Some good news about COVID-19

Summary: The Director-General of WHO gives us some rare good news from the front lines of the COVID-19 epidemic. It contradicts the bold guesses of internet amateur experts. The press might ignore it, preferring to focus instead on the minutea. This does not mean that the epidemic has ended, but it points to the possibility of success.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO

A status report from the Director-General of WHO

Excerpt from the media briefing on March 3 by Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO. There is important good news here, amidst the warnings about the need for strong fast action. Red emphasis added.

“We understand that people are afraid and uncertain. Fear is a natural human response to any threat, especially when it’s a threat we don’t completely understand. But as we get more data, we are understanding this virus, and the disease it causes, more and more. This virus is not SARS, it’s not MERS, and it’s not influenza. It is a unique virus with unique characteristics.

“Both COVID-19 and influenza cause respiratory disease and spread the same way, via small droplets of fluid from the nose and mouth of someone who is sick. However, there are some important differences between COVID-19 and influenza.

“First, COVID-19 does not transmit as efficiently as influenza, from the data we have so far. With influenza, people who are infected but not yet sick are major drivers of transmission, which does not appear to be the case for COVID-19. Evidence from China is that only 1% of reported cases do not have symptoms, and most of those cases develop symptoms within 2 days

“The second major difference is that COVID-19 causes more severe disease than seasonal influenza. …

“Third, we have vaccines and therapeutics for seasonal flu, but at the moment there is no vaccine and no specific treatment for COVID-19. However, clinical trials of therapeutics are now being done, and more than 20 vaccines are in development.

“And fourth, we don’t even talk about containment for seasonal flu – it’s just not possible. But it is possible for COVID-19. We don’t do contact tracing for seasonal flu – but countries should do it for COVID-19, because it will prevent infections and save lives. Containment is possible.

“To summarize, COVID-19 spreads less efficiently than flu, transmission does not appear to be driven by people who are not sick, it causes more severe illness than flu, there are not yet any vaccines or therapeutics, and it can be contained – which is why we must do everything we can to contain it. That’s why WHO recommends a comprehensive approach.

“These differences mean we can’t treat COVID-19 exactly the same way we treat flu. But there are enough similarities to mean that countries are not starting from scratch. For decades, many countries have invested in building up their systems to detect and respond to influenza. Because COVID-19 is also a respiratory pathogen, those systems can, should and are being adapted for COVID-19.”

———– End excerpt. ———–


To repeat what I said yesterday about America

The US took strong early steps, but current efforts are falling apart due to decentralized political structure (many agencies with overlapping mandates at Federal, State, and local levels) and partisan feuding. For example, see the bickering about who should pay for testing. That somebody should not test due to the cost is mad. It is a cost of business for the nation, and should be paid for accordingly.

Trump should stop tweeting and take strong action immediately. The clock is running; time is not on our side.

It’s easy to follow the coronavirus story

The World Health Organization provides daily information, from highly technical information to news for the general public.

Posts about the coronavirus epidemic.

For More Information

Ideas! For some shopping ideas, see my recommended books and films at Amazon. Also, see an inspiring story about the young women who flew biplanes in WWI and lived in a barn: Ballad of the Unknown Pilot.

Please like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. Also, see these posts about epidemics…

  1. See the ugly cost of the next big flu pandemic. We can do more to prepare.
  2. Stratfor: The superbugs are coming. We have time to prepare.
  3. Posts debunking the hysteria about the 2009 swine flu in America.
  4. Posts debunking the hysteria about the 2015 ebola epidemic in America.
  5. Important: A vaccine against the fears that make us weak.

Books about epidemics

The Hot Zone by Richard Preston (1994). A terrifying true story of an Ebola epidemic.

Pandemic: Tracking Contagions, from Cholera to Ebola and Beyond by Sonia Shah (2016).

"The Hot Zone" by Richard Preston.
Available at Amazon.
Pandemic: Tracking Contagions, from Cholera to Ebola and Beyond
Available at Amazon.

4 thoughts on “Some good news about COVID-19”

    1. Henrik,

      “What a regime can do if it has unlimited authority and sets its mind to do it.’

      That’s quite false. The Chinese govt does not have “unlimited authority.” Authoritarian regimes tend to have weak legitimacy, and so act cautiously in matters which might anger the people. An extreme example is Hitler. He mobilized Germany very slowly, for fear of losing support. My fav example: he ordered the arrest of Jewish men married to Aryan women. There were public protests by those women, and Hitler quickly backed down.

      Democratic regimes tend to have far stronger legitmacy, which lets them take much bolder steps which have weak support.

      1. Yes, its an interesting point, and I was aware of the German case you mention.

        Perhaps ‘unlimited authority’ is the wrong expression. They don’t have unlimited power to order anything they want without fear of opposition.

        And they are hyper sensitive to organized opposition. However, their reaction is not necessarily to bow to it.

        It would be better to say there are few or no legal restrictions on what they can order. And their track record is to repress organized protest immediately on its first appearance with extreme prejudice. Though they appear to tolerate local opposition at village level much more than opposition to central government.

        It seems from my reading that the scale and the organization of any opposition they can expect to face is very limited. In the case you mention, the wives, if today’s Chinese, would have found themselves immediately identified, banned from travel or meeting, scattered and probably interned if they persisted. I don’t think you would see their wishes complied with.

        Have you read Stein Ringen? He gives a very specific account of exactly how the system works through the various state and local institutions. If you read that, its very much an open question to what extent we are seeing enthusiastic cooperation or toleration and passive compliance based on fear and indoctrination.

        There are really two questions about the regime. One is how sensitive the regime is to dissent. The other is what their reaction is to it when it happens.

        The third question is about the measures. That they are effective there seems to be no doubt. But whether they are efficient is another and different question.

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