Back to Fort Fairfield Journal      WFFJ-TV      Contact Us


Were Lockdowns Really Necessary to Stop the Spread of COVID-19?

By:  David Deschesne

Fort Fairfield Journal, June 17, 2020


   The knee-jerk reaction to the COVID-19 coronavirus, of nearly all governments around the world, has been hard-core, authoritarian, dictatorial lockdowns of nearly all businesses, schools, homes and economies in order to “slow the spread” of a virus that has enjoyed a public relations department entrenched in global mainstream news media institutions.

   But, were those lockdowns really effective and are they supported by any scientific research?  In an interview on KUSI-TV in San Diego, California, Professor Joel Hay from the University of Southern California's Department of Pharmaceutical and Health Economics said he doesn't think so.

   “There's no basis, there's no scientific evidence to support social distancing with this particular virus, COVID-19,” explained Prof. Hay.    “Social distancing is for viruses that are very lethal but not that contagious and transmissible.”

“This is probably the most contagious virus we've ever seen.  I mean it leaped around the world in a matter of weeks or months, probably was in Los Angeles and California, generally, last year,” said Prof. Hay.  “Keep in mind, this is the COVID-19 virus.  It is from last year, it's been around for a long time and that's what a lot of the serology data's now starting to show.  What has not been one hundred percent effective is the idea of social closure.  They said if we reduced office work, if we shut down restaurants and non-essential businesses, if we cut transportation, if we shut down the schools, that we'd reduce viral transmission to zero. They based their entire intervention of social distancing on no evidence.  Now we have plenty of evidence the virus has been out there a long time, and we’ve got to open things up.”

  In pointing out how lockdowns were completely ineffective at stopping, or even slowing the spread of COVID-19, Prof. Hay pointed to the differences between South Korea and New York.  “Keep in mind that South Korea's even more dense than New York City and they've only had less than 250 deaths total.  They've been involved in this longer than anybody else and they never shut down anything.  You can say that the New York City disaster was a lot due to panicked health care workers who did not have proper protective equipment and used ventilators which are now known not to be good for many C-19 patients and can actually increase risk of death among many C-19 patients.  That was actually totally inappropriately done.” 

   It seems that the vast majority of serious COVID-19 cases and deaths are attributable to those in the age group of 60 to 80 years and an even greater proportion in those over 80 years of age with other serious, adverse, ongoing negative health problems.  The “one size fits all” method of intervention that governments used by imposing lockdowns of all in society who were otherwise healthy or not greatly affected by the virus was irresponsible.  Prof. Hay suggested isolating only the old and feeble - not everyone - was the better way to handle the outbreak.    “Do what we always do.  Isolate them.  If you're frail and sick, and immune compromised, maybe you got cancer or something, yes, isolate yourself and make sure those people around you stay isolated.  But don't isolate the young and healthy.  Sweden proved that's how you get the herd immunity.  That's how you get the social mixing.  That's how we've done it naturally for millions of years.  What is this nonsense?  You don't shut down the globe for something that's normal flu or even two to three times normal flu.  This [shutdown] is destroying millions of lives and killing a hundred people for every one it ostensibly saves.”

   The mainstream media-generated hype inarguably created a lot of irrational fear in societies around the world over a virus that has similar case fatality rates, and affects similar age and comorbidities groups, as a really bad seasonal flu.  That fear instilled in the general public caused many governments to overreact and clamp down excessively on all sectors of society - essentially grinding the economic system to a halt worldwide  based on fear alone.

   Lord Sumption, a former justice on the Supreme Court in England recently explained that when human societies lose their freedom it's not usually because tyrants have taken it away.  It's usually because people willingly surrender their freedom in return for protection against some external threat.  “The threat is usually a real threat, but usually exaggerated.  That's what I fear we are seeing now,” said Lord Sumption.  “The pressure on the politicians has come from the public.  They want action, they don't pause to ask whether the action will work, they don't ask themselves whether the cost will be worth paying, they want action anyway.  Anyone who has studied history will recognize here the classic symptoms of collective hysteria.  Hysteria is infectious.  We are working ourselves up into a lather in which we exaggerate the threat and stop asking ourselves whether the cure may be worse than the disease.” 

   “The symptoms of coronavirus are clearly serious for those with other significant medical conditions, especially if they're old.  There are exceptional cases in which young people have been struck down, which you have a lot of publicity, but the numbers are pretty small,” continued Lord Sumption.  “Yes, this is serious and it's understandable that people cry out to the government.  But the real question is, is this serious enough to warrant putting most of our population into house imprisonment, wrecking our economy for an indefinite period, destroying businesses that honest and hard working people have taken years to build up, saddling future generations with debt, depression, stress, heart attacks, suicides and unbelievable distress inflicted upon millions of people who are not especially vulnerable and will suffer only mild symptoms or none at all.” 

