Coronavirus: A Year of Madness Explained
By Heiko Khoo
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Heiko Khoo was born in London in 1963, his mother is German and his father Chinese-Malaysian. He became politically active at 17 years of age in the youth section of the Labour Party. There he first encountered Marxist ideas. He was active in student protests against Margaret Thatcher from the early 1980s. He began speaking in Speakers’ Corner Hyde Park in 1985 and you’ll still find him speaking there on Sunday afternoons. His main intellectual and political interest focuses on trying to formulate and fight for an alternative to the bureaucratic and dictatorial system of socialism that held power in Eastern Europe, the Soviet Union and China. He worked as an underground revolutionary in East Germany in 1989, before the Berlin Wall fell, was placed under surveillance by the East German secret police, and was also present on Tiananmen Square in 1989. He moved to China in 1990 for 2 years, returning to London and Berlin where his two sons were born. He has spent 30 years studying China’s system of society.
His doctorate explains why China became a world power and how its political economy works. He shows that it is public ownership of the commanding heights of the economy, that ensures that growth is channelled into rapid development. The Communist Party continues to hold power precisely because it makes the improvement of the living standards and welfare of the people its priority. When capitalists, corrupt politicians and bureaucrats, abuse their power over society, it is the militancy of China’s working class that compels its political leaders to contain any nascent pressures to restore capitalism.
He produced the weekly Speakers Corner radio show for Resonance 104.4 FM since 2003, and he has had his own opinion column for the Chinese news website www.china.org.cn since 2009. He has run the Karl Marx walking tour www.Marxwalks.com since 2012, which explains how the ideas and movements that shaped the modern world emerged from a small group of revolutionary thinkers based in London in the 19th Century.
In 2015 Sadiq Khan nominated Jeremy Corbyn for Leader of the Labour Party but like many careerists in the history of the party, he began with a radical face to win support from the working classes but capitulated to the interests of the wealthy establishment when he gained power and influence.
When Khan was elected Mayor in 2016, he sabotaged Jeremy Corbyn and supported a coup to force a new leadership election. This was orchestrated by sinister forces united around the hapless Owen Smith, who Jeremy soundly defeated.
Mayor Khan sold out the people to property lobbies serving the super-rich. Luxury housing complexes shoot up like mushrooms, while developers break their promises to subsidise social housing. Council housing was left to rot and countless community facilities have been closed or sold off. Piers Corbyn has campaigned for decades to ensure that major changes to council estates be put to ballots to let the community decide. By contrast, Sadiq Khan simply does not listen to the voices or votes of council tenants. He refused the right of 36 council estates to have a democratic ballot for or against demolition.
The Grenfell Tower fire disaster was caused by cladding designed to superficially beautify the skyline for the rich. Now, the government relaxed or removed a raft of planning restrictions to encourage more speculative investment while simultaneously creating the “slums of the future”.
In 2017, Sadiq Khan hailed investment by Google, Facebook and Apple. Yet, these companies paid less than 3% tax on their UK profits. Khan’s only major complaint against these big tech companies was about “fake news”.
During the last year of covid lockdowns, venture capitalists invested more than $10bn US into London. But such funds are fickle investors. Khan is under the spell of the dystopian technological visions of so-called “smart and safe cities”, in which 5G provides the communications infrastructure to enable real time control over robots guided by man or artificial intelligence. The people of London have not been party to any discussions, debates or votes on the significance, deployment or impact of this fourth industrial revolution. Nobody was asked if they want autonomous vehicles, policing by drones and robot dogs, or ubiquitous facial recognition systems, just as nobody was asked if they wanted to spend a year locked down.
In the autumn and winter, rather than calling on Londoners to find a way out of the economic and health crisis, Khan demanded even harder lockdowns, arrogantly ignoring common sense and the voices of critically minded experts.
The Mayor made no attempt to mobilise the energy, wisdom and public spirit of the people in a collective effort to decide what measures might be appropriate or proportionate to protect public safety and health.
The Mayor should have studied London’s history. The practical science of epidemiology emerged from the fight against Cholera in London in 1854. Investigators entered epidemic hotspots examining the conditions that gave rise to illness and death. In March 2020 the Mayor should have brought together health officials, trade unions, businesses, tenants, medical students and community volunteers to deal with the crisis.
Committees of Public Safety should have been formed to protect the health and welfare of the people, while maintaining an open and democratic debate between the community, the city, and the national government about the societal impact of all measures. The government’s bizarre press briefing that imposed dictatorial control over the people should have been opposed from the start.
Bureaucratic and corporate interests made one catastrophic decision after another. No serious effort was made to reduce hospital acquired infections by means of the obvious - adequate ventilation. This caused between 10-20% of “covid-19” cases in hospitals. Hospitals became covid wards, while tens of thousands of people needlessly died at home from non-covid related illness.
The closure of London wrecked the economy, social life, the NHS, business, education, etc. Sadiq Khan did nothing to help. He did not even distribute Vitamin D or instruct TFL to open the windows in the tubes and buses!
Instead, the Mayor’s office supported insane measures demanding that everybody keeps 2-metres apart from each other in the open air. All over London pavements were widened, causing traffic chaos whenever people started to drive again.
