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Jeremy Harris: Please Just Stop

This is an article by Jeremy Harris. Jeremy is a businessman and investor in New Zealand, one of the few whose businesses seems to have profited from Covid madness thus far – the advantage of being well hedged.

Background from Hector: A New Zealand professor, Rod Jackson, published a scaremongering article in the NZ Herald, claiming that Sweden was at serious risk of having another 56,000 deaths from Covid-19. Fellow New Zealander Jeremy Harris got in touch with me to ask me to publish this open letter to Jackson.

As a lover of mathematics with an interest in all science I am writing to you to beg my case that you and the other epidemiologists who are obviously enjoying your moment in the sun need to stop engaging in hysterical scaremongering.

When I read your piece in the paper today I thought it was the typical ill-informed disaster fetishism that our journalists here in New Zealand, and others around the world, have been engaging in to their shame over the last few months. To say I was surprised when I saw it was produced by a Professor, let alone one specialising in epidemiology no less, would be understatement.

I also heard your interview on Newstalk ZB where you doubled down on the irrationality that the final death toll in Sweden will be ~60,000.

Let’s look at your piece with the totality of the evidence in mind. The IFR for Covid-19 in the general population of western nations is highly likely to be ~0.25%, with an upper bound of 0.4% (95% CI) and a lower bound of 0.08% (95 CI). This is clear from the now dozens of detailed serological surveys done and the likely IFR of ~0.25% becomes much clearer in the serological surveys done with multiple checks of accuracy and/or larger sample sizes (as one example of many, the one done in Gangelt). Yet you didn’t mention any of these, only a couple that were done more as snap shots for Health Departments, i.e. those that allowed you to drive a myopic negative narrative. You also didn’t mention that the US CDC has now advised the IFR is 0.4% for symptomatic cases, and we have good reason to believe that at least 50%+ of cases are asymptomatic, driving their likely estimate of the actual IFR down to ~0.25% range. The US CDC, not some conspiracy website.

The Centre for Evidence Based Medicine at Oxford gives an estimate of 0.1%–0.4% for the IFR, noting that the IFR usually tends down as epidemics progress. There are many, many more significant data points reinforcing this that I will omit for time, as my point is made. Despite this overwhelming global IFR evidence you choose to present the IFR today to be over 1%. This was possibly acceptable for the more dim-witted epidemiologist a couple of months ago, but it is frankly scandalous to be doing so now. This offends not only my love of mathematics and science but also my common sense. You must know this is not true if you have any basic competency, so it should offend you too, and to present it in public when you must know how inflammatory it is to an already panicked and hyper risk-adverse population causing yet more fear in already scared people is disgraceful.

Let’s come to your second main point regarding herd immunity. The standard formula for herd immunity is 1-1/R0 (where R0 is the basic reproduction rate), about as simple as formulas get. The standard assumed R0 for Sars-Cov-2 is given as 2.5. (This is without getting into the fact that during the early stage of the epidemic as tests increased the number of cases rose in most places at almost the exact same rate, meaning we don’t really know if the R0 is any different to standard influenzas, or if the R0 for increasing testing in developed nations is ~2.5). A R0 of 2.5 gives a required herd immunity of 60%.

However a reasonable person would ask, is there any evidence from the history of my profession that would lead me to believe this is an overestimate? Swine Flu, Asian Flu, Hong Kong Flu, and even the Spanish Flu, all novel influenzas or mutations, with R0s approaching 2 (if not above and highly likely to be similar to Sars-Cov-2) all infected at least ~50% less than the bare formula would indicate. We now have two papers in preprint globally that strongly indicate that there is cross immunity being provided by people’s exposure to the four existing endemic coronaviruses, or natural T-cell immunity in certain genetic populations, driving the required herd immunity to 10% – 40% max depending on the population density.

