For most of population, lockdown far more deadly than COVID-19

Given doubts by scientists about lockdown effectiveness, most moral choice is targeted protection for at-risk populations. Opinion

Mordechai Sones ,

COVID-19 lockdown roadblock, Ramot, Jerusalem
COVID-19 lockdown roadblock, Ramot, Jerusalem
Flash 90

Coronavirus is dangerous to people over the age of 65 or to those suffering from certain background diseases. They should be more careful in their close contact with others, at least until enough people around them become infected and develop immunity naturally. This, according to an article appearing in Walla News by researchers and physicians Dr. Uri Gavish, Prof. Ariel Munitz, Prof. Moti Gerlitz, and Prof. Udi Qimron.

The good news is that if you do not belong to these risk groups and you get infected with COVID-19, chances are you will not become ill at all. Antibody tests in Israel and around the world confirm that most of the infected are not ill. Most of the time, your immune system inhibits the virus before it spreads and causes any symptoms.

If you still catch it, chances are your symptoms will be mild. The chance that you will survive, by the way, is higher than 99.9%. If you are a parent of preschoolers, you will surely be happy to know that coronavirus is far less dangerous to them than the flu. This, according to dozens of studies and hundreds of state and regional reports. This is also the official position of the American Center for Disease Control.

And it does not end there. Once you return to testing negative, you are likely to be immune to the virus. The chances that your immunity will last for at least a year are excellent and there is a good chance that it will last for a much longer time. Although tens of millions have tested COVID-19 positive in the last nine months, so far a negligible number of people have been reported to have been infected twice, with a large proportion of these reports found to be incorrect.

This is significant because epidemic outbreaks always subside when a large enough number of people develop immunity, whether naturally, following exposure to the virus, or through artificial vaccine. Every person who develops immunity becomes a part of the protective shield around the people in the high-risk groups, because the chance of an immune person being re-infected and passing the virus on is negligible. A nursing home or hospital employee, for example, who became COVID-19 infected and was discovered in time and recovered, becomes part of the protective layer of that institution.

Contrary to popular belief - due to the focus on rare cases or over-interpretations - there is currently no evidence of long-term side effects of the disease that are unusual in their severity and prevalence in non-at-risk patients, compared with those occurring in other common respiratory viruses.

This is evidenced in a letter by some 50 international experts to trade union leaders last month, stating unequivocally that there is no evidence of long-term heart damage as a result of coronavirus infection, noting that the media plays a key role in reinforcing these baseless speculations.

A country has not yet been discovered where antibody surveys indicated infection of more than one-fifth of the population - regardless of the lockdowns and restrictions that were imposed in that country, if any. In some places, for example, as in the second wave in Spain and Serbia, lockdowns were considered and canceled at the last minute (in Serbia, following riots that broke out against the planned lockdown) and miraculously, the outbreak subsided. These and other facts indicate the possibility of early immunity to the virus, that is, even in people who have not yet been exposed to it.

In recent months, several studies have shown that a high percentage (sometimes up to 80%) of people who have not been exposed to the virus have cells from the immune system, called T cells, that can identify the new virus due to its similarity to its relatives, namely, other coronaviruses, which are often the cause of common colds during the winter.

These cells can identify cells in the body that have been infected with the virus and kill them and/or activate the rest of the immune system to take action against the virus. The immunity that these T cells provide is called "cross-immunity" and is one of the possible types of pre-existing immunity to the virus. It should be noted that the role of T cells in the fight against viruses in general is a matter of consensus and not subject to scientific debate.

The evidence for any natural immunity to the virus, whether due to cross-immunity or other possible mechanisms, is solid. Despite this, articles written in a pseudo-scientific authoritative tone but without real scientific basis continue to be published in the media, casting doubt on the evidence for such immunity, usually by authors who wish to justify one lockdown policy or another.

Immunity, natural or artificial, does not provide perfect protection against infection, but it does cause that as the virus spreads, its lethality decreases, and this is more good news. This phenomenon has been observed, without exception, in all cities and regions in the world where the virus has spread to relatively large sections of the population, including Bnei Brak.

If the epidemic waves can subside with very little or even with no intervention, as observed in Sweden, Japan, the second wave in Spain and Serbia, and in some regions of India and Brazil, then lockdowns are unnecessary because they are at most capable of postponing infections to a later date. In Israel, this is an especially tragic mistake because delaying infections means shifting the epidemic into the peak of the winter season when hospitals are often operating at maximal capacity, regardless of the coronavirus.

