The will to resist is fundamental to victory over a foe, whether this be a country or a virus, and both were stripped away in the atmosphere of fear that descended on the world in 2020, writes Prof. Madhav Nalapat
A thousand days will soon elapse since the discovery that SARS2, a virus made deadly by the joint effort of US money and Chinese researchers from 2016 onwards, escaped from a laboratory in Wuhan into the general population. This mishap was immediately identified by Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the beginning of a new era. The pre-Covid era was over and the Covid era had begun. The impact of SARS-Cov-2 (aka SARS2) has been marked by policy decision after WHO-inspired decision getting taken in multiple countries that have brought the global economy to its knees. China appears to have weathered the storm better than almost all the major democracies.
The WHO followed the line of Beijing and first downplayed SARS2, then warned that entire countries needed to be locked down, as otherwise the human race would suffer unimaginable catastrophe. Even then, the recorded death rate from the novel coronavirus was way below that of several other major illnesses, with many fatalities caused by errors in treatment. The US and India, the two biggest democracies, took the WHO at its word and instituted lockdowns that were more comprehensive than any seen before. The record-shattering Great Indian Lockdown in 2020 was the first time that over a billion people had been locked down and a country placed in suspended animation for the duration.
The WHO relied heavily on inputs and suggestions from the PRC in asking countries to lock down completely or face horrible consequences. Some “scientific” institutes such as a doomsayer health metrics producer in Seattle gave wild exaggerations of possible deaths, causing fear and panic worldwide. Lancet followed, for a while, before changing course. There were indeed many deaths, some caused through errors in the mode of medical care administered to SARS2 patients, others because the terror that gripped the human mind when confronted with a diagnosis of carrying the disease. A fear that reduced natural immunity and bred a sense of hopelessness
ATMOSPHERE OF FEAR
This media-fuelled mass pathology of the mind assisted in stripping away the shreds of immunity and resistance still available in individuals having numerous “co-morbidities”. The will to resist is fundamental to victory over a foe, whether this be a country or a virus, and both were stripped away in the atmosphere of fear that descended on the world in 2020 and which is fortunately abating in most of the world, including in India. Several of those carrying the virus escaped detection as the laboratory-boosted virus left them as silently as it had come, with almost no symptoms.
In early 2021, a fresh scare was created by the dire forecasts of “experts” that was magnified and disseminated by a Covid-obsessed media about the Delta variant, for which India was initially blamed in Chinese media, as it was in this country that the mutation was first discovered. As yet the actual origins of such a mutation remain obscure. Where the Delta variant originated from is uncertain, except that it once again caused the Atlanticist countries to panic and en masse order lockdowns and vaccine mandates. The latter have in effect almost criminalised a section of the public that is wary of vaccines that have come into the market at hypersonic speed, with little yet known about the aetiology of SARS2, or the long-term effects of the vaccines administered to hundreds of millions across the world, many of whom have fallen victim to the novel coronavirus despite being vaccinated. A vaccine made in India known to be effective against all variants was (and continues to be) ignored by the global media. Several of the unvaccinated who got the disease escaped with only mild symptoms, but it is taboo to give details of the number of such “anti-Vax” individuals, if indeed they are being recorded.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the obsession of policymakers has been with vaccines as the only way out of the clutches of Covid-19, ignoring the important role that therapeutics can play in halting the spread and toxicity of the disease. Vaccine manufacturers have joined several governments in ignoring the call in early 2020 itself by PM Modi to declare SARS2 vaccines as part of the global commons. Instead, a few large vaccine manufacturers are claiming to be the “saviours of humanity”, even as their collective profits from vaccine sales approach $150 billion in total. Saving the world seems to be among the most profitable activities on the planet.
During 2021, Prime Minister Modi was criticised, especially in global media, for refusing to go the WHO-approved way that had been so painfully trodden by India in 2020. He declined to lock India down again in 2021. Unfortunately for the credibility of alarmist media, the Delta outbreak seems to have come under control in India, including in Maharashtra and Kerala. Unsurprisingly, none of Modi’s critics are willing to admit that the PM was right to avoid another series of crippling lockdowns.
SARS2 GAVE BUREAUCRACIES IMMENSE POWER
Now that the Delta variant has proved insufficient to once again rouse governments and the general populace to the panic and hysteria that this pandemic caused in 2020, the discovery of the Omicron variant has received intense publicity, and is being used by lockdown enthusiasts to demand a repeat of the same livelihood-killing methods used in 2020 that failed to reverse the spread of the disease. Ask the redoubtable but not always right Angela Merkel, who as Bundeskanzler imposed restriction upon restriction on Germany, a country which has nevertheless had a much worse trajectory in 2021 than India, whose leadership refused to be stampeded into suicide of the future by following the lockdown guidebook.
If the media hype given to Omicron fails in the effort to bring the world to a halt, another mutant will likely burst onto television screens to ensure that the Covid “panicodemic” continues its sway, especially in Atlanticist countries that favour a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific together with India but against the PRC. The SARS2 pandemic has made the world more like China in the matter of governance mechanisms. The bureaucracy has been gifted the power to insert its decisions into the everyday lives of citizens in a manner at least as intrusive as was described by George Orwell in his dystopian works.
