March 10th 2020
Today I’ve finally begun to agree to the idea that Coronavirus is a bad thing. For a while, I was a denier, and didn’t see what everyone was getting so nervous about. I saw the mortality rate, figured that I would be fine, and then didn’t really feel any anxiety over it. Usually, when I’m working out what I should be scared about I just do the maths and it soothes me.
Originally, I just researched the fatality rate. It was initially reported as 2%, which is not insignificant, but in the early stages all the data was coming from the Chinese cases, and I learnt that a combination of the air pollution and the fact smoking is more common among Chinese people meant that the Chinese fatality rate was slightly higher because Coronavirus is more deadly to those with bad lungs. When more cases started to appear in Europe, it was reported that a more likely fatality rate was 0.2%. I could deal with 0.2%. 0.2% didn’t scare me.
I read some probably falsified stats (though it was from the New York Times) that said 0.2% is about equivalent to your chance of dying in a car accident. I get in my car and drive to work every day and never feel anxiety about dying in a car accident. And so that logic helped calm me over the increasing Coronavirus coverage in the media.
I blamed the media for inducing widespread panic over something as deadly as my commute to work, but there was one part of the maths I forgot to account for: the infection rate.
Coronavirus, I think it’s still true to say, is not a particularly effective killer, especially to healthyish youngish people, but it’s the infection rate that is more concerning. An infection rate of ~2.8 (meaning anyone with the virus will infect 2.8 people on average) is over double the infection rate of the flu, and because of the way exponentials work, that means the spreading of the virus is, well, exponentially increased.
And as more and more people became infected, more and more countries started to freak out. Italy is in lockdown. The UK are preparing for it. Suddenly, I can kind of see the purpose of the panic.
I’m going to quote this stat blindly and pray that I am accurately remembering it because it’s late and I can’t be bothered to go looking for it, but I think I read that if the virus continues to spread at it’s expected rate something like 60% of the population would be infected within 2 months.
Leaving aside the fatality rate, the impact that level of infection would have on society is obviously staggering. The social, economic, industrial, and political repercussions of over half of the general populus being off sick are unprecedented. Elections could swing different ways. Banks could close. Businesses could close. There could be petrified riots, and opportunistic looting. The workplace landscape will change as companies reconsider the necessity of on-premise employees.
In a strange way, it will be fascinating to see what happens on the other side of this. And I do believe that there is an other side. This isn’t the apocalypse, as far as I’m aware, but it should be taken seriously.
Until tomorrow, sorry it took me so long to get on board.