In the Daily Maverick article of 23 November, ‘Fake news and Misinformation kill: How can you trust what you are told about Covid-19’, the ‘Scientists Collective’ (‘SC’) make the obvious point that, in the Internet age, there is a lot of misinformation about.

PANDA’s formation was premised on this very idea. Since March, we have been building a global multi-disciplinary team of doctors, geneticists, virologists, actuaries, economists, statisticians, lawyers and other professionals, guided by some of the finest scientists in the world from Oxford, Stanford and Harvard Universities.

This team’s purpose has been to consider all of the science and to separate the good science from the bad and promote the former. Whilst we have much in common with the SC, there is one important difference in our approach. PANDA believes that the purpose of science is to inform, not to prescribe. The article by the SC drips with condescension.

Whereas PANDA believes that the people of South Africa will do the right thing if they are empowered with accurate information, the SC sees them as lemmings who will march to their deaths if they are exposed to ‘dangerous information’.

The SC is composed of academics primarily from medical disciplines. Three of these academics were members of the now-disbanded Ministerial Advisory Committee (‘MAC’), which was responsible for government policy to date, including the devastating lockdowns. Most of the others are employed in state-funded universities. We had read their unceremonious ejection from the MAC as suggesting that they had tried to ‘speak truth to power’ (as they put it) to counter the profound irrationality of government policy, but their Daily Maverick article would suggest otherwise.

Poor quality of the data

The SC endorses certain sources of information. At the top of the list is the South African government’s website (despite the poor quality of the data the government is producing) and they hold up as impeccable sources of science the US Centers for Disease Control (‘CDC’) and the World Health Organisation (‘WHO’).

They say, for example, that South Africa should count on 390 000 Covid deaths, which number they arrive at by multiplying the South African population by an infection fatality rate published by the CDC. The CDC – whose July 0.65% infection fatality rate they reference – in September updated its analysis to prove precisely the point these scientists are denying – that, for the majority of the population, Covid infection presents less risk than the flu (which has an IFR of between 0.1% and 0.2%).

Here is the updated CDC data:

AgeCDC IFR
0-19 years0.003%
20-49 years0.020%
50-69 years0.500%
70+ years5.400%

Unlike Covid-19, flu is just as dangerous for children as it is for adults. According to the CDC, therefore, flu is in fact more than 30 times more dangerous for a child than Covid-19 and 5 times more dangerous than Covid-19 for people under 49. This is one of the reasons why PANDA supports focused protection.

The other source the SC suggests you trust, the WHO, on 14 October published a paper co-authored by famous epidemiologist John loannidis, which estimated that the IFR of the virus is ‘less than 0.2%’.

WHO

On 5 October, the WHO made a statement in which it advised that 10% of the world’s population is estimated to have been infected with Covid-19 (7.8 billion people). At the time of that statement, around 1 200 000 people had ostensibly died of Covid-19, meaning that the WHO was working with an estimate of the IFR of 0.14%.

The SC makes many errors in arriving at their 390 000 number – they used an outdated IFR, from a country that has little in common with South Africa and they entirely neglected the profound age-based fatality rates of Covid-19.

But the most egregious error in their calculation is that they apply their mangled fatality rate to the entire population of South Africa, thus perpetuating the myth of universal susceptibility.

It has been manifestly clear since the Diamond Princess papers in March and the Swedish serology studies in May that universal susceptibility is not a thing. Decades of viral immunology taught us never to expect such a thing and dozens of scientific papers now delineate the precise mechanisms of widespread pre-existing immunity against Covid-19.

Perpetuates the myth

The SC also irresponsibly perpetuates the myth that excess deaths in South Africa are caused by Covid-19. There is no science proving this and the South African Medical Research Council does not claim the deaths as Covid deaths.

PANDA has produced a paper examining the oddities in the excess death reporting and examining that reporting in detail. These reports show that the excess deaths over and above official Covid deaths are more likely deaths caused by lockdown.

