“Thoughts in the time of Corona”

In his opus, “The Weather Book” (1863) and inscribed on his eponymous barometers, Admiral Fitzroy declared “long foretold, long last, short notice, soon past.” [not a great poet]

With the Global Financial Crisis, it all happened in slow motion and took eight years to clear. Darwin’s captain (and governor of New Zealand) would shake his head, if he still were about, saying: “long last”.

I think his dictum applies to our Corona virus financial troubles. It has arrived with great urgency so quickly. I believe the father of weather forecasting (and he invented the phrase) would nod his head and declare: “soon past”.

I think this piece from Oxford University is important. It says the infection rate is already 50% in the UK. Moreover 95% of infected persons are asymptotic. Amazing.

News reports say parts of the US are showing 50% positive to the test (admittedly only those with symptoms or contact are being tested).

Once a population is 60% infected, herd immunity kicks in and the virus will wither.

My belief is things will spring back to life quickly – not the six months lockdown predicted in the press.

The Financial Times   March 25th 2020 

Clive Cookson – Science Editor

The new coronavirus may already have infected far more people in the UK than scientists had previously estimated — perhaps as much as half the population — according to modelling by researchers at the University of Oxford. If the results are confirmed, they imply that fewer than one in a thousand of those infected with Covid-19 become ill enough to need hospital treatment, said Sunetra Gupta, professor of theoretical epidemiology, who led the study. The vast majority develop very mild symptoms or none at all. “We need immediately to begin large-scale serological surveys — antibody testing — to assess what stage of the epidemic we are in now,” she said. The modelling by Oxford’s Evolutionary Ecology of Infectious Disease group indicates that Covid-19 reached the UK by mid-January at the latest. Like many emerging infections, it spread invisibly for more than a month before the first transmissions within the UK were officially recorded at the end of February. The research presents a very different view of the epidemic to the modelling at Imperial College London, which has strongly influenced government policy. “I am surprised that there has been such unqualified acceptance of the Imperial model,” said Prof Gupta.  However, she was reluctant to criticise the government for shutting down the country to suppress viral spread, because the accuracy of the Oxford model has not yet been confirmed and, even if it is correct, social distancing will reduce the number of people becoming seriously ill and relieve severe pressure on the NHS during the peak of the epidemic. The Oxford study is based on a what is known as a “susceptibility-infected-recovered model” of Covid-19, built up from case and death reports from the UK and Italy. The researchers made what they regard as the most plausible assumptions about the behaviour of the virus. The modelling brings back into focus “herd immunity”, the idea that the virus will stop spreading when enough people have become resistant to it because they have already been infected. The government abandoned its unofficial herd immunity strategy — allowing controlled spread of infection — after its scientific advisers said this would swamp the National Health Service with critically ill patients.  Recommended Martin Wolf This pandemic is an ethical challenge But the Oxford results would mean the country had already acquired substantial herd immunity through the unrecognised spread of Covid-19 over more than two months. If the findings are confirmed by testing, then the current restrictions could be removed much sooner than ministers have indicated. Although some experts have shed doubt on the strength and length of the human immune response to the virus, Prof Gupta said the emerging evidence made her confident that humanity would build up herd immunity against Covid-19. To provide the necessary evidence, the Oxford group is working with colleagues at the Universities of Cambridge and Kent to start antibody testing on the general population as soon as possible, using specialised “neutralisation assays which provide reliable readout of protective immunity,” Prof Gupta said. They hope to start testing later this week and obtain preliminary results within a few days.’

Amazing the Easter Sale is going ahead (at the moment). What a great opportunity for buyers. No one from overseas and most locals spooked by the stock market and Corona.

We said in this blog previously, the 1919 sale (102 years ago) was down 30% but, more importantly the pass-in rate was over 50%. A bonanza.

A 50% drop would not surprise me.

Would Sir Humphrey Appleby describe the vendors’ decision to go on as “very brave” or “extremely courageous?”

In the meantime: buyers, gird your loins!

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