Brexit has apparently happened but whether it’s really happened remains to be seen. The UK has until the end of this year to agree on a deal with the EU and already the EU is demanding UK fishing rights and making noises about Gibraltar. If Boris gives away UK territory he’s done for. It depends on whether they can strong-arm him into agreeing these things.
If he has any sense he’ll walk away from the first meeting, where they will inevitably make demands, and tell them to call when they have a sensible deal to offer.
Brexit is not why we are doomed. It’s a trivial matter at the moment. No matter how much you love it or hate it, you’re likely to have much more to think about soon.
China has been having a rough time. Already short of pork because of last year’s swine flu and with entire cities in quarantine because of the new coronavirus, they now have an outbreak of bird flu that has already forced them to cull thousands of hens. They’ll be short of chicken too. Perhaps that’s a market for the American chicken they seem so keen to sell? On the plus side (for those outside China at least) the country is already in virtual lockdown because of coronavirus so anyone who so much as coughs on their way out of China will be thoroughly checked.
Other nations have taken their citizens out of Wuhan. Australia has put theirs in quarantine on an island facility. America goes into lockdown at 5 pm on February 2nd. All flights from China will be landing at just a few designated airports. Any American citizen or permanent resident coming from China will face 14 days of quarantine. Non-Americans coming from there will simply be refused entry. As this spreads, expect these restrictions to apply to more and more countries.
In the UK of course, we put them all on buses with medics in full protective gear – and drivers in cardigans. Because everyone knows no self respecting virus would be seen dead in someone wearing a cardigan. They’re off to quarantine in the Wirral apparently, but the drivers will just turn around and pick up more passengers. Interesting that the buses were from a company called ‘Horsemen’. I wonder if there were four buses?
All the science around this virus is in its infancy. Much of what we hear isn’t peer-reviewed yet and some of it might be wrong. However, it is clear that this virus is spreading far too fast to allow for the ponderous tromping of science so we have to go with what’s available and check it as we go.
So, why the panic? Its kill rate is still at around 3% so far, which is similar to SARS and much less than a lot of other diseases. However, it has become clear that the speed of spread of this thing is the real danger. It is way, way faster than SARS ever was.
Well, where did it come from? Theories include bat soup, a nearby seafood market, an accidental lab release and a deliberate bioweapon release. Any of them could be true, or it could be somethng else entirely. We can sort that out later – for now the important thing is to limit it. There is no way to eradicate it. Once it’s finished with its initial surge it’s likely to become a regular winter visitor, like flu.
So… bioweapon? With a kill rate of 3%? Pretty lousy bioweapon. Or is it?
It has the potential to swamp health services all over the planet. The NHS is already stretched to its limit, and is dealing with the usual flu outbreaks this winter. A rapidly spreading coronavirus could overwhelm every hospital in the country. Then it’s not just about coronavirus. Many other diseases will be moved down the queue too. Add to this the doctor’s surgeries and A&E departments clogged up with everyone who has a bit of a sniffle. Oh, and while you’re waiting in there, one real case of coronavirus is infecting everyone else in the room.
People will be scared to get on buses and trains. One sneeze could clear a supermarket. Nobody will go to any crowd-based event. Cinemas, football grounds, theatres, restaurants, all of them will lose money fast. The economy will crumble.
Remember the stockpilers getting ready for Brexit? Oh you ain’t seen nothing yet. There are two confirmed cases in the UK and already there are people wearing masks in public. They will clean out the shops. They will clean out the chemists. It’s already starting to get harder to find masks.
Far from being a lousy bioweapon, it would be a great one. Even if its kill rate doesn’t rise above 3% (it will if the hospitals can’t treat them all) it will cause mass panic and crumble the economy. The virus doesn’t need to destroy the country. The people will do that themselves.
Just a few cases and the panic is already rising. That will do more damage than the virus.
People are already pointing at Chinese people in their own countries and blaming them. That’s silly. I shared a flat with a Chinese guy when I was at university. He was from Esher. I don’t think he’d ever been to China. The risks lie in those people – of any ethnicity – who have been to the infected parts of China less than 14 days ago.
14 days is the longest (so far) incubation period – the time between getting infected and getting sick. If you came back from China more than 14 days ago and you’re fine, then you don’t have it yet.
Okay, so why do people think it’s a bioweapon? Because of a report that said the virus contained code for proteins belonging to HIV. That made people think it must have been made in a lab. Although it could have come from a coronavirus infection of someone with HIV.
Viruses are not intelligent. They get into a cell, use the host’s own biology to make hundreds of copies of itself, assemble them and release new viruses. Most of those will be the same as the original virus but there are a lot of mistakes. Protein coats with no DNA or RNA inside. Bits of host DNA instead of virus DNA. If HIV is hiding in the genome, bits of HIV code could slip in. Of course, almost all the mistakes are nonviable and just disappear. Once in a while though, that virus might pick up a couple of new genes that are useful to it.
Later, someone else claimed that it wasn’t HIV genes that the virus had. They claimed two of the genes were found in a bat coronavirus. Which takes us back to bat soup.
All of this could be proven wrong, of course. The reports are being rushed because of the urgency of the situation.
Almost forgot – the virus has also been claimed by the Church of Climatology as evidence of the Wrath of the Green God. I’m surprised it hasn’t been blamed on Brexit or Trump yet.
At this stage, conspiracy theories abound. It was a deliberate release! So why would China infect itself with something that will isolate it from all its trading partners? I won’t be surprised to see mass bonfires of everything stamped ‘Made in China’ and few will be brave enough to order any goods from there. No, if it was indeed released from a Chinese lab, it was an accident.
Did someone else release it in China? Were the swine flu and bird flu viruses attacks too? I rather suspect China would have responded quite robustly if they thought that were the case.
I lean towards an accidental release from the laboratory in Wuhan because of the way the Chinese authorities tried to cover it up. They even arrested the scientist who first realised it was a new virus and tried to warn people. That does sound like a response along the lines of ‘Oh bugger, keep this quiet and clean it up!’ Then it went out of control…
It’s a Green dream, this virus. Flying will be limited. Meat production (in China for now, but my bet is it’ll spread) will be limited. It will kill people, the panic will kill more so there’s your population reduction. In infected areas, all travel will be restricted. You won’t even be able to visit family. China even has Panoptica-like drones patrolling, equipped with speakers to nag anyone without a mask (the Panoptica ones have guns – these already exist in real life – and don’t give warnings).
So, does this mean I’ll be going vegan? Hell no. I’m not eating anything that hasn’t been cooked to a crisp first. No change in lifestyle for me then.
It’s the perfect excuse for a total clampdown on populations all over the planet. That’s more of a concern than the virus itself.
Thanks to Raven on Twitter for discussion and a lot of information on this.