Category Archives: Covid-19

Covid Deaths in the US (over 1 million) and China (about 5000)

In May and June of 2022 two milestones were passed in the world’s battle with Covid and were widely noted in the press, one in the US and one in China. They invite a comparison between the two countries and their approach to combatting Covid-19.

The first milestone was passed on May 12 when the United States registered over 1 million total deaths (1,008,377 as of June 19, 2022, when this is written) due to Covid, the highest of any country in the world. Web MD expressed its sentiment in a piece headlined: “US Covid Deaths Hit 1 Million: ‘History Should Judge Us.’”

Second, on June 1, China emerged from its 60-day lockdown in Shanghai in response to an outbreak there, the most serious since the Wuhan outbreak at the onset of the pandemic. The total number of deaths in Mainland China since the beginning of the epidemic in January 2020 now stands at a total of 5226 as of June 19,2022.

To put that in perspective, that is 3042 deaths per million population in the US versus 3.7 deaths in China due to Covid. 3042 vs. 3.7! Had China followed the same course as the US, it would have experienced at least 4 million deaths. Had the US followed China’s course it would have had only 1306 deaths total!

The EU did not fare not much better than the US with 2434 deaths per million as of June 19.

When confronted with these numbers, the response of the Western media has all too often been denial that China’s numbers were valid. But China’s data have been backed by counts of excess deaths during the period of the pandemic as the New York Times illustrated in a recent article. Actually this is old news. The validity of China’s numbers, as shown by counts of excess deaths, was validated long ago in a February 2021 study by a by a group at Oxford University and the Chinese CDC. This was published in the prestigious BMJ (British Medical Journal) and discussed in detail here.

What about the economy?

Clearly China put the saving of lives above the advance of the economy with its “dynamic zero Covid policy.” But contrary to what was believed in the West at the time, saving lives also turned out to be better for the economy, as shown in the following data from the World Bank:

During the first year of the pandemic, 2020, China’s economy continued to grow albeit at a slower rate. In contrast the US economy contracted dramatically, dropping all the way back, not simply to 2019 levels, but to pre-2018 levels!

Interestingly the plot also shows the year that the Chinese PPP-GDP surpassed that of the United States, 2017, heralding a new era for the Global South.

The World Bank has not yet released data for 2021, but the IMF has PPP-GDP data for 2021 shown here. The U.S. economy grew at 5.97 percent and China’s at 8.02 percent. Unlike the World Bank data shown in the graph above for the years up to 2020, these data for 2021 are not corrected for inflation which for 2021 ran at 4.7% in the U.S. whereas China’s was 0.85%. So China’s growth would be even greater in comparison to the US, were inflation taken into account.

The bottom line is that for the first two years of the pandemic through 2021, China’s growth was always positive and greater than that of the US. China’s policy not only saved lives but protected the economy. Win-win, one might say.

Is China’s dynamic zero Covid policy “sustainable”in the face of the Omicron variant? The Shanghai Lockdown.

The period of the recent Shanghai lockdown which we can date from April 1, 2022, ended on June 1, and was the second largest outbreak in China since the original outbreak in January, 2020, in Wuhan. Each resulted in major lockdowns, the first in Wuhan lasted about 76 days and the second in Shanghai about 60 days. The first in Wuhan was due to the original variant and the second was due to the much more infectious Omicron.

During the recent lockdown in Shanghai, the Western press was awash with proclamations, all too many laced with an unseemly Schadenfreude, that China’s dynamic Zero Covid policy was not sustainable. This is all too reminiscent of decades of predictions that China’s extraordinary success in developing its economy to number one in the world in terms of PPP-GDP was a passing phase, a Ponzi Scheme that was – what else – “not sustainable. Recently the same press has gone silent, always a sign that China has met with success. So what are the results?

The Shanghai Lockdown ended on June 1 and from that day until today, June 19, there have been no deaths due to Covid on the Chinese Mainland. Cases nationwide are also way down to 183 per day from the peak of 26,000 on April 15. That was the largest number of cases in a single day for the entire period of the pandemic in China. For comparison, the peak in the US was 800,000 in a single day.

Both the Wuhan and Shanghai lockdowns demanded sacrifices and patience over the roughly two-month period for each. However, these difficulties are generally exaggerated In the West and based on anecdotes of the worst of the difficulties encountered. Such sordid journalism reached rock bottom in a NYT piece equating China’s hard working health care workers to Adolph Eichmann!

