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Was there ever a pandemic at all?


A RECENT review by Professor Martin Neil and Jonathan Engler of the research literature on coronaviruses has conclusively found that ‘the emergence of a novel engineered pathogen [SARS-CoV-2] is the least likely explanation for the event called the “covid pandemic”.’ Engineered gain-of-function was, they said, more accurately ‘claim-of-function’ that didn’t withstand scrutiny.

Neil and Engler called for such research to make viruses more pathogenic or transmissible to be stopped as it is both unethical and unnecessary. It should be pointed out that gain-of-function research is in fact contrary to the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention. However under War on Terror measures, the US claimed the right to conduct what is now euphemistically called ‘gain-of-function’ research instead of biowarfare research, claiming it was a threat assessment measure necessary to identify biological threats and pre-emptively develop countermeasure vaccines.

The idea that SARS-CoV-2 was a laboratory engineered escapee has been around since the January 2020 WHO declaration of the SARS-CoV-2 ‘public health emergency of international concern’ (PHEIC). Initially it received only cursory attention as the zoonotic origin story, which claims the virus crossed naturally from bats to humans, was pushed in February 2020 by Dr Anthony Fauci and Dr Jeremy Farrar, the then-heads of the medical research funding agencies underwriting laboratory research into coronaviruses, who were also calling for increased government investment into pandemic prevention.

The scientific debate over the two publicly argued origin stories serves the vested interests of those promoting them. The zoonosis narrative is straight out of the fictitious climate change playbook which claims humans are encroaching on animal habitats like never before, thus conveniently leading to the monstrous OneHealth concept which calls for as many creatures as possible on the planet, human, animal or bird, to be to be subjected to vaccination. 

The champion of the ‘engineered pathogen leaking from an unsafe Chinese government-run virology laboratory in Wuhan’ is Dr Robert Kadlec, the principal architect of 21st century US biodefence policy and of the Manhattan Project for Biodefense which the Covid pandemic gave cover for, and which has massively expanded vaccine manufacturing capacity globally, while simultaneously compressing the time in which the products are brought to market. It has significant support from the scientists whose opposition to gain-of function research led to the US government imposing a moratorium on research into the technique in October 2014.

In their article ‘Virus Origins and Gain (Claim) of Function Research’, Neil and Engler examine the question ‘Are novel viruses really that novel?’ The designation ‘novel’ is, they discovered, somewhat arbitrary. The International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses reviews the genome sequence of viruses and decides whether to label them as novel. These decisions, say Neil and Engler, are ‘subjective judgements rather than an objective analysis’. ‘Together the assignment of the word novel and the use of the name [2019 Novel-CoV – the original name for SARS-CoV-2] looks like the result of contentious political process or social construct, presented as a scientific one where all uncertainty, doubt and dispute have been stripped out,’ they report.

The political pressure to label SARS-CoV-2 ‘novel’ in all probability came from the US due to domestic legal considerations to further the Manhattan Project for Biodefense which was being developed in advance of January 2020 for the purpose of introducing DARPA’s (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) mRNA Pandemic Prevention Platform. State governments have authority for health matters under the US Constitution. In December 2001, following the anthrax attack after 9/11, a draft law called the ‘Model State Emergency Health Powers Act’, which was commissioned by the US Centers for Disease Control, was published. Versions of it have been adopted by 45 states. It defines a Public Health Emergency as occurring when there is a threat of illness caused by bioterrorism or ‘a novel or previously controlled or eradicated infectious agent’. A constitutionally controversial federal version of it was incorporated into the Homeland Security Act, giving the Department of Homeland Security the power to declare a public health emergency.

Neil and Engler found with respect to coronaviruses that the designation ‘novel’ is particularly arbitrary. The research literature shows that new coronaviruses are ‘discovered’ once every seven years on average and most were novel only with respect to being detected. The virulence and pathogenicity is often overestimated – two supposedly novel coronaviruses identified prior to 2020 were claimed to cause severe disease until the population data was analysed, after which they were downgraded. Even the two features of the virus, the spike protein and the ‘furin cleavage site’ which are meant to make SARS-CoV-2 dangerous and unique, turned out to be common, present in other viruses or unremarkable, thus Neil and Engler say ‘we see no reason to believe that the spike protein or FCS (furin cleavage site) should be a source of special and unique concern in SARS-CoV-2’.

Historically, some coronaviruses were assumed to be already endemic in humans while others were deemed to be ‘entirely novel and capable of starting a pandemic’, inviting, as they point out, the question why in the case of SARS-CoV-2, has pre-existing endemicity, which would be inconvenient to both camps in the origins debate, never been discussed as a possibility?   

The pair also reviewed the literature on SARS and MERS, the two coronaviruses claimed to cause deaths prior to 2020. Like MERS, SARS-CoV-2 was primarily a hospital-acquired infection. They have similar mortality rates because ‘patients in both groups experienced a prolonged duration of mechanical ventilation, and the majority received paralytics, dialysis, and vasopressor agents’. Even so, public health authorities cling to ‘the fiction of their severity’.

MERS had some notable features that undermine its reputation as an especially dangerous zoonotic pathogen: outbreaks were sporadic and usually associated with hospitals mostly in the Middle East; camels were identified as the animal reservoir despite ‘no particularly compelling evidence of transmission from camels to humans’ and simply because the virus had been found in some camels.

Covid-19 is not even the first time deliberate release of a coronavirus has been suggested. Episodic nature of the outbreaks led to Professor C Raina MacIntyre, the author of a 2014 review paper on MERS, suggesting that ‘deliberate release must be seriously considered and at least acknowledged as a possibility’. She would say that, wouldn’t she? It’s in her interests. She’s a Professor of Global Biosecurity who also happens to be a WHO Technical Adviser.

To the contrary, Neil and Engler point out that there are known to have been four laboratory accidents involving the SARS virus, none of which resulted in epidemic spread, yet public health authorities continue to operate on the assumption that ‘there is an infection, and it might spread worldwide, even though the patterns of spread defy currently authoritative epidemiological mechanisms’.

Other operating assumptions guiding public health authorities are also questionable – pre-existing endemicity is ignored and it is assumed that the virus is either zoonotic or laboratory-engineered. The virus is assumed to cause the high fatality rate amongst hospital patients rather than the medical condition they were in hospital for. Asymptomatic spread is assumed with no supporting evidence. The symptoms of coronavirus infections including MERS, SARS (and SARS-CoV-2 for that matter) are non-specific, indistinguishable from any other types of respiratory infections and can all lead to bacterial pneumonia. Mechanical ventilation was used in three-quarters of MERS cases while the use of antibiotics was discouraged. PCR testing was used to diagnose SARS and MERS, but the WHO and CDC also encouraged ‘diagnosis on suspicion’. 

With both origin stories now crumbling, it opens space for another discussion as to whether SARS-CoV-2 was exploited to create the appearance of a pandemic precisely because it was known to be already endemic.

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Paula Jardine
Paula Jardine
Paula Jardine is a writer/researcher who has just completed the graduate diploma in law at ULaw. She has a history degree from the University of Toronto and a journalism degree from the University of King’s College in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

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