Lives or livelihoods?

There are now two billion people across the world living under some form of lockdown as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. That’s a quarter of the world’s population. The world economy has seen nothing like this. Nearly all economic forecasts for global GDP in 2020 are for a contraction of 3-5%, as bad if not worse than in the Great Recession of 2008-9.

According to the OECD, output in most economies will fall by an average of 25% (OECD) while the lockdowns last and the lockdowns will directly affect sectors amounting to up to one third of GDP in the major economies. For each month of containment, there will be a loss of 2 percentage points in annual GDP growth.

This is a monstrous way of proving Marx’s labour theory of value, namely that “Every child knows a nation which ceased to work, I will not say for a year, but even for a few weeks, would perish.”  (Marx to Kugelmann, London, July 11, 1868).

The lockdowns in several major economies are having a drastic effect on production, investment and, above all, employment. The latest jobs figures for March out of the US were truly staggering, with a monthly loss of 700,000 and a jump in unemployment to 4.4%.

In just two weeks, nearly 10m Americans have filed for unemployment benefit.

All these figures surpass anything seen in the Great Recession of 2008-9 and even in the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Of course, the hope is that this disaster will be short-lived because the lockdowns will be removed within a month or so in Italy, Spain, the UK, the US and Germany.  After all, the Wuhan lockdown is ending this week after 50 days and China is gradually returning to work – if only gradually.  In other countries (Spain and Italy), there are signs that the pandemic has peaked and the lockdowns are working. In others (UK and US), the peak is still to come.

So once the lockdowns are over, then economies can quickly get back to business as usual. That’s the claim of US treasury secretary Mnuchin: “This is a short-term issue. It may be a couple of months, but we’re going to get through this, and the economy will be stronger than everKeynesian guru Larry Summers echoed this view: “I have the optimistic guess—but it’s only an optimistic guess—that the recovery can be faster than many people expect because it has the character of the recovery from the total depression that hits a Cape Cod economy every winter or the recovery in American GDP that takes place every Monday morning.”

During the lockdowns, various governments have announced cash handouts and boosted unemployment benefits for those laid off or ‘furloughed’ until business is restored.  And small businesses are supposedly getting relief in rates and cheap loans to tide them over.  That should save people’s livelihoods during the lockdowns.

One problem with this view is that, such have been the cuts in public services over the last decade or so, there is just not enough staff to process claims and shift the cash.  In the US, it is reckoned that many will not get any checks until June, by which time the lockdowns might be over!  Moreover, it is clear that many people and small businesses are not qualifying for the handouts for various reasons and will fall through this safety net.

For example, 58% of American workers say they won’t be able to pay rent, buy groceries or take care of bills if quarantined for 30 days or less, according to a new survey from the Society for Human Research Management (SHRM).  One in five workers said they’d be unable to meet those basic financial needs in less than one week under quarantine. Half of small businesses in the U.S. can’t afford to pay employees for a full month under quarantine conditions. More than half of small businesses expect to see a loss in revenue somewhere between 10-30%.

Indeed, many people are being forced to work, putting their health at risk because they cannot work at home like better paid, office-based workers.

Many small businesses in travel, retail and services will never come back after the lockdowns end. Even large companies in retail, travel and energy could well go bust, causing a cascade effect through sectors of economies. For example, the US Federal Reserve requires banks to run stress tests that assume certain bad scenarios to make sure the banks can weather a market downturn. The worst-case scenario had GDP falling by 9.9% in Q2 2020 with unemployment jumping to 10% by Q3 2021. Based upon recent estimates from Goldman Sachs, GDP will likely fall over 30% and unemployment could end up at a similar level… within weeks.

Also there are huge amounts of corporate debt issued by fairly risky companies which were not making much revenue and profit anyway before the pandemic.  And as I have said in previous posts, even before the virus hit the world economy, many countries were heading into recession.  Mexico, South Africa and Argentina among the G20 nations and Japan in the G7 were already in recession.  The Eurozone and the UK were close and even the best performer, the US, was slowing fast.  Now all that corporate debt that built up in the years since the end of the Great Recession could come tumbling down in defaults.

That is especially the case in the impoverished ‘Global South’ economies, which have experience an unprecedented $90bn outflow of capital as foreign investors leave the sinking ship.  And there is little or no safety net being offered by the likes of the IMF or the World Bank. Things are only going to get worse in the coming quarter and recovery may not be anywhere near the optimists’ view in H2 2020.

Clearly these lockdowns cannot go on forever, otherwise billions of people are going to be destitute and governments will be spending more and more, funded by more and more debt and/or the printing of money to make cash handouts and buy yet more debt.  You cannot go on doing that if there is no production or investment.  Jobs will disappear forever and inflation will eventually rocket.  We shall enter a world of permanent depression alongside hyper-inflation.

It seems that several European countries, encouraged by the peaking of cases are preparing to end their lockdowns by the end of this month.  But even if they do, a return to ‘normal’ will take months as it will depend on mass testing to gauge whether the virus will come back as it surely will and whether it could then be contained while gradually restoring production.  So any global recovery is not going to quick at all.  A German Ifo study predicted the German economy could shrink by up to 20% this year if the shutdown lasted three months and was followed by only a gradual recovery.

And the latest US forecasts from Goldman Sachs show the trough of the US recession being reached in the second quarter of 2020, with GDP likely to be 11-12 per cent below the pre-virus reading. This would involve a dramatic decline at an annualised rate of 34 per cent in that quarter.  GDP is then projected to rise very gradually, not reaching its pre-virus path before the end of 2021. This pattern, implying almost two “wasted” years in the US, has been common in recent economic forecasts. A similar picture is expected in the eurozone, which is experiencing a collapse in manufacturing output more precipitous than in the 2012 euro crisis.

But the gradual plan is the only óptimal’ option, says one bunch of economists: “importantly, the level of the lockdown, its duration, and the underlying economic and health costs depend critically on the measures that improve the capacity of the health system to cope with the epidemic (testing, isolating the vulnerable, etc.) and the capacity of the economic system to navigate through a period of suspended economic activities without compromising its structure.”

Could the lockdowns have been avoided?  The evidence is increasingly clear that they could have been.  When COVID-19 appeared on the scene, governments and health systems should have been ready.  It is not as if they had not been warned by epidemiologists for years.  As I have said before, COVID-19 was not an ‘unknown unknown’.  In early 2018, during a meeting at the World Health Organization in Geneva, a group of experts (the R&D Blueprint) coined the term “Disease X”: They predicted that the next pandemic would be caused by an unknown, novel pathogen that hadn’t yet entered the human population. Disease X would likely result from a virus originating in animals and would emerge somewhere on the planet where economic development drives people and wildlife together.

More recently, last September the UN published a report warning that there is a “very real threat” of a pandemic sweeping the planet, killing up to 80 million people. A deadly pathogen, spread airborne around the world, the report said, could wipe out almost 5 percent of the global economy.  “Preparedness is hampered by the lack of continued political will at all levels,” read the report. “Although national leaders respond to health crises when fear and panic grow strong enough, most countries do not devote the consistent energy and resources needed to keep outbreaks from escalating into disasters.”  The report outlined a history of deliberate ignoring of warnings by scientists over the last 30 years.

Governments ignored the warnings because they took the calculated view that the risk was not great and therefore spending on pandemics prevention and containment was not worth it.  Indeed, they cut back spending in pandemic research and containment.  It reminds me the decision of Heathrow airport in the UK to buy only two snow ploughs because it hardly ever snowed or froze in London, so the expense was not justifiable.  The airport was badly caught out one winter day and everything stopped.

How could the lockdowns have been avoided? If government had been able to test everybody for the virus, to provide protective equipment and huge armies of health workers to test and contract trace and then quarantine and isolate those infected.  The old and sick should have been shielded at home and supported by social care.  Then it would have been possible for everybody else to go to work, just as essential workers must do so now.  Small countries like Iceland (and Taiwan, South Korea) with high quality health systems have been able to do this.  Most countries with privatised or decimated health systems have not.  So lockdowns have been the only option if lives are to be saved.

The policy of the lockdowns is only partly to save lives; it is also to try and avoid health systems in countries being overwhelmed with cases, leaving medics with the Hobson choice of choosing who will die or will get help. The aim is to ‘flatten the curve’ in the rise in virus cases and deaths so that health system can cope.  The problem is that flattening the curve in the pandemic by lockdowns increases downward curve in jobs and incomes for hundreds of millions.

And yet if the pandemic were allowed to run riot, historical studies show that it also would eventually destroy an economy.  A recent Federal Reserve paper, looking at the impact of the Spanish flu epidemic in the US, found that the then uncontrolled pandemic reduced manufacturing output by 18%. So lockdowns may be less damaging in the end.  It seems you cannot win either way.

Lives or livelihoods?  Some right-wing ‘neoliberal’ experts reckon that the capitalist economy is more important than lives.  After all, the people dying are mostly the old and the sick.  They do not contribute much value to capitalist production; indeed they are a burden on productivity and taxes.  In true Malthusian spirit, in the executive suites of the financial institutions, the view is prevalent that governments should let the virus rip and once all the young and healthy get immune, the problem would be solved.

This view also connects with some health expert studies that point out that every day, hospital doctors must make decisions on what is the most ‘cost effective’ from the point of view of health outcomes.  Should they save a very old person with COVID-19 if it means that some younger person’s cancer treatment is delayed because beds and staff have been transferred to the pandemic?

Here is that view: “if funds are not limitless – then we should focus on doing things whereby we can do the most good (save the most lives) for the least possible amount of money. Or use the money we have, to save the most lives.” Health economics measures the cost per QALY.  A QALY is a Quality Adjusted Life Year. One added year of the highest quality life would be one QALY.  “How much are we willing to pay for one QALY? The current answer, in the UK, is that the NHS will recommend funding medical interventions if they cost less than £30,000/QALY. Anything more than this is considered too expensive and yet the UK’s virus package is £350bn, almost three times the current yearly budget for the entire NHS. Is this a price worth paying?”  This expert reckoned that “the cost of saving a COVID victim was more than eleven times the maximum cost that the NHS will approve.” At the same time cancer patients are not being treated, hip replacements are being postponed, heart and diabetes sufferers are not being dealt with.

Tim Harford in the FT took a different view.  He points out that the US Environmental Protection Agency values a statistical life at $10m in today’s money, or $10 per micromort (one in a million risk of death) averted.  “If we presume that 1 per cent of infections are fatal, then it is a 10,000 micromort condition. On that measure, being infected is 100 times more dangerous than giving birth, or as perilous as travelling two and a half times around the world on a motorbike. For an elderly or vulnerable person, it is much more risky than that. At the EPA’s $10 per micromort, it would be worth spending $100,000 to prevent a single infection with Covid-19.  You don’t need a complex epidemiological model to predict that if we take no serious steps to halt the spread of the virus, more than half the world is likely to contract it. That suggests 2m US deaths and 500,000 in Britain — assuming, again, a 1 per cent fatality rate.  If an economic lockdown in the US saves most of these lives, and costs less than $20tn, then it would seem to be value for money.”  The key point for me here is that this dilemma of ‘costing’ a life would be reduced if there had been proper funding of health systems, sufficient to provide ‘spare capacity’ in case of crises.

There is the argument that the lockdowns and all this health spending are based on an unnecessary panic that will make the cure worse than the disease.  You see, the argument goes, COVID-19 is no worse than bad flu in its mortality rate and will have way less impact than lots of other diseases like malaria, HIV or cancer, which will kill more each year.  So stop the crazy lockdowns, just protect the old, wash your hands and we shall soon see that COVID is no Armageddon.

The problem with this argument is that evidence is against the view that COVID is no worse than annual flu.  It’s true that, so far, deaths have only reached 70,000 by April, some 40,000 less than flu this year and only quarter of the deaths from malaria.  But the virus ain’t over yet.  So far, all the evidence suggests that the mortality rate is at least 1%, ten times more deadly than annual flu; and is way more infectious. So if COVID-19 were not contained it would eventually affect up to 70% of the population before ‘herd immunity’ would be sufficient to allow the virus to wane.  That’s 50 million deaths at least!  Annual mortality rates would be doubled in most countries (see graph).

Moreover, this is a virus that is novel and different from flu viruses and there is no vaccine yet.  It is very likely to come back and mutate and so require yet more containment.

Some governments are risking people’s lives by trying to avoid total or even partial lockdowns to preserve jobs and the economy.  Some governments have put in place sufficient testing and contact tracing along with self-isolation, to claim that they can keep their economies going during the crisis .Unfortunately for them, even if that works, the lockdowns elsewhere have so destroyed trade and investment globally, even these countries cannot avoid a slump with global supply chains paralysed.

There is another argument against the lockdowns and saving lives.  A study by some Bristol University ‘safety experts’ reckoned that a “business as usual” policy would lead to the epidemic being over by September 2020, although such an approach would lead to a loss of life in the UK nearly as much as it suffered in the Second World War. But conversely, lockdowns could decrease GDP per head so much that the national population loses more lives as a result of the countermeasures than it saves.

But the Bristol study is just a risk assessment.  Proper health studies show that recessions do not increase mortality at all. A recession – a short-term, temporary fall in GDP – need not, and indeed normally does not, reduce life expectancy. Indeed, counterintuitively, the weight of the evidence is that recessions actually lead to people living longer. Suicides do indeed go up, but other causes of death, such as road accidents and alcohol-related disease, fall.

Marxist health economist Dr Jose Tapia (also an author of one of the chapters in our book World in Crisis) has done several studies on the impact of recessions on health.  He found that mortality rates in industrial countries tend to rise in economic expansions and fall in economic recessions. Deaths attributed to heart disease, pneumonia, accidents, liver disease, and senility—making up about 41% of total mortality—tend to fluctuate procyclically, increasing in expansions. Suicides, as well as deaths attributable to diabetes and hypertensive disease, make up about 4% of total mortality and fluctuate countercyclically, increasing in recessions. Deaths attributed to other causes, making up about half of total deaths, don’t show a clearly defined relationship with the fluctuations of the economy.  “All these effects of economic expansions or recessions on mortality that can be seen, e.g., during the Great Depression or the Great Recession, are tiny if compared with the mortality effects of a pandemic,” said Tapia in an interview.

In sum, the lockdowns could have been avoided if governments had taken notice of the rising risk of new pathogen pandemics.  But they ignored those warnings to ‘save money’. The lockdowns could have been avoided if health systems had been properly funded, equipped and staffed, instead of being run down and privatised over decades to reduce costs and raise profitability for capital.  But they weren’t.

And there is the even bigger picture.  If you have enough firemen and equipment, you can put out a bush fire after much damage, but if climate change is continually raising temperatures, another round of fires will inevitably come along.   These deadly new pathogens are coming into human bodies because the insatiable drive for profit in agriculture and industry has led to the commodification of nature, destroying species and bringing nature’s dangers closer to humanity.  Even if after this pandemic is finally contained (at least this year) and even if governments spend more on prevention and containment in the future, only ending the capitalist drive for profit will bring nature back into harmony with humanity.

For now, we are left with saving lives or livelihoods and governments won’t manage either.

76 Responses to “Lives or livelihoods?”

  1. socialistfight Says:

    Reblogged this on Socialist Fight and commented:
    This is the economic analysis necessary to begin organising the defence of the working class and poor certain to come post Covid-19.

  2. Dionysios Perdikis Says:

    Could it be that this 6 months to 2 years (the time a vaccine would be ready) depression/recession could cause enough capital and labor power devaluation for the capitalistic development to be revived for a few years afterwards?

  3. opinecon Says:

    Thank you for your continued analyses.

  4. barovsky Says:

    Where did the stat that includes 9,913,702 ‘abortions’ come from? Jehovah’s Witness?

