There are still a lot of known unknowns in respect of the Coronavirus but here are my latest thoughts (including why we cannot be complacent nor predict how things will develop with any reasonable degree of certainty):
1. People who are exposed to high and repeated viral dosages appear to be at a higher risk and it doesn't matter whether they are young or old or whether they have an underlying medical condition or not. Age and physical condition are therefore just proxies for increased severity. Avoiding crowds/public gatherings continues to be the best measure of protection, including for younger people who might think they are not at risk.
2. Given the highly contagious nature of the virus, as long as a large part of the population has not developed immunity (through contracting the virus or otherwise) the lifting of lockdown restrictions can only ever be gradual unless we are prepared to see a massive resurgence in infections and consequent increase in mortality rates (which few would contemplate today).
3. At its simplest this is about cause and effect - what levels of infections at any given point in time are likely to overwhelm the health system and/or is society (governments/people) willing to tolerate/accept.
4. I see governments adopt a 'try and test' approach when they think they are flattening the curve (especially to try to alleviate the economic/social impact) - what is the effect of lifting public restrictions, for example, in parks or restaurants/shops, and can this be mitigated to any measurable degree by keeping distance restrictions? It would be like turning the tap on and off if measures don't work.
5. It's all about the use of data; it's what data scientists/analysts have been doing across numerous industries over the last few years in particular to predict/analyse patterns and human/consumer behaviour. Of course, one of the things I learnt from internal models in one of my professional roles in the past is that all internal models are subject to a high level of uncertainty, are sensitive to the underlying assumptions used and the availability (or lack) of historical data.
6. The question will at some point become, for how long is the large majority of the population, and governments funding the restrictions, willing to accept the current situation. One is a measure of public sentiment; the other a measure of the public purse. Like all things democratic, ultimately this is not about objective truth or even moral/ethical arguments, but about electoral numbers (majority rule) and each demographic (old/young/socio-economic class) might have a different (perhaps even opposing) view - remember Brexit?
7. I see the Coronavirus changing behaviour in large parts of the population for years to come. For example, if people associate supermarkets as a potential source of infection, instead of food shopping twice a week/month, they will only do so once or we will see home deliveries (even online shopping generally) becoming the norm. Similarly with public transport as people will prefer (or even be encouraged by their employers) to work from home. Governments will spend billions extra on health service, medical science and on environmental friendly policies (perhaps pushing the environment to the top of the political agenda). There will be a race to develop an early means of detecting viruses (asymptomatic and all) and we will see their large scale use in airports, ports and borders, maybe even offices and public places.
8. Concerns about the economic consequences of pandemics will feature prominently in the future. We could see economic incentives for people who are willing to stay at home more (e.g. house subsidies, a 'home' wage), versus spreading the economic cost on those that choose not to (e.g. tax). Conversely, salaries will be adjusted (upwards) for jobs that reflect higher levels of risk (eg nurses, bus drivers, cleaners, supermarket workers) and perhaps too it is not outside the realms of possibility that governments might introduce a tax/levy on large social public gatherings (e.g sporting events, concerts). Privacy will become less of a social or moral concern as people are more closely monitored (digitally) for the purposes aforementioned.
The world and life as we know it may be about to change.
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