Thursday, April 02, 2020

The Swedish alternative to ferocious shutdowns

Note that the death toll below becomes comparable with other countries only if we take Sweden's small population into account -- 10 million. So the 105 deaths reported below amount to less than 1 per capita, which is less than almost anywhere except Australia

There have been recent prophecies that Sweden will have to crack down soon.  But so far they are just that: Prophecies.  The basis of the claim is that deaths in Sweden have risen a bit recently.  They are however still very low by world standards

In the bright spring sun, flaxen-haired families held barbecues on the beach. Crowds in this provincial Swedish town shopped in ­designer boutiques and in supermarkets laden with toilet paper and pasta.

As much of the world hunkered down at home to hide from the coronavirus, life in Sweden was — for many — carrying on almost as normal last week.

Swedish public health experts argue that the virus can be stopped solely by vaccination or by herd immunity.

Since a vaccine for widespread use is still at least a year away, they say, the only possible way to stop the epidemic is by isolating vulnerable people while allowing the virus to spread as slowly as possible through the healthy population as they build resistance.

Scientists at Sweden’s public health agency say this will also prevent a harsh resurgence in ­infections. “It’s important to think how long can you keep these measures going,” said state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell.

“What we’re doing now we think we can do for a long time. Of course it slows down many things in society but we can make it work. We all know that this is going to go on for months. You can’t keep schools closed for months.”

There were 3447 infections in Sweden and 105 deaths by Sunday. Some restrictions have been imposed to slow the spread of the virus and protect the vulnerable.

Gatherings of more than 50 people are banned and colleges and universities are closed. Those over 70, or with pre-existing health problems, have been asked to stay at home except for a daily walk. But restaurants and bars are open and children are going to school.

The authorities say Swedes can be trusted to follow recommendations to socially distance and do not need draconian laws to slow the spread of the virus.

“If the public health agency goes out and says stay home, ­people do stay home,” Dr Tegnell said. “My feeling is that the actual impact of having a law in another country and a recommendation in Sweden isn’t that different.”

Last week The Netherlands, which has been aiming for herd immunity, announced a ban on ­almost all gatherings amid public fears over a large projected number of deaths.

In Sweden, scientists at the public health agency are shaping the national response to the virus together with the government, but — by law — politicians cannot ­intervene in the details of its ­implementation.

“The agencies have the technical and scientific expertise. The government has the expertise in policies and politics,” Dr Tegnell said. “Most experts in the world agree that there’s no way of stopping this any more. It hits almost every country in the world. We can’t get rid of it, that never happened in history — only with smallpox after decades of vaccination.”

Anders Bjorkman, a leading ­epidemiologist who spent years at the forefront of malaria research, challenges the model used by ­researchers at Imperial College London, which estimated that about 1 per cent of those who contracted the virus would die. He ­argues that the estimate is misleading as it does not include those with the virus who exhibit no symptoms.

“They say there’s 1 per cent mortality. That’s not true. They completely discard the asymp­tomatics,” he said. “In all these groups there are some who don’t have symptoms and aren’t reported. In Sweden the average age of all reported corona cases is 56 years roughly. The average age of the population is 40 … and I believe that all age groups have been more or less equally exposed. Among the younger population, those under 40, there are so many non-symptomatics.”

The death rate in Sweden, he said, was likely to be closer to 0.1 per cent than 1 per cent. Hundreds, rather than tens of thousands, would die before herd immunity was achieved.

The public health agency said that in tests of about 5000 people who had returned to Sweden from visits to Italy, the few hundred that were positive all exhibited mild symptoms — implying that there could be a large number of people in Sweden who are asymptomatic — with mild or no symptoms — who have not sought medical treatment.



Are We Sacrificing Liberty for Security?

We must evaluate the real price of the near-total economic shutdown.

In the midst of the current China Virus pandemic — and the media-generated panic that greatly exacerbates it — the reality of the above quote remains immutable. And right now, the presumptive default position — for reasonable Americans, at least — is that government is operating in our best interests. One says reasonable because there will always be those incapable of transcending politics. What they’re afflicted with is far worse than coronavirus, because while viruses may be ultimately beaten back, rabid partisanship appears eternal. House Majority Whip James Clyburn (SC) privately told his Democrat Party members that a coronavirus bill supposedly aimed at giving relief to millions of unemployed and sick Americans was “a tremendous opportunity to restructure things to fit our vision.”

What kinds of “tradeoffs” were Democrats seeking? Courtesy of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who showed her true colors in time of crisis, a hard-left wish list of items wholly unrelated to helping a nation teetering on the brink of collapse. One suspects millions of Americans beset by a crushing combination of self-isolation, unemployment, impending bankruptcy, and fear of death or serious debilitation are appalled by “solutions” that included same-day voter registration, ballot harvesting, gender and racial diversity data requirements for corporations and the government, automatic extensions for nonimmigrant visas, more wind and solar tax credits, or requirements that an already reeling airline industry cut its greenhouse-gas emissions by 50%.

Pelosi ultimately caved, but one hopes voters will remember such despicable self-interest next November. Yet that is a topic for another day.


It will be interesting to see if he has even that much time. While our media elites have already branded Trump’s since-revised assertion as a choice “between solidarity and barbarism” or called it an “astoundingly boneheaded idea,” there is either a stunning level of naiveté or monumental self-unawareness attached to such sentiments.

First, the difference between solidarity and barbarism is in the eye of the beholder: New Yorkers fleeing Manhattan and hunkering down at well-stocked beachfront mansions in the Hamptons are likely far more sanguine about self-isolation than a single mother forced to wait it out with her two kids in a tiny apartment in the projects. And again, it’s easier to be noble when one is blessed with recession-proof wherewithal rather than facing financial calamity. Moreover, some people can tolerate loneliness, isolation, and adversity; some cannot — not even for a week.

