The consequences of false positives

Guest-Article by Howard Steen & Saji Hameed


It seemed in January that the world was facing an impending epidemic caused by a deadly new virus and that a swift response based on inevitably limited data was of the utmost importance to avert a potential global catastrophe. One of the most important tools in this fight to detect, isolate and suppress the virus is the PCR test. The Charité Institute of Berlin led by Prof. Drosten was quick to recognise the extreme seriousness of the situation and developed the first PCR test protocol to detect the SARS-CoV-2 virus in record time. This was simultaneously selected and recommended by the WHO and became the global first line of defense. 

Eleven months into the pandemic we have now learned much more about the virus and the multitude of PCR test variants made possible by the Corman-Drosten protocol. Flaws in the test protocol have become increasingly clear and our review report addresses these tremendous concerns.

Additionally alarming, and especially pertinent to this argument, as the PCR test has impacted all levels of global society as perhaps no test has ever done before, are the unforeseen consequences caused by the rise in PCR cases. Over one hundred governments have used these results to apply unprecedented measures to control transmission; such as lockdowns which have irreparably impacted millions of lives and livelihoods and direct attacks on people’s basic rights and personal freedoms, further resulting in catastrophic damages for entire economies.


In the literature of PCR testing, it is known that there are many dangers, such as operational false positives that can lead to misinterpretation of the test results. For this reason it is recommended  by Kurkela et al. [1] that PCR should only ever be used in tandem with a clinical diagnosis of infection based on symptoms. Finally, there are documented occurrences of misinterpretation that have led to phantom pandemics, e..g. the 2004-2006 Respiratory illness outbreak mistakenly attributed to Pertussis via use of PCR testing [2]. 

Note that these dangers are multiplied by the promoted industrial scale use of PCR for whole population screening. To put this in perspective, the CD paper describes how 4 out of 310 tests returned false positives (i.e. a rate of 1.2%) in the controlled and first class expert laboratory facilities of the Chariteé Institute.  Applied on the recent status in the USA (Nov 21, 2020 CDC report with total tests performed at 178.1 million) this equates to falsely labelling at least 2.3 million people as ‘infected with Covid-19’ with all the ensuing consequences. But in light of  the errors presented in the previous section, the actual false positive rate is unknown and therefore 2.3 million must be considered a minimum estimate; so the distressing reality is likely to be much greater.

1. The amount of PCR testing increases every day with consequent record numbers of PCR positives. Governments and news organizations cite these daily and use them to justify their individual policies. Some of the consequences of these policies are listed below: Misdiagnosis of PCR positives as infections has a history of causing ‘Casedemics’  which are typically characterized by an incongruity between positive PCR test results and deaths. A fairly recent example was the Swine flu outbreak of 2009 [3];

2. Blanket Lockdowns have been universally implemented and in many cases extended indefinitely by governments without prior due diligence cost / benefit analysis. The wide ranging and disastrous impacts of these non-evidence based measures are now becoming only too clear: Human impacts, to name just a few include; a) impacts on mental health including an increase in suicides [4]; b) cancelled or delayed essential hospital treatment (e.g. cancer, heart disease, diabetes etc), c) deaths among the elderly due to separation from loved ones, d) inhumane confinement and isolation of the elderly at a stage in their life when they need family contact most, increase in stillborn deaths.          

Economic impacts are no less devastating;

a) Lockdowns have created an initial financial disaster already assessed as being of 3-4 times greater impact than the 2008 financial crisis while longer term effects are unknown [5];

b) Loss of future opportunities for the young generation has been highlighted by UNICEF [6];

c) The Word Bank has stated that due to the pandemic measures 88-115 million people will be forced into extreme poverty in 2020 with the total rising to 150 million by 2021 [7];

3. The use of lockdowns and belief in unproven NPIs coupled with the appearance of the ‘casedemic’ phenomena enabled by PCR testing has encouraged governments worldwide  to to intimidate their populations into compliance with increasingly bizarre and illogical restrictions. Use of psychological techniques to enforce these includes; a) the deliberate ramping up of fear tactics via the media to ensure compliance, b) excessive use of police and military force to instill an atmosphere of imminent threat to life,  c) suggestions of dire consequences of non-compliance to instill fear even including suggestions to children that they might infect and kill their granny, d) The UN has warned of the tendency of some governments to use the emergency declarations as a cover for repressive action [8];

4. Loss of democracy and human rights: Many human rights as enshrined in Articles of the 1948 UN Universal Declaration [9] of Human Rights are being eroded or simply ignored as a direct result of new lockdown measures justified by PCR test results. The list includes; a) freedoms to protest, b) freedom of thought and speech (Article 18) e.g. prominent scientists   censored for expressing opinions and ideas, c) freedom of the press,d) freedom to socialise, e) right to conduct economic business, f) denial of consumer choice, g) limitations on access to education, h) limitations on access to medical treatment / choice, Inhumane treatment (Article 5) e.g. elderly being abandoned and left to alone to die in care institutions.

PART 3 – CONCLUSION (Howard Steen)

The PCR test on its own is able to find a needle in a haystack by just finding a part of the needle. However, it is important to recognise its limitations: it is useless as a diagnostic test for use in public health laboratory settings.

How will we protect the lives of millions of people at stake here? Is it not our responsibility that we make the right choices even if that means correcting early mis-steps?

This seems to be a pivotal moment and the eyes of history are upon us. Does it not behove us to face this time with humility and to be conscious of the legacy we leave behind? 

In light of our re-examination of the test protocol to identify SARS-CoV-2 described in the Corman-Drosten paper we have identified concerning errors. How can the continuing use of the test protocol be justified after these findings? Furthermore, with knowledge of the misuse and misinterpretation of test results on a global arena, should we not be mindful of this test’s contribution to these terrifying consequences?

The decision as to which test protocols are published and made widely available lies squarely in the hands of Eurosurveillance. A decision to recognise the errors apparent in the CD paper has the benefit to greatly minimise human cost and suffering going forward. Is it not in the best interest of Eurosurveillance to retract this paper?


[1] Kurkela, Satu, and David WG Brown. “Molecular-diagnostic techniques.” Medicine 38.10 (2009): 535-540.

[2] Outbreaks of Respiratory Illness Mistakenly Attributed to Pertussis — New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Tennessee, 2004–2006

[3] 2009 press Releases. Health Protection Agency (UK). 24th December 2009. Archive:

[4] BBC, COVID-19: Lockdown had Major Impact on ‘Mental Health’:

[5] Economic Consequences of COVID-19:

[6] Coronavirus: UNICEF warns of ‘lost generation’ as virus hits children’s services:

[7] COVID-19 to Add as Many as 150 Million Extreme Poor by 2021:

[8] COVID-19: States should not abuse emergency measures to suppress human rights – UN experts:

[9] Universal Declaration of Human Rights: