The official strategy for containing the pandemic is grossly wrong, and an unacceptable failure

National governments could prevent the spread of Covid-19 cheaply and easily by simply issuing everybody with surgical masks, gloves and ethanol handwash.

Preparations to do so could be put in place cheaply and easily before the next viral epidemic or pandemic, or before the next season/wave of the current Covid-19 pandemic. These measures should have been ready before Covid-19, there is no excuse.

It’s true. These 3 simple measures: mask, gloves, and handwash — implemented and enforced throughout a population — will prevent an epidemic and save lives, and do so without a huge economic cost and while allowing life and work to carry on as normal.

Keep Calm

Instead, the UK government is spending BILLIONS, and the US government is spending TRILLIONS, to implement a lockdown asking most people to stay at home, using the walls of people’s homes and social distancing to protect the population — not the correct equipment for the job.

On top of the cost to governments, the lockdown strategy is costing millions of jobs (unemployment passed 10 million in the US last week), causes companies to fail, and inevitably creates a severe economic depression that will adversely affect millions of people for months and perhaps years into the future.

The lockdown has not worked. Most Covid-19 fatalities die more than 20 days after exposure, which means it took over 20 days for the lockdown to start reducing deaths. Last week was 20 days into the UK’s lockdown, and by then it was too late to save 10,000 hospital deaths — and the cumulative death toll will continue to increase by about 800 per day until the daily death count slowly declines as the peak declines over the next few weeks. The death toll in the USA is much higher overall, but comparable with the UK adjusting for population (per capita).

To date, not one single mask has been issued by the government to protect regular citizens in the US and UK! On the contrary, medical staff can barely get enough for their use. This is unacceptable, and avoidable.

We pay our taxes for our governments to prepare for predictable problems like viral pandemics, but our governments have let us down. We’re lucky that the case-fatality ratio of Covid-19 is so low among the general population, but we may not be so lucky in a future pandemic — it’s just a matter of time. A pandemic much worse than 2019-nCov is a question of when, not if.

The world must be better prepared for the next pandemic, and actually it’s cheap and easy to do — especially compared with the insane cost of trying to slow down a highly-contageous virus with a long incubation period by lockdowns. The solution is not advanced science, it’s just common-sense.

Let’s review some basic facts

  • £4.30 – the consumer price of a N95/FFP3/FFP2 surgical mask (£25.99 for a 6-pack on Amazon UK). This is a re-usable mask capable of stopping about 95% of airborne virus particles, as well as stopping exhaled water droplets. Both wearer and people around the wearer are well-protected. They can be worn three times (three medical rounds according to the US National Institutes of Health) and this can be further extended by decontamination (e.g alcohol, or bleach, or UV).
  • £0.94 – the consumer price for a disposable surgical mask as normally used in most NHS hospitals (£9.39 for a 10 pack on Amazon UK). This is a single-use mask that catches exhaled droplets which is the primary transmission mechanism for coronavirus and flu). People around the wearer are well-protected, and the wearer also has a considerable degree of protection.
  • £63 million – the cost of supplying the entire population of the UK with one high-grade surgical mask (N95/FFP3/FFP2) to last for three days. That’s if the government bought the bets masks and  paid consumer prices on Amazon UK.
  • £1,252 million – the cost of supplying the entire population of the UK with enough high-grade surgical masks (N95/FFP3/FFP2) to last for three working months (Mon-Fri). Again, that’s if the government bought the bets masks and  paid consumer prices on Amazon UK.
  • Disposable surgical gloves and 60% alcohol hand-wash are extremely cheap, so cheap it’s not even worth calculating in the face of the money being wasted on Covid-10 right now.

NOTE: we are citing consumer prices, without the economy of scale. Governments can procure these items at a fraction of the consumer cost, and have the power to force industry to supply them in a national emergency.