Second, while it is easy to focus on the mortality rate of the coronavirus wholly by itself, to ignore the potential mortality rate associated with isolation-engendered drug and alcohol overdoses, accidents, suicide, or murder is a fool’s errand. In many cases, simply contemplating a future of enduring financial ruination may be enough to push someone over the edge.

Thus, to simply dismiss the idea of what may be best described as a more targeted approach to the dilemma as barbarism or boneheadedness — or, worse, to assume that such an approach is evil — is itself an indication that some types of solidarity are “more equal” than others.

At some point — utterly irrespective of the president’s hopes, expert advice, or a poisonous media thoroughly invested in sowing panic, discord, hatred, and hysteria — the pressure to reintegrate will become unbearable. It’s impossible to say where prolonged purposelessness ultimately leads, but to completely dismiss it as part of the equation is shortsighted.

Another factor? By self-isolating and social distancing, could we be kicking the proverbial can down the road and extending the timeline of the pandemic? We are told such measures are necessary to prevent overloading our healthcare system, but what happens to that same healthcare system when it must deal with a persistent level of coronavirus, coupled with the additional pathologies arising from the scourges of isolation and economic catastrophe? It’s worth remembering that the deaths arising from America’s opioid crisis — largely attributed to economic disruption exponentially less serious than what could happen now — outpaced those arising from car accidents. It’s also worth considering how many healthcare providers would be put out of business by an unprecedented economic catastrophe.

Moreover, when does “an abundance of caution” lead to an abundance of oppression? If it turns out coronavirus is only marginally more deadly than flu, what becomes the “standard” mortality rate for shutting down an entire nation, imposing draconian government controls, and essentially subverting the Constitution?

And not just for coronavirus, but any potential deadly disease going forward?

Already the Justice Department is asking Congress to expand its powers during a national emergency, including the ability to allow chief judges to permanently detain an individual without trial. As columnist Douglas MacKinnon reminds us, such “temporary” power, once given to government, “is rarely returned to the people and often abused.”

Moreover, do the people get a say in the matter? MacKinnon believes — and one suspects millions of other Americans do as well — that some sort of national referendum should be held. Let the people decide whether we continue indefinitely sheltering in place, or embrace a possible “herd immunity” strategy that incorporates a new set of social mores designed to provide safety to the nation’s most vulnerable people. One that can be effected without committing economic suicide.

Unthinkable? With regard to the seasonal flu, it’s a choice we’ve already made, even though millions will get it and thousands will die — year in, year out.

That such a longstanding choice has never been turned into a political issue is telling. There is little doubt that widespread panic is a great enabler of power consolidation, and once the crisis passes — or Americans decide to endure a certain level of risk to put it behind them — the necessity of a thorough review regarding who can essentially suspend constitutional rights “for emergency sake” is absolutely imperative. If we don’t review such power grabs, many Americans will wonder whether we were properly responding to a crisis — or creating a template for totalitarian governance.

And finally, the media. The one that makes a complete mockery of hope, largely because hope doesn’t accrue to its political sensibilities, even when hope may be the only thing keeping millions of Americans from losing their minds. Fueled by arrogance and condescension, the media’s unrelenting effort to divide America during its most dire crisis is the sorriest spectacle of rank self-interest this nation has ever witnessed. This is one American who fervently hopes this contemptible army of doomsayers, panic-mongers, propagandists, and outright liars gets the mother of all comeuppances, as they have proven themselves incapable of embracing simple decency when it matters most.

We certainly hope President Trump’s current desire to reopen America by June 1 can be realized.



More on the deceptive coronavirus models

Why is pinpointing the arrival of SARS-CoV-2 into the U.S. so important? Because the Task Force must make decisions based on sound modeling. To avoid deep and prolonged economic harm, we should return to business as usual (excluding those at high risk) in the coming month. And if SARS-CoV-2 actually arrived here between mid-November and mid-January, then the modeling trajectory of its spread and fatality rate is significantly different than what has been projected and reported.

To that point, yesterday Task Force response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx made a remarkable disclosure. She condemned the "Viral Fear Pandemic" fomented by the mainstream media and, though she did not name them, the Democrat leaders who have disgracefully politicized that fear.

Regarding the breathless pandemic modeling that has been promoted by the media, Brix declared: "Models are models. When people start talking about 20% of a population getting infected, it's very scary, but we don't have data that matches that based on our experience." She said the media should not assert "that when people need a hospital bed it's not going to be there, or a ventilator it's not going to be there [because] we don't have evidence of that." She added, "It's our job collectively to assure the American people. There is no model right now [and] no reality on the ground where we can see that 60% to 70% of Americans are going to get infected in the next eight to 12 weeks. I want to be clear about that."

She referenced the "recent report out of the UK ... that said there would be 500,000 deaths in the UK and 2.2 million deaths in the United States." She noted, "They've adjusted that number in the UK to 20,000. Half a million to 20,000. We are looking at that in great detail to understand that adjustment. ... The predictions of the model don't match the reality." That original UK report was widely promoted by the mainstream media.



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1 comment:

Robert said...

One thing I heard recently is that sunlight (UV light) is absolutely lethal to viruses, and the corona virus is no exception. Perhaps the Swedes have the right idea, in enjoying time outside in the spring sunlight. That viruses cannot live long outdoors in sunlight would also explain why South America has been relatively free of the corona virus throughout its recently concluded summer. George Carlin also had a great section on this fear of germs years ago in his stand-up performance that he called "You are all diseased". It's hilarious and oh-so-appropriate these days, though the language is not exactly appropriate for polite company nor "safe for work".