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What medium/long term considerations should we take into account when responding to the coronavirus' threat?

by Mati_Roy 5th Mar 20202 comments


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epistemic status: I'm not an expert; mostly going with "common sense" | last updated: 2020-03-05

I've been meaning to post on reasons we might want to spend a lot more resources containing a pandemics than its immediate health risk might warrant. On the top of my head, that could include the following.


Humanity rarely gets the opportunity to verify how well prepared it is to containing a pandemics. Even if a pandemic is not deemed to be a high risk to our civilisation, acting like it was could still be beneficial to get more evidence on whether we're sufficiently prepared to containing pandemics in general (including more dangerous ones that could happen in the future).

Avoiding an endemic state

To reduce the chance that the virus becomes endemic. If the coronavirus became endemic, it would multiply the burden of the seasonal flus.

Avoiding long term damages

It might be hard to know the long term impact of having had the coronavirus given it's a new virus, but we can still have some idea. For example, Connor Flexman suggests that it might significantly increase the risk of long term lung issues and fatigue. For more information, check out: Will nCoV survivors suffer lasting disability at a high rate?

Avoiding mutations

The more widespread a virus is, the more likely it is for the virus to mutate into a more dangerous form. Containing a virus reduces this risk.

As a matter of fact, it seems like this did actually happen with the coronavirus:

Chinese scientists claim that the #COVID19 virus has probably genetically mutated to two variants: S-cov & L-cov. They believe the L-cov is more dangerous, featuring higher transmitibility and inflicting more harm on human respiratory system.

(source: Global Times)