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  • Writer's pictureMiguel A. Fernandez

Coronavirus: Is it wanted dead. Or alive?...

Cartoon: Spanish humorist, "El Roto"

The use of masks for “facing” the coronavirus pandemic is clearly a controversial issue, especially in a political context such as today´s where the democratic definition of a political problem has become extremely blurry. The electoralist and partisan agendas followed by State-nation politicians are forcing them to respond in the very short-term to a series of subjective contents that have been implanted in the public opinion of most countries during the last months, contents that are extremely emotional and that are far from being based on factual observation. And as occurs with public opinion in general, such contents are also highly irrational. Unfortunately public opinion has become lately very hysteric... Can you still recall the toilet paper mania in February??... Because of this maniac state of mind it is practically impossible to address the fundamental epidemiological problem, especially in mainstream media. No matter if you studied in Harvard, Stanford or Oxford University, the plague of morbid and sensationalist contents through the media has become extremely viral, and even you might be infected. I´m not sure there is yet available a diagnosis test for this viral infection caused by mainstream media…

If you ask most people why they are wearing masks, there are basically 3 answers which I have observed… The first is to avoid self-infection, the second is to avoid infection of others, and the third is to avoid being fined due to its mandatory use in many public contexts. Also there are sectors of the population, especially in social gatherings, who subvert the mandatory use of masks demanded by the governments and –as in the recent case of Spain- many outbreaks are taking place in the last couple of weeks due to this behavior. These outbreaks risk the implementing of new lockdowns, also stressing again the health systems and the economy.

But there is an aspect of this entire problem that is very seldom addressed… From a purely epidemiological perspective, do we actually defeat the virus by using masks?... There are basically two ways of defeating a virus... The first is the most natural, and consists in relying in the immunological potentials of the human being when developing antibodies against a virus; that is to say, to gain immunity, first at an individual level and afterwards at a population level. And the second way is the “artificial” way, which consists in massive vaccination of the population. There is still no vaccine available for the SARS-Cov-1 coronavirus of 2003, so this fact makes the production of any vaccine for the recent SARS-Cov-2 an extreme pharmaceutical challenge. Obviously the pharmaceutical industry is always in the business of promising the future production of a vaccine, in the same way that the green energy industry promises that 7 billion people in the world can eventually rely on wind and solar power. But what is important to keep in mind is that a pharmacological solution only corresponds to one of the two solutions available. Hope is a very comforting feeling, but generally it doesn´t solve anything.

The generalized use of masks reduces significantly the contagion in a given population, and this allows the health systems to not get oversaturated nor over-stressed, especially in the case of SARS-Cov-2, which has an extremely high infection rate. But this procedure does not actually attack the virus; all it does is leave it “latent”, “dormant”, still lurking around like a monster you have managed to temporarily ambush. But one thing is to ambush a monster, and quite another is to kill it. The main advantage of having the coronavirus “ambushed” through the generalized use of masks is that normal life can be relatively reestablished (the so-called “new normality”…). And yet without any vaccine available, the virus will constantly menace with outbreaks as long as it is alive, this is, as long as a population has not reached around 60% of immunity. Only at this 60% percentage of immunity one can be confident that the coronavirus invisible monster is pretty much dead.

There are practically two types of people in the world: those who prefer to live with fear, and those who prefer to challenge fear. The generalized use of masks allows society to somewhat return to the former urban-industrial high-tech modes of life, but with the constant ingredient of a new type of fear; fear of more outbreaks, lockdowns and economic disruptions. As we know, it is generally those who are driven by fear who tend to end up suffering some form of neurotic behavior, and as we also know, it is extremely challenging to make a neurotic person understand that this pathology impedes personal responsibility and freedom. Such is unfortunately the psychological state that has impregnated lately the public opinion of most countries, impeding a serious debate on how to implement more effective and smarter measures in order to defeat this virus, especially by resorting to the advantages provided by diagnosis tests, seroprevalence tests and tracking apps. Unfortunately, this psychological state of fear seems quite irreversible and politicians are forced to follow it if they aim to be reelected.

Based on the recent Spanish government’s epidemiological monitoring on national seroprevalence, it took around 3 months for the country to pass from 5% to 6% of average immunity. So we can easily conclude that without any vaccine available, the generalized use of masks shall extend the problem along many years in the future, especially in order for a the global population to reach 50-60% of immunity and defeat the virus.

It is nothing new that modern society prefers to let all the shit it produces to be cleaned by the next generations, just as occurs with pollution, global warming or with the irreversible depletion of natural resources.

We can´t face this problem with a mask. Many politicians are accustomed to wearing ideological “masks” since about a century ago. But that doesn´t mean that people ought to follow such behavior.

We can only face this problem by acknowledging its epidemiological and economic aspects, and by allowing the best epidemiological experts in the world to have some say in how to deal with this problem. They all agree that we must gain population immunity. Such is the goal. Which are the means?

1) Track down all people who are potentially vulnerable to this coronavirus (people who suffer from diabetes, hypertension, pulmonary diseases, etc.) and keep these people protected/confined with extremely strict isolation measures.

2) Let the rest of the population face the infection, face the clinical symptoms of Covid-19 and get eventually immune. Let them get to normal, and no longer use masks. If any individual in this group wants to have direct contact with the potentially vulnerable sectors of the population they ought to have a PCR and/or seroprevalence test, otherwise such infraction ought to be considered as criminal.

This is the best “weapon” to defeat this virus if really there is the intention of defeating it. But one might ask… Why is such a rather simple and effective solution not being implemented?... The ultimate reason is that there are many political/corporate sector who profit from fear, especially in terms of persuading people that there is an easy solution to fear that doesn´t imply any serious and self-sacrificing position.

“Masks” were sold lately as the solution, but masks are actually a pseudo-solution because they do not defeat the problem but actually postpone the problem to the future, also prolonging fear, social hysteria, neurosis and individual conformism to the future, and to the next generations, who will have to face without masks the cowardice of our generation.

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