on-going mostly unedited stream of thoughts

on the irrational response to covid

I’ve been pretty disturbed by governments’ and people’s responses to Covid ever since the pandemic started. At the beginning we have very little information about this novel virus, so the misinformation was understandable. It has been more than 2 years and there is now a mountain of research, so I am more confused about the response than ever. Since I use this space to document my ongoing state of mind, I thought I should express my disturbance despite knowing it is a highly controversial topic (but it should not be?).

Singapore removed our indoor mask mandate a short while ago. Thankfully the majority of the people are still masking, but walking around malls I wonder about the people who are actively choosing not to mask. They probably believe they are immune to the virus because they have been vaccinated or infected. Reinfections are definitely possible, we can still get long covid even with vaccination, and with each reinfection the chance of developing long covid increases:

The study, which is based on the health records of more than 5.6 million people treated in the VA Health System, found that, compared with those with just one Covid-19 infection, those with two or more documented infections had more than twice the risk of dying and three times the risk of being hospitalized within six months of their last infection. They also had higher risks for lung and heart problems, fatigue, digestive and kidney disorders, diabetes and neurologic problems.

– CNN, Covid-19 reinfections may increase the likelihood of new health problems

But our national state media insists that reinfections are milder. We removed our mask mandate because apparently 70% of our population has already gotten covid, but it is already known there is no true herd immunity:

However, the latest analysis finds that Omicron provides a poor natural boost of COVID-19 immunity against re-infection with Omicron itself even in people who are triple-vaccinated.

– Imperial College London, Omicron infection is a poor booster of COVID-19 immunity

Many countries have already removed their mask mandate eons ago, so Singapore is not an outlier. It was probably delayed as much as possible in context to the perceived negative impact of covid measures on the economy. So are policy makers:

  • living under a rock so they are not reading the actual scientific research?
  • in denial?
  • wilfully putting up a false front because the economy is more important than a percentage of the population getting potentially permanently disabled?

People believe their governments, so I am not surprised if they are just following the recommendations, though it is already a huge red flag that it took so long for them to recognise Covid is airborne. But seeing how in late 2022 people are still focusing on sanitisation and 1-m physical distancing instead of wearing masks, the damage seems to have been done and I am not sure if people actually do know the virus is dangerously airborne.

Yesterday I was curious about the prevalence of the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV, mainly known to cause Mononucleosis) in Singapore because there seems to be a correlation between a previous EBV infection and long covid. So I did a simple google search, and to my horror EBV is known to cause nose, stomach, head and neck cancer. I have already known that EBV is now known as the potential main cause of multiple sclerosis, but to see evidence of it causing multiple types of cancer is another level of nightmare.

Mono is known as a “mild” disease, most people are expected to recover from it and get on with life. Like Covid now. Scientists are already concerned that Covid may cause cancer down the road:

The SARS-CoV-2 has developed similar strategies to Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) and hepatitis B virus (HSV1) to control p53 by hijacking the protein via virus antigens, and ultimately leading to its degradation (3, 4). Specifically, the Nsp2 viral protein of the SARS-CoV-2 interacts with the prohibitin 1 and 2 (PHB1, PHB2) that are primarily located in the mitochondrion and play an essential role in maintaining mitochondrial DNA activity. Their depletion triggers a chain of cell responses that lead to a leakage of reactive oxygen species (ROS) to the nucleus and oxidative damage, that ultimately provokes the impairment of the transactivation of p53-dependent genes.

– NCBI, Is SARS-CoV-2 an oncogenic virus?

We are seeing that most people are recovering from Covid quickly and are making seemingly full recoveries. So it reinforces the belief that it is mild. If it is mild and like a regular flu infection, it makes sense that they are choosing to go maskless indoors because so what if they get infected? We didn’t wear masks to prevent flu, why should we wear one to avoid Covid? There are even a large number of people who argue masks don’t work, and they are just pure theatre. But viral load matters in an infection. The larger the percentage of people masking, the lower the viral load:

If 50% of people were to wear 50% effective masks half of the time, then the likelihood of an individual transmitting decreases from 30 to 20%. If mask compliance is increased to 75% of people 75% of the time, then the likelihood of a person transmitting decreases to ~ 15%…Exposure viral load at the time of a successful transmission decreased according to efficacy of mask, particularly if both transmitters and exposed contacts are masked. With dual masking in place with efficacies of 0.6, exposure viral load decreased by ~ 1 log. With dual masking in place with efficacies of 0.9, exposure viral load decreased by ~ 2 logs.

–, Slight reduction in SARS-CoV-2 exposure viral load due to masking results in a significant reduction in transmission with widespread implementation

If I know that the chance of getting disabled after getting Covid is 10-25%, I would not be caught anywhere in doors without a mask. I exist in two different worlds: one where everyone I know is living as though as the pandemic is over, the other trying to desperately warn the rest of us the actual risks of Covid:

So why are people so willing to take this 1 in 10 risk? It is one thing to take the risk to visit family, socialise with friends, travel for work etc, another thing to walk around in a potentially virus-filled air space without any form of protection. It makes me unable to understand human beings intellectually, yet I sort of do psychologically. We are all overwhelmed by the demands of our own lives and the reality is too much to bear, so it is just easier to believe everything is fine.

Can a country withstand 10% (conservative estimate) of its workforce disabled?

A study published in The Lancet, found that 22% of people with long Covid were unable to work due to ill health, and another 45% had to reduce hours worked. 

–, New data shows long Covid is keeping as many as 4 million people out of work

Maybe we can argue we don’t have a choice? It is arguably better to have a chronically sick population than a starving population? People make fun of China and the unsustainability of her infinite lockdowns, but in five years will China have a healthier workforce than the rest of the world?

I personally think that even if it is inevitable that we try to resume life “as normal”, it is still prudent to make personal choices based on the actual data available. I am simply concerned that because of the mainstream messaging, people are deluded into truly believing that Covid is mild.

There is only so much we can do to prevent an infection, even with all the cautiousness I have I may still get infected eventually, especially now that we’re without the protection of an indoor mask mandate. But I would do everything in my personal power to reduce my risk of infection, and if I do get infected I will do everything to recover as fully as possible, including going on a supplementation protocol and avoiding any form of exertion for at least a month.

With the current level of misinformation I am afraid that people are going around risking their permanent health unnecessarily and that may have profound consequences for both individual and societal level. It is one thing to get sick because we cannot control our circumstances, another thing to invite sickness because somehow the truth is obscured. Most people simply cannot afford to get chronically sick, and yet we’re treated as a part of a percentage when a government assesses its overall risk for the country. A country can probably live with 10% of its population disabled, but a common person will be destitute if unable to work for the rest of their life. Who is going to care for such a person?

I know I am writing this into a void, but still I must write.

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