Covid – was it really a once-in-a-lifetime event?

The orthodox view of Covid is that it escaped its Chinese home in January 2020. The orgy of wealth-destruction that ensued was justified on the grounds that it was an especially virulent organism, capable of decimating the human race – a contagion we could expect to see no more than once in a century, and at which we could therefore afford to throw huge sums of money.

Right from the start, I was sceptical of this claim. In the first place, evidence emerged early that Covid severity rose vertiginously with age, children being at almost no risk, while oldies like me were likely to be severely, and perhaps fatally affected. Secondly, it became clear very early that even within age cohorts, severity was extremely varied, ranging from life-threatening to nearly asymptomatic.

Between them, these factors implied to my simple brain that more infections had occurred than had been reported, implying that the Case Fatality Rate (CFR) was certainly lower – and possibly far lower – than the value yielded by reported cases, and being used to characterise the virus as a ‘once in a century’ contagion. Moreover, in the absence of population-wide antibody testing, anybody who told you they knew the true CFR for Sars Covid-2 was fibbing. Before the headlong rush to ruin our society by squandering its wealth and imprisoning its population began, therefore, I thought that as soon as any form of test became available some attempt should have been made to establish the seroprevalence of the virus, thus giving a true(er) denominator for the case-fatality calculation. That would have required testing people at random, many of whom of course, neither were infected by Covid, nor had been, and recovered.

This rather obvious step seems to have been viewed as a squandering of the (then) limited supplies of tests on healthy people, and as a result we are unlikely ever to know the extent of Covid endemicity in February/March 2020, when these fateful, catastrophic errors of policy were being made. We do know that the CFR was lower than that used for policy-making, we just don’t know by how much. However, the CFR would not have to come down a great deal for the virus to be a mere ‘once in twenty years’ event – and are we really going to do this to ourselves five times a century?

While we may never know the true endemicity of Covid in early 2020, the admirable Dr John Campbell has posted another of his excellent podcasts in which he presents compelling evidence that the virus may have been at large in Western populations as early as September 2019. Dr Campbell is alarmed at this revelation for what it implies for future outbreaks. Me, I’m more exercised by what it implies for Covid-19 itself. Because I can just about remember September 2019, and I don’t remember the tumbrils rolling, or people running around shrieking in terror – that all started around the following February. So, if Dr Campbell’s correspondents are right, Covid was circulating for several months, causing a lot of people to have what they experienced as really bad flu, but not killing them in vast numbers, before its prevalence led to the social phenomenon which was ‘Covid’ and which has cost us so dearly.

I hope some day some clever infectious diseases expert will find a way of establishing in retrospect the true CFR of Covid-19. I suspect it’s going to resemble what we ‘heartless granny-killers’ claimed at the time – a nasty variety of flu, but not something we could possibly justify spending trillions of dollars on, or that would justify the house-arrest of entire societies.

One last point – my father died at the end of 2019, at the age of 98. He died of a respiratory disease. I’ve long suspected he might have been an early victim of Covid. Campbell’s video strengthens that suspicion.

Tom Forrester-Paton

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