COVID-19: The False-Positive PCR Test Problem IS a Problem

In response to my recent article about false-positives during COVID-19 testing, a valued reader linked me to an article by an Australian virologist called Ian M. Mackay. Despite all the concerns raised about PCR testing and its potential to give off very high rates of false positives, Mackay is utterly unperturbed. He categorically states "The 'false-positive PCR' problem is not a problem" and belittles those who contend otherwise as "conspiracist."

In making his point, Mackay (above) cites published research showing false COVID positives obtained from PCR testing are indeed a problem!

To try and get an idea of what kind of person could conceive such a bolus of denial and self-contradiction, I searched around to see who Ian M. Mackay was.

You Can Trust Me, I'm With the WEF

It did not comfort me to learn Mackay is an "Agenda Contributor" to none other than the World Economic Forum, Klaus Schwab's elitist vehicle for oligarchical billionaires and world leaders to make their technocratic world vision a reality. It is the WEF that is using COVID-19 as the primary excuse for its diabolical "Great Reset" agenda which, when stripped of all its PR hogwash, seeks the worldwide installation of Green-coated communism. Yep, the same horrible totalitarian system of governance dreamed up by German moocher Karl Marx that launched a decades-long "Cold War," sentenced hundreds of millions to abject poverty, and racked up a death toll of some 110-150 million people.

Due to the intimate involvement of Schwab's billionaire corporate buddies, some are describing his end goal as fascism, rather than communism. To which my response is, "same shit, slightly different texture and smell." As Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises and others have pointed out, both are collectivist, totalitarian systems that exterminate individual liberty for the "greater good" (in reality, the "greater good" being the welfare of the elite controlling class).

Whatever you wish to call it, all the main elements of Marxism are there, including abolition of private property, destruction of the nuclear family unit, and the eradication of individuality.

I was also not comforted to learn Mackay is an Associate Professor at what The Silent Invasion author Clive Hamilton regards as one of the two most heavily Chinese Communist Party-influenced universities in Australia - the University of Queensland.

Like many of Australia’s universities, UQ has become financially dependent on the fees from Chinese international students. UQ’s ties to the CCP are also well known.

In July, the UQ was caught out teaching an economics class funded by a controversial Beijing-controlled agency, the contents of which were described as Communist Party “propaganda.” Among topics canvassed in the ECON3820 course are the “terrorist” activities of the Uighur minority, whose persecution by Beijing has been described as ethnic cleansing. Another discussion was devoted to whether pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong amounted to terrorism.

The university’s vice-chancellor, Professor Peter Høj, was until recently a senior consultant to Beijing’s global Confucius Institute Headquarters (Hanban) and a member of its powerful governing council, which is responsible for more than 500 institutes operating in universities and schools across the world. ABC's Four Corners also revealed in April that the director of UQ’s Confucius Institute personally nominated China’s Consul-General in Brisbane, Xu Jie, as an adjunct professor of language and culture — the fifth such appointment of a Chinese diplomat at the university.

UQ houses one of 13 China-backed Confucius Institutes operating on Australian university campuses. These Confucius Institutes are fully funded subsidiaries of China’s Ministry of Education. Their formal mission is to promote Chinese language and culture, and therefore give an uncritical view of Chinese society, as well as provide direct influence inside our universities. In July, it was revealed UQ had signed agreements explicitly dictating it “must accept the assessment of the [Confucius Institute] Headquarters on the teaching quality.”

The degree to which UQ is subservient to the CCP is lucidly illustrated by the scandal involving local student Drew Pavlou. In July 2019, Drew helped organize a protest in support of the Hong Kong independence movement. During the protest, Drew and others were assaulted on the university grounds by a group of highly belligerent pro-China gatecrashers who appeared to be a mix of students and non-students. The goons told Drew they would not leave until he apologized for having the temerity to protest against China. Drew was told "there are people in my crowd are not students and can hurt you if you don't apologize to the Chinese nation."

Instead of vigorously denouncing the assault and intimidation, and imposing sanctions against the offending Chinese students, the top brass at UQ instead issued weasel-word platitudes encouraging harmony. They then turned their venom on Drew, concocting 11 allegations of misconduct, which were detailed in a confidential 186-page document. Guardian Australia reviewed a summary of the charges, which included claims his conduct was inappropriate and abusive, and that he damaged the reputation of the university. None suggested he acted unlawfully.

That didn't stop UQ from imposing a two-year ban on Drew in May. That means he cannot complete his philosophy degree there until 2022. The decision was celebrated by Chinese state media.

To add insult to injury, a Queensland court dismissed Drew's incitement case against Xu Jie, the Chinese diplomat who was made an adjunct professor at UQ. The Brisbane Chinese Consul-General had praised the “acts of patriotism” by the violent Chinese student counter-protesters, effectively condoning the violence.

