Whither Coronavirus?

In today’s London Times, there is an interesting COVID article titled Cancer care backlog may cost 30,000 lives, Boris Johnson told. The principal theme of the article is that Britain’s health care shutdown on account of the COVID epidemic (or hysteria triggered by the epidemic) will cost many lives:

One senior oncologist has claimed that in a worst-case scenario the effects of the pandemic could result in 30,000 excess cancer deaths over the next decade.

In the letter, seen by The Times, the MPs write: “We urge you to work with your ministers to ensure that the NHS reacts more quickly to restore cancer services that have been badly disrupted due to the response to Covid.

“We are particularly concerned that the NHS’s plan appears to be limited to getting cancer services back to normal by the end of the year [but] this timescale is far too long. Many cancers can become untreatable in a matter of weeks.”

30,000 is a high estimate, but there is no doubt that thousands will die as a result of foregone cancer screening and treatment in the U.K. And cancer is just one disease among many. Something similar has happened in the U.S. Largely shutting down a country’s health care system for months can only have adverse effects.

The article is interesting for what it says about COVID, too:

It came as this morning a former chief scientific adviser warned that coronavirus will be present “forever”. Professor Sir Mark Walport, who sits on the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said that vaccinations will be needed on an annual basis, like flu.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the pandemic can be controlled but that it is not “going to be a disease like smallpox which could be eradicated by vaccination”.

I suspect that is true. Every year, tens of thousands of Americans die from the seasonal flu. This has never been considered a crisis or emergency. As COVID joins the ranks of around 150 viruses that are currently active worldwide, that number likely will rise for years to come. On the other hand, given the extraordinary publicity that has been given to the Wuhan flu, it is likely that many more Americans will get flu shots, including Wuhan shots if and when they become available. Perhaps that factor will balance out the addition of COVID to the roster of viruses.

In my opinion, the tragedy of the COVID-19 epidemic is that the inevitable damage done by the virus, which no plausible government action could have prevented, was compounded by hysteria. Government overreaction in response to public demands that government “do something”–which we have not seen with prior epidemics, with the exception of AIDS–resulted in many thousands of needless deaths from foregone health care, as well as the devastation of many millions of lives on account of harsh shutdowns that, the evidence now suggests, were useless.

It would be good if people could learn from this experience, but I think that is unlikely. The press has gone out of its way to mis-report on COVID, and the public clamor for government to “do something” about every ill that befalls the human condition continues apace.

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