This newspaper has published the comments of Prof. Yoram Lass, who was Director-General of the Ministry of Health when that government department was headed by people competent in the area which they were in charge of administering. Prof. Lass indicated that due to the characteristics of this coronavirus strain, in order to safeguard the economy, the social order and pubic administration, the elderly should be protected through effective isolation while the rest of the population goes on about its business.
Many of the latter will be infested with the virus, but a large portion of those affected will not know it and another large portion will suffer only the symptoms of a bad cold or a flu attack, going to bed and treating symptoms until well again, usually a matter of days. The advantage of this approach is not only saving the economic and health systems of the country from collapse but also the development in a large percentage of the population of antibodies to the virus which will protect them in case of a recurrence of the scourge.
Prof. Lass is entirely correct in his views. The coronavirus, as mentioned, is similar to the flu virus and several orders of magnitude of people become ill annually from flu and a much larger percentage of those are hospitalized than in the present case, despite the existence for many years of a vaccine. It will also help in putting the matter in perspective to note that in many countries more people will die of road accidents or through committing suicide than from Covid-19.
Prof. Lass, however, overlooks another result of the current governmental overreaction to the coronavirus on the part of most governments--the panic effect. It is well known that panic itself has serious negative health effects, besides psychological and emotional effects--some people are literally "scared to death". When those stresses are added to the stress of people cooped-up for weeks or months with few physical outlets, emotional outbursts, child and spousal abuse and suicide rates increase exponentially.
If there were no alternatives, it would be one thing, but the fact is that several countries have more or less followed Prof. Lass's suggested measures for dealing with the crisis with results no worse and in some cases much better than in those countries which have surrendered to hysterical panic. Sweden, the Netherlands, and several Far Eastern countries, such as South Korea, Japan, Taiwan and Singapore have taken more or less the "Lass approach" and are doing relatively well.
A sense of proportion and a sense of priorities are sadly lacking in most of the world, exemplified by the Indian "lockdown". The very idea of a country of well over a billion people, most living in rural towns and villages, going into quarantine is delusional to the point of idiocy.
Doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result is a definition of insanity--please note, Italy, France, Spain, the UK, the US, Israel, and on and on. Panic is a cowardly and counterproductive response to a crisis. It can only make matters much, much worse.
Norman A. Bailey, Ph.D., is Professor of Economics and National Security, The National Security Studies Center, University of Haifa, and Adjunct Professor of Economic Statecraft, The Institute of World Politics, Washington DC. He was formerly with the US National Security Council and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on April 5, 2020
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