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It seems an age ago that I was singing the praises of Singapore, who had handled the coronavirus in a highly pragmatic way. In brief, citizens were asked to take their own temperatures and if they were above normal, isolate themselves and be tested for coronavirus. Frequent hand washing and the use of masks helped reduce transmission.

Since posting that on 26 February much has changed. Country after country has been set the IQ test, and the results have varied. China, Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan are well ranked, though China may have cheated. Italy and Spain are towards bottom of the class. Sweden’s results are still being marked, but very much worth watching. Holland has also tried an intelligent, adult approach, with many shops open, but as death rates rise may move to more severe lockdown. The US is a new arrival to the class, and will be evaluated in a few week’s time.

Testing is of two sorts: 1) has the person got the active virus, and 2) did they have the virus some time ago, and develop anti-bodies to it. The first group need tracing and isolation; the second group need jobs looking after the first group, or simply to return to their jobs to keep the whole show on the road. The UK seems to have messed up its homework on testing. It knew testing was needed, but then didn’t follow through. It is now playing catchup. This is particularly embarrassing because science is done well in this country, but delivering services at scale is a different matter. Public Health England seems lethargic and inept. Done properly, testing reduces the need for a national lockdown. You have to work hard tracing contacts, and must make selective isolation financially and bureaucratically attractive, but if adopted in advance of a wave of cases, it stops the wave.

Of course, finding a trace of the virus does not mean that it is active and able to infect someone. Yet another virologist has said that even in the homes of Covid-19 positive patients’ active viruses have not been found on any surfaces, not even the household cat.

So, it would appear that most transmission comes from pretty close contact with an infected person. The Uruguayan outbreak, which got one of my friends, has been traced to one visitor who had visited Milan and Madrid, felt ill, then better, took a plane to Uruguay, embraced and kissed guests at a 500 person wedding in a Montevideo suburb (high society weddings are like that) and thus set off a wave of infections. A young woman guest at the wedding passed it on to her work colleague, and that young man passed it on to his mother, my friend. She only in the last few days feels fully recovered, but handled the whole thing very calmly, giving us an account of all the symptoms she experienced.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who described his coronavirus symptoms as mild, has had 10 days at home and was admitted to hospital last night, presumably because his condition has worsened. This does not look good, and may have profound political consequences. Boris is a vote-winner, his colleagues far less so. Most UK citizens are no longer in doubt that the “invisible enemy” must be treated with respect. Just under 5000 dead so far, with more to come for a while until the rate starts going down, it is hoped.

A friend in distant Scotland could not understand why colleagues were falling ill in this remote place, and then wondered whether the large number of Chinese students at St Andrews University might have something to do with it. Either that, or someone went skiing.

Despite the general lockdown in Europe, Sweden is carrying on roughly as normal, and looking at the rest of the world with bemusement. Swedish scientists advising the Government say that Covid-19 will not be much different from seasonal flu. However, they are looking at the numbers coming into intensive care, and may change tack if those numbers rise sharply. I am fond of rebels, and wish Sweden well.

It is time to play with toys. What better pastime than to look at simulations as the parameters are altered so as to evaluate the efficacy of different policies. Are the Swedes right, or not? This presentation uses an admittedly simplified model, but is the better for it, because the examples are clearly displayed, and different policy outcomes can be compared.

Here is my brief summary of some of the main points.

The best approach is to identify (by testing) and isolate. Trace contacts, test them all, isolate those who test positive. This has the enormous advantage of keeping the economy going. Since the idea of an economy is to furnish all the things we need, that in itself will boost our health. We will have a variety of foods, plenty of exercise, social interaction and might even meet to discuss new ways of combatting disease. This policy halts the epidemic in its tracks. The virus finds no stepping stone.

However, this requires that everyone takes the test, and that everyone who has the virus gets picked up by the test. It has to have high sensitivity. No or very few false negatives. Frankly, although it would also be nice if it had high specificity, false positives are less of a problem. Sure, it is a nuisance to have to stay home, but it is not the end of the world if you mistakenly have to get to know your family better.

If you don’t have tests, or treatments, you have to use social distancing. Social distancing works if everyone does it, but if only 10% cheat, then the effect is blunted.

One minor upside of this pandemic is that more work will be done on testing infection models. All of them are highly sensitive to variables with large error terms, hence the need for caution in interpretation.

It is a nuisance, to put it mildly, that the last few years have not led to a better understanding of how to model pandemics. If the various institutes had at least agreed upon a standard model, of known efficacy, they could still tout their individual models and compare it with the plain vanilla version. Call it the 1927 model.

On a broader front, this pandemic raises the question: how much of our economy is strictly necessary? The essentials of food growing, processing and distribution probably account for no more than 4% of the working age population. Power generation and basic utilities perhaps another 4%. Perhaps the remnant 92% will all be bloggers.

• Category: Science • Tags: Coronavirus 
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  1. Cortes says:

    Unless your 8% are latter-day Shakers or Skoptsys they, or some of them, have families whose existence brings in its train economic consequences. Are the children home-schooled? Is Mrs Utility Worker spending all day Monday and Friday washing?

    Do the 8% use jet-packs to move around now that road and railway maintenance has been discontinued or do they use phasers to deal with fallen trees, encroaching vegetation and the like?

  2. > Prime Minister Boris Johnson … was admitted to hospital last
    > night, presumably because his condition has worsened.

    Funny, I assumed it’s good theatre. Helps maintain the hysteria and promotes lockdown obedience.

    I’d like to see an attempt to calculate the cost per QALY of our wrecking the economy so that people close to death can die of cancer next year instead of pneumonia this year (and so that the complete unpreparedness of our £200B healthcare system could be accommodated, .)

    > how much of our economy is strictly necessary?

    I’d be cautious about asking that in the hearing of the many losers,

    • Replies: @Kratoklastes
  3. Tchechia seems to be interesting too because they combine citizenship, masks, and social distancing.

    Steve Sailer had been thinking about representative testing a few weeks ago – Austria will try this soon and is at the same time preparing for a restart of the economy.

    The problem of false-positive test results has been widely discussed in Southern Germany and has led to very restrictive testing. – For no good reasons, I agree with your analysis.

    Just why we did not immediately do what the four best practice Asian countries did, is the big miracle for me. – Is it, that we lack the ability to copy good ideas? Is the ability to copy what others have successfully done something that is – difficult? – A wide open field of questions for all kinds of surveys in quite few disciplines (my favorite would be social psychology here).

    • Replies: @LondonBob
    , @YetAnotherAnon
  4. dearieme says:

    Public Health England seems lethargic and inept.

    It’s much more fun to be the sermonising arm of the Nanny State than to do your duty and attend to public health. They’d be nane the waur o a hingin.

  5. ‘China may have cheated. ‘?

    Do tell!

    I’ve been interested in Chinese governance for 60 years and studying it obsessively for the past ten. I have yet to catch the Chinese government cheating or lying and would be interested in knowing if you have.

    The Chinese people, known the world over for their intolerance of bullshit, seem to think their government is pretty straight with them, too, which encourages me to think I haven’t missed any pork pies.

  6. @Godfree Roberts

    So, since 1970, including the last 6 year of Mao, Chinese government statistics have been truthful? Just trying to understand your argument.

    My hesitancy about accepting the stated Chinese death rate is that it is pretty low, considering the resources they threw against the crisis.

  7. Testing is of two sorts: 1) has the person got the active virus, and 2) did they have the virus some time ago, and develop anti-bodies to it. The first group need tracing and isolation; the second group need jobs looking after the first group, or simply to return to their jobs to keep the whole show on the road.

    I really know little about biological sciences but what does this mean? If you’ve had the flu it doesn’t mean that you can’t get it again, and this Covid-19 seems to be much like the flu, except apparently more viral and deadlier, or so we’re told. The HIV test is based on the presence of antibodies, not the virus itself, and if you have them it does not imply that you cannot infect others with the virus or die of AIDS. But it seems that having antibodies to Covid-19 means that you are cured and can’t infect others – has that really been established? OK, I’m ignorant about virology but based on my general knowledge about what we’re told about various illnesses I’m not yet convinced.

    • Replies: @paranoid goy
    , @Delta G
  8. LondonBob says:
    @Dieter Kief

    Porton Down are doing random antibody testing of 3500 samples a week.

    I feel like the government realise the virus isn’t living up to the worst projections but have painted themselves in to a corner.

  9. Realist says:
    @James Thompson

    So, since 1970, including the last 6 year of Mao, Chinese government statistics have been truthful? Just trying to understand your argument.

    Where does Godfree Roberts state what you are implying? I believe his comment; I have yet to catch the Chinese government cheating or lying and would be interested in knowing if you have.. was meant to be over the last ten years when he was studying it obsessively. Mao has been dead almost 44 years. Perhaps Roberts will elucidate.

  10. LondonBob says:
    @James Thompson

    A friend in Hong Kong thought that they overreacted because of the criticism over the handling of SARS. I guess they also couldn’t be sure how bad the virus would be so overreacting made sense.

  11. @Dieter Kief

    “Just why we did not immediately do what the four best practice Asian countries did, is the big miracle for me. – Is it, that we lack the ability to copy good ideas?”

    In the case of Britain, they didn’t have the kit, even now some NHS staff aren’t masked, though most are, and nearly all private care home staff, with the most vulnerable population in their care, don’t have ANY gear. They didn’t have the ventilators, they didn’t have the PCR machines needed for mass testing. They also didn’t seem to have civil servants with the technical/business knowledge combination to pick a lab and set them running.

