An influenza test for whether lockdowns work

By Chris Gillham

As one of the audit team for Jo Nova’s blog, I have been looking at the question of whether lockdowns work and their potential suppression of communicable diseases other than COVID-19.

Since the current pandemic only began killing people this year, there is no previous year with which it can be compared. However, lockdowns – to the extent that they work – will work not only against the current COVID-19 infection but also for other viral infections.

Take influenza as an example. The World Health Organization monitors positive and negative influenza notifications from laboratory tests in various countries (https://www.who.int/influenza/gisrs_laboratory/updates/summaryreport/en/), and this seems to be about the only up-to-date data on their website. So we can compare the flu test results in relevant post-lockdown weeks in 2020 with flu results in 2019 to see whether there is a marked difference.

Since the WHO publishes them, it might be assumed that these laboratory test results have some correlation with community influenza numbers in the different countries.

I have selected 17 countries based partly on their population size and prominence over the past few weeks in the COVID-19 crisis, and partly on whether or not they supplied sufficient weekly reports within the timeframe. My analysis starts in week 14 of 2019 and goes to week 18 of 2020, which was at the end of April. Their total influenza test positives can be presented graphically but are constrained by the most recent notifications, the US a laggard with its last notification in week 14 2020.

Fig. 1. Flu samples testing positive in 11 countries from week 14 of 2019 to week 18 of 2020.

Fig. 1 shows flu positives in 11 countries with the most up-to-date data from week 14 of 2019 to week 18 of 2020. The significance of this graph is that normally the worst of the winter flu epidemic is over by week 14.

However, separate figures for excess deaths in weeks 14 to 18 of 2020 compared with the average for the previous five years in Britain and Europe have shown a spike well above the normal excess deaths for those weeks. The likelihood is that most of those excess deaths were caused either by the SARS-COV2 virus itself or by consequences of the lockdowns, such as a sharp reduction in normal surgical interventions.

Compare directly the flu positives for weeks 14-18 of 2020 with the corresponding weeks from 2019. For the same 11 countries, over those five weeks the number of flu positives was just 1,550 in 2020, but it was 12,934 – more than eight times greater – in 2019. That 88% reduction in flu positives is an indication that the lockdowns may be inhibiting the usual transmission of flu:

Fig. 2. Flu positives in 11 countries: weeks 14-18 of 2019 and 2020 compared.

Looking just at week 14, six more countries can be added. Then the 2020 reduction is 90.9%:

Fig. 3. Flu positives in 17 countries: week 14 of 2019 and 2020 compared.

The difference between reported flu positives in 2019 and 2020 becomes still more stark if the analysis is confined to the 14 countries meeting our criteria that have updated their data to week 17 of 2020 (Fig. 4):

Fig. 4. Flu positives in 14 countries: weeks 14-17 of 2019 and 2020 compared.

Here, the reduction in positive laboratory influenza test notifications over the two comparable periods is an impressive 92.6%.

Naturally, there are many confounders. Ideally one would want to average the previous five years’ data for weeks 14-18. And one would want to discover whether under-reporting of flu cases has increased because health personnel are busy coping with the pandemic. Nevertheless, the figures suggest that lockdowns do achieve their primary purpose, which is to reduce the transmission of infections.

As more data become available, it will be possible to make direct comparisons between both cases and deaths from flu and from the new infection. From the point of view of ending lockdowns, the comparison should be age-based because it is possible that for those under 60, and certainly for those under 50, the new infection is less fatal than flu.

It’s worth a closer look at influenza test positive results from several countries:

 AustraliaChinaJapanRussiaSpainUKUSA
Week(s)14-1814-1714-1614-1814-1814-1814
2020296329246749215
20198529250449926154122626903
% fall96.6%99.3%99.6%0.2%95.4%97.8%96.9%

The Russian results are an interesting outlier because Putin didn’t get serious about a lockdown until late March. That is a good indication that lockdowns work well and are the easiest to bring to an end if they are imposed early.

Russia’s flu positives were 537 in week 14, 231 in week 15, 99 in week 16, 47 in week 17 and 10 in week 18, from which I deduce Russia should soon start reporting a reduction in COVID-19 cases.

However, the UK and USA have been criticised for a perceived slow lockdown reaction to COVID-19, and Sweden had a 95.7% reduction in positive influenza test results comparing weeks 14-18 in 2019 and 2020 (1,541 > 67) despite only a partial lockdown.

Ignoring numerous other confounders such as population age and density, these discrepancies suggest some questions might be asked about the efficacy of lockdowns. However, laboratory flu test results from most countries indicate that social isolation has suppressed the spread of communicable diseases other than COVID-19, and this logically is evidence that lockdowns have done the same with the coronavirus itself.

These results cover just over a third of the world’s population from 17 different countries.

Therefore, if positive laboratory influenza tests are a moderately accurate reflection of infection percentages in their broader communities, and if influenza is a common indicator of community infection among the several dozen other communicable diseases, it might be said that the COVID-19 lockdowns have resulted in a ~90% reduction in global infections.

It may prove to be a lower percentage reduction, possibly dependent upon learned social distancing practices after lockdowns are lifted and the spread speed of different diseases, but the WHO influenza evidence suggests lockdowns have public health benefits beyond the targeted COVID-19.

  • I am grateful to Lord Monckton for assistance in preparing the graphs.

166 thoughts on “An influenza test for whether lockdowns work

  1. More likely flu deaths are being reported as coronavirus deaths. The symptoms are similar and the medicos have financial and political incentives to record more deaths from COVID-19.

    • Reginald or anyone …. what are the financial incentives to report a death as Corona virus? I have seen this referenced several times the past few days but don’t know what the incentive actually is or if it actually even exists.

      Thanks in advance.

      • It does exist, and I’m too lazy to look it up. It’s part of the stimulus. When a CV19 patient is treated, either the hospital or the state is reimbursed tens of thousands. Google it. It might be tied to a death. I can’t remember, and reality, those that signed the bill probably don’t know either.

          • doesnt happen in Aus via medicare either
            theres set govt payments for any treatment and anything more charged is usually private hosp/docs charging above the recommended service fee
            if you have private cover that then pays some as well and an excess over both those is patients bill
            for any public hospital tretments free for the majority of people
            its why our nations health is pretty good, people dont get super crook before seeing a doc and treatment early saves lives and money
            our dentals a tad crummy for those who dont have private cover or a job to pay upfront
            govt subsidises some dental work not all
            very few end up losing a home etc to pay a hospital bill, though some superspecialised surgeons might cost a fair whack its still lot less than comparative places I think.
            Charli Teo our super brain surgeon gets 40k or less for a major op the damned hospitals change 60k or so for the theatre beds and nursing. outageous gouging of the most needy

        • Yes it could only happen in countries that don’t have public health system which there is one glaring stand out country.

          • Where is the extra money for “Covid” patients and deaths in US hospitals coming from? Private charity?

      • Does the \NHS get more money in the UK
        Does the free health services of most European countries get more money for COVID-19?

        • No. That is not how public health care works.

          But of course most Americans don’t know that. 😉

        • I think almost everybody has the wrong idea about how this works. In the U.S. most of these hospital expenses are paid for by insurance companies. There are also public hospitals the which of how their expenses are covered I do not really know. In countries with “free”medicare ( I live in Canada), the regional government budgets for health care including compensation to doctors in private practice and the operating costs of hospitals. In my experience, the hospitals are not run very efficiently. They exhibit the nonchalance about cost that is typical of government operations. Additionally, the hospital staff is protected by very strong unions. So the worst of the employees are never dealt with or removed. That is the big problem with single payer systems. If I was building a system I would use the HMO model with the HMO owned co-operatively by its beneficiaries. This would provide a strong incentive to work for excellent care and controlled cost. Just an idea.

          • There are also public hospitals

            LIE!! There are only corporate slaughterhouses that kill grandma and send you a million dollar bill that bankrupts your whole family!!!

      • There is a significant financial incentive for hospitals to increase the number of covid19 patients, and a HUGH financial payment if the Covid 19 patient is put on a respirator.
        It’s easy to see why so many people are dying in New York from Covid 19.

      • In Sweden deaths are reported as laboratory verified covid19 deaths AND deaths caused by flu like symptoms that are reported by doctors as assumed covid19 cases but that are not laboratory verified covid19 cases.
        Most certainly some of those unverified deaths are serious regular flu cases.
        We wont know how much the bias is until we know the relationship between reported assumed/unverified deaths by flu and reported assumed/unverified deaths by covid19.

      • In the US the feds are giving 3 to 4 times the medicare funds for cov2 on the death certificate.

      • In the US there’s a 2.6-fold increased financial incentive to diagnose Medicare patients with covid-1984, and an almost 8-fold increased incentive to intubate them (also intubated patients require much less work). Intubation increases patients’ risk of death dramatically.

        [Dr.] Jensen said, “Hospital administrators might well want to see COVID-19 attached to a discharge summary or a death certificate. Why? Because if it’s a straightforward, garden-variety pneumonia that a person is admitted to the hospital for – if they’re Medicare – typically, the diagnosis-related group lump sum payment would be $5,000. But if it’s COVID-19 pneumonia, then it’s $13,000, and if that COVID-19 pneumonia patient ends up on a ventilator, it goes up to $39,000.

        Fact check: Hospitals get paid more if patients listed as COVID-19, on ventilators
        https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/factcheck/2020/04/24/fact-check-medicare-hospitals-paid-more-covid-19-patients-coronavirus/3000638001/

      • Surely you jest – with all the American / Canadian bailout packages – lost-wages-stipends, business loss of revenue ‘programs’ and you question financial incentives. Muddy the flu deaths by calling them covid deaths gives the imprimatur that this covid pandemic is of historic proportions and as such requiring historic financial remedies.

    • Reginald……

      That would certainly be my immediate suspicion and will remain so until the data price otherwise!

        • Yes, there are many countries which, for lack of availability of test kits ended up diagnosing from symptoms. At this point all sorts of biases of attitude and financial come into play. Pneumonia fatalities also took a dive this year, suggesting selective reporting favouring COVID attribution.

          The idea of the article is interesting but there is no reason why last years flu season should be regarded as a base for comparison or that this year can be expected to be similar to whatever reference you chose.

          Flu stats vary enormously from year to year. Neither is there a typical timing or duration of the flu season. Some years are short and sharp , others protracted.

          I really don’t see any logical way to predict what 2020 flu “should” look like , though the cut off does seem to be unusually rapid this year.

          • “I really don’t see any logical way to predict what 2020 flu “should” look like , though the cut off does seem to be unusually rapid this year.”

            That would be the thing to do: a slope analysis of previous flu years about the rate of decline. If 2020 is an outlier in this regard compared to other years the probability is high it is because of the lockdowns/hygiene enforcement/social distancing.

          • “The idea of the article is interesting but there is no reason why last years flu season should be regarded as a base for comparison or that this year can be expected to be similar to whatever reference you chose.”

            Yes, that’s the problem I would have with this study. The comparisons might be between two different flu strains.

          • I’ll continue to repost these two interactive graphs which I have linked before. Following the NIH guidance to report deaths from any influenza-like illness in whose coronavirus is suspected AS coronavirus, it appears that actual cause of death is not getting any clearer. Thanks to icisil and others above for solidifying as fact the already-obvious suspicion that CV cases are getting more money.

            Laboratory-Confirmed COVID-19-Associated Hospitalizations (Rate per 100,000 population): 40.4
            https://gis.cdc.gov/grasp/covidnet/COVID19_3.html

            Laboratory-Confirmed Flu Hospitalization (Rate per 100,000, for Nov-May 2019-20 Flu season): 69
            https://gis.cdc.gov/GRASP/Fluview/FluHospRates.html

            These are interactive graphs. Click on “overall” to get the total of Influenza or CV growth per 100,000 population who are checking into hospitals with confirmed cases of one or the other.

            This is the best representation I’ve found to disaggregate flu and CV cases because they make a laboratory confirmation of the patients’ disease upon admission, not after the patient has been lying in a hospital bed exposed to the other as a secondary infection.

            Flu season reached its peak rate of infections in week 11 and remained at that level to the end of flu season, 6 weeks later, at 69. Covid cases rates are still rising but slowing, and the overall rate of cases per 100,00 is only 50.3; it is unlikely, unless there is a huge spike this summer, that the rate of Covid hospitalizations will ever rise to the same numbers as flu, especially given the growing, unseen herd immunity.

            This data can be read different ways, but I would argue that it reflects both infectivity as well as deadliness of the two diseases. People can draw their own inferences. What is starkly evident, however, is in the near mirror-image spread across age groups. If the viewer clicks all age groups, it is easy to see that that inverse relationship. Flu infects and hospitalizes the very young. Covid-19 affects the elderly most profoundly.

          • Influenza cases and statistics are NOT being underreported for this flu season.

            The flu season roughly follows the public school year, beginning in September and petering out into April. There’s been no crash in numbers. By comparison with the last five years, this year’s flu killed more, resulted in more hospital visits and lasted longer than all but the 2017-18 flu pandemic which took about 80,000.

            The link above shows a graph of the flu season’s rate per capita. The overall nunber of hospitalizations is significantly higher than Covid’s hospital admissions rate as of May.

            https://www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly/index.htm See graph of Ilinet (influenza-like illnesses)

        • I suggest looking at the ” excess deaths” IE, deaths above normal to have a good idea about this. All other statistics appear to be manipulated every which way. JoNova had a good post on the flu statistics as well

          It is only common sense that the defensive protocols used for Cov19 work for reducing transmission of all communicable viruses. It is also very legitimate to question if it is worth the cost of a broken economy.

    • In the UK it is clear many “deaths” are being g reported as COVID when they are simply deaths. An obvious example is 300 COVUD deaths in hospices – theses were already terminal patients, hence the hospice. And total deaths in hospices are exactly average. Same in care homes – CIVUD makes you seriously ill if it’s going to kill you but quite slowly. So you have time to be hospitalised. So why are these thousands of people dying in their beds in care homes?

      UK numbers are 25-30% higher at least than actual.

      • As a guide we locked Australia down for under 100 deaths so for UK that would be a padding of 99.7% with only 0.3% real. It probably seems nuts to you but the majority are happy with the choice. You can what the polling says because there is no noise from the opposition.

        So are the UK numbers padded by more than 99.7% ?

        At the end of the day it comes down to the value placed on a life, likely elderly but none the less a life. There is no one answer and the population in each country will put a different value.

        I have friends who hate the lock down, and others who think it was the right choice and that is fine.

    • Unless a flu case is severe, one is unlikely to seek treatment just like many other minor health treatments being avoided or delayed. Many health clinics, offices and hospitals are seeing record low rates of all kind of treatments. This of course artificially deflates flu case statistics .

    • “laboratory flu test results from most countries indicate that social isolation has suppressed the spread of communicable diseases other than COVID-19, and this logically is evidence that lockdowns have done the same with the coronavirus itself.”

      Of course, complete isolation would slow the spread of anything, including a proper perspective.

      Is becoming a voluntary prisoner or hermit for an indefinite period of time worth the damage to the other parts of your life? How many people would agree to being locked up for life while giving up their quality of life? Are we suddenly a nation or world of afeared people, shuddering every time someone coughs or sneezes?

      “Get a life!” is a proper comment, as life is dangerous from the get-go. Once you are born, you are indeed going to die. We should all stay home and in bed because getting out of bed has risks and, oh, so does staying in bed. It’s more fun to take risks while having a life than pretending to avoid risks by having no life.

      Regarding the decrease in reported flu positive tests, it might also be worth y to condor that many flu cases were reported as C-19 cases, to up the numbers. With the reality that a lockdown still requires people to go to the grocery store, drug store, and even gas station it is clear that the flu season viruses will get around.

      It is also spurious to compare last year’s flu with this year’s flu as they are different flus. It a nonstarter. The best one could say is that either the lockdown had an effect, this year’s flu was not as virulent as last year, or there was a propensity to label many cases C-19 just based on presumption, which is a real thing in reporting of deaths.

      • Charles Higley
        May 12, 2020 at 11:07 am

        Life is not kind at all to all the dead, even to the dead that still breathing and pretending to be alive.

        cheers

    • Or, is it also that the testing for the flu almost ceased with the test for the Covid-19? Does the WHO data include the number of tests performed?

      Initially, you could only get tested for Covid if you had symptoms. From the beginning here in Massachusetts, only 20 to 30 percent of those tested here were positive for covid. I cannot remember hearing anything about being tested for the flu once you had been found negative for the covid. If true, then up to 70% of those folks tested with symptoms could have had the flu and went unreported.

    • Such incentives exist only in the US and cannot explain the data in other countries.

  2. The flu pandemic of 2017-18 carried off so many vulnerable elderly that fatalities for the next season, ie 2018-19 were anomalously low. Please rerun using average flu season data or compare to high mortality flu years.

    • john

      yes the flu pandemics of 2014 and 2017 took off many vulnerable people and 2018/19 was very light. So the author needs to compare like for like

      An effective emerging lockdown in the UK was in place from early February by the public if not in law ,as I note from my diary as to how our interactions changed with an increasing reluctance to go to coffee shops, restaurants, entertainment venues and even meetings of small numbers.

