Showing why delaying the virus spread is so invaluable.

COVID-19 CURVE MAP

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A tremendous amount is happening every week in terms of the Wuhan-originating Covid-19 viral infection – even every day.  Some things are now better understood than they were a few weeks earlier when we wrote an earlier omnibus piece on the Covid-19 virus.  We added update articles on 27 Feband 6 March.  There are still huge amounts of unknowns, but some things are now in clearer focus, plus some things are becoming more urgent and pressing, demanding your immediate action now.

So we thought it best to write a new piece more or less from first principles.  Let’s start off with the good news.

The US is – Currently – Doing Better than Most Countries

Since the first muted announcements of the viral outbreak in early January, we saw the number of cases rapidly grow in China, but then plateau, and now, to the astonishment of many observers, recede again.  Sure, China has reported over 80,000 cases of infection, but remember, it has a huge population to spread that around.  In a country of 1.4 billion, this is an infection rate of only about 56 people per million.

We certainly acknowledge that China’s information is almost certainly inaccurate and understated, but we are astonished at the dropping off of daily reported newly infected people, which, one hopes, at least in some weak way corresponds to the underlying reality.  China is now reporting fewer than 50 newly infected people a day, even less than 25 for the last several days, and has been slowly relaxing its earlier restrictions on movement, work, and travel.  Clearly the country feels it has the disease under control.

In terms of reported cases per million people, China is no longer even in the top ten countries.  A list of the top ten countries is a bit misleading, because in some very small countries like Iceland (population about 365,000) or Vatican City (population about 1,000) even very small numbers of cases represent large percents of the total population.  The one infected person in the Vatican City gives it the world’s highest rate of infection – 0.1%, or 1000 people per million.

Looking instead at larger countries, the top 20 list (plus UK, US and Canada, all of which are happily removed from the top 20), as of Thursday afternoon 12 March, is

The relatively low incidence of cases within the US is a good thing, but this is not necessarily going to remain that way.  Indeed, Thursday saw a jump of almost 30% in new US cases.  It doesn’t take too many days with increases of that size and the total number of cases will skyrocket every bit the same way it has in countries like Italy (which had “only” a 20% increase in cases on Thursday).

So, today, relatively good news (although not for the 40 casualties so far).  But what will the situation be this time next week?

It is All About Delaying

Resisting the spread of any infectious disease tends to go through two phases.  The first phase is the optimistic phase of containment, where each and every case is given a full-on treatment, including urgently researching and tracking down any possibly infected contact, and testing/isolating every person at any degree of possible risk in the hope of preventing the disease spreading and getting a sustainable foothold in the community.

Sometimes this works (eg Ebola).  Sometimes it doesn’t, and when the resources are so stressed as to no longer be able to effectively contain an outbreak that is appearing in more and more places, including new cases being infected from unknown sources suggesting appreciably additional carriers out there “in the wild”, the strategy shifts from containment to a more pessimistic phase of delay.  That is essentially where most of the world is at now, although with no overall consensus as to which measures to adopt to delay the disease spread.

Time is currently the most precious weapon in our arsenal when it comes to fighting the virus.  The longer we can draw out the buildup of cases, the better we can handle each case when it occurs, for three reasons :

  • More time means more chances to build up and bulk up supplies and infrastructure to support the healthcare needs of patients now and into the future
  • More time means more chances to identify treatment procedures for people who get infected and more time to develop vaccines for people not yet infected
  • More time means less stress on our very limited healthcare surge capacities.  Instead of dumping x million patients into the system all within say one month, if we can spread the same number over three months, then we have effectively three times the available resource for each patient.  This is also shown in the chart at the top of this article.
  • The uber-expert on infectious diseases, Dr Anthony Fauci, credits the early travel restriction imposed by President Trump on China and then adding Iran too, as buying us invaluable extra time to delay and prepare for the spread of Covid-19 within the US.  Whether we’ve used that time as wisely as we could/should have is another matter entirely!  These limited travel restrictions did not prevent the disease from getting established here, but it has limited the number of outbreaks and slowed its progress.  This was the right thing to do, and has helped the country enormously.  This is a large part of why we’re not in the top 20 country list in terms of infection spread.

