Coronavirus: “Boomer removal” we can’t endure, as we run up debt

Coronavirus: “Boomer removal” we can’t endure, as we run up debt, By Adam Creighton.

The young and poor have little say in society but they are incurring the bulk of the costs from the shutdown.

Whether it’s their incomes, their schooling or their ability to enjoy life, the sacrifices that students and so-called generations X and Y are making for the over-75s are very significant. Unlike the Spanish flu 90 years ago, it seems coronavirus is of little threat to the vast majority.

The $320bn the government and Reserve Bank have allocated so far to staunch the self-imposed economic carnage will have to be paid for. The plunge in tax revenues could well be as significant as the increase in outlays, leaving a gap that will test governments’ ability to borrow. … And the bill will come long after those whom the younger generations have tried to protect have died. …

Policies that were thought fair and reasonable only months ago will start to look unfair, even absurd. The government will face stark choices about how to allocate the burden. Will it crush the productive sector of the economy with even more income tax? …

Inflation, inflation, inflation — the cost of a free lunch:

Significant inflation may well be on the horizon. The borrowing lobby in society is much more politically powerful than the lending lobby. That is, the constituency that benefits from inflation (anyone with debt) is greater than those who wouldn’t.

What’s more, a niche group of economists reckons the central bank can give us all money directly — say, $10,000 each straight into our bank accounts — without undermining the economic system.

It’s known as Modern Monetary Theory [MMT] and, understandably, it is becoming popular.

“There’s no such thing as a free lunch” was branded into me through years of economics study. It’s hard to imagine that we can just make new money out of thin air without serious long-term costs to the economic system, or certainly respect for it.

Why would anyone bother working or saving?

The fiscal situation is looking so dire a future government might well give MMT a try. It’s so ­seductive. They should be wary, though. A great inflation has unpredictable consequences, which history suggests can be terrible.

Nevertheless, if inflation does break out, the burden of the economic shutdown would play out very differently. It would remove the government and private debt burden, obviating the need for the various tax increases suggested above. Anyone with significant cash or deposit holdings would be wiped out.

It’s unclear at this stage what damage the coronavirus does to people long term, whether you can catch it over and over, and what effect is has on under-60s. At this stage we’ve simply little idea what the benefits of crushing the curve are, except that we most of us don’t catch it.

The cost of crushing the economy temporarily are all too well known, however.

What if the virus becomes endemic in many parts of the world but not our part: do we keep shutting down the economy for a while every time we get re-infected? What if it flares up every winter .. forever?

Globalism was a luxury fantasy

Globalism was a luxury fantasy, by Sarah Hoyt.

Globalism, of the sort that assumes there are no real differences between cultures and that totalitarian regimes are as trustworthy as non-dictatorial regimes, is a luxury.

It is the luxury of those so wealthy and pampered they can afford to ignore reality and live in make-believe.

In centuries past it was the luxury of the very few and very wealthy. Briefly, for a shining moment in history, all of the West could afford to be that stupid.

Super-Spreaders and the Need for New Prediction Models

Super-Spreaders and the Need for New Prediction Models, by Jonathon Kay.

Absent isolation or other precautionary measures, the average socially active COVID-19 infectee will transmit the disease to an average of about 2.4 people. i.e., the R0 value is 2.4. But super-spreaders can spread a disease to dozens or hundreds.

Super-spreading isn’t confined to COVID-19. Mary Mallon [aka “Typhoid Mary”] (an asymptomatic typhoid carrier) famously infected more than 50 Americans. …

In a 2016 paper, South Korean doctor Byung Chul Chun noted that the MERS outbreak could be summarized as:

an explosive epidemic by infrequent super-spreaders. The number of secondary cases in the transmission tree was extremely skewed. Among 186 confirmed cases, 166 cases (89.2%) did not lead to any secondary cases, but 5 (2.7%) super-spreaders lead to 154 secondary cases. …

At the most basic level of analysis, computer modelers apply an R0 figure to some baseline pool of infected individuals, and then iterate the spread of the disease exponentially over time…. R0, being a mean or median value, “does not capture the heterogeneity of transmission among infected persons.” …

