Translation

Source:

Hugo Martin, “Para un prestigioso científico argentino, ‘el coronavirus no merece que el planeta esté en un estado de parate total,’” (Leading Argentinian scientist: Dealing with the corona virus does not require a total shutdown of the planet). Interview with Pablo Goldschmidt, Infobae, 2020/03/28, https://www.infobae.com/tag/pablo-goldschmidt/

Infobae is a major Spanish language media platform based in Argentina. Statistics on site traffic here.

German translation (abridged): https://www.rubikon.news/artikel/der-corona-totalitarismus

Translated with assistance from Google Translate. Human translation and editing by Lena Bloch. Further editing of this English translation by Dennis Riches. This version was edited in a way that added terms and clarified some points that would be unfamiliar to readers living outside of Argentina. The full original interview in Spanish is at the source above.

Introduction

The renowned virologist Pablo Goldschmidt spoke from Monaco with the journal Infobae. He lives there and is also spending his quarantine there. He commented on controversial definitions of the number of cases, the capabilities of the World Health Organization, and the dark reasons for the many deaths in Lombardy. He attributes the deaths less to the virus and more to environmental pollution and the degradation of healthcare systems. This translation is a condensed version of the original interview.

From the article in Infobae:

Sixty-five-year-old Argentinian doctor Pablo Goldschmidt, resident of France for the last forty years, is swimming against the tide by criticizing the panic surrounding the viral pandemic.

He bases his argument on his book La gente y los microbios [People and Microbes], in which he explains the psychoses surrounding the modern outbreaks of H1N1 flu (swine flu) and SARS.

Now this emeritus virologist from the French Ministry of Health is taking on WHO calculations for the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, which has already infected 595,953 people and killed 27,333, with 690 infected and 17 dead in Argentina. Goldschmidt does, however, put these figures into perspective.

“We are all locked up. In Nice, there are drones that impose fines on people. How far has this monitoring gotten? You have to read Hannah Arendt and look very closely at the origins of totalitarianism at that time. If you scare the population, you can do anything with it,” he says. And if you point out to him that he is in the age group of the most vulnerable, he accepts it, adding, “But of course … we are all at risk. But there are 80-year-olds who are doing fantastic.”

pablo-goldschmidt-2020-03
Dr. Pablo Goldschmidt, March 2020

INTERVIEW

Q: Why do you claim that there is unjustified paranoia about the corona virus?

A: This type of illness does not justify a total shutdown of the planet unless there are realistic predictions.

Q: And there is no such thing?

A: At London Imperial College, which has good departments for epidemiology and mathematical prognosis, there is a Professor Ferguson who developed the model of flattening or non-flattening curves in epidemiology.

And thanks to a WHO recommendation, this model was used as a basis for all political government decisions, without discussing it or testing the equations. I have looked into this from the start and I saw that something was wrong. I didn’t find it conclusive.

The day before yesterday evening, Mr. Ferguson said that the projection they calculated should be massively reduced in relation to the number of deaths…

Q: What does that mean?

A: That, for example, he predicted 2,200,000 deaths for the United States and 500,000 for the United Kingdom with his model if no measures were taken to flatten the curve. This model is now being used by the whole world with no one ever having questioned it.

And now he says no, the predictions didn’t seem to be exact. The same thing happened with the H1N1. Now they predict far fewer deaths—provided that the containment measures used by governments are followed. The estimates are much lower now.

Q: But it is because of the lockdown…

A: The lockdown, which was set up to flatten the curve, was based on the first calculations that had resulted in a higher transmission and mortality coefficient. Now, however, he says that it is not as previously thought, but is between 3 and 2.5, which roughly corresponds to the values of the flu. And on Wednesday, he said that the revised estimates and containment measures launched by the British government … would result in the deaths of about 20,000 people from the virus, or from the consequences of other conditions associated with the virus.

Q: What kind of conditions?

A: Heart attacks, strokes … Because if you go to the hospital and die of a cardiac arrest, you will be said to have succumbed to the virus. The problem is that everything is being mixed. If a person is brought in for a suicide attempt and has taken a remedy for a flu, they have died of the virus.

Even someone with an improperly treated stroke, if he had a flu, died from the virus and not from the stroke itself. He says you have to check the numbers. There is of course another epidemiologist in Oxford who is surprised that international organizations have accepted the Imperial College model so unconditionally.

