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in which people are controlled:
first of all frighten them,
and then demoralize them.
An educated healthy, and confident nation
is harder to
These stories might involve lots of acronyms and use strange and wonderful verbs and nouns but, unlike say mathematics, the mechanism by which biologists convey their science is at heart through the use of language.
But unlike works of creative writing, the language used by biologists needs to be precise because bad English can lead to bad science.
Which is why it jarred so much when I first read the following statement:
The more technically correct statement (assuming that "a third" is accurate) is:
So why did the first statement raise my biological hackles so much when at first glance these two statements might appear to be essentially very similar?
It is because from a biological perspective they are profoundly different.
The first statement,
It is not a question of semantics but accuracy and mixing these two concepts up is the sort of thing that would have resulted in an 'F' if I were to have submitted it in an essay to one of my professors.
Yet, this is exactly the
inaccurate language that has been used throughout
the COVID-19 'pandemic' and not by
students learning their discipline, but by experienced senior
scientists who, one assumes, are well aware of what they are
No, the reason to
create a disease with no symptoms is based on a
profound decision, one that I believe was made with the intention of
ensuring compliance but has, since its inception, grown to dominate
our entire response to COVID-19.
You'll be forgiven if you've never heard of this virus, but it could be argued to be one of the most successful human pathogens because almost everyone is infected by it...
Most people are infected early in life and if this happens then EBV takes up residence in your B-cells (the cells in your immune system responsible for making antibodies) where it quietly persists throughout your life.
Every now and then the virus goes into active replication and makes copies of itself which get shed into your mouth, a process that you are blissfully unaware is happening.
The problems with EBV generally occur if you don't get infected early in life but avoid infection until you're much older. Now when you get infected with EBV, you can develop a disease called infectious mononucleosis or, more commonly, glandular fever.
This often happens in
young adults when they become interested in close physical contact
with members of the opposite (or same) sex… which is why glandular
fever is sometimes referred to as "the kissing disease".
Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove,
from WHO says
COVID-19 Asymptomatic Transmission
is "Very Rare"
So, according to this
definition, almost everyone in the U.K. (and the world) is suffering
from a new disease, asymptomatic glandular fever, and
if we were to do a large-scale mass screening campaign we'd discover
that there were millions of 'cases' of asymptomatic glandular fever
in the U.K. alone!
The same is true of
COVID-19 and SARS-CoV-2 and so the concept of asymptomatic COVID-19
as a disease is as ridiculous as that of asymptomatic glandular
However, it is a matter of degrees and the reason that people can be healthy carriers is simply because they have less viral replication and a lower viral load, which is why they aren't sick.
Of course, if the lower
levels of SARS-CoV-2 in an asymptomatic individual were sufficient
to mean such an individual was as infectious as someone with
symptoms, then from an infectivity perspective the distinction
between asymptomatic carriers and people with COVID-19 is
unimportant and our statement would need to read:
This wasn't the case, and
all the evidence is that healthy, asymptomatic carriers (and
pre-symptomatic sufferers) are much less infectious than those with
symptoms and a disease (see
Will Jones's summary of COVID-19 facts
for links to supporting evidence).
The implication being that the absence of symptoms is somehow not relevant and that just because you feel fine, you are in fact suffering from a deadly disease.
This naturally creates fear, fear for oneself (what if I have it?) and fear of everyone else (they look O.K., but what if they have it?).
This fear is useful if
you now want to control the behavior of people and drive compliance
with policies designed to limit the spread of COVID-19, but the
problem is that having created the asymptomatic monster as a
mechanism to ensure compliance, it soon starts to consume everything
because you now need to manage this disease with no
By definition, asymptomatic individuals have no symptoms and so in order to identify who is sick we need a test. Not only do we need a test, but because anyone who is healthy could be silently suffering from this illness, we will need a lot of tests.
And because healthy people can become sick without any change in how they feel or look, then the testing needs to be endless.
Also, because the disease is only defined by the presence of the virus, then positive screening results (real or false positives) naturally become 'cases', confirming the ongoing presence of the asymptomatic disease.
The whole host of non-pharmaceutical interventions - including lockdowns - can also be seen as logical steps to take in fighting an asymptomatic disease.
If sick people have no symptoms, then we need to employ strategies in everyday life to manage them. In effect, we have to treat the entire population as if it were ill and deploy measures across the whole of society with this in mind.
This effectively leads to
'reverse quarantine' where we lock up the healthy to try and protect
the few genuinely sick people.
But being immune doesn't stop an individual from becoming infected with SARS-CoV-2,
In other words, vaccination is no protection from asymptomatic COVID-19 and suitably sensitive screening will continue to detect asymptomatic 'cases' amongst the immune population.
Proponents of vaccine passports acknowledge this and argue (correctly) that if immune individuals are infected with coronavirus, they will carry a lower viral burden and so are less infectious.
However, they then go on to demonize unvaccinated, naïve healthy individuals because they might be asymptomatic carriers.
In reality, healthy people are healthy and even if they are carriers are unlikely to infect other people in normal social situations regardless of vaccination status.
In fact, if you support
the notion of asymptomatic COVID-19 'sufferers' being a significant
source of infection, it could be argued that we need vaccination
certificates to protect the non-vaccinated from the vaccinated!
Clearly, a new, virulent more deadly strain of coronavirus that evades current immunity is a very concerning thing as it would essentially reset the clock back to the start of the 'pandemic':
But because we have blurred the distinction between infection and disease and our focus is on the presence (and sequence) of viral genomes, every new variant is now treated as if it actually were a new disease.
This in turn drives the need to continue to monitor (picking up more and more new variants) and manage 'the spread of cases' irrespective of the severity of disease they cause or the prior immunity within the population.
Again, testing begets
more testing in an endless cycle that will never stop unless we
decide to stop it.
...but if we go back to the original (mis)statement about asymptomatic COVID-19 and swap it around we get:
Of course, this should read,
...but the point I'm making is that hiding in plain sight is the fact that most people infected with SARS-CoV-2 get ill to varying degrees.
We also know that people with symptoms account for the majority of onward transmission of the infection (again see Will's summary for evidence).
So, if we were designing
an effective policy to manage COVID-19 we would focus our efforts on
the sick as this is where we're going to get the most bang for the
They also probably wouldn't want to go to work, or the gym, or the pub, or visit Granny.
These restrictions would be time limited as they only apply to an individual while they are ill. We could use the billions of pounds saved on not destroying the economy in a futile attempt to quarantine the entire healthy population to ensure that these individuals were supported until they got better.
We could invest in extra capacity in the healthcare system to manage any increase in hospitalizations and focus resources on improved treatments rather than testing and managing healthy people.
The need for vaccination certification becomes irrelevant because healthy people are treated as healthy people and new variants only become of concern if they make individuals sicker.
Essentially, we could stop treating COVID-19 as a special case with all the collateral damage this causes to non-COVID-19 related health and manage it as we would any other potentially serious infection.
None of this is surprising as it is based on centuries of accumulated wisdom about how to manage infectious diseases...
creation and focus on asymptomatic disease has drawn our eye away
from the real illness and devoured huge amounts of time, effort, and
Even if this news is couched in terms of positive treatment outcomes, it would be impossible to not be fearful and run hundreds of 'what if' scenarios through one's mind.
Regardless of how you feel today, the worries are all about progression and how you will feel tomorrow. Normally, clinicians would have a duty of care to their patients and spend time in discussing a diagnosis and helping their patients come to terms with this news.
But for COVID-19, people receive the results of their diagnosis with no support.
Worse through track-and-trace they might even receive this news completely unsolicited; imagine if a complete stranger phoned you to tell you that you might have cancer?
Then, rather than offer support and comfort, we demand that individuals cut themselves off from others (self-isolate); you're ill but on your own.
All of this has consequences, especially for those who have bought into the concept of asymptomatic COVID-19, and so is it not surprising that some people want to cling to mask wearing, social distancing and lockdowns.
In the end, it turns out that - ironically - asymptomatic COVID-19,