How do we know both the facts I give above regarding the IFR and herd immunity are true? Because maths, that why. There has been a remarkable lack of statistical difference in the rates of death for countries and US states that have locked down compared to those that haven’t, in fact when comparing similar population densities the rate of death is slightly lower for non-locked down countries and US states (your colleague Dr. Thornley has done detailed graphs if you’d like to go down the hall to learn). Additionally when we look at the countries that have opened up, we see that there has been no spike in R0 rates, and things are continuing to trend down at the essentially the same rates logarithmically. All of this is remarkably strong evidence, confirming mathematically the reality of the situation through observation.

And that is the final point proving you are hopelessly incorrect, in addition to the IFR and herd immunity evidence. Mathematically, when the numbers of cases and deaths are viewed logarithmically, this epidemic is burning out fast in EU and USA. A simple calculation of the final area that will be under the curve for Sweden, given what was transpired so far, and the current rate of logarithmic decline, gives a total of approximately 6,000 total deaths. This total also squares very accurately with the global evidence of IFR and the actual required herd immunity. 8,800,000 (Swedish population) x 0.3 (30% herd immunity) x .0025 (IFR) = 6600.

How many of those people would have died in the next year? 66%, according to Prof. Neil Ferguson, so given Sweden’s yearly deaths of 60,000 odd, we are taking about ~3% excess deaths (it will be far less in Africa, Asia, Latin Amercia due to demographics). All this for global economic collapse and millions of non-Covid-19 excess deaths over the next few years?

So, demonstrably, the likely final number of deaths in Sweden before steady state, which at this point can be essentially mathematically proven, will be an order of magnitude less than 60,000 death you’ve repeatedly claimed today. I cannot get over how absurd it is for you to claim this publicly. It requires an IFR of over 1%, which from the evidence from the Diamond Princess cruise ship alone, all those months ago, we know cannot be true, as its IFR was approximately this with a demographic at many times the risk of the general population in Western countries, let alone the developing world. (By the by, the Diamond Princess is also almost a perfect closed experiment. proving where the herd immunity is likely to end up, as even in this petri dish of 250,000 people per/sq km it peaked at 25%).

Your ridiculous prediction also requires a completely homogenous population, the likes of which we know doesn’t exist from any previous outbreak of respiratory disease, and we have good reason to believe doesn’t exist from the aforementioned studies of differing natural immunity/cross immunity in the population driving down the required herd immunity. Sweden and the US have not made an error in staying open or opening up; quite the opposite. New Zealand is the one who has made the mistake because we have sacrificed 10%-15% (at minimum) of our economy for no immunity, and no way out until a vaccine – which is highly unlikely to be ready safely within 5 years at best – is available.

Our mistake is especially stupid given how quick the decline in the disease is, and how widespread it is globally, and how likely a massive economic depression now is. We will be desperate for every tourist, student and business person who can afford to get on a plane. Oh yes, we are going to open our borders before a vaccine, and it will happen once the above numbers prove correct and people begin to get scared of what they should have been scared of all along – economic collapse, losing their house, suicidal thoughts due to joblessness, etc. You may think that your job is safe but given the decline in international students and the collapse of the tax base I wouldn’t be so sure, and frankly I wouldn’t hire you as a simple actuary given what I’ve seen.

To prove my point, I would be more than happy to bet you NZD $1,000.00 that Sweden will have less (and likely far less) than 10,000 deaths before they reach herd immunity, as defined as sustained one-to-one transmission. A bet I’m sure you will not take up.

There is also no evidence at all we’ll have a second wave, especially given that that’s a feature of influenza, and this coronavirus seems to mutate at half the rate. Within the next six months it is highly likely that this virus will settle down into being the fifth endemic cold-causing coronavirus, but the cost we’ll have to pay in death and economic and mental depression will be borne for years to come. If you continue with performances like today you are in part responsible for prolonging the death and pain, rather than being part of the solution.

