I am a medical microbiologist and infectious disease epidemiologist who served for 22 years as chairman of the institute of Medical Microbiology and Hygiene, Mainz University. My life has been devoted to researching the pathogenesis, diagnosis and therapy of infectious diseases.
Nine days ago, I uploaded the first video to address the Covid-19 debate that is raging worldwide. My intent was to channel the heated discussions back and down to a sound, scientific basis for the sake of the entire community in this country.
I share no political agenda. I pursue no personal interest or no interest of any third party. The only reason for this video is the obligation to serve science and our community.
The decisive question is: Do we know enough to justify the massive measures that violate human rights in our free democratic society with all their predictable consequences? And if so, on which data are these decisions based and which strategies have been constructed?
I have now written an open letter to the Chancellor of Germany, addressing the most pressing 5 open questions. In this my last video, I will explain the reasons underlying these questions that are of vital importance to us.
My first question concerns statistics. In our field, it has always been elementary to differentiate between infection (entry and multiplication of an infectious agent) and disease or illness (appearance of clinical symptoms). In the case of Corona, this would be cough and perhaps fever. In other words, a new infection diagnosed by a laboratory test MUST NOT be equated with illness or with patient who requires medical treatment.
It is claimed that 5 % of infected individuals will end up in ICUs and require artificial ventilation. The ensuing prognosis predicts that Germany’s health system will be driven to its utter limits.
My first question to the Chancellor: Did your projections differentiate between not or only slightly affected individuals and genuine, severely ill and hospitalized Covid-19 patients?
Dear fellow citizens: The implicit danger of equating infections with patient numbers must be obvious. The daily number of registered infections is indeed exponential. But, they cannot serve as a reliable basis for any calculations on the possible burden on medical care. Rather, we need numbers of genuine, clinically relevant Covid-19 cases in order to arrive at any sensible prediction.
The second question relates to the true danger of the virus.
Implementation of the current draconian measures that so extremely restrict fundamental rights can only be justified if there is reason to fear that a truly, exceptionally dangerous virus is threatening us. Do any scientifically sound data exist to support this contention for Covid-19? I assert that the answer is simply: NO!
To gauge the true danger of the virus, what is the type of data we need? Here are common coronaviruses that we live with everyday; here is Covid-19. What we need are—say—10,000 patients, all with respiratory track disease that are infected with common coronaviruses and 10,000 infected with Covid-19. All really with respiratory track disease, nothing else. Then, we need to ask how many die in this group and how many in that. If the mortality is similar in both, then clearly, they are similarly dangerous or less dangerous. If the number here is higher, then obviously the virus is more dangerous. If the number is much, much, much higher, then obviously, the virus is much, much, much more dangerous.
You will ask me, has there been such a study? And I answer No, not until March 19, 2020, when the first study ever appeared from our French colleagues that addressed this central question. What do you think they reported? The mortality in both groups are similar. Covid-19 did not differ in dangerousness from its everyday relatives.
My second question to the Chancellor: How many patients with established, genuine Covid-19 patients are currently being treated in ICUs and how does the number compare with patients infected with everyday coronaviruses. Are these data being considered in present and future prevention strategies? And have the data of our French colleagues received attention in this important context?
Dear fellow citizens: I say not that Covid-19 is as trivial as everyday coronaviruses. But I do assert that nothing points to the probability that it is much, much more dangerous like, for instance, its alarming predecessors SARS and MERS that were really deadly or like the flu virus that plagued the world two years ago that was 50 or 100 times more deadly than annual flu viruses which this year have caused around 300 deaths.
Two years ago, we were horrified at more than 20,000 flu deaths in Germany. And yet, no stringent preventive measures were implemented at all, and this was correct and reasonable. Because our health system is equipped to deal with such emergencies and we have really good doctors and helpers that immediately stand up to master such situations.
There is no reason to panic.
Now imagine that Covid-19 will and has actually already been exposed as a virus with perhaps somewhat (but never ever extremely higher) deadly potency than everyday coronaviruses. Then, dear fellow citizens, incredible but true, the framework for all preventive measures instantly collapses like a house of cards.
My third question relates to the spread of the virus in the general, healthy population.
We urgently need to know whether the virus has already spread to the general population. Because, should this be the case, any attempts to halt its further spread would obviously be senseless.
My question to the Chancellor: Has any attempt been initiated to answer this question? Dear fellow citizens, a representative investigation of our community could be performed within one or two weeks and we would then know.
My fourth question relates to the true mortality rates of the virus with special reference to Italy and Spain.
In my conviction, the terrible error made in the entire world is that whenever the virus is detected in a deceased, it is automatically assigned as the cause of death and enters the awful list of the Corona-dead. This violates a basic principle in medicine.
It simply MUST be established that a patient dies BECAUSE OF and not simply WITH a virus. This is explicitly stated in the German medical guidelines which are however not heeded in the case of Covid-19.
Hence, my question to the Chancellor: Has Germany simply followed the global trend of unscientifically categorizing and defining Covid-related deaths? And does Germany intend to continue breaking the established rules? How then can you ever hope to differentiate between virus as the cause of death and virus accidentally present at death.
My last question queries the comparability of the situation in Italy and Germany.
Because the terrible reports from Italy and in these days also from Spain are frequently extrapolated to warn of the possible, similar situation that threatens this country. However, the true significance of Covid-19 in Italy can simply not be assessed. In addition to the problems we have addressed above, additional factors such as horrific air pollution in North Italy and the ailing Italian health care system may be playing unpredictable roles.
Dear fellow citizens, I submit a new thought for your consideration. We know that the virus is extremely infectious. Reflect: The virus has probably already spread far beyond your estimates. It may be present in a considerable part of the healthy Italian, Spanish and German population as well. How probable is it that when bed-ridden elderly patients are visited by their beloved and friends, the virus is passed onto them as are other everyday coronaviruses? When then the patients enter the hospital, the virus is immediately detected. Or if they succumb to their true disease at home, the virus is sought and found post-mortem. A trivial event, but with indescribable consequence because of false interpretation.
I say once again. The simple and trivial presence of the virus must never ever qualify it to enter the list of Covid-deaths. My dear fellow citizens, the reports from Italy, as sad and depressing as they are, cannot and must not become the basis for our own measures in Germany.
Thus, my last question to the Chancellor: What efforts are being made to inform our society about these basic differences between the situations in Italy and Germany and to tell our people that they need no fear that a similar scenario threatens this country?
Dear fellow citizens: It is my sole intent to draw down the heated discussions to a sensible basis so that the situation can hopefully soon return to the desperately needed normality.
I do not stand alone. Many of my colleagues in this country have openly voiced their similar opinion. And one of the most renowned and acknowledged experts in the field in Stanford, Prof. Ioannidis, has done the same.
The most important question to be immediately answered is: Can the present implementation of measures that curtail essential elements of human rights be legally justified?
Fellow citizens: Erroneous beliefs in medicine have caused indescribable suffering to countless inhabitants on this earth. Robert Koch opened the door to modern medicine when he demonstrated that a specific disease-tuberculosis-had a specific cause: the bacterium. Since then, scientifically based knowledge has continued to replace belief in medicine. Let us strive to follow in the path of progress and assemble knowledge and truth in a collective effort to master this terrible crisis.