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Publications

Advice on the use of masks in the context of COVID-19 – WHO

Transmission:

According to the current evidence, COVID-19 virus is primarily transmitted between people via respiratory droplets and contact routes. Droplet transmission occurs when a person is in close contact (within 1 metre) with an infected person and exposure to potentially infective respiratory droplets occurs.

N95 vs medical masks:

Meta-analyses in systematic literature reviews have reported that the use of N95 respirators compared with the use of medical masks is not associated with any statistically significant lower risk of the clinical respiratory illness outcomes or laboratory-confirmed influenza or viral infections.

Wearing masks by the general public:

There is limited evidence that wearing a medical mask by healthy individuals in households, in particular those who share a house with a sick person, or among attendees of mass gatherings may be beneficial as a measure preventing transmission.

At present, there is no direct evidence (from studies on COVID-19 and in healthy people in the community) on the effectiveness of universal masking of healthy people in the community to prevent infection with respiratory viruses, including COVID-19.

At the present time, the widespread use of masks by healthy people in the community setting is not yet supported by high quality or direct scientific evidence and there are potential benefits and harms to consider.

https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/advice-on-the-use-of-masks-in-the-community-during-home-care-and-in-healthcare-settings-in-the-context-of-the-novel-coronavirus-(2019-ncov)-outbreak

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Videos

T-cell immunity and the truth about Covid-19 in Sweden – Dr. Soo Aleman, UnHerd

“Intensive care units are getting empty, the wards are getting empty, we are really seeing a decrease — and that despite that people are really loosening up. The beaches are crowded, social distancing is not kept very well … but still the numbers are really decreasing. That means that something else is happening – we are actually getting closer to herd immunity. I can’t really see another reason.”

“I can’t say if the Swedish approach was right or wrong – I think we can say that in one or two years when we are looking back. You have to look at the mortality over the whole period.”

“I don’t think that we have more new cases, I think we are just detecting more cases”

“We found that if you have a mild case you can be negative for antibodies afterwards … in those almost all of them had strong T-cell activity. This study says that there are cases that you can have a strong T-cell response even though you have not had antibodies, meaning that you have encountered the virus and built up immunity.”

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Publications

Interim Guidance for the Use of Masks to Control Seasonal Influenza Virus Transmission – CDC

Persons who are diagnosed with influenza…should remain at home until the fever is resolved for 24 hours…and the cough is resolving to avoid exposing other members of the public. If such symptomatic persons cannot stay home during the acute phase of their illness, consideration should be given to having them wear a mask in public places when they may have close contact with other persons. 

No recommendation can be made at this time for mask use in the community by asymptomatic persons, including those at high risk for complications, to prevent exposure to influenza viruses.

https://www.cdc.gov/flu/professionals/infectioncontrol/maskguidance.htm

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News

Can surgical masks protect you from getting the flu? – Medical Xpress (2019)

The study, published in JAMA, found that surgical masks were as effective as N95 respirators at preventing the flu, which is to say, not all that effective because, of the 446 nurses who took part in this study, nearly one in four (24%) in the surgical mask group still got the flu as did 23% of those who wore the N95 respirator. And, because both groups wore masks, it’s impossible to say how they would have fared compared with not wearing a mask at all.

Basically, there is no strong evidence to support well people wearing surgical masks in public. Or as the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention put it: “No recommendation can be made at this time for mask use in the community by asymptomatic persons, including those at high risk for complications, to prevent exposure to influenza viruses.”

The best thing you can do to stop getting the flu is to regularly wash your hands, and try to avoid touching your face.

https://medicalxpress.com/news/2019-10-surgical-masks-flu.html

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Opinion

The fatal mistakes which led to lockdown – Dr. John Lee, The Spectator

Such is the quality of decision-making in the process generating our lockdown narrative. An early maintained but exaggerated belief in the lethality of the virus reinforced by modelling that was almost data-free, then amplified by further modelling with no proven predictive value. All summed up by recommendations from a committee based on qualitative data that hasn’t even been peer-reviewed.

