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While most countries of the world battle against coronavirus, there is a more conceptual battle raging between different predictive models. Imperial College has predictions for the US and the UK, and has the ear of the Government, but there are other models competing for attention.

The Imperial model is now being cast as having been over-dramatic, and pessimistic, and almost blamed for an unnecessary lockdown, while the Oxford and some other models are seen as more realistic, suggesting that the scare is over-blown, and many people have already caught the virus and developed herd-immunity.

At desperate times like these I have made the ultimate sacrifice, and read the Imperial document again. I know this is not a popular strategy, but I am an occasional contrarian.

Imperial place the dilemma up front: suppression of the epidemic is the best policy, mitigation second best. Stop there. Understand what that means. Strict measures have to be applied quickly, before they appear to be justified. This is what China did, after the false start of castigating the doctors who initially reported the outbreak. China lost valuable time. 7 million left the province before lockdown. Too secretive, too much central control, too unwilling to hear bad news. Then they went into overdrive, locked down Wuhan and then Hubei province. So, from a virus control point of view, they had the central control they needed, in just the right large quantities. Draconian. The firm smack of authoritarian leaders. Effective, and damn the consequences for individual liberties. That is, effective so far, but still at some diminished risk when controls are lifted.

Diminished because quarantine and isolation mean that the wave does not pass, so much as disappears. We are the stepping stones which the virus requires to provide it with new hosts. If we stay at home, or at least very far apart, it can die out. Or almost die out, if widespread testing and contact tracing does not take place.

However, if a country delays in taking those essential early precautions, then they have opened themselves up to infection. The virus is out of its box. All that can be done then is to mitigate the worst effects. Basically, it is inconvenient if everyone gets ill and dies at the same time. Spreading the deaths out a bit helps with arranging home deliveries, and then with coffins, mortuaries, hospital systems and the general functioning of a well-tempered State.

Two fundamental strategies are possible: (a) mitigation, which focuses on slowing but not necessarily stopping epidemic spread –reducing peak healthcare demand while protecting those most at risk of severe disease from infection, and (b) suppression, which aims to reverse epidemic growth, reducing case numbers to low levels and maintaining that situation indefinitely. Each policy has major challenges. We find that that optimal mitigation policies (combining home isolation of suspect cases, home quarantine of those living in the same household as suspect cases, and social distancing of the elderly and others at most risk of severe disease) might reduce peak healthcare demand by 2/3 and deaths by half. However, the resulting mitigated epidemic would still likely result in hundreds of thousands of deaths and health systems (most notably intensive care units) being overwhelmed many times over. For countries able to achieve it, this leaves suppression as the preferred policy option.

We show that in the UK and US context, suppression will minimally require a combination of social distancing of the entire population, home isolation of cases and household quarantine of their family members. This may need to be supplemented by school and university closures, though it should be recognised that such closures may have negative impacts on health systems due to increased absenteeism.

The major challenge of suppression is that this type of intensive intervention package –or something equivalently effective at reducing transmission –will need to be maintained until a vaccine becomes available (potentially 18 months or more) –given that we predict that transmission will quickly rebound if interventions are relaxed. We show that intermittent social distancing –triggered by trends in disease surveillance –may allow interventions to be relaxed temporarily in relative short time windows, but measures will need to be reintroduced if or when case numbers rebound. Last, while experience in China and now South Korea show that suppression is possible in the short term, it remains to be seen whether it is possible long-term, and whether the social and economic costs of the interventions adopted thus far can be reduced.

This is the dilemma with which countries must cope. Set your stopwatch by late December, and then see what each country did. I suggest the same date is used for all countries, because that is the date at which it was generally clear that there was a new epidemic in Wuhan.

Years ago I was interested in how countries responded to major crises, and talked to Alexander George about the Cuban Missile Crisis. He was kind enough to give me his card, with the request that I contact him, to the surprise of his colleagues, who found he guarded his time very carefully. Naturally, I never did. I think it was he who, when interviewing those close to JFK always asked: What would you have liked to know before the crisis arose?