As an antidote to this kind of hit piece and to gain a feeling of life in the cities that were under lockdown during the Wuhan outbreak, Peter Hessler’s March, 2020, account in the New Yorker, “Life on Lockdown in China,” is enlightening and will dispel many misconceptions. Hessler was living and teaching in Chengdu, Sichuan, at the time.

For the moment China’s approach has succeeded although we cannot say what the future holds. But the public health measures that have worked so well in Mainland China should not be lightly dismissed let alone be the subject of mean-spirited attacks. Such measures may be a means of saving millions of lives when the next variant or the next pandemic strikes.

The US Needs a People’s Tribunal on the Handling of Covid-19.

Turning again to the US, what does it say when the US, one of the richest nations in the world, spending over $1 trillion a year on its “national security” budget, could not muster the means to deal with Covid-19 and ended up with more deaths than any other nation on earth? China’s handling of the pandemic certainly shows a completely different outcome is possible. The US death toll was not an inescapable act of nature.

That being so, should there not be a People’s Tribunal to investigate those in charge in the US government over the course of three administrations? That, and not an official white wash, is certainly needed? And should not punishment appropriate for a crime against humanity be meted out? The one million dead deserve no less.

The post Covid Deaths in the US (over 1 million) and China (about 5000) first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The Federal Republic of New Normal Germany

So, the government of New Normal Germany is contemplating forcing everyone to wear medical-looking masks in public from October to Easter on a permanent basis. Seriously, the fanatical New Normal fascists currently in charge of Germany’s government — mostly the SPD and the Greens — are discussing revising the “Infection Protection Act” in order to grant themselves the authority to continue to rule the country by decree, as they have been doing since the Autumn of 2020, thus instituting a “permanent state of emergency” that overrides the German constitution, indefinitely.

Go ahead, read that paragraph again. Take a break from the carnage in non-Nazi Ukraine, the show trials in the US congress, monkeypoxmania, Sudden Adult Death Syndrome, Sudden Bovine Death Syndrome, family-oriented drag queens, non-“vaccine”-related facial paralysis, and Biden falling off his bike, and reflect on what this possibly portends, the dominant country of the European Union dispensing with any semblance of democracy and transforming into a fascist biosecurity police state.

OK, let me try to be more precise, as I don’t want to be arrested for “spreading disinformation” or “delegitimizing the state.” Germany is not dispensing with the semblance of democracy. No, the German constitution will remain in effect. It’s just that the revised Infection Protection Act — like the “Enabling Act of 1933,” which granted the Nazi government the authority to issue any edicts it wanted under the guise of “remedying the distress of the people” — will grant the New Normal German government the authority to continue to supersede the constitution and issue whatever edicts it wants under the guise of “protecting the public health” … for example, forcing the German masses to display their conformity to the new official ideology by wearing medical-looking masks on their faces for six or seven months of every year.

In addition to a ritualized mass-demonstration of mindlessly fascist ideological conformity (a standard feature of all totalitarian systems), this annual October-to-Easter mask-mandate, by simulating the new paranoid “reality” in which humanity is under constant attack by deadly viruses and other “public health threats,” will cement the New Normal ideology into place. If not opposed and stopped here in Germany, it will spread to other European countries, and to Canada, and Australia, and the New Normal US states. If you think what happens in Germany doesn’t matter because you live in Florida, or in Sweden, or the UK, you haven’t been paying attention recently. The roll-out of the New Normal is a global project … a multi-phase, multi-faceted project. Germany is just the current “tip of the spear.”

Sadly, the majority of the German masses will mindlessly click heels and follow orders, as they have since the Spring of 2020. They’re all enjoying a “summer break” at the moment, but come October they will don their masks, start segregating and persecuting “the Unvaccinated,” and otherwise behaving like fascists again. I hesitate to blame it on the German character, because we’ve witnessed the same mindlessly fascistic behavior all around the world over the past two years, but, I have to admit, there is something particularly scary about how the Germans do it.

