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Covid-19 probably peaked in early February

From Monday on, the world markets have seen a new giga-hysterical reaction to a dozen of coronavirus deaths in Italy (out of 300 or so cases there), a reaction that has already exceeded 9/11 (if you add nearby days that probably have the same reason). If you don't remember, the U.S. markets were closed for a week after 9/11, lost 7% on the first day, and recovered within one month.

Meanwhile, the main Covid-19 statistics page shows a dramatic reduction in the new cases and deaths. When we started to cover this story in early 2020, I mentioned that the "doubling time" was comparable to two days or so. Well, we're surely not getting one doubling per day; the actual numbers suggest it is just one doubling after half a year assuming the current rates. Instead, the fresh data show:

80,997 cases in total
...=...48,090 active cases
...-...=...39,251 mild
...-...+...8,839 severe
...+...32,907 closed cases
...-...=...30,143 cured
...-...+...2,764 dead
You can see that the number of cured people has surpassed 30,000, not surprising after a month. At the beginning, the number of cured people was about the same as the number of fatalities. Then the cured people grew a lot and trumped the severe active cases. Within a week, the cured people will surpass all active cases, including the mild ones.

In the recent 24 hours, China only announced 406 new cases (0.5%) and 52 new deaths (1.9%). Those numbers seem significantly smaller than the peak numbers – about 2,000 new cases a day (that single 15,000 jump was due to an update in the methodology of reporting – a genuine improvement as far as I can say but one that couldn't be done right away) and almost 150 fatalities per day. The deaths per day peak a week or two after the new cases do. Total death front-runners after China with 2,400+ corpses are

* Iran, 16 (the deputy health minister was diagnosed hours after he swept his forehead on TV a few times)
* South Korea, 12 (an official responsible for an outbreak committed suicide)
* Italy, 11

Diamond Princess, the ship considered a country on that statistics page, has 4, and then you have Hong Kong at 2 and four countries with 1 fatality each. So I do think that the draconian measures in China have already brought them the peak, and that peak was some 2 weeks ago. In other countries, the disease will only peak in the future. I find it likely that the total tally will be "dozens" in Italy when it's clearly over.

I have been shocked how many people whom I considered "pro-freedom" were advocating the Chinese or even more draconian measures to combat the "threat". Marián Kechlibar, Martin Konvička, Paul Joseph Watson, Tucker Carlson, others... all of them worshiped the Chinese communist government for being so hard. You know, these people are e.g. climate skeptics, among other things. If they don't hesitate to brutally restrict the human freedom because of a threat – that hasn't been translated to a single infection in the post-communist non-Soviet Europe yet – why don't they also support the ban on CO2 because of the similar hysterical warnings about climate change and other insane causes?

Don't get me wrong. Infections are always more real threats because they may produce a roughly exponential growth in the problems, something that other threats to our lives can't do. This point was stressed in a very intelligent coronavirus video by Thunderf00t. He also quantified some dynamics of the infections, showing the analogy between the viral infections and viral videos. The mechanisms of the spreading are really very analogous.

What primarily matters is how many people contract the virus (or the viral idea that you should play a video) from one person before that person gets cured (or bored). This number decides about the quotient of the exponential increase. This number is clearly not a perfect constant in time because when the trouble grows, people increase their fight against the viral disease (and censors increase their fight against the viral video), so the number of infections (or views) stops growing. (Also, the methods to cure the symptoms get better and the probability of a vaccine is increasing.) Unless it stops growing after everyone is infected or everyone has seen it, of course. ;-)

Most importantly, Thunderf00t correctly says that the initial exponential increase (like a marble that may start an avalanche) is a necessary condition but not a sufficient condition for pandemics or super viral video or an avalanche. It seems that many people are confusing the necessary condition with the sufficient condition. At the end, only a very small fraction of novel viruses become "globally important". And Thunderf00t also stressed that "killing the host too quickly or efficiently" isn't a good strategy for the virus to propagate very far.

We have had many novel infections in recent years. SARS, MERS, and Covid-19 are all coronaviruses. There was a bird flu and a swine flu and many other things. No catastrophe for mankind has materialized from those. Why should we expect it would be different in the Covid-19 case?

