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 moment: 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 first did winter sports in Austria and then 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. And he lays the blame of the worldwide pandemic on China, because 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 are necessary. The nursing homes must have sufficient capacity, because a boy like him can't be nursed by his old parents.

Is the virus in our country on a summer leave? In any case, it will still be present among us after the summer. Because now it turns out that people who only have had mild symptoms of corona, didn't build up much immunity, either. Meanwhile, the virus is mutating all the time, for better or for worse. We hope a second wave will give us less problems, because we will be better prepared.
We're going to supple the corona measures. The primary schools are open again, terraces of coffee houses will open soon, and public transport wants to use the normal timetables. It's a pity we'll have to wear face masks in trains and buses. In the cities we can only walk along prescribed lines, indicated by yellow arrows. So the suppled measures aren't really pleasures.
After new research it's evident that people are primarily infected when they come together in groups in rooms with bad ventilation, not by direct physical contact but by aerosols that keep floating in the air. When we're sure about this, we can replace the pernicious social distancing measure by a simple ventilation measure.

"Never let a good crisis go to waste", sir Winston Churchill once said. Now we have a unique opportunity to tackle air pollution and use less petrol. Make travelling in airplanes more expensive, and facilitate working at home. Form an army of reservists who can help during epidemics, like the munks and nuns of a hundred years ago.
Hug the sick and the weak, as soon as we are allowed to. Then go to the football stadiums again together, without worrying. But keep at a proper distance from wild nature, lest new viruses appear again and again.