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Good: Rumors whole US set to go into two week quarantine lockdown. Bad: UK recycles old flu policy to come up with Very Stupid Plan

 Scuttlebutt that crossed my desk today says “”US to have nationwide quarantine for 14 days'”. h/t Scott.

I hope this is correct. My reply:”Brilliant”. Finally, a hint of an attitude determined to beat this. It’s so refreshing after all the defeatist fatalism telling us this is a disease we have to have. I predict if the US does this, other countries will follow. This is the fastest way to get borders open, and people back to work, and reduce the death toll. Flights will be able to reopen among countries that have done this and done this well.

UPDATE: Officially denied already? The Whitehouse has been forced to deny national shutdown rumours.(A search for “Rumor US two week lockdown” turns up almost no news items?) Don’t believe anything til it is officially denied… but don’t believe the rumours. The fact is there are no facts.

Forgive me if I repeat: A virus is just an inanimate chemical code. It can’t reproduce and it can’t repair itself. To beat it, all we have to do is out-wait it. Without machinery to copy the code it will degrade into foodsafe ingredients. Air, oxygen, time and light will crack the code. The longer we feed it, the stronger it gets.

A perfect quarantine needs two weeks. An imperfect one will need longer. But giving up social contact, income, parties and holidays isn’t the end of the world. Obviously, some people will bear a larger cost than others. (Hope temporary measures can look out for them). But everyone will bear a smaller cost in the long run if we go hard, go early and get serious.

No more feeding it free bodies. Except apparently in the UK, where that is actual policy…. ? Seriously?

UK recycles old measles/flu policy to come up with Very Stupid (Sounding) Plan

UPDATED: UK Local, Stephen Wilde warns it was a bit more complicated and Hanage at The Guardian spun a side comment for political effect. But the stories about the Herd Immunity Plan went right across the Atlantic and popped up downunder too and given what Sir Patrick Vallance said, seem to fit.

The U.K.’s Coronavirus ‘Herd Immunity’ Debacle

Ed young The Atlantic:  The country is not aiming for 60 percent of the populace to get COVID-19, but you’d be forgiven for thinking so based on how badly the actual plan has been explained.

This sstill sounds like the influenza “we have to have” plan. Not the deadly virus plan:

With the peak of the pandemic still weeks away, the time hadn’t come yet for stricter measures, Johnson and his advisers said. They worried about “behavioral fatigue”—if restrictions come into force too early, people could become increasingly uncooperative and less vigilant, just as the outbreak swings into high gear. (As of yesterday, the U.K. has identified 1,391 cases, although thousands more are likely undetected.) And while suppressing the virus through draconian measures might be successful for months, when they lift, the virus will return, said Sir Patrick Vallance, the U.K.’s chief scientific adviser.

To avoid a second peak in the winter, Vallance said the U.K. would suppress the virus “but not get rid of it completely,” while focusing on protecting vulnerable groups, such as the elderly. In the meantime, other people would get sick. But since the virus causes milder illness in younger age groups, most would recover and subsequently be immune to the virus. This “herd immunity” would reduce transmission in the event of a winter resurgence. On Sky News, Vallance said that “probably about 60 percent” of people would need to be infected to achieve herd immunity.

 Half-baked quarantines don’t work very well. But a serious quarantine can save thousands of lives. Why not aim high?

What is Boris thinking? Why would anyone aim for “Herd Immunity” to a disease people don’t may not stay immune to?

Unlike many diseases Coronaviruses are not ones humans appear to develop lifelong protection to. It’s hard to imagine that the UK is seriously going to hide away 70 year olds and over for “four months” of isolation to protect them, but then sacrifice some 30 – 70 year olds while letting the virus run wild through the most productive sector of the population in the hope of creating herd immunity that might only last months. Someone needs to explain to Boris that this really is not Influenza. Antibodies to swine flu can last 50 years. Catching it properly can give lifelong protection. With Coronavirus, after we kill off the fragile under 70s, in a few years time, next year we can do it all again. Age and time will generate a new pool of target victims in regular cycles (until we get a treatment, vaccine, antiviral, etc).

Ed young The Atlantic: ...we don’t know how long immunity against the new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, lasts. When people are infected with OC43 and HKU1—two other coronaviruses that regularly circulate among humans and cause common colds—they stay immune for less than a year. By contrast, immunity against the first SARS virus (from 2003) holds for much longer. No one knows whether SARS-CoV-2 will hew to either of these extremes…

Trying to manage this viral caseload is macabre, high risk roulette.

The margin for error is tiny (how many should we infect this week?)– At risk is the loss of control of hospital beds. Even if the UK doesn’t lose control of the hospital ICU situation, even a 1% death rate will kill hundreds of thousands of people, and if they do lose control, deaths could be 4 to 10 times higher.

This is gobsmacking: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/13/herd-immunity-will-the-uks-coronavirus-strategy-work

To reach herd immunity, about 60% of the population would need to get ill and become immune, according to Sir Patrick Vallance, the government’s chief scientific adviser. Though it could need as much as 70% or more. Even scientists who understand the strategy are anxious.

 I’m with this man:

I’m an epidemiologist. When I heard about Britain’s ‘herd immunity’ coronavirus plan, I thought it was satire

Your house is on fire, and the people whom you have trusted with your care are not trying to put it out. Even though they knew it was coming, and could see what happened to the neighbours as they were overwhelmed with terrifying speed, the UK government has inexplicably chosen to encourage the flames, in the misguided notion that somehow they will be able to control them.

When I first heard about this, I could not believe it. I research and teach the evolution and epidemiology of infectious disease at Harvard’s Chan School of Public Health. My colleagues here in the US, even as they are reeling from the stumbling response of the Donald Trump administration to the crisis, assumed that reports of the UK policy were satire – an example of the wry humour for which the country is famed. But they are all too real.

…The UK should not be trying to create herd immunity, that will take care of itself. Policy should be directed at slowing the outbreak to a (more) manageable rate. What this looks like is strong social distancing. Anyone who can work from home, should. People who do not yet work from home should be encouraged to do so. Employers should guarantee sick pay, including for contacts of known cases, and do everything they can to discourage the practice of “presenteeism”. You should not shake hands. Not with anyone. You should wash your hands for 20 seconds several times a day and whenever you enter your home (or someone else’s home). Call a halt to large gatherings. Educate people about masks and how they should be reserved for the medical professionals who need them. All this and more should have started weeks ago.

In other news, Louis Vuitton owner will use perfume factories to start making hand sanitiser. Nice.

Everyone is closing borders now. Shame they didn’t do it three weeks ago!  Germany closes borders to try to slow virusGermany’s neighbours such as Poland, the Czech Republic and Denmark have already closed borders or introduced severe restrictions.


This could end up being biotech’s great moment. But bureaucracy’s dumbest mistake.



Coronavirus Background: ☀ The Demographics: the young are spared, but the severity increases with age, and slightly more for men than women. ☀ The Ro is 2 – 3 and exponential curves are steep. How Coronavirus kills: why the number of ICU units matters so much. ☀ Illness progression: Dry coughs and Fevers, Aches. In 15% of people, by day 5 breathing trouble starts. In 3% (?) by day 8 they may need an ICU (intensive care unit). ☀ The good case of Singapore but the ominous calculations of how fast the ICU beds may run out. ☀ The story of how American Samoa avoided Flu Deaths with quarantine in 1918. ☀

Economics: ☀ The huge impact on the Chinese economy, the awful case of Iran.☀

Beware UN advice:Ethiopian WHO chief was part of China’s debt trap diplomacy ☀

Stats and Data: John Hopkins Live Map Worldometer


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