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Health agencies downgraded Covid-19 severity just days before lockdown

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In the UK, Public Health England announced that Covid-19 was “no longer considered to be a high consequence infectious disease (HCID)” on March 19 – just a week before the national government imposed a lockdown that devastated the economy and the health and mental wellbeing of millions of Britons.

No major country in the world still classifies Covid-19 as a HCID; the US lists only the plague in the category.

The downgrade was made after new data revealed the virus had a low mortality rate and laboratory tests had given experts more insight into the virus; it had been classified as an HCID in January.

The decision was supported by the UK’s Advisory Committee on Dangerous Pathogens; despite this, Prof Neil Ferguson, a member of the committee, separately predicted the virus would kill 500,000 people in the UK, and 2.2 million in the US, a claim that shaped government policy.

A high consequence infectious disease has a high fatality rate and spreads easily in the community. It also “requires an enhanced individual, population and system response to ensure it is managed effectively, efficiently and safety.” In other words, a lockdown wasn’t necessary to manage Covid-19.

Infectious diseases that haven’t been downgraded include MERS – which has a fatality rate of around 30 percent – and avian flu.

The World Health Organization (WHO) agrees Covid is not a lethal disease. In a WHO session in October, Dr Michael Ryan, executive director of the Health Emergencies Program, announced that 10 percent of the world’s population had been infected by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes Covid-19.

This suggests that, at the time of the meeting, 780 million people around the world had been infected; with a death toll of 1.06 million – and that is cases of death with the virus, and not directly from it, which may be just 10 percent of that total – the fatality rate is 0.14 percent, which is in line with seasonal flu.

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(Sources: gov.uk/guidance/high-consequence-infectious-diseases-hcid; Off-Guardian, October 8,2020)

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