Why I Believe the Restrictions are Exaggerated
I know some people will get upset with this post. But, that’s life. We don’t agree about everything. And that’s ok. But we can no longer close our eyes to the side effects of lockdowns and other measures.
So, why will some people get upset?
Because I believe that the way the world has reacted to Covid-19/Corona is exaggerated. And a lot of people only listen to and follow what the media tells them. These people will probably think I am slightly crazy.
Now before you freak out totally, I must say that yes, people are dying. And yes, every death is a tragedy. But still, I would claim that the reaction in society is not in proportion to the threat. And, the measures we take are in some cases very stupid, while we could do other things that would potentially help much more.
If you disagree with me I beg you, stay with me, and just read for a bit. Let’s see if anything I write makes sense.
I have a theory
If Covid-19/corona wasn’t all over the news, the general public would not have noticed it. Because there is really not that much that people could possibly notice.
How many dies?
Let’s pretend for a moment that you hadn’t seen the news telling you about Covid-19. What would make you notice this disease? The number of deaths? I doubt it.
Normal number of deaths in Sweden every year is around 92 000 and according to estimates, these numbers are predicted to rise for the coming years. In 2020 there were about 98 000 deaths. Yes, it is 6000 more. But in 2019 there were 88 800 deaths, so it was 3200 less the year before. There is some variation from year to year – down one year and up another.
Let’s say that this variation is normal. It can go up or down by 3200. So, that would mean if “normal is 92 000, then 95 200 would not be too strange. What do we have left to explain? 2 800 deaths.
Would you notice 2 800 more deaths in a population of 10+ million? Nope. That is 2,94 % more.
Now I know, some individuals and families have seen more deaths, and of course, every death is a tragedy. But we can’t escape the fact that death happens all the time. We live a few years, and no one we know dies. And then in one year, several might die. That is part of life.
Now I have a father who is 84 and a mother who is 76, so it is not that I could not be personally very affected by Covid-19. It could be devastating if they got sick. Still, I recognize the fact that they are getting old. They are more vulnerable, to any disease.
In Sweden, 51,4 % of the dead with Covid were 85+ years of age. And 91 % of all deaths were 70+ years of age. I would guess the numbers are roughly similar in most countries. Now 70 is a bit early, at least for European standards, but it is not strange if someone that age dies, especially if they already have some preconditions. And when you are around 80 is not unnatural to die at all, from any cause. It can be the flu, pneumonia, heart disease, dementia, Covid or simply old age. It is not surprising. It is not something people would feel was strange or unnatural.
What is surprising sometimes is when young people die, especially if they don’t have preconditions. The number of deaths under 70 in Sweden is 878. And the number of deaths under 50 “with Covid” is 93. Would you notice that in a population of 10+ million? Nope, you wouldn’t.
So, if Covid-19 wasn’t in the media, I sincerely believe that the general public would not notice it at all (except maybe statisticians who work with demographics and in some hospitals). Over all it would seem like a pretty bad flu year.
Hospitals are overcrowded every year, especially in bad flu years. The solution to that problem is increased budgets for health care, and increased numbers of ICUs. Sweden has decreased the number of ICUs gradually, from more than 900 per 100 000 inhabitants in the 70s to 235 in 2014.
Why do they die?
A full 85 % of all deaths have had one or more preconditions. So, it is hard to say what ultimately killed these people, if it really was Covid-19 or something else. Especially since PCR tests made with 45 cycles have too high false positives. So, X percent of these dead “with Covid-19” probably didn’t even have Covid-19, and then there is also the fact that a vast majority had other debilitating conditions.
So, until now I believe we could conclude that no one would have privately noticed anything suspicious in the number of deaths, nor in who dies. It would have been more suspicious if all of a sudden a lot of young and otherwise healthy individuals started dying. Now I can already feel some people will say something like:
“But this and that person died – and they were only 46” or whatever age.
True, there are some people who were younger who died. This is also just as tragic of course. And it is also true that there are young people who die all the time. For different reasons. Anecdotal evidence doesn’t really hold up. It is still 91 % of deaths that are 70+ years old.
So what can we learn from this?
Corona is mainly dangerous if you are old or have a compromised immune defence in some way. The age variable is probably one reason why countries with lower expected life span (like many countries in Africa) have been relatively less affected by Covid. There are simply fewer 80+ in the population. This might also partly explain why for example Italy and Spain (with the highest life expectancy in Europe) have suffered a lot from Covid.
What can we do?
