Dr. John A. Lee, a retired pathology professor and consulting pathologist for the National Health Service in Britain, says that it’s time for a major reassessment of the lockdown strategy that has been employed by many Western nations, including the United States and the UK.
Lee, who has been somewhat of a contrarian throughout the pandemic, told the website Spiked this week that government lockdowns were initiated using models and data that have proven to be less than reliable. Furthermore, he said, there is no direct evidence to suggest that the lockdowns are actually helping us stop the spread of the coronavirus. He said that it’s now time for experts and public health officials to take a second look at the lockdown strategy and make sure we aren’t doing irreparable harm to ourselves for a very meager benefit.
“We are currently in lockdown for two reasons,” Lee explained. “One is that the initial figures suggested that we were dealing with a very highly virulent disease. The World Health Organization initially suggested that the case-fatality rate – the proportion of people diagnosed with the disease who die – would be 3.4 per cent. This is a very high number which would have caused a huge number of deaths. But as we have had gradually more and more data coming in, those percentages have been falling. In many examples, more complete data are now suggesting case-fatality rates of 0.4 per cent. My guess is that it will end up between 0.5 and 0.1 per cent, and probably nearer to the lower end of that. So if the disease isn’t as virulent as was originally thought, the number of deaths will be correspondingly lower.”
Lee said that the other reason for the lockdowns is an assumption that the coronavirus would tear through the population at an extraordinary rate, infecting an extremely high percentage of the population. That infection rate would, in turn, overwhelm our hospitals and health care facilities, leading to a much higher death rate than we’d have if we flattened the growth curve of the disease. However, he noted, “there isn’t any direct evidence that what we are doing is actually affecting the peak.”
“It is possible to make arguments that sound reasonable that a lockdown should affect the peak,” he said. “And yet other places which are doing different things seem to have similarly shaped graphs. It is only an assumption that the lockdown is having a big effect on the virus spread, but this is not a known scientific fact.”
It is the lack of scientific facts that worries Dr. Lee. He argued that governments are making decisions based on assumptions and outdated models rather than hard data.
“So we do have to ask what are the side effects of this treatment,” he said. “And the fact is, they are clearly huge, but they have been largely unassessed. It seems incredible to me that we are not equally as interested in the effects of the lockdown on lives and livelihoods as we are in the actual virus itself. I think we are guilty at the moment of being a bit monomaniacal and focusing only on one thing, and really not focusing enough on the consequences that are coming out of what we have done to face this one thing.”
Hopefully, we are getting ready to turn that corner, at least in the U.S. No one will deny that this is a nasty disease, but if we’re just waiting for some magic day in the future to throw open the doors and let the coronavirus run its course, what makes two months from now a better day than today? Is it possible to get back to some semblance of “normal” with prudent precautions in place? And if it is, shouldn’t we do it now before we condemn the American economy to years of recession and misery?
We’ll concede that there are no easy answers. But it is definitely time to start asking the questions.