In the United States, where better-quality data is generated and the citizenry better protected against the effects of lockdown, research has shown ‘no evidence that COVID-19 created any excess deaths. Total death numbers are not above normal death numbers.’

If Covid-19 hasn’t caused any excess death in countries that have measured its impact, something else has likely caused the excess death in South Africa.

The SC also says that although they initially recommended against masks, they now do recommend them and, although they ‘welcome debate’, masks are now ‘not up for debate.’ Confused? This in the same week that the only randomized control trial ever done on masks and Covid-19, which found no significant effect from masking, has been hotly debated around the world. One would think that if the science was so universally settled, it would be a cake walk to present really compelling evidence on masks. Support for mask-wearing does not exist in any of the randomized control trials that have been conducted, nor do mask mandates demonstrate any benefit in the epidemic curves of any of the countries or regions that have adopted them.

Derisory

This source lists the top-10 mask-wearing countries on the planet, with Brazil, third best, and Sweden, third worst. If you look at these countries’ deaths per million, you will see no correlation. To contend that cloth mask-wearing is not a controversial practice and that this is beyond debate by reputable people is derisory, especially when such contention follows the point that debate ‘is not suppressed’.

Providing almost comical evidence for their contention, the authors link to three advisories, none of which actually reference any specific and robust research. One even references an anecdote involving a sample size of two — yes, two — hairdressers.

The WHO, whom SC recommends you trust, in their latest advice on the use of masks states that ‘(at) present, there is no direct evidence (from studies on COVID-19 and in healthy people in the community) on the effectiveness of universal masking of healthy people in the community to prevent infection with respiratory viruses, including COVID-19,’ and ‘(at) the present time, the widespread use of masks by healthy people in the community setting is not yet supported by high quality or direct scientific evidence and there are potential benefits and harms to consider.’

As a result, the WHO only recommends the wearing of masks by the public in limited scenarios – notably by people who are symptomatic (i.e. obviously sick).

There are too many other factual errors in the SC article to cover here.

In the grip of irrationality

Much is made of the reliability of the WHO’s efforts. By way of illustration of how deeply in the grip of irrationality the WHO is, we recount the sorry story of its position on asymptomatic transmission, on which issue it performed a spectacular 180 degree pivot on 8 June.

In farcical fashion, this was unaccompanied by any evidence and occurred on the same day that its lead scientist, Maria van Kerkhove, confessed to what science has proved over and over again – that asymptomatic transmission was very rare. The WHO went short science & long politics, forcing poor Maria to say that asymptomatic transmission was common – in models, of course, because she had been entirely correct in saying that it was rare in the real world!

These are the antics of an organisation irretrievably captured by politics and therefore no longer in the business of public health.

The SC authors are mealy-mouthed about lockdowns. We will not be. All credible research demonstrates lockdowns to be singularly ineffective. Here is the NICD view on lockdowns, the view of Alex Lemond of the University of Pretoria and Professor Andrew Boulle of UCT.

It is not that we shouldn’t be worried about the disease. We are not ‘Covid-deniers’. It is simply that we shouldn’t be launching into panicky and destructive policies that contradict all pre-Covid science. SC members, when they were part of MAC, caused immense harm by encouraging government to implement lockdowns.

The virus is not particularly ‘deadly’. It is not really new, explaining why we are definitely not all susceptible to its disease. In the face of these facts, population-wide coercive practices are expected to lead to increased Covid mortality, which is exactly what the astronomic South African age-based mortality tells us they have done.

Should have had fewer deaths

Make no mistake, South Africa has not fared well. Given the age of our population, we should have had fewer deaths than we have had. The evidence suggests this poor performance is not the result of not doing enough lockdown, but doing too much. The policies that led to this disastrous state of affairs were motivated by science that members of the SC produced. This perhaps explains their condescending tone and their confusion as to whether they are tolerant of debate and whose contentions they are prepared to admit to it.

‘Scientists who collude with governments to legitimise unscientific approaches have been a feature of many country responses across the globe and need to be challenged,’ the SC says.

