Monday 18 May 2020

Globally Influential Website Fuels the Great Lockdown Strategy (The Sunday Guardian)

Backers of the theory have placed great reliance on a website, Registered on 9 March and made public a few days later, much of the detail about its provenance is hidden by WhoisGuard, a Panamanian company.

NEW DELHI: Lockdown has been the recourse of choice of policymakers in key countries across the world. While a few such as Japan went in for only a partial lockdown, the United States went much further, as did France and Germany. Sweden and Belarus were among the few to go ahead with life as usual, of course with some social distancing and monitoring. China was the first to go in for a lockdown, in the city of Wuhan and later the province of Hubei. Rural hamlets were sealed off to prevent city dwellers from entering and infecting them. Altogether, around 180 million in the PRC went through a complete lockdown in that country, a figure that was low enough to ensure a fast bounce-back from the economic pain that lockdowns inevitably impose. Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India was the only world leader to order a complete lockdown on 24 March 2020, that too of a country with a population of 1.29 billion, a lockdown that has largely remained in place from then. This has earned Modi a coveted place in the history books, as well as generous praise from global influencers including Bill Gates, who has from the start of the Covid-19 crisis been an adherent of the Great Lockdown Strategy.
The Covid-19 coronavirus is yet to be comprehensively understood or mapped, including its actual as opposed to the estimated incidence in different countries. Only a comprehensive screening through mass testing would reveal the true spread of the virus and consequently its death rate per hundred of the population. Treatment protocols are being modified or discarded, often with very good results. Earlier emphasis on widespread use of ventilators has been shown to be problematic, as have been initial theories of the exact sequence of causes of Covid-linked deaths. What cannot be refuted is that the worldwide pandemic has resulted in economic distress on a scale difficult to have seen replicated over the past century. This is the inevitable and anticipated consequence of the series of lockdowns of human activity resorted to by successive governments on the urging of the World Health Organisation. WHO failed to discover the pandemic in its initial stages in Hubei province of the PRC, thereby passing up an opportunity to prevent its spread beyond a few locations in China. Later, the entire top echelon of the organisation underplayed its toxicity and denied that it could be spread through human contact, or that travel from affected zones was a serious risk. After such serial misjudgments of the situation, the WHO finally put its prestige behind what is essentially a single-point prescription, which was to confine people in their homes so as to isolate them from human contact. This was seen as the only surefire way of avoiding a disastrous spread of a disease the parameters of which were—and are—still indistinct. While India was unique in both the depth as well as scale of its lockdown, other countries varied in their adherence to the single measure that had the support of prestigious institutions such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Johns Hopkins University and the Imperial College, London, not to mention the prestigious Indian Council of Medical Research.
As data are still coming in on actual (rather than hypothetical) cases and trends, including from the few locations where large-scale testing of populations has been done, to claim with the certainty expressed by US virologist Dr Anthony Fauci about what may be termed “hypothetical facts” seems premature. The effective death rate for the novel coronavirus is still a matter of dispute, with estimates ranging from very low figures secured from a scatter of field tests of significant numbers of clusters of people (such as on a ship, a police or army barrack, or a hospital) to the high mortality rates secured through mathematical modelling. The institutions which publicised such alarming estimates are now claiming that only their lockdown strategy has ensured a much lower death rate. They neglect to comment on locations where such measures were either wholly or partially absent, without the disastrous consequences that had been predicted by enthusiasts of the lockdown strategy. Treatment protocols are being adjusted, including in the use and efficacy of ventilators, and study of the precise path that the novel coronavirus within the body takes to snuff away life. Hospitals in India, the US, Russia and China (the four present and future superpowers) are learning more about what needs to be done to protect patients with severe complications, and hospital deaths are falling as a consequence. Meanwhile, the vaccine industry is in full throttle, given the rewards that would ensue to an early bird in the search for a vaccine that could protect against Covid-19.
WHO needs to give guidance on exactly which medical protocols have been shown to be effective in preventing Covid-related deaths (and such a treatment would limit the tendency to await a vaccine before ending the ongoing pandemic panic), or in estimating the exact number of deaths per thousand cases (rather than rely on estimates generated on a computer screen, which is from where the initial hyperbolic estimates of cases and deaths came from). While recommendations such as hand washing and keeping an individual from breathing directly onto another individual is welcome if not unknown, what is called for from an international organisation linked to the United Nations is a menu of options much more varied than its incessant call for lockdowns to continue into the indefinite future. According to the WHO, there is no telling when the pandemic will end, or if it ever will. There is no telling if those who have been infected but survived have immunity or not. All that is crystal clear to that organisation is that lockdowns should continue into a still uncertain future period, irrespective of the economic and societal effects of such a single-minded course of action.