    There’s also the question of ownership. The top people for CV19 tests in the UK would be what was once the Government Chemist, now LGC Biosearch Technologies. We don’t need no steenking Government Chemists!

    Although Companies House tells me a chap called Tim Robinson owns >75% of the shares of both LGC (HOLDINGS) LIMITED, Company number 03141667, and LGC GROUP HOLDINGS LIMITED, Company number 04812200, the company annual report tells me

    LGC’s ultimate controlling party is KKR & Co. L.P. (“KKR”), an entity incorporated in the United States of America.

    In other words only-in-it-for the money private equity.

    How different from a company controlled by scientists, like TIB-MolBiol in Germany, which doesn’t have to have 49 meetings, 143 proposal documents and 1,325 spreadsheets, then wait for a green light until the finance guys get back from their ski trips to Vail, Ischgl and Cortina D’Ampezzo.

    “Shortly after New Year’s, Olfert Landt started seeing news reports of a strange disease spreading in China. The German scientist, who’s developed tests for ailments ranging from swine flu to SARS, sensed an opportunity—and a new mission. He spent the next few days quizzing virologists at Berlin’s Charité hospital and scouring the internet for more information on what soon became known as the novel coronavirus, and by Jan. 10 he’d introduced a viable test kit. His phone hasn’t stopped ringing since. “Everyone here is putting in 12- to 14-hour shifts,” the ponytailed Landt says as he rushes through the corridors of TIB Molbiol Syntheselabor GmbH, the Berlin biotech company he started three decades ago. “We’re nearing our limit.”

    In the past two months, Landt and his staff at the company’s production facility—a former industrial building just south of the disused Tempelhof airport—have produced 40,000 coronavirus diagnostic kits, enough for about 4 million individual tests. TIB has reoriented its business toward coronavirus, running its machines through the night and on weekends to make the kits, which sell for about €160 (\$180) apiece. As orders have poured in from the World Health Organization, national health authorities, and laboratories in some 60 countries, TIB’s revenue in February tripled from the same month in 2019.”

    I see that LGC are now marketing CV19 test kits to CDC specifications.

    So we might get round to doing some testing, one of these days. And we’re building ventilators.

    But as for the relatively simple masks, gloves and PPE that are needed, we’ll wait like cargo cultists on some remote atoll for the Great White Bird From The East to land and disgorge its cargo of K95 masks, scrubs and gloves. God forbid we might make them ourselves.

  12. I get testing people who present symptoms and tracing and testing their contacts. The missing piece in terms of calibrating and refining the models is to start drawing random samples of the population to estimate how many might have or already had it. To this day, the COVID-19 numbers look scary in the rather biased way they are presented (chiefly, confirmed cases and death numbers only), but not necessarily so scary when put side-by-side with influenza burden over the past ten years, particularly 2017-2018. These stats are from the CDC for the USA:


    • Replies: @animalogic
  13. @Bored lockdownee

    cost per QALY of our wrecking the economy so that people close to death can die of cancer next year instead of pneumonia this year

    That’s close to the perfect statement of the problem.

    The 2008 financial crisis appears to have generated an additional ~10,000 suicides in the US relative to trend over the following 3 years.

    Compared to what is in prospect, the 2008-2011 contraction was pretty mild:
    • peak fall in GDP ~2.9% (2008-2009);
    • peak unemployment rate ~9.6% in 2011;
    • initial jobless claims peak at 976k in 2009.

    The 3-year period is arbitrary: in fact the ‘recovery’ was patchy and unequally distributed, and resulted in almost no improvement in economic prospects for the bottom 2 quintiles – right up to the present day. Despair post-GFC is ubiquitous, and suicide rates have not returned to trend.

    Suicides are concentrated in males, and non-Hispanic white males in particular. Half of all suicides are men in prime working age: the median suicide is aged mid-40s – so has a life expectancy of 35 years. At current standards the last 4 of those years will generally have declining quality, so let’s just round down to 30 QALY lost for each suicide.

    Now let’s look at covid19.

    The median age of the dead is in the high-70s, and the median death has at least 2 chronic diseases.

    The HALE65 (health-adjust life expectancy at age 65) in the Eurozone averages 10 years for the entire age cohort – including the healthy. In the US, it’s lower.

    So by the time an individual is in their mid-70s, they are past their HALE65 (which has been increasing for several decades, but has slowed recently).

    They are ‘outside the envelope’: statistically, their deaths have zero annual cost in QALY.

    I agree that sounds ludicrous – considering how many fit and healthy 70+ people there are (both my parents for example). What that goes to show is how life-shortening chronic disease (and general physical debility) is for 70+ people.

    Let’s be generous and take into account the QALY losses for each age cohort of covid19 deaths. For the Italian data (as of March 31st), it goes as follows:

    So the rough cost in QALY is 29,161 person-years – 2.91 years per death.

