Comprehensive Evaluation of the COVID-19 Threat: How Afraid Should We Be?
I believe this article to be the most comprehensive objective analysis of the facts surrounding the COVID-19 threat that are both being reported and not being reported to the public in the media.
I encourage you to investigate the sources cited in this article, and (politely) refute as and when necessary. I am open to change my view based on evidence. Criticality is to have an open mind. I also encourage you to share and republish (link to this article), and I will answer every comment.
Our individual and global reaction to the events unfolding could well be the defining moment that determines humanity’s direction for years to come. More than ever, we need a pandemic of critical thinkers. Translations welcome. Contact
Article Last Updated: 5th April 2020
With the outbreak and spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus strain SARS-CoV-2), worry and fear are spreading. The economy is severely under threat, as is our health, and it seems with it so is everyone’s way of life.
People are emptying the shelves at supermarkets, locked-down in their homes, and find themselves immersed in a global panic about the overriding uncertainty as the coronavirus pandemic spreads around the world.
The news is giving us live updates of the infected, reporting on the risks of touching objects and going outside, sharing projections of upcoming increased fatalities, publishing photos of people meeting up in groups and requesting we report people, and there is talk of the military policing the streets in the weeks to come.
It is often argued that we should leave it to the experts to give us the truth. This is in actuality a nonsensical argument when we consider the simple fact that journalists are not experts in this topic, but share the facts we need to know.
As a UK university tutor of Critical English for Academic Purposes (CEAP) with 23 years experience developing skills in criticality, I know full-well the importance of questioning controversial topics. In fact, there is a global need for more critical thinking.
Accepting what we are told without questioning the information at all is the opposite of criticality. It is blind faith. It is putting our ability to make informed decisions in the hands of someone else.
Everyone can critically think. Criticality is looking at the information we have been given, seeing if it holds up to scrutiny by cross-examining what we’ve been told with opposing sources, and then seeing what the most likely conclusion is once we’ve considered the reliability and validity of all the information.
So I decided to ask the question: how afraid should we actually be?
Or to put it in more academic terms:
To what extent is the threat of coronavirus strain SARS-CoV-2 being exaggerated
(or not) through media fearmongering?
Motivated reasoning is the long established phenomenon studied in cognitive science and social psychology that shows we tend to make decisions based on our emotions rather than decisions that accurately reflect the evidence.
It is also common knowledge that the media we absorb shape our emotions which in turn shapes our perceptions of social problems; thus influencing our beliefs and behaviour.
At the same time, the use of tabloidisation, sensationalism and negativity bias by the media has been shown to have incredibly detrimental effects on public health and is well-documented in scientific research.
Read more: here
It also well-documented that negative news stories can cause psychological distress, anxiety and irrationality.
Read more: here
It is because of these facts that I decided to investigate the coronavirus threat and potential fear-mongering for myself.
Research 1/4: General Risk
A newly released Oxford University modelling of the coronavirus suggests that about 68% of the UK population ma have already been infected with the virus by 19th March 2020, with the proportion of the population at risk of severe disease being “around 0.1%.”
The same model puts the proportion of the population at risk of severe disease in Italy at around 1%, with approximately 60% to 64% of the population having already been exposed.
If the Oxford study is correct, that means that 0.1 percent of those infected in the UK and 1 percent of those infected in Italy require hospital treatment.
It also means that most people have the virus in their system already, with an overwhelming majority showing very minor symptoms to none at all.
This also makes any type of proposed vaccination completely unnecessary for most people.
The Oxford team are now working with the universities of Cambridge and Kent to test people for antibodies; in other words, to see if people are already fighting the virus themselves.
It should be noted, as the Guardian newspaper points out, “Models based on assumptions in the absence of data can be over-speculative and ‘open to gross over-interpretation.’”
The article also points to the fact that the British government used a flawed 13-year old model from Imperial College to build its strategy for dealing with the virus in the first place.
As a BBC article explains about the Imperial College model, “what is not clear – because the modellers did not map this – is to what extent the deaths would have happened without coronavirus” due to already underlying poor health.
In other words, the argument is that models make assumptions, and therefore models cannot be trusted.
So I investigated further, and I discovered that there is a plethora of evidence that:
The panic being created is not justified by the actually threat, and in actuality making the situation much much worse.
Medical doctors wrote in a March 26th editorial for The New England Journal of Medicine:
If one assumes that the number of asymptomatic or minimally symptomatic cases is several times as high as the number of reported cases, the case fatality rate may be considerably less than 1%. This suggests that the overall clinical consequences of Covid-19 may ultimately be more akin to those of a severe seasonal influenza (which has a case fatality rate of approximately 0.1%) or a pandemic influenza (similar to those in 1957 and 1968) rather than a disease similar to SARS or MERS, which have had case fatality rates of 9 to 10% and 36%, respectively.
Prof. Dr. Sucharit Bhakdi, who headed the Institute for Medical Microbiology and Hygiene at Johannes Gutenburg University in Mainz, Germany, for 22 years and is one of the most internationally respected infectiologists and most cited medical researchers in Germany, explains in a German interview that most infected people do not become seriously ill; though older people with pre-existing conditions, especially the lungs and heart, can be seriously at risk.
In a further video, he explains to the German public that this virus, for the vast majority of people, is not serious.
Go to settings, CC and auto-translate to view subtitles in English.
Dr. Wolfgang Wodarg is a renowned German internist, pulmonologist, and a former member of German Parliament who was involved in the German Enquete-Kommissionen Ethics and Law of Modern Medicine. He was also Deputy Chairman of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and Chairman of the Subcommittee on Health.
In the video below (already subtitled in English) he explains that every year there are about 100 different new types of virus because viruses are changing constantly, the coronavirus has always been part of that mix, you will always find 7% – 15% of the population with coronaviruses every time you do a test because the viruses are so common, and up until COVID-19 this was not considered to be of public concern.
He continues that the maximum mortality rate for seasonal flu is 0.1%, and the data so far suggest COVID-19 is much less dangerous than this, concluding that nothing is actually happening out of the ordinary right now, and sharing his opinion on how this unnecessary panic has come about.
A study entitled “SARS-CoV-2: fear versus data” published on March 19th 2020 by Aix Marseille Université and the Institut Hospitalo-universitaire Méditerranée Infection in Marseille, France, has also found that compared to the already existing circulating coronaviruses that infect millions of people each year, and considering the fact that 2.6 million people die of respiratory infections each year, “The problem of SARS-CoV-2 is probably overestimated.”
Professor Peter C. Gøtzsche, a Danish specialist in internal medicine who has worked for two years at a department of infectious diseases, published in the BMJ on March 8th 2020 that “we are victims of mass panic” and expands on this further in a more recent blog post.
Meanwhile, any articles, posts, commentaries or videos from experts and journalists who have something different to say on this topic than the mainstream narrative are becoming victims of widespread online censorship.
Collective Evolution, an independent news media outlet, report on this in an article about Dr. Ron Paul and in an insightful video on the current measures being taken against journalism, criticality and free speech below.
Dr. Bodo Schiffmann, an otolaryngologist in Germany, has been very outspoken about the unnecessary panic. His videos are also being removed from YouTube, such as this one here (click here for more on online censorship).
In one video (still available), Dr. Schiffmann points to an article in German from Swiss Propaganda Research (SPR), “an independent nonprofit research group investigating geopolitical propaganda in Swiss and international media.”
The article presents copious amounts of data demonstrating that:
The virus is not anywhere near as dangerous as the media is presenting, and the overreaction to it is creating more unnecessary deaths than the virus itself.
I highly recommend right clicking on this article and translating it into English. It is being continually updated, and everything stated in the article is supported with links to the relevant sources. Highlights include:
- Italian immunology professor Sergio Romagnani of the University of Florence concludes in a study of 3000 people that 50 to 75% of those who tested positive with COVID-19 of all ages remain completely symptom-free.
- A new epidemiological study concludes that the fatality of COVID-19 even in the Chinese city of Wuhan was only 0.04% to 0.12% and is therefore rather lower than that of seasonal flu, whose fatality is around 0.1%.
