It was four years ago, in March 2020, that the World Health Organisation (WHO) officials declared COVID-19 a pandemic and many countries, including Australia, began the process of shutting down schools, closing small businesses, restricting gatherings and travel, and other lockdown measures to “slow the spread” of the virus.

To mark that grim anniversary, a group of medical and policy experts in the USA released a report, called COVID Lessons Learned, which assesses the government’s response to the pandemic.

According to the report, that response included a few notable successes, along with a litany of failures that have taken a severe toll on the population.

During the pandemic, many governments across the globe acted in lockstep to pursue authoritative policies in response to the disease, locking down populations, closing schools, shutting businesses, sealing borders, banning gatherings, and enforcing various mask and vaccine mandates.

What were initially imposed as short-term mandates and emergency powers given to Presidents, Prime Ministers, government ministers and officials and health bureaucrats soon became extended into a longer-term expansion of official power.

“Even though the initial point of temporary lockdowns was to ‘slow the spread,’ which meant to allow hospitals to function without being overwhelmed, instead it rapidly turned into stopping COVID cases at all costs,” Dr. Scott Atlas, a physician, former White House Coronavirus Task Force member, and one of the authors of the report, stated at a March 15 press conference.

Published by the Committee to Unleash Prosperity (CTUP), the report was co-authored by Steve Hanke, economics professor and director of the Johns Hopkins Institute for Applied Economics; Casey Mulligan, former chief economist of the White House Council of Economic Advisors; and CTUP President Philip Kerpen. 

According to the report, one of the first errors was the unprecedented authority that public officials took upon themselves to enforce health mandates. 

“Granting public health agencies extraordinary powers was a major error,” Mr. Hanke said. “It, in effect, granted these agencies a license to deceive the public.”

The authors argue that authoritative measures were largely ineffective in fighting the virus, but often proved highly detrimental to public health. 

The report quantifies the cost of lockdowns, both in terms of economic costs and the number of non-COVID excess deaths that occurred and continue to occur after the pandemic.

It estimates that the number of non-COVID ‘excess deaths’ (defined as deaths in excess of normal rates) at about 100,000 per year in the United States. 

“Lockdowns, school closures, and mandates were catastrophic errors, pushed with remarkable fervour by public health authorities at all levels,” the report states.

The authors are skeptical, however, that health authorities will learn from the experience. 

“My worry is that if we have another pandemic or another virus, I think that Washington is still going to try to do these failed policies,” said Steve Moore, a CTUP economist.

“We’re not here to say ‘this guy got it wrong’ or ‘that guy got it wrong,’ but we should learn the lessons from these very, very severe mistakes that will have costs for not just years, but decades to come. 

“I guarantee you, they will try to do this again,” Mr. Moore said. “And what’s really troubling me is the people who made these mistakes still have not really conceded that they were wrong.”

Mr. Hanke was equally pessimistic.

“Unfortunately, the public health establishment is in the authoritarian model of the state,” he said. “Their entire edifice is one in which the state, not the individual, should reign supreme.” This, of course, is a basic Marxist tenet.

The authors are also critical of what they say was a multifaceted campaign in which public officials, the news media, and social media companies cooperated to frighten the population into compliance with COVID mandates.

“During COVID, the public health establishment … intentionally stoked and amplified fear, which overlaid enormous economic, social, educational and health harms on top of the harms of the virus itself,” the report states. 

The contrast between the authoritative response of many countries – including USA and Australia – to that of Sweden is very evident. Sweden provided advice and information to the public rather than attempting to force behaviours.

Sweden’s government trusted its people to be sensible – and they were!

Sweden’s constitution, called the Regeringsform, guarantees the liberty of Swedes to move freely within the realm and prohibits severe lockdowns, Mr. Hanke stated.

“By following the Regeringsform during COVID, the Swedes ended up with one of the lowest excess death rates in the world,” he said.  

Because the Swedish government avoided strict mandates and was more forthright in sharing information with its people, many citizens altered their behaviour voluntarily to protect themselves.

“A much wiser strategy than issuing lockdown orders would have been to tell the American people the truth, stick to the facts, educate citizens about the balance of risks, and let individuals make their own decisions about whether to keep their businesses open, whether to socially isolate, attend church, send their children to school, and so on,” the report states. 

The CTUP report cites a 2021 study on government power and emergencies by economists Christian Bjornskov and Stefan Voigt, which found that the more emergency power a government accumulates during times of crisis, “the higher the number of people killed as a consequence of a natural disaster.

“As this is an unexpected result, we discuss a number of potential explanations, the most plausible being that governments use natural disasters as a pretext to enhance their power,” the study’s authors state.

“Furthermore, the easier it is to call a state of emergency, the larger the negative effects on basic human rights.”

“All the things that people do in their lives … they have purposes,” Mr. Mulligan said. “And for somebody in Washington D.C. to tell them to stop doing all those things, they can’t even begin to comprehend the disruption and the losses.

“We see in the death certificates a big elevation in people dying from heart conditions, diabetes conditions, obesity conditions,” he said, while deaths from alcoholism and drug overdoses “skyrocketed and have not come down.”

The report also challenged the narrative that most hospitals were overrun by the surge of COVID cases.

