As of today, March 15, 2020, it appears we are in the middle of an outstanding global phenomenon. The global outburst of Corona virus (covid-19) is challenging humanity, reshaping systems and adjusting societal priorities. Definitely, too early to assess its impact, to analyze it objectively, to wrap up learnings. However, being by far The Topic of the day, I feel the need to write down a few thoughts. I will touch the following:
- the blindspot
- is brexit a shield?
- in the beginning, was the Word
1. The blindspot, or what I don’t get about it…
We are regularly looking at numbers. Total number of cases, deaths, new daily cases, number of cured persons, tested persons. These are the main metrics, reported daily, for all countries in the world. China is a special case (the first to face it and a very large country). Considering all other countries, the number of cases is above 1000 for the most affected ones. Most are in the range of hundreds or tens of confirmed cases. Today, there are over 160k cases in the world, 76k being recovered. 21k in Italy, 14k in Iran. S.Korea 8.2k, Spain 7.7k , Germany 5.4k, France 4.5k, USA 3.1k, Switzerland 2.3k, Norway 1.2k, UK 1.1k, Netherlands 1.1k and Sweden 1k. The rest is under 1k. Romania has ~130 cases.
So, in a relatively normal country, with millions of inhabitants (we don’t consider here lowest or highest in the list, as Andorra or Vatican, China or India), we have from a few hundreds to a few thousands cases. Well, isn’t it strange that, among these very small segments of the populations represented by the infected cases, we hear about so many VIPs who contacted the virus? I mean, members of Parliaments, top sports people, top actors, etc. Are they so immersed in the life of the city? My statistical instinct says no (FYI, the incidence of infected in high risk countries is generally below 0.005%). Of course I don’t have a definite answer, but here are some possible hypotheses I dare to consider: a) the number of real cases is much larger. I mean, reeeeally much larger! That explains how somebody who travels in a country with a relatively high infection rate, has such high odds to get the virus. If I paint 3000 Italians in green and someone travels in Italy for a few days, the chance to get within 2m with such a person is almost insignificant. If there are 30k or 300k in green, the odds of meeting one by chance, within the intimate 2m distance, start to look, at least to me, much closer to the current storyline. b) if you are a regular citizen (well, even a taxpayer), you are kindly asked to hold your horses. Are you cold, do you cough or sneeze? Wait for a while, stay at home and call back if things get worse. If you happen to work in the Parliament, or be Tom Hanks, or Play for Real Madrid, from the first sneeze you will have the ambulance at your door with a full set of tests. Of course we find out about positive VIPs, simply because they are prioritised in testing! Caesar is Caesar, no doubt about it. c) I may add a hypothesis, regarding the validity of the tests and the print of this virus, a new kid in town for 99.9% of us. Considering many statements made by doctors, it appears that the virus is not brand new. This form is new, like version x.y, but it existed in the past. Are we sure that, having tested people one year ago, we would not have found several scoring positive? I don’t know, maybe not, but I have to consider if we don’t overreact to an update of an older story.
2. Is Brexit a shield?
Sorry British friends to remember Brexit again! Despite having a relatively clear image on the manipulation of the population through social media, despite the reaction in large cities, despite losing the faith of younger generations (yes, by definition, the younger are not really conservative), despite the Scotts being dragged into this against their will, it is happening! Because the current British politicians sail your boat in this direction, hoping for better waters. What if they are wrong? What if they prove to be jokers, eventually?
But let’s get back to covid-19. The British political leaders have a distinctive approach. They say people should get sick in order to develop immune systems (I may add, this could be a reason, written in small prints, after 7 pages of economic rationale, that old wining/losing pounds game). Despite my sarcastical tone and my personal viewpoint, I have to admit they could be right, but we will probably validate this in months or years. Actually, we may validate it much, much earlier. In case they are wrong! Would I take this risk, would I sign-off this scenario? Nope. Why? Because of the risks… We have examples from Italy. We will most probably have similar contexts in Spain, probably Germany, soon. The WHO sends clear messages that actions MUST be taken. The decision makers in London say no one has to worry. Continue life as before, go to parties, go to football matches, let students go to Universities, children to schools. Cover your eyes and you will not see the surroundings. “It won’t happen to us!” In my opinion, this is an inhuman approach. Yes, kids have low chances to get the virus and have major life threatening issues. But they can transmit it to their parents or grand-parents. Do you really want to get rid of them? Are they such a burden for your state budget? I guess it’s iconic for this context the fact that your health minister got the virus. You want to be an army or elite fighters against the virus and your health minister is among the first to get infected. Isn’t this kind of…British humor? A poor, bad joke, this time… You claim that the number of infected persons is still low. Really? Of course it is low, if you only test serious cases. If someone shows simptoms and calls the red number, s/he is told to stay home and wait to get worse. And this happens in very risky communities, with students who continue to go to lectures, with people working in restaurants, etc. I am sure you know about it but keep it silent. And you will come on screen with political statements once it bursts in your country (because I think it will!), hiding the truth again and claiming you took the right decisions. I feel relatively sick, but, fortunately, not related to the virus. I feel a bit sick when I see your policy. This time Brexit won’t keep you away from the virus; neither will your…questionable power of judgement.
3. In the beginning, there was the Word
Well, I don’t want to sound Biblical. Nor do I want to dive into conspiracy theories. However, I do think a bit about the origins of this virus. I know mutations occur, I know we live in a world where these invisible bugs adapt and keep attacking with “new armies”. As I rewind the first scenes of this movie, the way dr. Li (33y.o) anounced it (and eventually died 🙁 ), the amplitude of the measures taken by the Chinese relatively fast, I do feel like it was a leak. Something, somewhere, went wrong. I am not speaking about biological weapons, about live testing. But I do think that somehow this virus got out from some labs it was not supposed to. Most people say nowadays that it came from some animals (pointing to the markets in the area it emerged). This does not contradict my perspective. I am not aware what chemicals we use to feed different livestock, from fish to cows… Somehow, such experiements bounced back to us… I would bet there was a human thinking behind this, a script that went wrong. It is just a thought, I don’t think we will ever know.
Stay safe! 😉