If you were to hold a Chinese horseshoe bat in your hand it would barely fill your palm, weighing little more than a ballpoint pen.
The creatures live in the darkness. Their name comes from their oddly-shaped noses, which look like upward-pointed horseshoes. Generally we ignore them and they ignore us.
In 2013, in the Chinese province of Yunnan, about 2000 kilometres south-west of Wuhan, a horseshoe bat was caught in a trap. Chinese scientists swabbed its mouth and checked the saliva for virus genes.
Bats’ tiny bodies teem with viruses. But this bat had a virus researchers had never seen before. It was a coronavirus, and it looked a lot like SARS, a virus that had spread around the world rapidly a decade earlier and then vanished without a trace.
But this virus infected only bats, not humans. The researchers named it RaTG13 and then promptly forgot about it.
At the same time, other research groups noted these bat coronaviruses regularly seemed to jump from animals to humans, and posed a significant pandemic threat.
And then ... the world moved on. We had bigger things to worry about than Chinese bat coronaviruses.
It is now clear we made a mistake.
The virus that is causing the first pandemic in 100 years – it will likely kill millions before this is all over, and mean that life may never be the same again – shares 96 per cent of its genetic code with RaTG13.
“We have been monitoring these coronaviruses. They’ve been jumping species boundaries,” says Professor Edward Holmes. “We knew this was going to happen.”
RaTG13, or another very similar bat virus, has managed to pick up two tiny genetic tweaks that turned it from a bat disease into a virus perfectly adapted to make humans sick.
Then it had the unbelievable misfortune to emerge in exactly the wrong place at exactly the wrong time.
“It’s got this beautifully adapted set of mutations,” says Holmes. In his published work, he calls it a “perfect epidemiological storm”.
A crown of spikes
Holmes, a researcher based at the University of Sydney, is among the world’s leading experts on the genetics and evolution of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
He was on the team that first sequenced the genes of the virus from one of the first patients in Wuhan. The
ir article on the possible origins of the virus is now the most-publicised Nature study in the history of that venerable journal.
He has visited the Huanan seafood and wildlife market where the Wuhan outbreak began. He has visited caves in China, searching for bats so he can survey the viruses they contain.
CoV-2 is a coronavirus, just like SARS and MERS. These viruses get their name from how they look under a microscope: a tiny bubble of fat surrounded by a crown of spikes which are used to penetrate cells.
Animals have many different types of viruses. But coronaviruses seem uniquely able to jump from animal to human. “They just have this ability,” says Holmes. We don’t know why.
The emergence of SARS in 2003, killing 774 people, should have been a warning: these viruses jumped, and when they did lots of humans died.
We should have started building broad-based vaccines and antivirals that target all coronaviruses.
Instead, SARS was defeated largely by enhanced hygiene measures. Several drugs and vaccine candidates for SARS were developed and then largely abandoned.
“We have been completely complacent,” says Dr Michelle Baker, the CSIRO’s leading bat virus researcher.
“It gets really difficult to get funding when there is not an outbreak. People feel a sense of security. They don’t feel it’s relevant anymore.”
Why this virus?
The virus pulled from bats in 2013 could not infect humans. SARS-CoV-2 can. Why?
It appears that two tiny tweaks to the virus’ genetic code have made a huge difference.
CoV-2 wants to do two things: bind to a human cell and then get inside it. The virus binds to a cellular receptor – think of them as little antennae that stick off the side of human cells – called ACE2.
ACE2 receptors are designed to listen for signals that change our blood pressure. Fine adjustments to blood pressure are really important in our lungs, so our lung cells are covered in ACE2 receptors.
SARS was able to bind to ACE2. But small genetic changes mean CoV-2 binds almost perfectly, at least 10 times more tightly than SARS. “It’s beautifully adapted to do that,” says Holmes.
But that’s not enough. Once CoV-2 is stuck on a cell, it needs to get in. That’s where the second tweak comes in.
CoV-2 is covered in spikes. They act like tiny harpoons. The virus needs to stick to the cell and then fire a harpoon. The harpoon pulls the surface of the cell and the virus together, allowing them to fuse. That’s how the virus gets inside.
“But you don’t want the harpoon firing off randomly,” says Professor Stephen Turner, head of microbiology at Monash University. “You only want it to fire when it’s ready to infect the cell. If it’s going off too early or too late, the virus would not be able to infect us.”
To trigger the harpoon at just the right time, viruses rely on human enzymes, little proteins in our blood. Some enzymes trigger the harpoon too early, others trigger it too late. Among the best enzyme triggers – the one that fires the harpoon at exactly the right time – is an enzyme called furin. Our bodies produce heaps of furin.
“Basically, you can work out if a virus is going to be highly pathogenic or not if it is activated by furin,” says Turner.
Bird flu is triggered by furin. We got lucky, though, because it wasn’t very good at sticking to our cells. CoV-2 is great at sticking to our cells. And it’s triggered by furin, among the best triggers a virus can have.
“The combination is what makes it so infectious,” says Turner.
The birth of a virus
How does a bat virus pick up these tricks?
Bats live essentially symbiotic relationships with their viruses. The viruses don’t want to kill the bats, because then they’d have nowhere to live.
When scientists test bats, they find lots of different viruses but at very low levels. “Often it’s really difficult to find a virus in a bat,” says Baker.
And these viruses are, in evolutionary terms, very stable. They don’t change much. It is unlikely RaTG13 turned into SARS-CoV-2 within a bat, Baker says.
But things change when a bat virus jumps to another animal.
Here’s one potential scenario.
RaTG13 has the ability to bind to ACE2. But it did not have the furin tweak which makes the virus so infectious.
