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What really caused the surge in covid deaths in early 2020?

Will Jones has published an interesting article in the Daily Skeptic that strongly challenges the iatrogenesis hypothesis. This is the hypothesis that deadly health policies were a major factor in the wave of deaths attributed to covid in the Spring of 2020, which Jonathan Engler has provided evidence for and which we described in this article.

Will’s article provides some interesting data. I personally believe Will is correct that there is something special about SARS-CoV-2 and that there is no evidence that non pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) like lockdowns and contact tracing had any significant impact on death rates. However, contrary to what he asserts, neither of these invalidates the iatrogenesis hypothesis, and nor does his argument that Germany and Sweden (who he says had similar health policies to the UK, USA and Italy) did not get excess deaths at the same time. The case for the iatrogenesis hypothesis in the UK (and probably USA and Italy as well) is not just the incorrect use of ventilators (which was indeed common across all these countries) but specifically the inappropriate use of life-ending drugs and denial of potentially life-saving antibiotics, as well as “softer” issues such as denial of social care, relative visits and the social network which acts as the life-support system for the frail elderly.

Also, note that “lockdown stringency” does not necessarily reflect the level of dystopia within the health and social care system, specifically of the elderly; in terms of the early deaths, and hence the imputed case fatality rates, it is to this demographic we must look. Whether schools closed in March/April 2020 or whether football matches were banned and so on, has little to no bearing on elderly care.

Critically, Will also presents a set of graphs that he believes destroys Engler’s arguments. But, contrary to his assertions, these graphs may support the iatrogenesis hypothesis. Specifically, Will presents a set of graphs (covid hospitalisations, deaths etc) that he claims all follow the same pattern:

He includes in this set of graphs the excess deaths (as reported from the Our World in Data website):

And he concludes:

“The close correspondence between these graphs is I’m sure obvious to anyone. The significance of that correspondence is that these are all showing different aspects of the same phenomenon, namely a viral outbreak that is causing a closely correlated rise in symptoms, PCR positives, LFT positives, variant genome detection, hospitalisations, ICU admissions, antibodies and deaths. No other cause for this multifactorial phenomenon is plausible. Thus we must conclude that excess deaths during the pandemic are to a large extent explained by the effects of the virus that is causing all these things.”

But there are two obvious problems with this conclusion. The first is that the excess mortality graph is NOT like the others. There is clearly a much higher (and, because of its extreme and vertical nature, a very unnatural) peak at the start of the pandemic than appears in the other graphs. This peak supports Jonathan Engler’s hypothesis. The second problem (which is one I have pointed out many times) is that the data showing covid cases, hospitalisations and deaths etc from the Government's covid dashboard is completely inconsistent with the NHS dashboard of covid emergency triage calls: (this dashboard was withdrawn in July 2022)

Finally it is also worth looking at Joel Smalley’s article which provides empirical support for the the iatrogenesis hypothesis.

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