Personal thoughts on coronavirus preparation

The coronavirus/COVID-19 seems likely to affect many peoples’ lives in the near future and from what I’ve seen on the news, I feel a lot of Western countries’ populations and governments are just starting to take this seriously.

I think the linked document is the best critical and comprehensive aggregation of advice I’ve seen and is worth looking at if you’d like a concise summary of the situation and some steps you can take to prepare yourself.

If you are planning travel in the next several days, you should also consider that the situation in the region you are travelling to could change dramatically over the next week. For example:

  • On Monday February 24th, Italy had 124 confirmed cases,
  • On Monday March 2nd, Italy had 1689 confirmed cases,
  • Travel restrictions started being imposed by main countries against towns in Northern Italy after the middle of the week,
  • Today (Saturday), Italy has 4636 confirmed cases,
  • All of Northern Italy is likely to be quarantined by next Monday March 9th.

While official travel advice seems, until now, to have been reactive and based on the current number of confirmed virus cases in a region, it is more reasonable to expect that the situation will get at least twice as bad per week (in areas where local transmission is occurring). So before you leave for a trip of more than a day or two, even if you are not personally worried about catching the virus, you should consider whether an increasing number of infections at your destination could lead to travel disruption or quarantines that would interrupt your return journey.

Source for the case numbers in Italy:


Thank you for sharing this, @Gavin. I generally agree that it makes sense to take precautions to protect risk groups, e.g. by avoiding unnecessary travels, working from home if possible, and be careful with the hand hygiene. And of course also to protect oneself from cancelled travels, lock downs, quarantines, etc.

That said, there are a few recommendations in the linked document that feels overly cautious to me:

You can prepare by

  • Stocking at least 1 month of nonperishable food, pet food, and other necessities, and 3 months of prescription medications.

What is the purpose of this? Avoiding crowded areas? If so, wouldn’t it be reasonable to add the option of ordering home delivery of food, drugs, etc?

  • Carrying hand sanitizer, and using it frequently (every 30 min outside your home, before you eat or touch your face).

This should be related to type of activity and number of people. For example, using hand sanitizer every 30 min if taking a coffee with a friend in her house seems very excessive. Phrasing a recommendation this way adds to unnecessary panic, I think.

  • Buying enough hand sanitizer and hand soap for at least 1 month.

Same thoughts here as on the previous two above.

This seems extremely excessive and something that should be saved for health care professionals meeting infected patients, and possibly for patients at severe risk of dying if contracting covid-19.

Would love to hear more thoughts from you and others on this.


Personally I’m particularly concerned about the situation in Indonesia (where I lived for the last 4-5 years until December 2019). I found it unlikely to be accurate that Indonesia didn’t have any cases at all, especially in light of the fact that neighbouring countries such as Malaysia and Singapore, with very similar populations (e.g. many connections to China), early on had a bunch of confirmed cases. I figured the lack of cases in Indonesia was due to lack of competency among professionals in the Indonesian healthcare system. However, @amelia.zein recently shared articles in the Jakarta Post saying that it’s actually much worse than that: the Indonesian government seems to actively trying to spread incorrect propaganda saying that Indonesia (and e.g. Bali) is virus free. The purpose is to not lose too many tourists (i.e. money).

The government is building up strategy to shield the tourist industry from the impact of the coronavirus outbreak, including by allocating as much as Rp 72 billion (US$5.2 million) to pay influencers to promote the country.

I see several of my Facebook friends who live as expats on Bali, otherwise very smart, intelligent, and responsible people, uncritically sharing this government propaganda, encouraging friends, family, and others to visit “virus free Bali”. Meanwhile, Indonesian scientists seem to be struggling with getting access to information and raise awareness of the situation.

Indonesia, with a population of about 265 million people and China being the most common origin among the tourists (e.g. direct flights between Bali and one of the most severely affected areas in China), has 4 confirmed cases of covid-19 as of March 7th. The neighbors have 32 million people and 83 confirmed cases (Malaysia); 6 million people and 130 confirmed cases (Singapore).


