Dr Anne McCloskey
Anne McCloskey is a retired GP and is also an Aontú councillor on Derry City and Strabane District Council. In this article, she highlights her concerns over the impact that the ongoing coronavirus lockdown is having on society.
I suppose it was the sight of our Bishop Donal Mc Keown, furtively going at dawn to bless the graves of the faithful departed in Derry’s main cemetery on Easter Sunday morning that finally made me realise that something isn’t right here.
Overnight, it seems, all basic civil liberties have been withdrawn.
We are under virtual house arrest, and we stay where we are told.
We stay because of the honourable desire not to make a bad situation worse by our actions.
We stay at home to save lives, and protect the NHS. That’s what we’ve been told. Our politicians are being “led by the science”, and we trust them.
The stoical acceptance by the entire population of this lockdown-the total suspension of civil society, the denial of the right to work and earn a living, to see relatives and friends, to socialize, to move around, to go to church, to play sport - is a testament to the heroism of our people.
Lions led by donkeys. 3.6 billion people worldwide are likewise arbitrarily detained.
What we are not being told is that there is no scientific evidence whatsoever of the benefits of a lockdown, and a growing awareness that the cure may be much worse than the disease.
Coronavirus has swept across the world causing illness and the premature death of many thousands of our people, especially as might be expected, of the elderly and ill.
It behaves much as we expect pandemics to. They are bad news.
Since the severity of infection seems to be related to initial viral load, Covid 19 has tragically killed many young and healthy frontline health workers, who were in close contact with very ill patients, without even the most basic of protective equipment.
This was a catastrophic failure of care brought about by a healthcare sector which has been under-funded and under-equipped for decades.
Lions led by donkeys again.
Covid 19 is a new disease, and the behavior and characteristics of the causal agent are largely unknown.
The science on which our politicians rely is disputed by some of the most eminent professors across the globe, and there are widely varying views as how best to minimize mortality.
What is not in dispute is that any infectious disease spreads from those who have it to those who haven’t.
When Covid was identified in China and later spread to Europe, and when courageous and decisive decisions could have made a real difference nothing was done.
When airports should have been shut down, the Cheltenham race meeting went blithely ahead, and planeloads of rugby fans from the eye of the epidemic in Italy were landed in Dublin and allowed to enjoy the pubs and clubs of the capital.
Basic epidemiology concerning an island would have dictated that to have closed the country down at that stage would be sensible. It wasn’t done.
What is also not disputed is that early identification of Covid cases by testing those with symptoms, and then tracing and isolation of contacts could have made a real difference.
But the lack of systems, equipment and most importantly the vision to implement the programme meant valuable weeks were lost.
So, after not doing what might have worked, the politicians now follow “the science.”
What we are not told is that this is based on computer modelling, calculating predicted mortality rates without having any idea of the denominator in the equation.
A primary school child could tell you that you can’t calculate a percentage outcome without two numbers!
The mortality rate is the number of deaths divided by the total numbers of people infected. The second number we don’t know.
Global experts in epidemiology, virology and infection control differ widely in their opinions, but what seems likely is that for the vast majority of our population Covid 19 will be a mild illness, with perhaps four out of five people who are infected having few or no symptoms. Many of us will already have had it. This seems to be the pattern in other countries.
The test being done now looks for viral RNA, and is only positive during active infection. It does not tell if one has had the disease in the past, and is immune. The serological RDT antibody test, not yet being done here, which measures past infection, and hence immunity rates, should give more useful information.
But meantime, as if to make up for lost time, the country is shut down.
The projected mortality rates from Imperial College and others, upon which the lockdown and hysterical media coverage is predicated is only that-a prediction, unsupported by facts.
We simply do not know how dangerous Covid 19 is.
So the relentless media images of mass graves, competition for ventilators, acres of intensive care beds manned by soldiers and students do not reflect reality.
In the north, 1300 NHS beds are occupied, 1900 unoccupied.
Entire hospital wings are empty, the Covid centres are quiet. Hopefully this will continue. This is broadly speaking the situation across these islands.
People are tragically dying, of course, in this pandemic.
But it is now estimated by people working on the ground that at least half of the excess deaths may be due to the lockdown itself, and the fear it generates, as well as to suspension of much of the vital work which the health service always does.
“Hospital avoidance”, the fear of contact with places where the disease may be, makes people reluctant to seek help for serious medical problems.
Of sixty people scheduled to have diagnostic endoscopies to check for cancer in Dublin on a day last week, only four attended.
Many others have difficulty accessing appointments or assessments. The suspension of normal service is leading to delays in diagnosis and treatment and is costing many lives.
Lockdown is not, of course, as is its supporters imply, a question of saving human life versus mere money. This is not the algorithm.
The inevitable catastrophic drop in economic activity, the millions pushed into unemployment, unable to pay rents or feed their families, the small businesses closed which will never open again, the fall in tax revenue to pay for our health service and welfare provision-all of this is not outcome neutral.
As always, the poor and less able will be disproportionately affected. Many will die and many more will have their lives changed forever.
Our children will be paying for a generation. We are heading for austerity the likes of which we have never seen.
There is real distress. We hear stories of heroism and communities pulling together.
But there are other narratives-of the alcohol misuse and domestic chaos that confinement can worsen, the isolation and loneliness of our older people, the worsening of mental health problems from lack of services and support, the despair of those whose small businesses are unlikely ever to open again, or those who are now unwaged.
We see children not getting to school and the restless frustration of our young, denied the company of their peers and the unique, magical, never to be repeated joy of springtime as a teenager.
People are being told that to go outside is akin to inflicting death on their neighbours and betraying the NHS staff.
That they must not visit family and friends, even at a 2m distance, that they can’t walk on beaches or in the parks even in family groups. That they seek the comforts given by the off-license, but not of the churches.
This is non-evidence-based insanity.
We also know that countries where hygiene measures, social distancing, contact tracing and isolation of the vulnerable are being used are having comparable medical outcomes to those who have opted for total lockdown.
Countries where leaders have had the courage to choose not to trash their economies and subject their people to a denial of autonomy and human rights unprecedented in world history.
We will not easily recover from this pandemic.
The virus will pass.
But as a society, and in terms of how we regard concepts such as autonomy, rights and freedom, all is changed.
Lockdown has been described as medieval medicine. It is.
But it is also the abandonment of good people by a craven, intellectually deficient and morally bereft political class.
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