      By law in the UK the lockdown occurred on March 25th but the effective lockdown was weeks earlier-the last week of February or so- and demonstrates the official lockdown was counter productive in physically incarcerating people in their homes to re-infect everyone rather than-as in the unofficial lockdown-people were spending time outside-by far the safest place to be.

      tonyb

      • “yes the flu pandemics of 2014 and 2017 took off many vulnerable people and 2018/19 was very light. So the author needs to compare like for like”.

        Unlikely. There are way too much vulnerable people that could compensate for that. Could be just less effective flu vaccine/better spread etc.

        And because there are way too much vulnerable people that could compensate for that we what happens if they get really infected what doesn’t happen with flu cause the R0 is only 1.3.

    • That would make Gilham’s point even more strongly, right? If there were 5x (to pull a number out of my mask) fewer 2020 flu deaths than 2019 flu deaths, and there were 4x fewer 2019 flu deaths than in 2018, then there are 5*4=20x fewer flu deaths this year than in a “normal” year.

  3. Top work, Chris.
    You have noted confounding variables, but even so the naive reduction of other diseases by lockdown is rather strong evidence that Wuhan virus cases have also been reduced big time. Anyone still wants to argue? Geoff S

    • Geoff Sherrington May 11, 2020 at 10:33 pm
      Top work, Chris.
      You have noted confounding variables, but even so the naive reduction of other diseases by lockdown is rather strong evidence that Wuhan virus cases have also been reduced big time.
      —————–
      But what about COVID 19 cases?

    • Geoff
      The success of the different type of lockdowns is only part of issue.
      The cost benefit of the lockdown is far more important.
      Very simple calculation ( numbers are guess)
      US GDP per capita = $62,000
      Years lost due to COVID = 10 years
      Cost per death $620,000
      Lives saved by lockdown 100,000
      Cost of lockdown $3 trillion
      Or $30m per life saved or cost benefit ratio of 0.02
      ABSOLUTELY SHOCKING WASTE
      CF insecticide treated mosquito nets cost about $20 per under 5 life saved

      • The benefits of public policy are lives saved from COVID. The relevant costs are not measured in dollars, but in lives lost from other causes. Suicides, drug overdoses, serious alcohol abuse, domestic violence, normal medical care deferred or denied…. Hard to put numbers on these factors, but I suspect they are substantial. Consideration of these factors can guide decision making without attempting to assign a dollar value to a human life.

        • Juan agreed.
          Cost can be measured in many ways.
          But in determining one government policy over another $ is often used.
          It is definitely used for comparing treatment options for different illness.

          Example -free breast screening for woman 50 to 70 every two years is highly cost effective but screening for women under 50 is very helpful but not cost effective.
          Lockdown is not cost effective.

      • ABSOLUTELY SHOCKING COMPARISON: human lives vs. $. By that standard, we should encourage all retired people to die off, since they’re no longer contributing to the GDP. Euthanasia.

        • That’s exactly how it must be done.
          But is mainly used for comparing treatment and prevention options.

  4. “because Putin didn’t get serious about a lockdown until late March”

    Putin imposed a lockdown? How?

  5. Lock down has also had a remarkable success in decreasing the number of cancers reported…….. for now. Numbers reported does not equal number infected.

    • Very good comment, thank you Paul.

      Unless there is true random testing, which there rarely is, testing drives the number of infections of the tested sample, and does not represent the total population.

    • In my hospital where I work there is a decline of about 60% of cancer patients being treated in April/May compared to the same period last year. Of course, statistically, the number of people getting cancer has not decreased. They most likely delayed their treatment/diagnosis to avoid the perceived treat of the covid-19 infection. The conclusion drawn by the author from comparing influenza cases may not be entirely correct.

      • I would agree with that. I had to kick and scream at the VA to get my annual chest x-ray due to being latent TB positive. When they did authorize it, a small previously undetected spot showed up. A CT scan is recommended to further investigate this but is on hold do to it being considered a non-emergency procedure during the COVID-19 restrictions.

      • Many people don’t have cancer, they have cancerous cells found by screening. They may not even need any treatment.

    • paul, do you have a link to the number of cancer deaths per month? It would be interesting to see whether or not cancer deaths took a sharp decline in April 2020.

  6. “Nevertheless, the figures suggest that lockdowns do achieve their primary purpose, which is to reduce the transmission of infections- Chris Gillham”

    No!

    The logical conclusion is that the COVID-19 figures have been conflated with the influenza numbers! Which has been openly admitted by officials in the US, NYC and particularly in nursing homes around the world (Where flu mortality numbers are routinely masked along with other co-morbidities by the assumed cause; COVID-19).

    And lockdown is the worst thing for influenza (as apposed to corona viruses) because they are easily spread by simple respiration – breathed in while out shopping for example – and they thrive and become more virulent in warm enclosed domestic spaces, where everyone in the same household is 100 % assured of infection. This not the case for corona viruses which are harder to get, relying as they do, on direct contact or the more remote physical contact or inhalation of airborne droplets!

    • Scott W Bennett May 11, 2020 at 10:55 pm
      “Nevertheless, the figures suggest that lockdowns do achieve their primary purpose, which is to reduce the transmission of infections- Chris Gillham”
      No!
      The logical conclusion is that the COVID-19 figures have been conflated with the influenza numbers! …

      And lockdown is the worst thing for influenza (as apposed to corona viruses) because they are easily spread by simple respiration – breathed in while out shopping for example – and they thrive and become more virulent in warm enclosed domestic spaces, where everyone in the same household is 100 % assured of infection. This not the case for corona viruses which are harder to get, relying as they do, on direct contact or the more remote physical contact or inhalation of airborne droplets!
      ——
      Have you studied COVID-19 or are you looking at chicom virus or Wuhan virus or perhaps you are looking at the spread of Wuhan Wet Market Bat Pangolin Civet Cat Allowed By The Chinese Communist People’s Army Virus?
      seems as airborne as flue to me:
      4. What is the mode of transmission? How (easily) does it spread?
      While animals are believed to be the original source, the virus spread is now from person to person (human-to-human transmission). There is not enough epidemiological information at this time to determine how easily this virus spreads between people, but it is currently estimated that, on average, one infected person will infect between two and three other people.
      The virus seems to be transmitted mainly via small respiratory droplets through sneezing, coughing, or when people interact with each other for some time in close proximity (usually less than one metre). These droplets can then be inhaled, or they can land on surfaces that others may come into contact with, who can then get infected when they touch their nose, mouth or eyes. The virus can survive on different surfaces from several hours (copper, cardboard) up to a few days (plastic and stainless steel). However, the amount of viable virus declines over time and may not always be present in sufficient numbers to cause infection.
      The incubation period for COVID-19 (i.e. the time between exposure to the virus and onset of symptoms) is currently estimated to be between one and 14 days.
      We know that the virus can be transmitted when people who are infected show symptoms such as coughing. There is also some evidence suggesting that transmission can occur from a person that is infected even two days before showing symptoms; however, uncertainties remain about the effect of transmission by asymptomatic persons.

          • Ghalfrunt
            On both cruise and military ships, a lot get covid but not everybody.
            On the same ships old die way more than young.
            This is also consistent in aged care facilities.
            The above pattern occurs over and over again.
            It will be important to understand the virus in more detail but the basics are obvious.

        • Charles Higley
          May 12, 2020 at 11:07 am

          The guy simply stating that he is a worshiper of the ideology of
          “the place too crowded and too many of us around”

          A kinda of fully engaged activist in a “slaughter house” world.
          Technically claiming and telling ya that lock downs work wonders with seasonal flu…
          so must be implemented, as a must do, every other season and any other year.
          Plain insanity in steroids… malevolence of/at the highest level ever imagined.

          Dishonesty, is a far too kind word for such as insanity and plain ugliness.

          cheers

          • Sorry, correction for clarity.

            My above comment addressed to:
            Derg
            May 12, 2020 at 3:09 am

            cheers

  7. Question – where did you get the wheels you fitted to your goalposts from? They are smooth and seem to be easy to use.

    From Chris’s opening paragraph;

    “I have been looking at the question of whether lockdowns work…”

    Sorry but this stinks of retrospective objective creation in an attempt to justify your actions. That is not how the game works. I put to you that while Your Country May Vary, there was never an objective for the lockdowns. Instead they exist because the political class needed to be seen to be doing something in time for the 6 oclock new bulletin.

    If you did not define the objective of your actions you have no method of defining success. Retrospectively doing analysis into auxiliary achievements does not define success. If defines the results which may, possibly, then allow you to make arguments towards claiming they were a force for good or evil.

    Example? Investigation into the sinking of the Titanic resulted into significant improvements in marine safety. However the original object of the Titanic was to arrive in America.

    Too extreme? Okay, we may discover that lockdowns has lead to a spike in childbirths, successfully increasing the population and bringing joy and happiness to parents across the planet. Or nappies and sleepless nights. Either/Or.

    However since the objective of the lockdowns was never defined as a human fertility amplifier this is simply an observation, not a measure of success.

    The implication has always been that lockdowns are to protect… stuff… the NHS probably although Your Nation May Vary. The important question is not what else can we find to puff out our report card, but were the lockdowns Reasonable Practical solutions to the presented risk. Remember this is the real world, not a text book. The real world works with Risk Reduction based around As Far As Is Reasonable Practical.

    You may wish to claim that reducing the amount of people risking exposure to flu was actually a Reasonable Practical action well justified against the millions now out of work, but remember even King of the Graphics, CMoB, has admitted lockdowns have been causing suicides and as a result I may wish to passionately disagree with you.

    • “there was never an objective for the lockdowns.”
      Yes, there was. The objective was not to have the news of hospitals turning away seriously ill people, as they had no beds to put them in.

        • Dearg are you living on the same planet?
          the lockdowns were to lower the peak so hospitals were not overloaded. NY built overflow units and had hospital ships on standby. (Not sure these were well used)

          Were the lower figures due to isolation or herd immunity? difficult to say now

          • ghalfrunt,

            Google “hospital staff reductions” if you are seriously skeptical. If you are not, “sarc” tags would be useful.

            One headline: 255 hospitals furloughing workers in response to COVID-19

          • Bill Parsons May 12, 2020 at 6:28 pm

            255 hospitals furloughing workers in response to COVID-19
            https://www.beckershospitalreview.com › finance › 49-hospitals-furloughi…

            7 Apr 2020 – Many U.S. hospitals and health systems have suspended elective procedures to save capacity, supplies and staff to treat COVID-19 patients.

  8. That radical lock-downs limit the spread of communicable diseases is hardly surprising, as with the radical CC™ prescriptions it comes down to costs vs benefits.
    However it does confirm the advice in the flu season that in most cases of infection it’s best not to ‘soldier-on’ but stay at home until completely recovered.

  9. You don’t have to go to great lengths to figure this out. Is there any positive correlation between lockdown and suppression? No. Some cities, states and countries locked down, and had more problems than some that didn’t lockdown. Many areas are no longer locked down, and we aren’t seeing spikes in cases in those areas. In reality though, it was a half-assed lock down. Many were still going to work. I could still walk into a Chipotle and take food out, contract or spread it, then go to Home Depot and contract or spread it, then to the grocery store… Then spread it to my family who took it out the door.

    Get my point?

  10. The bigger question still remains. Will a reduction in transmission of the flu now assuming it is true translate into an overall yearly reduction or does it just delay the inevitable and those that would have gotten it now just get it in a few months anyway.
    There must be a much better measure of success than the headline death counts.

    • The best guess is you need 60% to 80% infected to get herd immunity.
      Slowing transmission is not the right objective.
      Gambling on a vaccine or super treatment kills because a bad economy kills. In much in the world if you do not work, you rapidly have nothing to eat. In the USA you probably will lose your health cover. Most deaths are not COV. Cancer and heart and weight problems are not being treated. So slower transmission not mean lower overall deaths, if you include non COV deaths.

  11. In France, there’s a simple algorithm which calculates each year’s influenza deaths : it is 70% of the excess deaths for the months that the virus is active. This is the way the Santé publique France announced 13,000 deaths for the season 17-18 and 14,000 for 16-17, as the excess deaths were around 18,000 and 21,000 respectively for these years’ influenza’s active monts.

    Excess deaths for march+april of this year are 16,273 according to the INSEE (the French statistics bureau).
    If we keep the same proportion of 70% we get 11,391 deaths from the main epidemic (which happens to be covid-19).
    Meanwhile, the number of COVID-19 deaths reported end of april for France (to WHO) is 24,374.
    That is, 168% of the excess deaths!

    There’s something clearly strange going on here. These figures do not match.

    I wonder how’s the situation in other countries.

    • Absolutely in the UK. Most if not all care homes deaths are simply people who have tested positive dying of other things. A percentage of hospital deaths the same.

    • A few years ago, Libération wrote about the flu:

      – last year was pretty bad in term of death
      – there was 86 victims of the flu (or was it 68?)

      That was from official data. A bad year is <100 confirmed victims in France.

  12. Personally I would take any health statistics from China and Russia with a shovel full of salt.

  13. I am afraid that this kind comparison may be meaningless without reviewing COVID-19 pathogenicity.

    1) There are two research papers which analyzed Wuhan data, both of which suggest much lower infection fatality ratio between 0,04% and 0,12% and 0.657%, respectively.
    Also, both South Korean and Russian field statistics indicate 0.04% mortality ratio against the total number of tests conducted.
    2) The one situation where an entire, closed population was tested was the Diamond Princess cruise ship and its quarantine passengers. The case fatality rate there was 1.0%, but this was a largely elderly population, in which the death rate from Covid-19 is much higher. Projecting the Diamond Princess mortality rate onto the age structure of the U.S. population, the death rate among people infected with Covid-19 would be 0.125%. …reasonable estimates for the case fatality ratio in the general U.S. population vary from 0.05% to 1%.
    3)People not only in the US but in any country in the world have multiple viruses among A(H1N1)pdm09, A(H3) , B(Victoria) and B(Yamagata), with which CDC made the death estimate between 24,000 and 62,000 for 2019-2020 flu season. Did COVID-19 eradicate four previously existing viruses? It did not because viruses are coexistent. Which virus caused the death?
    4) There are at least 16 RNA base sequences registered as COVID-19. Which is the original base sequence?

    Lastly, any virus transmits airborne and its concentration in the air to inhale does matter. Lock down can’t prevent airborne infection and that is why pathogenicity must be discussed in the first place.

    • There are two supertypes of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, in addition the sub-mutations. The Asian type is not as bad. Guess which type is mostly in Asia.

  14. Here’s what a chart of the US flu data looks like with the 2020, 2019 and 2018 (the most recent bad flu year) overlaid:
    https://ibb.co/R2mwSM2

    I’m periodically downloading data from the CDC and charting it myself so I can focus down on particular death causes and also reconcile the confusing multiple sources it takes to come up with a reasonable view of SARS-2 “progress”. The number in parens in the key are the totals under each line.

    The 2018 flu peak just after New Year’s is clearly visible and it’s interesting that the 2020 flu numbers are drifting up into week 14 which is the last reasonable data to date.

    I’m not sure your week 14-18 numbers are really valid yet based on this US view?

    Here is my current overview chart including 2020 current (including a merge of data from their Covid data page which only shows 49K deaths to date!) and recent data with a compare to the 2018 flu peak and a separate breakout that deaths by other causes like accidents fell at least at the start of the lockdowns:
    https://ibb.co/R073QF5

  15. I think we all know that a person locked in a sterile environment with no outside contact will be unable to contract a communicable disease. So we don’t need any other data, clearly lockdowns do work. The real questions are more about how much and how long? Do the poorly administered, unequally applied and haphazardly designed lockdowns we’ve been living under really do any good? I find the above interesting and I applaud the effort. I just don’t know if the ‘confounders’ are overwhelming the data signal.

  16. I was wondering how many Flu deaths there have been this year. I’ve had a few bets that Flu deaths will be directly inverted to Covid 19 deaths. Based on yearly averages.
    It’s not a difficult stretch of the imagination to say that people have been dying from Flu and it’s been marked as covid19.
    Also, I think YouTube and other social media outlets have been doing a great job at removing information which highlights this fact. Ie doctors telling the truth.
    Reminds me of the Hyper-normalisation documentary. By design, People are being confused and don’t know what the truth is anymore. Classic devide and conquer tactics.

    • odd they omitted feb march last yr as thats when the flu hit early nsaty last yr
      apart from cleaner hands and the social distance thing
      kids! have been locked up too
      and theyre the utter complete little germ factories sharing and givingit to parents who then spread it all over
      the helpful supply of alcohol wipes for supermarket trolleys started before covid even hit has been a big part of keeping colds n flu spread down too I reckon.

  17. when a salesman only calculates the benefits and ignores the cost he is selling BS … and until you or Mockton makes a serious attempt to quantify the human costs in health of your lockdowns I will continue to treat you and him like any other shady used car salesman and assume you are selling snakeoil … I don’t care what your numbers say … you are ignoring the other side of the coin and that is a tell that your are blowing smoke …

    • So his major sin dark lord is that he didn’t volunteer more of his time to answer every question you have? I understand lying by omission and so on but you seem to have set the bar really high here – only complete analysis from all angles will be accepted? Can one not focus on one facet of a problem as a contribution to the discussion? I actually prefer these types of posts from which I can then evaluate the arguments presented by a range of contributors and connect the dots myself!

  18. The substantial reduction in UK upper respiratory tract infections happened BEFORE lockdown, probably because of simple social measures.

    There is also always a sharp (often total) reduction in flu as the winter ends.

