Let’s look at WuFlu in computing terms. China has (belatedly) chosen to be like my laptop (Windows 10/Chrome): clogging the system with compulsory protection, spying on every move and constantly interrupting with tailored messages. However, the annoying interference has resulted in a slowing of the rate of new Covid-19 cases to below the UK’s when you adjust for the size of their population, which is 21 times greater than ours.
Now let’s look at the West. Our idea of panic is amassing unfeasible quantities of bog roll and stealing hand sanitisers from hospitals, where if the staff can’t ensure their hygiene we are all in deep doo-doo; hence no doubt the obsession with toilet tissue. (Though behind us at the Lidl checkout a family was stocking up on pasta, handwash – and a stone weight of white sugar. Priorities!)
In contrast to such pathetic prepping, get this: a relation who works in the NHS tells us that a theatre nurse who had just returned from Thailand was asked for a throat swab to check she wasn’t infected – and she refused, forcing the administration to send her home. Operating theatre – patients with open wounds - sterile environment ultra-important – highly trained nurse fully cognizant of implications – my mind is on Planet Boggle.
Or how about Italy’s possible ‘Patient Zero’, who had come from abroad and tested positive for the coronavirus? He was told to self-isolate but ignoring the instruction, continued his work delivering food from a Chinese restaurant until the carabinieri sent him home and closed the business. https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=it&u=https://www.adnkronos.com/fatti/cronaca/2020/02/29/coronavirus-positivo-test-viola-quarantena-consegna-cibo-domicilio_JSYcH3sUwZ5TatMYxiUgWM.html&prev=search
Then there’s VICE News’ reporter Julia Lindau, who came back to the USA from northern Italy and tweeted her amazement at walking through JFK’s customs barrier without being asked any health-screening questions. https://twitter.com/julialindau/status/1235714275752267776?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Etweet
Is it that viruses aren’t perceived as real? After all, we can’t see them, not even with an optical microscope. We have to take their existence on trust from scientists and medics, like the crazy stuff physicists give out about ‘hexaquarks’ and ‘dark matter’ https://www.space.com/hexaquarks-big-bang-form-universe-dark-matter.html ; and precautions against infection can resemble magic gestures to ward off demons, as e.g. the disinfectant-spraying in this Chinese training exercise (why the outside of the car?) https://observers.france24.com/en/20200228-china-video-police-fishing-net-arrest-coronavirus-covid-fake-news . Perhaps singing Happy Birthday twice while washing one’s hands is a form of incantation.
So, many Americans must have been reassured when the White House told them (or more importantly, the stock markets) that the US had it all under control https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/trump-coronavirus-control-us-problem/story?id=69198905 , only later having to admit to a national shortage of testing kits https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-51761435 so that the apparent concentration of cases in Washington State was likely a dangerously comforting illusion. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/04/us/coronavirus-in-washington-state.html
In the UK, England’s Chief Medical Officer tells us there is now a “very slim to zero” chance of avoiding a worldwide pandemic; accordingly, we are moving from mostly attempting to contain the virus to a “mainly delay” response to slow its spread. https://inews.co.uk/news/health/coronavirus-uk-death-elderly-patient-hospital-spread-2106832 Although fatalities are much more likely among the old and/or those with certain underlying health conditions, the real challenge for the NHS is the possibility of being overwhelmed with critical cases. As an intensive care unit (ICU) doctor explained in the Guardian https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/mar/03/icu-doctor-nhs-coronavirus-pandemic-hospitals , thirty (but it could be up to sixty) per cent of the population could become infected, with perhaps one in thirty-five of those needing an ICU bed. The maths of that means over half a million acute cases – when the country has only some 4,000 ICU beds and those are already 90% committed to other needs. Even if the danger has been overestimated by a factor of one thousand, the NHS faces a potentially impossible challenge. Charles Hugh Smith points out that this lack could contribute to a higher death rate among severe cases. http://charleshughsmith.blogspot.com/2020/03/the-gathering-storm-could-covid-19.html In preparation, our NHS relative tells us, BOC are producing more oxygen bottles, and Army Medical Corps personnel are receiving training in ICU nursing, so somebody up there is still trying to plan responsibly.
Ironically, where at first we feared the spread of Covid-19 from China, now, thanks to major efforts at containment that have not been abandoned as hopeless, the Chinese are worrying instead about the possibility of reimporting the disease from abroad. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/03/china-worries-coronavirus-surge-infected-arrivals-200304062507995.html There will be no casual strolling through airport customs there.
Among the rest of us, the reactions vary from sanguine (‘M.D.’ in Private Eye says ‘We’re all going to die, some much sooner than others’) to the sanguinary ‘Darwinian thinning out of the herd’ (forgetting that the most vulnerable demographic will have bred at least one succeeding generation already.)
Covid-19 has raised a key debating point: who gives a stuff about the old, anyway?