“Almost any measure of hospital utilization was very low, historically, throughout the pandemic period, even though we had all these headlines that our hospitals were overwhelmed,” Mr. Kerpen stated.

“The truth was actually the opposite, and this was likely the result of public health messaging and political orders, cancelling medical procedures and intentionally stoking fear, causing people to cancel their appointments.”

The effect of this, the authors argue, was a sharp increase in non-COVID deaths because people were avoiding necessary treatments and screenings. 

“There were actually mass layoffs in this sector at one point,” Mr. Kerpen said, “and even now, total discharges are well below pre-pandemic levels.”

In addition, as health mandates became more draconian, many people became concerned at the expansion of government power and the loss of civil liberties, particularly when government directives – such as banning outdoor church services but allowing mass social-justice protests – often seemed unreasonable or politicized. 

Melbourne and Sydney police were especially tough during the pandemic – but did practically nothing when recently faced with pro-Palestine racist and hate-filled assemblies and marches – except arrest innocent bystanders!

The CTUP report also criticized the single-minded focus on vaccines and the failure by the NIH and the FDA to do clinical trials on existing drugs that were known to be safe and could have been effective in treating those infected with COVID-19.

Because so much of the process of approving the vaccines, the risks and benefits, and the reporting of possible side-effects was kept from the public, people were unable to give informed consent to their own health care, Mr. Kerpen said. 

“And when the Biden administration came in and started mandating them, now you had something that was inherently experimental with some questionable data, and instead of saying, ‘Now you have a choice whether you want it or not,’ in the context of a pandemic they tried to mandate them,” he said. 

Tech oligopolies and the corporate media also receive criticism for their collaboration with government to control public messaging and censor dissenting voices.

According to the authors, many government and health officials collaborated with tech oligarchs, news media corporations, and even scientific journals to censor critical views on the pandemic.

The Biden administration is currently defending itself before the Supreme Court against charges brought by Louisiana and Missouri attorneys general, who charged that administration officials pressured tech companies to censor information that contradicted official narratives on COVID-19’s origins, related mandates and treatment, as well as censoring political speech that was critical of President Biden during his 2020 campaign. The case is Murthy v. Missouri.

Mr. Hanke stated that a previous report he co-authored, titled Did Lockdowns Work? which was critical of lockdowns, was refused by medical journals, even when they published op-eds that criticized it and published numerous pro-lockdown reports. 

Dr. Vinay Prasad – a physician, epidemiologist, professor at the University of California at San Francisco’s medical school and author of over 350 academic articles and letters – has made similar allegations of censorship by medical journals.

“Specifically, MedRxiv and SSRN have been reluctant to post articles critical of the CDC, mask and vaccine mandates, and the Biden administration’s health care policies,” Dr. Prasad stated.

Heightening concerns about medical censorship is the “zero-draft” World Health Organization (WHO) pandemic treaty currently being circulated for approval by member states, including Australia. It commits members to jointly seek out and “tackle” what the WHO deems as “misinformation and disinformation.”

One of the enduring consequences of the COVID years is a general loss of public trust in public officials, health experts, and official narratives. 

“Operation Warp Speed was a terrific success with highly unexpected rapidity of development [of vaccines],” Dr. Atlas said. “But the serious flaws centred around not being open with the public about the uncertainties, particularly of the vaccines’ efficacy and safety.” 

“One result of the government’s error-ridden COVID response was that Americans have justifiably lost faith in public health institutions,” the report states. According to the authors, if health officials want to regain the public’s trust, they should begin with an accurate assessment of their actions during the pandemic.

“The best way to restore trust is to admit you were wrong,” Dr. Atlas said. “I think we all know that in our personal lives, but here it’s very important because there has been a massive lack of trust now in institutions, in experts, in data, in science itself.

“I think it’s going to be very difficult to restore that without admission of error,” he said. 

The CTUP report recommends that Congress and state legislatures set strict limitations on powers conferred to the executive branch, including health officials, and set time limits that would require legislation to be extended. This would give the public a voice in health emergency measures through their elected representatives.

It further recommends that research grants should be independent of policy positions and that NIH funding should be decentralized or block-granted to states to distribute.

Congress should mandate public disclosure of all FDA, CDC, and NIH discussions and decisions, including statements of any persons who provide advice to these agencies. Congress should also make explicit that CDC guidance is advisory and does not constitute laws or mandates. 

The report also recommends that the United States immediately halt negotiations of agreements with the WHO “until satisfactory transparency and accountability is achieved.”

All of this makes total sense in Australia too. The problem is, the Albanese government doesn’t want any form of in-depth pandemic review. To do so would highlight all the same mistakes as identified in the CTUP report in the USA.

It would also provide us with a clear picture of State Labor governments’ total power overreach, especially in Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia. This exposé certainly wouldn’t suit Albanese’s Labor-Greens government.

Daniel Andrews’ dictatorial stance would be particularly highlighted and legal action against him by Victorians financially affected by his insane socialist policies and practices would undoubtedly ensue, as they should !

Thanks to Kevin Stocklin writing for The Epoch Times and NTD Daily andalso to Johannes Leak for his wonderful cartoons.

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