No one-eyed man to rule this kindom of the blind?
Misplaced priorities, ill-considered advice, and petty political concerns (e.g. trade sanctions against Iran and persistent vilification of China) have brought the global economy to its knees and induced exaggerated fears among ordinary folk.
Repeat of 2008/9 was widely predicted. The pandemic is merely a precipitating factor brought into play by panic response to the 'flu; many governments now face economic meltdown and handling what's deemed a public health 'crisis' at the same time. Most governments previously were able barely to cope with 'business as usual'; faced with a two pronged disaster they run around like headless chickens.
Italy faces economic collapse and social disintegration. The EU demonstrably is incapable of organising co-ordinated response. The USA is headed only God knows where. Boris Johnson has taken this as opportunity to brush up his Churchillian rhetoric.
Crying over spilt milk gets one nowhere. However, in this instance revisiting the initial muddled thinking is helpful because it leads to suggestion of how panic mode may now be abated and the painful task of revitalising economies begun (with measures introduced to place markets as servants of populations rather than their masters).
It was clear from the outset that recognisably vulnerable people were at high risk of sequelae from infection, particularly death. By the nature of things, prevalence of vulnerability increases with ascending age group. The age-structure of Italy naturally made it an epicentre for raw numbers of deaths arising but there is no reason yet to believe case-fatality by age group differs much from elsewhere. This 'flu virus clearly is more harmful to some than seasonal 'flu but the fact remains that almost all cases are minor illness. Nevertheless, government responses better match those appropriate for the smallpox outbreaks of distant memory, and some high fatality new plague, than the present circumstance.
The proper initial reaction would have been to encourage and facilitate isolation of known high risk people and suggest that the elderly in general voluntarily stay at home. A couple of billion pounds could, if necessary, have been deployed to make voluntary isolation quick to implement, comfortable, and with minimal risk of exposure; compare that to sums involved in mitigating economic meltdown. Meanwhile the epidemic could have been allowed to run its natural course through the healthy population. There would be minor inconveniences arising from sick people taking days off work. There would be some unexpected deaths among the exposed 'healthy' population - inevitable, sad, but no great disaster when put in context of life's other risks. The more quickly exposure to the virus occurs among the healthy population the less time vulnerable people need spend in isolation.
It remains feasible to institute that scheme and thereby salvage something from the economic wreck.
Good sense dictates simple solutions rather than false hopes reliant upon stocking up on ventilators to be used on people many of whom would nevertheless die and, particularly among the elderly, others emerge for continuing low quality existence. For good reason, pneumonia was at one time called "the old man's friend": the best choice among ways to go.
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