In dealing with coronaplague, Americans have taken a mechanistic view of the human body. Swab an infected human and you’re guaranteed to capture some virus, which will then be amplified by Kary Mullis‘s magic PCR machine and we’ll have a positive/negative result that is as reliable as if we’d checked the tire pressure on a car.
I had always thought that the main failure of humans to conform to this machine-like model was a lot of false negatives. A human is infected, but the virus does not end up on the swab. See “False Negative Tests for SARS-CoV-2 Infection — Challenges and Implications” (NEJM) and “COVID-19 false negative test results if used too early” (ScienceDaily, reported on a Johns Hopkins study).
From “Carl Heneghan, Professor of Evidence Based Medicine and Director of the Centre for Evidence Based Medicine at Oxford University, and his colleague Dr Tom Jefferson, a Senior Associate Tutor,” writing in that august journal of science… the Daily Mail:
And increased Covid testing is picking up dead – entirely harmless – fragments of virus as well as genuine infections. So many of the positive results we think we are getting might not be positives at all.
So Kary Mullis’s machine works as advertised, but we don’t know what we should be looking for. Thus our obsessive testing program might end up giving us millions of false positives in addition to tens of millions of false negatives.
Separately, the rest of the article is a lot of fun. American academics, ever-fearful of being canceled and cut off from the river of government cash, would never be able to write anything this harsh.
Today, our bewildered Prime Minister and his platoon of inept advisers might as well be using the planets to guide us through this pandemic, so catastrophic and wildly over-the-top are their decisions.
Why is it that the Government is once again in the grip of doom-mongering scientific modellers who specialise in causing panic and little else?
Yet our PM, and his Dad’s Army of highly paid individuals with little experience of the job at hand, continue to behave as if they are acting on the basis of certainty.
Instead, they move from one poorly designed, rash decision to another, driven by the misguided belief that we are experiencing a ‘second wave’, following Spain’s ‘trajectory’ and just ‘behind the curve’ there.
Our latest study, out yesterday, shows that nearly a third of all Covid-19 deaths recorded in July and August might have actually been the result of other causes –cancer, for example, or road traffic accidents.
It is unfortunate that Mr Johnson is surrounded by mediocre scientific advisers.
It is strange and concerning, that the Government is still relying on mathematical modellers who have a 20-year track record of getting things wrong and have been particularly wrong in the past six months.
And the result is a confused, rudderless Government lost in a swamp of poor statistics and ill-informed recommendations.
But for now the only ‘circuit break’ we need is an end to the current cycle of bad data, bad language and shockingly bad scientific advice.
- Full range of coronaplague opinions (the Oxford team back in March)
- Massachusetts contact tracing system blown over by the first breeze
… and some photos from a 2014 trip to Oxford. Note the unmasked un-distanced sitting ducks for COVID-19: