One of the first things I read this morning was that the WHO have finally declared Covid-19 to be a pandemic. It’s hardly a surprise, and yet the news sent a sick shiver down my spine. I only hope that authorities all over the world finally throw away their rose coloured glasses and put their countries on a war footing.
What does that mean?
I hope it means that governments close borders, stop public events, restrict public transport, set up drive through testing stations, and triage industry so that everyone gets the necessities of life, like toilet paper. Beyond that, I hope they force industry to change production, where possible, so that critical medical supplies and equipment take priority.
Why? Because we will not be able to source these critical supplies from overseas, not once the virus really starts to bite. Sadly, we are about to learn that self-sufficiency is more important than global trade agreements.
Will it be possible to become ‘self sufficient’ in the critical things?
Maybe. I have no idea whether local companies have the capacity to build hundreds of new ventilators, but at the very least, we need to have people capable of repairing them if need be. And those people should become critical resources in their own right.
Ditto food production and transport.
Ditto food delivery to beleaguered households.
Ditto medical supplies, not just for hospitals, but for people with chronic illnesses. If they can’t get their prescriptions filled, many will die.
Ditto delivery of prescriptions.
And on and on and on. I don’t know enough about how to run a city much less a country, but someone must, and that someone or someones have to put procedures in place to deal with the logistics of supplying a country in lockdown.
Will it happen?
I don’t think so, not yet. From statements put out by state and federal governments here in Australia, it seems that most are still trying to juggle health vs the economy. An example of this is the Andrews government’s decision to allow the Grand Prix to go ahead in Melbourne. We’ve heard on the news that members of the Renault, McLaren and Haas teams have been put into self-isolation while awaiting test results. Yet the government and organisers are still saying the race will go ahead…with spectators.
Why can’t we be sensible like Bahrain and ban spectators? Or be like China and postpone the Grand Prix altogether?
Covid-19 is already loose in Melbourne. The latest victim is a teacher at Carey, a prestigious private school, who tested positive despite NOT having travelled or knowingly interacted with someone who has. That means the virus is already in the community.
I very much fear that shutting the economy down will cost less, in the long run, than letting this virus rampage through the community at the speed of light. Have a look at this graph from Dr John:
The labels are mine in case you don’t want to watch the whole video [which is here]. In Italy, the authorities were taken by surprise and the virus pretty much spread unchecked before they even realised they had a problem. That is basically the red line. The North Italian hospitals are only treating the most severe patients and they are still not coping. Translate that into people dying because there are not enough beds, ventilators and staff to keep them alive.
The blue line on the graph is what happens when governments stop people from congregating and spreading the virus. There are still infections and sick people in hospitals, but the hospitals can cope and the fatality rate goes waaaaay down.
Oh, and by the way, all those who think that Covid-19 will only kill off the ‘old and sick’, think again. The latest figures from Italy show that the median age is now 65.
Median does not mean ‘average’. Median means the middle point in a long line stretching from youngest to oldest. Or, to put it in really simple terms, there are now as many people under 65 dying of Covid-19 as above 65. Think about that.
You should also think about the positive side of this equation. The ‘draconian’ measures enforced by China to stop the spread of Covid-19 are working. The rate of new infections is slowing. That means China is coming out of the sharp red spike on the graph. Their situation is improving.
Here in Australia we are still in denial, and every day of ‘business as usual’ and ‘let’s protect the economy’ pushes us closer to the Italian nightmare.
We must do better.