One of the long-term effects of the COVID-19 crisis might be to accelerate a shift toward models that are less rooted in traditional R0 frameworks. … In Wuhan, according to unpublished CDC data, the observed R0 for COVID-19 went from 3.86 to 0.32 in just a few weeks. On the Diamond Princess cruise ship, the rate went from about 15 to less than two once isolation protocols commenced. …

What differentiates SSE [super-spreader events] generators from other infected individuals? The CDC authors go through a lengthy laundry list of possible factors, including possible variations between multiple disease sub-types. But the unfortunate bottom line is that they don’t know.

From Seattle to South Korea, many of the biggest outbreaks were fuelled by a small handful of very sick, highly symptomatic people who drifted along for days before their condition was correctly treated and isolated. (In South Korea, some have noted, the problem was exacerbated by patients who went “doctor shopping,” spreading their germs in many different clinics.) Test everyone who is symptomatic, and test them early, and you will prevent SSEs.

We also need to be increasingly wary of computer models that apply a traditional R0-based approach to a novel coronavirus amidst a real-time public-health mobilization campaign whose speed and scale are likely unprecedented in human history. …

Of course, the law of large numbers applies to all systems. And if we were resigned to a mass spread of COVID-19 throughout our societies, it probably would be fine to fall back on traditional model, since we’d be talking about daily infection rates on the scale of many tens or hundreds of thousands, or even millions, and so individual variations would be less meaningful. But as my Quillette boss Claire Lehmann has vigorously asserted, we are very much not resigned to that; and so instead find ourselves with many countries battling to keep their symptomatic case loads in three or four figures. This is on a scale that permits SSEs to assume a large — and perhaps even dominant — role in transmission mechanics.

Not enough data, and reliance on models that are fundamentally flawed. It’s beginning to sound like climate change. It’s a scenario that allows plenty of wiggle room in which the politically mischievous can bend things to suit themselves, such as by funding only “scientists” who produce results that suit their ends.

Wealthy cop a health hit as the poor pay with their jobs

Wealthy cop a health hit as the poor pay with their jobs, by John Black.

The high-risk group is professional couples living in urban areas, with two jobs spread across industries such as media, finance, real estate and professional consulting. Their children tend to be sent to independent and Catholic higher-fee schools.

Can you imagine that the policy response would have been even slower and less strong if it wasn’t the wealthy professional class that was hit hardest?

Trump extends national social-distancing guidelines through April 30

Trump extends national social-distancing guidelines through April 30, by AP.

Bracing the nation for a grim death toll, President Donald Trump on Sunday extended the voluntary national shutdown for a month, bowing to public-health experts who told him the coronavirus pandemic could claim over 100,000 lives in the U.S., perhaps significantly more, if not enough is done to fight it.

It was a stark shift in tone by the president, who only days ago mused about the country reopening in a few weeks. From the Rose Garden, he said his Easter revival hopes had only been “aspirational.” …

Trump’s decision to extend the guidelines reflected a recognition that the struggle will take place over the longer haul and the risk of deaths spiraling into the hundreds of thousands is real.

“I want our life back again,” the president told reporters in the Rose Garden.

Trump, who has largely avoided talk of potential death and infection rates, cited projection models that said potentially 2.2 million people or more could have died had the country not put social distancing measures in place. And he said the country would be doing well if it “can hold” the number of deaths “down to 100,000.” …

As some of his allies had predicted, Trump was clearly rattled by the haunting images coming out of New York, some from Elmhurst Hospital in his native Queens.

“I’ve been watching that for the last week on television,” he said. “Body bags all over, in hallways. I’ve been watching them bring in trailer trucks — freezer trucks, they’re freezer trucks, because they can’t handle the bodies, there are so many of them. This is essentially in my community, in Queens, Queens, New York,” he continued. “I’ve seen things that I’ve never seen before.”

One in 3 Americans remain under state or local government orders to stay at home to slow the spread of the virus, with schools and businesses closed and public life upended.

The Chinese Communist Party v America

The Chinese Communist Party v America, by Brian Kennedy.