I suppose the answer regarding the Coronavirus crisis is that world leaders should have known at least as much as Bill Gates in 2015, if not precisely exactly the risks that infection disease specialists had known for at least 20 years: a highly contagious respiratory disease would be very hard to control, and would require very prompt Government restrictions, none of them popular. I used to follow the work of Prof John Oxford, who had warned about these risks for two decades. We seemed to have dodged the bullet several times, and I frankly confess that I had begun to feel that we would muddle through, and not get anything comparable to the Spanish Flu, though it was obvious that the next respiratory disease would come from China: pigs, ducks and Chinese peasants is a species-hopping opportunity viruses find too good to miss.

Anyway, the document introduces the topic thus:

As of 16th March 2020, there have been 164,837 cases and 6,470 deaths confirmed worldwide. Global spread has been rapid, with 146 countries now having reported at least one case.

This is now a quaintly historical document.

As at 31 March 12.00 London time we are at 792,509 total Confirmed Cases, 37,947 deaths.

By the time you read this, that will be out of date, so update here:

or in a different way here:

or here:

Imperial say the Spanish Flu is the best comparison, given that this one is highly contagious and there is no vaccination available.

Measures adopted included closing schools, churches, bars and other social venues. Cities in which these interventions were implemented early in the epidemic were successful at reducing case numbers while the interventions remained in place and experienced lower mortality overall1. However, transmission rebounded once controls were lifted.

The documents sets out its assumptions, and the basis on which they have been chosen. That is fine, but it would be good if modellers could agree a standard format for doing so, and summarize everything so that different models can be easily compared.

Their key Table 4 shows what they predicted would happen in the UK given various options of mitigation.

You can check that against the dates to see how close the match is as the numbers keep coming in.

You may feel that you now understand disease modelling pretty well, so why not have a go at testing some hypotheses? Here is a do-it-yourself calculator.

A caution: many of the figures which go into these predictive models have high error terms. Deaths, it would seem, are one of the best things to measure. Not quite. Deaths are occurring mostly in ill elderly people. What is the cause of death? Before December 2019 the death certificate would vary from country to country, but would very probably list the underlying condition: diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer etc where the patient is finally finished off by pneumonia. The pneumonia on its own would have been sufficient as one of the causes of death. There would have been no need to track down the virus involved. Irrelevant. Now, however, there is a test for Covid-19. So, a positive result on the test, and the death of a person, will lead to the view that the death was caused by Covid-19. However, they may have died with it, not of it.

It is far better to look at excess deaths. Every winter there are death rates in excess of the usual summer death rates. Do we have higher rates now? That is not yet clear.

You might also like to read something in support of the very simple hypothesis that if everyone wore masks in crowded public places, transmission would be lower. Much lower.

The coronavirus is testing our intellects and our characters. We have to work out how bad it would be if we continued Life As Usual, and then the steps we could take, balanced for costs and benefits in human terms, to combat it. Test and trace, quarantine the infected, and keep going I will call the Singapore option; some variety of lockdown the Standard option; do little the Swedish option (now strengthened towards the Standard option); and as for the US option, you name it for me.

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  1. “This is what China did, after the false start of castigating the doctors who initially reported the outbreak. China lost valuable time”? Oh, come on!

    The WHO has an office in Beijing and here’s what they say happened:

    Dec. 27, 2019 – Dr. Zhang Jixian, ICU doctor at Hubei Hospital reports to Wuhan Municipal Health Commission on pneumonia patients with an unknown cause..

    Dec. 28, 2019– Three more patients arrive at the hospital, all related to Huanan Seafood Market.

    Dec. 30, 2019 – Wuhan Municipal Health Committee issues notice of an unknown viral illness.

    Dec. 31, 2019–Beijing receives virus genome results, informs WHO of Wuhan pneumonia with unknown cause. Wuhan announces virus on CCTV and CGTN.

    Jan. 1, 2020– Chinese CCDC researchers publish an article on the suspected outbreak. Seafood market shut down.

    Jan. 3, 2020–China’s CCDC calls the US CDC, according to Health and Human Services Director Alex Azar.

    Jan. 3, 2020–China reports 44 suspected patients with the mystery pneumonia. National Health Commission classifies it as a highly pathogenic, orders all labs without high pathogen licenses to destroy or transfer samples to secure labs.

    Jan. 9, 2020– Chinese labs confirm the existence of the new virus, begin genetic sequencing. China reports the death of a 61-year-old male in Wuhan with several underlying medical conditions.

    Jan. 9, 2020–Chinese officials announce coronavirus outbreak with 44 confirmed cases.

    Jan 11, 2020–China uploads the genetic sequence of the novel coronavirus to an international database but it was unclear how serious this was or if serious actions should be taken: winter, flu and pneumonia are common, but discerning a novel, serious outbreak is no simple matter.

    1. Li was a junior ophthalmologist at a Wuhan Central Hospital.

    2. On 30 December 2019, Li saw a patient’s report (not his patient) which showed a positive result with a high confidence level for SARS coronavirus tests. The report had originated from Ai Fen, director of the emergency department at Wuhan Central hospital, who became alarmed after receiving laboratory results of a patient whom she had examined who exhibited symptoms akin to influenza resistant to conventional treatment methods. The report contained the phrase “Sars coronavirus”. Ai circled the word “Sars”, and sent it to a doctor at another hospital in Wuhan. At 17:43, Li wrote in a private WeChat group of his medical school classmates: “7 confirmed cases of SARS were reported [to hospital] from Huanan Seafood Market.” He also posted the patient’s examination report and CT scan image. At 18:42, he added “the latest news is, it has been confirmed that they are coronavirus infections, but the exact virus strain is being subtyped”. Li asked the WeChat group members to inform their families and friends to take protective measures. He was upset when the discussion gained a wider audience than he expected.

    2. Instead of informing China’s CDC–which, as we see, was already investigating it–Li used social media to repeat what he’s seen to family and friends. They told their friends and they began began the panic that caused hundreds of thousands of people to leave town….

    3. Li was wrong professionally: it was neither his case nor within his professional ambit.

    4. Li was wrong legally: it is illegal to spread rumors likely to cause panic.

    5. Li was neither arrested, harshly treated, nor convicted of anything.

    6. After an hour of questioning the police concluded that he had merely acted irresponsibly and he was allowed to return to work.

    7. Here’s an extract from the official enquiry by the Chinese Ministry of Health:

    “Dr. Li was an ophthalmologist and not a front-line infectious-disease or fever clinic doctor. Nor was he a doctor who conducted professional testing and screening of the virus. That is to say, the information he obtained came from a colleague or medical circle, not through his own professional analysis or that of an equivalent. Further, he did not go through the normal channels before crossing the red lines to release major information to medical circles. Given the circumstances and lacking clearance for information release, public security officials handled things correctly. Their disciplining of Dr. Li was also moderate; they did not apply excessive force or injure him.

    “In this outbreak, there will of course be cases of weak response or dereliction of duty. But ordinary people are unable to obtain public information on whether the disaster is natural or externally manufactured. Nor is the state able to put certain information or evidence on the table. If it is a manufactured disaster, then the possibility that the relevant departments and officials responsible might have been impeded in their duties or misled into error is relatively large, and their culpability comparatively small. To judge from CCTV’s whitewashing of Hubei Province, the prospect of an externally made crisis seems larger.

    “At present, the situation facing the country is extremely complex and severe. It has to deal not only with domestic pressure but also with foreign pressure, not only with the pressure of the epidemic but also with production, food, materials, public opinion, economy, finance, diplomacy, military pressures. These are comprehensive. If a weak link is breached, it could spark a serious chain reaction and a domino effect. The consequences can not be imagined!

    “National security is the people’s interests. There are no rights and wrongs that supersede state security. The handling of all matters is related to the chain reaction: actions that benefit the nation’s interests are right; those that do the opposite are wrong. The immediate priority is to overcome the outbreak and end it. Everything else can be handled later, by correction or through accountability.

    “The world is not as peaceful and harmonious as it might seem to average folks. The greater the tensions within the country, the more furiously the rumors fly. That’s when external forces aim at public opinion and begin their precisely targeted attack. It’s like what we have seen in Hong Kong. Once the government loses its credibility and control of the narrative, it’s on an irreversible path to perdition!

    “Why did public opinion choose Dr. Li to focus on? Because he was young, handsome, progressive, kind-hearted. Pick him and you can readily get ordinary people to sympathize … the easier to incite public opinion. Given his youth and what’s known about the virus, Dr. Li’s death was a very low-probability event. Yet within an hour, even before his treatment began, public sentiment was boiling over and people were mourning him. Disinformation was circulating that his parents, wife and children had died as a result of the outbreak. What despicable, cold-blooded actions!