The government falsely claimed that asymptomatic people transmit covid. Our children were treated like plague rats. We were told that the endless ritual of sanitising our hands is a significant public health measure in covid control but there is no evidence that people catch covid-19 from touching surfaces.
The Met police became agents of the covid dictatorship and were asked to prevent normal human contact. Some commanders employed semi-militarised tactics with disastrous results. Throughout the year, those fighting this madness were brutally mistreated and manhandled. We demand a full public inquiry into the policing of London over the past year. The police must be made fully accountable to the communities that they are supposed to serve.
The lockdowns caused TFL’s income to collapse. In response the government demanded a congestion charge increase and its extension to 7 days a week. Sadiq Khan should have refused this madness as it will further wreck the West End economy. Now he wants to extend ULEZ (Ultra Low Emissions Zone) across the whole of London (enclosed by the North and South Circular roads) which will increase the length of journeys, causing more pollution and even more hardship to struggling businesses.
In 2019, the super-rich deemed a Corbyn led Labour government the worst possible nightmare. That is why Jeremy was undermined, encircled with fake friends, vilified by the entire establishment, and expelled from the parliamentary Labour Party. Throughout this time, despite their differences over key issues, Piers Corbyn stood solidly behind his brother against the establishment. He fearlessly opposed the imposition of the covid dictatorship and, despite countless arrests, fines, and slanders, he refused to capitulate.
The SARS-COV-2 coronavirus has dominated the fate of mankind since the start of 2020. The detection of this respiratory virus has been used as an excuse to criminalise normal human interaction and to justify the imposition of arbitrary, draconian and dictatorial powers over the people.
All around the world governments from diverse and conflicting ideologies imposed similar dictatorial lockdown measures. These measures were all based on mistaken, misleading or downright false justifications. When the machinery of state power was set in motion, Big Pharma and Big Tech expanded its power and influence at an incredible speed.
The most prominent representative of these economic and political interests is Mr. Klaus Schwab the founder and leader of the influential World Economic Forum. His network includes heads of state and many of the biggest global NGOs, corporate players and an array of hapless celebrities. The World Economic Forum seeks to restructure society and the world economy to reinforce and entrench the power and authority of the ruling elites of world capitalism through a technological transformation known as the Fourth Industrial Revolution. They present their plans as a Great Reset, as if society is a computer that has gone haywire because it became infected with a virus. This language is not an accident. It reflects the mechanistic thinking of the technocratic elites like Bill Gates, who gained his wealth, power and prestige in the world of computing.
The Great Reset is cast in rosy terms. Its supporters repeat trendy buzz words about inequality, health care and the environment. The Great Reset embraces social protest movements and takes them under its wing, all the better to suffocate them. It manipulates outbursts of discontent into safe and controlled pressure groups that operate within the system. In reality, the visions and projects of the Great Reset constitute a dystopian nightmare that seeks to enslave mankind by enhancing the power derived from existing structures of ownership and control over the world economy.
The handling of the Coronavirus crisis has been a litany of ineptitude, incompetence, and downright fraud from the start. The plunder of state finances was organized under the guise of fighting a deadly pandemic. Governments awarded vast emergency contracts on a nod and a wink for technical solutions like track and trace, PPE, testing factories, and vaccine development. Money was doled out to friends and associates of the government and the Conservative Party. ,,,
Government misinformation has been sanctified in the name of miserable claims by Ministers to be “following the science”. A term that has never been explained, no doubt because it is simply an empty political slogan.
The measures taken to contain a virus resulted in the abandonment of basic health care provision. Using COVID-1984 Newspeak, this translates as: wreck the NHS to protect it, destroy life to save it.
The high excess death toll attributed to COVID-19 in Britain was not caused by non-compliance to lockdown rules by an undisciplined Populus. Rather, it was the result of government-imposed austerity following the Great Recession in 2008. The NHS crisis was caused by inadequate investment, with resources squandered on Private Public Partnerships, and the outsourcing and privatisation of NHS services combined with failed social care provision. This laid the basis for the huge death toll attributed to COVID-19. The death toll for the year could have been within the normal range had this combination of factors not prepared the way for a “perfect storm”. The proof of this is clear from the PPE supply failure at the start of March 2020, from the expulsion of COVID-19 patients into care homes, from the lack of staff to man the Nightingale hospitals, which sat empty throughout the year, and from the huge scale of hospital acquired infections with COVID-19.
For more than a decade, the quality of NHS treatment for pensioners suffering from non-communicable diseases like cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and COPD has deteriorated. Richard Horton, the editor of one of the world’s most respected medical journals, The Lancet , showed that the overwhelming majority of people who died “from or with COVID-19” died due to the interaction of viral infection with one or more comorbidities. Most of these diseases are treatable at quite a low cost. So, it was the neglect of the health service that was the main factor determining the heavy loss of life to COVID-19 in the UK, as well as in Spain, France, Belgium, Italy, the United States and a few other countries.