    86% of the QALY losses are generated by deaths of <70, but only 14% in <50 (where relevant chronic illness – CVD and CRD – are relatively low; diabetes is more uniform)

    The total QALY loss is equivalent to 972 median suicides – 9.7% of the total covid19 deaths-with, and making the silly assumption that the HALE for a person with chronic disease is the same as a normal person.

    To offset 10,000 excess suicides (with a median QALY cost of 30 years) would require the guaranteed saving of 103,000 ‘average’ covid19 deaths-with, or 600,000 median covid19 deaths-with… bearing in mind the QALY loss for a 75+ covid death-with is set at 0.5y, not ZERO (where it should be).

    Given that everyone’s talking about unemployment peaking 25 percentage points higher than 2009, GDP contractions 20 points larger than 2008-09, and there have already been 10 million new unemployment claims in the last fortnight in the US… well, 10,000 excess suicides is a very very lowball estimate.

    Lastly… as @Hail pointed out in another thread yesterday: that doesn’t incorporate the predictable reduction in fertility – every lockdown-induced reduction in the number of births, has a QALY cost of 160 median covid19 deaths-with.


    As usual when the political class decides to ‘fix’ something, the costs of the fix are an order of magnitude greater than the problem itself.

    • Agree: AaronInMVD
    • Thanks: Philip Owen
  14. @James Thompson

    Demographer Judith Banister nailed it, I think, “In all years prior to 1973-75 the PRC’s data on crude death rates, infant mortality rates, expectation of life at birth, and causes of death were non-existent, useless, or, at best, are underestimates of actual mortality.” AJ Coale (Rapid Population Change in China 1952-1982, 1982) and Judith Banister (China’s Changing Population, 1987).

    Since then they have been increasingly accurate and useful, thanks to the OECD’s establishing an office in Beijing to assist with statistical harmonization. That plus the fact that the country is still run by engineers and the average citizen is numerate.

    As to resources committed vs. death rates, the jury is still out, but the two guys at the coal face have not concealed their fury at what went on in the first weeks. Apparently, Hubei Party Secretary Jiang Chaoliang and Wuhan’s Communist Party leader, Ma Guoqiang, delayed health officials’ reports. Both were fired and replaced within forty-eight hours.

    Commenting on this Shao Yiming[1], the CCDC’s chief virologist said, “Health authorities initially failed to identify and control the threats posed by Covid-19 because of faulty assumptions and weaknesses in our carefully constructed, direct reporting system. The entire society, from the people to the leadership, should establish a culture of respect for science and regulate their behavior based on such culture. Otherwise, we all will pay big price.”

    His boss, CCDC Director General George Gao[2], was more critical, “It is a great pity that the direct reporting system to monitor infectious disease that we set up after the SARS outbreak didn’t play its due role during this epidemic. Under the rules, whenever there are more than three unknown pneumonia cases, they should be submitted to the system. The system’s network covers 70,000 reporting points across the country and, with a simple mouse click, doctors can report simultaneously to the CCDC’s national and local offices. The idea of the direct reporting system is to reduce administrative intervention and save time in the face of an epidemic. But, unbelievably, our efforts turned out to be in vain because hierarchical review and administrative intervention were back in place. How could such actions, which violate the Law on the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases, happen in government and law enforcement departments? Why didn’t local experts fulfill their duty according to the infectious disease reporting rules? And why did the National Health Commission and its experts fail to collect important information in a timely way? Whether we can find true and adequate answers to these questions will be important to future work.”

    Had their system been allowed to work as designed the resources committed and the deaths reported would have been a fraction of what we know about. Lessons learned.

    [1] Shao, 63, earned his Ph.D. in 1988 at the Virology Institute of the Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine, the predecessor of the CCDC. In the 1980s he worked at the World Health Organization in Geneva as a consultant in the biomedical research division of the Global Program on AIDS. In 2002, upon the official establishment of the CDC, he became the agency’s chief expert on AIDS and a member of the Infectious Disease Standard Committee and the Advisory Committee of Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases at the National Health Commission, vice chairman of the Chinese Society for Microbiology, chairman of the Virology Committee and a member of the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses.. Why ‘Smart’ Covid-19 Virus May Be Here to Stay. By Yang Rui, Denise Jia and Han Wei. Caixin. Mar 19, 2020

    [2] Gao has made contributions to the study of inter-species pathogen transmission. He organized the first World Flu Day on November 1 2018, commemorating the centenary of the Spanish flu and the 15-year commemoration of the severe acute respiratory syndrome outbreak, SARS, which led to China prioritizing investment in the public health system. He is a virologist and immunologist. He has served as Director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention since 2017 and Dean of the Savaid Medical School of the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences since 2015. Gao is an academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and The World Academy of Sciences, as well as a foreign associate of the US National Academy of Sciences and the US National Academy of Medicine. He was awarded the TWAS Prize in Medical Science in 2012 and the Nikkei Asia Prize in 2014.

