Using a sledgehammer to crack a nut
Drastic measures have been taken by governments around the world to control the spread COVID-19 disease. They are using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. Or making a mountain out of a molehill. The measures are more stringent than are really necessary to solve the problem. They seem to be driven by fear and hysteria (Appendix A).
The control measures are justified by the saying that COVID-19 is caused by a deadly virus. But is this true?
Is COVID-19 deadly?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about 80% of people who develop the disease have mild to moderate symptoms and fully recover without needing treatment in a hospital. 15% of cases are severe, and the people require oxygen support. And 5% of cases are critical, and the people require mechanical ventilation. Only 5% of COVID-19 cases in New South Wales, Australia, have needed to be hospitalized.
Taking into account undiagnosed cases, experts estimate actual mortality to be around 1% (compared with influenza ~0.1%, SARS 10% and MERS 34%). And most severe cases are weighted heavily towards the elderly (>80 years) and those with pre-existing medical conditions. These people have weak immune systems. Dr Ross Walker said, “Most of the people who are dying are sick, elderly people with pre-existing conditions. They are dying with the virus, not because of it” (TNH, 2020).
I saw a slogan that said, “Social distancing saves lives”. But this is not true for 99% of the population whose life is not threatened by COVID-19! The control measures seem to assume that COVID-19 can be fatal to anyone. This is a very heavy-handed approach.
Another slogan is to “Flatten the curve”. This control measure aims at enabling sufficient hospital beds to be able to deal with COVID-19 cases. But the curve includes all cases, 80% of which are mild. It’s like comparing apples and oranges! It’s poor use of statistics. It would be more instructive if the curve only included cases that require hospitalization.
So, is COVID-19 deadly? The answer is “yes” and “no”! “Yes” for about 1% of cases and “no” for the other 99%.
Why is there no triage or risk assessment?
When you go to a hospital emergency department, they do triage to decide the order of treatment of patients. And hospitals triage COVID-19 patients. But there seems to be no triage to guide the targeting of the COVID-19 control measures!
COVID-19 is associated with coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 and a comprised immune system. But all the control measures target the virus and ignore the state of the immune system (Appendix B and C). For example, they say that “there is no existing immunity in our community”, but most people only get mild symptoms.
People with compromised immune systems (including chronic conditions) are at greater risk of more serious illness due to COVID-19. Most of the deaths have been older people who were already suffering from some disease and the coronavirus was the last straw for them. So the two factors involved in serious illness are exposure to the coronavirus and a weak immune system. Because aging affects immune system activity, COVID-19 has more serious impact on the elderly.
But the main advice being given to people is to keep at least 1.5 metres (or 6 feet) from each other and to wash your hands regularly (Appendix B). And none of the Australian control measures consider the strength of one’s immune system. This means that the control measures being adopted for those with strong (well regulated) immune systems are the same as the control measures being adopted for those with weak immune systems. This is a very heavy-handed approach.
The economic and social impact of the control measures will be significant. The International Labor Organization warned that almost half the global workforce – 1.6 billion people – are in “immediate danger of having their livelihoods destroyed” by the economic impact of COVID-19. Many businesses have shut, and many jobs have been lost.
This economic and social impact could have been avoided or minimized if different control measures had been adopted according to whether one’s immune system was strong or weak (Appendix D). Are we not able to assess the strength or weakness of someone’s immune system?
No one has suggested that the COVID-19 control measures target the vulnerable – the elderly and others with weak immune systems. Instead it is assumed we will all get seriously ill or die or pass it on to someone who is vulnerable. There has been no mention of risk assessment, which is a method to identify who is at risk of harm and formulate a program to address the risk.
And immunosuppression does not seem to increase the risk of severe COVID-19 in children. So why do the strict control measures apply to children who are not at risk?
Another example of a heavy-handed approach is the rule that all professional rugby league football players in Australia are required to have a flu injection. Yet these are professional athletes who would generally have healthy immune systems!
Dealing with infectious diseases in ancient Israel
How does our method of dealing with COVID-19 compare with that used in ancient Israel about 3,500 years ago? God gave the Israelites instructions on how to deal with serious skin diseases. First there was diagnosis by a priest. When a case was detected, the person was banished to quarantine “outside the camp” (Lev. 13:45-46; Num. 5:2-4). They were declared to be “unclean” and were not to inhabit society anymore until they were declared to be “clean” (uninfected). If there was uncertainty, the person had to isolate for 7 or 14 days until the diagnosis was certain. So people were treated according to three categories: those who were definitely infected, those who may have be infected, and those who were not infected.
This method of dealing with infectious diseases enabled isolation and quarantine of those thought to have the disease without interrupting and destroying the rest of society. The family, work, civil and religious gatherings, and society in general kept operating as usual.
Today, governments are acting as though everyone has COVID-19! They are impacting and restricting (and sometimes destroying) the lives of those who are not infected and not vulnerable. This has interrupted all of society and caused hardship. The family, work, civil and religious gatherings, and society are not operating as usual.
In contrast to the over-reaction to COVID-19, today most people under-react to our biggest problem that’s worse than physical death. They are making a molehill out of a mountain!
Our biggest problem
Most people don’t know they have this problem. The Bible says, “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—His eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse” (Rom. 1:18-20NIV). The problem is that God is angry with us for suppressing the truth about Him. This truth is clearly revealed in the world God has made. Creation points to a good Creator who is powerful and eternal. So, humanity is “without excuse”.
Because of this rejection of the truth about God, people “exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator” (Rom. 1:25). We express our religious instincts by making idols – worshipping ourselves, worshipping others, or worshipping part of the physical world. God allows us to reap the harmful and shameful consequences of our rejection of Him (Rom. 1:24, 26, 28). The impact of this sin is more persuasive than any virus.
But Jesus came to earth so we can escape God’s wrath. Jesus took the punishment for our sin so that if we trust in Him, we are rescued from the wrath of God to come and receive His righteousness, perfection and reward instead.
Humans need faith in hardships. The good news about Jesus [the gospel] is the most important message we could receive. Getting right with God and knowing what happens when you die is much more relevant now with the concern about COVID-19. People are more open to talking about life and death and God and forgiveness and hope and peace.
Job suffered more than us. But he praised God as the source of everything, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised” (Job 1:21). He acknowledged God’s sovereignty even in times of calamity. God is always in control and He cares for those who trust in Him.
Lessons for us
COVID-19 is a global disaster. But the control measures adopted against it are causing more harm to society than the disease itself!
Although our governments seem to be over-reacting to COVID-19, let’s not ignore our biggest problem. It’s more important to look after our eternal safety and escape God’s wrath by trusting in what Christ did for us. That’s the only way to be ready to face God after we die.
Staglin (2020) noted that the devastating plagues of the past were significantly worse than COVID-19. He states that our ancestors, “would just as certainly be amazed at our fear and hysteria. The low infection fatality rates and our sophisticated technology should mitigate our fear, but they haven’t … Once they got past all the shiny and superficial stuff, (they) would realize we are a comparatively weak people …”
“What I am talking about is the general fear that so quickly and easily overtook our politicians, media, and then citizens at large, resulting in an overreaction of total lockdown and now, presumably, a permanent health emergency. All of this led to the unnecessary wrecking of the economy and need for trillions of dollars in government funding — and all of this for a virus with an infection fatality rate that is probably under 1% …”
“We have shut down life… The health crisis is not unprecedented; our reaction to it is. Others have lived through health crises much worse …”
“they [our ancestors] died with great courage. The slow, agonizing death afforded an opportunity for reflection, repentance, and consideration of what is most important in life and in death. This is what premodern Christians called ‘the art of dying’. It is now a lost art in a culture that seeks to repress the inevitability of death at all costs …”
“They [our ancestors] knew there are things worse than physical death, which is why their fear in the midst of epidemics was not paralyzing …”
“The more significant suffering of job loss and the economic and social effects we will endure for the foreseeable future are mostly unnecessary results of living in a society that is fearful in the face of a sickness that, at least for now, cannot be easily conquered, but has conquered us in more ways than one …”
COVID-19 has “exposed our emotional and spiritual fragility in the face of adversity”.
Appendix B: General COVID-19 control measures
In order to protect yourself and others from coronavirus, practice:
- good hygiene,
- Physical (or social) distancing,
- avoiding public gatherings, and
Appendix C: Government COVID-19 control measures
On 16 April the Government said that Australia’s coronavirus restrictions will remain in place until there is:
– a broader testing regime
– better contact tracing, and
– the health system can contain any clusters that emerge.
The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) says that COVID-19 control measures can be relaxed if 15 conditions are satisfied.
As of 3 May, Australia had already satisfied 11 of these measures, namely:
- Community adherence to public health measures
- Well-developed understanding of modelling capability, including understanding of virus transmission
- Testing capacity
- A strong public health workforce
- Contact tracing capacity
- A healthcare system able to cope with current demand
- Surge capacity in that healthcare system
- Enough hospital beds and ventilators
- Adequate stocks of masks
- Adequate stocks of medications
- Ongoing workforce training
The other four measures are:
- More people downloading the COVIDSafe app for contact tracing
- Obtaining more supplies of gowns and gloves
- More surveillance of COVID-19’s spread across the community. This involves blood testing for antibodies in the general population, to provide an estimate of how many people have had the virus.
- Funding and resources for the National Disease Surveillance Plan for COVID-19
Appendix D: Immune systems
Our bodies have strong defences against microorganisms in the form of our immune systems. If they are strong (well regulated), we will generally be protected. If they are weak, then we are susceptible to infectious diseases. For our immune systems to be strong, our health must be strong. Our health depends, in turn, on food, exercise, fresh air, sunshine, and rest (sleep). What we eat is critical, and depends on a high intake of fresh vegetables and fruits.
No one has suggested that people should be increasing their intake of fruits and vegetables to boost their immune systems. Or that we get out in the sunshine to increase our vitamin D levels.
Immune systems are weakened by drinking alcohol, smoking tobacco, cancer treatments, organ transplants, and serious underlying medical conditions.
But according to Greg Fitzgerald, the medical advisors “have offered not one word of solid health advice or encouragement since the start of the pandemic. It has all been about the virus and avoiding it – about coughing and sneezing into your elbow, sanitizers, social distancing, isolation, and social and economic gridlock. Not a mention of improving individual health against infectious disease” (TNH, 2020).
This situation is probably caused by the fact that our medical system is based on addressing disease and not promoting health. It’s reactive rather than preventive. And there are too many vested interests in illness and disease. The system would collapse if most of us were healthy!
Staglin K, 2020, “Our ancestors would be amazed at our cowardly coronavirus hysteria”. The Federalist.
TNH 2020, True Natural Health (Aust), Winter 2020.
Written, May 2020
Also see: A new harmful mutated virus
You don’t have to fear!
Trials, struggles and COVID-19
How to respond to the coronavirus pandemic
War on coronavirus
Three lessons from COVID-19
What does the Bible say about a major disaster like COVID-19?
Grief and loss during the shutdown