A FLAWED PREDICTIVE MODEL
The lockdown model that shut down Canada’s economy was modelled after the now-debunked Imperial College of London’s Report 9. The general consensus in the scientific community is that these projections were orders of magnitude higher than even our most severe outbreaks. Predictive models are typically excused for being incorrect, but in this case, the model was found to be so highly flawed that experts say it should never have been relied upon to make policy decisions.
Vice-Dean of the College, and disgraced former advisor to UK parliament, Neil M. Ferguson, led the report. Ferguson resigned as government advisor after being caught breaking his own self-isolation guidelines by having a lover visit his home during lockdown. He said he thought he was immune after contracting the virus and self-isolating for two weeks.
As a result of this scandal, Ferguson has since stepped down from his roles advising parliament and at Sage (Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies), although he remains in good standing at the Imperial College.
It is worth mentioning that the same month his report was published, the Imperial College of London received a $79 million “donation“ from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a benefactor that stands to profit from the COVID-19 pandemic and its highly coveted vaccine.
This donation, for “malaria control and elimination” is particularly coincidental as this donation directly funds Fergusons research projects at the college. His professional affiliations include the Imperial College Network of Excellence in Malaria, the Malaria Modelling Research Group and the Vaccine Research Network.
There is an appearance of impropriety when an entity so heavily invested in the COVID vaccine funds the research of those putting forth reports favorable to their investments. Report 9 recommended extreme lockdown measures be put in place until a vaccine become available; essentially identifying a vaccine as the only mediating solution to the predicted massive consequences of a full lockdown.
A) The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “How We Work: Imperial College London.” The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, 1 Jan, retrieved from https://gates.ly/3oSQAHa; B) “Professor Neil Ferguson.” Imperial College London, 2020, retrieved from https://bit.ly/2TPjrOg; C) Paul R. La Monica, CNN Business. “Bill and Melinda Gates-Backed Coronavirus Vaccine Maker Soars in Wall Street Debut.” CNN, 14 Aug. 2020, retrieved from https://cnn.it/3oSQSxK; D) Ferguson, Neil, et al. “Report 9: Impact of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) to reduce COVID19 mortality and healthcare demand.” Imperial College London 10 (2020): 77482., retrieved from https://bit.ly/385APqv. Articles from left to right: https://bit.ly/2I2jdRA; https://bit.ly/3mLENZp; https://bit.ly/2U0VW5f; https://bit.ly/34Rzd1t.
The impact of Ferguson’s report is extensive. It has informed policymaking in the UK and globally, and, looking at a timeline of events, it appears that the suggested lockdown strategies were immediately adopted by the Canadian government as well. For example, the day the report was published, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau closed Canada’s borders to non-citizens and urged any Canadians currently abroad to return home. The following day, Ontario, PEI, Alberta and BC declare public emergencies, and Trudeau discussed enacting the Federal Emergencies Act.
The Imperial College model compared this pandemic to the Spanish flu, and warned that if left unmitigated, COVID-19 could infect 7 billion people and result in 40 million deaths, unless an “extreme suppression strategy” is implemented. This strategy minimally required a combination of social distancing of the entire population, home isolation of cases, household quarantine of family members, and school and university closures until a vaccine is made available. In order to enable social distancing, a full lockdown of all businesses deemed non-essential was enacted.
Fergusons suppression recommendations were created without including the ethical, economic or health implications of this strategy.
Dr. Eran Bendavid and Dr. Zubin Damania discuss lockdowns, COVID mortality & when science & politics collide. Watch entire interview here
“Johan Giesecke, former chief scientist for the European Center for Disease Control and Prevention has called this model ‘the most influential scientific paper’ in memory, and also ‘one of the most wrong,” said Peter St Onge and Gaël Capman.
And yet the recommendations are still being implemented.
Since being published, several researchers have analyzed the effectiveness of lockdowns on mitigating the spread of COVID-19. One journal concludes that a local (county by county) strategy “greatly reduces person-days of school and work-place closure while causing a small increase in the number of COVID-19 cases, relative to the global strategy.”
This study, conducted in Ontario, affirms they were unable to include the testing of asymptomatic cases in their baseline analysis, a metric that has the potential to radically alter their suppression recommendations. If, as studies suggest, a large number of the population have been exposed to the virus and developed antibodies without getting tested, effective lockdown strategies would inch towards herd immunity.
As an example, this research paper from the British Medical Journal found that their models with lowest long-term mortality implemented target population lockdowns to protect the most vulnerable while promoting herd immunity in the young population.
Raymond, Ted. “Ontario Doctors Sign Letter to Premier Advising against Sweeping Lockdowns.” CTV News, CTV News, 30 Sept. 2020, https://rb.gy/bojpfx.
In order to properly understand how big a threat Covid-19 is and analyze which policy decisions are suitable, it is important to know the true rate of infection in the population, not just the rate of those who have been texted or shown symptoms. Currently, all metrics used to determine mortality and infection rates do not include data on prevalence of infection without test confirmation. More information on the subject is available in PART 3 of our analysis: Mortality Rate with Context.
Recommendations from a heavily criticized report are still mandated despite its author’s perceived duplicity, lack of corroborating evidence and its devastating economic impacts.
AN ECONOMY OF NUMBERS WITH A HUMAN TOLL
Canadas implementation of the COVID-19 extreme lockdown model has led to the largest economic contraction on record.
According to Statistics Canada, the real gross domestic product (GDP) contracted at an annualized rate of 38.7% in the second quarter of 2020. This downswing is attributed to the forced shutdowns of businesses considered non-essential, restrictions on travel and border closures, affecting tourism.
“The real gross domestic product (GDP) contracted at an annualized rate of 38.7% in the second quarter of 2020. It is the largest decline on record.” Source: https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/200828/dq200828a-eng.htm
From February to April, employment decreased by 3 million in Canada. In fact, the unemployment rate hit record highs in May, reaching 13.7%. The effect is even more drastic if the total loss of work and hours are taken into account. According to the Angus Reid Institute, a non-profit, non-partisan independent research firm, 44% of Canadians polled in March indicated that they have already lost work or were furloughed. A further 18% anticipated these losses in the near future.
Small businesses, which employ 70% percent of Canadians, have been particularly affected. Many have closed or are facing imminent closures given the government-mandated lockdown, which were imposed on local businesses but not for many larger corporations. Amazon’s facilities, for instance, have continued to operate despite reports of large viral breakouts in the facilities. Experts state that, not including those that have already closed and barring another lockdown, one in seven Canadian businesses are at risk of closing permanently due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Experts state that one in seven Canadian businesses are at risk of closing permanently due to COVID-19 restrictions. Source: https://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/canada-could-lose-an-additional-158-000-small-businesses-to-covid-19-850043024.html
A report published by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) found that 56% of small businesses surveyed would not easily survive a second lockdown. That means an untold amount of small businesses and employees have had their livelihood destroyed by mandate, yet again.
During the height of the compulsory first lockdown, 23% of small businesses were fully closed and 48% remained partially open. October polling shows that 69% of businesses are fully open, with 22% reporting up less than half revenues compared to the same time last year. 80% of small businesses polled identified the fear of a second lockdown as their primary fear related to COVID-19.
Despite the Government of Canada implementing $90 billion-loan programs and extensive wage subsidies, the economic impact of a forced closure has not been fully mitigated. For example, 27% of businesses polled could not cover October’s rent without rent relief, and 30% of businesses needing rent relief have not been able to access it.
Further, 40% of respondents agree that “My business has sector-specific challenges that are not currently being addressed through government relief programs.” As an example, Canadas Emergency Wage Subsidy doesn’t apply for those with startup businesses or for sole proprietors. Small business owners who own their home aren’t eligible for the Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy or Canadas Commercial Rent Assistance programs. This includes artisans with home studios, self-employed individuals who operate online, farms and homesteads and many other businesses who have leveraged their business income to further invest in housing.
Canadas economy performs worst globally due to extreme lockdown measures.
We do not know the full extent of the economic impact of the mandated full lockdown on businesses, but economists indicate this has triggered more than a simple recession and have drawn correlations to the Great Depression of the early 20th century. With a second lockdown already enforced in certain areas with higher infection densities, and looming elsewhere, more government mandated closures could compound the already devastating economic situation.
Financial insolvency, uncertainty and chaos affect both individuals and communities in innumerable ways. Since the economy and health are inseparably linked, Canadians mental, physical and spiritual health are negatively impacted by mandated lockdown measures and resulting economic instability. This is the subject of Part 2 of this series: Mental Health, Suicide and Opioid Use.