This suggests that travel restrictions weren’t justified later in the pandemic except in highly connected countries, or in regions with low transmission that wanted to keep the virus out, says co-author Mark Jit, an infectious-disease modeller at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. Preventing travel from high-prevalence countries would be sufficient to reduce exposure in many regions, says Jit.
“Countries shouldn’t instinctively say that, just because there is a pandemic, we should have travel restrictions.” Hoffman says that observational studies are now needed to tease out the effectiveness of countries completely shutting their borders. “There is a good chance that a whole lot of what we are doing is causing more harm than good.”
Those pushing herd immunity want people to think that it could be the route out of the Covid crisis, when, in fact, it’s more likely to prolong the nightmare. Just think for a second what such a strategy would actually look like. We would end up in a situation like that currently being faced in parts of Belgium — hospitals are under such pressure that drugs are being rationed and doctors have been issued with guidance on who is eligible for treatment. All this is before we consider what effect it would have on NHS staff who would also become unwell and unable to tend to the sick.
When a crew member fell seriously ill, the vessel returned to port, and almost everyone was tested for the virus again. The before-and-after results for 120 of the crew members were made available to Bloom and colleagues, who published a study about them in The Journal of Clinical Microbiology in August. In addition to the P.C.R. tests, the pre-voyage screenings also looked for neutralizing antibodies, or proteins generated by the immune system after exposure to the virus, which suggest that a person has been infected previously. Three crew members, it turned out, had those antibodies at the start of the trip. Of the 117 crew members who did not, 103 tested positive for the virus when they got back to shore — an 88 percent infection rate. If you were to randomly select three names from the ship’s manifest, the odds that all three would have tested negative are about 0.2 percent. Yet all three sailors with antibodies were spared.
This point cannot be overstated: The pandemic patchwork exists because the U.S. is a patchwork to its core. New outbreaks will continue to flare and fester unless the country makes a serious effort to protect its most vulnerable citizens, recognizing that their risk is the result of societal failures, not personal ones. “People say you can’t fix the U.S. health system overnight, but if we’re not fixing these underlying problems, we won’t get out of this,” says Sheila Davis of Partners in Health. “We’ll just keep getting pop-ups.”
But he has always played with other people’s money and other people’s lives. “The president was probably in a position to make riskier decisions in life because he was fabulously rich from birth,” says Murphy. “But it’s also true he has had a reputation for risk not backed up by reality. His name is on properties he doesn’t own. We think of him as taking risk in professional life, but a lot of what he does is lend his name to buildings with risks taken by others. He’s built an image as a risk taker, but it’s not clear how much risk he’s taken.”
The results of his initial trial have yet to be replicated. “I think what he secretly hopes is that no one will ever be able to show anything,” Molina told me. “That all the trials conducted on hydroxychloroquine will not be able to even reach a conclusion of no efficacy.” In recent weeks, Raoult has in fact tempered his claims about the virtues of his treatment regimen. The published, peer-reviewed version of the final study noted that another two patients had died, bringing the total to 10. Where the earlier version called the drugs “safe and efficient,” they were now described merely as “safe.”
He has shown flickers of what appears to be doubt. In one interview, Raoult quoted Camus, from the fatalistic coda of “The Stranger,” hoping that “on the day of my execution there should be a huge crowd of spectators, and that they should greet me with howls of hatred.”
Which searches are trending?
There are things that are concerning for society like the spike in searches for “loneliness,” people searching for “having trouble sleeping,” “depression.” All of those things are concerning to me, and I worry for people that don’t have people with them or are feeling it. Then the other misinformation thing is really interesting, because normally around any political thing, you always see spikes and searches where people are trying to find out if a misinfo story is true.
In this pandemic, the mask reveals far more than it hides. It exposes the world’s political and economic relations for what they are: vectors of self-interest that ordinarily lie obscured under glib talk of globalisation and openness. For the demagogues who govern so much of the world, the pandemic has provided an unimpeachable excuse to fulfil their dearest wishes: to nail national borders shut, to tar every outsider as suspicious, and to act as if their own countries must be preserved above all others.
Social distancing is here to stay – That’s what the experts are saying.
We don’t know exactly what this new future looks like, of course. But one can imagine a world in which, to get on a flight, perhaps you’ll have to be signed up to a service that tracks your movements via your phone. The airline wouldn’t be able to see where you’d gone, but it would get an alert if you’d been close to known infected people or disease hot spots. There’d be similar requirements at the entrance to large venues, government buildings, or public transport hubs. There would be temperature scanners everywhere, and your workplace might demand you wear a monitor that tracks your temperature or other vital signs. Where nightclubs ask for proof of age, in future they might ask for proof of immunity—an identity card or some kind of digital verification via your phone, showing you’ve already recovered from or been vaccinated against the latest virus strains.
Today’s call with my friend Giacomo was tinged with nostalgia. Suddenly WhatsApp feels like a poor substitute for a walk in the sun or preparing dinner together in real life. This time, we just pause and think about what the world will look like once the pandemic is over, what’s going to be lost forever and what we can do better in future.
Maybe surviving the short-term isolation of this pandemic can teach us how to deal with the other systemic collapse looming ahead, and the sense of loneliness each crisis instils in us. Maybe some of that longing for closeness I express through endless video calls will stay with me as I face the other existential threat that unites us all.