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Without the vaccine, what would countries have done?

(A repeat of a comment I posted to a Facebook page. I have added a fresh comment at the bottom of this article.)

A troubling thought for many is what would the present – and other – governments have done without a credible vaccine? (I leave aside the specifics of the Pfizer/Oxford etc outcomes for the moment.) Suppose nothing was on the horizon. What, to take the UK example, would Mr Johnson and his colleagues have done in this situation? Lockdowns for a further six months, then a pinch of liberty in mid-summer in time for Ascot, Wimbledon and Le Mans (in my case, beer in hand) before we go back to our manacled, shriveled existence? Another year? Two? Three? Maybe redefine lockdowns into some “reset” terminology so that going out to the pub is just accepted as a vanished custom?

For example, I have heard it said that “shielding” is not viable, because, er, reasons. Apparently, shielding only works with great test and trace and well, the less said about that the better. So if shielding is not viable – as the government and is defenders claim – a world without vaccines would be intolerably bleak. At some point in this scenario you might expect a significant upsurge in social protest, coinciding with rising inflation, failed government bond sales, a run on the pound, maybe calls for exchange controls and for more rationing. A repeat of the 1970s economic scenario, but without flared jeans and Roxy Music.

It is worth thinking about what would happen without a vaccine. I’d like to see a politician, particularly Mr Johnson, put on the spot about this. Because to be frank I don’t think he or his colleagues would have the foggiest notion.

(One person who thinks that regardless of policy, we are in this mess for almost two years or so is Stephen Davies, of the Institute of Economic Affairs. For all his radical classical liberalism, he has stated that the lockdown policy we have had on and off has been largely inevitable given the failings of track and trace and the initial failings to hit the virus early.)

66 comments to Without the vaccine, what would countries have done?

  • djm

    & you think this is about a virus ?

    Really ??

  • Katy Hibbert

    We’d have had to live with it. Some people would have died. That’s what happened with previous epidemics, many of which were far worse than this one.

  • The Sage

    Despite all the fear porn coming out of China last year, this virus is proving no worse than the Hong Kong flu of 68-9; so we should have done what we did then, which was just grin and bear it.

  • Mr Ed

    There would be a ‘vaccine’ of sorts, any bit of mushed up virus of the Coronavirus genera mixed with adjuvant, even if, say, 5% effective, just to keep the narrative going, the State can cure all ills, damn King Canute and his wise lesson.

    I have had the impression since at least June 2020 that the UK government does not want this ’emergency’ to end. For them, worse is better, the sheer self-importance and thrill of power is too much for them to resist, and they don’t bear the costs.

    As Paul Marks reminds us, there is apparently massive reluctance in the UK to use any early treatment for those infected, who might be treated at home with cheap and relatively effective drugs. The plan seems to be to wait until people get into hospitals before even considering any interventions, the UK government advice includes this:

    Most people with COVID-19 will experience a mild illness. Seek prompt medical attention if your illness or the illness of someone in your household is worsening.

    I have read it through and there is no indication of any treatment whatsoever that might ameliorate an infection. They know what they are doing.

  • APL

    Mr Ed: “I have had the impression since at least June 2020 that the UK government does not want this ’emergency’ to end. “

    Yes. They know they’ve screwed up Royally, but can’t admit it was all a terrible mistake.

    The general election is on the horizon, I’d like to see a plan that would punish these despotic rascals, without rewarding the Labour faction of these despotic rascals.

    Not too early to plan. Any suggestions?

  • The notion ‘shielding can’t work’ is preposterous in the age of Amazon & UberEats. Of course it can work & regardless of what it costs, it is vastly preferable to the incalculable human cost of shutting down civil society.

  • Oh and the IEA is not having a good pandemic, with some (but by no mean all) of its leading lights revealing themselves to be utter arseholes.

  • Mr Ed

    APL

    The only hope is to destroy the electoral prospects of the Conservative party, wherever there is a way to see it defeated, I disagree that getting Labour in would be worse, this is a regime beyond Corbyn’s wildest fantasies.

    Only when there is a vacancy in UK politics to the right of the Liberal Democrats to be filled by a new party, an enormous task, perhaps of a generation, until we live in a country where the police can’t impose fines on people for playing dominoes.

  • APL

    Mr Ed: From your link

    “Ch Insp Pete Shaw said: “The rules under tier four are in place to keep all of us safe, ”

    I’m living in a foreign country.

    Mr Ed: ” I disagree that getting Labour in would be worse, “

    That’s not the issue, they are both equally bad, both competing with each other to ‘keep us safe‘ harder. You and I probably don’t disagree, I think. But our problem over the last 40 years, is we’ve been alternating between one or other of two utterly insane political parties.

  • Jim

    “But our problem over the last 40 years, is we’ve been alternating between one or other of two utterly insane political parties.”

    I can think of one government in that period that qualified as relatively sane.

    The problem is now that it doesn’t matter who we vote for. The people who actually run the country (ie all those civil servants who manage things, the media types who create the political ‘narrative’, the educationalists who control ‘the science’ etc etc) are all in place forever. They don’t change if the party rosette in No 10 changes. Even if one gets the sack for something particularly egregious we get an identikit replacement. Even if we all voted for a ‘far right’ party (as any vaguely sane party would undoubtedly be painted by the usual suspects ad nauseam) and they gained power there is nothing they could do. They would be constrained on all sides by lawfare, the total opposition of all those tasked with implementing their new policies and the media of course. Think Donald Trump’s 4 years in ‘power’ on steroids.

    A ‘sane party’ government would consist of it being screamed at every day by the BBC et al ‘Why are you such racist bigots who hate the poor?’ It would be assailed on all sides and unable to get anything done. Its opponents would break the law with impunity (because those tasked with keeping the law are equally biased) while its supporters would be arrested on all manner of trumped up charges.

    We are screwed. Only an existential threat to society of horrendous proportions would allow the Augean Stables to be cleansed and chances are such a threat would destroy society completely anyway. We have passed the point of no return, sadly. One way or another this is going to end in the utter destruction of Western society. Either because it continues along its current path until it collapses under the weight of its own contradictions, or it meets an existential threat that it cannot fight off.

  • Johnathan Pearce (London)

    The Sage writes: Despite all the fear porn coming out of China last year, this virus is proving no worse than the Hong Kong flu of 68-9; so we should have done what we did then, which was just grin and bear it.

