26 October 2020
A group of New Zealand health practitioners have joined a growing international movement that says Covid19 is not a sufficient threat to warrant the elimination strategy and lockdowns.
The founding signatories felt obliged by their professional ethics to express support by signing a statement of principles that assert the low risk posed by Covid19, the availability of treatment, the dangers of Government over-reaction, and primacy of the doctor-patient relationship.
Covid Plan B spokesperson Simon Thornley praised the medical practitioners for expressing their views.
“Around the world medical specialists are speaking out. They have seen the data and seen that the initial fear is now clearly unfounded. They are seeing the damage to people’s heath caused by institutional fear and compliance, and by elimination strategies and lockdowns. Unlike too many others, they are prepared to say so.
“Their statement will signal to like-minded New Zealanders in the healthcare sector that they can and should resist, and they should reassure patients and the public.”
The group says its statement was intended to break the silence. It says New Zealand registered health practitioners who want to join the movement should sign the international Great Barrington Declaration and email Covid Plan B (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The Great Barrington Declaration is now supported by over 11,000 medical specialists and over 30,000 medical practitioners.
Contact: Simon Thornley, 021 299 1752
26 October 2020
Registered Health Practitioners for Covid Plan B
Statement of principles
Health is based on freedom and trust. Free human beings can decide themselves about their health.
Free societies decide in democratic discussions how to deal with their health. The NZ Bill of Rights guarantees free choice of treatment.
Fear of the pandemic makes us unfree. It makes us see vaccination and lockdowns as the only way to get back to normality.
International health data and our own experience shows that the fear engendered in the public and our patients is not proportional to the threat to their health posed by covid-19.
Therefore New Zealand’s public health and economic response to covid-19 needs reviewing. It is very likely to be more harmful than the threat posed by the virus in the medium to long term.
Doctors can help. We can develop trust through mutual respect, transparency and democratic debate. We can take action with our patients, so they are healthier and better able to fight infection, and by providing treatments if they fall ill to Covid-19.
There is nothing we have yet seen in the features of this virus that warrants it being regarded as especially dangerous above the many other viruses that are with us every day. The most practical response is the standard precautions of improving personal hygiene, physical health and improving lifestyles.
We want the public to know that the infection fatality rate of Covid-19 is currently about 0.3% once antibody levels are accounted for. The infection fatality rate of influenza, which is strongest each winter, is about 0.1%. It is also clear that the ages of people who die with Covid-19 is about the same as that from natural mortality. This information is enough to inspire us to take better care of our health, but not to drastically change our society and economy.
It is impossible to obtain information about the severity of Covid-19 infections in New Zealand, so we have had to rely on overseas research. About a third of Covid-19 positive patients have no symptoms, with about 90% of infections treated in the community, and only about 1.5% needing intensive care. In the US, almost all hospital treated cases have had other serious medical conditions and are almost all people who die with the virus are over 50 years old. Unusual or long lasting symptoms currently appear similar to a range of responses seen in other respiratory illnesses.
Doctors now have many promising treatments against Covid-19, including easily available supplements like vitamin D. Internationally, the death rate is falling, in part, because we are getting better at treating the disease.
Immune function can benefit from minimising sugar and refined starch intake, eating several servings of fruit and vegetables daily, being physically active, socially connected and having sensible sun exposure to ensure adequate levels of vitamin D, avoiding tobacco and excess alcohol.
We have identified comorbidities that make people susceptible to Covid-19, such as diabetes, hypertension and raised cholesterol. We need to treat a condition in these patients called Metabolic Syndrome, which creates immune system dysfunction.
Decision makers, when assessing health strategies, compare the economic costs of a policy to its benefits. Recent assessments by economists indicate that the costs of lockdowns in New Zealand outweigh benefits by a ratio of between 90 and 200 to one. This indicates that Covid-19 has been disproportionately treated compared to critical health issues that our patients face day-to-day.
Policies that the Government should prioritise or review are:
- Adequate resourcing of high-quality infection control and quality care in rest homes and hospitals to prevent the spread of covid-19 to vulnerable people.
- Abandon the use of lockdowns to contain the virus. Strong evidence now indicates that these measures are disastrous economically and do little to contain viral spread.
- Review the requirement for managed quarantine and compulsory detention for both community and hospital cases in the light of the updated lower fatality risk of the virus. This measure leads to social isolation and undue mental distress.
- Further limits on border travel should be urgently reviewed in the light of a cost-benefit analysis.
- Avoid any measures that lead to social isolation in the response to contain the virus.
