Corona virus: How scared should we be?

By March 11, 2020Other

The current economic topsy-turvy caused by the Corona virus is a worry, but for what it’s worth my view is there will be substantial corrections, even if Westpac says we are moving into recession and our Government is assembling a “stimulus package”. The behaviour of the stock market is evidence of simple panic and great ignorance, quite like the behaviour of the people who have stored great quantities of toilet paper in their garages. It is important to remember that external shocks like this one cause immediate reactions within the community. There will be dozens of medical teams searching for some kind of vaccine or anti-body, and within months there will be candidate vaccines ready to roll. Apparently there is one being trialled in Singapore already. A little more on this aspect later, but it is important to remember, too, the other pandemic scares in the last quarter-century: AIDS, SARS, bird flu, swine flu, Ebola and probably others I can’t remember. The public health agencies were able to contain them. Yet at the time there were fears they would sweep the world.

On the medical side the issue is simple: how scared should any of us be at the prospect of catching the disease? Read the papers, and things are “grim”. Every TV news session starts with “Coronavirus”, possibly because it sounds more worrying than the more technical “Covid-19”. Each infection reads like a crime, with hunters after the possible contacts. The tendency in the media reports is quite similar to other scares — “the worst is yet to come”. Doomer stuff, which the sensible searcher after real knowledge should pass by. Yes, we seem to love disaster movies, safe in the knowledge that it won’t happen to us. I should say firmly that I am not given to that genre at all. Give me Emma every time.

So whom should we take particular notice of? Larry Kummer, whom I do take some notice of, says we should listen to the World Health Organisation, which keeps count, and gives daily briefings. I think he’s right. Here’s what the Director-General of WHO said (in part) the other day at a press briefing. It was serious, but not panicky. I’m doing scissors-and-paste here.

There is now a total of 95,265 reported cases of COVID-19 globally. And 3,281 deaths. In the past 24 hours, China reported 143 cases. Most cases continue to be reported from Hubei province, and eight provinces have not reported any case in the last 14 days. Outside China, 2,055 cases were reported in 33 countries. Around 80% of those cases continue to come from just three countries. 

We see encouraging signs from the Republic of Korea. The number of newly reported cases appears to be declining, and the cases that are being reported are being identified primarily from known clusters. Although a few countries are reporting large numbers of cases, 115 countries have not reported any cases. 21 countries have reported only one case, and five countries that had reported cases have not reported new cases in the past 14 days…

This epidemic can be pushed back, but only with a collective coordinated and comprehensive approach that engages the entire machinery of government. We’re calling on every country to act with speed, scale, and clear-minded determination…

The solution is aggressive preparedness…

If countries act aggressively to find, isolate, and treat cases, and to trace every contact, they can change the trajectory of this epidemic… 

This is a serious disease. It’s not deadly to most people, but it can still kill. We’re all responsible for reducing our own risk of infection, and if we’re infected, for reducing our risk of infecting others. There is something all of us can do to protect vulnerable people in our communities. 

So there it is. The WHO site is full of numbers and graphs and maps, for those who want more detail. Our Government seems to be doing what  the WHO thinks it should do. We will see in time how effective that was, in comparison to other countries.

One of the intriguing aspects of this virus, as of them all, is that we don’t know a lot about it, though we do know quite a lot about viruses in general. Viruses are pesky little things, and they mutate. Corona viruses, four of them, are responsible for what we call the common cold. Our systems get sick, and in time our immune response kicks in and deals with the virus. Next year the common cold will be different, but the same thing will happen again. Developing an antibody to deal with the common cold is vitiated from the start because last year’s cold is not this year’s. 

Influenza has the same problem. Yes, we dutifully accept our flu shots, and they work to a degree. But the coming winter’s flu will not be identical to that of 2019. There is quite a bit of guesswork involved in determining what to put in the flu shot for 2020. While we’re on the subject, 1137 people died from influenza in 2017, but fewer in 2018. That’s quite a lot of deaths from a virus, but we seem to expect something like that as normal, like deaths from road crashes.

Back to Covid-19. No small child has died of it yet, and there is some suggestion that kids shrug off the virus more easily than adults. A U-shaped curve is common in deaths from viruses, with the very young and the very old most at risk. It doesn’t seem to be the case here, and researchers are exploring why that may be so. The general death rate is around 2-3 per cent from those with the infection. That is, the great majority of those who fall to the virus subsequently recover from it. They do not seem to be contagious after recovery.

