna have a “magic bullet” which is going to sort of come riding over the horizon anytime soon and give a get out of jail free card, I think it’s just wishful thinking.
I think governments — I completely agree with one of your speakers — that governments do need to show leadership. I just have a diametrically opposed view to him in what that leadership should be.
We are never going to eradicate this virus!
I think it’s very unlikely that we’ll be able to reduce community transmission significantly enough to make a difference, without having such punitive measures that they cause far more harm than the actual thing that they’re trying to prevent!
I come back to the point; at the beginning of this pandemic people were worried that this was a very severe, very serious virus, a new plague. It isn’t!
It’s quite clear that the infection fatality rate is comparable with flu. You can argue about whether it’s a bit more or a bit less. But basically it’s not a lot more, even in the vulnerable groups. And in many groups of younger people, it’s a lot lower.
So the fact is, this is not the new plague! This is a virus, as I say, which is within the envelope of winter deaths that we’ve dealt with for many years out of the last 30. And for many, many years out of the last hundred. We’ve never done this before! This is a societal experiment! But it’s the wrong, …
Tomas Ryan: This is a very dangerous virus, and it could change next year.
[Ivor Cummins: “a very dangerous virus” – that is manifestly on the level of a bad flu.]
We can’t wait for a vaccine. New testing technologies may make it easier to hunt it out.
[Ivor Cummins: “hunt it out”? Go to: Www.GBDeclaration.org]
But right now a lot of countries in Europe are getting it wrong. But if you look around the world, about 1.4 billion people are living in effectively a zero Covid situation.
[Ivor Cummins: Associate prof of neuroscience makes, … unscientific incomparable comparisons.]
Big countries, small countries, democracies, authoritarian states, islands, countries with highly connected land borders. They’re all doing it under different circumstances.
[Ivor Cummins:You don’t seem to learn from the integrated science for this, … perhaps because specialty is neuroscience (amnesia focus)?]
We need to learn from all of these cases and engineer our own strategy that will work for Ireland and we need to get it right this time.
Miriam O’Callaghan: Okay. Well listen. Thank you all of you. I could listen to this forever. But thank you Professor John Lee, Tomas Ryan Associate Professor, and Dan O’Brien. Thanks so much.
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Version 2: Nov 22, 2020 — Updated See Also links.
Version 1: Oct 25, 2020 — Published post.