It is easy to overdo COVID-19 quarantines

We have learned historically that if we can isolate sick people, we can often keep a communicable disease from spreading. Unfortunately, the situation with the new coronavirus causing COVID-19 is different: We can’t reliability determine which people are spreading the disease. Furthermore, the disease seems to transmit in many different ways simultaneously.

Politicians and health organizations like to show that they are “doing something.” Because of the strange nature of COVID-19, however, doing something is mostly a time-shifting exercise: With quarantines and other containment efforts, there will be fewer cases now, but this will be mostly or entirely offset by more cases later. Whether time-shifting reduces deaths and eases hospital care depends upon whether medical advances are sufficiently great during the time gained to improve outcomes.

We tend to lose sight of the fact that an economy cannot simply be shut down for a period and then start up again at close to its former level of production. China seems to have seriously overdone its use of quarantines. It seems likely that its economy can never fully recover. The permanent loss of a significant part of China’s productive output seems likely to send the world economy into a tailspin, regardless of what other economies do.

Before undertaking containment efforts of any kind, decision-makers need to look carefully at several issues:

  • Laying off workers, even for a short time, severely adversely affects the economy.
  • The expected length of delay in cases made possible by quarantines is likely to be very short, sometimes lasting not much longer than the quarantines themselves.
  • We seem to need a very rapid improvement in our ability to treat COVID-19 cases for containment efforts to make sense, if we cannot stamp out the disease completely.

Because of these issues, it is very easy to overdo quarantines and other containment efforts.

In the sections below, I explain some parts of this problem.

[1] The aim of coronavirus quarantines is mostly to slow down the spread of the virus, not to stop its spread.

As a practical matter, it is virtually impossible to stop the spread of the new coronavirus.

In order to completely stop its spread, we would need to separate each person from every other person, as well as from possible animal carriers, for something like a month. In this way, people who are carriers for the disease or actually have the disease would hopefully have time to get over their illnesses. Perhaps airborne viruses would dissipate and viruses on solid surfaces would have time to deteriorate.

This clearly could not work. People would need to be separated from their children and pets. All businesses, including food sales, would have to stop. Electricity would likely stop, especially in areas where storms bring down power lines. No fuel would be available for vehicles of any kind. If a home catches fire, the fire would need to burn until a lack of material to burn stops it. If a baby needs to be delivered, there would be no midwife or hospital services available. If a person happened to have an appendicitis, it would simply need to resolve itself at home, however that worked out.

Bigger groups could in theory be quarantined together, but then the length of time for the quarantine would need to be greatly lengthened, to account for the possibility that one person might catch the disease from someone else in the group. The bigger the group, the longer the chain might continue. A group might be a single family sharing a home; it could also be a group of people in an apartment building that shares a common ventilation system.

[2] An economy is in many ways like a human being or other animal. Its operation cannot be stopped for a month or more, without bringing the economy to an end. 

I sometimes write about the economy being a self-organizing networked system that is powered by energy. In physics terms, the name for such a system is a dissipative structure. Human beings are dissipative structures, as are hurricanes and stars, such as the sun.

Human beings cannot stop eating and breathing for a month. They cannot have sleep apnea for an hour at a time, and function afterward.

Economies cannot stop functioning for a month and afterward resume operations at their previous level. Too many people will have lost their jobs; too many businesses will have failed in the meantime. If the closures continue for two or three months, the problem becomes very serious. We are probably kidding ourselves if we think that China can come back to the same level that it was at before the new coronavirus hit.

In a way, keeping an economy operating is as important as preventing deaths from COVID-19. Without food, water and wage-producing jobs (which allow people to buy necessary goods and services), the deaths from the loss of the economy would be far greater than the direct deaths from the coronavirus.

[3] A reasonable guess is that nearly all of us will face multiple exposures to the new coronavirus. 

Many people are hoping that this wave of the coronavirus will be stopped by warmer weather, perhaps in May or June. We don’t know whether this will happen or not. If the coronavirus does stop, there is a good chance the same virus, or a close variation of it, will be back again this fall. It is likely to come back in waves later, for at least one more year. In fact, if no vaccine is found, it is possible that it could come back, in various variations, indefinitely. There are many things we simply don’t know with certainty at this time.