   He did admit that some in the press have engaged in a fair amount of scrutiny of government policies.  “But, mostly the press has, I think, echoed and indeed amplified the general panic.” 

   “I'm not a scientist.  But it is the right and duty of every citizen to look and see what the scientists have said and analyze it for themselves and to draw common sense conclusions.  We are all perfectly capable of doing that and there's no particular reason why the scientific nature of the problem should mean that we should have to resign our liberty into the hands of scientists.  We all have critical faculties and it's rather important in a moment of national panic that we should maintain them.”

   In looking critically at the data, even here in the U.S., we notice some stark differences between some of the states that instituted serious and economic-crushing lockdowns verses the states that chose to keep their businesses and schools otherwise open while instituting some appropriate social distancing on a volunteer basis in their populations.

   There were seven states in the U.S. that did not shut down.  Those states and their deaths per 100,000 as of June 8, 2020 are as follows:



State/Pop.                      Deaths

                                    per 100,000


Pop. 2.9 million              5.31



Pop. 3.04 million          19.0



Pop. 1.9 million              9.52


North Dakota

Pop. 762,000                  8.0


South Dakota

Pop. 884,659                  7.0



Pop. 2.7 million              4.3



Pop. 578,759                  2.76


   Comparing those statistics to Maine, with a similar population density, but did lock down its economy and closed schools in late March, there doesn't appear to be a whole lot of difference.  Maine, with a population of around 1.34 million had a total of 99 deaths ostensibly from COVID-19 by June 8, or around 7.36 deaths per 100,000 - right in line with the states that remained open throughout the pandemic.  With that said, the vast majority of cases and deaths in Maine were primarily from the population-dense center of Portland, and among the old in infirm in nursing homes and other assisted living facilities.

  At the other end of the scale, draconian lockdowns in New York still resulted in around 124 deaths per 100,000 and in New Jersey, also locked down, there was an astounding death rate of 138 per 100,000.

   Therefore, it seems that factors other than lockdowns of entire societies and economies may have contributed to disease spread - or the lack thereof - factors which had nothing to do with excessive government mandates and intervention.

   Karl Friston, Professor of Neuroscience, University College, London has applied his skills as a computer modeling expert to COVID-19 case and death rates with intriguing conclusions. 

   Professor Friston studied the COVID-19 outbreak in Germany and applied standard mathematical modeling.  In a recent interview with the Guardian, he coined the term “immunological dark matter” to describe some of the data that seems to indicate some people in a population aren't even susceptible to catching COVID-19 to begin with.

   In an interview on Unherd's LockdownTV, he described the work he recently completed.  “There is a sub population, or a proportion of any population that may not participate in the same kind of way as the susceptible individuals that transmit and communicate and spread the virus or several symptoms of it.” said Prof. Friston.  “When one applies these models, invert the data from Germany, invert the data from England under the same form of the models, and asks what are the best explanations for the observed death rates, the new cases, what are the best explanations for those differences?  When you actually run this, these models, it looks as if Germany is behaving as if it had a greater proportion of its population that seemed to be 'out of the game' in some subtle way in terms of transmitting or being susceptible to viral infection.”

   Prof. Friston said case numbers and death rates didn't seem to be affected so much by government intervention such as lockdown of their economies or social distancing and face mask mandates but rather, something more subtle and personal.  “Surprisingly it was not societal, institutional or governmental responses that seemed to show the biggest differences when you looked at the differences between these inferred parameters and these inferred causes.  It was much more something intrinsic to the way the population seemed to respond to the introduction of the virus.”

   He said in looking at the data from other countries, there are enormous variations among them.  But, overall, he said, “There seems to be a proportion of the population that is relatively less susceptible to infection than others.  Understanding that sort of variation in terms of the non-susceptibility is probably going to be the key to understanding the enormous variation from one country to another country.”

  Some hypotheses on this anomaly that could explain some people's non-susceptibility to COVID-19 look at the prevalence of vitamins and various spices in their diet.  For example, Thailand is a country with a population of 69.4 million people but only experienced a death rate of 0.08 deaths per 100,000 people in its population as of June 5, compared to New York's 124+ deaths per 100,000 of its population.  The people of Thailand eat a very diverse diet consisting of many spices and herbs such as chili, cayenne, garlic and turmeric which have been shown to have various degrees of anti-viral functions.  Meanwhile, the typical western diet doesn't rely so much on those spices and herbs but rather tends to focus primarily on wheat and red meat.

   Prof. Friston also has received suggestions for other hypotheses such as psycho-social effects and even genetic predisposition of certain people to be naturally resistant to this type of coronavirus that might not necessarily show up on anti-body screening.  These effects are all within the individual, or subset of the population which implies that no amount of government intervention, social distancing or lockdown measures could be factored in as causes of their reduced susceptibility to catching or spreading the virus.

   Not one to exclude any one hypothesis, Prof. Friston is keeping an open mind.  “I think they're all probably right.  I think it would be disingenuous to exclude one in relation to any of the others.  The more important thing from my point of view is these are all viable hypotheses - some more plausible, some less plausible.  What we need now is a way of evaluating the evidence for these hypotheses.”

   He explained we need to understand more about the data before we can say for sure that government intervention was even effective to begin with.  “How much is it what we do and how much can we prescribe what we do, versus do we really need to understand the thing that we're dealing with in terms of the differential susceptibility.  All of these hypotheses say nothing about lockdowns, testing and tracking, surveillance of a PCR or antibody; they're all about understanding the nature of the thing that we're trying to handle.”

   Professor Michael Levitt, Professor of Structural Biology at Stanford School of Medicine, said COVID-19 has become so lethal perhaps because it was so politicized and over-hyped.  “Unfortunately, there's a huge amount of politics on this everywhere.  I think that, unfortunately, science is difficult and you can't be partisan.  I think that there was a dynamic here a dynamic which I found very anti-scientific that led to decisions being made.  There's huge collateral damage caused by the consequences of things like lockdown, of shutting down economies, people going hungry, people are losing their savings which is apparently not part of an epidemiologist's job to consider.”

   Mainstream media outlets are fixated on Sweden, overemphasizing every additional death, even though they are still in deaths per 100,000 less than half of New York or New Jersey, with similar population numbers.  Some in the mainstream media have suggested Sweden's death rate for COVID-19 would have been lower with a very strict and immediate lockdown policy early on.  However, Anders Tegnell, State Epidemiologist for Sweden, and the architect of their COVID-19 response, suggests lockdowns would not necessarily have been effective given the population demographic of who succumbed to the virus would not have been directly impacted one way or another by a complete lockdown of the young and healthy people or businesses in society.

   Tegnell responded to these concerns in an interview on BBC's HARDtalk. “The death toll in Sweden is mainly in facilities for long term, ill, elderly people.  We had a very much unfortunate spread in those facilities in a way that some other countries had, but not our Nordic neighbors,” said Tegnell.  “These people meet a lot of people - even if you have a lockdown - so you can't isolate them.  In that way, a lockdown would not have stopped the spread into them.”

   Tegnell pointed out that while Sweden's current death tolls are higher than their neighbors who did impose strict lockdowns, Sweden also appears to be much further into the spread of the disease and consequently closer to herd immunity than their neighbors - due to their no-lockdown policy and as the disease continues to progress in their neighboring countries, who are merely slowing the spread with lockdowns, those death rates may eventually catch up to Sweden's.  “We have at least ten, perhaps twenty times higher level of immunity in the population, which means that we are much further into the spread than other countries and if that will mean that the other countries will reach similar death tolls to us, or not, I think that's very difficult to judge.”

   “Of course, this death toll is highly regrettable and it's a terrible thing that we're seeing.  I think we'll have a number of explanations why this happened not directly connected to our strategy.  We're not too sure a strict lockdown would have changed so much.  It didn't change very much in the Netherlands, UK and other places.”

   While there were no mandatory lockdowns in Sweden, the government did communicate strategies that their people could - and did - voluntarily adopt to help deal with the outbreak.  “Travel during Easter was only 10 percent of normal Easter, showing that people really tried to minimize social contacts.  We can also see that some of our other viral diseases such as flu, which has the same kind of pattern, suddenly stopped in the middle of that pattern.  Once again, showing that social distancing really worked.  So our people really took this on in a way more or less equal to countries who did it by legal measures.”

   Tegnell explained voluntary measures, as opposed to those mandated by dictatorial government decree, will have a much greater chance of sustainability.  “One very important thing for us is sustainability.  These kind of voluntary measures with a big understanding in a population as to why we're doing things have a much higher level of sustainability and we all know this is something we're going to have to handle for a long time.”