Transcription – English – Richard Schabas

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Richard Schabas:
Yeah. Thank you. And thank you for inviting me to speak this morning. I'm going to begin just because I've been watching some of the the videos while I've been waiting to speak, just just so there's no confusion. I'm a strong advocate for vaccines in general, and I'm a strong advocate for COVID vaccines. I've had three doses myself. It doesn't mean I support vaccine mandates because because I don't. But I don't want to I don't want to be confused with any anti-vaccine sentiments than what I'm going to say. I'm a physician. I retired in five years ago and unfortunately have sort of come out of retirement in the last two and a half years, because I've been involved in in dealing and responding to some of the things that have happened in our country and in our world. I have specialist qualifications in internal medicine, which I practice for many years and in public health. I worked in public health for more than 30 years at both a local level in Ontario and for ten years as Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health iPad Academic Appointments at three Ontario universities, I have published more than 30 peer reviewed academic papers, many of which are directly relevant to the issues of of of COVID 19. I testified at three Royal Commissions, three public health royal commissions on the blood system, on Walkerton and on SARS. I was very involved in the Toronto SARS outbreak in 2003 when I was the chief of staff at York Central Hospital.

Richard Schabas:
I've been invited to speak at the House of Commons Health Committee on this subject, and I was invited to do a monk debate on this subject. So I have some I have some bona fides. Having said this, I have looked I have I have looked on with horror. And that's not a word I use lightly in horror at what public health, what has been done by public health and what has been done in the name of public health in the last two and a half years, things that I never thought possible have not have become the norm. And I am, as I said, shocked by that. Now, COVID 19 was and is a significant public health threat. We all know that, but it's not an unprecedented threat. For example, the H2N2 influenza outbreak in 1957, which I'm just barely old enough to remember. Had a comparable impact. In fact, I think arguably a greater health impact in its first year or two. And yes, tragically, there have been 6 million reported deaths in the world from COVID 19 in the last two and a half years. But we have to remember that 150 million people have died of other things in that same period of time as in Canada, where we've had 40,000 reported deaths, tragically from COVID 19, but over 700,000 deaths from other things. And because the of the steep age gradient of COVID 19, this mortality has has burden has fallen overwhelmingly on the elderly and in particular the frail elderly.

Richard Schabas:
That doesn't mean those lives don't matter, but since because every life counts. But think of how much worse this would have been if this had been a disease like, for example, HIV and AIDS, which still kills in the neighborhood of a million people in the world every year. Think of the burden that which falls, which fell overwhelmingly on children and young adults. We need to put this problem in perspective. Now, the public health that I practiced for more than 30 years had some basic principles. One of those was that we took a holistic view of health. Health was more than just the absence of disease. It was a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being. While the last two years we've completely lost sight of that, not only is health only, not all about disease, it's all about one disease. In fact, it's all about COVID case counts, and that's antithetical to the basic principles of public health. Also, we understood in public health, we understood that Canada enjoyed outstanding levels of health among among the best in the world and the best that have ever been enjoyed by the human species. And the reason for that? It's not because of our health care system much as we value our health care system. It's not because of hospitals and doctors. It's because of what we call the determinants of health, the way in which people lead their lives and the conditions in which they live.

Richard Schabas:
And the very top of the list of the determinants of health are things like education, employment and social connectedness, the very things that we've thrown away in the last two and a half years. Also reflecting back on the now 50 years, sobering thought, 50 years since I entered medical school. I would suggest that probably the single biggest advance in medicine in the last 50 years has been the understanding of what we call evidence based medicine. When I was a medical student, it was all about what your professor had to say. It was all about expert advice, and we now know how unreliable that is. And so there's been the development of an understanding of qualities, of evidence, recognizing that the only really strong evidence, the only evidence that can in any meaningful way prove that something is effective is what we call experimental evidence, a randomized controlled trial or in some circumstances, a cluster, randomized controlled trial. And that other kinds of evidence, observational evidence and the like are much less reliable. We have to understand that that doesn't mean we could always have the best evidence we want, but when we take measures, make decisions based on less than strong evidence, we have to be aware of the fact that we may not be doing the right thing. Also, the public health that I practiced was based on persuasion, not coercion. Yeah, we had we had legal powers, but we hardly ever use them.

Richard Schabas:
The vast majority of our intervention to vast majority of what we did was based on persuasion. Again, something we seem to have lost sight of. Now, when public health thinks something's a good idea, it immediately becomes the law, it becomes a rule, and people are forced to do it. And I think that's a terrible mistake. And in the instance of of of vaccine passports, something which I'm opposed to for a whole range of reasons. But I think the final irony is that they've backfired in the sense that they were intended to increase immunization rates. I think in the long run they've probably done the opposite by polarizing the issue, by making it a question of coercion. They've taken a group of people, many people who would have been persuadable to take the vaccine and lock them down as being opposed to vaccines because they don't want to be forced. I think it's a tragic error. So what's happened with COVID 19? Well, in the early part of 2020, particularly in March of 2020, basically the whole world panicked. We accepted uncritically speculative mathematical models, which told us we might recall that 40 million people were going to die in the world by midsummer now. What really shocked me about this is I've been dealing with these models and these modellers for the last 20 years, and I was fully aware of how unreliable their models were. And I was I was horrified that no one seemed to want to ask that question.

Richard Schabas:
I remember back in 2003 with SARS, the modellers said 130 million people were going to die from SARS. The final death total was 800. I remember in the summer of of of 2009 when one of our Canadian modellers predicted that 8000 people were going to die that summer from H1N1 and in Ontario. And the final death toll, I think, ended up being eight. So it doesn't mean that we should throw these models out, but but it's like it's like asking somebody who's predicting hockey games. The first question you ask, well, how good is your track record? Nobody seemed to want to know. We just bought into it. This is what was going to happen. We were faced with this microbiological apocalypse. We panicked and we resorted to a whole range of so-called control measures that were of dubious effectiveness. And as I'm sure you're hearing over the over these two days, a huge personal, societal and economic costs. Now, the models were wrong. They anchored us in the wrong place. And the panic in adopting these measures in the way that it was, the way it was done was also wrong. So what really was the science behind the range of lockdown measures that were embraced in 2020. Well, fortunately the World Health Organisation, the year before in 2019, it produced quite a comprehensive document called the NON-PHARMACEUTICAL Public Health Measures for Mitigating the Risk and Impact of Epidemic and Pandemic Influenza. Now influenza is not identical to COVID 19, but there are very strong analogies.

Richard Schabas:
And faced with this novel situation, this novel virus, that's where we should have anchored our response. That's where we should have turned to, to make decisions in the absence of new evidence as to what what we should be doing. And let me quote a few of the things from that report, that 2019 report, because I think there's a there's a perception that these these lockdown measures were what we intended to do. They weren't planned to do that. They were based on good evidence at the time, and it's just simply not true. So quoting some things from that report. Face masks worn by asymptomatic people, no evidence that this is effective in reducing transmission, surface and object cleaning. Remember all the fussing we're doing, wiping down supermarket counters and all that? So surface and object cleaning. No evidence that this is effective in reducing transmission active contact tracing. Remember when we were going to control this with contact tracing and all those those apps and giving your name at restaurants and stuff? Active contact tracing is not recommended. Home quarantine of exposed individuals now. Pause and let me distinguish here something that's been very confused here is the difference between case isolation and quarantine. And we use the confusing term. We talk about self isolation in this stuff. So be very clear. Case isolation is when someone is sick with the virus, they've had a positive test or they have symptoms that are compatible with the virus infection.

Richard Schabas:
Those people need to be isolated. No one argues with that. Quarantine is something very, very different. Quarantine is when you take people who you think have been exposed to the virus and make them make them isolate themselves for an extended period of time just in case they develop infection. Case isolation. Basic medicine makes good sense. Quarantine. Hugely inefficient. Wasteful. Punitive. Measure that as the as I quote unquote the W.H.O. document. Home quarantine of exposed individuals is not recommended. One of the things I'm going to digress home quarantine was widely used in Toronto in 2003, and unfortunately, because we didn't take the trouble to learn the proper lessons from what had happened in 2003, there is a widespread impression that home quarantine made a difference. Read the literature on that, including an article which I wrote in a Canadian journal which in fact debunks that there is no evidence. In fact, it is illogical. The quarantine had anything to do with the control of the 2003 outbreak. And one of the pleas I'll make is that when all the dust settles on this, that we really make a better effort to learn the right lessons, which we did not do in 2003 anyway, carrying on school closures, quality of evidence, very low, avoiding crowding, quality of evidence, very low entry and exit screening for infection and travelers is not recommended. Border closure is generally not recommended. So all of these things that we rushed to do were based on little or no evidence.

Richard Schabas:
And rather than give a priority to develop the evidence rather than government saying or public health saying, we're doing we're making a judgment call based on little or no evidence to face what we think is an extraordinary situation. Then there was still a priority to to get new information, to get better evidence. And that just hasn't happened. Sadly, sadly, two and a half years later, although we've had lots of lots of observational studies, there's been very little strong new evidence on anything related to COVID 19 measures. But even worse than that, we panic entered into these lockdown measures without any clear goals and objectives. Why were we doing it? Well, initially the talk was we were going to flatten the curve. Remember that expression? We were going to flatten the curve for a few weeks to make sure our health care system was in order. Well, very quickly, it became clear that our ICUs and hospitals were largely empty in April and May of 2020. But we had to keep the lockdown because we were going to get the case numbers down, because we were then going to control it with case and contact work. Contact tracing was going to control it. And then when all that fell apart in the early part of September of 2020. No, no, we had to lock down because we were waiting for the vaccines. And then the vaccines became available at the early part of 2021.

Richard Schabas:
But no, we had to stay locked down because we had to wait till everyone had a chance to be immunised. And then bye bye. May Well, it was true that everyone who wanted the vaccine had a chance to be immunized. But no, we had to stay locked down because because the variants were coming. And here we are a year later, a year after there was any any rationale for any of these measures was gone. We're still talking about locking down next fall. Why? I don't know. I don't I think we have no clear idea. Never had a clear idea of what we're trying to accomplish now, what we should have done again, we should have turned to the most of the most analogous preparations that we had in determining our goals and objectives. And I refer you to the Canadian Pandemic Influenza Plan for the Health Sector, which set down two overall goals for managing an influenza pandemic. The first is to minimize serious illness and overall deaths, not just deaths from influenza. Overall, let's take a holistic approach to the problem. The second objective is to minimize societal disruption, something, of course, that it's almost laughable to think about that in the context of COVID 19, because that has not been a priority at all. But we did more than that. We used fear as an agent of public policy. Public health and governments deliberately fermented fear in people about COVID 19 to encourage compliance with with with with their measures.

Richard Schabas:
And that's wrong and is a tragic error because, of course, once you make people act out of fear and it's true, you make people afraid enough, they will do almost anything you want. History is replete tragically with those kinds of those those instances. But the trouble is, you can't put the genie back in the bottle. So in spite of the fact that, for example, schools are reopen, there are plenty of parents who are still terrified for no good reason, both sending their children to school and everything I did and learned about risk communication and did in my communication with public health is you don't you don't invoke fear. You don't. And we did that deliberately. Then we cancelled dissenting views. Again, considering the huge uncertainties about all this, this is a time when we should have been encouraging discussion, we should have been encouraging dissenting views. We needed to we needed to ask the hard questions. Quite the opposite. We suppressed dissenting opinions. I had a very personal experience, which I'll relate to you for for the last for the 30 years before. Before 2012, 2020, I was frequently interviewed by our national broadcaster, the CBC, on a range of public health issues, particularly those related to SARS and influenza and things that were related to that. And indeed, in the in the first days of March, I was approached, part of the fact that I was retired, I was sought out by some producers and was interviewed a few times on CBC.

Richard Schabas:
However, on March the 22nd, in response to a social media tweet from a former CBC employee who works as a physician assistant, CBC sent around a memo, a senior executive of CBC sent around a memo saying that I and others who thought like me should not be interviewed by CBC because our views were, quote, akin to a climate change denier. The ultimate. The ultimate. And based on the decision of that executive, I've had no further no further media interviews with the CBC since that time. So those views were deliberately stifled as a matter of policy, certainly by our national broadcaster. And I think more generally, the Canadian, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, for example, has a policy which basically threatens with discipline any physician who questions anything related to COVID lockdowns, to vaccines, to any of these vaccine mandates, any of these things. And that's exactly the wrong thing to do. This is a this is a subject where public health is going to benefit from discussion, from dissent. And we have taken exactly the opposite approach. As I said, there's been no commitment to better science. Instead of quickly establishing an agenda to ask, to find out the answers to whether these things work and how well they work and how we can we can be more targeted in our approach. There's been essentially none of that, none of that in Canada and very little of that elsewhere. We've done observational studies, most of which frankly, are not worth the paper they're printed on.

Richard Schabas:
So we have done great damage to ourselves, and you've heard all about that. But the worst is what we have done to our children. Basically, we have thrown children under the bus. And the irony is that this is the group at lowest risk for any serious complications, any serious illness from COVID 19, if anything, less from COVID 19 than from influenza. We've terrorised children, we've denied them education, we've denied them life opportunities. We've interfered with their normal social development. And I'm quite sure that when people look back on this experience ten, 20 years from now, they will look with the kind of horror that I've worked on as to what what we have done within our economy. We've wrecked our public finances. We've cost many people their livelihood. We've terrorized the elderly. You know, old people. Yes. Old people are at significant risk from COVID 19, but old people also have very few years left. And we have deprived many old people. We've terrorised them out of seeing their family, their friends in what is often the last they've lived their last few years in isolation. And that's tragic. We've denied people basic human rights, like freedom of assembly for political purposes. People were actually picketed at protests, I know, in Saskatchewan, just just outrageous. We've we've denied people the freedom to practice their religion on on very spacious public health grounds. We've compromised autonomy of the person by trying to force people into getting COVID 19 vaccines, even even people who are actually at very low risk for any any kinds of serious complications from COVID 19.

Richard Schabas:
In some cases, we've even compromised freedom of speech. Coercion has become our option of first. When it should be our option of last resort. So where do we go from here? Well, I think we need to start by setting clear and reasonable objectives for COVID control. We need to know what it is we're trying to accomplish so that we don't fall willy nilly into into into into a COVID lockdown come the fall. We need to ensure that there's a balanced approach with proper emphasis on the determinants of health. We need to place COVID in its context and respond appropriately. We need to make a real effort to learn the lessons of what's happened and what we've done something which we definitely failed to do with SARS in 2003. And we have to recognise that Canada's response as a country has been shambolic. We have operated as 14 different jurisdictions rather than have a national approach. And I still believe the point I made 20 years ago, I still think we need to review our national public health institutions and create an arm's length, a national institution, not a federal institution, but a national institution that's at arm's length from politicians and government bureaucracies, so that at least we can have some independence in our response to problems of this kind. Thank you.

Trish Wood:
Thank you very much. I've just got one question. Well, maybe it's it's two ideas that rolled into one question. But but although the there were different jurisdictions, generally medical officers of health were moving in lockstep around public policy. There weren't a lot of people like you in that job challenging what was happening. And then the other thing I just wanted to ask you about is why there was, in the face of massive evidence to the contrary, a very, very large reluctance on behalf of public health to look at COVID 19 as a disease that was hugely age stratified. Right. It was a one size fits all instead of a let's target the people who are going to have a bad outcome. Why why do you think they were sort of in lockstep and why do you think they would not stratify age, which would have relieved the fear and open society up again? So basically the Great Barrington Declaration. Right. But why were they reluctant to look at it that way, do you think?

Richard Schabas:
Okay, so two questions. The first is, I can't I can't look into the hearts of my of my colleagues and say why none of them stood by their basic principles. I think a few of them tried to. There have been a few little glimmers. And but but but there were differences between the provinces. I know I have grandchildren in Ontario. They missed almost a full year of in-school education. My grandson in British Columbia only missed a couple of months, so there was no lock step to use school school closures as an example, because there's been nothing we've done that's been more egregious than closing schools. There's nothing there's nothing that is more damaging in the long run to public health than compromising education. And there were important differences. And of course, ironically, if you look at at Canada, outside of the Maritimes, which is kind of a separate issue, if you look at Canadian provinces, the the province that had the most stringent lockdown was Quebec. And the province that consistently had the least stringent lockdown was British Columbia. And British Columbia has about one third the COVID mortality of Quebec. So anybody who thinks that lockdowns made the difference needs to look at those kinds of numbers. We choose narratives that tell us what we, what we, what we want it want to hear. And your second question was.

Trish Wood:
It was just about there seemed to be a reluctance to oh, yes, you look at the age stratification and the risk stratification data and implement that into policy.

Richard Schabas:
That. Absolutely. And you know, what really even shocked me is the debate here is not very different than the debate over influenza immunization. And so influenza immunization, the province of Ontario some 20 years ago adopted a policy of universal influenza immunization. So they heavily promoted it in children. And I initially supported that because I thought that would help to lower the overall risk of influenza. I changed my mind about six or seven years ago when I took a fresh look at the data and said it isn't working. But in fact, the other major, the other really large provinces of Canada, British Columbia and Quebec didn't go that route. They've they've taken the attitude that no will only promote influenza vaccine in those people who are truly at risk of the serious complications of influenza, which is basically the frail elderly. So why didn't we take that approach with COVID? Why didn't we look at this enormous age gradient and say, well, we and the reason is, again, I think the reason is that we became obsessed. With the notion that we could somehow stop and control this virus, that that that when I talked about the lack of goals and objectives, I think we very quickly got seduced into what's almost a zero-covid mentality.

Richard Schabas:
There were some people who were frankly zero-covid, but it really did. It really did. If I can use the word, infect our thinking more generally. And so we became obsessed with case counts. So if you look at what I quoted from our pandemic influenza plan, it talks about reducing serious illness and death. It doesn't talk about reducing cases. That's not the objective in pandemic influenza, and that should never have been our objective here. It doesn't mean you go out and promote people to get infected. But since the risk of of of of death from COVID 19, in people under age 60, for example, is is is comparable to the risk of dying in a motor vehicle crash. Well, we don't tell people not to drive. We tell them to put on their safety belt and go about their business. And that's basically what we should have done with younger people. I think that would have been an approach which which would have there would have, in my opinion, there likely would have been no difference in our overall mortality. If anything, it might have been less and we would have had vastly less societal damage, societal disruption, disruption to our health in general.

Trish Wood:
Okay, I'll pass to the panel.

Preston Manning:
Well, thank you very much, Dr. Schabas. This is very helpful. I just have one question. I know our time is limited. There is a growing public interest in eventually seeing an independent national investigation into how this was handled. Not just necessarily to attach blame to what happened in the past, but particularly to figure out how would you handle this in the future if you were dictating the terms of reference for a national investigation? What would be a couple of those terms of reference that you would you would insist upon?

Richard Schabas:
Okay. I think the there was there was a, quote, national investigation after 2003, but it was basically left in the hands of one person and who headed the the the investigation and that that's a mistake. I think we need to we need to have have a number of people and we need to do it's exactly the opposite of what we did in 2020 when we set up advisory panels and groups and we selected out all the people who agreed with each other and we guaranteed groupthink. You know, there's exactly the wrong thing to do. So I think we have to make sure that that incorporates. Not not not mavericks, not people with crazy ideas, but people with bona fide credentials who who think who think differently. And I think we need to give them a mandate to be broad, wide reaching. And what what they talk about, again, I think the the. I keep saying the worst thing about what's happened, but there are so many worse things I've come out of it. But one of the very worst things is that there's been there's been no broad picture here. There's been nobody's nobody's I would do anything to hear a public health officer stand up one day and say, let's put this in perspective. They never put it in perspective. It's all about our tunnel. Our vision gets narrower and narrower, and we have to make it broader and broader. We have to recognise the huge scope of the damage that we have done in our largely vain attempts to control the spread of a respiratory virus. Thank you.

Trish Wood:
We've got time for more more panel questions here.

Dr. Susan Natsheh:
Thank you so much, Dr. Schabas. It was very informative, and I really appreciate how you were able to change the perspective and on how the past two years has been handled. I was wondering if you could comment on in the future who should be in charge of the messaging to the Canadian public? A lot of it came in this instance directly from public health officials. And do you think that skewed the approach in the view and increase the fear, perhaps?

Richard Schabas:
Yeah. I mean, I'm not sure the politicians have been any better at at I think there was a there was a there was a general approach which was was was fear oriented. You know, I don't I don't I'm not sure I have the answer to that. As I say, I did a lot of public messaging, particularly as chief medical officer of health for Ontario. And I never dealt with the situation quite like COVID 19, but the situations that were analogous and stories from 2003 and again the we should have made the decision right at the beginning that there was enough fearmongering going on in the media and in social media. There was absolutely no need for public health and governments to add to that. There was all the world was already already panicking because of of these other institutions over which we don't have any any real control. And our job as public health officials and as politicians, as government leaders should have been, as I put it in perspective, let's keep calm, keep calm and carry on. Should have been our watchword. We should have. And why there was so little of that. I think people I think public health officials were afraid not to panic because if they didn't sound panicky, they were harshly criticized for not being panicky. Oh, they're not taking this seriously enough.

Richard Schabas:
Don't they know everyone's going to die? No, actually, everyone isn't going to die. And no, staying calm and having a rational approach is what we should be doing. But there was no there was no reward for that. The media was all over. Anybody who let down their guard or under reacted. And there was never any criticism. Someone should go back and look at some of the messaging, some of the hysterical messaging from some of these so called experts make a list of some of these ridiculous predictions that were made, some of these these absolutely absurd, absurd panic, fear mongering threats that were given to people and do it a reckoning on how on how well they stood the test of time. And those are the people we should be we should be critical of. We should be critical of the people who who cried fire in a crowded theatre. And there were lots and lots of those. And unfortunately, public health officials, I think generally I think some of whom actually knew better. They're not they're not stupid people. They know they have the same training that I had. They have many of them have the same experience. I think they were intimidated out of doing that because the consequences if they took that approach could be severe for them.

David Ross:
Thank you, Dr. Schabas. I, I find your testimony exceedingly refreshing. It. And I'm no doctor, but it sounds to me like common sense. And I guess I'd be interested in. And I mean, if you agree that it's common sense, then I wonder if you would comment on on what we've seen and how closely that relates to common sense.

Richard Schabas:
Well, I agree. I mean, medicine in general and in particular, public health is actually not rocket science. And most of which we do is is not is not is not all that complicated. And I, I why why was there not more recognition of this? I think it was fear and intimidation. I think I think so. I keep saying the worst thing that happened, maybe the worst mistake of all was was in dialing up rather than trying to dial down fear. It was in dialing it up. Because once you've won, once that genie is out of the bottle, once you've made people afraid, it's very hard to come back and say, you know, all the things I scared you about last month or last year. Well, you know, maybe that was a little over the top. They won't do that. We never say we did things wrong. We never say we shouldn't have closed the schools. We never we never do those things. And and once once you create that atmosphere, once you make it clear that the government, the politicians, as the media has done, and the public health officials, that if the penalties come from not doing enough. Rather than from doing too much, then guess what? They're going to respond to that risk reward scenario, and they're going to consistently do too much because from their own personal perspectives, in their career perspectives, their professional perspectives, that's the safe thing to do.

David Ross:
So then people chose and I shouldn't just say people are people in leadership chose they chose their fear for themselves to guide their own decision making, rather.

Richard Schabas:
Yeah. Again, I'm not sure. I'm not sure how much of the political decision making was based on on on on on the fact that they were they were put they were made fearful by what they were reading and by what they were being told. I thought it was quite striking. And this is maybe maybe it maybe I'm wrong here. But I thought it was quite striking that the change in attitude in British Columbia when Premier Horgan got COVID, because it seemed to me that as soon as he got covered and got better. That piece felt more relaxed since then, and the rhetoric coming out of the B.C. government and B.C. public health has been more. It's almost like he got over the fear of COVID because, well, guess what? He had it. And he's he's here to tell the tale, which, of course, 99.9% of people who get COVID can do that and doesn't mean it doesn't kill people, because, of course it does. But it wasn't quite the existential threat that he thought it was and that he probably had been led to believe it was or had chosen to believe it was. So that's that's an example. I mean, there are there are there are examples in history. There's a there's something that Daniel Cadman quotes from from the Blitz in London in 1941 when he said they did a study and they thought that people who had a bomb drop on their street, we're going to be more terrified of the blitz than people who hadn't. And they found exactly the opposite. They found that when you faced up to the problem, when you've seen it then actually become less afraid. And I think now there have been so many people infected.

Richard Schabas:
I mean, I'm sure I'm sure more than half the Canadian population has been infected with COVID in the last six months. And people up until six months ago, very few people actually knew people who from very few people who had actually been infected, people who might have died. We'd heard about it, we read about it. God knows we saw the numbers unqualified globe and Mail every day. But the number of people who died of COVID didn't think to put the number of people who died of other things. So we could get some perspective on that. And of course, people are not good at understanding numbers like that. But in the last six months, everybody knows lots of people who've had COVID, you know, and we know that. And as a result, I think we're far less afraid of this. So I'm hopeful. I'm an incorrigible optimist, but I'm hopeful. And I that that as we go into the fall and yes, with the variants and whatnot, case counts, which are still not all that low, are likely to go shooting up again. But I think I'm hopeful that people, even if our governments and our officials. Try to try to use lockdown again. I'm hopeful that people just are not going to go along with it. There's going to be kind of a civil disobedience, not in the sense that people are going to march in the streets or hold sit down strikes, but they're just not going to do this stuff anymore because they've had enough. They've seen it. They don't like it, but they don't understand the rationale for this lockdown and they just aren't going to do it anymore. That's my hope.

David Ross:
Okay. One one last question. And it's a kind of a combination. So I think my understanding is that amongst Western nations, pretty much only Sweden stood alone in in maintaining an initial course of action that that was modeled basically after after after global and national pandemic preparedness plans or emergency management plans. And so there have been some people in Canada, David Redman being one of them, being quite outspoken about about the just the wholesale abandonment of previously extensively thought out pandemic or emergency preparedness plans being tossed in the trash can. Can you comment on on that particular aspect in terms of making a distinction between who ought to coordinate? Crisis management?

Richard Schabas:
Well, I mean, first of all, thank goodness for Sweden. Thank goodness at least one country made some attempt to stick by basic principles, because when everybody says, well, you can't compare us to anybody because everybody locked down. It's not true. Sweden didn't. And initially when Sweden had outbreaks in its long term care facilities similar to us, of course, the media was replete with the Swedish disaster, the Swedish tragedy. It turns out now if you look at the numbers, Sweden's mortality is in the bottom third of European countries. Sweden did much better overall or so do much better. I shouldn't use that phrase because it implies that there's a there's a causality link between what governments did and what the end mortality was, which I'm very skeptical about. Sweden ended up with a lower population mortality than about two thirds of European countries. So in that the argument that Sweden was some sort of a COVID disaster is just not true. And yes, it allows us to say, well, what what could have happened if we had lockdown and why was sleeping different? Well, Sweden does have an independent public health facility. The the the the chief epidemiologist, in fact, is independent from government, as I think there's a hoard or a commission that that he reported to and that did work better. Now, that's no guarantee it would work better. And I think we have to look at the sad demise of the Centers for Disease Control in the United States 20 years ago. It was the preeminent public health agency in the world. It's where we looked to for guidance, for wisdom.

Richard Schabas:
It has sadly become very politicized. Donald Trump, in effect, appointed a political appointee as head, and Joe Biden did exactly the same thing, although obviously of a somewhat different stripe. And so the CDC now has become the source of some of the worst. The sketchy is the most dubious research that they promote on things like masks. So there was one study that unmasked, which is just a travesty of science and the sort of thing that we would never have expected from the CDC in the past. So independent public health agencies. Yeah, I still think that's the way to go. I still would like to see Canada. Have we talked about this after Sage when they set up the the the the national public health the federal public health agency and the whole thing got hijacked by federal bureaucrats. I was I was consulted with the idea of having an agency like this, in a sense, was originally my idea from an editorial I wrote in the Canadian Medical Association Journal many years ago. But instead of creating an arm's length body, they created something which is essentially an agent of the Canadian government. And instead of making it national by engaging the province, the provinces, engaging the other, the other groups that contribute to public health, they made it strictly federal. And so it's been it's been very political. I'd like to I still think we could do better than that. And at least it's not going to guarantee that we'll have a better response. But I think it increases the chances of a more rational and a more balanced response.

Trish Wood:
Okay. Dr. Schabas, thanks very much for this. We could do a whole three days with you. It's so interesting. Thank you. Well, it's great to hear this from somebody who was in public health, because some of the things we witnessed seemed inexplicable. And you've explained them. So that's wonderful. Thanks so much.

Richard Schabas:
My pleasure. Good luck.

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