The Wuhan Coronavirus - What is the cost of lies?

Britain now has its third person on British soil who is infected with the Wuhan coronavirus. This person was in Brighton but has been taken to London by ambulance and will 'probably be admitted to the Royal Free hospital in north London', according to this Guardian news report. Also in the news, Dr Li Wenliang, the Wuhan doctor who warned the public in December about the coronavirus but was silenced by the Chinese authorities, has died from the disease. His death has sparked large outpourings of grief and anger in China, especially because the authorities censured his attempts to warn people about the disease.

Here in the West, we are not as heavy-handed as the Chinese when it comes to civilians putting forward views different to the mainstream message. Unfortunately, this doesn't mean we won't punish whistleblowers. Often, the people in power in the West attack independent voices by labelling them as 'fringe', 'crank' or a 'conspiracy theorist'. The veracity of that person's actual opinions aren't assessed, just scornfully dismissed.

For example, Chris Martenson, who has been producing daily videos on the coronavirus epidemic, through his Peak Prosperity YouTube channel, has reported that he had his Wikipedia page deleted because, to paraphrase the criticisms of editors, he 'peddles in conspiracy theories'. As far as I can tell, Chris's articles have all been well-researched and grounded in reliable facts. The man himself, according to his video, has a PhD and authored a paper in Nature, so he clearly has a good grounding in biochemistry. Here is his video on the matter:

We often only learn what truly happened during a disaster when it is long gone, and even then only if no one powerful can be harmed by the truth coming out. For example, we can now find out what happened during the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. An acclaimed series on HBO has been recounting this cover-up, dramatising the lies, suppression of evidence and scapegoating that went on after the reactor exploded. This is a good thing to do, as those who sacrificed their health, and their lives, to limit the damage of the disaster should be celebrated.

I was reading the Wikipedia page on the Chernobyl mini-series yesterday and I was struck by the similarities between the Chernobyl disaster and the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak. This similarity is especially strong if the Wuhan coronavirus is an escaped, chimeric, gain-of-function virus created in a nearby biohazard virology lab. This possibility is so far unproven - it is only speculation - but it is possible, as I explained in this earlier blog. The theory would also explain several strange aspects of the disease.

If the Wuhan coronavirus was made in a lab, then its emergence would be similar to events at Chernobyl. Just like at Chernobyl, key technical staff went too far. Out of competitiveness, pressures from above, recklessness, arrogance and hubris, they make a mistake with extremely powerful materials, and created a terrible accident. According to the Wikipedia page on the Chernobyl miniseries, the local authority at Chernobyl 'elected to downplay the incident and blocked evacuation'. One of the main characters 'was detained by the KGB and informed that his testimony would be suppressed in the state media; furthermore, he was forbidden to speak to anyone about Chernobyl.' We now know that this same behaviour was carried out by the Chinese authorities in the early stages of the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak. Dr Li Wenliang tried warn people of what was happening in December and was made to shut up by the police.

The Chinese authorities are already at fault, just as they were in the 2003 SARS outbreak. Unfortunately, I don't think the authorities here in the West have made right decisions either. I have been shocked at how facts about the Wuhan coronavirus have been watered down in our media. Major news outlets in the UK and the United States have said that the coronavirus is no worse than flu; this is untrue, it is far more dangerous. They've said that it's no worse than SARS, which is untrue - it's far more infectious. In addition, a US media outlet, earlier this week, stated that the coronavirus only spreads through extended, close physical contact. This is also untrue - studies show that the coronavirus as infectious as the cold.

Many newspapers and media companies keep saying to us that the coronavirus death rate is 2%. This is a deceptive term. Many people will assume that this will be 2% of the small percentage of people that become infected. Instead, according to some reports, the rate of infection is so high that most people will get the disease, particularly in a built-up city. I have seen infection percentages of 83%. A Lancet report (pdf) at the end of January warned that the death-rate for hospitalised patients could be 10% or higher. In addition, the John Hopkins site still shows recovery rates in Hubei province to be only partly higher than death rates. This means that the death rates for those entering hospital seems to be around 40%! According to another report, 20% of people who are infected need to be in an intensive care unit. We therefore may have a death rate of 83% x 20% x 40%, which is 7% of the whole population. In Britain, for example, that would correspond to four million people dying before the epidemic ends. Clearly, these numbers are very approximate, and will change over time, as the virus is studied, but I definitely think we should be erring on the side of caution, not complacency.

With regard to incompetent UK government policy, as mentioned in this earlier blog post, our health secretary has advised people coming back from China to just monitor themselves and phone the doctor if they feel ill. There are several problems with that approach. Firstly, as there seems to be a two-week incubation period, an infected person can walk around, infecting other people for two weeks before experiencing symptoms. Secondly, you don't have to go to China to get the disease, and this has probably been true for weeks. Yesterday, a man in Brighton began showing symptoms of the virus and was rushed to a London hospital. It turns out that he had visited Singapore, where he probably picked up the virus. Our government officials have now changed their advice. They have told doctors to be on alert for cases in people returning from a string of countries not previously considered to present a risk. This is a woefully slow response; it should have been part of a government policy a month ago. I think these decisions, in the future, will be seen as criminally incompetent.

Historically, the human race has pretty much made every mistake that they could make. In the past, these mistakes haven't done much damage because humans haven't been in possession of powerful-enough items. Now that we have nuclear power and bioweapons, we've gained the ability to make really BIG mistakes. Chernobyl, Fukushima and Three-mile Island show our nuclear cockup ability. Has the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak shown our biological cockup ability too? The jury is out… for now.