Ageing is hard to avoid or reverse, but we can try to stay healthy. So, we should exercise, sleep well, eat healthily and have good interpersonal relationships. In addition, it has been studied pretty extensively now, and it is overwhelmingly clear that vitamin-D seems to be key. If you make sure you have good levels of vitamin-D your risk of getting severely sick from Covid seems to go down significantly. I mean really a lot! In one of the studies:
“…for each standard deviation increase in serum vitamin D, people were 7.94 times more likely to have a mild rather than severe Covid-19 outcome and were 19.61 times more likely to have a mild rather than critical outcome.”
So, you can improve your chances to avoid a critical outcome almost 20 times if you make sure you get enough vitamin-D.
Reduced sun exposure or darker skin makes it more difficult to produce vitamin-D. And that could also explain why many people with darker skin who live in places with less sunlight, has suffered more from Covid-19.
So, make sure you get enough vitamin-D, from sun exposure, or from supplementation. Especially in winter months and if you live far from the equator. And even more so if you have darker skin. Approximately 70 % of Americans are insufficient, and 30 % are deficient. I guess it is the same in Europe and many other places.
What about the measures taken?
Well, first of all, I would argue that the disease in itself is not that much worse than the common flu.
According to a meta analysis by J. Ioannides the IFR (infection fatality rate) for Covid-19 is 0,27 %, and the general view is that it is around 0,1 % for the common flu. Which means that out of 100 people who get Covid-19, 99,73 survive. For the common flu, that would be 99,9. Very, very close I would say. And it is probably even milder, if you are young and healthy.
So, if you didn’t vaccinate yourself against the common flu every year, and you didn’t wear a mask during flu season every year, you are not very consistent in your thinking.
We have never locked down the world for the common flu, like we did for Covid-19 in 2020. So, I personally would say that the measures taken in most countries are not at all in proportion to the threat this disease poses to society.
In addition, when we look at how we can maintain a good immune defence in general, some of the measures that have been taken so far seem to be quite counterintuitive.
I believe that keeping good hygiene makes sense in general, even if excessive hygiene (which we might be moving towards now, with all hand sanitizers etc) could be bad for us, according to the hygiene hypothesis. In short, excessive hygiene can make us more likely to develop allergies and not enough immune tolerance.
I don’t want to give anyone Covid-19, even if I believe it is not much worse than the common flu for a healthy person. When I had it (headache and fever for two days) I stayed home during the prescribed period.
As a voluntary measure, I think this is fine. Anyone who is worried is free to distance themselves from others. Going out less, meeting people less, and keeping a more distance to people. It’s a personal choice. I believe in respecting people who want to keep a distance. I don’t want to myself, but if someone is terrified of me coming too close, I will respect that, as long as I can. But I also believe that people who are not afraid should be able to be close to others who are not afraid.
However, it is important to also remember that social distancing will affect interpersonal relations and especially mental health over time. Further down in this text we will see some of the effects so far.
Now we are coming to my real issues.
First of all, it has to be said that it is very difficult to compare different countries and measures, because there are so many variables. Countries differ by size, connectivity, demographics, density, age distributions and then of course the different measures taken.
It doesn’t seem clear yet if lockdowns really work, unless maybe if they are imposed very early in a country, and you can really isolate the cases. Once you have societal spread, it seems very difficult to stop it, lockdowns or not.
So far we have seen that most countries that have the highest deaths/capita have had lockdowns. So that would point in the direction that lockdowns are bad. But, it can also be argued that they imposed lockdowns because they had a serious situation. So it is hard to tell the causation. But, it is pretty well known that respiratory viruses spread more easily indoors in closed spaces. So it would make sense to spend as much time as possible outdoors, meaning we should NOT have lockdowns. People should spend more time outdoors. And in addition, lockdowns lead to:
- Less sun exposure → Less vitamin-D production → Worsened immune defence
- Less daily exercise → Worsened immune defence
- Less interpersonal relationships → Worsened immune defence
And with a worsened immune defence it is easier to get severe consequences from Covid-19. Therefore it seems to me that lockdowns are counterintuitive and might even make it worse.
Another measure that has been popular are masks. Here it seems there is a lot of disagreement. Does it work or doesn’t it? To me it makes intuitive sense that it should help a little bit. I mean, it is like a small barrier. Maybe they can protect a bit. But how much it protects against microscopic viruses, I don’t know. And there is another thing that is a bit negative – masks block your skin, and less sun exposure → less vitamin-D production → worsened immune defence.
Anyway, besides that I have two big questions around masks.
- What kind of mask is it? Is it supposed to protect against viruses? Is it the required quality?
- How is it used? Is it used only once and thrown away in a safe way?
