Tag: Sanjeev Sabhlok writings

Article in The Australian, 30 December 2020: Swedish Covid-19 data exposes our fatal lockdown hysteria

Three months ago I resigned as an economist in the Victorian ­Department of Treasury and ­Finance to protest against disproportionate public health measures by Daniel Andrews that had led to a police state. Information has since become available that makes these policies even less ­justified.

As I have written previously, this pandemic is not the Spanish flu. Data is now telling us that it is not even in the league of the Hong Kong flu.

In May, modellers had said Sweden would experience more than 100,000 additional deaths from COVID this year, with 96,000 additional deaths by July if lockdowns were not imposed.

Fortunately for the Swedes, their policy is led by arguably the world’s best epidemiologist, ­Anders Tegnell. He followed the standard approach found in all ­official pandemic plans, including in Australia. Tegnell did not impose coercive lockdowns or close borders. And no masks, no quarantines. He tried to shield the elderly while flattening the curve by slowing the spread of the virus.

Since Sweden is almost the only country in which the coronavirus was allowed “to let rip”, this pandemic’s true magnitude will be conclusively known from its annual mortality statistics.

Official Swedish mortality data as at December 18 is available at https://bit.ly/36sV3cE. After controlling for recent under-reporting, I estimate Sweden will end up with about 97,000 deaths this year. Long-term trends suggest Sweden would have had about 92,500 deaths this year, so there will be about 4500 additional deaths this year, a far cry from the models.

Note that these 4500 excess deaths are well below the 8300 ­officially reported COVID deaths to date. And these 4500 additional deaths are not all COVID deaths. Sweden’s Public Health Agency noted in October that “the 2019-2020 influenza season was mild”. As a result, 3419 fewer people died in Sweden last year than in 2018. Many of the frail among these 3419 survivors last year would have died this year anyway. Of its own accord, therefore, COVID has caused a much smaller number of deaths than these 4500 additional deaths. Sweden’s average two-year death rate in 2020 will be around 0.92 per cent, the second lowest in the past 10 years.

One struggles from this analysis to identify a serious pandemic in Sweden: just a bad flu, milder than the Hong Kong flu.

When I outlined this to an international panel on December 10, British MP Andrew Percy demurred and said the UK had experienced proportionately many more excess deaths than Sweden. It has, but analysis for nations other than Sweden needs to account for the additional deaths caused by the hysteria drummed up by governments and their coercive lockdowns.

As I have explained in my book, The Great Hysteria and the Broken State, and in my 68,000-word complaint to the International Criminal Court, lockdowns have likely killed two million people and shortened the lives of hundreds of millions.

Lockdowns kill in many ways, including by causing additional COVID deaths. For instance, the Victorian government spent most of its effort during the lockdowns in restricting the movement of the young, who were never at risk, while ignoring aged-care homes. This led to hundreds of avoidable COVID deaths. Australia’s governments went “all in” on a hunch in March on the basis of models, all of which turned out to be wrong — as they have always been in the past.

Our governments also shut their eyes to the data, which has been telling us a different story since mid-April, ending up in perhaps the biggest policy blunder in Australia’s ­history.

Moreover, I have discovered during my research that community-wide cordons have been used only once in the past 500 years: for Ebola in 2014 in Africa. But only “very small-scale cordons” — comparable to quarantines — were found to be effective by an evaluation, not the larger-scale lockdowns. When lockdowns are rejected by the science even for a lethal virus such as Ebola, the idea of lockdowns being applied for a flu-like virus does not arise. That is why lockdowns were never part of any official pandemic plan, nor were indefinite international border closures.

Scott Morrison wants to keep Australia’s borders closed and freeze the virus at a level of zero until everyone is vaccinated. But such a policy is preposterous, apart from being unlawful. Section 5 of the Biosecurity Act 2015 states the “appropriate level of protection for Australia is a high level of sanitary and phytosanitary protection aimed at reducing biosecurity risks to a very low level, but not to zero”.

In 2013, British epidemiologist Sunetra Gupta had shown that major pandemics are behind us because international cross-mingling boosts immunity. Minor vir­uses, however, cannot be avoided.

Are we going to close Australia for every bad flu in the future? We must get back the spunk we lost during this Great Hysteria and resume our normal life as a proudly rational, thinking Western nation. We must reassert our faith in freedom and reason, and end our embrace of the cowardly, totalitarian, zombie ways of the communist Chinese government.