Xu was issued a summons, but failed to appear in court or send a legal representative. Instead, the traitorous Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) wrote to the court saying Xu was entitled to immunity because he is a consular employee.

Magistrate Janelle Brassington dismissed Drew’s application after ruling Xu had immunity because he was "performing the functions of a consular officer."

DFAT is heavily comprised of China sycophants who believe the bellicose giant is "the future" and holds the key to Australia's prosperity. In pursuit of this dubious view, it has done everything it can to turn Australia into China's little bitch. And it has been remarkably successful: The CCP revealed in April what it really thought of the land down under when it described Australia as "gum stuck to China's shoe."

Now, Ian Mackay may read all this and mutter "yeah, but what's all this got to do with me? The WEF and CCP might be seeking Communist world domination, but I'm just a (not so) humble virologist!"

So let's see what Mackay himself has to say about individual liberty:

"Individual rights over societal good is a doctrine that yields disastrous results it seems, for the health of an interconnected world. Who could have guessed this?"

Yep, because some people prefer to think for themselves, identify the COVID-19 hysteria for the utter bullshit it is, and demand their governments behave sensibly instead of crushing freedom in the name of fighting a fake pandemic, Mackay declares placing individual rights above collectivist stupidity to be "disastrous."

Just brilliant.

Anyways, About the PCR Tests...

Okay, before we start examining Mackay's claims about PCR false-positives, it bears repeating the title of his article, which leaves little room for interpretation:

"The 'false-positive PCR' problem is not a problem"

You got that? It is Not a Problem™.

Not long into his post, he writes:

"To say that any PCR run for more than thirty-something cycle will be a false positive, or increase the likelihood of a false positive, is misleading and wrong. The false-positive PCR problem is not a problem."

Mackay is on very shaky ground here. As you'll soon see, in order to defend this erroneous claim, he promptly resorts to creating false dichotomies, as well as diversions of the "that's not what I said" and "you didn't read the article properly" sort.

"Look, I fully agree that the later (higher number) the threshold cycle (CT “cycle number”) of the RT-PCR result, the less target RNA is present at the start of the reaction," he concedes. "That RNA is a surrogate marker for the amount of virus but not an actual measure because PCR methods can’t tell you a virus is infectious."

Mackay then, rather smugly, writes:

"People are very chuffed to have learned this fact in 2020 by the way. You can tell because they say so. A lot. But despite their newfound out-of-context knowledge they actually know very little about what they’re talking about."

Yes, there's a lot of "newfound" knowledge out there. Thanks to this COVID sham, scores of people who do not work in the medical field have had to start learning about virology. If Mackay is offended by this intrusion, he should direct his complaints to his technocrat buddies over at the WEF.

It's also worth reiterating that it is hardly 'recent arrival' laypeople who recognize the Ct issue as a huge problem. As a New York Times article noted, numerous respected virologists and epidemiologists are perturbed by the rampant use of COVID testing that employs high Ct thresholds. But apparently, these experienced scientists are also just dumb-dumbs high on "newfound out-of-context knowledge." Only WEF- and UQ-associated virologists, it seems, are worth listening to.

To prove his repeated contention that The False-Positive PCR is Not a Problem™, he cites a study published in August by a group of researchers from Public Health England.

"This particular study," says Mackay, "found that that from among 5/60 (8.3%) patient samples with a CT greater than 35, infectious virus was still present. An arbitrary cut-off at 35 would have missed infectious people."[sic]

So he cites a study that in fact found a 91.7% rate of false positives in patient samples with a Ct of greater than 35. This, remember, in an article whose title boldly declares "The 'false-positive PCR' problem is not a problem."

Well, based on the data he himself has just cited, it clearly is.

And remember how Mackay insisted that "To say that any PCR run for more than thirty-something cycle will ... increase the likelihood of a false positive, is misleading and wrong"?

But he then reproduces Figure 2 from the cited study, which shows what he claimed is "misleading and wrong" is in fact true.

As you can see from the figure, there was a strong and neat positive relationship between Ct count and the percentage of false positives. As the study authors wrote:

"We observed a strong relationship between Ct value and ability to recover infectious virus. The estimated OR of recovering infectious virus decreased by 0.67 for each unit increase in Ct value. Virus propagation was successful from five of 60 samples with Ct > 35; all five were from symptomatic cases and none had severe illness."

In plain English: As Ct count went up, the likelihood of getting a genuine positive result went down. Markedly.

And in the mere five of 60 positives who really were positive, all showed symptoms and none had severe illness. Which tends to support the arguments of folks like Dr Roger Hodkinson that testing should be limited to those presenting with clinically significant symptoms.