Inhuman and incompetent decisions taken in the name of the NHS are responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of care home patients., Tens of thousands more were infected with COVID-19 in a medical setting, mainly because the authorities failed to install ventilation systems that could have minimised the transmission of all respiratory viruses., Indeed, it is good ventilation systems that explain why even packed airplanes remained safe to use throughout the last year., . Only ventilation can explain why the risk of in-flight transmission remained miniscule, estimated to be just one case per 27 million travellers.
NHS hospitals were transformed into COVID wards. These hospitals are pale shadows of what they once were. The public rightly feared going to hospital. As a consequence, tens of thousands died at home of conditions that might otherwise have been treatable. Routine screening and monitoring for cancer, heart disease etc was suspended, condemning tens of thousands to untimely deaths over the past year and for decades into the future. The administration of the NHS crippled the capacity of the system to offer free universal provision based on need. Meanwhile, private hospitals have been kept almost completely COVID-19 free. What a happy coincidence for the well-heeled.!
Psychological operations were initiated by the misnamed Behavioural Insight team of SAGE., Their theories were used to guide the nation, like dogs being trained for their master. The entire entertainment, cultural and hospitality industry was closed down, however, one theatrical performance was permitted. It was the interactive show “Clap for Carers”. Eventually, even that was cancelled just in case the mood changed and people booed instead. This cynical PR stunt had the hallmark of Dominic Cummings’ hands all over it. So, too with the vast posters lauding collectivism, heaping adulation on NHS heroes, and demanding that we all “Stay at Home, Save Lives, Protect the NHS”! All this rank hypocrisy was exposed when the government imposed a pitiful 1 per cent pay rise on “our NHS heroes”.
Professor Neil Ferguson is a man whose track record for grotesquely exaggerated epidemic predictions is unequalled in the world.,, All of his computer models prophesied horrific worst-case scenarios but were based on wildly inaccurate input assumptions. Neither facts, consequences or ethics were factored into Ferguson’s charts, which predicted an exponential rise in disease and death.,
Ferguson resembles a man holding a placard announcing “The End of the World is Nigh” but bizarrely, rather than being seen as an eccentric crank, governments and media treat his comments like gospel visions of impending doom. Look at my chart he says, see, the numbers just keep going up!
These models are presented as scientific predictions. These computer models were the foundation for the formulation, design and implementation of so-called non-pharmaceutical interventions that allowed governments to reshape human life to fight a war against the “invisible enemy”. To meet the demands of this call to arms, a veritable army of entrepreneurial warriors sprang into action, offering their services for the good of mankind. Untold billions have been paid to these modern-day knights of the round table - a squalid cabal of crony capitalists feasting like hyenas on the collective misery of the people.
The imposition of dictatorial powers is often justified by predictions of impending disaster. However, the COVID-dictatorship is unique in its international scale. The spell cast over humanity is ultimately an expression of the dominance of the world by private Internet companies. Their control over technology extended and intensified the dominance of a few Imperialist nations. Now, with COVID-19 Vaccines, Big Tech and Big Pharma are treating mankind as guinea pigs. Our thoughts are their products, our bodies their market place.
We live in an era of normalized madness. Plastic visors and masks hide our faces. Children are told “don’t kill your granny”, some will be traumatised for life, wondering if they did. Government instructions tell us to stay home. Singing, dancing and collective joy is banned. Sitting down to drink a cup of tea can get you arrested. Hugging is banned. Dating someone new, kissing them, and making love are crimes. Leaving the country is a criminal offence attracting a £5000 fine. Collective religious worship is restricted or prohibited. Free speech, protest, assembly and demonstration is banned in the name of public health. Insanity has conquered the world.
The detection of a supposedly new SARS virus and COVID-19, the disease it can cause, has been used to destroy life, love and liberty. Fear is the main instrument of power. Silence is the necessary condition for submission. Universal house arrest, curfews, anti-social distancing, face masks, swab tests and vaccines are all the outward expression of regimes based on bio-control. They demand subservience, ignorance and obedience. Life, labour and love are replaced by fake forms of virtual collectivism.
Today’s Big Brother is a million times more intrusive than anything Orwell imagined. The pursuit of truth is condemned as conspiracy theory. Remote workers are atomized, their work is modelled by Artificial Intelligence, and its deployment is designed to cut costs and replace these workers.
Those honest scientists who speak up against the rise of tyranny are silenced by smears, slanders and censorship, conducted by third rate fact-checkers who scour the mainstream media to find “facts” that affirm the official line. When the official line changes, these “fact checkers” adopt the new line and censor views they affirmed yesterday. At first face masks were said to increase the risk of catching COVID-19. In July it became illegal not to wear one in certain settings. Now, children as young as 5 are told to wear them. This despite the original advice remaining true that masks spread disease. Those in power are never wrong.
“Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.” George Orwell 1984
Over the past two decades the focus of scientific research in Europe, the UK and the USA, largely financed by the Gates foundation and by Big Pharma, constantly warned of impending pandemics. In 2009 the WHO declared the H1N1 Swine Flu pandemic under pressure from these lobbies. Governments in Europe and the USA purchased vaccines for their people that not only were not needed but caused thousands of cases of Narcolepsy in healthy youngsters.
