Unherd – think again !

Today, I stumbled on two articles from Unherd that summarize the two of the sort of issues that I have been struggling to articulate over the last month or so.

As far as I can see from their mission statement, Unherd is a loose collection of writers and academics, who have created an online platform from which to challenge established thinking without being divisive, as much of the mainstream media  and online community are.

Unherd has two main aims to :

  • Push back against the herd mentality with new and bold thinking
  • Provide a platform for otherwise unheard ideas, people and places

Unherd’s full mission statement can be found at the top left corner of their front page. I have tried to summarize each article in a few paragraphs.

Unherd – Is the lockdown doing more harm than good ?

United Kingdom lockdown preventing coronavirus spread or outbreak. Covid 19 UK precaution to lock down virus infection - 3d Illustration
uk Lockdown

The short answer to this question is that it’s complicated. Coronavirus is deadly but so is lockdown. The use of the Health Economics’ concept of QUALYs (quality adjusted life years) is explored as a means to compare the cost of the virus ripping through the population unchecked, versus the cost of lockdown and social distancing measures to contain and break the transmission of coronavirus.

The trouble is that we don’t know how to start to calculate these costs in terms of QUALYs to make that judgement.  There are too many  “ Known Unknowns” and even “Unknown Unknowns” – a concept coined by Donald Rumsfeld, a former US Secretary of Defence.

These include the unknown length of lockdown and any subsequent lockdowns due to further waves of covid-19, and the costs of the economic damage, indirect deaths and blighted lives caused by lockdown. Full article – https://unherd.com/2020/05/is-the-lockdown-doing-more-harm-than-good/

Unherd – Jury still out on the Swedish coronavirus strategy

People have lunch at a restaurant in Stockholm amid the coronavirus pandemic [Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP]

This article explores Sweden’s decision NOT to impose full lockdown measures versus the lockdown strategy advocated by most other countries, and the statistical manipulations that critics have made to discredit their approach.  The Swedish epidemic is far from the out of control disaster its detractors would like us to believe.

As of yesterday, May 5th, new deaths reported in Sweden were 85, compared with 693 in UK and 2,350 in USA. www.worldometers.info on some days, their numbers have been much lower @ 10-20 per day.

A clearer way of looking at death numbers, also courtesy of the excellent Our World in Data, is the daily trend of deaths per million. Here you get a good sense of the trajectories. All of the countries listed below, except Sweden, have full national lockdowns. And yet Sweden is roughly in the middle of the pack. This is quite remarkable in itself, when set against the dominant narrative that lockdowns are the only thing capable of ‘flattening’ these curves and preventing tragedies that are many times worse.

That’s why it is important that some of the simplistic thinking surrounding this crisis needs to be challenged. A better definition of success would surely be to judge which governments are getting the balance right between protecting their people against coronavirus whilst not destroying too much of their economy in the process? Death rates per million is not the only datapoint in this difficult equation; and right now, it is far too early to judge how successful Sweden, or the UK, will be.

I think it is safe to say that neither Sweden or the UK will be as successful as South Korea, another country that did not lockdown, but who took testing to an extreme higher level. (as of May 5th, 2 new deaths; Total deaths 245 – worldometers.).

They have even produced a handy 90 page manual on how to do it.

Full Unherd article below with graphs : http://www.unherd.com/2020/04/jury-still-out-on-swedish-coronaviris-strategy

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