Sunday, November 14, 2021


I have just put up on my Food & Health blog a report that stymies the food freaks

Sweden again charts novel COVID path with no-test stance for the vaccinated

Sweden has seen a sharp decline in COVID-19 testing this month, just as much of Europe contends with surging infection rates, after its health agency said vaccinated Swedes no longer need get tested even if they have symptoms of the disease.

The stance by the health agency has rekindled criticism the country has once again broken ranks with its neighbours and has led to some of Sweden's regions no longer providing free testing for all.

COVID-19 testing fell by 35% last week compared to a month earlier. That places Sweden in the bottom of the European Union along with countries like Germany, Spain, Poland and Finland, according to Our World in Data.

The health agency argues the resources for testing could be better used elsewhere and that there is no need to test those who are fully vaccinated as they have a low risk of getting sick and are less likely to spread the disease.

However, the timing of the decision, just as Europe is heading in to the winter season, has baffled some scientists. One recent newspaper column said, "Sweden is once again in the dark" about the spread and ability to break disease chains.

"The number of cases is low in Sweden, but considering how the outside world looks like with lots of cases in Europe, I think you should have waited with this decision," said Anders Sonnerborg, professor in clinical virology and infectious diseases at Karolinska Institutet.

"I have a hard time seeing that waiting a few months would be a major intervention in people's lives," he said.

Health Agency official Sara Byfors on Thursday defended the decision saying testing would still be at high enough level to catch trends and that testing had never caught all cases.

"If we see that the spread of infection increases and that it becomes a problem then we are prepared to reverse our decision," she told a news conference.

The number of hospitalizations and patients treated at intensive care units have started to creep up in recent weeks but are still the lowest in the European Union per capita, according to Our World in Data.

Sweden's handling of the pandemic has stood out, shunning lockdowns throughout the health crisis and instead relying on voluntary measures based on social distancing and good hygiene.

The country's number of deaths per capita since the start of the pandemic is several times higher than those among Nordic neighbours but also lower than in most European countries that opted for strict lockdowns.


Thousands of people died needlessly from COVID-19 because Fauci and Birx stuck to 'irrational' lockdown policies rather than protecting the most vulnerable, medical specialist says in new book

Strict lockdowns pushed by White House advisers Drs. Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx failed to stop the vulnerable dying from COVID-19, while families suffered and children lost out on their education, according to a forthcoming book by Trump adviser Dr. Scott Atlas.

And the former Stanford radiologist offers an unsparing account of dysfunction and political paralysis that allowed Trump's two most high-profile scientific advisers to publicly contradict the president and hijack the response.

'A Plague Upon Our House: My Fight at the Trump White House to Stop COVID from Destroying America,' is published on November 23 by Bombardier.

'People were dying from the virus, and the lockdown policies were not preventing the deaths,' he writes in a copy obtained by

'The simple logic of assuming you could stop the spread of, and some said eliminate, a highly contagious virus by shutting down society after millions had been infected was worse than nonsensical.

'The idea of stopping all businesses and closing schools while quarantining healthy young people at little risk from a disease in order to protect those aged seventy and over - that is simply irrational.'

His account will reignite some of the most contentious debates of the past year over how to handle COVID-19, and attract fresh accusations that he is peddling misinformation.

Although the U.S. has made progress with vaccinations, the death toll is still ticking up and currently stands at more than three quarters of a million people.

Atlas was a divisive and controversial figure as soon as he was brought into the White House in August last year, apparently as a bulwark to the influence of Fauci and Birx.

Critics said he was appointed more for his appearances on Fox News than any infectious disease expertise he would have picked up as a radiologist.

He had already published essays arguing that lockdowns were harming public health through their impacts on missed medical appointments, the harm of school closures, mental health effects and other negative outcomes.

And his book describes how he repeatedly clashed with Birx and Fauci - the public face of the White House response. Not only were their lockdowns harming the economy, he says, but they failed to protect America's most vulnerable people.

'By the time I arrived, lockdowns had already been implemented throughout the country for months—including strict business restrictions and school closures as well as quarantines of healthy, asymptomatic people,' he writes.

'Those lockdowns were continually pushed, successfully, by Drs. Fauci and Birx to nearly all governors and throughout the media. 'Those policies - the Birx-Fauci lockdowns - were widely implemented, and they were destroying America’s children and families.

'Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of deaths kept piling up, including tens of thousands of elderly Americans - their policies were in place and were failing.'

Throughout, he portrays his role as critical thinker, asking awkward questions of the conventional wisdom while his opponents sought to block the president's wishes.

Why, he asks, were scientists developing and promoting White House policy when their role should have been to offer advice and expertise to the nation's elected leaders.

Instead, Atlas says he pushed for reopening coupled with shielding of those at risk.

Testing and isolating healthy people, he said, was a waste of time and resources, and compounded a culture of fear.

Leaks quickly suggested he was pushing for a policy of 'herd immunity,' essentially by letting the virus spread until the level of natural immunity meant the coronavirus had nowhere left to go.

He denies that is what he was proposing, instead describing how he once described the principle of 'herd immunity' in a meeting. 'Not once did I advocate allowing infections to spread - not in that meeting nor in any other meeting, and never to the president,' he says.

Throughout, he expresses frustration that the White House coronavirus task force was dominated by the views of Fauci and Birx - even as they advocated policies that contradicted Trump's stated desire to reopen schools and businesses.

Trump's inner circle, he writes, seemed reluctant to rock the boat and reduce the power of two advisers that were popular with the public ahead of the election.

'They had let Birx and Fauci tell governors to prolong the lockdowns and school closures and continue the severe restrictions on businesses - strategies that failed to stop the elderly from dying, failed to stop the cases, and destroyed families and sacrificed children,' he writes.

'The closest advisers to the president, including the VP, seemed more concerned with politics, even though the task force was putting out the wrong advice, contrary to the president’s desire to reopen schools and businesses.'

The result, he says, was dangerous and confusing mixed messaging from the White House.

Atlas resigned in November, shortly before his term was due to end.

Since then Fauci has been a target of Republicans, who accuse him of flip-flopping in his recommendations and of misleading the public over 'gain-of-function' research that they say may have triggered the pandemic.

Both have been unstinting in their criticism of Atlas.

In recent closed-door testimony to the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, Birx accused Atlas of using incomplete information to draw dangerous conclusions.

'I was constantly raising the alert in the doctors’ meetings of the depth of my concern about Dr. Atlas’ position, Dr. Atlas’ access, Dr. Atlas’ theories and hypothesis, and the depths and breadths of my concern,' she said.

She also confirmed that she refused to attend meetings where he would be present.

'I felt like by my presence and my discussions with him, by even legitimizing my responses to him, that I was giving his theories credibility,' she said


Nederland announces partial lockdown as cases surge past 16,000 a day

As of Saturday night, the Netherlands, following an announcement from Prime Minister Mark Rutte, will be plunged into a three-week partial lockdown.

Mr Rutte described it as “a very unpleasant message with very unpleasant and far-reaching decisions” but that it was necessary to “deliver a hard blow to the virus”.

The new restrictions are not a hard lockdown; shops and restaurants will stay open but must adhere to curfews as well as social distancing and vaccine certificates while four guests are still allowed in the home. Cinemas and theatres will remain fully open.

The country of nearly 18 million is at nearly 85 per cent fully-vaccinated among its adult population.

However, the Netherlands ditched most restrictions on September 15 when it had only achieved a 77 per cent vaccination rate among eligible adults. It dumped social distancing and functioned as normal, albeit with vaccine certificates required for entry into most places.

The Saturday announcement makes it the first Western European country to descend back into lockdown for the winter.

Other European countries are following similar trajectories, however, with Denmark and Austria also having to reintroduce restrictions to some parts of society.




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