The risk of dying related to Covid19, compared to other health risks

Deaths related to COVID-19, while modest overall, varied considerably by age.

Deaths as a percentage of all cause deaths during the time period under study ranged from <0.01% in children in Germany, Portugal and Netherlands, to as high as 41.65% for men aged over 80 years in England and Wales.

The percentage of the population who died from COVID-19 was less than 0.2% in every age group under the age of 80. In each country, over the age of 80, these proportions were: England and Wales 1.27% males, 0.87% females; Italy 0.6% males, 0.38% females; Germany 0.13% males, 0.09% females; France 0.39% males, 0.2% females; Portugal 0.2% males, 0.15% females; and Netherlands 0.6% males, 0.4% females.

Interpretation: Mortality rates from COVID-19 remains low including when compared to other common causes of death and will likely decline further while control measures are maintained. These data may help people contextualise their risk and policy makers in decision-making.

Everything you need to know: right here

31 August 2020

A supporter has sent us a massive amount of Covid research. We have not checked every link, so use with caution and discretion. With their permission, we reprint it below.

But remember that it is not an absence of science that caused the international panic, and still causes it in New Zealand. The evidence is abundant and clear.

Yet mainstream scientists, politicians, media, commentators, remain obsessed with the goal of elimination, the use of lockdowns, and a fear of death from Covid over more dangerous diseases.

So there are deeply rooted psychological and social drivers behind their panic. Throwing facts at them won’t change their mind instantly. It may even be counter-productive. We have to ride this out until people come to their senses in their own way and time. We can help them change their minds by being persistent, civil, generous and succinct.

There are a few main reasons to be optimistic we should end lockdowns and get back to normal.

1) We know who this coronavirus affects. The median age of death in almost all countries is over 80 with multiple existing conditions.  We are failing to protect old people and are locking up the young and imposing social distancing when they have no risk of death.  We can protect the vulnerable more intelligently.

2) Most people have immunity due to cross reactivity and cross immunization.  The human immune system is not completely helpless against this virus.

3) Herd immunity levels are much lower than people think and the virus appears to follow a Gompertz curve, which correctly anticipates the virus fizzling out


Those in favor of lockdown present a false dichotomy. Either we have a hard lockdown or we let the virus rip and kill everyone.  That is hardly the case.  Lockdowns and business closures are a sledgehammer that had no precedent in history and are not the way we have ever treated any virus or pandemic before.  The costs are out of all proportion to the benefits.  Many other strategies would be far better.

Here is a great case against lockdowns

How a Free Society Deals with Pandemics, According to Legendary Epidemiologist and Smallpox Eradicator Donald Henderson

It concluded with this important paper

There are no historical observations or scientific studies that support the confinement by quarantine of groups of possibly infected people for extended periods in order to slow the spread of influenza. A World Health Organization (WHO) Writing Group, after reviewing the literature and considering contemporary international experience, concluded that “forced isolation and quarantine are ineffective and impractical.”2 Despite this recommendation by experts, mandatory large-scale quarantine continues to be considered as an option by some authorities and government officials.35,43
The interest in quarantine reflects the views and conditions prevalent more than 50 years ago, when much less was known about the epidemiology of infectious diseases and when there was far less international and domestic travel in a less densely populated world. It is difficult to identify circumstances in the past half-century when large-scale quarantine has been effectively used in the control of any disease.

The negative consequences of large-scale quarantine are so extreme (forced confinement of sick people with the well; complete restriction of movement of large populations; difficulty in getting critical supplies, medicines, and food to people inside the quarantine zone) that this mitigation measure should be eliminated from serious consideration.

No country had lockdowns in their playbook.

For example, Canada’s pandemic guidelines concluded that restrictions on movement were “impractical if not impossible.”

Also, according to the Wall Street Journal, “The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in its 2017 community mitigation guidelines for pandemic flu, didn’t recommend stay-at-home orders or closing nonessential businesses even for a flu as severe as the one a century ago.”

It was never part of the US response

Lockdowns were never part of the WHO standard responses for pandemics

(you can read here all their policies and how they rated the evidence for various measures)

Most Asian countries like Taiwan, Japan and South Korea didn’t have hard lockdowns and had far better experiences than the European countries that did.  Those who are sick are not sent home to infect family members and are separated, which is the exact opposite of European lockdowns.

Here is a very good read on the arguments against lockdowns. In most European countries, cases were already falling before the lockdowns as people were voluntarily taking preventive measures: social distancing, hand washing, wearing masks.

Here is a study in The Lancet showing lockdowns had no effect.  The primary factors explaining deaths are obesity and age structure

And another detailed study showing the virus behaved the same everywhere regardless of policy

Same is true on a county by county basis in the US. Whether a county had a lockdown has no effect on Covid-19 deaths; a non-effect that persists over time.