It is possible RaTG13, or a similar virus, jumped from a bat into a pangolin – a small, scaly anteater common to Asia and highly valued in traditional Chinese medicine.
Pangolins also have the ACE2 receptor, as do other animals like ferrets.
Either of these animals, or many others, could have been the middle animal between bats and humans.But in this particular origin story, the pangolin was infected at the same time with another bat coronavirus. This virus possessed the furin tweak.
When two viruses infect the same host, they can ‘recombine’ – swapping their genes.
This may have created a virus that could both stick to ACE2 and use furin to quickly get inside human cells. That could have been how SARS-CoV-2 was born. Then it jumped to humans in the close confines of the Wuhan wet market.
And Wuhan is the perfect spot for a virus to jump. The city is home to millions. It is an international travel hub. The virus appeared just before the biggest travel period of the year: the Chinese Spring festival.
That story is neat. But it is no certainty. The first documented COVID-19 patient had no exposure to the wet market.
It is possible, although unlikely, this virus was circulating in humans for years before breaking out into a pandemic.
It could have spread silently, causing only mild cold-like symptoms, before suddenly acquiring a key mutation or two that made it much more contagious - and much more dangerous. “You cannot rule that out,” says Holmes.
“Whether that market was involved or not, it’s really unclear at the moment. We may never answer that question.”
‘We need to change the way we live’
Holmes is shocked at how fast SARS-CoV-2 has spread. But he’s not shocked it was a bat coronavirus that caused a worldwide pandemic.
Environmental damage, illegal wildlife trading (pangolins in particular are heavily traded), wet markets and the climate crisis are all combining to push humans and bats closer than ever before.
“It is blindingly obvious that we as humans have to change the way we interact with the animal world. There is no doubt about that,” he says. “And it’s not the animals' fault.
“Bats have been carrying these viruses for millennia. It’s not them that’s changed, it’s us – the way we interact with them.
“The whole world is now set up for a pandemic - we live in megacities, there is transport. It’s an accident waiting to happen, and it happened.”
When the world eventually starts to recover from the pandemic, steps need to be put in place to widen the gap between bats and humans so this cannot happen again, Holmes says.
“We have to cut our exposure. Those markets have to go,” he says. “The illegal trade in wildlife has to end. We have to cut our exposure. That’s very very clear.”
Liam Mannix - Liam is The Age and Sydney Morning Herald's science reporter
Coronavirus: The Likely Causes and Consequences of Its Rapid Emergence
By Shane Quinn - 29. March 2020
Coronavirus cases are continuing to accelerate as the world’s most affluent countries, for a change, bear the brunt of a serious infectious illness. Yet again it is the bulk of populations that will really suffer, however, as multinational corporations and establishment centres seek to consolidate their wealth and influence.
The number of official infections worldwide is set to surpass the 700,000 mark, an increase of about half a million cases in two weeks.
More than 30,000 people have so far died. The most powerful country of all, America, has comfortably the highest number of infections in the world, at over 120,000 and counting. (1)
Around 18,000 fresh cases alone were detected in America on 27 March 2020, a record daily increase. Figures for 28 March in the US are once more revealing a very large quantity of new cases, with New York containing almost half of all nationwide reported diagnoses. More than 140,000 people globally have recovered from the coronavirus.
Actual statistics in America may be much higher, and there is every sign that many tens of thousands of new coronavirus detections will occur there in the weeks ahead. With a population less than a quarter that of China’s, the US is already suffering far more from this disease by comparison to their main rival in the world arena.
The coronavirus will hit America’s people hard, due to the country being dominated to an unusual degree by extreme wealth, which has increased notably during the neoliberal era. America’s healthcare system, designed for the well off, is not remotely organised to handle a highly infectious disease which is proving difficult to eradicate.
The most likely reasons behind the coronavirus developing is because of the following factors: Global industrial-scale meat production and its enormous antibiotic usage, combined with humanity’s ongoing attacks on planetary ecosystems, as closer interaction occurs between billions of people, their livestock and wild animals, all of which are potential carriers of both old and new infectious illnesses. Of this, there is an abundance of scientific research and evidence. (2)
It is a perfect storm that has been brewing, a breeding ground in which contagious maladies can spread forth. The arrival of a disease like the coronavirus has been an inevitability. It is no accident over the past generation especially, as the rate of environmental destruction grows, that so many different illnesses have sprung up around the planet.
Among the least likely causes behind the coronavirus emerging, is that of deliberate implantations into countries from people, or through biological/chemical warfare by hostile powers. Considering America’s very harmful post-1945 foreign policy record, fingers of blame were pointed early on in Washington’s direction, such as by the Chinese or Iranian governments (3). In these instances, there is simply no evidence to support their accusations.
The complaints of Beijing and Tehran are at least understandable, if one takes a brief glance at American hostility, specifically one notorious incident which could have destroyed the world. Washington has a history of implanting biological diseases and infestations inside the borders of designated enemies, such as Cuba, along with implementing invasions and terrorist campaigns. These malevolent actions performed a leading role which resulted in the Cuban Missile Crisis occurring in October 1962.
In August 1962, president John F. Kennedy formally decided to escalate Washington’s terrorist assaults against Cuba (Operation Mongoose), with these attacks thereafter occurring right up to, and even during the missile crisis itself two months later – which the Kennedy administration previously expected would culminate in a large-scale US invasion of Cuba, in October 1962.
The American author and historian, Aviva Chomsky, revealed of the Cuban Missile Crisis that,
“In fact the major players in the United States emerge as more reckless than heroic… many of the claims made by the Soviets and Cubans, previously denied by U.S. sources, turned out to be true. The Cubans did fear another U.S. Invasion, and plans for such an invasion were indeed in the works. Soviet nuclear capability was in fact far behind what the United States had developed”.