Eventually, tens of millions of vaccine doses were destroyed and the pandemic was found to be a false flag. The Council of the European Parliament was forced to admit that:
“In order to promote their patented drugs and vaccines against flu, pharmaceutical companies influenced scientists and official agencies, responsible for public health standards to alarm governments worldwide and make them squander tight health resources for inefficient vaccine strategies and needlessly expose millions of healthy people to the risk of an unknown amount of side-effects of insufficiently tested vaccines.”
A resolution moved by the Labour Party MEP Paul Flynn at the European Parliament in 2010 condemned this fraud in a vote carried by 60-1.
Middle class intellectuals, the media and the Labour Party have played the most scurrilous role in promoting and sustaining the myths behind this dictatorship. In general, the middle and upper classes are employed in professions who can work from home, many have their own gardens. The wealthier you are the more the lockdowns were an inconvenience rather than a disaster. The ultra-rich resettled to their homes in the countryside or overseas where they rode out the epidemic while watching their shares in tech giants go through the roof. The number of billionaires rose from 2,158 in 2017 to 2,189 in 2020, their collective wealth rose by more than a quarter to over £7.8 trillion.
However, for the working classes, the youth and the poor, the last year has been a catastrophe of biblical proportions; poverty, unemployment, house imprisonment, mental illness, untreated diseases, isolation, misery, domestic violence and suicide stalked our communities like the grim reaper. Among the working classes, BAME communities and medically vulnerable pensioners lived in cramped housing and suffered more severe outbreaks of COVID-19. Working class people were far more likely to die. Epidemics always hit the poor hardest.
In Africa, India and SE Asia, COVID-19 the disease barely affected the people. This is partly due to differences in climate, partly due to lower life expectancy, and partly due to cross immunity from infections with other common coronaviruses. But the socio-economic consequences have driven back living standards. According to the UN “Humanitarian needs have multiplied, reaching the highest levels since the Second World War and the number of people at risk of starvation has doubled.”
Preventable and treatable diseases like Malaria, TB and bacterial pneumonia which kill many more people than COVID-19 every year, are on the rise, reversing two decades of progress. What solutions do Bill Gates, Big Pharma and Western governments offer? Mass vaccination against COVID-19, which is a disease that has barely affected these countries! Meanwhile starvation, for which no vaccine has been developed, has been inflicted on the poorest of the earth in the name of health care. Thus, behind the mask of universal salvation, lies the sinister face of imperialism.
Science, governments and the major international non-governmental institutions have been captured by corporate interests. They have seized command over the capitalist world. Their ownership and control over data, communications and the future of technology, forces us to adapt to their globalised system of power. Every aspect of life is affected; government, policing, employment, healthcare, leisure, production, marketing, consumption, entertainment, the media, education, distribution and exchange etc.
It is their power over the technology that we all use, which automatically produced the so-called “new normal” a world in which we are alienated from each other, and feel safer communicating through an LED screen rather than with a real person.
This technological dystopia dehumanizes us all. And Artificial Intelligence automatically demands “forwards ever forwards!” Standing back and asking why is not possible. Soon we forget what it is to be human. Machines and the algorithms guiding them take control of man. We say no! Humanity must control the machines and technology. We must make informed decisions about our future rather than being extras in a dystopian episode of Black Mirror, where our lives are spent reacting to artificial intelligence prompts that shape our conscious mind.
History teaches that the control of outbreaks of infectious disease is best undertaken at the community level. There is no one size fits all solution to epidemic containment. The assumption that quarantine, cordon sanitaire, and lockdowns, are the most effective way to slow down or eliminate contagion is a myth revived from Medieval pre-scientific times before the birth of modern medicine.
Epidemiology as a practical medical science emerged out of the London Cholera epidemic of 1854. The locations where the disease hit hardest were the subject of on the ground investigations. The General Board of Health reports identified dense and overcrowded conditions of the people as injurious to health. Although it later transpired that Cholera was waterborne, their general recommendations to improve ventilation, sanitation and water quality had a profound effect by hindering the spread of multiple diseases, diseases that mainly afflicted the poor.
Likewise, the COVID-19 death rate is also directly correlated to ventilation and the condition of the working classes. Any genuine campaign against an epidemic must put boots on the ground and go door-to-door to examine the living, working, and other environmental conditions prevalent in heavily affected areas. But did anyone knock on the doors of people in heavily infected areas of London during the COVID-19 epidemic to enquire about the living conditions and environmental circumstances of the people at home and at work? No, not a soul! So much for following the science!
In March 2020, two clearly identifiable and repeated patterns of transmission for the SARS-COV-2 virus and the COVID-19 disease it can cause, were found in China, both were associated with airflow and ventilation. These modes of transmission were.
• Close contact within approximately 1 meter with an infected and symptomatic person for more than 10 minutes in an enclosed space with poor ventilation.
• So called “super-spreader” events: these take place where large numbers are infected by one or more symptomatic person. This happens in enclosed spaces when respiratory droplets become aerosolised i.e., are less than 5 microns in size. Such droplets hang in the air for longer, up to 30 minutes, aerosolised droplets can spread to about 10 meters or more, as they are less immediately subject to the laws of gravity.
