Coronavirus and the precautionary principle

From a paper on the novel coronavirus co-authored by Nassim Nicholas Taleb:

It will cost something to reduce mobility in the short term, but to fail do so will eventually cost everything—if not from this event, then one in the future. Outbreaks are inevitable, but an appropriately precautionary response can mitigate systemic risk to the globe at large. But policy- and decision-makers must act swiftly and avoid the fallacy that to have an appropriate respect for uncertainty in the face of possible irreversible catastrophe amounts to “paranoia,” or the converse a belief that nothing can be done.

From a study published Friday in The Lancet and co-authored by Professor Gabriel Leung, chair of public health medicine at the Hong Kong University:

“Large cities overseas with close transport links to China could also become outbreak epicentres, unless substantial public health interventions at both the population and personal levels are implemented immediately,” the study said.

Press conference given by Leung on Jan 27:

Summary:

The number of people infected by the Wuhan coronavirus could potentially double every six days in the absence of a major intervention by public health authorities, according to Professor Gabriel Leung, chair of public health medicine at University of Hong Kong (HKU).

Leung, who is also the founding director of the World Health Organization Collaborating Center for Infection Disease Epidemiology and Control in Hong Kong, gave his forecast on the likely extent of the outbreak during a press conference held at HKU on Monday afternoon.

He said he had submitted his report to Beijing and Hong Kong authorities as well as to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Leung said according to his team’s model, the number of cases of Wuhan coronavirus including patients that are incubating (not showing symptoms) could approach 44,000 cases as of January 25. […]

Leung said people need to be prepared for the outbreak to become a global epidemic, though it is “not a certainty by any stretch of the imagination…we must prepare better for it.”

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