Earlier this week, my wife and I were congratulating ourselves on being in France, far from the draconian Covid restrictions now spreading throughout Britain.
And if everything I hear and read about the UK is to be believed, this country is heading in the same direction.
On Monday more than 30million Britons will be under Tier Two and Three restrictions.
We will then have days – a few weeks at best – until the inevitable total lockdown.
While Boris Johnson will be the person announcing that catastrophic decision, the measures are being dictated by a small group of scientists who, in my view, have repeatedly got things terribly wrong.
The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) has made three incorrect assumptions which have had, and continue to have, disastrous consequences for people’s lives and the economy.
Firstly, Sage assumes that the vast majority of the population is vulnerable to infection; second, that only 7 per cent of the population has been infected so far; and third, that the virus causing Covid-19 has a mortality rate of about 1 per cent.
Many individuals who’ve been infected by other coronaviruses have immunity to closely related ones such as the Covid-19 virus, argues Dr Mike Yeardon
According to Cambridge University the Covid-19 mortality rate is at 1.4% , followed by Imperial College London with 1.2% and an Australian study with 0.75% Dr Yeardon cites the Stanford study, saying: ‘After extensive world wide surveys, pre-eminent scientists such as John Ioannidis, professor of epidemiology at Stanford University in California, have concluded that the mortality rate is closer to 0.2 per cent.’
In the absence of further action, Sage concludes that a very high number of deaths will occur.
If these assumptions were based on fact, then I might have some sympathy with their position.
After all, if 93 per cent of the country – as they claim – was still potentially vulnerable to a virus that kills one in 100 people who are infected, I too would want to use any means necessary to suppress infection until a vaccine comes along, no matter the cost.
The reality, though, is rather different.
Firstly, while the Covid-19 virus is new, other coronaviruses are not.
We have experience of SARS in 2003 and MERS in 2012, while in the UK there are at least four known strains of coronavirus which cause the common cold.
Many individuals who’ve been infected by other coronaviruses have immunity to closely related ones such as the Covid-19 virus.
Multiple research groups in Europe and the US have shown that around 30 per cent of the population was likely already immune to Covid-19 before the virus arrived – something which Sage continues to ignore.
Sage has similarly failed to accurately revise down its estimated mortality rate for the virus.
Early in the epidemic Sage modelled a mortality rate of around 1 per cent and, from what I understand, they may now be working with a number closer to 0.7, which is still far too high.
After extensive world wide surveys, pre-eminent scientists such as John Ioannidis, professor of epidemiology at Stanford University in California, have concluded that the mortality rate is closer to 0.2 per cent.
That figure means one in 500 people infected die.
When applied to the total number of Covid deaths in the UK (around 45,000), this would imply that approximately 22.5million people have been infected.
That is 33.5 per cent of our population – not Sage’s 7 per cent calculation.
Sage reached its conclusion by assessing the prevalence of Covid-19 antibodies in national blood surveys.
Yet we know that not every infected individual produces antibodies.
Indeed, the immune systems of most healthy people bypass the complex and energy-intensive process of making antibodies because the virus can be overcome by other means.
The human immune system has several lines of defence.
These include innate immunity which is comprised of the body’s physical barriers to infection and protective secretions (the skin and its oils, the cough reflex, tears etc); its inflammatory response (to localise and minimise infection and injury), and the production of non-specific cells (phagocytes) that target an invading virus/bacterium.
In addition, the immune system produces antibodies that protect against a specific virus or bacterium (and confer immunity) and T-cells (a type of white blood cell) that are also specific.
It is the T-cells that are crucial in our body’s response to respiratory viruses such as Covid-19.
Studies show that while not all individuals infected by the Covid-19 viruses have antibodies, they do have T-cells that can respond to the virus and therefore have immunity.
I am persuaded of this because, of the 750million people the World Health Organisation says have been infected by the virus to date, almost none have been reinfected.
Yes, there have been a handful of cases but they are anomalies, a tiny number among three quarters of a billion people.
The fact is that people don’t get reinfected. That is how the immune system works and if it didn’t, humanity would not have survived.
Percentage change in coronavirus cases across London in the week to October 25. Dr Yeardon writes:’ Ministers and some parts of the media present the pandemic as the biggest public health emergency in decades, when in fact mortality in 2020 so far ranks eighth out of the last 27 years.’
So, if some 33.5 per cent of our population have already been infected by the virus this year (and are now immune) – and a further 30 per cent were already immune before we even heard of Covid-19, then once you also factor in that a tenth of the UK population is aged ten or under and therefore largely invulnerable (children are rarely made ill by the virus), that leaves about 26.5 per cent of people who are actually susceptible to being infected.
That’s a far cry from Sage’s current prediction of 93 per cent.
It is also worth contextualising the UK death toll.
Ministers and some parts of the media present the pandemic as the biggest public health emergency in decades, when in fact mortality in 2020 so far ranks eighth out of the last 27 years.
The death rate at present is also normal for the time of year – the number of respiratory deaths is actually low for late October.
In other words, not only is the virus less dangerous than we are being led to believe, with almost three quarters of the population at no risk of infection, we’re actually very close to achieving herd immunity.
Which is why I am convinced this so-called second wave of rising infections and, sadly, deaths will fizzle out without overwhelming the NHS.
On that basis, the nation should immediately be allowed to resume normal life – at the very least we should be avoiding a second national lockdown at all costs.
I believe that Sage has been appallingly negligent and its incompetence has cost the lives of thousands of people from avoidable, non-coronavirus causes while simultaneously decimating our economy and today I implore ministers to start listening to a broader scientific view.
My argument against the need for lockdown isn’t too dissimilar to the Great Barrington Declaration, co-authored by three professors from Oxford, Harvard and Stanford universities – laughably dismissed as ‘emphatically false’ by Health Secretary Matt Hancock who has no scientific qualifications – and signed by more then 44,000 scientists, public health experts and clinicians so far, including Nobel Prize winner Dr Michael Levitt.
In my opinion, this government is ignoring a formidable collective of respected scientific opinion and relying instead on its body of deified, yet incompetent advisers.
I have no confidence in Sage – and neither should you – and I fear that, yet again, they’re about to force further decisions that we will look back on with deep regret.
If we are to take one thing from 2020, it is that we should demand more honesty and competence from those appointed to look after us.