As the facts emerge from how this disease performs in our population there is good news and there is bad news.
- The disease is incredibly ageist. Nearly everyone it kills is over 50 years old, children are unaffected by it.
- Between about 25% and 50% of victims show no symptoms at all or only very minor symptoms.
- Something like 40%ish of victims get ill. Like a bad flu. But without the joint pain.
- About 20%ish of victims get very ill indeed as the infection gets into their lower respiratory system. About half of these will die.
- It kills smokers. But then all smokers have COPD to a lesser or greater extent.
- Today it is in 37 countries, with suspected cases in several more. There will be more tomorrow.
- Many people killed by it have a chronic comorbidity. Diabetes, heart disease etc. It culls the weak.
- You can catch the disease twice. There are multiple strains.
- The symptomless incubation period is up to 27 days. During which a person is contagious. 14 day quarantine is insufficient.
- Face masks give no protection. We have seen this with the very large number of infected medical staff.
- Heat gun detection doesn’t work. It gives false negatives. Many contagious people have no symptoms.
- The Diamond Princess cruise liner showed how virulent this virus is. They took off everyone who showed symptoms, quarantined everyone on board and took maximum precautions. They couldn’t stop it spreading to nearly 700 people.
- Authoritarian China has enforced maximum containment and quarantine measures (780+ million people under containment and curfew). Far stricter than possible in the West. And still the disease spreads.
- Manufacturing supply chains around the world are breaking down. Soon there will be no medical supplies. Already there are huge shortages.
- Some think summer weather will stop the disease. Singapore has summer weather all year round and world class medical services. It is spreading rapidly there.
Take one person who has this virus. They are transmitting it before showing any symptoms. Let’s say they infect on average 2.6 more people (a fair number for this current pandemic). Then after 10 generations more than 3,500 people are infected, many with no symptoms or mild symptoms themselves. All of them contagious.
Unsurprisingly, given modern day mobility and the nature of the disease, this has now spread globally. The number of people infected is growing exponentially and in countries less organised or less authoritarian than China it will spread more quickly. Basically we are all going to get it. And the world’s leading epidemiologists are currently predicting 60 to 80 % of us will. You would wonder how anyone can avoid it.
In January, when there were just 132 dead, this blog (HERE) said that all air travel should be banned immediately. Had this been done the spread we are currently experiencing would have been massively reduced. Now this ban is happening de facto. Hundreds of thousands of flights have been cancelled and anyone with any sense is refusing to fly anywhere in the world. Even flying from, say, Aberdeen to Hamburg is dangerous.
So what must we do now? The time for ad hoc containment and quarantine is well and truly over. You can pretty much assume that if this disease isn’t already in your neighbourhood then it pretty soon will be. All we can do is slow it down to give science a chance to develop drugs and vaccines (the first human vaccine trials are about a month away). This disease is caught from breathing the same air as other people. So the answer is avoiding them. Quarantine yourself. Sensible measures would be:
- Close all public transport. One symptomless infected person on the Tube could infect hundreds in one journey.
- Close places of public gathering. Schools, universities, pubs, cinemas, sporting events, churches, mosques etc
- Work from home.
- Have all meetings online, not face to face.
- Cancel holidays.
- Have your shopping delivered.
- Wash your hands frequently. They are the most common route to infection.
Obviously the economic damage will be immense. Already the world’s manufacturing output has probably halved and is declining very quickly. Factories are closing everywhere as supply chains fold, the gold price has rocketed as share prices tumble. This will put the whole planet back several years.
Of course events may turn out less bad. Or worse. Here is a video of the science: