So what is this Chinese Virus, or Covid-19 as they call it, exactly? How deadly, how dangerous?
The obsessive exactness of the Italian statistics, which I have followed every day for a week, seem to me to give a clear answer.
This is not the plague, obviously. Still, it is clearly worse than the flu. It is, as I have written in the past, like a particularly nasty flu, which, whilst not really grave for most people, can kill the “low hanging fruits”, or people with certain kind of vulnerabilities. Let us see some salient points:
- The average death in Italy hovered around 80 for most of the emergency. Mind, the virus also killed some in their Forties and Fifties. But the average around Eighty was, of course, after taking account of these unfortunate people. Therefore, for one who died at 47 there were many who died at well over 80.
- The Virus is clearly more dangerous for people whose immune system is less strong for some reason. If your immune system is fine, the virus can’t do much. If you have issues, it can be a big problem, perhaps with intensive care unit and, in this case, a 30% or 40% probability of death. It seems to me that in Italy, the Virus found many very old people who, whilst still alive, and in some cases reasonably healthy, could not react properly to the virus’ attack. But when you have so many old people, you also have many people who are old and sick already. Therefore, a Country with a big population of old people might have a multiple of the deaths of countries were people kill themselves before that time with booze, donuts or cigarettes. A populatio with a great number of older people obviously makes the “job” of the virus “easier”. In other Countries, like the United Kingdom, you have less old people, but you have many more obese people, which causes diabetes, which is another way the Virus gets at his victims.
- In some cases, the emergency was simply due to neglect. Boris Johnson needed his ICU (though he was never attached to the ventilator) because – having a Country to run in a time of emergency – he neglected to take care of himself properly when he became ill.
In short, you can make this kind of equivalence: imagine that your immune system is your kitchen sink, and that the virus is water pouring on it and locking the drains. If the sink is big enough and the water just stays there at half or less, you wonder what the fuss is about. If the water gets very near to overflow, it’s ICU. If there is overflow, you die. The fact that 99% of people survive does not mean that the disease is not potentially lethal, or is simply “the cold”. But in most cases, the immune defence sink will easily take care of the threat. In the other cases (old age, particularly with comorbidity, diabetes, and the like) it’s the ICU or the grave. This, I think, is what most people find most alarming: one can know how well his system reacts only when he gets the disease, and no one after a certain age can be sure that he is not one of those (tiny, but real) who will be in trouble.
The danger was very real. No flu causes the kind of emergency seen in Bergamo. Not even in the worst flu years. Not even remotely. This was not a cold, and was not a normal flu. I imagine it was a kind of Gollum Flu.
Still, this is not the plague. Most people survive. We can’t all stay locked until a vaccine is ready. The efforts must be directed toward the ICU end of the situation, and sensible rule to protect the general population.
It cannot be permanent lockdown.