Trump was probably wise to restrict travel from the UK

When China, after ignoring the coronavirus, finally acknowledged the epidemic outbreak in Hubei province, it did what totalitarian governments do: it walled off an entire region to prevent the infection's further spread.  Video also emerged of potentially infected people being carted away, locked in boxes.  In Italy, the government has done much the same, although without the brute force and, apparently, with the people's acquiescence.

Both are countries in which the socialized medicine infrastructure means fewer physicians and beds than a free market would support, as well as fairly primitive medical treatment at the best of times.  Both are also countries with extreme pollution, aging populations, and high cigarette smoking rates.

In America, beginning with Trump's closing the border to China in January and instituting quarantines on travelers, the goal has been to slow coronavirus's spread. The accepted theory is that, because it's a new disease and we have no immunity, the best we can do is stretch out the time frame so hospitals don't get overwhelmed.  And while we're not using China's brute force quarantines or lock-ups, state governors are slowly closing down institutions in which people gather, forcing them to stay at home or at least stay away from each other.

Britain is trying something different.  (Hat tip: Marginal Revolution.)  Rather than slowing the infection's spread by isolating people, it's seeing if it can gently force those least affected by the illness — young, generally healthy people — to become infected while protecting the more vulnerable population.  The theory is that once a critical mass of citizens has had the coronavirus, they won't get it again in this flu season.  This will create a herd immunity that deprives the coronavirus of a foothold, making Britain safe again for the more vulnerable population.

For that reason, Britain is not closing schools, shutting down pubs, or canceling large gatherings.  It's just recommending that people at high risk self-quarantine.

Professor Ian Donald, who identifies himself on Twitter as a "Psychologist:Social & Environmental research; behavioural factors in Anti-Microbial Resistance. Emeritus Professor, University of Liverpool," thinks he has the government policy sussed out.  Here are a few representative tweets from a longer thread:

It's an interesting theory but, as Prof. Donald says, a risky one.  Misjudge the delicate balance, and you end up with an explosive rate of disease.  Also, viruses mutate, so the coronavirus might grow to become harmful to previously low-risk communities.

A guy named Umair Haque, who identifies himself as a "vampire," thinks the whole idea is beyond crazy.  The point he makes is that herd immunity is acquired only through vaccinations.  He's wrong.  What makes vaccinations wonderful is that they create herd immunity without first putting the population through the infection.

However, Haque is correct that some diseases come back repeatedly because they kill so many people with such rapidity that society cannot build a sufficient mass of survivors for herd immunity.  Or as with polio before the vaccine, there are always fresh young victims who missed the immunity from the disease's last sweep through the society.

In other words, while the U.K. is experimenting with something that theoretically makes sense, the downside risks of trying magically to create a herd are huge.  For that reason, we have reason to be grateful that, within 24 hours of excluding the U.K. from the list of European countries now barred entry to America, Trump reversed course and added the U.K. to the list.

Oh, one more thing: Between Friday and Saturday, the U.K. went from 798 confirmed cases to 1,140, and from 10 deaths to 41 (with the ten most recent having underlying health problems).  It's not yet Italy, but, as with all countries affected, the disease is making inroads on the population.

When China, after ignoring the coronavirus, finally acknowledged the epidemic outbreak in Hubei province, it did what totalitarian governments do: it walled off an entire region to prevent the infection's further spread.  Video also emerged of potentially infected people being carted away, locked in boxes.  In Italy, the government has done much the same, although without the brute force and, apparently, with the people's acquiescence.

Both are countries in which the socialized medicine infrastructure means fewer physicians and beds than a free market would support, as well as fairly primitive medical treatment at the best of times.  Both are also countries with extreme pollution, aging populations, and high cigarette smoking rates.

In America, beginning with Trump's closing the border to China in January and instituting quarantines on travelers, the goal has been to slow coronavirus's spread. The accepted theory is that, because it's a new disease and we have no immunity, the best we can do is stretch out the time frame so hospitals don't get overwhelmed.  And while we're not using China's brute force quarantines or lock-ups, state governors are slowly closing down institutions in which people gather, forcing them to stay at home or at least stay away from each other.

Britain is trying something different.  (Hat tip: Marginal Revolution.)  Rather than slowing the infection's spread by isolating people, it's seeing if it can gently force those least affected by the illness — young, generally healthy people — to become infected while protecting the more vulnerable population.  The theory is that once a critical mass of citizens has had the coronavirus, they won't get it again in this flu season.  This will create a herd immunity that deprives the coronavirus of a foothold, making Britain safe again for the more vulnerable population.

For that reason, Britain is not closing schools, shutting down pubs, or canceling large gatherings.  It's just recommending that people at high risk self-quarantine.

Professor Ian Donald, who identifies himself on Twitter as a "Psychologist:Social & Environmental research; behavioural factors in Anti-Microbial Resistance. Emeritus Professor, University of Liverpool," thinks he has the government policy sussed out.  Here are a few representative tweets from a longer thread:

It's an interesting theory but, as Prof. Donald says, a risky one.  Misjudge the delicate balance, and you end up with an explosive rate of disease.  Also, viruses mutate, so the coronavirus might grow to become harmful to previously low-risk communities.

A guy named Umair Haque, who identifies himself as a "vampire," thinks the whole idea is beyond crazy.  The point he makes is that herd immunity is acquired only through vaccinations.  He's wrong.  What makes vaccinations wonderful is that they create herd immunity without first putting the population through the infection.

However, Haque is correct that some diseases come back repeatedly because they kill so many people with such rapidity that society cannot build a sufficient mass of survivors for herd immunity.  Or as with polio before the vaccine, there are always fresh young victims who missed the immunity from the disease's last sweep through the society.

In other words, while the U.K. is experimenting with something that theoretically makes sense, the downside risks of trying magically to create a herd are huge.  For that reason, we have reason to be grateful that, within 24 hours of excluding the U.K. from the list of European countries now barred entry to America, Trump reversed course and added the U.K. to the list.

Oh, one more thing: Between Friday and Saturday, the U.K. went from 798 confirmed cases to 1,140, and from 10 deaths to 41 (with the ten most recent having underlying health problems).  It's not yet Italy, but, as with all countries affected, the disease is making inroads on the population.