Lockdowns do work.

A friend sent me this video. It’s an Irish ‘youtuber’. He would be broadly categorised as a Covid Denier, but I think what’s most interesting to me is that he’s a perfect example of how a complex situation (the global spread of an infectious, partially deadly disease) can become simplified into silliness.

His two main conclusions, backed up with data, are:

– Sars Cov 2 has been most deadly in countries who’d had a recent mild flu season, therefore leaving many more people vulnerable to Covid (the dry tinder effect)

-All countries will experience a ‘Gompertz curve’ (a ‘hump of older people dying first) of infections regardless of lockdown measures. Lockdowns, apparently don’t work.

He uses many graphs from countries in Europe to show the spread, including classic curves. The virus goes nuts and then tapers off as the community reaches a level of immunity, over and above any extant T cell immunity. The graphs look familiar:

What he doesn’t do is show the graphs for a country that had two states with graphs that looks like this:

Yes, this is cases, not deaths, but the deaths are in line with cases because NSW and Victoria have a very high rate of testing. As you can see, the trajectories look completely different. NSW had a spike in March/April, Victoria less so. Then VIC experienced an outbreak and all the Australian states closed their borders. Victoria’s outbreak continued unabated, whereas NSW (and the other states) kept their numbers low enough for testing and tracing to be effective.

Australia had a severe 6 week lockdown in March, and this is what drove the cases down. Victoria has just had a second lockdown to contain its spike in cases.

Clearly, lockdowns work. NSW didn’t reach ‘herd immunity’ or anything like it and yet the community transmission cases are down to zero and have been now for a week. There’s still disease circulating but it’s at low numbers.

You can’t argue (as Mr Youtube does) that lockdowns don’t work and that the typical Gompertz curve is inevitable no matter what ‘us humans’ do, and still explain what’s happened in NSW (and all the other states except VIC). It’s impossible.

Yet, you can argue that some populations will have higher background immunity than others, that Vitamin D status might have a role in disease trajectory, that variations in the numbers of vulnerable people in the community prior to an outbreak will lead to a spike. This is where things get murky with these guys. They’re all going for a ‘let it rip’ strategy, because the semi-lockdown is both costly and ineffective (because the virus rips anyway). But they never consider the hard lockdown followed by lesser restrictions model.

Here in NSW we have had an economic decline, for sure, but many things are going back to normal, kids have been in school in March, businesses are open, some with restrictions. There’s an aggressive test and trace program in place. The intention I think, is for Australia to tread water like this until a vaccine comes along, something that is looking increasingly feasible in 2021.

What these youtube denialists should be doing to holding their elected representatives to account for their ‘worst of both worlds’ strategy.

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