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COVID19 and conspiracy theories: A Chinese virus or a bio-weapon?

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United States’ president Donald Trump thinks that COVID19 is a `Chinese virus’. Conspiracy theories are making rounds that the virus was compounded in a Wuhan laboratory. Several American politicians, such as Senator Tom Cotton, suggested that the coronavirus is a bioweapon leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

Trump is convinced that US economy is suffering for China’s lies about events in Wuhan, with connivance by the World Health Organization. He stalled WHO’s funding to teach it a lesson. With an eye on November re-election, Trump assured voters that his rival, Democratic nominee, Joe Biden is weak on China. And, his son Hunter was involved in cloudy dealings with Beijing.

Americans are receptive to Trump’s tirades. When he suggested taking disinfectants as cure for COVID19, many Americans did so. A Pew Research poll found that two-thirds of U.S. voters had an unfavorable view of China compared to 47 per cent two years back. Wuhan’s lockdown was viewed as “draconian” and “undemocratic” step taken by the “despotic Orient”.  The truth remains that a nation’s ability to contain the coronavirus depends on numerous factors: Climate, demographics, location, wealth, leadership, medical stockpiles, healthcare system, and so on.

WHO’s view: The WHO terms the conspiracy theories as “infodemic” that “spreads faster and more easily than this virus, and is just as dangerous”. On Feb 19, 27 public health scientists from the United States, Europe, and Asia wrote in The Lancet medical journal: “We stand together to strongly condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that Covid-19 does not have a natural origin.”

They affirmed: “Conspiracy theories do nothing but create fear, rumours, and prejudice that jeopardise our global collaboration in the fight against this virus.” On Feb 20, the Wuhan Institute of Virology declared that such rumours had severely disrupted its anti-coronavirus emergency efforts. This was the very lab that sequenced the coronavirus on Jan 2 before submitting the virus’ genome to the WHO on Jan 11.

On February 28, the WHO-China Joint Mission on Covid-19 cautioned that much of the world is not ready to “implement the measures that have been employed to contain Covid-19 in China”, which are “the only measures that are currently proven to interrupt or minimise transmission chains in humans. In the face of a previously unknown virus, China has rolled out perhaps the most ambitious, agile and aggressive disease containment effort in history.”

China’s view: China-bashing syndrome is a means to divert attention and scrapegoat someone else for their own failures. The coronavirus pandemic has led to some of the greatest outrages in the entire Trump administration. `Hospitals short on personal protective equipment and ventilators because the federal government has stolen stockpiles. People are going hungry while the government gives billions to corporations. `Elections are being threatened by the virus, and politicians are blocking vote-by-mail’ (Common Dreams Home Page).

 China extended assistance to over 120 countries and international organizations over the raging pandemic, many of which helped China in the thick of its epidemic fight. Aid packages were sent without political preconditions.

Chinese masks were labeled substandard. Actually, these masks were intended for non-medical use. Local purchasers in countries like the Netherlands and Belgium have clarified that `low quality’ masks were commercially purchased for non-medical use. And, they were not included on official Chinese aid.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, herself a microbiologist, said her country was “very pleased” about China’s help. Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic also expressed his gratitude to the Chinese people for their assistance.

Fall-out of Trump’s pugnacity:  Continued China criticism could increase volatility in bond, stock and currency markets across Asia. Trump may increase import taxes just when China is experiencing Coronavirus-driven 6.8% contraction in gross domestic product. Trump’s volatile actions may reduce GDP not only in China but also in, South Korea and Singapore and down through the economic food chain to Indonesia, Vietnam and Myanmar. If Trump imposed 25% penalties on imports of cars and auto parts, it would badly affect Thailand. The fallout for supply chains would hit growth from the Philippines to India.

After Huawei, Trump could ban more mainland Chinese companies including those in artificial intelligence, energy, micro processing, robotics and self-driving vehicle spaces.

