Corona

A Primer

Corona has been a complete failure of policy and science. Everything that the media tells you about Corona is wrong, and everything your government has done about Corona is pointless. In what follows, there will be no citations, but you can easily ascertain the truth of everything here.

Origins

Corona is almost surely the product of gain-of-function research undertaken at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. The most likely scenario is a lab accident in which researchers infected themselves and spread the virus to their contacts, but an act of sabotage or even a release for political or other purposes is impossible to rule out. Since the SARS outbreak of 2003, bat coronaviruses have become a staple of research among virologists, and it’s probably not an accident that humanity has seen several bat coronavirus outbreaks in the decades since. One of the most recent was a series of viral pneumonia cases that struck a group of miners who were cleaning bat faeces from a cave in Yunnan Province in China. Their work was related to bat sampling undertaken by the Wuhan virologists, and this sampling initiative uncovered Corona’s closest known relative, RaTG13. Corona is different from all other beta coronaviruses, in that its spike protein has a specific anatomical feature, the furin cleavage site, that grants it an advantage in infecting humans.

Corona is extremely unlikely to have jumped directly from animals to humans, and the Huanan Seafood Market is not the origin of the 2019 pandemic. Viruses from the Seafood Market outbreak were sequenced early on, and found to be genetically subsequent to other virus samples from elsewhere in the world. This was known even while many politicians and other experts loudly proclaimed the Seafood Market as the origin of the pandemic.

The earliest Corona infections probably happened around September or October 2019. By November 2019 there was already community spread in northern Italy, and by December it was surely widely seeded in Europe and North America. China knew about the Hubei outbreak by November 2019 at the latest, and they had almost certainly identified and sequenced Corona before January 2020. This is how Christian Drosten and his team were able to develop the world’s first PCR Corona test, before any sequences had been published.

Corona: Transmissibility, Pathogenicity

Corona is somewhat bad. In terms of mortality, it is the equivalent of a middle-of-the-road pandemic flu. Adjusting for age and obesity, it seems to be in the neighbourhood of the Hong Kong Flu of 1968/69. In other words, Corona is more deadly, but only because we have an older and fatter population.

Corona is dangerous, almost exclusively, to the old, the obese, and the already ill. Almost all deaths and serious cases happen in these very identifiable sub-populations. In children, Corona is less dangerous than influenza. The risk stratification of Corona is so extreme, that most people fail to understand their own risk. Almost everybody under 60 or 70 drastically overestimates the risk Corona poses to them. This is certain to be true even among many sympathetic readers of this essay.

Any serious viral infection, to say nothing of invasive hospital treatments, will cause lasting sequelae in a subset of patients. This is true for influenza and it is true for Corona as well. Beyond that, the special claims made for Long Covid are a mixture of the hyperbolic, the unproven, and the irrelevant. The only specific, lasting symptom for which there is good evidence is anosmia – the loss of smell. This can persist for many months, and in some cases reduced smell may be permanent.

Long Covid in children is entirely fictional, and in fact Corona poses no measurable danger to kids. Nor do child infections drive the pandemic. Children are mostly infected by adults. All efforts to control the spread of Corona by isolating children and subjecting them to heavy testing regimes have exercised no influence on infections.

In early days, the transmissibility of Corona was hugely exaggerated, an artefact of rapidly expanding test capacity in Spring 2020. In reality, Corona is probably not much more transmissible than many pandemic flus. Likewise, the deadliness of Corona was inflated early on by poor treatment (which killed many patients unnecessarily) and over-hospitalisation (which caused many additional infections).

An important and neglected feature of Corona, is that it is above all a disease of health institutions. It does the better part of its killing and spreading in hospital and institutional care settings. In this it is very much like SARS and MERS.

Corona: Will It Overwhelm Hospitals?

In the earliest days, people feared the Corona fatality rate most of all. As Corona came to the West and authorities saw that it was far less pathogenic than SARS, they made a deliberate decision to shift the discussion from mortality to hospital capacity, as the more defensible argument for invasive countermeasures.

The early suggestion that Corona would overwhelm healthcare systems everywhere has proven unfounded. Even with the treatment errors and over-hospitalisations of the first wave, outright catastrophes were limited to a few countries, and particularly in the prosperous West, the dire predictions have wholly failed. Seasonal influenza is also dangerous to the old and vulnerable and has also been known to place incredible stress on healthcare systems.

At the same time, many diseases have nevertheless gone untreated since Spring 2020, as operations and other procedures have been needlessly delayed to preserve hospital capacity, and lockdown propaganda convinced many that hospitals were to be avoided at all costs. Thus policy responses that were sold as a means of ensuring the continued availability of healthcare have resulted in mostly the opposite, and one is left to wonder how things would have been any different, if Corona had indeed overwhelmed our facilities.

Lockdowns: Their Origin

After much hesitation and misdirection, China responded to rising infections around Wuhan by locking down Hubei province at the end of January 2020. In doing this, they acted contrary to all prior epidemiological doctrine. The theory called for containment – testing, contact tracing, house arrest – only in the earliest stages of an outbreak, when there are few infections confined to specific towns or neighbourhoods. Once cases spread to broader regions or cities, it was accepted that only mitigation is workable. Mitigation is understood to be minimal measures to ‘slow the spread’ and keep hospitals at capacity. Bans on mass gatherings, regional school closures, and increased work-from-home are all that mitigation amounts to.

China’s Hubei lockdown was therefore unusual, and western health authorities reacted with scepticism. Yet the WHO ultimately endorsed China’s approach, after a joint WHO-China mission to study the Chinese pandemic in February. This mission resulted in a 24 February press conference in Beijing and a brief report that claimed the Hubei lockdown was responsible for the collapse in infections there. Bizarrely, the data published in the report show that the wave was already receding the moment the lockdown was implemented. February is often the end of the influenza season in China.

Nevertheless, after the end of February, the WHO and important NGOs like the World Economic Forum began to advocate for mass containment as a general response to the pandemic. Italy announced the first region-wide lockdown on 8 March, and a highly sophisticated propaganda campaign ensued, to justify the lockdown domestically, and to promote lockdowns to the rest of Europe and the world. This campaign had a social media component, steered at least in part from China. The public health establishment backed this campaign, and all of these forces working in concert were enough to persuade almost all countries, aside from a few exceptions like Japan, Sweden and Belarus, to shut down most of public life and confine people to their homes for months.

Lockdowns: Their Failure

The lockdowns have never had any clear effect on the spread of Corona. Infections receded after Spring 2020 with the arrival of Spring weather. While other human coronaviruses are influenced powerfully by seasonal and regional effects, epidemiologists have downplayed the seasonality of Corona, in a transparent attempt to allow mass containment measures to claim victory for the seasonal ebb in cases.

We know that lockdowns are not ineffective against all viruses. They are probably not the reason why the flu has disappeared, but they do have a substantial effect against RSV, to take just one example. We can tell, because countries with harder lockdowns (like Germany) saw surveilled cases of RSV plummet, while countries with few or no measures (like Iceland, or Japan) had nearly ordinary rates of RSV. (Meanwhile, flu has disappeared everywhere.) There are other viruses, however, against which lockdowns don’t work at all. The biggest example is rhinoviruses. Places with long, hard lockdowns see no real change in their rate of rhinovirus infections.

In its susceptibility to lockdowns, Corona looks more like rhinoviruses than RSV. We don’t know how rhinoviruses keep spreading, but in the case of Corona, one reason is certain to be aerosolised transmission. Corona leaves the airways of infected people in small aerosol particles. These behave like a gas that fills indoor spaces. Many containment measures are premised on droplet or surface transmission, and are therefore useless, and aerosols moreover have lockdown-defeating properties. Infected people quarantined in their apartments will nevertheless release aerosols that spread to others spaces in the building. Infected aerosols can hover in the air for a long time even after infected people have left.

Corona has another curious feature, which perhaps arises from its gain-of-function enhancements, in that it front-loads its attack. It becomes suddenly highly transmissible around the time of symptom onset. This is different from many other viruses, which are considered to have transmissibility spikes around the time symptoms peak. This early spike in transmissibility appears to be the kernel of truth at the heart of the undying myth of asymptomatic transmission. In fact, despite this enhancement, there is no evidence of significant Corona transmission from asymptomatic or even pre-symptomatic people. If you feel healthy, you’re not contagious. If asymptomatic transmission were pervasive, the mass quarantine of the symptomless in lockdowns would have a clear effect, and yet it doesn’t. This is also why the wide-scale implementation of rapid antigen tests has proven totally useless. People with respiratory symptoms are told to avoid antigen test sites, and so the centres screen only asymptomatic people who are guaranteed to come up negative. PCR-confirmed positives from antigen test centres are thus exceedingly rare.

