Monday , May 25 2020
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Corona is like the flu. The Spanish one.

Summary:
Yesterday, the number of Corona deaths in Italy rose to 919. In one day. According to Eurostat,  the 2018 total Italian death tally was 633,000. Which translates to on average 1,734 deaths a day meaning that the level of Corona deaths was over half of the ‘normal’ amount of deaths. Already. Despite the lock down. Dear people: this is much worse than a bad flu. And it is as bad as the Spanish flu. Which is supposed to have killed, around 1919,  about 50,000,000 people. FYI: the latest estimate of the number of casualties of the Spanish flu in Italy sets this number at 466.000 in the 1918-1920 period. With 919 deaths a day – Italy will get there. The silver lining: China and South Korea do have it under control. It is possible. Yesterday’s number of deaths in Italy was of course a

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Yesterday, the number of Corona deaths in Italy rose to 919. In one day. According to Eurostat,  the 2018 total Italian death tally was 633,000. Which translates to on average 1,734 deaths a day meaning that the level of Corona deaths was over half of the ‘normal’ amount of deaths. Already. Despite the lock down. Dear people: this is much worse than a bad flu. And it is as bad as the Spanish flu. Which is supposed to have killed, around 1919,  about 50,000,000 people. FYI: the latest estimate of the number of casualties of the Spanish flu in Italy sets this number at 466.000 in the 1918-1920 period. With 919 deaths a day – Italy will get there. The silver lining: China and South Korea do have it under control. It is possible.

Yesterday’s number of deaths in Italy was of course a record. But with Corona, every day witnesses new records. The world wide number of Corona deaths has been increasing with 10 to 14% A DAY for two weeks now, almost quintupling in this period (from 687 to 3,271 a day). Yeah.

And it’s not just Italy which is at risk. As we’ve all seen, this enemy has the capacity to overwhelm medical systems not in months but in weeks. The Netherlands (which, thanks to neoliberal ‘lean and mean’ changes has a medical system did with very limited redundant physical hospital capacity) already tries to outplace patients to Germany… And they are still not tracking and tracing, the only successful policy thus far.

Worse: (wrongly) assuming that asymptomatic cases (defined as: “no fever”) about a month ago they did not even try to isolate contacts. Two thirds of people mentioning symptoms did not have a fever and were sent back to home or work… (let alone: tested). At least, according to the Brabants Dagblad (see link directly above). So, even the ‘tracks’ which were known were not traced or even isolated. They Dutch did not err at the side of caution, to say it mildly. This has changed, but the official ‘herd immunity’ policies still haven’t changed and even when ‘tracks’ areby now  isolated they still are not traced. (very simple and robust arithmetic shows that ‘mitigation and herd immunity policies’ which do not totally overwhelm the medical system will take at least five years…).

China or South Korea did better: they ‘erred’ on the side of caution. And policies ‘erring at the side of caution’ were also implemented during the last Foot and Mouth epidemic in the Netherlands: ‘Stamping out’. . (look here (in Dutch), especially paragraph 4.7.6 and 6.3.4). What the Dutch did in the case of Corona was (and to a lesser extent still is) the opposite. Let me be blunt: in the Netherlands, experienced veterinarians would have been better prepared to manage this crisis than normal doctors. What Donald Trump and Jaïr Bolsonaro do even is the extreme opposite. They risk millions of lives in their countries alone. It is as bad as the Spanish flue. In the Netherlands, we can still hope outright disaster won’t happen – even when the medical system is already squeaking and creaking, people are diagnosed in make shift facilities and medical professionals are increasingly getting sick…

In the mean time: wash your hands, stay home and if you’re outside and in the presence of others: wear a mask.

Merijn T. Knibbe
Economic historian, statistician, outdoor guide (coastal mudflats), father, teacher, blogger. Likes De Kift and El Greco. Favorite epoch 1890-1930.

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