    “The rumors are no more than a bid to create a climate of terror and undermine internal unity. Hubei Province has been their breakthrough point. If Hubei falls, so would the whole country. So they zeroed in on Hubei. But if Hubei can pull together and tide itself over the difficulties, the country can turn to safety!

    “Even if the People’s Daily or some VIPs intervened, it would not yet be possible to determine what’s true and what’s false. Whatever the case, the state has been obliged to make concessions to pacify public opinion. This only underscores the precariousness of the situation!

    “The discourse on the epidemic is now pointing fingers at the public security units — verbally and in writing. Medics aside, which police force isn’t fighting on the frontlines against the virus? If their morale and their ability to maintain order are undermined, the consequences can be easily imagined. That’s why the external forces are making precision attacks, replicating the Hong Kong model.

    “This incident seems no simple matter. Whether it’s a natural or man-made disaster may never be answered, but its impact on China evidently is not just an epidemic. Heaven bless China!”

  2. dearieme says:

    Name the US option?

    I noticed that when the Bad Orange Man banned flights from China the Dems called him a racist xenophobe. I noticed that leading Dem politicians in early February called on the public to go out and shop, especially in Chinatowns. Celebrate the Chinese New Year they cried.

    I noticed that two arms of fedgov, the CDC and the FDA, were pathetically incompetent. No doubt most of their science bureaucrats are Dem voters.

    I dare say, but I was past caring by then, that the Dems also heaped insults on Trump for banning flights from Yurp. Lesser insults, no doubt, since Yurpeans are predominantly white.

    So, compared to the Dems, I’m not sure that the Orange Oaf has done too badly. But that’s still setting the bar awfully low. It would be better, perhaps, if they had a super-competent Prez, but the last super-competent man they elected Prez was Herbert Hoover and everyone seems to think he was a dreadful flop.

    Ah yes, name? The None-of-the-Above option.

    • Replies: @dearieme
  3. dearieme says:

    Stray comments.

    Many economies are being upended on the basis of the predictions of the Imperial model. The modellers have so far declined to publish their model for public scrutiny. That seems to me to be quite wrong.

    The fuss about ventilators seems a bit uncritical to me. The Wuhan figures (Table 2) suggest that they are of rather limited value. Are they perhaps what Bomber Harris used to denounce as a panacea?

    An article in this morning’s Tel recounts the idea of a British oncologist for a useful contribution to a vaccine. This is apparently about to be tried in Norway. Good for him; lots of things should be trialled.

    I don’t denounce those who worry about the economic damage, and therefore necessarily human damage, that will be wrought by the “lockdowns”. In principle they are quite right. Benefits should be weighed carefully against costs – that’s with both benefits and costs being widely defined. Alas I am not confident that we have people competent and honest enough to do a useful comparison but I am confident that at least the attempt should be made, and the analyses published for critical inspection.

    I still incline to the view that people and politicians started off underrating the problem and are now overrating it. But I still hold this view with low confidence.

    Lastly, there’s one thing I am pretty confident about. A maximal effort should be made to look after the medical staff, both to protect their lives and to protect their patients from being infected by them.

  4. The banner at the top of the page says “An Alternative Media Selection”. It’s ironic for an article of thoroughly mainstream alarmism.

    What does the data say about the fatality rate?

    Amesh Adalja found from South Korea that its upper limit is 0.6%

    John Ioannidis: from the Diamond Princess, it’s about 0.2%; from Iceland, about 0.03%.

    Kenji Mizumoto et al: in Wuhan, about 0.12%.

    I.e. the virus is about as dangerous as seasonal flu. The current pandemic however is causing massive damage and might have no precedence in history – as an outbreak of mass hysteria that is, not a virus.

    • Replies: @dearieme
    , @Weston Waroda
  5. dearieme says:

    There is no simple “fatality rate”. At the very least you need to distinguish that Case Fatality Rate from the Infection Fatality Rate, and, ideally, you should report the level of medical treatment that the victims were afforded, their median age, and their existing state of health. See for example

    From their abstract: Adjusting for delay from confirmation-to-death, we estimated case and infection fatality ratios (CFR, IFR) for COVID-19 on the Diamond Princess ship as 2.3% (0.75%–5.3%) and 1.2% (0.38–2.7%).

    Note that their figures were based on the seven deaths that had occurred at the time they wrote. Since than an eighth patient has died, and somewhere I think I saw that a ninth and tenth have died.

    • Replies: @Sean
  6. botazefa says:

    and as for the US option, you name it for me.

    ‘anti-masking’ is the US option?

    • Replies: @Twodees Partain
  7. MB says: • Website

    The backstory to the infamous Imperial document:
    The Common Roots Of Climate Change And COVID-19 Hysteria

    IOW when Little Green Riding Hood, Greta Thunberg couldn’t pull it off, tantrums and pouts notwithstanding, our Noble Scientific Expert, Neil the Ferguson came riding to the rescue with The Usual Garbage In Garbage Out Infallible Computer Model to slay the skeptic and disobedient and instill fear and heartfelt compliance by one and all to the New Sanctified World Order.

    In short and when seen through the lens of Sustainable Development, aka Technocracy, the whole world has just been punked and then panicked into destroying itself over COVID-19.

    The culprit? A world-class Technocrat in Britain: Dr. Neil Ferguson, PhD is a professor at Imperial College in London that bills itself as a “global university”. It is thoroughly steeped in Sustainable Development and more dedicated to social causes than academic achievement. In fact, Imperial is very well-known for its alarmist research reports on climate change, carbon reduction, environmental degradation, loss of biodiversity, etc. . . .

    What the Sustainable Development crowd needed was to put their non-performing racehorse “Global Warming” out to pasture and find a brand new horse that could finally run and win the race to what the UN calls “deep transformation” of the entire global economic system. The new horse is named “COVID-19”. Different horse, same jockey, same race, same finish line..

    Or the same song, different verse.
    A whole lot louder and a whole lot worse.

    • Replies: @Philip Owen
  8. dearieme says:

    Philip Owen recently mentioned a rumour he’d heard about UK deaths being disproportionately moslem. I’ve just noticed this, though one anecdote does not a trend make.

    • Replies: @LondonBob
  9. @MB

    Neil Ferguson works with the same mathematical modelling team as the University of East Anglia climatologists whose model is the source of most of the world’s climate models. They will get you any result you want.

  10. @Philip Owen

    Neil Ferguson works with the same mathematical modelling team as the University of East Anglia climatologists whose model is the source of most of the world’s climate models. They will get you any result you want.

    That’s what commenter Kratoklastes said here on unz com numerous times – and he gives lots of (mostly formal) reasons.

    And that’s what Patrick Frank / Stanford wrote in a widely discussed paper about climate change.

    (Then there is Boris Smirnov about the tricky physics of gases***** – and there is – the poet and hobby-mathematician (The Number Devil) Hans Magnus Enzensberger, who wrote in the title poem of his collection Die Geschichte der Wolken / Frankfurt/M. 2005 (The History of Clouds), that clouds are a) crucial for the climate and b) too complex to figure them out correctly.

    ****** Abstract:

  11. Sean says:

    Dr. Ioannidis one hour talk.

    When adjusted for age, having COVID-19 is ballpark flu dangerous, but because it’s due to a novel virus the risk of getting it is very great (your immune system having never encountered it before). Old folk would be in about as much danger of dying as they would be from influenza if they get it, but because they are much more likely to get the novel COVID-19, the Bayesian probability of becoming seriously ill from in the flesh social contact is suddenly great for the elderly and infirm.

    Therefore, it is most certainly wise for old (median over 60 on the DP cruise) or debilitated people to isolate for the foreseeable future. In children the risk is essentially zero, so children can go back to school, but they will not be visiting their grandparents’ house for a very long time.

    Consider. Each year Italy barely had intensive care places for endemic seasonal influenza, the COVID-19 epidemic and bad management through letting anyone with COVID-19 occupy a IC place, a lot of smoking old folk, and half the population of Bergamo celebrating a Champions league match on 19 February by platonically smooching into the early hours.

    There is not going to be any overwhelmed health service in the UK because of better hospital management, the timely isolation of the old folk, and too many intensive care beds being available anyway. Britain’s powerful economy is the reason it can cope. However, for the unforeseen eventualities that will certainly arise in the future we need to fire up that economy up again and build up new reserves. For the vulnerable groups the lockdown and extra help should continue, but for the others it needs to end. Back to work at Easter is ideal, but after the Easter hols would be the right time politically.

  12. @Philip Owen

    He also worked on modelling the foot-and-mouth outbreak. 2000 cases amongst farm animals led to a mass panic and the killing of 6 million innocent cows and sheep (oy vey)

    • Thanks: Kratoklastes
    • Replies: @Kratoklastes
  13. @Just Passing Through

    Fuck – I had forgotten Ferguson’s role in that.

    I knew about his Armageddon forecasts during Mad Cow hysteria in the early 00’s (like this one from the NYT (October 30, 2001)

    But Dr. Neil Ferguson, an epidemiologist in another group of highly respected researchers led by Dr. Roy Anderson at Imperial College in London, said the new estimates were ”unjustifiably optimistic.” His group published estimates a year ago predicting that the number of variant C.J.D. cases might reach 136,000 in coming decades. They have since revised those numbers only very slightly downward in a study of their own, which will be published soon.

    Actual number of vCJD cases globally between 1996 and 2015:


    • UK: 177 (98 of which happened before October 30 2001);
    • France: 27 (3 of which ditto);
    • RoW: 25 (including 4 US Exceptionals)

    Total deaths that post-date the NYT article:


    The bulk of the UK deaths (and almost half of the overall deaths) occurred before that NYT article went to press.

    Looks like he forgot to divide by 1,000 – easy enough mistake to make.


    Seriously though: how the fuck does this cunt get to be that wrong, and remain able to show his face in public without it getting kicked in or laughed at?

    How does Steve “There Will Be No Such Thing As Snow” Viner, ditto?

    Turns out that catastrophising is a gigantic money-spinner.

    Nobody wants to hear “Calm the fuck down: it’s almost certainly going to be OK“.

    • LOL: Sean
    • Replies: @Dieter Kief
  14. @Kratoklastes

    Turns out that catastrophising is a gigantic money-spinner.

    We are deeply wired for threats. See the movie-business, for example.

    That’s why depression recedes during wartime – but: this is not the only reason why:

    “Nobody wants to hear “Calm the fuck down: it’s almost certainly going to be OK“.”

    Plus – there is real suffering and danger. Lots of people around the world (think of the numbers and the cirumstances in Italy) have gotten seriously ill and died who for sure would be still alive without CO-19.

  15. LondonBob says:

    Apparently a nineteen year old died in London, he was from Italy.

  16. LondonBob says:
    @Philip Owen

    A friend is a research scientist at Imperial, in medical biology, he is as lefty as you can get.

    My aunt has just tested positive and been admitted to hospital, Northwick Park, no real symptoms though. She had terminal cancer and decided to ignore the virus as she only has a few months to live anyway, she also has specified Do Not Resuscitate. Not sure that being admitted to hospital if she has mild to no symptoms is the best idea, might have a very low viral load.

    Anecdotally I think it has spread a fair amount in London already.

    • Replies: @Philip Owen
  17. Sean says:

    So, from a virus control point of view, they had the central control they needed, in just the right large quantities.

    China is a totalitarian state in the grip of the Chinese Communist party that is solely concerned with keeping power. I think it is becoming clear that China subjected Wuhan to virtual immurement, and inside the the military cordon the Wuhan epidemic overwhelmed the purely local resources they were limited to. It was said by China that COVID-19 had a death rate of between 5 and 15 per cent (just like SARS and MERS are known to have), but the Chinese have still not released the data on their COVID-19 outbreak for anyone else to look at. Whatever the Wuhan death rate was the Chinese produced that death rate in Wuhan by sealing it off .

    Italian medics were wearing gowns improvised from bin bags; yes, but that is because Italy is a brocken-spectre state with rickety system operating at full stretch every winter. The Amanda Knox case exposed qualified officials there as corrupt and inefficient, though they have some very excellent individuals, there is nothing in reserve to call on. They did not triage to use what they had effectively but filled the intensive care with people who should have not even been in hospital. The Italian government was elected so they could welsh on their debts and get German taxpayers to pick up the bill. No comparison with an advanced and professional NHS, backed by a solid economy like Britain’s. The age corrected COVID-19 death rate for those requiring hospitalisation is comparable to influenza, and there is no evidence from Italy or any other country of total excess deaths.

