Corona Containment

Image from en.wikipedia.org

The morning after new measures were announced to try and contain the spread of SARS-CoV2 in the Netherlands schools are still not closing, the logic being that schools are not very international environments and children don’t seem to get very sick anyway. Also, children staying home from school prevents parents in healthcare professions, for instance, from going to work, because the children need to be cared for.

The problem with that logic is that we don’t know exactly how this things spreads and whether it can also spread from asymptomatic carriers of the virus. Children who are carriers can and likely will spread the illness at home. Parents working in those crucial professions will then still catch and carry the illness (purpose of measure defeated), either becoming sick themselves or potentially exposing more vulnerable people.

A current R0 of 2.5 for this thing means that between 40% and 70% of the world population would become infected with Corona: https://theweek.com/speedreads/897799/harvard-scientist-predicts-coronavirus-infect-70-percent-humanity

Containment is vital at this point if we want to prevent Italian situations, as experts in the field of epidemiology are warning us: https://nos.nl/l/2326881 (in Dutch), and evidence suggests that school closures are among the more powerful weapons we have to flatten the curve: https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/03/does-closing-schools-slow-spread-novel-coronavirus.

There have been reports from Brabant that there is already not enough capacity to test medical personnel at this point in time – https://www.bd.nl/brabant/medewerkers-van-brabantse-ziekenhuizen-niet-meer-getest-op-corona~a5dafe4f/ (in Dutch) – nor are we able to find the source of each infection, which is worrying: https://www.rivm.nl/en/news/current-information-about-novel-coronavirus-covid-19

Last night, our PM spent a lot of time not really answering questions as to why other countries seem capable of closing their schools when we apparently are not (though he did say at one point that he wouldn’t mind closing schools if the advice to do so was stringent enough and he felt it was feasible): https://nos.nl/l/2326914 (in Dutch). Thankfully, at least a motion was passed last night declaring that parents who do choose to keep their children home preventatively will not be faced with fines. It’s a start.

As a side note: unfortunately one of the loudest voices for more far-reaching measures in the debate was one of our extreme right wing politicians, Geert Wilders. While he made good points regarding the virus and our inadequate measures of containment, I am fearful that this will give him more of a political foothold, which would be detrimental for our country, as the rest of his political platform is worryingly xenophobic at best.

But I digress.

One of the biggest problems we face at the moment in this country is that many people still underestimate the seriousness of this disease. The Dutch will say this is “Nederlandse nuchterheid” (Dutch down-to-earthness ), to which I say: there is a fine line between that and negligence/stupidity. Even confronted with truly horrible scenes in Italy, many Dutch people still seem to feel like Corona won’t hit us as hard even if we don’t take the recommended containment measures. That is an illusion.

Even if it is true that many people will likely not become seriously ill from SARS-CoV2, we have a vulnerable share of the population to take into account for which this illness is potentially fatal, and a responsibility to each other – despite expectations that most people who fall ill will recover – not to infect one another if we can prevent it. If you need it put in plainer terms: I don’t think anyone would be particularly thrilled if their friends infected them with an illness, even if they wouldn’t die from the result.

We will have to wait and see how this develops, but for the time being our family is being extra careful and running as little risk as possible, both for our own safety and for the safety of others. We hope others will do the same.

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