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C-19: Do we learn anything from literature and movies?


old man emu
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There's a meme circulating that claims that Nostradamus predicted the COVID-19 epidemic. He didn't, but there is a wealth of examples in the literature and movies that use epidemics caused by unknown micro-organisms as their premise.

 

Probably the first was H G Wells' War of the Worlds. Happily for the humans, this time the germs were on our side, and they destroyed the Martians. As a result, we take great care to decontaminate astronauts who have landed on the Moon, as we will when we get the the other planets. In the 1950 film, Panic in the Streets, the hero, Lieutenant Commander Clinton Reed (Richard Widmark), a doctor and commissioned corps officer of the U.S. Public Health Service, identifies pneumonic plague in a murder victim. Reed springs into action, insisting that everyone who came into contact with the body be inoculated. He also orders that the dead man's identity be determined, as well as his comings and goings during the previous few days. Reed meets with people from the mayor's office, the police commissioner and other city officials, but they are skeptical of his claims. Eventually, however, his impassioned pleas convince them that they have forty-eight hours to save New Orleans from the plague. Reed must also convince police Captain Warren and the others that the press must not be notified, because report of a plague would spread mass panic. This film references preventive measures and tracking of the victim's contacts. The hero has to deal with skeptical senior public officials (consider Trump) and the role of the media.

 

As late as 2011, the plot of the film Contagion uses the spread of a virus transmitted by respiratory droplets and fomites, attempts by medical researchers and public health officials to identify and contain the disease, the loss of social order in a pandemic, and the introduction of a vaccine to halt its spread. The film was well received by scientists, who lauded its accuracy. Interestingly, the disease is introduced into Murica by a business person returning from Hong Kong.

 

So, film producers see the dealing with epidemics as a realistic platform on which to base a film, and the screen writers have access to all the information about dealing with epidemics from the Public Domain. Why then, have so many governments missed the boat on establishing anti-epidemic protocols?

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Why then, have so many governments missed the boat on establishing anti-epidemic protocols?

 

Interesting question. There have been no shortage of articles and warnings over many years in science mags. I know I have always thought the it was inevitable that we would eventually be caught out and that politicians and the public like were not listening to warnings from experts in this field. Even though I consider that I was aware of the possibility I recall in late december reading about the outbreak and I guess somewhat smuggly thinking that this was just one of those things that happen over there in those other countries, couldn't happen here though. One of the reasons that some Asian countries were ahead of the game I think may be due to previous epidemics. This is not a new situation for them and I think they perhaps were more able to comprehend the risks better. I believe the politicians are not inclined to believe dire warnings from experts. Also in the early days of the epidemic I think we were all preoccupied with the fire situation.

 

Having said that I do find it kind of annoying when people think it has been handled particularly badly. To make it clear I am no fan of this government and would love to tear strips off them but in most respects we have done quite well compared to the rest of the world.

 

Every sunday morning we have a group zoom call where we make coffee and have a chat. The group comprises of us in Melbourne, my son and his house mates (who are family to us) in New Zealand my bro in law and his wife in Adelaide and my sons love interest in Dayton Ohio (the home of flight apparently) It is really interest chatting about our different government responses to the pandemic. My sons gf in Ohio is appalled by how it is being handled in her state, it does have a lockdown of sorts but is starting to reopen even though the numbers are climbing, her sister has tested positive, she caught from her GP who was not taking precautions and was not required to.

 

I think the Ruby Princess wasn't the best moment for those in charge but I think any analysis of the stats suggests that thus far we have done reasonable job.

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I personally think we got lucky, more than any action by the Govt saving us. After all, COVID-19 is a disease of cruise ships and immigrants, and the Govt and authorities of today have learnt nothing from the ship quarantine measures of the 18th century. We got lucky because we are a huge island, we don't live on top of each other as in many other nations, and overall, we are healthier, and have healthier living conditions, than many other nations.

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I personally think we got lucky, more than any action by the Govt saving us. After all, COVID-19 is a disease of cruise ships and immigrants, and the Govt and authorities of today have learnt nothing from the ship quarantine measures of the 18th century. We got lucky because we are a huge island, we don't live on top of each other as in many other nations, and overall, we are healthier, and have healthier living conditions, than many other nations.

 

You wont be surprised that I disagree. There are similar countries that have had worse results for example Canada. Whilst there may be differences in living conditions and state of health between us and say the US the biggest thing is how we socially distanced earlier and more severely. It is not so much praising the government for their decision making but rather deferring to experts.

 

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Here is an interesting article about different responses in different countries and about what has and hasn't worked.

 

More than testing

To measure a country’s response once COVID-19 arrived within its borders, experts often look at how many diagnostic tests were performed per person. The countries most lauded for taming their outbreaks—South Korea, Germany, Vietnam, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand—all started with high per capita testing rates. Early evidence also shows that it matters which groups receive the tests, and how often.

 

How to measure your nation’s response to coronavirus

 

I would love to bag the government on this and I do have many criticisms but I think the measures taken and the reasonably good cooperation by the people has been not too bad so far.

 

I do not believe luck or geography is the main driver.

Edited by octave
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IF IT WAS,NT HIDDEN ,

Both China and the Austrian ski resort, both tried to hide the virus, as well as that cruise ship.

All those people infected should have been quarantined at the begining, that would have saved lots of lives.

spacesailor

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You need a CONTROL situation to decide such matters accurately which we don't have. Early availability and uptake of flu injections MUST have helped and extra isolation always will and is broadly accepted apparently. We were a bit slow off the mark and much like bushfire, early action is more effective, Testing will never be of no value and must be a valuable (and necessary) factual gauge of the extent of the problem in an ongoing role. Victoria now has the highest rate of testing in the country. THAT cannot be a bad thing and other states will no doubt be watching..Nev

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What has happened cannot be changed but it appears to me that we have been living in a fools paradise for a long while. I have been overseas several times in the last 30 years and never really encountered any health checks. In the last few years international travel has been massive. There have been thousands of air liners flying at the same time.

Way back before air travel became so common, we travelled by sea and at every new country, our ship had to be assessed for health status.

Now with air travel all that has disappeared, but cruise ships just made it so easy for the virus to take hold and then jump into each new country that the ship docked in.

For our healths sake there will have to be a change in quarantine measures and I hope it goes back to the status of many years ago.

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There will be many adjustments and some places may revert to their former more remote and natural attractiveness if the locals are not permanently addicted to money above all other considerations. That applies to US too if we are not to far gone to change. I hate being a passenger in a big jet or being anywhere around a big terminal. and a Boat. Tassie overnight is far enough for me. A bike has always gone with me.. Nev

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It is amazing with the technology available these days that some sort of infrared temp check is not installed at all points of entry, setting off an alarm if someone has a temperature. They can do facial recognition, or is that all scifi mumbo jumbo?

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