Long before this crisis, the CCP was waging political and economic war against the United States. The Wuhan virus is merely another weapon in this war. …

At the heart of China’s communist ideology is a deep-seated resentment against the world. After the Century of Humiliation where China was exploited by the Western powers, Russia, and Japan, they are committed to never letting that happen again.

If one doubts the CCP’s resolve, one need look no further than the fact that they have killed, through famine and other means, almost 100 million of their own countrymen in a series of communist social and economic reforms they believed necessary to modernize their country. In other words, these are not a people to be taken lightly. …

The CCP almost immediately began to position the virus as a political and economic weapon against the United States. Whether the virus occurred naturally or was accidentally released from a laboratory, our Center for Disease Control was not, and has not, been given access to Wuhan. Either there was something they wanted to keep from the United States, or they sought to send a hostile message to the United States about their intentions.

Although the origin of the virus may be unknowable for now, the Chinese response was unambiguous. The CCP’s Xinhua news service threatened Americans that they could plunge us into a “mighty sea of coronavirus” since it was they who controlled the supply chain for the active pharmaceutical ingredients used in the production of 90% of our medicines. …

What didn’t happen:

When the virus broke out, the CCP could have immediately given open access to the United States and other countries with advanced healthcare systems in the hopes of trying to save lives both in China and those countries around the world that would inevitably be exposed to the virus. Open access would have been a signal to the world that China was a responsible global actor concerned about both the welfare of its own people and those of the world. Such action would have clearly communicated that our shared prosperity and well-being would require a global response. …

Without putting too fine a point on it, China seems to have taken the position that if they were to suffer the coronavirus, so too was the United States and the rest of the world. What else is to explain the continuation of flights from China to the United States at the rate of some 20,000 passengers a day, until President Trump wisely shut them down?

The Chinese economy was already suffering the consequences of President Trump’s America First policies. Not only had tough trade deals been struck, but serious efforts were underway by the Trump Administration to stop the trillions being stolen in U.S. intellectual property, the CCP’s aggressive industrial espionage, and their sophisticated political influence operations throughout the United States. From the CCP’s point of view, their fundamental business model was under attack.

Given the problems in the Chinese economy that arose as a result of the ongoing trade war with the United States and Donald Trump, the CCP and Xi Jinping appear to have made the calculation that a crisis caused by the virus would be preferable. A virus-induced crisis would include the added benefit of slowing down the U.S. economy and might reset American politics as well.

How China’s Lies Brought the World to Its Knees

How China’s Lies Brought the World to Its Knees, by Barbara Boland.

The breathtaking negligence of Communist Party officials for over a month after the COVID-19 outbreak led directly to the pandemic now rampaging across the world.

From ordering Chinese scientists to destroy evidence of the virus, to suppressing physician warnings, to turning around ships loaded with vital supplies and threatening to block critical pharmaceuticals so that America might experience “the hell of a novel coronavirus epidemic,” there can be no question that when the dust clears, a day of reckoning will be at hand for China. …

Spreading the disease across the world:

Despite doctors’ warnings that the virus was transmissible between humans, authorities held a massive a Chinese Lunar New Year banquet for tens of thousands of Wuhan families.

By the time the government issued a lockdown in Wuhan on January 23, the virus had been on the march for seven weeks. At that point, more than five million people had already left Wuhan, according to mayor Zhou Xianwang. …

Who trusts Chinese data?

Epidemiologists rely on global statistical models to predict at what rate a virus like COVID-19 will spread in populations. Yet reliance on suspect Chinese data has significantly hampered the global response to the virus.

Now, China says they have defeated the coronavirus and have had only one new case over the last five days. But can we believe them?

Wuhan residents say hospitals are refusing to test patients who show symptoms, Hong Kong public broadcaster RTHK reported Monday. A local doctor said the number of cases has been manipulated and that hospitals have begun “a mass release of infected patients.” While China claims to have had 81,897 cases of the virus, the number of Chinese cellphone users has dropped by 21 million over the past three months, according to an announcement by Beijing authorities on March 19. …

The propaganda campaign is not exactly intended to help us:

“The Chinese political system believes it needs an enemy and they have chosen the United States,” said China expert Gordon Chang in an interview with TAC. He added, “China is waging a deliberate misinformation campaign and a lot of Americans are parroting Communist party narratives” when they say that calling the sickness the Chinese or Wuhan virus is “racist.”