    OXFORD… scientists then tried to ascertain which hypothetical—emphasis on hypothetical— circumstances could have led to those rapidly rapidly rising death tolls. One plausible explanation, they found, is exactly what the Imperial group’s models suggest: The virus has just begun to spread in the UK and it is causing severe symptoms among a significant percentage of people.

    But equally plausible, according to their models, is that SARS-CoV-2 could actually have been circulating since January, possibly infecting up to half the population. For this scenario to work, most people would only get a mild version of the disease—only a tiny fraction of those infected would wind up in the hospital. In other words, in the first scenario, the epidemic is just taking off. In the second, it’s already swept through the population

    Gupta’s Oxford team have devised a serological assay for the relevant antibodies, and are testing blood drawn from Britons since January. She says will know in a few weeks

    But Dr. Neil Ferguson, an epidemiologist at Imperial College in London, said the new estimates were ”unjustifiably optimistic.” There are many problems with the new study, Dr. Ferguson said

    That was Ferguson quoted in a 2001 NYT article called ‘Estimates of Future Human Death Toll From Mad Cow Disease Vary Widely’. He was the one predicting a hundred thousand people dying nineteen years ago, and he is the one predicting the hundreds of thousands of deaths in the UK now. By the way Mad Cow Disease subsequently killed seventy odd people in Britain.

    I feel Gupta at Oxford is going to be proved right. The distancing should be kept in any case, but the lockdown needs to end for most people in a few weeks. Extra help for the elderly or otherwise vulnerable and their carers to remain isolated is right and should continue. Firing up the economy will be essential to pay for the costs.

    Those who are unemployed could be get a certificate for being serologically established to be non transmitters of the infection and be invited or required to take a job (or voluntary work) as home helps for the old folks ECT. They would need to have all the flu jabs too of course.

  18. @Coronaskeptic

    I.e. the virus is about as dangerous as seasonal flu.

    No. This virus is far more dangerous than the flu due of the great numbers of people it puts in intensive care, if not for the deaths themselves. You will see.

  19. dearieme says:

    A cheerer-upper:

    Personally I’d quibble. I use “British Isles” in a strictly geographical sense so it would include all of Ireland and exclude the Channel Islands. But each to his own.

  20. MB says: • Website
    @Philip Owen

    Yup. The sooner people turn off the electronic version of Plato’s cave and all the “expert” yapping heads on the same, the sooner things would get back to normal.

  21. @LondonBob

    I hope your Aunt has a compassionate ending. There is somethingto be said for dying at home.

    I now strongly suspect that steel industry personnel from Wuhan were spreading the disease from December. They would be young enough to be asymptomatic. I note the following regions/cities were infected early.

    Lombardy, Toledo/Madrid/ Qom (turns out they make steel), Lorraine, Gwent.

    Also the Korean Church had 200 members visiting Wuhan in December.

  22. @botazefa

    The US masking option appears to be dust masks from Home Depot. Around here you’ll see dozens of people out shopping for toilet paper, wearing dust masks and nitrile exam gloves.

    If it makes them feel safe,…

  23. @Weston Waroda

    Yes, we’ll see. When we do, you’ll just change your screen name and start pushing a different panic meme. I’m getting pretty tired of all you noobie trolls inundating every site online that allows comments.

    • Replies: @Weston Waroda
  24. I suppose the answer regarding the Coronavirus crisis is that world leaders should have known at least as much as Bill Gates in 2015, if not precisely exactly the risks that infection disease specialists had known for at least 20 years: a highly contagious respiratory disease would be very hard to control, and would require very prompt Government restrictions, none of them popular.

    British leaders had not only Gates’ knowledge, but knowledge of the precise risks, in 2017. A simulation exercise for pandemic flu revealed precisely the dire shortcomings of the health care system that we are now experiencing: in particular, a shortage of ventilators and personal protection equipment. The report of Exercise Cygnus was considered so shocking that it was classified so the public could not read it. In the meantime, the appropriate authorities did nothing. They did not even do the relatively inexpensive things, like buying 100 million facemasks.

