Professor Martin Neil: A Critique of Covid Narrative, Lack of Academic Freedom and Where Did the Flu Go?
Martin Neil, Professor of Computer Science and Statistics at Queen Mary University of London, says academic freedom is at zero. Disagreeing with mainstream can mean a career suicide.
Martin Neil was suffering from a strange virus back in December 2019. His then 20-year-old son also had it, and quite badly. A little while later, when he heard the rumours of a virus in China, he was alarmed and worried. "My original belief was that this was both novel and deadly and a real threat," he says.
However, as a scientist, as a mathematician, his second reaction was to look at the numbers and try to understand how serious the disease truly was. One of the world's most renowned epidemiologists, John P.A. Ioannidis, a professor of medicine at Stanford University, was one of the first to try to cool the panic by calculating infection fatality rates in the early stages of the pandemic. Ioannidis wrote in March 2020 that World Health Organization's (WHO) mortality figure of 3.4% of those infected was unduly scary, as well as meaningless and misleading. The trick was that the WHO came up with this figure on the basis of patients who had been tested for SARS-CoV-2. However, at the time, those tested were those with more severe kind of symptoms and those more likely to be at risk, i.e. those significantly more likely to develop a severe disease. However, Ioannidis looked at the outbreak on the Diamond Princess cruise ship that received a lot of press coverage at the time and drew some preliminary conclusions. On board the ship, 1% of those infected died, but many of the passengers were elderly, hence once again a high-risk group. On this basis, Ioannidis calculated that in the United States, given the age structure of the population, the mortality rate could turn out to be 0.125% of those infected.
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This was a very preliminary assessment based on limited data, designed to allay fears, and Ioannidis continued to monitor and analyse the situation. For example, in a review published in April 2021, he estimated a global infection fatality rate at 0.15%.
In autumn 2022, Ioannidis demonstrated, among other things, the pre-vaccination infection rates in the 0-59 age group to be 0.03% globally and the same in the 0-69 age group to be 0.07%.
However, the percentage calculated by the WHO was light years away from these calculations, and Neil, who had been keeping an eye on Ioannidis' work from the start, could see this. He took up the available data, started analysing it and concluded similarly that the mortality rate was lower than widely reported. In the UK, for example, epidemiologist Neil M. Ferguson with colleagues from Imperial College London published their own assessment in March 2020. Their study demonstrated the risk of the virus to be clearly higher in the older age group – e.g. while the infection rate in the 30-39 age group was 0.08%, it was 5.1% in the 70-79 age group and as high as 9.3% amongst those over 80. Across all age groups, the mortality rate, according to this survey, was 0.9% of those infected.
Neil, along with his colleagues, including another eminent mathematician and Professor Emeritus at Queen Mary University of London, Norman Fenton, published his assessment in May 2020. Their calculations were rather similar to those of Ioannidis – they concluded that overall infection fatality rate could not be higher than 0.3-0.5%. "We got that published in May 2020. But then things changed," Neil says.
And then censorship arrived
One thing that changed was his attitude to the seriousness of the disease. For example, he didn't think it was necessary to vaccinate against it, or even wear a mask, as he saw that the risk not to be that great. He also became sceptical about the government messaging about the disease. For example, in 2020 there was a lot of talk about asymptomatic transmission. The UK government commissioned advertising campaigns on television, public transport, schools, public places, etc, saying that people could be ill without displaying any symptoms – as many as one in three could have had the disease, according to official reports. In simple terms, it was a way of telling people not to interact with each other – e.g. if you went to visit your grandmother, you could unknowingly bring the disease with you, your grandmother was at risk and could be gravely ill.
Neil and his colleagues looked at the figures again and compared them with the results of studies that had been done. "That was odd. It just did not match up with official government statistics. That was another myth exposed to us," he says. In the conclusion of the study, published in April 2021, their team wrote that, amongst the asymptomatic, 1 in 19 people could be suffering from the virus if the numbers were to be fairly estimated.
Yet while further studies changed their personal attitudes about the danger of the virus and concordant government policy, it also changed something else for them that was surprising for the respected scientists – they could no longer publish their critical findings and articles in respected scientific journals, and still cannot. For example, Neil investigated the reliability of PCR tests and concluded that a large proportion of test results were false positives. The point was that PCR tests looked for viral genetic material in human samples – they tried to detect the presence of three SARS-CoV-2 genes. In Estonia, for example, a sample that could confirm the presence of at least two genes was considered positive. However, Neil discovered upon examining the UK data that those were achieved largely on the basis of a single gene, meaning that a large proportion of positive results should have been invalidated. This should have also raised the question of whether this was any serious pandemic to begin with. Yet Neil could not publish his study and it did not reach the mainstream media. Eventually, however, the information was published as a letter in the prestigious British Medical Journal (The BMJ). This was at least partially thanks to the seniour editor at BMJ, Peter Doshi, who is also an Associate Professor at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy. He considered the subject important.
Academic freedom equals zero
As their work and the shortcomings they had discovered were of no interest to the mainstream media, Neil, Fenton and their colleagues had to publish their work through small independent publications such as The Daily Sceptic, formerly known as The Lockdown Sceptic. Or do it on their own, in their blog "Where are the numbers?", which they run with Fenton. Neil says they became investigative journalists in a sense. "We were no longer just scientists, we were actually tracking down and sleuthing and finding things out and reporting scandalous material that was in the public interest," he says.
At the same time, Neil says, wider censorship has developed so far and so fast that scientists who were sceptical about official information in the case of Covid can no longer get their work published on other subjects either. A close colleague of his used to publish successfully on general health issues, but now his articles are being immediately rejected. Without review. “That censorship has extended and spilled over to the extent that you could consider it a form of persecution, in addition to the censorship,” Neil notes.
When asked what is the state of academic freedom in today's world, Neil answers simply: zero. And this is so not only in the matters of Covid, but according to him, this freedom has been close to zero already for years. There are certain subjects on which one cannot speak critically. And the choice of these topics are not surprising: green energy, net zero, climate change. "If you disagree [with an accepted opinion - HS], you don't have a voice. That is another area that has been a driver of potential career suicide for people for quite some time, for certainly over a decade. It shouldn't come as a surprise that the same has now happened with the Covid narrative. It's been extended," he says.
Neil says that he has certainly lost some of his own professional prospects, but he also thinks there is nothing to be gained without sacrifice. He feels confident because he is successful in business as well as in science. The same may not be true for those whose paycheck comes only from the government or from the university, for example. Would they start evaluating the efficacy and safety of vaccines, or would they rather not?
The myth of ‘safe and effective’
When Neil and his colleagues set out to investigate this claim in 2021, they once again discovered a major problem in data, which could have been seen as deliberate manipulation. Vaccinated individuals who died less than two weeks after vaccination were classified as unvaccinated in the death statistics. In other words, a fair presentation of these statistics could have raised very uncomfortable questions about the efficacy and safety of vaccines. None of the scientific journals published their article, but it circulated regardless. Researchers often post their articles on 'pre-print' servers for comments and feedback before publication where they can be accessed by other researchers. While several of these servers no longer allowed publication of their work, one – called ResearchGate – did. Their paper was downloaded half a million times. "This is unheard of an academic paper. And I tweeted about it and it got just under 3 million views. So it went viral," Neil says.
Neil and Fenton have also analysed excess mortality. Although we don't hear much about it in the press, it is a serious and deeply worrying issue. Neil tells us that, under normal circumstances, excess mortality will not be high everywhere at once. There will still be a kind of fluctuation, with one country statistically higher than another. But right now, the death rate is higher than average in different countries and regions at the same time – across Europe, the United States, Canada, Australia, etc. In Estonia, for example, the mortality rate has also been significantly above the 10-year average in 2021 and 2022, but fortunately it came down at the beginning of this year.
The question is, what causes such widespread excess mortality? Neil lists a number of possibilities – it could be the result of the Covid-19 disease itself, or the consequences of it, the so-called 'long Covid'; it could be linked to societies' policy of lockdowns, when people couldn't get to a doctor with their health problems and we now experience the consequences; it could also be linked to the quality of health services. And, of course, it may be linked to vaccination against Covid. Neil says that based on the 2022 data, there is a correlation between mass vaccination and mortality. "And that part [of the issue - HS] has continued into this year," he notes.
Are the vaccines causing excess deaths?
So – there is a correlation between vaccination and excess mortality. But can we say there is a causal link? "I think there is a degree of causation, yes. For causation you need an observable effect that you can see; you have an isolatable cause of treatment or intervention, which we can also see. We have had an unprecedented rollout of vaccines throughout these countries. And it's only after that that we see this consistent rise in mortality," Neil explains. It’s worth remembering that most of the countries had a system whereby you could access public services only if you were vaccinated, and the same was true for the workplace – if you refused to be injected, you were sacked.
As with all other Covid-related issues, it is perhaps no surprise that there is no talk about it in the mainstream press or even in academic circles. "I always assumed quite naively that almost all academics were very open-minded and willing to ask questions. What I have found out is the vast majority of my colleagues just do not want to know. They are supremely disinterested in these questions. Any question that deviates from the official narrative, they will not engage in even the most rudimentary conversation about it,” he says.
Lately, however, he adds, there have been some scientists who have admitted among themselves that Neil and Fenton with their colleagues are right about many things, but they don't want to still admit the same publicly. It would be a career suicide for them, Neil reiterates.
If asked about what could have been the biggest lie the people were told during this pandemic, Neil says he can't choose – it has been one endless treasure trove of lies. But he uses the question to lead the conversation to a recent research topic of growing interest to him – where did the flu go in the meantime? "An interesting thing is that we were told that flu had disappeared since Covid was so powerful, so deadly. It was a boxing match – and Covid won, yes? Flu disappeared," he reasons, adding that real life offers no such possibility. Experiments in the lab show that co-infection with influenza and Covid does not eliminate one or the other. So there is a strong contradiction there again, according to Neil. "We had to accept that we had a deadly and novel virus in the presence of Covid. For that to be true, there had to be no competitors. Therefore flu went," Neil offers one way to resolve this contradiction. In other words, it is highly unlikely that the flu has ever gone away. Those who got the flu were simply counted to be Covid cases, and when that was no longer done, the flu came back.
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