Saturday 30 May 2020

Day 75 of self-isolation - costs and benefits of lock down

Costs and benefits of lock down

We take those actions where the benefits exceed the costs. So lets look at benefits and costs.


There's really only one benefit. The lock down reduces the numbers of people who get infected, and therefore the number who die. So far, we've officially seen 38,000 deaths, although if you look at "excess death" figures, that's more like 60,000.

Left to itself, the virus spreads fast - we've already seen that. On average, each infected person infects three more people (an R number of 3). 3-9-27-81-243-729 ... you see how it goes. The lock down reduced this to 0.8. So starting from 100, you get 100-80-64-50-40-32 ...

Were there any alternatives to the lock down? Yes - if we had had a vaccine, but we don't. Maybe we will in September. Or maybe not.

The other alternative is face masks. Masking also reduces the R number, but 1) we don't know how many people would obey masking rules, and 2) we don't know how much masking wuold reduce the R number.

People often misunderstand masking. It is principally for the benefit of others, not for the wearer. It does give some benefit to the wearer, which is nice.

The "Masked Hamster" experiment showed that infection when the infected hamsters were masked, fell to a quarter of the unmasked. So masking is very good. If people are willing to do it.

How many would have died without the lock down. We'll never know. But we do know that most of the people in the UK would have been infected, and of the infected, some 1% would have died. So something like half a million dead bodies.


There are many costs. Grandparents can't see their grandchildren. Grandson.3 is about to learn how to crawl, and we haven't seen him for three months. When we do see him, he won't know who we are. Parents are locked in with their children, and are trying to home school then, many for the first time.

The economy hasn't collapsed, but many businesses have been closed for months, and might not survive. Many restaurants will close for ever, airlines are in dire straits and are cutting staff, hotels are in trouble. People can't pay rent, which puts pressure on landlords, both in the private and in the commercial sector.

A lot of commerce has gone online, and won't return to bricks-and-mortar. Six months rfom now, high streets will have a large number of empty properties, and rents will fall as landlords compete to attract new businesses.

In the USA, unemployment has reached 40 million. This is a recession that is comparable with those of 1929 and 2006, and the bounce-back to those took 8-10 years. The recession in the UK might not be so deep, but the recovery will take just as long.

Countries have found the Magic Money Tree. It turn out that it was there all along. But this is going to mean borrowing on an unprecedented scale, which means higher interest rates. I'm also expecting significant amounts of inflation.

Family savings have been drawn down; planned purchases of consumer goods have been deferred ndefinitely because food and other necessities came first. And consumers will be very cautious coming out of this. The reverse of the "Great Toilet Roll" panic-buying will mean that consumers will be wary of spending more than they need to.

As we come out of lock down, that will be replaced by track-and-trace. That was supposed to be in place by Jue 1. Now we learn that it won't be running until the end of June (and that probably means the end of July). Why is our government so serially incompetent at IT projects? And, as far as I can see, nothing has been done to avoid scam calls pretending to be tracers, or malicious reports of people having been in contact (and therefore needing to isolate for 14 days).

What is the benefit of installing the app? It means you get to tell other people that they might have been infected, which doesn't help the infected person at all. What is the cost of installing the app? You get to be phoned up by the tracers and told to give up work for two weeks. The incentive to install the app, is perverse. Only patriotic or ethical people will install it, and we all know how many Cummingses there are.

Things left undone

I have a cloth mask, which will act as a good shield should I become infected, to stop others being infected by me. The Masked Hamsters showed that this reduced infections by 75%. Why isn't our government telling us to wear masks in public? And to do so whether infected or not, because 50% of infections are without symptoms. So you can be infected, and be a spreader of Covid-19, without knowing it.

I have s tub of vitamin D tablets. We know that vitamin D plays a part in the immune response, we know that many people are vitamin D deficient. nd we know that vitamin D tablets are cheap and readily available. Why isn't the government advising on this?

Cummings should be fired. He should have his knitted cap publicly removed and burned. Otherwise, far too many people will treat the guidelines as casually as he did.

1 comment:

  1. So much sense made in this post, it is a shame the governments of the world cannot express themselves likewise :(