THERAPEUTICS A BETTER WAY
Dr Anthony Fauci, the most recognised doctor in the world since 2020, toiled for two decades during the 1980s and the 1990s, yet failed to discover a vaccine for HIV. Eventually, it was medication mostly produced in India that tamed the AIDS epidemic. As is the case for SARS2, the AIDS virus has mutated several times, yet in the absence coincidentally of vaccines, such mutations are not regarded as entirely distinct “variants” in the manner that they have been labelled in the case of SARS2. Unlike the concentration of attention to vaccines that has been prevalent during the SARS2 pandemic, in the case of AIDS, equal attention was paid to therapeutics, and it was that which made the disease substantially less of a killer than it initially was. Therapeutics are akin to an automatic rifle, capable of spraying bullets into a range of mutations. Vaccines may be as good as Dr Fauci claims them to be, but equal attention needs to be paid by him to therapeutics.
Fortunately, much greater attention is being paid this year to therapeutics than was the case in 2020, and several treatments have been shown to be effective in ensuring that SARS2 ceases to hospitalise and kill its victims. Doctors in India have worked tirelessly in hospitals dealing with the disease and have worked on a range of treatment options, many of which have shown success in combatting SARS2 once it enters the human body. What is needed is to collate and study such work, so that India emerges at the cutting edge of cures for SARS2, as is the case in the incidence of HIV-AIDS. Several treatments for SARS-CoV-2 have emerged, but all too many involve very high cost. Overpricing by PRC manufacturers led to portable oxygen concentrators being sold in Inda at prices that were more than twice the fair value, thereby placing such medical equipment beyond the pockets of most citizens.
The risk of countries relying on the PRC for the supply of essentials such as ingredients for medicines is obvious. Several such imports into India were at the cost of local substitutes, and tax and other regulatory policies need to be altered in India to ensure that there is a much greater level of self reliance in pharmaceutical ingredients, not to mention defence and telecom items, in both of which reliance on the Sino-Russian alliance is uncomfortably high. Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2021 ensured that greater attention was paid to the development of therapeutics, along with encouraging new vaccines, and these are expected to show results soon. As in the case of HIV, India is the only country able to rescue vulnerable populations across the world from losing lives and health (not to mention minds) from SARS-Cov-2 at an affordable cost, not the US with its hyper-priced substitutes.
NO PROPER INVESTIGATION INTO ORIGINS
The messaging in the media inadvertently resulted in panic taking hold within several democracies about a disease that, at its worst, killed less than 3% of known victims. Accurate estimates remain unavailable to the general public, but it is known that the majority of SARS2 cases are asymptomatic, hence carry the risk of remaining undetected. Were the total (rather than known) cases to be the basis for calculations, the death rate from the disease would be substantially below 1% of cases, as opposed to numerous other viruses having much higher mortality, and which have not caused a similar panic. From the start of the escape of the virus into the population in 2019, almost as though they were reading from the same script, researchers in the PRC and their collaborators in the US and Europe focused on the “Wet Market” theory.
This was that the virus had its origins in markets that sell live animals for food in cities across China. They sought to discount the possibility that SARS2 could have been caused by experiments carried out in the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) that had been provided a generous supply of funds through Eco Alliance, which in turn was funded by the National Institute of Health (NIH) in the US. It was almost certainly known to the NIH that Peter Daszak of the Eco Health Alliance was transferring money received from the NIH to the WIV. Or that Dr Ralph Baric assisted in training of the WIV “Bat Lady” (Shi Zengli) to ensure “gain of function” in a previously harmless (to humans) virus, thus making it more deadly for human beings. The insertion by Baric’s pupil Shi of the furin cleavage site inside the spike protein of the virus ensured rapid transmissibility in human beings. The furin cleavage site is not seen in nature within coronaviruses, and was inserted by laboratory processes by the Shi-Baric team, effectively converting the virus into a potential bio-weapon.
Why the NIH was not monitoring this development, nor any other authority within the US, is unclear in the absence of a US Congressional enquiry such as that presently taking place in the far less consequential matter of the mob violence by Trump supporters inside the US Capitol on 6 January. The PRC authorities claim that the US military was deeply involved in “gain of function” experiments designed to convert viruses into a more deadly form, while observers in the US claim that the Wuhan Institute of Virology was closely associated with the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA). Were Baric and Shi unaware of the potential for immense harm of the new strain of a bat (corona)virus that they were developing ? Only a full US Congressional investigation into the entire episode could reveal the truth, given that the WHO seems to have accepted the PRC hypothesis that the origin of SARS 2 was in the Wuhan wet market. Despite the SARS2 debacle, WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, was unopposed when he sought a second term.
