The Leap from Pandemic to Panicdemic

Saw in my newspaper that a Swiss study found that being with an infected person coughing in a small poorly-ventilated room results in COVID-19 being passed on within a few minutes. Call me a know-all if you like but I would have guessed as much. Personally, I have tried to avoid being with people coughing in small poorly-ventilated rooms ever since I left home, where I spent most evenings of my twenty-one formative years in a small (smoke-filled) poorly-ventilated living room. I can vouchsafe that corona viruses (to wit coughs and colds) did readily hop about in such circumstances. The Swiss should have asked me and spent their valuable research time on something else.

Of course, the Swiss study backs up the bleedingly obvious line, which we have heard for some time now from ‘experts’, that the virus spreads more efficiently in closed spaces than in the open air. As a non-medical expert, I would like to ask whether there are any germs which find the open air more compatible with their spread than closed spaces? I seriously doubt it, though I suppose I might be wrong.

Being possibly wrong brings me to Greg Sheridan, a good guy so far as I am concerned. I find most of his writing informative and sensible. To boot, he is a Christian and therefore part of the diminishing human bulwark defending our peerless, but crumbling, Western Judeo-Christian civilisation. One of the principal hallmarks of Christianity is living in truth. It is clear to me in his articles on COVID-19 that Sheridan is searching for the truth, but he appears to be relying too much on particular experts. He extensively referenced and quoted the views of epidemiologist Raina MacIntyre (UNSW) in an article on July 16 and Nick Coatsworth (Australia’s Deputy Chief MO) on July 28. This is chancy. Experts come in different stripes.

I often watch Fox News and know that it is not difficult to find an expert of impeccable credentials arguing one side of the case and another arguing the opposite side. Counting numbers doesn’t necessarily help either, as the history of mistaken groupthink in science shows. Epidemiology is complex, but when politicians duck their responsibilities by handing over the keys of the kingdom to this or that epidemiologist there is no option but for the non-expert Joe and Jill to do their own thinking. That includes, in this case, both Sheridan and me.

Sheridan moves fairly seamlessly from estimating a case fatality rate (CFR) of 1 per cent in Australia to an infection fatality rate (IFR) of 1 per cent. He does this by relying on the high rate of testing which has occurred. But this is misleading. Testing will have been skewed towards those with evident symptoms. Other things being equal, the IFR of a disease which infects many in only a mild or asymptotic form, as per COVID-19, will fall markedly below the CFR. Note, no epidemiological qualifications required.

Based on a number of separate studies, a recent article in Nature (16 July) posits that the IFR falls between 0.5 to 1 per cent in many countries. But it is also acknowledged that there is still insufficient information to really know. What is clear is that the estimated IFR has been falling as more information comes to hand. In the early stages, a scary 3.4 per cent was suggested by the WHO.

As Sheridan comments, we have an excellent health system and which, I add, has never been put under anything like the sort of COVID-19 pressure initially envisioned by ‘expert’ opinion. It would be surprising if our IFR were not at the bottom end of any international range. Let us suppose it is 0.5 per cent. This is still quite high. If indeed Covid-19 is very infectious, it might easily, left to itself, infect, say, 50 per cent of the Australian population. This, with an IFR of 0.5 per cent, would result in 64,000 deaths. As deaths from a single additional cause, this is simply unacceptable. At the same time, it does not point to lockdowns being, as Sheridan puts it, “sensible and necessary.” Account must be taken of the incidence of the disease. The disease in serious form falls mainly on the old and infirm.

The Nature article to which I made reference cites a preliminary study which estimates an IFR of 0.64 per cent for the total population of Geneva. However, by age, the IFR fell between .00032 per cent and .0016 per cent for those younger than fifty; the youngest person to die was aged thirty-one. The IFR increased to 0.14 per cent for those between the ages of 50 and 64 (in the same ballpark as the seasonal flu); before climbing steeply to 5.6 per cent for those aged 65 and over – 50 per cent of whom died in care facilities. The age pattern of Australian deaths is consistent with a similar IFR profile.

What this profile points to is an optimum strategy for dealing with the virus. And in that respect in particular, laymen like Sheridan and me should not defer to public health experts. And, more to the point, neither should political leaders. It is clear, and should always have been clear, that a blunderbuss strategy is counterproductive.

First, it takes focus and resources away from tackling the disease at its deadliest (hence the many deaths in nursing homes). Second, it produces dire economic consequences – which, in turn, have untold deleterious effects on health. Apply a sense of proportion.

There is no way, even in this lily-livered age, that the unprecedented step would ever have been taken to throw healthy working-aged people out of work because of a disease which for them carries so little threat. Otherwise, we would all be locked up at home each flu season. No, the rationale for lockdowns can only have been to protect the old and infirm.