Here another type of forecasting model is being developed and it is believed that the virus is invisible and uncontrolled for at least a month before anyone suspects it has spread. If the population were tested, half of them would probably have been infected, making the mortality and risk much lower.

If this is true, one in a thousand would become ill and would need to be hospitalized because 86 percent had no severe symptoms. This information was released in England yesterday.

Q: What changes should this information lead to in healthcare delivery?

A: Out of 100 people who are examined, 86 percent suffer from the flu infection. In this case, the doctor will do a blood test with four parameters, which the laboratory can perform in half an hour to an hour. Then you know whether the person has a viral infection or not—but not whether the person has the coronavirus.

Say a person has a virus–influenza, adenovirus, whatever. However, we will need laboratories that can check for dimer and C-reactive proteins and perform blood cell counts. If the positive dimers are high, there will be lung impairment.

Liver enzymes are also examined and an ionogram is made to determine the potassium value. This shows whether the person has a virus—corona or another. If these values are not worrying (increased), the person is sent home and given flu treatment.

Do you understand? So far you don’t need to panic, and we’re talking about 85 percent of people. This procedure was carried out in Korea, in China, all over the world.

Q: What about the remaining 15 percent of people?

A: That can be bad. However, the PCR test alone can provide certainty, but it is not available in every city, province or laboratory. Each individual test costs $30 to $40 and you need very well trained staff and materials.

I was in Argentina in December and I gave a lecture on the development of a molecular biological test that you can do yourself and that is not expensive. But this development takes at least two months.

You have to buy the Korean tests because the Chinese are currently having a big problem. Many people no longer want to buy them. But even if you buy the best test from Korea, the risk of a false negative test is 20 percent.

Q: What if the result is the COVID-19 coronavirus?

A: If someone has a viral disease and says they have had a fever of more than 38.5 ° C for two days, that they are tired, have a cough, shortness of breath and, for strange reasons, have lost their sense of smell and taste, an MRI or lung scan is necessary. There’s no way around it. An x-ray is not always reliable. If radiology says there is an infection that is compatible with pneumonia caused by the coronavirus, this person needs intensive care, but this applies to at most five percent of people. But if you don’t have MRIs or CT scanners, what do you do? You don’t know that, and that’s where the problems begin.

Q: In this case there is no treatment?

A: What the Koreans do—and the French now claim to have figured it out first—is to give an antibiotic like amoxicillin with clavulanic acid and hydroxychloroquine.

Q: Does the hydroxychloroquine help?

A: It is the only one that can currently be given. There is no perfect evidence that it will work, but it is better than nothing. It is treated like pneumonia. The difference with classic pneumonia is that the hydroxychloroquine is now added, but only if the doctor does an EKG and determines the patient’s potassium values. The hydroxychloroquine changes the cardiac conductivity and after the administration of three pills there are surprises in the EKG. Not everyone can be treated like this.

That is why there were negotiations in France between the health ministry and Didier Raoult, the professor from Marseille who adopted the procedure done in Korea. They said you could do it all over the world, but no, that’s not true. This is only possible for patients who have a doctor supervising their treatment. If you have cardiac arrhythmias due to a drop in the potassium level, the medicine can be worse than the disease. These patients definitely need to be warned, and here comes the big question.

Q: Which would be?

A: This instruction must be given to an intensive care unit with trained staff. Are there trained intensive care staff in all countries and cities? Are there enough personnel who know how to insert a laryngoscope to intubate the patient? Are there nurses and doctors—whose education the state was responsible for—for this given situation? The answer is “no”. There are also not enough devices.

In Germany there are six times as many ventilators as in Italy, with ten times fewer people who died from the same disease. In Europe there are 80,000 treatment beds with trained staff, an average of 12 per 100,000 inhabitants. There are 28 per 100,000 in the USA, 29 in Germany, 4.2 in Portugal and 10.3 in Spain.

The problem here, however, is that 78 percent of those who care for these patients are trained in surgical medicine and heart disease. So they can deal with heart attacks and strokes, but the state has not trained lung specialists to deal with this type of crisis. How much of this situation is the virus responsible for?