One of the biggest determinant of deaths from Covid related to the share of the population that was over 80, not to lockdowns

The other explainers are percentage of the population with hypertension

and percentage of population with obesity/diabetes

Here are more studies showing that the deaths were falling before the lockdowns were imposed



The decline in infections started before Germany even instituted lockdowns

Bloomberg also found little correlation between severity of measures and death rates.

and here is a similar piece in the WSJ by economists.

The other issue is there are tradeoffs to the current policy.

More Than Half of US Business Closures Permanent, Yelp Says

As the Telegraph reported, the consequences for poverty and children is horrific.

Furthermore, there is good reason to believe that lockdowns increased deaths of the vulnerable and elderly.

This is true in much of the world. Here is a study looking at how lockdowns drove excess deaths for non-Covid illnesses

Denver doctors may have found the answer to a pandemic mystery: What happened to all the heart attacks?

Stauffer and his colleagues found that the number of people in Denver who died of cardiac arrests at home in the two weeks following the statewide stay-at-home order was greater than the total number of people who died of COVID-19 in the city during that time.

New cancer diagnoses fell sharply as the coronavirus pandemic first hit

Almost all diagnoeses collapsed in the UK.

And same was true for heart attacks and strokes.

Analysis of NHS data reveals the deadly consequences of the government’s messaging to ‘stay at home, save lives, protect the NHS.’ During the lockdown, there was a near 50 per cent decline in admissions for heart attacks. The risks of Covid-19 outweighed the risk of seeking NHS care despite worsening symptoms for many people: 40 per cent more people died from lower-risk treatable heart attacks than usual. For strokes, the situation is further exacerbated by living alone and not having visitors as 98 per cent of emergency calls for strokes are made by someone else.

Covid is not the only illness in the world.

Tuberculosis.   From the NY Times.

Tuberculosis kills 1.5 million people each year. Lockdowns and supply-chain disruptions threaten progress against the disease as well as H.I.V. and malaria.

According to one estimate, a three-month lockdown across different parts of the world and a gradual return to normal over 10 months could result in an additional 6.3 million cases of tuberculosis and 1.4 million deaths from it.

A six-month disruption of antiretroviral therapy may lead to more than 500,000 additional deaths from illnesses related to H.I.V., according to the W.H.O. Another model by the W.H.O. predicted that in the worst-case scenario, deaths from malaria could double to 770,000 per year.

Many epidemiologists have been completely opposed to government plans and have in fact been right.  Only pro-lockdown scientists are amplified. Here is a good read on “the science.”

Here is Sunetra Gupta of Oxford

and Martin Kuldorff, a Harvard epidemiologist who has been ignored



Public pressure, not science.

The only epidemiologists advocating for lockdowns were at Imperial College.  The Imperial College model predicted that even with mitigation measures, over a million would die in the US and 250,000 would die in the UK.

These estimates were wildly off by a factor of 10.  It should be no surprise.  The same team at Imperial forecast 200 million would die in 2005 of Bird Flu but only 43 people died from it that year.

Why did the west lock down even though the scientific advisers in the UK, Italy, Sweden and other countries were against them initially?

Public pressure is the answer.  For example, here is the article that was viewed 40 million times, even though it wasn’t written by an empidemiologist but rather by a Silicon Valley “growth hacker” whose only claim to fame is writing a book on Star Wars and speaking at TEDx.  You cann’t make this up.  His other posts were read 60 million times encouraging lockdowns and social restrictions.

The frenzy of social media played a big role, not proper epidemiological practice.

As this well researched piece shows, the main driver of lockdowns was political leaders imitating each other rather than sound planning or advice.


The virus is not at all deadly to younger people.  Here are death breakdowns by age group in the US and Europe

and another visualization

And from the Oxford for Evidence Based Medicine (scroll to bottom)

Here is the link to all the studies on infection fatality rates for Covid.  The evidence is overwhelming that it is much lower than the initial dire estimates.

From one paper looking at Infection fatality rates by age summarized it well.

“The estimated IFR is close to zero for younger adults but rises exponentially with age, reaching about 0.3% for ages 50-59, 1.3% for ages 60-69, 4% for ages 70-79, 10% for ages 80-89.”

The median age for death in most countries is over 80 and the average person has multiple pre-existing conditions

In Italy the median age was over 80 and 96% of people had existing conditions
Spain showed exactly the same pattern
Ireland is the same

US – Median death age from Covid in the US was 80 years.

That is slightly above the average life expectancy overall

In many countries the median age of death is above life expectancy, i.e. people had already lived longer than the average person.

