The Wuhan Coronavirus - Fatalism, Greed, Stupidity or Evil
'Asked on Friday if the new cases put the crisis at a tipping point, the World Health Organization director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said the, “window of opportunity is narrowing, so we need to act quickly before it closes completely”.
Tedros goes on to say:
“This outbreak could go in any direction,” Tedros said. “If we do well, we can avert any serious crisis, but if we squander the opportunity then we will have a serious problem on our hands.”
These comments are surreal. The window of opportunity to contain Covid-19 was at the beginning of the year, in early January, when the virus was only present in Wuhan. If all flights to China had been stopped then, and the city sealed off, then the virus might have been contained. Today, with 760 million people locked down in China, major outbreaks in Singapore, South Korea and Japan, and outbreaks of unknown size in India, Iran, Thailand, Philippines and other countries, it's clear that the window of opportunity to contain this virus is so far gone, it's a piece of history.
Here is the John Hopkins live update page I posted on the 13th February (eight days ago):
Here is this evening's John Hopkins page:
Many commentators are very sceptical of the Chinese figures, so I will not focus on them. Instead, let's focus on other countries with reliable reporting. We can see, in particular, that infections in South Korea have gone from 28 to 204; they are therefore doubling roughly every two-and-a-half days. Japan has gone from 28 to 105, which equates to doubling roughly every three days. This is even faster than my very scary epidemic timeline. Other countries may be also doubling at this rate. Unfortunately, we can't tell because a lack of testing kit is probably hiding their true numbers.
With such a rapid spread, the criticism of the recent Diamond Princess incident by Professor Kentaro Iwata, a specialist in infectious diseases at Kobe University hospital, is justifiable. He was scathing about how the Japanese bureaucrats handled the cruise ship quarantine. Recent first-hand accounts of the checking of airline passengers are just as worrying, including this account of an Air China flight to Bangkok, and on to Heathrow. In fact, so far, the only country I've read about that seems to be carrying out proper quarantine Is Russia. They rapidly closed their border to China and properly quarantined their returning citizens, including confiscating their clothes, giving them new outfits and quarantining them remotely until they were definitely clear of the disease. Anyone who tried to break out of the quarantine was forcibly returned. This is hard on the people involved but when thousands or millions of lives are at stake, it's an understandable necessity.
Returning to public information, I've just watched a short BBC programme explaining the dangers of the coronavirus. In response to the question '1: How likely am I to catch it?' The expert's response was 'your individual risk of catching the disease at the moment is extremely low.' This is a dangerously misleading answer. Yes, at the moment, our chances of getting it in the UK are extremely low but that's because the disease has only just arrived. It is highly infectious. In a month's time, there's a good chance our UK situation will be utterly transformed. In response to the second question, '2: How does it compare to other viruses?' The answer was that flu was the bigger danger this winter. This is also very misleading. Yes, flu probably is, but only because our winter is ending soon. In March and April, deaths from coronavirus will probably outstrip our winter flu deaths. From May onwards, coronavirus deaths will probably be in an entirely different league. Finally, the programme discussed best (which was that it only affects China) and worst case scenarios (which was that it will affect the whole world). Unfortunately, these answers are also misleading because they imply that the virus might be contained in China. When the programme was broadcast, on the 12th February, it was already clear, to epidemiologists and others, that the virus was a guaranteed pandemic. Overall then, the programme was technically correct, but, like so much other mainstream information in the UK, it seriously played down the threat.
There seems to be a big question haunting this whole saga; why has the West been so rubbish at containing the virus, or even educating its citizens about the virus's dangers? I can think of four options to explain this:
1) Fatalism: The people in charge don't think they can stop it. This is definitely possible. Top committees may have worked out, as far back as New Year, that Covid-19 is unstoppable. The only practical course, globally, is to keep people calm, mitigate or minimise the virus's damage, and recover once it's over. Not very proactive, or even honest, but understandable.
2) Stupidity: The people in charge in the West are incompetent. This is always a possible explanation for any disaster. I think we should never underestimate the sheer collective stupidity of any hierarchical organisation. With our historical tendency to shoot the messenger, attack whistleblowers, hide the failings of senior people and pass the buck, we're capable of any level of cock-up.
3) Greed: The people in power in the West only care about money. Coverage of the Event 201 simulation indicated that senior people, during a pandemic, seemed to care more about economic growth than mass loss of life. I may be being harsh with that assessment, so I recommend others check out the video coverage and decide for themselves. Clearly, they're not all like that but the jury's out on how many of them are like that.
4) Evil: Some people in power in the West are trying to kill us. This is clearly a paranoid interpretation but, oddly enough, it does fit the facts fairly well. For starters, there seems to be a general strategy of telling the public that there's 'nothing to worry about, just carry on as normal', even though that's a lie. This could be a 'don't startle the herd' strategy. If we combine this with the hopeless control of the virus's spread and then the very suspicious emergence of Covid-19 itself, which is a truly exceptionally effective killer virus, then things get very suspicious indeed. For someone with a wild imagination, it all points to some sort of high-level plot to cull the world's population. Covid-19 even targets the old and infirm, just as someone would do if they were culling a herd. This whole setup could have come straight from the Alternative 3 programme, as it was Alternative 1: drastically reducing the population to stop climate change. The theory fits the evidence so well, it's bone-chilling. It doesn't even need to be a plot by some secretive shadow government. All that would be needed would be one key scientist, working in virology, who decided to take drastic action to end humanity's damage of our planet. In a world full of biohazard labs running gain-of-function experiments, these opportunities must arise; they just need to coincide with a clever extremist in the right position.
Which option is correct? I think I'll opt for 1 as it is plausible and I don't want to be accused of being a paranoid conspiracy theorist… again. Whichever it is, our situation doesn't change. Covid-19 a huge threat but we can prepare for it as individuals. We can lessen its threat if we follow the right procedures; cleanliness, hygiene, masks, keeping clear of crowds and especially being careful before we get official advice. That will give us all a fighting chance to defeat it.