Andrew Gelman, an icon in replicable (political) science, published a post yesterday estimating the mortality rate taking into account under-reporting:

1 Like

just to share a darkly comic story… :slight_smile:

two days ago, our favorite massage therapist came to our house to heal one of our family members…

she is a character, this therapist, and we always enjoy conversing with her…

she told something about the coronavirus response in medan (a city in indonesia where we live) which made us burst laughing…

she said, “yesterday, i was massaging a visitor to medan at a hotel. the visitor was a mature woman who came to attend a wedding party. the woman said, “i am very surprised at the response to coronavirus in medan. look at what my children packed me (a bunch of stuff to protect from coronavirus)! but i see that medan people are very casual about this virus. there were absolutely no worry whatsoever i see out there, from the airport to the hotel and out in the streets.””

the therapist replied, and this was what made us laugh, and she was laughing too when she replied, “coronavirus is nothing! in medan, we even dump our dead infected pigs in public venue!”

and all of us laughed for almost a minute remembering the pig dumping, which occurred less than 3 months ago! you can see some pictures here:

lives are very cheap here in medan, and i think all over post-colonialized countries… ::frowning:

ps: someone just told me that this public dead pig dumping also occurs in bali. lo and behold, i just googled and found that the pig dumping is still occurring in bali. till now! :frowning:


Good points to bring up for further discussion @rebecca. The brief has been discussed in more detail on the EA Forum, and I’ll reply with my personal opinion and some things I’ve learnt from there.

With regards to stocking food: the more common recommendation is 2 weeks food, the brief suggests a bit longer. 1 point is that if you get the virus you’ll be asked to self-quarantine for 14 days, so it’s helpful to have some food on hand for that time. I expect the short-notice lockdown/quarantine recently imposed on Northern Italy would have caused a rush many supermarket products, so it’s just helpful to have some extra food in your house in case of a brief shortage (the quarantine may also delay supplies being brought in).

Having extra food also gives you more options during the peak virus spread - a comment on the EA Forum noted the UK’s chief medical advisor “told MPs on the health and social care committee that half of all coronavirus cases in the UK are most likely to occur in just a three-week period, with 95% of them over a nine-week period.” During that peak-period, you should aim to completely avoid supermarkets (and other crowded places) if your aim is to avoid infection, but your country might also experience supply chain disruptions that cause food shortages and it’s probably best not to rely on deliveries as the large portion of the people actually making the deliveries could take time off due to sickness.

Depending on your risk tolerance you may also want to disinfect things that you buy in the store or have delivered (or leave it for 7-10 days for the virus to die), while if you have extra food at home you know you don’t need to decontaminate it.

The case for stocking up on soap and hand sanitizer is a bit different. There are already shortages of these and price increases, and it’s likely demand for these will increase substantially over the coming weeks. In this case, it’s probably sensible to buy more now while demand is lower so that you are not adding to peak demand (and increasing demand now may encourage supply to ramp up faster) - discussed more in this comment.

With regards to where you should be using hand sanitization. Agreed, you should be most cautious about personal hygiene in crowded and public places - your friends house is definitely a lower risk. But you also want to judge the circumstances - if your know your friend regularly has guests over or you are part of a larger group, it would make still make sense to sanitize before eating and encourage others to do so.

With regards to masks, this is somewhat controversial - Asian countries use masks regularly and S. Korea is trying to distribute masks to everybody. This statement from Slater Star Codex seems a useful summary of the uncertanty:

An N, P, or R rated respirator, worn properly, in specific high-risk situations, can be an appropriate part of a safety strategy. I think an accurate treatment of the topic would admit this, while also stressing the reasons most masks might not appropriate for most people in most situations.

