Co-authored by three medical experts, the Great Barrington Declaration has proposed an alternative to the lockdowns that multiple governments are imposing on their citizens and economies. The declaration believes that those who are at low risk of dying from Covid-19 should be allowed to live their lives and enjoy freedoms that are now restricted. Children should be able to go to school, adults to work – and the non-vulnerable should be able to partake in extracurricular activities. However, this is not to the detriment of the vulnerable, with the declaration also outlining a plan to protect the sick, elderly and those with underlying issues. Three prominent South Africans, Nobel winner Dr Michael Levitt, financial services entrepreneur Magda Wierzycka – of Sygnia – and Nick Hudson of thinktank PANDA have already expressed their support for the declaration (full declaration below). – Jarryd Neves
By Jarryd Neves
Ever since Covid-19 rewrote the script for 2020, myriad fears and concerns have plagued the minds of individuals worldwide. Aside from the physical effects of the virus, the pandemic and resultant lockdowns have interrupted life as we know it. School children are no longer able to go to school to develop their minds and socialise with their friends. Globally, economies have tanked and countless businesses and livelihoods have been destroyed. While the efficacy of lockdowns when it comes to treating people with Covid-19 can be debated, there is no denying the social and economic devastation that they have caused.
As new data and information on Covid-19 is unconverted daily, scientists and medical practitioners are able to understand how to respond to the virus in the best way possible, without interrupting our way of life too drastically. However, many governments don’t seem to think this way, imposing or keeping lockdown restrictions in place.
A group of epidemiologists and public health scientists have come together to create The Great Barrington Declaration.
On the website, the group says that current lockdown regulations are ‘producing devastating effects on short and long-term public health’, with ‘lower childhood vaccination rates, worsening cardiovascular disease outcomes, fewer cancer screenings and deteriorating mental health leading to greater excess mortality in years to come.’ A recent Bloomberg piece published on BizNews.com told the story of Marthinus du Plessis, a doctor at Catherine Booth, who shares similar sentiments.
After a few months you realise that a lot of the familiar faces aren’t there anymore. You make the assumption that a lot of these people passed away at home because they never made it to a hospital. To send sick people home to accommodate often asymptomatic Covid-19 patients makes no sense.’ – Dr Marthinus du Plessis
The declaration goes on to say that keeping these lockdown policies in place until a vaccine is readily available ‘will cause irreparable damage, with the underprivileged disproportionately harmed’.
While the virus certainly needs to be taken seriously, there have been many advances in our understanding of Covid-19. ‘Vulnerability to death from Covid-19 is more than a thousand fold higher in the old and infirm than the young. For children, Covid-19 is less dangerous than many other harms, including influenza.’
The goal – says the declaration – is to ‘minimise mortality and social harm’ until herd immunity is reached.
Herd immunity is a concept of the threshold that you reach where there are sufficient people who have recovered from the disease and therefore have a level of immunity so that the disease stops circulating and just gradually wanes to almost zero – Nick Hudson of PANDA
This is a turning point. I’ve signed the Great Barrington Declaration and you should too. Here’s why. 1/16https://t.co/JHHPdm3Q9s
— Nick Hudson (@NickHudsonCT) October 5, 2020
Until herd immunity is reached, the declaration states that it would be in everyone’s best interest to allow those who have a low-death risk to live their lives as per normal, building up immunity to the virus ‘through natural infection, while better protecting those who are at highest risk. We call this Focused Protection.’
This would be achieved by creating and implementing measures to protect those who are most vulnerable to Covid-19. An example included in the declaration states, ‘nursing homes should use staff with acquired immunity and perform frequent PCR testing of other staff and all visitors. Staff rotation should be minimised. Retired people living at home should have groceries and other essentials delivered to their home.’ The declaration notes that this and many other protective measures are ‘well within the scope and capability of public health professionals.’
I think that Covid-19 is a wake up call to the whole world because it has highlighted a lot of things. It has highlighted inequality. It has highlighted the inadequacy of health care provision in developed markets – never mind emerging markets – but developed markets. This lockdown served no purpose but to push out the actual infection curve by three months while flattening the economy, which we couldn’t afford. – Magda Wierzycka
Signed. I can’t believe we and the society at large have handed over free will to the politicians. Just like that. No protest. Constitutional rights trampled. Curfews. Restricted contact with family. People encouraged to spy on neighbors. I lived through that in communist Poland. https://t.co/OPPb1ytkqF
— Magda Wierzycka (@Magda_Wierzycka) October 6, 2020
The declaration highlights that those who are not vulnerable to the virus should be allowed to resume their daily lives, while practicing hygiene measures, like frequent hand washing and staying home when ill. With regards to learning, the declaration backs the idea that education institutions should be open ‘for in-person teaching.’
While many governments stills strongly discourage or prohibit gatherings and social activities, the declaration is calling for the opposite. ‘Extracurricular activities, such as sports, should be resumed. Young low-risk adults should work normally, rather than from home. Restaurants and other businesses should open. People who are more at risk may participate if they wish, while society as a whole enjoys the protection conferred upon the vulnerable by those who have built up herd immunity.’
As of Wednesday morning, more than 50,000 members of the general public have signed, while around 2,700 medical practitioners and public health scientists have added their name to the ever-growing list. The Great Barrington Declaration is being debated widely in the UK, where a fresh strict lockdown looms for Scotland – a ‘two-week circuit breaker’ – and the authorities are talking about restrictions for the next six months.