Colossal lies on the pandemic

THIS newspaper’s editorial the other day titled “IATF should study the science and math of the pandemic” is so patently wrong. Contrary to that editorial’s claims. The coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) is not just like the flu, it’s far deadlier and more dangerous; lockdowns, with other measures such as mandatory face mask wearing and social distancing, work to fight the pandemic.

The piece claimed: “On October 5, the WHO finally confirmed what many experts and studies had been saying for months — that the coronavirus is no deadlier or dangerous than seasonal flu. The WHO’s top brass made this announcement during a special session of its 34-member executive board.”

Neither the World Health Organization nor any of its officials in that October meeting of its executive board, to this day, said that, not even anything close to that.

Neither did it issue any statement that could be misinterpreted that way. They did not compare — or even dare to compare — Covid-19 with the seasonal flu, which after all most of the world has come around to control for decades. Only very few experts but a number of crackpots, United States President Donald Trump leading them, pooh-poohed Covid-19 as “just like the flu.”

Some of the many reports debunking that alleged change in WHO position — which this newspaper’s editorial writer didn’t read.

Never have I read such a newspaper article or opinion piece like that editorial which totally concocted such statements, and then attributed it to an individual or organization. This is a colossal failure of basic journalism, and on such an important life-and-death matter.

This is an enormous failure of mind: How can anybody claim it is no more dangerous than the flu, when the hospitals of the most advanced nation on earth, even the US, have been on the brink of meltdown because of Covid-19 cases, and that deaths in a few US cities have been so many that refrigerated vans in some of its cities are being used as temporary morgues? In our National Capital Region, before government started to contain it, 80 percent of hospitals’ ICUs were filled with Covid-19 cases.

One actually doesn’t even need to “fact-check” such fake news that the editorial made. If the WHO had claimed that the Covid-19 is “no deadlier or dangerous than seasonal flu,” wouldn’t such total reversal of its assessment of its Covid-19 made headlines all over the world for several days? Wouldn’t it have withdrawn its declaration in March that Covid-19 is a pandemic, and just said it is “no deadlier than the flu”?

What the WHO announced in that October meeting — which in fact was a special (i.e., emergency) meeting to address the worsening pandemic — is that the world faced a health crisis never before seen in the post-war era. Executive Director Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in his opening statement:

Incredible
“It seems incredible to think that when this board met in February, there were just 151 cases and one death outside China of what we now call Covid-19. Today, almost 35 million cases of Covid-19 have now been reported to WHO, and more than one million people are reported to have lost their lives. The real number is certainly higher. On the 30th of January, I declared a public health emergency of international concern — the highest level of alarm under international law.”

I cannot fathom why the editorial writer wrote such enormous lies, so easily debunked in a few google clicks for its fallacy.

The writer claimed that Covid-19 is “less deadly” than the flu, and to argue for that, rattled off ratios he does not understand but which was his basis for pontificating that the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) “should study the math.”

It would be a waste of time to debunk the writer’s absurd fake “math”; let’s just state plainly the numbers. There are globally (as of yesterday) 1.4 million deaths due to Covid-19, in contrast to the 290,000 to 650,000 dying of flu-related cases every year worldwide, according to WHO estimates.

In the US, 263,000 have been killed by the coronavirus, in contrast to the 22,000 that died in the 2019-2020 influenza season (US Centers for Disease Control data). A CNN.com report pointed out: “In just eight months, Covid-19 has killed more people than the flu did during the last five flu seasons combined.” The respected livescience.com also concluded: “Covid-19 is at least five times deadlier than flu for hospitalized patients.”

Coronavirus
Here, we have had so far 8,153 people dead due to the coronavirus. That’s much lower than the approximately 50,000 dying due to pneumonia — which is the usual cause of death of those afflicted with influenza, and thus what our official statistics only reports.

But this low coronavirus fatality figure is precisely due to the success of the Inter Agency Task Force that President Duterte set up to deal with the pandemic, which among other measures enforced different degrees of lockdowns (quarantines). Astonishingly, that editorial arrogantly hectored the IATF-EID to “study the science and math of the pandemic.” Indeed, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

That editorial claimed: “On Oct. 13, 2020, the WHO in a major policy shift, urged world leaders to stop “using lockdowns as your primary control method” against the coronavirus… WHO’s special envoy on (Covid-19), Dr. David Nabarro, said the group had changed its views on lockdowns, which had impacted billions of people.”

Only in that editorial writer’s mind did the WHO make a major policy shift, and that Nabarro was “urging world leaders.” The WHO never said that, not to this day.

Rather it was Trump in an October 12 tweet who said and disseminated that canard, twisting – as he has often done – statements made by that WHO official to a weekly British magazine. Trump boasted that the world institution “finally admitted” what he has been saying since the start of the pandemic, that “lockdowns are killing countries all over the world.”

Fake news
And because the claim was made by Trump who has been notorious in spreading false claims (22,247, according to the Washington Post’s database), that alleged WHO position was fact-checked swiftly by nearly all reputable news organizations in the US. All concluded that it was fake news.

The Associated Press in its fact-check piece on Trump’s claim quoted WHO spokesman Tarik Javaseric as saying that the WHO has not changed its stance, that while “national lockdowns shouldn’t be the default control measure, but movement restrictions may be among a range of measures governments can consider in certain geographical areas.”

What Nabarro (a British national) merely said, and in the context of heated debates in late September whether the UK should undertake a national, i.e., UK-wide lockdown: “You don’t want to use those as your primary, and I stress that, primary, means of containment. Building a robust test, trace and isolate system must remain the priority for all governments,” he was quoted in a British newspaper. He emphasized: “I’ve been misquoted a bit around the place.”

A June 20, 2020 article in website of GAVI (Vaccine Alliance), a respected public–private global partnership devoted to increasing access to immunization in poor countries, discussed the issue of lockdowns, narrating cases that should put this to rest:

“Several countries, such as China, Germany and Spain, noted a fall in infections after lockdown measures were implemented. A study in China showed that the time for the number of cases to double rose from 2 days to 4 days, indicating a slowing down in transmission. Researchers estimate that the five-week lockdown in Italy prevented 200,000 hospital admissions from Covid-19 and reduced transmission of the virus by 45 percent.

Compared with many countries in Europe, the UK, which has now had over 50,000 deaths and the highest number of cases in Europe, entered lockdown late. This has led to the recent suggestion that the current number of deaths could have been halved if the UK had introduced the lockdown one week earlier.

China
A study of China, South Korea, Italy, Iran, France and the US showed that by the beginning of April, lockdowns and other measures such as travel restrictions and social distancing prevented 530 million infections across the six countries.

One study suggests that ideally, a severe lockdown would start no later than two weeks after the outbreak began, gradually easing off to cover 60 percent of the population after a month, and 20 percent of the population after three months.

Sweden has been one of the European countries that did not implement lockdowns, but instead advised social and physical distancing and hygiene measures, claiming that “herd immunity” may be a more pragmatic goal. Sweden has now had more deaths (4,795) per capita of its population of 10 million people, than Norway (239) for 5 million people and Denmark (593) for 5.5 million, both of which had lockdowns.

Four of my friends died of Covid-19. It is real, it is deadly, and so contagious. Please don’t play ego games in media with it, pretending you know more than the over two dozen members of the IATF-EID and its medical consultants. Gullible readers may believe you, and die.

Email: tiglao.manilatimes@gmail.com
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