Thoughts on Corona.

How can I add any value to the discussion around Corona? I do not pretend I can, but I can use this to vent.

I live in Munich, Germany. Germany is a rich country with decent and universal healthcare, and – as I have just learned from some well researched Corona articles (must read) – a country with one of the highest ratios of hospital beds to inhabitants.

The government

I can tell you what Germany does not have, though: A government that is prepared and acts in the best interests of its citizens. As of today, March 16th, you can still have dinner in bars in Munich, despite the fact that in Italy, hundreds are dying per day due to the virus, the healthcare system there is completely overwhelmed and the country is on complete lockdown in an almost complete strict quarantine.

All of this makes you wonder: Is there really no contingency plan on a nationwide level for a pandemic? No? … Are you fucking kidding me?

I mean, for one, the variables are pretty clear: Why then, isn’t there a clear „if this-then-that“ scenario developed? Why is there seemingly no government that has a scenario plan (apart from apparently the Chinese, who, admittedly through the benefits of an autocracy, seem to be able to get this under control)?

This really is no black swan. The writing has been on the fucking wall for decades now, there is even a fricking Netflix show out that illustrates how some scientists are fighting to prevent a future pandemic (released end of 2019/early 2020..). This one is not even that bad. Imagine a virus with 5, 10, 15% mortality!

Why did Angela Merkel not step in front of the nation 1 or 2 weeks ago and say:

„This is what is happening. We have planned for this. Now we are going to put into place the following measures, which will suck, but trust me, the alternative sucks A LOT more… ….Also, we are increasing the number of hospital beds, are redeploying nurse personnel, increasing stocks of disinfectants, facemasks etc etc“

There is an app for that…

Instead, what did happen were piecemeal actions that TO THIS DAY are far away from a complete lockdown – which however would be necessary. If I understood correct earlier today in Merkel’s press conference, you can still go and get your hair cut. (I do need a haircut)

This is obviously short-sighted, both economically as well as from a bodycount perspective. Containing NOW is far cheaper and will be done quicker than containing later.

What is the problem with our leadership, which also are only people it seems?

Generally, as Bartlett said:

The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function.

A. Bartlett
This is literally from a presentation I have held.

The people

Apparently, a pandemic also brings out the best and worst in people.

Let’s start with worst: As in idiots who are hoarding food and toilet paper. Which in turn of course leads to others having to naturally think about whether they – if they ever get some TP – need to buy more than they usually do, since they cant be assured that they will ever get some again. And so begins the downward spiral, that, if shit goes awry, could end in looting and god knows what. And I mean, honestly, either people use waaaayyy too much toilet paper on a standard dump, or there must be thousands of households out there that now have a toilet paper runway of about 2 years. When they come out of hiding they are going to feel like Will Smith in „I Am Legend“.

Then there is the group of – mostly young – people, who didn’t pay attention and apparently have no relatives, or otherwise think that since they are likely to survive they don’t have to give a shit. Which again, cannot be completely be blamed on the dumb masses, but rather on a government that does not communicate well. Because, even if you do survive it, you really don’t want to catch it, because from everything we know it is a miserable thing to go through, and there may even be the chance of having some lasting problems post-recovery.

Add to that the possibility of this thing mutating into something even more deadly and by now you should have understood why we have every interest in containing a spread yesterday.

Or add to that the fact that the healthcare system of even the richest of nations is likely to collapse under the onslaught of an uncontrolled outbreak, which will increase mortality of the virus further, and will make other illnesses suddenly deadly as well, since there isn’t going to be any capacity in hospitals for treatment.

Personally, I am very much worried for my parents who are dead center in the high risk group. Leaving them the other day, without knowing how the next weeks turn out was gut wrenching.

I am also, but significantly less, worried about my economic future and that of my company. The business we are in will be affected the first by the spending cuts of many firms. We are likely looking at a major recession and one that will hit worldwide. Who knows what is going to happen to already stumbling countries like Italy and what that is going to do to Europe and the European Community.

Is it bringing out out good things in people?

I certainly hope so, and there are bright spots: people are offering help to their elderly neighbors. Companies are becoming super-flexible about letting people work from home. We suddenly have time to talk to friends and focusing on 1-1 exchanges. As I am finding out, that is an interesting way to get to know someone. People are getting creative with yoga studios and universities doing online sessions via Zoom and other tools. It will be interesting to see which business models emerge from this time.

Nonetheless, we are likely to change our view on mass events for a very long time, as, even if this has passed, people will be reluctant to go into confined spaces again (prediction, we will see). As a world community, let’s hope this will change us for the better: with institutions, governments, scientists and healthcare personnel working better and faster together. In Homo Deus, Yuval Harari argues that he thinks that as a species we will always win against a virus, because science will always be faster than the virus.

Humanity has been winning the war against epidemics because in the arms race between pathogens and doctors, pathogens rely on blind mutations while doctors rely on the scientific analysis of information.

Yuval Harari, In the Battle Against Coronavirus, Humanity Lacks Leadership, Time Magazine

He thinks that atomic bombs and a heating climate are more of a threat to humanity. I just googled his work again to see exactly what he wrote and found his newest article on the topic.

Let me therefore end my little essay and refer you to someone far more knowledgeable than myself. Thanks for reading!

Many people blame the coronavirus epidemic on globalization, and say that the only way to prevent more such outbreaks is to de-globalize the world. Build walls, restrict travel, reduce trade. However, while short-term quarantine is essential to stop epidemics, long-term isolationism will lead to economic collapse without offering any real protection against infectious diseases. Just the opposite. The real antidote to epidemic is not segregation, but rather cooperation.

Yuval Harari | Link to: Time Magazine

And don’t forget:

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