China’s armoury: China could devalue its currency. It could disavow the phase one trade deal which guaranteed billions in purchases from farmers in states Trump must win come November election. Beijing could threaten to dump its $1.1 trillion of U.S. government bonds, greatly increasing Washington’s debt-servicing costs. It could prohibit sales of U.S. cars and trucks. It could impose an Airbus-only policy in Asia’s biggest economy, banning the U.S.’s Boeing from its aerospace market. Besides, it could halt exports of the rare-earth materials Silicon Valley needs to make batteries, memory chips and smartphones. China could tell Apple, CNN, Goldman Sachs, Nike, Starbucks, Tesla and others to leave China within ten days.  

Smear campaign: The US Senate Republican campaign arm distributed a memo to Grand Old Party (Republicans) candidates, advising them to address the coronavirus crisis by aggressively attacking China. The 57-page memo, dated April 17, was authored by the political consulting firm of Brett O’Donnell, a veteran Republican strategist who has advised Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton.

The memo provides detailed instructions, including short and expanded versions, for candidates to memorize and use in public. It contains three main assaults: That China caused the virus “by covering it up”, that Democrats are “soft on China” and that Republicans will “push for sanctions on China for its role in spreading this pandemic”, Politico summarized.

Compensation claims: Some organizations and have filed “compensation claims” against China for not doing enough to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, and allowing it to become a pandemic.

Their claims are of three types.

First, the lawsuits have been filed against the Chinese government in foreign courts. For example, a Florida-based law firm, on behalf of Florida residents, has filed a case in a southern Florida court against the Chinese government, accusing it of failing to curb the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, and letting it become a pandemic that has killed tens of thousands of people and caused huge economic damage. Another US state, Missouri, sued the Chinese government over its handling of the virus, seeking damages for what it described as deliberate deception and insufficient action to check the outbreak.

In an interview with Fox Television, a Republican congressmen from Indiana said China should pay the cost for the damage the pandemic has caused to the United States, and listed ways in which China can be made to pay the damages, including forcing it to write off most of the US’ debts. Also, an Australian parliament member proposed taking back land owned by Chinese companies in Australia as compensation for China “transmitting” the virus.

And third, a few organizations and individuals have appealed to international agencies to hold China “accountable” for the pandemic and force it to pay “compensation”. For example, some NGOs in India have filed a complaint with the United Nations Human Rights Council, demanding that China be made to pay “compensation” to the international community for the losses the pandemic has caused.

Besides, an American lawyer has filed a “case” in the International Criminal Court accusing China of “intentionally developing” the novel coronavirus as a “deadly biological weapon”, claiming the failure of the Chinese government and military “to prevent the Wuhan Institute of Virology’s personnel from becoming infected with the bioweapon and then carrying the virus out into the surrounding community and proliferation into the United States”. Since this is tantamount to a “crime against humanity”, the lawyer claims, the ICC should probe the issue.

China’s view of claims: China regards them as `ludicrous’. It contends China as a `nation has complete sovereign immunity’. According to the “no jurisdiction” principle between sovereign states derived from the principle of “sovereign equality”, the court of one state does not exercise jurisdiction over another state, which is called “sovereign immunity”.

China claims to adhere to absolute sovereign immunity which rejects any jurisdiction from foreign courts. Even according to the US’ relative sovereign immunity, which allows for a commercial activity exception to sovereign immunity, China’s outbreak prevention and control work is governmental behavior rather than a commercial activity, and therefore also enjoys sovereign immunity.

The ICC is an international organization established under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court to investigate and try four categories of international crimes-genocide, crime against humanity, war crimes, and crimes of aggression.

According to the Rome Statute, the ICC’s investigation procedure can be initiated in three ways: by the prosecutors themselves, by the United Nations Security Council, and by a signatory state other methods, including the submission of materials by individuals or organizations, do not directly trigger an investigation. There can be an exception, though, but only if an ICC prosecutor believes the materials submitted are solid enough to initiate an investigation. The absurdity of the US lawyer’s claim suggests this possibility is very slim.