My personal view is that it makes sense to use a respirator if you expect to be directly exposed to somebody coughing or sneezing such as public transport, planes, or in hospital waiting rooms (this is not commonly considered: they will be crowded and have a higher density of infected people - but you might have to go there for other reasons). However, I agree that respirators are in short supply and probably better left to medical professionals currently - the alternative I’ve taken is buying a pack of industrial (rather than clinical) N95 disposable respirators, they are essentially the same thing but I expect there will be less medical demand for them (I may also have to travel to Australia at short notice to support my elderly parents, so I wanted to have some available). Another point is that surgical masks are plausibly quite good at preventing and infected person spreading the virus when coughing or sneezing, and it could be wise to have several of these on hand in case you have to leave your house while sick.

Ultimately what actions you should come down to your personal risk tolerance. However, it’s worth noting that even if you are young and have a low risk of complications/death from infection, taking actions to avoid its spread is still a very pro-social thing to do. Once you are infected it’s likely you’ll infect several other people as well. Having access to medical care/ICU facilities substantially improves the survival rate for people with coronavirus who develop severe symptoms, so slowing the virus spread reduces the peak demand for medical services. The idea is to turn the red into the blue:

The following article discusses the pro-social benefits of individual preparation in more detail:


To my knowledge, after days of protests (on social media) Indonesian govt finally delays their senseless policy in allocating immense budget to pay influencers. I only have Bahasa version of the news, sorry…

I would say that Indonesians are divided into those who extremely (and irrationally) anxious about the virus, and those who are really casual (or even ignorant) to the health risk. Some areas in Indonesia are currently affected by dengue outbreak, which is unfortunate given that it is way more deadly (but known and more controllable) than coronavirus. Although coronavirus is somewhat mild and less dangerous than, let’s say dengue fever, public health experts are worried that when more people coming to the health facilities (due to coronavirus) exceeding its capacity, then it will become harder to manage the outbreak. In Indonesia case, this is indeed worrying, because even at Suliati Suroso Hospital Jakarta (where most confirmed cases are treated) the beds are extremely limited to only 11 patients (!!!).

I work at a university that has a close tie to the largest referral hospital in eastern Indonesia, and this particular hospital treats, like, thousands of patients every day… so on normal days it’s already full of people! I couldn’t help thinking the worst situation where a gymnasium or a university meeting hall would be transformed into emergency hospitals :cold_sweat:

So far, the government does apply some restrictions for foreign tourists, but they encourage (even give incentives by funding flight discounts) for local tourists. I believe that Indonesian government doesn’t take the outbreak seriously. Not to mention the Health Minister. We’re basically doomed as we have a pseudoscience believer to be responsible for that position.


That’s very good news, @amelia.zein! Fingers crossed they will not bring it up again!

Actually, covid-19 seems to be twice as deadly as dengue fever. The mortality rate for severe dengue, if treated properly, is less than 1% (WHO, 2020:, while the estimated mortality rate for covid-19 currently often is said to be around 2% (but it’s still too early to say).

Apparantly, there is an increased risk of getting pneumonia from covid-19. Pneumonia is one of the diseases that gets increasingly difficult to treat when certain multiresistent bacteria are present, e.g. ESBL. Multiresistent bacteria are more common in Asia (and in particular SE Asia if I’ve understood correctly) than anywhere else in the world. This is not my within my areas of expertise at all, but I guess we could suspect that covid-19 with pneumonia could be a pretty bad combination in an area with high level of antibiotics resistance.

1 Like

Yesterday I listened to this episode of the Making Sense podcast, and it was really the most refreshing, informative and credible perspective I’ve got so far on the covid-19 pandemic:

Dr. Harris has been very concerned about covid-19, he has made a previous episode about it as well, so he was surprised to hear that his invited expert guest, Amesh Adalja (MD), was not actually that concerned. These different perspectives from two intellectuals who both know how to discuss in a reasonable and intelligent way are so worthwhile a listen.

