Coronavirus is the wolf

A must read article by (Lord) Matt Ripley. He states:

In Aesop’s fable about the boy who cried “Wolf!”, the point of the tale is that eventually there was a wolf, but the boy was not believed because he had given too many false alarms. In my view, the Covid-19 coronavirus is indeed a wolf, or at least has the potential to be one. 

What is significant over Lord Ripley declaring this is a real global threat is he has spent his career debunking alarmist claims over global threats. For 40 years he has been saying this is alarmist scaremongering. So for him to now be the one saying, this is a big big issue, well ….

I am known as an obsessive and serial debunker of false alarms. I have been at it for almost 40 years ever since I realised as a journalist in the 1980s that acid rain was being wildly overblown as a threat to forests (I was right). This scepticism has served me well. I did not believe that mad cow disease would kill hundreds of thousands of people, as some “experts” were claiming in the mid 1990s. In the end just 177 died. Likewise, I refused to panic over bird flu, swine flu, SARS or ebola.

I set out to debunk exaggerated claims about the population explosion, peak oil and peak gas, nuclear winter, the ozone hole, pesticides, species extinction rates, genetically modified crops, sperm counts, ocean acidification and the millennium bug. In every case this made me unpopular and unfashionable, but close to the truth. I said climate change would happen more slowly and with less impact on storms, floods, droughts, sea ice and sea level than even some experts were claiming in the 1990s, let alone the extreme environmentalists, and it has.

So why does he think this is different?

So why don’t I think this hobgoblin is imaginary? First, because lethal plagues have a long track record. From the plague of Justinian to the Black Death to the Spanish flu of 1918 to the HIV epidemic, new diseases have proved they can burn through the human population with frightening efficiency. It’s true we have got better at eradicating infectious diseases through vaccinations, pills and public health, but most viruses are still very hard to cure and some are very easy to catch.

The second reason is that new diseases are often more dangerous than existing ones and this one has jumped from bats, possibly via pangolins. In the past respiratory viruses have generally proved to be low in virulence once they become highly contagious: hence the large number of rhinovirus, adenovirus and coronavirus strains that we call collectively, “the common cold”. Even flu has been relatively less lethal since the special wartime conditions of 1918. But when they first infect our species, viruses can encounter a vulnerable immune system and run riot.

The third reason for alarm in this case is the speed with which Covid-19 has crossed regional and international boundaries. It does seem to have acquired an unusual skill at getting passed on from one person to another, usually not making them so sick that they stay away from meeting other people, which is what prevents ebola causing pandemics, but yet being capable of killing about 1% of people it infects. This is the frightening combination of traits that we have feared might one day arise.

He makes a final point:

Last week Greta Thunberg was still telling the European Parliament that climate change is the greatest threat humanity faces. This week Extinction Rebellion’s upper-class twits were baring their breasts on Waterloo bridge in protest at the billions of people who they wrongly think may die from global warming in the next decade. These people are demonstrating their insensitivity. They are spooked by a spaniel when there’s a wolf on the loose.

So let’s focus on the wolf.

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