China contends `UN Human Rights Council is not an “international court” but an intergovernmental body affiliated to the UN and made up of 47 member states elected by the UN General Assembly, assigned to strengthen the promotion and protection of human rights across the globe, and make recommendations to address human rights violations. The UNHRC mainly deals with inter-state interactions, and although, according to a 2007 resolution, individuals, groups and NGOs can appeal in case of consistent and serious violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms, the plea must meet certain strict conditions to initiate an investigation, which the Indian NGOs’ complaint doesn’t.

As for writing off US debts and seizing the land legally owned by Chinese companies in Australia, they would be illegal acts, not least because the claim illogically and forcibly attempts to link the novel coronavirus with a completely unrelated issue in an attempt to violate the contractual and property rights of the Chinese government and companies.

Also, there are three conditions for a state to be held legally liable for an act: the act should be attributable to the state, the state should be at fault, and the state should have violated its international obligations.

There is no proof virus originated in Wuhan. Origin of the novel coronavirus is yet to be scientifically verified, and the fact that the epidemic was first reported in Wuhan, Hubei province, alone does not necessarily mean it originated in China.

Besides, in international law, the actions attributable to a state only include the actions of state organs and those of institutions or individuals authorized to exercise government power. The actions of other persons or entities cannot be attributed to the state. The unintentional transmission of a disease by an infected person to others is not an act committed on behalf of his or her country, so his/her behavior cannot be attributed to a government.

Since SARS-CoV-2 is a new coronavirus, how can people know everything about it when it’s still mutating? And by taking rapid and strict measures, China has largely contained the pandemic at home. By contrast, the US and some European governments did not take effective measures for almost two months to prevent the spread of the virus in their respective countries. And they can’t blame China for their own failure. Therefore, their lawsuits are good neither in law nor facts.

Inference: The world should join hands to develop vaccines, plasmas, and drugs to beat the virus. It is time to cooperate not dissipate energies on blame game.

Mr. Amjed Jaaved has been contributing free-lance for over five decades. His contributions stand published in the leading dailies at home and abroad (Nepal. Bangladesh, et. al.). He is author of seven e-books including Terrorism, Jihad, Nukes and other Issues in Focus (ISBN: 9781301505944). He holds degrees in economics, business administration, and law.

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Security of nuclear materials in India

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The author is of the view that nuclear security is lax in India. More so, because of the 123 Agreement and sprawling  nuclear installations in several states. The thieves and scrap dealers even dare to advertise online sale of radioactive uranium. India itself has reported several incidents of nuclear thefts to the international bodies. The author wonders why India’s security lapses remain out of international focus. Views expressed are personal.  

Amid raging pandemic in the southern Indian state of Maharashtra, the anti-terrorism squad arrested  (May 6, 20210) two persons (Jagar Jayesh Pandya and Abu Tahir Afzal hussain Choudhry) for attempting to sell seven kilograms  of highly-radioactive muranium for offered price of  about Rs. 21 crore. The “gentlemen” had uncannily advertised  the proposed sale online.. As such, the authorities initially dismissed the advertisement as just another hoax. They routinely detained the “sellers-to-be” and forwarded a sample of their ware to the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre.  They were shocked when the centre reported that “the material was natural uranium”.  As such the squad was compelled to book the duo under India’s Atomic Energy Act, 1962 at Nagpur police station (Explained: ATS seizes 7 kg uranium worth  Rs. 21 crore from a scrap dealer…Indian Express May 7, 2021).

Not a unique incident

The event, though shocking, is  is not  one of its kind. Earlier, in 2016 also, two persons were arrested by Thane (Maharashtra) police while they were trying to sell eight to nine kilograms of depleted uranium for Rs. 24 crore.  It is surmised that sale of uranium by scrap dealers in India is common. But, such events rarely come in limelight. According to Anil Kakodar, former chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, `Factories using uranium as a counterweight in their machines are mandated to contact the Atomic Energy agencies and return uranium to them. They however resort to short cuts and sell the entire machine with uranium in scrap’.

India media scarcely report such incidents. However, Indian government sometimes reports such incidents to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to meet disclosure requirements. According to international media reports (February 25, 2004), India reported 25 cases of “missing” or “stolen” radio-active material from its labs to the IAEA.  Fifty-two per cent of the cases were attributed to “theft” and 48% to the “missing mystery”.  India claimed to have recovered lost material in twelve of total 25 cases.  It however admitted that 13 remaining cases remained mysterious.

India’s reports such incidents to the IAEA to portray itself as a “responsible state”.  It is hard to believe that radio-active material could be stolen from nuclear labs without operators’ connivance.

Nine computers, belonging to India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation establishment at Metcalfe House, New Delhi, were stolen. India communicated 25 cases of ‘stolen or missing’ uranium to the IAEA. In different incidents, uranium in varying forms and quantities continue to be recovered from scrap dealers and others by Indian authorities. The recoveries include fifty-seven pounds of uranium in rod form, eight kilograms in granular form, two hundred grams in semi-processed form, besides twenty-five kilograms in radioactive form, stolen from the Bibi Cancer Hospital.

Too, the ‘thieves’ stole three cobalt switches, worth Rs. 1.5 million, from Tata Steel Company laboratory at Jamshedpur (Jharkhand). A shipment of beryllium (worth $24 million), was caught in Vilnius, on its way to North Korea. Taiwanese authorities had intercepted a ship carrying dual-use aluminum oxide from India to North Korea. A New Jersey-based Indian engineer Sitaram Ravi Mahidevan was indicted for having bypassed US export procedures to send blue-prints of solenoid-operated valves to North Korea.

We know that the Taiwanese authorities had intercepted a ship, carrying dual-use aluminum oxide from India to North Korea.  The oxide is an essential ingredient of rocket casings and is, as such, prohibited for export to “rogue” countries.

Pakistan bashing

Despite recurrent incidents of theft of uranium or other sensitive material from indiandian nuclear labs, the IAEA never initiated a thorough probe into lax security environment in government and private nuclear labs in india. However, the international media has a penchant for creating furore over uncorroborated nuclear lapses in Pakistan. The Time magazine article ‘Merchant of Menace’, had reported that some uranium hexafluoride cylinders were missing from the Kahuta Research Laboratories.  Pakistan’ then information minister and foreign-office spokesman had both refuted the allegation.  Masood Khan (foreign office) told reporters, `The story is a rehash of several past stories’.

Similarly,  Professor Shaun Gregory in his report ‘The Security of Nuclear Weapons’ contends that those guarding about 120 nuclear-weapon sites, mostly in northern and western parts of Pakistan, have fragmented loyalties. As such, they are an easy prey to religious extremists.

Frederick W. Kagan and Michael O’Hanlon, also draw a gloomy portrait of the situation in Pakistan. In their article, published in The New York Times, dated November 18, 2007, they predicted that extremists would take over, if rule of law collapses in Pakistan. Those sympathetic with the Taliban and al-Qaeda may convert Pakistan into a state sponsor of terrorism. They pointed to Osama bin Laden’s meeting with Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood and Chaudhry Abdul Majeed, former engineers of Pakistan’s Atomic Energy Commission (having no bomb-making acumen).

They claimed that U.S. military experts and intelligence officials had explored strategies for securing Pakistan’s nuclear assets. One option was to isolate the country’s nuclear bunkers. Doing so would require saturating the area, surrounding the bunkers, with tens of thousands of high-powered mines, dropped from air, packed with anti-tank and anti-personnel munitions. The panacea, suggested by them, was that Pakistan’s nuclear material should be seized and stashed in some “safe” place like New Mexico.

Rebuttal

The fact is that the pilloried Pakistani engineers had no knowledge of weaponisation (“When the safest is not safe enough,” The Defence Journal -Pakistan), pages 61-63). The critics mysteriously failed to mention that Pakistan is a party to the UN Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials. The steps taken by Pakistan to protect its nuclear materials and installations conform to international standards. The National Command Authority, created on February 2, 2000, has made fail-safe arrangements to control development and deployment of strategic nuclear forces. Pakistan’s nuclear regulatory authority had taken necessary steps for safety, security, and accountability of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, facilities, and materials even before 9/11 incident. These controls include functional equivalent of the two-man rule and permissive action links (PALs). The indigenously-developed PALs are bulwarks against inadvertent loss of control, or accidental use of weapons. So far, there has been no security lapse in any of Pakistan’s nuclear establishments.