    I am not sure that there has to be a choice between two extremes of mass lockdowns and a devil-may-care attitude. Unless you are an anarchist, we have states and even the most minimal ones are called upon for defence, sometimes against killer diseases that are shown to be particularly bad for certain groups of people. After all, at some point a far worse pandemic will hit, so the “it’s no worse than the flu” is not going to work. Serious liberals need to think about this sort of thing, because otherwise we get painted as denialists and frankly mad.

    That is why I am so disappointed at the failure by this and other governments to consider shielding, and to have dismissed it so quickly. Maybe the reasons for its lack of effectiveness are worth noting, but let’s hear them. As Perry DH has noted, in this day and age of modern delivery logistics, a lot of vulnerable people can be kept supplied for several months while the rest of the population can get on with normal life and therefore to prevent the rest of civil society being toasted.

    In such a situation, effective testing, and the buildup of “herd immunity”, should be a wise course. Far from being callous or about “clutching at straws”, it could and should have been considered more clearly from the start.

    Obviously, vaccines make a shielding policy far more effective; and even early-intervention medicines and other treatments, in tandem with regular testing, would enable a shielding policy to be even more robust. And throughout the entire policy, people with underlying health issues should be free to make a judgement on what level of risk they want to run, and for others to respect that decision. Instead, the government is more or less ruling out any autonomy that elderly/those with UH problems might have. This is brute paternalism.

    I have been a bit disappointed at how some of the free market think tank world seems to have been uneven on addressing this issue.

  • Johnathan Pearce (London)

    I would also add that I do agree with Stephen Davies’ point in a recent talk (a Hayek lecture) that modern factory farming as practiced in certain parts of the world is a disaster waiting to happen. With worries about declining potency of antibiotics, this is not something to be ignored. At some point a really bad animal-to-human virus is going to hit. It seems to me that even the most minimal state needs to be on the alert about this, just as much as it would about specific military threats. None of this is fearmongering – it is about realistic risk assessment. And in my view this issue is far, far more serious than global warming.

  • Vinegar Joe

    Ah Roxy Music…….so maybe love really is the drug? Works for me!

  • bobby b

    Johnathan Pearce (London)
    January 3, 2021 at 7:57 pm

    “At some point a really bad animal-to-human virus is going to hit. It seems to me that even the most minimal state needs to be on the alert about this, just as much as it would about specific military threats. None of this is fearmongering – it is about realistic risk assessment. And in my view this issue is far, far more serious than global warming.”

    I agree strongly with this. Not only is the animal-human virus vector a potentially existential threat, but we no longer have the variety of herds and crops to withstand an animal-animal virus or a plant virus should a serious one hit our food supply. Imagine what happens when the USA’s – heck, the world’s – entire corn crop fails.

    Covid would look like child’s play. We don’t work hard enough on virology.

    But, at the same time, my first instinct is to yell “shut up!” at you. If this danger became widely understood, you know it wouldn’t replace global warming as the enabler of the woke – it would become an additional reason why we all need to listen to them and seriously limit our lives on their prescription (which, history tells us, wouldn’t effectively address the danger anyway. They’re always very concerned, but rarely competent.)

  • George Atkisson

    If you thought the Tsar Bomba was huge …

    QOTD
    LORI HENDRY
    @Lrihendry

    19h
    The one statistic nobody in the media, political world, or medical field can lie about:
    In 2019 there was no COVID-19: the total number of deaths in US was 2,854,838.
    Total deaths in 2020 stands at 2,835,533 including ‘raging catastrophic’ COVID-19 deaths.
    Via CDC

    Time to get the numbers in Britain and every other country in Europe, to compare year over year.

    For this we destroyed the lives of millions of Americans, ruined our economy and made major inflation inevitable by increasing the money supply by 66%. We know where this hand basket is heading, despite the promises of a return to normalcy. It will only get worse under a Jokemala presidency promising to end coal, fracking, and sign the Paris Climate Accords.

  • Jon Eds

    When I first heard about a vaccine having been found I thought: “cr*p, now we don’t actually have to grow a pair as a society”. Now, I’m just relieved that (assuming the vaccines and delivery of them are effective) we should be back to normal by spring. I have no doubt that the lockdown would have continued indefinitely, interrupted by increasing unrest, as Johnathan speculated.

    It’s been a profoundly depressing year. I’ve come to realise that no longer do I want to share the same country with two thirds of my countrymen. They lack either or both the morality and intelligence to be free men. The idiocracy is here.

  • Roué le Jour

    Jim,
    Yes. We are living through the decline and fall of the West, except as far as I can see it it isn’t falling, it is being pushed.

    Less sophisticated countries would be looking at a military coup about now, but we’re too civilized for that sort of thing.

  • Eric

    Obviously, vaccines make a shielding policy far more effective; and even early-intervention medicines and other treatments, in tandem with regular testing, would enable a shielding policy to be even more robust. And throughout the entire policy, people with underlying health issues should be free to make a judgement on what level of risk they want to run, and for others to respect that decision. Instead, the government is more or less ruling out any autonomy that elderly/those with UH problems might have. This is brute paternalism.

    Agree wholeheartedly. My mother is in her 80s, which means she’s in a lot of danger from this bug. But virus or no virus the statistics aren’t good for someone in that age bracket – we all die, and she most likely has just a handful of years left. She’s willing to make changes to her lifestyle to reduce the odds she’ll be infected (masks, avoiding crowds, etc), but she doesn’t want to spend the remainder of her life locked in the house even if going out increases her risk of contracting the coronavirus.

    It may be rational for her to wait at home until March or April to get the vaccine. It would not be rational to wait years.

  • Chester Draws

    This all assumes the vaccines work. There is absolutely no guarantee that they will make any difference at all.

    There’s a bunch of countries going to look pretty stupid if the vaccines aren’t very effective.

  • lucklucky

    I still expect mass emigration from Western countries due to their stupidity.

  • I can only say “Thank God for the 21st Century”. Without a vaccine, without internet, we’d be doing a re-run of the plague that wiped out a substantial fraction of Europe and set it back a century.

  • APL

    Dale Amon: “Without a vaccine, without internet, we’d be doing a re-run of the plague that wiped out a substantial fraction of Europe and set it back a century.”

    In my opinion, both of those assertions are demonstrably incorrect. For example, no internet, no vaccine, and yet Snow arrested a cholera outbreak.

