Jesus v. Covid (and the winner Is…)

Two years ago, a few months before Covid hit, I wrote a post entitled ‘God’s Very Good Creation’ that included the picture above. The post concluded that ‘Jesus can’t save you from the common cold, let alone death’. How the past 23 months have borne that out! We hear almost daily of anti-vax pastors, preachers and assorted evangelicals, who have trusted the Lord to save them from Covid, dying of the virus. The Lord failed to come through for them despite their faith in him and his promises.

I recognise there are Christians who like to tell us God doesn’t work like this. He’s not, they say, a dispenser of health and healing, a fairy godmother who fixes those who love him just because they pray in earnest that he will. They’re right of course; God doesn’t work like this. (God doesn’t work, period.) So why does the Bible tell us he does?

Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven (James 5.14-15).

And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will… their hands on the sick, and they will recover (Mark 16.17-18).

Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son (John 14.13).

Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them (Matthew 18.19-20).

At best this is delusional wishful thinking, at worst, out and out lies. Surely the men who made these fantastic claims knew that God wasn’t like this at all, that magical thinking and ritual didn’t really cure illness? (Perhaps we should expect nothing better from people who believed that God had granted them eternal life.) Despite their dishonesty, some believers today are still prepared stake their lives, quite literally, on the same false promises, discovering when it’s too late, that they are empty and meaningless. The Lord will not and has not saved anyone from Covid nor anything else.

Worse than that, however, is how Christian anti-vaxxers affect others; dissuading the gullible from having the vaccine, spreading infection and providing the means, the culture, for the virus to mutate. They also take up space in ICUs that people with unavoidable medical conditions need but can’t access because of them – like the child in this story. It’s also likely that, should health services become overwhelmed this winter because of the unvaccinated contracting Covid – the overwhelming majority of hospitalisations are of the unvaccinated – the rest of the population will need to go into lockdown again. The UK government, while saying it wants to avoid further lockdowns, has not ruled them out should the NHS need ‘saving’ once more.

Sarah Palin has said she will not get the vaccine because she ‘trusts in the science’. No, it doesn’t makes sense (when has she ever?) Palin believes her own immune system will protect her, failing to understand how vaccines work – by priming the immune system to produce anti-bodies against disease before coming into contact with it.

Palin and those similarly motivated by the fatal combination of ignorance and religion, who refuse to protect themselves and others, are selfish and socially irresponsible . Their actions are as far from loving one’s neighbour as it’s possible to imagine.

 

What Does The Evidence Tell Us… About Lockdowns?

 

Which brings us to the measures used to combat Covid-19. What should we believe? What politicians tell us and impose on us? What the media says? It’s not as if these sources speak with one voice – though in the UK most mainstream media has parroted exactly what the government has told them. I wanted to see for myself what the evidence, all of which is linked below, actually says. This turned out to be easier said than done. Nevertheless, most of it is out there – the scientific studies, the data, the non-politicised recommendations. First, what they say about…

Lockdowns: do they work? What does the evidence tell us? Lockdowns work in the sense they relieve pressure on health services (the NHS in the UK) at a time when demand is already high, in the winter. They ‘work’ insofar as they defer the spread of Covid-19. They do not eliminate the virus and they don’t prevent deaths. Covid related deaths in the UK were at their highest during the lockdowns of spring 2020 and last winter. While in a significant number of these were elderly people in care homes, two thirds of excess deaths were among the general population. How could the virus spread so widely when everyone was confined to their homes? There appears to be no answer to this question, though this controlled study published in the Lancet replicated the same outcomes. Experts argued, of course, that the mortality rate would have been even higher if we had not been locked down. However, Sweden, which didn’t lock down at all, registered 14,626 excess deaths (0.175% of the population), higher than other Scandinavian countries but well below the totals for France, Spain, Italy and the UK, all of which locked down for extended periods of time. (I am unable to find the percentage rate for the UK. The fact the pandemic straddles two years seems to have made it impossible for statisticians to have worked out the figure.)  

Countries like Australia and New Zealand where lockdowns have been used as the primary means of Covid avoidance are now in a perpetual cycle of lockdown, opening up when infections appear to have been eliminated, locking down again when any new infections are detected. New Zealand did so recently after one new case was discovered (up to 651 at time of writing). Such a reliance on (ineffective) lockdowns has resulted in a low uptake of vaccination: around 30% having had both doses in Australia, 24% in New Zealand, compared with approximately 76% in the UK and Sweden with an uptake similar to that of the U.S., 51%. There would appear to be a correlation between a reliance on lockdowns and a reluctance to take the vaccine. Australia and New Zealand are locked into this perpetual cycle: closing down areas and cities every time the virus reappears and in turn deterring vaccine uptake, making further lockdowns inevitable.

As a deference mechanism, lockdowns only work if there is a preventative measure down the line to defer to; zero Covid is unachievable and is therefore not that measure. High levels of vaccination are. The UK emerged from most lockdown measures on 19th July and although there has been an increase in Covid cases since then, most have not been serious. The diagram below demonstrates that hospitalisations remain low. This has been attributed to a high vaccine uptake; about 60% of hospitalisations are of the unvaccinated. Official figures suggest that ‘82,100 hospitalisations (have been) prevented in over-65s and almost 24 million infections prevented across England.’