Aviva Chomsky writes further,
“The Soviet purpose of placing missiles in Cuba was to address real threats: to defend Cuba against U.S. attack and to respond to the global strategic and political nuclear advantage held by the United States… Despite U.S. promises, it refused to accept international oversight of its non-intervention pledge, and in fact U.S. plans to overthrow the Cuban government continued unabated”; and she notes that for humanity, “The brink was far closer than either the public at the time, or later historians, had realized”. President Kennedy afterwards informed his advisors that “our objective is to preserve our right to invade Cuba”, breaking all promises made which the Kennedy administration had no intention of ever keeping. (4)
In light of such examples as this, it is easy to empathise with the Chinese and Iranian governments for feeling paranoid. These two countries already endure regular intimidation by US economic and military power.
Focusing again on the coronavirus, with the disease having spread to almost every country worldwide, it has reportedly taken on two slightly different strains (“L-type” and “S-type”), as medical and biological experts have highlighted (5). It is not yet clear if one strain of the coronavirus is more severe than the other, but the current strains detected are almost identical.
Erik Volz, an epidemiologist at Imperial College London, said of the coronavirus in early March,
“I think it’s a fact that there are two strains. It’s normal for viruses to undergo evolution when they are transmitted to a new host”.
Volz’ observations are supported by Ravinder Kanda, a senior lecturer in evolutionary genomics at Oxford, who commented earlier this month that,
“There do appear to be two different strains. The L-type might be more aggressive in transmitting itself, but we have no idea yet how these underlying genetic changes will relate to disease severity”.
Maladies such as the coronavirus are particularly prone to quick mutations, even on a person-to-person basis, which scientific analysts have noted. There is nothing sinister, or unusual, about a different strain of this disease occurring in countries thousands of miles apart, like Italy and China. There is nothing odd either regarding a separate strain unfolding across nations close to China’s shores.
That Italy and America could contain the same variety of virus, does not at all mean that such a strain was implanted or spread from the US into Europe. There is again no proof to support allegations behind the critical circumstances in this virus’s development. Such reflections count as mere speculation, particularly when not supported by studies conducted by professionals in the field.
One of the central developments to date of the coronavirus, is that it has been attacking most severely some of the world’s wealthiest countries and, crucially, the planet’s biggest tourist destinations: France, America, Germany, Italy and Spain. This indicates a great deal.
France is the most visited country on earth, followed by Spain and America, with Italy and Germany close behind (6). They consist mainly of the nations worst affected by the coronavirus from its earliest stages, and this is surely no coincidence. Nor is it a coincidence that, as things stand, those countries closed off from the world have virtually escaped the disease such as: Libya (1 case), Syria (5 cases), Laos (6 cases) and Myanmar (8 cases).
It is highly likely that the coronavirus was disseminated worldwide, primarily as a consequence of air travel relating to the tourist industry. This is especially so in an era of unprecedented globalisation, as people are flown every which way by the tens of millions each month. It accounts for the remarkable rapidity of the coronavirus expansion, and the appearance of the disease in dozens of countries on a seemingly simultaneous level.
In 2019 the number of tourists worldwide reached a record 1.5 billion, almost 20% of the entire human population (7). From early 2020, the coronavirus fanned out so quickly as millions upon millions of people descended on the above tourist destinations, and upon returning from such places to their home countries.
Moreover, it is impossible to analyse each person who passes through an airport, in order to judge if they were infected with the disease at that time. Symptoms do not show up at once, and are obvious only later on. One cannot estimate with a measure of real confidence precisely how this disease evolved, how it circulated, which strain developed where, through what countries, etc. Yet it is possible to examine the most likely causes of infectious disease development, based on broad scientific research.
From the early 1950s until today, humans have increasingly encroached into the environments of animals, birds, insects, etc., all of which can conceivably carry deadly ailments, as they have in the past. Any such disease could disperse from wild creatures, who usually have strong constitutions, to vulnerable pigs or cows, which may in turn pass on the illness to people.
By analysing the spread of potentially lethal illnesses, we can examine the issue of industrial meat production, and its dependence on antibiotic usage (8). This problem is in fact so significant, that it may be outweighed on a global threat level only by nuclear weapons and the climate crisis.
Countless millions of domesticated animals are herded together in dreadful indoor conditions, and to prevent disease circulation, they are pumped full of antibiotics. The never-ending use of antibiotics has been destroying their effectiveness, and is creating mutant, drug-resistant bacteria. The arrival of dangerous bacteria may constitute a foundation for the spawning of new contagious diseases. Antibiotic abuse is making the administering of these drugs less effective also in the treatment of human illnesses.
Antibiotics induce artificial weight gain in species like chickens, which is another reason for their use (9). Antibiotics are strongly endorsed by multinational corporations, who depend on the meat industry to maintain their high profit levels, such as fast food retailers McDonald’s and KFC. Big pharma are likewise profiting massively from meat manufacturing, and rake in about $5 billion each year from producing antibiotics for farm livestock. The US animal antibiotics industry amasses profits of around $2 billion a year, while its European equivalent takes home $1.25 billion per annum. (10)
The antibiotics market as a whole is worth $45 billion. Regulations, put forth in an attempt to reduce antibiotics in meat processing, are undermined by lobbyists connected to big pharma and fast food transnationals. What we have here is a vast, interconnected operation dedicated to collecting mega wealth, and which is inflicting wide-scale harm on the planet. In an age of neoliberal globalisation, governments are compromised and proving impotent in tackling these problems.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has largely been co-opted to corporate power. Of the swine flu from a decade ago, researchers advising the WHO were paid millions of euro from the vaccine industry. A number of people, from big pharma, were present in secret advisory groups that were close to the WHO’s Director-General of the time, Margaret Chan, who retired from this role in 2017. (11)
The prestigious Danish physician Halfdan Mahler, who led the WHO for 15 years, had warned at the end of his tenure in 1988 that big pharma “is taking over the WHO”. His remarks went unheeded.
