How long is lockdown necessary?

  • 9 Apr 2020
  • Reading time 9 mins
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Is lockdown really necessary? And for how long? It’s largely down to a ‘tale of two models’. At one extreme you have the ‘Imperial model’, led by Professor Neil Ferguson, whose group at Imperial receive funding from pro-vaccine billionaire Bill Gates who would like to see us locked down until there's a vaccine. He’s the epidemiologist who told us that half a million will die in Britain, a number that was revised down to a quarter of a million back in March. Hearing this triggered Boris into immediate lockdown mode. 


But then there’s the ‘Oxford model’, led by Sunetra Gupta, Professor of Epidemiology at Oxford University, telling a different story that goes like this. Rather than COVID-19 spreading in the UK in recent weeks and causing severe disease in a significant percentage of people, the virus might have been spreading since January and could have already infected up to half of the population, causing severe disease in only a tiny fraction. Both scenarios are equally plausible, says Sunetra Gupta. “I do think it [the Imperial model] is missing that there is an equally big possibility that a lot of us are immune,” she says. The model itself cannot answer the question, she says; only widespread testing for antibodies can. Two weeks ago her group started testing a cross-section of the population to get a much better picture of how vulnerable the UK population really is. We’ll know very soon. Data from the Diamond Princess—a cruise ship that had a big COVID-19 outbreak – showed us that half testing COVID positive were asymptomatic. This has also been confirmed in China, where antibody positive, asymptomatic people did not appear to infect others which is the aim of vaccination.You might have had it already and not known. You’d now be immune.

The best case scenario

The best case scenario in Gupta’s modelling would have half the population already immune and the nation as a whole quite rapidly moving towards the usual ‘herd’ immunity whereby a viral infection peters out. This model is based on the idea that the ‘pandemic’ started in January and will be largely over by end of April. Usually winter flu epidemics start in December, peak in February, and are over by the end of April.

One contributory factor is the weather, and getting outdoors. Vitamin D levels over winter also reach an all-time low in February and start rising again in April as the angle of the sun becomes sufficient to make vitamin D in the skin. But it does depend on getting outdoors. Both sun exposure and exercise are major promoters of strong immunity which is one reason why keeping everyone indoors is an extremely bad idea.

Wuhan city, which has a similar population to London, has been out of lockdown for a week. Gyms are back open and people have gone back to work. China gets a lot of flack but, leaving aside any issue of ‘bat blame’ and underplaying death toll in Wuhan, they had the least information to go by being the first major city to be exposed to COVID-19. They locked down, not only the individuals, but the city. No-one could leave the Province of Hubei or Wuhan city. Shanghai, a little more than 500 miles away, has had something like 6 deaths, according to my sources in Shanghai. While it is widely understood that the death toll in Wuhei was probably between 10,000 and 20,000, three to six times higher than reported, we are talking about a densely packed population of people living in relative poverty, no doubt with poor nutrition. This week deaths in Wuhan are in single figures. On Tuesday Wuhan posted not one death. Deaths in the whole of China are extremely low and almost no-one in Wuhan is presenting with COVID-19 and requiring ICU treatment.

Normal Flu Death Rates in the UK are 12,000 to 20,000 a year

One of the issues with death tolls is that, since COVID-19 is now a notifiable disease, while seasonal flu is not, should a person die of a heart attack and test positive to COVID-19, they will go down as COVID positive on their death certificate. That might over-egg the figures a bit but the reality is the UK not only has a high rate of death but one of the worst recovery rates, according to Worldometers. BBC news update reported that over 90 per cent of those dying had at least two underlying health conditions. While we know that the majority of  COVID-related deaths have been in older people who were sicker to start with, COVID-19 does take down a very small number of apparently healthy, young people.  None of these figures are vastly different from normal patterns seen for critically ill flu patients over the past five years. Currently, COVID-19 deaths are 13,729. The Office of National Statistics, as of mid March, gives a provisional number of deaths as 10,645. Combined, that's 24,374 deaths from flu this year so far.  The worst most recent winter was 28,330 deaths in 2014/2015, according to Public Health England. In the UK, over the winter of 2017-18  26,048 people died of flu.

Ferguson at Imperial has recently revised his death toll predictions, which started at 500,000 down to 20,000. In other words a normal winter flu epidemic. I would guess it's going to be a bit worse than this but not much. Hopefully we'll be able to predict more accurately once the daily death toll starts decreasing and the antibody survey results are known, hopefully by the end of this month.

The ICNARC audit  last weekend (4th April) includes 284 ICUs, or which 229 units have at least one COVID-19 case and 37 (13%) have none. The Nightingale Hospital, built to hold 2,900 patients has
19 patients. So we are nowhere near full capacity, with daily deaths on the decline.

 The UK has one of the worst recovery rates

Then there’s what you do to those critically ill. Currently, the UK has the worst death vs recovery rates from hospitalised patients in the Western world. According to the UK has 5,373 deaths and 135 recoveries (only 2% recover). South Korea, in contrast, has 192 deaths and 6,694 recoveries (34 in 35 recover – that’s 97%). China has the best with 3,300 official deaths and 77,167 recoveries. But even if you took the top end of some estimates based on mortuary figures in Wuhan, at 20,000 deaths, that means something like 3 in 4 recover. From the Zhongnan Hospital study in Wuhan we know that, of those seriously ill in ICU, on ventilators, given vitamin C 24% died compared to those not given vitamin C, of whom 35% died. From the UK’s ICNARC data, which we have to trust as accurate, two in three put on ventilators die.

We have to ask why is our treatment is so ineffective compared to China? 

What’s China doing that we are not?

When the pandemic struck 50 tons of vitamin C were shipped into Hubei Province, of which Wuhan is the capital city. Hospitals quite quickly learnt that intravenous vitamin C saves lives in those in critical condition . A preliminary report from the first of three intravenous vitamin C trials, from Professor ZhiYong Peng at Zhongnan Hospital in Wuhan, where they’ve been running a study giving 12 grams, twice a day, by intravenous infusion, for seven days, has shown a cut in death rate of a third, with less time needed for mechanical velntilation for those given vitamin C.. Now do the maths. If each person gets 24 grams for 7 days that’s 168 grams per person. 1 ton is 1 million grams. That’s enough to treat almost 6,000 people. If I google it pure ascorbic acid cost circa $3,000 a ton.( I think the price has gone up lately!) So that’s 50 cents per person in intensive care. A ventilator costs upwards of £20,000. It takes a team of five one hour to intubate one person. Being on a ventilator for a day is charged out at £300. Now get this: vitamin C (1 to 6g a day) has already been shown in meta-analyses to reduce time needed on a ventilator by 25% and time spent in ICU by 8%! One has to assume that if people given vitamin C spend less time on a ventilator and in ICU that meansmore recover. That’s what Harri Hemila,  also a Professor of Epidemiology, and the most respected in the world on vitamin C, whom I interview on my podcast next week, told the British Medical Journal and the Lancet, to publish in order to inform UK medics what to do. They refused.  It wasn't important enough. If there are 3,000 people in ICU and they were given 6 grams of vitamin C a day for 10 days this is going to cost about £3,000 – a fraction of the cost of a ventilator, or ten days worth of ventilator use. Side effects? None.

Dr Peng told me that all workers in the Wuhan hospitals, including doctors, nurses, volunteers and the ICU teams are given 2 grams of vitamin C a day. We do nothing to protect our front-line workers. Please sign my petition C4UK - TO PROTECT OUR NHS WITH VITAMIN C at

It beggars belief that we had our Prime Minister in intensive care and still no-one is paying any attention at all to what has worked, and is working, in China.  As a man of history he should know that Margaret Thatcher, a chemist, took 2 grams of vitamin C and upped her dose considerably when fighting an infection. She said it stopped a cold turning into a fever. Very apt. Will anyone have the intelligence, or just the humanity, to give Boris some high dose non-toxic, totally safe, proven to be effective vitamin C? Are we that arrogant, ignorant or just totally blinkered by big pharma’s drug and vaccine agenda that we can watch more people die than need to and do nothing about it? Why is no-one talking at all about building natural immunity? The whole basis of vaccines working is that they trigger our immune system to fight back. You can't believe in vaccines and not believe in building immunity. Why is no-one researching what is different between those who are COVID-19 positive but remain asymptomatic and those who nearly die? Something so simple as comparing COVID positive hospitalised versus non-hospitalised people’s vitamin D levels would be a start.

Sweden has no lockdown

Sweden, on the other hand, has a very different strategy. No lockdown.  restaurants and cafés are open. People go to work like usual. The Swedish government’s aim has been to minimise disruption to social and economic life, although gatherings of more than 50 people have been banned. They have 1,333 deaths so far. While there is opposition to this approach, especially in this week as daily death toll rises, the authorities have taken the position that this matches countries in lockdown and are letting the flu play out. Time will shortly tell who is right. We'll know alot more before April is up. I’m certainly not cancelling my summer plans. Also, dont forget how important it is to get outdoors and exercise, albeit 2 metres away.