    It’s not as if Cholera has been eradicated in the 21st century. Poor sanitation, lack of clean drinking water and overcrowding in low standard living conditions, are the causes of modern day Cholera outbreaks. We’ve had the internet, we’ve had a vaccine for Cholera but it still breaks out where ever a human population is poor enough to end up drinking its own shit.

    Happy New year Dale. What’s the score with SpaceX*, Dianetics et al?

    *the recent launch of the Musk prototype, it seemd slow off the pad, was that because of its weight or because they’d throttled the engines?

  • Duncan S

    APL – “Dianetics”??

    Pesky auto-complete perhaps? LOL

    Dynetics

  • Exasperated

    The problem is now that it doesn’t matter who we vote for. The people who actually run the country (ie all those civil servants who manage things, the media types who create the political ‘narrative’, the educationalists who control ‘the science’ etc etc) are all in place forever. They don’t change if the party rosette in No 10 changes. Even if one gets the sack for something particularly egregious we get an identikit replacement. Even if we all voted for a ‘far right’ party (as any vaguely sane party would undoubtedly be painted by the usual suspects ad nauseam) and they gained power there is nothing they could do. They would be constrained on all sides by lawfare, the total opposition of all those tasked with implementing their new policies and the media of course. Think Donald Trump’s 4 years in ‘power’ on steroids.

    This^.

  • I still expect mass emigration from Western countries due to their stupidity. (lucklucky, January 4, 2021 at 4:28 am)

    Where to?

    The Grauniad claims some people returned from California to Mexico in 2020 because

    In May and June, undocumented immigrants were not eligible to get stimulus checks from the federal government. A $125m fund to send a one-time cash grant of $500 offered to workers without legal status dried up quickly, and was a drop in the bucket. The state’s governor, Gavin Newsom, vetoed a bill that would have provided low-income immigrants $600 for groceries. “It feels like discrimination,” said Pedro

    whereas in Mexico

    “Things aren’t perfect in Mexico,” Figureo said in Spanish. But at least there’s access to healthcare, and some unemployment benefits for those who need it, he added. “In comparison to what it was in the US, the situation for us in Mexico right now is much better.”

    However that would hardly apply to me, even if I were not concerned about this kind of thing.

    There are other countries of course, but few where I truly belong. If I want to be where they speak English natively, where will I evade cancel culture?

    Thinking of where I could go helps me appreciate that where I am still has many virtues. Maybe I will stay and do what very little I can to help keep it so.

  • Exasperated

    Johnathan Pearce (London)
    January 3, 2021 at 7:57 pm

    “At some point a really bad animal-to-human virus is going to hit. It seems to me that even the most minimal state needs to be on the alert about this, just as much as it would about specific military threats. None of this is fearmongering – it is about realistic risk assessment. And in my view this issue is far, far more serious than global warming.”

    Many countries have fairly effective protocols in place to monitor domesticated animals for avian and swine flus. But, their agricultural sectors pale when compared to China as source of virus interspecies jumps. The Chinese agricultural sector is beyond comprehension. The 25 million people of Shanghai go through 125 million chickens per month, extrapolate that to 1.5 billion Chinese, and you could estimate 9 billion chickens per month. Couple this with live markets and far greater human animal interaction. These jumps happen all over the world and there are surveillance programs even in some places that you would think of as too poor and too backward. The key is detecting it before it goes human to human. This is all exacerbated by globalism.

  • Exasperated

    Not discounting the significance of a vaccine, but the disappointment, for me, was the failure to develop cheap widely available testing for active cases and antibodies.

  • Stonyground

    “…assuming the vaccines and delivery of them are effective…”

    It appears that the screw ups are already in progress. The Fizzer Jab is supposed to be delivered in two stages, that is how it was tested and presumably shown to be effective. My Father in Law has had the first of his two jabs and they are considering not bothering with the second and just hoping for the best.

  • Rob

    Even the best Track and Trace systems can only work if the number of cases is low and not being increased daily from an outside source. To believe it would work with hundreds of thousands of people entering the country every day is lunacy. Even an infection rate of 0.25% would mean 500 potential new outbreaks EVERY DAY if 200,000 people entered from abroad (typical UK figure pre-pandemic was around 350,000).

    That ship sailed some time at the start of February.

    The only countries where it has worked also shut their borders. Once we did not the only options were nothing or lockdown.

  • Rob

    It appears that the screw ups are already in progress. The Fizzer Jab is supposed to be delivered in two stages, that is how it was tested and presumably shown to be effective. My Father in Law has had the first of his two jabs and they are considering not bothering with the second and just hoping for the best.

    The first jab gives a certain level of protection (I believe 70%), the second boosts to 95%. The idea is that 2*n at 70% is better than n at 95%

  • APL

    Rob: “The first jab gives a certain level of protection (I believe 70%) “

    So after the first inoculation, you have a 70% fence against COVID?

    Given how wiley that COVID-19 virus has turned out to be; going on the rampage after 10pm etc etc, it’ll probably learn the high jump and go over the 70% threshold in the Virus Olympics, too.

  • Marius

    Re: shielding, the reason it has been dismissed is that the government, the medical establishment and COVID hysterics stretch the definition of ‘vulnerable’ the moment shielding is mentioned. You or I may think voluntary shielding for the over-75s and those with serious health problems might do it, however the ‘official’ definition of vulnerable seems to be everyone over 60, anyone with diabetes or a heart or a lung complaint (including all those who don’t know they have such a complaint) plus anyone a bit porky. “How can we shield these 30 million people?” they ask….

  • “I’d like to see a plan that would punish these despotic rascals, without rewarding the Labour faction of these despotic rascals.”

    Make a public list of all the despotic rascals, campaign vocally for their deselection. Require replacements that can answer JPs original question.

  • staghounds

    We’ll have another six months of lock ups even WITH a vaccine. No one wants to be the politician who killed some voter’s grandmother…

  • SteveD

    We wouldn’t need to do much. The virus is running out of people to infect so it is on the verge of fading to background noise.

  • SteveD

    ‘Serious liberals need to think about this sort of thing, because otherwise we get painted as denialists and frankly mad.’

    One reason that lockdowns are not effective is that they occur to a great extent voluntarily anyway, along with other voluntary measures and therefore additional effects from a government mandated lockdown will be extremely limited.

  • Katinka Jackson

    George Atkinson Jan 3 at 9:03 pm

    Totally agree that the total deaths is the important number, and that it is

    “Time to get the numbers in Britain and every other country in Europe”

    For starters The Conservative Woman linked to this article: Covid-19 and its overall effect on England and Wales death rate.

    Final paragraph says “With over-65s survival rate consistently a little above 95% we can see that the effect of covid has been really very small. We can stop worrying and regard 2020 as a normal year.”

    Furthermore, from a doctor in Sweden:

    “From January to September 2020, Sweden experienced 687 deaths per 100,000 population. [..] In fact, 2020 is so far one of the least deadly years in Swedish history, and is largely in line with the average for the preceding five years. To be precise, it is 2,7% higher than the average for the preceding five years, which is well within the margin of error. In 2019, mortality was 6% lower than the average, so it should be expected that 2020 would have a slightly higher mortality than average, even without covid. […] It means that covid, a supposedly deadly viral pandemic, has not killed enough Swedes to have any noticeable impact on overall mortality.”

    It should be shouted from the roof tops.

  • Katinka Jackson

    Apologies, last link should be
    doctor in Sweden

  • Jon Eds

    One reason that lockdowns are not effective is that they occur to a great extent voluntarily anyway, along with other voluntary measures and therefore additional effects from a government mandated lockdown will be extremely limited.

    To which they would say either that that proves that government mandated lockdowns aren’t hurting the economy any more than a voluntary one would have, or, that it must mean that the government mandated lockdowns obviously aren’t stringent enough.

  • Alsadius

    If no vaccine was on the horizon, then presumably they’d act a lot like older pandemics – try to distance and mask if you can, spread out the load so people who need hospital beds can at least get them, and if an area is lucky enough to get a hard quarantine in place (like New Zealand, say), then you hold up hard border controls with testing and tracing until the world is clear. But eventually enough people will get sick that herd immunity sets in, and you go back to normal after that. There’d be much less public tolerance for lockdowns without an end in sight.

    Of course, this plan would feature several million additional dead globally, so I’m glad that the vaccines are coming. But the survivors would cope either way – we always do.

  • lucklucky

    ” I still expect mass emigration from Western countries due to their stupidity. (lucklucky, January 4, 2021 at 4:28 am)
    Where to?”

    Any place they let you live without being in lockdown.

  • Alsadius

    Also, to reply to some comments:

    The notion ‘shielding can’t work’ is preposterous in the age of Amazon & UberEats. Of course it can work & regardless of what it costs, it is vastly preferable to the incalculable human cost of shutting down civil society.

    Perry de Havilland: Shielding works in some contexts, but not really the useful ones. The people who most need shielding are in nursing homes. Which are large, fairly crowded facilities, with no special air-handling provisions to deal with airborne diseases. They also have large numbers of staff going in and out at all hours, providing in-person care to the residents. To make a bubble that protects them, you need a lot more than just Uber Eats. You need all the staff to be clean and stay clean, which mean that they and their families also need to bubble. If one of them is married to a doctor, or parent to a kid at in-person school, that’s effectively impossible. So it’ll get into nursing homes almost as fast in a pandemic as it would if you had Andrew Cuomo in charge. A single person living alone can bubble way more easily, sure, but how many of them actually need to?

    Imagine what happens when the USA’s – heck, the world’s – entire corn crop fails.

    Bobby B: Less than you might think. We have huge food abundance, and a lot of it feeds animals. In a famine, we slaughter a bunch of extra animals, and get humans to eat the ugly vegetables that go into animal feed. Then we re-plant those fields with wheat or barley. And overweight folks(which is like half of the developed world, including me) can survive a lot of starvation without too much ill effect.

    The one statistic nobody in the media, political world, or medical field can lie about:
    In 2019 there was no COVID-19: the total number of deaths in US was 2,854,838.
    Total deaths in 2020 stands at 2,835,533 including ‘raging catastrophic’ COVID-19 deaths.
    Via CDC

    George Atkisson: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nvss/vsrr/covid19/excess_deaths.htm addresses this exact question. I downloaded the “National and State Estimates of Excess Deaths” .csv file, which contains the raw data. It doesn’t go up to the end of the year yet (death certificates take a few weeks to be collated nationally), but for the week ending Jan 4/20 to the week ending Dec 19/20, there were 3,128,639 deaths, using the “unweighted” values for the US. That’s only 51 weeks, and the last couple weeks of it are clearly incomplete(the last three weeks were 63k, 53k, and 33k respectively, at a time of year when about 58k would die per week in a normal year), so the true count will be a bit higher. For the same time period, the average expected death count was 2,805,290, so there’s been 323,349 excess deaths. The US has had an official count of 362,043 covid deaths. You don’t expect these to line up perfectly – car crashes and deaths from non-covid transmissible diseases will be way down, overdoses and suicide will be way up – but they’re clearly in the same ballpark.

    The worst week was April 5-11th of this year, with 79,017 total deaths. The worst week in April pre-pandemic was March 31-April 6, 2019, with 56,713 deaths. So the April death peak from covid was more than 22,000 extra deaths in a week over the worst we’d seen in recent years. And if you compare it to the flu, remember that flu mortality always peaks in January. The worst week in that data set outside the pandemic was January 7-13, 2018, with 67,664 deaths. So that’s still over 11,000 per week lower than the covid peak.

    In other words, I agree fully – this is a stat nobody can lie about, so you should look at CDC total mortality data. It tells basically the same story as the official stats, but it’s a really useful way to double-check them, and make sure that we’re not making any huge mistakes with our counting.

    The numbers you quoted are wrong – most likely, someone pulled a year to date death count in mid-November(around the time I started to see memes like this), and used the year-to-date totals there. But obviously, mid-November stats won’t include the whole year, and even if covid were to stop cold at that point, you’d still expect ~300k extra deaths from other causes for the rest of the year.

    (If anyone wants to cross-check this with another country, the England & Wales stats are here: https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/deaths/datasets/weeklyprovisionalfiguresondeathsregisteredinenglandandwales)

    This all assumes the vaccines work. There is absolutely no guarantee that they will make any difference at all. There’s a bunch of countries going to look pretty stupid if the vaccines aren’t very effective.

    Chester Draws: The testing has been pretty clear. In the Pfizer test, for example, 162 people in the control group caught covid, and 8 in the vaccinated group. That’s 95% fewer cases. (See https://www.fda.gov/media/144245/download – page 30 has a pretty stark graph, page 24 has the raw numbers)

    It appears that the screw ups are already in progress. The Fizzer Jab is supposed to be delivered in two stages, that is how it was tested and presumably shown to be effective. My Father in Law has had the first of his two jabs and they are considering not bothering with the second and just hoping for the best.

    Stonyground: They did actually test this. Not for any great length of time, because the trial was based on getting a second dose roughly three weeks after the first, but they have data from those three weeks. (Same link as previous, page 32). The efficacy of the vaccine in that period was 82%, compared to 95% for the two-shot regimen. But since you’re dosing twice as many people that way, overall levels of disease ought to drop much faster with a one-shot regimen, which helps give everyone herd immunity.

    This isn’t a pure win. Obviously, someone who could get two shots but instead only gets one will be at more personal risk (18% of baseline, instead of 5%). It also likely won’t last as long. But it only needs to last long enough to get the total societal disease level way down, and to get us to a time when available vaccines are abundant. If they get their second shot (or even two additional shots, just to be sure) in six months, once supplies are adequate, that won’t be a problem, realistically. No, it hasn’t been tested with this exact vaccine, but we know how the immune system works.

    My preference right now is to two-shot the most vulnerable, and to one-shot everyone else. The data is good enough to justify that, and it halves the amount of time between us and a return to normal. (Because I for one am sick and bloody tired of being home 24/7).

    We wouldn’t need to do much. The virus is running out of people to infect so it is on the verge of fading to background noise.

    SteveD: I’ve seen no reason to think this. If it had already infected, say, 1/2 of the population, you’d expect it to spread half as fast per generation, and a generation is about a week. With a lot of people still distancing and masking, the disease is still growing quickly. It hasn’t grown at a rate twice this fast since precautions started, so it doesn’t seem plausible that it’s half of what it could be. And because it’s still growing fairly rapidly, you know we can’t be reaching herd immunity – you’d see it slowing and peaking if that were the mechanism. The daily new cases are rising quickly in most places: https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/uk/, for example(second graph – I can’t see how to link it directly).

  • Chester Draws

    Of course, this plan would feature several million additional dead globally, so I’m glad that the vaccines are coming. But the survivors would cope either way – we always do.

    Citation required. And not from a bedwetter with “models”.

    There’s no proof that any lockdowns so far have reduced death tolls at all. The countries which haven’t locked down have done about as well as those who have. Sweden’s rate is mid Europe. Belarus hasn’t turned into plague central.

    Yes NZ managed to eradicate it. But then Taiwan did too, without lockdowns and with a busy direct link to China. Oh and just being an island isn’t enough — Australia have had the worst possible result — lockdowns, border shut and they still haven’t eradicated it. Champion job that!

  • Alsadius

    Chester: I could offer models, but you’d laugh them off before looking at them, so I won’t bother. Instead, I’ll appeal to basic common sense. We’re nowhere near saturation of the population, which is fairly clear from how quickly case counts have been growing in recent weeks. So if we didn’t do any distancing, we’d have several times as many cases – I can’t see these growth rates being possible unless we’re down around 20-30% of the population being infected, max. And several times as many cases means several times as many dead – it’ll likely be worse than linear, as hospitals get overwhelmed. The global death toll is currently the better part of 1.9 million, and there’s reason to think a lot of poor countries are undercounting simply because they don’t have the infrastructure to keep a close count.

    That said, it should be noted that I’m not discussing lockdowns. I’m discussing measures to slow spread in general, and the vast majority of those measures are unofficial, or easily ignored. I don’t care if there’s a legal punishment on the books for having a house party – I care whether people are actually having house parties. Laws only matter insofar as they affect people’s actions, and these ones are so easy to ignore that I don’t pay them much mind. We don’t live in the kind of police states it’d take to actually dictate whether Lockdown Level Orange-A3 couples can shag in one of their houses, or if they need to do it in public for the improved ventilation. The laws pretending to decide that are just bureaucrats fantasizing.

    Also, I had a fairly long comment I posted a few hours ago get stuck in moderation, probably because it included a bunch of links. (It addressed some of these points in greater detail.) Could someone make sure that gets approved? Thanks.

  • Shielding works in some contexts, but not really the useful ones. The people who most need shielding are in nursing homes. Which are large, fairly crowded facilities, with no special air-handling provisions to deal with airborne diseases. They also have large numbers of staff going in and out at all hours, providing in-person care to the residents. To make a bubble that protects them, you need a lot more than just Uber Eats. You need all the staff to be clean and stay clean, which mean that they and their families also need to bubble. If one of them is married to a doctor, or parent to a kid at in-person school, that’s effectively impossible. So it’ll get into nursing homes almost as fast in a pandemic as it would if you had Andrew Cuomo in charge. A single person living alone can bubble way more easily, sure, but how many of them actually need to?

    That changes nothing (& is also debatable on many levels). To spend millions (even billions) getting around those problems would still be incomparably cheaper & less destructive to economy & civil society than one size fills all lockdowns of millions of people who are not at much personal risk from Covid & have no contact with people who want to isolate.

  • Alsadius

    Thanks for approving the comment. (It appears above the one asking for it, amusingly.)

    Perry: I’m not opposed in principle, I merely question how workable it is. If I’d seen a workable plan, I might have gone for it. It’s not worth bothering at this point, because of the vaccine coming so soon, but my principles on this haven’t changed since all this started. We need to balance health, freedom, and the economy as best we can. Lives have a high value – not infinite, but high – so protecting life is worth some sacrifices. I think the ones we’re seeing are mostly worthy sacrifices, even if some officials are being destructively myopic fools.

    APL: The vast majority of those will be merely “required care”, and for the vast majority of those who required care, the care will be sitting down for ten minutes while they watch you, or maybe a dose of Benadryl. This is common enough for vaccinations of all sorts, and usually meaningless. The level that’s really worrisome (anaphylaxis) happened in six cases out of 215,362, according to your CDC link in that linked comment.

    Also, that 3% rate of health impact events compares to about 1% of people who get covid dying outright, and another 2% or so being hospitalized but surviving. So three percent needing to lie down a minute, versus three percent being hospitalized, seems like an easy win for the vaccine.

  • Paul Marks

    Up till recently Belarus was doing NOTHING AT ALL – now the local dictator is pretending to care about Covid and has closed the borders and supports mask mandates in the cities, but it is really a cover for clamping down on the opposition. No one pretends that the death rate in Beluarus was higher than the countries where governments did lockdowns and mask mandates over many months.

