Flat White

To my critics I say, J’Avoue...!

16 February 2022

4:00 AM

16 February 2022

4:00 AM

J’Avoue…! Not to compare myself to Emile Zola or the impact of my writings to his famous open letter J’Accuse…! in 1898 on the celebrated Alfred Dreyfus affair.

When readers write to me in response to any article, I do try to reply to everyone irrespective of whether the comments are supportive, critical, or seeking further clarifications or references – provided the letters are not anonymous, rude, insulting, or uncivil.

Trust me, I’ve had some really vile letters from hate mobs in India for daring to question the rise of militant Hinduism that’s tearing apart the country in recent times, sometimes with state patronage. Although I do try to read online comments on my articles I don’t usually respond to them. There are a couple of regular commentators on The Spectator Australia site, without much support it must be said, for whom I am clearly an ignoramus interloper in the Covid discourse with no medical qualification or statistical sophistication.

J’Avoue. I confess: I’m just a simple-minded analyst.

But I do bring a particular skill-set based on my formative experiences and background. For nine years I was responsible for conceptualising, initiating, and contracting experts from around the world to carry out policy-relevant social science research projects across the broad area of global governance, and translating results from these projects as well as projects in the natural sciences, including global health, into policy recommendations for the UN system. Lessons from that experience have served me well since I left the UN.

Policy in one domain has implications and consequences for policies in other domains; the real test of any UN policy is not agreement among academics nor groupthink among policymakers, but its concrete consequences for people, and then people in poor countries in particular.

Experience from around the world has shown the crucial importance of individual agency, civil liberties, free speech, market-friendly policy settings, and institutional frameworks (in particular) in underpinning social cohesion, political stability, and economic prosperity.

The UN is both an instrument in the hands of member states and a limited actor in world affairs in its own right. But, because it’s not a nation state, the concept of ‘the national interest’ is of zero analytical or policy utility. So I developed instead the analytical construct of ‘a balance of interests’ which I set out in a chapter in The Oxford Handbook of Modern Diplomacy.

My approach to Covid has drawn on all these from day one, with particular emphases on balancing the competing demands and interests on the policymakers, putting human impacts front and centre in developing and implementing policy and resisting any curtailment of liberties, freedom of speech and economic exchanges.

Now let’s look at the case of Canada that’s currently in world headlines because of the truckers’ Freedom Convoy.

On January 10, with 78 per cent full vaccination (90+ per cent of adults with nearly 50 per cent boosted), Canada recorded its highest rate of 1,093 daily new cases per million people (7-day average) – almost five times more than the previous high of 229 on April 12, 2021 with 2 per cent vaccination. Similarly, the US figures were 756 on January 11, 2021 (0.5 per cent full vaccination) and 2,410 on January 15, 2022 (63 per cent), more than three times higher (Figure 1).

The double-vaccinated and boosted PM Justin Trudeau (and Prince Charles) recently tested positive for Covid. Yet still they swear by vaccine passports for stopping transmission.

But wait, do I detect green shoots of heresy peeping through the snowbound landscape? Ontario chief public health officer Dr Kieran Moore has turned sceptic on vaccine passports: ‘The vaccine isn’t providing significant benefit at two doses against the risk of transmission, as compared to someone unvaccinated […] We have to reassess the value of the passports’. He’s also indicated opposition to requiring a third dose.

Figure 1

In the US, vaccines were not available to the Trump administration and 351,754 people died with Covid in the calendar year 2020. For the last ten months to 11 February 2022, with three different vaccines available and despite a confusing mix of lockdown restrictions and mask mandates in different states, nearly 6,000 more people have died with Covid than in the ten months to December 31, 2020. In Canada too almost 4,000 more have died with Covid in 2021–22 thus far compared to all Covid deaths in 2020.

I admit, j’avoue, I am not all that into the no doubt very sophisticated explanations of why despite this empirical fact, mandatory vaccinations and restrictions are not just useful but absolutely critical pandemic control measures. To my simple mind, we’ve been sold a pup while Big Pharma and recipients of their largesse among medical researchers, public health experts and regulators are laughing all the way to the bank and luxury villas in upmarket holiday resorts.

The simple conclusion is reinforced with a comparison of different countries. Writing in The Daily ScepticLouis Vincent Gave noted the broadly similar ICU admissions and mortality curves of four countries despite contrasting Covid policies (Figure 2).

Note that France, Israel, and the US set new hospitalisation records but not Sweden, the only one of the three that never really shut down at all. Moreover, despite high rates of full vaccination in all four countries, death rates were unexpectedly high this January. Was all that pain really worth so little gain? Not to my way of thinking, it wasn’t.

Figure 2

Next, let’s look at some charts to see how masks fare in the real world as opposed to lab settings.

Anyone interested in looking at this in detail is strongly urged to consult Ian Miller’s Unmasked: The Global Failure of Covid Mask Mandates (2022), an absolute must-read with a wealth of very telling charts that show the complete ineffectiveness of masks.

In Figure 3, we can see near-identical Covid mortality rates between masked-up New Mexico and no-mask mandate Iowa, and infection rates between mask mandate California and no mandate New Mexico. This is supplemented by a chart for all US states with and without mask mandates (Figure 4). Ask anyone to identify which of these two infection curve is of the 35 US states with mask mandates and which of the rest without mandates. The correct answer: the orange line in Figure 4 is mask mandate states.

Figure 3


Figure 4

Source: Dr Nick Coatsworth, former Australian Deputy Chief Medical Officer, as published in The Daily Mail Australia, 5 February 2022

Which begs the question, finally: Premier Perrottet, in light of your by-election setbacks on Saturday, the freedom convoys around the world, the accelerated lifting of remaining restrictions in many countries, and graphic evidence of the lack of any observable benefits of masks in the real world, why are you delaying ending the mask mandates completely?

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