And look at what’s happened. All pain for too little gain. The infection is still abroad. The old and infirm have and are being killed in relatively large numbers. Locking away experts, not working people, and focusing more on those at risk, would likely have saved many lives — and saved the economy too.

20 thoughts on “The Leap from Pandemic to Panicdemic

  • Occidental says:

    Peter, I thought the article by Sheridan which you referenced was almost cringeworthy in its slavish and guileless acceptance of argument by a public servant, justifying his own past decision making. Regarding the question of Sheridan’s bona fides as a conservative, it shows what a broad church “conservatism” is. Until that article by Sheridan I was undecided. Now my view is he is merely a booster for “big government”, conservative or not, provided the defence budget is untouched or increased. In the end it was another entry in a litany of MSM articles by journalists seemingly incapable of intellectual curiosity. By the way keep up the good work, I am detecting that the penny is slowly, perhaps glacially, beginning to drop. Looks like Comrade Dan and his incompetent government might end up being of benefit to the country.

  • Peter Marriott says:

    Good piece as usual Peter, I suggest that all of those over 50 and all of those over 65 would have had other morbidities and I don’t mean a bit of mild hypertension which half the country’s probably got these days. After all I read that the epidemiologist John Ionannidis of Stanford reported that 48% of the 80-89 year olds on the Diamond Princess who tested positive were actually completely symptom free, and 60% of the 70-79 year olds were the same. Seems to me if you’re 75 and fit with no relevant morbidities you’re in no more risk of dying than a 40 year old in the same state ? Having said that obviously, of course, the older you get the more likely you are to have acquired other morbidities.

  • Nezysquared says:

    As for the economic consequences of the WuFlu, I wonder why the world has gone quiet over sending China the bill. When it comes to statistics there are 2 types, those you look up and those you make up. The references alluded to in the above article are no more trustworthy than next weeks lotto numbers – Nature and Sheridan?? Come on, be serious. It is widely accepted that lock downs and quarantines only buy time for either the virus to mutate into a less dangerous form or effective treatments become available. And remember deaths are a lagging indicator so long term effects also cannot be ignored. We will have to learn to live with the virus long term no doubt but ensure we give those people more marginally at risk the best chance of avoiding it or having access to the best treatments. The suggestion of a laissez faire approach to opening up the economy based on your stats is one which might prove inconsequential. On the other hand……

  • lloveday says:

    “The old and infirm have and are being killed in relatively large numbers”
    I’m no more expert than PS or Sheridan, but the photo at the top suggests to me a reason I’ve not seen put forward anywhere.
    I am old, but take no medication (multi vitamin and 80mg aspirin each morning only), Blood Pressure normal, Cholesterol <5.0, Sugar level way below average, strongest old bloke at the gym, prolific walker (before this nonsense), never smoked, drink far too much. I've had Atrial Fibrillation for 10 years, but stopped taking the prescribed medication after a few months because it stopped my pulse rate going above 80, meaning I could not exercise intensely.
    I wore a mask for 2 hours at a hospital waiting to have a Cortizone injection, my blood pressure and pulse soared, I felt terrible, agitated. The doctor agreed it was due to from Hypoxemia – lack of Oxygen, excess CO2 due to wearing the mask, and no injection.
    Four weeks later I have not fully recovered, maybe never will (fuzzy thinking, memory loss, misspelling).
    So my inexpert conclusion is that putting masks on the elderly is causing (or at least hastening) deaths, fulfilling Bill Hayden's prophesy to the Royal Australian College of Physicians: “there is a point when the succeeding generations deserve to be disencumbered – to coin a clumsy word – of some unproductive burdens” .
    The World Heath Organization's web-site says:
    FACT: People should NOT wear masks while exercising (their capitals)
    For elderly, a walk to the toilet may be exercise (certainly is for my mother), but they are the very ones most targeted and advised/forced to wear masks. According to the WHO, they SHOULD NOT be wearing masks.

  • Citizen Kane says:

    How can Sheridan (who I genuinely respect as a commentator) expect to run a proper cost/benefit analysis on lockdown policy if he chooses to ignore the ten fold increase in numbers of people exposed/infected but only captured in post hoc antibody studies. If he chooses to run his anaylsis on 20 million infections and not 200 million plus then he does so in complete ignorance. And lets be absolutely clear about the cost side of the equation; the world in deep economic recession if not depression, the rise of riotous behaviour in the fertile soil left by this economic void, the rapid increase in geopolitical tensions pushing ever closer to conflict, which is now a real possibility between major powers, and the decent of millions in the less developed world back into poverty and abject misery. It would want to be a pretty amazing trade off to counter all of these consequences and be deemed successful. Any cool and collected analysis of lockdown can not possibly find a net benefit amongst all of that!