    Nicaragua is much the same – the local dictator (Daniel Ortega – I am old enough to remember when the left LOVED him) was not paid (personally paid) to enforce a lockdown and so on – so he did not bother.

    Nicaragua does not have a higher Covid death rate that Britain – and neither does Belarus or any country that did NOT LOCKDOWN.

    So herd immunity would have established itself by now – here. There are many things that the government (and others) could do – there are EARLY TREATMENTS for Covid 19 (which Western governments have SMEARED when they have not just BANNED them) which can reduce the hospitalisation rate by 80%, and we know that good metabolic health and high levels of vitamin D help reduce the risk of getting very ill and dying. Which is why Japan has a low death rate – see Ivor Cummins on this.

    I have not noticed any Western governments stressing these things – instead they have been obsessed with lockdowns and mask mandates.

    By the way there was a recently a fire at a factory in Taiwan that produces the chemicals that go to produce hydroxychloroquine which if used EARLY and with Zinc sulphate and azithromycin (or doxycycline) reduces the hospitalisation rate for Covid 19 by some 80%.

    Perhaps the fire was an accident – but the international community is not know for missing opportunities to push collectivism.

  • Paul Marks

    I do not believe a General Election is a factor in the United Kingdom – after all there is not going to be a General Election till December 2024.

    It is just a matter of following the “international experts” – which is what most governments do. All hail Agenda 2021 – Agenda 2030 (thought up long BEFORE Covid 19).

  • Paul Marks

    So Stephen Davies is pro lockdown?

    I did not know that – but it does not surprise me.

    He always stuck me as a Progressive at heart. I wonder if he will support the Climate Change Emergency as well?

  • Alsadius

    I assume Belarus and Nicaragua have crap stats, like so many dictatorships. If they’re clamping down as a repression measure, why wouldn’t they also fake the stats to look good? Dictatorships lie for that reason all the time.

    I agree that they have botched many important efforts to treat the disease. The fact that the government isn’t pimping vitamin D supplements is kind of appalling at this point. And ragging on Trump for using antibody treatment was just insane.

    Also, if a factory fire at one precursor factory for one drug that might be part of an effective cocktail (but that definitely is used for a lot of other stuff) is your evidence for the global conspiracy, you’re deep into the land of tinfoil. Come back to Earth.

  • APL

    Alsadius: “So three percent needing to lie down a minute, versus three percent being hospitalized, seems like an easy win for the vaccine.”

    A fair point, IF we weren’t being told the vaccine won’t give you immunity, won’t stop you catching the virus again, we’ll still need social distancing, but costs 20% of our GDP last year, and a pound of flesh out of our once free open civil society?

    I want to know why, to steal a phrase from Chester Draws in a prior comment, the ‘bed wetters’ have identified this COVID strain as being any more lethal than one or other of the other COVID strains over the last century where we have periodically had a marginally higher winter mortality.

    What was it about COVID-19 that set off this insanity?

    ‘It just is!’ really isn’t a sound foundation to destroy a fifth of our economy, cast millions into poverty for a large fraction of their lives.

  • Jim

    “What was it about COVID-19 that set off this insanity?”

    The internet. First nasty winter flu-like disease to hit the West since the internet became ubiquitous. Hence everyone knew every thing about it as it spread first through China and then to the West. Plus the internet gave the Chinese an easy way to influence Western public opinion – I’m convinced many of the viral (ha ha) videos we saw early on that were supposedly filmed in China by ‘ordinary’ people and somehow smuggled out of China were in fact CCP inspired propaganda aimed at frightening the Western public half to death, knowing that this would create havoc. That being said I bet even they couldn’t have hoped for the level of utterly insane damage Western Governments have ended up inflicting on their own people.

  • Alsadius

    When I’m vaccinated(and it’s had the necessary time to become effective), I will go back to normal, be damned to what the government says. My obligation is done at that point. If some new strain comes along that the vaccine doesn’t protect against, I’ll give them a month or so to put it into bulk production. It seems like even drug regulators are being fairly sane about that, and saying that vaccines for new strains will follow the fast process like we use for the annual flu vaccine.

    As for why they got scared, it’s because this was genuinely scary. The national death tolls per week in April were about 30% higher than any number recorded in a long, long time. (The UK has weekly stats back to 2010, linked in my comment above. The worst week pre-covid was about 16k deaths, the worst week of covid was over 22k deaths.) I don’t have the data to prove this, but I’d wager the last time English and Welsh death tolls hit 22,000 per week was probably during a large battle in WW2.

    In some locations, it was far worse. New Jersey peaked at 4,769 deaths in one week(see the CSV file I mentioned above). Pre-covid, their worst was 1,766 in a week. That’s almost three times the usual death rate for a moderately bad flu season. That’s an extra 9/11, per week, in New Jersey alone. This is what sort of death tolls we’d be looking at if we hadn’t dealt with the pandemic.

    And this happened four weeks after the mass shutdowns went into effect.

  • APL

    Alsadius: “As for why they got scared, it’s because this was genuinely scary. “

    I disagree. The only reason to think this COVID was any worse than any previous COVID in history, was because of the hint that it was genetically engineered in Wuhan and had been released into the wet market there.

    So, either it was, and yes, we would have cause to be concerned, or it is just another strain of a COVID virus. In which case this whole farce has been manufactured by the MSM.

    Alsadius: “In some locations, it was far worse. New Jersey peaked at 4,769 deaths in one week ..”

    There are accounts that hospitals were intubating anxiety patients. Even back then in the spring of ’20 it was common place knowledge, that a hospital got more cash for ventilating a patient that they would have to just treat them normally.

    Remember the furore about lack of PPE? Yet patients who were not COVID confirmed, were on the same ward as confirmed COVID patients.

    Alsadius: “The national death tolls per week in April were about 30% higher than any number recorded in a long, long time. “

    Yes, because frequently, cause of death was falsely attributed to COVID ( good for fearful headlines). And then, infectious COVID patients were shipped into care homes where vulnerable residents were exposed to infection, in an environment which was not equipped to deal with the situation.

    @10:29 in the clip:- ” Can you stop him, he’s going to kill that patient, he’s going to kill that patient, if he defribulates him with bradycardia and a heart rate of 40, .. and the director of nursing just shook his head and I turned around and he killed the dude ” … ” everyone here is OK with this ..”

