As if this weren’t enough to increase the official tally of deaths attributed to COVID-19 far beyond the numbers of UK citizens that actually died of the disease, there’s the additional problem of the changes to how death certificates record the cause of death. On 20 April, the World Health Organisation (WHO) issued the ‘International guidelines for certification and classification (coding) of COVID-19 as cause of death’. These instructed medical practitioners that, if COVID-19 is the ‘suspected’ or ‘probable’ or ‘assumed’ cause of death, it must always be recorded, in Part 1 of the death certificate, as the ‘underlying cause’ of death. In contrast, co-morbidities such as cancer, heart disease, dementia, diabetes or chronic respiratory infections other than COVID-19 should only be recorded in Part 2 of the death certificate as a ‘contributing’ cause. To clear up any confusion this may cause to a doctor filling out the death certificate of an 80-year-old patient who has died of cancer and tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 post mortem, the WHO instructed medical professionals: ‘Always apply these instructions, whether they can be considered medically correct or not.’
(DBx: This last quoted line sounded inaccurate even to my cynical ears, so I checked it out. It’s accurate. This unbelievable demand from the WHO for inaccuracy is outrageous. [Elmer’s link above doesn’t work for me, so I found the April 20th, 2020, WHO document here and downloaded it.])
The same unintended consequences are occurring among people afflicted with cardiovascular disease and cancer, respectively the number 1 and 2 global killers. When all of the “fear porn” articles about the pandemic finally stop driving clicks, we will wake up to the devasting number of unnecessary casualties caused by a lack of attention and treatment against diseases far more dangerous than COVID.
I’m not writing this to judge anyone with a lower tolerance for risk than mine. I’m simply trying to give you a different perspective, hoping you might understand my perspective. Time, for me, is too precious to put life—my journey—on hold. Each day wasted is one I will never get back.
But half a year later, Goldman looks oracular. Since last spring, the CDC has expanded its guidance to clarify that the coronavirus “spreads less commonly through contact with contaminated surfaces.” In the past month, the leading scientific journal Nature published both a long analysis and a sharp editorial reiterating Goldman’s thesis. “A year into the pandemic, the evidence is now clear,” the editorial begins. “Catching the virus from surfaces—although plausible—seems to be rare.”
Throughout 2020, doctors and hospitals had been encouraged—if not pressured—to label as COVID any set of symptoms that looked remotely like it (explaining why cases of influenza almost disappeared from the United States last year). Now the WHO asked them to make sure that in order for a case to be labeled COVID, symptoms must also match positive results of the standard PCR test.
Simultaneously, the WHO strongly suggested that those who administer the PCR test reduce the number of cycles through which samples are processed. Through 2020, most jurisdictions in America had run samples through 40 cycles. Running that many cycles radically increases the chances of a positive result. This not only inflated the number of “cases,” but it also attributed hospitalizations to COVID-19 rather than to other causes. It led to patients being treated as if they had COVID rather than for what really ailed them, and attributing deaths to COVID that in fact were not.
The new guidance guarantees that, in the coming months, the number of “cases” will drop. The oligarchy will credit the reduction to its wise management. Loosening its grip gradually, it will claim benevolence and prudence. By thus dismounting the COVID tiger, it will try to validate the harm it did over the previous year.
Anyone dreaming of a return to the old normality can forget it. The disease marks a defining point in history, where lots of things which have been incubating for years finally fall into place and the world shifts decisively on its axis.
Even though not a particularly serious pandemic by some past standards (the plague, Spanish flu), there is an air of fin de siècle about Covid, a shifting of the tectonic plates that tells us that things are never going to be quite the same again. Perhaps the biggest of these changes, and for the more liberally minded among us one of the most worrying, is a much bigger and more intrusive role for the state.
This is often the result of a serious crisis; all of a sudden, the state finds that it is needed, that when all around is frightened chaos, it is the only game in town, and it demands something back in return.
Covid has allowed the Government massively to expand its reach and powers, nationalising great swathes of the economy and, through its social distancing restrictions, reaching deep into the way people live their lives.
Under the guise of the public health emergency, Covid has also – via test and trace and mass vaccination – sanctioned a great leap forward in the surveillance society.