Shane Quinn obtained an honors journalism degree. He is interested in writing primarily on foreign affairs, having been inspired by authors like Noam Chomsky. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.
2 Adele Peters, “Why our shrinking natural world is increasing the pace of global pandemics“, Fast Company, 13 March 2020
3 Michael Jansen, “Iran struggles to fight Covid-19 as US sanctions hurt healthcare“, Irish Times, 20 March 2020,
4 Aviva Chomsky, A History Of The Cuban Revolution (John Wiley & Sons; 2nd edition, 31 Mar. 2015), pp. 69-70
5 Jessica Hamzelou, “Are there two strains and is one more deadly?“, New Scientist, 5 March 2020
6 Nellie Huang, “10 most visited countries in the world“, Wild Junket, 6 January 2020,
7 Megha Paul, “UNWTO records 1.5 billion tourism arrivals in 2019“, Travel Daily Media, 21 January 2020,
8 Robert Hackett, “Noam Chomsky: ‘In a couple of generations, organized human society may not survive‘”, National Observer, 12 February 2019
9 Jill Ettinger, “‘Low dose’ Antibiotics in Chicken Feed for Weight Gain Widespread, Investigation Finds“, Organic Authority, 22 October 2018
10 Holly Watt, “How much does big pharma make from animal antibiotics?”, The Guardian, 19 June 2018
11 Soren Ventegodt, Reviewed & Approved by Dr. Harold H. Fain, January 2015
Featured image is from Health.mil
The original source of this article is Copyright © Shane Quinn, Global Research, 2020
* Note to readers: Forward this article to your email lists. Crosspost on your blog site, internet forums. etc.
COVID-19 STORY FROM THE USA -
NATO’s Dark Blueprint For Virus/Vaccine Warfare
•Streamed live on Mar 30, 2020
For Mark Kulacz's brilliant research piece on the shutdown of Ft. Detrick https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jFvus...
For entire Mark Kulacz Archive of Rogue's Gallery, go to kzdigs.com
Virginia Benassi - Chief Technical Officer, World Health Organization https://www.who.int/medicines/ebola-t...
Sina Bavari LinkedIn - Leaving Ft Detrick in August 2019 To EDGE BioInnovation https://www.linkedin.com/in/sina-bava...
George Webb is an investigative journalist in the Washington, DC area that discovered the DNC blackberries and hard drives used by DNC Chairwoman's IT assistant, Biden Awan. Webb produced a fact witness, a Marine named Andre Taggart, and Taggart confirmed the government marked blackberries and drives stashed by Awan in his home. Webb also interviewed a Capitol Hill staffer with a three decade relationship with Joe Biden that provided insider information about Biden Awan that was later confirmed in a House hearing. The House insider also left the phone with Webb which had Congressional markings, and the blackberry mapped to a DIA staffer on Capitol Hill in the Human Intelligence Services. A summary of his three years of reporting has been summarize in a five video playlist called
The Webb Report and can be found here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H9sjb...
In Britain the Fearmongers go Door to Door
CoronaVirus: Are These Men In Hazmat Suits Lying To People?
•Mar 27, 2020
Allegedly, 2 men in hazmat suits turned up to a block of flats putting notices through people's doors that someone had died from coronavirus, but, that's not true according to one of the residents who lives in the block of flats, this girl claims that the man was taken away by the police and the man is very much alive But, 10/15 minutes later, they're putting notices through residents doors claiming that the man died So, what's going on here then folks? Could all be not what it seems?
... meanwhile in Berlin:
German with English subtitles - and judge for yourself: Does Youtube have a right or a hidden agenda to take this video-documentation with statements of respected doctors and specialists down?
The figure at the root of so much global angst about coronavirus is currently 4.7 per cent. That is the proportion of people, as of Sunday afternoon, who have died after being diagnosed with the virus — 32,137 out of the 685,623 who have tested positive for Covid-19 around the world.
It compares with a death rate of around 0.1 per cent for seasonal flu and 0.2 per cent for pneumonia in high-income countries. However, 4.7 per cent is not only changeable but frustratingly unreliable, both for governments seeking to calibrate their policy response and for citizens trying to gauge how much they should worry.
The proportion of people who have died from the disease varies strikingly from country to country. Researchers warn that there are so many uncertainties — not least over the true number of infections — that it remains almost impossible to draw firm conclusions about the death rate.
Mike Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organization’s health emergencies programme, has outlined four factors that might contribute to the differing mortality rates: who becomes infected, what stage the epidemic has reached in a country, how much testing a country is doing, and how well different healthcare systems are coping.
But there are other sources of doubt too, including how many coronavirus victims would have died of other causes if no pandemic had occurred. In a typical year, about 56m people die around the world — an average of about 153,000 per day.
Arguably the biggest unknown about Covid-19 is the true number of people worldwide who have contracted the virus. Without that information no accurate death rate can be calculated.
Many infected people will display either mild or no symptoms, and will remain absent from the data unless they are tested. Since resources are limited and different countries are testing to different extents, the size of the information gap varies from place to place.
John Ioannidis, a professor of epidemiology at Stanford University, has branded the data we have about the epidemic “utterly unreliable”.
“We don’t know if we are failing to capture infections by a factor of three or 300,” he wrote last week. If thousands more people are surviving than we know about, then current mortality rate estimates are too high — perhaps by a large margin.