Quite right, but it is more than apparent that the process of such challenging needs to start with introspection on the part of these scientists.

As far as we can see, they are net contributors to the hysteria and pseudoscience that has driven such responses. They need to listen to the words of this scientist, show some humility in the face of their past panic, and help to restore life in South Africa to normal as quickly as possible.

To do otherwise will leave them judged by history in a most unfortunate light.

*The Daily Maverick declined to publish this article.

[Picture: Tumisu from Pixabay]

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Nick Hudson and Shayne Krige
Nick Hudson is co-ordinator of PANDA (Pandemics Data and Analytics), a multidisciplinary group seeking to inform Covid policy, and a founding partner of private equity firm, SANA Partners. Hudson has extensive experience in the financial sector and is a Fellow of the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries. He spent a decade at RMB Ventures, four years at Stern Stewart & Co. in New York City, and six with the Swiss Re Group. Shayne Krige has over a decade of experience as a corporate lawyer in Europe and has spent the past nine years practising in South Africa. He is currently a director in the corporate law department of a top-tier law firm, and has worked on a diverse range of cases, including major corporate restructurings, saving butterflies from extinction, assisting victims of police torture and setting up a well-known online start-up. PANDA considers explanations that allow us to count the human costs of COVID-19 responses globally. PANDA is a collective of leading scientists, actuaries, economists, data scientists, statisticians, medical professionals, lawyers, engineers and businesspeople working as a collective to replace bad science with good science. PANDA members work voluntarily, offering their skillset to contribute to informed policy- and decision-making. PANDA is not aligned with any political entity and is funded by its members, income from speaking engagements, and the public.

30 COMMENTS

  1. Why did `maverick not publish this article? Were they to scared of the repercussions? If so, that is not integrity nor is it real journalism.

    • I always thought that DM was fairly unsullied by the partisan reporting of the rest of South Africa’s MSM, this article needs to be heard because it is an opinion of two scientists with credible qualifications to issue such an opinion.

      • DM unsullied? How could it be, when George Soros’s Open Society is one of its biggest funders? The same Soros that is behind Antifa, BLM, EU-socialist-politicians and the questionable Dominion voting system? The same Soros that has been banned from many countries including his country of birth? DM is no more than a New World Order / Soros mouthpiece.

        • Thanks, saves some googling. I long ago stopped reading DM ….. most obvious reason was their sole use of two American stooges in their US commentary. Always opinions (seldom facts) from an extreme side. They lost all credibility for me. May as well watch cnn!

    • They did not provide reasons for refusing to publish, other than that a right of reply was not claimable because PANDA was not specifically referenced in the Scientists Collective article. That’s pretty weak in my book. Instead they leave misinformation uncorrected. Editorial standards at the Daily Maverick have clearly slipped.

      • They’ve now joined the bandwagon of globalist media ……. all sing the same tune. Seems they collaborate on what the daily narrative must take. It’s been obvious for some time. Always check who funds …….

    • The publication has done a very visable and unapologetic ‘Short Left’, losing their ‘Maverick’ in the process.

      Very sad.

  2. UNFORTUNATELY dm HAS FALLEN INTO THE HANDS OF ITS WOKE OPINION CONTRIBUTORS. i WAS A SUBSCRIBER IN THE DAYS WHEN THEY TRULY REPRESENTED A VARIETY OF VIEWS PLUS QUALITY INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISM. THOSE DAYS UNFORTUNATELY ARE GONE. THEY ARE NO JUST ANITHER WOKE ADVERTISING SITE FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE POLITICS AND PROMOTORS OF THE GREAT RESET

  3. Bravo Nick Hudson and Shayne Krige! We need more of your articles. VIVA PANDA! Bye bye Daily Maverick – I have lost all respect.

  4. Very interesting article.

    I see there is now claims that covid is less deadly than flu. I would really wonder about that, there has been plenty of reports world wide about hospitals being flooded to over capacity. I don’t see this happening during a normal flu season. Surely that would indicate it is indeed worse?

