The purpose of writing this is to record my thoughts and concerns at a time while I am still healthy, and hopefully of sound mind. My readers will probably doubt the latter after reading this.
I am retired and living in Spain, just South of Tarragona, 800 metres from the sea, which I have not seen for over a week, and unlikely to any time soon. I am more-or-less confined to house, due to the COVID-19 virus pandemic. Life is not so bad. I have my lovely wife here with me and our cat, Marie, who I often wonder if she instinctively knows that something is afoot. We also have a garden, which is small enough to not cause too much maintenance but large enough for a few fruit trees and a relaxing area for sunbathing or paella parties with friends and neighbours. Of course, the parties are no longer allowed for the foreseeable future, as groups are prohibited.
The Spanish authorities put us in lockdown a week ago. This means that we are only allowed to go out into public areas for the purposes of food shopping, medical attention, work reasons (where homeworking is not possible) and to walk the dog. For each case, care must be taken not to become too close to any other person, in order to avoid cross contagion. The lockdown is initially planned for 15 days, but I suspect it will go into many weeks or even months.
After a week of confinement, we are adjusting rather well. Plans were made on how to occupy ourselves, some interior decorating until the paint runs out, a jogging circuit around the garden (100 laps is approximately 5km), finish the online Spanish course and to finally learn to Waltz properly. This, apart from much reading and blogging, is enough to keep us quiet for a few weeks.
Apart from all of these activities, there is also much time available to reflect. I began wondering how we know that this virus is so dangerous. Why do we think that it is necessary to destroy our economies, our way of life and award our governments draconian powers? Would we have taken these measures if China hadn’t shown the world a panic reaction to a previously unknown virus?
On researching the Spanish Flu, which killed up to 100 million people, I learned that the virus had nothing to do with Spain at all. In fact, the major powers at the time, of Germany, France, UK and USA censored the early reports about the disease, for the purposes of maintaining moral in the trenches during WW1. Spain was neutral at the time, with a relatively free press. They reported openly about the spread of the virus, and particularly the terrible illness of their King Alfonso XIII. This gave the impression to the world that Spain was particularly infected, which led to the name “Spanish Flu”. This demonstrates two things, firstly how governments are quite prepared to lock down their media or give false information, if it is deemed to be for the benefit of the population and secondly how easily people around the world can be misled.
Now, armed with doubts about the new COVID-19 virus, and an instinctive feeling that we are taking measures which are disproportional to the threat, I have been researching where the information came from, which is causing this widespread panic.
Every year there are new viruses, which try to make us ill. This is what viruses do. If they didn’t change regularly, we would all build an immunity, which would protect us for the rest of our lives. There are about a hundred virus types and they are permanently changing. Up to now we didn’t really worry about it too much. There were good years and bad years for flu epidemics, but nothing was thought much about it. In the past we haven’t even bothered to test which virus caused which flu symptoms. From all of these different acute respiratory virus types, we know, thanks to much research carried out in Glasgow, that Corona viruses make up around 10% of the total.
Wuhan contains a large number of some of the best virologists in the world. It also contains 11 million inhabitants, providing many illnesses and opportunities to study such viruses and people needing to be ventilated. They did approximately only 50 tests from these patients and found a new virus. The virologist then put these findings into a huge database, which can be accessed worldwide. The virologist has no idea how dangerous, or contagious such a virus might be. That is not his job. He can only record and report his findings. Against normal practices, and partly because of the panic that was being raised by China, a test was released before it had gone through normal testing procedure.
Now, a virus can only be assessed for its mortality rate by observing people and calculating from the number of people tested positive, how many die. If one goes out into the wider population, naturally a larger number of people will test positive, that those for example, who are tested in their doctor’s surgery. Similarly, the number of people testing positive in their doctor’s surgery, will be far higher than those admitted to hospital for respiratory problems.
If we take the Italian example. They have a very high mortality rate, but if tests are mainly carried out in the hospitals, on people who are already seriously ill, it is rather obvious that the mortality rate (number of deaths as a proportion of people testing positive) will be disproportionately high.
So it seems that currently the virologists have created a storm of panic. They have convinced the Chinese government that this is serious. Measures have been taken in China, which has sent a panic around the world. In reality, we might be dealing with a perfectly normal flu virus. The virologists around the world have joined the band wagon, people have panicked. Political pressure has built, such that all around the world we are now in ever increasing lockdown, for something where the evidence is thin at best.
This has generated a network of opinions around the world amongst the scientific community. Thousands are trying to join the search for vaccine or other medical solutions etc. There is a rush for recognition or funding at a time when governments are pouring huge sums of money in, without boundaries. Consequently the politicians are referring to this scientific community more and more, in order to be seen to act.
As with the climate change debate, we have reached a point very quickly where critics are not allowed a voice. Anyone who questions this virus danger is quickly vilified, ridiculed as a denier.
Quoting from Dr. Wolfgang Wodarg, a German physician and politician, of whom some of this blog is taken, “It reminds me of the tale of the king with no clothes”.
Known in England as “The Emperor’s New Clothes”, the lesson is that the fear of consequences will often lead people to publicly agree to things they don’t believe in for a variety of reasons. Furthermore, the “emperor” will always proudly continue the lie despite his own knowledge of the truth and being publicly outed. It is easier and less painless to tell a few more lies and look foolish than to admit being foolish. We see ridiculous art like a picture of a soup can and hail it as genius because 4 snooty art critics said it was and we don’t want to seem uncultured. Evidence proves a politician innocent of something and yet the opposition continues to press the disproven narrative.
Of course, we have here a similar situation, where politicians and scientists, who have no real idea of what is happening with this virus, are afraid to say anything against for fear of ridicule.
Now, I am also one of those who has no idea. I can only fall back on my knowledge as an educated scientist (albeit not in a related field) from what I have read, my instincts and my common sense.
Do I believe that this virus is a deliberate attack on mankind? I don’t know, but I guess not.
Do I believe that governments around the world are using the virus as an excuse to take actions that otherwise would never be accepted? Yes I do.
Is this virus as dangerous as some people wish to paint it? I suspect not.
There are currently so many conspiracy theories written on the internet, which none of us ordinary mortals have a clue, whether they be right or wrong. There is one thing I am certain about, however. We will be surprised by the end result, when this is over.
The purpose of this blog, I guess is simply to try to get the message across that we must be sceptical and thoughtful, not believe everything we hear, whether it be from scientists or politicians, but to try to find our own opinions amongst the mass of information which is out there.
I wish everyone who is currently ill, whether it be from COVID-19 or any other of the hundreds of illnesses and viruses out there, a speedy recovery. Those of you who are locked down, stay strong, call your loved ones, take care as best as you can, and let’s see what the future holds for us all.