Researchers at the University of Hong Kong have estimated that, in Wuhan, where the pandemic began, the likely death rate was 1.4 per cent — much lower than the previous estimate of 4.5 per cent, which was calculated using official statistics on the region’s cases and deaths.
In the UK, where the government has been criticised for a slow initial response, only the most serious cases are being tested. In total 1,231 people have died out of 19,758 confirmed cases, giving a death rate of 6.2 per cent.
Rosalind Smyth, professor of child health at UCL, said official UK coronavirus data was “so misleading that it should not be used”. Using conservative estimates, the true number of people infected “is likely to be 5-10 times higher”, she said.
The age of people infected
Much depends on who gets infected, how old they are and whether they have underlying health conditions. It is well known that those who are older are more likely to become seriously ill and die. But Robin May, professor of infectious diseases at Birmingham university, notes: “There are 70-year-olds who are wheelchair bound and others who run miles every week.”
The WHO has also warned that younger people are “not invincible” and must take the virus seriously.
Italy has to date been the worst affected country in Europe, with 10,023 deaths and 92,472 infections, giving a crude mortality rate of 10.8 per cent. But the average age of Italians who have tested positive is 62, and the vast majority of those who have died have been 60 or over.
“Italy has been a poster child for healthy people living into old age,” said Dr Ryan. “Unfortunately, in this case, having that older population may mean that the fatality rate appears higher because of the actual age distribution of the population.”
But different countries are also reporting cases and deaths in different ways: in Italy, Covid-19 is listed as the cause of death even if a patient was already ill and died from a combination of illnesses.
“Only 12 per cent of death certificates have shown a direct causality from coronavirus,” said the scientific adviser to Italy’s minister of health last week.
Spain’s national government simply lists how many people with confirmed cases of coronavirus have died and provides no extra information on any other medical conditions.
In South Korea, which has a younger population than Italy, about a third of confirmed cases were in people aged 30 or under: 152 people have died so far out of 9,583 infections, giving a mortality rate of 1.6 per cent. In Germany, which has recorded 455 deaths, the majority of infections have occurred in people aged 15 to 59. Based on the available data, the country’s death rate is about 0.8 per cent, but this may also reflect its aggressive approach to testing people with milder symptoms.
Risk of death from other causes
In the UK, about 150,000 people die every year between January and March. To date, the vast majority of those who have died from Covid-19 in Britain have been aged 70 or older or had serious pre-existing health conditions.
What is not clear is how many of those deaths would have occurred anyway if the patients had not contracted Covid-19.
Speaking at a parliamentary hearing last week, Professor Neil Ferguson, director of the MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis at Imperial College London, said it was not yet clear how many “excess deaths” caused by coronavirus there would be in the UK. However, he said the proportion of Covid-19 victims who would have died anyway could be “as many as half or two-thirds”.
What stage of the outbreak preparations begin
At what stage in the epidemic cycle a country begins to prepare its healthcare system is crucial.
If a healthcare system becomes overwhelmed, as happened in Italy and parts of China, the standard of care that patients receive is likely to fall. This is likely to increase the mortality rate.
In one hospital in Lombardy, northern Italy, a chronic shortage of equipment means staff are using snorkelling masks bought from Decathlon, a leisure goods chain, to hook up patients to oxygen supplies.
Given the number of patients in intensive care in the region, the WHO’s Dr Ryan said last week, the fact that doctors are saving “so many is a miracle in itself”.
Dr Simon Clarke, associate professor in cellular microbiology at the University of Reading, said it was “not a given that [the UK and Germany] will end up in exactly the same place that Italy is in,” because “you can’t draw any cast-iron conclusions from a trajectory on a graph”.
Being behind the curve gives countries longer to prepare for an outbreak and learn from others’ mistakes.
Additional reporting by Daniel Dombey in Madrid and Miles Johnson in Rome
10 MORE Experts Criticising the Coronavirus Panic
Following on from our previous list, here are ten more expert voices, drowned out or disregarded by the mainstream narrative, offering their take on the coronavirus outbreak.
* * *
Dr. Sunetra Gupta et al. are an Oxford-based research team constructing an epidemiological model for the coronavirus outbreak, their paper has yet to be peer-reviewed, but the abstract is available online.
Dr Gupta is a Professor of Theoretical Epidemiology at the University of Oxford with an interest in infectious disease agents that are responsible for malaria, HIV, influenza and bacterial meningitis. She is a recipient of the Sahitya Akademi Award, the Scientific Medal by the Zoological Society of London and the Royal Society Rosalind Franklin Award for her scientific research.
What they say:
Importantly, the results we present here suggest the ongoing epidemics in the UK and Italy started at least a month before the first reported death and have already led to the accumulation of significant levels of herd immunity (the better term is community immunity) in both countries. There is an inverse relationship between the proportion currently immune and the fraction of the population vulnerable to severe disease.
– Fundamental principles of epidemic spread highlight the immediate need for large-scale serological surveys to assess the stage of the SARS-CoV-2 epidemic, 24th March 2020
– – –
The research presents a very different view of the epidemic to the modelling at Imperial College London […] “I’m surprised that there has been such unqualified acceptance of the Imperial model”, Dr Gupta said.
The Oxford results would mean the country had already acquired substantial her immunity through the unrecognised spread of covid19 over more than two months.
Although some experts have shed doubt on the strength and length of the human immune response to the virus, Prof Gupta said the emerging evidence made her confident that humanity would build up herd immunity (the better term is community immunity) against Covid19
– “Coronavirus may have infected halt the population”, Financial Times, 24th March 2020
Dr Karin Mölling is a German virologist whose research focused on retroviruses, particularly human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). She was a full professor and director of the Institute of Medical Virology at the University of Zurich from 1993 until her retirement in 2008 and received multiple honours and awards for her work.