Covid-19 has a much higher mortality than regular flu, perhaps 1-2 percent against 0.01% of flu (Spanish flu had 2% in mild countries but tens of percent in nations like Iran that seem to be more susceptible to this crap, we see even today), but it only has a slightly higher infection rate than flu in the "natural unrestricted life". Clearly, the infection rate gets lowered by all these cautious policies which naturally become (or should become) harsher in the heavily infected regions. Once the policies are strong enough, the relative growth rate of the disease is as low as it is for flu, and with even harsher policies, the growth is changed to a decrease.

Again, the virus has killed 2,764 people so far. It has already trumped some of the recent viruses but it is nowhere near the annual number of fatalities from flu, hundreds of thousands globally. So Covid-19 is still a negligible killer relatively to flu. Why are the people so much more obsessed with Covid-19 than with flu? Well, the real answer is that they are irrational or ignorant about the other, especially similar, causes of death (like flu). A somewhat more euphemistic answer is that they believe that Covid-19 "will get much worse".

In some sense, the hysteria about the belief that "Covid-19 will get much worse" is analogous to the (positive) belief that Tesla will build trillions of cars profitably and one Bitcoin will be worth one vigintillion dollars. Those beliefs are really religious in character. Most of the people who believe those things don't really want to rationally estimate the probability that their belief is correct. Instead, they enjoy believing those things and they enjoy feeling superior because of their belief. They enjoy harassing the infidels – much like the Islamic fundamentalists are harassing the infidels – who dare to point out that these beliefs are highly implausible. ;-) How dare you!?

OK, with the anti-infection policies in place (I am OK with suspended Czech-Chinese flights because they affect almost no one but I wouldn't be OK with a curfew in Pilsen), the numbers describing the "success" of Covid-19 show a similar relative time dependence as those of flu but Covid-19 still remains, and therefore probably will remain, a much less important player than flu. The actual graphs suggest that we may say rather reliably that the pandemics has already peaked in China, and perhaps it was two weeks ago (and just two weeks after the graphs started to be drawn). So what keeps the people hysterical, believing in the Armageddon?

While the risk of some truly devastating pandemics is often genuine, we simply can't declare the martial law in the world everytime a new virus type appears. There are millions of virus species – some 320,000 are known to attack mammals – although only 5,000 of them have been described in a sufficiently detailed way. New species of germs and everything are occurring all the time. The Wu-Chan Institute of Virology could have produced this one. Or not. Even if institutes of virology don't produce dangerous viruses, or even if these institutes guaranteed that the bats don't ever bite the Chinese staff, new viruses would still emerge. This one could have accidentally emerged 200 meters from the coronavirus institute. Or it could have emerged in Italy and it came to China later. These adventures are called life. It is how evolution works.

A society that would have precautionary policies against standard parts of evolution or life on Earth would clearly be a totalitarian society.

What bothers me is the full-blown totalitarian spirit of the fellow "right-wingers" who want our societies to be shut down because of this stupid disease. They just don't seem to differ from the climate fearmongers. They believe that it is right to apply the precautionary principle at all times. More seriously, they believe it is a duty of the governments to guarantee that the number of infections is precisely zero. Maybe they advocate these things because they feel that they need to compensate their skepticism in the climate case.

But that's just insane. The number of infections was almost guaranteed to become nonzero, even outside China, even in Europe. The shutdown of the society that would be needed to make it "sufficiently certain" that the number of cases would remain at zero would be almost complete. And even many "totally horrific" restrictions of human lives would fail to guarantee the clean score. You know, a guard who performs a passport check may actually be a wonderful tool to spread a disease (and sure, lots of the infected people are Chinese physicians at this moment). But some people don't care whether their restrictive policies work well. It seems that they care about "feeling good" that they have "done something". And the fact that this observation seems to apply both to the regular climate hysteria and to the right-wingers who join the Covid-19 hysteria frustrates me immensely.

You shouldn't "feel good" just because you "did something" if the something were counterproductive. The previous important sentence must be addressed to the climate fearmongers who won't listen because they are brain-dead but I still hope that the "right-wing" folks will hear me. Maybe all this "right-wingness" is just a temporary illusion and all pundits in 2020 have the innate instinct to behave as the "saviors of the world".