    By the same token, the new travel restriction now on people from the EU Schengen countries – as you can see from the table above, this is a hot zone where the disease is currently active and prevalent (perhaps due to their own open-border policies) – is puzzling in its limited effect.  Of course it will not completely isolate us from continued new importations of the disease.  The only way to do that would be to shut our borders 100%, including a refusal to allow American citizens to return home, and that is probably thought by most people to be unacceptably stringent.

    But this latest ban will again slow things down.  Just because it isn’t perfect doesn’t mean it is bad.  It is good.  It won’t stop the disease from spreading, but it will slow its spread, thereby buying us more time to bulk up our disease fighting infrastructure, and spreading the total number of cases over a larger number of weeks and months, removing stress from our hospitals, healthcare workers, and medical suppliers.  Some other countries have much more stringent bans and controls, and most have much less stringent restrictions.

    Here is a vivid explanation of the concept and one of the three associated benefits of delay.  The curve at the top of this article also illustrates it.  And here’s a terrible exampleof what might be waiting for us if we can’t delay the spread of the disease.

    How Long Until it is Over?

    Enough of talking about delay.  We all want to get this behind us, and as soon as possible!  So, how long before we can stop obsessing over endlessly washing our hands, avoiding other people, and staying at home most of every day?

    No-one knows, because there are as yet unresolved factors.  Maybe the disease will be seasonally affected, like regular ‘flu, and fade away as we move into spring and summer.  Or maybe it won’t.  Our guess is that it will diminish in the warmer weather, but not as much as does the regular ‘flu.  The virus is proving to be remarkably hardy and resilient when exposed to the open air, and the rapid spread of Covid-19 through Iran, with daytime temperatures sometimes in the high 80s, gives little room for unbridled optimism that the moderate summer weather in Europe and some of the US/Canada will beat the virus into a seasonal submission.

    Some epidemiological models have suggested a 120 day cycle for a wave of infection to reach its peak, and then possibly followed by subsequent waves.  We don’t know enough to comment/critique this suggestion, but we suggest the waves might be close together, with the start and buildup of one wave matching the decay and conclusion of the previous wave, so as to see little respite.

    Maybe we can learn from what has happened already and/or what is currently happening in other countries, to at least get some idea of what the near future holds for us.  But the biggest variable is how each country acts to slow and delay the spread of the disease.  For example, are schools open or closed?  Are meetings of more than 1000 people banned?  Or more than 250?  Or more than 100?  What about social and sporting events?  Movie theaters?  Are there restrictions on general movement of the population, and international arrivals from other countries?

    Regrettably, there is no consistency of approach across countries – even the “united” EU is splintering into varying approaches in each different EU country.  Even more regrettably, each country has some anomalies in what it allows and does not allow – why should a movie theater be allowed to have thousands of people flowing in and out of a twelve-theater multiplex, with maybe 1,000 people all in one theater for two hours, followed half an hour later by a new group of another 1,000 people, and so on, repeatedly each day; but at the same time, a local sports game, held out in the open, once, with a small crowd of 500 spread across the sidelines, is banned?

    What epidemiological reason is there to ban people from another country from visiting our country, but allowing our own citizens to go and visit that other country and then return home?

    We need to stop being politically correct and ducking the tough decisions and impositions on our treasured freedoms and rights to unrestricted movement and travel.  This unwillingness to take the tough moves now virtually guarantees that countless thousands more people will die as a consequence.

    Due to these variables, it is impossible to say how long the virus will be a major factor in our lives and how we lead them.  Our guess is that pretty much wherever in the world you are reading this today (other than perhaps China and South Korea), the chances are your country will get successively more and more impacted by the virus over the next month, maybe longer.

    But there are these puzzling and encouraging reports from China and South Korea.  China’s rate of daily new infections has dropped down to nearly zero, and South Korea’s has also plunged down from earlier highs of 800 a day down to currently an average of little more than 100.  Maybe things won’t be as bad, or for as long, as we fear?

    What Are Your Chances of Getting the Virus?

