So said the excellent Laurence Fox on Talk Radio last evening. His meaning was that, like any endemic virus, we just need to get back to normal life, even if that means civil disobedience to a government now ruling entirely by fear. But the phrase “isn’t going anywhere,” whilst it can mean we’re lumbered with COVID, would also be true if the virus were stone cold dead. And there seems to be increasing evidence that, in effect, it is.
The evidence that in Europe we have a Casedemic, not an epidemic.
My last post shows how the Lateral Flow testing in northern cities, producing a positive rate for COVID virtually the same as the known false positive rate, is a game changer. It would suggest that these cities, chosen for piloting because of their worryingly high infection rates, actually may have none at all.
- When COVID-19 struck, the diagnosis was based on a serious, novel, clinical syndrome, occurring at an unusual time of year, and resulting in many deaths of a particular kind, in a particular demographic. Once a PCR test came online, it largely correlated with these clinical cases, suggesting (with certain caveats) that there is a novel virus, and that PCR can detect it.*
- But there is still, after all this time, no gold standard viral assay by which to confirm and calibrate PCR testing. This makes the clinical syndrome the best standard, and PCR, up until recently, the only acute confirmatory test of it (we also have developed antibody tests for recent infection and, latterly, the lateral flow “quick” test).
- Kary Mullis, the late Nobel Laureate who invented PCR, regarded it as misleading outside research use, because (as he put it) it is capable of finding ANY molecule in ANYBODY with enough amplification cycles. This is confirmed by the fact that at a cycle threshold of 60, everybody tests positive for COVID-19.
- In 2008-9, careless use of PCR for the first time, in swine flu, after the epidemic’s peak, created a documented “Casedemic” over the second winter NOT correlated with clinical cases. Testing was dropped quietly the following spring and the scare was over. Probably because of this, in all subsequent epidemics medical authorities mandated PCR be restricted to suspected or definite cases, confirmed by virology or, at least, a second test from a different lab, and never used for a screening purposes or in asymptomatic individuals.
- Yet in 2020 across the world PCR has been used, against Mullis, previous guidelines, and the instructions on the pack, for mass screening. The current evidence suggests that it is only significant of active infection up to 32 amplification cycles, but the WHO recommended 40 cycles, and the UK uses 45 cycles. One can reliably predict a massive false positive rate from known evidence.
- A government paper produced during the summer at least insisted on a second confirmatory test in all cases. This has been almost universally ignored, as has its recommendation only to test the symptomatic.
- Without mentioning cycle thresholds, the definitive NHS paper on PCR estimated (from previous literature on PCR) a false positive rate of 2.5%. This would cause only marginal problems during the spring epidemic, but as cases decreased, as the paper warns, major distortions would occur.
- In the event, when this paper was published in June, the total positive rate was 1.6%, less than the predicted false positive rate. So the authors arbitrarily dropped their estimate of false positives to 0.4% – enough still, to cause highly misleading statistics about the levels of infection. However, the data then was equally consistent with a more realistic false positive rate of 1.6%, and few or no true COVID infections.
- At that time, there were very few COVID admissions or deaths, and the positive tests did not match the known disease demographics, being largely (and inexplicably) restricted to young and largely asymptomatic subjects. Clinical evidence of COVID was therefore absent, and the situation is compatible with absence of the virus.
- At this time “test and trace” began to escalate, in line with increasing PCR “cases”: yet throughout the summer the positive rate hovered around a constant 1.6%. This either means that infections were low and constant (despite the increased sampling rate) or that the tests were mainly picking up false positives. Either would suggest widespread immunity limiting spread.
- Nevertheless, SAGE and the government continued to predict an imminent “second wave” based on increased cases, paying no proper attention to the elementary statistics of the rate of infection being steady relative to sample size. They also prophesied that at any moment, the elderly vulnerable would start succumbing, blaming young people for spreading the infection on beaches or in pubs. There was no evidence for this, and the sparing of the vulnerable elderly was, frankly, medically impossible and almost certainly an artifact of who was being tested. In fact, demographic distribution of “cases” so divergent from that of the epidemic phase suggests noise from false positives, and not reliable results.
- At this point it is worth pointing out the lack of impact of lockdowns, mask-wearing or any other intervetion on any of the statistics of COVID. In the spring, cases were dropping before lockdown and the curve was not affected, and likewise for the second lockdown. It is impossible to see from the graph when social distancing or masks were mandated. The same is true across the world – there is a random relationship between death rate and severity, or absence, of lockdown. The biggest driver of increase in cases has been increase in PCR testing.
- Come the autumn, PCR cases of hospitalisation and death began to rise as, (modestly) did the proportion of positives. This was attributed by the powers and principalities to the arrival of the threatened “second wave,” but it bore all the hallmarks of a seasonal increase at the usual time. There is no good explanation, apart from seasonality, why such a wave would have failed to materialise over the summer if at all.
- Indeed, pandemic viruses have never hitherto produced second waves at all: after the first hit they either disappear or become part of the seasonal mix. The predictions seem to have been based on the atypical “Spanish Flu” pandemic, whose epidemiology is very hard to assess a century on.