- Based on data from the cruise ship Diamond Princess, Stanford professor John Ioannidis and a Japanese study show lethality of COVID-19 is 0.025% to 0.625%, and 48% remained symptom free despite the high average age.
- Most media incorrectly report that Italy has up to 800 deaths from the corona virus per day. In reality, the President of Italian Civil Protection emphasises that the deaths are “with the coronavirus and not due to the coronavirus.”
- The Italian National Health Institute (ISS) reports that 80% of fatalities had two or more chronic medical conditions; at most 0.8% of the deceased had no chronic previous illnesses.
- According to the latest European monitoring report, all-cause mortality in all countries and in all age groups has so far been in the normal range or below.
- For the healthy general population at school and working age, according to all previous knowledge of COVID-19, a mild to moderate course can be expected.
- A hospital doctor in the Spanish city of Málaga writes that people in her hospital are currently more likely to die of panic and system collapse than of the virus, and that her hospital is overrun by people with colds and flu.
Meanwhile, German media outlet Welt reports that in France, hospitals are so hopelessly overloaded that medics are selecting who should be treated based on their chance of survival, and actively helping the oldest patients to die.
In the USA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has introduced an online chat bot to help people determine the severity of their symptoms because hospitals are overrun with people wondering whether they have the virus or not.
Evidence the pandemic is not serious goes on and on. But what does all this mean? What is the risk? Who is at risk?
Research 2/4: Individual Risk
At this point I did not feel comfortable coming to any conclusion on the actual threat to people’s health before investigating the official data on how contagious COVID-19 is.
We know both COVID-19 and seasonal acute respiratory disease (which includes influenza A and influenza B) are contagious viruses that can cause severe respiratory illness and death.
Clearly these viruses are a high risk to the lives of anyone with a weaker immune system due to chronic illness or age.
Furthermore, the coronavirus seems to be more contagious than seasonal flu.
According to the CDC, the virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person, and primarily by those who are most symptomatic (the sickest). As for catching COVID-19 from objects, the CDC continues:
It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.
The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment expands on this further:
There are currently no cases which have shown any evidence of humans being infected with the new type of coronavirus by another method, such as via the consumption of contaminated food or via contact with contaminated articles. There are also no known reports for other coronaviruses about infections due to food or contact with dry surfaces. Transmission via surfaces which have recently been contaminated with viruses is, nonetheless, possible through smear infections. However, this is only likely to occur during a short period after contamination, due to the relatively low stability of coronaviruses in the environment.
It should also be noted that influenza has caused an estimated 22,000 deaths this season in the USA alone according to the CDC, with the average flu deaths worldwide ranging between 291,000 to 646,000 worldwide.
Flu mortality in the USA reached a high of 56,000 deaths during the 2012-2013 flu season, and during the 2017-2018 flu season, The Office of National Statistics reported more than 50,000 deaths in England and Wales alone.
Compare these figures to COVID-19 deaths so far.
In fact, during the UK 2018 flu outbreak, Public Health England (PHE) declared that “while flu was rendering the largest number of people seriously unwell since the winter of 2010/11, it was still not an epidemic.”
The evidence reviewed so far collectively states that while the coronavirus is possibly more contagious than seasonal flu, the chances of dying from COVID-19 are lower than dying from flu, most people remain symptom free, and lethality is limited to those who have other chronic illnesses already.
The evidence also suggests that the number of people dying overall is about the same as normal for this time of year; we are just receiving a day by day report of it.
Finally, it suggests it is extremely unlikely that a person will catch the virus from a surface or food; plus many hospitals around the world can’t cope because they are overrun, in part, with panicked people.
How much of the media is focused on this sobering information?
Research 3/4: Irrational Risk
Don’t get me wrong. My own mother is in the very high risk group – she is almost 70, and she has fibromyalgia, a weakened heart and weakened lungs.
So she is doing the most sensible thing she can. She’s staying at home, having food delivered to the house, and (hopefully) getting out in the back garden every day for some fresh air and daylight. (mum!)
The risk is real. But there is still no need for her to panic. Why?
Because, as the UK government website itself now states:
COVID-19 is no longer considered to be a high consequence infectious diseases (HCID) because more information is available about mortality rates (low overall).
At the same time, the race is still on to find a vaccine, and the assessment of safety in animals before human trials is being bypassed to speed up the process which could be severely more harmful to humans.
In other words, the irrational global panic has arguably become more contagious than the virus itself:
“You get corona in your nose and lungs, not shooting out your arse.” ~ Sammy J
It is well documented in the scientific literature (PDF) that stress impairs memory, cognition and learning, causes gastrointestinal complications, AND impairs immune system and cardiovascular system response, and “particularly in older or unhealthy individuals.”
In other words, a narrative of panic and fear only increases the risk of illness, and a narrative of doom and gloom makes us ill. Again, the scientific evidence for this is overwhelming.
Now. It might be argued that this article makes light of the tens of thousands of people who are dying. Not at all.
IT IS A MASSIVE TRAGEDY!
And even more reason to acknowledge how the chosen narrative presented in the media influences our behaviour. So that we do not exacerbate the situation. Because this global panic we’re witnessing is scientifically completely expected when an overactive flight or fight response is activated by ongoing high level stress caused by a narrative of fear, doom and gloom.
In other words – when people are fed only fear, they panic:
Research 4/4: Global Risk
No research on the potential threat of COVID-19 and media fear-mongering would be complete without touching on the more conspiratorial aspect of this controversial topic.
Much more concern for me than the conspiracy theories themselves is the fact that mainstream media will not touch upon any facts that suggest potential conspiracy. From an academic perspective, this causes a serious problem, as certain facts are instantly dismissed that could be crucial to building a full picture about a particular topic.
In psychology, the decision to reject, explain away, or avoid new information because it challenges our worldview is called cognitive dissonance, and it is a major hindrance to criticality. Critical thinking simply cannot take place if certain information is ignored outright.
For example, as the search continues for the cause of the coronavirus, there are scientists and doctors who point to the fact that Wuhan became the first 5G blanketed city in China just prior to the outbreak as evidence.
Mainstream media ignore this fact. CNET, for example, write that 5G didn’t cause the coronavirus pandemic because “Radio waves don’t create viruses” and COVID-19 is spread person-to-person, “not by radio waves.”
British broadcasters face sanctions from the media regulator if they give airtime to, as the Gaurdian claims, “Baseless suggestions that coronavirus is linked to 5G.”
Censorship and non-investigative reporting are exactly what non-criticality is.
In a document to the Washington State Department of Health as far back as 2014, Dr. Martin Pall of Washington State University expressed his concerns that “some 20,000 papers on microwave biological effects show that the current international safety standards do not predict biological hazard.”
In a March 2020 document, he explains that “Five downstream effects produced following EMF exposures have important roles in causing coronavirus infections.”
5G is being rolled out globally; hundreds of experts have appealed to the United Nations. Studies already show 5G can cause cell mutation, affect the properties and activity of bacteria, and the hypothesis therefore is that 5G may have caused a biomedical effect that spawned the virus.
The man speaking in the video above is Dr. Thomas Cowan. Former vice president of the Physicians Association for Anthroposophical Medicine, and a founding board member of the Weston A. Price Foundation.
Read more: here
I also discovered that on October 18th 2019, the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, the World Economic Forum and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation hosted Event 201, a global high-level pandemic exercise.
Meanwhile, the Chinese government question whether the U.S. Army may have intentionally released the coronavirus in China during the 7th CISM Military World Games, which took place in Wuhan exactly at the same time as Event 21.
And on November 15th 2019, the CDC posted job vacancies for Public Health Advisors to operate their Quarantine Program in 37 cities around the country.
All these events took place before the outbreak in Wuhan at the end of December 2019, and that raises valid questions. Is every one of them just a coincidence?
Interesting from a criticality perspective because the infamous global conspiracy theory is that some people at the top of the wealth pyramid know about global events before they happen.
Relevant to the focus of this piece – to what extent has the threat of COVID-19 been exaggerated through media fear-mongering – because the consolidation of media means a few people have huge influence on public perception.
Ben Bagdikian, Pulitzer-prize winning journalist and former Dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at UC Berkeley described the media as a “cartel” that wield enough influence to change political direction and define social values.
Brian Rose founded London Real “as an antidote to the numbing effects of mainstream media.”
In a serious interview with one of the world’s pre-eminent conspiracy theorists, David Icke, the possible purpose of the coronavirus reaction is discussed. Icke concludes that the 1% wish to cause intentional panic and economic collapse, ultimately to bring about a technology-enforced global police state.
Criticality means being willing to consider all arguments and how they hold up to scrutiny.
This leads nicely to the final undiscussed aspect of this evaluation; namely is the shutting down of the world economy through social distancing, self-quarantine and an enforced lockdown justified considering the actual threat of the virus?
This article has evaluated a variety of evidence which, for the most part, is not being presented by the media as part of the mainstream narrative, in order to assess to what extent the threat of COVID-19 (coronavirus strain SARS-CoV-2) is being exaggerated through media fear-mongering. Or in less academic terms, how afraid should we actually be?
The World Health Organisation back in February 2020 released a report that “Most people infected with COVID-19 virus have mild disease and recover.”
At that time, the main concern was that the coronavirus is more contagious than the flu because COVID-19 is a new strain that people had never had before. This meant that the fatality rates could be overestimated or underestimated.
It was therefore the responsibility of the media to keep people calm by conveying balanced information to the public.
Can we say that the media did this?
It is not the goal of mainstream media to keep people calm. Media want viewers and readers, and to ensure they get them, they use tabloidisation, sensationalism and negativity bias to draw people in.
Mainstream media create headlines and content that evoke a visceral response (emotional, not intellectual) because objectivity does not encourage people to share their content.
Alternative and independent media are no less guilty of this practice; it is just that the mainstream media have more responsibility because they reach the homes of the vast population and shape the narrative that most people believe.
If we summarise all sources and data collated for this article, it can be posited based on the facts:
- The coronavirus seems to be no more dangerous than seasonal flu, if not less so.
- The number of deaths for this time of year is no more than usual.
- It is extremely unlikely that a person will catch the virus from a surface or food.
- About half of those infected remain symptom free; the majority have mild to moderate symptoms at worst.
- The vast majority of mortality is people dying with the virus, not because of the virus.
- The virus is no longer considered a high consequence infectious disease due to low mortality rates.
- Many hospitals are overrun with panicked people suffering from colds and flu.
- A narrative of fear focused on doom and gloom creates irrational panic which exacerbates social problems, physical and mental health problems, increasing the risk of infection.
- COVID-19 is possibly more contagious than the seasonal flu, and people with a weak immune system due to chronic illness or age are high risk, as with any virus.
- The lockdown measures bringing business around the world to a halt may be much more damaging for people’s health and way of life now and in the long run.
A much more rational and objective take on this virus would be:
- to protect the elderly and vulnerable by asking them to stay self-quarantined at home, and provide free healthy food to build up the immune system directly to their homes.
(see WHO recommendations).
- to keep the general public calm with THE FACT that there is only a TINY PERCENTAGE OF RISK for the vast majority, so that people don’t overwhelm themselves, and hospitals, unnecessarily.
- to avoid unnecessary contact, keep a distance, not hang out in groups and stay away from your sick mum (the elderly or people with chronic diseases) just as would be expected with any contagious virus like flu.
- to keep businesses open and instead spend all the money that is currently being spent on keeping people economically afloat on the vulnerable, and on optimising and expanding hospitals and health care services.
(see WHO recommendations).
- to fine media outlets that induce fear, and have the media instead provide accurate advice on how to improve the immune system through diet and lifestyle.
We need a pandemic of critical thinkers.
I understand the conclusion of this article is most controversial. It goes against the mainstream narrative and will be considered by some as irresponsible, but it is an objective conclusion, not an emotional one, based on the facts.
As unbelievable at it seems, the evidence simply suggests that nothing out of the ordinary is going on.