So what do we do about it? The advice that makes the most sense is to wash your hands carefully more frequently that you usually might, and be careful about whom you kiss! Person-to-person contact is the most powerful cause of infection, as is the case with all viruses, through the droplets that come with coughing and sneezing. So have a care for others when you cough or sneeze. If you develop the infection you will need to be in isolation for a time, but the overwhelming probability is that you will recover quickly and return to normal life.

How normal the life outside will be over the next months is moot. I simply have no idea, though to return to the beginning of this essay, I do not think we are at the beginning of the end of civilised society, whatever the headlines say. Things will be much the same. Yes, this epidemic is important, but it’s not going to kill us. If you want to keep up to date with developments, ignore the papers and the broadcasts, and read what WHO says.

Finally, I have no great knowledge in this area at all, and what I have written comes from careful sifting of what I could find on the Internet. My general outlook is positive and sceptical, as regular readers will know. Others may well take a gloomier view. So be it.

Join the discussion 69 Comments

  • Neville says:

    Another good summary Don and I wouldn’t disagree with your essay at all.
    But it always amazes me what some people choose to believe and how little so many people seem to understand.
    All of our toilet paper is made in OZ, yet we literally have people fighting in supermarkets to secure the last pack on the shelves.
    But we also have long lines of people waiting to have a test for the virus and they don’t seem to care how close they stand to other people while they wait.
    But I think it would be a good idea for elderly people to have the flu shot this year because if they’re unlucky enough to first have a bout of flu and then a dose of the virus as well it would probably be much more of a battle to overcome.
    So we shouldn’t panic and hopefully after a few more months we may be able to see an improvement around the world. But few deaths in the much younger age group is a real puzzle and perhaps in time we’ll be given a reason for this mystery.

    • Colin says:

      To put this Corona Virus in perspective according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics in in the last several years there were around 1,200 deaths annually from the Influenza virus.
      Also every day in Australia around 440 people die from a variety of causes.
      So last year if we had given the then prevalent influenza virus a name would we be carrying on the way we are destroying our economy and peoples livelihoods?

  • BB says:

    No one but no one seems to be interested in why toilet paper? It is the most bizarre thing I have ever heard of. Maybe it will be paperclips next? There is a story going around that we should be using newspaper as of old. On one of our local local radio stations there was a response to this. The respondents said they had tried it with the Canberra Times but it just didn’t work and besides the cleaning of the iPad later was a big problem.

  • Chris Warren says:

    Blimey, see how quick people turn to real science when they need to;

    ” ignore the papers and the broadcasts, and read what WHO says.”

    Precisely the same applies to climate change except WHO means NASA, NOAA, CSIRO, IPCC, Royal Society, Smithsonian, Australian Academy of Science, “Nature”, ANU etc. etc.

    • Aert Driessen says:

      Chris, science is not about unquestioningly accepting what some individual scientists and their institutions are proclaiming, particularly when their findings are financed by tax dollars. Science is about DEBATE, and defending your hypothesis against all comers. The so-called alarmists refuse to engage in open and public debate. That tells me everything.

    • dlb says:

      Chris, the same thought occurred to me. Perhaps some people took the IPCC as gospel then became heretical over time?

      At least “Quadrant” magazine contributor Peter Smith is consistent, he is condemning alarmists on climate change and COV 19.

    • Boambee John says:


      The “experts” have not done a great job on coronavirus.

      Sorry, Don, but the WHO initially downplayed the significance of the outbreak. It criticised the early Australian travel restrictions on Chinese citizens, and was very late to declare a pandemic.

      Here, our various CMOs have also not performed well. The Commonwealth CMO was still denying that person to person transmission could occur when cases where it was the only possible cause were being found. How else did he think it was spread?

      If “experts” wish to receive deference or obedience, they must first earn respect by being correct at least more often than they are wrong. “Real” science includes the willingness to acknowledge error.

  • Chris Warren says:


    “The general death rate is around 2-3 per cent from those with the infection. ” is not a WHO statement.

    It is from papers and broadcasts.

    A fatality rate is calculated as the ratio of those who survive a disease to those who did not.

    It is not the ratio of those who died to those who are currently infected. According to WHO (March 6) this ratio [deaths to cases] was 3.4%—3-march-2020

    But the fatality rate – deaths to recovered – is higher although falling, presumably due to better reporting and application of care.