Amesh Adalja , MD, is an infectious disease specialist at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security. His work is focused on emerging infectious disease, pandemic preparedness, and biosecurity. Amesh has served on US government panels tasked with developing guidelines for the treatment of plague, botulism, and anthrax. He is an Associate Editor of the journal Health Security, co-editor of the volume Global Catastrophic Biological Risks, and a contributing author for the Handbook of Bioterrorism and Disaster Medicine. Amesh actively practices infectious disease, critical care, and emergency medicine in the Pittsburgh metropolitan area.

What I take away from this episode:

  1. The mortality rate seems to land around 0.6%, which is 6 times worse than seasonal influenza but still far from many of the figures we’ve heard from different sources.

  2. Social distancing is useful for those of us who have someone close to us that we want to protect, e.g. an elderly person or someone with diabetes or other risk factors.

  3. Around 30-50% of the US population is expected to get sick at some point. (So I guess we can expect similar figures for others as well.)

  4. In an ideal environment (correct temperature, UV light, humidity, etc), the virus can survive on a surface for up to 9 days. However, most environments are not ideal to the virus. In most cases it will be safe to touch the surface a few hours after someone who was sick touched it. “Is it safe to use a pen that is handed to you by someone who is sick?” - Amesh’s answer is “usually yes, unless the sick person has just sneezed on the pen”.

  5. The current pandemic should be seen as a mere practice, for healthcare professionals, politicians, and general public, for much more severe pandemics that will come. For example, Amesh said, H5N1 (avian influenza) has a mortality rate of about 60% and it is considered a realistic scenario that it will mutate and start spreading around the world.

  6. The primary cause of pandemics like these is how we handle animals for food consumption, in particular animal markets. As long as this continue, we will have new viruses occurring that could potentially become a real threat toward humanity. (Perhaps another reason to eat more lacto-vegetarian or vegan food?)


Here’s a pretty good link:

The situation is very rapidly evolving, and I’m sure much will continue to change. I didn’t have time to listen to the episode, so I’m not sure how the calculation of a 0.6% CFR is arrived at (usually this relies on an assumption of a significant number of undiagnosed cases). All I can say is that I hope it is true, but given this one’s siblings (SARS and MERS), I’m concerned.


I have some empirical evidence that suggests in America this will be difficult :slight_smile:

Grocery store shelves at a local Trader Joe’s, all gone except veggie patties. Does one laugh or cry?


Thanks guys for starting and expanding this conversation. I think it will be quite fascinating to come back to it after a while. So I’d like to ask everyone to keep sharing something relevant here from your local place.

I also believe it’s important to become concerned about all of this because we have happened to be in this situation. It seems that we are all gonna be affected to various extent.

I find these websites useful to stay informed:

– statistical data on coronavirus cases

– this youtube playlist which is clearly explains new concepts and provides with some up-to-date information on the issue


Cambridge University has made available for free research related to the coronavirus More than 80 relevant book chapters and journal articles are available

1 Like

And the most funniest thing for today from Russia. Local grocery shop “Ashan” started to sell prepared carts with food in order to balance the demand


sign in the photo states: Price of the Cart is 3491.31 rubles

1 Like

That’s why I think the situation may worsen:

well, i wrote a petition for the indonesian government last week. planning to write a local/regional, national and global proposal based on it this week. :slight_smile:

for those too lazy to click, see below. the references section would be updated soon, containing many more latest related information. :slight_smile:

Indonesia Against Pandemic - Act Nationally and Internationally Now!

To the Indonesian national government (executive, legislative, and judiciary branches),

President and his ranks of officials

Bank Indonesia and its officials

MPR and its ranks of officials

DPR and its ranks of officials

DPD and its officials

MA and its ranks of officials

MK and its ranks of officials

All other state institutions and their ranks of officials

Indonesians are resilient!

Last weekend, close to midnight, a friend collapsed. He had a heart attack!