  • ianl says:

    Hard observation of the various reactions from the nagging, alarmist MSM (ratings, don’t you know) and politico/medico bureaucrats strongly suggests to me that panic is now irretrievably embedded.
    I do wonder why the talking heads of TV land constantly nag about forcing the general populace into masks yet never use one on camera themselves. Lots of blah and blather, but at the bottom I expect the reason is just vanity. What if they sneeze all over the studio room ? Who cleans that up ? If Victoria goes into “Stage 4”, watch the hairstyles – somehow, haircuts for the MSM will happen (home care, of course).
    Unusually, I’ve come to agree with Peter Smith on an aspect: the likelihood of some variation of MMT being put in place. If JobKeeper is eventually closed, mortgage defaults will smash the banks unless the RBA bails them. If JobKeeper remains indefinitely, the debt will smash the Govt unless the RBA bails it. The amount of gold production in Aus is increasing exponentially now – I wonder why ?

  • T B LYNCH says:

    The commies first gave us Wuflu [SARS-2] as a biological warfare bungle – reasonable delivery system but a dud bomb – rather like the totalitarian nazi V2 – which killed moire assemblers than enemy civilians. Wuflu essentially takes out retired/diseased folk and spares the workers/soldiers.
    Reminds me of that other commie nuclear accident at Kyshtym in the USSR in 1957. Kyshtym was bigger than Chernobyl. Kyshtym released 1.1 megacuries of radioactive strontium all over the world. Kyshtym was kept secret until 1980.
    Then the commies gave us Lenin’s/Xi’s Useful Idiots like ianl to confuse the masses with a meaningless jumble of big words.
    Meanwhile the Yanks have developed, tested and delivered a highly effective state of the art RNA vaccine.
    Uncle Sam has done it again. The commies need to watch out.

  • ianl says:


    >”Then the commies gave us Lenin’s/Xi’s Useful Idiots like ianl to confuse the masses with a meaningless jumble of big words.”

    Utter rubbish. Ad-homs galore, no content.

    The C-19 panic is irretrievably embedded, from my observation. How is that “commies and blah” ? Try accuracy.

    The MSM nag and nag yet themselves avoid the issue in their own behaviour, from my observation. Where are the big words to confuse you ?

    Some variation of MMT will be introduced, in my view. Mortgage defaults from lack of economic activity will cause this. That it’s a short-term, desperate answer is obvious. Where is the useful idiocy in that observation ? Trying to stop the Fed Govt and the RBA from doing it is a measure of futility: you don’t have the power.

    Address the issues, not the ad-homs, thank you. Too much to expect ?

  • ianl says:

    Should have added, for T Lynch’s benefit, that the RBA has been buying Federal bonds on and off for some time, and using Mandrake money to do it. This is in itself a variation on one aspect of MMT. Interest rates of 0.5% are another – and one I resent intensely.

    It”s already happening.

  • T B LYNCH says:

    For a refutation of ianl commie brand of dud virology where he labeled me “scientifically illiterate” see Darryl McCann Emperor Xi Has no Clothes 2 May 2020.
    I remind intelligent readers that I discovered the cure for amoebic meningitis 20th century style with an antibiotic, and HIV was cured 21st century mode with mutated receptors first discovered by me.
    That is an argument from authority, which is really no argument at all. For the facts re ianl qv Darryl McCann.
    Dr T B Lynch.

  • lloveday says:

    Give me air, lots of air and a sunny sky above. Don’t mask me in”.

  • lloveday says:

    TBL, I don’t read comments from ianl let alone respond to them..

  • ianl says:

    The only comment I’ve made about Xi was disparaging of him in the extreme. Yet TBL persists with the nonsensical ad homs. Oh well …

    lloveday, that’s a 2-way street.

    Victoria is again enduring enormous economic damage, perhaps for another 2 months, which will extend axcross the country. The Federal Treasury is again to provide sustenance finance – which it doesn’t have. Which is where we were at the start of this thread.

  • T B LYNCH says:

    Doc Evatt split the Labor party when he was exposed as a Useful Idiot with an office full of fellow travelers and secret comms. He was so naive he even produced, in the federal parliament, a certificate from Soviet Foreign Minister Gromyko, vouching for his integrity. Two decades later I busted Whitlam Health Minister as a secret comm. There are actually Reds under the Bed. Maybe ianl will come up with a testimonial from Xi.

  • pgang says:

    lloveday, I wear a mask in the shed when creating sawdust or playing with deadly fumes. Sometimes I’ve worn them at work just to keep the safety police happy. Otherwise I wouldn’t put one of the damn things near my face in a fit. Your tale makes a mockery of the ‘public safety’ meme.
    Yet another excellent article Peter. Your Corona pieces have been a vast relief through this saga of idiocy, just in knowing that there remain a few sane people in society who haven’t evolved into sheep. Sheridan has been disappointing throughout. Like you I have a very high opinion of him and his body of work. Perhaps his blind spot in this matter is a result of being trapped inside a media bubble and being unable to deal with something that isn’t directly related to his field of expertise. Perhaps he simply doesn’t know where to look for the evidence nor how to put the narrative together.
    I would also hazard a guess (based on research), that even 0.5 % is too high an estimate for IFR. It seems to be about half that, or less.

