Boris G: Were lockdowns justified? What’s the reference?

Initially, when people witnessed exponential rise in death toll, public opposition to lockdowns was extremely limited. But as the threat appears to have passed in most western countries, the patience runs out, and economic impact becomes apparent, views questioning and even condemning lockdowns have become an integral part of the mainstream debate. Unfortunately, a lot of the debate on this issue has been either highly emotional or ideologically driven, or both. Data are often included but if data are not consistent with one’s views, then some even say data is wrong, manipulated etc.

But let’s try to look at it objectively. I will take a data driven approach and will take data as imperfect as it is.

So, when are lockdowns justified? Some civil libertarians say never: most mandatory lockdown measures in peacetime are unlawful, unconstitutional etc., and the right approach should only involve voluntary measures. But it appears that most opponents of lockdowns are closer to the view expressed by Donald Trump: the cure shouldn’t be worse than the disease.  This implies that lockdowns could be justified if the disease (potential death toll) is really bad. Most critics of lockdowns are of this view; they just do not see Covid-19 as dangerous enough to justify lockdowns.

So, it comes down to the question: what is the potential death toll that justifies lockdowns? We can estimate this reference number N in a number of ways. Let’s specifically talk about the US, which in its views on lockdowns is now split right down the middle.

One reference that was mentioned in early debates was a million deaths in the US (or N1=3,000 per million of population). This number is not based on any science, it is just a big number many people do see as horrific and to be avoided at all costs. Incidentally, 3,000 per million people was the US death toll in the three and a half years of the Second World War. I am sure there will be those who will question this number as unacceptable but let’s keep it as one possible reference.

Another reference comes from influenza deaths. Over i=34,000 Americans are estimated to have died from influenza in 2018-2019 season, and this is apparently typical. Of course, they never shut down the economy for a bad influenza season, so 2 or 3 times the influenza death toll won’t justify lockdowns. But ten times? Maybe. Then let’s set another reference as 300,000, or N2=1,000 deaths per million people.

Then there is economic analysis. Economists say that a modern way to estimate how much an average life is worth is based not on the earning potential (that’s an old method) but on how much people themselves are prepared to pay to reduce the risk of their own death. Apparently, governments use this number to assess the importance of various safety regulations. US federal agencies estimate the life of an average American to be worth about L=$10 million. And it is not dependent on age even though you would think someone who has life expectancy of 2 years should be worth less than a 20 years’ old… but this is not taken into account in such calculations or it would lead to all sorts of unintended consequences (they say putting price on life is already controversial).

Based on this, we can estimate the number of projected deaths that would justify lockdowns by dividing the total economic damage E from lockdowns by cost of life L. The trouble is that it is very hard to know the total economic impact of lockdowns, or more precisely, the marginal impact of lockdowns compared to the impact of voluntary measures like in Sweden. One obvious way is to compare economic impact in Norway, Denmark or Finland compared to Sweden. But this wouldn’t be fair. Sweden is part of the EU and is affected not just by the domestic situation but also by lockdowns across Europe. One Australian economist says he estimates the cost of lockdowns in Australia to be about E=AU$100 billion. I have no idea how he got this number, looks like he took it out of thin air, but let’s think of it as a data point. Apparently, Australian governments (federal and state) use the lower cost of life than the US: L=AU$5 million (US$3.3 million; this isn’t because an Australian life is worth 3 times less than an American one; it is just they use a slightly different methodology). This will mean that Australian lockdowns would be justified if projected deaths were N=E/L=20,000, or about N3=800 deaths per million. So, we get the number again in the same (not so wide) interval between N1 and N2. An advantage of N3 as a reference (compared to N1 and N2) is that it is based on a real quantitative analysis. Its disadvantage is that cost of life L is somewhat abstract and poorly and defined while marginal cost of lockdowns E is very hard to estimate.

Now, were numbers of deaths N1, N2 or N3 in America realistic? Or more precisely, was it realistic to expect such a death toll in America without lockdowns? Early on, there were models that projected over 2 million deaths if nothing was done (and this number was repeated by Donald Trump in justification of his support of lockdowns at some point). While such projections were done with advanced models, you could get this number if you expect say 70% of people infected and mortality of one per cent. These numbers have been questioned by sceptics. But this is a moot point. It is a false dichotomy. Most opponents of lockdowns do not advocate doing nothing; they advocate voluntary measures such as in Sweden. Until now, Sweden has had over 450 deaths per million people compared to 100 per million for Denmark, 56 per million in Finland and 45 per million in Norway. Given that these countries are very similar in many ways, one can say that lockdowns reduce the number of fatalities (per million people) by a factor of 4 to 8.

The US has just reached 100,000 confirmed deaths (300 per million people) and counting. No doubt it will reach (or get close to) 400 per million people. If we multiply this number by 8, we get over N1, the emotionally unacceptable number (and above the economic-based reference N3).

If we multiply it by 4, we get 500,000 (or over 1500 per million), which is above our lower estimate N2 (but not by very much), but below N3 and N1. This is still a very big number (20 times the number of flu deaths in a season). Personally, I think this justifies lockdowns but not unequivocally.

But this isn’t the whole story. New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts have already exceeded 1000 deaths per million. Multiply this by a modest factor of 4, and you get 4000 deaths per million people, which is higher than our upper bound N1=3000 per million people. Thus, strict lockdowns in these states appear to be fully justified.