  • APL

    Jim: ”The internet.”

    I disagree. In the UK it was mainly the BBC, with its hourly broadcasting of the COVID death toll. Never putting it in context, for example you never heard the BBC report, Another ten COVID-19 patients have died today, but that leaves 64,999,990 of the population still alive.

    OR, Sadly another ten Covid patients died today, but you do know that several thousand people die every month as a matter of course in the United Kingdom.

    “The internet”, was the only place you could get an alternative opinion or information that contradicted the MSM terror narrative.

    If it weren’t for the internet, I might have been scared, instead of angry on account of the dishonest demagoguery that was being put about.

  • Alsadius

    Diseases vary. I don’t think anyone’s accused the Spanish Flu of being genetically engineered by the Chinese in 1917, but it still killed a hell of a lot more people than most other influenza viruses. And really, whether this was natural or artificial doesn’t change our mitigation efforts. (It does change how we deal with China, but even before this I was halfway to “sow their fields with salt, or at least get as close as we can without them nuking us”.)

    The pay scheme was nationwide, but only NY and NJ were suffering those kinds of death rates? I don’t buy it. And forced intubation doesn’t kill three thousand people a week. I do agree that there was rampant idiocy in how they dealt with it, as in your example of mixing covid and non-covid patients, but…well, it’s the governments of New York and New Jersey. They’re actually just that stupid.

    Misattributing cause of death can’t create thousands of extra deaths. I’m not talking about the number of “covid deaths”, however defined. I’m talking about the total number of dead people. That doesn’t just triple for no reason. Doctors don’t just murder thousands of their patients every week for fun.

    As for the internet, it also lets you get direct access to numbers like raw death tolls. I included those values for the US and UK above. Take a look at them, and evaluate the data any way you like. It’s all public. If you find any kind of measurement scheme where April 2020 was anything less than an extreme and abnormal mortality event, let me know. And I mean that honestly – I hate being stuck at home, and I hope that we haven’t actually suffered a couple million excess deaths globally. But all the data I’ve looked at tells me that we have. And this is my own analysis, not me parroting anyone else’s – the only thing I’m taking from the Powers That Be is the number of total, society-wide deaths per unit time, which is a number we have fairly good data for back to the medieval era. The difference from the usual trends matches their claimed covid deaths fairly well. If I’m wrong, show me where the error is.

  • APL

    Alsadius: “I don’t think anyone’s accused the Spanish Flu of being genetically engineered by the Chinese in 1917”

    I’m sorry you tried that one! The circumstances prevailing in Europe during one of the most bitterly fought continental wars was utterly different from anything in Europe in 2019/2020.

    Poor diet, squalid living conditions, food shortages and widespread malnutrition would have contributed to the rapid transmission of the ‘Spanish flu’. I’m sorry there just is no reasonable comparison to conditions prevailing in Europe last year. World wide wartime conditions alone, would account for the magnitude of the Spanish flue epidemic.

    Alsadius: “And really, whether this was natural or artificial doesn’t change our mitigation efforts.”

    Yes it does! If it was a genetically optimized virus, rather than a naturally occurring virus then it makes a big difference to the decision, ‘Should we abandon civil society, civil liberties and free speech or not?”

    Alsadius: “Misattributing cause of death can’t create thousands of extra deaths.”

    Why not? We know that several thousand ‘care home’ residents died unnecessarily, it’s clear if you take the allegations in the previous link at face value, COVID-19 victims may have been treated in a somewhat ‘slapdash’ manner, in some hospitals. We also knew, early on that the hospitals were frequently the nexus of contagion. In the UK the initial lockdown regulations made the normally fairly stringent death certification process, simply a matter to attribute death as COVID-19. I complained about that at the time, as it seemed to be, at the very least a licence for latter day Harold Shipman or unscrupulous relatives. I’d think it a safe bet there have been more than a few murders this last year, dressed up as COVID-19 tragedies.

  • APL

    We also knew, early on that the hospitals were frequently the nexus of contagion and hospital staff could have reasonably been confined to their hospital grounds until vaccinated or tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies and/or passed through the COVID-19 safe period.

    That would have been a reasonable alternative to instituting a police state.

  • Alsadius

    World wide wartime conditions alone, would account for the magnitude of the Spanish flue epidemic.

    The circumstances of the Spanish Flu were worse because of the war in combat areas, sure. It might have even made a small difference in non-combat areas, but that was mostly because of wartime censorship. (The reason it’s called “Spanish” isn’t because it started there. They were the first neutral it hit, which meant they were the first to admit it existed. It’s generally thought to have started in Canada or the US, from what I can tell.) But the mortality in neutral nations was as bad as in fighting nations, so I don’t think you can blame it on wartime conditions. And remember, they had seasonal flus in 1914-17 too. Those didn’t do all that much, relatively. The variation in the strain mattered much more than the variation in local conditions.

    If it was a genetically optimized virus, rather than a naturally occurring virus then it makes a big difference to the decision, ‘Should we abandon civil society, civil liberties and free speech or not?”

    I fail to see why an artificial virus would provoke a different mitigation effort than a natural one. It’d provoke a different military response, obviously, but the principle of balancing freedom against lives against economic damage would be the same.

    Why not? We know that several thousand ‘care home’ residents died unnecessarily, it’s clear if you take the allegations in the previous link at face value, COVID-19 victims may have been treated in a somewhat ‘slapdash’ manner, in some hospitals. We also knew, early on that the hospitals were frequently the nexus of contagion. In the UK the initial lockdown regulations made the normally fairly stringent death certification process, simply a matter to attribute death as COVID-19. I complained about that at the time, as it seemed to be, at the very least a licence for latter day Harold Shipman or unscrupulous relatives. I’d think it a safe bet there have been more than a few murders this last year, dressed up as COVID-19 tragedies.

    The unnecessary deaths in care homes were because the virus got loose in care homes. It wasn’t some random unrelated thing. And it certainly wasn’t 300,000+ extra murders in the US, which normally sees about 4% of that number per year.

    Why is it so hard to believe that viruses can kill people, or that some viruses can kill more people than others? Is that really so hard to conceive? You can think we blew the response, or that we balanced factors the wrong way, or that some data is less useful than we’d like. But this insistence on demanding that no new virus can be bad is just weird. Do you know nothing of the history of plagues? I know we live in a sheltered time, but this is just sad to watch.