  • According to Office for National Statistics, this year comes only eighth in terms of deaths in past 27 years.
  • The spread of viruses like Covid-19 is not new. What’s new is our response.
  • The whole Covid drama has really been a crisis of awareness of what viruses normally do, rather than a crisis caused by an abnormally lethal new bug.
  • Modelling is not science, for the simple reason that a prediction made by a scientist (using a model or not) is just opinion.
  • To be classified as science, a prediction or theory needs to be able to be tested, and potentially falsified.
  • A problem with the current approach: a wilful determination to ignore the quality of the information being used to set Covid policy.
  • Most Covid research was not peer- reviewed.
  • In medical science there is a well-known classification of data quality known as ‘the hierarchy of evidence’: a seven-level system gives an idea of how much weight can be placed on any given study or recommendation.
  • Virtually all evidence pertaining to Covid-19 policy is found in the lowest levels (much less compelling Levels 5 and 6): descriptive-only studies looking for a pattern, without using controls. 
  • Level 7 is at the bottom of the hierarchy (the opinion of authorities or reports of expert committees) because ‘authorities’ often fail to change their minds in the face of new evidence.
  • Committees often issue compromise recommendations that are scientifically non-valid.
  • The advice of Sage (or any committee of scientists) is the least reliable form of evidence there is.

https://www.spectator.co.uk/article/how-strong-was-the-scientific-advice-behind-lockdown

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News

Britain could have been hit harder by Covid-19 because it has avoided bad flu seasons in the past two winters as influenza kills the SAME vulnerable people, study claims – Daily Mail

Britain could have been hit harder by Covid-19 than other European nations because the past two winter flu outbreaks have only been mild, according to a study.

Researchers say influenza kills the same groups of people as the coronavirus, with both illnesses posing the greatest danger to the elderly and those with underlying conditions.

Public Health England statistics show around 20,000 excess deaths – those of any cause that happen above average – occur from influenza each year.

But only 1,700 extra fatalities were recorded during the 2018/19 outbreak, said lead author Dr Chris Hope who claimed data showed the 2019/20 season was also ‘very mild’.

It means more than 30,000 people in England alone were alive at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic who would have been expected to die in the previous two flu seasons.

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8497185/Britain-hit-harder-Covid-19-avoided-bad-flu-seasons.html

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Opinion

This is what we shot ourselves in the foot for – Hector Drummond

Novelist Hector Drummond decided to look at the annual death figures for England and Wales from the Office for National Statistics. This is what he found after graphing the numbers all the way back to the turn of the twentieth century.

The 2020 death figures on the right cannot even be considered a spike over the course of the century.

He explained his methodology in this post:

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Opinion

Calm Down! Record Testing Is Why There Are Record “Cases” – William Briggs

Deaths decreasing as cases surge because of testing.

Testing is going nuts. Testing is out of control. Testing is rampant. Testing is at insane levels and only growing.

The number of daily COVID tests in the US
Official weekly dead according to the CDC as of 2 July for week ending 27 June

Notice anything? You might not have reached the apex of probability like I, the Statistician to the Stars! have, but surely you can see the most salient point. DEATHS ARE DECREASING, EVEN AS NEW “CASES” “SURGE” “SPIKE” “SOAR” “SET RECORDS”.

This is why we must continue to look to all-cause deaths are the best indicator. It’s just too easy to cheat, fudge, shade, tweak, adjust, or whatever word you like, with COVID deaths.

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Publications

Robust T cell immunity in convalescent individuals with asymptomatic or mild COVID-19 – bioRxiv

“[R]oughly twice as many people have developed T-cell immunity compared with those who we can detect antibodies in.

SARS-CoV-2-specific memory T cells will likely prove critical for long-term immune protection against COVID-19. We systematically mapped the functional and phenotypic landscape of SARS-CoV-2-specific T cell responses in a large cohort of unexposed individuals as well as exposed family members and individuals with acute or convalescent COVID-19. Acute phase SARS-CoV-2-specific T cells displayed a highly activated cytotoxic phenotype that correlated with various clinical markers of disease severity, whereas convalescent phase SARS-CoV-2-specific T cells were polyfunctional and displayed a stem-like memory phenotype. Importantly, SARS-CoV-2-specific T cells were detectable in antibody-seronegative family members and individuals with a history of asymptomatic or mild COVID-19. Our collective dataset shows that SARS-CoV-2 elicits robust memory T cell responses akin to those observed in the context of successful vaccines, suggesting that natural exposure or infection may prevent recurrent episodes of severe COVID-19 also in seronegative individuals.

https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.06.29.174888v1.full

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News

Coronavirus: Majority testing positive have no symptoms – BBC News

Only 22% of people testing positive for coronavirus reported having symptoms on the day of their test, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Note: the article deduces that this shows the importance of asymptomatic transmission. However, cases of asymptomatic transmission has been found to be very rare.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-53320155

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Videos

SARS-CoV-2 becoming endemic – Sunetra Gupta

Interview highlights:

  • We have already developed herd immunity to COVID-19 and will continue to manage it through herd immunity.
  • Flu is much more dangerous than COVID-19.
  • COVID-19 will settle into an endemic state just like flu.
  • Hopefully vaccines will be important in protecting the vulnerable.
  • Another way to protect the vulnerable sector is to allow the population to develop natural immunity.
  • There’s no reason to think the virus will mutate into a lower level of virulence.
  • During the 1918 flu because of a large number of ‘immunologically naive’ individuals but this is not the case with COVID-19.
  • Most of us have some degree of coronavirus immunity and therefore some protection to COVID-19.
  • The current H1 influenza strain is antigenically identical to the 1918 flu. H1 flu doesn’t kill as many people as the 1918 flu because most people already have cross immunity.

Mirror:

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Publications

Limited evidence regarding the respiratory protection using non-medical / homemade masks – SAGE

SARS-CoV-2 in the hospital environment and risk of COVID-19 nosocomial transmission

A document produced by SAGE states the following.

Evidence on efficacy of cloth face-coverings (non-medical masks):

There is limited evidence regarding the respiratory protection that non-medical / homemade masks can offer for the wearer, and there are no established quality standards for self-made face masks. One study reported a low filter efficiency (3-33%), and high penetration (up to 97%) of NaCl aerosol particles in homemade masks (42). A trial comparing the use of cloth and medical masks by healthcare workers also showed penetration of microorganisms by 97%, compared with a rate of 44% for medical masks (43).

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/895818/S0485_EMG_SARS-CoV-2_in_the_hospital_environment.pdf

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Publications

COVID-19 death rate is higher in European countries with a low flu intensity – Dr. Chris Hope, University of Cambridge

The death rate from COVID-19 (coronavirus) in Europe appears to be linked to low-intensity flu seasons in the past two years as the same people are vulnerable, says a working paper by Dr Chris Hope, Emeritus Reader in Policy Modelling at Cambridge Judge Business School.

https://insight.jbs.cam.ac.uk/2020/flu-and-coronavirus/

Categories
Opinion

Coronavirus: Why everyone was wrong – Dr. Beda Stadler

Professor Dr. Beda M Stadler is the former director of the Institute for Immunology at the University of Bern, a biologist and professor emeritus.

Novelty:

Sars-Cov-2 isn’t all that new, but merely a seasonal cold virus that mutated and disappears in summer, as all cold viri do — which is what we’re observing globally right now. Flu viri mutate significantly more, by the way, and nobody would ever claim that a new flu virus strain was completely novel.

Immunity:

In mid-April work was published by the group of Andreas Thiel at the Charité Berlin. A paper with 30 authors, amongst them the virologist Christian Drosten. It showed that in 34 % of people in Berlin who had never been in contact with the Sars-CoV-2 virus showed nonetheless T-cell immunity against it (T-cell immunity is a different kind of immune reaction, see below). This means that our T-cells, i.e. white blood cells, detect common structures appearing on Sars-CoV-2 and regular cold viri and therefore combat both of them.

…almost no children under ten years old got sick, everyone should have made the argument that children clearly have to be immune. For every other disease that doesn’t afflict a certain group of people, we would come to the conclusion that that group is immune. When people are sadly dying in a retirement home, but in the same place other pensioners with the same risk factors are left entirely unharmed, we should also conclude that they were presumably immune.

Modelling:

Epidemiologist also fell for the myth that there was no immunity in the population. They also didn’t want to believe that coronaviri were seasonal cold viri that would disappear in summer. Otherwise their curve models would have looked differently. When the initial worst case scenarios didn’t come true anywhere, some now still cling to models predicting a second wave.

Asymptomatic transmission:

The term “silent carriers” was conjured out of a hat and it was claimed that one could be sick without having symptoms.

