The Great Commandment and the Chinese Virus

In ancient Greek, the Great Commandment that is the entire purpose and justification of the Christian religion is encapsulated in a single word. In Latin, it is also a single word. In English, it is three words.

In Greek, agapeseis. In Latin, diliges. In English, thou shalt love.

Never did that Great Commandment matter more than now, when a failure of love on the part of the grim, Communist regime in China encouraged the worldwide transmission of the coronavirus.

A Failure To Love:
A failure of love in the Italian governing class allowed flights from China to continue to arrive long after the risk of importing the virus was well known.

A failure of love on the part of the United States administration led to weeks of dithering before Mr Trump got a grip and declared a national emergency, though even now he has not called in the troops or locked down the country as firmly as is necessary.

Herd Immunity:
A failure of love on the part of the Government Chief Scientist and the Chief Medical Officer in the United Kingdom led to perhaps the wickedest public statement made by any government in response to the threat from the Chinese virus: that the best thing to do was to let everyone become infected so that the population would acquire “herd immunity”.

The moral of these failures of love on the part of the global governing elite is that the great and the good cannot be relied upon to take sufficient care of you and me. We are going to have to look after ourselves.

Protect Yourself:
First and foremost, gentle reader, you will need to protect yourself and your household. Here are some practical steps you can take.

  1. Isolate yourself and your family from the rest of the animal kingdom as quickly and as completely as possible. Here is what we have done for the past five weeks. We already have a 3-month stock of food and other essentials. We now order all our food online from the local pub, which has had to close its doors to visiting customers and now delivers both cooked food and raw ingredients to order. We do not allow anyone in. Packages are left outside the gate and the bell is rung. No package is brought inside the house. Packages, including mail, are handled with gloves and are sponged down with soap and water before they are opened. Mail is read and then destroyed. Newspapers have been cancelled: we now read them online. If we go out, we go by car and use gloves when filling up with petrol. We do not use public washrooms, but take a container of soapy water with us. If we go out on foot, we wear full motorcycle leathers, which can be washed down, including heavy gauntlets and motorcycle helmets (better than generally-available face-masks). We have fenced off the grounds so that only birds can get in: mammals are excluded.
  2. Beware quacks peddling false nostrums. Mr Trump, for instance, was persuaded to recommend that people should take chloroquinone, a long-standing (and not particularly effective) specific against the malaria parasite. However, he was at once – and rightly – contradicted by his own chief health official, who said that there had not yet been any clinical trials.
  3. Follow the best clinical science. Three years ago a peer-reviewed meta-analysis of more than 10,000 patients in a series of randomized, prospective, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials has established that a daily 25-microgram gel tablet of Vitamin D3 reduces the likelihood of catching respiratory-tract infections such as the Chinese virus by up to 70%, and also reduces the intensity of the symptoms in those who become infected. I already take this dose every day, and have done for years. I do not get colds. My lovely wife has just ordered a year’s supply online: it is not expensive. Governments, particularly in northern climes like ours where there is not enough sunlight, should ensure that everyone takes vitamin D3 gel tablets daily.

These paranoiac precautions are essential because we cannot rely on governments to take the Chinese Virus seriously enough or quickly enough. Here are the data on how fast it is spreading.

In the world outside Communist China and occupied Tibet (from which no data are reliable), the rate of increase in confirmed cases was 18% compound per day until March 14, when even Mr Trump got the point and declared a national emergency, but is still 16.75% compound per day. If the 16.75 rate of increase were to continue until the end of May, almost 900 million people would be infected by then.

In Ireland, the compound rate of increase in confirmed cases was 29% per day until March 14, and it has risen a little in the past week to 29.5%. If the 29.5% rate were to persist, 1.1 million Irish people would be infected by the end of May.

In the United Kingdom, the compound rate of increase in confirmed cases was 25% per day until March 14, and has been 23.5% per day since. If that rate persisted, 13 million Britons would be infected by the end of May.

In the United States, the compound rate of increase in confirmed cases was 20.75% per day to March 14, and has risen to 35% per day in the week since, probably because at last widespread testing is beginning to take place. By the end of May, 86 million Americans will be infected unless their administration sharpens up its response.

Now for the bad news. It is not particularly difficult to calculate that the number of confirmed cases is a monstrous underestimate of the numbers who are actually infected. Here is how the calculation is done.