I know this will be hard for you as an epidemiologist to accept, but in science observation is more predictive than modelling. Let me repeat that for you: observation is more predictive than modelling. Especially modelling done with hundreds of variables and with the code that you and your fellows have written so hilariously badly that actual software engineers are furious that their taxes have been paid to write it. I’m thinking in particular of the code written by Imperial College London which is so bad they won’t release it, but given what I’ve seen from most of the epidemiological community so far I’m sure whatever you’ve written and are basing your (frankly embarrassing) pronouncements on, is just as turgid. Given Dr. Thornley’s position in the University and the quality of his work maybe he could give you some lessons on this too.

I also note that you try to wade into economic waters here, and infer that Sweden has made an error because they are going to suffer almost as much economically as the rest of Europe. If this is true it is only because the rest of Europe hysterically panicked in the same way you are trying to engender people to do through your work today. It’s like someone shooting themselves in the knee, then shooting the person next to them in the knee and then saying “see you’re no better than me, you’re hobbled too”.

It is the economic damage caused, and the resultant deaths that will come from it, which is why people like myself and others will do our best to ensure your professional culpability, and those of Dr. Wiles, Dr. Hendry, et al, is brought into full light, after the public has calmed down from their current state of hyper-‘rationality’ and cult of safetyism. Because when they realise how benign this virus is, when compared to the deaths that will come from the secondary and tertiary effects, which people like yourself seem completely unable to analyse, they will be angry. Very angry. While academics in the past have paid no professional price for their gargantuan failures, this time it will be different. We are already planning the books, books that will shine a light on bumbling academics like never before. A working title: A Perfect Storm of Stupid: How the ‘Experts’ Panicked New Zealand and the World.

For your edification, a 1% decline in GDP results in an average loss of 0.11 years off all New Zealander’s lives, and to be frank it likely won’t be people like you or me paying the price, it will be the poor. So if we lose 15% of our GDP it will result in the loss of 1.65 years off 5,000,000 lives, or 8,250,000 years of life lost, borne mainly by the poor. The alternative is having a controlled outbreak where we reach herd immunity via our young and healthy population, where the IFR is approaching zero, resulting in maybe a few tens of thousands, or just thousands, of years of life lost (at worst).

We also now know that the suspension of vaccination programs for TB, measles and the like in Africa and the subcontinent is likely to result in 1-2 million lives lost, and 130 million additional people will be at risk of starvation this year, likely resulting in additional millions of deaths. I hope you can sleep at night given these stark realities. I’m having trouble and I’m doing everything I can to avert this insanity.

In my opinion all these deaths and the blood from them are on the hands of ‘experts’ like you that have failed so spectacularly with even the most basic parts of your job, and recommended these completely unnecessary, draconian and unlawful stay at home orders throughout the world. The moronic politicians relied on recommendations like yours, so the refrain I am starting to hear ‘we don’t consider economics, only public health’ will fall on deaf ears. The developing world has aped us and it is a humanitarian disaster. You and your ilk should be ashamed of yourself. There is a reason why a WHO report in 2019 did not find much evidence for lockdowns. Someone there last year at least had the common decency at that time to consider the ramifications of the type of madness we are currently all being subjected to. (The WHO’s corruption by China in this disaster is a scandal for another day.)

Additionally, the damage that you and others of your ilk are doing to the scientific method will take those of us who seem to have kept a level head and actually give a damn about integrity a generation to fix. Despite your assertions, there are a myriad of physicists, epidemiologists, chemists, mathematicians, medical doctors, and even Nobel Laureates, that have been repeating the above case. Not only will people like me be trying to resurrect faith in the scientific method, I’ll be doing this while also trying to fix the economic damage your kind has wrought via my company, investments and employees.

It’s hard to express my disgust in totality, the above is but a snap shot.

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32 thoughts on “Jeremy Harris: Please Just Stop

  1. Mr. Harris concludes with an excellent point about accountability. Sadly, I would almost be prepared to make a $NZ 1,000 bet that no tenured person will be given a well-deserved Bum’s Rush, nor any bureaucrat. And since, as UK PM Harold Wilson famously said, “A week in politics is a long time”, the chances are high that elected politicians will also avoid accountability for their foolishness and for the unnecessary deaths they are causing.

