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The recently published, albeit (still) heavily redacted minutes of the Robert Koch Institute‘s (RKI) coronavirus crisis team, which had to be released over two years, indicate that a large part of the coronavirus measures were demanded and ordered by politicians instead of being based on science. The Robert Koch Institute is the German government’s central institution for disease surveillance and prevention. Despite the massive redactions, the “RKI files” show that the experts at the RKI knew from the outset about the lack of evidence for many measures and the unsuitability of much of the data relevant to the pandemic – a milestone in the coronavirus investigation!

The legal dispute over the coronavirus crisis management protocols

On March 20, 2024, the online magazine Multipolar published all the minutes of the RKI’s coronavirus crisis team between January 14, 2020 and April 30, 2021. The magazine led by journalist Paul Schreyer spent two years and around €15,000 in a legal dispute over these minutes. It was hoped that this would shed light on how Covid-19 came to be classified as a high health risk in mid-March 2020. According to a Multipolar article from March 18, 2024, “the upgrading of the risk assessment […] was the legal foundation of all corona measures”. It is also about the court rulings made at the time, which generally relied on the RKI’s upgrade instead of hearing other experts. So the question that has preoccupied critics and supporters of the measures from the very beginning is: Is SARS-Cov2 a particular danger to the general public?

Multipolar magazine had already received the 200 heavily redacted protocols and a corresponding letter of around 1000 pages from the law firm, which legally justifies the redactions, in April 2023. According to Paul Schreyer, the initial hope was that the redactions could be lifted in the short term through legal proceedings, which is why the company waited to publish them. However, given the explosive nature of the content, the almost one-year delay in publication now seems like a waste of time. The trial date scheduled for May 2024 regarding the redactions was originally to be postponed again at the request of the RKI lawyers. However, apparently due to the great public interest, Health Minister Karl Lauterbach surprisingly arranged for the protocols to be redacted promptly on March 27, 2024.

The fact that Lauterbach has been in office since December 8, 2021 and the rejection of Multipolar’s request under the Freedom of Information Act was received on December 30, 2021 seems contradictory. Why would the minutes have been redacted without the intention of publication? And how can the minister arrange for the redaction if the RKI is politically independent?

A recent statement from the RKI now states: “In view of the current public debate, the BMG and RKI are of the joint opinion that the decision made at the time will be reviewed again in the current situation and further information will be made available.”BMG Bundesministerium für Gesundheit – Federal Ministry Health

The medically unfounded risk upgrade

On March 17, 2020, the then head of the Robert Koch Institute, Lothar Wieler, announced that the risk assessment for public health from Covid19 had been tightened to “high”, citing rising case numbers as one of the reasons. This meant a sharp increase in the total number of positive coronavirus test results compared to the previous week. However, the fact that the number of tests in Germany tripled in the week starting March 16, 2020 (week 12) also only became known through multiple inquiries by Multipolar Magazine. The rising number of cases was therefore not a reflection of increasing illnesses or hospitalizations. The proportion of people testing positive had only changed by 0.9%.

Coronavirus: Irreführung bei den Fallzahlen: https://multipolar-magazin.de/artikel/coronavirus-irrefuhrung-fallzahlen

The following sentence can be read in the minutes from March 16: “A new risk assessment was prepared at the weekend. It will be scaled up this week. The risk assessment will be published as soon as [name redacted] gives a signal.” According to Multipolar, this upscaling was “abrupt and apparently initiated from outside the RKI” because, according to the Raue law firm representing the RKI, no documents were available. The redacted person who was supposed to give the signal for the upgrade is also still unknown. The RKI, which probably felt compelled to publish a statement on the protocols due to the strong media interest, claims that this is an RKI employee.

Also on 16 March 2020, the German company Biontech published a press release in which it spoke of “rapid progress in the COVID-19 vaccine program to combat the global health threat”. On the same day, the first test subject in England was vaccinated with an mRNA vaccine from Moderna in connection with a study. Also on March 16, epidemiologist Neil Ferguson from Imperial College in England published his modeling recommending lockdowns (which later turned out to be grossly wrong).

The lack of evidence for the measures

The minutes of the crisis team are also remarkable because they show how little evidence and how much uncertainty there was regarding the planned measures against Covid-19. The available records convey a completely different picture than the containment measures usually supported by the majority of the scientific community. A clear example of this is the mask propagated by politicians and the media as effective, for whose effectiveness there is little to no evidence in the RKI protocols.

An important indicator of the corona pandemic was the so-called incidence, i.e. the number of positive tests per 100,000 inhabitants, for example – which is not a very reliable figure without reference to the number of tests carried out. The experts on the crisis team were apparently also aware of this when they proposed the following realistic “key performance indicator” on March 23, 2020: “e.g. number of positive tests to total number of tests

The minutes on May 5, 2020 state: “Providing indicators is largely rejected from a technical point of view, but they are strongly demanded by politicians (however, no instructions have been issued in this regard). The incidence mentioned comes from a discussion between BM Braun and BM Spahn (former German Health minister).”

Interestingly, there is a note in the minutes regarding the public communication of the test figures that suggests that falling figures should rather not be announced: “Currently a slight indication of a slowdown in momentum: however, this should not be communicated in this way so as not to call the new measures into question, especially as we cannot be sure how the trend will develop.” (October 30, 2020)

At the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, the obvious comparison to influenza (real flu) was quickly portrayed in the media as inappropriate. The RKI protocols state the following: “Covid19 should not be compared with influenza, more people die in a normal influenza wave, but Covid-19 is questionable for other reasons.” However, these “other reasons” are not to be found in the protocol.

