Covid-19 has blurred distinctions between the political Left and Right in many other parts of the world. Civil society groups, organizations, unions and political parties that are usually concerned with labour, minority, women’s and LGBTQ rights and freedoms increasingly embrace and promote travel restrictions, militarized healthcare, coerced vaccination, digitalization and surveillance of education, society and economy in the name of Covid-19 prevention.
Curtailment of citizens’ rights and freedoms to breathe and communicate freely, assemble and travel, as well as, the right to choose to be NOT vaccinated are increasingly normalized by human rights groups and advocates in the name of the greater good and social ‘duty’, while the need for information on the pros and cons of vaccines developed literally at “warped speed” and the right to balanced information of vaccine consumers, as well as, informed consent are ignored. And never mind the Hippocratic Oath ‘First, Do no Harm’ with vaccines or any other drugs or purported medication! Many seem to have fallen for the unscientific and unethical claim made by the World Health Organization (WHO) head Tedros that “No one is safe until everyone is safely vaccinated”. Thus a former head of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka has called for mandatory vaccinations! What has become of measured, balanced, judicious, data and evidence-based policy-making?
Simultaneously, the Covid-19 narrative has divided and fragmented movements for social and economic justice, as much as, communities and families. Those who are not vaccinated are increasingly scapegoated as governments move to implement vaccine passports in public spaces. Those who are circumspect, exercise the freedom to think independently, examine the local and national data and evidence on the “global pandemic” narrative, and choose to not take vaccines developed for ‘Emergency use only’ sans adequate trials and testing, stand accuse of being anti-social Covid- naysayers, and neo-cons, who are a danger to society and themselves, or in league with Donald Trump’s agenda!
Those who value science, commonsense, and ancient eastern yogic wisdom on the need to breathe deeply and freely (i.e. sans masks), in order to maintain a good immune system as the first line of defense against disease, and an important aspect of mental health also to avoid panic attacks; those who examine data and perhaps hopelessly pursue, data-driven, evidence-based policy are accused by liberals, minority rights, labour activists and leftists of encouraging virus spread in the community, and only being concerned about our own economic self-interests.
Rights groups for Lockdowns?
Indeed, the Left and Right seem to have traded places as part of the Covid effect as identity politics appear to have again trumped social and economic justice issues, as well as, science and commonsense globally and locally: At this time labour unions and minority rights groups and organizations are blithely talking up a ‘Covid fourth wave’ in Sri Lanka following a meeting of WHO ‘experts” last week on August 10. They are calling for the government to impose curfew and island-wide lockdowns despite their economically devastating impacts on the working poor and day laborers, the folks most vulnerable to what OXFAM termed the “Hunger Virus.
Despite the problems with Covid-19 data, politicians of all hues, government and opposition alike have united to jump on the World Health Organization’s (WHO), global vaccine bandwagon, seemingly to show voters how much they care. Although from the on-set of the so called pandemic in March last year the WHO has consistently promoted surveillance and applauded militarization of the health system (now spilling into militarization of the education system), as local politicians of all parties urge the electorate to get vaccinated, without first doing the research on how effective or safe or indeed necessary the vaccines are – vote bank politics as usual?
Ironically the ruling Rajapaksa brothers’ regime with its affinity for nepotism and all things military suddenly seems terribly liberal and freedom loving! Since the government had imposed curfew, erstwhile leftist JVP’s Anura Kumara Dissanayake and TNA’s Sumanthiran have taken it upon themselves to advise citizens to subject themselves to ‘lock down’ or “lock ups’ for their own good –in a remarkable volte face and display of servility to the WHO’s masked experts and related big pharmaceutical corporations that call the Covid Shots!
The question of the accuracy of the Covid-19 numbers, data and the need for country-specific data and evidence-based policy making have been unfortunately politicized and hence obfuscated. Indeed, data analysis and evidence-based policy, which requires historical depth, longtitudinal and comparative analysis has come a cropper.
Since Covid has been evolving over the past year and half both locally and in a global context, amidst confusing, cross-messaging, an infodemic of numbers of cases and death, vaccine and virus patent wars, with narratives about constantly mutating virus variants – from Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta plus, minus, squared, to Epsilon onto Omega, amidst more geopolitics, this article attempts to leave the politics aside and examine the country-specific Covid-19 data, the methods whereby the data are generated and modeled based on Sri Lanka county context and country specific data analysis.