  2. @Jeremy

    Excellent. I agree with everything you wrote

    I hope the politicians, media and science charlatans pay a heavy price for creating a global recession based on hysterical panic and “the computer says”. The computer says what it’s been told to say – GIGO

  3. Writing from the UK. Well said sir, very well said. I questioned the lockdown (ours that is) from the moment it was announced. I’ve stuck to my guns ever since on it, common sense told me we were being sold a pup. I’m a nobody, and my voice is small. But it’s a voice that is on the same side as you, agrees with you, and every day, there are more and more small voices joining together in a growing chorus. We just want to know, from the establishment, what the f**k have you done to us and why did you do it?

  4. I was at attention saluting and applauding (at the same time if possible) sharpening the pitchfork ready for the over the top order! Very well said.

  5. At last someone talking sense about NZ and Australia. They are getting all the plaudits for handling this pandemic so well, but time will tell.

    PS: I was surprised to read the original article by Jackson of his predicted 60K deaths in Sweden, when at the time the deaths were around 4k and rapidly declining. If that is not a case for “observation is more predictive than modelling” I don’t know what is. He could almost have been forgiven if he wrote the article in March…

  6. Well said Mr. Harris,
    This is the the most angering, the most depressing and yet the most accurate summation I’ve read to date. This utterly ridiculous situation needs to be treated as a world-wide scandal of the highest order. I now cannot even think about these people, the politicians, the “experts”, without becoming enraged at the mess they have created.
    Your title is most apt, “Please just stop.”
    Why the hell don’t they?

  7. Early in the pandemic I suggested on another website that the math modelling was so poor that I’d trust my own guesses more. Unfortunately I also said I’d stop guessing once the modellers had decent data to work with. I hadn’t foreseen that most of them were incapable of intelligently incorporating emerging data into their models.

    So my guessing wasn’t rendered obsolete by the math modellers but rather by the elementary calculations of people who simply looked at the data critically. We’ll done, Mr Harris!

  8. I think Jackson gave a figure of 56,000 for additional Sweden Covid-19 deaths after 2 years. To reach that figure they would need about 76 deaths every single day for the next 2 years. Only time will tell, but I’d bet that Jackson will be well out on this.

  9. @Nick Rose

    +1 I echo your every word. Lockdown not necessary from announcement. At the time, the stats and death rates from other countries never justified house arrest

    DM’s Peter Hitchens has been a vocal critic, so much so that Youtube shadow bans him:

  10. @ Dene Bebbington

    No, he said it would take 2 years to reach herd immunity given how long it has taken to get to 4% of the total population to test positive to antibodies, his calculations on the total deaths are time independent because they are a function of his assumed formula.

    He seems unable or unwilling to take into account the logarithmic decline in deaths, or provide any explanation of how things will “kick on” again, he also doesn’t seem to entertain the idea there is any way of herd immunity being reached other than 60% of antibodies being measurable by blood – of which more evidence has come out supporting since I wrote the letter.

    All of which is just daft.

  11. Jeremy, yes, he says it would take 2 years to reach herd immunity and that 56,000 more deaths would occur in that time:

    “This would mean that at the current rate of infection, it would take more than two years for Sweden to reach herd immunity and an additional 56,000 lives could be lost in the process, unless a vaccine or effective treatments are developed.”

    Interestingly there’s an UnHerd interview on YouTube with a professor who says that a significant proportion of the population (possibly more than 50%) are thought not to be susceptible to Covid-19. Presumably that would reduce the percentage needed for herd immunity?

