By Peter Andrews, Irish science journalist and writer based in London. He has a background in the life sciences, and graduated from the University of Glasgow with a degree in genetics.
The coronavirus misinformation that scientists, politicians and media have fed to the public has been shocking. Take a tour through the bizarre, contradictory and downright ludicrous myths that have done more damage than Covid.
TRIGGER WARNING! Do not read this if you are a loyal member of the Branch Covidians, cravenly awaiting the pleasure-pain prick of the Covid vaccine before you will appear in your own garden without a face nappy. Or rather, do read it, but don’t expect to like it. There is no place for assumptions here—only logical thought from first principles. The only aim is to debunk the biggest myths that the media and political establishment have propagated. And if you can hear me out then I salute you; there are few of us left who hold open minds. Myth 1: Slowing the spread of the virus is a good idea This is the fundamental premise of the world’s ‘response’ to Covid, from which all else springs. But it has never been established that we should be trying to slow the virus down, not even from the blinkered point of view of just saving lives in the short term. Slowing the spread of the virus was initially sold to us as a way of protecting health services: if everyone gets sick at once, the hospitals will fill to bursting point and people will die on gurneys in car parks outside. Remember ‘flatten the curve’? Since Covid infections are inevitable, spreading them out through time will indirectly save lives by ensuring that everyone who can be saved by medical interventions - oxygen masks and ventilators - will be. A noble idea, but as it happened, a misguided one. Most hospitals spent the months of the outbreak as good as empty. All other medical treatments were postponed in order to prepare for the onslaught of Covid patients coughing their lungs up—an onslaught that never arrived. Even intensive care units rarely reached full capacity, and it quickly became apparent that for the people most at risk from Covid, ventilator and intensive care treatment is unsuitable. Only a tiny minority of those who have died actually died in intensive care—old people with many co-morbidities are best kept in ordinary wards.
So ‘flatten the curve’ was a dead duck, but doesn’t it make sense to slow the spread of the virus anyway? Well, only if you think that those who would die of Covid if they caught it can evade the virus until a vaccine is developed. If vulnerable people who believe that they have not caught the virus (they may be asymptomatic) want to wait for a putative vaccine, then they should be more upfront about their intentions. Because if they can’t, then there is no point to any of this.
In addition, there is at least one theory why you could be doing someone a favour by giving them the virus. Evolutionary theory tells us that as a respiratory virus spreads, it loses potency. A successful virus is a mild one, which does not kill its host before they can spread it. This is how herd immunity really works in this context: it’s about the changes to the virus itself. In contrast, when we locked down, the virus had nowhere to go. Instead of getting milder, all of the most dangerous strains came together in the only places where sick people gathered: nursing homes and hospitals. This is why I greeted news that the virus was becoming more contagious with jubilation—it is better that the virus spread freely, at least among the healthy.
Myth 2: Lockdowns slow the spread
But let’s pretend for a while that it isn’t better. Because without the fundamental assumption that spreading = bad, the rest of the discussion is flipped on its head. ‘Spikes’ become cause for relief, not concern. Masks, if they work, would become counter-productive. I am not claiming this as truth—only that it is at least as likely as the classical model.
But if you can suspend your disbelief for long enough to imagine that hindering the spread of the virus is worthwhile, then you might be forgiven for assuming that lockdowns are the way to do it. There is, however, no suggestion, let alone evidence, that lockdowns would pose a problem for a wily virus.
If lockdowns played any part at all, we would expect to see a correlation between the different forms of lockdowns enforced by various regions or countries, and the shape of the death curves there. But we do not—the correlation is zero. Belgium, the UK, New York: strict lockdowns; lots of deaths. Sweden, Japan, Uruguay: light or no lockdowns; few deaths. You can point to opposite examples, but that’s just the point—there is no consistency. And before you try to explain away individual countries with hand waving about ‘different cultures’ or ‘better testing’, there is no correlation with any of those things either.
Simply put, there is nothing that can be easily pointed at to suggest that any measure taken by any government in the world to block the virus has worked. Lockdowns may be the biggest tools in the shed, but they are still faulty.