Population-level COVID-19 mortality risk for non-elderly individuals overall and for non-elderly individuals without underlying diseases in pandemic epicenters

The COVID-19 mortality rate in people <65 years old during the period of fatalities from the epidemic was equivalent to the mortality rate from driving between 4 and 82 miles per day for 13 countries and 5 states, and was higher (equivalent to the mortality rate from driving 106–483 miles per day) for 8 other states and the UK. People <65 years old without underlying predisposing conditions accounted for only 0.7–3.6% of all COVID-19 deaths in France, Italy, Netherlands, Sweden, Georgia, and New York City and 17.7% in Mexico.

People <65 years old have very small risks of COVID-19 death even in pandemic epicenters and deaths for people <65 years without underlying predisposing conditions are remarkably uncommon. Strategies focusing specifically on protecting high-risk elderly individuals should be considered in managing the pandemic.

Most people had hypertension as a co-morbidity

A key point is that people with hypertension have a lower life expectancy with or without Covid

Irrespective of sex 50-year-old hypertensives compared with normotensives had a shorter life expectancy a shorter life expectancy free of cardiovascular disease myocardial infarction and stroke and a longer life expectancy lived with these diseases. Normotensive men (22% of men) survived 7.2 years (95% confidence interval, 5.6 to 9.0) longer without cardiovascular disease compared with hypertensives and spent 2.1 (0.9 to 3.4) fewer years of life with cardiovascular disease. Similar differences were observed in women….  Compared with hypertensives total life expectancy was 5.1 and 4.9 years longer for normotensive men and women respectively. Increased blood pressure in adulthood is associated with large reductions in life expectancy and more years lived with cardiovascular disease. This effect is larger than estimated previously and affects both sexes similarly. Our findings underline the tremendous importance of preventing high blood pressure and its consequences in the population.

The same is true for diabetes.

According to the reports of Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA); men with type 1 diabetes have a shortened lifespan of 11 years than normal men. Women with the condition have their lives cut short by 13 years.

A 2010 report by the Diabetes UK claims that type 2 diabetes reduces the lifespan by 10 years. A 2012 Canadian study claimed that women aged over 55 years with type 2 diabetes lost on an average of 6 years while men lost 5.

The probability of dying under 65 without co-morbidities is extremely low to non-existent.  

It is far more sensible to protect the vulnerable than close society.


Sweden kept their schools open and not a single child died from Covid of over 1.8 million kids.

Closure or not of schools has had little if any impact on the number of laboratory confirmed cases in school aged children in Finland and Sweden.

In fact, children are more likely to be hit by lightning than die from Covid.

Children are more likely to die from flu than Covid.

No transmission from children in Greece. Transmission dynamics of SARS‐CoV‐2 within families with children in Greece: a study of 23 clusters

COVID-19 Transmission and Children: The Child Is Not to Blame

No evidence of secondary transmission of COVID-19 from children attending school in Ireland 2020

German study shows low coronavirus infection rate in schools

Children are not COVID-19 super spreaders: time to go back to school

The Royal College of Paediatricans and Child Health review of the evidence

A CDC showing very limited transmission in childcare settings

Here is a good read from a Harvard professor of epidemiology.

Delaying herd immunity is costing lives.  The current lockdown is protecting the healthy instead of the vulnerable.

He also wrote a very good piece on the proper response.   Given the age differences in risk, policy responses should be age specific

Strategies targeted by age are likely to be much more useful at reaching herd immunity with less damage


In most countries between 50-60% of deaths from Covid are from care homes. In some countries and states it is as high as 80%.  What is extraordinary, though, is that this is largely a self-inflicted wound.  Many infected old people were sent away from hospitals to care homes to infect others. This is true in the UK, NY and California.

While Covid deaths are horrible, it is worth considering what life expectancy without Covid would be in care homes. 

Even without Covid, life expectancy is extremely short in care homes.

The length of stay data were striking:

  • the median length of stay in a nursing home before death was 5 months
  • 65% died within 1 year of nursing home admission
  • 53% died within 6 months of nursing home admission

The finding of median death in nursing homes being less than one year is confirmed in other studies. Median death is under a year.


Caregivers who institutionalize their relatives are substantially more likely to become bereaved than those whose relatives continue to reside at home. The zero-order odds of patient death more than double following admission to a nursing home

This is by far the best site on all issues relating to care homes internationally.   It shows percentage of all Covid deaths are 50-60% for almost all countries.
Here is their main report with extensive data by country and 50-60% of deaths on average

42% Of U.S. Deaths Are From 0.6% Of The Population in Care homes

The Real Pandemic Was a Nursing Home Problem from The American Institute for Economic Research

Some countries and states have 70-80% of all deaths in care homes.