Fortunately, Indonesia’s health system is still resilient. The friend underwent surgery in a hospital; the cost of treatment borne entirely by the state through BPJS Kesehatan.

Unfortunately, Indonesia’s production and distribution system is not as resilient. We were searching for face masks in modern minimarkets and 24-hour pharmacies within a 3-km radius of the hospital. To no avail!

Indonesians are ingenious!

Within 2 hours, the friend’s son, whom we asked to bring a mask, had created an emergency mask. See photos below.

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic engulfing Indonesia, the resilience and ingenuity of the Indonesian people need to be strengthened.

However, seeing the weak and slow response of the national government, we were burning with anger. Especially when compared to the response of other governments around the world.

The reasoning is trite: the national government has little money. So the best it can do is to divert its existing budget, not increase it massively.

Compare this with the current discourse and practice ongoing in the United States and the European Union, which have led to policies of universal basic income and job guarantees.

Even though Indonesia is far richer than the United States and the European Union in terms of natural resources. Its population is also undergoing a demographic bonus.

Furthermore, the Indonesian constitution has alluded, and can even be said to have mandated, these two policies in its Article 27 Subsection 2: “Every citizen has the right to work and to live in human dignity”.

Now is a golden opportunity for the Indonesian national government to implement a ‘Job & Income Guarantee’ (JIG) which protects every citizen in every region of Indonesia, not only the middle-to-upper class citizens in cities!

How? Is Indonesia similar to the United States and the European Union in terms of monetary sovereignty?

Actually, yes!

However, in order for the JIG policy to be more effective and permanent, now is also the right time for the Indonesian government and people to renegotiate relevant agreements and contracts with international parties to enable Indonesia to implement its constitution fully.

In the midst of the current global health and economic crisis, it is time for Indonesia to play a role in ‘the establishment of a world order based on freedom, perpetual peace and social justice’.

Hence, now is also the time for Indonesia to contribute to the redesign of the international financial and monetary system.

Indonesia can lead similar countries with its JIG policy. We have a pioneering history, for example the momentous Asian-African Conference held in Bandung at the middle of the last century.

It is not too late to strengthen the resilience and ingenuity of the Indonesian people domestically so it can lead globally.

Were those not the reasons for Indonesian independence?


Scope - World, March 3, 2020

Coronavirus and the Politics of Care

Scope - World, March 10, 2020

Marshall Auerback: Coronavirus Reveals the Cracks in Globalisation

Scope - US, March 12, 2020

The Fed’s $1.5 trillion intervention, explained

Scope - China, March 13, 2020

Coronavirus: China’s premier shrugs off likely first quarter economic growth contraction as ‘not a big deal’

Scope - US, March 13, 2020

US should give citizens $1,000 a month to limit coronavirus impact on economy, strategist says

Scope - World, March 14, 2020

Thomas Piketty explains why the world is ripe for ‘participatory socialism’

Scope - World, March 16, 2020

Get Ready, A Bigger Disruption Is Coming

Scope - World, March 16, 2020

The coronavirus will redefine what currency-issuing governments can do – finally

Scope - US, March 17, 2020

How coronavirus could finally turn universal basic income, long favored by Silicon Valley, into political reality

Scope - World, March 17, 2020

The IMF should inject liquidity through SDRs, and fast

Scope - Canada, March 18, 2020

Federal support package: the pros, the cons and the next shoe to drop

Scope - UK, March 18, 2020

Supporting an Emergency Universal Basic Income during the Coronavirus Crisis

Scope - UK, March 18, 2020

Why we need an Emergency Basic Income

Scope - US, March 18, 2020

The Mobilization That Must Start Now

Scope - US, March 18, 2020

In memo, Rep. Maxine Waters lists stimulus priorities, ignoring industries

Scope - US, March 18, 2020

The Right Way to Give Everyone Cash in the Midst of the Coronavirus Crisis

Scope - US, March 18 2020

SUPPORT EMERGENCY MONEY TO THE PEOPLE: Urge Congress to support the Bennet/Booker/Brown proposal and other emergency cash transfers