  15. @Godfree Roberts

    The Chinese people, known the world over for their intolerance of bullshit

    There’s a bunch of qualifiers missing.

    These are the folks who think that where you put a couch makes a difference to where the dragons go; that eating wine that’s had a tiger cock in it makes a Chink’s 4″ dick harder; that the 4th floor/room/seat/aisle/position in a queue is a bad thing, but 8th is fucking awesome.


    Yes, we in the West have us some retards too – and we correctly identify them as gullible: religiotards; folks who believe in fortune telling, horoscopes/astrology/dreamcatchers/crystals/’The Secret’; people who think that one side of politics is made up of good guys. Yep – we gots all of those.

    Difference is, you wouldn’t call any of those things a significant part of Western culture (you might be tempted to do so for religious ‘tardism: look at some figures for church attendance for the West-ex-US, or at the average ages for nuns & priests).

    Even the religiotards – who have been institutionally-insulated from well-deserved mockery for two millennia – are on the outs now, as their co-grifters in government have stopped persecuting people who call ‘Bullshit’ on stupid children’s stories.


    Chinese, intolerant of bullshit? That just doesn’t fly, bro.

    FWIW: I’m something of a fan of the post-Deng period, when he convinced the Party that they ought to liberalise economically – and that this could be done without the need to liberalise politically. Prior to Deng, nobody believed that you could have economic pluralism without political pluralism.

    Deng Xiaoping is pretty much the sine qua non of Chinese economic development, and he did it as it ought to be done – by evidence-based analysis, and a series of small(ish) scale experiments (permitting people to keep and trade surplus production in a couple of provinces).

    What happened in the ensuing 30 years is the greatest economic miracle in human history: raising a billion people out of poverty, almost-entirely peacefully is commendable.

    And that’s coming from me, who would extirpate every politician and technocrat. To riff off Jean Meslier and Diderot…

    Je aimerais que tout les hommes politiques fût étranglés à mort: au défaut d’un cordon, ourdirons les boyaux du dernier technocrate.

    • Replies: @Godfree Roberts
  16. Sean says:

    Perhaps the reason why the major institutions’ epidemiological expert teams cannot agree on COVID-19 spread has something to do with a little ancient history. ‘Prof Sir Roy Anderson (right) claimed Prof Sunetra Gupta had a relationship with her head at Oxford’. Foot and [in?] mouth expert Anderson complained of impropriety when Gupta was made reader, but ’twas Anderson ended up getting ye order of the boot, and from being director of the Wellcome Trust’s new, multi-million-pound centre for the epidemiology of infectious diseases at Oxford University, he was banished to the outer darkness of benighted Imperial, whence he plotted a stochastic vengeance. Poor Prof. Gupta was a deterministic sitting duck for the unknown unknowns scare tactic of Andersons’s slippery minions. Her method of proceeding from a basis of established fact, namely the first 15 days in which there were COVID-19 deaths for Italy and in the U.K., seems very reasonable to me nonetheless.

  17. jlc says:

    Disagree. Testing (except for medical personnel) accomplishes nothing, as there is no different treatment for those testing positive.

    The only answer is herd immunity which is where enough people have been infected so that there is no more transmission. This number seems to be ~70% as demonstrated by that % of the population showing antibodies to the virus in Lombardy. The disease is over in Lombardy.

    All we are doing with closures is delaying the infections into the future, wave after wave till 70% reached.

    Sure, it is good to use basic prophylaxis like hand washing, sanitizer, ending hand shaking, staying at home if sick, screening those visiting nursing homes. and covering face when sneezing or coughing or using masks. These measures in and of themselves should be enough to keep ERs and ICUs from being overloaded. Sweden example.

    The folly of fomenting panic by the news media needs to end. Control yourselves.

    All these closures and restrictions are economic disaster.

    • Replies: @Commentator Mike
  18. @Kratoklastes

    Good point.

    The difference is that China has always excluded such people from government so they are not influential.

    We, on the other hand, make them Vice-Presidents.

    • Replies: @Realist
  19. @jlc

    “Herd immunity”? And when has herd immunity ever been established for the common cold, influenza, AIDS, and numerous other viral diseases? There may be a few individuals who are immune but herd immunity?

  20. @Commentator Mike

    Virus: n. (fr Very Interesting and Rare Unidentifiable Sickness) On the Ladder of Life, the virus is little more than a crystal encased in protein. On the ladder of social standing, it is a prime differentiator. As a financial vehicle, it has proven consistently profitable beyond even Bill Gates’ dreams.
    That was from the Dictionary of Greenpets. ‘Cause we also got fed up with their conflicting bull. The less they know, the more it costs. But do the research into how ‘genes work’ and the crazy pictures are highly entertaining. I find the concept of being mostly a collection of bacteria surreal but Right. Also, it is the new medicine, might as well at least know the most common terms. Then you will notice how many charlatans out there are bullshitting their way through your wallet.
    Here is an article explaining how GMOs could be viral weapons. Also, it gives some simple threads for your research to start pulling on.