    So, how likely is it you’ll become infected?  The answer to that is anyone’s guess.  Currently in China, with new case numbers dropping down to as few as 20 a day, the 81,000 people who contracted the disease represent less than one thousandth of one percent of the population (ie 0.001%).

    In South Korea, the number of new infections is dropping to perhaps 250 a day after reaching as high as 800, so maybe that country is also starting to see a positive resolution.  They currently have 15 thousandths of one percent (ie 0.015%) of their population infected, and if the rate of new infections continues to decline, maybe it might end up with a total count of 0.03%?

    In Italy, with new infections reaching up over 1500 a day, and with the situation becoming so chaotic and dire that accurate reporting of new cases is no longer a certainty, already the count is up to twenty five thousandths of one percent (ie 0.025%).  Each extra 1200 people means adding another 0.002% to the total people infected.  With there being no current slowdown in new infection numbers, we can’t start to guess what the future holds there.

    But all these numbers pale into insignificance with some predictions that suggest as much as 70% of the US and Europe might get the disease.  Other projections suggest perhaps 50% or 60%.  These are terrible numbers.

    If this were to happen, there’s no way our civilization would survive.  Everything would fail over time due to the lack of people available to maintain things – water, power, sewer, internet, phone, food, healthcare, you-name-it, everything would either completely fail, or have such diminished service as to effectively be useless.  Imagine instead of a five minute response time when you call for fire or ambulance, you have a five hour response time.  Even simply doubling response times would see more fires get out of control and burn entire buildings to the ground, and more people die due to lack of timely healthcare response.  Imagine if your food supplies dropped by two thirds – you can eat one day in three.  How well would that work for you?  And so on.

    Note also that a 70% impairment might not mean that “one time in three, everything is still normal” or “things still work, but not as well as before”.  An equally applicable analogy might be a bridge that has had 70% of it crumble away.  That bridge can’t still carry 30% of its traffic.  It can’t carry any traffic at all, even though some of it is still standing.

    This is why it is essential to slow down the course of the disease spread as much as possible.  If we are to have a measurable percent of the population suffer from Covid-19, we must have as few as possible out of action at a time, or else the entire intricate network of interlinked dependencies in our modern world will collapse like a house of cards.

    Back to the question – what are your chances of getting the disease?  Whether the entire population experiences a 70%, 7%, 0.7%, or any other infection rate, higher or lower, your own personal chances can be massively influenced by how effectively you practice infection avoidance.  Please keep reading.

    How Deadly Is the Virus

    How long is a piece of string?  As amazing as it may seem, there’s no consensus about how deadly the virus is.  The problem is not in knowing how many people die from the virus, but in knowing how many people do not die, because – we are told – some number of people will get the virus and only feel mildly unwell, and never even visit a doctor.  Of course, by definition, no-one knows what percentage of people only get very mild symptoms.  Some people are suggesting that perhaps for every person who gets officially counted, there might be another ten people who don’t get counted.

    So, pick a number, any number.  Whatever that number is, it is bad.  Some knowledgeable people are guesstimating that, in total, maybe 1% of everyone who gets the disease, including people who get such a mild dose as not to even realize they have it, ends up dying of it.

    On the other end of the scale, some health systems are less sophisticated than others, and it is our sense that maybe not everyone who gets the virus is being officially counted, because sometimes they’re not being correctly diagnosed.  This has even happened in the US, where during much of February, if you hadn’t recently returned from China, you weren’t suspected of having the Covid-19 virus and weren’t tested for it.

    What we can sort of say is that if you become unwell enough to become an “official statistic”, then it seems the mortality rate is somewhere between about 3% and 7% on average, but with huge variations depending on where in the world you are, and your own pre-existing health status.

    Whatever the number – 1%, 3%, 6%, or any other number you choose, it is much higher than for “regular” ‘flu, which is generally considered to be about 0.1% most years.

    This points to one of the reasons people are so concerned about the coronavirus.  It is somewhere between at least 10 times more deadly than regular ‘flu and possibly as much as 50 or 60 times as deadly.  Most years, in the US alone, more than 20,000 people die of the regular ‘flu, so we could be looking at somewhere up as high as one to two million Covid-19 deaths.  That number is also close to the result of the calculation “if half of the population gets the virus and 1% die, then 1.6 million people will die”.

