Saturday 21 March 2020

Good news about the virus outbreak

A combination of zithromax and chloroquine has been shown in a clinical setting safely, effectively and rapidly to clear the coronavirus infection from patients.

These drugs have been prescribed for decades. However, Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and chief adviser to the White House on the coronavirus, said yesterday that more trials are needed.

Why can't clinical *trials* determine optimal dosage while the drugs are used by doctors today?

In fact, that is what is starting to happen, even though Dr. Fauci in yesterday's press conference created the erroneous impression that this cure cannot be given to the public for however long it takes for clinical trials to conclude. 

More good news. Oxford Economics predicts that the world economy will jump back once this is over - after all consumption and business have been suppressed for medical not economic reasons. 

This is very persuasive, though we do not know how soon the virus will stop being very dangerous and we can expect it to come back, perhaps every year or perhaps whenever the isolation measures are relaxed.

More good news. A test to discover if a person has had Covid-19 (and therefore be significantly more immune) is expected to become available imminently.

Is the world overreacting?

It depends on your point of view.

According to data a few days ago from the Italian National Health Institute (ISS) the average age of people who died after being positively-tested for the virus in Italy is about 81 years. 10% of the deceased are over 90 years old. 90% of the deceased are over 70 years old. 

99% of the dead had another illness. 80% had two serious illnesses. Many of them died not of the virus but of another illness and may have died even had the virus not appeared. 

The Italian National Institute of Health published a statistical report on the 17th.

A former British Tory MP and a retired American diplomat told me yesterday that everyone is very much overreacting. 

The former MP said 

"the people who are mainly dying are the same people who die of flu every year - the elderly and people with low immune systems. So yes they should self isolate and the rest of us get on with our lives. 2 of my kids have it now so my wife and I are self isolating as that makes sense but the whole country shouldn’t come to grinding halt. This is utterly economically self destructive and politically self defeating."

The former diplomat said there's

"increasing evidence that this is a mutation from SARS, thus the less virulent form. virulent viruses die off as they kill their hosts quickly and don't spread. this is relatively benign, so it spreads and get to reproduce a lot, which means soon many will be resistant so it will mutate again. two to three months sounds right. more likely two. we'll see."
Professor Neil Fergusson, England's leading epidemiologist, told the press that the severe measures being taken in the UK may lead to only only 20,000 coronavirus deaths in the UK, rather than a possible 260,000. The 260,000 figure made Boris Johnson take urgent and strong measures. 

A German medical researcher I know pointed out to me, with the cold bloodedness that characterises scientists, that some people in the press are starting to ask if saving this number of lives justifies the damage to the global economy. One third of a million people aged over 75 die each year in the UK and in total about half a million die each year.

I hope before long that the combo of zithromax and chloroquine or warm weather or other factors make the virus recede without a holocaust of elderly sick people.


  1. My friend Tom commented:

    A lot of different statements on this are flying around. I generally have found that, if Trump says something, then you can be very sure that’s what he feels will benefit him the most personally (financially, economically, egotistically, or all three), with little correlation to fact or expert opinion. That’s just how he was raised. While it’s true that many deaths are caused by other ailments, so the CV19 impact is to speed up death by either a few days or several years, a “cure” for this virus (which is a problematic claim to begin with, since viruses like the flu generally cannot be “cured,” and only become less impactful) may not halt the progress of those other ailments after the initial jolt triggered by first getting the virus.

    Doctors of infectious diseases tend to be effectively incompetent, in that they can’t give precise answers on anything, even given decades to study the matter. This is because of the nature of the problem and the complex systems involved, not lack of skill, intelligence, or effort.

    But the medical impact on many patients (old and young) is to get bad pneumonia and be put in a respirator because the lungs stop working. By any analysis, that’s a nasty disease.

    I’m as optimistic as the next guy, but if you’ve got three buttons in front of you — saying “try to kill the beast with your magic sword,” “clear the room, then kill the beast,” and “ignore the beast and plan a trip to the mall” — it’s best to err on the side of caution and prioritize clearing the room.

  2. Far above the ravening sheep in the supermarkets stands a new political establishment that cannot really be as stupid as its apocalyptic warnings make it appear on first inspection. I begin to smell a conspiracy – and a most unusual conspiracy, so far as its main victims may be the kind of people who do nicely out of the new order of things that has emerged since about 1990, and particularly since 2008.

    So what is happening? One possibility is that the outbreak is a convenient excuse for at least the British and American Governments to do in a state of emergency what they want to do, but would have trouble doing in the normal course of politics. What they may want – and this is congruent with the promises made by Mr Johnson and Mr Trump – is a deflation of the financial sector and a shortening of supply chains and a tightening of borders, all in the interests of greater security and equality for ordinary people. They have confected a panic, or gone along with an autonomous panic. This has brought on a wholly self-inflicted supply shock. The British Government in particular is taking large new financial liabilities. But this is a supply shock from which recovery should be fast and complete.

    The usual suspects are asking for a delay to our full departure from the European Union. This is probably not on the agenda, as it goes against the underlying principle of the emergency measures. This includes a real tightening of border control and an encouragement of domestic manufacture. Again, ordinary people will benefit from the raising of wage rates. As a libertarian, I am not supposed to approve of anything that looks like protectionism. On the other hand, using China as a giant sweatshop is almost certainly not the outcome of any clean market process. More likely, the current pattern of world production and trade has nothing to do with Ricardian comparative advantage, but is the outcome of various hidden subsidies and prohibitions that mainly benefit the rich and well-connected. Removing these and allowing the emergence of shorter supply chains might improve the lives of ordinary people.

    And improving the lives of ordinary people might be good for the cause of liberty.

    I am keenly interested in the possible emergence of an England in which the Northern working classes will be proud to be seen voting Conservative.

    Sean Gabb
    Deal, Kent CT14 6HN
    United Kingdom

    1. I once had a drink with Dr. Gabb. I usually disagree with him but I agree that many good things MIGHT flow from this. Lots of consequences will flow from this crisis but it is not possible to know what they will be. I hope for more working from home, shorter supply chains, people consuming food produced locally, more respect for nation states and borders, much more home schooling, more people seeing that alternatives exist working each day as an employee whether remotely or not. What we can say is that the EU will fail this test as it fails most tests and that the mother of crises for the single currency is on its way because of the disaster in Italy. The Italian left will surely take the blame for some -perhaps much - of what is happening in Italy, as they delayed closing borders and told people to hug a Chinese.

  3. And I am keenly interested in the possible emergence of a Conservative Party proudly adopting Socialist economic policies.

  4. Coronavirus differs from flu in that a much larger percentage of people with it are hospitalized for long periods of time. Intubation is painful, confining, and in the US, expensive.

    More and more cases are emerging of younger people getting the disease. There may be a link to vaping. Something Trump was going to limit by executive order, but withdrew from upon the outcry from his followers who are big vapers (and smokers).

    Don't take health advice from fat, wheezing, self-interested Trump.

    1. Italy has already stopped intubating patients over 60 according to the Daily Mail. I think people in America should stop attacking Trump for a while and get behind the administration - same for Boris and Macron and all the governments, even the malign Chinese Communist regime.

  5. Tom comments again:

    We (in America) are witnessing a botched response to this thing. Nobody knows anything, and it starts with diagnosis – there isn’t any diagnosis, because the tests are so rare, and are being rationed. (Only people who can barely breath, and NBA stars can get tested now.) So you see 100 people on the street and have to suspect that they are all infected, and either one of them could kill my parents (both in their 80’s) by infecting me or my daughter.

    We need random testing of the population to understand what is the actual infection rate, so we can form a baseline and try to get back to normal. But this is not possible because the CDC wasted months, and prevented the development of tests. This is all under Trump leadership. It’s on his watch, and every misstep has his fingerprints all over it. And he continues to blunder, which makes this a 100% political problem.

    The usefulness of that drug combination to address the problem is (hopefully) being checked out by the best minds. If we don’t have an “all clear” in 5 days, then we can conclude that it doesn’t work.

    I heard a report, by the way, that these malaria pills are 30 cents each in Canada, compared to $6.30 in the US. America has systemic weaknesses – among them intense profiteering in the medical industry – which make this crisis much worse than it needs to be.

  6. 'Only people who can barely breath, and NBA stars can get tested now'

    And Harvey Weinstein.

  7. CDC estimates that influenza has resulted in between 9 million – 45 million illnesses, between 140,000 – 810,000 hospitalizations and between 12,000 – 61,000 deaths annually since 2010.

    Meanwhile the CCP virus U.S. death count is up to 414 as of 6 PM, the 22nd of March.

    Note: CCP is short for Chinese Communist Party

  8. @Tom and Caroline:

    I’m a writer, dammit, not a virologist, so I don’t know what to make of this whole “coronavirus” thing. I only know that I’d like to see scientists develop a virus that only kills people who use a global pandemic to make a political point.

    Jim Goad