  19. In the UK the winter 2017/18 had a high death rate due to Flu, it was only well into the UK lockdown did 2020 total deaths exceed 2018. 2018/19 had a low excess winter death rate, two reasons in my opinion, a more effective Vaccine with better uptake and cull of vulnerable people the year before. I think there was a similar two year cycle earlier this millenium.
    So is this a true like for like comparison

    One question can you have CV19 and Flu at the same time or close together??

  20. If the reported excess death rate in care homes is due to Corvid 19 and is correct, wouldn’t that be reflected in the infection rates of staff?

    • Who’s measuring Covid-19 positive tests, amongst care home staff?, The residents have been discharged from hospital, with the disease, carrying it into the care home.

    • Yes….”28 of the home’s 34 residents and 26 of its 52 staff had tested positive.”

      https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-52523834

      The Isle of Skye was clear of any cases until 2 weeks ago, now 6 residents have tragically died.
      “A spokesman said: “We don’t know the source of the outbreak. I don’t think that is something that can be known since the virus can be entirely symptomless in some people.”

      https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-52631708

      I wonder how many deaths the UK/World would have had if there had not been any lockdown ?
      Quite a number of contributors on WUWT appear to be looking at the deaths as an acceptable risk in favor of keeping society ‘open’. I wonder if they are also happy to take a gamble on one their relatives not becoming part of that acceptable risk.

      • My husband has controlled heart failure = high risk. We are always extra careful during flu season. This is an individual responsibility. OTH, the effects of the lockdown on our 3 children are pretty devastating. About 2 weeks into the lockdown here the fact that age of deaths in Italy was 79.5 became apparent. At that time it was obvious that protecting the elderly was more important than putting a large proportion of the country out of work.

        People are irrational regarding the deaths of their relatives. Eg, still angry years later when an infection was treated late in a woman too violent in her dementia to be cared for at home. My mum was gone years before she actually died, and by the time she did (after multiple treatments for pneumonia over the last few years) it was a relief. If someone is not prepared to care for their ‘loved one’ at home, then I am skeptical as to whether the grief and anger on a care home death is actually real.

  21. An earlier topic here was about Oak Ridge Natl Lab . Given its origin in the Manhatten project I had assumed, in my off-shore ignorance, that people like Obama would have banished it into history , but it seems to be thriving. One Google reference has it engaged in a major pandemic modelling exercise with other institutions :
    https://twitter.com/ORNL/status/1259843336845889540/photo/1
    Something to keep an eye on perhaps.

  22. If you change the word ‘lockdown’ to ‘isolate’, then the answer to ‘do lockdowns work’ answers itself. We have been using the isolation of both infected and not-infected to prevent the spread of communicable diseases for a long time. The consideration in 2020 is whether the vast lockdowns are justified in response to this virus or not. Is this virus particularly life-threatening? Is it more infectious than other viruses? We know roughly the answers to those questions, and those who do know the answers by and large don’t support the imposition of vast lockdowns. They are simply too onerous in their consequences to be justified, given the threat.

    • “We know roughly the answers to those questions,”

      Yes, we know those answers now, but that knowledge cannot be used to condemn the lockdown because at the time of the lockdown we did not have that knowledge. The Wuhan virus could have been highly infectious and as lethal as Ebola, for all we knew at the time.

      Now that we understand the virus better, we can begin to open up our economies and we will learn just how problematic the Wuhan virus is, or is not, and we will learn how to deal with it.

      It looks to me like we basically made the right moves. We lockdown for a short period of time, and we have taken the measure of the virus, and now we are starting to get our economies moving again and we are doing so soon enough that we will avoid serious damage to the U.S. economy.

      The U.S. economy consists mostly of internal trading between states and individuals and accounts for 75 percent of U.S. GDP. Of the other 25 percent, about half of that is generated in trade between the U.S. and Canada and Mexico. The rest is generated from other international trade. The U.S. doesn’t need China in order for the U.S. to flourish.

      The demand in the U.S. economy three months ago has not gone away so as soon as the economy gets rolling that demand will drive it. And on top of that, there are now Trillions of dollars of stimulus in the system, so the U.S. should boom once we get over our fears of the virus. We’re dipping out toes in the water right now.

      Other nations around the world, especially the poor nations, will not fair as well as the U.S. It remains to be seen how they will do, but many of them don’t have the social safety net the U.S. and other Western nations provide their citizens and so they will have a much tougher time getting back on their feet. They should send the bill for the hit to their economy to China’s leaders.

  23. @Chris. You cannot draw that conclusion.
    Influenza usually peaks in february and has almost fully waned by april in the northern hemisphere (see e.g. figure 1 at https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/67/wr/mm6722a4.htm?s_cid=mm6722a4_w).
    Just to complicate matters, if you study this waxing and waning pattern in different age groups, you will notice that it wanes differently in the 65+ Group (see e.g. figure 6 at https://www.folkhalsomyndigheten.se/publicerat-material/publikationsarkiv/i/influenza-in-sweden/?pub=63511).
    In Sweden that has been pretty obvious as we have not had any lockdowns and flu has waned regardless and as expected.
    You may also check https://euromomo.eu/graphs-and-maps/ and notice that a similar pattern recurs in wintertime excess deaths regardless of lockdowns, social distancing etc. My guess is that natural processes, that we humans cannot affect much, are at play here.

  24. There are plenty of comments as to why these figures may be misleading as to why this type of analysis gives a impression that the lockdowns were a successful strategy. Because the coronavirus deaths have been so skewed towards the elderly and sick the lockdowns and spread of the virus through aged care facilities has probably produced thousands if not tens of thousands of premature deaths. In effect coronavirus has brought forward deaths that would’ve occurred over the next one to two years, and quite possibly from influenza. The influenza numbers should be less because the corona virus has killed the vulnerable instead. Literally the influenza has been reduced because the victims were already dead.Whether lockdowns work can be only reviewed by looking at future death rates not compared to past death rates and smoothed out over a three to five year period. The reality is that people can’t die twice so allocating people as victims of corona are the same people who would’ve been victims of next / this years flu.
    I have no doubts in particular baring in mind the economic carnage caused to global economies that the tough lockdowns were exactly the wrong strategy economically and healthwise with total deaths over the 2020-2023 period likely to tally not much less or more than expected but potentially boosted not by the virus but by collateral deaths that could’ve been avoided such as those that didn’t get hospital care for normal conditions because of fear of going to hospitals and doctors as well as suicide caused by the economic crisis.
    I think a proper review of this virus will conclude that lockdowns in the future is not the appropriate response for future pandemics.

  25. “I am grateful to Lord Monckton for preparation of these graphs”

    I am not a statistician however one of the first text books handed to one at the start of an Open University course in the latter part of the ’70’s (which I didn’t complete), was G>L> Huff’s how to lie with statistics.

    His Lordship has been at the crayons again. It’s as if this has been prepared for a less literate and numerically astute audience and uses visual methods that are propaganda at it’s most base. Why are the colours transposed for the figures. In that the purpose of the graph and it’s title are in opposition to the statement of the graph so the less numerate take away an impression of the graph that is simply untrue.

    Seems his Lordship can’t leave his propaganda roots behind even for a literate audience.

    • David Hartley says: “I am not a statistician however…” and then concludes: “Seems his Lordship can’t leave his propaganda roots behind even for a literate audience.” And we are supposed to believe and accept David’s OPINION?

      Not I!

      • It was about psychology and the use of visuals to muddy a picture not the statistics themselves. Many who are have taken the Graphs and conclusions to pieces in this comment section, I just had to leave it to them. It is not the first criticism of his Lordship I may add.

  26. We’ve got no idea about the quality of the data, especially with the WHO and politics involved, and especially in the distracting CV19 obsessed period.

    “That 88% reduction in flu positives is an indication that the lockdowns may be inhibiting the usual transmission of flu:”

    Certainly in the UK, the flu season was already on the way out in January – the European winter was very mild.

    https://www.gov.uk/government/news/uk-flu-levels-according-to-phe-statistics-2019-to-2020

    Yes, there are too many compounding factors and data questions to make any conclusion about anything.

    All this speculation and counter speculation just goes in circles. It avoids the issue, we have CV19, there is no way out until it has run its course. On the balance of probabilities disrupting it is futile and far too counter-productive/damaging.

  27. OK, I give up. just exactly where are you getting your data? You say:

    Take influenza as an example. The World Health Organization monitors positive and negative influenza notifications from laboratory tests in various countries (https://www.who.int/influenza/gisrs_laboratory/updates/summaryreport/en/), and this seems to be about the only up-to-date data on their website. So we can compare the flu test results in relevant post-lockdown weeks in 2020 with flu results in 2019 to see whether there is a marked difference.

    I went there but I couldn’t find anything but the most recent data. No previous year’s data.