    • michael roberts Says:

      Yes it looks iffy unless it refers to home abortions in villages in poor countries

      • Nadim Mahjoub Says:

        I would crop the image, removing the abortion figure then upload it again.

    • Nadim Mahjoub Says:

      Well, it depends on the method used. But given that the estimate according to the WHO between 40 and 50 million abortions performed every year, probably a few million women/are killed. But I don’t think it is almost 10 million in aboit three months. So far this year more than 11 million abortions have taken place.
      https://www.worldometers.info/abortions/
      https://www.worldometers.info/abortions/

      • barovsky Says:

        I read that number NOT as the number of women who died as a result of botched abortions, but the number of fetuses that ‘died’ as a result of an abortion. Maybe the number comes from Jehovah’s Witness or the like?

    • ralphiesmom Says:

      Thank you for asking. I was going to also. If it refers to deaths of the woman, it is definitely off. Abortion is safer than childbirth. And if it refers to fetuses, it should not have been included at all.

  5. jlowrie Says:

    ” These deadly new pathogens are coming into human bodies because the insatiable drive for profit in agriculture and industry has led to the commodification of nature, destroying species and bringing nature’s dangers closer to humanity. Even if after this pandemic is finally contained (at least this year) and even if governments spend more on prevention and containment in the future, only ending the capitalist drive for profit will bring nature back into harmony with humanity.” Well put! Old Engels must be nodding his head in vigorous agreement: nature and society are dialectically determined!

    As Levins and Lewontin affirm, ”Frederick Engels, who got it wrong a lot of the time but got it right where it counted” ( ”The Dialectical Biologist” 1985).

  6. Boffy Says:

    And, it was all unnecessary. The whole episode has been described by the well respected professor of medicine and epidemiology at Stanford Univesity, John Ioannidis, as “shaping up to be “a once-in-a-century evidence fiasco.”.

    Its rather like the group think that led everyone in the world to believe that Saddam Hussein had WMD that he was just 45 minutes away from unleashing against the world. Everyone and their dog knew that truth was unassailable right, even the Russian intelligence services believed it! Except it wasn’t true it was based on false information, and once the false information became accepted as gospel no one would challenge it, and admit that the Emperor had no clothes on, for fear of looking foolish in the face of all established truth and wisdom.

    Yet, as German pulmonoligist, SPD politician and Vice Chair of the German delegation to the European Council, Doctor Wolfgang Wodarg, has said there is no real scientific basis for all of this panic. And, the people whose assumptions and model has been used to spread the panic around the world have done it before. The team at Imperial that produced the model that said that 7 billion people would be infected with COVID19, and that 45 million would die, based on a 0.9% mortality rate, in 2009, claimed that 30% of the global population would be infected with Swine Flu, and millions would die.

    In fact, although 20% of the global population was infected with Swine Flu, the projected millions of deaths did not arise, and the mortality rate turned out to be just 0.02%. All of the figures used to calculate a mortality rate of 0.9% are based on deaths relating only to those who have been tested. But those tested amount to a small fraction of the total number of people infected. The vast majority of people do not even know they have been infected because they are asymptomatic.

    As Ionnadis says, this is a once in a century evidence fiasco that has unecessarily closed down the world economy, and will cause untold damage including millions of deaths as a result of that economic damage across the globe. As Wodarg says, when this is over, those affected should hold those that brought about this economic carnage to account.

    If the authorities really believed what they are saying they would have properly closed down the economy by shutting every workplace, but they know they can’t do that, else the economy really would stop, electricity supply would be cut off and so on. Already there are foo shortages causing riots in Italy, and so on. And, given that there is no vaccine in sight for another 18 months, it would mean closing the economy down for that long!

    In China, as soon as they relaxed the lockdown infections amongst the non-immune sections of the rest of the population started up again. In Europe and North America, and Japan, its likely that nearly half the population is already infected. That is the projection of a team at Oxford University. That means that the number of new infections will start to drop anyway, because it means that herd immunity will develop amongst the general population killing off the virus. Herd immunity is just the scientific term for the development of “vaccination” by natural infection rather than artificial infection. That is probably also why Sweden, which has not had a lockdown, has no worse infection rates, and even per capita better mortality rates than countries like Britain and Denmark that have imposed lockdowns.

    The actual deaths in Britain so far, amount to only half the average annual flu deaths, and only a quarter of flue deaths in 2018. The total COVID19 deaths are given for the US, but on a per capita basis they are lower than in the UK. And, in the US, an average 56,000 people a year die from flu, up to 800,000 being hospitalised. So, the current deaths from COVID19, at around 9,000 are not particularly spectacular. Given that the latest data from the UK suggests mortality rates of 0.1% equal to that for flu, and if Swine Flu is anything to go by, and if the Oxford data is correct, it will be, then we should expect the actual mortality rate to be between 0.02 and 0.05%. That means that the projections of millions of deaths, or up to half a million deaths in the UK will again have been wild hysteria, and just another form of Malthusian catastrophism unleashed on the world again.

    If the global economy remains shut down in any meaningful way, it will not just be GDP that is reduced, it will be the actual capital of the economy, its underlying physical capacity to reproduce itself. In order to recover from that requires a huge tie up of capital that would otherwise have gone to capital expansion, as well as to fund the unproductive consumption of the state and exploiters. If the economy does have a sharp rebound when restrictions are lifted, manifest in a sharp rise in consumer demand, with all of the liquidity pumped out feeding much higher, if not hyper inflation, then firms will be forced into large amounts of borrowing, as a result of their profits having been decimated, to finance this expansion. They will do so in a climate of rapidly rising interest rates, as the state and households has engaged in massive borrowing too.

    Those higher interest rates means that there is the mother of all asset price bubble busts going to unleash itself in the next few weeks and months.

    • Anti-Capital Says:

      Take it up with Boris Johnson…and you better hurry.

      • Anti-Capital Says:

        To expand a bit on the above:

        1) All unnecessary? All MADE NECESSARY by the sloth and negligence practiced by the governments of the UK and US (for example) for ignoring and downplaying the nature of the disease until……too late. The US, and also the UK from what I’ve read, not only did not prepare, but still are not executing the first requirement to control an outbreak of infection– which is to test, test, and test again.

        2) I don’t know where t. Boffy gets his information– “Its rather like the group think that led everyone in the world to believe that Saddam Hussein had WMD that he was just 45 minutes away from unleashing against the world. Everyone and their dog knew that truth was unassailable right, even the Russian intelligence services believed it that ” — everyone I know (can’t speak for their dogs) knew the WMD was just bollocks, made up. This contagion and the speed with which it spreads and the severity of symptoms in a significant sector of the population is not made up.

        3) It’s swell to quote a German SPD pulmonologist, but we should also look at the mortality rate in Germany (app 1.6%) as compared to other countries in and out of the EU– where Germany was in fact early to the game and practiced and still practices a program of widespread testing AND follow up visits to citizens’ homes to retest and reevaluate.

        4. “If the authorities really believed what they are saying they would have properly closed down the economy by shutting every workplace, but they know they can’t do that, else the economy really would stop, electricity supply would be cut off and so on”– BRILLIANT. Social isolation, quarantine are not necessary because it isn’t being practiced to the point of collective suicide.

        5. “t the non-immune sections of the rest of the population started up again. In Europe and North America, and Japan, its likely that nearly half the population is already infected.” That’s almost one billion people if that were the case we would see the rate of infections dramatically slowing– not so according to the Johns Hopkins University website were the rate of new infections reported continues on a pretty consistent uptick.

        6. ” That means that the number of new infections will start to drop anyway, because it means that herd immunity will develop amongst the general population killing off the virus. Herd immunity is just the scientific term for the development of “vaccination” by natural infection rather than artificial infection.” Again BRILLIANT, particularly the part where t. Boffy writes: “Herd immunity is just the scientific term for the development of “vaccination” by natural infection..” ignoring of course what “natural infection” means– it means deliberate sacrifice of parts of the population to the spread of the disease. Herd immunity without vaccination actually is the practice of Social Darwinism writ large and on steroids.

