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Node, I hope you forgive this very long answer.
“Before we get into definitions, we need to establish some basic common grounds”
What I believe is irrelevant to the point I made about the use of “denialist,” with its connotations of Holocaust denial, to shut down discussion. If the meaning isn’t evident without discussion, you shouldn’t use it. But since you you have recognised the validity of my point with your remarks about conspiracy theorists, I will answer your questions.
Node thank you for your detailed answer, it shows you are willing to engage. The purpose of the detailed question was to know where we have a common ground of understanding and where we may differ but can answer each other rationally. So, to start with I will analyse your answers and see where we may differ in interpretation.
“1. Do we both believe that there is a pandemic ….”
Yes, all flu viruses spread throughout the world and are therefore pandemics.
But this is not a flu virus it is a corona virus; they are different in many ways which we need not go into but suffice it to note that there are major clinical differences between the diseases caused by either. This is what alerted the Chinese doctors to look for other causative agents and they found this virus. The major differences is that SARS-cov2 presents classically with a dry cough and after a period of time of 5-7 days, may progress in some individuals to a severe form of what is called interstitial pneumonia, which is different from what happens in flu. It causes what is known as ARDS where fluid accumulates in the lung, and although ventilation may be used, it is limited in effects and half the patients die. I repeat, this picture rarely occurs in people who die of flu. I labour this point because it is an error to say that it is just another flu.
Not all Flu viruses necessarily cause pandemics or for that matter not all viruses or other infectious agents. A pandemic is an epidemiological definition and it occurs when a highly contagious disease spreads quickly across the world. For example, we have had cholera, or bubonic plague localised outbreaks, but these did not evolve into pandemics. The ease of spread of SARS-Cov2 and the fact that many who transmitted the virus initially had no symptoms, or mild symptoms, and the fact that the aeroplane was an efficient vector of the disease, and the fact that the virus infectivity is high all meant that it had the ability to produce a pandemic.
“… caused by a novel corona virus new to man with no immunity to the virus …”
Yes, all viruses mutate into varieties that are novel to their hosts. That’s what viruses do, mutate to new forms which their hosts don’t have antibodies to fight, thus the virus prospers and spreads until enough of the host has immunity at which point it would die out if it didn’t mutate into a novel variation, then the whole cycle repeats. All viruses have done this for a billion+ years.
There is a difference between say a human flu virus mutating in humans, something that happens regularly, and necessitates the manufacture of new vaccine every year, and where there is a bit of immunity in humans, because only part of the virus has changed, and a non-human virus that has never infected humans, but has for some reason developed the ability to infect humans. There is no background immunity that can deal with the virus, This does not mean that the virus will infect everybody or that everybody will die from it because of individual variability, but it means that effects of infection are unpredictable and immunity in the population may take a long time to naturally develop. In fact, there are still many unknowns about the immunity to this virus.
“… and this is an animal virus that has jumped species?”
Don’t know. I’m not an expert. As I understand it : viruses mutate by mix-and-matching the DNA in the cells they invade … they can do this in animal and plant cells … if the mutation did involve DNA from an animal cell, this wouldn’t be unusual and wouldn’t necessarily make the virus more dangerous.
Not quite how you describe it, it is the virus’ own genetic makeup that mutates. In the case of SARS Cov-2 I think the mutation meant that the virus could attach to a receptor in the human cells which the wild form of bat virus could not do, and this attachment is a prerequisite to infection and multiplication of the virus.
“2. Do we both believe that this virus is highly infectious with an exponential curve of infection resulting in a very quick spread around the world with infections documented in most countries in the world over 2-3 months?”
Yes, I believe if you tracked any viral infection in real time, you would see it spread as you describe.
Not true of all viruses, or at least those that cause identifiable disease.
“3. Do we both believe that this virus can cause death, Although this lethality is more commonly associated with older individuals and those with other co-morbidities?”
Yes, in that respect this virus acts like any flu virus.