Data Concerns and flawed PCT tests
While there are serious concerns about the Covid-19 morbidity and mortality data on which lockdowns are based in Sri Lanka at this time, attention has mainly focused on provincial, regional or local area data collection, data cleaning and generation errors, rather than the main problem which is the margin of error with the current PCR testing machines, regimes and protocols that generate Covid-19 test results. It is PCR test results that enable the identification and counting of Covid-19 morbidity and mortality, cases, deaths and the Infection Fatality Rate (IFR), which is the tried and tested measure to ascertain the severity of a disease or epidemic on a population.
PCR testing enables rapid making of millions of copies of a specific DNA sample in a swab test, allowing laboratories to amplify it (or a part of it) to study in detail and is used in many of the procedures used for genetic testing and research. Copies of very small amounts of DNA sequences that are exponentially amplified in a series of cycles of temperature changes. The margins of error depend in the type of testing machine and use of an appropriate cycle threshold (Ct) rate (usually 26-19 Ct) for a PCR test and machine, and are significant. Hence, in many instances a person tested twice in an hour may have both a positive and a negative test.
It is noteworthy here that the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC), has announced discontinuation of the current PCR tests by the end of this year, because of inaccuracies and the tendency to: 1) give a high rate of false positives or negatives depending on the highly sensitive Ct, Cycle threshold of magnification, usually 26 -29 Ct; 2) Current PCR tests and machines do not enable distinguishing between Influenza A and Covid-19, and hence 3) enable conflation of Covid-19 cases with Influenza. In Sri Lanka CT rates of over 35 are used in a range of machines, giving rise to high numbers of false positives.
At this time, Sri Lanka is in the midst of its annual wave of monsoon seasonal influenza and Dengue when mortality and morbidity, cases and deaths peak annually. However, data on cases and deaths of influenza which is symptomatically indistinguishable from Covid-19 have mysteriously disappeared and been replaced by an orders of magnitude rise in Covid 19 cases. This data is based on PCR tests which tend to deliver false positives or negatives if not properly administered and processed at the recommended ct or cycles threshold. As some doctors skeptical of the Covid-19 policy response noted, given that influenza is symptomatically indistinguishable from Covid-19, and hospitals are crowded with flu and dengue patients note there is a high likelihood of cross-infection of seasonal flu patients who would otherwise be at home but have gone to hospitals. Over-crowding of hospitals is a direct result of the current Covid-19 fear psychosis promoted though the media’s sensationalist reporting of ‘covid deaths” and some WHO and associations medical associations and organizations dubious epidemiology models and prediction seemingly based on questionable if not outright junk data.
Contextualizing the Data
Indeed, several studies by medical researches including important research by Duminda Yasaratne and Shyamali C. Dharmage, have shown that “Respiratory diseases have a major impact on the Sri Lankan Health System. In 2017, and before Covid-19 chronic respiratory diseases and pneumonia caused the highest number of hospital deaths in which accounted for 39.3(18.0%) out of 218.5 deaths per 100 000 population. Furthermore, comparison of proportionate mortality data during the past decade revealed a rising trend of deaths in hospital due to these two conditions.
A Comparative study on Influenza and Pneumonia deaths in previous years in the WEEKLY EPIDEMIOLOGICAL REPORT of the Epidemiology Unit Ministry of Health, Nutrition & Indigenous medicine notes: “According to the latest WHO data published in 2014, Influenza and Pneumonia deaths in Sri Lanka reached 7 292 (5.7%) of total deaths. The age adjusted death rate was 35.08 per 100 000 of population. In Sri Lanka, 21,111 and 21,811 cases of pneumonia and 1417 and 1448 deaths due to this disease had been reported for years 2005 and 2006 respectively. Forty percent of these pneumonia cases were among children under 4 years of age”.
In the context, questions arise as to whether this is a year of more severe flu given the Covid-19 factor? Are flu deaths and Covid-19 deaths being conflated? Is there an excess of deaths being reported, after all daily deaths are counted and their causes ascertained?
These are questions not just for doctors of the WHO’s ‘expert committee’ that blithely recommended lockdowns after presenting dubious, fear-inducing, epidemiology models based on dubious statistics and data without contextual and historical analysis of mortality and morbidity rates and data cleaning at a meeting on August 10, 2021, but for statisticians and social scientists, particularly from the Department of Census and Statistics (CDS). However social scientists and statisticians have been excluded from the various government and WHO Covid-19 task forces.