Epidemiologists talk about the spread of a virus being stopped at the community immunity level. Harvard epidemiologist Marc Lipsitch originally estimated that 40% to 70% of the world’s population would come down with COVID-19 within the first year. He has revised this and now states that it is plausible that 20% to 60% of the world’s population will catch the disease in that timeframe. He also indicates that if the virus cannot be contained, the only way to get it under control is for 50% of the world’s population to become immune to it.

The big issue with containing the coronavirus is that we cannot really tell who has it and who does not. The tests available for COVID-19 are expensive, so giving the test to everyone, frequently, makes no sense. The tests tend to give a many false negatives, so even when they are given, they don’t necessarily detect people with the disease. There are also many people who seem to spread the disease without symptoms. Without testing everyone, these people will never be found.

We hear limited statements such as “The United States surgeon general said Sunday that he thinks the coronavirus outbreak is being contained in certain areas of the country as cases of the virus rise across the United States.” Unfortunately, containment of the virus in a few parts of the world does not solve the general problem. There are lots and lots of uncontained cases around the world. These uncontained cases will continue to spread, regardless of the steps taken elsewhere.

Furthermore, even when we think the virus is contained, there are likely to be missed cases, especially among people who seem to be well, but who really are carriers. Getting rid of the virus is likely to be a major challenge.

[4] There is an advantage to delaying citizens from catching COVID-19. The delay allows doctors to learn which existing medications can be used to help treat the symptoms of the disease.

There seem to be multiple drugs and multiple therapies that work to some limited extent.

For example, plasma containing antibodies from a person who has already had the illness can be injected into a person with the disease, helping to fight the disease. It is not clear, however, whether such a treatment will protect against future attacks of the virus since the patient is being cured without his own immune system producing adequate antibodies.

Some HIV drugs are being examined to see whether they work well enough for it to make sense to ramp up production of them. The antiviral drug remdesivir by Gilead Sciences also seems to have promise. For these drugs to be useful in fighting COVID-19, production would need to be ramped up greatly.

In theory, there is also a possibility that a vaccine can be brought to market that will get rid of the virus. Our past experience with vaccine-making has not been very good, however. Out of 200+ virus-caused diseases that affect humans, only about 20 have vaccines. These vaccines generally need to be updated frequently, because viruses tend to mutate over time.

With some viruses, such as Dengue Fever, people don’t ever build up adequate immunity to the many disease variations that exist. Instead a person who catches Dengue Fever a second time is likely to be sicker than the first time. Finding a vaccine for such diseases seems to be almost impossible.

Even if we can actually succeed in making a vaccine that works, the expectation seems to be that this will take at least 12 to 18 months. By this time, the world may have experienced multiple waves of COVID-19.

[5] There are multiple questions regarding how well European countries, Japan and the United States will really be able to treat coronavirus.

There are several issues involved:

(a) Even if medicines are identified, can they be ramped up adequately in the short time available?

(b) China’s exports have dropped significantly. Required medical goods that we normally import from China may not be available. The missing items could be as simple as rubbing alcohol, masks and other protective wear. The missing items could also be antibiotics, antidepressants, and blood pressure medications that are needed for both COVID-19 patients and other patients.

(c) Based on my calculations, the number of hospital beds and ICU beds needed will likely exceed those available (without kicking out other patients) by at least a factor of 10, if the size of the epidemic grows. There will also be a need for more medical staff. Medical staff may be fewer, rather than more, because many of them will be out sick with the virus. Because of these issues, the amount of hospital-based care that can actually be provided to COVID-19 patients is likely to be fairly limited.

(d) One reason for time-shifting of illnesses has been to try to better match illnesses with medical care available. The main benefit I can see is the fact that many health care workers will have contracted the illness in the first wave of the disease, so will be more available to give care in later waves of the disease. Apart from this difference, the system will be badly overwhelmed, regardless of when COVID-19 cases occur.

[6] A major issue, both with COVID-19 illnesses and with quarantines arising out of fear of illness, is wage loss

If schools and day care centers are closed because of COVID-19 fears, many of the parents will have to take off time from work to care for the children. These parent will likely lose wages.

