The terrible (and realistic) scenarios of the coronavirus: let's stop deluding ourselves

(To David Rossi)
28/03/20

The pandemic in progress has developed in Italy so far in two waves: the first the few cases of people from China who have manifested symptoms and then that of local outbreaks, which have spread to large circles around the world . One often hears about the latter, what are the true figures of COVID-19 infection in Italy. We will only know this at the end, as happens every year with seasonal flu and this figure will also be only an estimate.

The idea of ​​tracing all cases, even making mass swabs, is nothing short of laughable, as if the coronavirus was always present in all the infected in sufficient quantity to be detected with the nasopharyngeal swab and caused the release of antibodies from the very first stages to be detected with blood tests.

Let's stop fooling ourselves. The increase in tampons can and must serve to make a serious screening of the categories at risk of ... infecting others (health personnel, law enforcement, cashiers, newsagents, etc.) but certainly not to make the ... complete census of the sick. Which are, to paraphrase the Gospel of Mark, "legions of legions"1, that is to say already in the order of one million, perhaps already beyond, in Italy2. This explains the collapse of what is considered one of the best European and perhaps world health systems, the Lombard one. COVID-19, in fact, it is highly contagious and has a capacity to change, albeit only slightly, which was absent in SARS in 2003: for this reason, from hot Thailand to cold Iceland, it gives no respite. Those highly populous countries that offer laughable figures do so for geopolitical reasons (for example, Russia and Turkey, on March 26, declared, in contempt of the ridicule, respectively 7 and 43 cases per million inhabitants, that is, less than 4.500 infected in all, while if there were as many as the United States, that is 259, they should already formalize 37.000 and 20.900, respectively3) or because they are not even trying to screen the state of the pandemic (the controversial Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro recently said that "Brazilians can bathe in excrement and nothing happens"4).

Meanwhile, in the Far East, from where COVID-19 started, the situation has completely reversed, because the third wave counts, that of its citizens and foreigners who report the virus after the first two cycles: while new cases of transmission of coronaviruses among Chinese citizens are officially approaching zero in China, the important issue of infections (re) brought by those people who have traveled from abroad emerges: “The rest of the world is now seen as a threat and foreigners are increasingly subject to discrimination, especially in Beijing. Signs on some businesses in the capital prohibit foreigners from entering, and many hotels refuse to accept foreigners, including residents, unless they are used as quarantine sites for recent arrivals. Security personnel are even driving foreigners away from offices and apartment buildings. "5,6.

The city-state of Singapore, praised in the recent past for its proactivity towards the pandemic7, has placed its citizens and residents returning from abroad under control, also obliging those who have passed from the United Kingdom and the United States to quarantine in dedicated hotels (and at their own expense), evidently still considered to be abundantly out of control8. As an additional measure, compared to those already introduced in the past, it was decided to close all entertainment venues, bars, places of worship, tourist attractions and teaching venues, in addition to the ban on organizing mass events regardless of the number of participants. Public places such as transit stations and shopping centers are required to reduce human density to one person per 16 square meters of space, otherwise they will be asked to close9.

We are talking about a country that has largely limited the so-called first wave, that is, that of the carriers of the virus from the People's Republic (Chinese, residents and travelers) and has dodged the second, that is, that of the speakers inside the country and of the rampant epidemic, in conclusion the one that hit Italy in full (and not only). However, Singapore is experiencing with growing fear the arrival of the so-called third wave, that is, that brought by its citizens and residents who have traveled abroad, net of the restrictions imposed on other foreigners. If we try to trace, as an example to make you understand what it is, the contagions between the number 640 and 67910, all announced on March 26, we will discover that: 20% have been infected in the USA, 10% in the United Kingdom, 15% in Thailand and 30% in various countries including India, Sri Lanka, Germany, Italy, Malaysia etc. Checks are underway on others.

In short, it does not come out: on the one hand the effort to contain the virus in a territory is successful (to listen to the statements of the Chinese government, of course) only if the draconian measures continue for a long period. But in the end the virus can return from the outside world. In short, it is a tombstone for international air transport, tourism, the congress and trade fair sector, etc.

We were talking about draconian and long-lasting measures: in fact, Wuhan will not be "freed" before April 8, after 76 days of isolation and much stricter restrictions than those applied in any European country: to understand each other, to obtain a similar result, net of the fact that we still have some mobility, we Italians should "stay at home" until 25 May. Did you give your mouth to the idea of ​​visiting relatives for the April 25th bridge or of reopening the shop around May XNUMXst? Do you manage to get on with the money for another two months? Will your business be able to restart after eleven weeks of shutdown?

Consider also that in the province of Hubei, an area populated almost as much as Italy, new cases have fallen below one thousand units per day after three weeks: in hindsight, Italy is still far from this goal. Furthermore, our country still has a (potential) huge reservoir of new cases, present and future, in the South. Just think, on March 25, the percentage of swabs on the total population was 0,10% in Campania, 0,13% in Sicily and 0,17% in Puglia, compared to Lazio at 0,31% , of Tuscany at 0,37% and of Emilia-Romagna at 0,70%, not to mention Veneto at 1,25%11.

We also want to talk about the tens of thousands of people who have moved from north to south by any means in the last few weeks, often escaping all tracing and a serious quarantine... In short, we risk reaching well beyond April 3, perhaps at the end of May, with non-reassuring figures, more similar to Iran (1.000-2.000 new cases per day) than to South Korea (a hundred cases per day) and even less in Wuhan (virtually no new cases).

While we make this sacrosanct and patriotic effort, on the other hand we cannot forget that "70% of the production sector will close", as claimed by the president of Confindustria Vincenzo Boccia, but we still do not know well "how to reopen and reabsorb workers. If the GDP is 1800 billion per year means that we produce 150 billion a month, if we close 70% of the activities it means that we lose 100 billion every thirty days.

The economy must not prevail over health "but we must consider that many companies for liquidity crises will not reopen given that" any company that reaches zero turnover, as we imagine it can survive "?

Il Sole 24 Ore helps us understand "how heavy the situation is: businesses desperately need liquidity to stay alive while almost all of Italy is barred at home". And this does not only happen in Italy but in every country.

According to the ex-president of the ECB, Mario Draghi, we risk the "permanent destruction of production capacity and the tax base"12. And don't think that China is going better: if the factories reopen, orders are needed to move them forward. And in any case, with the borders barred to foreigners, investments and purchases are also out.

In short, we are between the anvil and the hammer. Between the economic collapse and the massacre.

Yes, because COVID-19 according to distinguished medical scientists and some political leaders more direct in speaking it has the ability to infect at least two thirds of the world's population in less than six months, once left free to act. Mind you: it is estimated that theoretically it has a mortality rate of less than 2%. But let's talk about TWO PERCENT OF FIVE BILLION human beings, that is to say at least one hundred million people. All this in theory, because if 5% of the infected will require ventilation in intensive care, there are no 250 million beds in the world, as many ventilation machines and a sufficient number of doctors and nurses to welcome them in the short span of six months. In such a scenario, we could really see corpses on the streets and entire depopulated villages even in very civilized countries, as reported by some fake news on Italy in China and in the Arab countries ...

If it is not left free through the application for long periods of measurement locking-down e social distancing and pending a vaccine that, however, will NOT be available to everyone before the end of 2021 or even early 2022, here the number of infected should stabilize over time and the number of deaths not to approach for all countries and territories to the massacre in progress in large areas of Lombardy. But all this at the cost of the most devastating recession in human history, with the failure of at least a third of companies, the growth of unemployment to record levels, the widest and most extensive slowdown in technological development of the last fifteen hundred years and an even worse political crisis than that of the thirties. Not to mention the effects on security with, in the scenario of the rampant pandemic, entire bodies of weapons destroyed and the inability to conduct the most ordinary operations.

It is the scenario that will almost certainly overwhelm many Latin American, Middle Eastern and African countries if no serious containment measures are taken. Just think that in Egypt the curfew is applied ... only at night and in Brazil ... well, you read the opinion of the president! Make no illusions about the average young age as sufficient to avoid the worst: apart from the fact that young people are infected neither more nor less than the elderly, what will make the difference will be the health system. Which in many countries is much worse than our South.

How do you get out of it? Trying to make extensive use of modern technologies, even at the cost of suspending the laws protecting privacy, investing without budget limits in the health sector and in scientific research, without hesitation in throwing into the personal fray with imperfect training or already years old and at risk, avoiding that doctors, paramedics and other professional figures act as a flywheel of the infection, coordinating the countries' efforts at least on a continental basis, limiting exposure to the contagion of the most fragile people, facilitating access to credit for individuals, increasing the debt of governments to the highest levels in history, offering paid training for professionals and employees left without activity and ... looking for new solutions without limits. And above all, doing early, because we no longer have time.

We are between the anvil of the most devastating pandemic and the hammer of an unrivaled recession: we cannot afford the optimism of politicians and commentators who claim that we will soon be out of this crisis. Make illusions and not plan strategies even crazy it means to prepare the chaos.

1 “A possessed man ... had his home in the tombs; no one could keep him tied even with a chain ... Jesus asked him: "What is your name?" He replied, "My name is Legion because we are many." The size of the Roman legion in the age of the Principality ranged roughly from four to six thousand fighters.

2 If we pay attention to the Korean and Gulf monarchy figures, which have made very widespread tests and, so to speak, for concentric circles around the cases detected, then here we have in Italy approximately 8.000 deaths from a disease that has a rate of mortality of less than 2% and, ultimately, we can argue that the infected are between a minimum of 400.000 (less than 0,6% of the population) and a maximum - if the mayors and prestigious scientists are right who claim that only a third of deaths emerge from statistics, - by 1,2 million (roughly 2% of the population). Given that Lombardy has about half of the cases detected, we can assume that it also has the same proportion as the actual cases, that is, between 2 and 6% of the regional population.

3 Italy, Switzerland and Spain, among the most "sincere" countries, declare 1.333, 1.370 and 1.422, respectively.

6 Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Zhao Lijian was the most aggressive of the Chinese trolls on Twitter, becoming a staunch supporter of the American conspiracy theory behind COVID-19.

10 The Singaporean government is of painstaking precision ...