“We have to understand we have a common enemy that means us harm,” said Chang. “This is an existential fight; this is a time when we could lose everything. We should not have become so reliant on a hostile regime that apparently abhors us.” …

Drug blunder:

China accounts for 95 percent of U.S. imports of ibuprofen, 91 percent of hydrocortisone, 70 percent of acetaminophen, 40 to 45 percent of penicillin, and 40 percent of heparin, according to Commerce Department data. In all, “80 percent of the U.S. supply of antibiotics are made” in China, warned Senator Chuck Grassley in an August 2019 letter to HHS and FDA officials.

“It was a blunder of epic proportions that we allowed the manufacture of penicillin to leave our shores,” said Rosemary Gibson, author of the 2018 book China Rx: Exposing the Risks of America’s Dependence on China for Medicine. “Right now, we have virtually no capacity in the United States to make even basic drugs for treating coronavirus, or antibiotics for infections that may come with it, including bronchitis or pneumonia.”

hat-tip Stephen Neil

Twitter Removes Jair Bolsonaro’s Tweets About Chinese Virus

Twitter Removes Jair Bolsonaro’s Tweets About Chinese Virus, by Allum Bokhari.

Twitter took down two tweets from Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, citing its policy against misinformation related to the Chinese coronavirus, despite refusing to take down misinformation from Chinese officials about the virus last week. …

Twitter did not explain how Bolsonaro’s videos did not similarly fall under “direct interactions with fellow public figures, comments on political issues of the day,” or why its new coronavirus-related rules superseded those protections in Bolsonaro’s case, but not in the case of the Chinese officials.

I think we all know why.

hat-tip Stephen Neil

Mainstream Media Silent on Serious Biden Sexual Assault Allegation

Mainstream Media Silent on Serious Biden Sexual Assault Allegation, by Roger Simon.

“Believe the woman!” was the mantra of the liberal-left during the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court confirmation hearings. As practically everyone in this country over the age of six knows, Christine Blasey Ford accused the federal judge of sexually assaulting her in 1982, give or take a year or two.

Despite the lack of any semblance of corroborating evidence, every Democrat on the Judiciary Committee took her word as gospel. They chose to ignore “innocent until proven guilty”—the very fulcrum of our jurisprudence—and automatically believed the woman. …

Biden has been accused of, if anything, a considerably more brazen sexual assault than Kavanaugh and one of significantly more recent vintage — 1993, when the frequent presidential candidate was a senator, not a high school student as the justice was.

1993 is when then Biden staffer Tara Reade says the senator assaulted her in a less-traveled location in either the Russell office building or the Capitol itself.

I’m not going to get into the lurid details of what she alleges happened — you can read about them elsewhere — except that the famously handsy senator allegedly went a bit further than that, lifting a skirt and putting digits (not the numeric kind) where they don’t belong. …

What interests me here, however, is the practically total silence of the media on this scandal that could sink a candidacy.

Who can doubt that if this were about Trump, the accusation would have been around the world and back in fifteen minutes, probably less? And not just in red at the top of the click-hungry Drudge Report, but on CBS, NBC, the New York Times and so forth.

This is true although Reade initially made her current accusation on The Katie Halper Show on Wednesday. Actually, she had previously attempted to tell part of the story almost a year ago to a non-profit affiliated with the #metoo movement. At first helpful, the non-profit backed off because of an accusation that Reade was — wait-for-it—a Russian agent. Where’d that come from, I wonder?

She had also recounted the event contemporaneously to family and friends who corroborate the story today. …

Whatever the case, her story merits reporting. Several outlets have already done so, including The Intercept and Reason but not our friends in the mainstream media. Unlike during the Kavanaugh hearings, they await substantiating evidence or, more likely, they await it all blowing over so they don’t have to write or say anything.

