click here to go to my homepage

The Corona pandemic

   I recently travelled in an almost empty bus through the hills of Limburg. Some tapes protected the driver against the passengers, because these might have been infected with the corona virus. There was only one other passenger, an old woman from abroad. She was sitting in a shrunk-up posture at the rear of the bus, with a shawl before the mouth. What was she so afraid of?
I thought of the info about the epidemic on the website of the Dutch Broadcast Foundation, the NOS. Some reader asked whether an infected person can recover, and the NOS gave the 'reassuring' answer that 'half of the infected recover'. They 'illustrated' this with the numbers of recorded infections and recoveries at that day: about thousand infections and five hundred recoveries. No wonder people get afraid.
In reality, the chance that an infected person dies from the virus is much less than fifty-fifty: the experts of the British government estimate it's less than 1 percent. Even for persons of at least eighty years of age the chance is less than 10 percent. In most of the cases the infection causes only mild illness and is not recorded. Recoveries aren't recorded, either, or only after a long time.

However, the virus can make people very ill. This happened to a Dutchman who did winter sports in Austria and after that carnival in the Dutch province of Brabant. He got fever and a dry cough, and was extremely tired. He and his contacts were locked in quarantine, to prevent situations as bad as in Bergamo in Italy.
Since president Trump denied entry into America to almost all European people, trying in vain to keep the epidemic at our side of the ocean, the mass media communicated about the corona virus only. If somewhere some cat was named Corona, this was a hot news item in the newspapers. The people panicked and began hoarding crackers and toilet paper.
But was corona worse than an ordinary winter flu that causes a lot of deaths of old people every year? Didn't much more people die of other causes, like cancer and heart diseases? Because we will all die some day. Only a healthy life style can postpone that moment.

We can't say Donald Trump tackled the corona crisis well, because in the United States too many people have died. But he did make some observations worth thinking about. For example, he said much more people die by car accidents than by corona, but still we don't prevent people from using their cars. He also says the cure should not be worse than the disease, talking about the unemployment and poverty as consequences of the lockdown by order of the authorities in states like California. Of course, he lays the blame of the worldwide pandemic on China. He says the dictatorial regime reacted too slowly upon the outbreak of it in Wuhan.
President Bolsonaro of Brazil, too, would prefer to cancel all corona measures that the governors of the states have introduced, because these measures would make too many small enterprises crash at short notice.
Recently, a professor of philosophy said on television that most people of a hundred years ago would not even have recognized the corona pandemic as a separate disease, whereas the Spanish flu then harassed the world and made many young people die. However, the Spanish flu made most of its victims in its second wave, and a second wave of the corona pandemic may be coming, too.

While in the Netherlands we are rising slowly but surely from the 'intelligent lockdown' and entering the 'social distancing society', I gratefully look back at the freedom we enjoyed. The coffee houses were closed, but I could walk the dog and travel in buses everywhere. I didn't have to wear face masks, we were even advised not to wear them. The authorities only said we should keep each other at arm's length and wash our hands frequently, and they relied upon it. In the Catholic countries of Europe, a much stricter lockdown had to be maintained by the police, because in these countries people don't trust authorities nor politicians.
The virologists cooperating with our prime minister Mark Rutte wanted to have the virus circulate among young people in a controlled way to build up immunity of groups. The restricted lockdown should help to stop the exponential growth and flatten the curve of the number of new corona patients in the hospitals and guarantee the nursing.
At the same time, the people who are being nursed in nursing homes had to be isolated in a strict quarantine. This is applicable to one of my sons, too, so I understand that measures were necessary. The nursing homes must have sufficient capacity, because a boy like my son can't be nursed by his old parents.

Is the virus in our country on a summer leave? In any case, it will be back after the summer. It turns out people who've had only mild corona complaints, aren't very immune, either. Meanwhile, the virus is mutating, into a milder variant or into a worse one. We hope a second wave will bring less problems, because we will be better prepared.
The corona measures have been mitigated: schools opened before the summer holiday, terraces are open again, too, though with restrictions, and public transport has the normal time tables. Alas, we have to wear a mouth mask in the bus, and in the shops there are prescribed walking routes. We even have to keep distance from other people in the open air. So the mitigation doesn't immediately make life more pleasant.
New research shows infection happens for the most part when groups of people come together in rooms with bad ventilation, not by direct contact but by aerosols, droplets that keep floating in the air. Then we can replace the pernicious social distancing by a relatively simple ventilation measure.

The epicenter of the virus is now in America. In Europe, there are new outbreaks, too, for which partial lockdowns are considered adequate. However, ever more people think the measures aren't proportional at all. They suspect there is a deep state that wants to control us from a laboratory. They no longer accept to be locked up and don't want a vaccine they don't trust.
"Never let a good crisis go to waste", Winston Churchill once said. We have an unique opportunity to tackle air pollution. Perhaps working at home will stay facilitated. But what will we do if in the future a new virus emerges, if we don't keep at a distance from wild nature?
Most important is there is enough capacity in the nursing homes when there is a sudden outbreak. So we have to form an army of reservists, like the monks and nuns in olden times, to receive the new patients. Then we need not isolate the sick and the weak, because someone can look them up. Then we need not beforehand fear we're infectious, so we can walk to the football stadium together.