Within 24 hours we have witnessed α dramatic 180 degrees turnaround. Boris Johnson, in view of the limited NHS resources has discarded the theory of herd immunity to put the UK on a lockdown for at least 3 weeks.  Hallelujah. On the other side of the Atlantic during the White House Coronavirus daily press Conference, the US President went on an unbridled incoherent tirade stating, among other things, that the price of the cure was not worth it, in other words the number of lives lost to the virus does not warrant the economic loss of paralyzing the economy. And in the absence of Dr Anthony Fauci the head of NIAID, which was immediately spotted by the media, the epidemic self-appointed War commander in chief used the questions to reveal to the public the depth of his ignorant thoughts.

  • The cure is worse than the disease
  • We have over 50,000 deaths from influenza, but we do not stop the economy
  • We have close to 40,000 car accident deaths and we do not stop the traffic
  • This country was not created to be shut down
  • Etc.

What transpires is that he believes that letting a few thousand die is a much cheaper proposition, than the cost of shutting down the economy. Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick supporting Donald Trump’s proposal for a quicker end to the shutdowns, that have stalled the economy, suggested that not only himself but “lots of grandparents out there” are willing to take a chance against the COVID-19 coronavirus in order to save the economy. The allusion is that seniors make up 80% of all U.S. deaths. Are the thoughts of the pro-life movement gone? Is that politics or a hidden return to nazi thinking.

The problem is that slogans, whether they come from the President or his supporters, are based on limited dimensional thinking. The problem is much more complex and of course one has to balance the health with the economy.

As he has appointed himself commander in chief,  he should first learn his enemy, now how much his defenses have been penetrated, formulate a strategy in function of the weapons he has available and have a proper chain of command that can implement a campaign across the country in a unified manner. Certain of his flanks are much more threatened and he should prioritize supplies and reinforcements accordingly. His generals are the State governors and they now better the needs and he must respond to them regardless of his personal feelings.

Unfortunately, we still now very little of this enemy. What we know is that it is at least 20 times deadlier than seasonal influenza and that it is much more contagious. It is therefore not surprising that one hears serious studies envisaging at least 2 million deaths in the US alone if the crisis is not tackled. We don’t even know yet whether we acquire immunity after having recovered. The West in general, contrary to the Chinese neighbours such as South Korea, Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong reacted very quickly. Not only did they flatten the curve through social distancing, but they had a very effective testing campaign, which enabled them to identify quickly the local epicenters and reduce the spread of the epidemy. They also had adequate medical infrastructure and sufficient protective equipment for the medical personal.

In the West, with few exceptions, the governments did not react at the initial apparition of the disease as the reported cases, not the total ones, were staying in single digits. They did not build up their infrastructures and their inventories of protecting equipment. Only when the epidemy was evident did they react but it was too late. Italy and Spain are overcome, and the death number is mushrooming beyond expectation because of the inability to treat all the severely affected patients. Doctors and nurses are contaminated partly because of insufficient equipment and at least 1 % have already died. The lock down policies have been implemented too late. Many other countries in Europe are probably 10 days behind in the curve.

But Mr. Trump has vacillated between optimism and pessimism and now is talking of reopening the country in time for Easter. Meanwhile, whether it is protective equipment, ICU beds and – even more important – ventilators, are not produced in sufficient amounts in the US to cope with the rising storm. Testing is increasing but not in enough volumes to mount a strategic campaign to identify the location of outbreak and their range of propagation. In despair, President Trump’s personally just requested South Korea President to send any spare medical equipment. Had he not maligned the Chinese, plane loads of mass spare beds and ventilators would be pouring in the US. In any case he should heed to Biden’s words: “a single life is worth more than a point on the Dow”

Therefore, the only remedy is a lockdown for at least four weeks, until the wave has abated, and then a progressive relaxation, as is happening in China some 3 months after the start of the outbreak. Fortunately, in Greece, strict measures were adopted early and if the population adheres to the lockdown and hygiene guidelines, we shall push back this invasion. Let us remember that this the 25th of March and on that day almost two hundred years ago our road to freedom was opened by courageous leaders. Let us follow our current ones

By Digenis 25th March 2020


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