Sanjeev Sabhlok's blog

Thoughts on economics and liberty

My email to a person still panicking from the pandemic


Herd immunity is a theoretical construct. In practice herd immunity varies with viral load and a number of characteristics. There is no unique “number” for herd immunity. Also various definitions in the literature about what it means. The one I use is when the reproduction rate drops below 1 and the virus spread starts dropping off in a particular place. That’s the point I see as “herd immunity”. Herd immunity will be different in New York and in a remote rural setting.

My conclusion is that the pandemic is largely over in Sweden (has been over since mid-April) and any residual risk is comparable with that of common cold. Also USA is close to that stage – in a couple of weeks max.

It is true that if the Swedes (or Americans) who have not yet been infected rub shoulders in close proximity or talk loudly/ sing at each other for 1 hour, they will still get infected, but that’s not what most people do. Most of us remain at a good distance to each other and don’t loudly sing in each other’s face.

Except in prisons, choirs, meatworks and other high intensity environments, there is no evidence of this virus infecting more than 20% of the population simply because the viral load is insufficient or there is some innate/adaptive immunity – which is consistent with all previous pandemics. In none except Spanish flu actually infected more than 30% (which was around 35%). There are very few high intensity situations in real life.

After 8 months (this virus began in October 2019), all the necessary data are in. And all parts of the jigsaw puzzle fit. It is a very complex puzzle, though, and requires intensive study and an open mind – and a lot of questions. I studied a lot of advanced textbooks and published peer reviewed literature to form my view.  Btw, Sunetra Gupta is no trivial scientist – being the Prof of theoretical epidemiology at Oxford – and she’s fully aboard this view (in fact she was one of the first to outline this view) – and I’m leaving out the super-brilliant Anders Tegnell here.

Basically, this is a far less dangerous virus than Asian flu, and has passed in many parts of the world. Its average death rate will end at around 500-600 per million across the world – which is peanuts in the big scheme of things. It will rank at the 5th or 6th position in the past century, starting with Spanish flu at the top. Never before did we lockdown, even during the Spanish flu.

This has been one of the most bizarre incidents in human history and a very bad portent for what governments will do when they get scared (irrationally) of “climate change”. The communists are in charge. Liberty and human dignity/choice is the last thing in their mind.

For detailed explanation of reasons see: and particularly my 30 May article:


The single best diagram on this bizarre situation is this (from Lockdown sceptics, with my annotation)

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While Vedics might have heard about the ocean, they DID NOT practice ocean-faring trade like the Indus people

QUESTION: If the Rig Veda was largely composed inland then why do we have a reference to ocean trade in the Rig Veda?

ANSWER: This “reference” is simply incorrect – it is highly questionable from many angles. And the flimsy poetic “evidence” derived from it does NOT prove even remotely that the Vedics directly plied ocean trade.


VERSE 1:  वेदा यो वीनां पदमन्तरिक्षेण पतताम्। वेद नावः समुद्रियः॥7 

Griffith rightly translates this as “He knows the path of birds that fly through heaven, and, Sovran of the sea, He knows the ships that are thereon.”

But Dayanand Saraswati derives this meaning:

(यःजो (समुद्रियःसमुद्र अर्थात् अन्तरिक्ष वा जलमय प्रसिद्ध समुद्र में अपने पुरुषार्थ से युक्त विद्वान् मनुष्य (अन्तरिक्षेणआकाश मार्ग से (पतताम्जाने आने वाले (वीनाम्विमान सब लोक वा पक्षियों के और समुद्र में जानेवाली (नावःनौकाओं के (पदम्रचन चालन ज्ञान और मार्ग को (वेदजानता है वह शिल्पविद्या की सिद्धि के करने को समर्थ हो सकता है अन्य नहीं॥7 

I’ve discussed with Sanjay Sonawani and here are my current understandings.

Also read this: Navigation in India: Sea and Inland Navigation by R. S. Varshney

Issues and implications:

1. The verse is a form of poetic allegory. Attributing to the Vedics the knowledge of ocean-faring ships and submarines is far-fetched because in this particular verse while applauding Varuna, the Vedic seers are using poetic allegory. So Dayanand Saraswati’s inference is not supported. Vedic verses are unfortunately often translated and interpreted in any way one wants. This is a case of putting meaning into words that is not justified.

2. Further, the word नावः means boat, not a ship even today. “Jahaj”is used for ship. And samudra (large body of water) is not “saagar” (ocean).

The commonly understood meaning of these words does not suggest that the Vedics were referring to the ocean. There were many rivers in central Asia with small boats. As well as large bodies of water (samudra). These may well have been the limit of their interpretation. Vedics definitely knew about boats used on rivers or lakes.

3. The Rig Veda nowhere mentions sea trade or voyages. But since Sanskrit is a branch of the Indo-Aryan language that arose apparently from Anatolia, it is quite possible that some words referrring to ocean-going ships were part of the standard language even though Vedic people (and Zend Avestans) largely lived inland. Even if these words mean ocean-going trade, these words do not prove that the Vedics directly engaged in such trade.

4. The last parts of the Rigveda were composed in India. By the time they entered India they would have come across the residue of the Indus Valley civilisation which once had extensive sea trade with the Middle East (even though by then the trade had largely stopped).

5. Before Indus people invented sea routes they used land routes and traded with BMAC culture, the heartland of the Vedic/Avestan Aryans. They also imported agate and other precious stones from Afghanistan to process them further and export. Indus people had cleaerly established contacts with the people of Iran long before the Vedic era began. Since Iranians were in contact with Indus people, they must have heard of the sea and the boats. A few might even have travelled to Indus shores and witnessed the ocean. But that doesn’t prove that they actively engaged in such trade themselves.

6. Scholars agree that the language in the modern Rigveda is not its original language. Madhav Deshpande has shown the Vedas known to Panini are not the same as we have today either in the language or in the arrangement. Seth, Bloch and many others have shown that the Vedic language is heavily influenced by Prakrit vocabulary and grammar besides of Dravidian and others. The present Vedic language is therefore a mixture of Avestan and Prakrit languages having no originality left. We will therefore never know what words Vedic seers used originally to express their thoughts and what they meant.

7. Many Vedic words also gained different meanings in course of time. Madhav Deshpande says that the compilation of the Vedas has gone through many stages such as collecting the family verses/books, putting them in contemporary linguistic order and then arrange them chronologically. This editing and compilation might have lost the original essence as well.

Therefore the Vedas are a flimsy foundation to ascertain the facts of those times since they they are not exactly the way they were composed. (Note that the Vedic language and Sanskrit have no direct relation. The grammar and vocabulary of both languages are drastically different. Sanskrit is very very young language compared to Vedic and Prakrit languages).

5. No characteristics of the Indus civilization are anywhere evident in any of the Vedas. Modern Vedics are trying to stretch back the time of the Vedas to make them contemporaneous to Indus civilization. But knowledge of the sea and boats is not enough to make such a claim. There are many other specialities of the Indus culture those are absent from Rigveda.

VERSE 2: There is a verse of the ninth book of Rigveda where the seers pray to Soma that “entertain ‘asmabhyam'” (means ‘to us’). Griffith has translated it as “to our profit”, so modern Vedicists argue that the seers intended “bring us profit O four seas!”

To use this flimsy “evidence” as proof that the Vedics made a “profit” from ocean-going trade is completely unsustainable and outrageous!

They were completely in the hinterland and led a nomadic life. No evidence either of urbanisation or advanced ocean-going trade which was practiced by the Indus Valley Civilisation.


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Next TOI blog post and comments: Why less than 25% of the world’s population is likely to get Covid-19

This is the post. And this is an email I sent out a moment ago to a number of people.


Dear all

Things went pear shaped for all previous analyses and “models” when Stockholm’s data showed that it had crossed the herd immunity threshold in mid-April but serological studies showed far less than 20% people had antibodies at that stage. Everything had to fit this. So I became open to alternative explanations. I found some good leads in the work of Nicholas Lewis and Anne Marie Knott – despite potential questions about each approach.

I looked at the R0 concept closely and found it to be shockingly shoddy – with almost no possibility of getting a real handle on the actual number, which means herd immunity numbers floating around were simply speculative. Martin Kulldorff confirmed that: “No respectable epidemiologist would claim a certain percentage as needed for COVID-19 herd immunity. At this stage of the pandemic, we simply do not know what the number is”. I also studied some of epidemiological literature which is quite dismissive of the practical utility of this concept. I have come to the view that 90 per cent of epidemiologists in the public domain spout pure garbage – just like 90 per cent of economists and climate scientists. (Anders Tegnell and Johan Giesecke are among the few exceptions).

I then started looking into the actual spread of previous pandemics (flu) and found that most did not spread beyond 25%. Knowing fully well that this virus is a coronavirus, not flu, I still think these facts now all add up and suggest that this virus faces natural resistance. Immunological science explains why that might be so (innate immunity, cross-immunity etc.) – Btw, in this regard I’d like to share a recent study that SS Chakrabarti et. al of the Institute of Medical Sciences, Banaras Hindu University has sent to me (attached).

In addition, I’ve reviewed worldometers for deaths – with San Marino showing clearly that its pandemic is over. That seems to be the upper limit of fatalities for this virus. The lethality of virus seems to be comparable ed with the Asian flu – around 20 times less than that of Spanish flu. I have summarised these findings in this TOI blog post:

Good news: Sweden is now reopening high schools, colleges and universities for summer classes and the fall semester. Sweden has recognised that its pandemic is nearly over and life should be able to return to full normalcy within weeks.

And for India: Johan Giesecke was interviewed by Rahul Gandhi, a political leader from the ultra-corrupt Congress party. Leaving aside the question why Johan chose to speak with this super-corrupt man, his points are pretty much the same as our party has been advocating for three months: end India’s lockdown and focus on the elderly. I’ve extracted two minutes from the interview. (Johan, please do visit India but NOT on Rahul’s invitation. The man and his family have absolutely ruined India! –  I’m fighting him and other corrupt socialist parties of India – politically – for the last 25 years. I’d be happy to connect you to really decent and respectable people from India).




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COVID-19 will almost certainly never infect more than 25% of the world’s population

Email that I’ve sent out to a few people:
This chart below is the final nail on the covid panic (and yet, this is a serious disease – I don’t mean to downplay its seriousness – see my text below).

This chart was created by someone who used Neil Ferguson’s model, applied it to Sweden, and then plotted actual deaths (see tweet).

And btw, my research (a couple of hours of googling) confirms that for the world as a whole, there’s been virtually no virus that has ever infected more than 25% per cent of the population. Spanish flu infected only 25% or so (see my tweet thread) – that that was without any vaccination; H1N1 (2009) infected 24%, As a general rule, pandemic influenzas only infect a quarter of the people (see New York government’s website).

This confirms the validity of Anne Marie Knott’s analysis. Not more than 20-30% persons in the average country are likely to get this coronavirus, no matter how hard they try. This proportion is also called the attack rate by some epidemiologsts (e.g. Encyclopedia Britannica), but other epidemiologists use a different meaning for attack rate (the number of persons one infected person can infect), so let’s just call this the infection rate.

What explains this huge gap – why don’t the other 70-80% of the people get infected? The innate immunity issue is very significant here (and it varies for each virus), and the viral load factor. Viral loads are low in most adult interactions and probably highest in pre-school centres, but children seem to have innate immunity for this virus (something for future researchers to explain). In elders innate immunity decays rapidly – therefore two-thirds of Kirkland Life Care Center nursing home’s residents caught the infection. The 25% infection rate is only an average.

Now coming to Sunetra Gupta’s analysis that there will be no second wave in some places.

From the Spanish flu example (for which there was no vaccine), we see that herd immunity for such viruses is generally around 25%. The estimate of 60% bandied about by “experts” is absurd, to say the least. For COVID, HI levels should be in the same range, i.e. 20-30%.

Antibody figures in parts of UK and Sweden are close to 20% (or slightly more). And we know that the actual extent is likely to be higher since not everyone produces measurable antibodies. This confirms that the further spread of this virus in these countries is going to be extremely slow – close to non-existent. Therefore Sunetra Gupta is correct

The basic point is that the initial modelling was absolutely off the charts. Neil Ferguson (copied into this email) might wish to publish a public statement withdrawing his extreme estimates.

I’ll do so some further work and write about it in next TOI blog post over the next few days. Happy to have any thoughts/ inputs to this analysis, so that I don’t make fundamental mistakes!


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