The way the government’s coronavirus dashboard tells it, we can hardly move for covid lateral flow tests. Back of the envelope sums suggest there are now ‘only’ 600,000 plus daily LF tests, down from a peak of around a million daily tests in mid March. It’s a wonder we aren’t awash with grimy discarded test kits, jetsam from the ghost ship the New Normal. In Australia, where they take these things very seriously, the jetsam could have been far worse. A few months back, a zeroid (an endemic-covid denialist who believes instead in zero-covid, whatever it takes, and whatever it means) suggested that adding anal swabs for kids — zeroids believe kids and schools are hotbeds of infection and transmission — might pick up the covid that other tests can’t reach. What could possibly go wrong?
Forget Brexit, the real Project Fear kicked off in March last year, with SPI-B’s infamous “The perceived level of personal threat [from covid–19] needs to be increased among those who are complacent, using hard-hitting emotional messaging”. Printed in bold in the original report, the directive launched a thousand messages that sailed freely past their intended target, the complacent, and went on to cause immense collateral damage among the timorous. Rained on day after day by this lurid torrent of “hard-hitting emotional messaging”, these nervous souls quickly became punch drunk, and lost the capacity for rational thought. Whole swathes of the population started to believe that covid–19 was a threat out of all proportion to any real risk. The extraordinary thing is they still believe covid–19 is a threat out of all proportion to any real risk. Let’s take a look at what happened.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a pharmaceutical company in want of a profit will use relative risk. It will do this because presenting the results of clinical trials as relative risk reductions tends to make their new wonder drug appear dramatically effective. But relative risk reduction is only one way of presenting the data. We can also look at the absolute risk reduction, and a useful number derived from the absolute risk reduction, the number needed to treat. This tells us the number of people we need to treat to prevent one adverse outcome. As we shall see, absolute risk reductions and numbers needed to treat tend to dramatically lower the apparent, and so perceived, benefits of treatment. These observations, we shall further see, can be applied to all treatments, including covid vaccines.
Has the novel vaccine for a novel coronavirus led to a novel case of hiding something bad in plain sight? We are constantly told by the authorities and mainstream media that the novel coronavirus vaccines are exceptionally effective and safe. Yet at the same time there is a constant drip feed, now running more like a torrent, of reports of numerous and sometimes serious side effects from the vaccines. Dan Astin-Gregory of the Pandemic Podcast recently received, but failed to publish, a “113 page report documenting the tragic accounts of people who had sadly died following the COVID-19 vaccination”. Mr Astin-Gregory’s heart is clearly in the right place, but the mind needs data. An anecdote of anecdotes? Without seeing the report, it is impossible to make any assessment of it.
The Covid Inquisition has had a rather hard time of it lately. As UK test positives, hospitalisations and deaths have plummeted, they have had in recent weeks to rely on scariants and foreign outbreaks in Brazil and India to maintain fear levels, but over the last few days a game changer has emerged: the virus is airborne. WHO have marginally up-rated their assessment of risk from aerosol transmission, triggering a raft of tweets from the Inquisition saying we told you so, but the real bombshell is a pre-print that puts some E notation numbers and extra computer generated colours on the Milk Curdler’s earlier three colour crayon box model #CovidRiskChart. The Inquisition now know that H, or your airborne infection risk parameter, for a brief, silent masked outdoor encounter is 2.33E-05. Prolonged shouting without masks in a poorly ventilated crowded room, on the other hand, pushes your H up to 1.00E+02. If shout turns to shove, your H jumps even higher, to 2.33E+02. Cripes.