In Ireland, by March 22 there had been four deaths. If it is imagined that 1% of those infected die, and that the mean period from infection to death is 20 days, then by March 2 some 400 people had been infected in Ireland. However, only 1 case had been reported by March 2.

Now apply the compound 29% rate of increase to the 400 people infected by March 2 for 20 days to March 22. The calculation shows that some 65,000 people were infected in Ireland by that date: but only 900 of these had been detected, confirmed and reported.

Now for the really bad news. The “herd immunity” merchants, such as the lamentable Chief Medical Officer in the UK, had been counting on two crucial facts both of which were known to be wholly false at the time when they announced their widely-criticized and hastily-retracted “let-them-all-die” policy. Had it not been for the government’s need to maintain a united front, he would have been sacked by now.

First, they had been hoping that it would be possible to acquire immunity to the Chinese virus. However, the coronaviridae are notorious for having a remarkable short genome – just 30,000 base pairs. Therefore, they are prone to rapid mutation. Sure enough, a second and more virulent strain of the Chinese virus is already in circulation, and it is proving more fatal than the original strain that originated in the filthy public food market in Wuhan. So immunity to the first strain does not guarantee immunity to the second or any subsequent strain.

Secondly, the government scientists had been hoping that only 2% of confirmed cases and perhaps 1% of all cases would die. Since it is difficult to estimate the true death-rate during the early stages of a pandemic, when deaths lag behind new infections by some weeks, the least unreliable way to estimate the death rate is to study the percentage of deaths among closed cases – i.e., cases who either recovered or died.

With the original strain of the virus, the death rate was 6%. With the current strain, early indications are that it is 12%: that is 1 in 8 among confirmed cases.

There is some good news, however. If the death rate is 1 in 8, then there were only 32 Irish people infected on March 2, and only 5000, not 65,000, infected by March 22.

There is some still better news. Provided that we can all persuade our governments to start taking this pandemic a great deal more seriously than they do now, and provided that we can also persuade young people as well as old that isolating themselves is absolutely essential, the rate of infection can be brought down very sharply.

In China, the public authorities – who are unfortunately entirely untrustworthy – say that by a rigorously-enforced lock-down they have reduced the number of new infections to a trickle. However, since these same public authorities arrested the doctor who had first identified the new infection and had begged them to warn the world, and since they now claim that the virus was invented by the U.S. Army, their word cannot be relied upon at all. After this is over, there will need to be a regime change in China. The world can no longer afford the risk posed by Communism.

In South Korea, the public authorities did the right thing. They tested widely. They followed up contacts of those known to be infected. They isolated all carriers. There, they have genuinely begun to get on top of this pandemic.

If and only if we can persuade our governments that they should do no less than South Korea has done, and if and only if all of us – young as well as old – bite the bullet and accept that we are going to have to interact only online for as many months as it takes, the epidemic curve can be defeated.

This column will provide what no one else is providing at present: weekly updates showing how the compound rate of infection is declining as the stringent measures that must now be introduced begin to take effect.

Governments are not used to being subjected to performance indicators, but the compound infection rate is an excellent indicator. The values for March 14 will serve as a benchmark against which governmental effectiveness in getting properly to grips with this pandemic can be – and will be – measured.

How, then, can we show our love for our fellow man at a distance, as will be necessary in the coming months? Begin by sparing a thought for those who cannot isolate themselves, such as those who are producing, delivering and selling us our food and other essential supplies, and those who risk infection and death every day as they work in our clinics and hospitals. These are our front-line heroes, and we must show them how much we appreciate the risks and sacrifices they make for our sake.

Drop a line by email to your doctor’s office to say that you are thinking of him and his team at this difficult time. Telephone your parish priest and comfort him, for being a priest is a hard and lonely vocation at the best of times. Arrange for parcels of goodies to be delivered to him. Our own beloved parochus is now staying full-time in isolation with my noble friends the other side of the hill. They are taking the same precautions as we are.

Watch the online Masses being provided by your diocese. Receive the Lord of Life in your heart.

Be paranoid. As I have tried to explain here, there is good reason for taking more precautions than you ever thought necessary. It is the meek, not the brazenly foolhardly, who will inherit the Earth.