The disease COVID-19 is nearly always spread by symptomatic people who transmit by sneezing, coughing, or singing. It is spread by symptomatic people because when the SARS-COV-2 virus enters cells in the nose, throat or chest, the virus multiplies inside the cells and bursts out of the cells to infect others. This process causes the irritation and inflammation that results in sneezing or coughing. A symptomatic person expels a high enough viral load to infect someone else and make then ill.
An asymptomatic “infection” takes place when the virus is effectively fought off by natural cross immunity before it becomes noticeable. This happens when the immune system recognises coronaviruses from previous infections with one of the common coronaviruses that we all encounter first in childhood. Long term immune memory is anchored in T-cells that are mobilized to kill cells infected with recognisable viruses. When this happens at an early stage, when the virus is in the nose or the throat, we do not get significant symptoms. If we do not cough or sneeze, we will not spread infectious doses to others. And even if we do pass the virus to others, the newly “infected” person nearly always also remains asymptomatic.,,
Chinese experts realized this quite early on and correctly refused to count asymptomatic carriers as “COVID-19 cases”., Had this practice been adopted around the world we would not have been terrorised by the daily updates about positive PCR tests, and the health service could have focused attention on those who were seriously ill. This is nature’s method of “vaccination”.
True, in those with a pre-symptomatic infection, there will be a short period as they become ill, when they can transmit a high enough viral load to infect another person and cause the COVID-19 disease. But awareness of this will generally be sufficient to limit such occurrences, provided people are conscious of the state of their health and avoid close contact with others when they start to feel ill.
Individual clusters of COVID-19 outbreaks are most commonly spread inside households between partners, flat mates, etc. And super-spreader events can be minimized or averted by good ventilation. This explains why there have been very few suspected cases caught during air-travel. Staying at home does not prevent viral transmission if you live with others. Therefore, restrictions on open-air events such as demonstrations, protests, entertainment, sport and leisure have no scientific evidence to back them up. So, why did de-facto house arrest become the primary measure of governments fighting COVID-19?
The theory that semi-solitary confinement can eradicate the transmission of SARS-COV-2 is a mirror of the technical dynamics of society. Of course, it is true that if all mankind is simultaneously put under the strictest form of prison-like solitary confinement for three weeks, the number of people catching SARS-COV-2 will fade away. But although this mental exercise yields a hypothetical theory about the identification of disease and its eradication, that is all it is, a theory. It is a theory that can never be realized in real life. Models that assumed it could, were examined by UK SAGE. The models were adjusted to include assumptions about the minority of people who would remain non-compliant. Those who disobeyed “the rules” for one reason or another, were blamed for sabotaging the grand collective endeavour by ‘behavioural science’ teams working for the government.
The tendency to promote panic when a new virus is detected had been hardwired into the structure and outlook of the WHO. This is because the national representatives were constantly lobbied by advisors from the global pharmaceutical industry.
International tensions between western powers and China played an important role in provoking China’s dramatic response, locking down Wuhan city on 23 January 2020, followed by Hubei Province and most of China. The lockdown in Wuhan lasted for a total of 76 days. However, it is important to grasp the context in China. In 2019, there were waves of violent protests in Hong Kong, which were egged on by Britain and the United States. The Chinese government saw this unrest as an attempt to undermine and overthrow the ruling party.
When news began to circulate on social media in Wuhan about cases of “pneumonia of unknown origin” an eye doctor called Li Wenliang was reprimanded by the police for “spreading rumours” that SARS had returned. In fact, although the mass media and the WHO claimed that SARS disappeared in 2004, this is disproven in a paper co-authored by China’s most famous doctor and epidemiologist Zhong Nanshan. Published on the website of Cornell University in 2013, it reveals the widespread presence of SARS antibodies in Guangzhou children in 2010-12. Yet, all of them were born after 2005, so they were infected long after SARS had supposedly disappeared!
To understand why China locked down Wuhan it is important to have some basic knowledge of Chinese society and its healthcare system. Health insurance in China provides only rudimentary coverage for all. In urban areas healthcare provision for the masses is determined by the type of workplace you work for, as well as by your official residential status. When poor people with acute diseases requiring complicated and expensive treatment get diagnosed and treated, the treatment offered to them depends entirely on their means to pay, and not on their needs.
One study of the respiratory department of the Guangzhou Medical College, where China Zhong Nanshan works, illustrates this clearly:
“Money is the biggest issue that patients face,” Dr. Sang told me one morning. “Chinese people are very simple. They look for the cheapest alternative that works.” Knowing full-well their patients’ limited ability to pay, Dr. Sang and other Respiratory Institute physicians only prescribe medications that lie within their patients’ budgets and deliberately avoid discussing all treatment options. This practice would be illegal under the laws of informed consent in our country, which require physicians to disclose all treatment alternatives for a given condition as dictated by professional medical custom.”
