Writes Dionysus, Content writer, Headline Diplomat eMagazine
More than a year after COVID-19 lockdowns became global, cases of infections remain high. On June 29, 2021, more than 154 thousand new cases were reported by the World Health Organization (WHO) globally, despite the administration of 2.7 billion vaccine doses and months of lockdown enforcements by world governments.
In Canada, despite the reduction in the number of cases, with less than 1,000 new cases reported every day, according to CNN, Canadians are yet to see the last of unconstitutional COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions. However, there is more on the push for forced vaccinations in the North American country as, according to the media organization, Canada’s borders remain shut to foreigners who are not vaccinated.
In the capital city of Toronto, despite more than 360 days of locking down restaurants (one of the world’s longest COVID-19 lockdowns), new cases continue to climb, according to the BBC.
“COVID spread by asymptomatic people rare”
Just a month after a harder lockdown was announced to curtail the growing case of COVID-19 pandemic in the Canadian province, Ontario, the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, has now challenged the Canadian and world governments to explain the “science behind lockdowns” in a newly released paper based on scientific and medical evidence presented by an expert witness and Stanford professor of medicine, Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, to the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench.
“For over fifteen months, Canadians have had their Charter freedoms violated by lockdown policies that don’t stand the test of science,” says the staff lawyer at the Justice Centre, Allison Kindle Pejovic.
“The opinions expressed by Dr. Bhattacharya give us ample reason to doubt the medical and scientific basis for lockdown measures,” stated Pejovic.
According to the paper, medical and scientific evidence gathered by the Canadian advocacy organization makes the Justice Centre put forward that, among other conclusions:
- COVID spread by asymptomatic (healthy) people are rare;
- lockdowns violate principles of good health policy and public health practice;
- lockdowns are not necessary to maintain and enhance health and well-being;
- contact tracing is not effective in controlling disease spread;
- Focused protection is a better way to protect the population without impairing human rights, civil liberties, and basic principles of public health.
Is COVID spread by asymptomatic people rare?
One of the sciences behind lockdowns is the evidence that asymptomatic people contribute a lot to the spread of the virus. According to the Healthline, research seems to show that 59 percent of new COVID 19 cases are caused by presymptomatic people; that is, newly infected people who have not started showing symptoms.
However, the opinion from the Justice Center is not the first time doubts are raised on the science behind lockdowns. This stemmed from an argument by the W.H.O. itself.
During its press briefing last year on June 8, the World Health Organization affirmed that asymptomatic cases “rarely” transmit the new coronavirus, according to CNN. The American epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove, who is based in the Health Emergencies Program at the W.H.O. argued that asymptomatic cases only “rarely” transmit the virus.
“From the data we have, it still seems to be rare that an asymptomatic person actually transmits onward to a second individual,” she declared, specifying however that further research remained necessary.
As of then, the tracing of infected people revealed that the infection was generally linked to contact with a positive case presenting symptoms. Conversely, it was believed that asymptomatic carriers rarely transmit the disease.
“We have a number of reports from countries who are doing very detailed contact tracing. They’re following asymptomatic cases, they’re following contacts and they’re not finding secondary transmission onward. It is very rare — and much of that is not published in the literature,” she said. “We are constantly looking at this data and we’re trying to get more information from countries to truly answer this question. It still appears to be rare that an asymptomatic individual actually transmits onward,” explained the epidemiologist.
In other words, the asymptomatic are only very weak at the origin of the spread of Covid-19. Most healthy people who are infected do not develop symptoms or have mild symptoms.
This news calls into question the fact that the disease would be difficult to contain because of asymptomatic cases and refocuses the priority of isolation to cases with symptoms. Until then, the W.H.O. had argued that the virus was transmitted through contact with an infected person, whether or not they had symptoms.
To fight against the spread of the new coronavirus, the organization thought it would then be a question of detecting and isolating positive cases with symptoms, and of tracing the people in contact. However, some people can transmit the virus before developing symptoms (presymptomatic transmission), hence the importance, which the WHO emphasizes, to respect the physical distance of at least one meter, to wash their hands very regularly, cough into their elbow, use disposable tissues, and any other recommended barrier gesture.
This discovery of low transmission by asymptomatic cases could have an impact on strategies to limit the spread.
“What we need to focus on is tracking symptomatic cases. If we really followed all the symptomatic cases, isolated them, followed the people in contact to quarantine them, we would considerably reduce the epidemic”, concluded the epidemiologist.
