Alaric Securities celebrates at Nasdaq MarketSite
August 5, 2020

Are False Positive PCR Tests Bigger Problem Than COVID-19?

Alaric Securities
coronavirus and coronavirus mask

By Nikolay Stoykov, Managing Director, Alaric Securities.

Over the last 6 months I feel like all of us have been driven mad by this new COVID-19 virus. In the beginning, we were forced to quarantine for nearly 2 months with very little evidence that this disease is actually easily transferrable. Then we were forced to wear masks in public. Finally, just when we were getting our lives back after the nightmarish spring, in July governments across the world started reintroducing new restrictions all over….

I don’t know about you but I feel like this is the definition of cruel and unusual punishment – Can I have my life back, please, I feel like asking. The reply I seem to get from governments all over the world is – NO!!!!  You see, Nikolay, statistics are bad, they say – you can’t travel freely abroad and you need to wear a mask in public even though it is the summer.

I really became quite angry at the beginning of July that I actually started following the global statistics on COVID. (I know that is the definition of crazy – to look for the truth myself). I have been following those for about a month now and while I am not a health expert, I do have a degree in statistics and I started noticing some strange things about it. Let’s look at the global statistics provided by Worldometer (an independent website that aggregates and verifies official data):

Coronavirus daily new cases compared to daily new deaths. Daily new cases increases vs daily new deaths decrease.

The first obvious thing is that while new daily cases globally has gone up nearly 3 times since the beginning of May, the number of daily deaths attributed to the virus has not increased. I know that people most susceptible to COVID-19 tend to have other underlying conditions, so attributing deaths to COVID only can be tricky. What also varies are reporting policies across different countries which makes comparison over different time periods more difficult. However, if anything, with the passage of time, one would expect doctors to become more accurate in attributing deaths to COVID-19 instead of some other underlying diseases. If, however, we take statistics at face value it would appear that the ratio of daily deaths to daily infections has decreased 3 times from nearly 7% in early May to less than 2% in late July…I am no infectious disease expert, as I stated earlier, but with my statistical background, I find this very suspicious. Without the introduction of new medicines or effective vaccines, mortality rates of most viruses rarely change significantly. And the change in the ratio of daily deaths to daily infections from 7% to 2% is quite significant. I was beginning to suspect that maybe that at least some of the increase of reported cases is due to false positive PCR results.

Second, I began to hear about people recovering from the virus but getting re-infected within a fairly short time – sometimes less than 3 months. I know this is a new virus and did I mention that I am no health expert but if this virus is related to the common flu virus aren’t there supposed to be at least some similarities between the two – in other words, at least some reasonably long immunity from the COVID-19 virus… And then the virus hit close to home, we had an employee that tested positive for the virus about two weeks ago. I was expecting him to get sick, develop symptoms but it turned out he had NO symptoms… That is when I realized that currently there is no procedure in Bulgaria, and probably most countries to confirm a positive test… Once a person tests positive, he/she is put in isolation.

I started looking at the statistics here, in Bulgaria. Roughly about 5-10% of the daily tests give positive results. That seems quite low, in other words, the vast majority of the people getting tested now have no symptoms and are largely doing it either as a precaution or to comply with regulations for travel abroad. Then I started asking myself, what is the reported false positive rate of PCR tests, and that is really the key here, there are no reliable statistics on it but I found some medical articles reporting it to be between 2 and 3%. That seems quite low but given that sometimes only 5% of daily tests are positive, the false positives could sometimes be nearly half the daily infections!

Finally, I am not saying COVID-19 is a hoax, I think that the virus is quite real and potentially very dangerous. However, with mass PCR testing going on globally, people should be aware that a small percentage of false positive results, like 2-3% of all tests, can become a huge number due to the sheer number of tests administered daily. I think there should be a procedure to confirm a positive test result, as with any other disease, especially for people that do not show any symptoms. I certainly do believe that a sizable percentage of the globally reported daily infections can be due to false positive PCR results.