By Christopher Monckton of Brenchley
First, the stupid and the innumerate. Here is a graphic being circulated by the failed far-Left cartoonist John Cook, he of the bogus “97.1% consensus” about global warming, whose own datafile showed he had marked only 0.5% of 11,944 peer-reviewed climate papers published in the 21 years 1991-2011 as saying that recent warming was mostly manmade.
Cook’s Twit account says: “I’ve been applying the critical thinking approach developed for climate misinformation to coronavirus misinformation.” Yeah, right.
Here is Cook’s latest piece of pseudo-statistical prestidigitation, posted recently on his Twit account (h/t the indefatigable Willie Soon, who reads everything and forgets nothing):
For once Cook is telling the truth, though the effect of his graphic, as captioned, is not to correct misinformation but grossly to mislead. The United States is indeed different from the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy or Spain. Its population is a lot larger.
So let us assist Mr Two-Orders-Of-Magnitude-Whoopsie by showing the same graphic corrected for population size. In the United States, deaths per million are the lowest among the five countries selected by Mr Nonsensus.
Chinese-virus confirmed cases and deaths per million population to April 26, 2020
As for the panicky, they fall into two categories: the elderly and infirm, who are afraid that the pandemic will spread uncontrollably and kill millions, and the young and wage-earning, who are afraid of the economic damage that lockdowns will cause. However, as the Book of Proverbs says, a false balance is abomination to the Lord, but a just weight is His delight. To put it another way, do the math, and do it dispassionately.
Doing the math during a pandemic isn’t easy, because the data, particularly in the early stages, are grossly inadequate. One must make the best of what little there is, while allowing for its insufficiency. At the outset, the daily compound rate of growth in confirmed cases is the key indicator. Globally outside China, in the three weeks before Mr Trump declared a national emergency, the case-growth rate was almost 20% a day. The death-growth rate was even higher.
That is why Dr Jerome Kim, director-general of the International Virological Institute, said in an excellent recent interview (h/t Mosher) that the Chinese virus is ten times more infectious than flu and ten times deadlier, and that it is the combination of high infectivity and high mortality that makes it so dangerous.
As the pandemic develops, the key indicator is the daily compound rate of growth or decline in active cases: those reported cases that have neither recovered nor died. Unfortunately, most countries’ capacity to count recovered cases is inadequate, and their methods of counting deaths vary widely.
Therefore, in the active-case graphs published here from now on, it has been assumed that everyone first reported as infected 21 days ago has either recovered or died by now. This 21-day figure is based on Verity et al. (Lancet, 2020), who find that the mean time from first symptoms to death is 17.8 days, and on an analysis of the first cohort of intensive-care cases by the Office for National Statistics.
For those who prefer a shorter period, I have included in the high-definition graphs linked at the end of this post an active-case graph assuming only 14 days from confirmation to closure of a case.
The Health Minister in the UK has admitted that at the outset HM Government had imagined the virus would be no worse than flu. If Ministers and their scientific advisors had kept a weather eye on the case-growth rate, they would have been disabused of that catastrophic notion very early on.
Finally, the virus punishes extremists on both sides of the political divide. It punishes the far Left because anyone with an open mind can see that it is the totalitarianism they espouse that caused this virus to spread worldwide. In the democracies they so hate it would have been notified to the global community within 24 hours, as the International Health Regulations require, and stopped in its tracks.
It punishes the far Right because they tend to put the economy before all things, and to ignore the daily growth rate, and thus not to take a pandemic of this kind seriously until it is far, far too late. Given that growth rate, the models that sought to maintain that the Chinese virus is no worse than the flu were manifestly wrong from the outset. No dispassionate observer should have placed – and still less should now place – any reliance upon them whatsoever.
The United States is a particularly interesting study, because the Left (as is their wont) have been clamouring for lockdowns while the Right (as is their wont) have been clamouring for deregulation. Lockdown policies vary from State to State, with the blue States locking down more actively than the Red States.
The one piece of good news that the advocates of continuing lockdowns have undervalued is the fact that those who are fit and under 60 are not at all likely to die of the virus. Now that it is known that more than nine-tenths of all deaths from the virus are in those over 60, particularly with comorbidities, it is legitimate to argue that for the vast majority of the population the virus will indeed be no worse than the flu.
Particularly since the threat of hospitals becoming overwhelmed has been averted, it is now possible to end lockdowns at once for the under-60s. Let them all go back to work, university or school, starting with those where the risk of infection is smallest, provided that they keep their distance where possible and wear face-masks so that their coughs and sneezes cannot spread the virus: the South Koreans are right about masks, as about much else.
And, now that the population are thoroughly educated in the dangers posed by the virus, let the old and the sick take whatever precautions they deem appropriate to avoid catching the virus. Since the initial data suggest that “herd immunity” may not be possible with this virus, the period of immunity in some cases having proven to be very short, there is no advantage in keeping anyone under indefinite house arrest. Let people decide for themselves how much risk they are willing to take.
In care homes, all staff and visitors should be carefully screened. There should be separate hospitals for Chinese-virus cases, to avoid nosocomial infections and thus to allow the ordinary hospitals to resume treatment of non-virus ailments at once: otherwise, mortality from failure to provide ordinary treatments could become significant.
Very large gatherings, particularly indoors, are best avoided for the time being. One beneficial effect of the Chinese virus is the cancelation of the UN climate gabfest in Glasgow this December.
With these and suchlike precautions, which are not unduly expensive, and with careful monitoring to detect and prevent a second wave such as that which struck the Japanese island of Hokkaido, leading to a second and fiercer lockdown, it should be possible to keep future deaths from the Chinese virus in the developed countries well below those from the annual flu. And keep watching the no-lockdown experiment in Sweden: its greatest test comes in May.
Today’s graphs show all countries’ graphs at a mean compound seven-day-averaged daily growth rate under 2%. It would be wisest to be particularly cautious with phasing out lockdowns in countries where the growth rate remains above zero.
Fig. 1. Mean compound daily growth rates in estimated active 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 April 1 to April 26, 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 8 to April 26, 2020.
And finally …
Why Cook failed as a cartoonist