The symptomatic stay home whether there is a lockdown or not, and they have done so since March 2020. This means that community transmission of Corona doesn’t happen very often, even in places with high incidences of infection. Transmission is driven mostly by a few super-spreaders, who violate rules intentionally; and also probably by a very few unfortunates who experience symptom onset while they are in the company of other people. Either way, the Corona pandemic is driven almost entirely by extreme outliers. Most people will give Corona to just one other person, or to nobody. Universal measures like lockdowns, which incrementally reduce opportunities for transmission across the population, are easily defeated by the strange, unpredictable events that are responsible for most community spread.

Not only is community transmission rare, it is mostly irrelevant. Half or more of all serious cases and deaths occurs in a closed cycle between hospitals and institutional care facilities. The residents of nursing homes must be periodically treated in hospitals, and then returned to their residences. Corona circulates in a closed loop between them and their caregivers, a phenomenon against which population-wide lockdowns are powerless.

Masks

There is no evidence, anywhere, that community masks do anything. They won’t stop aerosolised transmission any more than they will protect you from a chlorine gas attack, and respirators (like N95 or FFP2 masks) will have no effect unless they are properly fitted, you are clean-shaven, and you are trained in their use. Even healthcare professionals working in controlled environments with extensive experience have high rates of error, and it is essentially impossible for anyone to use respirators effectively in everyday life. Mask mandates don’t drive infections down, lifting them doesn’t cause cases to spike, and changes or enhancements to mask mandates also do nothing.

Test & Trace

Countries with advanced contact tracing programs experienced the second and the third waves just as everybody else did. This is not surprising, because there is no way that contact tracing can work. Even the most elaborate testing efforts are able to find only a minority of cases (perhaps 30% under the best conditions), and on top of that comes the unavoidable delays in obtaining and reporting test results. Together, these mean that tracers can never influence the course of the pandemic. Health authorities everywhere surely have data on the number of infections their tracing operations have caught in the incubation stage. These statistics must be deeply unimpressive, because nobody has ever released them.

PCR testing is now widely understood to be a deceptive fiasco that provides only distorted information about current infections. Test data are not assembled for any epidemiological purpose, but only to justify containment and inspire compliance among the population. Internal correspondence from officials working for the German Ministry of the Interior states this openly, and attributes to China the notion of building centralised Corona databases and making them available to the public. It is one of various efforts to make the pandemic visible.

Above all, the PCR tests carried out by most of our countries are too sensitive. Many of the positive results – in some cases, most of them – are in fact triggered by old infections in recovered people. This means that ongoing case counts are an unknown mixture of new infectious cases and old recovered cases. Health authorities have of course long known this, and yet most of them have refused to reduce the sensitivity of their tests, sending their contact tracers on many a fool’s errand after old cases. This is one of countless indications that containment measures are not taken seriously even by the authorities who manage them.

Most public health agencies have refused to release cycle-threshold data, which would allow you to sort case numbers by sensitivity and identify the subset of reported infections that are current. This data is, however, known internally. Health bureaucrats, therefore, have access to a special set of disease statistics that is more precise and allows them to see the infection dynamics a week or two in advance of the rest of us.

This may be one explanation for the pervasiveness of ‘post-peak lockdowns’: These are lockdowns which are enacted late enough that they can take credit for a decline in the rate of infection that is already underway. Post-peak lockdowns allow the press and public health authorities to claim that measures have succeeded. In general, public health authorities everywhere strive to implement containment measures in well-timed ways that will support superficial claims of victory in the media. Genuine, strategic attempts to reduce Corona mortality, which would involve intervening somehow in the institutional care-hospitalisation infection cycle, are never undertaken.

Variants

For almost all of 2020, establishment sources generally denied that different strains of Corona behaved any differently. This ended in December 2020, when one particular strain – B117, the Kent or now the Alpha variant – caused a widely used British PCR test to return anomalous results. Normally, PCR tests come up negative or positive, regardless of the strain; but B117 had a key mutation that caused the tests used in Britain to light up in a partly-positive fashion. It thus became possible for health authorities in the UK to track the spread of B117 without any special sequencing, and it was noticed that B117 was rapidly gaining over all other strains.