The evidence also suggests only 1% (to as low as 0.025%) of the population are at risk, and the negative consequences on everyone’s physical and mental health from long-term economic shut down, social distancing, self-quarantine and enforced lockdown heavily out way the risk to this vulnerable low percentage.
We who are adults need to be exactly that: adults. Not spread panic or rumours.
In a nutshell, those with a weak immune system and/or chronic illness do need to take sensible precautions by staying self-quarantined away from other people for a while, and boost their immune system with health and nutrition.
Those with a healthy immune system and no underlying health conditions have nothing to be afraid of, as the COVID-19 threat is minuscule; though you may wish to focus on the governments’ sudden change of heart instead.
Lest we forget that when the global economy collapsed in 2008, governments helped the world’s banks and let the global masses suffer – through loss of savings, home loss and years of austerity measures.
In times of global crisis, the political view has always been that it is justified to sacrifice the few for the greater good.
I absolutely support transforming this broken economic system into something new that ensures the safety and welfare of all, including the elderly, weak and frail.
However, while the decision to sacrifice the global economy to protect the few seems very admirable, this suggests that governments have suddenly become altruistic. The problem is, I find this very hard to believe.
We have to ask ourselves what the consequences are going to be of closing the global economy. Small businesses will collapse. Debt and poverty will increase. And what measures will be implemented to ensure our safety?
Limiting travel? Making all money digital? Enforcing vaccinations? Increasing mass surveillance for our safety?
We may also wish to remember that after the 9/11 attacks, there were no hidden underground caves or weapons of massive destruction. We have air pollution, water pollution, soil pollution, and secret mass surveillance. Who are the people advising our presidents and prime ministers, and can we trust our governments to make the right decisions?
I think if we get to the part of the curve … when it goes down to essentially no new cases, no new deaths at a period of time, I think it makes sense that you will have to relax social distancing.
If the USA will only come out of lockdown once there are no new cases or deaths; that would mean never.
What is certain is that this is the first time in any of our lifetimes that we have seen mass panic on a global scale brought about to a significant degree by the way the media is reporting the facts.
Yes the media is fear-mongering. Fear leads to irrational action, also known as panic. When we are in a state of panic, we look outside of ourselves for someone to save us. We need to be the hero ourselves.
It is therefore essential to develop the skills of criticality and wellness. Change the way we engage in our thinking, and we change the way we feel about the world and see things. That way as we see events unfolding before us, we can act rationally and make the most healthful decisions.
Thus, there is a massive positive to this situation.
Without work, and without so many external distractions, millions of people have the opportunity to reassess what is important. We have the time to look inside ourselves. To let go of the external story and dream again.
What do we want to do? What do we want to feel? What do we want our world to look like?
In these uncertain times, we need to be emotionally prepared for what’s coming next. I would go as far as to say that the most beneficial thing anyone can do to begin improving health and wellness is to turn off the TV – I am serious.
You will still hear about the big important global events. Trust me. I did.
Note: My mission is to increase criticality and wellness. Let’s get the message out there that we need to stop handing over our beliefs and perceptions to media that thrive on psychological distress, anxiety and irrational fear, and start thinking critically for ourselves. We can begin by turning off the TV. This article does not substitute medical professional advice. Please share this post with your followers.
Added 5th April 2020
A February 2020 study of more than 44,000 coronavirus patients from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention found that 80.9% of coronavirus cases are mild, the overall case fatality rate was 2.3%, and patients who reported no pre-existing “comorbid” medical conditions had a case fatality rate of 0.9%.
Although the case fatality rate here is higher (2.3% not 1% or less), this data further suggests that COVID-19 itself does not cause fatality; rather it compromises people who already have a greatly-compromised immune system.
This a wake up call for all of us about the health risks associated with poor diet and lifestyle. We already knew that 71% of all deaths globally and 77% of diseases in Europe are because of our own lifestyle choices.
A chronicle of the first 104 deaths in the UK further demonstrates that most people are dying with severe pre-existing underlying health conditions. This information does not refute, but rather reinforces, this articles conclusion.
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