Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, January 26, 2022
The difficulty of relaxing

It is said that people get more conservative with age. Strangely, the same can be said about the Corona virus. It used to be that the absolute truth of the Corona pandemic resulted in left parties being right in what they said about it, while many parties to the political right said things that were objectively wrong. But the virus is mutating. A statement like "it's just a flu", which was certainly false in 2020, is getting closer and closer to being true in 2022, and will almost certainly be the absolute truth of 2023. In Belgium, where I live, the number of confirmed new Covid cases today is 40 times higher than at the peak of the first wave. But the number of confirmed Covid deaths today is 10 times lower.

That is posing a problem for left wing political parties in government, like the US Democrats. If they admit that Covid is now a much less lethal disease, and that various restrictions on daily life can now be abandoned, the Republicans will say "told you so". But by insisting that we take as much precautions against the much milder variant than we did against its more lethal cousins, they put themselves on the wrong side of history and science. The omicron variant is both less lethal and less easily held in check with masks and social distancing. The next variant probably even less so. At some point the measures that were necessary in 2020 and 2021 simply won't be necessary anymore. To rely on herd immunity by everybody catching the virus was a very bad idea in 2020, but will probably be the reality as early as this autumn. If only political parties would be more responsive to reality, and less beholden to the things they said yesterday, we could this year see the end of Covid-related social restrictions.

I don't think this is an issue in the States yet as the number of covid victims clogging up the hospitals still makes preventing the spread of the infection a necessary goal, which can include restrictions. Although frankly, despite what it may appear to outsiders, there are very few places left in the country that are still enforcing restrictions.
The next variant probably even less so.

I hope you're not making the same mistake that I keep hearing about the virus "wanting to evolve to be less lethal and more infective because that's the winning strategy." Asymptotic (stationary) behaviour has nothing to do with the transient, and we're still in the transient phase. Sure, IF the virus becomes the next flu virus it'll be less lethal and more transmittable, but the initial "if" is not verified yet. Nothing says that the next mutation will not be twice more transmittable than Omicron and fifty times more deadly. "A losing strategy for the virus" yeah sure, except that treating a virus like a human planning its expansion is not really a good idea..... I find it a lot safer to draw conclusions about an experience after having completed it. Now it's probabilities, and we all know that playing russian roulette is quite safe because the survival chance is 83%, right? :)
The mistake is in the anthromorphisation: The virus doesn’t “want” anything. It is purely Darwinist survival of the fittest. A highly deadly virus is “less fit”, because incapacitating the host stops the virus from spreading.
You are correct about anthromorphisation, and correct on the long term. But in a short term, a virus as deadly as the Delta variant + the transmissibility slightly higher than Omicron would still spread faster than Omicron - the death/incapacitating rate of Delta is far too low to compensate for the increase of transmissibility of Omicron.
The probability of this happening increase with the number of people infected, but the population impact decrease over time due to herd immunité (Vaccine + Omicron).

I agree that if such a variant does not appeare, we could expect a 'safe landing' of the epidemy starting next Fall/next year, but we should not let the infected population grow to much until then.

THe bad news is that the mutation can happen worldwide, while our effort only impact our country - this look like a case of "Tragedy of the commons" : the global benefice is dependant of how many people/county put some restriction, but there is no personnal benefice to put restriction - while there are obvious downside, both on liberty and economy.

Finally the acceptance of the restriction by the population can only go down with Vaccine and the time passing. Whatever the official restriction next year, they will not be followed if they are too strict.
Some parties are quite responsive to reality and not beholden to what they said yesterday. For example, in the past the Republicans were publicly saying that "A new Supreme Court Justice should not be nominated in an election year, let the people decide!". Ans then the "reality" changed, and they changed their stance, and as a result there is now 6-3 advantage of conservative justices in the US Supreme Court.
As for the Democrats, their policy should be "Follow the recommendations of scientists and doctors", and if those change, the policy should change too.

Unfortunately, the scientists like Dr. Fauchi are getting a lot of flak and criticisms when they change their recommendations based on latest research - they are treated like they have being lying all the time so far.
In reality, people would react more strongly to a more deadly virus. So it's in Covid's interest to turn into a cold.

Not everyone acts in their own best interests - not viruses, not humans. All the same, combined with the death of those most vulnerable to it, this seems the most likely outcome.
Unfortunately, the scientists like Dr. Fauchi are getting a lot of flak and criticisms when they change their recommendations based on latest research - they are treated like they have being lying all the time so far.

Sad but true. Unfortunately unless you have a background in science you can't really understand how it works. The "we don't yet know" answer which you would usually get from scientists doesn't work in mass media, and the people clamouring for "truth" usually just want some easy to digest and immutable explanation. the media know this and the politicians know this, and this is why they never show doubt.
You also see this dichotomy in the science-pseudoscience debate: pseudosciences are extremely static, clinging to the same untouchable dogma, always looking for one more way to prove what they believe in, instead of just dumping what doesn't work and moving on.
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