Not just like the flu virus, as I indicated earlier.
“4. Do we both believe that although the above is true, that some younger people are also severely affected and that there have been many deaths in healthcare workers and bus drivers and others who were previously healthy?”
Yes, a very small number of younger people are severely affected, same as other flus. For all ages, death nearly always involves pre-existing conditions. For example, in Italy, only 0.8% of the deceased had no pre-existing chronic illnesses.
Yes of course death nearly often involves pre-existing conditions. Every day of the year, between 1200 and 2000 people die in UK. Death is a natural phenomenon, and guess who are those people that die every day? Yes, those who have pre-existing conditions. But they may getting along nicely with their medical conditions, some of them not necessarily lethal in themselves, but this makes them more susceptible to other illnesses such as flu, urinary tract infections, falls, breaking hips and so on and that is what kills them, they do not necessarily die of their diabetes, hypertension or dementia, but if they have these conditions they become more susceptible to the infections, The cause of death is the infection not the co-morbidities. But what we are talking about here is that these people are dying in larger numbers in a shorter period. So, in Italy for example between mid-February and 27th March over 7500 individuals died of Covid-19 in 6 weeks. But it was not just that, the death rate was rising in an alarming fashion until measures were introduced.
As to those who are older and with co-morbidities dying, the whole thrust of modern medicine has been to prolong life and in some cases to artificially do so. The progress has been incremental and through many different ways. But just to give you an example of how prolonging life is treated. Some cancer drugs are very expensive but may prolong life by a few months but inevitably the patient dies. But we as I society do not then say, oh well, its only a few months why spend all this money? No what happens is that the drugs get licensed and used and paid for by the NHS. If this does not happen there is a huge clamour.
“5. Do we both believe that even if the mortality rate from this virus may not be more than 1%, there is still a high number of people suffering from the disease at the same time that this is likely to swamp healthcare systems? ”
Yes, our NHS has been run down to the point where it has no spare capacity for anything. Our health services have prioritised a routine problem – vulnerable people catching flu – and thrown far more resources than they would do normally at every case. That is why the services are overwhelmed.
You do have a point here. Our NHS goes through this winter crisis every winter. It is understaffed and under resourced. But generally, the NHS copes coming out every year bruised but not on its knees. This is different not only because of the large numbers but also that these large numbers are occurring over a shorter period of time and actually at the end of winter where some relaxation of these pressures are expected. I am not sure on what basis you make this statement “Our health services have prioritised a routine problem – vulnerable people catching flu – and thrown far more resources than they would do normally at every case. That is why the services are overwhelmed.”
I am afraid this is a rather strange statement, so the health service decided to believe the rumours that there was an extraordinary pandemic, and admitted patients that did not need treatment, thereby overwhelming the service? You obviously have never been near a hospital in your life. In fact, in UK, the government from the start made sure that you had to be very seriously ill before they wanted to know. They even discouraged people from contacting 111. No hospital would admit someone who was not ill enough to be admitted. That is the first point you raise which indicates that you would rather explain the fact that this is extraordinary by just saying that it was perceived to be extraordinary and therefore it became a self-fulfilling prophecy. All of this with no evidence at all. That is beginning to look like a conspiracy theory.
“Examples occur in Italy and Spain and probably now in US although there are other problems there too which obscure the real situation and there is a threat of it happening here.”
Yes, for the same reasons – no health system can cope if you demand huge resources are thrown at a very common health problem.
If you want to believe that this is a common health problem then that is conspiracy theory no.2
“6. Finally do we both believe that there is still little understanding of various aspects of this virus …”
Yes, as is the case for every new variation of a virus. Until we get the data – how it spreads, mortality rate, symptoms, recurrence rate, etc – we don’t know what we’re dealing with or how dangerous it is. In the case of Covid-19, we took unprecedented extreme measures before we had this data.
