“Using these number above and assuming the average high school has about 1000 students, the mild case would imply that one in every five high schools will have a coronavirus death (in two years). The severe case would say that every school would average 2.5.”
“The coronavirus pandemic could kill millions and cause anarchy in the world’s poorest nations unless £900m can be raised from rich countries to pay for vaccines and antiviral medicines, says a UN report leaked to the Observer. The disclosure will provoke concerns that health officials will not be able to stem the growth of the worldwide coronavirus pandemic in developing countries. If the virus takes hold in the poorest nations, millions could die and the economies of fragile countries could be destroyed.”
“The sudden rise of coronavirus may trigger a pandemic that could wipe out 120million people, an expert has warned. More than 80 people are now thought to have died as the first scare hit Britain. The death toll of the coronavirus could reach 50million as high as the Spanish Flu of 1918, according to John McCauley, of the National Institute For Medical Research.”
Are you afraid yet? Good. Because this is the end of the world. The only problem is that these are all stories not about the Coronavirus, but about the Swine flu, of 2009. I replaced “Mexico” with “Wuhan”, and “Swine flu” with “coronavirus”, because I’m an antisocial troll.
I’m 29 years old now, so I’ve been around long enough by now, to have been exposed to numerous media panics. One of the benefits of media panics is that it allows experts in a particular field, to make a name for themselves, provided they’re willing to spread more terror and doom, thereby ensuring that you keep watching TV.
Al Qaeda committed another terrorist attack? Now is the perfect opportunity for military strategists and geopolitical analysts who write obscure reports for their peers that nobody outside of their academic peer group generally cares about, to get on TV and predict the end of the world. Al Qaeda could blow up a ship in the strait of Malacca, where all our freight ships move through. This would choke our supply lines and crash the global economy! Ukraine once had nuclear weapons, but not all of them can be accounted for. Perhaps Al Qaeda has bought one of their nuclear weapons! Perhaps they constructed a dirty bomb! Perhaps they’ll release a bioweapon of some sort!
Of course, it’s also possible that none of these things end up happening. But then you don’t get to show up on TV and your Wikipedia page will be deleted because you’re considered “non-notable”. There won’t be big NGO’s eager to sponsor the conference where you rub shoulders with your peers and tell that blonde Phd student after one too many glasses of wine that her dress really flatters her figure as she awkwardly pretends to giggle but can’t get herself to say “thanks”. Prime Ministers and Secretaries of state don’t blow up your phone, begging for your time. If your knowledge of your academic discipline doesn’t deliver us unique insight into the looming imminent end of the world, you’re nobody.
Something a lot of young people have noticed, something that really bugs them, is that their parents don’t seem to give a shit. “Listen to the scientists!” They beg and plead, as their sick and elderly parents are off to go shopping and living their lives as they’re used to. There are a number of reasons for that. To start with, the young Coronadoomer is not as altruistic as he might seem. You’re asking someone else to live out their golden years in fear, locked away from the world, hiding in fear of death, because you will miss them. Second, boomers have been through this before. They remember the Swine flu. They remember how al Qaeda was going to detonate a dirty bomb. They remember how Saddam burning the oil fields in Kuwait was going to trigger nuclear winter. And they remember the face of an expert who struggled to conceal his glee, as a dozen microphones were pushed into his face.
But I should note that I don’t out of hand happen to casually dismiss the science. What I am willing to dismiss, is the stupidity of people who don’t understand that you can not naively extrapolate based on what you have seen so far. Let’s start with a simple fact. Like every other virus that jumps species from animals into humans, this virus becomes less lethal over time. There are two reasons for that. First of all, dead people are bad at spreading viruses. A virus that kills its host will fail to spread itself. Furthermore, even a virus that makes people stay away from you and makes you crawl into your bed and shiver, is a virus that will struggle to spread itself.
Second, organisms maintain the minimum level of fitness necessary for them to survive. If some organism happens to be perfectly fitted for its environment, replicating itself like a weed, then it starts to suffer mutations that are not removed from the gene pool. These mutations drag down its fitness, until it ends up at a comparable level to all other organisms. When the coronavirus jumped species, it jumped from animals that continually suppress this virus (bats), to a new host that was completely naive to this virus. The virus encountered a whole new world of sugar and honey and began to multiply rapidly, but as it multiplies itself, it incurs mutations that reduce its fitness and make it less lethal.
