– by Karina Reiss and Sucharit Bhakdi –
The following excerpt is from Dr. Karina Reiss and Dr. Sucharit Bhakdi’s new book Corona, False Alarm?: Facts and Figures (Chelsea Green Publishing, October 2020) and is reprinted with permission from the publisher. Available wherever books are sold. References appear at end of article.
The situation in Italy, Spain, England and the USA
Since the end of March, one sensation outdid the next: Italy had the most deaths, the fatality rate shocked us to the core; Spain surpassed Italy (in the number of infections); the United Kingdom broke the sad European record, exceeded only by the US. The press delighted in spreading as much terrifying news as humanly possible.
But let us reflect a little. The impact of an epidemic is dependent not only on the intrinsic properties and deadliness of the pathogen but also to a very significant extent on how “fertile” the soil is on which it lands. All reliable figures tell us we are not dealing with a killer virus that will sweep away mankind. So what did happen in those countries from which these dreadful pictures emerged?
Detailed answers to this question must be sought on the ground. Nevertheless, several facts are sufficiently known to warrant mention here. Problems surrounding coronavirus statistics went totally rampant in Italy and Spain. Elsewhere, testing for the virus was generally performed on people with flu-like symptoms and a certain risk of exposure to the virus. At the height of the epidemic in Italy, testing was restricted to severely ill patients upon their admission to the hospital. Illogically, testing was widely performed post-mortem on deceased patients. This resulted in falsely elevated case fatality rates combined with massive underestimates of actual infections (90).
As early as mid-March, the Italian GIMBE (Gruppo Italiano per la Medicina Basata Sulle Evidenze / Italian Evidence-Based Medicine Group) foundation stated that the “degree of severity and lethality rate are largely overestimated, while the lethality rates in Lombardy and the Emilia-Romagna region were largely due to overwhelmed hospitals” (91).
The fact that no distinction was made between “death by” and “death with” coronavirus rendered the situation hopeless. Almost 96 percent of “COVID-19 deaths” in Italian hospitals were patients with pre-existing illnesses. Three quarters suffered from hypertension, more than a third from diabetes. Every third person had a heart condition. As almost everywhere else, the average age was above 80 years. The few people under 50 who died also had severe underlying conditions (41).
The inaccurate method of reporting “coronavirus deaths” naturally spread fear and panic, rendering the general public willing to accept the irrational and excessive preventive measures installed by governments. These turned out to have a paradoxical effect. The number of regular deaths increased substantially over the number of “coronavirus deaths”. The Times reported on April 15: England and Wales have experienced a record number of deaths in a single week, with 6,000 more than average for this time of year. Only half of those extra numbers could perhaps be attributed to the coronavirus (92). There was a well-founded concern that the lockdown may have unintentional but serious consequences for the public’s health (93).
It became increasingly clear that people avoided hospitals even when faced with life-threatening events such as heart attacks because they were afraid of catching the deadly virus. Patients with diabetes or hyper tension were no longer properly treated, tumour patients not adequately tended to.
The UK has always had massive problems with its health care system, medical infrastructure and a shortage of medical personnel (94, 95). Due to Brexit, the UK also lacks urgently needed foreign specialists (96).
Many other countries have problems along the same lines. When the influenza epidemic swept over the world in the winter of 2017/2018, hospitals in the US were overwhelmed, triage tents were erected, operations were cancelled and patients were sent home. Alabama declared a state of emergency (97–99). The situation was little different in Spain, where hospitals just collapsed (100, 101), and in Italy, where intensive care units in large cities ground to a halt (102).
The Italian health care system has been downsizing for years, the number of intensive care beds is much lower than in other European countries. Furthermore, Italy has the highest number of deaths from hospital- acquired infections and antibiotic-resistant bacteria in all of Europe (103).
Also, Italian society is one of the oldest worldwide. Italy has the highest proportion of over 65 year-olds (22.8 percent) in the European Union (104). Add to that the fact that there is a large number of people with chronic lung and heart disease, and we have a much greater number in the “high risk groups” as compared to other countries. In sum, many independent factors come together to create a special case for Italy (105, 106).
Since northern Italy was particularly affected, it would be interesting to ask if environmental factors had an influence on the way things developed there. Northern Italy has been dubbed the China of Europe with regard to its fine particulate pollution (107). According to a WHO estimate, this caused over 8,000 additional deaths (without a virus) in Italy’s 13 biggest cities in 2006 (108). Air pollution increases the risk of viral pulmonary disease in the very young and the elderly (109). Obviously, this factor could generally play a role in accentuating the severity of pulmonary infections (110).
Suspicions have been voiced that vaccination against various pathogens such as flu, meningococci and pneumococci can worsen the course of COVID-19. Investigations into this possibility are called for because Italy indeed stands out with its officially imposed extensive vaccination programme for the entire population.
Yet despite all these facts, the only pictures that remain imprinted on our minds are the shocking scenes of long convoys of military vehicles carting away endless numbers of coffins from the northern Italian town of Bergamo.
Vice chairman of the Federal Association of German Undertakers, Ralf Michal, noted (111): in Italy, cremations are rather rare. That is why undertakers were overburdened when the government ordered cremations in the course of the coronavirus pandemic. The undertakers were not prepared for that. There were not enough crematoriums and the complete infrastructure was lacking. That is why the military had to help out. And this explains the pictures from Bergamo. Not only was there no infrastructure, there was also a shortage of undertakers because so many were in quarantine.
And finally, let us examine the United States, where only parts of the country were severely affected. In states like Wyoming, Montana or West Virginia, the number of “coronavirus deaths” was a two-digit figure (Worldometers, middle of May, 2020).
The situation in New York was different. Here, doctors were overwhelmed and did not know which patients to treat first, while in other states, hospitals were eerily empty. New York was the centre of the epidemic, where more than half of the COVID-19 deaths nationwide occurred (date: May 2020). Most of the deceased lived in the Bronx. An emergency doctor reported (112): “These people come way too late, but their reasoning is understandable. They are afraid of being discovered. Most of them are illegal immigrants without residence permits, without jobs and without any health insurance. The highest mortality rate is recorded in this group of people”.
It would be of interest to learn how they were treated. Were they given high doses of chloroquine as recommended by the WHO? About a third of the Hispanic population carries a gene defect (glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase) that causes chloroquine intolerance with effects that can be lethal (113, 114). More than half of the population in the Bronx is Hispanic.
Countries and regions can differ so widely with respect to a myriad of factors that a true understanding of any epidemic situation cannot be obtained without critical analysis of these determinants.
The relevant authorities, our politicians and their advisers played truly inglorious roles in the handling of new and supposedly dangerous infections of the last decades, from BSE, swine flu, EHEC to COVID-19. At no point did they learn from their mistakes, and this diminishes the hope that it will be any different in the future. On the contrary! While we “only” redistributed taxpayers’ money to the pharmaceutical industry during the swine flu, this time livelihoods were destroyed, the constitution was trampled on and the population basically deprived of their fundamental rights: freedom of speech and opinion, freedom of movement, freedom of relocation, freedom of assembly, freedom of actively practicing your religion, freedom to practice your occupation and make a living.
Anchored in the constitution is the principle of proportionality: the State’s interference with basic rights must be appropriate to reach the aspired goal. And last but not least: the dignity of mankind must never be violated.
This ceased to be the case, to the detriment of democracy and civilisation.
It has been almost 90 years since the time when critical and free journalism was abolished and the media transformed into the extended arm of the state.
It has been almost 90 years since the time when freedom was abolished and opinions of the public were forced into the political line.
It has been almost 90 years since the last media-driven mass hysteria.
If we have learned just one thing from the darkest times of our German history, then surely this: We must never again be indifferent and look the other way. Especially not when the government suspends our fundamental democratic rights. This time, it was only a virus that knocked on our door, but look what we had to go through as a consequence:
- Media-fuelled mass hysteria
- Arbitrary political decisions
- Massive restrictions of fundamental rights
- Censorship of freedom of expression
- Enforced conformity of the media
- Defamation of dissidents (the differently minded)
- Dangerous human experiments
If that does not remind you of a dictatorship then you must have been sound asleep during your history lessons. The things that remain with us are deep concern and fear. Because so many intelligent and educated people became like lemmings within a short 3 months, willing to obey the demands and commands of the world elite.
The renowned virologist Pablo Goldschmidt said (246): “We are all locked up. In Nice there are drones that impose fines on people. How far has this monitoring gotten? You have to read Hannah Arendt and look very closely at the origins of totalitarianism at that time. If you scare the population, you can do anything with it.”
Apparently, he is right. One thing is clear: there are many things that should be worked through and we should all insist upon this happening. The corona- viruses have retreated for this season, the issue is disappearing from the headlines and from the public sphere – and soon it will be gone from peoples’ memories.
If we, the people, do not demand that all transgressions of the coronavirus politics are addressed, then those in power will be able to cover it all with a cloak of concealment.
There is always the chance of some other threat knocking on our door. The only positive thing that has come from this is that very many people in our country have woken up. Many have realised that the mainstream media and politicians can agree to support each other on things that are not good–and even evil. One can only hope that the admonishing voices of reason will in future not be silenced by the dark forces on this earth.
Respiratory viruses are a major cause of mortality worldwide, with an estimated 2 to 3 million annual deaths. Many viruses including influenza-A viruses, rhinoviruses, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), parainfluenza viruses, adenoviruses and coronaviruses are responsible. Now, a new member has joined the list. As with the others, the SARS-CoV-2 virus particularly endangers the elderly with serious pre-existing conditions. Depending on the country and region, 0.02 to 0.4 percent of these infections are fatal, which is comparable to a seasonal flu. SARS-CoV-2 therefore must not be assigned any special significance as a respiratory pathogen.
The SARS-CoV-2 outbreak was never an epidemic of national concern. Implementing the exceptional regulations of the Infection Protection Act were and still are unfounded. In mid-April 2020, it was entirely evident that the epidemic was coming to an end and that the inappropriate preventive measures were causing irreparable collateral damage in all walks of life. Yet, the government continues its destructive crusade against the spook virus, thereby utterly disregarding the fundaments of true democracy.
And as you read these lines, human experiments are underway with gene-based vaccines whose ominous dangers have never been revealed to the thousands of unknowing volunteers.
We are bearing witness to the downfall and destruction of our heritage, to the end of the age of enlightenment.
May this little book awaken homo sapiens of this earth to rise and live up to their name. And put an end to this senseless self-destruction.
Karina Reiss, PhD studied biology at the University of Kiel. She received her PhD there in 2001, and became an associate professor in 2008. She has published over sixty articles in the fields of cell biology, biochemistry, inflammation, and infection, which have gained international recognition and received honors and awards.
Sucharit Bhakdi, MD served as chair of Medical Microbiology at the University of Mainz in Germany from 1990 to 2012. He has published over three hundred articles in the fields of immunobiology, bacteriology, virology, and parasitology, for which he has received numerous awards and the Order of Merit of Rhineland-Palatinate.
(41) SARS-CoV-2 Surveillance Group, Characteristics of SARS-CoV-2 Patients Dying in Italy, report based on available data on July 9, 2020, https://www.epicentro.iss.it/en/coronavirus
(90) Pamela Dörhöfer, “Italien leidet unter dem Coronavirus: Sterberate ist erschreckend hoch,” Frankfurter Rundschau, April 14, 2020, https://www.fr.de/panorama/coronavirus-SARS-CoV-2-sterberate-italien-deutlich-hoeher-rest-welt-zr-13604897.html.
(91) Ernesto Diffidenti, “Coronavirus, i contagiati reali in Italia sono almeno 100mila,” Il Sole 24 Ore (Milan), March 17, 2020, https://www.ilsole24ore.com/art/coronavirus-contagiati-realiin-italia-sono-almeno-100mila-ADnzowD.