    You seem to think this is a climate alarmist site where data doesn’t count. It’s not. Please provide a link to the exact data AS USED.

    w.

    • Seriously? No answer? Well, I’ll ask again more slowly.

      Where. Did. You. Get. Your. Data???

      w.

      • Hi Willis. It may be sleep time in OZ. On the link you referenced, at the bottom of the graph in very fine letters is a source link. It goes to (https://www.who.int/influenza/gisrs_laboratory/flunet/en/).
        On that page under the heading ‘FluNet functions’ the first link appears to be only recent data. The second link ‘Download influenza laboratory surveillance data from any week’ leads to a page where there appears to be customizable downloadable data. Page is https://apps.who.int/flumart/Default?ReportNo=12 . It’s probably not anything you can scrape or easily pull into excel or R but, with work, it’s probably the source of the charts.

      • Willis … hopefully PHil’s reply has steered you to the WHO data source. I linked to the FluNet explanatory page because the data interface page needs a bit of explaining and the link to weekly data is fairly prominent. It has weekly influenza data for 71 countries dating back to 1995.

        I didn’t know WUWT had posted this article till late last night and, apart from sleep time in OZ, I’ve also been busy earning some income, researching and helping Jo Nova put together a post at http://joannenova.com.au/2020/05/lockdowns-work-influenza-cases-are-90-down-across-17-countries/ which is similar to this one but has averages for corresponding weeks at the 17 countries since 2014 and the latest data from Australia’s notifiable diseases surveillance system comparing 67 other diseases apart from COVID-19.

        In this reply I may as well address a few other criticisms on this page.

        I’ve been looking at whether lockdowns work simply because it’s likely that social distancing will affect all communicable disease transmissions, and in turn these disease trends might be a useful indicator whether the lockdowns are having a significant impact. If the data showed or suggested no reduction in such diseases, I’d still be pointing to it as something worth knowing.

        I’m not arguing whether lockdowns do or don’t work or are or are not worth the expense, even though the early data does suggest lockdowns, or something, has suppressed various communicable diseases.

        I’ve read many claims and counter-claims: the economic, employment, suicide, alcoholism catastrophes being caused; that infections and deaths would be the same without lockdowns; the lack of herd immunity will make things even worse the sick people have stayed at home because they’re scared of COVID; GPs have told people to go to ED instead of their clinics; the flu is disappearing because summer’s approaching in the northern hemisphere; the doctors are blaming deaths on coronavirus instead of the flu; the hospitals are getting more money if they report COVID instead of flu, etc, etc.

        Maybe. Maybe not. I’m just saying forget those arguments for a moment and be aware of the very early data that supports a fairly logical “other” disease suppression through social distancing.

        I’m not suggesting savings from an infectious disease decline would go anywhere near the financial cost of the lockdowns and I’m not suggesting the lockdowns become permanent so that nobody ever gets sick again.

        I’m simply saying, hey, this data is interesting and worth knowing about. It may turn out that all the discrediting of the WHO data is accurate and the huge reduction in positive flu tests among a third of the world’s population is a blip or nothing to do with social distancing.

        Here in Western Australia, just 20 cases of influenza were recorded in April, the lowest monthly total in history. In the two weeks to 7 May, two flu cases were reported – the lowest weekly rate in history. Maybe they’re inaccurate figures because WA health authorities can’t tell the difference between the flu and COVID-19, or sick people are staying home, and maybe the historic lows won’t result in fewer people dying from influenza – but it’s still worth knowing there might be something interesting happening with other infectious diseases.

        I analysed from week 14 to week 18 simply because week 14 is the most recent notification from the US, and I wanted the US to pitch in. I could have started in an earlier week but there’s not much point comparing weeks in 2020 before widespread lockdowns had been established. I didn’t include Taiwan because Taiwan doesn’t report any data at all.

        The Jo Nova “audit team” is perhaps better phrased as Jo’s “BoM audit team” because we research RAW and homogenised ACORN data from the bureau, as well as endless other climate curiosities and occasionally topics such as the COVID crisis.

        As I say, there’s a bit more interesting data on non-COVID-19 disease rates at Jo’s link above. A teaser …

        Weeks 14-18 across 2014-2019 in 11 countries averaged 10,432 positive flu tests, compared to 1,550 in 2020 – an 85.1% reduction.

  28. “and cull of vulnerable people the year before”
    In the UK, about 600,000 people are born and about 600,000 die. Each and every year with slight changes from year to year.

    This means each year a new batch of vulnerable people are available to be infected.

    The OP demonstrates a good correlation between lockdowns and infection spread. He also states that the data is rough and ready and needs to be redone when the data stabilizes.

    What I don’t understand is why people go on about staying at home is the worst thing you can do re catching the virus.

    If you live with you household unit, AND everyone is virus free. Then, IF you go to the shops infrequently to buy food etc, AND others in other households do the same. You greatly minimize the risk of infection.

    Can it be simpler than that?

    Yes, there will be some people how have to commute, doctors, nurses, delivery people, police, fire, ambulance etc etc. They are the ones involved in the slow spread which is unavoidable.

    If we all reverted to ‘normal’ behavior then infection rates will drastically increase.

    Does anyone remember the news clips of the Italian lady in the highly infected area of Italy. She could barely breath, a day or two from death, but not allowed into hospital since it was full of people who were closer to death than her. Lifting the lockdown too early and allowing the selfish to do what they want is not appealing.

  29. You say:

    Naturally, there are many confounders. Ideally one would want to average the previous five years’ data for weeks 14-18. And one would want to discover whether under-reporting of flu cases has increased because health personnel are busy coping with the pandemic. Nevertheless, the figures suggest that lockdowns do achieve their primary purpose, which is to reduce the transmission of infections.

    There are a host of reasons why flu cases may be down. In addition to the ones you mention, flu season might have been late last year and early this year. And I doubt many people with a cough are going to go to the ER or to their doctors to get tested for flu—generally, the hospitals are empty because nobody wants to go there. That alone would have a huge effect on the count of infections.

    Finally, many flu cases are likely being counted as COVID cases.

    And as a result, I find it to be extremely premature to claim any detectable effect until you actually DEAL WITH the confounding issues. It makes it look as though you started out with a conclusion, found a tiny bit of evidence, and rushed off to proclaim that you are right … sorry, I’ll wait to draw conclusions until you actually do something more than merely mentioning the confounding factors, and only some of them at that.

    w.

    • “Finally, many flu cases are likely being counted as COVID cases.”

      And what if the flu makes you more susceptible to getting COVID?

    • Late February 2020, I went to clinic and got tested positive for influenza A. Early April, I went to the same clinic for another reason (broken foot). While being treated, I asked about if there are still any influenza A cases. The worker said they are NO longer testing for influenza A. The influenza A testing was stopped because of concerns for Covid19.

      Obviously, influenza and covid19 are confounded if testing is only done for covid19.

  30. I have been missing a crucial piece of information in the report:
    “and Sweden had a 95.7% reduction in positive influenza test results comparing weeks 14-18 in 2019 and 2020 (1,541 > 67) despite only a partial lock-down.”
    Sweden had NO lock-down as far as I am informed. They advised the public to respect social distance, hygiene (washing your hands etc.), but restaurants and such are open.
    Here in the Netherlands and Germany, Austria etc. we have partial lock-downs. NOT in Sweden (and Iceland, Latvia and more), nevertheless Sweden (and the other non-lock-down countries) did better, per 100.000 inhabitants, then my country or even Germany.
    This is IMHO a clear sign that strickt lock-downs appear not to work, the highest death toll is in those countries that have strict lock-downs, like Italy and Spain….

  31. The size of the “reduction” in other diseases is so great that you have to attribuite some of the effect to a lockdown. You cannot ignore the effect Chris has shown (with reservations clearly stated).
    Also, Chris is not arguing that there has to be an accounting balance, as many propose, where the savings from lockdown are seen against the costs of lockdown (that are yet to be calculated).
    Let us hear more firm evidence, from the figures Chris had shown, that the lockdown is NOT causing a large reduction in disease.

    • There will clearly be swings and roundabouts.
      More suicide less murders ( maybe)
      The road toll appears strange. Here in Victoria, More urban fatalities but less rural and overall a small decrease.
      Lockdowns in Australia are NOT causing a large reduction in road toll.

  32. Even if the lockdown worked, are we suggesting the every year we lockdown to prevent flu deaths? After all we spend billions deveoping flu vaccines every year, that maybe pointless.
    Viruses are going to be around forever, and our go to response cannot be to trash the economy ever year.

    • I do believe Maureen gets it! The question implied/posed in this article is not whether lock downs work, but whether their economic cost is worth it? Maureen’s solution: “Viruses are going to be around forever, and our go to response cannot be to trash the economy ever year.” is the valid subject to be studied.