    I do not think we can determine a fatality rate until the epidemic is over.

    The trend is here:

  • Chris Warren says:

    Current fatality rate is:

    4270 / 69384 or 6.6%

    • Chris Warren says:

      6.6 => 6.1

    • Bryan Roberts says:

      Since there is currently no accurate way of determining the total number infected, throwing around these estimates is pointless histrionics.

      • Chris Warren says:

        It does not take long for some one to start all the usual accusations – histrionics !!!

        Just because they cannot see the point !!!

        Really – could the kids please find somewhere else to play.

        • JMO says:

          And we need a bigger kid to supervise. Off you go Chris, your vocation is waiting.

        • Boambee John says:

          “It does not take long for some one to start all the usual accusations – histrionics !!!”

          This from a master of histrionics!!

  • Ben says:

    If this wasn’t being reported as ‘coronavirus’, and people were dying if ‘flu-like’ symptoms, would it even be news?

    • Chris Warren says:

      This depends on balancing several factors;

      death rate (currently over 6%)
      ongoing impaired health of survivors
      transmission rate
      infectivity of disease itself
      vaccine availability and/or efficiency of containment

      and the amount of, or lack of, so-called herd-immunity that may otherwise moderate the spread of other various mutated types of flu.

      So far it is not clear whether this virus can or cannot infect the same person twice (probably not).

      As this virus spreads from non-symptomatic cases it has potential to spread through out the globe (except Pitcain island).

  • Ronald Dent says:

    Hello Don and Bev .Ron Dent here , I,d like to get in touch and have a chat so to save me ringing all around Canberra if you would like a chat you can call me on 0414656341.Cheers, Ron

  • spangled drongo says:

    Greg Sheridan in the Australian tells us some home truths revealed by yet another crisis:

    “Australia is a nation grievously unprepared for a serious national security emergency.

    The coronavirus crisis is an urgent wake-up. We must reassess our deep national vulnerabilities across a devastating range of national security issues.

    Australia is more vulnerable to a wider range of dangers in a more disruptive time than we have been since the threat of Japanese invasion in World War II.

    The Prime Minister’s leadership has been sure. Australians traditionally respond well to crisis and pull together when we have clear direction and know what to do.

    But COVID-19 is a ghastly ambassador from a future with many new demons. It is not the only intruder we will meet.

    Consider that, while the COVID-19 story unfolds, Energy Minister Angus Taylor was in the US negotiating access to US fuel as part of our strategic reserve. The International Energy Agency requires all its members to hold 90 days of oil reserves onshore. Instead of 90 days, we hold a little more than three weeks.

    This is not the fault of the Morrison government. It inherited this vulnerability. There is immense bureaucratic opposition to having a meaningful strategic reserve in Australia. This is part of a now anachronistic faith in globalisation and just-in-time economics. The government, in thrall to the bureaucracy, wants to count oil we have purchased, or have a guaranteed right to purchase, as part of our reserves. The Petroleum Institute agrees.

    Former deputy prime minister John Anderson labels it “a matter of national urgency” to establish the 90-day onshore reserv­e. “We are so vulnerable to a fuel supply shock,’’ he says.”:

  • spangled drongo says:

    Looks like we’ve been there before. Wuhan Virus, Spanish Flu [and global warming]:

    “Mark Steyn was, as usual, quicker than your average journo to see that this was an argument in favour of global warming, which would bring us warmer weather the year round. And though it sounds like a debating point, it is in fact one example in a larger argument that global warming (whatever its origins) has benefits as well as drawbacks, so that policy should concentrate on adapting to its effects of both kinds as much as in trying, not very effectively, to retard them.”

  • spangled drongo says:

    Matt Ridley, who has always thought that the “climate crisis” was and is overdone thinks the boy is right to cry “wolf” on this one:

  • Chris Warren says:

    Australian government expert says:

    ““The death rate is around one per cent. You can do the maths.”


    Data says 8%…


    The 8% is not representative of advanced economies with top-level medical infrastructure. Nonetheless in Australia there have been 5 deaths and 29 have recovered – death rate is 5/34: 14% [FACT] but this will change as the event progresses.

  • Boambee John says:


    The sad thing about this thread is that it has attracted only 21 (22 now) comments on the subject of an actual, ongoing, pandemic which threatens to kill massive numbers and have a huge economic impact.