Let’s not let it. This is no mild accusation. What Reade alleges Biden did does not just disqualify you for the presidency. Nowadays, despite having occurred in 1993, it puts you in jail. As the Law & Crime blog reminds us:

“As of May 3, 2019, the District of Columbia eliminated the statute of limitations on all sex crimes. Before that date, the statute of limitations was 15 years for sexual abuse (which is the District of Columbia’s term for rape) in the first and second degrees and 10 years for sexual abuse in the third degree.”

It’s for the greater good, they say. Which justifies just about anything, if you get to define “good” as being that the left are in power.

Former UK PM Accused of Letting Muslim Rape Gangs Roam Free in Exchange for Saudi Money

Former UK PM Accused of Letting Muslim Rape Gangs Roam Free in Exchange for Saudi Money, by Robert Spencer.

There is no doubt that British authorities for years were notably unwilling to do anything about the rape gangs, despite the fact that thousands of British girls had their lives destroyed.

The police stood down because they were told to do so. Politicalite “reported in 2018 that ex-North West Chief prosecutor alleged that the Home Office ordered police to ignore grooming gang claims in 2008 – though Home Secretary Jacqui Smith had nothing to do with the order.” The news site also noted that Nazir Afzal, who “successfully prosecuted the notorious Rochdale rape gang told the BBC in 2018 that in 2008 the Home Office sent a circular email to all police forces calling on them to not investigate the sexual exploitation of young girls in towns and cities across the UK.” …

No one in Britain — no one — has the courage to admit the fact, but rape gang members committed their evil acts not because they were “Asians,” but because they were Muslims. Of course, the immediate culprit is Islamic teaching. A survivor of a Muslim rape gang in the UK has previously said that her rapists would quote Quran to her, and believed their actions justified by Islam. Thus it came as no surprise when Muslim migrants in France raped a girl and videoed the rape while praising Allah and invoking the Qur’an. And the victim of an Islamic State jihadi rapist recalled: “He told me that according to Islam he is allowed to rape an unbeliever. He said that by raping me, he is drawing closer to God…He said that raping me is his prayer to God.”

The Qur’an teaches that Infidel women can be lawfully taken for sexual use (cf. its allowance for a man to take “captives of the right hand,” 4:3, 4:24, 23:1-6, 33:50, 70:30). The Qur’an says: “O Prophet, tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to bring down over themselves of their outer garments. That is more suitable that they will be known and not be abused. And ever is Allah Forgiving and Merciful.” (33:59) The implication there is that if women do not cover themselves adequately with their outer garments, they may be abused, and that such abuse would be justified.

All of that is still ignored, and the Muslim rape gangs went unreported, unprosecuted, and in general unstopped also because of far-Left organizations including Hope Not Hate, Faith Matters, and Tell Mama, which waged relentless war against anyone and everyone who spoke out about these issues. These are the British equivalents of the Southern Poverty Law Center. They demonized as “Islamophobic,” “hateful” and “bigoted” anyone who said that there were Muslim rape gangs at all, and that they had to be stopped.

US left target Trump with multi-million dollar coronavirus ad campaign

US left target Trump with multi-million dollar coronavirus ad campaign, by Anna Massoglia. Here it comes — who was responsible for letting the virus in? Who didn’t close the borders in time? As predicted, it is the US left that is starting this. Eventually the question will be forcibly asked in Australia, too.

For the record, Joanne and I were publicly advocating that Australia close its borders from February 9. The Chinese gave us ample warning. But our whole political class — left, right, media, academia, and bureaucrats — weren’t paying attention. Too complacent and incompetent, IMHO. Look at how much better off we would be if  we had closed the borders then. We would have no virus, no domestic economic disruption, and a tourist industry appealing to those from other countries who wanted to escape the virus (after a two-week quarantine, of course).

Anyway, here comes the attack:

Fueled by “dark money,” cash-flush liberal groups with ties to the Democratic Party are mobilizing to unleash millions of dollars worth of ads attacking President Donald Trump’s response to coronavirus ahead of the 2020 presidential election.

