As I am sitting here in Tanzania, I am pondering two small things, one is how on Earth I will get home since my usual route has a closed down border in it filled with armed incompetent soldiers. The other is the virus that has caused my slight travel problems.
Before anyone feel sorry for me, just know that it is pineapple season and they are scrumptious, the beer is cold and nice, and that I have a backup plan worthy of Raymond Reddington in Blacklist on how to get back home.
So, let us deal with the virus, shall we? The reason I want to write this is that in all of the gazillion words written nobody has written about what the virus is, and how we can diminish its effects on a personal level and governmental level.
Obviously I am not a virologist myself, nor a medical doctor, but I know a few of the best in the game, I have by accident worked a bit with viruses, and I can read and know where to spelunk for good sources to read.
This is as such based on a few professors at my Alma Mater (Umeå University, Sweden), WHO, ECDC, The Lancet… and so on. Not a single politician or scared journalist has been involved, I promise.
What is Corona?
If you are a virologist, please feel free to groan about how much I have dumbed this down.
The coronavirus is a large family of diverse viruses, the most common of them we are all familiar with, it is so common that it is known as the common cold. There are a couple in the family that has ominous sounding names like SARS and MERS.
Covid-19 version of the coronavirus is a lot more alike the common cold version than MERS and SARS. They are all branches on the same family tree of viruses, but Covid-19 and the common cold are siblings, and the other two are very distant cousins. At least in how they behave, and how they interact with humans.
Now we must get into what constitutes a good virus from the standpoint of evolution. The only point of a virus is to spread as effectively as possible. A highly deadly virus is not good at spreading, it will burn itself out.
A good virus should be able to infect as many hosts as possible as rapidly as possible, it should preferably not kill its host so it can re-infect it at a later date (when it has mutated a bit), it should be airborne, and able to sustain normal environmental conditions.
Luckily for humans there are very few viruses that are really good at this! The best of them are the influenza viruses, some coronas, Norovirus and a handful more. Almost none of them are overly deadly, but at occasions they can mutate into more deadly versions like the Spanish flu in 1918.
Covid-19 and the common cold
Let us imagine that humanity had never had a single case of the common cold and that all of a sudden it showed up and started to infect people. There would be no natural resistance against it, and we would probably be seeing the same lethality numbers and the same spread rate as we are seeing for Covid-19.
We can actually see this effect when people from the equatorial belt relocates to let us say Sweden. As the common cold season starts, I get a bit of sniffles, a slight fever, cough and a runny nose. For let us say an African she would be down for the better part of two weeks in very high fever, impaired lung function, even if she otherwise was strong as an ox.
Does this sound familiar? It should, because Covid-19 is the next common cold.
The reason that we who are used to it does not get overly sick is that we got a natural resistance from back when we where kids. And both the common cold and Covid-19 only gives light symptoms to children (thankfully!), this is what builds up the long-term resistance for later years.
Note the difference between immunity and resistance. Immunity would prevent you from getting it, resistance just gives you better ways of dealing with it as you get it. The reason why the common cold and the flu is not giving you immunity is that it mutates slightly about every 1 to 3 years, but the resistance will still be there in most cases (but not all).
The bad news is that none of us has any resistance to the Covid-19, the good news is that the next time you get it you will have that resistance.
Corona and math
Dear lord, has the schools stopped teaching math? This is a serious question since it seems nobody can even do simple summing, subtraction, multiplication and division. At least as soon as they are afraid of a virus.
Now, let us fire off a few good news from the world of mathematics. We will be firing of a big glaring elephant in the room first.
The number of cases is far larger than the official numbers. How on earth can this be good news? And why the hell do you say this?
According to the WHO and the ECDC between 10 to 20 times the official number of cases are mild enough so that people stay at home not bothering the hospitals, so they are never reported. These numbers even consider that people are scared and go bug the health authorities as soon as they have diarrhoea and demand to be tested for Covid-19.
Now I will explain why this is really good news for most of us. We have all seen the numbers for lethality ranging at around 2-4 percent. These numbers are for hospitalized cases. Nobody except a few professors seems to have done the follow up math and divided it with the stay at home cases that are not in the statistics, and that are not dying.
Oops, suddenly, the lethality is down to 0.1 to 0.4 percent. This really makes a difference doesn’t it? Do you really need all those toilet paper rolls now?
The next good news is that as far as I could find out 1 child has died. That child had a pre-existing condition severely weakening it. So, unless your children or grand-children are risk-patients since before, they will survive corona.
The bad news
Well, the first one is simple. Most of us will get Covid-19 sooner or later. But, if you are not an at-risk patient with cardiac, pulmonary, or other diseases limiting your ability to resist the virus, or are really old and weak, you should be fine. Probably though you will feel like shit for a week or so.
Due to over-reactions from politicians and economists about 10 to 20 percent of you will lose your jobs. Most will though get them back quickly as this is over. Also, if you are retiring right now your retirement money will be crippled, a lot.
There is a risk for a long-term economic depression as world trade takes a major hit. Some governments try to hinder this, some actively are making it worse in blind panic.
Covid-19 and food
There is also a very large radioactive elephant in the room here. And that is food. Almost nobody ever ponders that the largest in volume traded goods on the planet is food. Without that trade a lot of countries in the western world will starve to death.
The general consensus in the food industry is that the planet at any given moment has a spare surplus of 14 days of food. As soon as that is gone you will be on rations, and trust me, hoarding will just make things worse.
So, here comes the first practical tip of the day from me. And here I am the expert, I am after all the CEO of a food conglomerate (bet you did not know that one).
Buy food for 14 days for you and your family. This will not bring the reserves below the critical threshold, and it will keep you through any quarantine conditions, and it will sustain you as you feel like crap with your bout with Covid-19.