And what about Sweden itself? Did the voluntary measured work there? Critics would point out the stark differences between the death toll between Sweden and its neighbours (most dramatically shown in the plot linked to above) to condemn the Swedish approach. But this is a wrong comparison! By this approach, Finland bungled it completely as its death toll is 10 times worse than Australia’s (4 fatalities per million people). We should compare it to the agreed reference numbers N1, N2 or N3, not against other countries. By this measure, Sweden’s eventual death toll is likely to be somewhere around 500 per million people, which is two times lower than N2, the lowest of the three reference numbers. And clearly, Sweden has flattened the curve and avoided overwhelmed health system. Many people would still say they would prefer to be in Finland than Sweden… but this opinion might not be shared by unemployed Finnish cooks, day care workers or sauna operators… Let’s stick to our reference numbers and avoid emptions.

So, if the Swedish experience is a qualified success, isn’t it the right approach for all other places? Not necessarily. We now know that even in many places that are in lockdown (New York, New Jersey, the UK etc.) the current death toll is already higher than in Sweden. This does not mean that lockdowns increase the death toll; it means that conditions are different in different countries, be it population density, age structure, lifestyle, health system capacity, climate, virus strain etc. As discussed earlier, the lockdowns are likely to reduce the death toll by at least a factor of 4, and thus bring the death toll to an acceptable level.

Several additional points need to be made:

  1. Another reference suggested by my daughter is the number of hospitalisations that would overwhelm the health system. Early on, there were concerns about availability of intensive care units and lung ventilators. Then the concern shifted to lack of personal protective equipment for health care workers and nursing home staff. In the end, we know that the hospitals were overwhelmed in Wuhan and in parts of Northern Italy but apparently not in many other places. But data on this is patchy and confusing so it is very hard to calculate this reference even across the western world. One thing is clear. Initial concerns about overwhelmed health systems were based on exponential growth of infection rates. It is now clear that no exponential growth occurs in countries where only voluntary Sweden-style social distancing measures are in place. Sweden’s infection rate changed from exponential to linear about four weeks into the epidemic, and its health system was never overwhelmed. That is a good thing. That this linear trend has until now continued without much of a slowdown is the downside.
  2. Were /are lockdowns justified in places with much smaller death toll and rate of infections, such as in some rural US states or Australia? We will never know if these death toll numbers would have eventuated in Australia. This virus is rather mysterious; it is not entirely clear why, say, Greece has completely escaped it while Italy was hit so hard. Yes, the Greek government acted swiftly but is it all there is to it? Why there are very few deaths in Lebanon and Jordan and, apparently, zero in Vietnam? Why did California come out relatively lightly even though it was one of the first states to get infection, was completely unprepared and has a large population of homeless people? It may be that Australia would have never gotten it anyway. But maybe it was reasonable for the government to expect to be hit similarly to Italy, especially with our close ties with China as well as Italy. So, from the precautionary point of view, this seems to have been a reasonable step to take.
  3. In the above brief analysis, I only looked at the death rate and economic damage. The virus effect is broader. Many people suffered severely but survived. Others were left with lasting injuries. Likewise, the damage from lockdowns is not just economic. It is also psychological, emotional, social and physical (lack of exercise), etc. etc. In this sense, my analysis is simplistic and incomplete, as it counts the first-order effects only. I believe the input parameters and hence the estimates have such a large uncertainty that any attempts to include all these other important factors would be pointless.
  4. What about poor countries where people rely on a daily wage to get food (or like in some areas of Peru, they don’t have fridges, so they need to buy food daily – and this is not even Africa!)? Well, these countries need to make a different calculation and may have to make different choices.
  5. And what about herd immunity? Could it be that Sweden will be immune from further waves, while Finland will be hit hard and will eventually get a similar number of deaths? Well, even if this were true, by the time the second wave hits, we may have a cure or a vaccine, or, the virus mutates into a more benign strain. In any case, hospitals and nursing homes will be better prepared.
  6. And finally, what about opening up? Many countries are now gradually opening up. Is this reasonable or reckless? Critics say new outbreaks are inevitable; a recent example is in Seoul, where, in response to a new and relatively large outbreak, authorities have closed all schools and shut down entertainment venues. The true picture won’t emerge for a few weeks after the beginning of opening up in many European countries but it is already becoming apparent that outbreaks may occur but will more than likely be manageable and won’t even come close to the reference numbers N1, N2 or N3. Thus, in my view, Australian states have been way overcautious in their reopening. They forgot that the lockdowns were, ostensibly, to flatten the curve and avoid overwhelming the health system, not to eliminate the virus altogether or avoid a single extra death.
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75 Responses to Boris G: Were lockdowns justified? What’s the reference?

  1. egg_

    Let’s hope this isn’t plagiarized by the dim bulb, for starters.

  2. egg_

    Initially, when people witnessed exponential rise in death toll, public opposition to lockdowns was extremely limited. But as the threat appears to have passed in most western countries, the patience runs out, and economic impact becomes apparent, views questioning and even condemning lockdowns have become an integral part of the mainstream debate. Unfortunately, a lot of the debate on this issue has been either highly emotional or ideologically driven, or both. Data are often included but if data are not consistent with one’s views, then some even say data is wrong, manipulated etc.

    You have posted previously that a “short lockdown” is justifiable, whatever that is.

    How is a short, sharp lockdown any less dangerous to the Economy?

    Risk assessment is a human process, and for the Nth time – humans tend to exaggerate the worst case risk (i.e. death) and underestimate long term hazards – i.e. shutdown of the Economy.

    It’s not brain Science!

  3. The short and only correct answer is NO.

  4. Some History

    I have a friend’s friend in Djibuti who was telling me that N5 wasn’t out of the question. And my sister-in-law’s son’s cousin’s hairdresser’s make-up artist in Sheboygan, WI, told of a disturbing, rising death toll.

  5. C.L.

    Thoughtful post, Boris. Thank you.

    Were lockdowns justified?

    No.

  6. Mater

    Until now, Sweden has had over 450 deaths per million people compared to 100 per million for Denmark, 56 per million in Finland and 45 per million in Norway. Given that these countries are very similar in many ways, one can say that lockdowns reduce the number of fatalities (per million people) by a factor of 4 to 8.

    Let’s wait until all contestants cross the finish line before we start assigning podium positions.
    Tally up when everyone (and everything) is back to normal.

  7. Fastest article I’ve ever read.
    I stopped at “BorisG”.

  8. C.L.

    Let’s wait until all contestants cross the finish line before we start assigning podium positions.
    Tally up when everyone (and everything) is back to normal.

    Indeed. And the tallying must include all those non-COVID excess deaths caused by lockdowns.

  9. stackja

    I have not personally noticed any problems with the virus. I have personally noticed many problems with the shutdown.

  10. Mater

    They forgot that the lockdowns were, ostensibly, to flatten the curve and avoid overwhelming the health system, not to eliminate the virus altogether or avoid a single extra death.

    Yes. 100%.

  11. harrys on the boat

    How many fucking times.

    The CMO told the nation if we did nothing 15m Aussies will become infected, 150k will die with ICU bed use peaking at 35k.

    The CMO told the nation if we locked down, shut the borders, socially distanced only 5m will be infected, 50k will die and ICU bed use will peak at 5k.

    So no the lockdowns were not worth it. Because the modelling, predictions were so fucking wrong all involved need to be in jail.

  12. Indeed. And the tallying must include all those non-COVID excess deaths caused by lockdowns.

    Indeedly and since the Gubbermunt want to take all the credit for lives “saved” by the lockUP (not down), they must equally be made to wear the blame for all deaths caused by the lockup.

  13. David Brewer

    Sorry but I suspect this may be barking up a couple of wrong trees.

    First, it is not realistic to compare the economic cost of lockdowns with the economic cost of Covid deaths using the value of a statistical life (VSL). For this purpose, it does not matter whether VSL is worked out using average earning potential or what a person would pay for life insurance – either figure is beside the point, as the vast majority of Covid-19 deaths are of people who are old and already sick with something else. They have very little life left to live, that little will mainly be between unpleasant and excruciating, and the poor buggers have no economically productive activity. To start doing calculations as if their remaining life is statistically worth millions of dollars, the same as the average citizen, is unrealistic.

    Second problem, the calculation that lockdowns cut death tolls by a factor of 4, based on the assumption that Sweden is very similar in many ways to Denmark, Norway and Finland. The trouble is, it’s dissimilar in ways that count. The Stockholm metropolitan area is by far the largest agglomeration in Scandinavia, and Covid-19 outbreaks are almost all in densely populated areas. It was also remarked during the lockdown that Sweden has relatively larger shares of more susceptible immigrant populations and many more large nursing homes and old people’s homes than, for example, Norway. In some ways more comparable countries might be Belgium or the Netherlands, where death rates were similar to Sweden’s.

    Sweden’s experience also spotlights the cardinal point that the chief determinant of Covid deaths, all over the world, is whether it got into vulnerable population groups, i.e. hospital patients, and care home residents. All you had to do to avoid mass Covid deaths was to stop this happening. The authorities failed to stop it happening in northern Italy, France, Spain, New York, parts of England, parts of Sweden etc.

    In many cases, the failure was catastrophic. In France, more than one-third of all confirmed cases (not deaths) were in nursing homes. 50 000 medical personnel or other staff of hospitals and care homes caught the disease and spread it around. It was obvious this would happen because in February and March when the infection was at its height there was no protection for these staff at all – not even masks, let alone full face protection or protective clothing.

    BTW it will be easy to test whether most Covid mortality was of people who were at death’s door anyway. If that’s true, then death rates after Covid passes will drop to well below average levels for several weeks afterwards in a sort of J-curve. There are signs of this happening in the latest data (week 21) in France and Spain here. A few more weeks and we will have a good idea of the average shortening of life produced by a Covid death.

    All this said, these points only reinforce the general conclusion that the lockdown in Australia was too severe and the reopening is too slow. Adjusting the figures for the factors above only makes these errors appear far more extreme.

  14. Driftforge

    Original estimates based on assumption of R0 = 3, IFR ~ 1.0% were about 0.6% losses.

    Having a quick look at the decay in fatality per case that seems to have occurred as medical understanding has improved, its looking like IFR may get as low as 0.5%.

    R0 really doesn’t seem to have changed particularly much, but lets say that near costless measures found reduce R in practice to about 1.5 without lockdown or lockdown-equivalent self restriction.

    So back of envelope calcs still say that countries (states, cities even) that don’t eradicate or improve treatment of this beyond current measures are heading for total deaths in the order of 1,500 per million over some ill defined period.

    Lockdown justified, competent government demonstrated possible and preferable, and nowhere near common enough.

  15. Leo G

    This implies that lockdowns could be justified if the disease (potential death toll) is really bad.

    No. No. No.
    Lockdown is too costly to use as a prophylactic treatment.
    The infection should be already well established in a population before it is considered. There is likely always to be a disease present somewhere on the planet that an expert thinks has the potential to have a “really bad” death toll in the population.
    The trigger for a lockdown should be the prevalence of the infection in the susceptible part of the population at a level some margin below the threshold which is considered unmanageable (medically and/or economically).

  16. Mater

    Indeed. And the tallying must include all those non-COVID excess deaths caused by lockdowns.

    And those with permanent impairments which have resulted from a lack of medical treatment, of which I already know a couple.