That’s not just my hypothesis. That’s what the evidence reveals. We’ve seen the same sort of fitness reducing genetic deletions emerge in the coronavirus, that have led to a reduced mortality rate once those mutations took place in the SARS virus, another virus that was about to cause the end of the world if you dared to walk away from your TV for five minutes. And what does all the evidence suggest to us? Once we move further away from the epicenter of the virus, the mortality rate declines. In addition, as time passes, the mortality rate observed begins to decline:
Here we see the numbers in China, with a consistent drop as time passes. In addition, we witness consistently that the virus becomes less lethal, the further away we move from Wuhan. The reason is of course very simple. In Wuhan, once it jumped species, the virus was very fit. But as it continued to replicate itself, it began to incur mutations that reduced its fitness, the curse that affects all succesfully self-replicating genetic material.
But what then, about the mass death in Iran? Haven’t you seen those endless piles of bodybags in Iran? Are you simply sticking your head in the sand about that? There are two epidemics going on in Iran right now. On the one hand, people are dying from the coronavirus. On the other hand, people are dying from panic about the coronavirus. A myth spread that alcohol consumption, which is forbidden in Iran, protects you against the coronavirus. At least 180 people in Iran are thought to have died of this illegal consumption. So when you see a leaked video of a pile of bodybags in Iran, feel free to enlighten me and tell me whether those deaths resulted from a virus, or resulted from the lethal side-effects of fear-mongering about a virus.
This is important to note. Fear-mongering kills people. This is what we have seen throughout history. Germans committed mass suicide during World War II, afraid that life without national socialism under a decadent Western democracy would not be worth living. People in Wuhan have committed suicide, afraid of the virus, or of being locked up in their houses. People who are locked up in their houses start to drink and consume drugs. The consequences of the massive panic taking place now, will end up causing more deaths than the virus itself.
But what then, about Italy? The bodies are piling up in Northern Italy, surely this must be a harbinger of things to come? They have very good medical services, but the bodies have to be moved by the military to other parts of the country to burn them! What happened in Italy is tragic, but it merely illustrates a point that I made previously. The cluster in Italy began with a man who had returned from China on january 21. This man would have been infected at the beginning of January, thus receiving a highly fit strain of the virus. However, as in Wuhan, the virus in Italy is subject to the same laws of nature.
The Coronavirus is capable of rapidly spreading from person to person, but as it spreads, its fitness declines. In Northern Italy, it found a perfect fertile ground. Italy has the second-oldest population on Earth. A highly fit virus showed up in a population of vulnerable elderly with no immunity. Even here in Italy however, we witness that the virus is simply not the doomsday bug that some appear to think. Out of all the people who died in Italy of the virus, 99.2% had at least one known pre-existing condition.
For many of those people, it’s going to be hard to definitively say whether they died of the virus or not. But fortunately, we can compare the current death rate in Italy, to what we would normally expect to witness around this time of the year. In Italy as a whole, the death rate is currently up by about 20%. In Lombardy specifically, the death rate is up by 80%. What nobody will point out, is that the current increase in the death rate, will be followed by a subsequent decrease in the death rate. The people who are dying in Italy right now, are people whose pre-existing conditions are likely to have killed them a few months or a few years later.
What sets this virus apart from the influenza viruses that normally burden the elderly, is that this virus spreads more rapidly, which is also what made it impossible to contain. As a consequence, we’re right now witnessing a spike in the death rate. It is in a sense, the equivalent of having a flu season compressed into a few weeks. However, that spike in the death rate is not possible to sustain. Increasingly, the virus will find itself exposed to people who are already immune and thus unable to help spread it.
It’s just the flu bro
“It’s just the flu bro.” That’s what every nerdy self-quarantined Redditor is eager to comment on Reddit to show off how much smarter they are than those young people in Florida who have the audacity to do the sort of stuff that young people are supposed to do, which is to leave their houses and to hang out with their friends on the beach. Unfortunately for these Redditors, for all practical purposes, you are in fact dealing with a hyped up version of the flu.
In warm and humid nations, the virus struggles to spread itself. The first infection in Singapore took place on january 23rd. Since then, Singapore has witnessed a total of 345 cases, but zero deaths. In Africa, a continent with intense contacts with China, the only recorded deaths so far have been in Western travelers. The media is struggling to come up with an explanation that does not risk blowing holes in their narrative of imminent doom, but so far they have failed to come up with anything.
The best evidence we have suggests that this virus has so far had a mortality rate of 0.12%, in Wuhan, the epicenter of this epidemic. This is the number you arrive at, when you use epidemiological evidence, to figure out how many people were infected who never ended up showing up to a hospital. If you use the numbers seen in the hospital, you’re going to terrorize yourself until you piss your pants. Depending on how much willful ignorance you decide to embrace, you can invent a mortality rate anywhere up to 10 or 20%. The best evidence we have however, suggests the virus killed 0.12% of those that it infected in Wuhan.
So, if we take France, a nation with 67 million people, naively extrapolating the evidence we’ve seen in Wuhan would mean we would be looking at 80,000 deaths, if everyone ends up infected. Is that worth locking up an entire nation over, setting a dangerous new precedent as the government can now force innocent people to stay inside their homes without any sort of democratic consultation on the matter? I’ll leave that up to you to decide.
But what I must note, is that 80,000 deaths would already be an exaggeration. As we have seen in Africa and Singapore, the evidence suggests the virus is less competent at spreading itself in warm and wet weather. Studies done in China confirm this finding. More importantly however, the death rate in Wuhan includes the initial spillover event, when the fatality rate would have been much higher, more comparable to the death rate we have seen in SARS and MERS. The virus will continue to incur fitness reducing mutations as it spreads in the weeks ahead, leading to a mortality rate well below 0.12%.
The problem this virus will encounter however, is herd immunity. A virus like Measles with a high R number, that infects multiple people per person infected, can infect vast swathes of the population before herd immunity results. Coronavirus is somewhere in between influenza (which infects a minority of the population every year) and measles. Estimates of the R number for Coronavirus differ widely, one reason being of course that the virus is rapidly changing.
What you will find in most European nations, is that you will see no significant increase in the nationwide deathrate this year compared to previous years. Whatever increase in the deathrate you might see, will be impossible to distinguish from mere chance. If you are expecting the Babyboom generation to be decimated by this virus, it’s not going to happen. The only thing you are going to see decimated by this virus, are our civil liberties. Liberties that you readily surrender to a government in panic, are civil liberties that are very difficult to gain back.
For me personally, this post here is the last public statement you will witness me making about the Coronavirus for the rest of this year. I am going to move on with my life and focus on other things, like everyone else should be doing. I will leave you however with a prediction, that few people are right now willing to make: We are going to look back at the Coronavirus outbreak as an epidemic of unprecedented fearmongering. Young people will be very angry, when they grow up and begin to realize how we voluntarily surrendered our civil liberties during this mass hysteria.
To put my money where my mouth is, I am asking you to find someone who is willing to enter the following bet with me:
-The total number of deaths in the Netherlands for the year 2020, will be less than 10% above the total number of deaths in 2019.
Or, alternatively, we can settle on the following bet:
-If you look at the publicly available statistics of any European nation that does not declare a lockdown this year due to the Coronavirus, you will find that its total number of deaths in the year 2020 will be less than 10% above the total number of deaths that took place the year before.
I am willing to bet 1000 euro that my above predictions will turn out to be correct. I do not 100% trust that our medical authorities will manage to correctly identify which cases of respiratory failure were caused by COVID-19. I do however trust that our overal death statistics will be correct. Unfortunately, I am also pretty certain that none of the people preaching fire and brimstones on Reddit and other parts of the Internet right now, are willing to cough up 1000 euro to participate in this bet.
With that said, I promise that I will no longer bore you with this virus and will settle on discussing more amusing things in my future posts. This virus, is literally not worth your attention.