After the confusion generated by Kerkhove, the World Health Organization however clarified that the agency’s policy has not changed and they are still considered contagious, in addition to pointing out that there are people who transmit the virus before developing symptoms, which are called “presymptomatic”. The next day after the controversial statement, Kerkhove had to come out to backtrack and clarify her statements, which, she said was specifically alluded to particular studies that have not been thoroughly evaluated nor do they represent a new policy or direction by the WHO.
The organization lamented the confusion generated by the sayings that infections by asymptomatic patients were “very rare.”
The expert explained that there are patients who confuse not having symptoms with having mild symptoms, in addition to those who spread the virus before they develop the disease. She also said that the WHO estimates that approximately 16% of people with the virus are asymptomatic and can infect it.
Van Kerkhove said: “What I was referring to yesterday was a few studies, two or three studies that have been published, that try to follow asymptomatic cases.”
“It’s a very small subset of studies,” she continued. “I used the phrase ‘very rare’ and I think it is a misunderstanding to say that asymptomatic transmission is very rare globally. I was referring to a subgroup of studies”.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in the United States, have also explained that there are two groups of people who infect even if they do not show symptoms: the asymptomatic, who never develop symptoms, and the presymptomatic, who develop them later.
“Asymptomatic patients can spread Covid-19”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the leading expert in infectious diseases of the US government said that the World Health Organization had to backtrack to say that the spread of the coronavirus by asymptomatic people is unusual because it simply “was not correct“.
Fauci on ABC’s ‘Good Morning America’ program said that the variety of ways in which coronavirus symptoms manifest is “extraordinary” but “there is no evidence” that asymptomatic people who carry the virus cannot infect others.
“In fact, the evidence we have, given the percentage of people, which is approximately 25-45% of all infected people, are likely to have no symptoms. And we know from epidemiological studies that they can infect someone who they are not infected, even if they do not have symptoms. Therefore, to say that it is something rare was not correct. And that is the reason why the WHO retracted”, added the director of the National Institutes of Health of the United States.
Lockdowns are not necessary
Even if it’s been proven that asymptomatic and presymptomatic persons increase COVID-19 spread, that’s not enough justification for the introduction of lockdowns, neither are they necessary. Extensive testing and tracing policy are better solutions to ending the pandemic, not prolonged confinement restrictions, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
According to the key messages from the OECD, two types of tests can be effective: “First, molecular diagnostic testing (RT-PCR) helps to identify those individuals who are infected at the time of the test. An effective strategy that tests, tracks people infected, and traces their contacts (TTT), helps to reduce the spread of the virus and thus bring its reproduction number below one.” Then it says the second testing is the so-called serologic test which “detects people who have had a prior infection and thus developed antibodies. Such tests can be used for two purposes, namely to allow people who have acquired immunity to return to work safely, and to provide intelligence on the evolution of the epidemic across the population.”
Comments from the W.H.O. have also sparked questions on the legitimacy of the use of lockdowns in spreading the COVID-19 spread.
“We in the World Health Organization do not advocate lockdowns as the primary means of control of this virus,” a statement from Dr. David Nabarro, W.H.O.’s special envoy on COVID-19 reads.
“The only time we believe a lockdown is justified is to buy you time to reorganize, regroup, rebalance your resources; protect your health workers who are exhausted,” Dr. Nabarro said. “But by and large, we’d rather not do it.”
According to an international study, wearing a mask could have “a significant impact” on the course of the pandemic if it was worn massively. According to the different scenarios tested, the wearing of a mask by at least 80% of the population of the United Kingdom, associated with physical distancing, would result in a death toll of 60,000 over 500 days.
Confinement, without wearing a mask, which would last over the entire period would lead to 180,000 deaths; and the wearing of a mask by only 50% of the population, associated with physical distancing, would lead to 240,000 deaths and would not make it possible to contain the pandemic (p. 6 of the PDF).
Even though science has proven that asymptomatic and presymptomatic persons increase the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, research, opinions, and policies of experts and organizations have shown that testing and tracing strategies reduce the rate of reproduction of the virus more sharply than mass testing or self-containment alone.
Massive screening of the population would thus reduce the transmission of the virus. Wearing the mask systematically and avoiding risky contact circumstances, such as public transport, and preventive measures, such as hand washing, could be much more effective than current models of lockdowns envision.
Today, some public health experts have not proposed effective alternatives to total containment. Lockdowns are not only unethical and illegal, they are no longer effective. If we manage to combine wearing a mask that is highly respected in all enclosed spaces – public transport, in particular – and a strategy of testing and mass tracing, then confinements would be needless.