First of all, I think most of the masks I see used are NOT those single-use masks that doctors and nurses have. And every time I have heard an expert make a statement about masks they have said that it has to be used the right way. There is a specific method of taking it off that is safe. After taking it off and disposing of it in a safe way you have to wash your hands with soap and water immediately. If you don’t, you risk having the virus on your hands and spread it on anything you touch.
I would estimate that more than 60 % of all masks I see are NOT the single-use masks. So, these masks are most likely used several times, maybe for hours at a time and days in a row. They are not taken off the correct way. They are not disposed, and hands are not washed after use. Since it is not single-use masks I assume they are used again, and I would guess they are not washed and definitely not sanitized for days and maybe in some cases weeks. When people go out they simply pick up their used mask from the pocket of the jacket or somewhere else and put it on.
If you are doing this, stop. Stop wearing a mask. Stop pretending that you care, because you don’t. You are making it worse. If you believe that using masks work, do it right, or don’t do it at all!
The other side of restrictions
This is something that I believe we talk far too little about. Because there are side effects to the restrictions. Here are some of them:
This is serious, but maybe not as emotionally convincing. BNP going down doesn’t provoke a strong emotional response. However, besides the personal tragedies with bankruptcies, it probably has very large secondary effects.
We have started to see it already, BNP is going down in most countries, and many businesses are struggling. So far I don’t think we have seen the full effect, as many governments have made subsidies and extended loans to companies. But once these loans have to be repaid, things will change. We will see an even bigger increase in bankruptcies, and many business owners life works go down the drain. And with that an even worse economic downturn, which will lead to even more of the effects you will read about below.
According to the World Bank, an estimated 150 million additional people could be pushed into extreme poverty by 2021, due to the effects the Covid-19 restrictions imposed on the world economy. How many more people will die from starvation because of this?
There are already around 9 million people dying from starvation every year, of which 3,6 million are children. And undernutrition is a contributory factor in the death of 3.1 million children under five every year. A small fraction of what the restrictions have cost so far could have saved those 9 million people!
Depression & mental health
A recent study in the US revealed that 27,8 % of people had depression symptoms during Covid-19, compared to 8,5 % before. Extrapolated to the US population it would mean up from ~28 million to ~91 million. Think about that for a bit! About 63 million MORE people are depressed than before. In the US alone!
You can also see the fear in peoples eyes (usually mask wearing people) when you pass them by in the super market or subway. Fear increases stress and cortisol levels. And when cortisol levels are elevated for a long time it can lead to a number of health problems, including:
- Anxiety and depression
- Heart disease
- Memory and concentration problems
- Problems with digestion
- Trouble sleeping
- Weight gain
Steven Taylor, author of The Psychology of Pandemics, and professor in psychiatry at the University of British Columbia claims that…
“for an unfortunate minority of people, perhaps 10 to 15%, life will not return to normal”
Read that again – 10-15 % of all people. That could be one billion people worldwide, who will live worried and have mental health problems for the rest of their lives.
When we move less, worry more, don’t get enough sunlight and fresh air and have worse interpersonal relationships our health deteriorates. Habits can be hard to change, and the habits formed during these restrictions will probably stay in place for a long time. They set people in a new direction. More overweight, more heart disease, more diabetes etc. Our immune defence goes down and we become more prone to any kind of disease.
The costs in lives and quality of life are hard to foresee. But they are probably going to be big.
Right now the world is in lockdown in many places, for a disease that is pretty comparable to the common flu. Social life is very restricted. People move less and stay more indoors. No one recommends this lifestyle for health. It is against all recommendations for a healthy life.
And at this point in time, we really don’t know IF these restrictions really have any effect. In many cases, it seems more political – that politicians feel the need to do something, they need to show power of action, no matter if that action has any effect.
Horrible side effects
At the same time as we don’t really know if these measures have any effect, we see the negative consequences:
- About 150 million people thrown into extreme poverty
- About 63 million more people depressed, in the US alone.
- For up to 1 billion people, life will never return to normal
- I suspect we will see really bad health outcomes in some years time, with increased obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease etc.
All this, and at the same time we know that increasing the intake of vitamin-D (details above) can reduce the risk of a critical outcome of Covid-19 about 20 times! That is pretty comparable to the vaccine. And vitamin-D is safe to take in pretty high doses. I have taken around 4000-6000 IE per day for more than a year and a half.
So, no matter your opinion on restrictions, even if you believe we will save lives with restrictions, I think we need to look at the bigger picture, and also take the side effects into account. Personally, I think the restrictions do more harm than good.
What do you say?
DISCLAIMER: In this text I have used numbers for Sweden, as an example, since I live there and have access to the numbers. I know some countries have had higher numbers of deaths/capita, and some have had lower. But my general argument is the same for all countries.