I never expected to be writing something like this. I am an ordinary person, recently semi-retired from a career in the pharmaceutical industry and biotech, where I spent over 30 years trying to solve problems of disease understanding and seek new treatments for allergic and inflammatory disorders of lung and skin. I’ve always been interested in problem solving, so when anything biological comes along, my attention is drawn to it. Come 2020, came SARS-CoV-2. I’ve written about the pandemic as objectively as I could. The scientific method never leaves a person who trained and worked as a professional scientist. Please do read that piece. My co-authors & I will submit it to the normal rigours of peer review, but that process is slow and many pieces of new science this year have come to attention through pre-print servers and other less conventional outlets.
While paying close attention to data, we all initially focused on the sad matter of deaths. I found it remarkable that, in discussing the COVID-19 related deaths, most people I spoke to had no idea of large numbers. Asked approximately how many people a year die in the UK in the ordinary course of events, each a personal tragedy, They usually didn’t know. I had to inform them it is around 620,000, sometimes less if we had a mild winter, sometimes quite a bit higher if we had a severe ’flu season. I mention this number because we know that around 42,000 people have died with or of COVID-19. While it’s a huge number of people, its ‘only’ 0.06% of the UK population. Its not a coincidence that this is almost the same proportion who have died with or of COVID-19 in each of the heavily infected European countries – for example, Sweden. The annual all-causes mortality of 620,000 amounts to 1,700 per day, lower in summer and higher in winter. That has always been the lot of humans in the temperate zones. So for context, 42,000 is about ~24 days worth of normal mortality. Please know I am not minimising it, just trying to get some perspective on it. Deaths of this magnitude are not uncommon, and can occur in the more severe flu seasons. Flu vaccines help a little, but on only three occasions in the last decade did vaccination reach 50% effectiveness. They’re good, but they’ve never been magic bullets for respiratory viruses. Instead, we have learned to live with such viruses, ranging from numerous common colds all the way to pneumonias which can kill. Medicines and human caring do their best.
So, to this article. Its about the testing we do with something called PCR, an amplification technique, better known to biologists as a research tool used in our labs, when trying to unpick mechanisms of disease. I was frankly astonished to realise they’re sometimes used in population screening for diseases – astonished because it is a very exacting technique, prone to invisible errors and it’s quite a tall order to get reliable information out of it, especially because of the prodigious amounts of amplification involved in attempting to pick up a strand of viral genetic code. The test cannot distinguish between a living virus and a short strand of RNA from a virus which broke into pieces weeks or months ago.
I believe I have identified a serious, really a fatal flaw in the PCR test used in what is called by the UK Government the Pillar 2 screening – that is, testing many people out in their communities. I’m going to go through this with care and in detail because I’m a scientist and dislike where this investigation takes me. I’m not particularly political and my preference is for competent, honest administration over the actual policies chosen. We’re a reasonable lot in UK and not much given to extremes. What I’m particularly reluctant about is that, by following the evidence, I have no choice but to show that the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, misled the House of Commons and also made misleading statements in a radio interview. Those are serious accusations. I know that. I’m not a ruthless person. But I’m writing this anyway, because what I have uncovered is of monumental importance to the health and wellbeing of all the people living in the nation I have always called home.