  • APL

    Alsadius: “But this insistence on demanding that no new virus can be bad is just weird. “

    Don’t know anyone on the Samizdata comments that have made that case. That reads a bit like your strawman.

    If anything, I take up the opposite perspective, there are new viruses but there are no brand new viruses ( Unless the virus has been genetically modified ), new viruses have evolved from other viruses. We are organic beings and we are in competition with other organic beings and sometimes they win, sometimes not so much.

    The fact that the official response to this virus has been so incompetent and badly handled? Mark one up for the virus.

    Alsadius: “The unnecessary deaths in care homes were because the virus got loose in care homes. “

    ‘got loose’ Heh! Funny.

    Alsadius: “and it certainly wasn’t 300,000+ extra murders ..”

    Didn’t say there had been, you’re bringing a whole stack of strawmen to this discussion.

    My words were, ‘more than a few’.

  • Alsadius

    Re “no new virus can be bad”, how else am I supposed to interpret this quote?

    The only reason to think this COVID was any worse than any previous COVID in history, was because of the hint that it was genetically engineered in Wuhan and had been released into the wet market there.

    So, either it was, and yes, we would have cause to be concerned, or it is just another strain of a COVID virus. In which case this whole farce has been manufactured by the MSM.

    You claimed that the only reason that this strain might be worse is genetic engineering. In other words, you think that it can’t be worse naturally, only artificially. It’s certainly possible that this is artificial, but there’s no requirement there. Different natural strains of a virus can have different lethality. That’s doubly true of virus categories – for an obvious example, smallpox and the vaccinia that protects humans from smallpox are two naturally occurring viruses in the same family. I agree that viruses evolve from other viruses, but those evolutions can matter quite a lot.

    Re “got loose”, yes, in some places that was the fault of local governments. (Most infamously, Cuomo in New York). But it also happened despite best efforts in other places. The cause doesn’t change the effect.

    Re murders, I’ll again quote:

    Alsadius: “Misattributing cause of death can’t create thousands of extra deaths.”

    Why not? We know that several thousand ‘care home’ residents died unnecessarily, it’s clear if you take the allegations in the previous link at face value, COVID-19 victims may have been treated in a somewhat ‘slapdash’ manner, in some hospitals. We also knew, early on that the hospitals were frequently the nexus of contagion. In the UK the initial lockdown regulations made the normally fairly stringent death certification process, simply a matter to attribute death as COVID-19. I complained about that at the time, as it seemed to be, at the very least a licence for latter day Harold Shipman or unscrupulous relatives. I’d think it a safe bet there have been more than a few murders this last year, dressed up as COVID-19 tragedies.

    It came up in the discussion of where all the excess deaths are coming from. I was saying that there’s not gigantic murder sprees happening to explain them, which you disagreed with. If the murders are numerous enough to affect raw societal deaths then we all just moved to the worst neighbourhood in Tegucigalpa in April somehow. If they’re not, then why make that case? I agree that the number probably hasn’t been zero, because it’s a big society. But enough that it affects overall mortality this much? New Jersey didn’t just triple its death rate for a few weeks because everyone was bumping everyone else off like an episode of Murder She Wrote.

  • APL

    Alsadius: “In other words, “

    Carry on selecting any words you feel like.

    Alsaius: “you think that it can’t be worse naturally, only artificially.”

    Well, you’re welcome to reply to things you would have liked me to have written, but for that I don’t need to be involved.

    In any case, you obviously didn’t comprehend what I wrote. Clearly it could be worse, we have the example of the 1917 Spanish flu epidemic. But that epidemic was made worse by war, poverty and malnutrition. Few of those things applied to the same extent in the West in 2020.

    But now that the Capital structure has been pretty much destroyed by the lockdown(s), expect to see a dramatic downward readjustment of living standards starting 2021.

  • bobby b

    To subvert a line that Natalie Solent threw out a bit ago, is it wrong to hope that both parties win this argument?

    APL is correct in that there has been a huge decrease in liberty across most of the First World as a result of this illness, and much of that decrease has been unwarranted and/or unwise. It’s been a tool just like Rahm Emmanuel predicted, and they’re not letting it go to waste. But I don’t sense that Alsadius is arguing against that point.

    Alsadius is correct that this isn’t a made-up crisis. I now know many people affected by this illness (and I don’t mean “affected by the response to this illness.”)

    Our societal response to this has been poor. It’s been used by all sorts of little dictators to have their way with us, incompetently. We’re worse off freedom-wise because we allowed for these people to use this crisis, and we’re worse off health-wise because they don’t know what they’re doing.

    But it is still a health crisis.

    I’m currently parked in the desert in Arizona (in the SW corner of the US, next to lower California and bordering Mexico.) Nearest RV neighbor almost a half mile away, but in the cities:

    “Arizona currently has the highest per-capita rate of new Covid-19 infections, with 785 cases per 100,000 people over the past seven days. That rate not only leads the U.S., but is the highest in the world, according to NBC News data. For comparison, the Czech Republic, the country with the highest per-capita rate of infection, has reported 653 cases per 100,000 over the past seven days.”

    ( https://www.nbcnews.com/science/science-news/these-three-states-have-worst-covid-infection-rates-anywhere-world-n1252861 .)

    It’s bad here, in the cities. Without government lockdown, there’d be no traffic. It all reminds me of reading Stephen King’s “The Stand.”

    Alsadius is correct. This isn’t a joke written by wanna-be dictators. Unfortunately, we’ve put those wanna-be dictators in charge. So, they’re both correct in their basic premise.

  • Alsadius

    Bobby: I’ll agree with that.

  • Bobby b’s point (January 6, 2021 at 10:36 pm) is important. When President Obama’s chief of staff, Rahm Emmanuel, quoted “A crisis is a terrible thing to waste” (see, for example, this Thomas Sowell article), that certainly implied that every possible ‘crisis’ would be magnified, but he did not include any caveat that only fake or minor crises would be exploited in this way. On the contrary,

    designing men never separate their plans from their interests; and if you assist them in their schemes, you will find the pretended good, in the end, thrown aside or perverted, and the interested object alone compassed (Edmund Burke, letter to Charles-Jean-Francois Depont)

    A crisis is a terrible danger to liberty. More rarely than is pretended, not dealing with a real one could also be. So sometimes one may have to fight both dangers at once.

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