Covid19 – make or break

Some countries will wrack their economies and others won’t.

Some countries will stop the epidemic in its track and others will be overwhelmed.

It seems pretty unclear how these two bifurcations will correlate. It is entirely possible that a quick collapse with 100.000s of deaths during maybe two horrible months will leave the economy largely unscathed, while an extended lockdown might have much more severe economic consequences.

But of course quickly controlling the epidemic might lead to minor economic consequences while it is also possible to combine all the economic damage of an extended lockdown with not managing to keep the virus from spreading through the population.

There probably won’t be much middle ground in the epidemic bifurcation.

On a walk recently I was thinking about AGI and about what it would mean to slow the epidemic to such a degree that the healthcare system isn’t overwhelmed, without really stopping it. No, these two topics are not related.

In Germany there are 30.000 ICU units, I was calculating with 20 percent severe cases, of which 10 percent require a ICU unit. This is probably too high. Hey, I was taking a walk, had to work from memory here.

Anyway, with 10 percent requiring ICU to stay underwhelming the epidemic wouldn’t be allowed to hit more than 300.000 people at once. With a mean hospitalization duration of 3 weeks we end up with 80.000.000 / 300.000 * 3 weeks = 15 years. Which means that that scenario is never going to happen. Either the epidemic is stopped or it overwhelms the healthcare system.
In the same evening I came across an article making the same point. It used 2.5% ICU rate and was written by an AGI-researcher.

Of course my point still holds even with 2.5%, though that strikes me as too low, being even below some estimates for the completed mortality rate.

In the economic bifurcation things might be more gradual. If only because the plunging world economy will take everybody down a notch. Still some countries will enact a full scale lockdown, possibly over many weeks or even months. And others won’t.

The best case scenario seems to be that ramping up testing (PCR, X-ray, antigen + possibly test pooling), tracking and mandatory masks, gloves and disinfection will allow containment of the virus without extended lockdowns.

In any case, the next month is probably make or break for many countries. Unchecked doubling every three days will lead to 1000-fold increase, taking those countries who have a couple of hundred cases or thousand cases right now into disaster zone. Slowed doubling every 6 days would lead to a 32-fold increase, overloading the health system of most of those same countries.

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