Backers of the Great Lockdown Strategy have placed much reliance on a website, Registered on 9 March and made public a few days later, much of the detail about its provenance are hidden by WhoisGuard, a Panamanian company. The website is available in German, Spanish, English, Italian, Greek, Russian and Marathi, but not so far in Hindi or in Arabic. Its declared purpose is to “slow the spread of COVID-19 by flattening the curve”. Seven names are mentioned in the “Authors” section. The website exhorts those who access the site to translate its findings into any and all languages, and to disseminate the contents as widely as possible. Modestly, it describes itself as the defining chart of the coronavirus in its ( recital of how and why this signal service to humanity (which no doubt has by now been brought to the attention of the Nobel Peace Prize committee) was born. The newly created website has an impressive list of sponsors, including NIH, INSTEDD and NCHS, all being agencies based in the US with a direct or other connection with the Leonardo da Vinci of the Covid era, Dr Anthony Fauci, although they seem not to have treated it with much financial generosity, as its reported expenses are insignificant despite its enormous media and academe-fuelled worldwide impact.
Although Covid-19 experts swear by the website, and repeat its contents without pause, it seems not to have revealed the studies or sources on which it bases its assumptions. Nor does there seem any academic or data-based background analyses offered by the website to justify its faith in the deadly effect on the pandemic of the doctrine of “Flatten the Curve”. Or whether the “y curve” is cumulative number of cases, cumulative active cases, cumulative daily cases or daily active cases. If any of the hundreds of mediapersons relying on this website have asked for such details, that query seems to have been made in private. Interestingly, in publications and on television channels that incessantly talk of “fact checking” and “science-based conclusions”, the content offered by the website has, in essence, been only the drawing of two curves. The other measures are standard boilerplate in disease prevention and control. The assumptions used behind the shape of the curves over time or revealing the formula behind the two parabolic curves appears to continue to remain a secret from its growing number of incurious but enthusiastic believers. What is apparent from a glance at the metrics shows that several experts in disease control, several with connections to a single and substantial private funding source, began quoting from this miraculous curve almost from the moment it began to appear. They were joined by academics from across the world, all united in reliance on the certainty that a single illustration of two curves was regarded as a great leap forward in unlocking the progress of the novel coronavirus or its slowdown. A search of the media and academic reports on the “Flattening the Curve” gospel reveal them to have been based on mathematical models rather than on empirical data. A comparison of the number of infections and deaths in multiple countries (including India) as opposed to the earliest predictions made by Covid-19 experts shows a huge gap between reality and estimates. Prime Minister Modi has succeeded in keeping death rates far below the levels predicted by such renowned but inaccurate early studies of the spread of Covid-19 in India. This gap between forecast and fact has done little to diminish the credibility of institutions such as the Imperial College and Johns Hopkins and the eager disseminators of the conclusions of their hypothetical models, such as CNN, BBC, NYT and innumerable others in the media who are in favour of the Great Lockdown Policy, presumably until their salaries run out as a consequence of the economic consequences of such a policy course.
Numerous conspiracy theories appear almost by the day about the Covid-19 pandemic. Some claim that there was a competition between the two superpowers to engineer the deadly novel coronavirus and perfect a vaccine for it, so that those given the latter would be safe while infected by the former faced havoc. Clearly a tall tale invented by suspicious minds. Other conspiracy theories give numerous less than flattering postulates about both the lockdown fundamentalists, as well as those who claim that this strategy is a conspiracy of ruling elites to ensure that governments gain a degree of control over their citizens that would otherwise be impossible in a democracy. An illogical premise in any country where politicians have to face the electorate periodically, with tight and continuing state control being very unpopular, especially with the young. Lockdowns across the world may indeed have prevented millions of deaths, and that the substantially lower than anticipated numbers in countries that have enforced either no lockdown (such as Belarus or Sweden) are accidents of micro-biology. It is obvious that livelihoods are impossible without life. Just as it may be possible that the actual and publicity shy designers of a website that from the beginning of its appearance transformed the direction of discourse about Covid-19 onto the Great Lockdown path had the intention of saving the world from a deadly scourge that in their reckoning was far worse in its likely effects than bubonic plague in the 14th century. It must be assumed (even without the assistance of advanced mathematical tools) that the thousands of academics in prestigious institutions. Or that the swarm of mediapersons in international media outlets who unquestioningly rely on the assumptions made by must have substantive and provable grounds for their faith, despite such grounds not being explicitly stated in the website. The serial lockdowns that the world has witnessed since March 23, 2020 cannot surely have been simply a leap of faith. There must have been a science behind such a drastic action by world leaders which will be explained to the lay public in course of time Meanwhile, the several billion individuals anxious about the shrinking world economy will just have to bear the shocks of the Great Lockdown of 2020, looking on with hope and trust on the numerous experts who testify over and over again that the lockdowns they are enduring are the only path towards ridding mankind of a scourge that supporters of the Great Lockdown clearly assume could be a potential killer of hundreds of millions of innocents, unless this multitude be protected from such a calamity through continuing with the lockdowns.

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