By Christopher Monckton of Brenchley
The Chinese-virus lockdown benchmarch test that was introduced here yesterday compares the mean daily compound growth rates in Chinese-virus infections for 12 countries and for the world excluding China, whose case and death statistics are demonstrably and deliberately understated. The growth rates are the mean rates for the successive seven-day periods ending on dates from March 14, when Mr Trump declared a national emergency, until yesterday.
In my first post, two days ago, tables showing benchmark mean rates averaged over the three weeks immediately preceding March 14 were published.
From today, the results of the benchmark test will be published daily in the form of a simple graph that allows visual comparison of the various territories’ performances over time. The benchmark graph shows that the various policies adopted by nearly all governments to inhibit transmission of the infection appear to be beginning to work. Spain, Italy and Norway (the last of these added to this analysis today at the request of a Norwegian commenter justifiably proud of the effectiveness of his nation’s response to the emergency) are doing particularly well in bringing the case growth rate down. South Korea remains far and away the most efficient country at controlling the pandemic.
Fig. 1. Mean compound daily growth rates in confirmed cases of COVID-19 infection for the world excluding China (red) and for 12 individual nations averaged over the successive seven-day periods ending on all dates from March 14 to April 3, 2020.
Why does this graph matter? The reason is simple. Already, young and active people frustrated by being cooped up indoors when they would rather be in the open air are beginning to question whether there should be lockdowns at all. Would it not be better to allow everyone to acquire immunity, and to accept the large resulting loss of life among the old and infirm, rather than enduring not only the heavy economic cost but also the loss of freedom inherent in what, in some countries, amounts to near-universal house arrest?
If lockdowns are justifiable, they are only justifiable if they can be clearly demonstrated to be working. At the moment, in the world as a whole and in nearly all of the individual nations tracked here, the trend in daily growth rates is downward. Up to a point, the lockdowns are working. In some countries, at least, a disastrous tide of serious cases overwhelming the hospitals and exhausting and infecting the doctors and nurses may yet be averted, but only if the lockdowns are kept firmly in place.
The spring has sprung, just as always
There are only two exceptions to the general downtrend in mean daily compound case growth rates: France, where cases have jumped and it looks as though a rebasing of the statistics may have taken place in recent days, and Sweden, where there is no general lockdown, though a few comparatively mild restrictions on mass meetings are in place. At present Sweden is doing quite well even without a lockdown, but its population is considerably less dense than those of most countries surveyed here.
But how can we tell that the reason for the decline in the mean daily growth rate is truly attributable to governments’ efforts to inhibit transmission, rather than to the gradual acquisition of immunity throughout the population? In the absence of universal testing, we cannot definitively say that it is the lockdowns that are bringing the pandemic painfully and still too slowly under control. It is possible, given that the true number of infections is known to be 10-1000 times greater than those reported, that in some countries a general population immunity is being acquired. However, until universal testing is available, we cannot know that for sure, and it would not be safe for anyone to act on that assumption. We do, however, know that lockdowns – if adhered to – are bound to reduce the rate of transmission.
And that is the purpose of these daily updates: to reveal, day by day, whether and to what extent the lockdowns are working. If the data over the next crucial two or three weeks show that the lockdowns are not working, governments will have to rethink their positions. However, if the lockdowns are working, they will have to be maintained until the exit strategy that I shall now outline is ready.
Why must the lockdowns be maintained? Italy, the first nation to introduce a determined lockdown, and Norway have both reduced their daily case growth rates to about 5%. But if that rate were to persist, in just two weeks they would have twice as many cases as they do today. In the United States, Canada, England and France, the daily case growth rate is still around 15%. If that rate were to persist, case counts would double in only five days.
What, then, should governments’ exit strategy be? The woeful lack of preparedness on the part of most nations is exemplified not only by the useless World Death Organization, whose dismal director is a fawning, soon-to-be-sacked lickspittle lackey of the Chinese Communist regime, which actively and openly campaigned for his nomination to the post, but also by the pandemic preparedness team who were rightly dismissed by Mr Trump two years ago, for they had plainly failed to make the necessary preparations that South Korea, for instance, had had the prudence and foresight to make. What was needed above all, and what is still absent in most countries, is the capacity to test the entire population if necessary.
Three forms of testing are necessary, the first two of them at whole-population scale. The first is an antigen test, which looks for the presence of the pathogen. That test shows whether the subject is currently infected. The second, no less important, is an antibody test, which shows whether the subject, having previously been infected, is now resistant to the pathogen.
The third test, which, like the antibody test, is serological, preferably using the polymerase chain reaction method, is capable of detecting not only whole virions in the blood but also, where a successful method of either boosting the immune system so that it destroys the offending particles or of destroying them chaotropically has been found, the fragments of the destroyed pathogens. This form of serological testing does not need to be done at population scale, though where it is available it yields more precise results than the quick and easy swab tests now being performed. But it is a vital research tool.
The greatest failure of public-health policy on the part of the various quangos expensively maintained to protect us from pandemics lies in the failure of Public Health England, the late U.S. pandemic response team, the World Death Organization et hoc genus omne to ensure that sufficient supplies of reagents, swabs, testing kits, analysis machines and personal protective equipment were available to test the entire population.
Social distancing? Nah!
Yes, maintaining such supplies comes at a cost. But it was not the cost of the U.S. pandemic unpreparedness team that led Mr Trump to sweep them away. It was that they were unprepared. True, it would have been better if he had replaced them with people who had some idea of what they were doing. But if they had done what they had been paid for decades to do, there would by now be warehouses brimful of the necessary stocks.
The first step in the Chinese-virus exit strategy, then, is purely logistical. Mr Johnson should sack the numpties at Public Death England and replace them with generals from the Royal Logistics Corps, who have more competence in finding what is needed and getting it to where it is needed when it is needed than anyone else on the planet. The United States Armed Forces also have wonderful logistics experts, and they are capable of handling problems such as the supply of materiel for testing programs and for personal protection on a wartime scale at a moment’s notice.
Mr Trump has, but has not yet fully used, the power to swing the Armed Forces, and particularly their excellent logistics arm, into full action. Frankly, he should delegate the logistical aspects to them at once. Mr Fauci, who is more than usually competent, can provide the necessary instructions on what is needed, and the Army will saddle up and go and get it.
In all countries currently under lockdown, honest assessments of the necessary manpower and material to test everyone both for antigens and for antibodies, and of the steps necessary to obtain and deploy them, should be drawn up forthwith and published. It has been painful watching the British Government’s spokesmen flannelling helplessly because even after all these weeks they simply have no idea when sufficient testing capacity will be available. By now they ought to know; and, if they want to command continuing support for lockdowns, they should be frank about what is needed and how long it will be before it is available. In a democracy it is better to keep the people informed than to hold out on them.
As soon as the logistics boys from the Armed Forces have sourced enough men and kit to test everyone, everyone should be tested, both for antigens and for antibodies.
Those infected should be isolated, and should not be allowed out even for shopping. Their necessary supplies should be delivered to them by people wearing adequate personal protective equipment. That will ensure that shops, which analysis of mobile-phone movements shows are the current chief meeting place and inferential source of transmission, cease to act more as centers of infection than of supply.
After two weeks, the infected should be tested again, and so on every week thereafter until they are free of infection and have passed the antibody test. All who have been unlucky enough to be infected but lucky enough to recover and show antibodies should be given certificates of immunity, valid for one year only (immunity cannot be relied upon after that), and released from lockdown provided they carry their certificates with them.
Those not yet infected should remain in isolation at home, and should go shopping only once a fortnight at an allocated time, so as to prevent overcrowding at the shops. If necessary, the shops will have to remain open 24 hours a day, with extra manpower provided. All shop workers should be provided with effective personal protective equipment.
Once the prevalence of infection has fallen back below 1% of population, the lockdown can be progressively eased, on the condition that wherever any new case emerges the most vigorous contact-tracing, testing and isolation of carriers is at once carried out in the fashion that South Korea, the paragon of best practice, has so ably demonstrated. Just look at the graph.
How long will all this take? Once the logistics boys get behind the wheel, it will take a lot less long than you might think. It is they, and not the failed public-death bureaucrats or the spectacularly innumerate politicians, who will be able to answer the timescale question.
Bottom line: It is not only possible but straightforward to bring this pandemic under control, at least at national level. The necessary steps are chiefly logistical. Of course the medico-scientific community has a role not only in caring for the sick and dying but also in researching a vaccine. But even in the absence of a vaccine (and we still can’t cure the common cold, so don’t hold your breath for one: it may come soon or it may not), this pandemic can and will be brought to an end. But it will not be brought to an end by the faff and flimflam we have had from our politicians and public-death bureaucrats to date. It will be brought to an end by people who know how to organize their way out of a paper bag. Have courage, then, get yourself some biker gear (it’s all half price at present), and keep safe.