The Corona Crisis

Strangely enough, apart from brief mention in the conspiracy theory thread, we seem not to have a separate thread for this topic. Where are all the skeptical views? :slight_smile:

Here’s an interesting article:

I disagree with the author on urbanization - if anything it is part of the solution rather than the problem. But the other points are probably correct. I find it particularly ironic that Chinese traditional “medicine” may have been the origin of this outbreak. Not only doesn’t that shite work, it is now causing the deaths of thousands, maybe millions, of people.

I see in the news this morning that on Monday there were more or less 20 cases diagnosed. Yesterday it was 40, and today 80. Erm, yeah, this genie may well be out of the bottle.

Of course, diagnoses are typically just a fraction of the actual infections. This may mean things are far worse than they look, though it may also mean that the apparent exponential growth rate just reflects medical services catching up in terms of diagnosis. But either way, things are not looking too rosy. In another week or two, there will effectively be no more medical services in the country; hospitals will be overrun. In a month or two, as many as two million South Africans may be dead.

Of course, I may be overly pessimistic, but even in a best case scenario, the world really has to wake up now and smell the sewage.

At least theoretically, this kind of pandemic is unnecessary and can be prevented, because time and again it has the same, limited number of sources:

  1. Tropical deforestation (which brings people in contact with animals they have never contacted before).
  2. “bush meat” and other similar markets, with unhygienic practices and where the meat of who knows what the hell gets sold.
  3. Traditional “medicine” that contains parts of exotic animals (and it is by no means just the Chinese who are guilty; right here in SA traditional “healers” are constantly poaching things like vultures and who knows what else to put in their quack remedies).

Can we hope that when the dust has settled in a year or so, and the world takes stock of what happened, that it will be realized that the above practices need to stop? Because if they don’t, it is only a question of time before the next pandemic hits. This time round we got off lightly, because thank ye merciful deities, at least it appears that children are by and large not affected. Imagine a disease that kills two million South African children in a month or two. It will be a level of tragedy we have not seen since the frickin’ Middle Ages.

I am none too optimistic. Traditional practices are sacrosanct, tropical hardwoods valuable, and people just never learn from history - in a year or two when this thing is over, people will see it a once-off anomaly, and it will be business as usual.

Some simplified statistical estimates, very well explained, of how the spread of COVID-19 could go in SA.


How is this for just plain greed?

As the article notes, we have the added complication here that most of us quite simply cannot afford to shut down our personal economy for months on end. For many, social distancing is a luxury they simply don’t have. We have lots of uneducated people who will not know anything about what to do either. The massive rumour mill that I see on social media is not really helping either.

And thus I very much fear we are probably looking at his worst case scenario here, but we’ll see over the coming week or two where the thing is headed.

I recommended to my landlady to have her domestic worker stay home, and to simply keep on paying her to stay home (her 86 year-old father lives with her, and he must not be exposed at all costs). I would make this recommendation to everyone with a domestic worker in general, but of course, people will not want to pay for no work done, so workers are going to hide their symptoms and go to work anyway. I suspect many a domestic or garden worker will now simply be fired, and who knows what impact that is going to have on the country’s politics.

I’ve done this, my help is quite old herself (I dont want to guess), and I’ve paid her for two weeks and told her to stay home. She was mortified as “I cant get paid if I dont work” upon which I responded that she cant be paid if she’s dead, and my folks who are in their 80’s. Nor can I afford burial costs at this point as an after thought.

I notice that people are taking it fairly seriously: the shops are quiet and at the entrance of supermarkets they have ladies with squirt bottles of hand sanitizer. But I fear in a week or two the novelty will wear off and people will become lax about it, and then is precisely the time when this thing is really going to take hold.

UK’s Imperial College report on COVID-19 spread scenarios.

Bottom line: Even if suppression strategies (the severest forms of social behaviour intervention) are fully successful and a successful vaccine is developed soon (apparently, three candidates are currently in accelerated testing), the threat will remain in place for at least 18 months more.


I wonder whether even the richest of countries can afford to suspend their economies for 18 months…

Man, the things you get yourself embroiled in. I am a member of a South African Skeptics group on Facebook. Somebody started a coronavirus discussion, I posted my concern about unhygienic meat markets and traditional “medicine” - and then promptly got angrily accused of racism and anti-Chinese ethnic hatred. Also, there is apparently no evidence that such markets or alternative medicine is the source of either this outbreak, or any others. Well, if there isn’t any such evidence I already feel a bit better…

I see there is still not really any sense of panic among people.TV is showing light entertainment, social media full of jokes, people exchanging bits of gossip and such things as their dreams for the future.

I feel the way I always feel when I see that footage of the big tsunami, with people ambling up and down the beach, curiously but without any alarm gawking at the approaching wave. Perhaps the panic will start after the president’s address to the nation later today. Or perhaps not. But once we begin to resemble Italy, the panic will be here.

We may not be facing the end of civilization. But we are facing the end of civilization as we knew it.

Know someone personally that has been exposed (no word on the results yet): It drives the point home plenty soon enough. Also seeing videos of otherwise healthy middle-aged people lying in the ER connected to oxygen makes you realise that your age and health mean nothing. People think this is the flu. It’s not that simple.

I feel the way I always feel when I see that footage of the big tsunami, with people ambling up and down the beach, curiously but without any alarm gawking at the approaching wave. Perhaps the panic will start after the president's address to the nation later today. Or perhaps not. But once we begin to resemble Italy, the panic will be here.

Panic is anyway not preferable to calm, rational pragmaticism.

We may not be facing the end of civilization. But we are facing the end of civilization as we knew it.

In a way every day is the end of civilization as we knew it. But anyway, I’m sure after past pandemics people thought much the same. Things will be different for a while, maybe a decade or so before everyone forgets again.

Just about what I have been wondering…

Why a one-size-fits-all approach to COVID-19 could have lethal consequences

I am yet to see the number of tests that came out negative reported. Surely that would be important, statistically speaking. Only reporting the positives tells us nothing about the state of the population. I think it pertains to, effectively, knowing the sample size.

Exactly right.

Assuming that samples are truly random, the sample size (within limits) only affects the confidence level of the results in that a larger sample will have narrower error bars, and so it will be accepted as a more reliable estimate of what is being measured. A much more important consideration is the sampling methodology, which is where things often go astray. If a large enough sample is drawn randomly from the general population, it cannot help but be representative; in contrast, if sampling is limited to arrivals at airports and hospitals, the sample cannot help but be biased, and will probably overestimate the overall population incidence of infection.


I think there is an outside chance that we might still pull off here what they did in China, and stamp it out. I am not optimistic about it though. And whatever happens now, there is going to be catastrophic economic fallout.

Yes, that’s more than likely the case. Thanks.

“Lockdown”, a deceptively fun word to say
in an American action movie kind of way.
Better start heading
to where we want to be,

The rumors are flying that we are about to have a lockdown. We’ll have to wait and see what the prez says. I do hope that if and when it becomes clear that it is not working (which should be in a week or two) it will be entirely lifted, because otherwise we are truly fucked.

And so it is official: in order to save ourselves, we are committing collective suicide. Well, it is what it is, and who knows, perhaps it will even work. But I would suggest to everyone: prepare yourselves for a possible complete collapse of society.