Unless you live in Flint Michigan you do not need to buy bottled water. And, unless you plan to masturbate like a bat out of hell while having Covid-19 you do not need a lifetime supply of bog rolls. Sorry for the French here, but you just do not need to hoard bog rolls, Covid-19 does not give diarrhoea.
Instead, buy normal food that you like to eat, and a slightly larger proportion of comfort munchy things and comfort things to drink. Cookies, candy and Coca-Cola is not good in the long run, but they do tend to make you feel less miserable. Your version of comfort things may vary.
And most important, eat the stuff. Do not let it spoil and throw it away. Anything you throw away will eat into your personal part of the 14-day surplus. It is okay to borrow into that surplus, but not to exceed it, or destroy it. M’kay?
Why should you do something?
The real and good reason for you and your country to do things is so that the rate of people needing hospital care does not exceed the maximum health care capacity. In other words, the best thing to do is spread out the rate of spread over time.
Remember, this is basically a nasty common cold, and you can’t stop the common cold from spreading, just delay it.
This will save a lot of lives. Remember that most of us will not need to go to the hospital at all, but those who are old and weak, and those who are in at-risk groups will most likely need those hospital beds to stay alive.
Oh, and being scared is not the same as being an at-risk group. If you do not think you are dying, stay at home. Do not be an ass and take up valuable resources that others need far better than you do. In other words, if you do not have a serious problem breathing, or a fever above 42 degrees, stay at home. Take pills to lower the fever, drink fluids, be miserable, do not be an ass.
Unless of course you really are an at-risk person, then you should consult via phone with your medical professional on what would be advisable in your specific case early on as you get sick.
What can you as a person do?
First of all, wash your damn filthy paws. Do it often, do it well, do it especially if you have touched someone, or have been outside touching stuff.
Soap is better than hand sanitizer with alcohol. The virus is covered in fatty lipids, so soap will break down the fatty lipid cover thusly killing the virus. Yes, trying to make the virus drunk does help, but soap is better.
If you want to use both alcohol and soap it is important to apply the alcohol first, wait a few minutes, and then wash those filthy paws. The other way around and the water on your hands will lower the alcohol content below usefulness.
Second thing do not shake hands. Bump feet, elbows, if you really need to connect. Best is to place your hand on your heart or make a small Asian bow.
Try to stay a minimum of two metres away from other people if possible. But, do not be an ass about it.
If you start to feel sick (throat pain), stay at home for a minimum of ten days. If you need things, do not go out, call friends and ask them to deliver stuff on your doorstep. Do not thank them in person!
Do not visit elderly or at-risk groups. You can visit panic-stricken people, as noted above they are not an at-risk group.
Please feel free to call elderly and at-risk people and ask if they need help, or groceries and medications. Be it family, neighbours, friends, or total strangers that you notice might need help. Please call and ask, this is antithetic to being an ass, it gives you anti-ass plus-points.
Do not go into full panic swing and stay at home when healthy with your healthy children and healthy spouse. This is hurting society quite a bit, especially the economy that is already hit hard. This might sound counter-intuitive, but unless you have a work where you can work at home, go to work. Society needs you. And the children are not at risk anyway.
Oh, and take your basic vitamins. They will boost your immune-defence system, there will be a follow up article on this from one of our readers.
What should a government do and don’t?
Stopping large groups of people meeting is a good thing. Exact number may vary, Sweden for instance have gone with the number of 500 people or more, others have opted for smaller numbers. This limit spread rate considerably. Sorry that your tennis hand-soccer is impeded.
Banning communal transports such as trains, buses and airplanes are not a good idea. This will unduly hurt the economy for those who must take these to get to work. On the other hand, if you can avoid them on a personal level, it is a good thing to do.
Pumping money into stricken companies trying to save jobs and making certain that there is food on the table is a good thing. It is probably the most important thing a government can do, after all there will be life after Covid-19. Sweden for instance has deferred company tax payments and is loaning money to companies interest free on a monumental scale to keep companies afloat and the all-important trade running.
Closing borders is just stupid. First, if the country already has cases, closing the border is to late. And even if there are no known cases, someone will just meander across the border and whammy, you have the disease.
Instead closing borders will make millions into Prisoners of Azkaban in foreign countries, hamper trade, and generally hurting the economy.
Personally, I am currently a Prisoner of Azkaban with Danish soldiers being my personal Dementors. I do though have a very cunning and evil plan to smuggle myself from Dar es Salaam in Tanzania back home to Sweden. As I mentioned above, Raymond Reddington in Blacklist would be envious.
Closing schools might sound like a good idea, it is not. Basically, you will have a lot of parents at home guarding their healthy children. Quite a few of those at home will be doctors and nurses. It will also hamper an already stricken economy. And, remember that children deal with Covid-19 quite well as it is.
The last advice is, do not be the United States of America. Being without universal healthcare is a death trap. Not having sick days is a death trap. Not having a working social security system is a death trap. Having a population not able to afford health care is a death trap. And so on.
And the final good thing a government can do, keep at least the food trade freely running. Helping to create starvation is very much an ass thing to do.
Covid-19 is not the end of the world, it is “just” a bad version of the common cold virus that we are not used to. Take care of your elders and at-risk friends by not visiting them, and by making sure they have food and medications.
If you feel panic, place a towel over your head. It obviously does not work, but it is at least fun to watch for the rest of us.
And I return to the most important thing, do not be an ass. And please dear something, stop hoarding bog rolls, it is just a nasty ass version of being an ass.
And finally, if you are interested, I highly recommend reading more at the sites of ECDC and WHO. I know that most of the readers here hold the Icelandic authorities in high regard so that is also an option. I also urge everyone to not spread things from any other sources, there have been numerous weird things spread lately, let us put an end to that.