|This brilliant medic thinks the West is ill-prepared for the pending pandemic.|
It may seem ironic that the editor of Drawbridge Britain, a book which advocated for humane open borders, would now suggest we (briefly) close them for health reasons, but I do think the time is here to act boldly, and intelligently. Clearly, this is a threshold moment, when action is still possible, to avert unimaginable chaos and sorrow. To stop a disaster of biblical size.
Covid-19 is now a pandemic, in all but name. It is in 40 countries, has no cure, spreads easily, and kills 2-3% of everyone it infects; there are expert suggestions the death rate by year's end would equal or surpass that of the 1918 influenza epidemic.
It is estimated by government studies that up to 1,086,176 or more UK citizens would die from the virus within a year (based on estimates of 80% infection rates, and 2% death rates), if it begins to spread unchallenged here, as it is now doing in Iran, and Italy. Major events are being cancelled, Chevron has closed its London offices, and the Olympics may even be postponed unless Japan can limit its infections.
There is some hope of mitigation - as many as 12 vaccines are being rushed into testing, and could be ready in 2021; and summer may slow the movement of the virus. WHO officials have come back from China to report further good news - the best treatment of the virus is control and containment - putting up barriers, stopping crowds and events, closing factories, shops and workplaces, and barring movement - isolating whole cities, and millions of people - works.
The daily rate of infection is dropping in China; if it does not mutate, we now have a system to potentially limit deaths to the thousands, rather than millions. Ironically, the main barrier to these controls is now the West, whose liberal capitalist democracies thrive on freedom of movement, and whose businesses require easy access to planes, trains, hotels, conference centres, and factories, to make money. Recognising the problems ahead, 2.5 trillion dollars has been wiped off the markets in the past 5 days.
There is a way to save many lives in Britain, and it is relatively painless, though not without pain short-term: we close the borders to all but essential travel, ban public events, including fairs, concerts, sporting events, and church gatherings; close schools; and send workers home where possible, to work from home; tubes, busses, trains, should also be closed. This may sound wacky, except it was tested in China, and works.
If, as seems clear, the pandemic could peak within 8-16 weeks, if the UK can keep infected travellers out until then, it would allow the NHS to reach the less busy spring and summer period, and could perhaps also reach a stage where worldwide infection rates are falling, especially if other countries also temporarily hunker down, hibernate, and stay safe.
Britain is not China, but it has a decisive, technocratic government, sworn to defend British interests and our borders; it would be ironic and tragic if they now defended open-border capitalism, and ignored the obvious - we have the means to raise the drawbridge, and keep the invader at bay, maybe, just.