IN a BusinessMirror editorial—“China’s health problem is our problem”—on January 24, we wrote: “Professor Neil Ferguson, an epidemiology expert at Imperial College London, said the new strain is currently as deadly as the Spanish flu epidemic.”
Ferguson, using available data from Wuhan and China in general, created a mathematical model for his conclusions. He had been widely accepted as an expert in this field based on his past experience with other epidemic outbreaks.
However, the statistical problems included relying on the data the Chinese government reported—which were not reliable—and assumptions that were faulty. For example, he assumed that 50 percent of households in which there was a case would not comply with a voluntary quarantine. Further, the algorithms that he formulated have been found to be unreliable in the sense that if even one assumption was incorrect, the model failed. He predicted that by now there would have been 2 to 4 million global deaths. The actual count is less than 400,000.
The good professor recently resigned from all policy advising positions as he was discovered to have broken the national quarantine—based on his model—to have some “quality time” with his married mistress.
Post-traumatic stress disorder is a genuine and serious mental health condition defined as “mental and emotional stress occurring as a result of severe psychological shock.” We all have probably experienced even a mild form of PTSD. The rumbling vibrations of a passing truck can trigger an emotional and physical response even months after we went through an earthquake. However, there’s kind of another side to PTSD that can affect us.
As the Covid-19 pandemic has spread around the world, we were told to mentally and physically prepare for the absolute worst. However, estimates even as early as the beginning of March made by various sources in the Philippines were actually more accurate. They were based on adherence to the length of time of the lockdown, and effectiveness of the enhanced community quarantine.
Yet one study by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies in April gave a super worst-case scenario—meaning no ECQ of any sort or testing/tracking—of 19 million cases and 1.7 million Filipinos dying of Covid-19. There is absolutely nothing wrong in this type of forecast. We need to know how bad things can become and we all tried to prepare for it.
Thankfully, it now appears that the worst is over and the Covid-19 apocalypse did not happen. But we are all looking over our shoulder to make sure the monster that we were told was coming is not lurking in the shadows. That is a problem. Who wants to be the first in line at the nearest beauty salon or barbershop?
Our trip to a big mall on Sunday revealed that many retail stores are open. Distancing measures for whatever they are worth were in place, with elevators limited to three passengers. You could not enter the doughnut shop, but you can get your ordered goodies from its limited menu at the door. Mall foot traffic seemed to be about 20 percent to 30 percent of normal for a Sunday afternoon.
The economic question though is how long is it going to take for our post-quarantine PTSD to dissolve? Maybe that question will be answered when the first “Three-Day Sale” comes around at the mall.