Dr. Darini Rajasingham-Senanayake
The currently available Covid-19 vaccines have been authorized for emergency use. This is due to what has been termed a Health Emergency as winter advances and Covid-19 cases spike in the northern hemisphere or Euro-America. Highly advertised Covid-19 vaccines are being produced rolled out by powerful Pharmaceutical and bio-technology companies headquartered in Euro-America under the “warped speed” operation. These vaccines are being marketed on global media and news channels, like CNN, BBC, AL Jazeera and even India’s NDTV to the rest of the world, although they have not gone through a full trials process and their long-term impacts on populations are as yet unknown.
On average it takes over 5-10 years to systematically trial vaccines. Nor have these vaccines been trialed in the GLOBAL SOUTH where the health and nutrition status of people are different than in the global north where larger volumes of processed food are consumed and non-communicable diseases that constitute the co-morbidities profile for Covid-19 are also far more widespread than in tropical countries, especially those where rice is a staple food.
In several tropical Asian and African countries, the 2020 country-specific data shows that there is NO Covid-19 health emergency. In Bangladesh, Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, Tanzania and Uganda there is very low incidence of Covid-19 as in Sri Lanka, where questions arise as to why national health authorities are being urged by the WHO, UNICEF and World Bank to spend billions and buy vaccines at this time, especially when it is claimed that there are not sufficient doses for populations in North America and Europe where there is a Covid-19 emergency?
Last week the WHO and UNICEF representatives in Colombo met with the Prime Minister and health authorities of the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL), and urged purchase of vaccines for which the Govt. would need to borrow LKR 10 billion from the World Bank. The question arises since the Sri Lanka national data for 2020 shows that there is no Covid-19 emergency and less than 200 persons have died of Covid 19 flu although on an average year between 5000-7000 persons die of influenza comorbidities, should not the GoSL wait until a vaccine is fully trialed in tropical countries like Sri Lanka with low Covid-19 incidence? As Sri Lanka is currently in a massive debt-trap and its currency is in free fall with the economy badly hit by lockdowns and loss of livelihoods and these funds would be better spent jump starting the economy, especially as Covid-19 curfews have cause great economic damage as detailed in the OXFAM Report “Hunger Virus” affirms. Moreover, should not these tropical countries in the global south with low case load wait until a vaccine is authorized for non-emergency use?
As Debapriya Bhattacharya and Sarah Khan have noted the narrative on the post-COVID world is once again characterised by the usual dearth of inputs from the global South. “Even though it has been accepted time and again that actors from the Global South will be critical in shaping the emerging international development landscape, gatekeepers are yet to come out of their comfort zones and make credible space for more Southern perspectives and initiatives. The current discourse continues to have a top-down view of issues that demand more local level contextualisation and substantiation. This results in a lack of well-defined pathways, indicating the potential roles of traditional and emerging actors at national and global levels..”.
Sri Lanka Country data
A year after Covid-19 emerged, the Sri Lanka country statistics and data for year 2020 indicate that Covid-19 is milder than seasonal influenza, as is the case in other tropical countries like Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia or Bangladesh. The number of deaths due to Covid-19 and related co-morbidities this year are less than 200, although in a normal year between 5,000 and 7000 people die of influenza comorbidities annually in Sri Lanka. Yet, economically, socially and politically devastating Curfews and isolation policies have been introduced, on the advice of the WHO resulting in fear, isolation, increasing poverty, inequality and pushing the island into a bigger debt trap and forcing the Government to sell off strategic assets and seemingly give tax relief to various international companies, investors and airlines
The empirical and qualitative data and facts on the ground at this time show that: No workers in the mercantile and industrial sectors in Sri Lanka have died of Covid throughout the year 2020. Likewise, no nurses, doctors, Public Health Inspectors (PHIs) or other “frontline health workers” in quarantine centers have died of Covid. More health sector workers die of dengue, heart attacks, cancer, diabetes, road accidents, even elephant attacks etc. There were fewer patients in hospitals than in previous years.
“Test, test and trace” using flawed tests has been the mantra on which the WHO, Ministry of Health (MOH), the Government medical Officers’ Association (GMOA) policy of economically, socially and politically, devastating lockdowns and isolation has been implemented by the GoSL and military. These policies are clearly NOT based on Sri Lanka’s country specific, quantitative and qualitative Covid-19 data, and are counter-productive to the mental and physical health and well-being of the population.
It is now clear that the virus has spread to all parts of the country but has little traction in Sri Lanka: After all, the metric that matters to determine the severity of a disease in a population in order to design balanced, targeted and evidence-based health policy is NOT the number of infections but rather the number of death relative to infections, extrapolated to the whole population. The MOH and GMOA guided by the World Health Organisation (WHO) has used questionable epidemiology models, metrics and flawed PCT tests to whip up a fear psychosis and lock down the country; rather than use the tried and tested “infection fatality rate” (IFR).