Not that the left saw it coming either. They criticized Trump as racist and xenophobic — following the CCP propaganda — when Trump banned Chinese entry in late January. After that, Trump backed off and took his eye off the ball. Nonetheless, the left see this as their big chance.

Epidemics will roll across several US cities, but many will peak in the next week or two

Epidemics will roll across several US cities, but many will peak in the next week or two.

Here’s a projection from Christopher Murray, University of Washington:

The epidemic in the US will place a load well beyond the current capacity of hospitals to manage, especially for ICU care.

And this is with strict lockdowns. Let alone the let-it-be herd immunity approach of Brazil and Sweden.

Number of new cases dropping off in Australia

Number of new cases dropping off in Australia. By the Australia Govt Dept of Health.

This might just be statistical fluctuation, but it is a good sign.

However, it may just be that only the exponential rise due to people bringing the disease in from overseas has been broken — due to border closures enacted a week or more ago. The separate exponential rise due to community spread within Australia might now take over as the main driver. We might just be seeing the lull between those two curves.

UPDATE: Here for comparison is daily new cases graph for South Korea, which went to a strong tracing regime while avoiding lockdown, and has contained its outbreak to just a few thousand:

New York Turns Into “War Zone” As City’s 911 System Faces Overwhelming Onslaught

New York Turns Into “War Zone” As City’s 911 System Faces Overwhelming Onslaught, by Tyler Durden.

Some patients are being left behind in their homes as the healthcare system becomes overwhelmed with calls relating to the virus, according to the New York Times. …

The volume has put Emergency Medical Personnel in the position of having to determine which cases should receive time-consuming medical measures, like CPR and intubation, and which cases are “too far gone”.

One paramedic told the New York Times that a woman had “drank a liter of vodka” to try and commit suicide after her cancer treatments were delayed because hospital beds were being occupied by coronavirus patients. Another paramedic said that the battery on her defibrillator died from responding to so many cardiac arrests on one shift. …

Paramedics said that weeks ago, coronavirus calls were mostly for respiratory distress or fever. Now many of these same patients are dealing with organ failure and cardiac arrest after being sent home from the hospital.

One Brooklyn paramedic said: “We’re getting them at the point where they’re starting to decompensate. The way that it wreaks havoc in the body is almost flying in the face of everything that we know.”

How COVID-19 coronavirus attacks your body

How COVID-19 coronavirus attacks your body, by Sumathi Reddy.

It starts, most often, with a cough or a sneeze. Thousands of tiny, often invisible droplets of saliva or mucus disperse in the air. You walk by — within about 1.8m of the offender — and inadvertently inhale the droplets. …

The virus most commonly enters the nose through minuscule droplets from someone’s mucus or saliva … It can also enter through the eyes or mouth.

Once the virus’s particles enter the body, they begin to attach to a particular receptor on the surface of the body’s cells, usually starting with cells in the mucous membranes in the nose and throat. The coronavirus is distinguished by spiky proteins on its surface; these spikes latch onto cell membranes. The virus then enters the cells and disassembles so its RNA — molecules that carry instructions from DNA to the body’s cells — can start to reproduce. …

Though most people likely start with an upper respiratory infection, it’s also possible that respiratory droplets are inhaled more deeply and go directly into the lungs, says Brian Garibaldi, an associate professor of pulmonary and critical care at Johns Hopkins University. “It has a special protein that binds more tightly to cells in the lower respiratory tract,” he says.

Wherever it lands, the virus hijacks cells and starts replicating, ultimately producing millions of viral particles that flood the body. …

Once the virus has attacked enough cells in the upper respiratory system, most people will start to feel symptoms. This happens on average five days after being exposed to the virus but it can be sooner or as many as two weeks later, studies show.

These early symptoms usually include a dry cough and fever, and sometimes a sore throat, as well as aches and fatigue. Loss of taste and smell have also been reported as early signs of infection.

For the majority of people — roughly 80 per cent according to reports from China — the symptoms end there and dissipate in a few days or weeks.

But for some people, predominantly older people and those with other medical conditions, the virus keeps travelling down and invading cells in the lungs.

