an interview by our reporter-at-large

N. Minimax, with Sabine and Jörg

Sabine and Jörg, why does this virus come back, roaring? We had it in check in Germany for months.

This virus is not returning, it never left us. Since February – at the latest – it was present in Germany and could spread below the radar. This is because in summer we got lax on the restrictions. The warm weather did its part, registered infection numbers were deceptive. There had been warnings, but these were duly ignored.

How is it that this virus is spreading unnoticed?

Well, this virus is causing little or no symptoms in many young. That is how it is spread very efficiently without being noticed. This was shown in the US as a prominent example. In the west coast Washington state the virus was spreading without any notice. Retrospectively it was shown that the virus was already present in the US, weeks before officially acknowledged.

Thus, we do not see the city of Wuhan as the source of the pandemic. It merely exploded there after being present in the Wuhan region for a while.

So, this virus does not originate in Italy then?

This abridged statement is misleading, and we want to explain a bit more.

The virus’ origin is in China. From there it spread around the world. What Mr. Kekulé implied in a German talk show was related to a specific viral mutation that now is predominant globally. Viruses do mutate constantly, resulting in changes within the genome. In most cases, this is leading to a defective virus. In rare cases, this may lead to a mutation that is transmitted more efficiently. Reasons for that are as manifold as the mutations: Maybe the virus does produce more progeny, maybe it is more efficient in hiding from the immune system, or it is better at entering a cell, or more infectious, or better at transmission…

With millions of infected people there are trillions of virus particles. The sheer number will lead to very rare mutations appearing more often. That is what happened with this particular mutant, called D614G. It appeared by a minute reading error and it happened in parallel on four continents. In November this was published in one of the best scientific journals. This mutant seems to have an advantage in spreading, so it is found more often with time. It is simply outcompeting the original version.

To locate its origin in Italy is ignoring the facts. There is more to that, since this is feeding Chinese propaganda. All genetic analyses had shown that the virus’ origin is in China. China is not to blame for that. Nevertheless, the regime seems to be afraid of a damage to its image. That is the reason they refused an international investigation to enter the country, and since then have more hampered than helped. This is damaging international cooperation in a crisis. The face needs to be saved, this cultural difference many Europeans do not comprehend.

What is your opinion on the economic stimuli and measurements by the German government?

This well intended help seems to be restricted to certain industries and limited to big companies. Big producers of automobiles, the Lufthansa, and big tourist enterprises are being supported with billions of Euros, while the SMEs – who by the way are stemming the major tax burden – are being ignored by and large. This is wrong not only in this current crisis, it is also not very forward-looking to support industries that are oriented backwards, instead of trendsetting companies.

The current measures were imposed too late. We are receiving the bill now: ICUs are reaching full capacity. The special requests by our governors are increasing the problem. Should the measures be lifted over the holidays, the virus is the winner.

We had suggested a major lockdown in our most recent post. The situation is getting critical. It may explode anytime. Infections may be prevented. They cannot be made undone.

Thus, we want to repeat our call, since the overly soft measures do not show any effect.

But the infection numbers will not increase after the holidays?  That is what the president of the German Medical Association has told us after all.

Well, if an orthopedist is voicing his opinion about a viral pandemic, this needs to be put into perspective. It is comparable to a virologist voicing comments on knee surgery.

This is not the first incidence this orthopedist is commenting on the current pandemic. Unfortunately, he seems to be indifferent to the damage he is doing in his prominent position. Why does he not retire to voice his opinion in private? We advise to only listen to experts. If in doubt, just contact us.

The whole world is putting its hope to the vaccines. Will they defeat the virus?

The development of these vaccines was a real milestone, technically, financially, and logistically. The vaccines will help to slow down the pandemic. They are no panacea, however. And no fast one. It will take until the end of 2021 to vaccinate a majority of the population. There is reason for hope but no reason to give an all-clear.

The virus will be with us for years. There will be outbreaks in the future.

That is why we are incredulous that governments put all their efforts into vaccines. In an acute infectious situation, you need medication. Always. Drug research was sidelined.

The only thing drug companies were able to do was testing existing drugs for beneficiary side effects helping COVID-19 patients. The results were depressing: Almost none of the drugs had any effect. Even the much appreciated Remdesivir showed mixed results.

We – SAJO – could change that! After a pandemic is just before the next pandemic.

When is it that we will go back to a normalcy?

Nixus, should you mean ‘as before the pandemic’, we do hope this will never happen! The pandemic on many levels has shown how dysfunctional the international bodies are. International reactions to the threat were uncoordinated to say the least. This is worrisome, since we are dealing with an imminent crisis.

In our view, this pandemic is a shot across the bows. The big one is coming for 40 years now.

Hmm, you are talking about climate change…

This is the biggest challenge mankind has had to face in history. We are seeing too little initiative to face this problem. The German government has issued a ban on plastic bags. What great achievement! At the same time, Germany is financially supporting lignite production. What do you expect of a Federal Ministry for Environment that is run by a person unfamiliar with the topic?

We do not have great hope that mankind will pull itself together. There is a universal greed for short term profit. This cannot go on.

Earth is in danger, then?

Oh, we are not worried about the planet. It has survived other beasts before.

What are your suggestions and wishes for the coming years?

We would wish politicians were working on their credibility to reclaim peoples’ trust. This is a prerequisite for democracy, and it is a lot of work. Otherwise, populists of the far right and left will get more influence.

We would wish for more investments into the future, not into old industries.

Personally, we wish for financiation and investments into SAJO to develop new drugs that we desperately need. SAJO will make it possible with our lead in technological development.

And we would wish for more solidarity, a foreign term in the German society.

Short term profit margins should be hauled onto the garbage heap of history. It is one of the driving forces of the ever-increasing climate change. International cooperation is key, but: No country should hide itself behind the notion that others need to be on board first. Each and everyone must make its contribution at once. This is where Europe should go ahead, no matter who is opposing at the other end. Climate change can no longer be ignored, in the years to come, there will be environmental disasters, famine, large scale migrations. Conflicts around resources, mainly for clean water, will lead to wars. This is what we have to prepare for. It is a shame and a confession of failure for all politicians and diplomats.

Do you have anything positive as a conclusion?

Well… we believe in human ingenuity. We love to be surprised.

Thank you very much to Sabine and Jörg for the interview.

Always our pleasure, Nixus.

Take care and think about the Merkulix-Ahatzl (the German abbreviation for distance, washing your hands, face masks, the German coronavirus-app that does not work, and for fresh air – open the windows).

The SAJO founders and CEOs: Sabine and Jörg at the interview with N. Minimax.

SAJO is consulting all around infectious diseases. We are applying our know-how, that we have acquired in more than 20 years. We do what we can to fight this pandemic.

SAJO – for a healthy world and better future!

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