Canada 82%
80% in Northern Ireland

Here is NJ at 76%
70% in Ohio
70% in Pennsylvania
70% in Arizona
70% Florida
Over the most recent week, elders living in long-term care facilities accounted for 7 in 10 Florida deaths resulting from the coronavirus, as the pandemic increasingly became a scourge of the old and frail.

Here is data from US nursing homes regarding deaths

This is an extraordinary resource that shows care home deaths in the US.

70% in Sweden.  Sweden’s complete failure to protect elderly care homes that is the problem, not the lack of lockdown.
“Upwards of 70 percent of the Covid19 death toll in Sweden has been people in elderly care services (as of mid-May 2020).”
This is a very good read on the problems of Swedish care homes.

It is likely care home deaths are understated and hospital overstated.
15% of hospital deaths in the UK were actually care home deaths according to the ONS
“Of the Covid-related deaths, 9,039 occurred within a care home, while a further 3,444 occurred within a hospital. Of all hospital deaths involving Covid-19 during this period, 14.6 per cent were accounted for by care-home residents.”

It is astonishing how people still obsess about everyone getting it and dying, when the danger is care homes.  There is still no coordinated response to protect them.

Look at California’s insane policy.  This is from California from May 4th, not early on.  They already knew about care home transmission.
This is packed with links.

Here was NY.
New Jersey, Pennsylvania and the Northaast
and the UK

The only correct historical analogy is the Siege of Caffa where Tartars threw infected bodies of the dead over city walls to spread the disease []


The short and simple reason why herd immunity is reached at much lower levels than people think is that populations are not homogenous i.e. we have different age groups with different susceptibilities, and we all don’t mix randomly, i.e. most people live boring lives and see the same people every day.   Simply put, heterogeneity and non-random mixing massively reduce the threshold for herd immunity.

Here is a good accessible explanation of why herd immunity levels are much lower than expected for many diseases
Here is a long blog post with links to studies on how the herd immunity threshold is lower than people think.

And a slightly more technical explanation.
Here is an introduction to the question of why estimating herd immunity isn’t straightforward or high like the media argue.

And a discussion of why immunity levels are lower than classically assumed

Here is a paper noting that Herd Immunity Thresholds are much lower in Sweden.

Early estimates of HIT for Covid-19 were based on this simplistic homogeneous approach, yielding high HIT values that have since been revised downwards with more sophisticated network modelling taking account of R0 heterogeneity and with reference to the low HIT found from serological sampling in Stockholm County.

Here is an academic paper on why Covid will have lower herd immunity thresholds

The disease-induced herd immunity level for Covid-19 is substantially lower than the classical herd immunity level

Heterogenous transmission is likely why we have more cases with lower deaths. The virus spreads in less susceptible people

Here is a broader read on heterogeneity of populations and the effectiveness of vaccines

The reason care homes are so vulnerable is that populations are not heterogenous.

and paper

Here is a discussion of the role of non-random mixing from a few months ago, which turns out to be spot on with current death rates.

Much lower effective herd immunization thresholds fit what we see every year with flus, even bad ones.

According to the WHO about 15% of people get flu a year, not 80%.

According to the CDC about 3-11%% of the population gets the flue any year, and that includes asymptomatic people

How Many People Get Sick with Flu Every Year?

A 2018 CDC study published in Clinical Infectious Diseasesexternal icon looked at the percentage of the U.S. population who were sickened by flu using two different methods and compared the findings. Both methods had similar findings, which suggested that on average, about 8% of the U.S. population gets sick from flu each season, with a range of between 3% and 11%, depending on the season.

Why is the 3% to 11% estimate different from the previously cited 5% to 20% range?

The commonly cited 5% to 20% estimate was based on a study that examined both symptomatic and asymptomatic influenza illness, which means it also looked at people who may have had the flu but never knew it because they didn’t have any symptoms. The 3% to 11% range is an estimate of the proportion of people who have symptomatic flu illness.

The last pandemic was H1N1 and that peaked at 24% of the global population during the first year.  That is one the very high end.

These numbers are, overall, moderately higher than estimates the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) made for the impact of the pandemic in the United States from April 2009 to April 2010. The agency estimated that 61 million Americans had been infected, or about 19.8% of the 2010 population of 308.7 million, as compared with 24% in the WHO study. The CDC said the total could have been anywhere from 43 million to 89 million, with 61 million as the midlevel estimate.

If you want further background reading, here is a terrific overview of herd immunity in a scientific paper.



A study of patients and their families shows that an unexpected six out of eight family members who caught the virus at home had T cell responses but no detectable antibodies.