Abdul Mannan, in his paper titled “Preventing Nuclear Terrorism in Pakistan: Sabotage of a Spent Fuel Cask or a Commercial Irradiation Source in Transport”, has analysed various ways in which acts of nuclear terrorism could occur in Pakistan (quoted in “Pakistan’s Nuclear Future: Worries beyond War”). He has fairly reviewed Pakistan’s vulnerability to nuclear terrorism through hypothetical case studies. He concludes that the threat of nuclear terrorism in Pakistan is a figment of imagination, rather than a real possibility.

There are millions of radioactive sources used worldwide in various applications. Only a few thousand sources, including Co-60, Cs-137, Ir-192, Sr-90, Am-241, Cf-252, Pu-238, and RA-226 are considered a security risk. The Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority (PNRA) has enforced a mechanism of strict measures for administrative and engineering control over radioactive sources from cradle to grave. It conducts periodic inspections and physical verifications to ensure security of the sources. The Authority has initiated a Five-Year National Nuclear-Safety-and-Security-Action Plan to establish a more robust nuclear-security regime. It has established a training centre and an emergency-coordination centre, besides deploying radiation-detection-equipment at each point of nuclear-material entry in Pakistan, supplemented by vehicle/pedestrian portal monitoring equipment where needed.

Fixed detectors have been installed at airports, besides carrying out random inspection of personnel luggage. All nuclear materials are under strict regulatory control right from import until their disposal.

Concluding remarks

Nuclear controls in India and the USA are not more stringent than Pakistan’s. It is not understood why the media does not deflect their attention to the fragile nuclear-security environment in India. It is unfortunate that the purblind critics fail to see the gnawing voids in India’s nuclear security.

The ‘research work’ by well-known scholars reflects visceral hatred against Pakistan. The findings in fresh ‘magnum opuses’ are a re-hash or amalgam of the presumptions and pretensions in earlier-published ‘studies’. It is time that the West deflected its attention to India where movements of nuclear materials, under the 123 expansion plan, are taking place between nuclear-power plants sprawling across different states.

Above all, will the international media and the IAEA look into open market uranium sales in India.

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Biological warfare: A global security threat

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Biological warfare is not a new concept in arena of international politics as it has been used as a tool to sabotage enemy in previous centuries. Biological weapons are a sub-category of Weapons of Mass destruction (WMDs) in which there is a deliberate use of micro-organisms like pathogens and toxins to cause disease or death in humans, livestock and yields.Form its usage in 14th century by Mongols to its usage by imperial Japan during 1930s-40s against Chinese, it has always been a threat to global security. The evolution of bio-weapons can be broadly categorized into four phases; first phase includes the post WWII developments with the evident use of chlorine and phosgene in Ypres.The second phase was marked by the use of nerve agents like tabun, cholinesterase inhibitor and anthrax and plague bombs. The initiation of third phase was marked by the use of biological weapons in Vietnam war during 1970s where deadly agents like Agent orange were used. 4th and last phase include the time of biological and technological revolution where genetic engineering techniques were at their peak. Traditionally they have been used in wartime in order to defeat enemy but with the emergence of violent non-state actors, bioterrorism is another potential threat to the security of states. There are certain goals that are associated with the use of biological weapons. Firstly, it is purposed to hit to economy of the targeted country, breaking down government authority and have a psychological effect on masses of the targeted population. It is also a kind of psychological warfare as it may hit a smaller number of people but leaves impact on wider audience through intimidation and spreading fear. It also creates natural circumstances under which a population is induced with disease without revealing the actual perpetrator.

With the advancement in genetic engineering techniques more lethal biological weapons are being produced everyday around the world. Countries which are economically deprived are more likely to pursue such goals as it is difficult for them to go for heavy military sophistication keeping into consideration their poor economic conditions. Biological weapons serve as inexpensive tool for developing countries to address their issues in prevailing international security environment. During the initial decades of cold war, united states of America (USA) and Soviet Union went for acquiring tons of biological weapons alongside nuclear proliferation.

