Saturday 4 April 2020

Known unknowns

They laughed at Donald Rumsfeld, but all we have with regard to this Corona Virus is a bunch of known unknowns.

I haven’t changed my mind;  I still feel it’s 'too soon to know'.  Meanwhile, I’m obeying the rules on the principle that it’s better to be safe than sorry. I’m not doing it to ‘save’ the NHS. I’m with Margaret Ashworth

We don’t know how long the pandemic will last.
We don’t know what the fatality rate is. (We never can know)
We don’t know how long the incubation period is. Speculations vary - a lot.
We don’t know if survivors have immunity; if they do, we don’t know how long it lasts.
We don’t know of a treatment or a cure. 
We don’t know how to make a vaccine.
We don’t know if the remedy is worse than the disease.

We’ll never know if the deaths ‘with’ coronavirus were ‘from’ coronavirus. Even if they weren’t, it’s reasonable to assume that coronavirus hastened or contributed to the death;  it’s unknowable.

The scarcity of tests. Unless there was a way of testing every single person in the world, (every day) we can never rely on the accuracy of statistics. Even if more tests become available, a-symptomatic and incubating cases will slip through the net.

As long as the disease is rampant a ‘negative’ result is only as good as the day of the test; presumably, those with immunity can still transmit the virus through touch, maybe not person to person, but from contaminated surface to person (?)
It comes as a wolf in sheep’s clothing: once in the body, it tricks cells into replicating itself. For a minority this means a hospital stay or worse. Tom Whipple traces the viral journey
A convincing article by Dr Matt Strauss explains why ventilators aren’t really much help, and may even be harmful (Someone kindly  tell Jeremy Bowen)  

We haven't found an effective treatment and we haven't so far invented a vaccine. At the moment, it seems we’re truly stuffed.


  1. Thats perfectly true, yet progress on many of the unknown fronts is moving and the grim stats look hopeful.

    1. Why are we saying the stats are "grim" when we've never batted an eyelid before when a bad dose of flu has carried off 17,000 people in one winter. We're not even close to that figure yet with Covid-19.

      The Lockdown is certainly not progress and may well be making things worse since the countries with the Lockdowns are doing the worst. Sweden, putting sensible measures in place, but still with a functioning economy and society has a falling daily death toll. Over the last three days it has fallen from 69, to 50 to 15. That's not supposed to happen, according to the professional doomsters like Neil Ferguson.

  2. One of the big unknowns is why Northern Italy (but not the rest of Italy) has suffered so very badly. Also Spain. It is a mystery at present. Here is a league table of "deaths per millions" for various countries in Europe and N America:

    OVER 200: Italy, Spain

    100-199: France, Belgium

    50-99: Netherlands, Switzerland, UK,Luxembourg,

    10-49: Sweden, Ireland, Denmark, Portugal, USA, Austria, Germany, Iceland, Norway, Slovenia, Estonia

    1-9: Romania, Macedonia, Greece, Poland, Finland, Canada, Bosnia, Serbia, Montenegro, Croatia, Hungary
    Albania, North Macedonia, Cyprus

    Less than 1: Latvia, Malta

    From all my reading, I would say that air pollution could be a factor in high numbers of deaths since both North Italy and Madrid - epicentres of the pandemic - have very high levels of air pollution. But on the other hand, why not Athens as well - that has high levels of air pollution.

    So too could cultural factors - young people living under the same roof as older people...

    The Chinese migrant work gangs - many with people from the Wuhan region - might have given the
    virus spread "rocket boosters" in both Italy and Spain and maybe other countries. They appear to be absent from Greece, so there is a difference there.

    There must also be a possibility that treating Covid-19 as an exceptional epidemic, might make things worse e.g. if the hysteria leads to all cases being referred to hospital, then infections on hospital premises or patients weakened by Covid-19 will receive other infections.

    The huge variations are certainly a puzzle - one largely ignored by the media, but it is important to consider what might be causing these variations.

    1. Now is the time for the sacred, blessed, "envy of the world" NHS to prove itself. Surely UK will have least deaths per million?

  3. South Korea has solved the problem - lowest number of cases and deaths, because they actually did something after SARS (a Chinese created virus escaping from Wuhan laboratories), and so know how to deal with this kind of thing.

    Our "wonderful NHS" did a study several years ago on how to deal with a pandemic - and did nothing, learnt nothing and the man in charge was - yes that irritating bloke telling us to protect the NHS! The NHS is the useless bureaucratic behemoth run by people who are incompetent, always wanting to hide their mistakes and are ripped off paying excessive prices for pretty much everything.


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