By Christopher Monckton of Brenchley
In Italy and Spain, two of Europe’s hardest-hit nations, the compound daily growth rates in cumulative cases of Chinese-virus infection have fallen to 2.8% and 3.4% respectively. The lockdowns in these two countries are, for the first time, being eased.
Fig. 1. Mean compound daily growth rates in confirmed cases of COVID-19 infection for the world excluding China (red) and for several individual nations averaged over the successive seven-day periods ending on all dates from March 28 to April 12, 2020. A link to the high-definition PowerPoint slides is at the end of this posting.
Fig. 2. Mean compound daily growth rates in reported COVID-19 deaths for the world excluding China (red) and for several individual nations averaged over the successive seven-day periods ending on all dates from April 4 to April 12, 2020.
The United States (7.5% daily growth) and the United Kingdom (8.4%) still have some way to go before it is prudent for them to end lockdowns.
South Korea and Sweden got away without lockdowns. South Korea had contained the pandemic with a very early, very vigorous and very thorough campaign of testing, isolating all carriers and following up and testing all their contacts, banning large gatherings and encouraging people to keep their distance from one another and to wear masks and, if possible, eye protection in public. That is the gold standard. Do that and there is no need for a lockdown. South Korea’s growth rate in cumulative cases is now down to just 0.4% per day.
Sweden, having failed to act as fast or as thoroughly as South Korean, nevertheless decided not to lock the country down completely, though some restrictions were imposed. Its daily growth rate in cumulative cases is 6.3%.
Two further factors are worth bearing in mind. First, Sweden has a low population density. There are two prime determinants of the rate at which a new pathogen will spread during the early stages of a pandemic. The first is its infectivity: how readily it is transmitted between people in close proximity to one another. The second is the mean person-to-person contact rate. This will be much lower where population density is lower.
Central Stockholm, for instance, has a population density about one-fifth that of central London. It could get away without a lockdown where London simply could not.
Stephen Mosher has supplied some interesting figures showing that both in South Korea and in Sweden the usage of public transport has fallen by some 60%. Once the people have become educated in the need to take precautions for themselves, many of them will have the common sense to do so, even if there is no lockdown in place.
Contrast that sensible behavior with the UK, where as recently as March 13, the day before Mr Trump announced a state of emergency in the United States, the last day of the four-day Cheltenham Racing Festival went ahead just as usual, with huge crowds attending. That was silly.
And it was not until almost two weeks after Mr Trump that Mr Johnson finally realized that, unlike Sweden, Britain was too densely-packed into huge urban centers to allow him to get away without a lockdown. By heeding the “herd-immunity” merchants at Oxford University and leaving it far, far too late, Mr Johnson guaranteed that Britain would have a worse experience with the pandemic than any other country in Europe.
Eventually, however, the hard-headed “Save the hospitals from utter collapse” team at Imperial College, London, prevailed and the lockdown happened. At least it was just in time to prevent the total collapse of the health service: but, as things stand today, all surgical interventions other than Chinese-virus cases and emergencies have been canceled for many weeks, and will continue to be canceled until further notice. Losses of life from these cancelations are not included in the death figures, and Britain is bending the numbers still further by not counting deaths at home or deaths in nursing-homes in the daily death counts.
By now, in Italy and Spain the populations are sufficiently well educated that their governments consider that a gradual dismantling of the lockdowns is now possible.
On the data, then, the first lesson the world needs to learn from this pandemic is that the sooner determined action is taken to test, isolate and contact-trace the more likely it is that no lockdown will be needed; that the chief reason for lockdowns is to ensure that the hospital system is not overrun; and that if for that reason a lockdown is needed it should be introduced as soon as possible. Later lockdowns are longer and more costly lockdowns, as Britain is learning the hard way.
Meanwhile the climate Communists, desperate to try to regain the world’s attention, are saying that the Chinese-virus pandemic has taught climate “deniers” the value of believing the “experts”. Well, it has done no such thing, for the “experts” are no more agreed among themselves about how to deal with this pandemic than they are about whether capitalism should be destroyed so as to “Save The Planet” from mildly warmer worldwide weather.
However, lockdowns and the consequent decline in economic activity do provide us with a very interesting test of whether CO2 concentration will detectably fall and whether, even if it does, the gentle warming of recent decades will slow. Watch this space: the earliest indications are that the climate Communists are in for something of a shock.