    Meanwhile, the latest climate change thread, discussing a hypothetical problem that, even if the alarmists are 100% correct, will not have a comparable impact for many years, has almost 900 comments (and I must admit that I have been a significant contributor to that number).

    I am not sure what this says about the human ability to be sidetracked, but it is probably not anything good!

    • Stu says:

      I think the different response (represented by number of posts) on the two threads might represent an understanding that the virus represents a threat now, whilst the climate is a longer term proposition. The world, us, will survive it’s arrival, perhaps with fewer people, and it will be gone, the latter has many unknowns and will in fact be a problem for those not yet born. Quite different scenarios.

      • Boambee John says:


        Seems to me that priorities are a trifle misaligned when greater attention is given to a distant concern, while almost ignoring a near term one.

        • Stu says:

          Perhaps it reflects an underlying realisation of the great significance and risks of the long term event. We know you have no fears regarding climate so would be totally focussed on the risks of Corona, correct? I see both as very serious problems. The pandemic is now causing economic dislocation that may well prove to be a bigger problem than the illness and death itself, (which is horrific on it’s own). At least the right wing side of politics is now once again respecting the advice coming from specialists in the field, even Trump. Perhaps that will continue after the event and there will finally be respect for the work of the scientists working on all the aspects of climate. That might be assisted by the demise of the US shale oil industry, which is possible now at $US 30 per barrel.

          Have you seen the timeline videos showing the walk back from denial to acceptance of the pandemic by Trump and Fox News pundits? Perhaps the same will happen with the climate debate.

          • dlb says:

            The pundits of the right may have changed their tune, but less so their armchair followers. Still plenty of bravado talk against governments curtailing their freedoms and shutting down the economy. Much noise about how Australia should take the do nothing approach, which will save the economy. Basically Darwinian health care and Darwinian free market economics.

          • spangled drongo says:

            What you are really seeing but are too dumb to recognise, stueyluv, is rational people assessing problems as they present themselves. In both situations.

            And they realise the “climate crisis” is mostly orchestrated and bogus.

            It’s only the bed-wetting alarmists who are fooled.

          • Boambee John says:


            Or perhaps it reflects the inability of some to face reality? Focus on the hypothetical future problem created by computer modellers, rather than the immediate problem causing deaths, illness and economic dislocation right now? Some people prefer burying their heads in model outputs, like kids hiding under the blanket from the boogey man?

          • Boambee John says:


            “respect for the work of the scientists”

            Jo Nova is apparently an epidemiologist. Perhaps you should visit her site for scientific enlightenment?

          • Boambee John says:

            Sorry, microbiologist. A skill relevant to COVID 19.

  • Neville says:

    Here’s an interesting exchange between reader Mike and Willis at WUWT. I’ve heard this claim a few times over the last few days and even on their ABC. Could we already have an anti Malarial drug that is also very effective against the COVID-19 virus? Who knows, but the NATURE article is linked here by Mike.
    Mike Dubrasich
    March 16, 2020 at 9:02 pm

    The “experiment” does not include description of treatments, if any, that were applied.

    Late breaking info indicates that a common anti-malarial drug, chloroquine, has potential to prevent and cure 2019-nCoV. See for one example:

    I doubt the Princess passengers were treated with any anti-virals but cannot say for sure. If they weren’t, and if chloroquine is effective, then predictions of future outcomes from this disease (based on Princess outcomes) may be overly pessimistic.

    Willis Eschenbach
    March 16, 2020 at 9:30 pm

    Thanks, Mike. The article says:

    Our findings reveal that remdesivir and chloroquine are highly effective in the control of 2019-nCoV infection in vitro. Since these compounds have been used in human patients with a safety track record and shown to be effective against various ailments, we suggest that they should be assessed in human patients suffering from the novel coronavirus disease.

    Both of those are great news. Me, I’ve taken a lot of chloroquine in my life … I’ve had malaria four times, and I’ve blocked malaria from developing when it started coming on another four or five times by taking three chlorquine “daily doses” each day for three days.

    So if I get the virus, I know what I’m gonna try …


  • Neville says:

    More on the anti- malarial drugs from Dr Roy Spencer and the use against COVID-19 around the world. Let’s hope this is as good as it appears to be and some of the reports are very hopeful.