Lockdowns cause poverty, unemployment, and extreme social disparities. The campaign of intimidation that accompanies lockdowns causes people to avoid important medical treatments. Forced quarantine of people in their home results in lack of exercise, stress, loneliness, and lack of sun exposure - an ideal recipe for weakening the immune system. By their nature, infectious events at home can be accompanied by transmitting a particularly large viral load, thus raising the chance of a much more serious illness.

The main factor in determining the number of victims is not the total number of infected but who the infected are. For example, the infection of about one hundred 80-year-olds is approximately equivalent, in terms of the expected number of severe patients, to an infection of more than one hundred thousand 15-year-olds.

But the "accordion" policy of lockdowns, restrictions, and again lockdowns substantially extends the duration of the epidemic, thus over-exposing the at-risk population and increasing the number of deaths. Anyone of us who comes in contact with older people in his family probably encounter the following two phenomena: Some still lock themselves up in fear, avoid human contact, and even avoid sun exposure with all the severe damage that comes with it, while others just get fed up and stop protecting themselves completely.

It therefore may come as no surprise that the World Health Organization recently called on world governments to refrain from lockdowns.

Another fact that is important to remember: No vaccine for a new virus has ever been developed in less than four years, and the chance of such a vaccine being licenced before next summer seems small, even without addressing the issue of its availability to the State of Israel.

A closure does not prevent mortality but does destroy the economy, the vaccine is uncertain and currently far off (as the Prime Minister announced this week at a Likud party conference), and for the at-risk population, it is difficult to remain locked up for long. So what's the solution?

The solution is, almost self-evidently, focused protection for the at-risk population. To advance implementing this solution, a team of researchers and physicians established the "Common Sense" model.

Some of these researchers and physicians include:

  • Dr. Uri Gavish, physicist, expert in algorithms and models inspection, and a consultant in the field of biomedicine.
  • Prof. Ariel Munitz, immunologist in the Department of Microbiology and Clinical Immunology in the Faculty of Medicine at Tel Aviv University, and head of the Coronavirus Laboratory at Tel Aviv University.
  • Prof. Motti Gerlic, immunologist in the Department of Microbiology and Clinical Immunology in the Faculty of Medicine at Tel Aviv University.
  • Prof. Udi Qimron, microbiologist and head of the Department of Microbiology and Clinical Immunology at the Faculty of Medicine at Tel Aviv University,

and they are joined by many prominent Israeli physicians.

The program, supported by hundreds of Israeli scientists and physicians, is based on several principles:

First, government identification and recognition of people belonging to at-risk groups and helping people from these groups protect themselves on the one hand, and lead a normal life on the other. For example, allocating hours designated for them only in pharmacies and food stores, giving priority in line, allocating space on public transportation, and providing full compensation to those whose work cannot be done remotely.

Second, stopping the enormous waste of resources currently spent on mass testing and forced quarantine, and directing them to protecting nursing homes and medical staff, thus increasing hospitalization capacity and training staff.

In addition to these, the whole economy needs to be re-opened, including cultural and sports activities, and regular flights. Above all, re-opening the educational system, from kindergarten to universities.

It is conceivable that such a plan will be criticized by those advisors who were behind the first and second lockdowns, (and even by some media outlets who would find it difficult to retract the unreserved support they have hitherto granted the current policy), since its adoption means admitting past mistakes.

Fortunately, there are also those whose considerations are broader. More than 40,000 doctors and researchers in the field of medicine have recently signed the Barrington Declaration, which states that lockdowns are much more harmful than any of their supposed benefits, and that only focused protection of risk groups, while allowing the build up of immunity in the rest of the population, is the most moral choice, as well as the one that will reduce the number of deaths most effectively.

Only such principles will allow life alongside the virus, as they will minimize the overall systemic harm to the general population, and return to economic activity which is the basis for a functioning health system. Above all, these principles will reduce the health damage to at-risk populations, thereby reducing the number of deaths.

The scientists emphasize further that adopting the Common Sense model will also significantly reduce the time it takes for at-risk populations to protect themselves. Any alternative model, where restrictions are imposed on a non-at-risk population, prolongs this period of time, thereby increasing both the suffering and vulnerability of those at risk.