What she says:
You are now told every morning how many SARS-Corona 2 deaths there are. But they don’t tell you how many people already are infected with influenza this winter and how many deaths it has caused.
This winter, the flu is not severe, but around 80,000 are infected. You don’t get these numbers at all. Something similar occurred two years ago. This is not put into the right context.
Every week a person dies in Berlin from multi-resistant germs. That adds up to 35,000 a year in Germany. This is not mentioned at all. I believe that we have had situations like this several times and that the measures are now being taken too far.
I am of the opinion that maybe one should not do so much against young people having parties together and infecting each other. We have to build immunity somehow. How can that be possible without contacts? The younger ones handle the infection much better. But we have to protect the elderly, and protect them in a way that can be scrutinized; is it reasonable what we are doing now, to stretch out the epidemic in a way that almost paralyzes the entire world economy?
The Robert Koch Institute provides the figures. Then you sit there as a listener or spectator: 20 dead again, how terrible! Do you know when I would start to panic? If there are 20,000. Then we get close to what went on completely quietly two years ago.
The 2018 influenza epidemic, with 25,000 deaths, never disconcerted the press. The clinics had to deal with an additional 60,000 patients, which was no problem in the clinics either!
That is the main fear: the disease is presented as a terrible disease. The disease per se is like the flu in a normal winter. It is even weaker in the first week.
– Interview on Anti-Empire.com, 23rd March 2020
Dr Anders Tegnell is a Swedish physician and civil servant who has been State Epidemiologist of the Public Health Agency of Sweden since 2013. Dr Tegnell graduated from medical school in 1985, specialising in infectious disease. He later obtained a PhD in Medical Science from Linköping University in 2003 and an MSc in 2004.
What he says:
“All measures that we take must be feasible over a longer period of time.” Otherwise, the population will lose acceptance of the entire corona strategy.
Older people or people with previous health problems should be isolated as much as possible. So no visits to children or grandchildren, no journeys by public transport, if possible no shopping. That is the one rule. The other is: Anyone with symptoms should stay at home immediately, even with the slightest cough.
“If you follow these two rules, you don’t need any further measures, the effect of which is only very marginal anyway,”
– “The World Stands Still…Except for Sweden”, Zeit.de, 24th March 2020
Dr Pablo Goldschmidt is an Argentine-French virologist specializing in tropical diseases, and Professor of Molecular Pharmacology at the Université Pierre et Marie Curie in Paris. He is a graduate of the Faculty of Pharmacy and Biochemistry of the University of Buenos Aires and Faculty of Medicine of the Hospital Center of Pitié-Salpetrière, Paris.
He currently resides in France, where he has worked for almost 40 years as a researcher in clinical laboratories developing diagnostic technology.
What he says:
The ill-founded opinions expressed by international experts, replicated by the media and social networks repeat the unnecessary panic that we have previously experienced. The coronavirus identified in China in 2019 caused nothing less than a strong cold or flu, with no difference so far with cold or flu as we know , ”
Respiratory viral conditions are numerous and are caused by several viral families and species, among which the respiratory syncytial virus (especially in infants), influenza (influenza), human metapneumoviruses, adenoviruses, rhinoviruses, and various coronaviruses, already described years ago. It is striking that earlier this year global health alerts have been triggered as a result of infections by a coronavirus detected in China, COVID-19, knowing that each year there are 3 million newborns who die in the world of pneumonia and 50,000 adults in the United States for the same cause, without alarms being issued.
Our planet is the victim of a new sociological phenomenon, scientific-media harassment , triggered by experts only on the basis of laboratory molecular diagnostic analysis results. Communiqués issued from China and Geneva were replicated, without being confronted from a critical point of view and, above all, without stressing that coronaviruses have always infected humans and always caused diarrhoea and what people call a banal cold or common cold. Absurd forecasts were extrapolated, as in 2009 with the H1N1 influenza virus.
There is no evidence to show that the 2019 coronavirus is more lethal than respiratory adenoviruses, influenza viruses, coronaviruses from previous years, or rhinoviruses responsible for the common cold.
– Interview on Clarin.com, 9th March 2020
What they say:
[P]rojections of the death toll could plausibly be orders of magnitude too high […] The true fatality rate is the portion of those infected who die, not the deaths from identified positive cases.
The latter rate is misleading because of selection bias in testing. The degree of bias is uncertain because available data are limited. But it could make the difference between an epidemic that kills 20,000 and one that kills two million.
A universal quarantine may not be worth the costs it imposes on the economy, community and individual mental and physical health. We should undertake immediate steps to evaluate the empirical basis of the current lockdowns.
“Is the Coronavirus as Deadly as They Say?”, Wall Street Journal, 24th March 2020
Dr Tom Jefferson is a British epidemiologist, based in Rome. He works for the Cochrane Collaboration, where he is an author and editor of the Cochrane Collaboration’s acute respiratory infections group, as well as part of four other Cochrane groups. He is also an advisor to the Italian National Agency for Regional Health Services.
What he says:
So I cannot answer my nagging doubts, there does not seem to be anything special about this particular epidemic of influenza-like illness.
There are, however, two consequences of this situation that bother me.
The first is the lack of institutional credibility as perceived by my friends. They range from firefighters, policemen, and even a GP — not the kind of people you would want to alienate in an emergency. A restaurant owner told me he would never report himself to the health authority as that would mean at least two weeks of closure and his business would go to the wall.
The second is that once the limelight has moved on, will there be a serious and concentrated international effort to understand the causes and origins of influenza-like illnesses and the life cycle of its agents?