Decent governments simply cannot ever turn such extreme goals – e.g. "zero infections" – to absolute priorities whose importance beats everything else. Whoever thinks that this is how it should work is a fan of totalitarianism and I am terrified by the hints that those otherwise apparent "friends of freedom" belong to this set. It is absolutely normal that a new species of a virus gets to many random places. Policies introduced to reduce the number of infections cannot ever be designed or expected to be 100% efficient and it must always be considered the normal state of affairs that the infection gets to various somewhat random places. The cautious behavior may only reduce the spreading by some important, large enough factor, but the factor just cannot be infinite because the costs of such policies would be (almost) infinite, too.

The harshness of these policies must always be adequate to the actual threats or degree of infection. Curfew should only be declared at places where the number of cases is comparable to Wu-Chan. Otherwise the cure is just worse than the disease! Covid-19 differs from flu in some technical details and quantitative parameters but it doesn't differ qualitatively or conceptually. It is just another virus species. If you say that it is right to shut the societies down because of Covid-19, a consistent generalization of your ideology also says that we should become totalitarian societies because flu exists and we need to fight it!

Sorry, that's just wrong. Calculate the cost-and-benefit analysis. During 2020, the post-communist non-Soviet Europe, to pick a region, may see "dozens" of infections and perhaps "several" fatalities (whether you like it or not, a fatality is worth about a million dollars, millions of times less than the trillions of GDP). That's surely not a good justification for shutting down our economies. Not even 10% of economies. Not even 1% of our economies. The idea that some places must have the 100.000% certainty to remain free of infections is on par with the Nazi belief that the Aryan Race must be completely clean and the Jews must be totally eliminated. Similar obsession with "purity" just terrifies me.

China will hopefully remain a country that is eager to limit the individual rights much more than everyone else. The slowdown of the exponential growth of infections was rather fast in China – the peak occurred within two weeks or at most one month after the first intense newspaper reports. I hope that Western countries will be fighting this virus in much less draconian ways. I am happy to see that the Italian PM has some common sense and refused to close the border etc. Even with much less draconian measures, the peak may be another month away in Italy etc. Or it may be even closer or much closer because the numbers are more manageable, the infected people may be more easily found, and the hospitals aren't overcrowded. Alternatively, better diagnoses will show that the number of cases is huge almost everywhere and the disease is much older than previously announced.

So please, respect the fact that it is just a damn virus, one of millions of species on Earth, not our new Lord whose importance beats everything else.

Thank you very much.

By the way, I agree with many conservatives on Twitter that the U.S. leftists have a clear interest to spread the panic because this may harm the stock market, perhaps even the real economy, and Trump's reelection campaign will be hurt by it. It makes it even more surprising that the "rightwingers" are joining this nonsensical hysteria.

Right. Incidentally, aside from simple fearmongering meant to hurt the economy and therefore Trump, some Democrats are apparently planning the order to shut down rallies – well, Trump and maybe Sanders rallies which are the largest ones. Lots of people have the stomach to ally with the virus and play extremely dirty political games.

One more point: Even if mankind were ending soon, there is no good reason to sell stocks, except as a way to get lots of money to enjoy the last days of the world. ;-)

BTW Facebook has banned Covid-19-related ads increasing the panic. I have mixed feelings. Censorship is wrong. Almost all this stuff is fraudulent and makes people hysterical, however. The fact that I feel we may "need" such a ban is a sign of the fact that people have been turned into hysterical animals who are incapable of thinking independently.

Age of fatalities

Here is a nice table you wanted to see but they didn't show you, despite all the "information" about Covid-19 everywhere:

80+ years old
70-79 years old
60-69 years old
50-59 years old
40-49 years old
30-39 years old
20-29 years old
10-19 years old
0-9 years old
no fatalities

You see that among TRF readers, the chance to die is almost 15%. On the other hand, kids are immortal and adults below 40 only die with the chance 0.2%. That's still 20 times more than seasonal flu, 0.01%, but extremely promising as a survival rate. Nevertheless, the death statistics for the TRF readers is troubling and suggests that the Chinese created the virus to save money on pensions. ;-)

It's cruel but if Covid-19 becomes an omnipresent disease like common cold that we get once a year, about 80 x 0.2% = 16% of the deaths below 80 will be due to it while the number of people who live well above 80 will shrink significantly, by about 50%. It would be a substantially different demographic world but it wouldn't be a terribly dangerous world. The financial health of the pension systems would surely improve, as I wrote above.

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