Since 80 per cent of COVID deaths in Sweden have occurred among those over 75, people in this age group should continue to be sheltered and offered the vaccine. To mandate it for others would be yet another ­display of intellectual and spiritual cowardice.

Sanjeev Sabhlok is a former economist with the Victorian Department of Treasury and Finance and author of The Great Hysteria and the Broken State.

Continue Reading

Article in Australian Financial Review, 16 September 2020: Why I quit rather than be silenced: Vic Treasury insider

A former Victorian Treasury economist explains how he quit to keep speaking out against policy blunders.

Last week I quit my job as an economist in the Victorian Department of Finance and Treasury so that I would be free to speak out against the state’s management of the COVID-19 infection.

I had made a number of criticisms of the state government on social media. The head of human relations at Treasury asked me to remove them. I considered deleting the few direct criticisms, but they wanted all indirect criticism removed too. I resigned on the same day, the only honourable course for a free citizen of Australia. I never dreamed I would see some of the tactics being used to defend the state’s health.

The pandemic policies being pursued in Australia – particularly in Victoria – are the most heavy-handed possible, a sledgehammer to kill a swarm of flies. These policies are having hugely adverse economic, social and health effects, with the poorer sections of the community that don’t have the ability to work from home suffering the most.

Australia is signalling to the world that it is closed for business and doesn’t care for human freedoms. This will dampen business investment but also impact future skilled migration, the education industry and tourism.

The whole thing hinges on the scare created by politicians and health professionals. For instance, Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton claims this is the “greatest public health challenge since the Spanish flu”.

But this is no Spanish flu – we can verify that easily.

The Spanish flu killed at least 50 million people worldwide in 1918 when the global population was 1.8 billion. Proportionately, to be as lethal as Spanish flu, a virus would have to kill at least 210 million people today. Instead, only around 0.9 million have died so far (compare this also with the 60 million who ordinarily die each year).

What about a second wave? There has never been a second wave hundreds of times bigger than the first. We can be reasonably certain that while this virus may create further ripples, its ultimate magnitude will end up in the range of the 1957 Asian flu.

But even if the pandemic had been as big as the Spanish flu, lockdowns could never have been justified. There are strong scientific arguments against lockdowns too.

So what should the government have done? The data were clear from February itself that the elderly are many times more vulnerable to a serious outcome than the young. It was necessary, therefore, to work out a targeted age-based strategy and start aggressively protecting and isolating the elderly, even as the rest of the population was advised on relevant precautions. But that wasn’t done.

The need for good policy process does not disappear just because we face a public health crisis. In fact, it gets even more urgent.

The Victorian Guide to Regulation notes that “It is not possible for governments to provide a completely ‘risk free’ society, or to prevent every possible event that might cause harm”. Further: “The direct and indirect costs imposed by regulatory approaches may not be … immediately obvious. Risk regulation that is poorly targeted or costly will divert resources from other priorities.”

Governments back in February needed to commission a cost-benefit analysis of alternative policy options that took into account different scenarios (such as with and without a vaccine). Thereafter, the best option had to be picked given the uncertainty, but consistent also with the need to intrude minimally into human freedoms. This cost-benefit analysis and policies needed then to be updated as new information emerged (such as the fact that epidemiological models have badly exaggerated the risk).

Governments should have also realised at the outset that they are hostage to chronic groupthink and actively sought alternative advice. I attempted repeatedly to raise my voice within my public sector role, but my attempts were rebuffed. The bureaucracy has clamped down on frank and fearless, impartial advice, in a misplaced determination to support whatever the government decides, (instead of performing its taxpayer-funded duty of providing forthright analysis of alternatives).

While there is scientific argument against lockdowns, there are divergent views on matters such as the effectiveness of masks. I am a mask fanatic but there was never any reason to mandate these debatable requirements. Voluntary, performance-based rules would allow the private sector to innovate, leaving people with the power of agency, to determine their own fate – thereby minimising economic harm, and harm to mental health and general well-being.

So what happens now? Billions of dollars in income and wealth have been wiped out in the name of a virus that is no worse than the Asian flu and which can (even now) be managed by isolating the elderly and taking a range of voluntary, innovative measures. All the border closures, all the lockdowns, all the curfews in Melbourne will not eradicate the virus from planet Earth.

The problem for politicians now is to reverse course without losing their job. I don’t know how they plan to do it but if they don’t do it sooner rather than later the damage to Australia’s future would have become so great it would undo the good work of decades of reform.

Sanjeev Sabhlok is a former economist with the Victorian Department of Treasury and Finance.

Continue Reading