Past form tells me not, and we will go back to pushing influenza as a universal plague under the roof of the hot house of commercial interest. Note the difference: Influenza (caused by influenza A and B viruses, for which we have licensed vaccines and drugs), not influenza-like illnesses against which we should wash our hands all the year round, not just now.
Meanwhile, I still cannot answer Mario’s question: what’s different this time?
– “Covid 19—many questions, no clear answers”, British Medical Journal, 2nd March 2020
Dr Michael Levitt is Professor of biochemistry at Stanford University. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS), a member of the National Academy of Sciences and received the 2013 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the development of multiscale models for complex chemical systems.
In February this year, he correctly modelled that the China outbreak was coming to an end, predicting around 80,000 cases and 3250 deaths.
What he says:
I don’t believe the numbers in Israel, not because they’re made up, but because the definition of a case in Israel keeps changing and it’s hard to evaluate the numbers that way…
There is a lot of unjustified panic in Israel. I don’t believe the numbers here, everything is politics, not math. I will be surprised if number of deaths in Israel surpasses ten, and even five now with the restrictions.
To put things in proportion, the number of deaths of coronavirus in Italy is 10% of the number of deaths of influenza in the country between 2016-2017.
Even in China it’s hard to look at the number of patients because the definition of “patient” varies, so I look at number of deaths. In Israel there are none, so that’s why it’s not even on the world map for the disease.”
– “Nobel laureate: surprised if Israel has more than 10 coronavirus deaths”, Jerusalem Post, 20th March 2020
– – –
[Levitt] analyzed data from 78 countries that reported more than 50 new cases of COVID-19 every day and sees “signs of recovery” in many of them. He’s not focusing on the total number of cases in a country, but on the number of new cases identified every day — and, especially, on the change in that number from one day to the next.
“Numbers are still noisy, but there are clear signs of slowed growth.”
“What we need is to control the panic,” he said. In the grand scheme, “we’re going to be fine.”
– “Why this Nobel laureate predicts a quicker coronavirus recovery: ‘We’re going to be fine'”, Los Angeles Times, 22nd March 2020
German Network for Evidence-Based Medicine is an association of German scientists, researchers and medical professionals.
The network was founded in 2000 to disseminate and further develop concepts and methods of evidence-based and patient-oriented medicine in practice, teaching and research, and today has around 1000 members.
What they say:
In the majority of cases, COVID-19 takes the form of a mild cold or is even symptom-free. Therefore, it is highly unlikely that all cases of infection are recorded, in contrast with deaths which are almost completely recorded. This leads to an overestimation of the CFR.
According to a study of 565 Japanese people evacuated from Wuhan, all of whom were tested (regardless of symptoms), only 9.2% of infected people were detected with currently used symptom-oriented COVID-19 monitoring . This would mean that the number of infected people is likely to be about 10 times greater than the number of registered cases. The CFR would then only be about one tenth of that currently measured. Others assume an even higher number of unreported cases, which would further reduce the CFR.
The widespread availability of SARS-CoV-2 tests is limited. In the USA, for example, an adequate, state-funded testing facility for all suspected cases has only been available since 11.3.2020 . In Germany as well, there were occasional bottlenecks which contribute to an overestimation of the CFR.
As the disease spreads, it becomes increasingly difficult to identify a suspected source of infection. As a result, common colds in people who unknowingly had contact with a COVID-19 patient are not necessarily associated with COVID-19 and those affected do not go to the doctor at all.
An overestimation of the CFR also occurs when a deceased person is found to have been infected with SARS-CoV-2, but this was not the cause of death.
[T]he CFR of 0.2% currently measured for Germany is below the Robert Koch-Institute’s (RKI) calculated influenza CFRs of 0.5% in 2017/18 and 0.4% in 2018/19, but above the widely accepted figure of 0.1% for which there is no reliable evidence.
Beyond the (rather questionable) conclusions drawn from the historical example, there is little evidence that NPIs for COVID-19 actually lead to a reduction in overall mortality. A Cochrane Review from 2011 found no robust evidence for the effectiveness of border control screenings or social distancing.
A systematic review from 2015 found moderate evidence that school closures delay the spread of an influenza epidemic, but at high cost. Isolation at home slows down the spread of influenza but leads to increased infection of family members. It is questionable whether these findings can be transferred from influenza to COVID-19.
It is completely unclear how long the NPIs must be maintained and what effects could be achieved depending on their duration and intensity. The number of deaths might only be postponed to a later point in time, without any change in the total number.
Many questions remain unanswered. On the one hand, the media confronts us daily with alarming reports of an exponentially increasing number of ill and dead people worldwide. On the other hand, the media coverage in no way considers our required criteria for evidence-based risk communication.
The media is currently communicating raw data, for example, there have been “X” infected persons and “Y” deaths to date. However, this presentation fails to distinguish between diagnoses and infections.
– “Covid19: Where is the evidence?”, statement on their website, March 20th 2020
Dr Richard Schabas is the former Chief Medical Officer of Ontario, Medical Officer of Hastings and Prince Edward Public Health and Chief of Staff at York Central Hospital.
What he says:
[F]ar more cases are out there than are being reported. This is because many cases have no symptoms and testing capacity has been limited. There have been about 100,000 cases reported to date, but, if we extrapolate from the number of reported deaths and a presumed case-fatality rate of 0.5 per cent, the real number is probably closer to two million – the vast majority mild or asymptomatic.
Likewise, the actual rate of new cases is probably at least 10,000 a day. If these numbers sound large, though, remember that the world is a very big place. From a global perspective, these numbers are very small.
Second, the Hubei outbreak – by far the largest, and a kind of worst-case scenario – appears to be winding down. How bad was it? Well, the number of deaths was comparable to an average influenza season. That’s not nothing, but it’s not catastrophic, either, and it isn’t likely to overwhelm a competent health-care system. Not even close.
