Elon Musk believes solving problems can by done by reducing them to first principles, taking a problem and boiling it down to its basic parts. He’s proven this by becoming wildly successful in three different disciplines: software, automobiles and rocketry.
So what are the principle factors in virus pandemics we need to consider? The first is the infection rate and the second is the fatality rate. Viruses are constantly looking for the right balance of the two so they can spread as widely as possible before killing all their potential hosts.
Let’s look at the numbers. Ebola had a high kill rate (50% of cases) but a low infection rate (Reproduction Number or R0 of 1.9). So the virus erred on the side of lethality. Measles has a high infection rate (R0 15) but a low kill rate (0.2%). So, from the virus point of view, the ratio was too much the other way.
Covid-19 is a lot closer to the sweet spot. It has an infection rate or R0 of 2.8 and a case fatality rate of at least 1.0% (ten times more than seasonal flu) and perhaps as high as 3.4%. This has resulted, so far (April 15) in 2,035,737 cases worldwide and 130,802 deaths. Bad as this is, it could be much, much worse if either of the two metrics was higher.
So, back to first principles. Of these two factors, which is the easiest for mankind to tackle? Obviously, it’s the infection rate. The virus has no autonomous movement; it must be carried from place to place like a miniature bomb. More specifically, it must be carried by a human or animal host. So, step one should be to stop anyone from an infected area traveling somewhere else.
Or to put that more plainly; to stop a virus one must first stop international air travel from the infection site.
In the past, businessmen, shippers, and airline executives would have argued this was excessive; too high a price to pay for a mere illness. However, now that we’ve seen a dramatic drop in world GDP, that argument has been answered. A pandemic is too high a price to pay for sloppy quarantine procedures.
Had all the countries of the world acted in unison when the virus was first detected and stopped all air traffic from China, this virus would still be in Wuhan where it started. They did not. Indeed, they have still not turned off the tap of infection and reinfection from the source.
An analogy will help here. Consider the virus to be like a time-delayed incendiary device. It’s quite safe to carry around for a week or so, but then it explodes and starts killing the people around it. What the West is doing now is rushing around like a fireman trying to put out one fire after another as they pop up around the country, mostly in old folks homes. Obviously, clearly, this is a crazy response. The solution is to lock the borders, then find every case and isolate the victims.
Look around you, in your country, anywhere in the world. Has your government done this? Has it closed the borders? No. Has it tested every single person in the country? No.
It’s time we started taking the virus menace seriously. We could have shut air travel as the U.S. did in 9/11. That would have stopped the Wuhan virus. We didn’t and it’s killing us at a far greater rate than Muslim terrorists ever did.
And one other thing. Someone has to pay for all the pain and suffering this virus has caused. Some legal entity is responsible for starting this horror.