Since then, variants have become a fixture of Corona discourse. It is constantly promised that they portend a new pandemic. In general, the increased infectiousness of the variants has been hugely exaggerated. They are at their height probably only 10–12% more infectious than other strains, and it has never been clear that they cause worse disease. The variants are all distinguished by a small series of semi-related mutations in the spike protein, and are likely somewhat better at gaining a foothold in human lungs. An oddity of all the variants demonstrated to be more transmissible, is that their transmissibility advantage seems to fade over time.

Vaccines

All currently available Corona vaccines use gene therapy technology. They are not ordinary vaccines, in that they do not introduce antigens directly into your blood. Instead, they give your cells the instructions to produce this antigen themselves. This mimics an actual viral infection and, in theory, should produce better t- and b-cell immunity than traditional vaccines. We still await evidence of this effect.

To date, there are two kinds of Corona vaccine:

1) Adenovirus vector vaccines, which infect you with a modified adenovirus. This virus brings instructions for the spike protein to your cells, your cells produce spike in response, and your immune system attacks, lending you some immunity to Corona. For most people, the vector vaccines are probably the safer option, though they have been associated with blood clots primarily in women.

2) The mRNA vaccines, which consist of instructions for the assembly of spike – in messenger RNA – encased in special lipids that help these instructions circulate and enter your cells. The protein factories of your cells receive these instructions and express spike and your immune system attacks, lending you some immunity to Corona. The mRNA vaccines have become known for causing myocarditis in young men. The published occurrences are low, but almost certainly under-reported, and enough to tip the risk-reward scales against vaccination in healthy members of this cohort.

Beyond these specific side effects, the vaccines are obviously more dangerous than traditional vaccines. It seems likely that spike is not a neutral antigen but a bioactive protein that interacts with your body in unexpected ways. But it is also possible some of the adverse effects are down to the gene therapy technology itself, or perhaps the unhappy combination of spike and your cells producing it.

The vaccines are certainly more dangerous than Corona to healthy children, and the cumulative risk of continued boosters is likely to be so high, that they will make sense only for the old and vulnerable. The vaccines were not designed to prevent infection, and universal vaccination won’t prevent future waves. In fact, evidence increases every day that vaccinated people have lower incidences of infection for a few months after vaccination only. Many people will therefore face Corona infection whether they are vaccinated or not. At most, they can hope that the vaccines will protect them nevertheless from serious illness and, in the process, renew and update their immunity. Otherwise, the vaccines have at least a shot of keeping elderly and vulnerable people out of the hospital, though it’s still far from certain they’ll work.

The vaccines have also been associated with strange, as yet officially ignored phenomena. In almost every country, the widespread administration of first doses causes infections to jump, at about a 2-week delay, until 20-30% have been vaccinated. Moreover, many countries with highly vaccinated populations are beginning to see rising infections 3-4 months after most of their second doses were administered.

The universal vaccination campaigns are indefensible at every level, a consequence of the vaccines being oversold by the press and many medical bureaucrats, and of politicians desiring to declare a final victory over Corona. This virus will still be circulating centuries after all of us have died, and the vaccines are likely to prove about as effective as flu shots, when all is said and done. They are a personal health choice relevant mostly to the old and the sick, and nothing more.

What is to be done?

Much less, in fact very little. The solution is to leverage the risk-stratified nature of Corona, protect the elderly and vulnerable – via vaccines, provided those are proved in the coming winter to have benefits for the already-vaccinated – and initiate an international campaign to forget about Corona. All measures should end, and everybody should return to their ordinary lives. Vaccines should be an option for adults who want them, but not children. As the healthy, mobile, active population gains immunity, the instance of disease across the world will decline and the vulnerable (vaccinated or not) will no longer be in any more danger than they were from influenza. There will always be new strains, as there were of influenza and as there are of all viruses; this is not a serious problem. Corona is not a super-virus, even if it does come from an imprudent laboratory in China; and no respiratory pathogen has ever been eradicated by the permanent imposition of house arrest or widely mandated masking.