  • rosross says:

    It is a joy to read something sensible on Covid.

    While the old and sick are always vulnerable and the old who are very sick even more so, it would still be interesting to know how many of the severely ill and dead had a Flu vaccination in the past 12 months, given that research shows it creates a predisposition to respiratory diseases. I suspect the chances of such data ever being gathered is zero given the power of the vaccine cult, but one may still live in hope of rigorous science and medicine.

  • Elizabeth Beare says:

    I have formally studied epidemiology and it is true that it is both a proper science, and a complex one. But simple concepts like CFR and IFR are capable of quick and easy assessment by most thinking people using a modicum of common sense. Obviously the two give different policy options.
    What I would like to see is some immunity testing on population samples in various parts of Australia. This just might produce a few surprises and be helpful, or maybe instructive in other ways, in changing our policy response more towards attaining herd immunity.
    Let’s face it, we have to rejoin the rest of the world sometime or go under economically.

  • pmprociv says:

    What you’ve written here, Peter, is a lot of common sense. I’m not sure why you’ve included Greg Sheridan in this, as infectious diseases and epidemiology are well out of his range of expertise (but do happen to fall into my professional area before retiring many years ago). However, I feel that you haven’t gone far enough, even though you touch upon the fundamental issue in: “There is no way, even in this lily-livered age, that the unprecedented step would ever have been taken to throw healthy working-aged people out of work because of a disease which for them carries so little threat. Otherwise, we would all be locked up at home each flu season. No, the rationale for lockdowns can only have been to protect the old and infirm.”
    In effect, we are destroying fruitful, healthy lives because our political leaders are too gutless to negotiate with the public in a mature and responsible fashion over some basic facts of life. (Or maybe the feeling of tremendous power has gone to their heads.) This is not helped by the sensationalistic approach of the popular media, which fail to spell out details of exactly who is dying from COVID-19, cf. other causes. Many among the medical profession, particularly those bureaucrats employed as “chief health officers”, might see their role as protecting human life at all costs; political leaders should take a more balanced and pragmatic approach, as their job is to control and distribute public resources.
    People go into nursing homes not for the rich, fulfilling lifestyles on offer, but because they can no longer care for themselves, and have no close friends or relatives willing to take on this responsibility. The old cliché, “God’s waiting room”, still applies across the board – as does “Pneumonia is the old person’s best friend”, something I was taught repeatedly in medical school, and witnessed (with relief) countless times subsequently. We all have to die at some stage; quality of life means far more than quantity. It angers me to watch, repeatedly, on the evening news, the crocodile tears of sanctimonious virtue signallers harping on about how their “poor, 93-year-old grannie was such a wonderful person who didn’t deserve to die in such a cruel way”. Related to this is the perpetual complaining about standards of care in nursing homes; anyone who has not spent at least two weeks working in one should be prohibited from passing judgment, especially in public fora. Caring for frail, often demented, incontinent and uncooperative or frankly hostile patients, who cannot feed themselves, can be a thankless, soul-destroying task, not helped by stressful working conditions, poor pay and demanding relatives. Maintaining effective standards of hygiene is often impossible. I’ve known many elderly inmates who would have viewed COVID-19 as a merciful escape from these nightmares.
    Sure, occasional younger people also succumb to this disease, but possibly no more than from other common viral infections (the final statistics are not yet in). The reasons are complex, but can be largely attributed to “bad luck”. However, we don’t shut down highways because people die on them, or beaches because they drown someone. The vast majority of our population will survive COVID-19, with or without a vaccine. The causative virus, now fully established within the panoply of pathogens causing human URTIs, is here to stay, so we’ll simply have to learn to live with it. Keeping track of it becomes a counter-productive waste of time and resources (unless for research purposes). Being exposed to a daily, running tally of COVID cases and deaths, without the big picture of total deaths from all other causes (including age group breakdowns), serves only to foment the excessive paranoia that has been built up. One hopes that reliable statistics are being kept of collateral damage, such as additional suicides and domestic violence triggered by the prolonged lockdowns and business collapses, so that the true cost can eventually be calculated. While I despise Donald Trump, and can only laugh at most of his expostulations, this is one issue in which I do feel some sympathy for his stance, even though our motives and beliefs might come from opposite poles.

  • Peter Smith says:

    pmprociv, just caught your comprehensive and incisive comment – last throwaway sentence aside. Worthy of some billing it seems to me.

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