Serious illnesses such as serious viral infections are nothing to sneeze at (pun intended). Obviously, care must be taken to prevent infectious diseases from dangerously spreading. It is also important to make sure the reaction is appropriate based on facts and not driven by panic.
Sensible Precautions – Avoid Panic
For example, we typically do not shut down everything every year for influenza. It has been deadlier than COVID-19. Instead, we try to use vaccines, good hygiene, and reasonable caution to reduce our exposure.
With COVID-19, no vaccine is available, so extra precautions compared to influenza are called for to prevent the disease from spreading. If it can be isolated, it will not spread to too many people and may die out before too many people get infected. Many countries are implementing travel bans to infected areas or two week quarantines. Israel, for example, recently implemented a two week quarantine for anyone traveling there from anywhere outside the country. The United States prohibited direct flights between China and the United States early during the infection period with additional restrictions as more countries get infections such as the ban on travel from Europe. Australia has travel restrictions on anyone who has been to China or other infected areas recently. Many other countries have restrictions as well.
Keep in mind, though, that COVID-19 is particularly dangerous to people with compromised immune systems. This means people who are already sick or older are typically at the greatest risk of dying; other people are likely to recover without dangerous symptoms. This means that young adults not interacting with older people do not need to take the same level of precautions as those more at risk. Sensible risk assessment should be used to prevent the most serious risks while not shutting down the economy when risks are minimal.
Cruise Ship Experience
I have recent cruise ship travel experience that was impacted by COVID-19. The cruise ship company took extraordinary precautions to avoid any ports with even a hint of infection. This was to avoid safety issues for passengers and crew as well as keep the ship from being quarantined. Since cruise ships often have many older passengers aboard, extra caution is important and justified. Also, the close quarters of a ship make the spread of infections too easy. Even under normal conditions, cruise ships use significant disinfecting agents to prevent the spread of disease. Recently, on the ship I was aboard, the disinfecting cleansing and use of hand sanitizer and hand washing were intensified. It seemed to work.
Funding for Research to Defeat COVID-19
More money spent on studying the disease. We can learn whether getting the virus and recovering builds up sufficient immunity to prevent reinfection as well as other aspects of the virus. Rapid development of a new vaccine is likely.
Despite the problems COVID-19 creates, there are some useful lessons it is teaching us.
- The Chinese government demonstrated that totalitarian governments lie about critical health issues. Decisions support political goals rather than public health.
- The Chinese government encouraged Potemkin factories. Like fraudulent Potemkin villages in Czarist Russia, the recent factory production “after” shutting down from the virus is a fraud. Many enterprises ran their equipment to show electricity use. That kept government regulators off their backs even though they were not actually producing anything. Monitoring electricity use is easy for regulators and reporters compared to visiting factories.
- US/China trade, already impacted by Trump trade negotiations, should shift to countries other than China. It will be too risky a place for business. Manufacturers will seek to diversify their supply chains and manufacturing locations. Free trade is generally good, but trade with an enemy like China has bad side effects like intellectual property theft, forced technology transfers, and national security risks.
- The way the Chinese government controls people during the virus outbreak shows just how totalitarian it is.
- Looking at the COVID-19 infection maps shows China’s most significant trade partners. The United States can update strategic trade planning accordingly. This will minimize security risks. Who would have guessed northern Italy was so intertwined with China?
- Perhaps we will get more transparency and improvements in aircraft air circulation and purification. That would be helpful in general.
- Remote learning replacing traditional education in closed school buildings will show how education can be dramatically less expensive than traditional schools. Maybe remote learning will catch on for K-12 and college even after the virus clears up.
- We can be amazed and amused at how much some people will overpay for something like toilet paper or hoard it to deal with COVID-19. Shame on Amazon, E-Bay, and Walmart for spoiling our fun by banning some sellers! Cross reference panic, poor judgment, and media hype (rather than useful information). People foolishly paying these outrageous prices should be allowed to complain only if they give up the right to vote and be on juries. Who do you want electing a government or deciding guilt and innocence?
Long Term Trade Shifts Away from China
Let’s hope corporate financial and operations planners have long memories. The best thing that could happen is shifting investment and production from China. Trade with freer countries that are not trying to overpower us militarily is better. The moral and financial benefits are an added bonus. Reducing foreign investment in China will help to show the inherent weakness of a totalitarian state and leave it less money for military spending.
Big Government Puts Politics Before Human Life
Illness is nothing to celebrate. However, the callous way that China risked infecting its own population as well as the rest of the world should be a good lesson for those pushing trade with hostile, unfree countries. It should also humble anyone wanting a dominant role for a central government on health care.
Remember Lessons After Disease Threat Ends
With some luck, the dramatic response to isolate COVID-19 will cause it to die out quickly. People will avoid infections and severe symptoms . But let’s not forget about shifting trade to freer countries once the virus stops spreading and everyone recovers.