  • Neville says:

    Donald Trump announces the use of Chloroquine for the fight against COVID- 19.
    It’s been used for 70+ years in the fight against Malaria, so we know it’s safe. It comes from the bark of a tree.

  • Stu says:

    SD, BJ as usual you immediately misquote, turn nasty and appear incapable of courteous discourse. Anybody who challenges you view is seen as the enemy and to be attacked whatever they write even when it is in agreement with your own views. Looney tunes stuff.
    Go back you will see I wrote “I see both as very serious problems”. So why all the bullshit you came back with? Hard to fathom.

    • Boambee John says:


      Stop raving.

      “Perhaps it reflects an underlying realisation of the great significance and risks of the long term event.”

      You wrote that only yesterday morning!

      PS, given your routine allegations that I am a paid shill for fossil fuel interests, and have no interest in the welfare of my grandchildren, you are in a poor position to complain about “turn nasty and appear incapable of courteous discourse.”

      To borrow from your colleague Chris, “in your own coin”.

      • Stu says:

        BJ, I am not saying you are a “paid shill for fossil fuel interests”. After all you do not appear to be very effective given the small audience here (and your poor arguments) so why would any organisation want to pour cash on you? On the hand do you appear to be a victim of such an orchestrated program, you bet, ten out of ten.

        • Boambee John says:


          You are not saying that now, but you have in the past, however much you might like to forget.

          And speaking of “After all you do not appear to be very effective given the small audience here”, how many here have you converted to your cause?

          • Stu says:

            No. Go back, I did not say you were, I asked if you were and pointed out it looked like you were. But I repeat no sane body would dump money on you for that reason because you are not successful. So I remain convinced you are not a paid shill, just a victim of others who are.

            Re your second question, I have converted the opinions of a lot of people but not here. I have no illusions anyone here has a sufficiently open mind. Of course there a few here like Chris who are already on the right side of the field.

          • Boambee John says:


            You really are a slimebag. You hint that someone was a paid shill, then go all innocent, “I did not say you were, I asked if you were and pointed out it looked like you were.”

            You didn’t say I was, but, in your own words, you asked if I was, and said it looked as if I was.

            Congratulations on your successes elsewhere, but given those successes, why do you waste so much time here, “given the small audience here” and your admitted lack of success?

            As was said on the other thread, “there’s ample empirical evidence to support the hypothesis that you’re positively full of it Stu.”

          • Boambee John says:


            I notice that you didn’t offer any excuses fir your suggestion that I have no interest in the welfare of my grandchildren. That one too hard for you to spin?

          • Stu says:

            BJ, sorry I hurt your feelings. Let me say things a different way. How certain are you that you are right and AGW is all bull? 100%, 80%, 60%? If it is not 100 then you admit there is a possibility it is a problem. Looking from the other side I am not 100% certain but fairly close to it based on the evidence.

            Now which of those positions has serious consequences if wrong. I suggest the denial side. As with insuring the house against fire (very low chance) you probably act prudently and insure, in case.

            So unless resorting to total denial it appears to me incongruous to then claim to care for the future welfare of ones descendants.

            My position is that there is enough evidence to be very concerned making it worthwhile pursuing policies and actions that help to work against the bad outcomes. If the climate scientists are totally wrong, we will have lost some cash, built a cleaner healthier world and be actually better off.

            On the other hand if the scientists are correct and we do nothIng life will be harder for our grandkids and their kids. Opportunity lost.

            I wish your grandchildren a healthy and safe future. For mine I will continue to argue for change that promises to improve their lives.

            Current events in USA give an insight into the potential damage of ignoring strong science advice until, it is too late. I refer to the apparent reluctance of the Trump administration to listen to the available intelligence and medical advice until forced to by events. May we all survive.

        • Boambee John says:


          Thank you for the apology, which I accept.

          On the subject of climate change, you commented on this when I posted it on the climate change thread, so you did read it. I re-post it here to remind you of my position.

          “Humans have very poor record for making predictions or forecasts. They tend either towards flights of fancy … or simple projections forward of the present, sometimes with error margins, but often not. Either way, they tend to get it wrong, missing the “black swan” events.

          Given this weakness, sensible planning should focus on what can be done by us mere humans. It is hubris at the highest level to assume that we can manipulate atmospheric CO2 levels to control accurately the furure temperature. What is sensible is to look at what measures might taken to adapt to temperature change, up or down. Humans might not be good prediction, but they are very good at adaptation. I have made some suggestions on earlier threads, and will not repeat them here.”