Intrafamilial Exposure to SARS-CoV-2 Induces Cellular Immune Response without Seroconversion

Important peer-reviewed paper in Nature about the likely immunity to COVID-19 conferred by T cells

SARS-CoV-2-specific T cell immunity in cases of COVID-19 and SARS, and uninfected controls‘ –

Here is a paper on cross reactivity in Cell journal indicating 40-50%

Here is a study done in Sweden showing 30% of blood donors had T-cell responses

and a very good piece explaining cross reactivity and why kids don’t get it

and another

and another

and another paper T-cell response to #SARSCoV2 was observed in 81% of uninfected individuals. This immune response was caused by prior exposure to ‘common cold’ coronaviruses.

Here is a brief discussion of another paper

the paper

And another on SARS-1 providing cross reactivity



Here is a long thread with links on the issue.

Cross reactivity is likely to come from other vaccines people already have.

There is a strong relationship between MMR vaccine and age-stratified COVID fatality rates.  Here is the study.

MMR Vaccine Appears to Confer Strong Protection from COVID-19: Few Deaths from SARS-CoV-2 in Highly Vaccinated Populations

Karl Friston: up to 80% not even susceptible to Covid-19

Here is good summary of the issue of existing immunity and cross-reactivity for non-scientists


In this interview, Sunetra Gupta from Oxford University hits on cross reactivity but doesn’t go into technical details.

As she sees it, the antibody studies, although useful, do not indicate the true level of exposure or level of immunity. First, many of the antibody tests are “extremely unreliable” and rely on hard-to-achieve representative groups. But more important, many people who have been exposed to the virus will have other kinds of immunity that don’t show up on antibody tests — either for genetic reasons or the result of pre-existing immunities to related coronaviruses such as the common cold.



We know that the virus naturally fizzles out because we have Sweden and Manaus in Brazil and other natural experiments where there were no lockdowns.  In Manaus, there were no distancing measures either, and the virus fizzled out.

and Sweden you can see deaths and ICU cases are in the single digits

All of this explains stories like this where experts wonder about why the virus fizzles out at a certain point

Curious pattern in coronavirus infection rate emerges, hinting it can ‘burn out’ at a certain point

Farr’s law explains why viruses don’t grow exponentially and infect everyone.

Nobel prize winner Michael Levitt has written a paper on the math behind how viruses fizzle out, which fits much lower herd immunity levels

Here is an explanation in plain English.

Interestingly, there were a few papers from China and Spain (in Spanish, but you can use Google or Bing translator) that correctly predicted the peaks and end of the virus and number of deaths using Gompertz curves as far back as March

There are specific reasons why the virus follows a Gompertz function

While some countries look like they’re having second waves or not following the Gompertz curve, the truth is they are.  For example, Brazil is actually many big cities that have their own curves.  and

And deaths are following the Gompertz curve by city, so see Rio, for example.

All European cases are now close to zero and all curves look the same by country

and for Europe as a whole

UK is at zero and looks exactly the same

The same is true in the US.   Early states like NY and NJ have almost no deaths and look like Europe.  Later states that had no first wave looked like Eastern Europe.  It is now peaking and turning down.


In the early days, mortality for Covid was high because we didn’t know how to treat it.  Death rates as a percentage of all cases has dropped dramatically.

New approaches to coronavirus care have helped lower mortality rate NJ hospital CEO says

Statins help reduce death rates

Covid patients suffer from oxygen deprivation much like altitude sickness and dexamethasone is the medicine for that. It lowers mortality.



Currently, global deaths are 800,000 from Covid.

Globally, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that the flu kills 290,000 to 650,000 people per year.

So Covid is running a little over the upper end of world flu deaths annually. 


180,000 people have died in all of Western Europe from Covid.

Here is a study of 2017/18 season.

It states that 152,000 people died during flu season from flu and unkown pathogens.

The impact of the 2017/18 influenza epidemic on mortality was similar to that of the previous influenza A(H3N2) dominated seasons in 2014/15 and 2016/17. The European number of deaths attributable to influenza was estimated to be 152 thousand persons. We found a lower influenza-attributable mortality compared to excess mortality, which may indicated that other circulating pathogens might also have contributed to the all-cause excess mortality.

See the European flu monitoring site showing flu vs Covid.  It isn’t twice as bad as previous bad flu seasons 2014/15 and 2017/18

Italy had 35,00 Covid deaths.

But Italy always has more deaths from influenza than other European countries.

It had excess deaths of 7,027 20,259 15,801 and 24,981 attributable to influenza epidemics in the 2013/14 2014/15 2015/16 and 2016/17 respectively

That means Covid was only 40% worse than their worst flu year in the last five years.  

The UK had 46,000 deaths, from Covid

For some perspective, there were 28,000 and 26,000 deaths from influenza in the UK in 2014 and 2017.

So the end result is the virus is about 40% worse than a bad flu year.

France had 30,000 Covid deaths

That is only 60% worse than the 2014/15 flu season in France with 18,300 deaths.

Spain had 28,000 Covid deaths

But it has had about 15,000 deaths from flu in previous flu seasons, notably 2014/15

”Using population models, it has been estimated that in the last two seasons, the flu may have been responsible for up to 15,000 deaths attributable to this disease.”

The Instituto Nacional de Estadistica says 15,000 for last two seasons, so that is a bad year.

So Covid is basically twice as bad as a bad flu season in Spain. 

The US has had 166,000 deaths from Covid.

The flu season in 2017-18 had a median estimate of 61,000 deaths, but upper bound of the estimate is 95,000 deaths.

The 2014-15 had 64,000 as top estimate for flu deaths.

So Covid is roughly 60%-100% worse than the worst flu season we’ve had.  

Another issue that is rarely mentioned is that Covid deaths and hospitalizations have been inflated.  Here is the Irish Government’s analysis of Covid deaths.  Many people had the virus but did not die of Covid.

Analysis of excess all-cause mortality in Ireland during the COVID-19 epidemic

Britain’s official death toll from the COVID-19 pandemic was lowered by over 5,000


They are worth bookmarking

See all the resources on the right tab.  Also at the end of each post, they have a great Round Up of good articles and links.

Lockdown Sceptics is a great daily read.

And a site that helps put things in perspective

And an American site.





Another Medical Professor says no to elimination and lockdowns

The only people in the world still believing in elimination and lockdowns seem to be NZ politicians, the government advisory group and media…

This from Martin Kulldorff, PhD, Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School:

Covid-19 cannot be contained in the long run, and so all countries will eventually reach herd immunity. To think otherwise is naive and dangerous. General lockdown strategies can reduce transmission and death counts in the short term. But this strategy cannot be considered successful until lockdowns are removed without the disease resurging.

The question is not whether to aim for herd immunity as a strategy, because we will all eventually get there. The question is how to minimise casualties until we get there. Since Covid-19 mortality varies greatly by age, this can only be accomplished through age-specific countermeasures. We need to shield older people and other high-risk groups until they are protected by herd immunity.

Delaying Herd Immunity Is Costing Lives


Covid = obesity and age. Lockdowns have no effect on mortality.

Definitive proof that lockdowns don’t stop Covid19, in a study published in the Lancet EClinicalMedicine journal.

Factors common in higher rates of cases in nations: highers rate of obesity, older populations, and slowness to close border.

Rapid border closures, full lockdowns, and wide-spread testing were not associated with COVID-19 mortality rates.

Though countries with full lockdowns had better patient recovery times.

COVID19 vaccine is a slim-chance strategy

27 August 2020

Media Release

New Zealand experts and officials are betting the nation’s health and wealth on the slim chance of eliminating a virus and getting a vaccine before the natural end to the pandemic. 

The Covid Plan B group says today’s announcement that the Government is putting aside more money to pay for making and distributing a vaccine, highlights the narrow margin for success of the Government’s policy.

Simon Thornley, group spokesperson, says while it makes absolute sense to try for a vaccine, the framing of announcements is giving people “false hope”.

“There’s only a very slim chance that a full safety-checked vaccine will be ready before the pandemic subsides, and even then, it most likely won’t be useful for the group most at risk – the elderly.

“A vaccine would be great to have, but these announcements have the effect of enticing people to back the strategy of elimination, and its lockdowns, while holding out for a vaccine.

“This strategy requires there are no community acquired cases of Covid-19 in NZ and no deaths forever, (ie. elimination), and dissemination of a vaccine against Covid-19 that achieves herd immunity.

Other international experts concur. Dr Mark Woolhouse (Professor of infectious disease epidemiology, UK) said in a recent interview, “I would not dignify waiting for a vaccine with the term ‘strategy’. That’s hope, not a strategy.”

“For elimination to be successful, we have to do that with no decline in quality of life or mortality for other illnesses, no reduction in social wellbeing, mobility or happiness measure, no increase in people living in poverty, no decline in economic measures or at least a decline less than observed in the rest of the world.” Simon Thornley says.


Vaccine backgrounder:

Politicians, media and commentators with time to learn more about vaccines research and practicalities of safety, manufacturing and dissemination, are recommended to check out the presentation of Byram Bridle, a Canadian researcher working on a coronavirus ‘plug and play’ vaccine, at a symposium about New Zealand’s plan.

Contact: Simon Thornley, 021 299 1752

Extended lockdown is elimination’s ‘own-goal’

25 August 2020

Media Release

The extension of Auckland’s lockdown shows the cost of the Government’s continued pursuit of elimination of Covid19 and intention to wait for a vaccine.

The Covid Plan B group says New Zealand is now one of the few countries pursuing elimination and “hiding” behind its border and lockdowns in hope of a vaccine.

