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The Flu (Health)
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Boreades


In: finity and beyond
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Mick Harper wrote:
I might have to explain this several times.

I can't think why since I've explained the same thing several times. Though what you said was worth saying once.

You are quite correct. I've should have said:

Listen very carefully, I will explain this only once.

Elsewhere I have indeed had to explain this several times, as many people have been so paralysed by fear that rational explanations take a long time to penetrate (if ever), even with medical evidence.
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Mick Harper
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In: London
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The cancellation of my holiday -- we couldn't agree on which six -- leads me to reflect on timelines. For six months we all assumed it would be over by now, or at any rate over for the purposes of family staycations, but not only is it not, the estimates for when it will be are lengthening by the day. The long time favourite 'when the schools re-open' is long gone (though the universities haven't gone back yet -- what larks then) and it is now 'we must aim for as normal a Christmas as is possible in the circumstances'. But even that is being increasingly supplanted by 'when things are OK next year' or the timeless but slightly menacing 'when everyone has been vaccinated'.

But unless the paradigm is changed I don't see how it can ever be over. All infections hang around indefinitely (only small pox has gone to Bug Valhalla) so the only infection we are systematically looking for will not just stay around forever but will get the Channel Four treatment for ever.

"There were 1,207 infections reported worldwide yesterday, and six deaths. The pandemic has killed 664,980 people so far."
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Grant



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The government are praying for a second spike so they can pretend this was all necessary but it won’t happen because 1) new bugs are less deadly as they evolve 2) 90% of the population has already been exposed anyway. The disease has gone.
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Mick Harper
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I won't attempt to second-guess the government but I agree the battleground now is to persuade people that 'testing positive' and 'the disease' have very little in common. I suppose we will all test positive once we have been vaccinated.
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Boreades


In: finity and beyond
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Indeed. Or, if we are all tested often and long enough, we'll all be a "positive test result".

I'm still astonished by the sheer relentless depth of confusion that continues in the MSM between
1) testing
2) test results
3) "positive" results
4) false positive results
5) real actual serious cases of Covid
6) real actual deaths (actually directly caused by Covid)

I'm reminded of Hanlon's Razor

"Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity"

So it goes with all the hysteria over "second wave spikes". Muchly unreported is data on the PCR false positive rates and cycle thresholds. I'm told it's being submitted to SAGE committee meetings, but not discussed. Or at least not minuted as a topic for discussion. Perhaps it's because it introduced uncertainty while SAGE wants to keep nodding wisely and saying "Oh yes" (we know what we're doing)

You have to dig deep in esoteric places, like here:

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/895843/S0519_
Impact_of_false_positives_and_negatives.pdf

What causes false positives? Manifold indeed are the ways the tests can be cocked-up.


•Cross reactions with other genetic material.
•Contamination during sampling.
•Contamination during swab extraction
•Contamination with PCR amplicon.
•Contamination of PCR laboratory consumables.
Even experienced national labs can be affected. In early-March 2020, COVID-19 RT-PCR assays produced by the CDC were withdrawn after many showed false positives due to contaminated reagents.



What is the UK operational false positive rate?

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

So how do we know there are false positives?

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-PCRassays for other RNA viruses carried out between 2004-2019. Results of 43 EQAs were examined, giving a median false positive rate of 2.3% (interquartile range 0.8-4.0%).

But, but, that means the false positive rate is about the same as the published "true" positive rate.

Here's another paper

https://gov.wales/sites/default/files/publications/2020-07/core-principles-for-utilisation-of-rt-pcr-tests-for-detection-of-sars-cov-2.pdf

by Carl Mayers of NHS England which was apparently submitted to SAGE meeting 41 (June 11th)

There is a table on page 6 of the document (see below) which shows that at low prevalence of Covid the majority of positive tests are expected to be false positives.




The conclusion?

if you test the whole UK population of 67 million you will get 1.5 million false positives

All of which will be reported as "second wave cases".
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Mick Harper
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In: London
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Most valuable insofar as I followed it. Bite-size is best, Borry, but I appreciate you were appealing over our heads. What I have taken away from this whole business is that the ordinary individual is seldom affected by a) a stupid government or b) stupid academics, but this has been something of a perfect storm.
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Mick Harper
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At last! Someone who espouses our position made it onto the tail end of Newsnight. Unfortunately she had zero communication skills and won't be invited back but the point is she's there plus Emily clearly sympathised with her view, as well as alluding to the way the poor woman was being treated by her 'colleagues'. One of whom was across the studio, ridiculing her position. "Would we let smallpox or polio be left untreated?"

Only the first stormy petrel but a sign that sanity is only a little way over the horizon. On second thoughts...
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Chad


In: Ramsbottom
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If there were actually zero covid-19 infections in the U.K. and the entire population was tested, assuming a 98% (in line with current estimates) specificity, we would see 1.2 million false 'positive' cases... (Or testing 100,000 per day would throw up 2,000 false positives, daily.) A lot of these false positives are triggered by related viruses, such as those responsible for a significant proportion of common colds.

If you inform people with heavy colds that they have tested positive for covid-19, you will undoubtedly induce a nocebo effect, leading many to develop worsening symptoms that would require hospitalisation. I'm not sure how many people could actually 'nocebo' themselves to death, but more testing will inevitably lead to more hospital admissions.
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Mick Harper
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My first encounter with the word.* Can an entire country suffer from it?

* I am shocked, Mr Harper, shocked! (Ed)
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Mick Harper
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This Newsnight academic I was waxing about, Sunetra Gupta, was the subject of a Times Higher Ed article the other day. I'm not a subscriber so the only bit I could read was this, which was enough

Oxford epidemiologist and lockdown critic says ‘puritanical’ criticism of idea of herd immunity has chilled legitimate scientific and policy debate

I think 'chilled' is academese for 'run out of town on a rail'.
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Chad


In: Ramsbottom
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Placebo, nocebo, hypnosis, mass hysteria... some people are more susceptible than others.
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Hatty
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In: Berkshire
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The toxic herd immunity concept seems to be working well if Sweden is anything to go by. Lewis Goodall, the brightest star in Newsnight's firmament, put up a graph showing the progress if that's the right word of Covid in European countries and Sweden was right at the bottom, i.e. few if any (numbers weren't given) Covid deaths. Sweden was chilled out of the discussion, not spoken of even once. It's as if the country went so far out on a limb that it doesn't count.
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Ishmael


In: Toronto
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Yes. But I think the real question is whether there was ever anything actually there to be of any concern. We may as well be debating the development of herd immunity from the cooties.
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Mick Harper
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Ishmael, I wish I could say you merely grow tiresome. We grasped the fact some time ago you think there is no such thing as sliced bread, only bread that has to be sliced before it can be eaten; we are all agreed that it is not something that people should be 'concerned' about. The point Hatty was making is that Sweden (a country in Europe, for your information) decided not to go in for lockdown and other extravagancies, and seems to have flourished on such unusual medicine.

Except her real point, she being an Applied Epistemologist, was that Sweden was being subjected to careful ignoral. Now make a cryptic comment about that. Preferably involving President Trump, a neighbour and hero of yours.
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Ishmael


In: Toronto
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I'm in complete agreement with all of that.
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