by Amy Jones
Friday, 14
May 2021
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08:03

The focus on Covid variants is becoming an obsession

There are too many pessimistic warnings about the potential for catastrophe
by Amy Jones
Leave it to the experts…

It is tempting to feel sorry for SAGE, given the criticism they receive from all sides. This week, the fuss is over a meeting they called regarding the B.1.617.2 variant of the coronavirus (among other matters).

Normally such a meeting would be unremarkable. After all, SAGE exists to advise the Government on unfolding developments. It is entirely routine and proper for them to meet when a new variant arises. But against the backdrop of loosening restrictions and plans to drop compulsory face coverings in schools from the 17th May, the meeting was taken by some as a sign that this progress might be halted or reversed.

Doubtless, had SAGE not met, they’d have been accused of ignoring the situation. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

But the interest came from the latest obsession in the Covid story: variants. The fact is that variants are inevitable. For as long as SARS-CoV-2 exists, there will always be mutations, and as long as there are mutations, there will be new variants. Short of eradicating Covid from the globe — the likelihood of which Chris Whitty has described as “close to zero” — there is the potential for some of these variants to spread.

The question then, is how do we respond? Like Kent variant (B.1.1.7), the emergence of its cousin, B.1.617.2, is subject of dramatic headlines. There are comment pieces and vox pops declaring that their existence justifies ongoing restrictions and indefinite border closures. When will this end? As I say, there will always be a new variant around the corner.

What has gained comparatively little attention is the fact that neither variant has shown evidence of having a complete vaccine escape mutation. Vaccines continue to offer strong protection against serious illness and death. In this country, nearly 70% of people over the age of 18 have had received at least one jab, and 35% have had two. Hospitalisations and deaths have plummeted.

At the end of an achingly long year — during which rates of depression have doubled, we need to question if this constant fixation on new variants is helpful or productive. Of course, the public should be kept informed, but many of the discussions around variants consist of pessimistic warnings about the endless potential for catastrophe, interspersed with impenetrable technical detail. Do most people really need to know about the finer points of an E484K mutation on vaccine efficacy?

Perhaps this is a rare example of where more information is not always a good thing — public interest would be better served by returning analysis of Covid variants back to the lab.

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Alex Camm
Alex Camm
1 year ago

The use of fear of which this focus on ‘mutants’ is part, to contain this epidemic will have long term effects on the health and wealth of this country and others that may not ever be properly measured.
Let’s hope the enquiry will question the effectiveness of NPR’s and not just accept that lockdown is the correct method of dealing with future pandemics.
The bereaved of COVID deaths should not take priority over those who have lost loved ones through the effects of lockdown

andrew harman
andrew harman
1 year ago
Reply to  Alex Camm

Yes there must be no assumption that lockdown, whenever it was times, was necessarily the best way to deal with it. All aspects of policy must be open to scrutiny. Still I get the feeling that will not be the case

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
1 year ago
Reply to  andrew harman

Lockdown was a crime against humanity, but the thing is, the ones who did it are the ones who are in charge of the ‘Justice System’.

Just imagine if the defeated Tojo and the Na* ie s had been in charge of the post WWII War Crime Trials – No one would have been judged guilty. Well our Politicos lost the covid war like the insane Bush Officials lost the Iraq Peace, but neither will get blamed as they are in charge.

andrew harman
andrew harman
1 year ago

The newspapers – from both sides of the spectrum – must take a large share of the responsibility. The Telegraph yesterday referred to the SAGE meeting as an “emergency” one when in fact it was routine. The Mirror had something about Britain being “plunged into fresh crisis” They really need to be held accountable.

Geoffrey Simon Hicking
Geoffrey Simon Hicking
1 year ago
Reply to  andrew harman

They never will. “WE SPEAK FOR BRITAIN” they’ll say, puffing their chests out. Try and criticise them, and they’ll just go “I don’t know about that, but THE PUBLIC HAVE A RIGHT TO KNOW”. There is no shame, or contrition, or reflection. It’s been that way since embellished India mutiny stories, or Northcliffe bullying Asquith, or Princess Diana(TM). Newspaper barons can do what they like, and then they’ll get a knighthood.

andrew harman
andrew harman
1 year ago

True – they have been a disgrace for years but if there is ever talk of holding them to any kind of account they just scream CENSORSHIP! All are as bad as each other.
The BBC / Sky etc are have been little better.

Joe Smith
Joe Smith
1 year ago
Reply to  andrew harman

Even the BBC effectively follows the “if it bleeds it leads” approach even before the pandemic.

Last edited 1 year ago by Joe Smith
Fiona Archbold
Fiona Archbold
1 year ago
Reply to  andrew harman

I cancelled my subscription to the Telegraph a couple of months into the pandemic. That’s the only way to hold journalists accountable for us ordinary people who don’t have a platform to misinform from.

Bella OConnell
Bella OConnell
1 year ago
Reply to  Fiona Archbold

Another Avenue is to write an email in response to the Telegraph’s Planet Normal podcast. For those who are not familiar, the two journalists on it are highly critical of all the covid propaganda and their journalist counterparts. My complete sanity check every Thursday!

kathleen carr
kathleen carr
1 year ago
Reply to  Bella OConnell

Newspapers have received qiute a lot of money from the government and elsewhere , so will broadly support any further lockdown measures. However they seem to be publishing dissenting voices-possibly to cover all the different range of readership? Bill Gates still wants lockdown until end next year , so I presume we will have 18 months of varient strains to contend with.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
1 year ago
Reply to  kathleen carr

The MSM is OWNED by the New World Order, and destroying the middle class, and creating a globalism of poverty is their goal. They have won every battle since Nov 2016. It is Impossible anyone sane would think the MSM and Social Media are for the ‘Good’ of humanity!

kathleen carr
kathleen carr
1 year ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

I agree with you but a lot of people are of the hope over experience frame of mind. They prefer fantasy to fact & nothing anyone says will change their mind.

Fennie Strange
Fennie Strange
1 year ago
Reply to  Fiona Archbold

I hope you wrote telling them what you have done and why.

Joe Smith
Joe Smith
1 year ago
Reply to  andrew harman

The media has always been to some extent an enemy of good sense and reliable information. I class them as partly responsible for deaths during the pandemic by scaring people into not going to hospital for other serious conditions.

Fran Martinez
Fran Martinez
1 year ago

The whole covid story has been an obsession based of fear mongering. Any virus mutates, this one has been doing it from the beginning. Variants are just the only bogeyman left when hospitals are completely empty and the infection rate is so low.
The media obsession with variants is just the proof that they don’t want to let this go. Scared people read articles and click ads.

Susan
Susan
1 year ago
Reply to  Fran Martinez

Fran Martinez: Yes! Got it in a nutshell!

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
1 year ago
Reply to  Fran Martinez

Fran, Please wear a Mask wile in discussion with us here. You never heard of a ‘Computer Virus’? Well this latest one is the new block-chain covid-19, and masks need to be worn when ever using a phone or on line. This just out from SAGE and the CDC!!!!!!!!!!! Mask and be safe!

Elizabeth W
Elizabeth W
1 year ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

And sadly, some people will actually do it.

Ernest DuBrul
Ernest DuBrul
1 year ago
Reply to  Fran Martinez

Ms. Martinez–
I like Dr. Eric Topol’s term scariants.

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/15/well/live/covid-variants-vaccine.html

Elizabeth W
Elizabeth W
1 year ago
Reply to  Ernest DuBrul

Hey, a perfect term – ‘scariants’ – that sums it up perfectly.

Malcolm Ripley
Malcolm Ripley
1 year ago

It’s more than just variants that are the problem. It’s the idea that a viral infection rises and falls due to some human intervention. Maybe it could, but when it comes to respiratory illness the time of year has a much greater influence!. We also have lots of countries and US states where we can compare different scenarios and outcomes.
Vaccines were rolled out en-masse in dec-feb lo and behold cases , deaths fell…..but exactly the same pattern is seen every year with flu and for that matter the various (very mild) Coronovirus strains EVERY GODDAM YEAR. It is exceptionally annoying to see all the studies, patterns and evolved pandemic planning for decades and decades pre 2020, thrown out of the window or ignored.
This has either been done on purpose for some other reason OR we have an incompetent group of people in charge who are too arrogant to admit “we got it wrong last March”.

Jim McNeillie
Jim McNeillie
1 year ago
Reply to  Malcolm Ripley

More likely the latter. Health researchers, psychologists, historians, sociologists, political scientists and economists will have unlimited time to analyze what we did to ourselves; the events and decisions are recorded in exquisite detail.

Chris Milburn
Chris Milburn
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim McNeillie

I agree with exquisite detail, but not with exquisite accuracy. As a physician who fills out death certificates, from which much of the data will come from, I can say with certainty it will all be a mess that will be very hard to sort out in a meaningful way. Did the 87 year old with dementia, renal failure, a bedsore, diabetes, 3 previous heart attacks, and diabetes die of COVID? Yup – the death certificate says so.

Elizabeth W
Elizabeth W
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris Milburn

That is also the problem. Signing death certificates indicating covid when it wasn’t what they actually died from. Something sinister going on.

Elizabeth W
Elizabeth W
1 year ago
Reply to  Malcolm Ripley

Well said. I think this has been done for some other reason and that we also have an incompetent group of people in charge who will not admit any fault. They have no way to back out of this mess.

Jeff Carr
Jeff Carr
1 year ago

Every virus mutates. The key question should be – does it cause more deaths and hospitalization in the vaccinated.
If it does then the vaccine needs improvements.
Every year the flu vaccine is updated to reflect mutations.
The focus should remain on deaths and hospitalization not case numbers. If we had this level of testing and reporting for influenza in the past we would be panicking every year.

Kremlington Swan
Kremlington Swan
1 year ago

Never mind SAGE, I would like to see a report from a body of reputable scientists on the efficacy of mask wearing and lockdown strategy.
My guess is that they make as close to zero difference as makes no difference, but I am prepared to be proven wrong.

I have no words to describe Johnson. I have tried all the ones I know and I am still not even close (I thought of ‘blond man speak with ten forked tongues’ the other day, but although I was momentarily pleased with myself it still doesn’t adequately describe him, and, in any case, I may have entirely misjudged him). Does he want to lock us down, or does he not? Will he/won’t he? But it’s like asking whether a cat wants to kill a mouse it is playing with. Who the hell knows? The cat, that’s who, and it’s not telling. You just have to wait and see.

John Wilkes
John Wilkes
1 year ago

Masks, as all previous research has shown have no significant impact as a barrier on viral transmission (bacterial yes, but not viral). They are useful when a surgeon stands over an open wound for obvious reasons, which is why they are called surgical masks.
However, they are very effective at preventing spread of disease for 3 primary reasons;
a) They reduce the occasions which people go out and mix. Shopping is less pleasant so many people order online instead, which also leaves shops less crowded.
b) When people interact with each other, conversations are shorter as many people find talking to a mask rather than a face unpleasant. People are also far less likely to hug a masked friend or stand too close when speaking.
c) They maintain an atmosphere of terror, by not allowing people to forget for a second that they must be afraid and go home as soon as possible.
Between them, these factors are quite effective as they make people behave in a less natural and human way. Of course, this cannot be admitted as Psy Ops only work when people don’t realise that their behaviour is being modified by a Government nudge unit.

Johnny Rottenborough
Johnny Rottenborough
1 year ago

The Salk Institute, 30 April:
‘…a major new study shows that the virus spike proteins (which behave very differently than those safely encoded by vaccines) also play a key role in the disease itself…researchers created a “pseudovirus” that was surrounded by SARS-CoV-2 classic crown of spike proteins, but did not contain any actual virus. Exposure to this pseudovirus resulted in damage to the lungs and arteries of an animal model—proving that the spike protein alone was enough to cause disease. Tissue samples showed inflammation in endothelial cells lining the pulmonary artery walls.’
Matt Hancock talked this week of ‘the emergence of a mutant strain that makes vaccinated people severely ill’ but, if Salk is correct, it may not be a mutant strain causing the illness but the mRNA vaccines themselves.

Richard Martin
Richard Martin
1 year ago

Sometimes I wonder if all of this is just part of a new type of consumerist push.
Mass immigration to the West was sold as ‘oneworldism’, and getting women to work was sold as ‘feminism’… When in fact both were fairly obvious ways of increasing the workforce to make ‘stuff’ which we all had to have. (It also had the effect of reducing wages, so families need two breadwinners to buy the ‘stuff’, whereas our parents only needed one!)
Instilling fear about health increases reliance on medicine and therapy for ‘mental health’ (whatever that is!), and bingo… A new market for new ‘stuff’ is created and grown.
Perhaps all this decolonisation bollocks is part of a move to make us all into one world-wide polyglot market of consumers who will all buy the same ‘stuff’.

