By Christopher Monckton of Brenchley
It’s déjà vu all over again, and, frankly, nostalgia ain’t what it used to be. On the climate question, the totalitarians told us we must believe, just believe the experts. As a hard-headed British engineer once defined it: “Expert: x, an unknown quantity; spurt, a drip under pressure.” On the Chinese virus, we are told the same.
Pity the governments that have had to attempt to take rational decisions on what to do about the Chinese virus when, as with climate change, the data are inadequate and incompetently kept, the world body nominally in charge is inept, corrupt and – to put it mildly – deferential to totalitarian regimes, and the soi-disant “experts” cannot agree among themselves.
In Britain, it does not help that the Prime Minister, on five occasions at the beginning of this year, failed to prioritize his time in such a way as to take the trouble to attend and chair the weekly intelligence meeting held in Cabinet Office Briefing Room A.
It is these meetings that are intended to be the gathering-place for information garnered by Britain’s various intelligence services around the world, under the aegis of the Prime Minister and the Chief of the Joint Intelligence Committee. Had Mr Johnson attended those meetings, he would perhaps have intervened to do something about the then-alarming daily case-growth rate at least a month earlier than he did.
As it was, he dithered until two weeks after Mr Trump – who was himself late in acting – declared a national emergency. The consequences are now becoming all too apparent. It is possible that Britain has now lost more of her citizens to the Chinese virus than any other country except the United States and China. We don’t know for sure, because a third of all British deaths arise outside hospitals and are thus ingeniously excluded from the Government’s daily counts, though the Office for National Statistics is now publishing a weekly parallel series giving the real numbers.
Among the truly half-witted advice given by the “experts” are three points that deserve urgent correction. Neil Ferguson, the epidemiologist whose model HM Government chiefly heeds, said yesterday that large gatherings are not particularly important for transmitting the virus. On this point, the South Koreans would beg to differ. Their elaborate and determined contact-tracing has shown that the infection first got its boots on at a large church assembly, to whose members many of the first cases in South Korea were traced back.
Secondly, most Western governments, with less recent experience of fatal infections than those in the Far East, have still not quite learned the importance of asking their citizens, when outside their own homes, to wear some form of face-covering.
As South Korea’s chief of public health has bluntly said in a recent interview, homemade face-masks are by no means perfect, but they help a great deal by preventing droplets from coughs and sneezes from traveling well beyond the 6 ft that most countries have adopted as the minimum “social distance”. Even with masks, 16 ft would be better than 6 ft. Without masks, 6 ft is a dangerously inadequate distance.
Mr Trump, in his three-phase plan for bringing the lockdown to an end as soon as it is safe, has gotten the point about do-it-yourself face-coverings. His plan strongly recommends them. HM Government, however, continues to dither on this as on much else. Unlike Mr Trump, it has proven wholly unable of even giving a hint of what an exit strategy from the lockdown might look like, and people are becoming justifiably alarmed that their elected representatives do not trust them.
The worst of all the pieces of bad advice handed down by the “experts” is the idea that the best way to deal with this pandemic is to let as many people as possible get the infection and acquire what they chillingly call “herd immunity”.
As the South Koreans have discovered, it is far from clear for how long the immunity acquired by those who have recovered from the infection will persist. Until that central question is answered, it cannot be safely assumed that population-wide immunity will be rapidly or effectively acquired.
Here are today’s graphs showing the daily compound growth rates in cumulative confirmed cases and in deaths. As always, they are seven-day averages, so as to iron out random fluctuations in the data. Note that it is cumulative cases, and not just new cases, that determine the future rate of transmission.
Fig. 1. Mean compound daily growth rates in cumulative confirmed cases of COVID-19 for the world excluding China (red) and for several individual nations averaged over the successive seven-day periods ending on all dates from March 28 to April 18, 2020.
Fig. 2. Mean compound daily growth rates in cumulative COVID-19 deaths for the world excluding China (red) and for several individual nations averaged over the successive seven-day periods ending on all dates from April 4 to April 18, 2020.#