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Covid-19’s infection fatality rate is equal to historical influenza outbreaks and for under 70s, measures less than an ordinary influenza outbreak; an extraordinary statistic fished out by veteran journalist, Brian Pottinger. This eloquently written piece, arguing for a truth and reconciliation-type commission and citing what seems to be authoritative research debunking the mainstream scientific thinking and global political actions, will almost certainly elicit response from SA’s globally respected researchers. As well it should, in service of our readers. Like Brian, I’m not scientifically qualified, but from 16 years of covering news for the SA Medical Journal, I suspect that local scientists will challenge the following eyebrow-lifting assertion: the greatest and most destructive act of global self-immolation in recent history was a response to a viral outbreak that hardly dented the world’s population and was without risk to the vast majority of it. Perhaps it comes down to this; you can choose your (hopefully well-informed), beliefs. Let the chips fall where they may. – Chris Bateman
Time for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission for the Covid-19 warrior scientists
By Brian Pottinger*
Two years ago, the World Health Organisation (WHO) convened its emergency committee to consider a response to the SARSCoV2 outbreak in China’s Hubei Province. What followed would turn the world on its head, create unimaginable wealth for a few and impoverishment for hundreds of millions, particularly in the developing world.
Economies would be crippled, attempts to lessen economic inequality set back a generation, societies convulsed, a new form of health apartheid introduced, ageless human rights abrogated and 300 years of The Enlightenment ditched in a flash of a sorcerer’s wand.
Two years on and we now know, on current UN projections – even accounting for Covid-19 – that the 2020 global mortality rate is likely to be no more than 2019’s 7.6 per thousand. In the two years during which the world was intermittently locked down for the first time since the Black Death, outside world war, the global population is estimated to have increased by 280 million souls, giving some substance to the cynics’ view that it is overpopulation, not depopulation, we should be worried about. https://population.un.org/wpp/Download/Standard/CSV/.
The most authoritative research to date, by Professor John PA Ionnadis of Stanford’s School of Medicine, also informs us that based on seroprevalence data across six studies, the infection fatality rate (IFR) of the virus for the world population was 0.15, thus equal to severe decadal influenzas such as the Asian Flu of 1957 or the Hong Kong Flu of 1968. The IFR for 90% of the healthy global population younger than 70 years is 0.05%, less than an ordinary influenza outbreak. No single serious scientific challenge has been mounted to his assessment: just the usual diversionary deluge of personal invective and hysterical denunciation from the True Believers and their sponsors.
Put simply: the greatest and most destructive act of global self-immolation in recent history was a response to a viral outbreak that hardly dented the world’s population and was without risk to the vast majority of it.
Meanwhile, virtually all the scientific certainties initially established with papal infallibility by the architects of the panicked health response to Covid-19 have been challenged, repudiated or ridiculed by subsequent measured and evidence-based science. Rarely has a public policy of such momentous import been based on such manipulative and speculative science. Hardly ever have we seen such levels of harassment, intimidation and venom directed at challengers of a flawed biomedical orthodoxy.
What on earth happened here?
There is one way to find out: establish an international South African-style Truth and Reconciliation Commission and invite the authors of this unravelling orthodox narrative, the only one most of the mainstream media allowed us to hear, to publicly fess up. Let them explain what really drove this guided panic: good intentions, error, delusion, paranoia, profit, reputation, ideology or misplaced solidarity with the self-serving pit that is so much of modern biomedical science. Here is a last chance for the warrior scientists and their sponsors to voluntarily explain before the litigators get busy and the spooked politicians appoint their commissions of enquiry to throw them under the bus.
The charges against the authors and propagators of this narrative – including nearly all mainstream media – are easily framed: abuse of language and statistics. Let us not even get into abuse of power. That judgment should be left to the electors when they consider a political elite too witless to ask the right questions of the warrior scientists and too cowardly to stand up to their baying spear-carriers. They will surely be consumed by the monsters of their own creation, as Boris Johnson is now being.
The Covid-19 saga rings with euphemistic language: a pandemic is no longer judged by its scope and scale but merely whether it has crossed a border and is propagating (a device allowing for the instant weaponising of any infection and thoughtfully introduced by the WHO during the swine flu outbreak more than a decade ago). A vaccine is, in fact, a palliative antidote; a suspected or probable case of Covid-19 is a confirmed one; furious rejection of vaccines is termed hesitancy; correction of egregious errors of science and modelling is called ‘developing the author’s opinion’; a natural decline in the pathogenic intensity of a coronavirus is termed efficacy of vaccinations (which are not even vaccines) and the defeat of every destructive containment measure possible is hailed as ‘learning to live with the virus’.
More serious, much more, has been the abuse of statistics in its three stages: modelling, testing and reporting.
It kicked off with bad modelling. The mistakes of the scientific-academic epidemiological modellers are so numerous and infamous as to be worth little further debate. Initially, with a miss rate of between 300% and 800% in both fatality and infection rates, their predictive capacity failed to improve with the second, third and fourth iterations of the reassortant viruses that carried ever-diminishing elements of the SARSCoV2 strain and waning pathogenic intensity.
Remember, these doomsday and hopelessly flawed estimates were not used for the purposes of faculty dining room debate or biff and bat in academic journals. They were deployed to guide public policy with catastrophic consequences for humans. Few modellers – with one or two exceptions to the rule – have ever apologised or resigned over their poor predictions. Mostly, they soldier on, pathological alarmism undimmed by serial disappointment; careers immune to damage; reputations unchallenged by institutions; the gratitude of their financial sponsors eternal. To such depths have the biomedical sciences fallen.
