Monday, March 02, 2020

Czechia is most transparent, very sensible about the pompous flu

There is a lot of secrecy in the world surround the patients with the viral pneumonia, as they nicely call Covid-19 in Thailand. Well, Czechs don't really see a point for this secrecy. So we know virtually everything about first three cases. All of them feel fine, even their temperature is almost normal, and their symptoms are comparable to a common cold.

All three patients were moved to a famous but not terribly pretty hospital Na Bulovce (on Bulovka) – not very far from our students hostels in Trója – that leaves me with some bitter memories because around 1995, I and my then Christian sweetheart were visiting a younger classmate who was dying (and soon died) of leukemia there. Some people think that I am tough but of course I am not and she was much calmer about these conversations and experiences. I still don't understand what gave her the strength. Cruelty, Jesus Christ, or Pat Robertson's protein shake?

OK, each of these three patients has his or her special room on Bulovka. The youngest one is an American female student, born in 1999, who studies in Milan (a risky area). Along with her friend from Ecuador, they decided to see the beautiful city of Prague. They got housing via Airbnb – but it could have been a pretty normal hotel because many old-fashioned hotels market themselves via Airbnb in the recent year which is clever. So she was first accommodated, she didn't feel well, so she personally went to another famous hospital, in Motol, to be checked.

Prime minister Andrej Babiš and the health minister Adam Vojtěch aren't happy about potentially sick people who directly go to the hospitals, for obvious reasons (clearly, some people could have caught it in the public transportation and the Motol hospital from her...). The protocol recommended by the government is for them to call some numbers related to bureaus of epidemiology or hygiene. Good to know. At any rate, her test was positive.

The middle-age person is a man from Děčín born in 1976, a skier who went to Auronzo di Cadore, one of the hotspots of Covid-19, along with his wife and four kids. Only he displayed some weakness, about two days after they returned from the skiing holidays. His wife took him to a Masaryk hospital in Ústí nad Labem, in Northern Bohemia but they moved him to Bulovka in Prague, too. While he feels fine, he claims that he didn't meet anybody in Italy (just the family! Didn't they sleep somewhere? Well, surfaces of skilifts could still be dangerous enough) so he has no idea where he contracted the virus. A 14-day quarantine is recommended for people after they return from the risky places which is also sensible.

The oldest patient is a professor from the University of Agriculture, born 1952, who went to a conference in Udine, also Northern Italy. He figured out that he was infected because some Italian colleague was reported to be a positive case. Italy leads as our importer of the virus which is not surprising. They surely have many more cases than what is appropriate. Maybe they need some China-style draconian measures locally.

About 600,000 Czechs travel to Italy every year. Maybe 50,000 Czechs went there during the significant epidemics of the pompous flu. Because the percentage of infected Italians, around 1500, is at least 1/30,000 of the Italian population, it is not surprising that with 50,000 Czechs over there last month, each of which interacts at least with one or several Italians, several Czechs are bound to catch this disease.

There doesn't exist a glimpse of attempts to blame anything on PM Babiš, the government, or anyone else. Thank God, Czechs are just way too rational for such things. It's stupid to blame the politicians for the virus' very existence of course (that's on par with the medieval witch trials) but it's also stupid to blame them for some "bad reactions" to the infection because there clearly hasn't been any unquestionably bad reaction yet.

Flights between Prague and Milan plus Venice are probably going to be canceled. The health minister calls the three cases "travelers' anamnesis" which means that it's really their individual problem. People are encouraged to think whether they need to go to the problematic spots. Some local quarantine measures (and/or the closed border that the journalists suggest in every other question) would only be considered once roughly hundreds of Czechs are infected and provably from Czechia, from the "community spread", a term we will hear more often in coming weeks.

It's a general approach of Czechs to Czechs who are in trouble because of their foreign trips (like the stupid girl who went to be kidnapped by Islamists in Pakistan). Well, that's really their problem, right. Sometimes the detachment between the home-based Czechs to traveling Czechs may be extreme but in principle, it is fair. Also, the people are allowed to speak and of course that they say it looks like a cold or a flu. One can't quite trust what the positive cases say because they're afraid of some isolation, mob reactions (or, least optimistically, by Kim Jong Un's algorithm to deal with the infections) etc. But they may still convince many of us that the disease doesn't look serious in their case. Let's hope it won't change.

Warmer spring temperatures will probably reduce the propagation of the virus. China's new cases dropped to 200 a day, well below 1,000+ during the peak. But outside China, I think it's clear that at least another tripling of the cases or something like that is inevitable and it is reasonably like that the "rest of the world combined" will surpass China both in the number of cases and fatalities (over 95% of deaths is in China now). The number of deaths would still be extremely low relatively to other causes. Over 100,000 people die for any cause every day outside China. So if several hundreds of non-Chinese people die of a virus in a month, it's a tiny percentage. My estimate is that the total number of fatalities in the world by the summer will be of order 10,000 and at that moment, some vaccines could become a real thing and they would contribute to the slowdown.

New viruses are guaranteed by the laws of Nature. We're used to (and constantly brainwashed by the newspapers to expect) "perfect safety" which obviously doesn't exist and cannot exist in the real world. Even with our best technology, we can't really guarantee the perfect safety of the people against death from respiratory diseases. Every year, 600,000 people die of flu globally. A bit smaller number is attributed to pneumonia (which is normally bacterial).

The plague or the Black Death is generally believed to have ended by a simple quarantine. People chose to isolate themselves from each other a little bit more, moved to less densely populated places if they could, and so on. It surely helps. The pompous flu has the potential to surpass flu in the number of fatalities per year but we're not there yet. And it is very clear that Covid-19 will be more fought against than the diseases that look less infectious or less lethal.

I think that most Czechs do understand the context – 111,111 Czechs die every year and Covid-19 is at zero fatalities. I think this sad tally will be nonzero in Czechia but as long as the scenario in which the number of casualties becomes comparable to those tens of thousands or more (annually) seems unrealistically remote, it is really manipulative to overhype these infected people and/or fatalities if any.

More generally, the main manipulation is exactly the same for the climate hysteria and the coronavirus hysteria. It's about cherry-picking one term among many and overhyping it beyond any reasonable proportions. CO2 is one of the many factors that influence the global mean temperature, perhaps importantly relatively to other things, and indirectly, it could affect the regional weather as well except that this effect is negligible. You can't identify CO2 with the "safety of the weather and climate" because they have virtually nothing to do with each other. Similarly, 50 people die of Covid-19 per day now, relatively to 150,000 from other causes. You just can't pretend that the 50 people are vastly more important than the remaining 149,950. In the first approximation, they are 3,000 times less important. Although I wanted to end death on Earth when I was 5 (including animals) LOL, it is not really possible and even some "subsets of the fatalities" are guaranteed to be nonzero.

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