Urgent work is currently underway 24 hours a day to develop a new virus which has no symptoms, and causes no illness or ill-health in those who are infected by it. Leader of the development team, Professor Tess Smith, explained ‘It needs to be completely undetectable, and unfortunately this will make it very difficult for us to find out whether we’ve been successful or not.’
‘It’s main use, if we succeed, will be to test viral detection tests, particularly in measuring the incidence of “false positives”. We will be able to test volunteers, some of them infected with this new placebo virus and some not. Obviously we can’t have volunteers who have any nasty, dangerous viruses which might make them ill – that would be far too dangerous.’
‘One of the particular difficulties will be determining “false positives” if we don’t keep careful records of which subjects have the placebo virus and which ones don’t. And we will also need to find some way to check how reliable our tests of the tests are. Work is being delayed at present by the absence of staff who are self-isolating because they mistakenly think they tested positive in checks of who had, and who had not, been given the placebo virus.’
‘To try to deal with this problem, we need to do further tests, which will necessitate the development of placebo tests. That is, not tests of placebos, but the creation of harmless, dummy tests which seem to be testing for things but which don’t actually test for anything at all.’ At this stage Professor Smith was joined by a team of other, determined-looking people also wearing white coats, who gently took her by the arm and quietly led her away, uttering calm, soothing words.