All posts tagged: COVID-19

Social Distancing and Stay-Home Orders Are Likely To Save Millions

A new study by influential researchers at Imperial College, London finds that COVID-19 is more infectious and deadly than scientists had thought.  The new Imperial study finds that had nations done nothing, COVID-19 would have killed 40 million and infected seven billion.  An earlier, March 16th study by Imperial College, predicting millions of deaths, helped inspire UK, US, and other governments around the world to take much stronger actions including stay-at-home orders, last week. Some conservative pandemic skeptics misrepresented the new study as saying something closer to the opposite of what it actually said. “Epidemiologist Neil Ferguson, who created the highly-cited Imperial College London coronavirus model,” wrote the Daily Wire, “offered a massive revision to his model on Wednesday.” What the reporter failed to note was that the revision to the model was based on the nationwide lockdown the UK government imposed, not because researchers had over-estimated the risk. “Our analysis, therefore, suggests that healthcare demand can only be kept within manageable levels,” the Imperial researchers conclude, “through the rapid adoption of public health measures… …

Will COVID-19 Mark the End of European Liberalism?

Understandably, given its potential for large scale loss of life and severe economic disruption, coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic has so far focused on its short-term health and economic impact. Eventually, however, we will have to start thinking about the longer-term repercussions of the virus—particularly its political fall-out. According to the social science literature, there appears to be a positive correlation between the prevalence of disease and an increase in authoritarian-nationalist political views.1 This could have important ramifications in continental Europe, where several of the countries at the epicentre of the outbreak were already dealing with the rise of authoritarian-nationalist opposition parties and have upcoming elections. The possibility of the EU’s three largest economies (Germany, France, and Italy) shifting toward authoritarian-nationalist politics, and upending the liberal settlement of the world’s biggest economic block, means the political fall-out from COVID-19 could influence events around the world for decades to come. This conjecture is built on two foundations. The first is the evidence that greater prevalence of disease increases authoritarian-nationalist politics in individuals and countries. The second …

Humanity’s Greatest Foe: Pandemics Through the Ages

A review of Plagues and Peoples by William McNeill, Anchor, 365 pages (1998) Readers seeking a longer historical perspective on the coronavirus pandemic would do well to consider William H. McNeill’s brilliant book, Plagues and Peoples. Originally published in 1976, Plagues and Peoples shows, in less than 300 pages (not including the appendix, notes and index), “how varying patterns of disease circulation have affected human affairs in ancient and modern times.” Not everyone, understandably, will wish to dwell upon the endless series of calamities infectious diseases have exacted in our collective past. The uncertain, terrifying ordeal immediately before us is quite enough. But along with well-informed worry, McNeill’s masterful account induces both awe and hope at our species’ capacity to endure the worst from its most ancient adversaries. To adapt words McNeill wrote in a slightly different context: The history of mankind’s long struggle against infectious diseases “will not solve contemporary dilemmas. It may, nonetheless, provide perspective and, as is the wont of historical awareness, make simple solutions and radical despair both seem less compelling. …

Winning the War on Coronavirus

A report released by Imperial College London researchers on Monday shook the world. The report gave a glimpse into the coronavirus’s battle plan. It was to kill over two million Americans and at least a half-million Brits.  Thanks to the wartime mobilization by the people of both nations, we can feel confident that we have thwarted its plan. There is very little chance that, after the lockdowns and social distancing occurring around the world, coronavirus is still on track to infect and kill as many people. But we are only at the very beginning of what will be a long, difficult, and deadly war, and things are changing quickly. To balance saving lives with minimizing social disruption, Imperial College scientists foresee societies engaging in several, weeks-long waves of social distancing between now and the fall of 2021. By then, most experts expect we will have a vaccine. We could get one sooner, but few believe we will have proven a vaccine’s safety and effectiveness sooner than 12 months. The events of recent days and past epidemics, …