- Review the requirement for compulsory diagnostic tests in the light of the lower fatality rate of the virus. We believe that patients should continue to have the right to refuse medical tests, as they do for other procedures, and that the public health risk from this virus does not warrant these rights being superseded.
- Abandon the requirement to wear masks on public transport. We believe that the best epidemiological evidence available does not support mask wearing to reduce the risk of respiratory virus transmission.
- We believe that the doctor-patient relationship should be safe-guarded, along with the ability for doctors to see patients in-person rather than online. Online patient consultations detract from the quality of the doctor-patient relationship and raise the risk of mis-diagnosis.
As facts about the virus become self-evident, the public is wondering whether the current measures cause more harm than good. They will wonder why authorities have been unwilling to listen to, or even allow, discussion of the facts and alternative policies. We are deeply concerned that the consequence will be a loss of faith in health services, science and bureaucracy.
Dr Cindy de Villiers – General Practitioner, M.B.,Ch.B
Dr Matthias Seidel – Obstetrician and Gynaecologist
Dr Anne O’Reilly – General Practitioner. MB BCh FRNZCGP
Dr Rob Maunsell – General Practitioner
Dr René de Monchy – Consultant Psychiatrist
Dr Robin Kelly – General Practitioner MRCS, LRCP, FRNZCGP
Dr Tessa Jones – Integrative medical practitioner MBChB, Dip Obs, FRNZCGP, FACNEM, FABAARM
Dr Alison Goodwin – General Practitioner, MBChB, FRNZCGP
Dr Ronald Goedeke – Director of Appearance Medicine, BSc Hons MBChB
Dr Deon Claassens – General Practitioner, MBChB, Dip. SportsMed, FRNZCGP
Shane Chafin – Pharmacist,AGPP,BCACP
Dr Ulrich Doering – General Practitioner, MBChB, Dipl O&G, FRNZCGP
Dr Samantha Bailey – Research Physician MBChB (Otago)
A rule of thumb in public health, forgotten in the panicked responded to Covid19, was; If you don’t know the likely result of your intervention, don’t do it.
We heavily regret the schism in science and society over Covid19, but it was made inevitable by the first response of politicians and panickers. A determined self-selected group of people in each country promoted erroneous projections and large scale blunt interventions. And they stuck to that plan – refusing to consider alternative interpretations of data and alternative responses.
It was they that decided discussion, moderation and dissent would not be tolerated.
The cost of lockdown was missed diagnosis, possibly leading to illnesses going unidentified.
A study of a Dunedin primary care clinic found that during lockdown tests and referrals fell by almost 100%. It was likely not quite this bad across the country, but the MoH won’t report the data.
Referrals 2019: 17 2020: 0.
Lab tests 2019: 61 2020: 1.
8 October 2020
Six months after the panicked reaction to Covid-19, dissenting scientists and the public are gaining ground internationally, coalescing this week in a show of force behind the Great Barrington Declaration, a statement for protecting the vulnerable but otherwise returning to normal.
The Covid Plan B group, which originally opposed lockdowns and the elimination goal, is a co-signatory of the Declaration. The GB Declaration is headed by Jay Bhattacharya and Sunetra Gupta, who headlined Plan B’s international symposium on Covid-19 in August. The Declaration has been signed by over 1000 biological scientists and over 1500 medical practitioners.
Dissent is now being voiced within virtually every Western nation; specially organised groups of academics and professionals have taken their critique directly to the public (eg. lockdownsceptics.org, and the German Corona Investigative Committee); and as public protest on the streets and via passive or active civil disobedience.
Simon Thornley, group spokesperson, says dissent is rising because after six months of social and economic restrictions and six months of data about the virus, the truth is now readily apparent.
“This virus does not warrant this panic and these restrictions.
“The CDC (US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention) currently says its best estimate is an average Infection Fatality Ratio of 0.65%, but for people 50 to 69 years old it’s 0.5% and for adults under 50 it’s 0.02 percent – less than the average IFR for seasonal flu.
“Yet in New Zealand, some epidemiologists still claim the IFR is closer to 1%. This figure led to predictions of 60,000 deaths in Sweden, which was wrong by a factor of ten. Yet these claims aren’t questioned and are still promoted. This bizarre situation reveals a dangerous intransigence of politicians, scientists, and commentators.”
Thornley says the first announcement of New Zealand’s next Government should be an undertaking not to go back to Level Three or Four lockdowns.
“The best approach are safe havens for those with vulnerable health conditions; ensuring good infection control in rest homes and hospitals, robust personal hygiene, and tracing, tracking and isolation of cases, including with serology tests.