Meanwhile, Germany’s FBI (der Bundesverfassungsschutz, or BfV) is hard at work enforcing the new Gleichschaltung. According to a report in Die Welt, the BfV is not just surveilling people who use terms like “Corona dictatorship” (and presumably a long list of other “wrongspeak” words), but it is also “surveilling people and groups that disseminate conspiracy theories, or call the democratic nature of the state into question.” Politicians are insisting that the BfV “toughen up the classification of political crime, especially regarding the Corona deniers.”

Yes, that’s right, publicly challenging the official Covid-19 narrative, or protesting official New Normal ideology, is a political crime here in New Normal Germany. It has been since May 2021, when the Bundesverfassungsschutz established a new official category of domestic extremism … “Anti-democratic or Security-threatening Delegitimization of the State.” I covered this in one of my columns at the time (“The Criminalization of Dissent” ) as did some corporate press, like The New York Times (“German Intelligence Puts Coronavirus Deniers Under Surveillance“), but, for some reason, the story didn’t get much traction.

“Delegitimization of the State” … let that language sink in for a moment. What it means is that anyone the New Normal authorities deem to be “delegitimizing the state” can be arrested and charged as a “political criminal.” I wasn’t entirely clear on what is meant by “delegitimizing,” so I looked the word up, and the definition I found was “to diminish or destroy the legitimacy, prestige, or authority” of something, or someone, which … I don’t know, sounds a little overly broad and subject to arbitrary interpretation.

For example, if I, right here in this column, were to propose that the German government had no legitimate reasons whatsoever for locking down the entire population, forcing everyone to wear medical-looking masks, and demonizing and segregating “the Unvaccinated,” that might make me a “political criminal.” Likewise, if I were to describe Karl Lauterbach, the Minister of Health of New Normal Germany, as a fanatical fascist, and a sociopathic liar, that might make me a “political criminal.” Or, if I were to point out how the German state media have deceived and gaslighted the German public for over two years like the proverbial Goebbelsian keyboard instrument, that might make me a “political criminal.” Or, if I were crazy enough to publish a book of essays written over the past two years documenting The Rise of the New Normal Reich, including essays about New Normal Germany, that might also make me a “political criminal.”

Naturally, I am a little uneasy, living in a former-Nazi country where I could be classified as a “political criminal” for my activities as an author and a political satirist … which, of course, is the point of the new classification. It is meant to scare dissidents like me into silence. Or … OK, it isn’t meant for me. It is meant for German dissidents like me. I’m an American, not a German citizen. So the chances of a heavily-armed “Special Commando” team storming my apartment in the wee hours of the morning and arresting me on trumped-up weapons charges — as they recently did to Dr. Paul Brandenburg, an outspoken opponent of the New Normal Reich — are probably (hopefully) fairly remote.

In any event, I would never do that; i.e., attempt to diminish the prestige or authority of the Federal Republic of New Normal Germany, or in any way compare it to Nazi Germany, or any other totalitarian system, or describe it as a nascent biosecurity police state wherein the rule of law has been supplanted by the arbitrary edicts of fascist fanatics, because that would just be asking for trouble. After all, if we’ve learned anything from history, the smart thing to do during times like these is to keep one’s mouth shut and follow orders, and if you hear a train coming … well, just look the other way.

The post The Federal Republic of New Normal Germany first appeared on Dissident Voice.


Lock yourselves down inside your homes! Break out the masks and prophylactic face-shields! Switch off what’s left of your critical faculties and prepare yourselves to “follow the Science!”

Yes, that’s right, just as the survivors of The Simulated Apocalyptic Plague of 2020-2021 were crawling up out of their Covid bunkers and starting to “build the world back better,” another biblical pestilence has apparently been unleashed on humanity!

This time it’s the dreaded monkeypox, a viral zoonotic disease endemic to central and western Africa that circulates among giant pouched rats, squirrels, dormice, and other rodents and has been infecting humans for centuries, or millennia. Monkeypox causes fever, headaches, muscle aches, and sometimes fluid-filled blisters, tends to resolve in two to four weeks, and thus poses absolutely zero threat to human civilization generally.

The corporate media do not want to alarm us, but it is their duty as professional journalists to report that THE MONKEYPOX IS SPREADING LIKE WILDFIRE! OVER 100 CASES OF MONKEYPOX have been confirmed in countries throughout the world! MONKEYPOX TASK FORCES are being convened! Close-up photos of NASTY-LOOKING MONKEYPOX LESIONS are being disseminated! The President of the United States says “EVERYBODY SHOULD BE CONCERNED!”