Q: And Italy, is it the country where we say everything was done wrong?

A: Italy’s problem is much more serious and needs to be analyzed separately. Mortality is very high there and people are grieving, but they do not know that beds have been cut and no health care facilities have been added for 25 years—and certainly not facilities for doctors in intensive care in hospitals. This means it’s not just the virus. There are 75,000 people diagnosed and 7,400 dead. That means something.

Q: What about the healthcare system in Argentina?

A: I cannot say anything about this. The Argentine system is complicated. There are state, private, community and union hospitals. When I was there last year, everything was working well in the Fernandez Hospital, but you couldn’t go to the Clínicas because the elevator didn’t work. And as far as the specialist personnel are concerned, I don’t know how things are with pulmonary medicine. There are good isolated cases, brilliant people, but in general I don’t know.

Q. You say you don’t have to be paranoid, and that’s okay. But if in China they had to create hospitals from scratch, this is different from a common flu. Something different was happening …

A. Look, everyone who coughs goes into intensive care. Last year, 460,000 people were treated for pneumonia in the United States. I don’t know if it’ll be 100,000 this year. It’s not like that. People run to the hospital for trifles. And neither nurses nor doctors were trained because it wasn’t important until three months ago.

The patients were put on oxygen masks in a geriatric ward in the south of Rome—11 out of 100 old men died in one morning. Did the virus kill them? Maybe they were infected with the corona virus. But what would have happened if they had been treated correctly? They did not even have any procedures in place.

In China, the mortality rate was nine percent at the beginning. Today it is one percent. In Italy it is nine percent, but is decreasing because you learn how to deal with the problem. The fact that they are now learning means that they had not been trained, that there was no infrastructure.

There is a patriotic mood. People sing from the windows, but the doctors are not heroes. The health care workers who will deal with the sick are not trained. They are exposed to dramatic situations and some don’t even know what to do.

There are no written procedures. Until recently, nothing was known. But I ask: “Is the virus alone responsible for these deaths?” It is said that the corpses piled up, but yesterday in Spain it was shown that there were just as many deaths last year.

Q: But what were the causes of these deaths?

A: Heart attack or pneumonia. Today they are all COVID-19 cases. But no nasal samples were taken from all who died last year.

Q: Are you saying that the so-called COVID-19 deaths have other causes?

A: Last year they were caused by other respiratory viruses. Surely there was a flu that killed a lot of people in Spain and Italy. However, they died of pneumonia without the microbe being specified. All right then.

We have already talked about the lack of ventilators and the lack of training for staff—doctors and nurses—and that every day in Italy there is a loud question as to why no new jobs have been created in public hospitals. There were practically no job postings for therapists in small towns.

One can draw conclusions about this, but if one continues to think, one must now turn to the causes of death in Lombardy, where more people died. And what I am going to say now has never been published.

Q: What did you see?

A: It was in Italy, in Lombardy, where most people died of mesothelioma. There were fiber cement factories that used asbestos. Until 1992, when it was banned, it was found in rooves and factory insulation. Asbestos was contained in the walls from which small crystals emanate that can reach the lungs and cause scarring there.

Mesothelioma is lung cancer caused by asbestosis or asbestos. Of the autopsies performed in Lombardy in the past ten years, 85 percent were work-related deaths. There were malignant tumors of the lungs and peritoneum. And until 1992 the use of asbestos was not prohibited.

Lombardy has a population of ten million, and most of the workers in the asbestos industry are from there. It is the place with the most asbestos cases worldwide. The asbestos also adheres to clothing and textile fibers. The haute couture of northern Italy is made by dressmakers.

Between 2000 and 2012, 4,442 malignant mesotheliomas—invasive lung cancer from asbestos—occurred, including 2,850 in men and 1,592 in women. And the number of cases is increasing. This year, there were already 3.6 percent more cases among men and 3.3 percent more among women over 65, compared to previous years. And by 2030 there will be 20,000 more.

Q: Is there a connection with the corona virus?

A: Yes. This region is already punished enough due to a lack of funds, a reduction in the number of beds, the lack of respirators, and old people living with lung cancer or other chronic conditions. These factors cause a viral infection to become a fatal infection. A lung affected by mineral fibers reacts differently to an infection than a healthy one. And it is no coincidence that more people die in an area with asbestos factories.