Wage loss will also be a problem if quarantines are required for people returning from an area that might be affected. For example, immigrant workers in China wanting to return to work in major cities after the New Year’s holiday have been quarantined for 14 days after they return.

Clearly, expenses (such as rent, food and auto payments) will continue, both for the mother of the child who is at home because a child’s school is closed and for the migrant worker who wants to return to a job in the city. Their lack of wages will mean that these people will make fewer discretionary purchases, such as visiting restaurants and making trips to visit relatives. In fact, migrant workers, when faced with a 14 day quarantine, may decide to stay in the countryside. If they don’t earn very much in the best of times, and they are required to go 14 days without pay after they return, there may not be much incentive to return to work.

If I am correct that the illness COVID-19 will strike in several waves, these same people participating in quarantines will have another “opportunity” for wage loss when they actually contract the disease, during one of these later rounds. Unless there is a real reduction in the number of people who ultimately get COVID-19 because of quarantines, a person would expect that the total wage loss would be greater with quarantines than without, because the wage loss occurs twice instead of once.

Furthermore, businesses will suffer financially when their workers are out. With fewer working employees, businesses will likely be able to produce fewer finished goods and services than in the past. At the same time, their fixed expenses (such as mortgage payments, insurance payments, and the cost of heating buildings) will continue. This mismatch is likely to lead to lower profits at two different times: (a) when workers are out because of quarantines and (b) when they are out because they are ill.

[7] We likely can expect a great deal more COVID-19 around the world, including in China and in Italy, in the next two years.

The number of reported COVID-19 cases to date is tiny, compared to the number that is expected based on estimates by epidemiologists. China reports about 81,000 COVID-19 cases to date, while its population is roughly 1.4 billion. If epidemiologists tell us to expect 20% to 60% of a country’s population to be affected by the end of the first year of the epidemic, this would correspond to a range of 280 million to 840 million cases. The difference between reported cases and expected cases is huge. Reported cases to date are less than 0.01% of the population.

We know that China’s reported number of cases is an optimistically low number, but we don’t know how low. Many, many more cases are expected in the year ahead if workers go back to work. In fact, there have been recent reports of a COVID-19 outbreak in Shenzhen and Guangzhou, near Hong Kong. Such an outbreak would adversely affect China’s manufactured exports.

Italy has a similar situation. It is currently reported to have somewhat more than 10,000 cases. Its total population is about 60 million. Thus, its number of cases amounts to about 0.02% of the population. If Epidemiologist Lipsitch is correct regarding the percentage of the population that is ultimately likely to be affected, the number of cases in Italy, too, can be expected to be much higher within the next year. Twenty percent of a population of 60 million would amount to 12 million cases; 60% of the population would amount to 36 million cases.

[8] When decisions about quarantines are made, the expected wage loss when workers lose their jobs needs to be considered as well. 

Let’s calculate the amount of wage loss from actually having COVID-19. If workers generally work for 50 weeks a year and are out sick for an average of 2 weeks because of COVID-19, the average worker would lose 4% (=2/50) of his annual wages. If workers are out sick for an average of three weeks, this would increase the loss to 6% (3/50) of the worker’s annual wages.

Of course, not all workers will be affected by the new coronavirus. If we are expecting 20% to 60% of the workers to be out sick during the first year that the epidemic cycles through the economy, the expected overall wage loss for the population as a whole would amount to 0.8% (=20% times 4%) to 3.6% (=60% times 6%) of total wages.

Let’s now calculate the wage loss from a quarantine. A week of wage loss during a quarantine of the entire population, while nearly everyone is well, would lead to a wage loss equal to 2% of the population’s total wages. Two weeks of wage loss during quarantine would lead to wage loss equal to 4% of the population’s total wages.

Is it possible to reduce overall wage loss and deaths by using quarantines? This approach works for diseases which can actually be stopped through isolating sick members, but I don’t think it works well at all for COVID-19. Mostly, it provides a time-shifting feature. There are fewer illnesses earlier, but to a very significant extent, this is offset by more illnesses later.  This time-shifting feature might be helpful if there really is a substantial improvement in prevention or treatment that is quickly available. For example, if a vaccine that really works can be found quickly, such a vaccine might help prevent some of the illnesses and deaths in 2021 and following years.

If there really isn’t an improvement in preventing the disease, then we get back to the situation where the virus needs to be stopped based on community immunity. According to Lipsitch, to stop the virus based on community immunity, at least 50% of the population would need to become immune. This implies that somewhat more than 50% of the population would need to catch the new coronavirus, because some people would catch the new virus and die, either of COVID-19 or of another disease.

Let’s suppose that 55% would need to catch COVID-19 to allow the population immunity to rise to 50%. The virus would likely need to keep cycling around until at least this percentage of the population has caught the disease. This is not much of a decrease from the upper limit of 60% during the first year. This suggests that moving illnesses to a later year may not help much at all with respect to the expected number of illnesses and deaths. Hospitals will be practically equally overwhelmed regardless, unless we can somehow change the typical seasonality of viruses and move some of the winter illnesses to summertime.

If there is no improvement in COVID-19 prevention/treatment during the time-shift of cases created by the quarantine, any quarantine wage loss can be thought of as being simply in addition to wage loss from having the virus itself. Thus, a country that opts for a two week quarantine of all workers (costing 4% of workers’ wages) may be more than doubling the direct wage loss from COVID-19 (equivalent to 0.8% to 3.6% of workers’ wages).

[9] China’s shutdown in response to COVID-19 doesn’t seem to make much rational sense.

It is hard to understand exactly how much China has shut down, but the shutdown has gone on for about six weeks. At this point, it is not clear that China can ever come back to the level it was at previously. Clearly, the combination of wage loss for individuals and profit loss for companies is very high. The long shutdown is likely to lead to widespread debt defaults. With less wages, there is likely to be less demand for goods such as cars and cell phones during 2020.

China was having difficulty before the new coronavirus was discovered to be a problem. Its energy production has slowed greatly, starting about 2012-2013, making it necessary for China to start shifting from a goods-producing nation to a country that is more of a services-producer (Figure 1).

Figure 1. China energy production by fuel, based on 2019 BP Statistical Review of World Energy data. “Other Ren” stands for “Renewables other than hydroelectric.” This category includes wind, solar, and other miscellaneous types, such as sawdust burned for electricity.

 

For example, China’s workers now put together iPhones using parts made in other countries, rather than making iPhones from start to finish. This part of the production chain requires relatively little fuel, so it is in some sense more like a service than the manufacturing of parts for the phone.

The rest of the world has been depending upon China to be a major supplier within its supply lines. Perhaps many of these supply lines will be broken indefinitely. Instead of China helping pull the world economy along faster, we may be faced with a situation in which China’s reduced output leads to worldwide economic contraction rather than economic growth.

Without medicines from China, our ability to fight COVID-19 may get worse over time, rather than better. In such a case, it would be better to get the illness now, rather than later.

[10] We need to be examining proposed solutions closely, in the light of the particulars of the new coronavirus, rather than simply assuming that fighting COVID-19 to the death is appropriate.

The instructions we hear today seem to suggest using disinfectants everywhere, to try to prevent COVID-19. This is yet another way to try to push off infections caused by the coronavirus into the future. We know, however, that there are good microbes as well as bad ones. The ecosystem requires a balance of microbes. Dumping disinfectants everywhere has its downside, as well as the possibility of an upside of killing the current round of coronaviruses. In fact, to the extent that the virus is airborne, the disinfectants may not really be very helpful in wiping out COVID-19.

It is very easy to believe that if some diseases can be subdued by quarantines, the same approach will work everywhere. This really isn’t true. We need to be examining the current situation closely, based on whatever information is available, before decisions are made regarding how to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak. Perhaps any quarantines used need to be small and targeted.

We also need to be looking for new approaches for fighting COVID-19. One approach that is not being used significantly to date is trying to strengthen people’s own immune systems. Such an approach might help people’s own immune system to fight off the disease, thereby lowering death rates. Nutrition experts recommend supplementing diets with Vitamins A, C, E, antioxidants and selenium. Other experts say zinc, Vitamin D and elderberry may be helpful. Staying away from cold temperatures also seems to be important. Drinking plenty of water after coming down with the disease may be beneficial as well. If we can help people’s own bodies fight the disease, the burden on the medical system will be lower.

 

About Gail Tverberg

My name is Gail Tverberg. I am an actuary interested in finite world issues - oil depletion, natural gas depletion, water shortages, and climate change. Oil limits look very different from what most expect, with high prices leading to recession, and low prices leading to financial problems for oil producers and for oil exporting countries. We are really dealing with a physics problem that affects many parts of the economy at once, including wages and the financial system. I try to look at the overall problem.
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4,403 Responses to It is easy to overdo COVID-19 quarantines

  1. val says:

    I know that Ibuprofen is very important med for people with arthritis. Is it good and for coronavirus?

    • It is terrible for Coronavirus. Do not take it! There are articles about this.

      Cold cloths on the head would be a good choice, to reduce fever. Tylenol (acetaminophen) to reduce aches.

    • Tango Oscar says:

      I would go one further and avoid all anti inflammation supplements as well. Things like Elderberry for example are anti inflammatories and there are papers online saying to avoid taking it if you have the virus. The only safe things to counteract it right now are multivitamins, vitamin C, and make sure you stay hydrated. Acetaminophen is okay to take for fever and aches too like Gail said.

    • Kowalainen says:

      Gail, didn’t your arthritis improve when you cut your food intake of animal products?

  2. Harry McGibbs says:

    “The specter of widespread corporate defaults in the coming months has caused a massive selloff in junk bonds around the world, as many debt-laden companies face the prospect of going weeks or months with virtually no revenue.

    “Bonds without investment-grade ratings plunged at their fastest pace in history in March, money managers said, stunning investors and hitting levels that portend a deep recession with scores of company failures.”

    https://www.wsj.com/articles/investors-fearing-defaults-rush-out-of-junk-bonds-11585215004

  3. Harry McGibbs says:

    “As the coronavirus outbreak roils credit markets around the world, Asia is under particular threat.

    “The region has led the world in economic growth for years as debt helped fuel frenetic construction of airports, bridges and apartment towers for millions of people moving into cities…

    ““It’s all coming home to roost,” said Charles Macgregor, head of Asia at Lucror Analytics, an independent research firm based in Singapore that focuses on high-yield credit.”

    https://www.theedgemarkets.com/article/echoes-1997-asia-financial-crisis-haunt-regions-debt-market

  4. Harry McGibbs says:

    “Profits earned by China’s industrial firms slid 38.3% year-on-year to 410.7 billion yuan (47.63 billion pounds) in the first two months of 2020, the statistics bureau said on Friday…

    “The decline in profits points to lingering trouble for the manufacturing sector, which is wrestling with a coronavirus epidemic…”

    https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-china-economy-industrial-profits/china-industrial-firms-jan-feb-profits-slump-383-year-on-year-idUKKBN21E06D

    • Harry McGibbs says:

      “”At the beginning the problem was reduction in supply,” says Simchi-Levi, referring to China’s production issues. “But now it is not only a matter of supply from China; it is supply from everywhere. Second, the demand side is completely changing. Now there is a big drop in demand.” With unemployment rising and consumer spending reduced, fewer large manufacturers can keep operating at full capacity or anything close to it…

      “”You can see there are cascading effects that have an impact,” Simchi-Levi says. Clearly, without an abatement of the spread of Covid-19, a substantial economic uptick is hard to imagine.

      “”This is all fluid and dynamic,” he warns.”

      https://phys.org/news/2020-03-chain-outlook-slowdown.html

      • Harry McGibbs says:

        “Since last week, emails from foreign clients have been flooding into export manager Grace Gao’s in-box, asking to delay orders already made, putting goods ready to be shipped on hold until further notice, or asking for payment grace periods of up to two months.

        “Gao’s firm, Shandong Pangu Industrial Co., makes tools like hammers and axes, 60% of which go to the European market. As the virus ravages the continent from Spain to Italy, the shutdowns there are cutting off orders to Chinese factories just as they were beginning to get back on their feet. It’s a story playing out across the country.”

        https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-03-26/the-second-virus-shockwave-is-hitting-china-s-factories-already

  5. Harry McGibbs says:

    “The United States, Europe, Japan, China and India are unleashing trillions of dollars in government spending and newly created money as they desperately attempt to keep the global economy from sinking into depression.

    “The response to the coronavirus pandemic has been unprecedented in terms of speed and scale. Commitments from governments and central banks to date are close to $7 trillion…”

    https://edition.cnn.com/2020/03/26/economy/global-economy-coronavirus-bailout/index.html

    • Harry McGibbs says:

      “European leaders have clashed over how to pull their economies through the coronavirus crisis, as Italy accused other member states of a timid response to an unprecedented economic shock.

      “Meeting via a video link, the EU’s 27 leaders papered over deep divisions by agreeing that another fortnight was needed to discuss ambitious economic recovery plans.”

      https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/26/eu-leaders-clash-over-economic-response-to-coronavirus-crisis

      • Marco Bruciati says:

        2 weeks Will be too late. Now all people and politics want Mario Draghi as prime minister. He want do big debit and give Money . So now all want him. And i think Will arrive soon

      • Robert Firth says:

        It won’t happen. The only course of action that might (a big might) succeed is debt guaranteed by the whole EU, the proposed eurobond. Germany will refuse, and if Merkel says no so will her French poodle, and that kills the idea.

        Perhaps people will finally realise that EU solidarity was a fraud from the beginning. Its purpose was to allow Germany and France to loot everyone else; they added the Benelux countries to the club so it would not look like a duopoly. So Germany gets a hugely undervalued new currency, which means everyone else’s is overvalued and they have no way out. France is kept onside by the Common Agricultural Policy, which is a way of taxing everyone else to featherbed the French farmers. So we have Greece, Italy, and very soon Spain pleading for help, and it will not come.

        Archaeologists uncovered a cache of letters at Tel el Amarna, real name Akhetaten, from provincial governors pleading for help from the Pharaoh. There were threats from Libya, from the sea, and from the expanding empires around Palestine (Egyptian territory since Tutmoses III). They went unanswered, because the Pharaoh was too busy creating his new religion. Just as the EU oligarchs are too busy creating a Europe subservient to them and their brand new army.

        • Marco Bruciati says:

          Yes Margaret Thatcher was right. She told euro was disaster for poor country.

        • Xabier says:

          And we may add that in Greece, Italy, Spain, etc, the elites were able to enrich themselves and enjoy a stable currency – suited them very well, and the mass of people were taken in by freedom of movement and all the surface gloss the EU spread around liberally.

        • Jarle says:

          “Perhaps people will finally realise that EU solidarity was a fraud from the beginning. Its purpose was to allow Germany and France to loot everyone else; they added the Benelux countries to the club so it would not look like a duopoly. ”

          UK must be devastated, imagine not being the one looting for a change …

    • Dan Cantrall says:

      This will be the real test. If everything can be manipulated and bad debt made to disappear then we will know that we don’t have a “free market system”. I thought that there was an economic problem before this and now I am not sure about anything because of the machinations of central banks. If there is not a global crash from this ….there will never be one.

      • 09876 says:

        Well you might just now come to the conclusion that its not a free market system. It hasnt been since bretton woods went away. Most people will not understand that it is not and was not a free market system now. The remarkable thing is how robust it is proving regardless of what it is.

        The modern economy. It may be crazy. We may not like it. Its end game always looms. Until the end game it is voracious.

        • Dan Cantrall says:

          Or maybe it doesn’t and we were all fools for sitting on the edge of our seat waiting for it to happen 😂

      • psile says:

        What do you mean?

        The system has indeed already crashed. It is insolvent. What do you think the Federal Reserves $125 billion a day in repo operations is for? It’s to provide liquidity for broke entities. Banks, brokerages, hedge funds, pensions, companies, middle-class gamblers. The government itself. Etc, etc. This constant stream of helicopter money cannot stop, for one moment, now that Bubblezilla has finally burst. Otherwise, the stock market will stop trading by next Tuesday, and that would be that. Let’s see how long they can keep the helicopter from going into a fatal tail spin. At some stage, they will lose control. This bubble was HUGE.

        Bubbles always pop, markets crash, and manias end.

        Always.