The next joke that some virologists shared was the claim that those who were sick without symptoms could still spread the virus to other people…But for doctors and virologists to twist this into a story of “healthy” sick people, which stokes panic and was often given as a reason for stricter lockdown measures, just shows how bad the joke really is. At least the WHO didn’t accept the claim of asymptomatic infections and even challenges this claim on its website.

Testing:

So if we do a PCR corona test on an immune person, it is not a virus that is detected, but a small shattered part of the viral genome. The test comes back positive for as long as there are tiny shattered parts of the virus left. Correct: Even if the infectious viri are long dead, a corona test can come back positive, because the PCR method multiplies even a tiny fraction of the viral genetic material enough [to be detected]…The crux was that the virus debris registered with the overly sensitive test and therefore came back as “positive”. It is likely that a large number of the daily reported infection numbers are purely due to viral debris.

Kawasaki Syndrome:

If an infected person does not have enough antibodies, i.e. a weak immune response, the virus slowly spreads out across the entire body. Now that there are not enough antibodies, there is only the second, supporting leg of our immune response left: The T-cells beginn to attack the virus-infested cells all over the body. This can lead to an exaggerated immune response, basically to a massive slaughter; this is called a Cytokine Storm. Very rarely this can also happen in small children, in that case called Kawasaki Syndrome. This very rare occurrence in children was also used in our country to stoke panic. It’s interesting, however, that this syndrome is very easily cured. The [affected] children get antibodies from healthy blood donors, i.e. people who went through coronavirus colds.

Second Wave:

The virus is gone for now. It will probably come back in winter, but it won’t be a second wave, but just a cold.

Face masks:

Those young and healthy people who currently walk around with a mask on their faces would be better off wearing a helmet instead, because the risk of something falling on their head is greater than that of getting a serious case of Covid-19.

Lethality:

People below 65 years old make up only 0.6 to 2.6 % of all fatal Covid cases. To get on top of the pandemic, we need a strategy merely concentrating on the protection of at-risk people over 65.

https://medium.com/@vernunftundrichtigkeit/coronavirus-why-everyone-was-wrong-fce6db5ba809

Categories
Opinion

Opting out of NHS Test and Trace

According to government guidelines, the public will be asked to provide their names and phone numbers to the venues and businesses they visit from Saturday 4th July 2020.

Be aware that this is done on a voluntary basis. You are under no legal obligation to leave your details or provide correct information. The business should not refuse to serve you if you do not wish to provide your information.

The relevant section of the government guidelines is shown below.

Source: Department of Health and Social Care Guidance, 2 July 2020

The complete text for the guidelines can be found in a document that can be downloaded from the GOV.UK website: Maintaining records of staff, customers and visitors to support NHS Test and Trace

Information collected

If you choose to provide information as a customer, government guidelines state that only the following details should be collected:

  • The name of the customer or visitor. If there is more than one person, then you can record the name of the ‘lead member’ of the group and the number of people in the group.
  • A contact phone number for each customer or visitor, or for the lead member of a group of people.
  • Date of visit, arrival time and, where possible, departure time.
  • If a customer will interact with only one member of staff (e.g. a hairdresser), the name of the assigned staff member should be recorded alongside the name of the customer.

Booking and reservation information

The information you provide when making a booking or reservation may be shared with NHS Test and Trace. If you do not wish your details to be used for this purpose, you should inform the business that you wish to opt out of NHS Test and Trace.

General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

NHS Test and Trace is subject to GDPR. This means that the business is legally obliged to handle your details in accordance with the regulation. However, be aware that under GDPR, the business is not required to:

  • Individually inform customers about how their information will be used.
  • Seek consent to collect data from individual customers.

If in doubt, make sure you explicitly inform management that you are opting out and any details you provide should not be used for NHS Test and Trace.

