COVID-19: We know that we know nothing

COVID-19: We know that we know nothing

“I know that I know nothing” is a quote attributed to Socrates. Even if it is not really proven whether he literally said that, in my opinion it fits very well these days. Over the last four to five weeks I spent much more time surfing the internet and watching TV than usual. Not necessarily due to the fact that I am locked down at home, but mainly to keep me informed about the actual status and the worldwide situation around the COVID-19 crisis. However, the more information I get, the more I am getting confused. I remember, a few days ago I read an article in an online journal about somebody having found a medicine which kills the virus within two days, then immediately followed by another article describing some evidence that the virus most probably not only destroys your lungs, but in some cases also your brain, followed then by yet another article claiming that the virus can also be transmitted through the air. I read about one country, where infections are slowing down, so that the government starts to discuss the end of the lockdown, while in another country the number of deaths per day is increasing rapidly bringing the health system to its knees. There are a lot of blogs these days where people are expressing their opinion about the situation in general, but also even more about, how they see things evolving and what the future will look like. From my point of view, this is all speculation. At least today on April 8th of 2020 when I am writing these lines.

The end of the lockdown

One of the most discussed topics in several countries including Germany is the end of the lockdown. The critical issue is to find the right balance between protecting the population’s health and to avoid a complete economic crash. There are a lot of scenarios discussed right now about starting to reopen schools, smaller shops and also restaurants at the end of April or beginning of May. Sure, this would need to be done with strict regulations like wearing masks, keeping distance and much more. But let’s be realistic. We should expect that the number of infections will most probably increase again after two or three weeks. Children will bring the virus home from school and employees from the office. This will then eventually cause another lockdown period for some time. I am personally convinced that we will have waves of loosening and tightening lockdowns and waves of growing and declining infections at least until the end of 2020, definitely until we have found vaccination.  

Availability of a vaccine

But when will a vaccine be available for everyone? I do not know anything in this area, so I need to believe what I hear and read from the specialists and scientists. But again, you listen to five people and you get at least three opinions. The statements range from availability in autumn to earliest in twelve to eighteen months. I think we all agree that a few months can make a huge difference. Then again, what does availability exactly mean here? One talks about having found a vaccine, while the other one talks about availability in high volume for everyone. The latter is definitely the most important milestone in the fight against COVID-19, but it will probably also take longer than autumn this year. I hope I am wrong.

The worst is probably still to come

So far, we have experienced a really bad impact of COVID-19 in countries like Italy, Spain and recently also in France, in the UK and in the US. I am deliberately not talking about China in this context, as I simply do not believe any news we are getting out of China. I am surprised that a lot of people seem to have forgotten how China controls the flow of information and freedom of opinion and speech. But maybe it is just the simple need for good news, which are so rare these days. This lets us believe the images from Wuhan with people throwing away their masks and celebrating the victory over the virus. The same day as I am writing this, it was mentioned in the news, that maybe 50,000 people have died in Wuhan alone, based on statements from people who live there. I simply do not want to imagine, what happens when the virus really hits the less developed countries. I know Brazil quite well as I lived there for ten years. If you want to get a bit more background about this country from an “insider”, do not miss to read my book (paperback or eBook, German only). I would not consider Brazil in general as a less developed country, but one specific area which keeps me awake at night worrying about my friends over there is the very poor health system. If in Germany we talk about potentially coming to our limits very soon, we are still in a luxury position compared to Brazil. If Brazil would get close to a similar level of infections relative to the population like in Italy or Spain… I just do not want to imagine that.    

Ignorant politicians

One problem in Brazil is their current president Jair Bolsonaro. He already became somewhat famous for his extreme positions and statements, but now he takes it to a different level. Until today, he is still playing the whole situation down. He is publicly claiming on TV that he is not afraid of the virus as he is “an ex-athlete, who would at most get a little cold if he gets infected”, so the population should not worry at all. In the favelas of Rio de Janeiro people are advised to stay at home and not to meet in groups. This advice, however, is not coming from the government, but from the local drug lords. Nothing more to add here. Donald Trump had ignored COVID-19 for a long time in a similar manner. Now the US people especially in cities like New York must pay for it. Does Trump finally accept that he made a mistake? By no means. He now blames the WHO for not having done their job properly. There are a few more leaders to mention here, but the pole position clearly goes to president Lukaschenko from Belarus, who simply ignores the virus as he “cannot see it flying around and two hours in the sauna with enough vodka will kill it anyway”. We can always criticize our politicians in Germany for not doing their job properly, but everything is relative. And relative to what is going on in some other countries, they do a pretty good job right now, at least in my opinion.

The world after COVID-19

For sure, there will be a world after COVID-19. The first question here is, how you define “after the crisis” and the second one, when will this happen. I have seen probably hundreds of articles describing scenarios how we will learn from all this, how people will change their behavior in many areas like travelling, caring about the environment, being less egocentric, stick closer together as a society, and many other things. I really hope for all that and I will definitely try my best to contribute. But in general, I do not believe it. Even these days there are people who try to earn their fortune from the crisis. And there are the Bolsonaros, the Trumps and the Lukaschenkos. They all will not go away when the virus goes away. And if they go away, there will be others coming after them. Most people will quickly get back into their hamster wheel and at least after some time continue with their lives before COVID-19. I very much hope that I am wrong, but at least for now….

… we know that we know nothing.

Stay safe and healthy!

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