The WHO and JHU’s ‘deadly’ Covid-19 global pandemic narrative has been crafted on the “case fatality rate” (CFR)”. COVID-19 mortality based on CFR ranges from 1% to as high as 5% while the IFR is much less by orders of magnitude as scientists who signed the Great Barrington Declaration have pointed out.
WHO, BCG and low incidence of Covid-19
The low incidence of Covid-19 in Sri Lanka is due to several interrelated, and country-specific, CONTEXTUAL factors such as, a) year round hot and humid tropical weather (above 20 degrees Celsius), that degrades the Covid-19 virus and transmission, 2) universal Bacillus Calmette–Guerin (BCG), vaccination that confers innate and trained immunity against respiratory illnesses, since 1949, 3) good national health infrastructure including BCG monitoring;, 4) and local diet and food habits etc. and NOT as some misled and ill-informed doctors (who promote the strange “hammer and dance” theory to control the virus), claim, due to the economically destructive militarized lockdowns, isolation, and fear psychosis policies that they promote.
Many international scientists have exposed the fact that high numbers of false positive PRC and RT-PCT tests account for high rates of supposedly asymptomatic cases, and question the Covid-19 data presented by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Johns Hopkins University (JHU) Data Base. In India highly flawed PCR tests gave up to 80 percent false positives and a community survey was abandoned. The flawed tests account for very high numbers of apparently “asymptomatic” cases when in fact these cases either have Covid-anti-bodies from last year’s flu or the tests were simply wrong. Clearly, Sri Lanka and many other impoverished countries in the GLOBAL SOUTH has been locked down and economically devastated based on flawed tests and a global media narrative that exaggerated the number of Covid-19 cases by giving false positives. This is in a nut-shell is the Covid-19 Hoax.
This situation raises questions about the WHO, whose head, Tedros Adhanom is embroiled in corruption allegations in Africa, as well as, the Sri Lanka WHO country office and its policy advice of lockdowns and curfews that has impoverished counties that are facing an epidemic of poverty due the so-called Covid 19 global epidemic. It is quite clear that more lives will be lost due to poverty and malnutrition in the long run, than due to Covid-19 in 2020, Sri Lanka.
Policies to promote Fear and Stigma
The WHO has previously denied that BCG Vaccine may significantly reduce lessen the impact of Covid-19. The WHO, MOH and GMOA and Covid-19 Task Force policy of lockdowns and isolation based on random PCR and antigen tests, that deliver high levels of false positives while targeting poor communities and neighbourhoods with ethnic minorities, and using the military has spread a fear psychosis, stigmatizing patients, particularly women and garment factory workers, and resulted in closure of factories, destruction of livelihood and thousands of job losses, leading to rising poverty and inequality. Often this racial and religious profiling and scapegoating is based on false positive PCR tests, and meant to promote division, distrust and de-stabilize society and government.
The GMOA promoted canard that dead bodies carry and spread the infection has whipped up a media frenzy, and targets Muslim and Christian religious minorities which tend to bury their dead. There appears to be a deliberate attempt to DIVIDE and DISTRACT from a science and evidence based national Covid-19 policy discussion of the real data, empirical facts and qualitative, social science date on the ground. One year after the Covid the QUALITATIVE DATA makes this very clear.
The policy of isolating the Western Province which is the economic growth hub of Sri Lanka, and preventing travel and internal tourism is increasing regional poverty and inequality in Sri Lanka. Countries like Japan with higher Covid-19 numbers are encouraging internal travel and tourism to assist economic recovery at this time. Arresting people for not wearing masks, and RT-PCR and Antigen testing at exits points of the Western Province has been less than optimum for society and economic recovery.
Disaster Capitalism: Big Phama, WHO and Medical Associations Nexus
WHO, MOH and GMOA and medical organizations and their events are heavily funded by big pharmaceutical, bio-tech and related multi-national companies, some that are also making vaccines and huge profits out of the so-called global Covid-19 pandemic. There is a long history of big Pharma. Companies colluding with local networks and blocking the passage of the Seneka Bibile National Drugs Policy Bill to provide cheap and affordable generic drugs to patients in Sri Lanka.
The advice from the World Health Organization (WHO), has manipulated the data and statistics, and suppressed the country-specific experiences and voices from the GLOBAL SOUTH, particularly tropical countries: Although there was NO Covid-19 HEALTH EMERGENCY in Sri Lanka at any time in the year 2020 as the qualitative and quantitative data indicates, policies, media messaging and propaganda that spread doubt and fear psychosis are now increasingly used to advertise Covid-19 vaccines. These policies were counter to the real data and facts on the ground (low number of workers, health workers and medics who have caught or died of the disease and low hospital occupancy), that is now available for the year 2020 in Sri Lanka.
In the context, would it not be wise and prudent for GoSL to wait until proper trials are conducted and these vaccines are authorized for non-emergency use? This would also ensure adequate stock for countries in the global North where there appears to be a Covid-19 crisis. It is increasingly clear that the WHO, funded by big pharmaceutical companies, whose head is embroiled in various corruption allegations seems to be promoting what Canadian author, Naomi Klein termed DISASTER CAPITALISM. At this time questions arise about the performance and integrity of the WHO-Sri Lanka country Director and office given a lack of evidence-based policy advice.
The lack of an evidence-based policy response by the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) appropriate to the Sri Lanka country context is related to the lack of a qualified, educated and competent Minister and team in the Ministry of Health (MOH) who is able to analyze country data and make evidence-based health and national policy. Since virus bio-terrorism from genetically modified gain of function research attacks (also on crops, like the Fall Army Worm) , are set to continue the government must urgently appoint a qualified and competent Minister and task force head.
The Big Picture in the Global South
Economists and social scientists who have analyzed the contradictory news published by the global electronic and print media point out that the Covid-10 has increased economic inequality, enriched a few, while emerging economies like Sri Lanka have borne the brunt of this epidemic, due to ill-informed policy and media messaging. (OXFAM Hunger Virus Report
As Bhattacharya and Khan have noted in a research paper: “COVID-19 has exposed the fault lines of traditional development co-operation architecture whilst bringing forth new Global South-anchored initiatives. Co-operation informed and inspired by Southern countries – irrespective of their level of development – has come to light through pandemic related assistance. For example, Cuban doctors were sent to South Africa and Italy through the country’s international medical programme. New Southern multilateral institutions have also emerged as effective responders to the COVID-19 crisis. The Crisis Recovery Facility created by the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) is to provide up to USD 13 billion of financing (with over USD 6 billion already approved) to both public and private entities impacted by the crisis. However, Southern expertise, Voices and perspective remain marginal.”
However, there is increased skepticism about the World Health Organization (WHO), which appears to have manipulated the data and statistics, and suppressed the country-specific experiences and voices from the GLOBAL SOUTH, particularly in tropical countries. Many scholars, academics and intellectuals have pointed out that this epidemic is being propagated and orchestrated by “imperialist and colonialist world powers” and related global media to print trillions of dollars and bail out their economies and boost Big Pharmaceutical and Tech companies, and promote global surveillance systems, and stop migration from the Global South also through a vaccination passport program. They note that the WHO is funded by many big pharmaceutical and bio-tech companies that are profiting from the so-called global pandemic.
The Covid-19 fear psychosis appears to have an element of a planned and systematic attack on economy, society and laboring people which needs to be urgently addressed through formulation of evidence-based policies, based on analysis of country statistics and data in the Global South). In fact WHO recommended policies appear to have turned science and common sense on their heads and caused great damage to society, economy and democratic governance as the
Rather than promoting the Covid-19 fear psychosis by using military to lock down and isolate communities while stigmatizing people, policies that have paralyzed the economy and society forcing Sri Lanka into a bigger debt trap, while US backed hedge funds and companies asset strip the country and carrying out the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) project – by the back door – the Govt. must assure the people that Covid-19 in Sri Lanka is milder than flu except for elderly people and those with underlying health conditions who should take precautions.
To confuse people, distract from analysis of the data, it seems that some media houses and politicians have also had recourse to the occult, superstition and cultural myths and rituals to mislead the masses. Many Trade Unions in the country have spoken out and as the Ceylon Mercantile Union (CMU) noted “we believe it is a grave death trap to blindly follow the policies prescribed by various interested foreign parties that appear to have captured National Institutions and policy-making processes, and seek to serve their own interests and profit from the misery of the working millions who have lost their livelihoods due to the global ‘panicdemic’.”.
Finally, it is highly likely that Sri Lanka has achieve “herd immunity” as the flu season at the end of 2019 had all the signs of Covid also given high levels of travel and tourism to and from China, but since there is no systematic anti-body testing we do not know if this is the case. Rather than buying vaccines it would be appropriate for the MOH to conduct anti-body tests with accurate test kits to assess how many in the population have immunities and if herd immunity has been achieved as the country-level data and statistics seem to indicate. Those who would like a vaccine may consider a BCG vaccine booster.
(Dr. Darini Rajasingham-Senanayake is a social and medical anthropologist and this paper was drafted for the Ceylon Mercantile and General Workers Union which represents workers throughout Sri Lanka.)