Corona Fears, and why Action is to be Preferred

Link to Google Doc

About COVID-19, or the coronavirus

This has been everywhere the last weeks, which means that I won’t add something specific to news about the virus. Especially since I am in no way an expert on epidemics and viruses.

I still feel that there are some things that are worth discussing in the context of the virus that gives me a somewhat bitter aftertaste. The way this virus has been handled has showed us how essentially unprepared governments and individuals are for these kinds of events. What I find is most striking is the unwillingness of governments and central organs to act.

Many governments have been taking this virus lightly, and not many precautionary actions have been taken. Not in Europe or in the US. Most have been talking about this as some kind of problem that would be confined to Asia, or China. But as we have seen in this global interconnected world, any problem that the eastern hemisphere has is a problem for the western hemisphere as well. I am all for global trade and flexibility, but it seems as though we aren’t really ready for it. We haven’t thought about the potential side effects of this global system, and when trouble comes to town, we have no way of dealing with it.

I’m thoroughly disappointed in the WHO, which could’ve helped contain this problem by recommending governments to ban travel earlier. Why didn’t they? It seems as if many governments are afraid of policies that would disturb the ongoing economic activity, even if it is a huge risk to not disturb them as well. Of course, there is a trade-off between taking action and not taking action. Taking action when it isn’t necessary can cause huge effects on the economy, but the problem is that we can’t know if it is unnecessary until long after. When it might be too late.

What should’ve been done then? I think that governments should restrict travel as soon as possible, especially to countries that have multiple confirmed cases of the virus. The damage to equities and other securities has already been done, so governments should not let the possibility of stock plunges stop them from doing what is necessary. On top of that I think it is time to think about other measures that may help in the coming months.

One of the more interesting, and maybe outright morally wrong, ideas is to purposefully infect some important individuals now. Seeing as there’s already heavy pressures on Swedish hospitals, before the virus hits. Then just imagine what it will be like when the virus comes to Sweden, the hospitals won’t be able to handle all the patients. The risk of doctors, nurses, etc of becoming infected is very high as well which would put additional strains on the system. Which is why we could consider infecting doctors, nurses, and other important persons for this country’s infrastructure, with the coronavirus now. This would mean that most of them could recover before large parts of the Swedish population becomes infected and that they can work without themselves becoming sick. This could be one way of reducing the effects of the virus, but there are some caveats. We don’t really know whether one becomes immune after having the virus once, there are even some reports of patients getting the virus a second time and then dying of heart problems etc. (We do not know the validity of these reports, but still) We are also not sure of the actual impact that the coronavirus may have in Sweden, but as I’ve said many times before; under uncertainty it is better to take precautionary action, to hedge, and lose some than to wait and lose it all.

Also, the voluntary infections could be compensated for to make them more attractive. The idea came from Robin Hanson’s blog, Overcoming Bias. A blog which I highly recommend for anyone interested in out-of-the-box thinking.   

Until some healthy actions are taken, I will start to stock up on some good food and beer!

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