Is the Worldwide Panic and Hysteria Over the Coronavirus Outbreak Justified by Data?

Does Data Support Our Harsh Lockdown and Whether We Averted a Gigantic Crisis?

As the Coronavirus or the Covid 19 Outbreak raged across the world shutting down nations and bringing entire economies to a halt, there was almost nobody who was unaffected by this large scale panic and mass hysteria whipped up over it.

Indeed, as the Dust Settles on the Covid 19 Outbreak and nation’s world over are taking cautious steps to restore some semblance of normalcy, it is pertinent to ask whether the Over the Top Response was justified and whether it was based on scientific and rational data driven approaches.

For instance, it is now common for each country to talk about Flattening the Curve, which in layperson terms means controlling the spread of the virus and restricting the number of new cases.

This, as our top medical and healthcare professionals attest, is linked to statistical models that were developed using scientific theories and hence, considered infallible.

Moreover, in the last few days, the Indian Government has been quick to justify its unprecedented lockdown with data that shows that in the absence of such stringent measures, the number of cases would have crossed a Million or more.

Did We Wake Up Late and Then Panicked or Whether We Locked Down Just in Time

Therefore, the mainstream view is that in the absence of a comprehensive and coordinated response, the Coronavirus would have been an uncontrolled outbreak leading to chaos and collapse.

However, one must also ask whether we overreacted or more to the point, whether the Cure was Worse than the Disease.

It is certainly not our contention that such strict measures should not be implemented. Rather, we want to focus on the Statistical Modelling that is supposed to underpin and justify the harsh measures including the very objectionable aspects of putting more and more power into the government’s hands.

In other words, the point that we are making is that if the data supports the response or simply, it was a case of Waking up Late and Then Rushing to Close the Gates.

For instance, as late as Mid March, the Indian Government was denying the Covid 19 Outbreak to be anything but serious.

Moreover, foreign travel and inbound travel as well as screening of passengers were not as stringent as it was in March in February when the outbreak was making it way around the world.

These questions need to be asked due to the economic and social costs entailed here.

While it is Undeniable that the Lockdown was Necessary, Are We Celebrating Early?

On the other hand, there is nothing to suggest that the Indian Government should not have shutdown the country.

After all, the Covid 19 is such that it spreads rapidly and without the carriers knowing that they have the disease.

This can lead to Systemic Collapse in a country like India where the Population Density and the Chaotic way in which Public Life prevails means that we would have been Sitting Ducks or to use the native term, Bakras, if the lockdown was not enforced.

Therefore, it is undeniable that the response should be Strong and Swift. However, the question to be asked if it is was Too Strong and whether it was Less Swifter. Of course, it is Better Late than Never and hence, India seems to have avoided the fate of Spain and Italy with its tight measures.

Having said that, one must also know if there is room for re-emergence once the lockdown is over and therefore, it is our suggestion that the Indian Central and State Governments use the best possible and available statistical and scientific data at their disposal.

This is very important as even now leading Epidemiologists are warning of a second wave outbreak.

Formulating an Exit Strategy with Scientific and Rational Data Driven Approaches

One of the reasons why there seems to so much dread over Covid 19, especially in India is that we are simply not testing enough.

In the absence of systemic and widespread testing, it is impossible to know for sure where and when the next hotspot would be.

Indeed, this is compounded by the fact that Data and Statistical machinery in the country are sometimes suspect as there is active suppression and selective publishing of data. Therefore, the need of the hour is greater transparency and broader involvement of the best medical minds in the country.

As the saying goes, One Cannot Count What is Not Measured, and hence, the only way we can arrive at an Exit Strategy is through More Testing, Coordinated Reporting, and Fair and Transparent Counting as well as Collection.

Moreover, since this is a Systemic Crisis, we need more Systemic Cooperation between the various stakeholders.

This can also mean that Business Leaders need to be roped in to manage the Economic fallout, Medical Experts to assess the Contagion, and Social Scientists to advise on the societal consequences.

Given that we are sidelined many of these in recent times, we should involve them without fail.

Take Back Control

Last, there is also a need to check rumours and Fake News on the spread of the Covid 19.

One reason for the mass hysteria and the panic is that we have lost control and the battle against our technology driven media and communication paradigms.

Therefore, we can use the present crisis to reassert the primacy of the mainstream on the fringe that indulge in such acts and reclaim technology from their clutches.

To conclude, what we need to do urgently is to be as scientific and rational as possible and to use data more than anything to guide us.

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