With Professor Ramesh Thakur

In the lockdown insanity which has gripped the Australian political class one of the country’s most distinguished academics, Professor Ramesh Thakur of the Australian National University, has stood out for his bold, erudite and highly intelligent breakdown on why lockdowns are the wrong policy, at the wrong time, for the wrong disease.

Academic and former UN Assistant Secretary General Ramesh Thakur had suffered under the pressure, propaganda and manipulation that preceded the Iraq war of 2003. Seventeen years later, he sees history repeating itself with the coronavirus pandemic—especially with the imposition of quarantines.

With arguments and data, albeit controversially, the Indian-born, Canadian-educated political scientist and international security expert—who worked around the globe, settled in Australia and reached the frontline of the UN—fears that “coronaphobia” is preventing us from seeing the whole picture.

Australia has been fortunate to have him.

The author or editor of 50 books and 400 articles and book chapters, Professor Thakur serves on the international advisory boards of institutes in Africa, Asia, Europe and North America.

Thakur is one of that rare class of academics who is readily available to journalists and takes his role as a public intellectual seriously, writing both for academic journals, as well as mainstream and independent media.

Over the past year his analyses have been published around the world, including in The Japan Times, The Times of India and Argentinia’s La Nacion.

In all their wisdom, Australia’s intellectually bereft mainstream media has largely ignored him.

The harsh lockdown measures were instituted in response to the fear-mongering projections of mathematical modelling that bear hardly any resemblance to the reality that has unfolded across the world.

RAMESH THAKUR

Thakur argues that eminent scientists who urged caution were ignored but have been proven far truer in their projections than the doom-laden death cultists.

“Crucially, too many governments ignored the reality of scientific uncertainty and the fact that lockdowns were a radical experiment that departed from established protocols for managing pandemics.

“The result has been disastrous for millions of people around the world.” 

While the role of Australia’s government manipulated or owned media will be called into account for the consequences of the last 12 months of collective madness, so will academics.

Most Australians, poorly educated, media illiterate and without any capacity to discern the difference between news and propaganda, between fact and fear fear mongering, have absolutely no idea that there is a strong alternative narrative to the actions of their government.

Many of the smartest people on Earth regard the actions of government over the past year, including lockdowns, border closures and the blizzard of ever changing rules and regulations, as extremely destructive.

But the panicked public has queued up to abrogate their personal freedoms.

With quality journalism now increasingly only being found in the nation’s independent media outlets, A Sense of Place Magazine has been proud to publish Professor Ramesh Thakur.

Thakur begins his piece The Price of Panic with a memorable quote.

Those who do not weep, do not see.

Victor Hugo, Les Misérables

He writes: In 2019, the coronavirus family, which has been causing respiratory disease in millions of humans worldwide every year for millennia, welcomed a new member.

The disease it causes, COVID-19, proved to be milder than seasonal flu in fairly healthy people under 70, but it was nearly 1,000 times deadlier in older people or those made vulnerable by serious pre-existing conditions.

Rather than focusing protective measures on the people at heightened risk of illness, governments around the world imposed and continue to impose severe restrictions on their entire population.

With routine medical care disrupted, businesses shuttered, curfews imposed, travel restricted, socialization criminalized, we are causing a devastating amount of harm.

The negative effects of lockdown are too often dismissed as small sacrifices, necessary to keep a highly deadly disease from spreading.

These sacrifices are, in fact, neither necessary nor small, and the disease is only a threat to a minority of the population that can be protected without lockdowns.

In his piece The Biggest Mistake In History: Debating the Great Lockdown, Professor Thakur states that early assumptions of extraordinary SARS-CoV-2 infectiousness and lethality have proven fallacious. Some are already calling the coronavirus lockdown “the Greatest Mistake in History.”

The seductive numerical precision of the Imperial College London (ICL) March 16 model, with grim forecasts of deaths in the tens of millions, provoked a herd-like panic across the world but was refuted by data collected in the following weeks that progressively reduced its policy usefulness.

Early modelling of the virus was based on the initial statistics from Wuhan and Italy.

Indeed, with the significant number of asymptomatic cases, the most common symptom of the virus is no symptom at all.

But has the Great Lockdown worked?

Countries with different lockdown strategies show broadly similar coronavirus curves. The model, based not on science but flawed assumptions and skewed data, has failed badly in its predictions of the evolution of the curve. Chris von Csefalvay, an epidemiologist who specialises in the virology of bat-borne illnesses, including coronaviruses, examined the code behind Neil Ferguson’s model after ICL eventually and reluctantly shared a cleaned up version. He concluded its flaws fall “somewhere between negligence and unintentional but grave scientific misconduct.”

As thousands of frightened people queue for hours to get tested for a disease they have almost no chance of dying from, most of them have no idea there is another side to the story, or that self-aggrandising politicians have used the public’s naivety for their own ends.

In his piece Lives Versus Lives, written as Covid madness was just beginning, Professor Thakur wrote:

The first balance a government must assess is the risk of creating mass hysteria and panic with premature reporting and the risk of losing control by delaying public announcements of the true scale, gravity and urgency of a nascent epidemiological emergency.

They can then settle on the optimal balance between sufficiently slowing the disease, preventing an economic meltdown and maintaining a functioning society while the threat and responses evolve and the virus spreads.