    • Thanks: Commentator Mike
  21. Yes, I use the influenza excess deaths as a baseline. However, Covid-19 is the new kid on the block, and European data show that if you look at week by week excess deaths for Italy, even though it has effectively taken a hold in only a few place, deaths are up Z=+8
    Furthermore, if it kills at 10 times the rate of flu, and it is around for ever, this is just the beginning of a major problem.

    • Replies: @Realist
  22. BuelahMan says:

    So what if the antibody test shows that someone had one form of Corona at some point but not necessarily this supposed strain? They never actually had the diseases that is killing everyone (if it is). But we are told so and we are forced to kill our economy.

    Why would this be allowed?

  23. @The Alarmist

    I’m guessing the flu stat’s are for an entire 12 months: ie the 23 K deaths for 2015-16 is for 12 months.
    So — the CV 19 deaths in the US, just over 10, 000 as per 7/ april/ 2020 are for something like 6 weeks.
    The ’15-16 deaths were based upon 24 mil infections. Today’s
    10,000 deaths are based on less than 400K cv 19 infections.
    I’m not good with math but to me CV 19 looks significantly different to the “average flu”.
    However, we shall see.

    • Replies: @The Alarmist
  24. Posting about it now.

  25. @animalogic

    Nobody has any idea how many CV infections there are or have been … anywhere.

  26. Realist says:
    @James Thompson

    Furthermore, if it kills at 10 times the rate of flu, and it is around for ever, this is just the beginning of a major problem.

    Lots of speculation there…I thought you were more scientific minded.

  27. Realist says:
    @Godfree Roberts

    We, on the other hand, make them Vice-Presidents.

    …or entertainment idols…or media spokespersons.

  28. Delta G says:
    @Commentator Mike

    You know a lot more than the author. Its funny that Thompson’s articles are listed under the Science Article section. Funny maybe ironic but this site has tanked as far as serious accurate facts are concerned. Probably makes more money for Unz and is a better fit to the rest of the Garbage on the Internet today.

    Your instincts are correct regarding your questions about the so called Article’s topic.

    If you want to understand what is going on and hear from an expert who can speak in plain language I suggest this video. It is long but very informative and most importantly Scientifically Accurate.

    The Professor is entertaining as well with his cynical humor of Humanity at large.

  29. Delta G says:

    I would strongly suggest people who are genuinely interested in the current Respiratory Infectious Disease seasonal pandemic watch this interview/lecture from an expert on infection disease pandemics.

    Professor K M Wittkowski certainly seems to have a reservoir of Knowledge which is both Broad and Deep. I know its old school but that seems to be what the real Universe demands.

    As he wisely points out, Testing is BULLSHIT and of now value whatsoever.

    Would be good to rename the Science Subheading to Pseudoscience for more accuracy.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
  30. Anonymous[394] • Disclaimer says:
    @Delta G

    He’d have more credibility if he got rid of that ridiculously thick and heavy necklace.

  31. @Delta G

    Thanks for the link. He predicts 2% death rate for symptomatic cases, so in a month or so that can be compared with the actual numbers.

    CDC gives the rates for seasonal flu. In recent years 17/18 the fatality rate for seasonal flu has been 0.14%. So, on the Professor’s figure of 2% Covid-19 would be 14 times more deadly.

    Currently world fatality rate is 6%, which is incredible.

    To be clear, currently Covid-19 is not contributing to total excess deaths as much as previous outbreaks of flu, but is certainly adding to excess death despite being relatively restricted to foci of infection, rather than being widespread.

    • Replies: @Commentator Mike
  32. dearieme says:

    In recent years 17/18 the fatality rate for seasonal flu has been 0.14%.

    Such numbers are estimates. It is unusual for corpses thought to have died from the flu to be tested for the virus. And if that is a Case Fatality Rate we’d better also remember that many of the diagnoses of flu may be wrong because, again, the virus is not usually tested for.

    I did see a claim recently about a research study that had included testing. They found that fewer than half the deaths in the study that had been previously attributed to the flu had involved the seasonal flu virus. (I think it was much less than half but I can’t remember the percentage.)

    The lesson I draw is that we might not know much about the novel coronavirus but our knowledge of the familiar flu viruses is also pretty incomplete.

    • Replies: @James Thompson
  33. @dearieme

    However, our knowledge of weekly deaths is good enough to look for seasonal variations, and then calculate winter excess death rates. In my view, that is a valid and harder test of whether any virus is contributing to excess deaths.

    • Replies: @dearieme
  34. dearieme says:
    @James Thompson

    True, but if flu deaths are being misidentified we don’t know how big the contribution of that virus is to excess deaths by respiratory tract infection.