The WHO is calling it “a multi-country monkeypox outbreak!” Belgium has introduced a mandatory quarantine. The CDC has gone to “Alert Level 2!” “Enhanced precautions” are recommended! In New York City, the nexus of probably the most paranoid, mask-wearing, quadruple-“vaccinated” New Normal fanatics on the face of the planet, the Department of Health is instructing everyone to wear the masks they are already wearing to protect them from both Covid and monkeypox, and smallpox, and largepox, and airborne cancer, and God knows what other horrors might be out there!

Here in the capital of New Normal Germany, Karl Lauterbach, who, despite wasting hundreds of millions of Euros on superfluous “vaccines,” attempting to compulsorily “vaccinate” every man, woman, and child in the country, and otherwise behaving like a fascist lunatic, remains the official Minister of Health, is excitedly hopping up and down and hooting like a Siamang gibbon about “recommendations for isolation and quarantine,” and other “monkeypox containment measures.”

As Yogi Berra famously put it, “it’s like déjà vu all over again.”

Except that it isn’t … or it probably isn’t. Before I could even finish this column, the United GloboCap Ministries of Truth started dialing down the monkeypox panic. It appears they’re going with “it’s a gay pandemic,” or an “LGBTQ pandemic,” or an “LGBTQIA+ pandemic,” or whatever the official acronym is by the time I click the “publish” button, and making other noises to the effect that it might not be absolutely necessary this time to order a full-scale global lockdown, release the drones and robotic dogs, inject everybody with experimental drugs, and start viciously persecuting “monkeypox deniers.”

You didn’t really believe they were launching a shot-by-shot remake of Covid, did you? The showrunners at GloboCap may be preternaturally evil, but they aren’t stupid. Only the most hopelessly brainwashed New Normals would go along with another “apocalyptic pandemic” before the current one has even been officially cancelled. No, unfortunately, odds are, we’re just getting a preview of what “life” is going to be like in the New Normal Reich, where the masses will be perpetually menaced by an inexhaustible assortment of exotic pathogens and interchangeable pseudo-pathological threats.

The New Normal was never about Covid specifically. It was always about implementing a new “reality” — a pathologized-totalitarian “reality,” not so much ruled as discreetly “guided” by unaccountable, supranational, non-governmental governing entities, global corporations, and assorted billionaires — in which Covid, or monkeypox, or kangaroopox, or any other viral zoonotic disease, or any climate-related or economic development, or aberrant ideological or behavioral tendency, could be used as a pretext to foment another outbreak of mindless mass hysteria and impose additional restrictions on society.

That new “reality” has been implemented … perhaps not as firmly as originally intended, but implemented nonetheless. We are being conditioned to accept this new “reality,” as we were conditioned to accept the War on Terror “reality,” to pointlessly remove our footwear at the airport, place our liquids in travel-size containers, submit to groping by “security staff,” and otherwise live in a state of constant low-level fear of a “terrorist attack,” as we are now being conditioned to wear masks where we are told, submit to mandatory “vaccination,” and live in constant low-level fear of the next purportedly deadly pathogen.

Sadly, most of us will accept this conditioning, and adapt to the “minor inconveniences” that are being imposed on us at every turn. After all, what difference does it really make if we have to wear a little mask on an airplane, or on public transport, or at the doctor’s office? And is it really such a breach of our fundamental rights to freedom of speech, freedom of movement, association, privacy, and basic bodily autonomy if we have to allow governments and global corporations to censor our political opinions, prevent us from traveling, forbid us to protest, and force us to submit to invasive medical treatments in order to hold a job? We got used to taking off our shoes at the airport and watching the “security staff” fondle our kids’ genitals, and invading and bombing other countries and murdering whole families with drones, didn’t we? Surely, we’ll get used to this.

Or … OK, I won’t, and neither will you, probably, but the majority of the masses will. They just demonstrated that pretty clearly, didn’t they? As they demonstrated it during the Global War on Terror. As they demonstrated it during the Cold War. As they demonstrated it … oh, never mind.

Sorry, I really wanted to end this column on a positive note. All right, here’s one! A little good news, finally! According to the professional fact-checkers at Reuters, it turns out “there is no evidence at all that the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting [which is taking place in Davos right now] was scheduled to coincide with these outbreaks of monkeypox,” and anyone who says there is, or implies there is, or who deviates from or questions the “facts,” or the “Science,” or whatever, is a “monkeypox-denying, conspiracy-theorizing, anti-vax, Putin-loving disinformationist,” and so everything is actually hunky-dory, or it will be as soon as we teach those evil Rooskies a little thermonuclear lesson!

I don’t know about you, but that’s a load off my mind. For a moment there, I thought we were in trouble.

The post Monkeypoxmania first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Squelching dissent on both sides of the Atlantic

The current repression of dissent in Germany is startlingly similar to that in North America. In 2019 as the virus started to spread, the government ordered drastic measures against it. Several distinguished doctors and professors, including an MD who was a former member of parliament, asked the government for evidence and explanations justifying these measures. When they were ignored, they called a rally and gave speeches again asking the government for answers. The government ignored this too, but their press launched a smear campaign labeling these people as unscientific and incompetent. When several current members of parliament spoke out against the mandates, they were defamed and isolated.

The government forced the mandates through, and as the effects of these turned out to be more damaging than the virus, large-scale protests broke out. Politicians warned of the danger to our democracy from right-wing fanatics whom they claimed had taken over the protests. To defend democracy by disrupting the rallies, groups of Antifa tried to drown out speakers by shouting, “Halt die Fresse!” – “Shut your mouth!” Of course, the real danger to democracy comes from trying to silence or exclude anyone, right or left.

Establishment media refused to publish reports of severe side effects from the vaccines. A government statistician who gave evidence that the mandates and vaccines were ineffective and harmful was removed from duty, as were police officers who took part in peaceful rallies. Professors who spoke at demonstrations were shunned by their colleagues and passed over for promotion. Doctors who certified that their patients didn’t need to wear masks were suspended from practice. Some careers were destroyed, many damaged.

People were stunned by the savagery of the response to their demand for more public input into virus policies. They discussed possible reasons for the government’s attack. Conspiracy theories began to circulate, some of them quite wild.

The government broadened its attack. The press was full of interviews with psychiatrists discussing the dangerous psycho-pathology of conspiracy theorists. Wherever vaguely possible, parallels were drawn to Nazi Germany. Aged Holocaust victims were interviewed about their trauma caused by such people. One victim, though, Vera Sharav, made a video saying the government was behaving like the Nazis, but her statement was ignored by the mainstream and appeared only in the alternative media.

Rationality disappeared from public discourse. A seething polarization began to spread. The government recognized a growing threat of losing its hold on the people.

It cut back on testing. The “pandemic” faded. Russia invaded the Ukraine. A new enemy replaced the “killer virus” as a focus for fear.

The government’s campaign of forced lockdowns, masks, vaccines, and repression has unnecessarily and massively damaged millions of people, far more than what the virus has done. But on the positive side it has also turned millions of people against the government, a prerequisite for real change. The next step is ours.

The post Squelching dissent on both sides of the Atlantic first appeared on Dissident Voice.

What’s missing from the gun debate [sic]?

The shooting in Buffalo has once again ignited an ill-informed “debate” on the topic of guns. Thus, I feel compelled to re-share some of the missing context. 

Male Violence (as usual) Must Be Factored In

Please allow me to introduce some damn good reasons to consider some kind of gun control:

  • On average, 57 women are shot and killed by an intimate partner every month in the United States
  • Over half of female victims of intimate partner homicide in the U.S. are killed with a gun
  • Over the ten-year period between 2008 and 2017, there was a reduction in intimate partner homicides of women involving weapons — except homicides by guns, which increased by 15 percent
  • When you factor in attempted murders using guns, nearly 1 million women in the Home of the Brave™ have survived being shot or shot at by an intimate partner

Translation: Male violence remains the world’s number one problem and the omnipresence of guns makes it easier for men to commit their violent acts. The common denominator of mass shooters is not their whiteness. It’s their male-ness.

Don’t Trust Your News Feed, part 1

Unless you do a little digging, it would be easy to believe that the United States is the gun death capital of the world. Clickbait headlines, news feed posts, and conversations based on emotion distract from the fact that the U.S. has the 32nd-highest rate of deaths from gun violence in the world: 3.96 deaths per 100,000 people.

In 2019, there were 37,200 reported deaths by firearm in the Land of the Free™. Is that 37,200 too many? Of course, it is. Is it comparable to, say, Guatemala, Venezuela, or El Salvador? I suppose that depends on your definition of “comparable,” but the rate per 100,000 in El Salvador is 36.78.

Crash Course

Meanwhile, more than 38,000 people die every single year in crashes on U.S. roadways. An additional 4.5 million (on average) are injured seriously enough to require medical attention. Road crashes are the leading cause of death in the U.S. for people 54 and under — an average of 102 per day. (Context: About 500 Americans are killed per year by rifles.)

Let’s be clear, I’m not comparing guns to cars. But I am comparing the media coverage, public perception, and psychological manipulation. Where are the rallies and petitions related to 100 Americans needlessly dying per day in road crashes? Where’s the outrage and the legislation and the campaign speeches and the Time Magazine covers for the lives lost to the car culture? Why do we hear about mothers fearing their sons won’t come home because a cop might shoot him when, in reality, she should be WAY more nervous about him getting into a car?

We’ve just spent two-plus years allegedly trying to keep people “safe” from a virus with a fatality rate that Lord Fauci himself says “may be considerably less than 1%.” But, if widespread safety and risk avoidance is our collective (but futile) aim, why are we still manufacturing vehicles that can attain speeds higher than, say, 30 MPH? Why is the speed limit so damn high when we all know that the fatality rate rises with a vehicle’s speed?

Think about it: We’re obsessed with things like Covid and guns but yet we still ingest carcinogens, use toxic chemicals, and drive our death machines at dangerous speeds. If the powers-that-shouldn’t-be really gave a shit about us, they would’ve taken action to stop all of that and more. Instead, we’re being divided over flawed mitigation tactics, lethal medical protocols, and manipulated statistics.

Back to my point: The U.S. gun fatality rate is much lower than advertised while a worse problem — road crash fatalities — is barely ever mentioned. But, that’s not it. I have one more major component of the gun debate that is tragically omitted by just about everyone.

Don’t Trust Your News Feed, part 2

A small number of gun-related deaths in the U.S. can be chalked up to accidents, law enforcement incidents, and other undetermined circumstances. Roughly four in ten gun-related deaths are murders. Wait… what? Yep, when we get the numbers recited to us in the name of headlines and fear-mongering, a pretty important detail is always left out: 60 percent of annual gun-related deaths in God’s Country™ are suicides. About 24,000 per year — out of about 45,000 overall per year. Let that sink in.

Please allow me to address the statistical manipulation at work. If you subtract gun deaths related to suicide and accidents, the annual gun-related murder rate drops to about 13,000 per year. Is that 13,000 too many? Of course, it is. Is it anywhere near the death rates of cancer, heart disease, suicide, or road crashes? Nope. Why are we fixated on guns when, for example, medical error is at least the third leading cause of death in the U.S. — taking anywhere from 250,000 to one million lives per year?

Fact: Doctors are far, far more dangerous than any AR-15.

A Culture in Crisis

Finally, here is my primary point: If “we’re all in this together,” why do we patently ignore the rising suicide rate? While we squabble over which lives matter or not, suicide is now the twelfth leading cause of death in the U.S. For those between the ages of 35 and 54, it is the fourth leading cause. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among individuals between 10 and 34. Suicides outnumber homicides in the U.S. by more than 2 to 1. Since 2001, the suicide rate in America has increased by 31 percent.

Gun control won’t stop this trend. Gene therapies disguised as vaccinations won’t protect us from a culture steeped in despair and division. Marches and protests remain as impotent as ever. We like to pretend that “our way of life” is so exemplary. Meanwhile, more and more of us are choosing death over it. The solutions must be more foundational and compassionate than the so-called debates we’ve been programmed to embrace.

When pondering hot button “issues” like gun control, I urge you to NOT surrender your capacity for critical thought. Do your own research. Make up your own mind. On a much deeper level: Collectively, we are a culture in crisis and our problems run far deeper than the current gun control debate (sic) allows. It’s long overdue that we recognize the desperate imperative to do much more than “win” a Twitter debate. Let’s choose to connect rather than compete.

The post What’s missing from the gun debate [sic]? first appeared on Dissident Voice.

COVID Brain Fade at the Australian Elections

It’s the last week of an election between the uninspiring and the unspeakable.  Australia’s conservative incumbents – the unspeakable ones – are even desperate enough to concede to a lack of popularity.  Dislike us, but for heaven’s sake, vote us in.  The times are wretched, the cost of living is rising, and we are going to look after you in the spiral.  The opposition, in contrast, is being stingy on detail and sparing on scope.  Memories of 2019 continue to traumatise the Australian Labor Party.

Scouring the election platforms, statements, and town hall debates, is a glaring absence of one particular field of policy.  Virtually no candidate or major political party is mentioning that troubling issue of COVID-19 and the global pandemic.  That was the dark past, and, like released jailbirds, voters find themselves preoccupied with other matters.

Sporadically, mention is made about the Morrison government’s tardy ordering and supply of COVID-19 vaccines – at least in the initial phase.  At that time, Prime Minister Scott Morrison, rather infamously, dismissed the slow rollout.  This wasn’t, he opined, a race.

In his first campaign video, Morrison burnished his own credentials as a warrior against COVID-19, having been responsible for saving thousands of lives.  (The States and Territories, all far more engaged in the matter than Morrison ever was, are ignored.) But the primary message was that of,  “A choice between an economic recovery that is leading the world, and a Labor opposition that would weaken it, and risk it.”

Despite Australia’s enviable record, the emergence of the furiously transmissible Omicron variant and a death toll this year surpassing the combined figures of 2020 and 2021, have seen a departure from previous policy.  As Raina MacIntyre of the Kirby Institute remarked in January, Australia “swung from one extreme in pandemic control to the other – having great control of COVID, to now having the world’s highest rise in daily cases.”

Scenes of chaos ensued.  The vulnerable had to queue for hours as testing centres were overwhelmed.  A number of such centres were also closed, often without good reason.  The Commonwealth and State governments tinkered with definitions on eligibility regarding testing, all the time refusing to expand capacity.  MacIntyre was distinctly unimpressed.  “There was no planning for expedited third-dose boosters, expanded testing capacity, rapid antigen tests, hospital in the home, opening of schools or even guidance for people to protect their household when one person becomes infected.”

None of this has made a difference in the political platform, nor, it seems, in voter interest. The COVID brain fade has well and truly set in.  According to data generated by the ABC’s Vote Compass, a mere 1 per cent of Australians consider COVID the most important issue in this election.  Vulnerable members of society are being seen as “collateral” to the overall scheme.  Living with the virus has also meant suffering and even perishing from it.

The only party making much of COVID-19, and not from the perspective of praising vaccines and sound pandemic management, is the United Australia Party. Bankrolled by the quixotic mining magnate Clive Palmer, millions have been spent on media campaigns that have seen no discernible shift in the polls.

By default, health officials and experts have become crying Cassandras and the concerned oracles.  Virologist Stuart Turville has observed, with exasperation, that the federal election campaign has been afflicted by “a case of COVID Fight Club.  Don’t talk about it.”  Future policies on the subject are virtually absent. “What will happen if we don’t get our third or fourth dose?” wonders Turville.  “Will we see the death rate creep up from 40, to 60, to 80 before we start to talk about this again?”

Another figure of some woe and worry is Burnet Institute director, Brendan Crabb, who claims that politicians and governments have resolutely kept their “heads in the sand”.  There was a dangerous sense of “COVID now”.  Continuing high rates of transmission was “bad for business”.  The longer health impacts were also being neglected.  “How many of the 350,000 plus active cases in Australia right now will have chronic impacts?  Overseas data suggests 20 per cent of them.”

Epidemiologist Nancy Baxter, based at the University of Melbourne, is another who can always be relied upon to deter any emerging complacency.  “We’re at a point,” she gravely states, “where COVID is now one of the major killers of Australians, and probably by the end of the year is going to be one of the top three.”  She adds further lashings of doom.  “And with increasing case numbers, new sub-variants [will be] coming in.  This may drive it even further, which would have a bigger impact.”

If the current mood prevails till May 21, we can expect little purchase from such attitudes at the ballot box.  Fiscal responsibility, the consumer price index, climate change and the China bogeyman, are likely to feature ahead of the most disruptive pandemic in a century.

The post COVID Brain Fade at the Australian Elections first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Morbid Matters: Estimating COVID-19 Mortality

It has dominated news cycles, debates and policies since 2020, but COVID-19 continues to exercise the interest of number crunchers and talliers.  While the ghoulish daily press announcements about infections and deaths across many a country have diminished and, in some cases, disappeared altogether, publications abound about how many were taken in the pandemic.