Spokesperson Simon Thornley says “the Government, and the experts it is listening to, are hell-bent on elimination. The extension can’t be justified for any other reason.”

“They are betting the house on eliminating Covid-19 long term and finding a vaccine in that time. It’s like developing policy based on winning Lotto.”

“It is a brave call to defy the conclusion the rest of the world has come to; that we must learn to live with this virus. But they must take responsibility for the success or failure of their approach.”

In a webinar on Monday evening, Plan B clarified measurable goals whereby the success or failure of the government policy may be judged, since the government and its health advisors are now talking simultaneously of elimination, but say the country must also be prepared for further frequent community outbreaks of Covid-19. Here we clarify that these outcomes are mutually exclusive.

  • Success will see no community transmission of Covid-19 in NZ forever, (ie. elimination), and dissemination of an effective vaccine against Covid19 by the end of 2021 that achieves herd immunity. Such a policy must also result in: no decline in quality of life or mortality for other illnesses, no reduction in social wellbeing, mobility or happiness measure, no increase in people in poverty, no decline in economic measures or at least a decline less than comparable countries that opt for suppression of the virus. All cases that occur during this period must have a recent history of international travel.
  • Failure will be continued community transmission of Covid-19 into the future (ie. the virus is not eliminated), with no effective vaccine delivered by the end of 2021, with: an increase in mortality from other illnesses (except influenza), worse measurements of wellbeing, more poverty, and declines in standards of living, debt, GDP that are at least as bad as international levels.

“We also point out that there are several infectious diseases in New Zealand with effective vaccines or treatments that are yet to be eliminated from this country. These include: pertussis, syphilis, scabies, viral hepatitis, HIV, chlamydia, gonorrhoea, meningococcal disease, pneumococcal disease and tuberculosis. The only successful globally eradicated viral infection is smallpox and this took thirty years to achieve.”


Contact: Simon Thornley, 021 299 1752

Serology testing essential, but banned in NZ

The serology tests today being demanded by experts as necessary to track the mystery resurgence of COVID19 have been banned by the Ministry of Health.

Simon Thornley, epidemiologist with the Covid Plan B group, has criticised health commentators as hypocritical in calling for serology testing to track the source of the current outbreak and assess its prevalence in the community.

Thornley said the Covid Plan B group has been calling for serology testing back in April, but by the end of that month the Ministry of Health had specifically banned the importation and sale of serology tests.

In reply to an Official Information Request the Ministry of Health said serology testing would not be conducted because even that test would underestimate the level of virus prevalence. See:

“The one test that would really tell us how the virus is moving through the community has been banned in New Zealand. Companies selling the test were called and told to stop.”

“When we called for the testing, we were criticised by the Government-favoured health commentators. Five months later, these same people are suggesting tests, conveniently forgetting they initially said they weren’t necessary.”

Thornley said that now the Government’s own favoured experts were agreeing with Covid Plan B, it could no longer resist conducting serology tests.

He predicted that based on overseas tests, the number of people who had already contracted Covid-19 would be many times the number of tested cases.


Contact: Simon Thornley, 021 299 1752

Gerhard Sundborn: We cannot lock down long enough to eliminate

Group member Gerhard Sundborn tells NewstalkZB why lockdowns cannot be in place long enough to eliminate the virus. He knocks it out of the park.

Herd immunity the “only long term solution”: Oxford Public Health Prof

“If safe and effective vaccines and life-saving preventative and therapeutic medications are not found, lengthy lockdowns prove impossible, and the pandemic does not disappear spontaneously, population immunity is the only, long-term solution.

“I am not advocating that we dispense with all control measures, we still need to wash our hands, keep our distance and do everything we are being advised to.

“The bottom line is that older people have got a lot to gain from lockdowns and a lot to lose from the infection. Young people have a lot to lose from lockdowns and not much to lose from the infection.”

Raj Bhopal, emeritus professor of public health at Edinburgh University.




Is New Zealand’s Covid-19 story past its use-by date?

Simon Thornley


Most New Zealanders believe now that we are in an exalted position on the Covid road. We are world leaders who have beaten a deadly virus thanks to a tough lockdown. Our only threat now remains from overseas travelers who are quarantined at the border. We are now a Covid-19 free paradise. We can stay this way until a promising vaccine from Oxford comes our way. Surely, this is a matter of holding on for a few more months, and then we can put this whole episode behind us and get on with life.

I would like to believe this story, since my life would be much simpler if I followed the official line. But as an epidemiologist, I’m taught to question and to examine the evidence independently. There are a number of assumptions in this story we have been told. Let’s examine them one by one.

The first is that we are dealing with a deadly virus. Early on in the pandemic, it was possible to believe this, as we had only genetic tests of the virus available. The ratio of people who had died with Covid-19 divided by people who tested positive was 3.4%. This is about seven times the usual estimates of fatality from seasonal influenza (<0.5%).

