31 March 2021

HART Pathology Lead Dr John Lee appeared on Good Morning Britain this week alongside Professor Susan Michie who sits on SAGE and the Scientific Pandemic Insights Group on Behaviours (SPI-B).

Dr Lee noted the lack of evidence for asymptomatic spread of SARS-CoV-2 and also pointed out the absence of diverse scientific discussion in the media. Susanna Reid denied this, stating that the other side was being heard on social media and in the papers. However, these avenues are not the same as trusted mainstream TV programmes and the void of diverse thinking here has no doubt hampered the public’s understanding of ‘the science’.

Reid went on to say that ‘we know from the evidence that lockdown does work’. This is simply not true. Increasingly, the body of evidence points to the exact opposite as can be seen here and in dozens of published peer-reviewed papers, in stark contrast to the absence of evidence demonstrating significant benefits from lockdown when examining the real-world (as opposed to modelled) evidence. In addition, these models neglect to adequately assess the collateral harms.

Reid highlighted the figure of 126,000 COVID-19 deaths. However, there is a serious issue with excess, mainly non-Covid deaths at home which have reached over 50,000 in total. Here in the UK this figure currently sits at roughly 1,000 people each week. Perhaps many of these people would not have been put off seeking medical treatment had Michie, and her behavioural science colleagues, not terrified them into ‘staying at home’. A review of these covert, ethically questionable, psychological strategies was recently published by a member of HART here.

Michie also talked about mutant variants and how many people it is or is not ‘safe’ to interact with. It is a shame that these questions were addressed to a psychologist, rather than to a pathologist with medical training. No mention was made of the inevitable seasonal decline of the virus and Michie mentioned several thousand new cases a day, neglecting to outline how these figures relate to hospital statistics (currently at September levels).

Patients admitted to hospital in the UK

In fact, we know from numerous studies that there will be a significant number of post infectious positives at this stage with patients admitted to hospital for other reasons, incidentally testing positive. In the community, the expected surge in cases in the secondary school population has not materialised and the results of testing show that there is no active SARS-CoV-2 in that population. Overall, there is minimal evidence of residual coronavirus in the community. Mitchie went on to say cases are rising in Scotland. Again, this simply is not true.

Cases in Scotland

Michie then described the possibility of exponential growth if we remove measures too quickly, which shows a misunderstanding of the current immunity status of the population. With so many now having antibodies through natural infection or vaccination, it seems highly unlikely that this virus could now spread in an epidemic fashion. A transition into an endemic phase, as with seasonal flu in which there may be localised outbreaks, mainly in specific institutionalised settings, is much more likely.

The problems with Michie’s thesis are underpinned by the false assumption that asymptomatic spread is a major driver of transmission. There is no robust evidence for this phenomenon, and it would go against decades of understanding of respiratory viruses and how they are transmitted. By continuing to disseminate this questionable hypothesis to the British public, she is continuing to spread unnecessary fear. A far more balanced approach would be to focus on:

1. The viral season rapidly waning
2. The huge percentages of vaccinated people & those with acquired or innate immunity
3. The fact that children are not a significant driver of the disease
4. The fact that clinical symptoms are the driver of transmission of respiratory viruses

We need to stop ‘acting like we’ve got it’ and start living what is left of our finite lives.

Data not dates
It was reported this week that the weekly COVID-19-related death toll has fallen to the lowest rate since October. However, in a scenario of ever-decreasing death rates and diminishing prevalence of the virus, a comparison to the COVID mortality rate at the beginning of the winter wave seems somewhat arbitrary and of no relevance to the current situation. Once deaths reach minimal levels, this indicates that cases must have been minimal 18 days earlier.

A far more sensible metric for comparison would be the current test positivity rate. Since 21 March the PCR positivity rate has been only 2.1% i.e. only 1% higher than the baseline positivity rate we saw in summer. Including all testing, only 0.43% of 1.2 million tests were positive on 29 March. To put this in perspective, 9,957 people tested negative out of every 10,000 tests done. Remaining locked down under these circumstances indicates that the Government has adopted a “Zero Covid” strategy, despite their own admission of the futility and harm that would be caused by attempting this policy. Patrick Vallance himself said: “I think the chance of eradication, true eradication – ie zero – are in themselves close to zero.”

Tracking the success of the vaccine and maintaining confidence
Last week, Sir Christopher Chope MP and William Wragg MP raised important questions in the House of Commons regarding COVID-19 deaths following coronavirus vaccination. Health Secretary Matt Hancock responded ‘I think we do have it’. Hancock also referred to the SIREN study but this only covers healthcare workers and therefore does not provide the complete information required for monitoring adverse effects, safety and efficacy. HART would urge active data capture, including a simple vaccine history taken at every unscheduled attendance at a hospital.

We must not forget that these are experimental vaccines, without full regulatory approval but issued under emergency waivers. It would be concerning in the extreme if data were not being collected or if the level of scrutiny of vaccine effects was not sufficient. The availability and rapid access to this data is vital in maintaining the public’s confidence in the vaccination programme.

US states continuing to open up
Governors across the US are continuing to open up their states and remove COVID-19 restrictions. Earlier this month, Mississippi and Texas both announced the end of business restrictions and mask mandates, while North Dakota went a step further and implemented legislation to make mask mandates illegal. In Florida, Governor DeSantis is to forbid vaccine passports with an executive order. 

In Texas, COVID-19 cases and hospitalisations carry on their downward trajectory despite their removal of measures being described variously as: “absolutely reckless” by California Governor Gavin Newsom, “it just is inexplicable why you would want to pull back now” by Dr Fauci and “neanderthal thinking” by President Joe Biden.

Essential viewing
Nick Hudson, co-founder of the international group Pandemics ~ Data & Analytics (PANDA), has given a keynote address at the inaugural BizNews Investment Conference in South Africa. In his speech, Hudson gives a comprehensive overview of the COVID-19 pandemic and explores how instead of helping to slow the spread of the virus, lockdowns have led to infant mortality, poverty, starvation, joblessness and a major upsurge of psychological disorders. Well worth taking 30 minutes to watch in full, here. This video is currently being viewed by several thousand people per hour.

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