  35. @James Thompson

    And out of closed cases with an outcome the fatality rate is an astonishing 21% worldwide yet only 1.7% for the Diamond Princess according to

    It would be most useful to have current data in parallel for non-Covid-19 flu morbidity and mortality for any affected locale to compare. Are such data being reported? Or maybe this season Covid-19 is the predominant flu and other strains are not significant and hence not worth reporting?

    It would seem that hospitals are now major breeding grounds for this disease and that is why most of those affected are isolated at home with only most serious cases being sent to hospitals – not just to prevent overwhelming the medical facilities but also to prevent spreading it in the hospital environment and especially to prevent infecting medical staff who once infected have to be isolated and can’t be used to treat patients which feeds into a loop to overwhelm the medical facilities even more. Also how reliable are the tests? It would be most unfortunate if you caught a cold or the flu and went, or were sent, to a hospital to then catch this Covid-19.

    As far as many of the medical professional who catch it, are they sent home to self-isolate (which may be impossible if they live with their families) unless their symptoms become severe or are they kept in the hospitals even if they have mild symptoms, so as to minimise exposure of others outside? Is there a set policy by now what to do with medical staff who catch Covid-19? Or it probably varies from country to country and hospital to hospital.

    We’re trying to draw conclusions based on data from countries with different approaches to the crisis, different procedures, different tests, etc. yet they’re all fed into the same data base. Seems like some international standardisation on reporting of these cases is badly needed if we are to make any sense of it.

  36. @Delta G

    Thanks for the link. Interesting and informative interview. I’m still unclear about the herd immunity.

    If someone is immune to a disease they will be immune to it whether exposed or not, and if it requires exposure to generate antibodies and hence develop immunity, as this prof says, then that will happen whether someone is exposed today, tomorrow, or whenever, and if never then no problems either. So I don’t see whether exposing yourself as soon as possible, or delaying exposure, should make any difference. Presumably the measures taken are to prevent overloading the health system with too many cases in a short interval, while this prof wants herd immunity developed as soon as possible so that the economic, social and psychological impacts of the pandemic are minimised. But if we will develop herd immunity we’ll develop it sooner or later anyway. And whoever is immune to it they’ll remain immune, and if they need the antibodies, they’ll get them whenever they get exposed, either already, now, or in the second wave.

    The most important message is that if you get the flu you must see the doctor asap and get it treated early so as to avoid complications. The worry is that given the chaos in the medical services and being told to shelter in place, many may not be seeking treatment on time and delaying getting their antibiotics prescription. Especially if so many doctors are themselves inflected and in isolation while others are overworked dealing with the severe cases. So a mild case may become severe due to lack of care.

    • Replies: @James Thompson
  37. @Commentator Mike

    A few people may be immune, but herd immunity is only achieved when a majority, say 70% have been exposed to the infection and developed antibodies to it. Vaccination exposes people to a damaged, feeble small dose, enough to let the immune system deal with it, create a response, and not be over-whelmed. Once the majority have acquired immunity then the others are relatively safe, and can free-ride the epidemic.

    • Thanks: Commentator Mike
  38. dearieme says:
    @James Thompson

    Let’s hope that immunity lasts long enough to be useful in the face of the virus’s mutations.

    I’ve seen some interesting arguments for the proposition that nothing like as high a number as 70% would be necessary for effective herd immunity. The logic goes as follows.

    The superspreaders have been people who, by virtue of their job or the nature of their social life, have lots of close contact with people whom they can thereby infect. Once enough of those superspreaders are immune then Ro will collapse and the epidemic may dwindle.

    It does strike me that if lots of potential superspreaders, such as our tiggerish PM, are now immune or isolated, then the superspreaders who are left on the go are probably medical staff. Once many of them are immune, isolated, or dead, we’ll all presumably be a lot safer.

    As I’ve argued before, we really need to take a critical look at the architecture and procedural habits of our hospitals (and care homes) to protect the medics, the patients, and the public. That such generously funded bodies as the NHS and PHE have made no intelligent precautions in advance speaks volumes for how bone-headed the senior bureaucrats in such organisations tend to be. Their incentive structures need to be changed: a touch of the Admiral Byngs would be in order.

    I remain of the view, but held with low confidence, that our generous supply of bloody fools underestimated the problem to begin with and later overestimated it. They have accordingly wielded weapons with exceedingly dull edges.

    • Replies: @res
    , @James Thompson
  39. res says:

    The superspreaders have been people who, by virtue of their job or the nature of their social life, have lots of close contact with people whom they can thereby infect. Once enough of those superspreaders are immune then Ro will collapse and the epidemic may dwindle.

    Interesting argument. I am not sure how well it holds up under the observation that different places have different timing. So each place relatively naive to the disease will have its own set of superspreaders. Then the question is how the disease gets from place to place.

