China has almost certainly tamed down the infection. The most recent 24 hours show 32 new Chinese fatalities plus 435 new cases. The latter number is almost matched by South Korea, the #2 country sporting the illness, which saw 334 new cases (and one fatality) in recent 24 hours. The remaining countries combined saw just 19 fatalities yesterday. Note that about 150,000 people die in the world every day.
South Korea already has almost the same total percentage of population infected as China (1600 infections in Korea, 78,000 in China, the ratio is about 50 while the population ratio is 27) and a higher percentage of new people infected per day than China during the peak.
The suppression of the Chinese disease is a reflection of the draconian measures taken in China. Whoever says that they are not draconian simply belongs to China or another dictatorial country, not the Western civilization. Clearly, South Korea is more democratic so the taming of the disease, if possible, can't be this fast.
In some countries, the disease may spread uncontrollably. In this sense, it might be OK for San Francisco to declare the state of emergency despite their zero cases at this moment: they have all the homeless people on the street who live in terrible conditions and wait for a really massive spreading of the disease if it gets there. I have doubts whether the state of emergency could help there. Instead, what would be needed would be a rule similar to India's. India has already declared that in the case of epidemics, weak people won't be admitted to hospitals. (It's a questionable policy to admit really strong people as well because those have an extremely high chance to recover without any medical help.)
If it gets "everywhere", it will probably take a few years but assuming the total laissez-faire approach, the infection is somewhat likely to become omnipresent. If it does, what will the life look like?
I will assume that each person will contract the virus once a year. There should be some immunity left. If that period of immunity is shorter or if there are many strains of Covid-19 that require different immunity, then of course all the problems may multiply by a larger factor and mankind could be doomed. The worst case scenario has always involved the complete extinction of mankind, however, and Covid-19 didn't make it any worse. ;-)
OK, each of us gets Covid-19 once a year, just like you get a common cold. In fact, many types of common cold are also caused by a coronavirus, a much milder relative of Covid-19. Covid-19 even spreads much like common cold which is why it is expected to calm down in spring and summer. What matters is the probability that you die. The overall probability of death is 1-3 percent, depending on the input and the method to calculate the percentage.
But this vastly overstates the effect that the disease has on the healthy people. After all, you may see that despite the science-fiction-like pictures of ghost towns in the Chinese province, that region with 10+ million people has only produced 2+ thousand deaths. During one month which is 1/1,000 of a human life, 1/1,000 of the people died of other reasons. Within 10 million people, that's 10,000. You may see that Covid-19 was only responsible for 20% of the deaths even in the science-fiction-like region of China! It remained far from being a dominant cause of death – even in the most affected province.
This would be true even globally. Of course, if you got an infection every year leading to a 2% chance of death, the average life expectancy would surely shorten beneath 50 years. Well, it could even shorten to 1/(1/50+1/80) = 30.7. Try to avoid a 2% event 50 times and you're on the edge, you know. However, this counting heavily overstates what would actually happen because some groups have a much higher risk of death than others.
So look at the demographics page. The number of male casualties is 50% higher than the females, some data show. You see that women are discriminated against in this case, too. Someone should help them to catch up with men and impose the 50-to-50 quota, the SJW rules imply. The male sensitivity may have some deep biological reasons or as lame reasons as beards which make it easier to contract the virus and harder to get rid of it. Shave, men.
But a table also says that surprisingly enough, there are no kids 0-9 years who died because of the virus. For age 10-49 years, the probability is 0.2%, for 40-49 it is 0.4%, then 1.3%, 3.6%, 8.0%, and it is 14.8% above 80 years. So the young people are much more likely to survive than the old ones. (Note that common flu only has 0.01% fatality rate but this number could only be this small because those who die are usually said to have pneumonia instead, although flu was the primary reason, and they may be removed from the flu sufferers and counted in the pneumonia box only. I don't know exactly what's going on but the proper separation or conflation of flu and pneumonia may change the number hugely.)
But even this 0.2% for people below 40 years overstates the risks for a young enough healthy person. Another table says that the fatality rate is over 10.5%, 7.3%, 6.3%, 6.0%, and 5.6% for sufferers of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, chronic respiratory ones, hypertension, and cancer, respectively. However, with no pre-existing conditions, the probability is only 0.9%. That's 2.5 times lower than the overall fatality rate computed in the same way: that one is over 2%.
Treating the age and health as independent properties (although they're clearly correlated), you get the estimate that young people below 40 who are without pre-condition only have a 0.1% risk of dying. That's only 10 times (the tiny) flu's number.
It seemingly follows that the annual omnipresent Covid-19 would be a significant pressure eliminating the ill and old people rather effectively. Assuming 40 infections by the age of 40, the young healthy people would accumulate 40 x 0.1% = 4% of death by the age of 40. That would severely increase the fatality below 40. Right now, about 4% of men and 2.5% of women (discrimination again) die younger than 40. So yes, it would be a different world if that frequency were possible: approximately one-half of the deaths of the "unnaturally young people" could be due to the seasonal Covid-19.
The probabilities go up quickly above 40 years of age. In particular, above 80 years, the fatality rate due to the annual Covid-19, 15% per year, would prevent most people from reaching the 85th birthday.
