Fully referenced facts about COVID-19, provided by experts in the field, to help our readers make a realistic risk assessment.
Regular updates below.
- Lethality: According to the latest immunological studies, the overall infection fatality rate (IFR) of COVID-19 in the general population is about 0.1% to 0.5% in most countries, which is most closely comparable to the medium influenza pandemics of 1936, 1957 and 1968.
- Treatment: For people at high risk or high exposure, early or prophylactic treatment is essential to prevent progression of the disease. According to numerous international studies, early outpatient treatment of covid may reduce hospitalizations and deaths by about 75%.
- Age profile: The median age of COVID-19 deaths is over 80 years in most Western countries (78 in the US) and about 5% of the deceased had no serious preconditions. The age and risk profile of covid mortality is therefore comparable to normal mortality, but increases it proportionally.
- Nursing homes: In many Western countries, about 50% of all COVID-19 deaths have occurred in nursing homes, which require targeted and humane protection. In some cases, care home residents died not from the coronavirus, but from weeks of stress and isolation.
- Excess mortality: In most Western countries, the pandemic increased mortality by 5% to 20% in 2020. Up to 30% of the additional deaths were caused not by COVID-19, but by indirect effects of the pandemic and lockdowns (e.g. fewer treatments of cancer and heart attack patients).
- Antibodies: By the end of 2020, antibody seroprevalence was between 10% and 30% of the population in most Western countries. At seroprevalence levels above 30%, a significant decrease in the infection rate was observed in many regions.
- Symptoms: Up to 40% of all infected persons show no symptoms. Overall, about 95% of all people develop at most mild or moderate symptoms and do not require hospitalization. Early outpatient treatment may significantly reduce hospitalizations.
- Long COVID-19: About 10% of symptomatic people experience post-acute or long COVID-19, i.e. symptoms and exhaustion that last for several weeks or months. Long COVID-19 may also affect younger and previously healthy people whose initial course of disease was rather mild.
- Transmission: According to current knowledge, the main routes of transmission of the virus are indoor aerosols and droplets produced when speaking or coughing, while outdoor aerosols as well as most object surfaces appear to play a minor role. The coronavirus season in the northern hemisphere lasts from about November to April.
- Masks: There is still little to no scientific evidence for the effectiveness of cloth face masks in the general population, and the introduction of mandatory masks couldn’t contain or slow the epidemic in most countries. If used improperly, masks may increase the risk of infection.
- Children and schools: In contrast to influenza, the risk of disease and transmission in children is rather low in the case of COVID-19. There was and is therefore no medical reason for the closure of elementary schools or other measures specifically aimed at children.
- Contact tracing: A WHO study of 2019 on measures against influenza pandemics concluded that from a medical perspective, contact tracing is “not recommended in any circumstances”. Contact tracing apps on cell phones have also proven ineffective in most countries.
- PCR tests: The highly sensitive PCR test kits may in some cases produce false positive or false negative results or react to non-infectious virus fragments from a previous infection. In this regard, the so-called cycle threshold or ct value is an important parameter.
- Virus mutations: Similar to influenza viruses, mutations occur frequently in coronaviruses. Most of these mutations are insignificant, but some of them may increase the transmissibility, virulence or immune evasion of the virus to some extent.
- Lockdowns: In contrast to early border controls, lockdowns have had no significant effect on the pandemic. According to the UN, lockdowns may put the livelihood of 1.6 billion people at acute risk and may push an additional 150 million children into poverty.
- Sweden: In Sweden, COVID-19 mortality in 2020, without a lockdown, was comparable to a strong influenza season and close to the EU average. About 50% of Swedish deaths occurred in nursing facilities and the median age of Swedish COVID-19 deaths was about 84 years.
- Vaccines: Real-world studies have shown high vaccine effectiveness in people up to 70 years of age. In some cases, serious adverse events or sudden deaths have been reported after COVID-19 vaccinations. The long-term safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines remains unknown.
- Media: The reporting of many media has been unprofessional, has increased fear and panic in the population and has led to a hundredfold overestimation of the lethality of the coronavirus. Some media even used manipulative pictures and videos to dramatize the situation.
- Virus origin: The origin of the new coronavirus remains unknown, but the best evidence currently points to a covid-like pneumonia incident in a Chinese mine in 2012, whose virus samples were collected, stored and researched by the Virology Institute in Wuhan (WIV).
- Surveillance: NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden warned that the coronavirus pandemic may be used to expand global surveillance. Many governments have restricted fundamental rights of their citizens and announced plans to introduce digital biometric vaccine passports.
Source: Swiss Policy Research
Header: Colorized scanning electron micrograph of an apoptotic cell (green) heavily infected with SARS-CoV-2 virus particles (orange), isolated from a patient sample. Image captured at the NIAID Integrated Research Facility (IRF) in Fort Detrick, Maryland. Credit: NIAID. (Photo by: IMAGE POINT FR/NIH/NIAID/BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)