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Twitter censored Stanford professor for raising alarm over harmful impact of COVID lockdown on children: Here’s what he had said

Dr Jay Bhattacharya had been arbitrarily blacklisted by Twitter, journalist Bari Weiss revealed in her Twitter Files expose, adding that the microblogging website had censored the Stanford professor for stating that COVID lockdowns would harm children.

American journalist Bari Weiss, who recently exposed how Twitter systematically banned right-wing accounts and non-mainstream narratives in a long sequence of tweets, mentioned how Dr Jay Bhattacharya, a professor of health policy at Stanford University, was one of the victims of the high-handedness of a ‘select few’ employees at the social media platform.

Weiss, in the second part of the ‘Twitter Files’, highlighted how Bhattacharya’s tweets were blocked from trending because he claimed that Covid-19 lockdowns could harm children.

In fact, following Bari Weiss’ exposé, the professor himself turned to Twitter on December 9, Friday, to attest to how the social media giant blacklisted him for expressing his personal opinions on the dangers of Covid-infused lockdown on children.

“Still trying to process my emotions on learning that @twitter blacklisted me. The thought that will keep me up tonight: censorship of scientific discussion permitted policies like school closures & a generation of children were hurt,” tweeted the Stanford professor.

In his following tweet, he expressed gratitude to Twitter CEO Elon Musk, who, shortly after taking over the firm, exposed internal conversations regarding the banning of the Hunter Biden story on the social media network. He also implied that the US government had a significant role in the internal workings of Twitter, which he predicted would be revealed in the coming days.

“I’m curious about what role the government played in Twitter’s suppression of covid policy discussion. We will see with time, I suppose. Thank you @bariweiss and @elonmusk. Sunshine is the best disinfectant,” Bhattacharya tweeted.

Who is Dr Jay Bhattacharya?

For the uninitiated, Dr Jay Bhattacharya is a professor of health policy at Stanford University and a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research. He directs Stanford Center for Demography and Economics of Health and Aging. As research, he focuses on the health and wellbeing of vulnerable populations with a particular emphasis on the role of government programs, biomedical innovation, and economics— including the epidemiology of Covid-19 and evaluating policy responses to the epidemic.

His broader research interests encompass the implications of population aging for future population health and medical spending, the measurement of physician performance tied to physician payment by insurers, and the role played by biomedical innovation on health. He’s published 135 articles in top peer-reviewed scientific journals in medicine, economics, health policy, epidemiology, statistics, law and public health among other fields. He holds an MD and PhD in economics, both from Stanford University. 

Dr Jay Bhattacharya had called the shutting of schools during Covid lockdowns catastrophic

Dr Jay Bhattacharya had been on the front lines of analysing, studying, and even fighting the COVID-19 pandemic since its very beginning. In 2020, the professor co-authored the Great Barrington Declaration, an open letter questioning the efficacy of Covid-19 lockdowns. The professor then emphatically stated that the effects of the lockdown on children and the youths were catastrophic, including worse physical and mental health and irretrievably lost life opportunities. The professor had called for a return to normal life for non vulnerable children and youngsters.

The Stanford professor had appeared on multiple talk shows and interviews where he had reiterated the social harms caused by protracted absences from school, economic disruptions and forced isolation of older people during the pandemic.

In fact, last month, in a podcast hosted by Technology Policy Institute, the professor had spoken extensively about the responses of public health and economic experts to Covid-19 where he re-emphasised how the costs of the lockdowns and school closings were enormous.

“They’re devastating, and we still haven’t paid them all, especially for the poorest countries in the world. We’re going to continue to pay them for a very long time. The schooling loss in the U.S. was bad, but you should look at what happened in Ghana where four and a half million kids never came back to school after two years out. The generational inequality we’ve developed—but we sort of pushed through—but the lockdowns are almost unimaginable,” the professor had said.

In May 2022, the professor appeared in another interview where he reiterated the adverse effects of lockdowns. “I think that probably the single worst [policy] was school closures,” said Bhattacharya. “Even short interruptions in the schooling of children can result in long-term ripple outcomes in their lives.”

In September 2021, the Canadian Paediatric Surveillance Program showed that children are at low risk of severe outcomes from COVID-19, Bhattacharya added as he went on to list the negative effects of lockdowns. “The economic effect of the lockdown policies that we followed, especially on poor countries, has been particularly devastating,” he said. “Some estimates suggest that 100 million people worldwide were thrown into poverty, dire poverty, less than $2 per day of income or less.”

According to Bhattacharya, there was no good evidence that lockdowns prevented the spread of COVID-19.

“There was no good evidence that… [lockdowns] were capable of stopping the diseased from spreading,” he said “The Great Barrington Declaration called for focused protection of the old.”

He pointed to Florida and Sweden as case studies. “If you compare Florida and California, the age-adjusted death rate from COVID is very similar,” said Bhattacharya. “California locked down, Florida didn’t lockdown. Sweden did better than most countries, certainly better than the United States, despite not putting in place school closures and a whole host of lockdown-related policies.”

Stanford professor receives death threats for the Great Barrington Declaration

Other health leaders, including National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Dr Anthony Fauci, had then condemned the Great Barrington Declaration and called the document’s proposal for herd immunity “nonsense and very dangerous.”

Bhattacharya revealed how soon after the Great Barrington Declaration gained widespread attention, he received death threats, hate mail and questions on where he receives his funding from.

UNICEF asks for reopening of schools on priority

Notably, in July last year, when the world was still fighting the Covid pandemic, UNICEF urged the decision-makers and governments to prioritize and plan for the safe reopening of schools. It also stated that keeping the schools shut due to the fear of the pandemic could lead to a “generational catastrophe”.

“The losses that children and young people will incur from not being in school may never be recouped. From learning loss, mental distress, exposure to violence and abuse, to missed school-based meals and vaccinations or reduced development of social skills, the consequences for children will be felt in their academic achievement and societal engagement as well as physical and mental health. The most affected are often children in low-resource settings who do not have access to remote learning tools, and the youngest children who are at key developmental stages,” remarked UNICEF in its statement. 

WHO Chief Scientist also urged for reopening of schools

Soumya Swaminathan, the Chief Scientist at the World Health Organization furthered UNICEF’s appeal of reopening the schools. Quoting UNICEF’s Tweet, Swaminathan wrote, “With teachers & adults working in schools prioritized for vaccination & preventive measures to reduce spread of #COVID19, schools can be safely opened. 150 million children out of school with limited access to online education & midday meals will take a much bigger toll on them.”

AIIMS director suggests opening school in a staggered manner

All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) director Dr Randeep Guleria too in an interview earlier had stated that schools in areas with fewer Covid-19 cases must reopen. “Districts should open schools in a staggered manner and bring back children on alternate days, said Dr Guleria.

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