Even experts must be scratching their heads a bit in dealing with the pandemic. It can’t be otherwise, for this is a novel virus, and novel means novel. The virus is more infectious/contagious than was first thought (but not as much as say measles) and more virulent/fatal (but not as much as say Ebola). It’s difficult to plan in such circumstances.
I left full time medical practice in 1976, and I’m no political pundit, but I have a certain breadth of vision, so bear with me as I look ahead.
I don’t see any prospect of “controlling” this pandemic until herd immunity has been achieved. Herd immunity comes from a combination of immunisation and recovery from infection. A vaccine is about a year away, so in the meantime that leaves recovery from infection. We are faced with the prospect of more than half the population needing to be infected with the inevitable proportion having life threatening disease and dying.
If the disease were to be left unchecked, the burden on the health services would soon be catastrophic. The strategy adopted—distancing and such like—spreads the load over a longer period. But ultimately herd immunity is needed. I suspect that governments have been informed of this, but daren’t admit it publicly to a populace that has forgotten how to deal with uncertainty and mortality.
The trouble is that even if herd immunity is achieved, coronavirus, being an RNA virus, may well mutate, the new strain possibly more virulent than its predecessor. So back to square one. And of course there’s always the possibility that new viruses will emerge.
We’re a drop in the ocean compared to New York, Africa, India, the Far East, Central and South America. Economic and political consequences could be serious in Europe, and cataclysmic elsewhere. Read on.
- China is already buying up commodities now that the prices are rock bottom.
- US sees covid19 as China’s fault and demands reparations. China says no. US refuses to pay back interest on its very substantial loans from China. China sees this as an act of war. Then what?
- The slump in oil prices destabilises the Middle East, especially Saudi. Oil supplies are cut. Dictators emerge.
- Vladimir Vladimirovich has economic problems in Moscow, the Russian economy too dependent on oil, and invades Ukraine for food and the Baltics for minerals.
- Africa is devastated. Infected migrants hammer at Europe’s doors. Ammunition is deployed to keep them out.
- The EU, already creaking, disintegrates.
- Surveillance becomes intrusive (it’s going that way now).
- Totalitarian governments take over. China takes over? Russia takes over?
As for the financial largesse being doled out at present, that will have to be paid for. Meanwhile, power cuts, shortages, economic hardship, civil unrest, back to the middle ages.
Now, you may say that this is unduly bleak. I admit I can be a bit of a catastrophist. But none of this is beyond the bounds of possibility. Interesting times ahead – a distraction from brexit anyway (remember that?). Don’t expect a quick resolution.
There are too many people on the planet – or at least too many banged up in cities. As far as creatures of the earth are concerned, apes like us are vulnerable, impotent and expendable.
Maybe the planetary ecosystem is resetting itself. A spring clean.
I thank James Drever, Andrew Paterson, and others for their help with this, but please don’t associate them with my prognostications.