The people of Wuhan generally live-in large tower blocks, these are places where contagious respiratory infections can spread rapidly, just as we saw on several cruise ships in early 2020. This is why the bureaucratic administrative decision was made to lockdown Wuhan, Hubei province, and then most of China. Nevertheless, this decision was based on a number of preliminary assumptions about the rate of viral infection, and about the scale of serious disease and death that would follow. The infection fatality rate was expected to be as high as 3%. This turned out to be vastly exaggerated. However, the main reason for the drastic action taken by the Chinese authorities was that in the 10 days before the 23 January lockdown hundreds of millions of Chinese citizens travelled to their home towns to celebrate Chinese New Year. Five million migrants had already left Wuhan in this period, potentially spreading the virus all over the province and the country as a whole. As it turned out, most migrant workers are young, and outbreaks outside of Hubei were very limited, indicating perhaps that what appeared to be the start of an epidemic was its tail end. As we know SARS had continued to be in widespread undetected circulation from at least 2002.
In fact, it is anger at unequal class relations in society that provoked the government to undertake the draconian military style lockdown operation, which was dubbed “the People’s War against the virus”. In other words, because the health system in Wuhan could not cope with a sudden influx of large numbers of patients with lung problems; non-pharmaceutical measures appeared to be a rational step to protect the health service from collapse, as this might have provoked an outbreak of widespread social unrest.
Social unrest in urban China often focuses in on protests inside and outside of hospitals by patients or their families who have suffered or died from real or perceived mistreatment. Indeed, this is probably the most common form of protest in modern China., It is so common that you can hire protestors to protest on your behalf! Grotesque inequalities in China’s health care system are a consequence of China’s breakneck speed of urbanization, which has enriched the few. This is exacerbated by the fact that your place of birth still limits access to welfare, healthcare and public services. Anyone with a permanent resident status in Beijing can expect a far higher standard of treatment than a migrant worker who works in the city but is registered in their home town. These deep inequalities are also replicated by location, in the quality of hospitals, equipment and staff. The further you are from the big cities the worse your medical treatment will be.
The illness that was detected in the “first” patients appeared mainly as a viral pneumonia causing broken glass like features in the lungs which was detected by CT scans. Some scientists attempted to isolate the virus thought to cause this disease and posted its genomic sequence on a global database. This was picked up by Prof. Christian Drosten at the Charitee University in Berlin and a PCR test based on the computer sequencing of the viral RNA was knocked out in a few days. The research behind the test was peer reviewed in a journal called Eurosurveillance within 24 hrs of publication. Drosten sits on its editorial board. This inhouse test was never validated and yet it became the basis for all the PCR test designs used around the world to detect the presence of SARS-COV-2.
Luckily for China, clinical cases of COVID-19 were detected by CT scans of the lungs and the examination of patients. The PCR testing mania came too late to have any major impact on their epidemic control measures which were already in place before the test was invented. China ended its lockdown after 76 days, just as Europe was sinking into the swamp from which it has not escaped. This chaotic shambles is mainly due to the confusion caused by using PCR tests, which are employed to identify ‘cases”, regardless of the complete lack of test standardization, and regardless of whether people are asymptomatic. With this thick fog generated by the tests, there is no method to navigate out of lockdown policies. Decisions are made blindly under pressure from powerful lobby groups and financial interests.
Microbiology is concerned with microbes, organisms that are invisible to the naked eye. They include bacteria, archaea, viruses, fungi, prions, protozoa and algae. Our bodies are full of microbes.
Microbes that cause infectious diseases kill about 16 million people every year. Many of these deaths are preventable. They account for about a quarter of all deaths, and half of those in under 45yr olds. However, most viruses and bacteria are harmless to people, or are of benefit to us.
Viruses are the smallest type of microbes. You can fit 500 million rhinoviruses (a common cold virus) on a pin head. Viruses are not living organisms. They only come to ‘life’ by multiplying inside the living cells of a host.
A virus is made of genetic material, either DNA or RNA, which is covered in a protective coat made of protein. They latch onto host cells to get inside and reproduce themselves. Once inside, the host cell’s machinery is used to replicate the genetic material of the virus. These virus particles burst out of the host cell to penetrate others.
It is estimated that there are 100 million more viruses on earth than there are stars in the universe. If they were all lined up in a row, they would stretch for 200 light years.
It is believed that mammals are host to about 320,000 undiscovered viruses. We currently know of more than 220 virus species that can infect humans. We find a few more every year. More than two thirds of human viruses also infect other animals, mainly mammals.
Pathogens are disease causing organisms. Newly emergent pathogens get more attention than other widespread and treatable killer diseases like TB, Malaria and measles. The WHO and the pharmaceutical industry maintain that effective intervention can halt the spread of new diseases provided they are discovered in a timely fashion.
We know that about 1400 pathogens can infect man, 87 of them were discovered since 1980. Of course, the discovery of a pathogen is not the same as its emergence. Exposure to pathogens comes through various forms of transmission. Droplets, aerosol, contaminated food, bites by animals or intermediate arthropods (insects, spiders and their relatives). Any pathogen that can infect a person and cause a disease has to overcome species barriers, so most infections come from mammals, then birds, and a few from reptiles and invertebrates. About 500 of the pathogenic ‘species’ that can infect man can also transmit between us.
An epidemic is the transmission of an infection between people, where each infects more than one other. Many factors can play a significant role in accelerating or decelerating the so-called R number – which measures the average number of secondary infections that come from those infected. This depends on the character of the pathogen. With respiratory agents like SARS-COV-2 and similar droplet transmitted infections this is determined by the density of people, proximity, time spent, ventilation, and other environmental conditions.
It is the traditional view that many human pathogens emerged with the growth of stable agricultural settlements about 12,000 years ago, during the Neolithic revolution. The birth of fixed agricultural settlements changed our proximity to animals and other people. It is believed that this increased our exposure to pathogens compared to nomadic life. However, this thesis seems to be blind to the quantity of pathogens that infect apes. Surely, jungles are a natural environment for interspecies encounters?
Knowledge of the evolutionary speed of pathogenic viruses is fundamental to virus surveillance, control measures, and any possible vaccines. If we know the origin of a virus, we can tell how fast it has evolved. Two methods are used to determine the age and origin of viruses, molecular clock theory, and co-evolution theory. Attempts to apply them produce radically different and contradictory results.
The dominant method used to search for the origin of viruses is to map samples on a molecular clock. This helps to estimate the age of a virus, and its ancestors, by looking at the equivalent of the leaves from a tree. These leaves are examined, like the samples of SARS-COV-2 taken from swabs since 2020. The results are used to trace their genesis in time and place, and to plot a map of the tree’s evolution.
An alternative historical method is co-evolution. This examines the leaves, as well as the twigs, the branches, and the trunk, in order to sketch an evolutionary tree for the virus and identify its ancestral roots. The evidence for points of divergence can be used as date markers. Such examples are found in people and animals separated during their evolution by migration or by the isolation of landmasses. This approach changes our perspective on historical origins. Now we find that some viruses have co-evolved with humans and primates for tens of thousands or many millions of years.
The first AIDS patient was diagnosed in 1981 and the HIV virus was discovered in 1983, but the origins of human immune deficiency viruses predate this, but by how long?
Using the molecular clock method, the origin of HIV has been traced to Kinshasa in the Congo in the 1920s. The speed of mutations to the genetic code of HIV were measured using blood samples dating back to 1959. In the research paper that first made this claim, the authors speculate that post-colonial changes to sexual behaviour may have played a significant role in the emergence of the AIDs pandemic.
HIV originated from the transmission from ape to man of Simian Immunodeficiency Viruses (SIVs), which are found in 40 types of African apes. Co-evolutionary theory has been used to examine the origin of these viruses by looking at four types of African green monkey. Each is host to slightly different SIVs. If susceptibility to SIVs is derived from a common ancestor, they may have originated 3 million years ago.
In humans, sexual intercourse is one of the main HIV transmission routes. So, it is an intriguing fact that the most promiscuous apes, the bonobos, appear to be free from SIVs in the wild. Bonobos spend much of their time having sex for pleasure. They are rarely kept in zoos because their sexual antics are so shocking. Wouldn’t it be ironic if it was this sexual behaviour that produced immunity?
Coronaviruses are a group of single-stranded RNA viruses that have common ancestors in nidoviruses. Nidoviruses replicate in a huge range of living hosts; from molluscs to mammals, insects to reptiles, and birds to leaches.
“Coronaviruses are capable of adapting quickly to new hosts through the processes of genetic recombination and mutation in vivo. Point mutations alone are not sufficient to create a new virus. However, this may occur when the same host is simultaneously infected with two coronavirus strains, enabling recombination of genomic fragments of hundreds or thousands of base pairs long and thus making a new virus”
If you keep these conflicting dating methods for origins in mind, the molecular clock locates the date of origin of coronaviruses about 10,000 years ago. However, Co-evolutionary theorists provide convincing arguments to hypothesize that coronaviruses originate in birds and bats tens of millions of years ago or even earlier, in the carboniferous period over 300 million years ago. Studies using molecular clocks locate the genesis of SARS in recent history. This is an automatic result of the method.
The 2002-2004 SARS epidemic spread to 29 countries infecting 8098 people and killing 774 in 2003. A few more cases were reported in 2004. The disease mainly affected China and East Asia.
The SARS virus was linked to Horseshoe bats from the Rhinolophus affinis species. These are small insect eating bats. Coronaviruses in some insect eating mammals may originate from ancient mutations to nidoviruses carried by insects. Bats were found to be the main reservoirs of coronaviruses but other animals that have closer proximity to man may act as intermediate hosts for zoonotic spill-over events to humans.
“Give me an ounce of civet, good apothecary; sweeten my imagination. There’s money for thee.”
King Lear Shakespeare
Civets are nocturnal mammals found in Asia and Africa. They release a strong musky odour used for centuries in the perfume industry. The harvesting of civetone for perfumes continues despite the development of synthetic alternatives. The animals are also farmed in Indonesia for the coffee industry, as Civets add a unique flavour to the coffee beans when digested and excreted.
A “SARS-CoV-like virus was isolated from a few Himalayan palm civets and a raccoon dog at a Shenzhen food market during the SARS epidemic of 2002–2003. Their genomic sequences displayed 99.8% identity with that of the human SARS-CoV.” In early 2004, after the first epidemic passed, a few people came down with SARS in Guangzhou at a restaurant where they kept live Civets and had them on the menu.