So Mackay emphatically asserts one thing, portrays people who disagree with him as overconfident dolts who "know very little about what they’re talking about" - and then cites a study showing they are in fact correct!

So how does he justify this utterly bizarre contradiction?

Enter the false dichotomy. Mackay writes:

"The figure shows that if you were to blindly and ignorantly rely on single CT values to proclaim lack of infectious risk – let’s say 35 or greater – you would miss people who were still shedding infectious virus."

You see what he just did there?

No-one is proclaiming "lack of infectious risk" when using a Ct of 35 or over. What they are proclaiming is a very high rate of false positives. And he just cited data to confirm that proclamation.

Even in the recent study by Jafaar et al, which found a 97% rate of false positives at a Ct of 35, there were of course still 3% genuine positives at that higher Ct.

But just how much hysteria, fear, panic, time, expense, and social and economic devastation should we tolerate in order to squeeze out an extra 3% of genuinely positive PCR test results?

How much of this idiocy and pain should we suffer in order to find an extra 3% of people genuinely testing positive for a largely harmless and largely asymptomatic influenza virus?

Why should we allow the search for these extra 3% - or even 8.3% in the study Mackay selectively cites - to fuel a global hysteria campaign that cites daily case numbers, the majority of which are potentially false positives, in order to keep stoking the paranoia?

Interestingly, Mackay doesn't mention the Jafaar study and its higher false positive rate. Or the Bullard et al study in which confirmed COVID-19 infection was only observed with a Ct of 24 or less, and a symptom-onset-to-test time of under 8 days.

When, in the first reply in the post's comments section, a reader asks him to comment on two relevant articles, Mackay also goes quiet.

One of those articles noted that PCR tests can detect COVID-19 RNA even after infectious virus is no longer present. There is no evidence that persistent or recurrent detection of viral RNA following recovery from COVID-19 poses a risk of transmission.

The authors then compared antigen-based testing with Mackay's beloved PCR testing, and found the antigen-based method superior for detecting the presence of cultured, infectious SARS-CoV-2 virus.

The second article is a Lancet piece that tends to contradict Mackay's assertion that false positives "are very, very rare events that are almost always caught by the process involved in reporting test results. This process considers the lab results alongside clinical and epidemiological context and checks itself before reporting."

The Lancet article draws attention to the well-recognized fact that the false-positive problems with PCR tests are in no way limited to the Ct threshold issue. As the authors note, these problems are not merely theoretical; the US CDC had to withdraw testing kits in March when they were shown to have a high rate of false-positives due to reagent contamination.

This page contains example after example, from all around the world, of COVID-19 false-positives caused by contamination. A Spanish case cited on that page is instructive: It involved 27 false positives that would've gone unnoticed, if not for the fact one positive belonged to a doctor who ordered a retest. How many such cases have gone unnoticed, because an inquisitive medical professional was not among those who tested positive?

Mackay might want us to believe that current PCR testing processes are near 100% hunky dory and we therefore have little to worry about, but the Lancet authors do not share his blind optimism. They state "false-positive COVID-19 swab test results might be increasingly likely in the current epidemiological climate in the UK, with substantial consequences at the personal, health system, and societal levels."

They make the perfectly sensible recommendation that "Any diagnostic test result should be interpreted in the context of the pretest probability of disease. For COVID-19, the pretest probability assessment includes symptoms, previous medical history of COVID-19 or presence of antibodies, any potential exposure to COVID-19, and likelihood of an alternative diagnosis. When low pretest probability exists, positive results should be interpreted with caution and a second specimen tested for confirmation." [Bold emphasis added]

"Notably," they add, "current policies in the UK and globally do not include special provisions for those who test positive despite being asymptomatic and having laboratory confirmed COVID-19 in the past."[Bold emphasis added]

Instead, widespread testing is being done and positive results are blissfully recorded as "cases" without any discussion of viral load and whether retesting was performed to confirm these "cases." What this means is that many of these so-called "cases" are people who, even if they have been infected with COVID-19, may have 'recovered' and are no longer infectious.

The Lancet authors conclude by suggesting stricter laboratory standards, pretest probability assessments and immediate second tests for any health-care worker testing positive.

As Goes Australia, So Goes the World?

To support his claim that false-positives are exceedingly rare, Mackay cites the example of Australia which, he notes, "hasn’t seen its combined national daily tally of almost exclusively PCR-based tests, fall below 20,000 since June."

