Cyber security pioneer John McAfee has asked why people should worry too much about coronavirus, even as the deadly virus has caused a lockdown of humongous cities in China and killed nearly 500 people. Does McAfee, who built one of the biggest antivirus computer programmes in the world, know any better than the average man?

McAfee's argument is that only less than 2 percent of the people who contract the virus die. He says that death rate is equivalent to the seasonal flu. He tells people not to fall for the 'charade' warning that more important things are happening in the background.

John McAfee
John McAfee Wikimedia Commons /NullSession

"Less than 2% of all cases result in death. Approximately equivalent to seasonal flu. Relax people. Don't buy into this charade. Something far more important is happening in the background," McAfee tweeted.

Earlier in January, McAfee had courted controversy by erroneously claiming that the coronavirus was a man-made catastrophe. His tweet implicating the United Kingdom's Pirbright Institute, citing a patent application document, had contained incorrect claims. The patent in question was not in connection with any research on coronavirus strain affecting humans.

Michelangelo computer virus

McAfee's conspiracy theory regarding the coronavirus harks back to the 1980s when he himself benefited immensely from a computer virus that was threatening personal computers in the early days of the PC-era. McAfee designed the earliest version of a popular anti-virus computer programme, and by the late 80s he had logged sales worth a few millions annually.

But the onset of a computer virus called Michelangelo redesigned his business and life once again in a quirky way. The widespread panic over Michelangelo and the rush to secure personal computers saw his business booming. In quick time McAfee could honestly gloat that the software that protected most computers in the world had his imprint on it. he sold his shares in the company in 1996 for about $100 million.

Mystery virus

Last week, an Israeli biological warfare analyst made the sensational claim that the Coronavirus 2019-nCoV was developed by China as part of its covert biological weapons programme. The claim got wide currency after it was picked up by the Washington Times. This happens because biological warfare has always been a frightening theme for ages. Bio-weapons, germ warfare, bio-terrorism and biowarfare are terms that stoke the deepest fears in human minds.

The prevailing scientific belief is that the killer virus mutated in snakes and then transmitted to animals. Humans might have contracted the virus at the seafood market where a variety of live animals including foxes, pigs and bats are sold. There's no evidence yet that the deadly coronavirus strain was leaked from a Chinese lab. The fact that the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the coronavirus infection started, also hosts the Wuhan National Biosafety Laboratory appeared to give credence to the theory.