Further reflections on Covid-19

The make or break period for Western countries is pretty much over. Most of Europe managed to control the virus. Except Sweden, which is paying for its special strategy. This doesn’t mean these countries are out of the woods. Covid-19 will keep simmering and mismanagement or mishaps might lead to the occasional bigger outbreak. The US is pretty much done for. If they don’t science their way out of the hole they’ve dug for themselves, fatalities will reach several hundred thousand by the end of the year. With both sides of the political spectrum now not giving a damn, shut-downs and social distancing will not get the virus under control. And with riots ongoing and the election coming up this will not change.

In the third world Covid-19 is taking off. Unfortunately the low average age in these countries doesn’t seem to mitigate the death toll much if at all. Healthcare and the general health status of the population seems to matter too much. For the really lowest tier countries we won’t even know how many died. I expect estimates to be all over the place.

I still think the probability that Covid-19 escaped from WIV is substantial, but I don’t know whether it’s closer to 20% or 80%. I assume we will never know, because the matter is complicated enough that the general public will not be able to assess arguments made by evolutionary virologists and of course in the absence of a slam-dunk proof politics will rule the day.

The forecast website Metaculus has the question „Will it turn out that Ovid-19 originated inside a research lab in Hubei“, with a median prediction of 16% down from 20% a few days ago. Of course this is not the same as to ask whether it actually originated in a Chinese lab, so the Metaculus-derived probability for that should be significantly higher. Consider this a sanity check.

However, there is the possibility that this state of affairs will not be good enough for China and at the end of this year or maybe at the start of 2021 they will publish the ultimate proof that Covid-19 is of natural origin. Maybe they’ll find a predecessor of the virus with the furin-site but without the spike-protein, maybe even among samples taken from the Wuhan wet market. If that happens, I’ll update my probability estimate to >95% for a lab accident.

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