Reflection On A Disappeared Newspaper Article
I wish I could find again an article with very useful information about the virus (my VPN is a real Hillary tonight, but the article might have disappeared behind a paywall, too). It was really informative.
The information that had struck me was twofold:
- The virus was with us much earlier than previously expected, meaning several weeks; having all the time in the world to gain momentum.
- This means that the virus had several weeks to spread undisturbed, all over the worst affected Province (Bergamo). The article stated that, for this reason, up to 25% of the entire province might have already contracted the virus. In short, the message is that it may well be that the doors were closed when the horses had largely bolted, which is bad; but that herd immunity is not so far away, which is very good.
The article struck me as very sensible, because it seemed to me to explain so well what has, in fact, happened: the fact that Italy had so many deaths among people in hospital and in nursing homes (a phenomenon that is becoming more evident by the day) is easily explained not only with the high number of old people in Italy, but with the fact that these people are still connected with their social fabric: their relatives and friends actually visit them, giving an insidious virus like the Chinese one every opportunity to penetrate the nursing care structures and make a massacre (I seem to remember the affected nursing homes had a 20% death rate in weeks, but again I can’t find the article anymore). Even easier was the virus’ “work” when we think of the high number of old people living either with their families and/or with home carers: again, leaving a great number of old people in daily, close contact with younger ones, for weeks, without anyone having the slightest idea of what is happening. Italy is a very inter-generational Country. Therefore, it makes sense that Italy would give the virus both the time and the opportunity to kill more in Italy than everywhere else.
Another number I read around: the city of Bergamo has around 120,000 inhabitants. It appears they now have 2,000 unemployed house carers. It tells you something about how easy it was for many old people to contract the virus.
Point 2 also makes, it seems to me, a lot of sense. If you follow the curve of the deaths and infections in Italy another element appears clear: the percentage of new infections compared to tested people trends downwards as the number of tests increases greatly. The number of deaths is fairly constant. Why is this? If you ask me (and not only me), this is because the virus is killing now people who were infected two or three weeks ago (one week to develop symptoms, one or two weeks for these symptoms to get worse and worse, with hospitalisation, then death in, likely, a matter of days). One can say that there are less people infected because people stay at home, and this certainly has contributed…. but…. but… could it be that the virus has slowed down because, say… hundreds of thousands in the Province of Bergamo alone (1.1 m) have in the meantime been infected and have recovered without even noticing, and the virus has less and less victims to target and/or use as vectors?
Is herd immunisation a pious wish? If this is so, how is it that Countries like Britain, who allow everyone, who has to, to actually go to work, have no noticeably different pattern than countries like Italy, where your neighbours count the time you take out the dog, alone, for a short walk, and woe to you it is beyond the strictest necessity? Do people in Italy realise that, here in the UK, there are also people actually taking the train, getting on the tube, and going to work in a normal office, to the tune of perhaps 10% or 15% of the normal, pre-crisis number? This has been going on for a while now. Why are corpses not piling up on the streets? Will we have Armageddon in a week or two? Or will we discover that the curve is near to flattening in the UK, too, which many people actually begin to hope already?
I do not know what the answer to these questions is. But one thing is clear to me: at some point we will have to isolate the old and frail, and ask the others to keep social distancing as much as practical, and reopen the damn factories and restaurants and shops.
Then we can’t discover that we have saved some lives, whilst destroying many more.