What’s the coronavirus exit strategy? There isn’t one

The BBC has run an article by their health and science correspondent James Gallagher asking the critical question: When will the outbreak end and life get back to normal?

As James rightly points out, coronavirus is ‘not going to disappear’. Yet ‘the current strategy of shutting down large parts of society is not sustainable in the long-term. The social and economic damage would be catastrophic.’ Indeed, it already is, and we’ve barely got started.

What we need is an exit strategy: ‘a way of lifting the restrictions and getting back to normal.’

But, according to Mark Woolhouse, professor of infectious disease epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh, ‘no country has an exit strategy.’

The UK’s short term strategy has been to ‘drive down cases as much as possible to prevent hospitals being overwhelmed,’ because ‘when you run out of intensive care beds then deaths spike.’

So basically we’re crashing the world economy and indefinitely destroying our basic freedoms, which itself has a hugely negative impact on our health and well-being, because of a projected acute shortage of ventilators and hospital beds.

Should it not be possible simply to make some more ventilators and find some more beds? You would have thought so. How much could it cost? Anything would be cheaper and less harmful than what we’re doing.

And long term? James asked the UK’s chief medical adviser, Prof Chris Whitty, what his exit strategy is: ‘Long term, clearly a vaccine is one way out of this and we all hope that will happen as quickly as possible. … Globally, science will come up with solutions’.

But a vaccine is projected to be 12-18 months away. As Prof Woolhouse says: ‘Waiting for a vaccine should not be honoured with the name “strategy”, that is not a strategy’.

In other words, the scientific and medical experts on whose advice the government is acting in imposing all these stupendously costly countermeasures have no idea at all where it is all going. No plan, no exit strategy. Just an absurdly costly and draconian effort to ease peak pressure on the health system, with no idea when these will come to an end, or what we will do next time the virus spikes.

Will lockdowns become a regular feature of life each time there’s a coronavirus flare-up? If it was the bubonic plague perhaps that would be justified and tolerable. But this is not the plague. It may not even be much worse than flu.

The World Health Organisation has now admitted that the new Wuhan coronavirus spreads 50 per cent more slowly than flu, and its pre-symptomatic transmission rate is much lower than flu.

It is still widely believed to be much more deadly than flu. But the government’s own chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance has said that ‘a death rate of one fatality for every 1,000 cases was a “reasonable ballpark” figure, based on scientific modelling,’ which is 0.1 per cent, the same as flu. Researchers looking in detail at Wuhan came to a similar conclusion. A new French study in the Journal of Antimicrobial Agents, titled SARS-CoV-2: fear versus data, has similarly concluded that ‘the problem of SARS-CoV-2 is probably overestimated’, since ‘the mortality rate for SARS-CoV-2 is not significantly different from that for common coronaviruses identified at the study hospital in France’.

Governments have been spooked by the scenes in Italy of high death tolls amid acute shortages of ventilators and hospital beds. However, there are many reasons Italy appears to be being particularly badly affected by the virus (explained in detail here), not least that 88 per cent of those reported as dying from the virus did not in fact have coronavirus listed on their death certificate as a direct cause of death, and that, as former Israeli Health Minister Professor Yoram Lass has pointed out: ‘Italy is known for its enormous morbidity in respiratory problems, more than three times any other European country.’ This is linked to the very poor air quality in northern Italy.

The truth is we have no exit strategy. But we need no exit strategy. We just need to accept that this coronavirus, like other coronaviruses, is here to stay. Those most at risk would be well-advised to self-isolate during epidemics as far as possible. And our health service should be much better prepared for outbreaks. But the rest of us should just keep calm and carry on. The science tells us nothing else.

 

7 thoughts on “What’s the coronavirus exit strategy? There isn’t one

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  1. It should come as no surprise that no country has an exit strategy: our basic human freedoms have been suspended and we are under the government’s thumb. No government will give that up unless it has to.

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  2. Will I am not sure you are right here. The ‘exit strategy’ is, here as elsewhere, to lower the curve, and lift restrictions as and when the rate of infection slows. If the rate picks up again, restrictions are increased. The exit is when the whole population has been infected and either a. developed immunity or b. been treated and recovered or c. died. If a vaccine is developed before it runs its course, then vaccination is the plan.

    I think you are mistaken in underestimating the seriousness of the situation. Here is testimony from a London nurse:

    “It’s really bad. Closing most A&E departments to anything other than “life or limb” cases. Trauma will be diverted to private hospitals. We’ve turned our operating theatres into ICU. We are now all ICU nurses working long days and nights and without proper PPE. It’s real. It’s happening and we are making tough decisions who lives and who doesn’t. I’ve been a nurse for 30 years, seen some horrific things in my time but this is by far the worse thing I’ve ever been through.”

