Ignoring the war-like barrage of Covid-19 news that has decimated 2020, my year has been dominated by the need to look after my dad. Nearing his 93rd birthday, and taking a range of medications, he is vulnerable to the virus. No surprise that my brother and I have kept him far away from most situations where Covid transmission is a possibility. It is impossible to make his ‘bubble’ watertight (he very occasionally wanders to his local newsagent while we are absent), but we have done all we can.
He is also terribly frail. And increasingly impacted by dementia. So we have kept the house clean, cooked his meals, changed his sheets, cut his hair and shaved him, done the shopping, and generally acted as his arms, legs and brain.
The great reward is that I have come to know his softer side, once-hidden. He loves to chat, above all else. Although huge gaps blight his memory, he still talks very clearly and with great relish about his first two decades. Listening, I have come to understand how he became somebody that naturally sides with underdogs and takes a contrarian view. As his offspring, I’ve inherited that gift.
I’m not sure that Dad ever said to me that if you see 95 people walking one way, tag onto four heading in the other direction. But that was usually the gist. The older I get, the more disinclined I am to follow any crowd.
That genetic trait kicks in even while doing my best to keep his house and personal space Covid-free. The journalist in me sees a wider, starker picture, one where much of the world has handed over its collective mind, unquestioning, far too easily, to the coronavirus narrative.
My thinking goes this way. Brother Neil and I have taken responsibility for Dad. He is one of the vulnerable. So we distance ourselves from people, with a few close family exceptions. Have done for 9 months. We are especially careful with our hygiene. And he sees nobody else inside the house. None of this is rocket science.
Here’s the question. Why would we – or other carers – need businesses and schools and pubs and borders to close, or the healthy to quarantine themselves? Or ‘tiered’ social restrictions decided by a divided SAGE committee. How can any of that help the most at risk, who are already shielded? Isolation and atomisation is not how the healthy sections of a population build natural immunity to infectious diseases. (Remember immune systems? They are amazing, and you have one, whatever the newsreaders may try and tell us.)
To protect Dad from a virus whose fatality rate is slightly worse than a bad flu season, Neil and I do not need lonely people to be confined in their homes; nor the NHS to postpone its cancer operations. It does not matter if Covid transmission speed accelerates 70%, because it can come to him only through us, and we keep our worlds tightly limited.
End of. There is nothing complex or far-sighted in any of this opinion. It is common sense, traditional practice for disease control.
And yet every day, I watch our world being shaken upside down, to combat a clearly measurable foe. I was hesitant to call out insanity at the beginning, as the UK seemed to be in a unique, very frightening situation. Maybe the March lockdown was necessary so we could take stock. But in recent months a shedload of peer-reviewed studies have emerged showing that the downside of lockdowns far outweigh the benefits, including long-term fatality numbers.
The world economy has been torn to pieces by the lockdowns. Tens of millions of people’s livelihoods ruined. Poverty and mental illness rising steeply. Health and education services shrunken. Holidays and gatherings and socialising curtailed or gone.
And for what? Globally, there has been around a 1 in 4,000 fatality rate ‘with Covid-19’, and a much smaller death rate ‘from’ it.
Back in blog 287, I relayed how the US Center for Disease Control (CDC) acknowledged that only about 6% of the reported Covid deaths in the US by August 2020 were due to Covid alone, as in “died from the virus and no other causes.”
The other 94% – mostly elderly people – had prior medical conditions that were potentially lethal on their own, the CDC said. This sifting reduced the death-by-Covid-only number in the US from 185,000 to about 11,000 over an 8-month period. In the same period, about 30,000 people died in US car wrecks. Them’s the official facts.
If you are healthy and not elderly, that is the strength of the risk in the world’s most afflicted country. Even if you add in the numbers of fatalities in the subsequent four months, there is clearly more chance of dying in a car crash. There sits the reality upon which our world has been collapsed.
In the UK, basic freedoms have been eliminated to be replaced by curfews, house imprisonment, border controls, travel restrictions, prohibition of worship, limited access to doctors, the army on the Liverpool streets, suppression of free speech, arrests of protesters, and neighbours encouraged to shop one another. All fed by a mainstream propaganda blitz worthy of wartime. Driven by people in lab coats. Strikes me as a bit, what’s that word…….Nazi? Too strong? How about disproportionate?
In a genuine pandemic, to complain about any of this would be daft. In reality, nobody (thankfully) has died from Covid-19 in my village of around 500 people, which has a greater than average number of retired people. Some individuals have become ill, as will happen with all major respiratory viruses. The sole fatality I have any connection to, anywhere, was my cousin’s father-in-law, who died in Sussex of a heart condition in a care home. But because he had showed positive on a test he was labelled as a ‘with Covid’ death. This enraged my cousin’s husband, who is a retired GP, and had observed his father’s medical situation until the end.
I spoke to a friend yesterday who knows many hundreds of people in the UK. He knew of one Covid-related fatality. “Where?” I asked. “Paris” he said.
The excess death statistics around the world at the end of the year will be fascinating, particularly if they match up with previous years. The money spent on furloughing people will be equally interesting. Imagine if it had all been spent on building new NHS wards and training fresh staff, to cope with some very serious capacity issues.
Best leave it there. The facts speak for themselves. If the fatality trends change, I will change my mind.
To round off, I’m wishing anyone reading this a seriously healthy and happy Christmas.
Thanks very much for looking in on the blogs. That helps keep me going.
PS. Does Matt Hancock resemble a British cousin of Agent Smith, from the Matrix?