Being on the safe side

We now know a lot more about COVID than we did last year, which makes it easier to follow the science in health policy, as our government is doing with the help of the country’s leading behavioural psychologists and theoretical modellers. Well, mainly political analysts, actually, guessing what will make them look least like idiots for ruining the economy.

Aerosol spread between people staying in enclosed spaces is by far the commonest mode of infection. If in the worst-case scenario someone in your household is ill with it (and if nobody else has been vaccinated or infected) you stand an 18% chance of getting it too, ie an 82% likelihood of not getting it, though that falls to 60% in spouses. The risk in less enclosed, better ventilated rooms with less prolonged exposure is far, far less, the riskiest places apart from families being care-homes and hospitals. We now know that shops, restaurants and pubs pose quite minor risks.

However, if someone tests positive, but is asymptomatic, that household spread drops to only 0.7%, that is family members stand a 97.3% of not catching COVID even from persistent indoor contact with a known positive. Needless to say, symptomatic patients are far less likely to be out and about in public venues other than hospitals, which helps explain why the risk there is tiny. Even that 0.7% figure needs to be treated with caution, though, since it is easy to confuse asymptomatic with pre-symptomatic spread: the actual evidence for the former rests on contentious test results and no more than a handful of poorly conducted patient studies, on a handful of patients, worldwide. Effectively, asymptomatic spread is now known not to happen.

Outside spread is also now known to be virtually non-existent, as the virus particles disperse and are rapidly destroyed: no outbreaks have been recorded from crowded beaches or chaotic demonstrations round the world, though around 700 “cases” are supposed to have been recorded, according to SAGE – a tiny figure even in their estimation. Since “cases” are defined entirely by PCR or LFT testing, the significance of this figure is dubious: of what evidential value as to causation is the fact of a positive PCR a few days after being with others outside? Were you not also at home, at work, or at a shop during that time?

That being the case overall, we can assume that outside spread from asymptomatic carriers, if the spread from symptomatic carriers has been near-zero in practice, will be around .04% of zero (based on 0.7% of 18% in the household example). Which is a small number.

But remember these statistics were all gathered during the height of the pandemic, when there was a reasonably good chance of being both exposed to SARS-CoV-2, and susceptible to it… though from the start up to 40% of people had T-cell cross-immunity to Coronaviruses anyway. Currently there are only 1600 positive tests a day in Britain from the continued high level of asymptomatic testing (despite the underwhelming public uptake of free lateral-flow tests), and a minimal number of hospital admissions despite the flawed diagnostic criteria. The chances of meeting the virus are therefore extremely low in all areas, even if the experience of last summer, before masks, had not proved its seasonality. Furthermore, all the vulnerable and many of the low risk people have now been vaccinated, which reduces the chance of their getting symptoms from COVID by 90+% of whatever tiny chance was left, even disregarding herd immunity.

We also know from experience, despite the orchestrated scare-mongering in the press, that none of the new variants has actually been found to bypass immunity or be significantly more problematic than others, in keeping with the known characteristics of Coronaviruses. A “double mutant” just sounds scary compared to “changes to only two bases.”

We also know that, since the primary route of spread has proven to be aerosols, rather than only droplets, social distancing measures will have made no significant difference, and the worldwide data proves it. Even Fauci has said that 1m is no worse than 2m – but the 1m distance is equally arbitrary and theoretically bankrupt: you can’t avoid cigarette smoke in a room by any form of social distancing, and viruses are twenty times smaller than smoke particles. And of course, separating from those who could never infect them because they have no symptoms, and therefore no infection, is a pernicious social evil, and only that.

Likewise a large body of scientific literature has now discredited mass-quarantines (aka lockdowns), with no decent studies demonstrating that they have been of benefit. Their persistence, even in our increasingly diluted UK form, is just an example of being £4.8 trillion too big to fail.

Lastly, new studies and careful examination of the old has confirmed the pre-COVID scientific commonplace that even the careful use of the best medical face masks does little to prevent either catching or passing on the disease in symptomatic patients – and remember, asymptomatic patients don’t even pass it on in households without masks. Home-made cloth masks, worn constantly and repeatedly, soggy, ill-fitting and badly-worn by the general public going about their business, have never been shown to achieve anything positive, let alone prevent COVID. Accordingly, there has been no correlation whatsoever between mask mandates and numbers of infections since last year round the world.

The crassness of these mandates is shown by green advocates now advising people to stop using disposable surgical masks and re-use cloth masks to save littering the planet with the plastic in them. Token face-covering virtue stops them even wondering why hospitals have always used disposable surgical masks rather than sending cloth masks to CSSD for recycling. In case any eco-warriors are reading this it is because cloth masks are useless apart from being cheaper than a hajib for maintaining submission. You can eliminate mask-waste at a stroke by eliminating masks.

Just to remind you, if despite the vanishingly low risks of infection you do happen to catch the bug and your vaccination proves totally ineffective, you only stand a 5% chance of needing hospital treatment, the overall infection fatality is still only 0.15%, and even in the most vulnerable ancient age-group with multiple additional pathology 75% of people will survive.

Bearing that whole story in mind, does it not stand to reason that Prof Van Tam, after affirming that for vaccinated individuals to meet indoors is “incredibly safe,” would add that we should avoid doing it anyway, until June? It’s all about data, not dates, you see, if that makes sense to you. Me, I’m still working on it.

Likewise, our political Masters are clearly right to be saying that the mask-mandate will need to continue come that “return to normality in June? To abolish social distancing but retain mask mandates makes perfect sense, right? Unhygienic masks are, after all, quite normal – at least in Isis-controlled states. Children will need to wear them all day at school, although they are virtually invulnerable to COVID, as they queue up for their experimental vaccines to protect the elderly sick. Workers will, presumably, need to wear them as they drive alone in their HGVs down the motorway, lest they cough on a terminal bronchitic trying to commit suuicide. TV luvvies will be able to hug each other again on screen as they carefully adjust their smart black cloth masks: presumably they’ll still wear them during their sexual harassment at naked auditions, too, those being normal nowadays as well. And snooker players who are spreading aerosols amongst the masked audience across the table will nevertheless make idiots of themselves nudging elbows instead of shaking hands before removing masks with Chinese advertising slogans. There’s everything to look forward to!

Needless to say, right-minded churchgoers, sagely advised by their SAGE-addicted leaders, will continue to wear couple of masks, and probably sit apart too, for the sake of their weaker brethren who can never be too careful. Resourceful born-again suppliers will no doubt sell masks with evangelistic mottoes like “Stay Safe – Come to Jesus!” A rosy future of liberty is just around the corner… just as long as we continue to take reasonable precautions against the sky falling on our poor bald pates.

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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1 Response to Being on the safe side

  1. Jon Garvey says:

    Footnote: The proof of the political and psychological nature of the “relaxation” programme comes from the tantalising Boris pronouncements like, “Social distancing may be relaxed next month,” and of course the lack of certainty on whether the mask mandate will continue or not.

    There can be no scientific reason for this – COVID cases are pretty well non-existent already, the vaccination programme on schedule and already covering the vulnerable, and the plan was made months ago. So the only possible scientific reason for not knowing exactly what will be relaxed would be a sudden unexpected Third Wave – and they could easily say “X and Y will happen, barring a Third Wave.”

    So at best the lack of complete and solid information means they’re playing political crystal balls with what voters want – and at worst, it’s simply more of the behavioural psychology trickery to trickle information true and false so we accept what we wouldn’t otherwise just because it ends the confusion.

    Some would call that evil. Me – I’d call it evil.

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