When the cure bears no relation to the disease

Submitted by jono on 31 Mar 2020.

On the one hand, it is to be welcomed that there is a global response to a crisis. This is brilliant. It demonstrates that fast, radical change can happen quite easily, when there is a will.

On the other hand, that we are now in a tangible crisis, is resulting in a lot of emotion-led rhetoric and suspension/suppression of rational discourse. This is not a planet ending asteroid strike. We need to make sensible decisions rather than be bounced.

And - let's not forget - we were in a crisis anyway, just doing fuck all about it. This new crisis is at least bringing some temporary relief to the bigger environmental one.

We are all now Covid-19 experts. Me too. Guilty. I was quite early on imploring my mother to take this seriously, not just pretend seriously. She is now taking it really quite seriously. Horse to water and all that...

My dad is a bit more clued up on disease transmission and - after a slow start - is now being very careful indeed.

I am in Menorca, doing just fine, keeping abreast of life in both Spain and the UK. Unless you've been in cyber isolation too, you'll know that Spain is chasing Italy in the Covid death rates, with a shitload each day. The UK looks set to be a runner up tied with France.

BUT this is where emotion is taking over. We don't like a shitload of deaths. But, taking the UK, with population 66 million. In any normal year we expect half a million deaths - or about 1500 per day.

This year, Covid will bring forward a compressed wave of death[*1], and many of those who die will test positive for Covid. Covid will either be instrumentally the cause of death, or the "straw that broke the donkey's back", or entirely coincidental to the cause of death. Depending upon how deaths are classified, the picture painted will be more, or less, alarming. Covid will bring additional death, and spike the annual death rate, but to what degree is uncertain.

For discussion of how deaths are classified, this is an interesting read:
https://www.spectator.co.uk/article/The-evidence-on-Covid-19-is-not-as-…

Hard facts are difficult to come by. But the Diamond Princess cruise ship is close to 'fact':
Of 712 cases (mostly elderly) 600 have already made a full recovery.
10 dead, 15 critically ill.
100 'active' cases - let's guess that 10 of these won't make it.
So, from this elderly 'cohort', it would seem somewhat reasonable to count 35 deaths from 712 cases, or about 5%

That's tragic, but before we conclude it is catastrophic, let's consider base death rates. In a normal year, for the age range 75-84 years the annual death risk (of dying within a year) is 6.7% for men, and 4.7% for women (UK figures).

I ask myself. If my dad were to die this year (statistical chance of 1 in 15) would I want him to have spent his last months alone, closed in a airless house? Or would I rather he had been going outside, enjoying the spring sunshine and flowers, doffing his metaphorical flat cap to the neighbours, whilst maintaining a social distance friendly separation? Also, which of these two options would have been more likely to improve his 1 in 15 odds?

The lockdown in Spain has been going on for a while now. Exercise outside the home is prohibited. The rationale for this is based not on public health reasons, but on the gospel of "we told you to do it". The cost, especially to those in the least enviable of domestic circumstances, will be significant and long lasting. Who knows how long the lockdown will last, but weeks or months closed in a flat will be very bad for some. Economic, physical and mental health are all part of the equation of HEALTH. To impose this cost on people should not be a decision taken lightly.

Yet, from this crisis the righteous obedient have risen. To question the measures is painted as antisocial in and of itself. There is at attempt to silence through shame - subtle or overt. For the record: Covid is a highly infectious disease, with particularly high morbidity for older people and those with existing health conditions. Social distancing is necessary to flatten the curve. Those who do not social distance are being arseholes.

Also: yes, don't go doing stupid stuff that is going to leave you needing rescue or health services.

But, when there is a public health risk approaching zero, and an actual public health benefit, don't outlaw it in the name of public good.

 

Edit history
*1 - 11/4/2020 - Paragraph eight modified, since it could originally have been taken to imply that Covid would not alter the daily death rate

 

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