As Duminda Yasaratne and Shyamali C. Dharmage, providing comparative context for Covid-19 disease severity and burden on the health system note “ a survey of self-reported diseases in 2014 found asthma to be the most prevalent chronic disease in those aged younger than 35 years. A substantial gap between the disease prevalence and asthma management was observed in a cross-sectional study in 2016,which found wheezing prevalence in adults to be 24%(95% CI: 22.0–25.9%) but only 11% (95% CI: 9.6–12.5%)was using medication. The Burden of Lung Diseases survey revealed an overall prevalence of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) of 10.5% (95% CI: 8.8–12.2%) among Sri Lankan adults aged over 40 years. Amongmales, the prevalence was 16.4% (95% CI: 13.2–19.5%)compared to 6.0% (95% CI: 4.2%–7.7%) in females who are largely non-smokers. Some plausible causes include outdoor and indoor air pollution.
The rising problem of poor air quality is claimed to be responsible for the rise of respiratory diseases, namely obstructive lung diseases, interstitial pneumonitis and lung cancers. Urbanization and exponential increase of motor vehicles are blamed for poor ambient air quality throughout the country. Many groups of professionals and conservationists have been lobbying for an improvement in air quality in the recent past, creating substantial public awareness on the quality of air they breathe. However, there is no proper air pollution-monitoring network maintained in most congested zones.
Although incidence of flu has mysteriously disappeared while Covid-19 cases have increased by orders of magnitude at this time few are questioning the accuracy of the Covid-19 PCR test data and numbers and the recommendations to lockdown the country by WHO’s experts in any systematic fashion. Questions arise as to whether various WHO experts and organizations like the Gates Foundation funded Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington generate sensational and fear inducing graphs, charts and epidemiology modals based on junk data?
Questions remain, as to whether Covid-19 has replaced influenza this year and if so what are the policy impacts? In the context of the fact that PCR tests deliver high numbers of false positives and do not enable distinguishing between flu and Covid-19 cases and deaths it would be important to ascertain whether the covid-19 numbers are accurate, and the government Covid-19 task force must call for daily Excess Death Reports at this time to ascertain the truth about the Covid-19 data, also in the context of the fact that the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC), will retire existing PCR testing machines precisely because of the potential to confound influenza and Covid-19. Is this part of a Covid-19 data hoax and numbers game?
2020 Data: Reduced Mortality, No Excess Deaths: Wither Covid-19?
Data now available for last year – 2020 – the year of so-called Covid-19 pandemic from the Department Census and Statistics (DCS), shows that there were significantly fewer deaths in the country last year than in the previous year.
If there was a Covid-19 crisis in Sri Lanka last year (2020), there should have been Excess Deaths reported in the country data for 2020. However, DCS data for 2020 show a decrease in the country’s death rate compared to the previous year (2019), indicating that there were NO EXCESS DEATHS in 2020 and thus no health emergency, Covid-19 or otherwise!
Indeed, there was a decline in the overall mortality rate in 2020 \ as there were significantly few deaths – 13,600 in 2020, the year of the so called Covid-19 pandemic when compared to the previous year. In 2019 there were 146,053 deaths, whereas in 2020 there were 132,431 deaths. Likewise, and the crude death rate declined from 6.7 in 2019, to 6.0 in 2020.
The fortunate fact that few doctors, nurses, PHIs, paramedics (fewer than 10) and frontline health workers have succumbed to Covid-19 in the past one and a half year of so called Covid 19 “pandemic” in Sri Lanka also supports the conclusion that there was no health emergency of any kind in 2020 in Sri Lanka. However, the country was placed in locked down, increasing poverty, malnutrition disease vulnerability for several months in 2020 on the recommendation of the WHO and its local partners!
In the context, at this time with a 10 day lockdown coming into effect, it is imperative that the GoSL seek the assistance of the Department of Census and Statistics and call for a daily excess death report based on the overall number of deaths and the causes of these deaths, in or to ascertain if there is a Covid-19 or influenza or Dengue of any other health crisis in the country.