    There’s one more very concerning issue to do with the Covid-19 infection.  With regular ‘flu, if you have it and get through it and recover, then your body and life returns back to normal.  But with Covid-19, there are growing reports of people who have ended up with severe and lasting lung damage after recovering from an attack of the coronavirus.  Not a nice outcome at all (but still better than dying!).

    Covid-19 current mortality rate

    How Safe is it To Travel Anywhere At Present

    Currently, the US has about five reported cases of Covid-19 per million people.  Let’s just take a number, any number, and say that for every reported case, there are another five not yet reported but possibly infectious cases “in the pipeline”.

    The reported cases are not really people you need to worry about, because they’re perhaps in hospital or maybe “self-isolating” at home.  It is the other ones that we don’t know about who are of concern.  And if you accept my wild guess that there are five unknown cases for each known case, that suggests there are 30 possibly infectious people per million people out there.

    What are the chances of you coming into contact with one of those 30 people?  Well, think about this.  If you interact closely with 17,000 people, you’ve a 50% chance of having come into contact with one of them.  Those seem like fairly safe odds.

    Even if you are very unlucky and closely interact with an infected person, will your “close interaction” be enough for the virus to leap from that person to you?  It depends on the nature of the interaction and how active you are at controlling your exposure (ie hand washing, etc).

    This concept can be drilled down further to consider things like indirect transmission – ie, someone coughed onto their hand yesterday, then touched a handrail, and now today you touched the same handrail.  Does that mean you get infected?  Maybe or maybe not you might get a viable number of viral spores from the handrail, but if you now splash hand sanitizer all over your hands before you transfer it to your clothing or your face/mouth/nose/eyes/hair, you’ll probably be okay.

    So, are we saying it is okay to travel?  No, we emphatically are not.

    Your risk of infection and what you should do in response is a bit like democracy.  The curious contradiction of democracy is that our single vote seldom/never makes any difference in any election, but collectively, all our single votes, added together, create massive swings and changes in our government and its policies.  The same thought applies to avoiding infections.  While it might seem that the odds of personally contracting an infection are very very low; collectively, they are very high, and we all have to do our bit, as teeny tiny as it may seem, to keep the actual numbers as low as possible.

    One last point here.  To be blunt, the infected person to avoid might, ahem, actually be you!  By keeping yourself away from other people, you’re not only doing yourself a favor.  You might be doing them a favor too.

    We’ve seen some threads on Twitter where people are boasting about their travel plans – maybe even adding new travel – as if to show how brave they are, and encouraging other people to do the same.  The self-centered idiocy of such fools is quite breathtaking.

    Create Your Own Safe Zones

    One strategy for minimizing your own exposure to the virus is to keep within areas that you can control and keep as low-risk and uninfected as possible.  We suggest you create these formal “safe zones” that are most likely to be free of viral infection.

    One of these would be your car.  Another of course, your home.  A third might be, if possible (and, alas, probably not possible), your work area.

    Car :  Every time you get into your car, other than directly from your home safe zone, immediately use hand sanitizer.  If you are bringing things with you such as groceries, keep them in the unsafe trunk, not the safe passenger compartment, and consider them “at risk” sources of infection.

    Home :  Every time you enter your home, take off your outer layer of clothing and shoes.  Leave these items outside, or in the entrance hallway area.  Even better if you go through a “mud room” to enter the main home area.

    Treat your outer clothing items and shoes as possibly infected.  Try not to touch them.  If you can lightly spray them with super-disinfectant (discussed below), so much the better.

    If you are bringing other objects into your home, leave them in the entrance hallway and away from heater ducts (so as not to flow the virus spores off the products and around your home.  Spray them with super-disinfectant if appropriate, otherwise, leave them for as many days as possible for any virus infection to die naturally.

    Wash your hands thoroughly upon arriving home (save the hand sanitizer for when you don’t have hot water and soap at hand).  Consider also washing your face, and maybe also your hair if you’ve had a lot of close contact with other people or if you’ve seen/heard people coughing anywhere within say 100 ft of you.  Perhaps even cut your hair shorter than normal.

    Do not allow other people into your home.  Tell friends and even family to stay away.  Just because someone is a friend or family member doesn’t make them safe.

    Work :  If you have your own office, keep within it as much as possible and discourage other people from visiting you.  Ask them to phone or email rather than walk in.  Be guarded at accepting papers from others.  If possible, have people use hand sanitizer when entering your office, and do the same when going into other people’s offices (and of course when returning back to your office.

    Remember, if you use the bathroom, sure, you’ll wash your hands there, but you still need to re-sanitize your hands upon getting to your office, because of the bathroom door, maybe other doors, surfaces, etc, that you’ll touch on your way back.

    Things to Do/Not Do When “Out There”

    There are some small things that we take for granted but which in these unfortunate times are best avoided or minimized.  You need to study and think through the implications of so many things that formerly seemed commonplace.  There are so many we can’t even make a list, but we’ll give an example to get you started.  Think of something as commonplace as pumping gas.

    You go to a gas station.  You swipe your credit card, maybe key in a membership number or zip code, select a grade of gas, pump it, return the nozzle to the dispenser and maybe take a receipt.  And/or perhaps you go inside the store to pay inside and maybe use the bathroom or buy some other thing as well.

    Think about all the risks you’ve exposed yourself to.  How many dozens of other people have touched the keypad and selector buttons on the gas pump, taken the nozzle out, and possibly also gone inside the gas station, touching the door handle on the way in and out.

    Plus, if you’re paying cash, you’re getting pieces of paper that have been recently handled by at least two other people – the cashier, and the person who gave the cashier the bank note not long before.

    And if you’re buying food or drink, how safe is the food and drink?  Is it hot and covered, or warm and uncovered?

    If you’re buying other items, are you using a hand-basket or a trolley to carry them in.  If so, use hand sanitizer on the handle of the basket or trolley.

    Without being too conspicuous, we’d recommend using a pair of leather gardening gloves to work the gas pump machine, so that your actual hands never touch any part of the pump.  If you’re going into the station, remember as soon as you touch the door handle, you’re exposing yourself to further infection.  Try not to buy food that isn’t sealed.

    If you accept change back from the cashier, remember that it too may be contaminated, not only now when you stuff it into your billfold, but subsequently when you pull it out again, tomorrow, as well.

    Whenever possible, try to pay by credit card, and try not to let other people touch your card.  Avoid cash.

    Try not to touch anything that other people are likely to have touched in the last day or two.  Buttons in lifts, door handles, touch screens, and so on.  If you need to press something, try using a pen or short stick; if that’s not easy or looks ridiculous, remember to sanitize your hands as soon as possible afterwards.

    Food

    We hope you don’t love salads.  We suggest avoiding uncooked foods entirely.  And, much as we all love all-you-can-eat buffets, avoid them entirely.  Avoid any food that is displayed out in the open.

    If you are eating food commercially, try to only eat food that has been freshly cooked, hot, and which is served promptly to you after being cooked.  Avoid all uncooked or cooled or standing foods.

    Wherever possible, prepare your own cooked food, and eat it in one of your safe spaces.

    Do You Need to Be Tested for the Virus Now?

    No, you absolutely do not need to be tested now.

    It pains us to read people demanding that everyone in the country be instantly tested, and holding the inability for this to occur as being a criminal failing on the part of our President.  If you’re feeling perfectly healthy, why test yourself?  What possible good is there to do that?

    A test only reports your state at the time of the test, and to a varying degree of accuracy less than 100% correct.  Maybe, as you leave the testing station, you encounter an infected person, and a couple of days later, have contracted a full-blown case of the virus.  What was the point or purpose of the test while you were feeling healthy?  It doesn’t save you from immediately getting infected.  It is a bit like being tested for STDs, then immediately going to have unprotected sex with a prostitute.  Any test is invalidated as soon as a new potential exposure is encountered – almost before the ink has dried on the test result printout, because you’ll be encountering potential new exposures even as you leave the clinic.

