Lab leak theory – resistance continues

The push-back against the lab leak theory continues even as the theory “gains traction” (in the amusing words of AP/Guardian). This piece by AP in the Guardian reports on the extraordinary statement by WHO Chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus that “I was a lab technician myself, I’m an immunologist, and I have worked in the lab, and lab accidents happen. It’s common.” He would not be saying this if he was not seriously considering the lab leak theory.

But even as they (have to) report the changing discourse on the lab leak theory the liberal press continues to resist it tooth and claw. In this AP/Guardian piece readers are told: “It typically takes decades to narrow down the natural source of an animal virus like Ebola or Sars”. The point of this piece of misinformation is to deal with the awkward fact, for the zoonotic theory, that nearly two years after the first signs of Sars-Cov-2 in Wuhan (ok 19 months if we go by the official Chinese version) the supposed intermediary animal has not been found. In fact the intermediary animal for Sars-Cov-1 was found within a few months. [1] Not decades. The WHO says it took “more than a year” to find the source for MERS-Cov. [2] Again; not decades. And there is an extensive search going on for the necessary intermediary animal for the zoonotic theory. [2] They may yet find it. But the longer the search goes on and this species is not found the less likely the zoonotic theory will look. (It is also interesting to note how enthusiastically the theory that pangolins were the intermediary animal was promoted early on in the pandemic based at least in part on studies from China [3] – though it now seem that the pangolin is not a candidate).

We can expect more of this. Even as the media report (they have to) on developments which at least make it clear that the lab leak theory is a credible theory they will insert caveats and indeed misinformation to try to disarm it. The liberal establishment is dead set on the lab leak theory never being established. I think there are several reasons for this. The economic consequences are too dreadful. (A punitive sanctions war with China would plunge the world into a massive economic depression). But another factor is cultural; Chinese scientists are well embedded in academia in the West; in part the push-back is a case of protecting their Chinese colleagues. And, not to be underestimated perhaps, is a cultural affinity between the totalitarian-liberal trends in the West with the one-party totalitarianism in China. A love of social order and prescribed behaviours over free intellectual life is something which both modern liberals and the Chinese State have in common.

Notes

  1. Wade gives 4 months. But the source may be contested. Let’s take a more conservative estimate: WHO was reporting the link to civets in January 2004. And Sars-Cov-1 started in February 2003 – so on this timeline about 11 months. So far for Sars-Cov-2 at least 15 months and no animal source identified.
  2. https://www.who.int/news-room/feature-stories/detail/how-who-is-working-to-track-down-the-animal-reservoir-of-the-sars-cov-2-virus
  3. https://www.cell.com/current-biology/pdfExtended/S0960-9822%2820%2930360-2

The backlash against ‘Freedom day’ – how valid is it?

Only Boris Johnson could come up with a cheap slogan like “Freedom Day” in the middle of a deadly pandemic. (This is reminiscent of his joke in the early stages of the pandemic about “operation last gasp”).

Idiotic remarks aside is it indeed crazy and irresponsible to remove all remaining Covid restrictions (laws and that ambiguous middle-ground of “government guidance”) now as this widely backed letter in the Lancet argues?

The authors of this letter – who could be said to be from the pro-lockdown side of academia – make 5 arguments. Let’s consider them. Before we do that let’s just remind ourselves of the context. Currently 50% of the UK population has been offered both doses of a vaccine (spaced apart by more than the manufacturer’s recommendations in the case of Pfizer of course). This includes all the especially vulnerable groups. By some point in September all over 18 year olds will have been offered 2 doses. Vaccinations in children has not yet been decided. Lifting all restrictions now will lead to more infections than if they were maintained until, say, September when all adults will have been offered a vaccination. This delay is what the authors of this letter in the Lancet want.

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And so to the cover-up

This is a report on Dominic Cummin’s fascinating revelations about how the government worked (didn’t) during the early days of the epidemic.

It makes juicy reading. Especially when you consider how many died. The description of the Prime Minister responding to being asked difficult questions in meetings by saying “let’s take it offline” and then rushing out of the meeting shouting “forward to victory” sounds both plausible and terrifying. Cummins claims that lockdown was not considered until the 14 of March. This is my post from 11 March 20 reporting on the Director of WHO bemoaning the lack of action by governments. The Cummins revelations confirm what we already know – that for the first few crucial weeks of the epidemic there was a total failure at the heart of government not just in No. 10, but at the senior levels in PHE and the DHSC, to respond to the crisis. (This is another of my posts from the early stages when I point out what Cummins is now saying; that the government was rudderless and its response was completely inadequate).

A lot of the revelations concern Matt Hancock. He is depicted as incompetent and a liar. I read recently an anonymous account of a backbench Tory MP who said that Hancock has a tendency to report as true-fact-now things which are in fact just at the planning stage. This interpretation syncs with Cummins’s account. For example; it would explain how Hancock could have told the PM that patients were being tested in Care Homes when what he meant was that they were working on it.

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Sock it to them Mrs May! – Irrational travel rules

Theresa May, Britain’s last Prime Minister, has made a cogent argument against the government’s chaotic policy of blocking international travel.

She makes several good points, including that it was easier for her to travel abroad last year before the vaccine programme than it is now with the vaccine programme having covered so much of the population (at least partly). And also that there will always be Covid variants. If the government is going to react to every new variant by closing the borders that is the end of international travel.

And finally, this:

I think there are some facts the Government needs to be up front with the British people about and ministers need to think a bit more about when making these decisions. We will not eradicate Covid-19 from the UK. There will not be a time when we can say that there will never be another case of Covid-19 in this country …  sadly people will die from Covid here in the UK in the future, as 10,000 to 20,000 people do every year from flu.

What she is saying is that now is the time to accept that Covid is the new flu. It is here to stay. It will carry off some thousands of people – mostly elderly or the already very ill, every year. People die. We all die. Get real. Are we going to close down our lives to prevent death?

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