When the cells start moving down the respiratory system into the lungs it becomes a lower respiratory illness, which is considered more serious. That could happen two to seven days after symptoms start …

Once the virus starts infecting the cells that line the air sacs in the lungs, viral pneumonia develops, which is inflammation of the lungs. Shortness of breath is an indication that the virus is damaging the lungs. …

And the lungs often face a two-way assault. There is damage from the virus but a second equally debilitating response takes place: The body’s own immune system goes into overdrive, causing more lung damage. …

When the lung becomes progressively more damaged, that triggers what is known as acute respiratory distress syndrome, or ARDS. This typically develops seven to 14 days into the course of the illness.

The lungs become less efficient at exchanging oxygen and carbon dioxide and continue to become inflamed. Patients need assistance breathing because there’s no therapy to treat ARDS.

“The ventilator is buying time for the lung to repair itself after a virus has run its course and the immune system response has calmed down, ” Dr Garibaldi says.

Explaining the science behind Sweden’s relaxed coronavirus approach

Explaining the science behind Sweden’s relaxed coronavirus approach, by Paul Franks, Professor of Genetic Epidemiology, Lund University and Peter M Nilsson, Professor of Internal Medicine – Epidemiology, Lund University.

Unlike its Nordic neighbours, Sweden has adopted a relatively relaxed strategy, seemingly assuming that overreaction is more harmful than under-reaction.

Although the government has now banned gatherings of more than 50 people, this excludes places like schools, restaurants and gyms which remain open. That’s despite the fact that 3,046 people have tested positive. …

In Sweden, the public health authorities have released simulations to guide “surge requirements”. This is the extent to which hospitals will need to boost their capacity to deal with the high number of very ill COVID-19 patients that are likely to need specialist care in the coming weeks. From these simulations, it is clear that the Swedish government anticipates far fewer hospitalizations per 100,000 of the population than predicted in other countries, including Norway, Denmark and the UK. …

The reason appears to be that Swedish authorities believe there are many infected people without symptoms and that, of those who come to clinical attention, only one in five will require hospitalisation. At this point, it is hard to know how many people are asymptomatic as there is no structured screening in Sweden and no antibody test to check who has actually had COVID-19 and recovered from it. But substantially underestimating hospital surge requirements would nevertheless be devastating. ….

There are several arguments supporting the current official Swedish strategy. These include the need to keep schools open in order to allow parents who work in key jobs in health care, transportation and food supply lines to remain at work. Despite other infectious diseases spreading rapidly among children, COVID-19 complications are relatively rare in children. A long-term lockdown is also likely to have major economic implications that in the future may harm healthcare due to lack of resources. This may eventually cause even more deaths and suffering than the COVID-19 pandemic will bring in the near term. …

A century ago, Sweden was recovering from the first world war, even though the country stayed neutral. Internal transportation and communication systems were less developed than in many other countries at the time, which helped slow the spread of the epidemic. In the short term, this was perceived to be a good thing, but because herd immunity — whereby enough people have been infected to become immune to the virus — had not been initially achieved, there were at least two additional epidemics of the Spanish flu virus within a year. The second wave of infections had a higher mortality rate than the first wave.

Learning the lesson from this, many people in Sweden are now optimistic that it can achieve herd immunity. Compared with the Spanish flu, COVID-19 is less severe, with many infected people believed to be asymptomatic. While this contributes to a more rapid spread, it also means that the threshold for “herd immunity” is about 60%. This may be quickly achieved in countries that do not have intensive mitigation or suppression strategies.

Belarus, Brazil and Sweden seem to be taking the herd immunity approach. Their citizens are going be either furious, dead, or sick if it fails, or awesomely smug if it works.

According to Chinese statistics (all dodgy), about 0.0065% of the Chinese population has been infected — so they would require 10,000 times as many people to catch it to achieve herd immunity. China went for the crush-the-curve strategy instead.

No country has got anywhere near herd immunity yet. Once the bodies start piling up in hospital corridors, they go for lockdown.

hat-tip Stephen Neil