    But I agree with you when you raise the question ‘What will we do next time?’ The plan must be to roll out emergency provision.

    On the other hand, given the damage and destruction that unfettered global capitalism has done to the world (alongside some good), the virus putting the brakes on it is something I think most Christians should welcome.

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    1. There is no such thing as unfettered capitalism, at least not on this planet.

      The World Economic Forum in Davos ranks 140 countries according to the total burden of government regulation. According to the WEF, the United States, that “bastion of pure capitalism” ranked in the 51st place in 2016. It ranked below Sweden, but just above Denmark. According to the World Bank, the totality of the tax burden (i.e., the level of taxation and the difficulty of compliance with the tax code combined) in the United States is more onerous than in many other countries. That includes the relatively economically free Hong Kong and the socially democratic Denmark.

      Actually Christians should welcome the global prosperity and unprecedented increases in human welfare, brought about by capitalism,
      https://fee.org/articles/extreme-poverty-rates-plummet-under-capitalism/
      just as we should decry the abuses inflicted on people and societies under socialism..
      Almost half of Venezuelans report not eating three times per day, and around five million people – almost 20 percent of the population – have left the country.

      Here in Cape Town the petrol pump attendant will invariably be a Zimbabwean, having fled that country’s shattered economy, the result primarily of Marxist policies – little do they know that have escaped to a country with a government intent on the implementing the same policies

      ‘Peace privilege’ is a phenomenon that besets many people living in peaceful, prosperous countries with free market economies and who have no real clue about what it means to survive in a socialist dictatorship.

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  3. ‘The truth is we have no exit strategy.’

    Very true, and it is entirely predictable given that we had no entry strategy either. (And the warnings were there)

    As the disorganised state of the nation’s health care system in general and the government’s response to Covid-19 in particular is put on full, tragic display, it’s clear that our politicians, civil service and leaders of the NHS itself lack the kind of mindset that is necessary to run an independent, self reliant nation. Is the kind of woolly thinking and basic organisational incompetence (which now directly threatens the lives of our doctors and nurses) perhaps the result of globalist thinking?

    That’s the kind of thinking that believes in shedding national borders; handing over sovereignty to unaccountable supranational bureaucrats and multinational corporations; failing to understand the fragility of ‘just in time’ systems for supplying of all kinds of goods; viewing stockpiles of non consumable goods as outdated and unnecessary practice which doesn’t fit with modern theory; importing millions of people to a country without considering whether healthcare, education and housing can cope. Essentially it’s an atheistic, amoral, money driven, hubristic attitude which doesn’t recognise risk, takes no account of human psychology, is neither experienced nor interested in the realities of how the natural world works, and has an inevitable trajectory towards the kind of inflexible groupthink that can only spell disaster. The EU has spectacularly failed on its own terms to meet the challenge of Covid-19: pooled sovereignty has collapsed, borders re-erected, national governments have been forced to take over, mutual sharing of resources has ceased.

    It’s true there can never be a defined point in time which signals victory in the battle against pathogens. Antivirals and antibiotics gradually become ineffective as their victims evolve. It’s worth stating on a site where faith and politics meet that evolution is an intrinsic part of the created order in which we exist and not a rebellious theory born of atheism. But the issue for me is how one of the richest and most inventive nations on Earth can have presented such an unimpressive initial response to Covid-19. Yet even as I write this there are reports of people returning to the UK and entering, untested for the virus we’re all trying to defeat.

    The general public now has every self interest and every duty to do all that is possible towards bearing down on contagion. But sites like this would be failing in their duty if they don’t pose hard questions – the kind that ruffle feathers. The failure to grasp the critical role of testing when you’re fighting an invisible infiltration is shocking; the failure to have contingency for providing PPE to health workers verges on the criminal. Many of us have family members who are directly affected; we should be angry. The poor terrified NHS staff who now play Russian roulette as they go to work each day are hardly in a great position to make these points. Perhaps we ignorant laymen and women are the only ones who can.

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  4. The exit strategy seems to be death of a nation, on the back of indescribable suffering and devastation of its people. Personally I possible won’t make it long enough to see the death of a nation, having lost much of my spirit and now my flat. I have been living under lockdown in Poland for 3 or 4 weeks – I don’t know anymore. It’s forever. I thought I was returning to my home in London in 2 days, but now I find I have no home anymore – with renters taking indefinite occupation of it rendering me homeless and there is no help, compassion or reassurance for re-possession ever.

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