          Am I 100% certain that there is no potential CAGW problem? Of course not. Anyone who makes such a claim has no right to be taken heed of.

          Are you 100% certain that there is no possible issue with global cooling in the next 50 years? I am not, and I hope that you are not, because if you are, the same applies.

          That is why I favour adaptation, taking actions that will help either way. I am pretty confident, however, that humans have very little capability to affect the climate, particularly given our limited understanding of all of the elements that affect it, clouds being a good example. How confident are you that humans do have that capability?

          My care for the future of my descendents is shown by my support for adaptation, one thing that humans are demonstrably good at. There are measures that will help regardless of which way the climate goes. Wasting money on things that probably will not is not sensible.

          And, as I have pointed out before, while ever China and India clearly intend to continue their industrialisation, nothing done in Australia to reduce CO2 emissions will have any practical effect, even if CO2 actually is the only influence in play.

          Adaptation, adaptation, adaptation.

          • Stu says:

            You said “It is hubris at the highest level to assume that we can manipulate atmospheric CO2 levels to control accurately the furure (sic) temperature.”

            How is that so, when we know very clearly, unequivocally, that the rise in CO2 is all down to human activity, and most accept (present company here excepted) that CO2 is a major green house gas keeping the planet habitable or potentially uninhabitable. Granted we have no idea of the result, in actual average degrees reduction, of the global temperature. But we do have a fairly good indication of the likely increase, if we go on emitting more than the earth can absorb.

            As for your mitigation etc, go for it. Fortunately I am fairly confident that outside these pages your war is lost and the world is beginning to take the required steps to address the problem. And I have great faith in human ability to solve the problem.

            You mentioned black swan events. We have a doozy right now. Depending on the final severity of the human and economic toll of the current pandemic one positive outcome may be a renewed acceptance of prudent scientific wisdom . Also it will be interesting so see what a 20% cut to global GDP including shutting down the worlds airlines has on air quality and CO2 rise. Certainly tragic for too many people.

            Stay safe, avoid people.

          • Boambee John says:


            We should continue this discussion on the Climate Change thread. I will copy your post over and respond there.

    • Chris Warren says:

      These two individuals “SD BJ” are best ignored.

      Dogs bark, but the caravan moves on.

  • Chris Warren says:

    According to the CDC, the Spanish Flu infected 500 million and killed 50 million. This is 10%. Corona death rate is also now 10% and appears to be increasing. Most public policy is based on so-called “flattening the curve” not so much on containing the virus. So, except where Chinese-like policies are implemented, the virus looks like spreading throughout, possibly, billions – particularly when it impacts further into Africa, South America and India.

    Current data from “Worldometer” is 10,406 deaths out of 99,468 concluded cases – 10.4%. A few days ago it was 8% and last week it was 7%.

    In the UK, so far, 65 have recovered and 144 have died.
    In USA, so far, 125 recovered but 217 died.
    In Australia (better health system), so far, 46 recovered and 7 died.
    In Canada, so far, 11 recovered 12 died.
    In Japan, 215 recovered and 33 died – so they did something right.

    Australia has 876 cases but Commonwealth Dept of Health says 709 cases and only 6 deaths. As far as I am aware, we are not being told where they are other than by State/Territory.

    So corona has potential to be just as devastating as the Spanish Flu and possibly worse, because we now have more folks in the higher aged cohorts where vulnerability is extreme.

  • Chris Warren says:

    Jo Nova getting something right for a change …

    Unless a vaccine emerges (or new public policy) – the current death rate will roll-out throughout the entire global population.

    So we can probably answer the question now; “corona virus how scared should we be”

    • Boambee John says:


      Jo Nova is a microbiologist, apparently with some experience in epidemiology.

      Listen to “the” science?

    • dlb says:

      Agree with Jo Nova – go hard, go fast, go now. Keep those international borders shut.

    • Bryan Roberts says:

      JoNova’s recent blog posts have verged on the hysterical. Look at it from the point of view of the virus. It has no interest (zero) in killing the entire population. That would be suicidal for it, as there would be no new vectors. So, there will be evolutionary pressure towards a loss of virulence, with a concomitant emergence of new mutants/mechanisms of immune evasion that will continue the cycle.