        7. “That is probably also why Sweden, which has not had a lockdown, has no worse infection rates, and even per capita better mortality rates than countries like Britain and Denmark that have imposed lockdowns.” But of course Britain came late to the lockdown after denying the need for lockdown or performing extensive testing. Here’s an idea: let’s compare Sweden to its neighbor Norway: Sweden- 7206 cases, 477 deaths; Norway (lockdown) 5760 cases, 74 deaths. Ah yes, those hale and hearty Norwegians, all that cross-country skiing pays off I guess. Oh, and Denmark? According to Johns Hopkins, 4875 cases and 187 deaths, which, if I remember my kindergarten math (I was precocious, what can I say?) is about 2/3 the death rate of Sweden’s for those known to be infected.

        8. Now some numbers can’t be entirely accurate, simply because proper testing and retesting is not being done, but that cuts all ways. So the primary failure has been the failure to test. However, South Korea did not fail in that practice, and did not fail to trace the contacts of the positives and test the contacts. The choice being between the South Koreans and US? I’m going with the South Koreans.

        9. I repeat, take your objections up with Boris Johnson, but you better hurry. It’s going to be tough to get a response once he’s on a ventilator

      • barovsky Says:

        Apparently, he’s already on a ventilator

    • mandm Says:

      Apparently (my source is TeleSur), that Sweden’s pm has recently announced that there will be thousands of COV19 deaths in Sweden, while not questioning the policies that allowed for that outcome….

      • mandm Says:

        The above should read: According to TeleSur, the Swedish pm recently announced that there will be thousands of COV19 deaths in Sweden, while not questioning the policies that allowed for that outcome…

    • Gerald Kavanagh Says:

      Boffy; “The actual deaths in Britain so far, amount to only half the average annual flu deaths, and only a quarter of flue deaths in 2018”

      “Through the USISS mandatory scheme, a total of 3,454 ICU/HDU admissions of
      confirmed influenza were reported across the UK from week 40 2017 to week 15 2018,
      including 372 deaths, based on combined data from England, Scotland and Northern
      Ireland. In England, the total number of influenza confirmed admissions to ICU/HDU
      was 3,175 (rate of 0.22 per 100, 000 population) and 320 deaths during the same
      Period. (bmj – british medical journal)

      “On this basis, the number of deaths in England and Wales in an admittedly exceptionally bad year would have been only in the region of 335-340 deaths, and the ONS seem to have exaggerated the risk to the public by in the region of 150 times.” ( bmj)

      In the UK, 372 deaths from flu in a period of 27 weeks over 2017-2018 while we now have in just four weeks 7000 deaths from Covid 19.

      Could I suggest that facts are checked before passing on ‘fake news’ and unfounded conclusions.

      Our planet and its species are being ravaged and likely heading for total destruction by the unfettered greed of Corporate Capitalism and the consumerist ethos or culture that so many are infected by, and if a by-product of this latent madness, the Covid-19 plague and the resultant drought of quick fixes and time to think helps people grasp this, it might ironically be part of the cure.

  7. Muayad Ahmed Says:

    Thank you for your analyses.

  8. Nuttula Says:

    “The actual deaths in Britain so far, amount to only half the average annual flu deaths, and only a quarter of flue deaths in 2018. The total COVID19 deaths are given for the US, but on a per capita basis they are lower than in the UK. And, in the US, an average 56,000 people a year die from flu, up to 800,000 being hospitalised. So, the current deaths from COVID19, at around 9,000 are not particularly spectacular.”

    I was questioning Michael’s decision to tackle this strawmen, given it is nothing but a politically charged argument, specificity crafted by the most fascist supporters of capitalism with no basis in science.
    The fact capitalist society doesn’t care that people die from preventable diseases is not a bragging point to keep stored in a safe place whenever some NEW preventable disease appears…
    The first rule to is to never give a platform to dishonest and disingenuous arguments, but despite that he handled it fine.

    I mean a child should be able to tell you what would happen to flu related deaths if everyone was as paranoid and cautious as they are about coronavirus, and yet COVID-19 deaths are not even anywhere near the global peak let alone the situation in China or other countries with very low number of new cases…

    But it matters not, Michael’s and everyone else’s refutation of this nonsense will go straight in one ear and out the other, now Boffy, finally showing his true colors(I am sorry whoever bothered to waste time all these years arguing with you!) has this reference chart he can keep using whenever the COVID-19 deaths reach a new record.

    Soon he will be comparing it to car accidents instead of the flu, then it will be alcohol, finally it will be cancer because, hey at least it is not as bad as cancer so no need to worry!

  9. Leanne Says:

    Abortions should not be counted as deaths.
    And I am not sure if you are including deaths of women from unsafe reproductive health issues.

    The figures don’t compute with any other data source except worldsmeter.info. Worldsmeter reports to the calendar date. .

    The WHO reports:
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2709326
    Every year, worldwide, about 42 million women with unintended pregnancies choose abortion, and nearly half of these procedures, 20 million, are unsafe. Some 68,000 women die of unsafe abortion annually, making it one of the leading causes of maternal mortality (13%).

    Deaths due to complications in pregnancy and birth are 302,950.

  10. Michael D Yates Says:

    Thanks for your excellent work during the pandemic. We could use more of it.

  11. Matt Pappalardo Says:

    “The problem with this argument is that evidence is against the view that COVID is no worse than annual flu. It’s true that, so far, deaths have only reached 70,000 by April, some 40,000 less than flu this year and only quarter of the deaths from malaria.”

    We have to be careful here because I suspect we’re making an apples-and-oranges comparison since these other numbers are based on estimates (please correct me if I’m wrong) while the COVID-19 numbers are based on lab-confirmed cases. Coronavirus-related deaths are almost certainly much higher than the 72,500+ that have been recorded thus far (incidentally, the number of infections is likely much higher and the mortality rate is likely much lower than the initial estimates at least, but it will take time to figure out to what extent).

    Bear in mind that there were only 18,036 lab-confirmed deaths during the H1N1 outbreak, but subsequent estimates revealed a global death toll of around 151,700-575,400.

    From Worldometers on April 3rd regarding the numbers coming out of Italy:

    “The real number of COVID-19 cases in the country could be 5,000,000 (compared to the 119,827 confirmed ones) according to a study which polled people with symptoms who have not been tested, and up to 10,000,000 or even 20,000,000 after taking into account asymptomatic cases, according to Carlo La Vecchia, a Professor of Medical Statistics and Epidemiology at the Statale di Milano University.

    This number would still be insufficient to reach herd immunity, which would require 2/3 of the population (about 40,000,000 people in Italy) having contracted the virus [source].

    The number of deaths could also be underestimated by 3/4 (in Italy as well as in other countries) [source], meaning that the real number of deaths in Italy could be around 60,000.

    If these estimates were true, the mortality rate from COVID-19 would be much lower (around 25 times less) than the case fatality rate based solely on laboratory-confirmed cases and deaths, since it would be underestimating cases (the denominator) by a factor of about 1/100 and deaths by a factor of 1/4.”