- But if we have seen a seasonal increase, then a seasonal increase of what? The definitions used in ONS data for hospital admissions (a positive test whatever the reason for admission), for intensive care (a positive test and ITU care, rather than the pathognomonic COVID syndrome), and for deaths (any death within 28 days of a positive PCR) make correlation with clinical COVID impossible. Mass-testing means an inevitable high number of COVID-positive admissions and deaths, and mandatory testing of all admissions might well skew the case-positives within the hospital setting. In other words, nothing in the available data mandates an actual increase in COVID infections: it is still compatible with a Casedemic (and is following the path that even I anticipated on these principles in the summer)
- At the same time the EuroMOMO data shows that the rise in excess deaths across Europe is well within the usual bounds, and in most cases within the five year average. There is no epidemic of anything currently – at most, COVID predominates in a bog-standard winter season that is worse in some countries than others, as always.
- However, paradoxically, deaths from pneumonia, flu and other common virus infections are at historically low levels. Some have explained this by a rather mystical suppression of these infections by COVID-19, but it would be explained equally well, or better, by misdiagnosis during a PCR Casedemic.
- Hospital deaths from all causes, including COVID, are at the lower end of average. The only element of the statistics pushing them toward excess deaths are deaths at home – and not even in care homes – in a younger demographic. Given that the COVID syndrome more or less mandates admission, the likely causes of any excess deaths are those “lockdown-deaths” from other causes brought about by the closure or avoidance of hospital facilities: they might be termed “iatrogenic” (deaths produced by the treatment).
- Likewise the rate of increase of the autumn deaths matches the gradual seasonal norm, and not the exponential rise seen in March in a supposedly immunologically naive population (though that naivety itself is in doubt). It utterly refutes the claims of SAGE’s models that immunity is still rare, or wears off quickly. If it did, we would have seen the spring pattern all over again as soon as lockdown was lifted in June.
- The peaks seen last month in northern cities would be compatible with their being relatively spared in the spring. Local outbreaks are the common pattern in novel viruses. But they could also be seen because of feverish testing activity increasing the false positive rate. The hospital admissions, putting some strain on the NHS system, appear to be within the usual expectations in a constrained health system – and far less than in the bad flu winter of 2000, when there were trolleys in the corridors. In the absence of even anecdotal evidence of much “COVID syndrome” the evidence is quite consistent with common seasonal illnesses in the virtual absence of COVID-19.
- That’s why the ill-conceived, but in the event useful, evidence from mass-screening by Lateral Flow tests is so important. Because if, as seems by far the best explanation, the minimal number of positive results shows that the high rates of COVID in Liverpool are based on PCR false positives, and indeed are even in line with the false positive rate of the Lateral Flow tests, then everything I have said above is strongly indicative of the whole current panic in Britain – and across Europe, northern North America and comparable areas – being due to a PCR-Casedemic. One would expect to see similar patterns, subject to local seasonal considerations, in other regions where PCR testing has been prioritised as the WHO recommends (against their established 2019 guidelines).
- Conversely, the official narrative of second waves in vulnerable populations, only kept in check by lockdowns, masks and all the rest can only be maintained by massaging the interpretation of data, or by the frank fear-tactics of apocalyptic projections based on erroneous models and sheer sleight of hand.
How could one distinguish these two narratives? Well, there is no point in even trying, unless governments and their scientific advisers are politically willing to overturn a view of events which they have promoted at a cost of trillions of pounds, millions of lives, and the reputation of both politicians and scientists. So it won’t happen (witness the silence in the media about the scathing BMJ editorial cited in my last post).
But it could easily be done, by a few studies on hospital patients, carefully diagnosing the COVID syndrome clinically, if necessary by autopsy, PCR tests done at a proper cycle-threshold of 30 or 32 cycles and repeated, and lateral-flow tests, also repeated to lessen the false-positive and negative results. Virological confirmation would be desirable, but the work has not been done to establish the kind of assay used in every other virus infection. But viral serology on these patients would still be useful in assessing the the incidence of other infections – we might find more influenza than has been suspected because of the obsession with COVID-19.
All these results, correlated with antibody studies that have given us the true lower bound of the Infection Fatality Rate (around 0.12%), would enable a far better calculation of the likely total number of people infected. It would, one suspect, be orders of magnitude lower than present estimates, and demand the complete abandonment of screening tests.
Such a study would cost peanuts compared to what has been spent on the current “mess” (thus the BMJ) of a screening system. At stake is, on the one hand, the entire British economy and national wellbeing, and possibly its succumbing to the Great Reset threatened by rich philanthropic overlords; and on the other, the embarrassing exposure of a uniformly awful official response to a routine pandemic.
Guess which scenario I expect to happen.
* These caveats include the likelihood that SARS-CoV-2 had been spreading in the population since around November 2019, that PCR tests may well pick up signals from other known or unknown viruses, of which we host many, and of course the whole gamut of problems with the unknown false positive and false negative rates of the COVID PCR tests, technical sloppiness and so on.