(92) Kat Lay, “Coronavirus: Record Weekly Death Toll as Fearful Patients Avoid Hospitals,” Times (UK), April 15, 2020, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/coronavirus-record-weeklydeath-toll-as-fearful-patients-avoid-hospitals-bm73s2tw3.
(93) Paul Nuki, “Two New Waves of Deaths Are about to Break over the NHS, New Analysis Warns,” Telegraph, April 25, 2020, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/global-health/science-and-disease/two-new-waves-deaths-break-nhs-new-analysis-warns.
(94) Ceylan Yeinsu, “N.H.S. Overwhelmed in Britain, Leaving Patients to Wait,” New York Times, January 3, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/03/world/europe/uk-national-health-service.html.
(95) Denis Campbell, “Health Services Overloaded Despite Support Pledges, Claims Report,” Guardian (US edition), May 20, 2018, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/may/21/health-services-overloaded-despite-support-pledges-claims-report.
(96) Michael Savage, “NHS Winter Crisis Fears Grow after Thousands of EU Staff Quit,” Guardian (US edition), November 24, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/nov/24/nhs-winter-crisis-thousands-eu-staff-quit.
(97) Amanda MacMillan, “Hospitals Overwhelmed by Flu Patients Are Treating Them in Tents,” Time, January 18, 2018, https://time.com/5107984/hospitals-handling-burden-flupatients.
(98) Helen Branswell, “A Severe Flu Season Is Stretching Hospitals Thin. That Is a Very Bad Omen,” STAT, January 15, 2018, https://www.statnews.com/2018/01/15/flu-hospital-pandemics.
(99) “Coronavirus Fact-Check #1: ‘COVID19 Is Having an Unprecedented Impact on ICUs,” OffGuardian, April 2, 2020, https://off-guardian.org/2020/04/02/coronavirus-fact-check-1-flu-doesnt-overwhelm-our-hospitals.
(100) R. Salamanca, “La gripe colapsa los hospitales de media España,” El Mundo (Madrid), January 12, 2017, https://www.elmundo.es
(101) Daniel Ventura, “¿Por qué la gripe significa colapso en los hospitales españoles?,” HuffPost (Spain edition), January 13, 2017, https://www.huffingtonpost.es/2017/01/13/gripe-colapsohospitales_n_14135402.html.
(102) Simona Ravizza, “Milano, terapie intensive al collasso per l’influenza: già 48 malati gravi molte operazioni rinviate,” Corriere della Sera (Milan), January 10, 2018, https://milano.corriere.it/notizie/cronaca/18_gennaio_10/milano-terapie-intensive-collasso-l-influenza-gia-48-malati-gravi-molte-operazioni-rinviate-c9dc43a6-f5d1-11e7-9b06-fe054c3be5b2.shtml.
(103) Christian Baars, “Mehr Tote durch resistente Keime,” Tagesschau (Hamburg), November 18, 2019, https://www.tagesschau.de/inland/antibiotika-keime-resistent-101.html.
(105) Savannah Blank, “Wieso sterben in Italien so viele an COVID-19 und wieso sind so viele infiziert?,” Südwest Presse (Ulm), April 30, 2020, https://www.swp.de/panorama/coronavirus-italien-aktuellwieso-sterben-in-italien-so-viele-an-corona-wieso-hat-italiensoviele-infizierte-zahlen-tote-gruende-45080326.html.
(106) Stefania Boccia, Walter Ricciardi, and John P. A. Ioannidis, “What Other Countries Can Learn from Italy During the COVID-19 Pandemic,” JAMA Internal Medicine 180, no. 7
(July 2020): 927–28, https://doi.org/10.1001/jamainternmed.2020.1447.
(107) Paul Kreiner, “Beim Smog ist Italien das China Europas,” Der Tagesspiegel (Berlin), December 2, 2015, https://www.tagesspiegel.de/gesellschaft/panorama/luftverschmutzung-beim-smog-ist-italien-daschinaeuropas/12668866.html.
(108) Marco Martuzzi et al., Health Impact of PM10 and Ozone in 13 Italian Cities (Copenhagen: World Health Organization, 2006), http://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0012/91110/E88700.pdf.