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POVID-20 vs. COVID-19 : Poverty Virus Disease vs. Coronavirus

A new acronym has come out, POVID-20, to mean the Poverty Virus Disease of 2020, which is about how the lockdowns against the COVID-19 coronavirus have caused the loss of jobs and livelihood to many people, especially of poor people who tend to work in unsalaried jobs whereby they are paid hourly or daily, as well as many people losing their jobs, and small businesses and entrepreneurs who have been set back or lost economic viability. Many people can be driven down into poverty.

For many people in this world living day to day, hand to mouth, this affects their ability to get enough good food to eat, as well as to feed their children, and pay for basic things like phone, electricity, and internet. The mental stress can also take its toll, and even cause physical ailments. For people without health insurance, losing income and going into poverty can sometimes be a life or death matter. It can also push people to take risks in making income, and lead to additional kinds of problems.

We must strike a balance between COVID-19 containment, suffering and deaths, vs. POVID-20 suffering and even deaths. Going to too much of an extreme one way or the other can lead to a disaster, but a good balance between the two can work. We should not expect perfection, and we should strike a balance.

Political policymakers and health officials tend to be high class with lots of savings and secure income, and not circulate much with the poor classes, so their recommendations and policies can be rather academic and Ivory Tower. Also, their own personal careers are on the line, so they are much more likely to give very conservative or strict recommendations, because that is safer for their career than making a risky recommendation of opening up the economy. They may also look out more for the interests of the people in their own class who they relate to. These are challenges to overcome. Politicians must be able to think by themselves and balance the risks of POVID-20 vs. COVID-19.

In my opinion, many people can go back to work if there are laws that everybody must wear a face mask or else can be arrested and fined, and there be systematic monitoring and enforcement by property security personnel, police, military people, and others. Of course, proper hygiene must also be enforced, and cleaning people should be employed in large numbers to disinfect places for shopping, offices, and other public places.

The lockdown was a good thing in order to make some time to prepare the population and lower the rate of spread. However, we've already had a lot of time to prepare now. People are educated about COVID-19, and there are lots of face masks now on the marketplace, as well as instructions on how to make your own face masks from household materials by just cutting and folding.

Asian countries, where masks are popular, have quelled the virus well. For example, here in Thailand where I live, the rate of new infections has gradually come way down, the last 4 days have seen new confirmed infections at less than 10 per day, and those are mostly people who either came in from overseas or could trace their infection to another family member or friend or associate who was infected before and they were close to, or medical personnel. (This was written on April 30, 2020.)

However, some places which have opened up did not fare so well, though I expected that by just watching the news reports whereby videos in those places showed lots of people walking around with no mask on right after the lockdowns were lifted.

Even in Thailand, I sometimes see some reckless or careless people not wearing a face mask, or with their face mask pushed down and not covering their nose and/or mouth in a public place. Despite this, others around them are wearing masks, so maybe the others around them are protecting themselves sufficiently and not getting an infective dose. However, the vast majority of people are wearing face masks, and the rate of daily confirmed infections has dropped greatly to a very low number.

The scientific research reports cited on this website show that face masks can help protect the wearer, in addition to protecting others from the wearer if the wearer is sick. Therefore, to a large extent, it is a matter of compliance in wearing a face mask, and enforcement.

Smart people can protect themselves and go back to work. Smart customers can protect themselves and choose where and how to shop. The government should give people the opportunity to comply, but also arrest and prosecute people recklessly or carelessly out of compliance so that the rest of ourselves can get on with out lives.

If people don't need to go back to work, then they can stay at home. That should be an option whenever feasible.

We can try it for a month or so and see how things go.

Notably, many analyses have used a number called the "Basic Reproductive Number", also called "R", which is a measurement of transmission from one infected person to others, being the average of how many other people a person infects. For example, an R=1.0 means that 1 person transmits on average to 1 other person. Less than 1 means the virus will infect smaller numbers of people per day over time, whereas over 1 means the daily number of infections will increase. This is an abstract way of viewing the virus, but it is interesting to see Asian countries having a transmission rate so much lower than the USA, Europe, and other places where face mask usage is not so high. We can measure the R number after a few weeks or a month of easing the lockdowns, and check the hospital load, and then make decisions.

We need to discuss these issues with our policymakers and others, about the POVID-20 poverty virus disease vs. the COVID-19 coronavirus, and find a balance.

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