    Keep in mind also there is nothing which, if taken promptly at the first signs of infection, will spare you getting unwell.  Almost the entirety of treatment regimens at present are palliative and designed to ameliorate the secondary conditions the virus causes, not to prevent their occurrence.

    There are however valid cases for testing people – particularly “at risk” people who may possibly have acquired the infection and not yet be displaying outwards signs.  In those cases, it is very helpful to know if people should start isolating themselves, or if they can be reassured that all is well.  Up until now, knowing who has infections has also helped to find other potential carriers in an effort to contain the disease, but now that we are starting to give up on containment, that’s no longer quite so valuable.

    Iif you feel unwell, and are starting to manifest the classic symptoms (feeling sick with a fever, a dry cough, difficulty breathing), then by all means, consider getting tested.  But everyone will thank you to wait until you’re moderately certain you’re not just coming down with a regular cold before you add your own personal burden to an already massively stressed healthcare system.  Plus, for reasons we don’t understand, the CDC seems remarkably reluctant to test people for the virus.

    A Note on Thermometers

    We love modern high-tech equipment, and surround ourselves with all sorts of wonderful gadgets.  One such gadget that you’d expect us to have would be a digital thermometer.  Indeed, we do have several of them.

    But our instinctive desire to trust LCD displayed numbers is being confronted by a significant number of credible reviews of the myriad of cheap made-in-China digital thermometers, suggesting that often their displayed temperatures are inaccurate.  So we’ve gone low-tech and returned back to good old-fashioned “mercury line glass thermometers”, although these days, while the substance might still look like mercury in the thermometer, it is not mercury, but rather something safer, in case you break the thermometer and it splashes into your mouth.

    We suggest you do the same.  Get one for each person in your household, label them, and have each person also establish a “baseline” on their thermometer, showing where their normal temperature appears.  Remember that the old fashioned thermometers can take up to three or more minutes to get an accurate reading, and also remember that you shouldn’t take your temperature if you’ve had anything to eat and drink in the 30 minutes or so prior.

    Glass thermometers are becoming hard to find at present, and/or offensively over-priced.  If you already have, or choose to buy, a digital thermometer, and for that matter, if you get an “analog” one too, you should check it by seeing what your temperature displays on it when you are healthy and normal and also double check if it is showing an elevated temperature.  Take it with you when you go to a doctor’s office and check their device and reading against your own.

    Super-Disinfectant

    There’s been a rush of companies boasting that their disinfectant will kill the Wuhan coronavirus.  In some cases, no matter how genuine their claims appear to be, they are totally wrong.

    Happily, the EPA has published a list of approved disinfectants.  Some of them are little more than common ordinary bleach, and suffer from the problem of stinking like normal bleach.  That’s not much fun if you fill your house and your life with the reech of bleach.

    Our favorite disinfectant is awesomely concentrated and needs to be massively diluted prior to actual use, and not too unpleasant smelling.  It is Virex II 256, but seems currently to be sold out on Amazon.  If you can find it elsewhere, we recommend it.  Otherwise, any of the other listed products would work, too.

    Any disinfectant will need to cover a surface sufficiently, and remain on the surface for a period of time, to impact on any viral spores that are present.  Don’t just wipe on then immediately wipe dry again.  It also needs to be sufficiently concentrated to work, and, most of all, to have appropriate chemicals to act on the virus.

    Another Piece of Medical Equipment to Consider

    There’s one other inexpensive and non-invasive piece of equipment you might want to consider acquiring.  A pulse oximeter – a device that gently clips onto one of your fingers and measures the oxygen concentration in your blood as well as your pulse rate.

    Normally people have oxygen concentrations in a range between about 95% and 100% fully saturated with oxygen.  A significantly low level of oxygen is anything below 90%.  If you are getting low readings, that tells you there’s something wrong with your lungs and associated parts of your respiratory system, and is cause for concern and action.  Because the Wuhan virus is strongly active in the respiratory system, this is something to watch out for.

    Amazon sell such devices for as little as $15 or as much as $200 and more.  Imogen and Philips are excellent brands to consider with confidence, and in general, we’d be willing to pay a bit more for a US brand rather than to buy the cheapest generic Chinese model available.

    Do You Really Need A Mass Supply of Toilet Paper?  Or Anything Else?

    So, if we’re looking at 120 days or more of disruption, what exactly can we expect during those 120 days?  Do we need to fill up our homes with a 120 day supply, now, of everything we expect to need for the next four months?

    The official answer to that is no, we do not, and indeed, not only do we not need to do this, but we shouldn’t do this, because if even a very small number of people start buying ahead four months, the country’s ability to supply regular needs for tomorrow and the next week or two will collapse.

    But think about that and the inbuilt admission about the fragility of the country’s supply chain.  The much boasted about concept of “just in time” supply assumes a supply chain that works flawlessly, because there is no slack anywhere in the system if any product is delayed.  Decades ago, supermarkets had as much space “out the back” for extra stock as they had “in the front” on the public shelves.  But now, there’s very little actual storage out the back, just inventory processing as between when it comes in on a truck, is broken down, then shifted quickly onto the shelves in the public store.  A typical supermarket these days carries only a few days supply, on average, for the products on its shelves.  A sudden flurry of purchasing, such as we sometimes see prior to bad weather, will strip the shelves bare.

    Our real concern though isn’t so much in emptying the local supermarket today.  It is more a concern about the resupply proceeding as hoped for tomorrow and the next day.  What happens when truckers start getting sick?  Continue thinking further back, too.  What happens when people in the food processing plants start getting sick?  When people who grow the original raw food start getting sick?  When the people in the factories that make the packaging start getting sick?

    There are a lot of potential vulnerabilities and disruptions in our food supply chain at present.  With time, they can be smoothed over and ironed out, and maybe a worst case scenario is that today, there’s no beef on the shelves, then tomorrow, the beef is back but the pork is gone, and the day after, it is the turn for chicken to be unavailable.  Maybe the global shipments of fresh produce that have meant we can always get fresh seasonal fruit and vegetables from somewhere will be disrupted, and we’ll have to limit such things to what is local and readily available.  Fewer mangoes and more potatoes, perhaps!

    The other consideration is that if we’re facing movement restrictions and are required to keep away from each other as much as possible, going to a supermarket might no longer be easy or as normal and safe as it has been.  Plus, with supply disruptions, we might have to go to two or three supermarkets to get everything we need/want, because of some supermarkets being out of some items, and others being out of other items.  If you don’t have a car, that’s a hassle.  If you do have a car, well, let’s hope there are not also disruptions to the supply of gas to the pumps.

    We’ll just say that the more food you have now, the less at risk you’ll be in case of any supply disruptions in the future, and the more options you’ll have.

    When you do go out shopping, don’t just buy enough food for the next day or two.  Buy enough food for the next week or two, so that you don’t need to regularly go out and expose yourself in and around the food stores you buy your food from.

    Summary

    We don’t yet know how far or how fast the Wuhan coronavirus will spread, or how fatal it will be.

    The current situation in both China and South Korea is encouraging, but if we are to emulate them, we’ll need to impose similar severe and widespread bans on travel and social contact of all kinds, and brutally enforce those bans, with the severest of consequences for transgressors.

    We fear that our love of democratic freedoms, including those guaranteed to us in our Constitution, may see a more relaxed and partial imposition of such controls, and with an outcome more akin to that currently evolving in Italy.  At the time of writing, there’s no way of guessing how much further the Covid-19 infection will reach into Italy.

    We also don’t know, longer term, how long the virus will remain a major public health concern.  There are already a number of potential vaccines undergoing preliminary testing, and it seems possible than an accelerated development and approval program may see an official vaccine by the end of the year, but probably not much sooner.

    For now, your focus should be on yourself and the people immediately around you, and to try and survive to the point where a vaccine becomes available.  Do all you can to restrict all contact with everyone else.  And, please, now is not a good time to go anywhere for gratuitous non-essential leisure travel.

    By all means, hold significantly larger stocks of foodstuffs and other consumables and necessary items at home.  If nothing else, it will reduce the number of times you need to make visits to the possibly increasingly risky environments of retail stores.