The last week has been very useful for the planet in our governments’ policies and attitudes towards this disease and in our scientific and medical understanding . So let’s summarise what we know:
- Most people who catch this disease won’t know that they have had it. They will be symptomless or have minor symptoms not too dissimilar to a winter cold.
- The official figures for numbers infected are for those who have the symptoms, have been able to access medical services and who have then tested positive. So is self evidently only a tiny fraction of the number actually infected.
- It is incredibly ageist in who it kills. Right now someone in their mid 60s in the UK has a 2% chance of dying each year. With this epidemic this increases to 4%. Someone in their 30s has a near 0% chance of dying and this will not change.
- Between 60% and 80% of us will catch the disease (or maybe everyone). Some think that it is better to catch it sooner when the health services aren’t swamped. Some want it later when we have better medicines and treatment.
- Look at where the disease is up to in Wuhan now. That is the UK in 6 weeks time, Italy in 4 weeks time and Iran in 3 weeks time. Though Iran has the advantage of a far younger population.
- Coronavirus has a symptomless incubation period of up to 27 days. Then if you do get ill that illness can last for several weeks. This is why of the 95K people tested as infected globally only 53K have so far recovered.
- The very first UK case of the disease never showed any symptoms whatsoever, yet infected at least 11 people. This is now happening on a huge scale throughout the world and is one reason why this disease is unstoppable.
- Government response to this epidemic goes through two phases, containment then social distancing. The transition between these comes when the virus escapes into a wider society and is no longer traceable. So Russia is still in the containment phase, killing stray dogs (who can carry the disease), whilst Italy is in social distancing mode, closing schools and banning crowds at sporting events.
- The lesson of Singapore (where the temperature is 30C+ now) is that the virus does not like heat/humidity/UV. So the coming northern spring will slow it down or stop it. This could become a seasonal disease, like ‘Flu.
- Governments, once containment fails, are not trying to stop you from catching the disease, because that is inevitable. They are trying to minimise social and economic impact. They don’t want more than about 20% of us ill at any one time. So they are trying to delay you catching it. That has the advantages of warmer weather and increased knowledge mitigating the epidemic.
- In the UK yesterday there were three new cases that had not been abroad and who had no traceable contact with other cases. This means that there is a large pool of the virus out in our wider society. Several thousand of us are already infected. Maybe more.
- Viruses breed very quickly, there can be several generations in your body in one day. So they evolve and mutate very quickly (as we know from ‘Flu). Wuhan Coronavirus is already two separate epidemic diseases. COVID-19 S and COVID-19 L. But Chinese scientists have detected 149 different versions of the disease. You can recover from one then catch another one. More reason to think this will become a regular seasonal infection that we must learn to live with.
- There are now at least three drugs that seem to be working. Chloroquine, a widely available anti Malarial. Ciclesonide, a widely available asthma drug. Remdesivir, a new anti Ebola drug from Gilead.
- It is worth noting that most of the medical drugs we use in the West are manufactured in China and India. If not always the entire formulation, then nearly always some key ingredient. Chinese manufacture has mostly been closed for a month now, India has recently announced export restrictions. Medicine shortages for all our diseases is probably the biggest danger facing us in this epidemic.
- Supermarkets are going to radically reduce the number of product lines they carry. So that our manufacturing and infrastructure can concentrate their efforts on core essentials. Once they have got over the current stockpiling spree they will be able to keep us provisioned. Our only problem is getting to a supermarket is we are self quarantined. And home delivery will be nowhere near capable of meeting demand. So a stash of two week’s supply of food and other essentials is important. You have to be self reliant over this, there will be nobody to rescue you if you don’t prepare.
One thing that causes massive harm in our current situation is when our politicians tell us lies. Sadiq Khan, the current Mayor of London, told us on Good Morning Britain: “There is no risk in using the Tube or buses or other forms of public transport or going to a concert”. This is self evidently untrue and makes him utterly unfit for public office. If a contagious person coughs or sneezes they put a virus laden aerosol in the air. In a crowded environment such as public transport this will spread the disease very effectively.
In Italy the person thought to be the main super spreader went to hospital three times to report his symptoms. Each time he was sent home without testing. Because he hadn’t been to China. Let this be a warning to you not to trust your government. So far the UK and USA governments (except for Sadiq Khan’s lies) are doing a reasonably good job. Mainly they have dusted off their plans for a killer ‘Flu strain and updated them for current scientific knowledge.
Expect hospitals to turn away all non urgent patients and only to admit seriously ill Coronavirus cases. Everyone else must recover at home, maybe for several weeks. Tent wards will be added to hospitals and conference centres will be converted into hospitals. A temporary morgue will be built in Hyde Park to process the large number of corpses. Because even at 1% mortality that is a lot of dead bodies. We all know people who will be killed by it.
But for context the impact on human mortality and on social harm will only be a fraction of that of our current obesity epidemic, which is reducing average life expectancy for the first time since WW2.
If you want to know more here are some excellent science sources that are well worth spending some time with:
- Reddit. Possibly the best overall source with a large number of contributors but moderated tightly to keep out the junk. Each discussion thread is tightly focused, so don’t lose sight of the overall context that you have read in this blog article.
- Imperial College London. Regular video updates from world class scientists, telling it as it is. Worth watching the existing videos and subscribing to the channel.
- European Scientist. A survey of the Scientific Literature. This is actually much more than that. A good scientific primer of the whole epidemic
- Excellent podcast by top epidemiologist.
If you want to keep a track of the progress of the epidemic there are three good resources. Each of which presents the information differently.
Then there are the articles on here that have kept well ahead of and far better informed than the MSM.
- 25 January. Wuhan Coronavirus – Start Worrying.
- 29 January. Wuhan Coronavirus – Start Panicking.
- 4 February. Avoiding Wuhan Coronavirus.
- 11 February. Wuhan Coronavirus Worse News.
- 25 February. You Will Catch COVID-19, Wuhan Coronavirus.
So now our governments have accepted the inevitable and adapted themselves to the science and facts of the epidemic things are becoming much clearer. We need to get on with our normal lives. Ensure we have a sensible stockpile of essentials. Accept that there will be a mortality rate. And avoid giving the disease to others.