 The quest for these weapons reduced during 1970s with the formation of Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC). This convention was presented in 1972 before countries and finally came into force in 1975 with 150 countries who signed this convention and 140 countries who fully joined this treaty. This convention prohibits any biological weaponization in order to promote peace and stability around the world. But this convention has obvious defects as it is unable to address many issues like it doesn’t prevents itself the use of biological weapons but just reinforces 1925 Geneva Protocol which forbids the use of bio-weapons. Convention allows ‘defensive research’ to which there are many objections that what is incorporated into this defensive research. It is non-binding to the signatory states and in case if countries are proliferating it lacks the effective oversight techniques to look after them either they are pursuing these biological weapons capabilities or not. Since the inception of this convention till now it has clearly failed in stopping the countries from acquisition as well as usage of these weapons. This is evident as there were many cases after 1975 where these weapons were used as in 1980s when Iraq used mustard gas, sarin and tabun against Iran and many other ethnic groups inside Iran. Another incident which was highlighted was Sarine nerve gas attack in Tokyo subway system leaving thousands injured and many got killed. In post-cold war era, however, the number of these attacks reduced as much attention was shifted to terrorism after 9/11 attacks with the change in global security architecture.

“Anthrax letters” in post 9/11 attacks revealed yet another dimension of bio-weapons which was the threat of bioterrorism from non-state actors. US became a victim of bio-terrorism when in 2001 a powder was transported through letters containing bacterium called anthrax infecting many people. One purpose which terrorists have is to make general masses feel as if they are unsafe in the hands of their government which can be best achieved through the use of these weapons. The fact that biological weapons are cheaper and more devastating than conventional weapons make it more likely for biological weapons to be used by terrorists. Also, the fact that they are easy to hide and transport and a smaller quantity can leave long-lasting impacts on larger population makes these weapons more appealing.  Now that we are facing a global pandemic in the form of COVID-19 which according to some conspiracy theories is a biological weapon pose even more serious challenge to the international security in coming decades. There is no such scientific research which proves Corona Virus as a biological weapon but the realization here is that whether or not it is a biological weapon but world was least prepared for it. Not only the developing countries but also developed states suffered more despite having enormous medical infrastructure. The fact that there has been decline in the incidents related to bioterrorism should never let us think that there is no possibility of such attacks. The fact that world failed to handle Covid-19 puts a question mark on the credibility of measures if we are faced with bio-terrorism. The medical community as well as general population needs to develop an understanding of how to respond if there is such attack. At the international level there is a dire need to develop some strong norms which discourage the development and use of such weapons in any capacity.    

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The ‘Post-Covid-19 World’ Will Never Come

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On May 3rd, the New York Times bannered “Reaching ‘Herd Immunity’ Is Unlikely in the U.S., Experts Now Believe” and reported that “there is widespread consensus among scientists and public health experts that the herd immunity threshold is not attainable — at least not in the foreseeable future, and perhaps not ever.”

In other words: the ‘news’-sources that were opposing the governments’ taking action against Covid-19 — libertarian ’news’-sites that oppose governmental laws and regulations, regardless of the predominant view by the vast majority of the scientists who specialize in studying the given subject — are looking wronger all the time, as this “novel coronavirus” (which is what it was originally called) becomes less and less “novel,” and more and more understood scientifically.

The “herd immunity” advocates for anti-Covid-19 policies have been saying that governments should just let the virus spread until nature takes its course and such a large proportion of the population have survived the infection as to then greatly reduce the likelihood that an uninfected person will become infected. An uninfected person will increasingly be surrounded by people who have developed a natural immunity to the disease, and by people who don’t and never did become infected by it. The vulnerable people will have become eliminated (died) or else cured, and so they won’t be spreading the disease to others. That’s the libertarian ’solution’, the final solution to the Covid-19 problem, according to libertarians.

For example, on 9 April 2020, Forbes magazine headlined “After Rejecting A Coronavirus Lockdown, Sweden Sees Rise In Deaths” and reported that, “Sweden’s chief epidemiologist Anders Tegnell has continuously advocated for laid back measures, saying on Swedish TV Sunday that the pandemic could be defeated by herd immunity, or the indirect protection from a large portion of a population being immune to an infection, or a combination of immunity and vaccination. However, critics have argued that with a coronavirus vaccine could be more than a year away, and insufficient evidence that coronavirus patients that recover are immune from becoming infected again, the strategy of relying on herd immunity and vaccinations [is] ineffective.”

The libertarian proposal of relying upon “herd immunity” for producing policies against this disease has continued, nonetheless.

CNN headlined on 28 April 2020, “Sweden says its coronavirus approach has worked. The numbers suggest a different story”, and reported that 

On March 28, a petition signed by 2,000 Swedish researchers, including Carl-Henrik Heldin, chairman of the Nobel Foundation, called for the nation’s government to “immediately take steps to comply with the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommendations.”

The scientists added: “The measures should aim to severely limit contact between people in society and to greatly increase the capacity to test people for Covid-19 infection.”

“These measures must be in place as soon as possible, as is currently the case in our European neighboring countries,” they wrote. “Our country should not be an exception to the work to curb the pandemic.”

The petition said that trying to “create a herd immunity, in the same way that occurs during an influenza epidemic, has low scientific support.”

Swedish authorities have denied having a strategy to create herd immunity, one the UK government was rumored to be working towards earlier on in the pandemic — leading to widespread criticism — before it enforced a strict lockdown.

FORTUNE magazine headlined on 30 July 2020, “How parts of India inadvertently achieved herd immunity”, and reported that, “Around 57% of people across parts of India’s financial hub of Mumbai have coronavirus antibodies, a July study found, indicating that the population may have inadvertently achieved the controversial ‘herd immunity’ protection from the coronavirus.” Furthermore:

Herd immunity is an approach to the coronavirus pandemic where, instead of instituting lockdowns and other restrictions to slow infections, authorities allow daily life to go on as normal, letting the disease spread. In theory, enough people will become infected, recover, and gain immunity that the spread will slow on its own and people who are not immune will be protected by the immunity of those who are. University of Chicago researchers estimated in a paper published in May that achieving herd immunity from COVID-19 would require 67% of people to be immune to the disease. Mayo Clinic estimates 70% of the U.S. population will need to be immune for the U.S. to achieve herd immunity, which can also be achieved by vaccinating that proportion of a population.

On 27 September 2020, Reuters bannered “In Brazil’s Amazon a COVID-19 resurgence dashes herd immunity hopes”, and reported that, “The largest city in Brazil’s Amazon has closed bars and river beaches to contain a fresh surge of coronavirus cases, a trend that may dash theories that Manaus was one of the world’s first places to reach collective, or herd, immunity.”

Right now, the global average of Covid-19 intensity (total cases of the disease thus far) is 19,693 persons per million population. For examples: Botswana is barely below that intensity, at 19,629, and Norway is barely above that intensity, at 20,795. Sweden is at 95,905, which is nearly five times the global average. Brazil is 69,006, which is around 3.5 times worse than average. India is 14,321, which is slightly better than average. USA is 99,754.  

However, the day prior, on May 2nd, America had 30,701 new cases. Brazil had 28,935. Norway had 210. India had 370,059. Sweden’s latest daily count (as-of May 3rd) was 5,937 on April 29th, 15 times Norway’s 385 on that date. Sweden’s population is 1.9 times that of Norway. India’s daily count is soaring. Their population is four times America’s, but the number of new daily cases in India is twelve times America’s. Whereas India has had only one-seventh as much Covid-19 intensity till now, India is soaring upwards to become ultimately, perhaps, even worse than America is on Covid-19 performance. And Brazil is already almost as bad as America, on Covid-19 performance, and will soon surpass America in Covid-19 failure.

There is no “herd immunity” against Covid-19, yet, anywhere. It’s just another libertarian myth. But libertarians still continue to believe it — they refuse to accept the data.

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