A simple false positive update

OK. The positive test rate for COVID in the UK has been flat all month, at around 6,400 daily. The rapid increase in test numbers has also more or less flattened off at around 1.8m daily, and COVID deaths are zero in many areas.

That gives a constant positive test rate of 0.35% across the country for the last four weeks, which just happens to be a whisker above the most commonly quoted false positive rate for lateral flow tests. The ONS test data now conveniently includes the PCR testing capacity upfront, and it is 764,492 today. That means that a whopping 58+% of tests must now be LFTs (leaving aside the antibody tests, always relatively low in number). So it would be very reasonable to conclude that real new cases of COVID are more or less absent from Britain now.

All this, of course, is what one would expect. The seasonal pattern of Coronaviruses would have predicted it anyway, had this been handled according to pre-2020 pandemic guidelines rather than partial attempts at isolation. We have the highest vaccination rate in the world, on top of what is likely to be among the highest natural immunity rates, since our death-count was amongst the highest in the world (and therefore the amount of COVID exposure too, silly restrictions notwithstanding). We know now that even one vaccination dose provides good cover, and we now know that it, like natural viral immunity, prevents one getting significant disease, prevents one passing it one, and in short it is highly probable that the nation has acquired decent herd immunity.

Yet we are now used to the fact that the fear propaganda goes on relentlessly despite this. We now have new total travel bans (remember those evil travel restrictions behind the Iron Curtain, folks?). These are on the grounds of a “variant danger” campaign that has generated the idea that any of the thousands of inevitable point mutations might evade vaccine or natural immunity and cause deaths, though that has not actually happened and there is a century of science denying its likelihood. We are fed fearful visions of a rampant third wave in Europe (by ever-fearful EU politicians), though it is curiously invisible in terms of any significant rise in deaths in the official EuroMOMO data. I wonder what their PCR test rates are?

The idea of vaccine passports, despite repeated denials at high government levels, is repeatedly fielded again at the same high levels. Remember this was the Prime Minister who said that the right to visit a pub is “inalienable,” and that a third lockdown would be “sheer inhumanity.” Promises are cheap. It’s almost as if by keeping us entirely confused for months as to whether vaccine passports are on the government’s agenda at all, we will be as unsurprised when they are passed into law as we now are by being told we are not allowed to leave the country without special permission.

And now our incomprehensibly vacuous MPs have given the government cabal yet another 6 months of unrestricted emergency powers, though there is clearly no longer any emergency whatsoever – bear in mind that it would take only a morning to vote in new emergency powers if that situation were to change.

So the predictions of those who have been saying for a year that once peoples give their freedoms away to the government they never get them back have, so far, been proved right. No fundamental rights have been returned – just a promise of conditional permissions. The mystery is why MPs, whose own powers have been equally stripped and who must be aware of the increasingly presidential setup of the cabinet office, are so acquiescent.

But that’s no more of a mystery, I suppose, than why we are acquiescent as a population, and particularly those of us who are Christians. I’ve pointed out before that governments have no legal right to shut church worship down, as has been ruled in a Scottish court case in the last few days (“Livestreams,” said the judge, far wiser than many bishops, “are not worship, but a substitute for worship”). Denominational leaders and individual church ministers have no mandate from Scripture to do so either, and churchgoers, even in congregationally organised Nonconformist churches, have no mandate to close their own churches for worship, even had they been asked to vote on it, since Jesus commands us to meet.

There are two principles on which churches have remained shut, and are now only beginning to uncurl, in line with the remaining mass quarantine quarantine restrictions that have no longer any rational basis. These are the fear of getting, or giving, infections, and the principle of obedience to “Caesar.” There was a third principle too – that of initial panic that prevented any serious discussion of the validity of the other two principles in this case.

Well, over a year on, there has been time to think. As I have said, there is currently no evidence of significant COVID infection in this country, and that is what one would predict from natural and vaccination herd immunity (even in contrast to whatever is going on in poorly-vaccinated Europe). Furthermore if we’ve had COVID or the vaccination, and have no symptoms, we are neither going to get infected or give infection, and the business of masks, social distancing, communion biscuits in plastic bags, singing and wind-instrument bans, restrictions on children’s work, lunch clubs, house groups and everything else that constitutes church life ought, by rights, to be cancelled tomorrow. My vaccinated chimney sweep realises that masks are superfluous in a vaccinated household, so why don’t churchgoers?

That just leaves the principle of obedience to the government. This was always a conditional obedience doctrinally – we obey governments if they do not impinge on our prior duty to Christ. That is why, in historically Christian countries, it is indeed illegal for governments to close churches. As I have pointed out, it was always beyond the Scriptural authority of ministers or denominations to shut churches. Hence we have no legitimate reason to obey any of them in this matter, for obedience’s sake, and we simply have the commands of the Lord either to obey, or to choose to disobey.

We’ve been studying the letters to the seven churches of Revelation in our small “live” afternoon services during this lockdown. It’s interesting that five out of seven receive warnings to repent of various faults, or face divine closure. Do you suppose the British churches, had they too an inspired author to write them a personal message from Jesus, would be like the two churches spared criticism, perhaps on the grounds that they did the right thing by shutting down? “You hate the teachings of the Covidiots, which I also hate.”

It seems improbable. Maybe our churches are living in their own false-positive illusion, that is the illusion that they have been living obediently by shutting the business.

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About Jon Garvey

Training in medicine (which was my career), social psychology and theology. Interests in most things, but especially the science-faith interface. The rest of my time, though, is spent writing, playing and recording music.
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