Neither do lockdowns work in terms of preventing deaths from causes other than the virus. There has been an increase in excess deaths from causes other than Covid-19 during lockdowns. Some scientists are speculating a flu epidemic in the northern hemisphere this coming winter because, thanks to Covid lockdowns, flu data has not been available from the southern hemisphere’s winter months from which to develop an effective vaccine. (Speculating is a crucial word here.)

Here in the UK, even with high vaccination rates and low hospitalisations, we fear we could be locked down this winter should the NHS become overwhelmed yet again, this time with a conjectured flu epidemic. We must, as we were told last winter, ‘protect the NHS’. Lockdowns were imposed in large part to help the mismanaged service cope, something it claims not to be able to do every year even without a pandemic. Nevertheless, last year we were persuaded the NHS was our Saviour in need of saving itself. There were even regular, socially distanced worship gatherings every Thursday evening. Yet, according to a Freedom of Information request by the Guardian newspaper during the first wave in 2020 ‘a total of 32,307 patients admitted with other conditions had contracted covid-19 while in hospital, and 8,747 (27%) died within 28 days.’ (verified by the British Medical Journal.)  The UK government has had at least 6 months to initiate reform in the NHS (and arguably a further 6 before next January’s annual crisis rolls round.) So far they have done bugger all precisely nothing. 

On the basis of the evidence, the UK government cannot justify further Covid lockdowns. You can of course judge for yourself whether you think lockdowns are effective and worthwhile, even if ultimately you may well not be given any choice about being subjected to them.

 

 

 

Conspiracy theories, Covid and Hanlon’s Razor

‘Three great forces rule the world: stupidity, fear and greed’ (attributed to Einstein).

Former UK Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, shows a colleague how to correctly apply a face covering.

The principle of Hanlon’s razor tells us we shouldnever attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.’ Likewise, we should never attribute to conspiracy that which is more adequately explained by incompetence.

I don’t subscribe as a rule to a conspiracy theories. They usually entail too many agents coordinating too many activities that need to be kept secret from too many others. I don’t have sufficient faith in people’s abilities to accomplish anything as complex as this. I’m far more convinced that stupidity and after-the-fact attempts to hush-up and explain away incompetence more than adequately explain what might seem to be conspiracies.

And so to the UK government’s recent handling on pandemic restrictions. Has it been a conspiracy to control the little people (of which I’m one) or a bumbling from one measure to another, listening to the advice of SAGE scientists, a limited number of whom are epidemiologists or virologists (these are outnumbered by behavioural scientists and modellers) and dithering over the on-off lifting of restrictions?

The latter seems more likely. And yet politicians, being part of the elite, or indeed the elite personified, continue to impose restrictions on the masses that they consider have no application to themselves. It is easy to see how some feel there is a conspiracy afoot.

Some facts and figures to consider:

  • At the time of writing, 84% of the UK’s adult population has had at least one dose of the vaccine.
  • 63% have had two doses.
  • Vaccinations are available to everyone 18 years and over (from Gov.UK, 28th June 2021).

France has 28% of its population fully vaccinated. France is in the process of lifting all restrictions (by 9th July.)  Similarly, 42 US states have now declared themselves ‘fully reopened’.

With 60% of its adult population doubly vaccinated, the UK has still to embark on lifting remaining restrictions.

You are advised not to dance, sing or hug at weddings. Venues that don’t take steps to prevent these can be fined.

Hugging is fine if you are Health Minister and you are having an affair with your aide.

  • Scientific studies suggest that masks are not effective in preventing the spread of Covid-19 (see here, here and here). 
  • Unless medically exempt, you can be fined for not wearing a mask in indoor public spaces.
  • Mask wearing and social distancing are required even if you have had two vaccines. Unless you’re a world leader attending the G7 summit.

Controlled mass events, allowed as experiments, have not led to any significant increases in Covid infections.

Theatres, nightclubs and other venues are still not allowed to open.

  • You must quarantine at your own expense if returning from an amber designated country.
  • You do not need to quarantine on entering the UK if you are a world leader attending the G7 summit. You do not need quarantine on return to your own country, even if you and your entourage have caused a 2,450% increase in Covid infections in the area where the summit is held. 
  • You do not need to quarantine or self-isolate on entering the UK if you are a Eufa official or ‘VIP’ attending the final stages of the Euros at Wembley Stadium.

Either the UK has reached the point where Covid-19 restrictions need not be adhered to, or it hasn’t. Whichever it is, the remaining rules need to be applied equitably; the same across the board. They are not when the elite do not have to comply with the same legal requirements as the little people. One set of rules for them and another for everyone else is guaranteed to produce resentment and unrest. It leads to people taking the law into their own hands.

The evidence demonstrates that, thanks to a 83.3% uptake of the vaccine, Covid-19 is under control in the UK. While there are new infections, they are not proving to be as lethal as earlier strains of the virus; they are not overwhelming the NHS. If the rules do not apply to fornicating ministers, cavorting politicians and football’s VIPs, they do not apply to any of us.