As someone who has seen poverty up close in many different countries, I believe the choice is not between ‘lives vs money’, but ‘lives vs lives’. We cannot have a first-world health care system and facilities if our economy tanks to third-world poverty. And in the third world, in a very real sense poverty is the biggest killer of all.

New York’s Gov. Andrew Cuomo has become the latest hero in the Democratic pantheon for insisting that his sweeping, expensive measures to stem the coronavirus would be worth it even if they saved one life: ‘We’re not going to put a dollar figure on human life’.

This is stirring but sheer idiocy: a soundbite, not sound policy.

Every single budget of every central and state government in every country of the world juggles with competing public policy priorities and, in that sense, puts a dollar figure on human life.

In his piece Lockdowns Can Be Cruel, Heartless, and Deadly Ramesh Thakur writes that human beings are family- and community-oriented social animals. Sharing food and drink at home or in restaurants, enjoying the cinema, watching cricket, or appreciating a concert or a play are not optional add-ons but fundamental to our daily life.

Those of us who argue the coronavirus cure can indeed be worse than the disease, are sometimes accused of putting the economy ahead of lives. This is morally offensive. Unless someone is silly enough to claim saving just one life is worth a complete shutdown of the whole country, the debate is about the thresholds of mortality against the human, health, social, and economic costs of different strategies. Judged against these criteria on the evidence to date, it’s a challenge to justify the hard lockdowns of Australia and New Zealand.

Many Westerners seem to have some strange notions about the human right to be protected from all life-threatening risks and emotional trauma. How dare we say: all life ends in death, get used to it. To my astonishment, the pandemic has brought an expansion in state power right into our homes and across public spaces to an extent not seen previously, even in wartime.

In an interview first published in Argentinia’s La Nacion which we published under the title The Tyranny of Coronophobia, Thakur says he has had two big worries during the pandemic, starting from the very beginning and still ongoing. Both relate to my sense that “coronaphobia” has taken over as the basis of government policy in so many countries, with a complete loss of perspective that life is a balance of risks pretty much on a daily basis.

First, the extent to which dominant majorities of peoples in countries with universal literacy can be successfully terrified into surrendering their civil liberties and individual freedoms has come as a frightening shock. 

On the one hand, the evidence base for the scale and gravity of the Covid-19 pandemic is surprisingly thin in comparison to the myriad other threats to our health that we face every year.

We don’t ban cars on the reasoning that every life counts and even one traffic death is one too many lives lost. Instead, we trade a level of convenience for a level of risk to life and limb. 

The restrictions imposed on everyday life as we know it have been far more draconian than anything previously done. Yet, the evidence for the effectiveness of draconian lockdowns is less than convincing.

As one Lancet study concluded, ‘Rapid border closures, full lockdowns, and wide-spread testing were not associated with COVID-19 mortality per million people.’

In a piece titled Defective Modelling Throws Lockdowns into the Dustbin of Credibility Thakur commented that almost all journalists seem to have lost their cynicism towards claims by the authorities and instead become addicted to pandemic panic porn.

The measures taken have been extreme, more even than has been done during a war and more than was attempted during earlier, deadlier flu epidemics. The authorities have told us who and how many are permitted into our homes, where we can and cannot go, how many people we can meet, where we can shop and for what, which services we can access and which not, even which medical and dental services we can still access. Who is going to call the Governments and the medical experts to account for the overreach?

A critical and sceptical profession would have put the government’s and modellers’ claims under the blowtorch and subjected them to withering criticism for the magnitude of errors by which their predictions have been off. Instead they have mostly joined the adoring multitudes in showering praise on the magnificence of the emperor’s new robe. Or, to change the metaphor, it is as if the Wicked Wizard of Wuhan (WWW) has cast an evil spell over the whole world and turned it into an enchanted forest with humans confined to limited spaces and the other creatures roaming freely, no longer terrorised by homo sapiens.

At present Covid-19 does not make it to the top 50 causes of deaths. And for that we have inflicted such damage on people’s lives, livelihoods, education, freedoms, condemning them to house arrests en masse and robbing so many young of their future?

Ramesh was one of Australia’s earliest promoters of The Great Barrington Declaration.

He wrote that The Great Barrington Declaration, authored by world-leading scientists Jay Bhattacharya of Stanford, Sunetra Gupta of Oxford and Martin Kulldorff of Harvard, summarised lockdown’s collateral harm: ‘lower childhood vaccination rates, worsening cardiovascular disease outcomes, fewer cancer screenings and deteriorating mental health – leading to greater excess mortality in years to come, with the working class and younger members of society carrying the heaviest burden’.

The Declaration has been signed so far by 10,347 public health scientists, 28,318 medical practitioners and 514,000 concerned citizens – this despite most of the mainstream media ignoring it!

The second crucial reality that governments ignored was the importance of a balance of interests among competing public policy priorities alongside the balance of risks of alternative public health strategies.

Governments have the responsibility to assess and prioritise human, mental health, social, and economic costs, as well as all health impacts, of different strategies.

Here in this podcast, in closing, is a forensic breakdown of why lockdowns are wrong. The argument is lost. It’s time our governments took stock, and took heed of some of the best minds on the planet. Instead of scaring people witless while expanding their own power, governments should be encouraging the citizenry to live healthy, productive and fulfilling lives. Rather than dragging their populations into a desperate and frightening future.