  17. egg_

    German Official Leaks Report Denouncing Corona as ‘A Global False Alarm’

    – The dangerousness of Covid-19 was overestimated: probably at no point did the danger posed by the new virus go beyond the normal level.
    – The people who die from Corona are essentially those who would statistically die this year, because they have reached the end of their lives and their weakened bodies can no longer cope with any random everyday stress (including the approximately 150 viruses currently in circulation).
    – Worldwide, within a quarter of a year, there has been no more than 250,000 deaths from Covid-19, compared to 1.5 million deaths [25,100 in Germany] during the influenza wave 2017/18.
    – The danger is obviously no greater than that of many other viruses. There is no evidence that this was more than a false alarm.
    – A reproach could go along these lines: During the Corona crisis the State has proved itself as one of the biggest producers of Fake News.

  18. BorisG

    The trigger for a lockdown should be the prevalence of the infection in the susceptible part of the population at a level some margin below the threshold which is considered unmanageable (medically and/or economically).

    Well they applied this principle in Wuhan. Didn’t work out very well, did it?

  19. egg_

    Lockdown justified, competent government demonstrated possible and preferable, and nowhere near common enough.

    Insane.

  20. Matt

    Anyone who actually thinks we’ve had a lockdown in Australia is delusional. There are restrictions in place, but I’ve left my home every single day, I’ve attended my workplace, I’ve been shopping. There continues to be a lot of hyperventilating here that actually doesn’t reflect reality.
    What we do know is that Australia has had a vastly different experience with COVID-19 than nearly the rest of the world (along with New Zealand). Whether you like it or not, those restrictions have played a part in that.

  21. Ellie

    An excellent piece! Thank you, Boris.

    Emotional or ideologically driven? The reason it’s all a mess is because the two have collided.

  22. BorisG

    You have posted previously that a “short lockdown” is justifiable, whatever that is.

    How is a short, sharp lockdown any less dangerous to the Economy?

    Our shutdown (in WA) was about 2 months and not very severe (malls and beaches were open etc). Many businesses were shut down but if they can reopen in 2 months it shouldn’t be a huge problem.

    Airline and cruise industry is another story. Plus of course commodity prices but this is not of our making.

  23. egg_

    The infection should be already well established in a population before it is considered

    Precisely – and we’re in the Southern Hemisphere, with a 6-month seasonal advantage.
    The CMOs are just WHO stooges.

  24. BorisG

    The CMOs are just WHO stooges.

    Well just a few months ago the Cats were condemning WHO for nor declaring the pandemic earlier.

  25. BorisG

    Anyone who actually thinks we’ve had a lockdown in Australia is delusional.

    Matt literally speaking, you are right but maybe this is because you still had a job to go to.

  26. egg_

    those restrictions have played a part in that.

    55% “herd immunity”?
    “Flattening the curve”?
    “Saving” ICU beds (100k across Australia)?

  27. Matt

    As did most Australians Boris.

  28. Leo G

    Well they applied this principle in Wuhan. Didn’t work out very well, did it?

    Rubbish! Such a principle was not applied in Wuhan.
    In Wuhan the government authorities initially did virtually nothing to alert the population or the local hospital system to the risk. There was consequently no mandatory social distancing, no travel restrictions, no proper provision for quarantine of travelers or specialised treatment centres until a national political crisis was triggered.

  29. Matt

    Where is there 55% herd immunity Egg?

  30. egg_

    just a few months ago the Cats were condemning WHO for nor declaring the pandemic earlier.

    With our 6 month seasonal advantage, i.e. lead time, we didn’t gave to go into lockdown.

    Greg Hunt chastised PvO live on air on Insiders for not shaking hands with the CMO* in the Green Room, pre lockdownremember?

    *Risk of Fraser being a carrier at the time.

    Politics is (“showbiz for ugly people”) theatre.

  31. Mater

    Anyone who actually thinks we’ve had a lockdown in Australia is delusional. There are restrictions in place, but I’ve left my home every single day, I’ve attended my workplace, I’ve been shopping. There continues to be a lot of hyperventilating here that actually doesn’t reflect reality.

    We’ve already got a poster (his name is Bob) who believes that his personal experience reflects that of everyone else.

    What we do know is that Australia has had a vastly different experience with COVID-19 than nearly the rest of the world (along with New Zealand). Whether you like it or not, those restrictions have played a part in that.

    Someone else tallying up before the race is run. The restrictions were/are a holding pattern. Perhaps wait until all planes are on the ground, and parked, before polishing your/our laurels.

  32. Matt

    My experience is not unique, but you’ve kind of missed the point.
    I do agree that we shouldn’t count our eggs, but we’ll be hard pushed to end up at the top of the leaderboard when this is done and dusted.

  33. Tel

    Well they applied this principle in Wuhan.

    Huh?!? Where do you get that from?

    The Chinese strategy was to hide the problem as long as possible, and then bribe the WHO to lie for them, and when it finally could not be hidden any more, they went ballistic and shut everything. In Wuhan they totally shut public transport for example, which did not happen in either Sydney or New York.

    Didn’t work out very well, did it?

    Based on what? The Chinese government claims it worked fine, and the statistics that continue to be published to this day make China look great! Thing is, hardly anyone believes those statistics.

    Then again, hardly anyone believes the death statistics in any country when we have publicized cases like in Queensland where they can’t even figure out who has the disease and who doesn’t. We have paw paws getting sick with the Rona in Tanzania. Norway and Finland hardly ever show any excess mortality due to inflenza (in a normal year with no “lockdown”), and they did not show much excess mortality due to CCP-19 either … meaning that this year is largely normal for them. Add to that we don’t know anything about how much immunity is out there in the general population, nor do we know anything about “second wave” which is supposed to come along this Winter or perhaps next.

    Deaths in Sweden (and almost everywhere else) were mostly in nursing homes, and most of the “lockdown” campaigners were upset that Sweden allowed open air cafes … so explain how those people drinking coffee in the garden somehow caused deaths in nursing homes. Do we believe in rational cause and effect, or mysticism?

