Every ignoramus has become an expert on Covid-19 and epidemics

Every radio commentator has, overnight, become an expert. I can no longer listen for very long to radio news (and during the day I usually listen in the background to Swedish, UK and some US news broadcasts). Not only has every journalist become an expert, but every doctor, every politician and every member of the general public has also become an expert. When a journalist interviews a physician it is always about resources being insufficient. When a journalist interviews a politician it is always about why the politician got it wrong. Every posturing politician either attacks or supports the government actions depending upon whether his party is in power or not. Less than 10% of any broadcast is about reporting the latest news. The rest is inevitably taken up with opposing somebody. Even the “human interest” reports are focused on the human interest being a complaint or criticism of some kind.

So my background radio listening is now self-confined to the music channels (BBC Radio 3 or Swedish P2).

Fortunately, I don’t watch too much TV. TV commentators are a few orders of magnitude worse than their Radio counterparts. I tried last night. It took me less than 30 seconds to switch away from CNN and Fox, but BBC World News lasted over a minute. Rapport and Aktuellt were a little better but not by much.

The opinion columns in the “big” newspapers are not a lot better. The New York Times carried an article of some 2,000 words on Saturday entitled: How to Protect Older People From the Coronavirus.

I am an older person but this article is 2,000 words of drivel, signifying nothing. According to this nonsense verbiage, the way to protect older people consists of the following pearls of wisdom:

  • Familiarize yourself with guidelines and follow them.
  • Cancel nonessential doctor’s appointments if you can.
  • Beware of social isolation.
  • Have a talk with home health aides.
  • Bar visits to nursing homes.
  • Stay active, even in a pandemic.

There is not just one strategy, applicable to every population group or to every country, to limit infection and minimize fatalities. I take it on faith that all governments in power do have that as their objective. I am also taking on faith that government decisions to handle this crisis are themselves made in good faith with the best information to hand. However viruses are not so well understood that even all experts are of one mind. Even our most expert experts, whether on viruses or epidemics, are far from knowing everything.

We don’t even know whether viruses are living things or just a bunch of chemicals accumulated by chance. What we do know from the expert community (represented by the WHO) is

On 31 December 2019, WHO was informed of cases of pneumonia of unknown cause in Wuhan City, China. A novel coronavirus was identified as the cause by Chinese authorities on 7 January 2020 and was temporarily named “2019-nCoV”.

On 30 December 2019, three bronchoalveolar lavage samples were collected from a patient
with pneumonia of unknown etiology – a surveillance definition established following the
SARS outbreak of 2002-2003 – in Wuhan Jinyintan Hospital. Real-time PCR (RT-PCR) assays
on these samples were positive for pan-Betacoronavirus. Using Illumina and nanopore
sequencing, the whole genome sequences of the virus were acquired. Bioinformatic
analyses indicated that the virus had features typical of the coronavirus family and belonged
to the Betacoronavirus 2B lineage. Alignment of the full-length genome sequence of the
COVID-19 virus and other available genomes of Betacoronavirus showed the closest
relationship was with the bat SARS-like coronavirus strain BatCov RaTG13, identity 96%.

The best I can do, I think, for myself and the community is to rely on common sense.

  • Minimize my chances of being infected.
  • Minimize chances of my unknowingly infecting someone else.
  • Avoid hoarding.

 

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