Macron the banker’s decision to institute curfewed martial law in France is the most nakedly convenient Emergency Powers over-reaction since the Reichstag fire. The Slog explains why he saw it coming.
A cliché’s verity is not lessened by being a cliché. Conan Doyle’s famous detective Sherlock Holmes most memorably remarked 140 years ago, “When every other explanation has been eliminated by deduction, the residue must represent reality”.
Of course, Holmes gave Dr Watson this lesson in logic long before the Internet age of obuscation overload, spin and public suggestibility crept up behind a distracted world after the mid 1990s. But quite some time has elapsed since Covid19 first made its appearance at the end of November last year. We have been given varietal data, longer series of data, and most of the unknowns are now at least partially known.
Thus, although the half-arsed Chinese numbers suggest a death rate of 3.8%, it is now widely accepted that the term ‘cases’ really means presented cases. What we have here – and please excuse the emphasis, but it’s important – is a death rate based on those who felt ill enough to seek medical advice. In Singapore (where small numbers and efficient government medical advice have been an advantage) the data appear to suggest that there could be a 5% death rate among the elderly with pre-existing respiratory/immunity problems, and a 0.4% rate among younger and/or fitter individuals.
In short, anyone following the learnings of this outbreak can now be reasonably sure that (1) Covid19 infects very easily and quickly (2) its incubation period could be as long as 24 days without symptoms, (3) the vast majority of people have symptoms ranging from mild to temporarily incapacitating, and finally (4) there is little or no natural immunity to it. Please hold those thoughts, for they are central to my analysis.
From the outset, there have been inexplicable oddities.
Once the outbreak was confirmed, the social media were dominated by categorical assertions that C19 was an escaped warfare germ from the lab at Wuhan. In “denial” about this at first, the Beijing politiburo then abruptly changed tack and adopted draconian measures. Some of these – “welding people into their apartments” – have never been validated to my satisfaction. Panic measures were nevertheless adopted. Yet in the last week, it has become clear from both Westerners in China and myriad other Asian non-Communist media that things are returning to normal. Two Western contacts I have there confirm this. “Shops are reopening, and students are back at College,” says one, “most tourist sites are now open for business again”.
This reality has thus far been largely ignored by US and EU media.
Covid19’s RNA suggested a natural mutant, albeit with some odd AIDS-like features in it. Yet every source I went to refuted the “Wuhan lab escape” theory. Some – not all – did suggest strongly that the virus had elements ‘suggesting design, but not likely to have emerged from the lab in Wuhan’.
The more one examines this particular aberration, the more another explanation looks most likely: the PRC adopted panic measures because they were baffled by the virus, and suspected they were under attack from germ warfare.
For me, the weirdest thing about this episode from Day 1 has been an orchestrated media campaign of uncertainty, doom and apocalypse wildly out of proportion to the real nature of the threat. Only this morning a UK Whitehall source (unnamed) adviser to the Johnson administration described the virus as “the greatest threat to our survival since the Second World War”.
Curbing smug or glib atttudes is one thing; putting out insane exaggeration is another.’