      It is unlikely we will SOON return to our previous life styles during flu seasons after analysis, such as the one in this article is completed. Lock downs are also unlikely to be the proposed standard response. They are just too costly. Modified behavior, however, with the associated cleaning agents are likely.

  33. Another effect this global shutdown will have to flu is that not many will get the flu this year and thus not many will have fresh antibodies for the flu season 2020/2021. Can we expect the next flu season to hit us harder and spread faster due to this?
    In Sweden we are close to 0 new flu cases in week 14. Much lower than any of the previous 2 seasons.

    By just looking on the excess mortality it would appear as if covid19 causes less people to die than a normal year in southern Sweden. Thats the voluntary distancing in action if applied in time,
    The outbreak in Stockholm probably appeard earlier in than in rest in Sweden which made it spread much more before the voluntary restrictions where in place.

    Below is data for deaths, all cases not just covid19, in the 4 southernmost regions of Sweden.
    Second kolumn is average mortality 2015-2019 for week 1-18.
    Third column is mortality 2020 week 1-18
    Fourth column is excess mortality.
    REGION AVG 15-19 2020 DIFF
    Kalmar 1 002 971 -31
    Blekinge 620 562 -58
    Skåne 4 242 4 121 -121
    Halland 1 062 1 054 -8

    And as comparision Stockholm and all regions in Sweden
    Stockholm 5 732 7 411 1 679
    All regions 32 910 34 867 1 957

    Confirmed covid19 deaths for Sweden week 18 was 2718 which is 761 more than the excess mortality. Obviously the voluntary distancing has stoped many other non covid19 related deaths. Unknown what at this time.

  34. ok so some people avoided the docs
    I remember reading when docs went on strike somewhere LESS people died anyway
    with the iatrogenic toll thats credible;-)
    a week/month or so delay for most cancers really shouldnt make much differnce, unless it was already advanced?
    and it means probably better life quality for a time before they make you wish you were dead with chemo etc.
    as for the claims of all the mental health/suicides to come
    huge increases in SSSRI meds in usa already
    well the addictive ssri and side effects will prob assist deaths
    if weve bred such weak useless people they cant cope with a month or 6 weeks not going out to party play sport or workthen we have a far bigger issue to look at
    very few places havent taken care to supply food and income support
    the ones that didnt already had pretty shit health and social systems to begin with ie Brazil Africa etc

    • I spoke with my daughter today. She lives in Trelleborg in SE Sweden. I asked her about the lock down situation. She told me that Sweden did not issue mandatory lock down/stay at home orders. However, the national health service issued “advice” to do such. She relates that such “advice” is taken as close to an order as you can get without actually issuing one. Her explanation was that no national emergency was declared which would have been the only legal way for a mandatory lock down/stay at home order. Again, her explanation was that most businesses and citizens take the “advice” as if it was an order. She works for Malmo U and normally would commute daily. She has been working at home for over a month. She tells me the voluntary adherence to the “advice” is well spread. She also credits the fact that Denmark closed it’s border into Sweden as a leading factor that helped prevent additional spread from that area. I told her the news here is that Sweden has carried on without precautions and it is doing fine. She laughed and said, NO, many people are taking this seriously and taking precautions such as social distancing and working from home. The number of people using trains and buses is way down.
      So when I hear that Sweden has been doing just fine without precautions, well, there is always the rest of the story.

  35. Is this comparison not badly confounded by the inherent reporting delays. Can you find a May 2019 report of the influenza data to that date and then do the comparison to the 2020 data?

  36. A question

    Why is COVID19 hitting large urban areas worse than open country areas.
    What is the difference between a city and the countryside?

    Surely it is proximity of people?
    So
    closely packed = high number of cases
    Widely spaced = low number of cases

    Lockdown surely emulates a widely spaced population making transfer of virus less likely.

    So why do yo think lockdown has no effect?

  37. If catching the flu were the only thing that mattered, then, by all means, we should do a lockdown every year. All year. Other than that, ….

    • Covid19 does not just give you flu like symptoms. It also sometimes permanently(?) damages other organs. Do we really want a generation of physically deficient people?

  38. The data needed to figure out what is happening; what works and what does not simply doesn’t exist at present, and may never exist. Back on March 31 I wrote a blog opinion piece meant to show the array of factors that impact the basic reproductive factor (R0), why it would vary from place to place, and population to population; and expressed doubt as to whether we possessed data to make real-time modeling worthwhile, or could collect data that would allow a credible analysis after the fact.

    What do we have that we can count on at present?

    1. We can use deaths as a proxy for spread of the disease, but the CDC has offered guidance, and there are financial and political incentives, to inflate the deaths due to COVID-19. Yet some people argue it is actually undercounted.

    2. We can use the “tested positive” category data as a proxy, but testing has generally gone up over time, and the public do not get normalized data of any sort. There is also the question of the asymptomatic people. This can’t be a good, that is credible, data set. There are also questions of where to place the infection in time relative to when the test results come back from a lab. The private clinics are doing a brisk business in testing, but the technicians tell me it takes forever for results to come back. There are reasonable questions about what the assays are actually measuring, or if the various brands measure the same thing.

    3. Don’t even ask about risk factors aiding in the adjustment of sketchy data. We are just starting to get a picture of the full array of factors, and there are examples aplenty that retrospective surveys used to tease out such factors point in many immaterial directions and can often mislead people.

    There is no gold standard. There are interesting anecdotes. An entry on this site spoke of testing at Los Angeles area clinics in mid march indicating a late season drop in influenza positives, a rise in ILIs (influenza like illnesses), and a fraction of about 1/20 of these ILIs testing positive for COVID-19. In Wyoming, the data show a rapid rise in “positives” during the week of March 24-31, thus a rapid rise in infection probably in the March 15-21 period, which is exactly where the dept. of health has placed them. Then the epidemic went flat, just like that, with a slowly declining number of new cases each week even as testing increased. As the orders to close certain businesses and social distance came in the March 18-23 period, its hard to argue they were the cause of the rapid flattening of the epidemic — perhaps they have had the effect of keeping the epidemic tamped down. Yet, as someone suggested above we have been able to go from store to store, and walk or ride bikes widely; so how rigorous has the distancing been? The social distancing of six feet has become an article of faith rather than a guideline. An analysis of nearby Colorado produces results similar in some ways, and very different in others.

    The most disturbing observation is this. We have had all of 8 cases in a population near 30,000. All of the cases are stale, the victims recovered, and I am not sure any were ever hospitalized. There is no evidence at all of a disease being present. Yet, people are becoming more militant about wearing masks everywhere, and give ridiculously wide berths when passing in public — they cross streets to avoid one another. None of this seems healthy for a return to sane civil society. Superstitions have set in about all sorts of things, and it all appears to fall along predictable political fault lines.

  39. This is irrelevant data. The author mentions in passing that the reduction in positive flu tests may have some relationship to the fact that medical personnel are busy with COVID-19 without even really considering the impact on the medical industry on lockdowns.

    Most outpatient medical facilities have been virtually shut down for the past two months. Normally, if I thought I had the flu, I’d make an appointment with my doctor and they’d diagnose me, write a prescription and do the test. Now, there are no physical appointments. The best I could hope for is a video conference with the doctor, following which he would send prescriptions to my pharmacy to be filled without the opportunity for testing.

    The only way to get an actual test is to go to the emergency room…which is so focused on COVID-19, are they even running regular flu tests? My wife went to the emergency room experiencing symptoms that could be either. They tested her for COVID-19, which came back negative, but never tested her for the flu.

    So…do the numbers demonstrate that the lockdowns were effective in preventing the flu? Or only that the lockdowns were effective in preventing people from being tested for the flu?

    We can’t know…which makes these number meaningless.

  40. How many actual tests were performed? Who is going to go to the hospital when they think it is a petri dish of covid-19 death?
    Emergency rooms are saying 70% of heart attack victims and 70% of stroke victims are not showing up to emergency rooms to get treatment.

    Another thing, the flu is almost never actually tested for. It is in the range of 10s of thousands of tests per year in the United States when the claim is tens of millions of cases per year. Basically, the claim is that 1 in 6 Americans get the flu each year. 2.8 million people die per year. My guess, is that 1 in 6 of those 2.8 million people would have tested positive for one of the flu viruses if tested. If we counted flu deaths the way they count covid-19 deaths, there would be between 250,000 and 600,000 flu deaths per year.

  41. This is a terribly misleading and dishonest analysis.

    “Ooh, let’s compare the Wuhan Plague to influenza, since some symptoms are similar.”

    Influenza isn’t caused by corona viruses. The means of transmission are different, susceptibility to humidity is different, seasonal effects are different.

    Why don’t you compare thee Wuhan Plague to other coronavirus diseases, like the common cold?