Why you should opt out of NHS Test and Trace

While we cannot give you advice about leaving your contact details, we believe that opting out of NHS Test and Trace is the right thing to do. This is because:

  1. The tests for COVID-19 are known to be inaccurate, resulting in high false positives and false negatives.
  2. These inaccurate results may be used to justify local lock-downs which will have a severely negative impact on your area.
  3. You will be traced and told self-isolate if anyone you have been in contact with during your visit tests positive, even if it is a false positive.
  4. The tracing system rollout was rushed and did not complete mandatory privacy checks. NHS Test and Trace is facing a legal challenge because it does not have strong enough safeguards.
  5. Your data will be held for 20 years. There is no way to know how the information collected about you will be used by a future political administration.
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Publications

Impact of false positives and negatives, 3 June 2020 – Government Office for Science

The UK operational false positive rate is unknown. There are no published studies on the operational false positive rate of any national COVID-19 testing programme.

An attempt has been made to estimate the likely false-positive rate of national COVID-19 testing programmes by examining data from published external quality assessments (EQAs) for RT-PCR assays for other RNA viruses carried out between 2004-2019 [7]. Results of 43 EQAs were examined, giving a median false positive rate of 2.3% (interquartile range 0.8-4.0%).

Alistair Haimes interpreted these results in this way:

2.3% false positive rate with 0.04% virus prevalence rate (ONS) means that if you test positive you have only a 4/234= 1.7% chance of being infected. We’re flying blind.

if the false positive rate is that high, surely they just know that it is ‘about nothing’; 0.04% must be false precision?

@AlistairHaimes. 3 July 2020

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/gos-impact-of-false-positives-and-negatives-3-june-2020

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Publications

Officially-reported COVID-19 deaths in Ireland likely overestimates – HIQA

HIQA found that the officially-reported COVID-19 deaths likely overestimates the true burden of excess deaths caused by the virus. This could be due to the inclusion within official figures of people who were infected with SARS-CoV-2 (coronavirus) at the time of death whose cause of death may have been predominantly due to other factors.

https://www.hiqa.ie/hiqa-news-updates/covid-19-causes-13-increase-deaths-ireland-between-march-and-june-2020-hiqa

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Publications

80.9% of care home residents who tested positive were asymptomatic – Department of Health & Social Care

  • 2.4% of all tests were positive (9,674 out of 397,197)
  • 3.9% of residents tested positive (6,747 out of 172,066)
  • 3.3% of asymptomatic residents tested positive (5,455 out of 163,945)
  • 80.9% of residents who tested positive were asymptomatic (5,455 out of 6,747)
  • 1.2% of asymptomatic staff tested positive (2,567 out of 210,620)

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/vivaldi-1-coronavirus-covid-19-care-homes-study-report/vivaldi-1-covid-19-care-homes-study-report

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Publications

Visualizing the effectiveness of face masks in obstructing respiratory jets – AIP Publishing

The use of face masks in public settings has been widely recommended by public health officials during the current COVID-19 pandemic. The masks help mitigate the risk of cross-infection via respiratory droplets; however, there are no specific guidelines on mask materials and designs that are most effective in minimizing droplet dispersal. While there have been prior studies on the performance of medical-grade masks, there are insufficient data on cloth-based coverings, which are being used by a vast majority of the general public. We use qualitative visualizations of emulated coughs and sneezes to examine how material- and design-choices impact the extent to which droplet-laden respiratory jets are blocked. Loosely folded face masks and bandana-style coverings provide minimal stopping-capability for the smallest aerosolized respiratory droplets. Well-fitted homemade masks with multiple layers of quilting fabric, and off-the-shelf cone style masks, proved to be the most effective in reducing droplet dispersal. These masks were able to curtail the speed and range of the respiratory jets significantly, albeit with some leakage through the mask material and from small gaps along the edges. Importantly, uncovered emulated coughs were able to travel notably farther than the currently recommended 6-ft distancing guideline. We outline the procedure for setting up simple visualization experiments using easily available materials, which may help healthcare professionals, medical researchers, and manufacturers in assessing the effectiveness of face masks and other personal protective equipment qualitatively.

https://aip.scitation.org/doi/pdf/10.1063/5.0016018

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News

UK’s mental health has deteriorated during lockdown, says Mind – The Guardian

Government must take urgent action to prevent even bigger crisis in future, charity warns

Lockdown has been devastating for mental health and the worst could be yet to come, a leading charity has said.

The mental health charity Mind says a survey has revealed that lockdown has had a dramatic impact on the nation’s mental health, warning that unless action is taken now, the problem could grow.

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/jun/30/uks-mental-health-has-deteriorated-during-lockdown-says-mind