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Ontario’s former chief medical officer: Ford’s Lockdown ‘misguided,’ only compounds COVID ‘tragedy’

'Our well-intentioned but misguided efforts to control Covid are only compounding the tragedy. We need to change course.'
Wed Jan 20, 2021 - 12:03 pm EST
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Former Ontario medical officer of health Dr. Richard Schabas in a Dec. 2019 interview with CBC. CBC video screen grab

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TORONTO, Ontario, January 20, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — Ontario’s former top doctor told premier Doug Ford in an open letter on Monday that lockdowns are “misguided efforts to control Covid” and are “only compounding the tragedy.”

Dr. Richard Schabas, who served as Ontario’s chief medical officer of health from 1987-97 and who was chief of staff at York Central Hospital during the SARS crisis in 2003, told Ford in a Jan. 18 letter (read full letter below) that lockdowns are not supported by “strong science” and were never part of the province’s “planned pandemic response.”

“Lockdown has been used by almost every developed country and, in the great majority of cases, the lack of response speaks for itself. Two recent studies on the effectiveness of lockdown show that it has, at most, a small Covid mortality benefit compared to more moderate measures. Both studies warn about the excessive cost of lockdown,” Schabas wrote in his letter. The letter was released by Your Ontario Doctors, a group of frontline physicians who advocate for a patient-centered, sustainable, accessible and quality healthcare system.

The Ontario government declared a second state of emergency earlier this month, issuing a stay-at-home order for the province beginning January 14 that is expected to last for at least 28 days. The lockdown order states that people can only leave their homes for “essential” purposes, “such as going to the grocery store, pharmacy, accessing health-care services, exercising, or essential work.”

Schabas pointed out that there are “significant costs to lockdowns” that are often overlooked, such as “lost education, unemployment, social isolation, deteriorating mental health and compromised access to health care.”

“Lockdown is an affront to social justice because its burdens fall disproportionately on the young, the working poor and visible minorities. We will be paying for lockdown — in lives and dollars for decades to come,” the doctor wrote.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in Ontario almost a year ago, there have been only 242,277 confirmed cases in a population of just over 14 million, meaning that only 1.66 per cent of the province’s entire population has been confirmed to be infected with the virus, according to data provided by Public Health Ontario. Of these confirmed cases, there have been 5,479 deaths. Almost 60 percent (3,232) of all COVID-19 deaths to date have been among elderly residents of long-term care homes in Ontario.

Schabas wrote in his letter to the Premier that Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) Roman Baber was right to point out last week that lockdown measures are doing more harm than good. The York Centre MPP had raised his concerns with Ford in a Jan. 15 letter titled, “The Lockdown is Deadlier than Covid.”

“The Lockdowns aren’t working. They are killing lives instead of saving lives. I plead with you to accept this reality and end the Lockdown,” he wrote.

“It’s causing an avalanche of suicides, overdoses, bankruptcies, divorces and takes an immense toll on our children. Dozens of leading doctors implored you to end the lockdowns,” he added.

Baber was swiftly kicked out of his party caucus by Premier Ford.

Schabas wrote in his letter to Ford, however, that Baber’s main points were “correct.”

He criticized the Ford government for resorting to “fear mongering” to encourage compliance with lockdown.

“An excellent example is in the government’s response to Mr. Baber’s letter. Instead of addressing his point about Covid’s IFRs [infection fatality rate], the government cited Covid’s reported case fatality rate (CFR). Every knowledgeable of observer of Covid understands that CFR is in itself an irrelevant number. IFR is the meaningful measure of virulence. CFR’s only ‘virtue’ is its ability to frighten by overstating the real risk of dying from a Covid infection. I can think of no other reason for the government to cite CFR except to promote fear,” he wrote.

Schabas urged Premier Ford to “change course” for the good of Ontario residents.

“Covid is a natural disaster with tragic consequences. Our well-intentioned but misguided efforts to control Covid are only compounding the tragedy. We need to change course. No one has all the answers but the first step is to start asking the right questions. Mr. Baber deserves great credit for his courage in trying [to] open the discussion,” he concluded in his letter.

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Schabas wrote an opinion piece in the Globe and Mail last March about the importance on focusing on the facts when it comes to declaring a disease a “global crisis.”

“I learned some powerful lessons from SARS in 2003. Maybe the most important one was how important it was to focus on what has happened rather than on what might happen. In other words: ‘Just the facts, ma’am,’” he wrote at that time.

The doctor called for “sensible” solutions that matched the facts. “Quarantine belongs back in the Middle Ages. Save your masks for robbing banks. Stay calm and carry on. Let’s not make our attempted cures worse than the disease,” he wrote.

In an interview with TVO in May, Schabas warned that COVID-19 is not the only threat against which Canadians need to protect themselves.

“So, when I look at a problem like COVID-19, and, absolutely COVID-19 is a very serious problem, it has to be looked at in that broader context. Whatever we do to protect ourselves against COVID-19, to try to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 — at the same time, we shouldn’t do deeper and more lasting damage to the things that are ultimately much more fundamental to our health,” he said.

“Whatever we do to mitigate COVID-19, and I think there are many important things we can do to mitigate COVID-19, they need to fit into that context [of education, work, medical care]  — because, if we don’t do that, then, in the long run, we are going to cause, in my opinion, far more damage. Far more lasting damage, far more severe damage to our public health than COVID-19 could ever cause,” he added a little later in the interview.

***

Dr. Richard Schabas’ letter to Ontario Premier Doug Ford

January 18, 2021
Premier Doug Ford
111 Wellesley Street West
Toronto, ON M7A 1A8

Dear Premier Ford:

I served as Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health from 1987 to 1997. I helped train many current medical officers, including Dr. Williams [Ontario’s current Chief Medical Officer of Health] and was Chief of Staff at York Central Hospital during the 2003 SARS crisis.

On January 15, 2021, MPP Roman Baber sent you a public letter calling on your Government to change course on Covid. MPP Baber made five key points and I believe he was correct on all five items.

First, reasonable estimates of the infection fatality rate (IFR) from Covid have been declining as we learn more. Outside of Long Term Care, the risk of dying if you are infected with Covid is probably less than 0.2% overall and deaths are concentrated in the frail elderly. Younger people and healthy people have a much lower risk. Models that predicted hundreds of thousands of deaths from Covid in Canada were badly wrong because they used incorrect, exaggerated inputs.

Second, lockdown was never part of our planned pandemic response nor is it supported by strong science. Lockdown has been used by almost every developed country and, in the great majority of cases, the lack of response speaks for itself. Two recent studies on the effectiveness of lockdown show that it has, at most, a small Covid mortality benefit compared to more moderate measures. Both studies warn about the excessive cost of lockdown.

Third, there are significant costs to lockdowns — lost education, unemployment, social isolation, deteriorating mental health and compromised access to health care. Lockdown is an affront to social justice because its burdens fall disproportionately on the young, the working poor and visible minorities. We will be paying for lockdown — in lives and dollars for decades to come.

Fourth, in April the government announced that it had added almost 1,500 critical care beds to cope with a Covid surge. Now, after nine months to prepare for the predictable resurgence of Covid, why do you have less ICU capacity than we had last April?

Fifth, the government has resorted to fear mongering to encourage compliance with lockdown. An excellent example is in the government’s response to Mr. Baber’s letter. Instead of addressing his point about Covid’s IFRs, the government cited Covid’s reported case fatality rate (CFR). Every knowledgeable observer of Covid understands that CFR is in itself an irrelevant number. IFR is the meaningful measure of virulence. CFR’s only “virtue” is its ability to frighten by overstating the real risk of dying from a Covid infection. I can think of no other reason for the government to cite CFR except to promote fear.

Covid is a natural disaster with tragic consequences. Our well-intentioned but misguided efforts to control Covid are only compounding the tragedy. We need to change course. No one has all the answers but the first step is to start asking the right questions. Mr. Baber deserves great credit for his courage in trying [to] open the discussion.

Sincerely,

Dr. Richard Schabas


  coronavirus, doctors, doug ford, lockdown, lockdowns, ontario, richard schabas, your ontario doctors

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