Stanford Professor John P.A. Ioannidis, the co-director of the Meta-Research Innovation Center at the university, as well as a professor of medicine and population health, released an analysis on Tuesday that argued the world may be overreacting to the coronavirus pandemic.
A specialist in biomedical data science and statistics, Professor Ioannidis argued in the report that the response to the pandemic could be a “fiasco in the making” because global governments are making huge decisions based data that is “utterly unreliable.”
Ioannidis claimed in the report that the United States, as well as European governments, is likely to be overreacting.
In the piece, published by STAT, Ioannidis argued that the virus has been labeled a “once-in-a-century pandemic” but “may also be a once-in-a-century evidence fiasco.”
“Draconian countermeasures have been adopted in many countries. If the pandemic dissipates – either on its own or because of these measures – short-term extreme social distancing and lockdowns may be bearable,” he said.
“How long, though, should measures like these be continued if the pandemic churns across the globe unabated? How can policymakers tell if they are doing more good than harm?”
The research and data specialist also argued that the data available to global governments is “woefully inadequate” and indicates that the extreme measures, including lockdowns, taken by many countries are likely to be a step too far. He even suggested that the measures could ultimately be catastrophic.
Ioannidis referenced the inability to test large numbers of people at this stage, as well as the inability to test people to see if they have already suffered through the viral infection without realizing it. He explained how we are likely not even acknowledging the vast majority if COVID-19 infections, making the fatality rates reported by the World Health Organization “meaningless.”
Few doubt the seriousness of the pandemic and the potential for causing death among elderly and vulnerably people, but the suggestion that the data is inadequate isn’t wrong. Until widespread testing can be performed, we have absolutely no idea what percentage of people hit with the flu experienced serious sickness or death.
“Patients who have been tested for SARS-CoV-2 are disproportionately those with severe symptoms and bad outcomes,” he explained.
Ioannidis also explained how even the common cold or similar flu viruses that have been around for decades sometimes create a fatality rate of 8% when they reach care homes and facilities for vulnerable people.
What do you think – are we overreacting?
In the meantime, remember to do your part and minimize your social interaction with others. As the professor says, we have no idea just how serious the disease is yet, so perhaps it’s best to err on the side of caution!