This is the first of two articles by Paula Jardine on the background to the imposition of lockdown during the Covid-19 ‘pandemic’.
ON February 24, 2020, Dr Bruce Aylward, senior adviser to the Director General of the World Health Organisation, encouraged the whole world to adopt what were being called ‘Chinese’ measures. The remarks came at the conclusion of his investigatory visit to Wuhan, the ‘locked down’ city at the centre of the coronavirus outbreak. After 17 deaths had been attributed to Covid-19 pneumonia, residents were subjected to home detention from January 22, the day before the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness (CEPI), which was ‘established as a financing mechanism for vaccine development for emerging infectious diseases’, announced that it was funding the manufacture of Moderna’s mRNA Covid-19 vaccine.
The day after Aylward’s press conference, Boris Johnson’s then adviser Dominic Cummings was lobbiedfor the UK to follow suit. He later told a Parliamentary committee: ‘I started getting people coming to me around the 25th of February – very smart people – saying to me, “America is completely screwing this up. You should be really aggressive. Don’t listen to all these people saying that there’s no alternative to this. I personally am starting to take preparations. I’m buying things. We’re going to have to lockdown, etc, etc” . . . But the official view all the way through the first half of March, and actually into the week of March 16, was that that would all be more dangerous.’
No one on the parliamentary committee asked Cummings who these ‘very smart people’ were but it’s likely they were Sir Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust, Sir John Bell, Regius Professor of Medicine at Oxford University, and Bill Gates, whom he mentioned in his testimony that he was receiving phone calls from.
Cummings also told the committee that three people from whom he himself sought advice were instrumental in convincing him that lockdown was the right thing to do. One was Demis Hassabis, the CEO of DeepMind, an artificial intelligence company now owned by Google, but financed initially by Peter Thiel of Palantir, a company which ‘empowers intelligence agencies to securely derive actionable insights from sensitive materials’. The second was Cambridge University mathematician Dr Tim Gowers and the third was Dr Ben Warner, whose brother Mark founded another artificial intelligence company, Faculty.
Cummings said: ‘The data scientist Ben Warner was working in No 10. His brother, coincidentally and thankfully, was working with the NHS to help the NHS with building a whole data system and data dashboard to deal with Covid. He came to me on 7 March and he had been in various meetings about the official plan. He said to me, “I’m really, really worried about this. It seems to me that this plan could easily be mad. It could be incredibly destructive. Has this really been tested? Have you really thought it all through? Should I and some others start thinking about a plan B?”’
Plan B, or what Cummings told a Parliamentary Committee Jeremy Farrar had called ‘Plan Bill’, was in reality ‘Plan Dick’, the ‘non-pharmaceutical epidemic mitigation measures’ including social distancing and lockdowns devised by Dr Richard Hatchett, the chief executive of CEPI, during his tenure as Director of Biosecurity Policy in President George W Bush’s administration. Hatchett was also to insist that ‘the exit strategy’ from the pandemic was a vaccine.
As Jeremy Farrar recalls in his book Spike, Dr Carter Mecher, senior adviser on public health at the US Department of Veterans Affairs, had been emailing public health officials, including Farrar and Hatchett, in late January and was ‘predicting we would not be able to outrun this one’. (p 127) Mecher is a former colleague of Hatchett from the Bush administration and co-author on his 2007 non-pharmaceutical intervention paper.
Via the messages now known as the ‘Red Dawn’ emails, Mecher, Hatchett and a handful of other Bush White House veterans dubbed the Wolverines after the resistance fighters in the film tried to get the Trump administration to implement their decades-old pandemic response plan.
The Bush Jr administration was the apex of influence for a group of veterans of the earlier Republican administrations led by Presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Bush Sr. Exiled to opposition during the Clinton era, in 1997 these Republican Neo-Conservative stalwarts including Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, John Bolton and Richard Perle, formed a think tank called the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) which set about formulating plans for future government policy. Ten of PNAC’s 25 founding members served in the Bush Jr White House.
The 9/11 attacks of 2001 provided the NeoCons with the opportunity to implement their plans. American General Wesley Clark, who was the Supreme Allied Commander Europe of Nato from 1997-2000 during the Balkan Wars, said later, ‘What happened in 9/11 is we didn’t have a strategy. We didn’t have bipartisan agreement. We didn’t have a clear understanding of it. Instead we had a policy coup. We had a coup in this country, a coup, a policy coup. Some hard-nosed people took over the direction of American policy and they never bothered to inform the rest of us.’