The PCR test and its reliability

As early as February 2020, the experts knew the following about the PCR test and its reliability in detecting infectiousness: “A positive PCR result after recovery does not necessarily mean infectiousness.” It was also found that: “PCR is matched against the other coronaviruses, SARS could occur as a positive test, but is not currently circulating.” These are so-called false-positive test results. This refers to test results that are positive due to a susceptibility to error, even though there is no infection.

The following statement shows that the experts were aware of the importance of this topic: “False positive tests continue to be a topic in the media, a good language regulation and FAQ have been created, but it remains a favorite topic of conspiracy theorists and is therefore still coming up more and more “ (August 12, 2020). A positive PCR test was nevertheless the basis for restrictions on fundamental rights, e.g. in the case of domestic isolation.

The non-existent effectiveness of masks in public

The much-discussed and usually hotly debated (in)effectiveness of masks in public was also the subject of the discussions of the crisis team. The following statements show that there was no solid evidence either for the wearing of mouth-nose protection (MNP) or for FFP2 masks in public: “Evidence for MNP – no studies that prove/are against counterproductivity, no evidence for it.” But: “ECDC [European Center for Disease Prevention and Control] does not recommend them for healthy people in the general population. RKI remains: not recommended in public, in a domestic environment with case yes, also for the protection of others” (February 26, 2020). In October 2020, it states: “[T]here is no evidence for the use of FFP2 masks outside of occupational health and safety, this could also be made available to the public”.

A detailed analysis of the state of knowledge of the RKI on the evidence base for masks draws the following conclusion: “Even from the fragmentary information now provided by the RKI, it can be stated: 1) Those responsible were aware from the outset that there is no justifiable scientific evidence for a general obligation to wear masks in the population.”

Dealing with a respiratory virus

When searching for keywords in the minutes, it is also worth researching terms that do not appear in the experts’ discussions, even though they would have been relevant to pandemic policy. These include, above all, the “Great Barrington Declaration” published in October 2020 by three internationally recognized public health experts, which aimed to protect vulnerable groups in particular and minimize the damage caused by the containment measures. The declaration and the professors behind it, Gupta (Oxford), Kulldorff (Harvard) and Bhattacharya (Stanford), do not appear once in the 2518 pages of the RKI protocols, although the Great Barrington Declaration has been signed almost a million times worldwide.

Also interesting is the crisis team’s handling of the pandemic in Sweden – a country that is known to have managed almost without measures and, above all, without obligations and restrictions on fundamental rights and ultimately had a very low overall mortality rate and little loss of life expectancy. Sweden was a kind of control group that showed what would have happened if the draconian measures had been dispensed with. In May 2020, the following can be read about the Swedish approach at a meeting of the crisis team: “Limited measures in the wider population have not led to a catastrophe, and lessons could be learned from this.” Apparently there was even an offer to take a closer look at the Swedish approach: “There were several discussions internally that it would be interesting to exchange ideas with Sweden. ZIG would organize it if required, if there was interest from the crisis unit” (3 July 2020). ZIG is the Center for International Health Protection, which is headed by Johanna Hanefeld. Hanefeld was present at almost all crisis team meetings and took part in the “Catastrophic Contagion” pandemic simulation game organized by the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security in October 2022 as a private individual.

Also intriguing is a comment in April 2020 that shows how early the advisors realized that there was little chance of stopping a respiratory pathogen. It states: “[E]very acute respiratory disease cannot be stopped in the long term. The effort would be very great and would be accompanied by very great restrictions on public life.”

This, in turn, is pretty much in line with the approach of the Great Barrington Declaration and the successful Swedish approach, which would have spared us the extreme social divisions, the systematic endangerment of children’s welfare and the totalitarian tendencies of pandemic policy.

Conclusion

The unredacted passages of the released RKI protocols already show that the people, often stigmatized as Covidiotes and conspiracy theorists, who took to the streets en masse from March 2020 to demand proportionality and the rule of law in pandemic policy, and the many critical scientists and doctors were largely right. Their criticism of the lack of evidence for the political measures coincides with statements by experts from the crisis unit. This suggests that the pandemic policy was politically driven and was not supported by a broad consensus in the scientific community. However, politicians suggested that there was no unambiguity and no alternative in order to enforce historical restrictions on fundamental rights, including a vote on a general coronavirus vaccination requirement.

If the crisis team’s professional exchange had been public during the coronavirus crisis, acceptance of the containment measures would probably have been significantly lower due to a lack of facts. This is why sociologists such as Heinz Bude, co-author of the famous panic paper , a document about how to manage the pandemic by invoking fear in people, and member of the COVID-19 Task Force of the Federal Ministry of the Interior, were needed to ensure the necessary acceptance. In January 2024, Bude explained how this was achieved: “Let me tell you a little more about it. We said we had to, we had to find a model to create a willingness to follow that was a bit science-like.”

It is therefore all the more important to remove the redactions in the protocols and uncover the missing crisis management team protocols. The author of this text has therefore submitted a request to the RKI under the Freedom of Information Act and asked for the minutes of the crisis team after April 30, 2021. The public has a right to know the background to a policy that has induced fear for four years and enforced restrictions on fundamental rights without sufficient factual basis. It has the right to a politically independent investigation that has sufficient powers and tools to fully disclose what happened and to take legal action.

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