But one cannot scare by models alone. Hence, the second and darker phase: the method of reporting and verification of Covid-19 cases during the last two years as revealed in the 800-odd pages of directives and ‘guidance’ issued by public health authorities such as the WHO, the US Centres for Disease Control (CDC) and the UK’s Office of National Statistics (ONS).
The WHO on 20 March 2020 changed its requirement for confirmed cases to be supported by laboratory testing in favour of a best-guess formula by frontline clinicians. All ‘suspect’ and ‘probable’ cases were within weeks automatically deemed confirmed. The differentiating Covid-19 criteria of olfactory and taste dysfunction were soon dropped and instead the term ‘clinically compatible illness’ was used to net all respiratory illness to the Covid-19 cause. Deaths from whatever natural cause were attributed to Covid-19 if traces were present in the decedent. Only Covid-19 was to be recorded in cases of suspected coronavirus and changes to diagnostic criteria soon included vomiting, diarrhoea and altered mental state, thus enormously expanding the scope of infection and helping drive the panic creep known as the second, third and fourth waves of the SARSCoV2 outbreak after the initial Wuhan strain effectively expired in June 2020.
Here, purely for example, is the CDC reaching for a rigorously clinical diagnosis of a Covid-19 death, issued in April 2020: “In cases where a definite diagnosis of Covid-19 cannot be made but it is suspected or likely (i.e. the circumstances are compelling within a reasonable degree of certainty), it is acceptable to report Covid-19 on a death certificate as ‘probable’ or ‘presumed’. In these instances, certifiers should use their best clinical judgment in determining if a COVID-19 infection was likely.” We know from the documents that such a diagnosis would instantly be deemed confirmed.
Every change in criteria or reporting, meanwhile, led to a surge on the infection graphs. This was compounded by the dumping of batch reports of infection, leading to unexplained spikes in infections and further driving the panic. All this manipulation, these snatch-stats, could have been established by an undergraduate journalism student simply doing the grunt work of reading the documents. Few did.
But such mischief could not long last. By August 2020, the UK Government’s Science Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) admitted that patients with past Covid-19 infections were being recorded as Covid-19 cases on admission to hospital, thus materially overstating the numbers. The ONS later quantified the overstatement at 23% of admissions, surely a gross underestimation. The critical distinction between dying ‘with’ a disease or ‘from’ it was first flagged during the swine flu outbreak of 2009/10, the dry run for Covid-19’s guided panic, in a Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly investigation, which identified deliberate over-statement of numbers and alleged but never proven collusion between public health organisations and pharmaceutical companies. The distinction had been ignored and replicated in Covid-19.
But by that time, a far more potent factor leading to the confusion of statistics was at hand: polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and reverse transcription PCR (RT-PCR), the workhorses of the panic that are rapidly turning into stalking horses. A raft of scientific research has now challenged the efficacy of these tools in that they failed sufficiently to distinguish between past infections and current ones; gave numerous false positives; were unable to distinguish between Covid-19 infections and other coronaviruses and were so over-calibrated – ‘sensitive’ is the weasel word here – that it would trace the virus unto the umpteenth generation, long after it had any epidemiological materiality.
Worse, every positive test has been reported as a ‘case’ so that repeated testing of an individual yields repeated cases. The more one tests, the more one delivers, thus massively increasing Covid-19’s purported toll: truly the gift that keeps on giving.
On 21 July last year, the CDC confirmed it would not be using RT-PCR as a tool from 1 January 2022 as a result of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) withdrawing its ‘for emergency use only’ status. The CDC said it needed more multiplexed methods that could facilitate “detection and differentiation” between SARSCoV2 and influenza viruses: about the closest admission we are likely to get that RT-PCR did neither effectively and that these two powerful and directing agencies were implicitly conceding the kits were flawed from the start.
And, lo, under the new testing regimes, we suddenly have our long missing friend back: influenza scythes through whole populations with immunities severely depleted by counter-productive containment measures, despair, hunger and the adverse effects of some pharmaceutical treatments. Even the WHO’s Dashboard has taken to carrying epic disclaimers about the validity of its numbers, blaming the supplier agencies for all inconsistencies.
Faced with this precipitous collapse of its orthodox narrative, the authors could only fall back on the last bunker option: the fabled ‘excess deaths’, all of which are conveniently assigned to Covid-19. It will not work. Even accepting the validity of the statistics (which we definitely should not), controlled for average 10-year mortality increases, normal ‘excess winter deaths’, misdiagnosis of Covid-19 and the huge numbers of non-Covid-19 fatalities caused by the criminal withdrawal of medical cover during the panic, as deduced by comparing mortality numbers for 2019 and 2020. We are back to what we knew two years ago but which the ‘experts’ clearly did not: the SARSCoV2 outbreak was a serious decadal infection of threat mainly to the elderly and severely unhealthy. It would have run a bog normal course over two years had it not been for the insanely abnormal behaviour of the humans. But then, given the profits to be made, perhaps it was not abnormal at all.
The integrity of both the language and the statistics of the Covid-19 outbreak is hopelessly and irreversibly corrupted and here is the chilling thought … despite the fortunes spent on biomedical science in recent times, when crisis hit and national leaders were desperate for guidance, the sector could not even produce honest numbers: not even that. Time to explain why.
- Brian Pottinger is an author and former Editor and Publisher of the South African Sunday Times. He lives on the KwaZulu North Coast.
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