We wrote a submission on a bill that appears to give total control of our lives to the state.
We are NZDSOS, a group of health professionals, who are concerned about the disproportionate response of the government to the COVID-19 crisis, and are particularly concerned about adverse effects from the Pfizer comirnaty mRNA injection. We write here to express our concerns about the proposed COVID-19 Public Health Response Amendment Bill (No 2).
Our principal concern is the far-reaching powers entailed in the act, that of clause 7 that is intended to replace section 11 of the original act.
This clause gives almost unlimited powers, stemming from the decision of the Minister or the Director-General to require New Zealanders to refrain from almost any activity to prevent COVID-19 infection. The clause goes on to describe how this may limit gatherings, refrain from any activity, undergo medical examination, be isolated or be detained in a specific place. The use of the term “any specific measures” gives almost no limit to the powers of the order.
The reasons for our objection to this are two-fold. In the paragraphs below, we argue that the threat of COVID-19 has been overestimated and that measures to curb COVID-19 are already having important unintended consequences in New Zealand that are being overlooked by the government. This means that the New Zealand government should now be abandoning their initial fearful response to COVID-19 rather than intensifying it. The focus, instead, should be on improving capacity in hospitals to deal with COVID-19 patients and allowing early treatment of infection.
1. The threat of COVID-19 has been exaggerated.
The World Health Organisation has characterized the spread of COVID-19 as a global pandemic and claimed that almost 5 million people globally have died as a result of the spread of the virus. I claim that this is exaggerated since what is not stated is that the age distribution of cases of COVID-19 deaths is about the same as background mortality.
Professor John Ioannidis, one of the world’s most eminent epidemiologists wrote: “Median age of death with COVID-19 typically tracks average life expectancy in high-income countries. Life expectancy (median age of death with COVID-19) is 81 (82) in Germany, 84 (82) in Italy, 81 (85) in the UK and 79 (77) in the USA.”
The median age of death with COVID-19 is in the 80s in many countries, similar to a country’s life expectancy. This has been shown both in New Zealand  and in Germany.  The reasons we believe that COVID-19 does not warrant extreme measures to contain it are outlined in a letter to the British Medical Journal. Although this was written several months ago, the arguments that relate to the reasons not to curtail freedoms and take extreme measures to limit the spread of COVID-19 remain current.
Those who wish to contradict the evidence we have presented here, may point to studies that indicate that the “The average years of life lost per death [due to COVID-19] is 16 years.”
However, their conclusion is incompatible with the mean age of death with covid being close to ~82 years in Western countries. If the 16 years of life lost figure claimed by Arolas et al. were true, this means that the mean age of life of people who died with COVID-19 would be close to 98 years, since, from mathematical theory, 82 + 16 = 98 years (since the mean of A + the mean of B equal the mean of the sum of A and B). This is clearly implausible.
Arolas et al. estimate years of life lost based on the difference between their average life expectancy at a given age and their age at death. This method assumes that COVID-19 deaths occur in people who are in an average state of health for their age. This is not the case from a cursory glance at the nature of New Zealand cases.
- Average New Zealander who lives to 85 years has 6 to 7 years of life expected.
- But, deaths with COVID-19 is not in “average” 85 year olds.
- 73% of NZ COVID-19 deaths occurred in rest home residents (16/22; June 2020).
- 8/14 deaths (to 20th April 2020) were residents of Rosewood Rest home (specializing in dementia care).
In the figure above, contrary to the COVID-19 death statistics, at all older age groups, those aged between 80 and 95 have between a 1/3 and 1/5 chance of living in residential care, compared to 73% of New Zealand COVID-19 deaths. COVID-19 deaths in New Zealand have occurred in people who are more likely to be in residential care and thus have other health issues that would contribute to their death. They are clearly not “average” for their age, as the authors of the study that claims a 16-year average of life lost in COVID-19 deaths claim.
Exaggeration of the nature of the extent of the COVID-19 death toll is expected since a very loose definition of COVID-19 death is being used both in NZ and overseas. From an OIA request in June, it was clear that not even a positive test was required to be considered such a death in New Zealand. Covid-19 deaths in New Zealand have not been based on a definition that would indicate that they would not have otherwise died without having been exposed to the virus.
Yet more evidence that supports the idea that the pandemic is severe is the finding of excess mortality in some countries, above yearly expected levels.  However, closer scrutiny of these patterns shows a mixed and inconsistent picture, with some countries having had many COVID-19 cases, without high overall mortality. For example, Malaysia and Singapore had respectively 475,000 and 61,000 cumulative cases respectively, yet no evidence of excess mortality. In addition, other studies show evidence that changes in healthcare, including difficulty obtaining hospital treatment,  overuse of invasive ventilation  and other changes due to lockdown policies were likely to increase mortality in people who were physically frail.
In addition to these arguments, the polymerase chain reaction test used to define COVID-19 cases in New Zealand has been devastatingly criticised as not fit for widespread clinical use. Such criticisms have been upheld in landmark court decisions overseas.[14,15] The diagnostic accuracy of the test has been questioned in a German study, where PCR tests were not reliably shown to distinguish symptomatic from asymptomatic people. All such limitations of individual’s rights entailed by this legislation are related to the use and interpretation of the results of this heavily criticised test.
2. The actions of the government to limit spread of the virus have caused excessive harm
Paediatricians in New Zealand have reported an increase in childhood psychiatric disorders, including somatization and anxiety as a result of pandemic measures. We have now published a greater than 50% increase in the rates of hospital treatment for attempted suicides in children ten to fourteen years old that occurred at the time of New Zealand’s second lockdown. Unemployment has increased in New Zealand with a 30% increase in eligible adults requiring the jobseeker benefit. Also, special needs grants spike at the same time as COVID-19 related lockdowns. Severe lockdowns have reported to cost the country at least one billion New Zealand dollars per week, a figure that is well outside the amount usually thought to be a reasonable ceiling to prevent unreasonable spending for other health conditions.
In summary, our objection to the powers outlined in the act are related to the disproportionate powers to contain a health threat that has been severely exaggerated. The powers infringe many fundamental freedoms and rights contained in the New Zealand Bill of Rights. Actions such as those that have already been undertaken in New Zealand to restrict the spread of COVID-19, we believe are disproportionate, unjustified and likely to result in further harm to both young people and working New Zealanders alike. Such powers should now be abolished rather than extended.
NZDSOS – Steering Committee