    Are lock-downs effective in eradicating the common cold?
    Did the common cold run through the population once and then die out?
    Do we have herd immunity to the common cold?
    After a century of trying, do we have even one vaccine against any corona virus?

  42. The problem with the argument is the widespread nature of the disease in locked down places compared to open for business places.
    Sweden has lost about 0.031% of their total population to supposed covid-19. They estimate that 30% of their population in Stockholm has contracted the disease. If the disease spreads through 100% of the population, that would be a death rate of 0.1% which is comparable to a moderate flu season infection fatality ratio.
    But like every other place, they determine the cause of death fairly loosely. Anyone who has SARS-COV-2 virus (test positive) and dies is counted. But only about 10-20% of those with the virus ever have the disease, it is likely a large number of the dead died of something other than the disease. They also have determined that anyone who dies in an old people’s home is automatically counted. So, they deem people to have died of the disease, like New York City does.
    So, in reality, the infection is not killing everyone counted, but just a fraction of them. My estimate is that the Infection Fatality Ratio that is most likely when all is said and done with is about 0.025%. That is 1/4 of a moderate flu season IFR.
    The only thing that makes this disease special is that it is new and nearly no one starts off immune from it.

    • “They estimate that 30% of their population in Stockholm has contracted the disease.”

      Link to this statement is to find where exactly?

          • There is data. But apparently your google skillz are lacking. Maybe you should sign up for an online course on how to search for things on the internet… Maybe your mother can be called down to the basement to help you find the class.

  43. Took a while, but I was able to pull the United States of America information going back to 2017.
    Funny thing is, there really is not much difference year to year, in fact, this year, the flu season looks very much like the 2018 flu season.
    This flu season started in week 42, 2019 started in week 44, 2018 started in week 44.
    There is about a 20% drop in the number of tests compared to 2018…
    I have no idea how to drop an excel graph in here.
    But suffice to say, it does not appear that this season is any different than any other season. This season started its dramatic drop around February 3.

  44. Go visit the SyndromicTrends.com website to see the pattern for the US, where BioFire FilmArray data are aggregated.

    If you look at respiratory disease, the positivity rate is way down (covid positives do not show up in the data). But if you click down below on FluA and FluB, the combined detection rate is the same or higher in 2020 vs 2019.

    Most of the peak happened in February or early March, so perhaps it’s possible that the lockdowns curtailed the end of the season a bit, but I don’t see any major benefit in the trend.

    • Parainfluenza looks like it has a bimodal trend with peaks in May/June and November, and that trend is absolutely crushed this year. Last year it peaked in May, but right now we’re near zero!

  45. So in my home I have several children. We are pretty certain that two of them have had the flu over this time period. However we have not gone in to have it diagnosed. Why? Because it would mean potential exposure to an environment where there is supposedly a highly infectious disease. Why would you, unless the person is REALLY REALLY sick go in?

    I know there was mention of confounding factors but this is one of them. In my opinion you SHOULD see a lowering of the flu tests. Not only that but in my state you can go in and be tested for Covid if you have 1 ) a fever, and 2 ) an additional symptom. They then test you to see if you have Covid 19. Right now the test rate is coming back at 95.8% Negative for Covid 19. BUT they are not attempting to figure out WHAT the correct diagnosis should be ( Flu? )

    While I appreciate the attempt to see if the lowering of communicable illness has dropped I think this is more of a case of Covid-19 taking the wind out of the sails of other testing. They are not testing for BOTH only for ONE, at least where I am. It would be interesting to see how many of the NEGATIVE covid tests would later show up as positive flu…

  46. Chris Gillham

    In attempting to suppress an epidemic, ideally, the government would use the most effective approach. Unfortunately, there are many reasons, such as cost, or an uncooperative population, why some compromise is going to be necessary.

    This analysis doesn’t address the most important question of whether strictly enforced (e.g. welding doors shut) lockdowns are significantly more effective than willful social distancing. Indeed, even a binary distinction between lockdowns and social distancing is not defined. Preferably, a spectrum of responses would be provided so that the dependent variable (e.g. new cases) could be compared to the independent variable, number of potential contacts.

    As long as nebulous terms are discussed, it will be impossible to sort out the confounding factors and reach any sort of reliable conclusion. About all that can be derived from your presentation is that when a country tries to do something to reduce transmission, some apparent effect can be measured; whereas, doing nothing, officially, results in widely disparate case and death rates between different countries.

    It is obvious that the fewer person-to-person contacts there are, the fewer transmissions and new infections will take place. However, confining people to small quarters may not be the best way to accomplish that. For example, assume that one person in a household of 4 goes out to shop for groceries and somehow is infected. They then bring back the infection in person or on the purchased items. Then, everyone is exposed to the fresh virus. What has happened in prisons and elder care facilities makes the point that people confined in small areas are most at risk. It is generally accepted that the probability of infection is a function of the number of viruses, which in turn is a function of the concentration of viruses and the amount of time one is exposed to the source. Viruses on hard surfaces die within a matter of hours to, at most, days, even if not purposely disinfected. Having other members of a household gone for several hours while at work, could provide some protection.

    However, the most important consideration is that strict lockdowns cannot be maintained indefinitely. It might be necessary for society to accept some upfront loss of life to avoid a collapse of the economy and the infrastructure supplying food. The lockdowns/social-distancing were initially rationalized on a need to prevent an overload of hospital resources. That has apparently been accomplished in all but maybe Italy. Further damage to economies is not warranted by your analysis.

  47. Two important points that need addressed: First, the reporting delays that are typically associated with the collection of this information and secondly, the number of influenza tests actually performed this year as opposed to previous years. If only COVID-19 tests are being given at this point for symptomatic patients, then the flu numbers mean very little. Of course, the assumption would only be a logical one.

  48. By Chris Gillham
    “As one of the audit team for Jo Nova’s blog”

    Pardon my ignorance, but what does a “audit team for Jo Nova” do?

    • In the absence of an answer I will assume Jo Nova’s audit team decides which comments are “relevant” to a particular post and consequently survive moderation, and which comments are not published.

      • PMHinSC,
        Absolutely wrong.
        No censorship exists within this group.
        Never has,
        There is some concordance of ideas, namely sound ones are preferred to stupid ones.

        Geoff S (Member)

        • Geoff S,
          Thank you for the reply. It was not my intent to offend; I am truly curious. I confess that I still do not know what the “audit team” does.
          Regards.

          • Again, having received no reply, I will assume that what the Jo Nova Audit Team does is a secret and I will move on. Best to all.

  49. This is just silly. Anyone with Influenza Like Illness (ILI) after March 2020 would never get tested for flu. They would get tested for Covid-19, told the test was negative and sent home. So you should add the Covid-19 negative count to the totals for March onwards.

    It is an interesting theory, but to do this properly you’d need to look at hospital testing data and not Lab data. So compare total hospitalizations for ILI and subtract Covid-19 positive and compare to prior years total ILI activity.

    • Hail
      You asked, “Where did they all go?”
      As is often the case, the US seasonal flu peaked in February, before COVID-19 really ramped up.

  50. Chris Gillham

    > “I have selected 17 countries based partly on their population size and prominence over the past few weeks in the COVID-19 crisis, and partly on whether or not they supplied sufficient weekly reports within the timeframe”

    So, not Taiwan then. Nova avoids this example too – suits her propaganda, I think.

    Taiwan has a death rate for C-19 per 10 million population of less than 1/13th of Australia’s. Almost the same population level (23m as against 25m), a much more intense population density as the Taiwanese island is so geographically tiny, and – drum roll – NO lockdown.

    No wonder you avoid choosing it as an example. Yes, I know you are excluding C-19, but Taiwan also dealt with SARS-1, while Australia did not.

    • “SOME ARE WINNING – SOME ARE NOT – a bunch of C-word social engineers”

      Mind numbingly stupid, insultingly dumbed down gas-lighting!

      Where is the larger but missing mountain of exposure, the endemic spread before the pandemic* that must have peaked at least 14 days prior to all those idiotic graphs – that list only the symptomatic – the so-called “cases”?

      *The missing curve that represents the presymptomatic, the asymptomatic and those with non-specific and mild symptoms as well as any carriers or superspreaders!

  51. Dear Chris,
    Why would you start you analysis at week 14 of 2019? If you would have started in week 1 of 2019, you would have had more overlapping weeks plus you would also cover the flu-peak in the first two months of the year.
    Just wondering….

  52. Since Jo Nova is an ardent proponent of ‘hard’ lockdowns, I suspect this article is not entirely objective.

  53. > And one would want to discover whether under-reporting of flu cases has increased because health personnel are busy coping with the pandemic.

    Or, a higher % of people who have flu-like symptoms are being tested for the flu becsuee they think they might have COVID-19.

Comments are closed.