COVID-19 was More Bark than Bite

COVID-19 had a loud bark but little bite, especially compared to the draconian mandates it inspired. That controversial statement can be backed up by a new study on infection mortality […]
Published on February 8, 2023

COVID-19 had a loud bark but little bite, especially compared to the draconian mandates it inspired. That controversial statement can be backed up by a new study on infection mortality rates during the pandemic. We now know the virus was never the threat it was made out to be, making the lockdowns, social distancing, and mask mandates overreactions to a challenge not as severe as was feared.

Both the fear of COVID-19 and its corresponding response can be traced to March 26, 2020. Back then, the Imperial College of London predicted COVID-19 would kill 40 million people. On the other hand, “rapid adoption of proven public health measures – including testing and isolation of cases and wider social distancing” would supposedly save 38.7 million lives.

That estimation mismatched reality according to a recent study by Stanford University professor of medicine and epidemiology John P.A. Ioannidis and four fellow researchers. Their new paper, “Age-stratified infection fatality rate of COVID-19 in the non-elderly population” in Environmental Research, analyzes the infection fatality rate (IFR) in 38 countries prior to the introduction of COVID-19 vaccines.

“At a global level, pre-vaccination IFR may have been as low as 0.03% and 0.07% for 0–59 and 0–69 year old people, respectively,” the paper reports.

“These IFR estimates in non-elderly populations are lower than previous calculations had suggested.”

Put another way, 99.97% of people under 60 who contracted COVID-19 survived. Add people in their 60s to the cohort, and survival rates still remain a robust 99.93%.

IFRs for age brackets could also be found for 31 of the 38 countries, the stats reading as follows:

  • 0-19 years: 0.0003%
  • 20-29 years: 0.002%
  • 30-39 years: 0.11%
  • 40-49 years: 0.035%
  • 50-59 years: 0.123%
  • 60-69 years: 0.506%

The inverse of such percentages, let’s call them infection survival rates, are indeed quite high. Even people infected in their sixties overcame the virus 99.5% of the time. On average, only five deaths would result among a thousand infected sexagenarians.

The paper tells us that 44% of the population had already been infected with COVID-19 before Omicron arrived in Fall 2021. However, even if half the population was infected, and the vaccine had never been invented, such hypothetical “fatalities are overall probably modestly higher than seasonal flu fatalities” for those under 70 years of age, yet still “lower than pre-pandemic years when only the younger age strata are considered.”

Wow. Did our lives ground to a halt for a virus about as lethal as bad flu?

Call it the 20-20 of hindsight, but the 2020 Great Barrington Declaration has been completely vindicated. “Adopting measures to protect the vulnerable should be the central aim of public health responses to COVID-19,” wrote authors Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, Dr. Sunetra Gupta and Dr. Martin Kulldorff on October 4 of that year. “Those who are not vulnerable should immediately be allowed to resume life as normal.”

Too bad Canada didn’t listen. As it turns out, the COVID-19 survival rate for those under 20 was 99.9997%. Is this really the virus that shut down schools? Is this the reason elementary and secondary students wore masks in classrooms, hallways, and even gymnasiums? Is this the cause for which they went without athletic events and drama performances and normal graduation ceremonies? What a shame!

It’s too bad so many post-secondary institutions brought in COVID-19 vaccine mandates. The survival rate for anyone infected in their 20’s was 99.998% before a needle even pierced their skin. And Canadian Football League players and their fans are left with no consolation that the 2020 season was cancelled.

Lockdowns and limitations on home gatherings now seem regrettably unnecessary. The resultant increases in business failures, domestic violence, overdose deaths, and other damages to both the quality and length of lives now weigh heavier than the disease itself.

We already had some hint of this in the April 2021 analysis by Simon Fraser University economist D. W. Allen. Even data available then suggested that lockdowns cost 3.6 to 282 times the life years that it preserved. “It is possible that lockdown will go down as one of the greatest peacetime policy failures in Canada’s history,” Allen wrote. He, too, has been proven correct.

The reason lockdowns could not save 38.7 million people is that the feared 40 million death total would never have materialized. The Ioannidis study found that even if everyone worldwide was infected with COVID-19 and no vaccines or “potentially beneficial interventions” were available, 4.7-5.3 million people under age 70 would have died.

Although a 100% infection rate is hypothetical, reality has come closer to this than most people realize. “[T]he large majority of the global population has indeed been infected at least once,” Ioannidis tells us in his paper. Sadly, although COVID-19 has run its course, it’s unclear that policy and the public have learned its lessons.


Lee Harding is a research associate at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.


Related item – Watch Frontiers’s Leaders on the Frontier conversation with two of the authors of the Great Barrington Declaration – Drs. Jay Bhattacharya and Martin Kulldorf, October 2, 2022 (78 minutes)

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