Friday 28 January 2022

Things I got wrong about Covid

I look back over a few weeks of posts and they’re almost all about Covid and Omicron. Why?

I guess because we’re entering our third year and I thought it would be over in one. I’d never imagined we’d still be under lockdown by now. I thought we’d be over it in 2020, in time for our Alaska trip.

I wasn’t so optimistic for nothing. We’d been through the SARS epidemic in 2003, as owners of a customer-facing business, going though the social distancing, hand sanitisers, masking, etc. We survived those testing times, but they were over in six months. 

The new virus is also a SARS virus  — SARS CoV-2 — so it wasn’t silly to think, or hope, or expect, or predict, or imagine, or pray, that it would be over in six months too. Which is why I kept a spreadsheet of cases: I’d done that for 2003 SARS and had predicted the last case in Hong Kong almost to the day. 

Sadly, that wasn’t to be with SARS CoV-2.

Many other things I got wrong about this pandemic. I thought other countries would take the cue from China and take quick action. That didn’t happen. All countries, especially western, were slow to act. 

I thought vaccines would be a lot longer coming. Based, by the way, on Bill Gates’ predictions. So it was great they came so quickly.

Then I assumed that everyone would welcome the vaccines and rush to get jabbed. For some yes, but for many no, to this day. 

I thought when politicians said we must  “follow the science” they would … well, follow the science. Yet they staunchly ignored key facts — the science — about this virus, and do so this day: mainly (1) that there is a steep age curve — it affects old people far more than young. And (2) that the vast majority severely affected have comorbidities. Failure to acknowledge these two key facts has warped public health measures around the world. And does so to this day.

I never imagined how tribal it would all become. Early on it was “we’re all in this together” but that spirit quickly evaporated. People quickly got back to calling each other names, but worse than ever, including “you have blood on your hands” if one had a different opinion. (I got accused of this, early on). I should have known; I’ve written often about how “One divides into two”, a kind of rule of life. (一分为二, Yi Fen Wei Er. A Hegelian dialectic much beloved by Mao).

I didn’t expect the world would adopt such very different approaches. Which is another reason for my current obsession. That here in Hong Kong we’re adopting a very different approach — Zero Covid — to the rest of the west. As it goes on, I’m now just recording, for posterity as it were. Not making any predictions. Except the ones that are safe to make because some countries (South Africa) have the experience before others (us here in Hong Kong). And Hong Kong, in headline news today, acts like it knows nothing of Omicron experience elsewhere. Like we’re in an information bubble, as well as various vaccine bubbles.

I never imagined our government would be so stupid as to give away $HK5,000 to every resident, withiout demanding they take the vaccine to qualify. That’s right! our government handed out $US 800 to every man,woman, and child in Hong Kong, gratis. Cash. Not a single syringe attached.... ADDED: The government is making the same mistake in 2022, with a no-strings-attached $HK10,000 giveaway. Go figure…)

Another thing: just as there are waves with the pandemic so there are waves in countries’ performance. Some have been heroes then zeros then heroes again. Germany was an early hero; became a zero and is now somewhere in between. We here in HK were early heroes, now just weirdos. China have been between heroes to less than zeros to weirdo to wicked, all in waves. Ditto UK, US. And Australia went from early heroes to deep authoritarian to somewhere rational now, with some state-based “zero-ism” verging in a kind of lunacy. Waves within waves. It’ll be fertile territory for study of mass … what? … psychosis?… well, mass something, no doubt the subject of many a future PhD thesis. 

ADDED: I didn’t know or expect the “Long Covid” thing. TBF, no one did, early on. But it certainly is a thing and could go on impacting our societies for years, perhaps decades.