  12. Yes, it does reduce the herd immunity required. In my calculations for Sweden I use 30% – which is a 50% reduction.

    The Professor he interviewed isn’t just another Professor, it was Karl Friston, a Mathematician and probably the best Statistician in the world (at least in the top few). He invented 2 new branches of Statistics for Neuroscience, and is referred to by “ordinary” Neuroscientists as a “genius”. I’m not sure how smart you have to be to referred to as a genius by Neuroscientists but my guess is pretty damn smart.

    He actually estimates the percentage as 80% but with a lower bound of 50% and it is population specific. Between his work, that of nobel laureate Michael Levitt it is proven mathematically to be a fact at this point, IMHO. The pre-prints, which I mentioned in the article: localised mucosal immunity (non-blood), and CD4+ “helper” T cell immunity ~35% – should be 0% (theorised to be cross immunity to endemic coronaviruses), just provide additional certainty and a mechanism for how this is working, a cause.

  13. Jeremy: ‘The Professor he interviewed isn’t just another Professor, it was Karl Friston, a Mathematician and probably the best Statistician in the world (at least in the top few). He invented 2 new branches of Statistics for Neuroscience, and is referred to by “ordinary” Neuroscientists as a “genius”. I’m not sure how smart you have to be to referred to as a genius by Neuroscientists but my guess is pretty damn smart.’

    Thanks, I couldn’t remember the professor’s name when I wrote the comment. As an aside, I thought he was one of the most engaging people that UnHerd have interviewed about Covid-19.

  14. Well done! Finally some sense from New Zealand. I came to the same conclusions on the IFR and herd immunity in late March – it was totally obvious if one looks beyond the fear. I have been writing pretty much the above since then. I also agree with the anger towards those scientists who abandoned science, though I fear they will get away with it because the culpable include the vast majority of academics. They were yelling loudly in March for governments to “listen to science” by which they actually meant the exact opposite. What do you do when 95% of scientists reveal themselves not to be scientists at all? What else can academia do than pretend it didn’t happen or that they were all fooled by some small group?

  15. IFR = CFR * (Confirmed Cases/Estimated Infections)
    The point is that if only 10% of infections turn up in the total of confirmed cases, the Infection Fatality Rate must be 10% of the Case Fatality Rate as the number of deaths is the same but the divisor changes.

  16. What a wonderful letter! Thanks for posting this and we can only hope that there will indeed be a reckoning on all the malfeasance undertaken by crooked “Scientists” (actually computer “modellers”), Politicians and the Goebbels-esque mainstream media who continue to inflame the situation with their counterfactual propaganda

  17. This is an excellent article. I am a scientist ( ecologist) – not a virologist or an epidemiologist. But I understand population modelling, which is what the incompetent, so-called scientific advisers to govs did not seem to understand. For some reason, they (wrongly) assumed almost infinite exponential growth in number if people infected (logistic curves are correct for spread of disease, not exponential growth), they completely ignored likely immunity in the population of people from previous exposure coronviruses (colds), and possibly from having antibodies to human and/or bovine Tb from Tb vaccinations or exposure and recovery from Tb, and cowpox antibodies (from smallpox innoculations – cowpox antibodies confer some immunity to coronaviruses), and they seemed to be unaware that viruses attentuate over time, and become less dangerous ( if more infectious).
    They also confused correlation with causation in the relationships with age – that is another story.
    The question that bothers most of my waking moments is why did we destroy our economies and the moral fibre and freedoms of our people on the advice of charlatans.

    PS. I suspect the effectiveness of New Zealand in stopping the spread of the virus is partly because many New Zealanders are likely to carry antibodies to bovine Tb, because bovine Tb is rife in NZ due to the presence of possums ( imported from Australia). The antibodies to Tb confer some resistant to the covid virus.

  18. Yes,
    except for this: detail:
    “….so given Sweden’s yearly deaths of 60,000 odd,”
    It should be 90 000, not 60 000.

    Here are the numbers for 2015-2019:
    90 907 90 982 91 972 92 185 88 766 (Statistics Sweden-SCB)

    Please note the low number of deaths in 2019, which coincides with a six months increase (from 2018) in life expectancy..

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