    Researchers in Bergamo have provided a more precise illustration/example of the significant undercounting of coronavirus-related deaths (https://www.ecodibergamo.it/stories/bergamo-citta/coronavirus-the-real-death-tool-4500-victims-in-one-month-in-the-province-of_1347414_11/):

    “What the official figures don’t say. They don’t say that in March 2020 more than 5.400 people have died in Bergamo province, 4.500 of which due to coronavirus. Six times more than the previous year. Of only 2.060 of them, the «official» certified deaths caused by Covid-19 in the local hospitals (data as at yesterday), we know everything: age, gender, pre-existing conditions. We do not know anything about the other 2.500. Many of them are old people, who died at home or in assisted residential homes. In spite of the unmistakable symptoms, as recorded by physicians and relatives, they were never tested for the disease. On their death certificate you can just read: interstitial pneumonia…One year ago, in March, the total deaths were almost 900”

    In other countries, like Brazil, I fear this problem may be even worse: https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2020/apr/04/medics-in-brazil-fear-official-coronavirus-tally-ignores-a-mountain-of-deaths

    Beyond all of this, it’s important to remember that, even with the fairly stringent public health/physical distancing measures in place in most countries and a shift in the use of industrial resources towards the production of PPE and ventilators, COVID-19 is already stretching health care systems to their limits around the world due to the severe complications it can cause. If we were to follow Boffy’s advice, I suspect we’d run the very real risk of absolutely overwhelming many hospitals around the world as the reproductive number of the epidemic would inevitably rise, which would undoubtedly impact the quality and access to care for those facing other health issues (flu, heart disease, etc.). We’d also likely endanger more lives due to the effects of COVID-19 itself. For example, “an estimated 30,000 lives have been saved as an effect of the lockdown measures, according to Istituto Superiore di Sanità (ISS)” (Worldometers update on Italy from April 4th).

    “Herd immunity is typically generated through vaccination, and while it could arise through widespread infection, ‘you don’t rely on the very deadly infectious agent to create an immune population,’ says Akiko Iwasaki, a virologist at the Yale School of Medicine.” source: https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2020/03/coronavirus-pandemic-herd-immunity-uk-boris-johnson/608065/

  12. ucanbpolitical Says:

    “A recession – a short-term, temporary fall in GDP – need not, and indeed normally does not, reduce life expectancy. Indeed, counterintuitively, the weight of the evidence is that recessions actually lead to people living longer.”

    Michael I do not normally categorically disagree with you, but I have to refute this observation in the strongest possible terms as non-Marxist. The reference is from 2014. More recent and comprehensive studies published in the British Medical Journal confirm the expected results from recessions and there aftermath, namely that they are killers. This report shows that life expectancy following the 2008 financial crash led to a drop in longevity in 12 of the 18 advanced income countries investigated. https://www.bmj.com/content/bmj/362/bmj.k2562.full.pdf Furthermore, a more recent Lancet article, unfortunately not widely disseminated because of the corona virus, showed the annual rate of “unnecessary deaths” due to inequality and austerity to be running at 60,000 up from the earlier figure of 20,000. (Ten times the current death rate from the virus.) https://www.bmj.com/content/bmj/362/bmj.k2562.full.pdf
    Furthermore, there is a clear link between inequality and the spread of the plague. https://www.thelancet.com/action/showPdf?pii=S2468-2667%2820%2930085-2 Finally the lethal connection between chronic disease and the plague is quite clear. “Underlying conditions” together with age are the two highest risk factors for morbidity and mortality from infection by the corona virus. And guess what, inequality turns out to be the major cause of chronic illness. By 65 two-thirds of workers suffer from 1 or more chronic illness. Little wonder the government is keen to keep this group in isolation. https://www.kingsfund.org.uk/projects/timethink-differently/trends-disease-and-disability-long-term-conditions-multi-morbidity

    Finally I believe the perspective set out in my recent article on the virus based on these reports is accurate. https://theplanningmotivedotcom.files.wordpress.com/2020/04/tug-of-war-pdf.pdf

  13. rory Says:

    In less than twelve weeks, by reducing global emissions by half, we’ve shifted to the IPCC’s zero-carbon pathway a decade early — an inconceivable feat for capitalism. Yet, electricity is still being produced, water is still running, and food is still growing and being transported. Disruptions to these essential activities have no technical basis, but are rooted in the psychological residue left over from generations of capitalist brainwashing. The only moral panic here is that of an abrupt collapse of the ecocidal capitalist system rather than a “pain-free” transition to a post-capitalist one that was never coming.

    But in terms of how much hypothetical damage the current shutdown may cause, consider there are over 1 million deaths attributed to road fatalities per year and over 4 million deaths attributed to air pollution per year. Social distancing has not only reduced both traffic and air pollution, it has simultaneously reduced the rate of infection of all infectious diseases spread by proximity. This is only one industry. The immense amount of deaths caused yearly by capitalism is astounding. More lives are saved simply by halting the system entirely than sacrificing lives to keep it on life-support.

    Global warming provides the empirical evidence that capitalism cannot continue. The COVID-19 crisis now provides the empirical evidence that it doesn’t take decades nor years to immediately abolish capitalist relations, but can be done in a matter of *weeks*. All debt should be wiped out. Dividends should be provided to all people based on the services produced by nature, increasing as we improve nature’s productivity, decreasing as we destroy it. Those dividends can crowdsource businesses. Fossil fuels can be used strategically to help developing countries build renewable infrastructure and other large projects approved democratically. Developed countries can put labor to more productive use by retrofitting or decommissioning unsustainable infrastructure and restoring nature. Yet, even many on the left can’t concieve of an economy that doesn’t revolve around a law of value specific to human-human labour, as if we’re totally disconnected from the carbon cycle.

    Death by vehicle traffic:
    https://www.who.int/publications-detail/global-status-report-on-road-safety-2018

    Death by air pollution:
    https://www.who.int/health-topics/air-pollution

    • barovsky Says:

      Thanks for this. Very useful and how ironic that the effects of industrial agriculture, capitalist globalisation and (uncontrolled) urbanisation should signal the (potential) death of neoliberal capitalism. Clean air! Wow! The (relative) silence in the city! The London I was borne in, returning (somewhat). Will people recognise the improvement and demand that we never return to the ‘bad old days’? What an opportunity for a socialist revolution!

    • Boffy Says:

      Perhaps we should go the whole hog, and return to the Stone Age. How wonderful that would be eh?

      • barovsky Says:

        Your point being what? That we can’t live healthy, productive lives without capitalism?

      • rory Says:

        Maybe I’m crazy, but I don’t think we’d collectively forget thousands of years of knowledge just because we abolished production for profit.

    • jlowrie Says:

      ”The immense amount of deaths caused yearly by capitalism is astounding. More lives are saved simply by halting the system entirely than sacrificing lives to keep it on life-support.” But we are hardly in a position as yet to put the other system, socialism, in its place.

      • Antonio Says:

        ‘But we are hardly in a position as yet to put the other system, socialism, in its place’.
        I will not give dates or certainties because I simply do not have them. But someone expert in those moments (V. Lenin) said that a pre-revolutionary situation had 1.- A Weak Government 2.- A revolutionary party 3.- Extreme misery and 4.-Workers mobilizations. I only see that the massive mobilizations of workers are lacking, because the rest of the conditions are quite advanced and ongoing. And 2019 was a year of increased civil protests in the world. We will see the real, objective and economic situation after the effect of 6 months of pandemic and if socialism is far or near.
        https://rolandoastarita.blog/2019/12/14/ola-de-manifestaciones-y-levantamientos-cada-vez-mas-globales/
         

      • rory Says:

        The technical conditions for a communist society have existed for decades, developed over time by capitalism since the industrial revolution. The problem is the means of production are still managed by capital, not human need. So even through materially we’re more than in a position to ditch the monetary, state, and class aspects of capitalism, psychologically, the workers are kept in perpetual disorientation by the affects of wage-labor. No developing country needs to go through a capitalist phase of development in the 21st century. Scientific knowledge and technology should be shared universally.

      • jlowrie Says:

        ”But someone expert in those moments (V. Lenin) said that a pre-revolutionary situation had 1.- A Weak Government 2.- A revolutionary party 3.- Extreme misery and 4.-Workers mobilizations. I only see that the massive mobilizations of workers are lacking” 2)Where is this revolutionary party? What is its name? What its programme? How much adherence has it engendered among the people? Certainly if there is a revolutionary party like the Bolshevik party in 1917, let me know, for I want to forward my application forthwith, being in need of some revolutionary uplift!

        Readers of Michael’s blog will know that I always defend my theses with matchless eloquence, profound erudition and indefatigable zeal !?! but I have to confess to my shame and sorrow I was left speechless recently. I had thought that the pit of phoney Marxism was plumbed by the fallen Trotskyist Louis Proyect, who a couple of years back was defending the Ukrainian Nazi legend of the Holodomor, and more recently the Polish fascist propaganda that the Hitler/Stalin pact of 1939 caused the Second World War (Imperialism anyone?). Now Japan launched its all out assault on China in1937 cheered on by Germany and Poland. By September 1939 millions of Chinese and Koreans were already dead. Perhaps for Proyect such Asiatics are Untermenschen, beneath notice.( A few months ago I heard on Japanese TV up and coming Japanese politicians call Koreans cockroaches, which the Prime Minister Abe refused outright to condemn, but then what could one expect from the plutocratic grandson of a plutocratic war criminal?).

        But no! the pit of depravity I have ever come across was in an argument I was involved in with a deranged Stalinist, who asserted the Vietnamese ‘ Vo Nguyen was a crap of general. Stalin shot such “generals” during WW2. In a 1998 interview, William Westmoreland criticized the battlefield prowess of Giáp. He further stated that “by his own admission, by early 1969, I think, he had lost, what, a half million soldiers? …..fake slanted-eyes (SLANTED-EYES) anti-imperialists.’ Leaving aside the absurdity of quoting the useless genocidal maniac Westmoreland as an authority on strategy and concern for human life, I had to enquire how many soldiers Stalin had lost by December 1941.

        ”Are you so stupid that you cannot see these generals shot by Stalin were faggots?

        To which I could only reply, ”YES!”

        The moral of this wretched tale is that in critiquing 20th century revolutions one must avoid regurgitating the depraved propaganda of the right wing. With ‘Marxists’ like the above is it any wonder the bourgeoisie is still in power?

      • jlowrie Says:

        PS The comment on ”fake slanted-eyes anti-imperialists” is from the Stalinist, not Westmoreland!

      • Antonio Says:

        ” Where is this revolutionary party? What is its name? What its program ?? ”
        Well, on the one hand, I am not an expert political scientist and I know little about parties, revolutionary or not, but, on the other hand, as a socialist economist I have a lot of “faith” in the objective material and economic conditions. I have a lot of ‘faith’ (it’s not faith, it’s science) in the ECONOMIC STRUCTURE. Superior and determining structure on the political, ideological, cultural superstructures etc … Why do I tell you this? Because if the necessary objective economic conditions are given (basically if the condition of extreme misery and the workers’ mobilizations requested by V. Lenin are given) it is very, very likely that revolutionary parties will appear ‘even in the soup’ ’. That is, in view of a revolutionary rise to power and government of a country, many, many parties will want to be revolutionaries. You get it, don’t you? Today there are already many extra-parliamentary miniature parties (it is an endless list easy to discover on the Internet and which you CAN REGISTER WITHIN 5 MINUTES, if you really want it as you say) that in their initials are called revolutionary socialists. And I am sure that even parties that today are governing and have social democratic programs such as Syriza or Podemos (this party has an internal current called ‘Anticapitalists’! With parliamentarians in the European Union!) Will quickly and easily join the winning horse of a revolution. I do not know the history of the Russian Bolshevik Party, but I believe that before the 1917 Revolution it had a long history as a parliamentary party in the Duma, its political activity being little or nothing revolutionary.

      • Antonio Says:

        Una aclaración final. Mis comentarios sobre una posible revolución no quieren decir que yo prevea una cercana. Nada más lejos de mi intención tal tontería. Desconozco por completo la probabilidad de ese evento. Lo más optimista (y amateur) que se sobre ello es que se deberá producir alguna revolución socialista en algún momento de la parte final del ciclo Kondratiev en curso. De aquí al año 2.050. Dicho esto, se debe decir que una Pandemia no es un fenómeno cualquiera, uno que suceda todos los dias y años. Es un fenómeno que va a agravar y profundizar, si o si, las condiciones objetivas miserables de las clases trabajadores, las cuales ya han empeorado desde los años 80. ¿Cuánto lo hará? No lo se, pero si se que ese el requisito principal para una situación pre-revolucionaria.

      • Lüko Willms Says:

        @Antonio: of all conditions you list, the one missing the most is the revolutionary party.

      • Antonio Says:

        @Antonio: of all conditions you list, the one missing the most is the revolutionary party.
        True, the condition of the revolutionary party is the most lacking today, but it is also, in my opinion already stated, the least important condition. I understand that if the rest of the conditions grow enough, those organizations easily appear. Many miniature parties that are already called revolutionaries today would join. Politics and its subjects go AFTER and BEHIND the economy.

      • Lüko Willms Says:

        @Antonio re revolutionary party

        You wrote on April 11, 2020 at 1:32 pm countering my statement that “of all conditions you list, the one missing the most is the revolutionary party”
        this:
        »
        True, the condition of the revolutionary party is the most lacking today, but it is also, in my opinion already stated, the least important condition
        «

        On the contrary. You linked to this Spanish language blog of Rolando Astarita. There one finds an overview of nearly all those big mass mobilisations which happen since more than a decade, which challenge their national government. But none of them goes beyond a “Our king is bad, give us another king!” instead of themselves taking state power in their hands.

        And this is because there is no revolutionary party.

        What does that mean? It means the consciosness of the plebeian masses, but this consciousness must reside in individual human beings which form the brain and nerve system of the mass movement. Being just a part of it, yet of a separate existence (we discussed dialectic, the unity of identity and difference). These are people like how Marx/Engels Manifesto Ch. 2 describes the communists as having »over the great mass of the proletariat the advantage of clearly understanding the line of march, the conditions, and the ultimate general results of the proletarian movement« and being the best explainer, the best organisers, the most resolute in taking intiatives drawing with them larger masses. Who know that there needs to be the conscious act of taking state power, and even that one can and must set a date for doing it, as Trotsky explains it in this article written in September 1923 (probably aimed at the German party) Can a Counter-Revolution or
        a Revolution Be Made on Schedule?

        Not voluntarily at any given moment like Blanqui, but based on a scientific understanding of the material conditions, of the social forces in motion, and equipped with the highest art of political leadership, as we could see in Lenin and Fidel Castro.

        This element of consciousness embodied in a tightly knit group of people can only grow with the advance of the mass movement, and will shrink with a retreat. But the consciousness of the masses can not exist as some immaterial spirit hovering over the masses, but only in form of conscious individuals forming a collective based on this consciousness and the voluntary discipline which arises from this consciousness.

        And with an element of Blanquist courage to take decisive action when this vanguard action evolves into a mass action. Like in the 1917 October Revolution

        There is no other way.

        BTW:
        Lenin’s »“Left-Wing” Communism: an Infantile Disorder« is a must read.

      • Antonio Says:

        Agree. I have said that parties are the least important of the pre-revolutionary conditions, but that does not mean that it gives them a value equal to zero. True, a party gives direction, organization and planning, and even science and dialectics, to the wishes of the working class. Two previous problems to solve with these parties. To be solved today, BEFORE a possible revolution: 1º The party must have a direct radical internal democracy. In other words, its leaders must make only the political tactical and operational decisions (in the short term), but the main strategy and objectives (in the long term, greater than 1 year) are decided by the workers in an annual assembly. And 2º.- The objective of a State in coope cooperative property ’of workers, with its command and real and legal control over the means of production must appear TODAY in its political program. In other words, a real workers’ democracy. The above requirements are to prevent revolutionary parties from becoming, again, such as the CPSU in Russia, and China, Cuba, etc., into reactionary parties.

    • jlowrie Says:

      ‘In Campania, the region of which Naples is the capital, 41 percent of people are at risk of poverty. Work is a problem: Last year, unemployment was around 20 percent and about that proportion of the region’s work force was underemployed.

      Bruno Esposito, for example, has worked for many years as a plumber for a local family business — but like an estimated over two million people across the south, he has no formal contract. “I have no employment contributions and I’m not on any state database,” he explained, “so I can’t access any form of state benefits.”

      The underlying logic of Italy’s welfare system, which offers little support for those without tax contributions, remains intact. So Mr. Esposito and his family are relying on weekly food parcels from a community center. “Without their help,” he said, “we just wouldn’t have anything to eat.”’ From the New York Times!!

      Now I would guess the situation In Brazil, Africa and India can only be much worse. For tens of millions a day without work is a day without food. So whatever arguments we may have over the causes of, government responses to and the mortality statistics resulting from the virus, unless I am missing something I cannot comprehend how the lockdown will not lead to millions of deaths.

      ” Yet, even many on the left can’t conceive of an economy that doesn’t revolve around a law of value specific to human-human labour,” Well, I must confess to this failing. . Michael has quoted Marx; ” “Every child knows a nation which ceased to work, I will not say for a year, but even for a few weeks, would perish.” What do you concretely suggest, apart from enjoying the fresh air? That is if you are not prohibited from venturing out!

      I am not being ironic here. I am really at a loss. I fear the very worst!

      • rory Says:

        Those countries have been ravaged by imperialism for over a century.

        Eventually, if the lockdowns get so severe (this applies to all countries) it’ll be the human drive for survival which will force those millions to realize the capitalist factions of their societies will not help them. They’ll be forced to manage their own production out of necessity, human need. But even without the COVID-19 crisis, it’s also those countries that will initially be facing the worst of global warming caused by capitalist development. At least, with the virus, they have the ability to rationally plan social distancing techniques and testing, but there’s only so much you can do with regularly recurring and increasingly severe droughts, floods, and erratic weather patterns affecting the production of food. That’s the reality facing the world no matter how this crisis gets resolved.

      • jlowrie Says:

        ”Despite the use of force, the population could not “self-isolate” in the limited space available in their slum dwellings, forcing many to stay outside. This was especially true of children, who continued to roam the streets and play. Many families of these miserable dwellings sleep in shifts, a reality for South Asian slums in general. Sanitary facilities are also virtually non-existent in these slums, which are estimated to house more than half of the population in Karachi and Lahore.
        Another section of the population living in squalid conditions is the Afghan refugee population of 2.8 million. They often occupy mud or tarpaulin huts in designated camps or slums across the country, without any proper supply of drinking water or other sanitary needs.
        According to Pakistani economist Hafiz A. Pasha, the poverty ratio in the country was 31.3 percent in July 2018 and is projected to hit 40 percent by July 2020. These grim figures, released prior to the spread of the coronavirus pandemic to Pakistan, were due to low economic growth, double-digit inflation, and the expected impact of IMF-dictated austerity.”

        From today’s ” Worldwide Socialist Web.”

        So these poor people locked down , but unable to self isolate!

      • rory Says:

        What article is this from?

        Without reading it yet, the “use of force” phrase highlights how a society that already classifieds humans as mindless beasts will resort to solutions fit for mindless beasts.

    • ucanbpolitical Says:

      CDC has global deaths from influenza average 680,000 p.a. ONS has UK data.

      • matt.pappalardo Says:

        I think 680,000 would be on the high end: https://www.who.int/news-room/detail/14-12-2017-up-to-650-000-people-die-of-respiratory-diseases-linked-to-seasonal-flu-each-year

        “Up to 650 000 deaths annually are associated with respiratory diseases from seasonal influenza, according to new estimates by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (US-CDC), the World Health Organization and global health partners.

        This marks an increase on the previous global estimate of 250 000 – 500 000, which dates from over ten years ago and covered all influenza-related deaths, including cardiovascular disease or diabetes. The new figures of 290 000 – 650 000 deaths are based on more recent data from a larger, more diverse group of countries, including lower middle income countries, and exclude deaths from non-respiratory diseases.”

        This is from December 2017, so unless there have been new estimates since then a 680,000 per year average would be quite high.

      • michael roberts Says:

        i agree

      • ucanbpolitical Says:

        Matt that is the figure provided by the CDC. Certainly this year has been a mild year so they will revise the average down. But remember these are minimum figures generally related to hospital deaths for patients who have tested positively for the virus. What the corona virus has revealed is that a significant number die outside hospital and not all are tested post mortem for the virus. My own view is that the figure could be 50% higher.

      • matt.pappalardo Says:

        Yes, the current Coronavirus numbers are based on confirmed cases, but the flu numbers provided above are not. From all that I can gather, they are estimates based on modeling strategies (describe below by the CDC):

        “Up to 650 000 deaths annually [my note: meaning this is their upper end estimate] are associated with respiratory diseases from seasonal influenza, according to new estimates by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (US-CDC), the World Health Organization and global health partners.”

        From the CDC (https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/burden/how-cdc-estimates.htm):

        “The methods to estimate the annual number of influenza-associated deaths have been described in detail elsewhere (1-2). The model uses a ratio of deaths-to-hospitalizations in order to estimate the total influenza-associated deaths from the estimated number of influenza-associated hospitalizations.

        We first look at how many in-hospital deaths were observed in FluSurv-NET. The in-hospital deaths are adjusted for under-detection of influenza using methods similar to those described above for hospitalizations using data on the frequency and sensitivity of influenza testing. Second, because not all deaths related to influenza occur in the hospital, we use death certificate data to estimate how likely deaths are to occur outside the hospital. We look at death certificates that have pneumonia or influenza causes (P&I), other respiratory and circulatory causes (R&C), or other non-respiratory, non-circulatory causes of death, because deaths related to influenza may not have influenza listed as a cause of death. We use information on the causes of death from FluSurv-NET to determine the mixture of P&I, R&C, and other coded deaths to include in our investigation of death certificate data. Finally, once we estimate the proportion of influenza-associated deaths that occurred outside of the hospital, we can estimate the deaths-to-hospitalization ratio.

        Data needed to estimate influenza-associated deaths may lag for up to two years after the season ends. When this is not yet available for the season being estimated, we adjust based on values observed in prior seasons (e.g., the 2010-2011 season through the 2016-2017 season) and update the estimates when more current data become available…

        Seasonal influenza may lead to death from other causes, such as pneumonia, congestive heart failure, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. It has been recognized for many years that influenza is underreported on death certificates…For these and other reasons, modeling strategies are commonly used to estimate flu-associated deaths.”

      • gerald kavanagh Says:

        A while back before lockdown I was accused of being alarmist about Covid-19 and told that it was no worse than the flu which I was reassuredly advised killed at least fifty thousand people alone in the UK one recent winter. Yet, no one when asked knew of anyone who had died of the flu and as this was the case for myself I thought I’d check to see if we just happened to be living in a little bubble despite generally living in an inclement part of the UK.

        The following are quotes from John Stone, UK Editor of the British Medical Journal ( BMJ 2018;361:k2795 )

        “I was perturbed and slighty astonished last week to see last winter’s excess mortality being largely attributed to the bad flu season, though it is well-established that this was not the case – the main culprit being on this occasion apparently the Office for National Statistics [ONS].”

        “So the government are now apparent not only blaming fluctuations in winter mortality on flu but all excess winter mortality on flu, to the the tune of more than 50,000 deaths. The reality is that Public Health England had already published the flu mortality figures for the season in May [4]:”

        The followingis is a quote from Public Health England
        “Through the USISS mandatory scheme, a total of 3,454 ICU/HDU admissions of
        confirmed influenza were reported across the UK from week 40 2017 to week 15 2018,
        including 372 deaths, based on combined data from England, Scotland and Northern
        Ireland. In England, the total number of influenza confirmed admissions to ICU/HDU
        was 3,175 (rate of 0.22 per 100, 000 population) and 320 deaths during the same
        Period

        Mr Stone concludes,

        “On this basis, the number of deaths in England and Wales in an admittedly exceptionally bad year would have been only in the region of 335-340 deaths, and the ONS seem to have exaggerated the risk to the public by in the region of 150 times.”

        If CDC is doing the same that would mean 4530 approx p.a and not 680,000p.p.a

        In any event, turns out, it seems we aren’t living in a bubble and there is a tad exaggeration going about by the Tory Government (shockeroony) and would you believe it ‘the media’. It should be said however that the Government are disappointed at the take up of the Goverment funded flue jab given their concern for joe public. Nothing to do of course with their Pharma pals disappointment.

  14. Don Sutherland Says:

    Thank you Michael, again much appreciated. And to everyone else who has commented. It seems that the virus and lockdowns, partial as they are here in Australia, will destroy inefficient capital. What does that mean for the profit system. It won’t need more war than the ones that are running?

  15. barovsky Says:

    Check this out: With or Of?

    https://drmalcolmkendrick.org/2020/04/06/covid-with-of-or-because-of/

  16. barovsky Says:

    From the piece by Kendrick:

    “Our local hospital now has more empty beds than at any time in history. Elective surgery has stopped, to free up resources. There is enormous managerial pressure to clear more and more people out of hospital, out of Intermediate Care beds, back home with little support available. Some of them will die because of this.

    My last blog focussed on the economic costs of the reaction to COVID. My argument was that economics, and health, do not exist in isolate bubbles. Harm to the economy will result in harm to health and vice-versa.

    Equally, if you spend all your healthcare resources trying to treat one thing, everything else will suffer, because resources are not infinite. At present we have virtually shut down the NHS to deal with COVID.

    I saw several patients yesterday while I was working in “out of hours”, who were not critically ill, but they were ill. Two of them, I felt, really needed to be followed up. A girl with weight loss over the last three months, a man with clear signs in his chest that could have been malignant.

    They will not be followed up any time soon. If at all.

    At present there is a lot of discussion about how we are categorising deaths from COVID. Anyone who dies, having been diagnosed with COVID, is considered to have died of COVID. Even if they died of something else. The died with COVID, not of COVID.

    There is, I believe, an even greater immediate problem here. Which is those who are dying because of COVID. This is not just me saying this, this is NHS England:

    “While there will be a lot of covid-19 fatalities, we could end up losing more ‘years of life’ because of fatalities relating to non-covid-19 health complications.”

    For many years, there has been an old medical joke. It will not make you laugh out loud, but it goes like this.

    ‘The operation was a success, unfortunately the patient died.’”

    • mandm Says:

      “At present we have virtually shut down the NHS” to deal with COVID”.

      Please don’t take this as sarcasm, but could this “… virtually shut down of the NHS to deal with COVID” be related the virtual shut down of the NHS by capitalism?

      • barovsky Says:

        No, absolutely! Dr Kendrick wouldn’t say that, he is after all, a practicing GP, so he has to watch his Ps&Qs, else the state would be down on him like a ton of bricks, but I’ve been folowing his essays, initially on heart disease for a few years now and find his measured, rational analysis, a breath of fresh air.

        BTW, I note that Spain is going to introduce Universal Basic Income after this disaster of capitalism is over (if ever). Do I detect a note of panic in the ruling class? If only we had a real left in the imperialist heartland instead of a bunch of wankers and professional lefties.

        So our slogan shoud be, ‘There’s No Going Back!’

  17. stevenjohnson Says:

    The US stock market started diving back in Dec 2018. Trump scolded the Fed and Powell et al. backed of clearing the balance sheets and incrementally raising interest rates. The exchange of course started to rise again.

    Remembering this, it is not at all clear that the economic crisis is “caused” by C19 in the sense meant by news media. That, instead, dealing with C19 is made practically impossible because another 2008 has disorganized capital?. $2 trillion is going mostly to support profits (taken mainly by manipulating equities) rather than deal with C19? That the panic is a financial panic, a profitability panic, rather than the folly of the masses?

  18. ucanbpolitical Says:

    Two things. I am the lead on a large union sponsored holiday hunger project and compared to six months ago, we are paying 20% more (adjusted as well for pack sizes) so inflation is roaring back. Also the figures for new cases are coming down officially. True or not, it is the beginning of the process for lifting lock down.

  19. fredtorssander Says:

    I think capitalism has reached several crises at the same time. The finance crisis is of course från the diminishing profit-quota, which has had to be concentrated through several layers to grow within the finance-monopoly-capital exclusively. And that exclusive part of capitalism still has had to resort to financing their profit by taxes, in crisis after crisis. In the real economy, production of goods and services, the productivity has become so great that the capitalist method only can be kept going by moving production to new areas, where the population can see some benefits from the capitalist/industrial production model, at least within the first generation. And there is not much of those areas left.
    Also there is the climate-crisis that seems to accelerate.
    The corona-pandemic might be a blessing in disguise, as it seems like the basal production and distribution of food and healthcare can be kept going through the crisis. If people in all nations concentrate on that. I think that would have to develop into some sort of socialism. The working hours per worker and the hours worked per person to keep economy (as in Marx human stoffwechsel with nature by (socialized) work going are in reality maybe half of todays if you minimize commuting and concentrate on neccecities.
    The better answer for capital would be as after the long depression 1870 a new inter imperialist war. But as there now are nuclear weapons, such a war would be a tragedy of a magnitude that would make ww1 seem like a farce…

  20. Victor Onrust Says:

    “Even if after this pandemic is finally contained (at least this year) and even if governments spend more on prevention and containment in the future, only ending the capitalist drive for profit will bring nature back into harmony with humanity.”

    For that to happen the world population will have to be halved. The population growth is a function of the profit driven growth of capitalism.

  21. ucanbpolitical Says:

    Well the data is slowly trickling in relating to community infection by the corona virus. https://www.technologyreview.com/2020/04/09/999015/blood-tests-show-15-of-people-are-now-immune-to-covid-19-in-one-town-in-germany/

    It appears the virus could be one tenth as lethal as reported making it three times more lethal than influenza if that. In other words the same difference in mortality figures between hospital admissions and community infections caused by seasonal influenza. The real problem is not lethality currently but the length of time critically ill patients remain in ICU due to the lack of interventions stalled by Big Pharma trying to exploit the pandemic with expensive solutions.

    • Anti-Capital Says:

      Except hospitalization rates are much greater, at least in the US, for covid19 than rates for influenza;

      “due to the lack of interventions stalled by Big Pharma trying to exploit the pandemic with expensive solutions.”

      Can you provide some detail on that? What interventions have been stalled by the big pharmaceutical companies. That they have neglected these areas is beyond dispute, but “stalling” interventions means there are viable chemical or biochemical compounds in existence that are not being made available. Is that what you mean?

      What expensive solutions has Big Pharma proposed in response to the pandemic?

      Are we back to the hydroxychloroquine , Z-pack, and zinc recipe?

      • ucanbpolitical Says:

        The reason this treatment is known is that extensive animal studies were performed in 2003 in China on the SARS 2 virus with good efficacy. It was abandoned when the Virus burnt out and funding was removed. Suggest you swop your sarcasm for research.

      • Anti-Capital Says:

        What treatment? I said corporations neglected this area. What studies of what inexpensive solutions. In the 2003 SARS outbreak, China used a number of treatments, including massive doses of steroids that had some severe side effects.

        So exactly what are you referring to, with or without sarcasm?

        “Funding was removed” doesn’t sound like an inexpensive, and validated solution. It sounds like exactly what it is– capitalism recognizing and then abandoning “market opportunity.”

  22. Gerrit Zeilemaker Says:

    Hi Michael,
    I translated your article in Dutch for the website Ander Europa (Different Europe) I hope you do’nt mind. https://www.andereuropa.org/kiezen-tussen-leven-of-levensonderhoud/

  23. Wal Buchenberg Says:

    What comes after the shutdown?
    General debt relief or even more government debt?
    Sorry, in German:

    https://marx-forum.de/Forum/index.php?thread/1011-was-kommt-nach-dem-shutdown-schuldenerlass-oder-steuertropfen-auf-den-gl%C3%BChenden/&postID=5446#post5446

    Wal Buchenberg, Hannover

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