    • Chrome Mags says:

      “The response to the coronavirus pandemic has been unprecedented in terms of speed and scale. Commitments from governments and central banks to date are close to $7 trillion…”

      I suspect that pace cannot be kept up for very long. The amounts needed will balloon out of control. In 6 months 7 trillion will need to be 100 trillion and in another 6 months after that it will be in the quadrillion dollars.

      My opinion is there is a small window to get this virus under control with meds or just raise the white flag, take off the masks and let the virus do what it’s going to do and go back to work. I know that sounds like we’d have to ignore the sick and dying and to some extent we would, but the alternative is a dead economy that won’t come back. We likely only have 6-8 weeks. That’s an opinion. Maybe more time, but it gets really tough the further out this goes.

      • psile says:

        The problem is that the massive debt bubble has been burst, getting the virus under control won’t fix that, in the long run. Although there will be rallies and the occasional blue sky moment. All asset classes will be revalued as a result. Sooner, or later.

        The U.S. stock market took three years until it had lost 89% of its all-time value. There were a number of distinct waves, up and down. The first saw a rally that regained 66% of the original move down before the life ebbed out of it. It took 25 years to recover.

    • How about getting people back to work, instead?

  6. Tim Groves says:

    Interesting disease death comparison:

      • Jarle says:

        20000 out of 68 millions is how many %?

        • MickN says:

          .03?
          And how many of those were at death’s door anyway? Models are difficult.
          Now we just have to calculate the economic carnage and further wealth transfer to the rich.

    • CTG says:

      Do note that it is only 3 months from the day of Wuhan lockdown. These diseases listed above have been there for centuries or even thousand of years.

      The hysteria surrounding COVID-19 is deafening

      • psile says:

        I think it’s a case of both the disease (highly contagious and potentially debilitating) and the cure (societal lockdown for months) being as bad as each other.

        One leads to an economic and health disaster.
        The other, just an economic disaster.

        Nice choice, eh?

    • Fast Eddy says:

      I am wondering what the death rate would be if containment was lifted on the Wuhan Virus.

      • If the Harvard Public Health Care model says:

        95.6% of cases are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms
        3.08% are hospitalized but do not require critical care, and
        1.32% require critical care,

        Then at most 1.32% + 3.08% = 4.4% of those with the illness would die, assuming all of those requiring hospitalization would die. Of course, not all of the population would catch the disease before herd immunity built up. If 80% of the population need to catch COVID-19 before population immunity builds up, then at most 3.5% (=.8 x 4.4%) of the overall population would die. Most of these would be elderly or in poor health.

        With treatment, we can perhaps get the percentage who die from down to less than 0.5% of the overall population. The percentage who die from other diseases can be expected to rise, however, because non-COVID-19 treatments get postponed or cancelled.

  7. John Doyle says:

    Boris Johnstone has tested positive for Coronavirus.

  8. Tim Groves says:

    Boris Johnson tests positive!

    Time he self-quarantined.

    https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-52060791

    • Malcopian says:

      Yes, he should hide inside a giant teddy bear and prank Carrie. He’d look good as a teddy bear.

  9. MM says:

    Dear public, your next lesson to be learned is called “Liebig’s law of the Minimum”
    https://consciousnessofsheep.co.uk/2020/03/26/liebigs-law-writ-large/

    • This article is really good. It starts out:

      New deliveries of eggs to British supermarkets are being snapped up as quickly as the shelf stackers can get them onto the shelves. At the same time, tons of eggs are going off in warehouses which currently hold massive stocks of food. The unexpected reason for this situation, we learn from the BBC’s Farming Today programme on Wednesday, is that the UK is currently in the grip of an unanticipated egg carton shortage. The entire of Europe is supplied by just three egg carton manufacturers. None is based in Britain; and the nearest one – in Denmark – is closed for the next fortnight. And so we have warehouses full of eggs and queues of shoppers asking for eggs, but no means of connecting the two.