  34. Boris

    Thank you guys. A lot of good points. I just strongly disagree with one point – that this virus only killed people who had less than a year to live.

    Just look at over 20 victims of the Ruby Princess. Yes cruise ships do have lots of elderly people. But no, people who are gravely ill or bed stricken don’t usually travel on cruise ships. Not sure they are even allowed.

    There was only one victim of Covid I knew personally (but not very well).. He was in his 70s and he was going on a trip to Africa but his plans were cut short. He did have some underlying conditions but he was quite fit and could have lived for another 10 years.

  35. Boris

    Tel have you seen this article ?

  36. Boris

    so explain how those people drinking coffee in the garden somehow caused deaths in nursing homes.

    Maybe they worked in a nursing home? Or had family members who worked in nursing homes. etc

    By the way I recall about 50% died in nursing homes. The other 50% were ’others’.

  37. Mater

    My experience is not unique, but you’ve kind of missed the point.

    Have I?
    My experience isn’t unique either. Plenty had their cancer monitoring suspended indefinitely. Nice to think that a clear and present danger is outranked by hysteria and guesswork.

    I do agree that we shouldn’t count our eggs, but we’ll be hard pushed to end up at the top of the leaderboard when this is done and dusted.

    Your ‘leaderboard’ won’t include those who are yet to know that they are dead, but it should.

  38. Boris

    Plenty had their cancer monitoring suspended indefinitely.

    This should not have happened. This isn’t a closure of a local gym.

  39. Mater

    This should not have happened. This isn’t a closure of a local gym.

    Well it did, Boris.
    Breast screening and a whole heap of other shit, too. And that’s not counting the lack of non-cancelled treatments which people forwent due to having the obsolete shit scared out of them by fear mongers. People who wouldn’t go to the doctor with appendicitis, who now have to live the rest of their lives with a colostomy bag, etc
    Hysteria and overreaction.

  40. BorisG

    Well it did, Boris.

    If it did, it was wrong. I do not support every aspect of the lockdown.

  41. Leo G

    I just strongly disagree with one point – that this virus only killed people who had less than a year to live.

    … who would otherwise have had less than a year to live.
    The ARDS syndrome that is often the cause of death in those older people with COVID also predominently kills young people infected with some strains of influenza. In both groups there are often so-called co-morbidities that reduce life-expectancy with or without the accompanying acute illness- but which are not holy writ.
    One of my parents had a serious heart attack 27 years ago, with stomach bypass as a co-morbidity and was advised by cardiologists her condition was terminal and her life expectancy no more than a few weeks. She is still quite alive.

  42. egg_

    BTW it will be easy to test whether most Covid mortality was of people who were at death’s door anyway.

    They all die of pneumonia – that’s how it was discovered in Wuhan.

  43. BorisG

    Your ‘leaderboard’ won’t include those who are yet to know that they are dead, but it should.

    Mater, if you mean people who did not get vital treatment, it happened in most places and in many places more severely than here. so it won’t change our place on the leaderboard.

    I don’t actually understand how the situation here can get worse than say in Sweden. Australia has beaten the virus and won’t fully reopen borders until it is either beaten in most other places, or vaccine is available etc. And even if we do get it, we will be very well prepared.

    And how can Sweden get ahead of Australia? Unless its victims rise from the dead…

  44. JC

    Quiet night and little to no looting. Stocks will be down today in the US. Stocks only go up now on terrible, horrible news

  45. BorisG

    Some people here are 100% convinced that Australia had a huge advantage because the virus arrived here during summer. I am not sure there is a proven link between this virus (or its transmission rate) and weather.

    Brazil appears to show that it spreads rapidly in winter – but what kind of winter Brazil has? And Israel was travelling with this virus very similarly to Australia, but now they have found infections in 65 schools and shut them down – and they are into summer now. This is not a massive outbreak by any means – but relatively speaking they are doing a lot worse than Australia, which is now into winter. Go figure.

  46. Leo G

    And how can Sweden get ahead of Australia?

    You just suggested the response.

    Australia has beaten the virus and won’t fully reopen borders until it is either beaten in most other places …

    If we reopen borders inappropriately before the virus is beaten.

  47. Fat Tony

    Matt
    #3475037, posted on June 4, 2020 at 10:23 pm
    Anyone who actually thinks we’ve had a lockdown in Australia is delusional. There are restrictions in place, but I’ve left my home every single day, I’ve attended my workplace, I’ve been shopping. There continues to be a lot of hyperventilating here that actually doesn’t reflect reality.
    What we do know is that Australia has had a vastly different experience with COVID-19 than nearly the rest of the world (along with New Zealand). Whether you like it or not, those restrictions have played a part in that.

    Maybe Australia was the only country that counted those that actually died from the flu

  48. BorisG

    If we reopen borders inappropriately before the virus is beaten.

    I doubt it. They seem to be extremely cautious. WA premier won’t even reopen interstate borders (which I do not support – too extreme).

  49. BorisG

    One other point. We can debate if lockdown was necessary or we would be ok with voluntary measures. But if we do impose the lockdown, it is better to do it early (Australia, Vietnam, Greece) than late (the UK).

  50. Lockdown justified, competent government demonstrated possible and preferable, and nowhere near common enough.

    ???

    What planet are you on?

    Nearly everything we were told was a blatant lie.

  51. ArthurB

    I am not sure that it is possible to compare rates of death in different countries. For one thing, I am sceptical about figures for China, its regime is not likely to publish figures that reflect badly on its policies and actions. Third world nations may not possess the ability to make accurate counts of people who die from COVID. Another factor is that not all deaths ascribed to COVID were in fact caused by the virus, in the USA the Democrats are using the pandemic as a means of attacking Trump, and are deliberately inflating the number of deaths. You would need to do autopsies to determine whether a death was due to the virus, or to other underlying conditions.

