Friday, February 14, 2020

The Border Wall may become a vital defense against coronavirus

News that President Trump is about to raid Pentagon funds once again to build more of the border wall between the USA and Mexico will doubtless enrage those who believe in free immigration, with or without official sanction.  However, the emerging coronavirus epidemic may make such a wall an even more important element of general US security.

If the coronavirus epidemic spreads to Central and South America, those living there are going to be in dire straits.  There are relatively few medical facilities available, poverty is rampant, and many local, regional and national governments are corrupt and inefficient.  That's a dire combination.  As a result, it's not impossible that a great many people will literally flee the epidemic, heading for the only place they can think of that has the resources to treat it.  Guess where that is?  That's right.  The United States of America.

We simply can't cope with such an invasion.  Our medical facilities are going to be stretched to the limit if coronavirus breaks loose here as well.  We won't be able to handle hundreds of thousands or millions more, particularly since they may be carrying the infection with them.  It shows few or no warning signs during its incubation period, so detecting carriers at or near the border will be almost impossible.  It'll become vitally important to keep them out altogether, rather than risk their spreading the infection out of control.

I'm willing to bet that nations south of us will be cracking down on the movement of illegal aliens as well, and probably far more harshly than we do.  Mexico has enough problems of its own without adding the coronavirus to them.  I can see armed guards firing on anyone trying to break into Mexico, even if they only want to transit the country on their way to the USA.  Mexico won't be able to afford the risk of their presence, any more than we can.  The same goes for countries south of Mexico.

My big worry is Africa.  There are only two or three countries on that continent with laboratory facilities to test for coronavirus infections, and most nations there don't have extensive hospital facilities.  If the disease gets loose in an area so overpopulated, ill-equipped and poverty-stricken, it might wipe out entire communities.  Even "normal" palliative measures such as decongestant sprays, treatments for colds and flu, etc. are simply not available there.  As for facial tissues, face masks, basic hygiene products, etc., forget it!  There aren't enough of them now, let alone under epidemic conditions.  There'll be no means to stop the coronavirus getting worse.  The rest of the world won't be able to help, either;  nations will hang onto what they've got, for the use of their own citizens.  Again, as in South America, one likely result will be desperate attempts, by anyone and everyone who can afford it, to reach any country offering greater protection against infection and/or better treatment.  Europe can expect a new tidal wave of illegal immigration from Africa, and it's likely to wash up on our shores too.

So far, this is all speculation.  We simply don't know how bad this is going to get.  However, if the coronavirus escapes the rigid top-down control of Chinese society, and becomes widespread in less regimented parts of the world . . . it's going to be interesting, to put it mildly.



Rob said...

"Wipe out entire communities"?? Do you know something about the Kung Flu that I don't know?
Using the official numbers we're talking 2% fatalities, using the 'oops, leaked the wrong numbers" numbers it's 15% fatal. A terrible thing to have to deal with, either set of numbers...

Peter said...

@Rob: Those figures are for people in areas with access to hospitals and health care. When you're talking Africa or South America, there are vast areas with neither. I fear the coronavirus, just like the Spanish flu of 1918-1919, will be much worse in those areas. I hope I'm wrong, but . . .

Y. said...

15% is hospitalized cases. The leaked US gov't numbers, China clandestine news reports suggest 1-2% overall mortality.

A thousand dead a day in a region that has dozens of millions isn't much, really.

Pretty sure this won't cause mass migration north.

Aesop said...

It's 2-4%, with an average of 3%.
The ones hospitalized, by definition, are the most serious cases.

It's probably too late to contain it, even with a wall. But a wall will help against everything.

But looking at flu, with a 0.1% mortality, this is about 30 times worse.
That would be 1.5M deaths in the US in a year.
And perhaps as many as 9M.

Compared to 50K US flu deaths/yr that's definitely a thing.

The hospital system in the US skates by on a razor's edge in normal times.
Trust me on this.

You throw in a bonus pandemic, and you can definitely cancel Christmas.
We'll be treating people for this in tents, in the parking lot, all year long, until it burns itself out, or they develop an effective vaccine.
1.5M deaths means another 150K in CA alone, for example. That's 3K dead/week. That's 60/county, one to three/day in every hospital ER in this state alone (CA has 430 hospitals from Oregon to Mexico.). And for every death, there will be 33 more people infected, and 1/3 of them serious enough to need hospitalization.

Another death/day and 11 more admits daily, all year, is a yuuuuuuuuuuuge impact. For everyone, from broken toes to heart attacks and strokes.

You'd better hope this doesn't get here.
And if it does, and it goes pandemic, cancelling Christmas is going to be reality, not doom-and-gloom.

Beans said...

Comparing Red China to America, this will hit the homeless and drug-addled the worst. Then those in inner-city warrens.

Those with access to basic med supplies, food, and decent care? Probably going to be a lot less of an issue.

Unfortunately, it will hit prisons, jails and nursing homes hard.

deimos said...

Before I retired I used to do pandemic planning in the UK, our little government group had a big part in this sort of thing. So far this LOOKS less nasty than the current Australian flu variant. BUT at it has been linked with two of the major virus “force multipliers”, China and Cruise ships.
I personally believe we have dodged the bullet this time but I still won’t be visiting any of the UK China Towns for lunch until at least August.
Pity really as I’m starving for a huge dim sum blowout.

Unknown said...

the 2% fatality rate is actually probably high. China has only been counting as 'infected' those officially confirmed by a test. There are probably a lot more actually infected that haven't been tested (many who get over it on their on). The number of test kits is limited.

As others have said, the availability of health care makes a huge difference, so the fatality rate may be much higher in some areas than others.

David Lang