"All that testing provides a good number of opportunities for those so-called false-positive PCR results to show up in our daily reported numbers. Surely more testing should mean a steady flow of false positives if these conspiracies are correct? And others love to add that it should be even more of a problem in a low prevalence setting. Australia certainly fits that bill. Plus, we’re testing mostly sick people but also asymptomatic and presymptomatic people. "

On this point, a reader comments to Mackay, "You discuss the example of Australia and generalise the result to the rest of the world. As Australia has been successful in test and trace containment the virus is not in epidemic or endemic stages there. The prevalance is all but zero and therefore the likelihood of any operational cross-contamination between positive and negative swabs is also very small. But this isnt true of the [rest of world]."

Mackay simply responds: "Yes, because Australia is one of a handful of countries not on fire."


The reader makes a very valid point that Australia is not a suitable proxy for the rest of the world, and Mackay effectively brushes it off with a throwaway line about fire.

Needless to say, that's not a satisfactory manner in which to deal with such an important point. Here are but a few pertinent facts about Australia that make it a poor proxy for the rest of the world in terms of viral disease transmission and PCR testing. Those of you who believe it is crucial for the government to destroy people's livelihoods and jump-start an increase in depression, self-harm and suicide rates in order to prevent a virus with an infection fatality rate of less than 0.5% should consider the following facts:

- Australia is one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world. Granted, much of its population is concentrated in urban centers, but it nevertheless has a miniscule population of 25 million on a land mass slightly smaller than mainland US and China. Australia also has a lower rate of high-density (apartment) living compared to most European countries.

- It is an isolated country completely surrounded by water. You can cross as many borders within the continent as you like, but you are still in Australia.

- The spread of COVID-19 began accelerating during the summer of 2019-2020. At this time, Australians were enjoying a seasonal peak in sunlight (vitamin D) exposure and hence natural immunity.

- It does not have the family culture of countries like Italy and Spain, where the elderly are revered instead of considered a burden. Interaction with elderly family members - the group most susceptible to COVID and other influenza viruses - is far more frequent in Mediterranean cultures.

- While tourism is (was) a significant sector in Australia, the country hardly qualifies as heavily visited. Out of 190 countries, Australia ranks 96 in terms of international inbound tourists per capita.

In 2008, Australia had only 265.91 international arrivals per 1,000 people. To place this in better context, the corresponding figures for some COVID-19 'hotspots' are shown below:

Spain: 1,415.52 per 1,000 people
Italy: 734.95 per 1,000 people
Europe average: 1,218.97 per 1,000 people
UK: 494.59 per 1,000 people

These differences are amplified when you consider Australia's small population size. The United States, for example, has a relatively low per capita international tourist rate of 190.7 per 1,000 people - but has an almost thirteen-fold greater population.

What this all means is that, while our gloating bureaucrats publicly pat themselves on the back for 'containing' the virus with their highly destructive and inhumane lockdowns, the real praise goes to factors unrelated to any of their measures.

Because of its small population and isolation from the rest of the world, Australia is a low-risk country and was never going to be a COVID hotspot.

And in terms of PCR testing, this means a low number of past infections with the potential to show up as false-positives.

Also, while Australian bureaucrats have done much to harm our health system, the pathology industry here is still generally run to pretty high standards. And to be fair, the Communicable Diseases Network Australia emphasizes in its protocols for COVID-19 testing proper hygiene and handling of specimens. It also contains a meaningful discussion on suspected false positives and encourages retesting of such cases wherever possible.

In a country like Australia, with a small population and low risk, there is no excuse not to follow these protocols. In developing countries or those with larger populations and higher infection rates (not to mention ongoing hysteria campaigns to remove the incumbent President), the same ability or willingness to adhere to such standards may not be present.

Australia is not a good proxy for the rest of the world. Nor is Mackay's insistence that he approaches PCR testing like an "artform" [sic] and that he is careful and thorough when running PCR tests in the laboratory. Mackay may indeed be highly competent and fabulously fastidious when performing PCR tests, but there is an abundance of evidence showing a lot of PCR testing around the world is done to standards far from artisan-like.

If we're going to literally destroy the world as we know it in the name of fighting a 'deadly' pandemic, then the scientific data supporting draconian anti-COVID measures should damn well be of the highest possible quality.

A testing method that has been shown under controlled conditions to produce mostly false-positives might be excusable in an environment where all results are carefully scrutinized and anything suspicious is subject to retesting.

But it is not excusable when those results are simply taken at face value (as seems to be the case in much of the world), and presented with no discussion of how many thermal cycles were needed to extract the positive result and no discussion of individual case histories.

Basing the daily parade of fear-mongering "case" numbers on testing methods with 91.7% false-positive rates (and that's using Mackay's most-favourable, selectively-cited figure) is not acceptable.

Unless, that is, you're associated with the dubious WEF and the CCP-appeasing UQ and your real goal is to befuddle, to dismiss critics as dopey conspiracists, and discourage valid criticism of a very real problem.

In which case, Klaus would probably be very proud of you.

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