Covid-19 – Part 1: Identifying the threat

Hi Everyone,


Considering the serious threat that Covid-19 poses to our physical health as well as our social, financial and economic health, I am putting together a series of posts that will investigate the impact this virus is having and will likely to have in the short, medium, and long run. I am not a medical doctor or a scientist. I am an economist. I will be using my economics background to analyse the expected impact this virus will have on our lives. This series of posts will cover the following.

Covid-19, the health threat

The world is experiencing more chaos than many of us have ever seen. The Coronavirus (COVID-19) is bringing the world to its knees. Every day, the number of identified cases and death toll increases. Efforts to stop the spread of the virus has resulted in the lockdown of many cities across the world. Some countries such as South Korea, Singapore, and Hong Kong have had some success stopping the spread of the virus as well reducing its effects. Other countries such as Spain, Italy, Iran, France and USA are having less success.

Countries with the most Covid-19 deaths

Source:, accessed on 01/04/2020 at 15:20 GMT

I have organised Covid-19 data according to number of deaths. The number of Covid-19 cases for each country will be highly inaccurate. This is because many people with Covid-19 are not showing serious symptoms and therefore not tested. The number of actual cases will be considerably higher than what is reported. The extent of testing varies greatly between countries. The number of Covid-19 cases is dependent on the number of people tested. As testing increases, so will the number of cases.

The number of deaths may also not be accurate, as some people have died of other causes while testing positive for Covid-19. For example, Italy include all deaths of people that are infected with Covid-19 even if they have other serious illnesses that are more likely to have been the cause of death (Telegraph, 23/03/2020). There is also the possibility that some of the dead are not tested in some places. Different countries count Covid-19 deaths differently; therefore, comparing death tolls from different countries will not present a reliable picture.

A more useful approach would be to compare the percentage of deaths per population over the period of the Covid-19 pandemic to the average percentage of deaths per population over a similar period in previous years. For example, how does the average percentage of deaths per population in March over the previous five years compare to the percentage of deaths per population in March 2020? The actual number of deaths over these months from previous years could also be compared to the pandemic months to give a more consistent approach to measuring total deaths caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. This could be a more reliable approach than comparing the number of deaths categorised as Covid-19 deaths by each country. However, this comparison could only be made after the pandemic has run its course.

The best snapshot we have of Covid-19 might be from the cruise ship Diamond Princess. There were 712 cases of Covid-19 on the ship. So far, 11 of those infected have died. That is a death rate of approximately 1.5% (Worldometers). According to, the average age of passengers on board the Diamond Princess for that particular cruise was 58. All passengers that died, at the time the article was published, were over the age of 70.

Nature of the problem

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Covid-19 spreads from person-to-person through the air and through both direct and indirect contact. It spreads through coughs and sneezes. It can spread by contacting surfaces that are infected with the virus. It can even be spread by people yet to show the symptoms. Covid-19 spreads fast and sustainably across the community.

Source: Next Strain, accessed on 01/04/2020

To further add to the problem, there are likely to be several different strains of Covid-19. According to New Scientist, two types of Covid-19 have been identified. They have been classified as the ‘L-type’ and the ‘S-type’. The ‘L-type’, which is reported to have mutated from the ‘S-type’, appears to be more virulent. It also appears possible that a person could be infected with both versions of Covid-19 (Telegraph)

Source: Next Strain, accessed on 01/04/2020

According to Fast Company, there are approximately eight strains of the virus circulating the world. It is possible that we are seeing different death rates in different countries because of the prevalence of different strains of the virus.

How did this all begin?

There are several versions of the origin of Covid-19 circulating the internet. There are claims that the virus began from consuming animal meat, possibly bats (USAtoday and The Week). There are theories that Covid-19 was created in the laboratory in Wuhan, China to be used as bioweapon (Express). There are also claims that Covid-19 originated from the USA instead of China (The Guardian). There are theories that the first wave of Covid-19 originated from China and the second wave from the USA and that Covid-19 could have been planted in many countries simultaneously (Global Research). There is also the belief that the whole situation is exaggerated and that Covid-19 is not any more dangerous than seasonal flu (Off Guardian). These are just some of the versions of the origin of Covid-19. Whatever the origin or extent of the health effect of Covid-19, the measures taken to combat the virus are radically effecting our lives.

Actions taken to slow the spread

To reduce the spread of Covid-19, many experts are recommending reducing contact between people. In the context of the UK, reduced contact has come in form of social distancing, social shielding and self-isolation. Social distancing involves reducing non-essential travel and maintaining a distance of at least 2 metres. Self-isolation involves avoiding all unnecessary contact with other people; this normally applies to people with some symptoms of Covid-19 such as fever or a new cough. Social shielding requires the most vulnerable people to limit contact to only those that provide them with essential support.

Governments of most countries support the evidence behind reducing contact. However, different countries have implemented different strategies to reduce human-to-human contact. These strategies range from recommendations and advice to very heavy enforcement. Countries that began with recommendations and advice have moved to heavier enforcement as the number of reported cases and deaths appear to be growing exponentially. The enforced measures include requiring documents to travel to and from public areas, closure of international borders, closure of schools, closure of any shops that do provide essential goods or services. People that violate these rules could be fined or even arrested.

Alternative Views

The majority of the experts that Governments have consulted strongly support social distancing and self-isolation. The mainstream media often treat these experts as being completely representative of all experts and that their views are fact. However, it is important to be aware that there are alternative views regarding the severity of the Covid-19 as well as the recommended courses of action. Off-Guardian have identified 12 experts with different opinions to what is being promoted in the mainstream media.

The views of these doctors can be summarised as follows:

  • They express concerns regarding the statistics, which may include deaths from previous existing Coronaviruses.
  • Some of them argue that the number of asymptomatic carriers is distorting the death rate of Covid-19.
  • They have expressed concerns regarding the extent of measures being put in place.
  • There are concerns that the actions that are being taken are putting unnecessary stress on the health systems.
  • Some of them question Italy’s death rate based on their normally high death rate from respiratory problems.
  • They have expressed concerns regarding how the world will be able to return to normal given the current lockdown criteria.
  • Many of them expressed concerns regarding the costs of prolonged lockdown; these costs include financial, social, and mental wellbeing.

Final Thoughts

It is always important to gather as much information as possible from many different sources. Most of us are not qualified to determine the health impact and appropriate preventive measures based on our own knowledge of virology. However, we can make an effort to be aware of varying viewpoints as well as the logic used to support them. I feel at this point that it is better to be cautious and safe regarding Covid-19. I believe this involves reducing close social contact, washing hands, not making unnecessary trips and a wearing mask if you are likely to be in close contact with others. New strict laws and additional Government powers are not welcome but the Government have made a strong case as to why they are necessary. World leaders such as Donald Trump and Boris Johnson have experienced boosts in approval ratings since proposing strict measures (Financial Times)

The impacts of Covid-19 are going to extend far beyond the health impacts that we are currently witnessing. This series will be mostly focused on these other impacts and the additional impacts that current and proposed Government actions will have on us.

More posts


If you want to read any of my other posts, you can click on the links below. These links will lead you to posts containing my collection of works. These posts will be updated frequently.





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