The Government Response to Covid-19 and Some Numbers

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I wasn’t going to write anything on this subject, since there is hardly a shortage of articles everywhere you look, but some of the things I have been reading online have prompted me to put this up. This post concerns the measures put in place by the UK government for the protection of the public. But first, a caveat. It is a commentary on the UK response ONLY. I do not know enough of the details of how other governments have reacted to comment fairly on those.

And please understand also, this is not any sort of commentary on the financial aptitude or ineptitude of their response, which is another kettle of worms entirely.

The prime difficulty of any measures taken is that there is not one immediate and obvious action that can be taken to protect the public. The issue, of course, is that we need to meet, as far as possible, two opposing objectives. First, we need to develop as much immunity in the wider population as possible and second, we need to protect from infection those who are recognised as vulnerable. And to satisfy the first objective, we need to expose large numbers to the virus but to satisfy the second, we need to shield as many as possible from it.

And these objectives are so different that it is impossible to meet both at the same time, but are both so important that each needs to be addressed. Like many things in real life, there is no perfect solution and the best that can be put forward is a compromise of some sort.

And each person’s opinion on which is the more important will be coloured by their own circumstances. Those with vulnerable relatives, or who fall into that group themselves, will likely favour protecting the public as far as possible for as long as possible. Some others who may not have those concerns, may be more likely to favour ‘getting it over with’. Although most will, naturally, want to meet both objectives at once.

It is no wonder that the government has been caught in two minds over how to react, and I rather doubt any other make-up of government would have either found it any easier or managed to square that particular circle.

And what is incredibly unhelpful is a strong partisan approach on social media especially, to the way it is being dealt with. There is always a tendency for the extremes of one side or the other of the political spectrum to denigrate any decision made by the other, and to exaggerate or invent motives for them, and I am seeing this more and more on social media. I may not agree with a particular course of action taken by the government, but to ascribe that action to a policy of deliberately killing the vulnerable, to name just one opinion I’ve read, is both ridiculous and highly insulting to both the government and the public. And hardly conducive to encouraging people to support the measures put in place.

Their response has been hampered not only by trying to find the impossible – a solution that accomplishes both the goals just mentioned, but also by having no real idea for some while how many infections there actually were. It was recognised the figures were under-reported, due to the inability to test the entire population for infection, but no one seemed to really know what they were and, for a while, what the infection rate was.

But how many people are currently infected?

The published figures may actually give a false impression of both the virus’s spread and how lethal it actually is. Depending on how effectively authorities gather the data, there is always going to be under-reporting of the infection rates. Those who self isolate are not tested, nor are they included in official figures. Even those displaying definite symptoms are not tested unless they satisfy various criteria, such as being admitted to hospital, or in a position where testing is seen as necessary, such as high profile involvement with the public. It is even reported that front-line NHS staff are not necessarily tested if they fall ill.

A far more realistic picture might be gained from extrapolating from the death rate. If we take the, admittedly still vague, official estimate of between one and three percent mortality rate for the virus, and perhaps making a judgement call on the efficiency and effectiveness of the health system in place in that particular country, we may get a closer figure. As of yesterday, the UK figure was 55 deaths which would equate to somewhere between 1,800 and 5,500 people infected, most likely closest to the higher figure in the UK. Sadly, the higher the figures, the more accurate the extrapolation is likely to be.

But even these figures are probably far lower than reality, since those who die will have been infected with the virus for some time, so those figures probably lag around a week behind. And on the basis that known infections are doubling approximately every four days, that figure of 5,500 is probably closer to 22,000 and showing no sign of slowing down.

Wishing everybody well.

32 thoughts on “The Government Response to Covid-19 and Some Numbers

  1. That is worrying. Stay safe!
    In India the problem is more from the people’s side. Somehow a few people managed to escape from the area where they were quarantined and infected about a dozen others. But considering they travelled huge distances, there is no knowing what may soon come out.
    I wonder why they were running? They weren’t in a prison.
    But compared to europe and other infected regions, India is better off.

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    1. I wonder. From my visits to India I rather fear there will be some big numbers appearing before too long. Once the virus gets into places such as the slum areas of Kolkata, it may prove difficult to beat. I hope that won’t be the case, but it seems so highly infectious.

      Stay safe yourself, Ishaan.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Something worth considering is that a hospital located in jaipur has cured 4 people admitted there using a certain combination of various medicines. The results came in fast enough. One of them was cured in under three days using it. I am no medical expert, but if a medicine cures 4 people quickly, then my common sense says that it must work. There must be serious research into it.
        I personally don’t think the virus will spread much here. The health agencies seem to be tracking every person who came in contact with infected people, and people started taking precautions as soon as the first case appeared here. But yes, the slums can become an area infected rather easily.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Mick, I think you stated the obstacles so clearly. These contradicting objectives make it impossible for a government to fully protect its people.

