According to the British Medical Journal, PCR is not a test of infectiousness; rather the test detects trace amounts of viral genome sequence, which may be either live transmissible virus or irrelevant RNA fragments from previous infection – Pic by Shehan Gunasekara
Just a word before we dive in. A 17 April study in Lancet, the eminent medical journal, shows the English (Kent) variant we believe is on the prowl here, is more infectious but no more lethal, likely less, though it does lead to a greater need for oxygen. Ergo, let us restrain the panic. In fact, if we would allow the asymptomatic and mildly symptomatic to home quarantine, we would relieve enormous pressure on hospitals, improve care, and certainly would not impair public health…on the contrary.
Said variant has been reported to have already spread widely across the US, where overall there is a 77% reduction in adverse COVID stats, and the “non-masked” and “non-lockdown” States continue to meet or beat the results of the others. The seven worst US jurisdictions for current COVID results all have mask mandates and lockdowns in place, contrasting with Florida, Texas, Georgia and others, with largely open schools and more.
In the UK itself, COVID numbers are so low (down 96% from the peak) that flu and pneumonia are back to killing more people, and infection for over 80s has dropped dramatically as well (and this isn’t with universal vaccination, but widespread vaccination, and large-scale natural immunity by now). So, the dire variant, as per the Lancet study has neither been overwhelming our immune systems or even our current vaccines, hence it more than behoves us to rein in any overreaction.
The import of recent studies
As highlighted in my last article, with the firm conclusion of C-19 being airborne, both MIT and Lancet and others are saying to minimise, during spikes, the time spent indoors. CDC has confirmed outdoor masking is not required for the vaccinated. But the other studies point out it’s not needed anyway, as unless you are in a very large crowd, particles get diffused outdoors and there are virtually no credible reports of outdoor transmission.
Then we have the CDC report indicating the chances of catching COVID from a surface are about one in 10,000, that’s not how its spread. So, while good hygiene always matters, the mania isn’t needed.
MIT also said indoor events could readily proceed if there is good ventilation, and people aren’t spending unduly extended time there, and distancing rules aren’t really relevant given the airborne nature.
The US Super Bowl, one of the most packed sporting events in the world (25,000 fans), in Florida with overflowing celebrations and street parties largely maskless, demonstrated this quite conclusively.
In fact, a current UK study is set to advise the feckless UK PM, that large events without distancing will not pose any undue threat, going forward. The UK Government has been trialling the reopening of events with large crowds, both indoor and outdoor; 4,000 people attended the FA Cup semi-final between Leicester City and Southampton and 8,000 were at the Carabao Cup final. Over 1,000 per day have gone to the World Snooker Championships in Sheffield.
As of this writing, no untoward much less alarming spikes from any of these or similar studied environments. Guidance revolves around staggered entry, so no undue crowding, but sitting in reasonable proximity with good and amplified ventilation, or if outdoors, have been both found to be fine.
Again, we need to restrain our panic, and update our nostrums and guidance, so “life” and not “fear” predominates.
“Transmission” is not a threat per se, as the overwhelming number of people recover. We cannot lose the script in terms of numbers either. A week in Lanka of 1,500+ “positive tests” is a complete “non-event” statistically re COVID by any global standard. The 661 deaths, including many with multiple comorbidities, have no impact on net mortality when 12,000 pass per month normally, and we had 12,000 auto accidents from March to December 2020 despite curfews and shutdowns. All are tragic, all are to be mourned, every one we can prevent is to be prevented, but sanity and sane benchmarks have to prevail.
If auto accidents were flashed hourly, with grim foreboding, with daily tallies, and graphic TV coverage, and ashen commentators, day in and day out, I would lay odds at the end of the week, a “road” or “car” phobia would start to take place, and we’d be convinced we are taking our lives into our own hands each time we approached a car or thoroughfare.
Relative to masks, outdoors is now demonstrably silly except in a teeming crowd, indoors depending on ventilation and crowding, and even there, the microparticles won’t be arrested, and our immune systems need to engage, or else we’ll be held hostage perpetually. Keep in mind, the recovery rate globally is between 95% to 99.8% depending on age and comorbidities, so we are not dealing with Ebola or Yellow Fever (with case fatality rates of 30-50%).
In fact, “case fatality” rates are irrelevant as they are based on the numbers tested, not infected. If WHO is right that about 10% of the world has been infected, then the “661” from 2.1 million in Lanka is even less terrifying than the .6% it currently appears to be from 105,000 cases leading to 661 deaths (many of them not “from” but only “with” COVID).
Professor Denis Rancourt has this to say about masks: “In the 21st century, the medical establishment recommended prolonged breathing through a mucus and saliva filled personal Petri dish.” This may be why all the “mask mandate” US States seem to have more infection, and Sweden with no mask mandate, though with temporarily “rising cases” has falling mortality (which is all that really matters) and has now (despite their nursing home debacle) fallen below the top 30 in terms of deaths in Europe, Belarus with no such restrictions, is 45. Science is not partial or political, again it either “works” like the Polio vaccine or it doesn’t…it can’t have such wide variances in results and then have so-called “experts” pontificating with any measure of draconian arrogance.
The US CDC, awash in medical revisions and tardy bolts of enlightenment, has now asserted that it will also only consider COVID cases when the amplification (Ct) settings of the PCR tests are 28 or below! Earlier, WHO had not issued these guidelines, and countries were setting at 40 or 45, which led to the papaya fruit and goat being tested positive, in the US, a bottle of Coke. I wonder, could we not ensure that all Lankan labs are now operating on a mandated national amplification setting, certainly below 30, so we are discerning relevant live viral load and not viral fragments, or debris as numerous eminent scientific critics have highlighted?
Let’s address India
There’s always a media panic, and India is the latest, but the facts are more sobering. Let us first remind ourselves 27,000 die every day in India, nothing to do with COVID. So, even the harrowing 2,000 “ascribed” (do not know how scrupulously death certificates are attended to there either) deaths on a particularly acute several days, is akin to 100 dead in the UK per day in relative population terms. 200,000 total deaths with close to 1.5 billion population in India, is akin to 10,000 in the UK. None to be minimised, but stricken alarmism is just not merited either.
Every day 2,000 perish in India roughly from diarrhoea and 1,200 from tuberculosis (vaccinations for which have been disrupted by the “pandemic” and infections will, we have to believe, tragically mushroom). The epicentre in India has clearly been Delhi. Delhi has some of the worst air pollution in the world and some of the worst respiratory health in the world. Respiratory diseases like COPD, TB, bronchitis leading to pneumonia are among the top ten killers in India regularly. The air pollution often requires oxygen which can be in short supply for this reason
According to contacts on the ground, as reported by Jo Nash, people in Delhi “are suffering from untreated respiratory and lung conditions that are becoming serious”. The seasonal infections have not been properly treated due to COVID, and people’s avoidance of Government hospitals out of fear. The media alarm stoking has compounded this. Therefore, a significant lack of early intervention has led to life threatening complications, and then we disastrously add a C-19 spike to the mix.
Keep in mind temples, mosques, churches have been open as has the economy since September. So, it is illogical to think a “wave” took this long to gather steam. There has been a fairly intensive vaccination drive. And as earlier reported, all the countries with mass vaccination seem to have a surge of “positive tests” and complications between shots (Israel, UK, Gibraltar, Hungary, many others). We can’t be sure, but it has been a variable.
Also, for balancing perspective, and to further highlight media caprice, it is Hungary not India that has the highest C-19 death rate globally, though I’ve certainly missed the “breaking news” to that effect. Again, India’s current death tally is only the 22nd worst even in Asia, and not even among the top 100 globally. Philippines has more deaths (their “blessed” leader suggested lockdown flouters should be shot!). But India has more deaths than Japan, whose “state of emergency” has never included putting citizens under house arrest. Hungary with nine million people is statistically far worse.
Let’s think through our strategy
Every time there is a spike, can we keep panicking? Even if death rates went up, knowing people die from all kinds of causes, and did so in far greater numbers when we never shut down during the civil war, what is our threshold for trusting our immune systems, trusting vaccines as they improve (but not being utterly dependent on them), and realising there are dangers in life? And a greater danger is economic destruction, social dissolution, educational corrosion, children’s lives sacrificed over our misguided “carcass preservation” project from a viral strain with an “Infection Fatality Rate” of around .14% as per WHO peer reviewed studies (see my last article).
Professor Rancourt again on vaccines: “Suddenly in 2020, the human species acquired a survival necessity to be vaccinated two or more times a year, after co-evolving with respiratory disease viruses for as long as there have been breathing animals on earth.” The “necessity” is the pharmaceutical companies who want “late” treatment and certainly none of the cheap, readily available early treatments like Ivermectin (see last article), which while clearly demonstrated to be highly effective, will not as an Argentinian medical specialist said, buy anyone a yacht with its dividends.
So, the epidemic will become endemic, that’s all we can hope for. Lock down, and when you open up, there it is. Shut borders, and as you open, there it is. Infantilise the immune system, and we are one vaccine-evading variant away from new mass panic.
Can anyone imagine that this society can function, or recover, or rebound, if after every festive season, every mutation, every seasonal fluctuation, we go back to roadblocks, dire warnings on the media, people terrified to come out, meetings and events cancelled. Oh, but weddings continue? I was told that was for “sentimental reasons”. The virus is surely not that sentimental, or matrimonial? If we can take acceptable risks there, why not in other well ventilated spaces, ensuring crowd size and other safeguards? Why is the message not to live and engage actively, rather than to cower? Alas, rather than our allowing more interaction, the most recent guideline as 3 May, no weddings for the moment either.
If numbers have to go down for us to function, then we are perpetual hostages. Truly, eventually, one day we have to say, “Enough! We take prudent preventive measures, but we have to rebuild our lives, societies, economy, education, children’s future, and an influenza strain cannot stop us from doing so.”
Yes it’s a serious virus, but it’s not the only serious virus, illness, challenge, situation, and we need “resilience” and the foresight, not to keep applying brakes just as key sectors start to get more custom, and people start to rebuild, and confidence begins to recover. It’s not COVID. It’s us, it’s our response. This is a viral strain that overwhelmingly tracks normal mortality and virtually everyone recovers from. Start there. That’s it. That’s globally demonstrated. This is not the most infectious nor the most lethal scavenger we’ve faced, but the one most hyped, the one power structures have most invested in, the one that fascistic authoritarianism has latched onto.
And here in Lanka, again we haven’t been as bedevilled. Society is still largely open, in some ways seemingly against hope as the “fear campaign” exacts its toll, storekeepers, business owners and hoteliers keep us viable, almost sacrificially (in economic terms). Bravo to our leaders for their humanity and sanity on this front, but these valiant enterprises and citizens need and deserve our support
We have to jettison the illusion of controlling the uncontrollable, and mitigate wisely, and let people know, if Wuhan New Year is doable, if Disney stays open in Florida, if mass events take place in the UK now, if Lanka made it through the election with the corresponding crowds, calm down, this will peter out…and watch the overall mortality needle not “positive tests” (Ct settings anyone?).
A way forward
Go back to tracking symptoms and mortality. As explained prior, asymptomatic transmission has been challenged by a 10-million-person-strong Wuhan study, JAMA meta-analysis of thousands, assessment by The British Medical Journal and more. If we keep chasing phantoms, the shadows will keep us in the cave.
Imagine the next time your business is shut, or rather told it can “stay open” but our communication terrifies all the customers from coming out and giving us any business, and as Paul Stilwell says, we call ourselves not “broke” but “asymptomatically wealthy.” And we might realise we need “sanity” and not “asymptomatic sanity” to tackle the issues of unemployment, industries struggling to survive much less thrive, burgeoning deaths from untreated cancers and unvaccinated children, suicides and depression, and all things caused by our utterly disproportionate and mad meltdown over this allegedly “novel” coronavirus.
We have been held back by “Asymptomatic Common Sense” for too long. As spelled out
- Avoid fresh air to maintain health (recent studies finally debunked this, as if a “study” was needed for what our grandparents knew)
- Scare people over misguided “numbers” and then “order” them to revive the economy
- Insist you need “masks” to breathe freely to stop particles they can’t stop, especially with openings
- Treat your relatives to “safety” so called by avoiding them, evading them, and having them die alone
- Have media become spokespeople for lucrative Government platitudes
- Make sure we don’t hear contrary views and don’t allow people to decide their own level of risk even if healthy and knowing they have a greater chance of dying by far from heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, car accidents, most years dengue
Perhaps a Chair in Asymptomatic Medicine could be next…sick until proven healthy, upending everything medicine has ever conjured with since the Hippocratic Oath.
I suggest we ditch the ‘nonscience’ and the Orwellian doublespeak, and provide competent care as Lanka’s doctors, nurses and first responders have so brilliantly, and beyond that, look to the future.
For a simple profile in leadership, we can look at Florida, which like Georgia, the alarmists said was flirting with “human sacrifice.” What they “sacrificed” was insanity.
Governor De Santis delayed closing bars and restaurants until after spring break 2020. In September, after “following the science” (actual rather than alarmist), he reopened all businesses in September. No mask mandate in Florida. Schools re-opened to in-person learning in August 2020. Bitter controversy from the “true believers” but the results are unambiguous.
With one of the oldest (and therefore most at risk) populations in the US, Florida is the middle of a 50 State pack, despite far greater density than many; 23rd in cases and 28th in deaths. With their age profile, that’s a miracle. Florida’s unemployment rate at 4.7% is half that of California. No spikes owing to schools and children have education and social development. Oh, and Georgia too has a 35% lower mortality rate than the orthodoxy worshipping New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Massachusetts.
So, Sri Lanka should be the next case study. Vaccines are available for the vulnerable, we can educate ourselves on the many effective treatments available as we aim to look after those at risk. Let’s declare “emergency over” for the rest of us, and we take our chances living as we do when we go rock climbing, or swimming in the ocean, or crossing a congested street. Let us look at each other as stimulus and community and opportunity and not as “threats”.
Let me close simply by quoting the British Medical Journal on PCR Tests, as they are holding this nation hostage. Quoting the British Medical Journal:
“PCR is not a test of infectiousness. Rather the test detects trace amounts of viral genome sequence, which may be either live transmissible virus or irrelevant RNA fragments from previous infection. When people with symptoms or who have been recently exposed receive a positive PCR result at the suitable amplification settings, they will probably be infectious. But a positive result in someone without symptoms may be from live or dead virus (whether this or one similar), and so does not determine whether the person is infectious and able to transmit the virus to others.”
Let the chorus swell, let the angels fly far and wide with this evangel. It’s high time to create a hypothesis, a strategic “must-win battle” out of the recurring panic mode. Here’s one. Humans have survived much worse. We’re resilient enough, have the wits, the medicine, and the capabilities to survive this. What we cannot survive is our unwillingness to gird our loins and vote for sanity.