Scope - US, March 18, 2020

Public health requires temporary universal basic income

Scope - World, March 18, 2020

Universal Basic Income is an affordable and feasible response to coronavirus

Scope - World, March 18, 2020

Why more than 500 political figures and academics globally have called

for universal basic income in the fight against coronavirus

Scope - UK, March 19, 2020

This recession is nothing like previous ones and so it has to be managed very differently

Scope - UK, March 19, 2020

EVERY Briton could be paid universal basic salary

Scope - US, March 19, 2020

Americans Need Significant and Sustained Cash Now to Avoid Economic Calamity

Scope - US, March 19, 2020

The Stimulus Plan That We Need Now

Scope - US, March 19, 2020

Sending Americans checks is an old idea that’s finally going mainstream

Scope - US, March 19, 2020

Green Jobs Are the Answer to the Coronavirus Recession

Scope - World, March 19, 2020

Covid-19 and the Need, Right Now, For a Universal Basic Income

Scope - EU, March 20, 2020

EU to suspend budget rules as ECB relaxes regulations

Scope - EU, March 20, 2020

Emergency basic income for the EU - now!

Scope - UK, March 20, 2020

Coronavirus: Over 170 MPs and Lords call for universal basic income

during pandemic

Scope - UK, March 20, 2020

I’m a Conservative neoliberal—but right now, the state needs to spend

big on helping people

Scope - US, March 20, 2020

$2000/month to every American #moneyforthepeople #covid19 ·

Scope - US, March 20, 2020

Federal Reserve to lend additional $1 trillion a day to large banks

Scope - US, March 20, 2020

Solidarity Not Charity: Mutual Aid & How to Organize in the Age of Coronavirus

Scope - US, March 20, 2020

COVID-19 Crisis: The case for King’s vision of guaranteed income for all

Scope - US, March 20, 2020

What Would Roosevelt Do?

Scope - US, March 20, 2020

We Can Afford to Beat This Crisis

Scope - US, March 20, 2020

America is in crisis. We need universal basic income now

Scope - Scandinavia, March 21, 2020

Denmark’s Idea Could Help the World Avoid a Great Depression

Scope - US, March 21, 2020

Rep. Rashida Tlaib Proposes $1,000 Monthly Coronavirus Payments

Scope - US, March 21, 2020


Scope - US, March 21, 2020

‘Two $1 Trillion Coins’: Rashida Tlaib Proposal Calls on US Treasury to Fund Coronavirus Recovery From US Mint

Scope - US, March 21, 2020

Show us the money: Cash is the coronavirus vaccine we need now

Scope - US, March 21, 2020

Stephanie Kelton: Just Use ‘the Computer’ to Give People More Money

Scope - Australia, March 22, 2020

It’s Modern Monetary Theory time as the state steps in

Scope - US, March 22, 2020

Coronavirus and the economy: Best and worst case scenarios from Minneapolis Fed president

Scope - US, March 22, 2020

Unsanitized: Senator Tammy Baldwin v. the Bailout

Scope - US, March 22, 2020

We are all Modern Monetarists now

Scope - World, March 22, 2020

To get through coronavirus lockdown, we need basic income

Scope - US, March 23, 2020


Scope - World, March 23, 2020

Bill Mitchell: It’s Modern Monetary Theory time! No, it always has been!

Scope - European Union, March 24, 2020

Dirk Ehnts, Warren Mosler – A Euro Zone Proposal for Fighting the Economic Consequences of the Coronavirus Crisis


@grant Haha :grin: well I’m not too fond of the burgers myself so I can understand that they’re still there! The other day I saw a similar photo of a pizza freezer that was all empty except for pizzas with pineapple. That I cannot understand though! Fruit in food is awesome! :pineapple::banana: