Thursday, October 29, 2020
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Covid through the looking glass

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THINK, if you can, about a world without this virus. Think how wantonly destructive a government would have to be to impose the changes on us that this government has imposed. Think of the effect of them. Husbands forbidden from their wives’ death beds. Women whose cancers linger undiscovered. Students imprisoned. The millions and millions of unemployed, the death of the High Street, the strange suspicion with which we all greet each other now.

Now imagine how bad would a virus have to be to justify these changes. A virus that kills one in a hundred people it infects or one in a thousand? A virus that kills young and old alike or a virus whose average victim has lived their three score years and ten and then ten more?

Because the virus hit us like a wave and the degradation of our lives has been like the slope of the shore, we’ve all floated away from the firm ground of rational thought. To me, the response to the virus has been so disproportionate as to be absurd. But then I hate covering my face when I talk to people, I hate my children being told not to play and I have nothing personally to fear from the virus.

I don’t mind people making different decisions based on their different circumstances and I agree there has to be some consensus to rules we live under. What I do mind is ignorance and deceit.

You cannot expect the man in the street to have a working understanding of epidemiology, but you can expect it of Government ministers who impose their will on us plebs. There was a lot of hoo-ha regarding the prevalence of false positives a couple of weeks back, and whatever your feelings on their importance you should at least expect the people making the decisions to recognise the paradox. Grant Shapps and Matt Hancock made it clear from their answers they didn’t even understand the concept. The false positive rate(FPR) for this test is not known. It is difficult to know as it is not a function of the test but the methodology. FPR may vary drastically from lab to lab. This is a reasonable and important thing to know and could be ascertained by cross referencing. It could easily be that over the summer half or most of those identified as having the disease didn’t have it.

The other familiar trope is ‘dying of Covid’ vs ‘dying with Covid’. Those in power would like to dismiss this as old hat but again it is an important and reasonable definition. Imagine there was a disease that caused no harm at all but turned your little finger red for a month. Over the course of the year this virus infected half the population. How many would you expect to die with a red finger?

There is a baseline for Covid admissions and deaths that is not explored. Covid is a clinical manifestation of a viral infection: it is in essence a radiological diagnosis. Hospital admissions with a positive Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) (a diagnostic test for SARS-CoV-2 virus) and Covid symptoms vs hospital admissions with a positive PCR but no symptoms is a practical and instructive metric to have and yet we don’t. Why not? This is not a conspiracy theory, it is just good science. The overly sensitive nature of high cycle PCR has been well covered but we still have no answer to why the test is misused in this fashion.

The officialresponse to awkward questions is always to answer a tangential one then pretend the matter has been put to bed. Why are the facts continually obfuscated and misrepresented and why is this always to increase the impact of the disease?

Bernard Jenkin wrote this week that a herd immunity strategy would lead to hundreds of thousands of deaths based on an Infection Fatality Rate (IFR) (what proportion of people who contract the virus die) of 1 per cent and 80 per cent of the country becoming infected. This is based onthe modelling from Neil Ferguson in March that shut down large swathes of the western world. This is possible but it doesn’t seem remotely plausible given what we now know of the virus. Even the Vallance and Whitty projection/deception inferred a 0.4 per cent Case Fatality Rate (CFR) (what proportion of people who test positive for the virus die) and there is plenty of real world experience to assume herd immunity thresholds would be reached at a much lower proportion of society. 

The Government are set in aspic, they’ve not changed their minds since March. They have to inflate the severity of the disease at every turn because it’s the only way they can justify the destruction they’ve wreaked. They regard the virus as an existential threat to society with the lockdown a minor inconvenience from which we will rapidly recover. They’ve got it the wrong way round and they must be stopped. 

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Richard Harper
Richard Harper is a veterinary surgeon with a Masters degree in Clinical Oncology. He splits his week evenly between vetting, parenting and wondering why the world has gone totally mad.

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