Reply To: SARS cov2 and Covid 19

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I have composed a long reply, but here is a shortened version.

The normal response to the virus and the pandemic:

  • The methods of dealing with a pandemic of infectious diseases have been established over the centuries. These include initially restricting intercountry and within country movements according to infected areas. If the risk is higher, closing of borders would be necessary.
  • imitation of close interaction between individuals, limitation of crowding in closed spaces and limiting close contact, limit handshakes and so on. The wearing of face masks is also helpful in reducing the incidence of infection, but the effect may be minimal but still useful.
  • A prompt testing and tracing to identify infected and potentially infectious individuals to isolate early and prevent the spread of disease.
  • These actions should be done reflexively.
  • Isolation of infected individuals is a public health safety issue and is not up to individuals to determine and implement. This is a core responsibility of public health organizations. It means also that the state should provide adequate facilities for caring for infected individuals and looking after their needs.
  • There are international conventions. The WHO declared a pandemic sometime in the first part of March, but each country then seems to have decided that they will do their own thing without any international coordination.
  • These measures which could extend to a national lockdown are meant to reduce the transmission level to make it manageable and eventually to contain or eliminate the virus. A long or repeated lockdown means failure of the initial policy and will make it more difficult, if not impossible, to deal with the pandemic.

Sadly you cannot play around with this whilst mathematicians ascertain the exact IFR which is meaningless as an average value in an ongoing pandemic in a fast evolving situation and with so much variability in mortality rates in different subgroups. Moreover, the IFR does not take account of the considerable morbidity and the possible social and economic consequences of lots of people being sick, nor of the possible sequelae of the infection.

I agree that there have been indirect consequences of the lockdown and just to limit the discussion to two: treatment of other conditions has suffered, and the mental health problems associated with lockdown. (Incidentally this also applies to the economic consequences also). Yes these are real and serious, but the remedies proposed are binary: either deal with covid-19 or deal with these other problems. No, the answer is that the first lockdown should have given us enough time to think this through. My personal opinion is that the extent of the pandemic is now such that it is too late to contain, but that does not mean easing the lockdown. It means finding innovative ways to dealing with these other problems within the constraints of the lockdown. This is where the incompetence of the present administration is showing most, it is reactively dealing with problems as they, or even after they arise. There are already some hospitals, I believe who have devised Covid and non-Covid streams. Similarly with child and youth mental health services, this is a chance to see why these problems have burst into the open. They are just exaggerations of a trend that has been ongoing because of the nature of austerity and cuts in public services dictated by the neoliberal capitalists policy of enforced austerity. There is no capitalist solution to this crisis, and no room for too much individualism, society must now understand that the only route to improvement is actually a socialist one.