    Unfortunately, the Sunday Telegraph report is behind a pay barrier, and most news organisations have not picked it up. Perhaps we have quietly adopted wartime reporting rules, with catastrophic blunders unreported in order to “sustain morale”.

    • Replies: @James N. Kennett
  25. @Weston Waroda

    You are wrong, friend. I am trying to scare nobody. It’s just I have watched this virus spread on the Johns Hopkins dashboard since January. I have gone through, and am still going through to an extent, several stages of skeptism and refinements of opinion, but the numbers don’t lie and they are backed up by national narratives. This is real. This is definitely not the flu. This isn’t a scheme of the elites to control your life, although I have no love for them. Look what’s happening in Italy, for crying out loud. It isn’t the death rate in and of itself that is catastrophic, even though that is bad enough. It’s the hospitalization rate. And we are not doing enough even now to fight it. Everybody should be wearing surgical masks if they leave their homes. We need to ramp up production of ventilators and n95 masks. We need to be in emergency mode to flatten the curve. And we need to stop outsourcing production of items that pertain to our national security to China. But that’s for the future, and I’m not a total noobie.

  26. Sean says:

    Yes, but the more people who get it the more who will die. Britain is not Italy and it is not going to be overwhelmed. The people who die will die because the COVID-19 was too much for their immune system, not because Britain ran out of intensive care beds.

    What an intellectual treat is Walter Scheidel’s Escape From Rome. With great scholarship, contrasts China’s reconstitution of empire after the collapse of the Han vs the failure of Theodoric/Justinian/Charlemagne/Charles V etc. to do the same in Europe

    The spread of the pandemic was aided by China’s evasiveness about the facts of what was happening in Wuhan, facts that Western experts still have not been given yet even though they are desperately needed to save lives. Downing St has said China will will face a reckoning. This is the begining of the end for China and its totalitarian state centralised system. The West’s complex, differentiated, heterogeneity was easy to underrate in relation to China because the West was helping China: everyone wanted in on its growth to pay for the pensions of the old folk. What a sick joke that has turned out to be. But the Han are going to be seen as repeating the mistake of the Chinese Empire: sticking to the old system and thus left behind in stagnant uniformity. It’s their natural condition.

    IN sum, East Asians have resolved the “large society problem” through a different psychological and behavioral package that places less emphasis on emotional involvement and more on restoration of social harmony.

    • Replies: @Anon
  27. Cking says:

    This is a very thoughtful article. However; Where is the suspicion, the skepticism? The timing of all this virus hysteria, the forces of disaster financialization of the US economy, cannot be gouged from our eyes. The hype and irrational extrapolations of the Coronavirus are menacing, effecting irregular warfare, that is warfare conducted irregularly as if the nation were still under the 9/11 occupation forces. The Coronavirus prevention/containment measures will destroy what’s left of the US national economy and ensure President Trump’s defeat in the November elections. The full spectrum of implications has to be recognized and brought into the public discourse.

    The strategically necessary, nuclear powered, economy platform, the Redevelopment of North America cannot be delayed any longer, and it goes through the reorganization of the US Congress, the US Treasury, the Federal Reserve Bank, and the Wall St. system and that includes the severing the Private Sector from the US Medical system.

  28. Anon[306] • Disclaimer says:

    But the Han are going to be seen as repeating the mistake of the Chinese Empire: sticking to the old system and thus left behind in stagnant uniformity. It’s their natural condition.

    The old system is an effect, not a cause, of uniformity. China and East Asia are at the furthest end of Eurasia from the African bottleneck, bounded by the Gobi and Himalayas. It is much less genetically diverse. Whereas the West has seen lots of population and genetic exchange and turnover, and is much closer to the African bottleneck and the great genetic diversity of Africa. The Roman Empire could not be reconstituted because of the greater genetic diversity of a West that included Germanics, Nordics, Latins, Slavs, Mediterraneans, Mideasterners, Africans, etc. There has never been comparable genetic diversity in East Asia.

  29. @Twodees Partain

    OK. You were right, I was wrong. I was still accepting the University of Washington’s vaunted IHME projections when I wrote that–until they greatly revised their predictions of absolute death and destruction. How foolish I felt to see just a little later that in fact the healthcare system in my state had not been overrun with coronavirus cases as predicted.

    But I’m not changing my screen name.


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