    As a couple of commentators above have said, the only way of assessing the death rates from COVID is to look at total deaths per month, and compare them to the figures for previous years.

  52. Leo G

    But if we do impose the lockdown, it is better to do it early (Australia, Vietnam, Greece) than late (the UK).

    Is it better to have an adaptable hierarchy of actions, involving border restrictions, social distancing, hygiene-related measures, quarantine and group isolation, contact tracing, molecular biology testing, various selective strata for lockdowns, or to act erratically and link actions with virtue signals?

  53. Leo G

    As a couple of commentators above have said, the only way of assessing the death rates from COVID is to look at total deaths per month, and compare them to the figures for previous years.

    Our local hospital has virtually closed its outpatient facility and has been keeping its bed occupancy rate low in case of a large influx of COVID cases. Patients have been sent home with serious conditions that would previously have kept them in hospital. Private hospitals have suspended elective surgery. People fear attending any hospital that is associated with a COVID clinic.
    What affect do you think that might have on death rates?

  54. Tel

    Tel have you seen this article ?

    They are attempting to claim that they can somehow decide which deaths are caused by the virus, and which are caused by the government.

    Based on their data though, why not compare London (with “lockdown” if you accept government guidelines as lockdown) to Stockholm (without lockdown) and conclude that Sweden was better?

    One cherry pick, is as good as any other … I like my comparison because it gives a better answer than yours.

    How about this idea … start by teaching people the concept of doing a control experiment, why you can’t learn a whole lot when multiple variables are changing at the same time, and how Western science pulled itself out of the age of mysticism and superstition. Could catch on, worth a try.

  55. BorisG

    They are attempting to claim that they can somehow decide which deaths are caused by the virus, and which are caused by the government.

    no they just look at excess deaths. A number of people here claimed that this is the only objective measure.

    It is extremely unlikely that a significant proportion of these excess deaths are due to government action (inability to get medical care). Even advocates of this theory suggest that it can result in extra deaths but most likely in long term.

    I think people are trying all sorts of ways to deny objective experimental data. data are not perfect but they are data. any idea that it is inflated etc is baseless and driven entirely by ideology. I am not talking about China, North Korea or poor countries.

  56. BorisG

    Is it better to have an adaptable hierarchy of actions, involving border restrictions, social distancing, hygiene-related measures, quarantine and group isolation, contact tracing, molecular biology testing, various selective strata for lockdowns, or to act erratically and link actions with virtue signals?

    You may be right but it is hard to accuse people like say Bibi Netanyahu or Modi of virtue signalling.

  57. Mater

    Mater, if you mean people who did not get vital treatment, it happened in most places and in many places more severely than here. so it won’t change our place on the leaderboard.

    I don’t actually understand how the situation here can get worse than say in Sweden. Australia has beaten the virus and won’t fully reopen borders until it is either beaten in most other places, or vaccine is available etc. And even if we do get it, we will be very well prepared.

    And how can Sweden get ahead of Australia? Unless its victims rise from the dead…

    Ok, perhaps if you assume that the virus is completely eliminated before opening the borders…possibly we won’t catch Sweden. That’s a BIG if. Do you think everywhere in the world will be accurate (for nefarious reasons, or otherwise) when giving the “All Clear!”. China?

    According to the fear mongers, it takes only one.

    One thing that Sweden has likely achieved (and paid for), is herd immunity in its young. We are like virtuous young virgins, ripe for the taking by the invading hordes. Perhaps we can live the rest of our lives behind our castle walls to avoid the rape, pillage and plunder?

  58. Diogenes

    rsonally (but not very well).. He was in his 70s and he was going on a trip to Africa but his plans were cut short. He did have some underlying conditions but he was quite fit and could have lived for another 10 years.rsonally (but not very well).. He was in his 70s and he was going on a trip to Africa but his plans were cut short. He did have some underlying conditions but he was quite fit and could have lived for another 10 years.

    If we are doing anecdotes . my 72yo mother was fit enough to trek to Everest Base Camp, came home feeling tired, saw her quack, was diagnosed with leukaemia and was in the grave 2 months later. 15 years later her husband 84 years old was cycling 200 km a week, started getting coughing firs and was diagnosed with lung cancer and other cancers caused by a metastased skin cancer 6 mo later he was dead

  59. egg_

    Is it better to have an adaptable hierarchy of actions, involving border restrictions, social distancing, hygiene-related measures, quarantine and group isolation, contact tracing, molecular biology testing, various selective strata for lockdowns, or to act erratically and link actions with virtue signals?

    Precsiely.
    Risk management is about a hierarchy of controls.
    That is why Joe Public has been foaming at the mouth about the disembarking of the Ruby Princess, Medicos cruising during the pandemic and not quarantining afterwards.
    The Medical fraternity have been the biggest hypocrites throughout this fiasco.
    It.is.a.farce.

  60. Mater

    Mater, if you mean people who did not get vital treatment, it happened in most places and in many places more severely than here. so it won’t change our place on the leaderboard.

    Boris,
    Forget, for a moment, about comparisons with other countries. The gist of your post was about justification and reference. Let’s talk about the other side of the ledger page.

    There was a definite, and, mostly, yet to be seen cost of lockdown (in lives). You say the lockdown saved lives. I can definitely say that it also cost lives.

    See:

    https://www1.racgp.org.au/newsgp/clinical/drastic-drops-in-cancer-and-heart-attack-patients

    Also, as I previously posted:

    Mater
    #3434213, posted on April 29, 2020 at 9:47 am
    Here’s just another example of unnecessary deaths.

    The use of overseas bone marrow for transplant, is now restricted.
    Consequently, they are conducting bone marrow transplants using less than optimal donors (a lesser match) which can be sourced locally. They have no choice.
    People who might otherwise have lived through the procedure, are now dying as a result.

    You won’t hear about this in the media.

    The post above comes from a medical professional who broke down in front of me over what they are being forced to do.

    You ask “What’s the reference?”. I’m giving you some that you’ll not openly hear about.

  61. Bar Beach Swimmer

    Thus, in my view, Australian states have been way overcautious in their reopening. They forgot that the lockdowns were, ostensibly, to flatten the curve and avoid overwhelming the health system, not to eliminate the virus altogether or avoid a single extra death

    We were originally told by the CMO that the response was to flatten the curve so that the hospitals would not be inundated. When that did not happen we were told that we had to avoid a second wave.

    At one point, weeks ago now, the CMO said we would have to change the way we live and interact with others, even our family and friends, permanently.

    Now we are being told restrictions will remain until there is a vaccine, which could be at least 18 months away, if not ever. WTF??

    I have not downloaded the app and will not. This is just an excuse; a way out because they don’t know how to get us out of the mess they’ve created. Inside their ivory towers I can hear the conversations that have gone on for weeks like, for example: “Who would’ve thought that public health decisions would be able to bring the economy to its knees?”

    Yet none of the people who have made the responses up (politicians & public servants) have had much to worry about: no lost income; still at work or working from home etc. When asked about pay cuts, even the PM said how hard everyone in the public service were working for our benefit.

    While others have had their businesses go to the wall and incomes have vanished Yet the ads say we’re all in this together. Well, we’re not and it’s obvious!

    We now have internal borders that can not be crossed. The other half has been gone for work almost 11 weeks because the borders are not open and it’s expected that he may not be home before Sept.

    As Mater said, other people have had no treatments, screenings and general elective surgeries. People have not seen their families for months. And state Govt’s refuse to budge on opening up the economy.

    In Melb on Sat there’s supposed to be a large demonstration, which the Premier has said is ok – just keep the social distancing, but there will be no fines! Again, WTF??

    And what is the Federal Govt doing? Well one thing they’re not doing is challenging these stupid state lockdowns in the HC? All they seem to understand is how to spend money that we don’t have. I don’t understand it! I have lost all faith in politicians.

    You may thing that I’m stressing out. I can tell you I’m not. What I am is mightily pissed off. I do not want to see another bureaucrat giving a press conference, making policy decisions, releasing public service announcements and directly advising the electorate ever again. I want the people who were voted in, in place at the front, answering the questions. Standing by their decisions and afterwards being evaluated on their merits or lack there of.

  62. Iampeter

    Thanks for the thoughtful piece BorisG, even though I’m firmly in the anti-lockdown/voluntary camp.

    It is extremely unlikely that a significant proportion of these excess deaths are due to government action (inability to get medical care).

    Yea but why do you think is unlikely? We have empirical evidence in counties with big outbreaks and good healthcare vs countries with big outbreaks and poor healthcare. South Korea vs Italy, for example.
    Of course this is something that no one will ever really look at too closely in the mainstream, since the answers will call for less government regulation of healthcare and no one wants to consider that.

    Many businesses were shut down but if they can reopen in 2 months it shouldn’t be a huge problem.

    Only someone who has never run a business can say something like this.
    You can’t just shut down a business for two month. Many businesses will not re-open. These people’s lives have been destroyed and the number of people affected here is far more than those impacted by the virus.
    There’s often suggestion that those opposing lockdowns are being callous, but I would argue that those who flippantly think these shut downs “shouldn’t be a huge problem,” are the ones actually being callous.
    The real cost of these lockdowns has not even begun to add up and it is going to be with us for years.

    In the end, stats are interesting but don’t determine government policy. Whether or not a government should engage in lockdowns can only be determined by your political theory, not statistics about this or that world event.

  63. Struth

    Boris G is a classic example of how socialism wins.
    Hysteria and fear cause enough people to believe all they are told.

    There is not one, not one statistic that he can prove has not been falsified, and yet those people giving us those figures have now stated they were falsified.
    But he takes their first figures and ignores their later admissions of lying.
    That is because he WANTS to believe.
    This small book above is one person coming to grips with the fact he has been made to look what he is, a weak, gullible twat, and he did it publicly.
    He is absolutely gobsmacked that the left would act like this so he searches and searches for justification for his reaction.
    Tis better to remain silent and thought a fool, Boris, that to speak up and remove all doubt.
    You and many, many, other Australians like you, mostly women, at the critical moment failed, and failed badly, and I hold people like you personally responsible for falling for socialist bullshit.
    STFU if you are too gullible to know what you are saying, and prone to fear.
    But no, you came on here wetting your pants and strongly arguing for healthy people to be locked down.
    I find arseholes like you repulsive.
    Thanks for handing our country over to socialists, a country fought for by men, something you will never be.

  64. Bad Samaritan

    C’mon…

    A cold-weather virus arrived from one cold country into another cold country in one huge hit as tens of thousands of Italian-resident Chinese guest workers returned from holidays in Wuhan. As it was holidays and peak skiing time in Lombardy, loads of European vacationers then took the virus to many other places in Europe. the coldest were struck hard and the warmer hardly at all.

    Whereever it was coldest, the virus took off. It spread least in warmer areas….Greece and Southern Europe. It also got carried to the US where it. likewise was ten times as deadly in the cold northern states than in the southern warmer states.

    The three main factors; temperature, distance from source and degree of isolation (islands best of all).

    Australia: hot and distant and isolated. = no chance ever of any serious consequences. Not ever.

    BTW: When designing a sports or racing betting selection system there are hundreds of factors which could be considered. The winning punter instinctively knows what the important factors are and hone in on them. If they get it wrong they lose money immediately, and are therefore highly motivated to examine their assumptions at all times. Medical betting system designers (epidemiologists and statisticians) have no such motivation since they can get it wrong with impunit, so they will always get it wrong.y.