    • Fast Eddy says:

      That is an outstanding article

  10. “The official jobless numbers are horrifying. The real situation is even worse.
    “Unprecedented: The shutdown of much of the service economy—think restaurants, hotels, and retail stores—in an attempt to slow down the spread of the coronavirus is sending the US toward a deep recession. This week the Labor Department announced that a jaw-dropping 3.3 million people filed jobless claims; the previous weekly record was 695,000, in 1982. As bad as that number is, though, it greatly understates the crisis, since it doesn’t take into account many part-time, self-employed, and gig workers who are also losing work.
    “Where it’s going: It’s very hard to say. We’re (quite rightly) purposely shutting down economic activity and telling people to stay home, making this recession qualitatively different to any other. Many small businesses will fail without government help. The downturn will hit people least able to withstand it hardest: low-wage service workers in restaurants and hotels, and the growing number of people in the gig economy.
    “What can be done: Some mechanisms to help have been included in the $2 trillion stimulus package expected to be passed by Congress this week. The legislation will send $1,200 to each American earning less than $75,000. And it would expand unemployment benefits for the first time to gig workers and self-employed people. It would also spend hundreds of billions to help businesses stay afloat. ”
    https://www.technologyreview.com/s/615413/record-jobless-numbers-hint-at-the-coronavirus-economic-pain/?truid=d588ee1e36faed18b0f602ee9f2f16c7&utm_source=the_download&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=the_download.unpaid.engagement&utm_content=03-27-2020

    I guess the US popular mentality has gotten to be, fire-hose the situation with “fiat” government cash.

    • Marco Bruciati says:

      My god

    • Marco Bruciati says:

      Who still think Is not collaps??

    • Herbie R Ficklestein says:

      That’s one way to “pay back” the debt…inflate it away! That’s the plan Stan
      https://www.cnbc.com/2019/11/25/fed-economists-warn-of-inflation-and-economic-ruin-if-mt-is-adopted.html

      Fed analysis warns of ‘economic ruin’ when governments print money to pay off debt
      PUBLISHED MON, NOV 25 201912:29 PM ESTUPDATED TUE, NOV 26 20191:28 PM EST
      St. Louis Fed economists warn in a paper of potential “economic ruin” if policies that advocate money-printing to pay off government debts are ever adopted.
      The theory says government debt doesn’t matter if inflation is low, and that deficit spending can be used to fuel growth and reduce inequality.
      Some of its biggest advocates include Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez
      Federal Reserve economists warn that printing money to pay for deficit spending has been a disaster for other nations that have tried it.
      In a paper that discusses the burgeoning U.S. fiscal debt, Fed experts note that high levels are not necessarily unsustainable so long as income is rising at a faster pace. They note that countries that have gotten into trouble and looked to central banks to bail them out haven’t fared well.

      At least we know what the end result will be!😜

      Those that own hard assets, and if society stays intact may fair better

      • 09876 says:

        Ownership is malleable. You must be a pirate for pirate code to apply. Welcome aboard the Black Pearl.

        • Herbie R Ficklestein says:

          That’s why I added “if society stays intact” to my comment..if we go to the outlaw stage, all gets are off.
          As a matter of fact, we do have a recent example of the Weimar Republic of what could transpire.
          Winners and losers
          There were winners and losers from the 1923 hyperinflation. The worst affected were the Mittelstand (middle class) who relied on investments, savings or incomes from pensions or rents. In 1921, a family with 100,000 marks in savings would have been considered wealthy – but within two years, this would not be enough for a cup of coffee.
          Public servants also suffered because increases in their wages failed to keep pace with the private sector. Among those who fared better were farmers, business owners or producers who manufactured and sold important commodities. While the value of money fluctuated, the real value of these goods did not; those who sold them could do so on their own terms.
          Germans with large debts also benefited from hyperinflation, since they could be easily repaid. Some clever businessmen borrowed early in the inflationary cycle to buy property, then repaid the loan weeks or months later for next to nothing.

          Those that fared better we’re Farmers. Business owners or producers that manufactured and sold important commodities.

    • When fiat government cash is the only tool the economy has, that is what gets used.

    • Fast Eddy says:

      The legislation will send $1,200 to each American earning less than $75,000.

      I am thinking… that won’t help much.

      • John Doyle says:

        They have just put a toe in the water. When one realises the GFC write down cost $29 Trillion.such spending is coming like it or not. It is of course free.[as long as resources hold out]

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