Yikes: UK Abruptly Reverses on Coronavirus Approach, Based on Frightening New Study

Posted: Mar 17, 2020 1:01 PM
Yikes: UK Abruptly Reverses on Coronavirus Approach, Based on Frightening New Study

Let's start with a note on borders, then get to the disturbing new projections. This is an interesting dynamic, even though it may seem elementary: Some European nations are defying EU objections and reverting to strictly enforcing their own borders, as a result of the global Wuhan Coronavirus pandemic.  Here's part of a story in the UK Telegraph entitled, "Germany becomes latest to close borders as coronavirus tests EU solidarity," with a the sub-headline, "Discontent over the EU’s response to the crisis is fueling a surge in euroscepticism in Italy."  Read:

The coronavirus pandemic has called into question the European Union’s ability to lead a coordinated response as member-states failed to pull together and closed their borders in defiance of Brussels. Germany is sealing its borders with France, Austria and Switzerland from Monday in an unprecedented move to stem the spread of the coronavirus. All four countries are in Europe’s border-free Schengen zone.  The shutdown of Germany’s borders will be enforced by federal police. It is also aimed at preventing foreigners bulk-buying goods in German supermarkets, which has caused supply problems in border areas...

Brussels is trying to fend off developments like this, but it isn't working: 

The European Union is considering the drastic step of suspending nearly all incoming travel to the 27-member bloc to combat not only the coronavirus but also the “every country for itself” ethos spreading rapidly through member states. The EU’s 27 leaders will hold a teleconference on Tuesday to discuss the proposal, which would cover 30 European countries — all EU member states except Ireland, plus the four non-EU countries that are part of the Schengen border-free zone. But at least eight EU states have already taken matters into their own hands, unilaterally shutting out foreign nationals or partially closing their borders to one or more neighboring country. They include the EU’s biggest state, founder-member Germany. Those decisions have left Schengen, a pillar of European free movement for 35 years, in tatters, for now at least.

The Schengen region comprises 26 countries that effectively abolished internal borders and border controls. France has declared it 'closed,' with the country's president declaring, "we are at war."  If I were an EU citizen, I'd definitely want a mechanism to block people from the Netherlands from entering my country, given the Dutch government's approach to Coronavirus:

This is very similar to the UK's planned approach, which was thrown out at the eleventh hour ("in the last few days") when British researchers concluded that it was deeply flawed, would not necessarily achieve its goals, and would "likely result in hundreds of thousands of deaths and health systems -- most notably intensive care units -- being overwhelmed many times over.”  Allahpundit summarizes the situation in a harrowing analysis:

William Hanage, an epidemiologist at Harvard, has a piece out today titled, “When I heard about Britain’s ‘herd immunity’ coronavirus plan, I thought it was satire.” What was wrong with the UK strategy? Well, as this Atlantic piece explains, it’s an open question at the moment whether contracting and recovering from COVID-19 confers immunity at all, and if it does, for how long. Immunity among SARS patients lasts a long time; immunity among patients who’ve contracted other coronaviruses is much shorter. Imagine the Brits letting tens of millions of younger people get the disease, watching many thousands of them die, and then discovering that … they’re actually no longer immune once the “second wave” begins in the fall. Another problem. Obviously, many elderly and chronically ill Brits will need help to function in their day-to-day lives over the next four months while they’re in self-quarantine. Who’s supposed to be helping them while everyone else is out getting infected? “Who do you think works at those nursing homes? Highly trained gibbons?” said Hanage.

Yet another problem: “The [British] government has thus far recommended that people with mild symptoms isolate themselves, even though people can clearly spread the virus before symptoms appear.” Not only can they spread the virus before symptoms appear, one study claims that people are at their most infectious at the earliest stages of the illness, possibly before they’re even showing symptoms. In other words, the UK’s hope of limiting the contagion during its “first wave” by asking only symptomatic younger people to self-quarantine is flawed from the start. Preemptive social distancing by the general population is the only way to slow the spread. They were plotting a long-term strategy to cope with a problem that’s about to plunge them into an Italy-style catastrophe in a matter of weeks.

Given the new information, the Brits have abandoned their previous game plan. As of now, the Dutch are sticking with it.  Yikes.  By the way, the study that caused a 180 at No. 10 Downing Street is very distressing.  It's just one model, granted, and it might be way off.  But smart people are taking it very seriously, including at the White House.  This gave me a sinking feeling when I saw it last night:

An excerpt:

The major challenge of suppression is that this type of intensive intervention package – or something equivalently effective at reducing transmission – will need to be maintained until a vaccine becomes available (potentially 18 months or more) – given that we predict that transmission will quickly rebound if interventions are relaxed. We show that intermittent social distancing – triggered by trends in disease surveillance – may allow interventions to be relaxed temporarily in relative short time windows, but measures will need to be reintroduced if or when case numbers rebound. Last, while experience in China and now South Korea show that suppression is possible in the short term, it remains to be seen whether it is possible long-term, and whether the social and economic costs of the interventions adopted thus far can be reduced.

If these researchers are correct, we are just buying time with suppression measures (major social distancing, etc) until the disease can actually be successfully treated and cured. Even though significant strides have been made in that direction, we could be months and months away from a vaccine being developed, tested and deployed. How long can Americans, and the American economy, remain in this limbo?  It's already going to be a huge challenge.  One wonders how long people will tolerate extreme containment measures, if there's no end in sight?  And the longer it drags on, the more businesses will be destroyed, with or without a huge stimulus/relief package (we are "going big," the president said today).  Then what?  Its seems as though we should most urgently be praying and rooting for a cure, as soon as possible.  I'll leave you with this guidance from the US government:

I'll remind you that the Coronavirus survival rate is roughly 99 percent.  Those at the greatest risk (but not exclusive risk) are the elderly and those with underlying health conditions.  The vast majority of people who catch it recover.  The biggest health concern is our medical system getting overwhelmed if serious cases spike in an unmanageable way, which is why mitigation is so important.  As for social and economic ramifications?  Undetermined.