The wanderings of Coronavirus

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  • V. Ginsburgh

Victor Ginsburgh

I realize more and more that it is feasible to rewrite Nobel Prize Albert Camus’ The Plague, written in 1947, by changing very little: (i) each time you find the word ‘plague’ change it to ‘Covid-19;’ (ii) change the location where the novel unfolds, say to Brussels, Paris or Madrid instead of Oran, Morocco; and (iii), skip just a few pages in the beginning of the novel, since we were not invaded by dying rats, that usually are the signal of a coming plague.

Contrary to the mantra of virologists in the beginning of the pandemic, gloriously repeated by almost all newspapers—perhaps with the good intention to scare the hell out of us—one infected individual could infect a little more than two other individuals.1 Why? Because such a progression would resemble at what happened at the times Nassir, who had invented the chess game, went to show it to the King of Persia. The latter was so pleased and interested that he told Nassir he would give him a present and Nassir could choose it. So Nassir said: Put one grain of corn on the first square of the chess-board, two on the second, four on the third, etc. so that I can bake a bread. Oh! said the King, this is peanuts, I am pleased to give this to you. The rest of the story is well-know, because the progression is dramatic: after 64 squares of the chess-board (or 64 days of corona, though this number would not change drastically if each contact takes two days to infect two other people; it would just need 128 days instead of 64), the number of grains of corn would be equal to 18 446 744 073 709 551 615. That means 500 million times the population that lives on the earth today. And of course we would all be dead, which is strange, since the observed death rate is of the order 0.1 to 0.5 percent of the population.

In fact, the only real proof that we have about the death rate can be inferred from what happened to a closed population of 3,700 people on the cruise ship Diamond Princess which had to dock somewhere in a Japanese harbor since several passengers had caught Corona. This is what Yehuda Carmeli,2 chief of the department of epidemiology of a hospital and professor of medicine at Tel Aviv University said, in a response to the following question “Do we know how many people the virus will kill?,” he simply answered as follows: “We do not know exactly. To some extent, we can think of the Diamond Princess as being a hospital. Six out of 3,700 passengers, that is, the total population of the country Diamond Cruse passengers—most of which were 50 years old or more—and crew members died. This makes for some 0.16 percent. If we want to be pessimistic, let us set the death rate to be somewhere between 0.1 to 0.5 percent.”

This is roughly what French professor Raoult said, an infectious diseases specialist, professor of microbiology in Marseille and winner of the French annual INSERM (Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche) prize a couple of years ago:3

“Yes, of course, people die. The largest abnormally high mortality rate seen in France happened in the winter of 2017. Ten thousand extra people, and we do not even know whether they died from a flu. Ten thousand people is a lot. But [at the time of the interview, March 20, 2020] some 500 people died. We shall see whether 10,000 people will die from this new virus, I have some doubts.”

On April 19, 2020, this number grew to 20,000, so he missed his prediction, but still, it is a mere three percent addition on the French yearly mortality curve (some 610,000 died in 2018), and it is not clear that all of these 20,000 people died from the virus.

20,000 Americans signed a petition initiated by Newsweek, asking that press agencies and journalists stop speaking about and showing on television, the daily briefings given by Donald Trump on the virus. He does not stop insulting journalists.4 For insults, it is worth having a look at Nearly 100000 sign petition calling for end to live coverage of Trump’s Coronavirus Briefings.

In Israel, the Minister of Health since 2009, Yaakov Litzman is a Rabbi. People around him say he knows peanuts in health problems. But Rabbis are usually clever, and I would have thought that after eleven years he knows at least a little. Nothing. He was of course put in this position for political reasons, because Netanyahu needed someone from a certain party, and he is the one. In an interview he suggested that:5

“We are praying and hoping that the Messiah will arrive before Passover, the time of our redemption. I am sure that the Messiah will come and bring us out as [God] brought us out of Egypt. Soon we will go out in freedom and the Messiah will come and redeem us from all the troubles of the world.”

Obviously, the Messiah did not come, neither for him, nor for his wife, since both contracted the virus,6 but, after all, perhaps the Messiah eventually came on earth, since they both got rid of the virus but he (the Rabbi, I mean) talks bullshit. In reality, “the heroes in white coat, are very often Arabs [17 percent of doctors and 25 percent of nurses],” claims Le Monde.7 While in the meantime, Netanyahu keeps speaking about annexation of most part of the West Bank.8 Is it that he wants to get 100 percent of the doctors and nurses from the West Bank, and transform them into Messiahs?

Rodney Howard-Brown, a pastor who preaches on TV in the US, is opposed to social distancing, and claims that his church owns the necessary instruments (perhaps a dozen of Messiahs) who will stop the virus. But he also claims that the coronavirus in synagogues is God’s punishment. This charming pastor has been arrested, but still has an accreditation to attend press conferences given by magician Trump.9

In-between, the magician alluded to above, asked his well-known son in law, Jared Kushner, to take the reins of the pandemics. The said Jarred asked model Karlie Kloss, his sister in law, to gather some information among a reputed group of medical doctors who appear on Facebook to learn how to kill the virus.10

Just a last word that comes from Andy Borowitz, the New Yorker’s satirist:11 “Trump is optimistic about winning the Noble Prize in medicine.”

  1. This changed with time, since it wen down to 0.8 nowadays. 

  2. Simona Weinglass, Coronavirus: 22 questions à l’épidémiologiste Yehuda Caarmeli, The Times of Israel (in French), March 20, 2020. 

  3. Alexandre Ducamp, Coronanvirus: Entretien avec le professeur Didier Roult, La Provence, 21 mars 2020. 

  4. Chantal da Silva, Over 120,000 sign petition calling to end the live coverage of Trump’s coronaviru briefings, Newsweek, March 31, 2020. 

  5. Opinion, Israël health minister’s cure for Covid-19? The Messiah, Haarez, March 26, 2020. 

  6. Aaron Rabinowitz, Israel health minister diagnosed with coronavirus, Haartez, April 2, 2020. 

  7. Louis Imbert, Coronavirus: Dans les hôpitaux israéliens, les Arabes sont en avant-poste, Le Monde, 2 avril 2020. 

  8. Chemi Shalev, Netanyahu’s annexation ploy sacrifices Israel’s war on coronavirus to the idol of settlements, Haaretz, April 6, 2020. 

  9. Will Sommer, Hillsborough Sheriff to arrest Rodney Howard-Browne Megachurch pastor who flouted virus rules, The Daily Beast, March 30, 2020. 

  10. Tom Mc Carthy, Jared Kushner and his shadow corona-unit: What is Trump’s son-in-law up to?, The Guardian, 5 April 2020. 

  11. Andy Borowitz: Trump optimistic about winning the Noble Prize in medicine, The New Yorker, April 6, 2020. 

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