With the overall 2% death rate, the inverse makes it clear that we could face the 50-year or shorter life expectancy. This is something that we know from the Middle Ages. Indeed, many of those people had this low life expectancy because of infectious diseases, too. How is it possible that this epoch has ever ended? Well, it's mostly better medicine (but also better nutrition) that made it easier to diagnose and cure the diseases and for the people to resist without the help of physicians, too.
Also, people got naturally selected and the survivors and their descendants just became more resilient towards the relevant diseases because of this extra natural selection. I think that it must have contributed to the disappearance of Black Death, however devastating it was in mid 14th century. Needless to say, that would be happening in the case of Covid-19, too. I consider the "stationary state" described above as a worst case scenario that just couldn't last because the prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and immunity would all be getting better. The stationary state is built upon unrealistic assumptions.
But yes, with "somewhat reasonable" estimates for the frequency of the new hypothetically omnipresent disease, it could have the potential to seriously lower the life expectancy and improve the financial health of the pension systems, too. But try to assume that this stationary state really exists or almost exists, at least for a few years. Would it be right to abolish schools, supermarkets, or do any similarly disruptive changes to the society, in efforts to prevent the unavoidable?
I think that it is obvious that any cost-and-benefits analysis clearly implies that it wouldn't be right to shut down anything that is widespread and an important part of most people's lives. To shut down the civilization would be far more deadly. Clearly, the disruption of agriculture would make a huge portion of mankind starve to death (perhaps tens of percent per year). Compare it with the 2% people, mostly sick and/or old people, who annually die in my worst case annual Covid-19 scenario. But even the disruption of schools could have the effect of disrupting the agriculture and other essential things because you just need some people who aren't complete idiots and who can become farmers in the modern era – the low-tech agriculture just isn't enough to make 8 billion people survive.
Similarly to agriculture, you just don't want to shut down the international trade and lots and lots of other things. They are important for each other in very complex ways. Of course I am also terrified of the shutdown of high energy theoretical physics research even though most people are animals who don't give a damn.
Even in the worst case scenario, you should use the elbow and some really non-essential methods to reduce your exposure to other people (or their exposure to you) and especially areas with outbreaks. But the sensible societies should never go beyond that because the chaos, hysteria, and the breakdown of the companies and institutions that our lives rely upon is vastly worse than the 2% of mankind that annually dies due to a new cause.
The wise recommendation is to "adapt" in this case, just like in others (it's surely easier to adapt to 2 °C of warming than to adapt to this worst case Covid-19 scenario). If the taming of Covid-19 were completely incompatible with the Western way of living, then we should simply allow it to become the omnipresent disease and adapt. The societies may surely survive the new conditions if the new sources of infection are less than 1 infection per capita per year.
If you agree that the draconian measures would do more harm than good, the next question is whether people will avoid the hysteria and breakdown of the companies etc. I think that lots of people want to avoid it. There may be some who start looting, refusing to work, and do other things. The pro-civilization people among us should clearly declare these overly cautious people criminals whenever possible and use the standard tools that we use for criminals because this kind of crime could be rather dangerous.
At a more peaceful level, we may need some "cooperative behavior" to avoid the hysteria. I think that the Chinese authoritarianism was "good" not only for the unnecessarily fast taming the actual infections – through the draconian restrictions on people's movement – but also good (without quotes) for taming the hysteria about the outbreak. The authorities have organized nice events where the people had to dance in the costumes and masks. I think that these dancing sessions were a part of the useful and human face of the Chinese regime.
Other countries that face similar situations have governments that must try to suppress the propagation of the disease. But they also have the responsibility to tame the hysteria because the hysteria is much more harmful than the underlying dynamics. If you are a local politician who organizes things like a curfew, you should also organize some fun events or lectures that present the facts and logic without any hysteria. I am not only serious but I think that the latter (fun and talks) is actually more important than the former (bans).
The worst case scenario, one infection per year per capita, seems extremely unlikely to me. Much more likely, the disease will be tamed and it may be brought close to extinction. Also, some vaccines and other things may appear soon. In this picture,
we see some typical annual "reasons of the end of the world" between 2000 and 2017. In recent decades, mankind has never been as hysterical as today, I think, and this hysteria is a result of the deliberate nurturing of irrationality and hysteria by the human trash that sometimes calls itself "elites", including the mediocre inkspillers in the "mainstream" media. Of course if people are "obliged" to be hysterical about the non-existent threats posed by climate change, they will be even more hysterical about a somewhat more realistic pandemics scenario. But look at the microorganisms in the list: Anthrax, West Nile Virus, SARS, bird flu, E. coli, vaccines, swine flu, Ebola, and Zika. An average, old enough person must have heard many of these things so he should already treat them as parts of business-as-usual, just like rainbows, snowstorms, hurricanes, or bushfires in California or Australia. Note that for some reasons, the hysterias about all the microorganisms (plus vaxxers) above have faded away.
It's too bad that people have been trained to whine about rather ordinary things that belong to the life on Earth. This transformation of hundreds of millions of people to whining sensitive snowflakes incompatible with the laws of Nature and constantly demanding some terribly restrictive measures to protect their indefensible ideas about the "right world" is by far the actual main problem facing mankind in 2020, vastly beating all those media's favorite excuses for hysteria combined.
And that's the memo.