    Put differently, there are two types of spread we have to worry about.
    Intra-local – this is the superspreaders you describe
    Inter-local – travelers, much worse if they are also superspreaders (e.g. think someone working a trade show, or staff of a traveling event)

    Their incentive structures need to be changed: a touch of the Admiral Byngs would be in order.

    I think that simple, direct, and effective bloody mindedness is a big part of what made the British Empire so successful ; )

    But in the Current Year what we will see is whoever makes dramatic gestures or a good show on television will be rewarded while the people who actually take measures which work will be lucky if they escape blame.

    Consider Andrew Cuomo. New York has had the worst outcomes in the US yet their governor is being lauded.

    I remain of the view, but held with low confidence, that our generous supply of bloody fools underestimated the problem to begin with and later overestimated it. They have accordingly wielded weapons with exceedingly dull edges.

    Why low confidence? That seems pretty clearly to be what happened. It is a common human behavior. But as you mention earlier, the time to sharpen the edges of the tools and develop non-panic based response protocols is before a crisis, not during it.

  40. @dearieme

    In the way that we are re-engineering public spaces to cater for wheel chairs, we should have the capacity in hospitals, surgeries, dental departments and the like to have red and clear zones, where red is for infected persons. Agree with you on all that.

    As to super-spreaders, it is not only people but events. Drunken bars and night clubs are super-spreading events, as are, to my dismay, choirs, and also sports centres with gyms or swimming pools indoors. The latter is a personal loss.

    • Replies: @dearieme
    , @Philip Owen
  41. dearieme says:
    @James Thompson

    Pity about swimming pools and choirs. And gyms: though I have always loathed gymnastics and other solitary me-me-me sports, I have – in my time – loved indoors five-a-side football.

    Sumer is icumen in: perhaps Beer Gardens should be allowed to flourish.

  42. @James Thompson

    As you write, and according to the wikipedia article on it, herd immunity is achieved mainly through vaccination. But they can only prepare vaccines for existing viruses and obviously not for any mutations that may arise in the future. As I understand, flu vaccines are some combination vaccine for a number of flu strains from the past that they predict will be prevalent in the next season. And maybe most times it works as any new strains, or those they left out of their vaccination programme, are not significant. I did once mention in some thread that all this could just be the failure of Big Pharma, that their vaccine, which they mostly recommend to the elderly who are now dying, didn’t work this season. So now they want to develop a vaccine for this strain and then what if in some other season a new mutation arrives and the vaccine doesn’t work again?

    I’d say on balance that this Covid-19 is a strain of the flu virus, some mutation of it, but whether natural or made in a lab is hard to tell. I’m not even even certain that it should be described as worse than the seasonal flu: in some individuals it seems more severe and deadlier but in others very mild or even unnoticeable. It’s certainly not anywhere near the Spanish Flu pandemic – yet. But if it mutates into an even deadlier form …

    I think this summer they may close even the outdoor pools, and I’ll suffer too as it’s my favourite recreation. Damn good breathing exercise too.

    • Replies: @James Thompson
  43. @Commentator Mike

    The mutations to Covid-19 seem to be minor. Enough to trace back the source of the infection, but not to invalidate a possible vaccine.
    The lethality of Spanish flu was partly a function of the virus, and very much a function of the depleted state of combatant nations, and the scientific knowledge at that time.

    • Replies: @res
  44. res says:
    @James Thompson

    The lethality of Spanish flu was partly a function of the virus, and very much a function of the depleted state of combatant nations, and the scientific knowledge at that time.

    The latter part (very much…) of that is a key point which I don’t think is being made often enough. The annual data for US flu deaths shows just how much better things are now. My understanding is much of that improvement is due to our ability to deal with follow-on opportunistic infections (e.g. pneumonia). This paper also states: ” The historical decline in influenza-classed mortality rates suggests that public health and ecological factors may play a role in influenza mortality risk.”

    This article from 538 today gives a good overview of what is different between COVID-19 and our last few epidemic concerns (SARS, MERS, Ebola, 2009 H1N1). I think it serves as a good primer for those who think this is just a normal flu year.

    In brief the difference is the combination of high transmissibility (R0) and relatively high fatality rate (IFR/CFR). SARS, MERS, and Ebola were all more deadly than COVID-19, but had a relatively low R0. The 2009 H1N1 (swine flu, a descendant of the 1918 virus) had a high enough R0 (at 1.4-1.6 significantly less than the over 2 estimated for COVID-19 without countermeasures, 1.5-3.5 stated in the article) to spread widely, but had a fatality rate less than a tenth of that estimated for COVID-19 (and I mean the less aggressive estimates, like 1% IFR).

  45. @James Thompson

    In less wealthy times, we once had a completely separate system of TB hospitals. We could replicate this and use it for routine influenzas to keep it active.

  46. I think the general trend will be away from hospitals, and some hospital type interventions might be available in remoter setting, for example, sending out monitoring equipment to houses rather than bringing most people in to hospitals. The big influx into hospital is out-patients.

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