    I would also really like to now how lockdown caused additional deaths. Besides suicide (which is probably related more to anxiety and stress of the pandemic) what else is there?

    Masks has always been hotly debated. I read a paper comparing 2 isolated ships. One that advocated face masks vs one that didn’t. The ship with face masks did have less infections. I also say that surgeons wear face masks for a reason whilst operating on people. One can see in the graph there seems to be no correlation between face masks and nonface masks. In SA face masks are compulsory, yet most don’t wear them correctly and a lot don’t wear them period (I will beat in a questionnaire they will say they do).

    There is no details to why SA is faring worse. The increased deaths are ‘not covid related’, so then what are they related to? If we don’t know we can’t exclude covid.

    • Hospitals are actually frequently overwhelmed by flu cases. It’s just that we have never had such a singular focus on a disease. In 2017, US hospitals were overwhelmed by flu – https://time.com/5107984/hospitals-handling-burden-flu-patients/ and this happened in Italy in 2004-2005, 2009-2010 and 2017-2018. https://www.thelocal.it/20180119/italy-worst-flu-season-in-14-years

      Poverty is the biggest contributor to mortality. Lockdowns make people poorer shortening their lives. Lockdowns also caused missed elective surgeries, missed chronic disease diagnoses and screening and reroute medical care to COVID thereby reducing care available to other diseases. (PCR tests in SA are normally used to diagnose TB). This article looks into that https://pandata.org/examining-excess-deaths-reporting/

      Our point was precisely that masks are a hot debate contrary to SC’s statement that there can be no debate. It was not to say definitively that masks don’t work, but that saying categorically that they do is incorrect. We find that a lot of people say that COVID is spreading because South Africans don’t wear their masks properly, but if you ask why the 40,000 annual flu deaths we had at last count have all disappeared, they will tell you it’s because we’re all wearing masks!

      The last complete death statistics for SA date back to 2017. We will eventually know what caused the excess deaths. NICD is, to the best of our knowledge, not doing anything extraordinary to find out what caused those excess deaths. The linked papers explain why we think these are caused by lockdown. If some of the excess deaths are COVID, then South Africa has performed even worse and we will surely be the worst performing country on an age-based mortality basis if a material number are included. With SA having one of the earliest and hardest lockdowns in the world, that would then be the nail in the coffin of the argument that lockdowns were the right response.

      • I do know about 4 years ago we had a lot of people going to hospital in SA with pneumonia. But a quick google search does actually show a lot countries that struggle coping with influx of flu, even one report said setting up tents outside. So that is quite interesting.

        Regarding excess deaths, I do know a cardiologist said their patients dropped by 90%. So excess deaths could very well be from people not seeking treatment for very serious symptoms. So there could be something to it.

        Sorry, I misunderstood the point of masks. I am aware they don’t offer 100% protection but a reduced change of picking it up. But having said that if someone touches a surface then rubs their face it defeats the point. Also read a study on viral load and exposure times. Quite a complex study and interesting.

        I believe lockdowns would work if everyone played their part. New Zealand pretty much got rid of covid, but open boarders and things got spreading. There were loads of pictures on the media doing the rounds, in townships, in lockdown 5 with people not wearing masks or social distancing (carrying on as normal). So understandably it is hard to implement those rules, but covid spreads via contact. No contact, no covid. I also know people who don’t believe in lockdowns and would sneakily go visit friends. I am sure this is no an exception. But having said that, Italy has apparently picked up covid in a number of samples last year September if I am not mistaken. (Apparently the outbreak 4 years ago in SA had a similar strain). So if covid was in Italy back then, do masks really make a difference and were would lockdowns make a difference?

  5. Excellent article! Thank you.
    I left DM when they started their descent into “toe-the-line” reporting and woke politics. Reading their articles became a daily displeasure and riled me up. Just not worth it.

  6. Thank you for your article. The false statistical model findings were reported a few months ago, related to this regime but ignored.
    This made up pandemic has nothing to do with any virus. It’s a precursor to control and suppression by an evil and malicious global elite which intends to violate our health, our privacy and human rights.
    Watch “The Fall of the Cabal” by Janet Ossebaard on Bitchute. A 10 part documentary series. As per usual YouTube, like many other mainstream media outlets, censored and blocked it. The truth is being censored on a grand scale by pro Socialist left wing media.

    • “The Fall of the Cabal” is an excellent series! She also has a “Sequel” to the first 10 parts. All on BitChute.

  7. Hear!Hear! And I wonder just how many of us have stopped supporting the Daily ‘Maverick’? If the above comments are any indication, I’m sure it’s significant.

    • I have not read a Daily Maverick article since I’ve discovered Ivo here. The joke is on them if they think they are not part of the same legacy media fake news brigade.

  8. Only one thing about Covid-19 is certain, and that is that nobody understands it fully and has all the answers. I would therefore have expected Messrs Hudson and Krige to be somewhat more modest in their criticism of the views of other experts and commentators.
    The authors quote the CDC as suggesting, inter alia, that the flu is 5 times more dangerous than Covid-19 for people under age 49. This suggestion is not supported by the CDC’s report on the 2019/20 flu season in the USA issued in October 2020. Incidentally, there were approximately 21900 deaths from influenza in the USA in 2019/20 following some 17,5 million medical visits. Compare this to 289000 Covid-19 deaths from 15,2 million cases (some of which are still to succumb) and the difference between the flu and Covid-19 is evident.
    As far as excess deaths are concerned, the authors refer to research that showed no evidence that Covid-19 created any excess deaths. The authors may or may not be aware of the fact that that paper has since been withdrawn by Johns Hopkins University. Countries such as Italy, Spain, UK and USA all experienced meaningful excess deaths shortly before and continuing after the introduction of lockdown measures, tapering off during the second half of 2020. Any mortality impact of lockdown measures should manifest only much later.

    • When you put it like that, I think it’s difficult to argue. Another point as well as that I know of multiple people who have landed up in ICU / passed on from covid. I have not heard of anyone who landed in ICU / passed on from flu just yet. I am mean within my community.

    • Hi Blignaut

      We were responding to an article about “private groups” spreading “misinformation”, itself containing gross misinformation. However little we know, assumptions of universal susceptibility (obviously wrong) and blind adherence to the religion of masks and the WHO’s pronouncements are unbecoming of scientists.

      The strangest thing about the Johns Hopkins retraction is that it didn’t contain a single element of refutation, merely a blanket misinformation allegation, awfully like the SC’s article.

      The reason debate is important is precisely that nobody fully understands Covid. Perhaps your criticism would be better addressed to the SC who are not only trying to silence it, but refuse to engage, despite the high octane scientists PANDA has on board.

      We’re not sure which part of CDC the data you disagree with. The IFR for COVID produced by the CDC for children 0-19 years is 0.003% and for people 20-49 years is 0.020%. The IFR for flu is thought to be between 0.1% and 0.2%, with much less age graduation. Can you link us to the report you mention? One we consulted “provides evidence to support how severe seasonal influenza can be at any age”.

      Regarding excess deaths, unless one believes that hospitals do not generally save lives, then the widespread denial of service that has been part and parcel of so many countries’ Covid responses must be expected to cause non-Covid deaths congruent with the measures. Regarding claims made about attribution of excess deaths, we note the following:
      1. Such claims seem exclusively to be made by modellers who overestimated resource demand (and less importantly, deaths) by an embarrassing amount.
      2. We have reviewed two methods used by such modellers to deduce that excess deaths are almost entirely Covid-related, and both involved basic statistical errors. Others do not support their assertions with any calculations, and respond with angry denials when these are politely requested.
      3. While anecdotes of dubious tagging of deaths as caused by Covid abound, we know of none about obvious Covid deaths out of hospitals and care homes.
      4. South Africa already has one of the very worst age-based mortality rates in the world. Increasing the official COVID deaths by adding further excess deaths into the mix would suggest not only that hard, long lockdowns increase Covid deaths, but that our population has unusual features not shared by other countries.
      5. In countries where separate cause of death reporting is available, the numbers swing the other way, demonstrating Covid deaths to have been over-estimated and lockdown deaths to be significant. Presently, UK excess deaths for RVs are negative and for non-Covid deaths significantly positive.

      Overall, though, the excess deaths debate is a distraction. The reasons why general lockdowns and mask mandates are bad policies are rooted in the basics of epidemiology and are independent of expected fatalities. In the face of age-graduated mortality, general measures have long been known to shift disease burden onto the vulnerable. This is why we advocate focused protection. The uniform failure of South Africa’s various modelling teams to capture this basic feature of the epidemic was central to the advice that stemmed from those models being so wrong.

      Happy to engage privately if you would like to explore further.

      • I really enjoy reading your reasoned and logical replies to questions. It is SO refreshing to see answers being given that simply deal with the question.

        I am sick and tired of seeing so-called journalists or scientists be so RUDE to lay people like me when we ask questions or quote other scientists/analysts who disagree with them. Most people are not medical professionals, scientists or analyists, therefore we as the general public rely on being given information that we can trust and that is in a format that we can understand.

        Every interview that I’ve seen with you Nick, you are a total gentleman who handles questions with honesty and integrity. Thank you so much for being a sane voice in this insane world that we currently inhabit!

    • You may find this article of interest as it is an analysis of deaths in the USA by the Johns Hopkins University.
      https://web.archive.org/web/20201126223119/https://www.jhunewsletter.com/article/2020/11/a-closer-look-at-u-s-deaths-due-to-covid-19

      According to new data, the U.S. currently ranks first in total COVID-19 cases, new cases per day and deaths. Genevieve Briand, assistant program director of the Applied Economics master’s degree program at Hopkins, critically analyzed the effect of COVID-19 on U.S. deaths using data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in her webinar titled “COVID-19 Deaths: A Look at U.S. Data.”
      From mid-March to mid-September, U.S. total deaths have reached 1.7 million, of which 200,000, or 12% of total deaths, are COVID-19-related. Instead of looking directly at COVID-19 deaths, Briand focused on total deaths per age group and per cause of death in the U.S. and used this information to shed light on the effects of COVID-19.
      She explained that the significance of COVID-19 on U.S. deaths can be fully understood only through comparison to the number of total deaths in the United States.
      After retrieving data on the CDC website, Briand compiled a graph representing percentages of total deaths per age category from early February to early September, which includes the period from before COVID-19 was detected in the U.S. to after infection rates soared.
      Surprisingly, the deaths of older people stayed the same before and after COVID-19. Since COVID-19 mainly affects the elderly, experts expected an increase in the percentage of deaths in older age groups. However, this increase is not seen from the CDC data. In fact, the percentages of deaths among all age groups remain relatively the same. “

  9. I battle to reconcile something like this article that claims, without reference, that “In the United States, where better-quality data is generated and the citizenry better protected against the effects of lockdown, research has shown ‘no evidence that COVID-19 created any excess deaths. Total death numbers are not above normal death numbers.’” This is NOT what the CDC says. It says “Overall, an estimated 299,028 excess deaths occurred from late January through October 3, 2020, with 198,081 (66%) excess deaths attributed to COVID-19. The largest percentage increases were seen among adults aged 25–44 years and among Hispanic or Latino persons.” See the original source at https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6942e2.htm

    Similarly with respect to mask wearing. It is difficult to do controlled trials on masks, but one can get good information from statistical comparisons. Numerous statistical comparisons have been done which show masks help. For instance this one https://scitechdaily.com/clear-evidence-covid-19-mask-mandates-significantly-reduce-spread-of-virus/ Incidentally this also shows that restrictions on business and gatherings (otherwise known as lockdowns) do have an effect on slowing transmission – which is hardly surprising.

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