I am not preaching complacency. This disease is not going away any time soon; we should expect more cases and more local outbreaks. And COVID-19 still has the potential to become a major global health problem, with an overall burden comparable to that of influenza. We need to be vigilant in our surveillance.
But we also need to be sensible. Quarantine belongs back in the Middle Ages. Save your masks for robbing banks. Stay calm and carry on. Let’s not make our attempted cures worse than the disease.
– “Strictly by the numbers, the coronavirus does not register as a dire global crisis”, Globe and Mail, 11th March 2020
Another thank you to Swiss Propaganda Research for their excellent work, as well as to all the commenters who provided names and suggestions BTL on the previous piece. They are not all included, for various reasons, but it was all useful information. We also acknowledge voices from other fields, be they philosophers or human rights lawyers, have criticised the response to the outbreak, but we made the decision to limit these lists solely to those experts in medicine or biological science.
By SKANDA GAUTAM - 28. March 2020
- A security personnel uses a multi-functional device to arrest a person violating the government-imposed lockdown, as he maintains a distance, in Kathmandu, on the fifth day of the lockdown, on Saturday, March 28, 2020. Photo: Skanda Gautam/THT
Policeman uses a multi-functional device to arrest a lockdown violator, maintaining a distance, in Kathmandu, on the fifth day of government imposed nationwide lockdown, Saturday, March 28, 2020. Photo: Skanda Gautam/THT
Pentagon Orders Essential Staff To Deep Underground Mountain Bunker As Pandemic Prep Escalates
North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) & the US' Northern Command (NORTHCOM) held a Facebook Live town hall meeting on Tuesday, March 24, informing the public how their essential teams in charge of homeland security are isolating at the Cheyenne Mountain bunker in Colorado amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Air Force General Terrence O'Shaughnessy, who commands NORAD and NORTHCOM, told reporters on Facebook Live last Tuesday that essential staff is being moved from Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado to the underground bunker complex that is 24 miles away in Cheyenne Mountain. The facility is more than 2,000 feet underground and can survive a 30 megaton nuclear explosion.
"To ensure that we can defend the homeland despite this pandemic, our command and control watch teams here in the headquarters split into multiple shifts and portions of our watch team began working from Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, creating a third team at an alternate location as well," O'Shaughnessy said.
"Our dedicated professionals of the NORAD and NORTHCOM command and control watch have left their homes, said goodbye to their families and are isolated from everyone to ensure that they can stand the watch each and every day to defend our homeland.
"It's certainly not optimal, but it's absolutely necessary and appropriate given the situation."
If the staff at Cheyenne are infected, there is a third team of higher-ranking military officials operating at another facility that can remotely assume command.
With the virus crisis deepening in the US, confirmed cases have now surged over 124,000, with 2,191 deaths (as of Sunday morning). President Trump signed an executive order Friday, allowing the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security to activate National Guard and reservists to battle the COVID-19 outbreak across the US.
We noted last week that the US is in the "acceleration phase" of the outbreak, which means the health crisis could get much worse in the coming weeks.
How much worse?
Well, the Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has just warned that social unrest in major Western cities could develop in the coming weeks.
The evolution of the virus crisis could be social destabilization, hence why the military is preparing.
The next phase of the COVID-19 pandemic could be a flare-up of social unrest across major Western cities as millions have lost their jobs, economies have crashed into depressions, and the military is being called up to maintain order.
The Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) warned that riots could be imminent in low-income neighborhoods as extreme wealth inequality has left households unprepared and without a cash buffer to weather the economic downturn.
As we've noted before, many Western households were already stretched thin before the shutdowns began, with little savings, insurmountable debts, and the lack of access to proper healthcare. Now, these folks, which many have been laid off from gig-economy and service sector jobs, have zero income and could be emotionally motivated to hit the streets and protest.
IFRC president Francesco Rocca warned on Friday during a press conference that social unrest could be imminent in Italy, reported Reuters.
"We have a lot of people who are living very marginalized, in the so-called black hole of society... In the most difficult neighborhoods of the biggest cities, I am afraid that in a few weeks, we will have social problems," Rocca said.
"This is a social bomb that can explode at any moment, because they don't have any way to have an income," he said, whose agency deploys volunteers across Europe, including in Italy, Spain, and France.
He warned that the largest Western cities have only a 'few weeks' before social unrest is seen.
As for the US, President Trump has been deploying National Guard units across the country to fight the virus, or a perfect cover to prepare for Martial law-style shutdowns across some areas where the virus is hard-hitting.
President Trump, on Saturday afternoon, said he is considering a quarantine in the New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut area, which would likely be enforced by the military to some degree.
We have noted that National Guard armored vehicles have already been spotted across the country and have suggested that troops are being positioned around major US metros to maintain order if social unrest was seen in low-income neighborhoods.
The Western world is on the brink of turmoil. The dominos are already falling with crashing economies in Europe and the US, triggering massive job losses that could soon lead to the unraveling of social fabric.
Governments offering universal basic income as a solution to keep their citizens content won't work this time. The West is headed for a period of instability, not just economically, but socially.
And now it all makes sense why Americans are rushing to gun stores…
#Gun stores are considered a non-essential business in #LA County,however, several shops in the area have remained open&are seeing more first-time buyers. Outside a #gunstore in Burbank,Calif.,several gun buyers say they are preparing for“uncertain times.” pic.twitter.com/OgCE1j15aQ— Jeremy Song (@tezuma75) March 25, 2020
Here's the line to buy guns at my local gun store the day after CA went on stay at home orders. pic.twitter.com/Vh9WesUjoz— Some Rando (@realsomerando) March 25, 2020