The coronavirus or COVID-19 has been the center of attention in recent weeks and is likely to remain so for many months to come. Because, let’s face it, we are just in the early stages of this global pandemic, which just seems to be accelerating dramatically.
With the mass of information being spread around the world, I see a lot of inconsistencies and a vast amount of disinformation. In a natural way, we like to select the information that suits us and reject those that seem to contradict our convictions. But we must know how to separate the facts from the fakes in order to draw up an enlightened opinion.
With this article, I aim to bring a pragmatic analysis on the coronavirus, as well as a personal reflection on this planetary event which, no matter what, will either lead to a reconciliation of humanity as a whole or, on the contrary, to its total destruction.
The graphs I present below are taken from Our World in Data. This article is best read on a desktop computer.
Although the data on the charts update automatically everyday, this is the translation of the article that was published in French on March 29, 2020. The analysis and reflections were also written on that date.
Analysis of the situation
Disinformation related to the coronavirus
If there was only one graph that the media report all the time and that floods our social networks, it would be the one that tracks the evolution of the number of people infected with COVID-19 in each country:
This graph is very meaningfully viewed and shared. Unfortunately, many unscrupulous people use it to stir up the crowds by inventing illogical cause-and-effect relationships such as the following:
1. Since the coronavirus appeared in China, then China and by extension all Chinese people are responsible for this tragedy. So let’s ban products from China!
2. The Chinese and Russian governments are spreading propaganda and hiding from us the truth regarding the number of people infected with the virus. For if there are people who are more capable of containing the virus, surely they are the Western populations!
3. The situation in Western countries is out of control because our governments are not taking enough measures to prevent the virus from spreading. As a result, we as a society are not taking responsibility for the spread of the virus.
4. Poor Italians! We are much better off when we compare ourselves! This reasoning leads us to underestimate the importance of confining ourselves and protecting our own communities.
5. The pandemic in the United States is out of control, it’s obviously Trump’s fault! He must therefore be impeached.
Most people don’t draw these conclusions with bad intentions. But some opportunists do so out of intellectual dishonesty in order to deliver their propagandist political message, to scare people and to play them off against each other.
Here’s why we can’t, from this diagram, pretend all the things mentioned above:
- The coronavirus did not manifest in all countries at the same time.
- There are discrepancies in population size and density between the countries.
- The data only show numbers related to detected and reported cases.
- Not all countries are equal in their ability to detect the virus.
- Each country is free to report its cases or not.
- The growth rate of the pandemic cannot be determined from the diagram.
- The graph does not indicate whether one country is handling the pandemic better than another.
So what is this graph actually good for? Well, simply to know the number of confirmed and reported cases in each country and to track the trend over time. That’s it.
One of the main conclusions that can be drawn from this graph is that China “would have” successfully contained the virus, which suggests to other countries that it is feasible to do so.
Which countries best contain the spread of the coronavirus?
You may have already seen the curve below which helps to assess how well the spread of the virus is contained. It measures the intensity of the development of the pandemic in a given environment, that is, in this case, each country. The intensity is represented by the number of cases and is a function of time. As long as the number of cases remains below the capacity of the healthcare system to cope with them, the pandemic is still “controlled”.
The flatter the curve, the better the pandemic is contained. Conversely, the steeper the rate of new cases per day, the greater the risk of losing control.
Eventually, the number of cases reaches a peak and dissipates over time. This is a theoretical scenario, but the reality is often different.
The following chart, which shows the evolution of the number of people infected with COVID-19 per day and per country, represents exactly that.
However, like the previous chart, this one also has the disadvantage of not reflecting the population of each country. To put things into perspective, here is the same chart scaled down to a ratio of one per million inhabitants.
When you put things into perspective, the situation suddenly becomes clearer!
You are looking at the real chart that shows the efficiency of each country in containing the spread of the coronavirus, and thereby the countries that are most at risk of losing (or having lost) control.
As you can see, Asian countries seem to be handling the pandemic wonderfully, while Europeans seem overwhelmed by the events. Although it’ s still too early to be categorical, the United States, Canada and Australia are doing quite well compared to the Europeans. Although the trend suggests that the situation of the United States is rather worrisome.
Which countries have an efficient healthcare system?
I am well aware that the efficiency of healthcare systems may be measured by various criteria. But I think it’s consistent to say that the trend of the fatality rate – is a good indicator of the efficiency of a healthcare system.
A fatality rate that tends to decline suggests that the measures taken are effective. This is particularly true of Australia and the United States. It is also an indication that the health care system is still well below its full capacity.
If the fatality rate is rising, as is the case in Italy, Spain and France, it means that the health system is potentially overloaded and that the country may have already lost control. Not to be pessimistic, with a fatality rate of over 10%, Italy is still far from having a grip on the virus.
Is the average age of the population a factor? Absolutely! But it is certainly not the main factor in my opinion.
In the beginning, it is expected that the fatality rate is low because there is a delay between a positive detection of a person and his or her death. But if detection measures remain constant over time, the fatality rate is not expected to increase linearly.
However, this does not seem to hold true for Italy, Spain or France. It would appear to mean that the healthcare systems of these countries, and by extension their efficiency, have already reached the limits of their capacities. Otherwise, the curve should also tend to flatten and then decrease, as is happening in Japan. Hence the urgency of flattening the curve as quickly as possible.
Which countries are better off?
This chart is a hybrid of all the above charts. It represents the current situation for each country in regard to the death toll, the number of people infected, and the ratio between these two figures.
It provides a global picture of the efficiency in managing the disease across all countries.
Here’s another interesting chart that shows which countries are best at containing the spread of COVID-19.
In Australia and Japan, the number of deaths caused by the virus doubles every 10 days. Whereas in Spain it takes only 2 days for the virus to double the death toll!
Personal reflections on the coronavirus
I am sharing with you my personal reflections, which by definition are subjective and only involve myself, on the issue of the coronavirus. I don’t pretend to know all the facts or to have proof of everything I say. And if I had to prove all my beliefs to you, you wouldn’t be reading an article but a book! So let me just break it down with a summary.
This global catastrophe caused by the coronavirus has the merit of bringing to light several pieces of information:
The countries most affected by the pandemic are in Europe, North America and Asia.
The situation in Europe looks catastrophic and the trend is not likely to improve any time soon.
Developing countries, whether they are touristic or not, with large populations or not, do not seem to be as affected by COVID-19.
Although it has been revealed that Chinese travelers have brought the virus to Western countries, Chinese tourism in Western countries only accounts for a small proportion of their travel destinations. However, the most popular countries for Chinese travelers – Thailand, Japan and Vietnam – do not seem to be suffering as much from the pandemic.
Overall, the major Asian nations appear to have better control over the spread of the virus than Western nations.
Attempt of explanation
I have no expertise in epidemiology. However, I consider myself to be reasonably skilled in statistics, data analysis and Scrabble. Therefore, I consider myself to be quite proficient in the coherent assembly of information and in logical deduction.
On the basis of the observations, I would argue that the scale of the pandemic crisis, as we are currently experiencing in Western countries, is probably not exclusively inherent to the fact that Chinese people have travelled to Europe.
So I’m trying to explain these observations in a number of ways.
First of all, the culture of each society has a direct impact on how a nation approaches the threat of the virus. Lifestyles are different for everyone, but they are generally uniform within the same culture.
For example, Latin people (Italian, Spanish, French) are warm-hearted by nature, they like to kiss and hug each other. On the other hand, Anglo-Saxons (British, American, Canadian, Australian) prefer to greet each other with a handshake and are generally more reserved and conservative. Asians (Chinese, Japanese, Koreans), on the other hand, do not like to touch each other and only greet each other by nodding their heads, making distancing a well-established habit.
Asians, and to a lesser extent Anglo-Saxons, are therefore naturally less exposed to the virus than societies of Latin descent.
Another cultural advantage that Asians possess to a greater extent than Westerners is discipline. Not wanting to be racist, it’s often been said that no matter what field you excel in, there will always be an Asian who is better than us – and even though I am of Asian descent, I include myself in the us!
It has to be said that the Chinese, Japanese and Koreans are incredibly resilient in getting through the draconian measures imposed on their societies.
Indeed, community, sacrifice and civic responsibility are also part of the cultural values of Asian societies. While among Westerners, the destruction of families has unquestionably become a societal goal, Asians always put their families first. Even though mores are gradually changing, young Chinese are encouraged to marry each other in order to perpetuate the “race”.
No need to convince you that South Korea and Japan are the most homogeneous societies in the world. They are therefore among the most cohesive communities. In times of crisis, these societies organize themselves into a giant anthill.
Meanwhile, Westerners, whose individualism and heterogeneity are the main virtues of their new progressive religion, seem to be indulging in the chaos into which they are sinking. Oh, and freedom – of speech, of movement and, most importantly, of pissing off the world – is also an entitlement in the West. At our own risk people!
Hygiene and sanitation may also play a major role in the spread of the virus. We all know why a Westerner frequently gets explosive diarrhea every time he or she visits a country where cleanliness standards are poor.
I will always remember when we visited Varanasi in India – my jaw dropped apart as I was watching people cleanse themselves in the filthy waters of the Ganges River into which all the city’s defecation was pouring and others were burning their corpses. I have a strong feeling that many of these people are immune for life to all diseases, perhaps even to coronavirus.
The Westerners, on the contrary, live in an aseptic world where the slightest contact with a virus increases the risk of disease tenfold. However, to prove this point, I wouldn’t put my hand in the fire!
I’ve been told that hot chili peppers can scourge your intestines and leave you immortal – I’ve been using sarcasm for the past few paragraphs for those of you who don’t realize it. I can imagine seeing hot peppers kill a few viruses along the way, or at least create a protective wall against diseases. In which countries do people consume a lot of chilli peppers? Everywhere except in the Western world, of course! This may be a reason to consider, although I wouldn’t put my hand in the fire for this one either.
As I said earlier, I’m not an expert on anything. I’m just giving you my thoughts, and it is yours to judge how consistent they are.
I have the bad impression that our western societies will remain at a standstill until each individual takes responsibility for his or her own actions with drastic containment measures. And since there is always an individualistic minority that thinks itself immune to the rules of society and will continue to live at the expense of others, the efforts of the majority will always be undone.
How can we still think that we can cope with thousands of cases of infection when we were unable to do so when the first case appeared? The only thing we can do is to slow down the progression of the pandemic while we wait for the miracle vaccine. And to do this, containment seems to be the best solution.
So to speak, I believe we will be condemned to live in confinement until a vaccine is found. I can’t imagine stopping the spread of the coronavirus in our western countries in any other way.
If I had one recommendation for you, it would be to stop navel-gazing and start taking action.
The responsibility for addressing the harm in our societies does not fall on governments alone. It is ours as citizens.
If your only concern is that your government compensation be paid to you at the end of the month, you miss out on the essentials and you could either die confined to your home or end up in a hospital bed. Those who have never been exposed to misery have no idea that it is lurking around the corner.
So let’s be responsible to everyone.
Outlook on the future
Outlook on the World future
How will COVID-19 affect the future behaviors of our societies? How will it affect the behaviors of governments and leaders?
I don’t want to sound pessimistic, but I don’t see the future in a good light.
I am convinced that we are at a turning point in the history of Mankind, on the same scale as the fall of the Berlin Wall. This is one of those historic moments when the world is changing forever and will no longer be the same.
For the better or for the worse. I hope for the better, but I fear the worse. The worst is a transfer of power from the West to the East and a collective suicide of Western societies, with a one-way journey to the grave they have dug themselves for so many years.
Just like Egypt, Greece or the Roman Empire, it is up to old Europe to experience decay. Moreover, the fact that it has managed in recent decades to gnaw a few bones in the shade of the Americans is still surprising… or probably not.
The coronavirus seems to be welcomed as a savior among socialists and ecologists. They are still the most opportunistic when it comes to derailing the big capitalist machine, which has fed them well up to now. The carbon footprint is going to fall into the negative. They wished for it, they will get it. All we have left to do is go back to the fields. Yeah!
Especially as I see the Western citizens who, preoccupied with saving their lives during this crisis, are trying by all means to squeeze as much compensation as possible out of their governments which, in return, promise to protect them from misery. They are printing money for free, and they are doing it all day long lately.
How can we still think that government giveaways are free? They throw us in the shithouse and as soon as they give us a treat, we welcome them as rescuers. When things go wrong, the survival instinct is stronger than anything else. It inhibits our ability to reason logically.
Sooner or later, the boomerang will come back and knock us out. And when we wake up, we will no longer live in Disneyland, but in a world without openness, prosperity, freedom and democracy.
Let’s face it, authoritarian regimes have a bright future. As Africa and South America have already been conquered, the West will also be conquered and China’s hegemony will be complete. It will take the reins of capitalism 2.0 and the world will pollute even more.
I told you my vision of the future was pessimistic. At the same time, I really don’t wish to be right.
However, if there is one good thing that the coronavirus has caused, it is to oblige us to stop and reflect on the fragility of our lives and, above all, on the sense of life.
The future of the tourism industry
You may not have noticed, but in here we talk a lot about travel. So I’m going to make a quick digression on the subject.
The coronavirus affects many industries. Tourism is no exception. In fact, it is the most severely affected of all industries.
Without a doubt, the slope will be difficult to overcome. But humanity has an inherent desire to travel. It’s in our DNA. The industry will recover, but it will take time.
So this is how I see the future of travel, once the crisis will be over:
In the short term, low-price policies will push the world to travel again. There will be more flexibility in the terms of sale. Airlines and hotels will allow free modifications.
In the medium term, as the small players in the industry will have disappeared, the lack of competition will drive the prices back up. But the opportunists who succeed will become tomorrow’s underdogs.
In the long term, the tourism industry will recover to the pre-pandemic situation and rapidly overtake it. But people will no longer travel the same way.
How long will it take? No one knows.
Regarding the opportunities that lie ahead:
It is very likely that local tourism will recover first and international tourism will follow.
As new technologies get us used to working from home, our habits will be permanently transformed. We might like the idea of reducing our carbon footprint. Business travel will expand.
Travel insurance is likely to play an important role in new travel purchasing habits.
Travels will focus even more on virtual communities, with meeting places that allow people to connect.
Perhaps the greatest opportunity will be cooperation and mutual assistance. The different players in the industry will establish alliances to get the machine moving again!
So this is my personal analysis of the coronavirus crisis. I may edit this assessment depending on the circumstances of the upcoming weeks, and I hope that the situation will improve!
Let’s not give up hope!
Tell me what you think and feel free to share!