Actually, we had a very good example not only for the trajectory of the disease but for how to deal with it with an effective lockdown in China. You do not have to wait for millions of deaths to stop a pandemic.
“…. including that many infections may cause no symptoms …”
Yes, the vast majority will have no symptoms, or very mild ones, as is is typical with flu.
… and that unfortunately we do not have tests for immunity?
I don’t understand what you mean. We haven’t tested widely for infection, therefore we don’t the total infected, therefore we don’t know the mortality rate.
There is no reliable antibody test yet to test if someone has been exposed to the virus and developed antibodies.
“Do we both believe that we do not know whether individuals infected with the virus will have immunity against reinfection?”
Yes, recurrence is possible with all flus.
This is an oversimplification.
Now, I’ve fully answered all your questions. Please answer one of mine:
Do you believe the figures released as coronavirus deaths in the UK and many other countries, including the ones you mentioned – Italy, Spain, Germany, the USA – are deliberately and hugely exaggerated?
In answer to your question, the simple answer is No I do not believe the numbers are exaggerated. Why would they be, who gains? Boris Johnson who wanted to do nothing and get herd immunity, Donald Trump, who want MAGA and exceptionalism would inflate figures and highlight the inadequacies of the US health care system? Other countries in Europe? China, Japan, Russia etc.. all countries and major health and scientific organisations involved in this (Conspiracy theory no. 3).
And why? On the contrary, I believe the figures could be much worse. Recently we heard that many deaths of people in care homes were not reported as Covid-19 deaths, and similar stories come out of Spain and Italy.
Since you made this statemen, please tell me why you think all why these governments are seeking to inflate the figures?
Now I will tell you my own conspiracy theories about Covid 19 and these are more serious.
1. The UK (and others) were given 2 months advance notice of an epidemic. They were also given a model successful blueprint of how to deal with the infection once it is established (China) or to prevent its spread (South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong) from early stages but chose not even to prepare by look at basic requirements such as PPE, and limiting flights from infected areas. This was gross negligence, but to make it into a conspiracy theory we need to look at the first official reaction of the government when cases began to accelerate, they just slipped that we are all going to take it on the chin, a few elderly people will die, but no matter, just like Node, we will not overburden the NHS just let us all develop herd immunity. When various organisations rightly did not agree with the government, amongst the Football Association and started cancelling mass events, the government decided to carry on with the policy, not issue PPE and let the NHS take it on the chin and come up with a hardened herd of herd immune Britons. They are still dragging their feet on testing, made no attempts to widely test and isolate milder case, as is the norm with a pandemic making excuses. They keep throwing smokescreens on getting weapon manufacturers to produce ventilators and such fantastic claims but can’t even arrange basic logistics of deliveries of PPE to hospitals, and food to the self-isolating.
2. No doubt the necessary measures for social isolation will be used for nefarious purposes. In the first instance the government has been very ambiguous about what a lockdown or curfew meant. There was sand still is much ambiguity but with all these ambiguities, they want to clamp down on rather trivial exceptions like someone buying a none-essential item from Tesco, or two walkers travelling several miles to the Peak district but not within reach of anyone for miles. But the panic shoppers in the first week after the announcement of the half hearted curfew was probably more instrumental in further dissemination of the disease, and so where measures to curb the number of tube trains in number without curbing builders and others travelling to non-essential work.
3. The suspension of parliament. This is an extremely serious event, much more serious than the prorogation earlier on, at a time of national crisis and the refusal to involve opposition in talks on measures to combat the epidemic. These should be non-party political issues and the fact that all what happens to this country depends on the say so of the likes of Boris Johnson, Dominic Raab, orcgestrated behind=d the scenes by Dominic Cummings is the real conspiracy we should all be united in exposing.
It does not really matter whether we call it Covid-denial. Yes I sort of agree with you it is lazy shorthand, but as you can see from my tediously long post, if you are still reading, life is too short not to use lazy terminology that conveys the meaning succinctly.