THE FOCUS (3/3/2021)
ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY
Of "two weeks to flatten the curve"
By Republic Report
Suppose you are tasked to prepare an analysis of the state of the economy for policy makers. Your analysis will be used as a basis to enact very consequential public policies that will significantly affect the lives of millions of people. You come up with an analysis that the inflation rate will be 70%, skyrocketing from the usual rate of 3-5%, and hence you want the government to increase the interest rates sharply, raise the tax rate substantially, and reduce government spending significantly.
It turns out, your policy prescriptions end up destroying the economy as your analysis was fatally flawed. Your analysis that the inflation rate would be 70% was based on wrong assumptions and projections.
Do you think you would still be employed? Or, are you really a credible economist to begin with? In a fair world, you will be labelled an idiot and have no more business of giving advice on economic policy or teaching economic subjects.
In the Beginning
Enter the coronavirus. The virus was sold to the world as the most dangerous virus—possibly ever. It started out with the chilling 3.4% mortality rate touted by the WHO in February 2020, which became meme throughout the spring and summer of last year. Then came the second piece of Armageddon narrative: the virus could infect up to 80% of the population and could kill 50 million people.
The world was trembled and terrified.
Professor Gabriel Leung, the chair of public health medicine at Hong Kong University and one of the world’s experts on coronavirus epidemics who played a major role in the SARS outbreak in 2002-03, told The Guardian newspaper on 11 February that the virus “attack rate” between 60% and 80%.
“Sixty per cent of the world’s population is an awfully big number,” said Leung.
Even if the fatality rate (number of deaths per infected population) is as low as 1%, which Leung thought was possible once milder cases were taken into account, the death toll could be in the neighborhood of 50 million people.
Not to be outdone, Marc Lipsitch, one of America’s top experts on viruses and the Director of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health told CBS News in February, 2020, that 40-70% of the world's population would become infected — and from that number, 1% of people who got symptoms from COVID-19 could die.
The assumption of 1% fatality rate came from a projection by Professor Neil Ferguson of Imperial College London. With 7.8 billion people on earth in 2020 and a 60% infection rate, a 1% fatality rate means that 46.8 million people would die.
Jim Axelrod from CBS understood this and so he wanted to make sure whether he heard the right number.
Jim Axelrod (CBS): So, the number that I think is grabbing a lot of people is this estimate: 40-70% of the world's adult population could be infected.
Marc Lipsitch: Yes.
Lipsitch: That is a projection, so we will find out if it's accurate as things go on. It is the best estimate that I've been able to make based on a combination of the mathematical models that we use to track and predict epidemics.
Marc Lipsitch again told The Wall Street Journal that "it's likely we'll see a global pandemic" of coronavirus, with 40 to 70 percent of the world's population likely to be infected this year (2020).
They were not alone. Ira Longini, a biostatistician and adviser to the World Health Organization (WHO) predicted that two-thirds of the global population may eventually contract COVID-19. Also the rejoinder was Michael Osterholm, an American infectious disease epidemiologist and director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota who said Coronavirus won’t stop until it hits 60%-70% of people.
Meanwhile, in February, 2020, disease modelers from the CDC suggested between 160 million and 214 million Americans could be infected, and as many as 1.7 million could die. And on March 13, 2020, a panel of experts at the University of California, San Francisco, predicted that between 40 and 70% of Americans could become infected within the next 18 months. Assuming a 1% mortality rate from the coronavirus, and 50% of the US population becoming infected, that means, again, about 1.7 million Americans could die.
Around the same time, on March 11, 2020, German Chancellor Angela Merkel also jumped in. “When the virus is out there, the population has no immunity and no therapy exists, then 60 to 70% of the population will be infected,” said the German leader.
The Germans can do the calculation in their head. With 1% fatality rate that means 500 thousand Germans could die from the virus. It sent them to a panic mode.
One model that got serious attention from many people, including the White House, was a 20-page report on March 16, 2020 from Neil Ferguson's team at Imperial College London. They came up with an assumption that 81% of the American population gets infected –268 million people– and that 0.9% of them die. Their model produced enormous death estimates, 2.2 million Americans.
That is still a lower bound.
The report further says: “In total, in an unmitigated epidemic, we would predict approximately 510,000 deaths in G.B. and 2.2 million in the U.S., not accounting for the potential negative effects of health systems being overwhelmed on mortality.”
If factoring an overwhelmed health care system due to the virus, the number of deaths could be well over 2.2 million. Americans were told to be locked down for two weeks to slow the spread. Although some American still questioned the severity of the virus, the land of the free became the land of the scare.
After the media kept repeating the above projections and the public health officials assured the public of the need for radical restrictions on daily lives, the world practically stopped in March. Countries were in lockdowns. Cities’ downtowns were empty. Schools were closed. Social and religious gatherings abandoned completely. Family gatherings put on hold. Travels banned. Nearly all regular life activities stopped.
(YouTube Video: The coronavirus: Lock down visuals from around the world).
As someone who is a little familiar with numbers, my first attention was on the infection rate. If the number is so high, even with a reasonably low fatality rate, the virus could still cause death to millions of people. But the WHO had already tossed up a mortality rate of 3.4%. Hence, with 1% fatality rate, which was probably reasonable, the key to the severity of the virus lies on the infection rate. That was my thought.
But is the virus truly very contagious?
For the virus to infect up to 80% of the population, it must be easily spread out like crazy. Again, most experts last year thought that each person infected would go on to transmit the virus to about 2.5 other people. The virus was deemed deadly, spread out through the air and could stay in some dead materials for days. In April 2020, a new report by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) concluded that the coronavirus could spread through the air—not just through the large droplets emitted in a cough or sneeze. Hence, the coronavirus could be spread out just by breathing.
Boom! The person next to you could be sending you to the ICU or the cemetery because he or she forgot to stop breathing! People went crazy, wearing masks alone in public parks. Or in their own car. The masking of the world then commenced.
The world has never been the same since then.
More Than One Year Later
A 55-year-old individual from Hubei province in China may have been the first person to have contracted the coronavirus. The case dates back to Nov. 17, 2019, according to the South China Morning Post. The virus was initially reported to have come out of the seafood market in Wuhan. But one case from Dec. 1, 2019 showed an individual who had no link to that seafood market as reported Jan. 20 in the journal The Lancet. So, the seafood market meme is just as fake as Elvis is still alive. In the United States, the first case was reported on January 19, 2020 in Snohomish County, Washington.
It is fair to say that the outbreak of the coronavirus has been more than a year. In fact, it could have been more than 14 months. Given what we were told in the first few months of the outbreak, that the number of people infected by the virus would be astronomically high, it is imperative to examine what has been the case after more than one year of the outbreak.
Unadjusted Number of Cases
Let us begin with the unadjusted infection rate. This is simply the number of cases reported divided by population at any given time. Per February 1, 2021, there were around 103.42 million cases around the world. Divided by the world population, this is an infection rate of 1.33%. Which means, only 133 out of 1000 people contracted the virus. This is extremely low for the virus to be considered a dangerous pandemic.
Pre October 2020
Looking at the infection rates in several countries, it shows that the spread of the virus is also alarmingly low. About 10 months after the outbreak, or on the first day of October 2020, the infection rate in the US was roughly 2% and less than 1% in most European countries. The infection rates in some developing countries such as Algeria, Indonesia, and Nigeria were even much lower, barely reaching at 0.15%.
To continue reading, please download the pdf file. This is a 16-page report filled with a number of graphs and tables. While it is still a draft version, we encourage our readers to download it. The first part of the report deals with the infection rate while the second installment will analyze the fatality rate of the virus. Thank you.
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