Q: But the COVID-19 kills more people than the usual flu …

A: All viral infections can be fatal. The difference is that panic developed here and in previous cases it did not. Last year, many people died of the flu and no one locked down the planet. So what’s going on?

Q: So what is happening now?

A: I don’t know…

Q: But what do you perceive? A conspiracy?

A: No, you can see something like that immediately. Last year there were 36 million flu cases in the United States. 370,000 were hospitalized and 22,000 died. And no airports were closed. There are 33,000 cases in France, but when 23,000 elderly people died in old people’s homes because of a heat wave, the country was not sealed off, either. All of this is strange.

Q: That’s why I ask again. What do you think?

A: What I denounce from the start is the serious mistake by the WHO experts. Do you know what “pandemic” means? It does not mean that it is a dangerous or serious illness. It means that this disease is present in many countries. There is a cold pandemic every year and nothing is sealed off! Shouldn’t all of this be put into perspective?

Q: But the COVID-19 is very contagious, doctor …

A: Yes, like a cold. People die of it in nursing homes. So far, nobody has counted them, but now they do. Last year there were more than 500,000 pneumonia deaths worldwide.

In Africa, a million could be infected with meningitis, which is transmitted by saliva, and the airplanes come and go. Nobody cares. There are 135,000 people infected with tuberculosis in Latin America, and none are upset.

When someone makes a lot of noise about something like corona … I think it is all very dramatized. From day one, I said the numbers were wrong, as was the case with swine flu.

Q: What would you do?

A: I have no authority to say what I would do. However, I see that there is a lack of training and material. So first of all I would train people for what to expect. If after three weeks they recognize the symptoms of a new disease, it will be they who take new measures.

Take a look at what’s happening in Germany. Mortality is ten times lower because there are pulmonologists and specialists in intensive care. All right, let’s give training in these fields in Argentina and around the world.

One cannot have doctors improvise when they are faced with a patients who have shortness of breath. When these people are trained, we will see from the numbers that these five percent of cases can be treated in hospitals. Everything else will come together.

Q: Should the quarantine be ended?

A: If the system was brought up to scratch, if trained personnel, equipment, medication and infrastructure were available—yes, the quarantine would no longer make sense.

Under the current circumstances, nothing can be said about the quarantine because you do not know how many people will be infected, nor whether the intensive care beds and staff will be enough for the five percent who are affected seriously.

The measures should not be aimed at the virus. They should be aimed at preventing people from needing critical care. Since there are no objective numbers, I don’t know if they are wrong.

One would have to compare the death toll with that of last year. The panic is absurd. There are 690 tested positive … how many have been tested in total? 30 million or a thousand? Seventeen have died. I would like to know how many died in nursing homes or at home from pneumococcal or hemophilic infection last year. There are very many in Argentina.

Q. How do you judge the actions of the Argentinian government so far?

A. I have the impression that the government is acting very well and carefully. However, it is under pressure from the international authorities, with their death rates that the experts of the WHO arrive at through mathematical calculations.

However, this is not a matter of bad faith, but rather of incompetence. There is no dark force working in the background. However, I would like to emphasize once again that Argentina is doing well and taking the problem seriously. Health Minister Gines Gonzalez Garcia seems very good to me. Being surrounded by people who are learned and serious makes you confident. They do their thing as well as they can with the means at their disposal.

Q: Don’t you say the same about the World Health Organization?

A: Not at all, unfortunately.

__________

Translated with assistance from Google Translate. Translation and editing by Lena Bloch. Further editing of this English translation by Dennis Riches. This version was edited in a way that added terms and clarified some points that would be unfamiliar to readers living outside of Argentina. The full original interview in Spanish is at the source below:

Hugo Martin, “Para un prestigioso científico argentino, ‘el coronavirus no merece que el planeta esté en un estado de parate total,’” (Leading Argentinian scientist: Dealing with the corona virus does not require a total shutdown of the planet). Interview with Pablo Goldschmidt, Infobae, 2020/03/28, https://www.infobae.com/tag/pablo-goldschmidt/

Infobae is a major Spanish language media platform based in Argentina. Statistics on site traffic here.

German translation (abridged): https://www.rubikon.news/artikel/der-corona-totalitarismus