The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) noted that "viruses very similar to SARS-CoV" have been found in civets and that some civet handlers have "evidence of infection with SARS-CoV or a very similar virus." The Guangzhou Respiratory Disease Research Institute reported a survey in which 70% of civets were found to carry the SARS virus and 40% of game traders carried SARS antibodies.
“I can understand perfectly how the report of my illness got about. I have even heard on good authority that I was dead.” Mark Twain
Analysis based on the rate of mutations detected in SARS samples locates an original animal to human spill-over date at some time in 2002. This predates the SARS outbreak by only a few months. And a common bat ancestor virus is presumed to have emerged at some time between 1996 and 2002.
This date is highly suspect, as a Hong Kong study of blood serum taken in 2001- two years before the SARS outbreak - detected antibodies to SARS in 1.8% of 938 samples. The donors were healthy adults taking part in a hepatitis survey. And in two Chinese studies reported on the website of the National Health Commission of the Peoples Republic of China, SARS antibodies were detected in more than 40% of blood samples collected from hospitalised children in 2001. This points to widespread and undetected SARS infections in China two years before the outbreak was noticed. Similar antibody levels were found in hospitalised children in Beijing in 2003.
An eminent team of Chinese experts including Prof. Nanshan Zhong, the hero of China’s campaign against SARS in 2003-4 and SARS-COV-2 in 2020, suggested that SARS was transmitted directly from bats to humans in 1991 and became adapted to humans in 1998, but this only led to an epidemic when climatic conditions facilitated the spread of a more virulent strain – grounds for “sounding a global alarm on the possibility of the re-emergence of SARS” The report shows that SARS did not simply disappear, because:
“Anti-SARS-CoV sero-positivity was detected in 20% of all the samples tested from Guangzhou children who were born after 2005, suggesting that weakly virulent huSARS-CoVs might still exist in humans.”
So, antibody prevalence to the SARS virus was common long before the SARS epidemic and remained present long after.
Inside China, after 2004, SARS testing was rare. Outside China, no one was testing for SARS anyway. The myth of the disappearing SARS virus is resolved. Its circulation in humans simply fell off the radar.
Consider the case of a Canadian nursing home in Surrey, British Columbia in 2003. An outbreak of respiratory illness infected 142 lodge residents and 53 health workers, and 8 residents died. Initially, no causative agent was found. When more people became ill, some samples were sent to the National Microbiology Laboratory where they were found to be a mutant SARS virus. Experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta disputed these findings.
A bemused New York Times reporter asked how such uncertainty could arise:
“One of the most glaring problems uncovered by the nursing home outbreak was the absence of a formal agreement among scientists about precisely what steps and laboratory methods should be used to make a definitive diagnosis of SARS.
For example, many test results remain in dispute, largely because the scientists involved in different laboratories did not use the same methods to test each specimen to try to identify the virus and to determine whether the patients' immune systems had produced antibodies against it.“
Eventually, a 2006 study in the Canadian Journal of Infectious Diseases and Medical Microbiology rejected SARS as the causative agent and maintained that this was an outbreak of respiratory illness due to HCoV-OC43. HCoV 043 is a coronavirus in general circulation. It causes some of the common colds that everyone gets as a child. New mutations circulate every year, some will make you mildly ill, others will pass without being noticed. It can have a relatively high fatality rate in vulnerable groups.
Just as the affected countries struggled to contain SARS, along came another human coronavirus, HCoV-NL63. Few people have ever heard of it.
HCoV-NL63 was first discovered in 2003, in a 7-month-old child in hospital in the Netherlands. It mainly affects children and, less commonly, elderly immunocompromised people. It generally appears as a mild upper respiratory tract infection, but can also cause a serious lower respiratory tract infection.
Subsequent research indicated that the virus was in general circulation all around the world. For example, a study of 854,575 PCR tests for human coronaviruses conducted in the United States between 2014-2017 showed a positivity rate of 2.2% for HCoV-OC43, 0.8% for HCoV-229E, 0.6% for HCoV-HKU1, and 1.0% for HCoV-NL63.
The above chart shows the number of tests per week in thousands and the percentage testing positive for four human coronaviruses. The viruses compete with each other for dominance in their human hosts. In 2016 NL63 was dominant, in 2015 and 2017 it was OC43. The study also detected other viruses in 30% of those infected with any of these coronaviruses. Counterintuitively, the interaction between a variety of influenza and cold viruses in hosts can generate positive outcomes, possibly due to the mutual stimulation of immune responses.
Pneumonia, which is the main clinical feature of COVID-19, affects about 2% of elderly people each year. However, despite new techniques and intensive searches - in three sophisticated studies conducted after 2010 in the Netherlands and the United States - the cause of pneumonia could not be identified in more than 50% of cases. Viruses were found in 25% but in a third of these cases simultaneous bacterial infection of the lower respiratory tract was also identified.
So, what was the cause of the 50% of pneumonias of unknown origin after 2010?
Perhaps the search for the origins of SARS-COV-2 should have started with this question?
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