  65. Iampeter

    Boris G is a classic example of how socialism wins.

    What do you mean? You’re a Trump supporter, just like most posters here.
    Supporting nationalism, because you don’t understand that it’s effectively the same thing as supporting socialism, is how socialism wins.

    I find arseholes like you repulsive.

    You’re right. We need more raving crackpots instead.

  66. Justinian the Great

    This analysis makes the same mistake as just about everyone else does when looking at Sweden. The death rate at this particular point in time is largely irrelevant. Eradication of the virus was never a realistic option. Without a vaccine or treatment people will continue to get infected and more will die. Sweden accepts this reality and hence is prepared to have more deaths early on in the pandemic rather than as other countries have done and simply slowed the rate of infection. Finland, Norway and all the other countries you mention will end up with roughly the same deaths per million (albeit allowing for important national differences) as Sweden it will just take them longer – spread over a few years. Accordingly the economic benefit of preventing fatalities is marginal to non-existent.

  67. Justinian the Great

    Boris states that his analysis not ideological or emotional but data driven and rational. It is anything but. It is a bunch of random calculations derived from other random / dubious calculations mashed into a dodgy value of life assessment. It doesn’t define any of the key terms, assumptions, inputs or outputs much less explain what the causality is. How can you assess the cost of the “lockdown” if you do not define the benefit? This analysis fails to articulate what the purpose of the “lockdown” was and ends up confusing (like government) means and ends. Initially, we were told it was to prevent the hospital system from collapse. Given that the hospital system never seriously faced being overwhelmed it is fair to say that the economic costs associated with measures beyond say travel bans, quarantine measures, and contact tracing have been a deadweight loss. This is to say that the analysis also fails to define what a “lockdown” is. It is not a single “thing”as this analysis implies. In fact it was a suite of measures, some which would have made a material difference (i.e. travel bans, quarantine) to minimising community infection (if that is the defined purpose) and others that would have made minimal (i.e. closing cafes) to zero difference (i.e. banning fishing and golf). Some of these measures would have been high cost and high impact (i.e. travel bans), some would have been low cost and high impact (i.e. hand sanitiser and better hygiene), some would have been high cost and low impact (i.e. closing cafes, state travel bans) and so on. This analysis seems to have fallen for the government’s change of narrative from saving the hospital system to saving every life relying on a dodgy cost of life assessment. It is precisely this type of rubbish analysis that enables politicians to maintain costly restrictions of no real purpose, dodge accountability and admit they don’t have a coherent strategy or know what they are doing.

  68. Beachcomber

    Struth at 11:18 am

    Boris G is a classic example of how socialism wins.
    Hysteria and fear cause enough people to believe all they are told.

    Indeed

    “Stay at home” switched to “looting is justified” in a blink of an eye

    Lots of people – maybe a majority, maybe not – still take the media such as CNN, MSNBC, and the New York Times seriously. They behave according to these fake journalists’ instructions. I am amazed by the staggering stupidity and immorality of those sheep. It isn’t possible for me to have any significant respect to these people.

    Before the coronavirus hysteria was put in place, these sheep would happily consume several “big stories” such as the climate hysteria, Australian bushfires, Russiagate, and several more. All of these stories have always been hysterically exaggerated and distorted as if they were arguments against the civilization, right-wingers, and/or Donald Trump in person. In reality, most of those stories were untrue and those that were true were relatively unimportant and surely unrelated to Donald Trump. E.g. the Australian bushfires were at most events of regional importance.

    In February, these media were reprogrammed to spread the (most likely) greatest hysteria in the history of mankind. And they succeeded, indeed. Hundreds of millions of people began to be afraid of a slightly new flu-like disease. For the first time in the history of civilization, the healthy majority “quarantined itself” and suicidally suspended most of the human interactions and something like 50% of the economic activity.

  69. Robber Baron

    Stay at home orders under medical state of emergency powers are still in full force.

    Will they be lifted? I’m starting to think that they will not.

    Welcome to the the gulag.

  70. BorisG

    Stay at home orders under medical state of emergency powers are still in full force.

    Where?

  71. BorisG

    You can’t just shut down a business for two month.

    Peter, most restaurants and cafes in Perth where I used to lunch or just to pass by have reopened. Some of them were temporarily closed while others had a takeaway service. Now nearly all open, and more are opening next week. Same with gyms and many many others. It is much harder with tourism etc due to border closures.

    Neither Golf courses nor beaches were closed in Perth. In fact I have to admit that I have never been to the beach so frequently in 20 years (since tennis WAS closed for a short while). Perth was also spared of some stupidities like stopping cars, fines for people for driving lessons etc.

  72. Procrustes

    Very interesting post. One quick quibble with this though “ US federal agencies estimate the life of an average American to be worth about L=$10 million. And it is not dependent on age”. No those who calculate QALYs can do it by age but they are just discouraged from doing so.

    In my professional life I have been a proponent of cost benefit analysis – and perforce the need to use QALYs as an input to that. So far, so good for marginal analysis. However, when we come to such large problems as pandemics I am starting to think QALYs lose all analytical meaning. Politicians have to do the best they can in uncertain circumstances. I just hope they do so in a way that learns from mistakes and balances costs and benefits of lockdowns.

  73. Struth

    Boris and Iampoyda, couldn’t get an IQ of 50 with a combined score.
    Look at the shit dribbled above.

  74. Iampeter

    Boris and Iampoyda, couldn’t get an IQ of 50 with a combined score.
    Look at the shit dribbled above.

    This is another great example of you totally not being a “repulsive arsehole,” right?

    Confused socialists on right wing blogs are the best.

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