Joerg Beringer
Joerg Beringer
1 year ago

“Hospitalisations and deaths have plummeted.”
As in all other geographically comparable countries with lesser rates of vaccination, lockdowns or masks.
Correlation does not equal causation.
And can never be established here in light of the terrible mixing of strategies without cohort and control groups being monitored and the outright manipulation of most data to suit one’s agenda, see latest CDC Study…

Elizabeth W
Elizabeth W
1 year ago
Reply to  Joerg Beringer

‘They’ will always spin it in their favour of what they are doing, whether it is masks, lockdowns, or experimental jabs. Will the truth ever be told? Unlikely.

Maggie Hay
Maggie Hay
1 year ago

A case in point is the article this morning (15th)by James Gallagher on the BBC website. The worst alarmist language I have read to date. Irresponsible to write it and irresponsible for the BBC to print it. What is to be achieved by it? I will not read or watch any more news until this rubbish is stopped!

Kremlington Swan
Kremlington Swan
1 year ago

If you want to get a sense of dislocation, have a look at the front page of the Telegraph today. There is one article which states that Johnson would secure an even greater majority if a snap election were to be held, and another headline which states scientists admit the deliberate use of fear to control the population was totalitarian.

So there you have it. What use does a despot have for guns and ammunition when he can simply persuade people to vote him the power he so evidently craves?

Last edited 1 year ago by Kremlington Swan
Kremlington Swan
Kremlington Swan
1 year ago

I’ve just been reading the government legislation on covid restrictions. There is a section dealing with face coverings which states that it is a legal requirement to wear them in certain settings, and also explains that these face coverings are necessary because they filter coronavirus particles.

I challenge this because I find it incredible. However, I am a nobody. I would like to see a scientist (or three) formally challenge this.

No, I would go further. I think this is a deliberate lie on the part of the government- a lie which justifies its immediate removal and replacement with a government that is above contempt rather than beneath it. . If this is a lie, and the government remains in office, every single minister who has been party to it should, eventually, end up behind bars.

Last edited 1 year ago by Kremlington Swan
Ernest DuBrul
Ernest DuBrul
1 year ago

A new study by a team of researchers in the UK and US describes the use of a computational tool that generates all possible single amino acid substitutions in SARS-CoV-2 and predicts their effects. …

[S]uch studies can help search and identify the variants that may most probably affect protein function, both those that have been already identified and those that may emerge. The combination of predictions with experimental data on antibody escape mutations helped pick out those variants that were likely to preserve viral fitness but impact antibody binding.
(https://www.news-medical.net/news/20210226/Researchers-develop-new-tool-for-predicting-the-effects-of-SARS-CoV-2-missense-variants.aspx)

With this “early warning system”, you can be sure that Pfizer and Moderna are already preparing effective vaccines against any possible mutational variants that could thwart the current vaccines and become lethal … if such mutations can even exist (“Deep mutational scanning (DMS) on SARS-CoV-2 spike variants showed that harmful mutations had lower viral fitness measurements.”)

Last edited 1 year ago by Ernest DuBrul
Richard Martin
Richard Martin
1 year ago

Sometimes I wonder if all of this is just part of a new type of consumerist push.
Mass immigration to the West was sold as ‘oneworldism’, and getting women to work was sold as ‘feminism’… When in fact both were fairly obvious ways of increasing the workforce to make ‘stuff’ which we all had to have. (It also had the effect of reducing wages, so families need two breadwinners to buy the ‘stuff’, whereas our parents only needed one!)
Instilling fear about health increases reliance on medicine and therapy for ‘mental health’ (whatever that is!), and bingo… A new market for new ‘stuff’ is created and grown.
Perhaps all this decolonisation silliness is part of a move to make us all into one world-wide polyglot market of consumers who will all buy the same ‘stuff’.

James Moss
James Moss
1 year ago

I’m really surprised that someone trained as a doctor would bother to pen this article without first conducting a little basic research as to why this latest “Indian” variant is a source of concern. Check out the latest SAGE minutes for example and see what they say. The Prime Minister seems to think it’s worth having a further look at and you don’t get much more gung ho than him.

There may indeed have been some over-dramatic headlines about it – but the media are rubbish and prone to hyperbole. Some of them are over-scared and some of them consistent Covid-deniers and anti-lockdowners. Each group needs to be taken with a pinch of salt – I thought most people did. I’m placing this article in the latter category.