      Although we flatter ourselves in our ability to survive/control these pandemics, in all likelihood they are self-limiting at some level of host mortality. This may well not be a particularly comforting concept for the humans.

      • Chris Warren says:

        Bryan Roberts

        Under no circumstances do viruses necessarily exhibit “evolutionary pressure towards a loss of virulence”.

        Typically viruses last forever unless a vaccine emerges – think polio, measles, chicken pox, smallpox, etc. While mutations with lower virulence may arise – and help block transmission, the major virus continues until transmission is interrupted. Then the virus disappears provided there is no reservoir such as in animals. Cowpox virus blocked smallpox virus.

        Viruses can appear to loose virulence when weather changes as virus spread is often higher during cold damp weather and low during hot dry weather.

        Virulence is a vague concept – the keys are infectivity (how much exposure creates disease) and contagion (how easy to transmit from one case to the next). Any virus that spreads from cases with no symptoms is particularly dangerous. Any virus with a Ro greater than 1, if left alone, will spread continually until all susceptibles have antibodies.

        If you look at the data, you will see that every country with more cases than Australia are experiencing the Northern winter so it could well be that transmission reduces in the Northern hemisphere as they enter summer. The opposite could occur in Australia as we go into Autumn and Winter. Nova provided all the links to the data you need.

        We do not have enough detail on the behaviour and characteristics of Corona and you cannot rely on any “self-limiting at some level of host mortality” where a virus enters virgin population because susceptibility is potentially 100%. It is unlikely that any virus will kill 100% of any population although there is historical precedent for death tolls approaching this point in localities experiencing virgin outbreaks.

        Luckily, this time, susceptibility is not 100% of the population as today’s corona demonstrates a dramatic age-related mortality. But there is no guarantee that the next outbreak will be so kind to us.

  • spangled drongo says:

    When nearly every manufacturing town in Italy is a Chinatown, the level of C virus there is not surprising:

  • Stu says:

    Has anybody seen any comment from the anti-vax crowd on the pandemic? Just wondering if they will refuse vaccination if and when we have an effective one. That crowd have been living in a dreamland made possible by the herd immunity of everyone else. Perhaps they will change their tune. But then again Meryl Dorey and company will probably suggest good eating and healthy lifestyle is all that is required, or has she faded away?

    • spangled drongo says:

      Stu, I’m pleased you sing the anti-anti-vaxxer song but they are friends of yours. Cultists bred from Greens and environmentalists just as climate alarmists are.

      They are fact-phobic.

      I’m pleased you denounce them but they certainly don’t exist in the rational sceptics world.

      And check your mirror closely.

  • Chris Warren says:

    Is there any reason why WHO is not reporting data on those who recover successfully from corona?

    Is WHO data on this available?

  • spangled drongo says:

    Some good news from the Australian just now:

    “South Korea has reported its lowest number of new coronavirus cases since the peak on February 29 and the extended downward trend in daily infections has boosted hopes Asia’s largest outbreak outside China may be abating.

    The Korea Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said there were 64 new cases on Monday, taking the national tally to 8961. The death toll rose by one to 110.

    The new numbers marked the 12th day in a row the country has posted new infections of around 100 or less, compared with the peak of 909 cases recorded on February 29.

    In contrast, 257 patients were released from hospitals where they had been isolated for treatment, the KCDC said. South Korea posted more recoveries than new infections on March 13 for the first time since its first case was confirmed on January 20.”

  • Chris Warren says:

    Why is corona spreading so fast???

    well here is one possible reason:,-41.35/3

    • Boambee John says:


      If the government had not succumbed to the blandishments of the universities, and let in thousands (I saw one figure of 31,000) of Chinese students after a wholly unsupervised two week period of “self isolation” in an intermediate country, we might well be better off here.

      But I generally agree with your point. There should be much more restriction of international (and interstate) travel until the situation has been resolved.

  • Chris Warren says:

    Corona virus – how scared should we be?

    Well, while you cannot predict the future with certainty, nonetheless, I predict that within the month, corona cases will tip half a million and a then a million will not be far off – and more…

    I also note that there is high mortality at advanced ages – and everyone has to go through this stage. Vaccines can not be guaranteed to protect everyone as cases of Ebola are still occurring. We may b e lucky with this recent strain of corona but we do not yet know.

    So how scared should we be? This depends entirely on the efficacy of any future vaccine.

  • And here I agree with you

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