Virus Cartoon 9 March

Politicians in a crisis

March 9th, 2020

Nowhere is the survival instinct more relevant than in the world of politics.

Immediately on being elected, the politicians first instinct is to see how they can get re-elected.

This drives them to take actions which may please the people but have no basis in rationality.

Politicians are permanently in crisis management mode, so when something like coronavirus arrives, they go into overdrive.

Here are the rational facts:

  1. Four out of five cases only cause minor illness;
  2. Most people recover as they do from all flu viruses;
  3. As of writing about the 60,000 people that have recovered – you don’t see that headline in the news!
  4. Young people are almost at no risk;
  5. People who are dying almost always have other medical conditions;
  6. You can’t catch it unless you are in contact with someone, or something, that has it;
  7. Simple hand washing is the best way to keep safe.

Of course, the Chinese politicians and authorities were right to take the actions they did in January and they acted with commendable alacrity: the virus was identified within seven days; three days later the gene sequence was available.

Then the epicentre, Wuhan – a city roughly the size of London or New York – was put into lockdown, as was the surrounding province. An amazing feat in itself! The result: new cases in China are on the decline.

All these Draconian actions were right when we were dealing with an unknown entity. But now that we have much more knowledge, are radical measures still needed in other countries?

The latest knee-jerk is from the Italian government, who suddenly announced a lock-down for most of the North of the country, including Milan and Venice. This will have huge knock-on effects on the country’s vital tourism industry.

Are the Italian politicians right, or is it a political gesture? The government in Italy is surviving by a knife-edge, and more elections are always on the horizon. Mmmmmmm…

The irony is that the word quarantine comes from Italian for 40; the number of days that a ship had to stay out of port to show it was safe during the Black Death of mediaeval times.

I don’t think it’s that bad, but let’s see what next week brings.

Tom

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