Together with the Executive Board till headed by Dr Harsh Vardhan, Dr Tedros and his team were in charge during the SARS2 de bacle that cost millions of lives and hundreds of millions of livelihoods across the world. There were no bats sold in the Wuhan wet market, a facility that was located close to the WIV, although bats were kept in the virology institute itself for testing. Not just bats, the natural vectors of coronavirus, no animal vector for the disease has been located by PRC authorities despite looking into several hundred. This did not prevent the Presidential Commission set up by the White House from once again pointing to the wet market and to animal vectors as the likely origin of SARS2. The beginnings of President Biden’s slide from public approval can be traced to that inconclusive finding, which is almost identical to that reached earlier by the WHO, and has proved to be a waste of taxpayer dollars under Biden’s watch.
BELITTLING THE LAB LEAK THEORY
The lab leak theory ought not to have been dismissed in the manner that it was in the US by those entrusted with the nation’s health by President Biden. It is known that several scientists in Wuhan working on sensitive bio-organisms sometimes worked in P2 facilities rather than P4, as they found P4 requirements such as the continuous wearing of protective suits irksome. Leakages of biomaterial has occurred in P4 labs in the US and Europe, and have been reported in WIV as well. The statements and findings of several scientists from US, EU and the PRC were largely similar to the line taken by the most prominently featured doctor of our times, Dr Anthony Fauci. This in effect exonerates the WIV and its US and EU associates of any laboratory-related measures that had the potential to do substantial damage to societies across the world.
After the unprecedented Wuhan lockdown ordered by CCP General Secretary Xi on 23 January 2020, the WHO adopted the Full Lockdown strategy as the way to eliminate the threat of a disease that has statistically been proven to result in far fewer deaths among victims that several other viruses that failed to trigger lockdowns and panic. The Total Lockdown strategy had never been used before in the world, and looking at the societal and economic devastation that it has caused globally, this seems understandable. Dr Tedros together with some in the US and the PRC, was an enthusiastic proponent of the Total Lockdown strategy. Dissenting voices were labelled as “conspiracy theorists”, and began to be excluded by a compliant social media from major platforms. It was only in 2021 that it was accepted in the media that the sceptics of the Wet Market theory had a strong case.
Unsourced images from the PRC of people dying on the streets were followed by other videos from the US and Europe showing patients at the final stages of what was a combination of SARS2 and other diseases. Most images of patients in a terminal state from any disease are difficult to view, but the flood of such images and reports about SARS2 terminal cases gave the impression of a virus far deadlier in its effects than statistical data showed it to be. In the ongoing geopolitical competition between the democratic world and the PRC, what is clear is that not just the economy and social cohesion, but the will to overcome and the self-confidence of several countries in the capacity to fight authoritarian forces has been severely weakened by the “panicodemic” accompanying the SARS 2 pandemic.
The PRC economy entered into decline in early 2020, when SARS2 hit that country. The pain suffered by the PRC spread to the rest of globe soon, courtesy flights from the affected areas in the PRC to countries across the world. In contrast, the spread of SARS1 in 2002 was restricted mostly to China by greater transparency and effective policy, including by the PRC and the WHO. The only heroes of the Covid-19 pandemic are the doctors, nurses, researchers and vaccination workers who toiled at treating cases and finding cures.
SMART POLICY AND INTEGRITY NEEDED
Statistical evidence shows that the Omicron variant has a low level of risk where victims are concerned, yet announcement of the new mutation by a South African expert resulted in a wave of panic and mechanistic countermeasures across the world, mainly directed towards South Africa. Hardly an incentive for transparency about the disease in the future. Should another wave of 2020-model lockdowns be among the policy consequence of the Omicron scare, the global economy would take almost a decade to recover. Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2020 accepted the advice of the WHO and imposed the Great Indian Lockdown. A quick learner, he refused to adopt the same strategy in 2021 despite the rising caseload from the Delta variant.
The steps taken by PM Modi have resulted in the pandemic coming under control in India, unlike during the previous year, when the WHO textbook was followed to the letter. Angela Merkel was a master of lockdowns and vaccine mandates, but failed to tame the disease in Germany, which continues to suffer unlike Sweden and India, which followed a much more permissive policy and have done much better. The psychological state of a population is an important determinant in ensuring the capacity to overcome a threat, especially those of a kinetic nature. In 1940, the hangover of the loss of lives by France during the 1914-19 war with Germany resulted in a loss of will to do battle against the Wehrmacht, leading to the swift defeat and occupation of France that lasted for much of the 1939-45 war.
The creation of such a mood is among the tasks of enemy info warriors, including those operating in virtual space. The pandemic ought not to be effective in causing a sharp decline in the level of confidence and will to resist authoritarian countries and impulses within the populations of the major democracies. A strong motivation to protect freedom from foes is a pre-requisite of victory of the democracies over the authoritarians, in the manner that was seen during the 1940s and throughout Cold War 1.0. The SARS2 pandemic can be overcome, through smart policy and wisdom rather than through panic reactions caused through collective hysteria based on insufficient or misleading data. India has shown an example of resilience during 2021 that needs to be followed by others congregating in the Summit for Democracy convened by President Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris. Else the future of democracy may be the casualty, just as liberty was in the case of a France that was paralysed by fear PLof annother war in 1940 and ended up in Nazi control until liberated by Allies