The NeoCons wanted to achieve what they called Full Spectrum Dominance (FSD) and it didn’t stop at land, sea, air, space and cyberspace: it extended to the human body as well. Michael Callahan, a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) manager, envisioned building super soldiers by improving their ‘inner armour’ to make them what he called ‘kill proof’. ‘As of today, our soldiers are vulnerable to diseases to which the enemy is immune. When a single soldier is infected, the mission is jeopardized and often terminated,’ said Callahan. Kill proofing extended to civilians as well with a new agency, the Biomedical Advanced Research Development Authority (BARDA), being created to facilitate it. Callahan was the first to have the idea of developing new vaccine technologies for rapid deployment.
Although the NeoCon era is gone and Hatchett was not himself a member of the NeoCon clique, he is an institutional survivor from this post-9/11 era, when as Edward Snowden put it, people became ‘willing vessels of vengeance’. The open question is how much of the NeoCon policy agenda became institutionalised and has survived.
Hatchett was an emergency room physician on duty in New York when the 9/11 outrage took place. In the aftermath he became a volunteer providing medical support to search-and-rescue workers before abandoning his career as an oncologist in favour of emergency preparedness work and ultimately becoming an official in President George W Bush’s administration.
As Director of Biosecurity Policy, Hatchett was the primary author of the 2006 US Pandemic Influenza plan which called for social distancing and lockdowns, which he referred to as stay-at-home ‘snow days’, as interim measures to buy time to enable large quantities of vaccines to be manufactured. These measures immediately attracted robust criticism from other scientists who concluded ‘forced isolation and quarantine are ineffective and impractical’.
By coincidence (or not, as the case may be) in early March 2020 Hatchett was in the UK. According to its 2019 Annual Progress Report, CEPI, of which he had been CEO since 2017, had raised only three-quarters of its $1billion annual funding target. When Covid-19 appeared, creating the need for even more money, CEPI put out a funding call in February 2020 for $2billion to finance the development of its Covid vaccine portfolio.
By March 6 Hatchett persuaded the UK government to commit £20million from the Department of International Development’s budget to ‘the global race to find a coronavirus vaccine’. This was on top of the £30million given to CEPI in 2019 towards its annual budget. Hatchett appeared on Channel 4 news on the day of the announcement saying Covid-19 was ‘the most frightening disease I have encountered in my career’.
Three weeks after Hatchett’s visit to the UK, and three days after Boris Johnson announced the UK lockdown, the UK government raised its initial contribution tenfold to £210million following a CEPI teleconference with G20 leaders. ‘Developing vaccines is the most cost-effective way to save lives and to neutralize the grave threat posed by Covid-19,’ said Hatchett.
The latest National Audit Office figures show that to date the UK government has spent £376billion on Covid measures. Meanwhile, the Office of National Statistics reports that the lockdowns led to an unprecedented fall in Gross Domestic Product.
A month after the UK was locked down, Hatchett joined Dr Jeremy Farrar, Dr George Gao, director of the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, and Dr Anthony Fauci, the Director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), in a webinar hosted by the American National Academy of Medicine (NAM) president Dr Victor Dzau. Hatchett concluded with a prophetic statement: ‘I think Covid represents an absolute watershed. The effect on global society, on the economy, literally everybody on the planet, is absolutely going to change the approach to preparing for these kinds of events in the future and it will be a very very different world.’
In parallel with the formulation of the Hatchett/Mecher US pandemic influenza plan, changes were agreed in 2005 to the WHO’s legally binding International Health Regulations (IHR). The changes were first advocated by the USA in 1996 and agreed by member states due to the urgency of concerns over the bird flu epidemic identified by Farrar’s team in Vietnam. Member states’ disease surveillance obligations increased and the WHO was given the authority to declare Public Health Emergencies of International Concern (PHEIC) in response to disease outbreaks with epidemic and pandemic potential.
Tomorrow, in light of the interest of the George W Bush era Wolverines in the Covid-19 response, I will examine the possible links to other homeland security measures proposed during the post-9/11 years.