    Thank you for this post. Your calm approach to this situation is refreshing. Too many in the media are provoking fear and exacerbating our worries. Since, I am currently out of my own country, the mixed messages in the news leaves me confused. Your post, although not about the United States clarifies much for me.

    Thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s fantastic if it helps.

      Calmness seems to be one of those things in short supply at the moment, especially on social media (hey, who’d have thought it?), which was really the impetus to my writing this. I’m used to all the hysterical hatred when it comes to politics (after all, we’ve got Brexit, and you’ve got Trump), but this is, quite frankly, not the time for political point scoring.

      Hope you get some comprehensive and comprehensible news before too long.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. The governments have no idea how many people are infected, Mick. Our situation is the same as yours, unless you are admitted to hospital, they don’t test you for this virus. Here in South Africa there is panic but that is probably partly to do with the significant number of people who have HIV, hepatitis and TB in this country and partly to do with the poverty and poor living circumstances of our people which make self isolation impossible.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. This is a well-balanced post Mick. As a libertarian (with a small l), I find myself torn on this issue. On the one hand its obviously correct for the UK government to ask those infected (or those who may be infected) to isolate themselves. Its also right that anyone found to be spreading the virus (knowingly) needs to be punished for doing so. I am, however concerned about the idea of those with serious health conditions and/or those over 70, being asked to potentially isolate for upto 3 months. Whilst this could protect them from the virus, I can foresee all kinds of mental health problems arising, with people being stuck in their own 4 walls. I hope (and its my understanding) that such groups will be able to exercise outside, however this still leaves a potentially big issue of isolation. Of course there is online (and the good old telephone), however there is, when all is said and done no substitute for sitting with friends over a pint or 2. I think that people at particular risk need to be treated as adults and have the dangers explained to them. But, when all is said and done people should be allowed to potentially put their own lives in danger (with the proviso that by so doing they don’t endanger the lives of others). We have a strong liberal tradition in this country which runs through all parties. Its necessary (regregretably) to impose some restrictions, but we should be careful that in the (laudable and correct) attempt to tackle the virus, that we weigh carefully the balance of public protection with the rights of the individual. I speak as someone with elderly relatives. Best, Kevin

    Liked by 1 person

    1. And a well-balanced reply, Kevin. While I know our politics are different, I suspect they are not too far apart in many ways. My understanding is also that those in isolation would be allowed out to exercise, which would be a considerable relief. I’m sure if two people chose to exercise together, for example, no one would attempt to force them apart. It would be a little impractical to enforce, in any case.

      Hopefully, that would be where their circle of support came in, too. I was on the phone to my stepmother today, who is 92. I went to see her on Saturday, when we made a point of sitting apart and generally not getting too close to each other. But we agreed today that I wouldn’t come round for the time being. Apart from any other consideration, I would never forgive myself if I passed the virus on to her. But i shall now phone her at least every other day, and my stepsister will still see her occasionally. She has people who can get her shopping, and volunteers who stay in touch. It’s frustrating, but she is sure she’ll cope. For those who use computers, though, there in Skype, for example, which we will use to stay in touch with some people. That feels a bit more sociable, somehow.

      Stay well, Mick

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks Mick. I hope that, you, your stepmother and all your family and friends remain safe and well also. As regards aThanks Mick, I hope that you, your stepmother, sister and the rest of your family remain safe and well. I shall refrain from visiting my own mother at the moment for the same reason you sight for not visiting your stepmother, but will, of course keep in touch. All the very best, Kevinkype, whils

        Liked by 1 person

                1. It will be interesting to see what the scientific modeling reveals when it is published.

                  Whatever the modeling says (and we must, of course pay attention to that), I remain concerned about civil liberties. I’ve just read an article in “The Times” in which a Downing Street spokesman refused to deny that papers may be required to be out on the streets. Whilst (as I said in an earlier comment), there is good reason for punishing those who deliberately spread COBID19, and asking those who suspect they may be infected to self isolate, requiring people to carry papers feels very unBritish to me.

                  Best, Kevin Virus-free. http://www.avast.com

                  Liked by 1 person

  5. The reason making the most sense to self isolate here in the United States is the affect on the health care workers. A spike in cases would put them at grave risk as we are not prepared. And fatigue leads to a breakdown of the immune system. If they, the first line of defense fall, then the fight is lost.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is a large reason over here, too. We have an amazing health system, but it has been under-funded for some while, now, and is going to be really stretched once we start seeing large numbers of patients.

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  6. I have only heard of the UK government saying that they want to develop immunity in people against this virus. This itself might be debated and motives might be questioned. As for under-reporting, I guess all governments are like this. This issue is being raised here as well. But who can say for sure? The fact is almost all govt. have been caught off guard.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I live in the States, but it is still refreshing to read a reasonable, well-thought out post about the virus that explains different ways of looking at it. That’s rare these days, and very much appreciated.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Very well stated, Mick! I won’t ring in, for I don’t have any solutions other than that people need to use common sense and balance, think for themselves no matter what the government says! Keep safe, my friend!

    Liked by 1 person

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