Myth 3: Contact tracing is the answer
Early in the outbreak, there seemed to be a connection between those countries with impressive track and trace capabilities, like Germany and South Korea, and their ability to cope. Of course, the tracking and tracing itself could not have been ‘curing’ the population of Covid. No one knew why there seemed to be a positive effect from comprehensive testing. Months later, still no one knows.
But that has not stopped western governments from pathetic attempts to emulate the conformist East Asian societies with contact tracing apps and programmes. Despite a not inconsiderable propaganda campaign, they have all failed miserably. This is largely because not enough people even have any symptoms anymore, months after the virus peaked.
Trying to ramp up contact tracing in August goes beyond locking the barn door after the horse has bolted. This horse bolted so long ago that now herds of its descendants roam the countryside. Meanwhile, the farmer ruins his homestead in order to pour his resources into increasingly elaborate and expensive door locking contraptions.
Myth 4: BAME people are more at risk
For BAME, insert whatever ethnic or other minority you have read is worst affected by the virus outbreak. Of course, the virus is racist—everything else is. Factoids like this come from dividing the sick or the dead into their Woke groupings and then comparing the proportions to the population as a whole. And no doubt, BAME people are ‘over represented’ in such statistics.
But the risk is at the population level, and is almost entirely explained by mediating factors like obesity, diabetes and other co-morbidities, more prevalent in some populations than in others. If you are in your eighties, overweight and sickly, then you should be worried about catching the virus regardless of your race. Similarly, if you are fit and under 60 you are more likely to be struck by lightning than killed by the virus, regardless of your race. There has been a suggestion, but only a suggestion, that lower Vitamin D levels in black people could play a part, but that is not behind the disparities.
This basic statistical point makes ridiculous the notion that some professional athletes were worried about returning to their sport. I actually feel sorry for the likes of Troy Deeney (not just because he’s been relegated with Watford) but because he has been understandably frightened by poor scientific communication. As a healthy young BAME man, there is no reason to suspect that he himself is at an increased risk. But he has been persuaded that he is by a regime that distils power from fear.
Myth 5: For schools to open, pubs must close
What utter rot this is. The individual who came up with this false trade-off would have a bright career in board game design, if they were not earning so much as a public servant. This is simply a fabrication, and as such somewhat difficult to disprove, rather like the existence of invisible fairies.
You could just, you know, leave the pubs open and then open the schools too? But I suppose then there would be a ‘second wave’ in deaths two weeks later. You know, like the second wave that was warned of in May. And then June. And then July. Only in the past two weeks did the WHO finally give up the dream and change its story to ‘One Big Wave’, which doesn’t have the same ring to it. But the second wave fiction has not yet been memory holed—it can be trotted out on demand to force through any further assaults on our remaining freedoms.
All I can do is predict that a second wave in deaths will never materialise, and every day since April I have been proven right. The establishment, in contrast, makes wrong predictions again and again, and are never held to account. They just change the prediction, and hope everyone forgets about what they said a week ago. Don’t wear masks. Don’t go to work. Go to work, but don’t take public transport. But if you do, wear a mask. Do not be fooled into thinking that the confusion is incidental. It is part of the plan—confused people are easier to control.
The bigger the lie
It may have been Joseph Goebbels who said: ‘’If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.’’ It seems this is an evergreen statement; not only is there no limit to the size of the lie, there seems to be no limit on the number of lies either.
Hypotheses make predictions, and if they are consistently proven right, eventually they become theory. Einstein is heralded because he made predictions about black holes that are only being proven true almost a century later. Many fine minds have put their necks out to make predictions about the nature of this outbreak, despite slime and slander from the cheerleaders of the elite. But when they are vindicated, the cheerleaders just drown them out.
In contrast, Neil Ferguson is rolled out again and the second wavers just keep saying ‘wait another two weeks’. When will this end? Never. Not until we have a complete rethink. Logic and reason have not worked. It’s time for a new approach.