Thornley said if elimination was removed as the goal, and lockdowns rejected, the group was prepared to support ‘flattening the curve’, and to enjoin the growing number of dissenters in New Zealand to adopt reasonable precautionary measures.
“The next Government just needs the courage to say ‘we all did our best, but we can’t afford to do it again’.”
Contact: Simon Thornley, 021 299 1752
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: https://www.covidplanb.co.nz/epidemiology/nz-govt-confirms-it-wont-test-for-virus-prevalence/
“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
By Ananish Chaudhuri and Simon Thornley
The authors are members of the Department of Economics and School of Population Health respectively at the University of Auckland. The views expressed are their own.
During the Vietnam war, the well-known (and Kiwi-born) journalist Peter Arnett is supposed to have quoted a US Major as saying “We had to destroy the village in order to save it.”
Regardless of whether anyone actually said this or not, we cannot help reflecting on the idea behind this as we go into yet another lock-down.
Back in March, when we entered our first lock-down, the evidence was not so clear. Reasonable people could have disagreed about the sagacity of the lock-down. Some of us did but on the whole most were willing to abide by the government’s decision.
But the evidence is clear now. Lock downs are not a panacea. There is, at best, weak if any correlation between lock downs and the spread of the disease. At best, they merely postpone the spread of the infection.
When the Swedish authorities said this, the rest of the world sneered at them.
Now, there is increasing recognition that maybe the Swedes did get it right. Certainly not all of it; they did experience a failure to protect the frail and elderly. But, on balance, it appears they will emerge from the pandemic stronger than their neighbours and that in the current globalized world, lock downs are not and cannot be a sustainable solution.
A recent report from the Productivity Commission now provides support for this Swedish view by asking questions about the relative costs and benefits of prolonging our earlier lock down. The conclusion: the costs conservatively outweighed the benefits of an extended lockdown by 95:1.
And the Swedish approach has been reiterated by Camilla Stoltenberg, Director General of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health; that Norway could have handled the disease without locking down.
There is no vaccine and if there is one, it is still some time away. The fastest vaccine ever developed, for mumps, took four years. In any event, even with a vaccine there is no way of guaranteeing that every Kiwi will take it. In fact, unless we keep our borders closed forever, we need everyone else in the world to take the vaccine too. Diseases we thought had been eliminated, like measles, have made a come-back.
Consequently, in an earlier article we pointed out that elimination is not and never was a realistic strategy and suggested ways of moving forward and resuming normalcy including opening our borders.
It was certainly inevitable that the disease would recur. What was not inevitable was the steps we took along the way and the economic and social costs of those steps.
Did we really need to spend the time, effort and resources to force people into quarantine? Could we not trust them to self-isolate like we did earlier with prosecution of violators? Like Sweden, New Zealand is a high trust society. Why does our government have such little faith in its citizens? Why does it claim for its police the right to enter people’s home without warrants to enforce quarantine?
And if a government does not trust its citizens, then why and how long should the citizens continue to trust the government?
Even with preponderance of evidence that lock downs are mostly useless, our government has responded to an outbreak with another lock down. The initial rationale for a lockdown was protecting our hospitals, but now with cases linked to only one household, the threshold for pulling the lockdown trigger has dropped considerably.
Is this really sustainable: To lurch from one from lock down to another with breaks in between?
Yes, resuming normal life will lead to more cases and there will be more deaths due to Covid-19; just as there will be more deaths from auto accidents, flu, pneumonia, respiratory illnesses, loneliness and self-harm. We also now appreciate that the age distribution of deaths from Covid-19 is indistinguishable from background mortality.
Maybe we need to better confront the idea of our own mortality. Such a conversation is topical given the upcoming referendum on euthanasia.
If we could shut down all motorized vehicles, then the reduction in pollution will save many lives that are lost from respiratory illnesses. But, no one suggests that since this is not a realistic proposition. Instead, we set emissions standards in such a way that the social benefit of driving or flying is equal to or higher than the social cost.
Contrary to the culture of fear besetting us, Covid-19 is hardly the threat it has been made out to be. Both the case fatality ratio (number of deaths divided by the number of reported cases) and the infection fatality ratio (number of deaths divided by the number of people potentially infected) is relatively low and much lower than say Ebola or other corona viruses such as Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). It is now clear that lockdowns are a blunt instrument that is disproportionate to the threat posed by this virus.
Loss of income, housing and jobs as a result of Covid-19 will create a “underclass of social need”
“We’re seeing people who have lost their jobs and households unable to meet rent and mortgage costs.
In the past week, the organisation delivered 5895 food parcels, a 346 per cent rise from the week before the Cobid-19 lockdown.