The World Health Organization, ever that herald of dark news, has offered a revised assessment across of the SARS-CoV-2 death toll associated either directly or indirectly with the pandemic.  Between January 1, 2020 and December 31, 2021, the global health body suggests that the mortality figure is closer to 14.9 million, with a range of 13.3 million to 16.6 million.

The number considers excess mortality, the figure reached after accounting for the difference between the number of deaths that have occurred, and the number expected in the absence of the pandemic.  It also accounts for deaths occasioned directly by COVID-19, or indirectly (for instance, the pandemic’s disruption of society and health systems).

The impact, as expected, has been disproportionate in terms of which countries have suffered more.  Of the excess deaths, 68% were concentrated in 10 countries – Brazil, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Peru, Russia, South Africa, Turkey, and the United States.  Middle-income countries accounted for 81% of excess deaths; high-income countries, for 15%, and low-income countries, 4%.

The United States, if only for being ascendant in terms of power, wealth, and incompetence in dealing with the virus, finds itself in the undistinguished position of having lost a million people.  “Today,” remarked President Joe Biden, “we mark a tragic milestone here in the United States, one million COVID deaths, one million empty chairs around the family dinner table, each irreplaceable, irreplaceable losses, each leaving behind a family, a community forever changed because of this pandemic.”

Chief Medical Adviser to the President, Anthony Fauci, rued the fact that “at least a quarter of those deaths, namely about 250,000” might have been saved by vaccinations.  He also warned about the ugly prospect of a resurgence in numbers, and not bringing “down our guard”.

In light of such figures, WHO Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, reiterates the line he and his colleagues have done so for months.  Pandemics demand more “resilient health systems that can sustain essential health services during crises, including stronger health information systems”.  His organisation “was committed to working with all countries to strengthen their health information systems to generate better data for better decisions and better outcomes.”  Much of this will be wishful thinking.

Figures, certainly when they concern matters of mortality, can become the subject of bitter dispute.  COVID-19 has proved no exception.  In Africa, 41 of 54 countries reported insufficient data.  Some countries have released incomplete data sets; others, none to speak of.  This meant, inevitably, that the WHO’s Technical Advisory Group for COVID-19 Mortality Assessment could only model the missing figures to fill gaps.

As a result scrapping and arguments over methodology duly emerged.  India, for one, has very publicly objected to the way the WHO has approached the compilation, communicating its concerns in no less than six letters between November 2021 and March 2022 and in a number of virtual meetings.  Concerns have also been registered by WHO Member States, including China, Iran, Bangladesh, Syria, Ethiopia and Egypt.

The case with India is particularly telling, given WHO modelling showing 4,740,894 excess deaths, almost triple that of New Delhi’s own figures.  Such figures imply, as epidemiologist Prabhat Jha of the University of Toronto claimed back in January, that the authorities were “trying to suppress the numbers in the way that they coded the COVID deaths.”

In an indignant statement from the Union Health Ministry released early this month, much is made of “how the statistical model projects estimates for a country of geographical size & population of India and also fits in with other countries which have smaller population.”  This constituted an unacceptable “one-size-fits-all approach and models which are true for smaller countries like Tunisia may not be applicable to India with a population of 1.3 billion.”

The WHO model also returned two highly varied sets of excess mortality estimates when using data from Tier 1 countries and when using data from 18 Indian states that had not been verified.  “India has asserted that if the model [is] accurate and reliable, it should be authenticated by running it for all Tier 1 countries” and the “result of such exercise may be shared with all Member States.”

WHO assistant director general for emergency response, Ibrahima Soće Fall, concedes that any accurate picture is only as complete as the data provided.  “We know where the data gaps are, and we must collectively intensify our support to countries, so that every country has the capability to track outbreaks in real time, ensure delivery of essential health services, and safeguard population health.”

The degree of fractiousness that persists in public health shows that sharp fault lines remain in each country’s approach to the pandemic problem.  Disunity and factionalism, petty nationalism and self-interest, remain imperishable, even at the direst of times.  And all governments, given the chance, will err on the side of inaccuracy rather than risk acute embarrassment.

The post Morbid Matters: Estimating COVID-19 Mortality first appeared on Dissident Voice.