High fatality rates were projected on a grand scale by modelers. These high rates lead to astronomical predictions of death and destruction which justified severe lockdowns.

Throwing the kitchen sink at such a deadly threat made sense. Just as with swine flu in 2009, however, it was soon found that other evidence, such as antibodies detected in blood, showed a totally different pattern. This occurred in 2009 when antibodies were discovered in about one in four of the New Zealand population. The clamour to eliminate the virus lost its legs.

Early in the epidemic, other researchers overseas were pointing to similar evidence. Professor Mikko Paunio, for example, an epidemiologist from Finland, early in the epidemic showed that 27/1000 blood donors had antibodies to the virus in Copenhagen, Denmark. This proportion extrapolated to over a million Danes having seen and recovered from the virus, compared to many fewer ‘official’ cases. The revised fatality rate was 0.13% – nothing to get excited over.

Now, we even have the Center of Disease Control in the US using 0.65% as a working estimate. This is derived from a summary paper which averaged the results of 26 individual studies. This revised figure is in the scale of severe influenza, and scales down the threat of the virus to just above that of seasonal influenza. These estimates don’t take into account more information about T-cells which now show an even wider exposure to the virus than from antibodies alone. This means that even these revised estimates are very conservative and should be lower still.

In New Zealand, it is clear from looking only at cases, that risk of fatality is higher for older people (Table). People aged over 90 years have not fared well after infection, but conversely, we have now had no deaths from the virus in people aged under 59 years.

Table. Covid-19 cases in New Zealand, by clinical status and age group (at 20 July 2020).

Age Group (years) Active Recovered Deceased Case fatality ratio* (%) Total
0 to 9 1 37  0 0 38
10 to 19 0 122  0 0 122
20 to 29 8 365  0 0 373
30 to 39 9 239  0 0 248
40 to 49 1 221  0 0 222
50 to 59 3 247 0 0 250
60 to 69 2 177 3 1.67 182
70 to 79 2 71 7 8.97 80
80 to 89 0 23 7 23.3 30
90 or more 0 4 5 55.6 9
Total 26 1506 22 1.44 1554


*The ratio of deceased PCR test-positive cases divided by the sum of both deceased and recovered. The infection fatality ratio is likely to be much lower owing to serology and T-cells pointing to more widespread infection compared to PCR test-positive cases only. 95% confidence intervals calculated by exact binomial method. CI: confidence interval.

Source: Accessed 20 July 2020.


It is also clear that around the world the average age of death of Covid-19 patients is near that of the average life expectancy of that country. This is also clear for New Zealand (figure 1), where the shape of the age distribution of Covid-19 deaths closely approximates the spread of deaths over the same period the year before. A formal test for differences in counts between these data sources shows no evidence of difference. It is very difficult to argue from this plot, that Covid-19 is shortening life spans.

Figure 1. Counts of NZ deaths March to May 2019 (black line), compared to counts of deaths from Covid-19 (red line, right vertical axis), by age category.

Sources: Accessed 20 July 2020.

Although commentators are lampooning Sweden and their Covid-19 death rates, it is clear that countries with harsh lockdowns, such as Peru have higher rates of Covid-19 deaths than Sweden. Belgium, UK and Spain, all locked down but suffered higher rates of Covid-19 deaths than the comparatively liberal Swedes. Just what explains the difference between these country’s rates of Covid deaths is still unclear, but much is likely to be explained by differences in recording of deaths, demographic differences and population density. We now know that national lockdowns during the epidemic are not associated with an expected reduction in Covid-19 deaths.

Despite the avalanche of evidence coming from overseas, the New Zealand Ministry of Health has clearly stated that it has little interest in serology and is not planning a serosurvey. This strongly indicates that an updating of the fatality of the virus is unlikely in New Zealand, at least in official circles.

Where does this leave New Zealand? Our borders remain closed and both political parties are doubling down on this action. In contrast, other countries including the vast majority of Europe, Iceland, China, and the UK are opening up their borders.  Iceland has had its borders largely opened, albeit with virus screening, since June 15 with no evidence of a further outbreak (figure 2). It is clear that these governments have learned from new information, reassessed the risk posed by the virus to their populations, including their immune status.

Evidence of widespread immunity, both in the form of antibodies and T cells is growing. In New Zealand, our politicians and health leaders have little interest in investigating this important issue. A vaccine is simply not a realistic proposition for at least another four years, if not ten. Our tourist economy and borders simply cannot wait this long. We will be held hostage to a story associated with the virus that is well past its “used by” date.

Figure 2. Covid-19 epidemic curve from Iceland, with border opening occurring in mid June. Red line indicates average trend.