China, Iran, Italy, the US, the UK, and now Spain have all dropped the ball on this COVID-19 crisis, with disastrous results. Some of these nations have repeated the exact same mistakes that they've seen other countries make - downplaying the threat, refusing to cancel public events, failing to provide adequate testing and treatment services - with predictably disastrous results. And it's not just the governments of those countries (though they certainly deserve much of the blame). The media and the public have likewise failed to take this situation seriously until it was too late. The only place with a coronavirus outbreak that's managed to handle it well is South Korea.
What's my point? I don't know. It's just disappointing that humanity can't ever seem to get its shit together, even when times are this dire. It's also scary to think that new outbreaks like this can happen at any time, with no warning at all: as far as we've come with regards to medical science and technology, we still have a long way to go.
We're still in an arms race with Evolution, and it can produce new threats a lot faster than we can cure them. Hopefully this will serve as a wake-up call; we need to be better prepared to handle a situation like this, especially since the next pandemic could be a lot deadlier than this one. The Black Plague wiped out a full two-thirds of the European population, and if a disease like that were around today, I'm not sure the casualty rate would be that much lower.
So where does that leave us? In the face of naive non-intervention policy while staring long term damage to society as governments in the west persist with their scientifically weak and unverified strategies of creating mass herd immunity at the cost of potentially millions of lives?
Well, let's start with self isolation. Many of you might be wondering what you can still actually whilst isolating yourself from society at large.
Think about it in terms of how many people are you spending time close to (< 2 meters) — close enough that if they coughed you might breathe in that air. And how long that contact is lasting.
Being outside in a public park that's fairly empty, and where you don't touch shared surfaces, could expose you to 0 people in this way.
Inviting one person over to talk to at your house exposes you to just 1 person this way.
-Riding on a bus or subway outside of peak hours, or working in a busy office, maybe you're exposed to 10 times that risk.
- Going to a crowded concert or party or club, or riding public transport during peak hours — where you're also going to end up touch many people and things — you might get close enough to face 100 times that risk.
So the level of risk varies wildly. If you need social contact, healthy people driving to each others houses for one-on-ones is going to remain low-risk for a lot longer than anything else.
Social distancing doesn't require the government to issue a blanket statement. It needs society at large to recognise the importance and benefits of this measure and act in the best interest of not only themselves, but their loved ones, friends, and the rest of society. Absent this, we may feel the repercussions for many years or perhaps decades to come.