Covid Superstars #1 – Professor Devi Sridhar

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This is a first in a series of articles by Bruce Wallace looking at individuals and groups who espouse support for hard lockdowns and the “zero covid” policy.

In the Covid pandemic some professional academics have risen to public prominence and become international media superstars. If you live in Scotland or elsewhere in the UK you cannot have failed to be confronted on your TV screen by Professor Devi Sridhar, Chair of Global Public Health, Edinburgh Uni Med School. Truly, Devi is a Covid superstar. On Twitter she has 261,000 followers. A veritable Covid pin up. Some of her Twitter comments are like those reserved for teeny celebs:

“Got to say, your posts and interviews on tv are helping keep me sane.  Keep  going, and thank you.”

“You are the only one talking sense regarding the virus and subsequent government actions or lack of!! Keep going Prof we love you”

“Marry me x”

Devi has an especially big fan base amongst the old boys. She is very well connected with the political elite in Scotland, being an advisor to Nichola Sturgeon’s SNP government on the pandemic and is a buddy of Chelsea Clinton.

Given her high media and political profile you might assume she is an expert on infectious diseases and has a background in epidemiology? Sadly not, as Devi’s  academic qualification is in anthropology. No disrespect to the academics but this is an Arts degree, not a science one.

On a Rhodes scholarship she got a Master of Philosophy in Medical Anthropology in 2005 and other luminary honours thereafter but – and this is the point – she isn’t a medical doctor.

Sridhar co-authored an open letter in The Lancet (15 October 2020) that has been referred to as the John Snow Memorandum. The letter calls for science-based public health policy and rejects “naturally acquired herd immunity” as a dangerous fallacy.

Poor old John Snow. Amazing that the expert Sridhar, without any expertise in scientific epidemiology whatsoever, could annul a century old scientific truism that we can acquire natural immunity to diseases. Yet without this we would have died out as a species long ago.

Nevertheless, Devi is the doyen of the Zero Covid brigade, which is mainly, if not exclusively, the redoubt of the liberal left and, unfortunately, many of the socialist left.

She hates lockdowns, she says, but they’re needed because of the cack-handed mismanagement of the pandemic by the UK government, which allowed international travel to continue instead of closing borders at the start of the pandemic.

Scotland, on the other hand, nearly achieved Zero Covid last summer, she opines. It was only because new strains of the virus were imported back into Scotland from abroad. That includes England. Scotland would be Zero Covid had we closed the borders, she claims. The New Zealand of the North Sea, except with a land border with England. Let’s rebuild Hadrian’s wall!

In an interview in the New Statesman on 8th January, Devi continues to beat the Zero Covid drum. Now she says we have to lockdown for much longer and tighter than previous ones and, at its end, close all borders and stop foreign travel. “I would put aside my own selfish interest in wanting to see family and friends abroad” she says. Then implement an effective test, trace and isolate policy until the virus is eliminated.

Is Sridhar daft? According to the UK Covid tracker, there have been 3.5 million confirmed cases of Covid in the UK! It is a physical impossibility to eradicate an endemic virus of this scope.

When asked about vaccines Devi replies: “And it’s great that we have this, but we shouldn’t overpromise on what the vaccines can and cannot do and there are still major questions over how long protection lasts, whether it stops transmission, whether it protects against all strains, and if you want true herd immunity, as with MMR, you probably have to vaccinate 80-90 per cent of the population, we’re far off that, it hasn’t been trialled on children yet, especially teenagers who can circulate and spread the virus.”

How strange, I thought herd immunity was a dangerous fallacy!

Yet, in the final analysis, why are lockdowns failing? Devi fixes on the real culprits: “Until we do lockdown properly we are going to be stuck in this, and that’s what people don’t get, governments have no chance but to go into reactive lockdowns if their health services are collapsing because people will die in their 30s because they can’t get oxygen or because they’re having a heart attack and that becomes a failed state and so this is where I blame these Covid deniers, or not even Covid deniers, but people who say it’s like the flu, or there’s no second wave or lockdowns are terrible. We all agree lockdown is terrible but they’re forcing us into this because they’re eroding compliance and they’re eroding confidence in govt measures to suppress the virus.”

Sceptical about the lockdown policy of the government? Dare to question or criticise it? If so, you are responsible for the continuation of the pandemic. You are forcing the government to impose lockdowns.

Fear not, as Sridhar concludes: “I am gutted we are in another lockdown right now”.

Yes Professor, so are we! 

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