Forth Wave of Fear: They cannot protect themselves
At this time the government is being blamed by the opposition and labour unions for not taking even more draconian measures and implementing lockdowns to curtail the movements and rights of people despite the deadly economic impacts of lockdowns including spread of what OXFAM calls the ‘hunger virus’– poverty, widening inequality, malnutrition and disease vulnerability leading to deaths, and never mind the fact that the rupee is once again in free fall. The opposition has condemned the government that took extreme measures to lockdown the county with militarized curfews while instituting surveillance and arresting Covid-19 curfew ‘violators’ based on scant data last year, of being lax on restrictions this year. The claim is that there is a massive Covid-19 crisis in the country.
The leader of the opposition and his minions who seems not to understand the meaning of national data analysis, balanced, and evidence-based policy making is seeking a two-week lockdown of the country to “protect’ the citizens he claims to love and never mind if they starve to death! The Government worries that lockdowns will drive the already debt-trapped, economy into the ground and create more poverty, inequality, social unrest, political instability and disease vulnerability.
Citizens to Covid-19 Subjects? Staging a plandemic for Global Governance
The county’s leaders, government and joint opposition seems to agree that citizens and their hard won democratic rights now are a danger to themselves, and they must be protected from themselves: The people or laboring masses need protection from themselves and have to be subject to ‘locked up’ or ‘locked down’ and vaccinated without informed consent.
Is it the case that as Marx once famously said “they cannot represent themselves, they need to be represented”?! They cannot protect themselves?
The Demos, the people, cannot make informed decisions even when provided requisite information, or otherwise determine what’s in their own best interest? Simultaneously, those who question the data or the WHO’s pandemic narrative and are accused of being unconcerned about the fate of the laboring masses, who the virus will target first although there is remarkable data and evidence regarding the failure of the Covid 19 virus to spread in India’s teaming urban slum communities!
What French historian, Michel Foucault termed “biopolitics” and Italian political philosopher Georgio Agamben called the “Rule of Exception” has taken over the public sphere: WHO’s global pandemic fear and Groupthink reins and streets are deserted but ambulance sirens screech nevertheless to spread the fear psychosis, yet, curiously the National Sovereign seems marginalized even as citizens have been rendered subjects of Covid-19 Groupthink, surveillance, infodemics, mutations, vaccinations all wrapped up in an emergent Global Governance project.
Since the on-set of the so called pandemic in March last year the WHO has consistently promoted militarization of the health system and surveillance of citizens increasingly rendered subjects surveillance, and the biopolitics of global governance in the Covid-19 state of exception. This has been in collusion with several national doctors’ organizations, such as the GMOA, SLMA, NDA that are funded by the WHO and big Pharmaceutical companies and their local partners that are selling lucrative vaccines.
The whole Covid-19 episode would be a comedy of errors if it were not also a global tragedy and crime against humanity of epic proportions. As the OXFAM Report “The Hunger Virus” notes and other social scientists have long pointed out the WHO’s Covid-19 recommended lockdown and vaccination policies will induce poverty, famine, starvation and malnutrition among the subaltern masses and daily wage earners and will kill more people in the Global South than Covid-19, in the long run. It is in this context that this article attempts to analyse the data and epidemiology models on which the Covid-19 pandemic narrative and lockdowns are based in Sri Lanka based on an examination of now available data from the Department of Census and Statistics (CDS) for last year – 2020.
As the country goes into a 10 day lock-down it is imperative that the GoSL seek the assistance of the Department of Census and Statistics and call for a daily excess death report based on the overall number of deaths and the causes of these deaths, in or to ascertain if there is a Covid-19 or influenza or Dengue of any other health crisis in the country.
One and a half years after the so called Covid-19 pandemic, historical, comparative, and contextual analysis of the disease and policy response is now possible and necessary to evaluate the data and policy going forward. Likewise an analysis of the data is needed to determine the Infection Fatality Rate which is the better metric that matters, rather than the currently used Case Fatality Rate (CFR) to determine disease severity and epidemiology, as well as, appropriate policy responses.
This analysis will be further elaborated.
*To be Continued
 LETTER FROM ASIA-PACIFIC AND BEYOND Letter from Sri Lanka https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/resp.13758
 Comparative data on Influenza and Pneumonia deaths in previous years http://www.epid.gov.lk/web/images/pdf/wer/2016/vol_43_no_50-english.pdf
 http://www.statistics.gov.lk/Population/StaticalInformation/VitalStatistics/NumberofBirthsDeathsMarriagesDistrict2019-2020 see also : http://www.statistics.gov.lk/Population/StaticalInformation/VitalStatistics
 Crude Birth Rates & Crude Death Rates by Province, District & Sex 2019 – 2020