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)