Thursday, March 26, 2020

Coronavirus: Unnecessary Panic and Shutdown

Whilst coronavirus (COVID-19) can result in death, most people recover. More importantly the point of origin of the virus is purported to be China. The only way it can get to a neighbourhood near you is via a discrete point of entry to your country. That is it has to cross the border or coastline and whilst these are continuous the legal entry to a country is at discrete points, these being border crossings, airports and (sea)ports. At these controlled entry points, entry involves, passports, visa's, tickets and passenger lists. If everything is working well I don't expect anything to get beyond 1 km radius of such entry point. I expect it is possible to quarantine and shut everything down within 1 km radius of such entry point, and that systems exist and are already in place to be able to do so: part of the forward planning and management of borders.

Now occasionally something may get through the border controls, due to it either being not detectable or otherwise not being checked for in the first instance. In which case time passes and the gate is closed after the event. From the control documents for persons entering, we should know the point of destination for locals returning. We don't need to know who they are, all we need to know is the suburb they are returning to. From the suburb we get the local government authority district (LGAD) or council area, that the suburb is located. We only need shut down the local council area, not the nation, and not the state.

Further more from the point of entry, we know the path to get to the suburbs where the returning locals reside. Each public facility along that path also has a certain reach. For example supermarkets are typically at 1 km too 2 km centres: so they have a rough reach of 0.5 km to 1 km. Some larger facilities have a reach of 5 km, and the large shopping malls, plaza's and precincts have reach of 25 km or so. The state capital cities have reach across the state, but not every day of the week.

So using a geographical information system (GIS) it should be possible to map out, a zone where the infection is likely to spread, and lock that region down. That is lock down local council areas, not the entire city, not the entire state and not the entire nation. To shutdown the entire nation, the national economy and cause national panic is irresponsible.

With  a local council area locked down, people within that council area can go about business as usual. Deliveries of goods and services can be made into the area, but not from the area, unless it supplies something not available from elsewhere. People living in the area, but working outside the area are confined to the area, and therefore cannot go to work, unless the job does not pose an issue. More over the local council areas in the infected zone which is locked down, will be neighbouring, so as long as can travel to work place with in the locked down zones, can travel between council areas.

It is inconsiderate of people in the Adelaide metropolitan area to be traveling 100 km's or more into the remote rural towns and emptying the supermarket shelves. To start with the metro supermarkets must have incompetent management if they cannot keep the shelves full. The rural towns typically have low demand, and are typically unable to supply all the needs of the local population on a regular basis. It is somewhat akin to living on an island, with the ship coming in once a year, and stock up when the ship arrives. So city dwellers coming up and emptying our shelves is not appreciated. 

Secondly, the point of origin of the infection, for the state is the metropolitan area. Some 2/3rd's of  the Australian population is in the state capitals, and around 1/3rd of the population in the remote regions. The remote regions thus have the potential to keep on with business as usual and avoid infection, if infection is locked down in the metro areas. So the city dwellers shouldn't be spreading the infection into the rural towns.

It is also to be noted that one theory is that 60% of the population needs to be infected for herd immunity to kick in. The 2/3rd's population in the cities is near enough the 60%, so locking the cities down and restricting traffic to the remote and rural regions seems like a reasonable imposition.

It is lunacy that people 150 km or more from the nearest infected region have to comply with national restrictions, and social distancing. It is an unnecessary imposition and inconvenience, and excessive impact on the economy. The government should act to shut the panic down, not shut the economy or nation down.

If we lock a suburb down, then the first issue will notice, is that most suburbs are worthless dormitory regions with no local services. If shut a local council area down, then will notice that there is also a lack of local services. So the question is why is there a lack of services? What kind of development and planning approval is taking place that large regions are devoid of local services.

Take the Yorke Peninsula for example, this is split into two major council areas: the Copper Coast (CC) council district (area: 773, pop:14,139), and Yorke Peninsula (YP) council district (area: 5834, pop:11,056). The largest commercial town in the area would be Kadina in the CC area, with a population of 4,857. So people in the YP area have to travel out of the area into the CC area for major shopping. Towns in the region are some 25 km apart with less than 1000 people, typically around 100 to 200 people. People expect to travel 25 km to 100 km to get their shopping done, as local stores don't have the local population to sustain stores with large variety of goods.

Whilst in the metro area there are supermarkets approximately every 1 km, servicing populations measured in 1000's. Major wholesale warehouses are in the metro area, most factories are in the metro areas, and the airports and seaports where imported goods arrive are part of the metro area. So why are metro supermarkets running out of goods?

Sure there maybe a 24 hour to 48 hour delay if panic buying empties the shelves? But that should not generate an incentive for people in the metropolitan area to travel over 100 km to do grocery shopping when usually only travel 1 km to 5 km. Why panic buying in any case, and what's the great demand for toilet paper?

Shouldn't be any panic buying. Admittedly once upon a time my parents got paid monthly, so got used to monthly shopping. Have pantry and fridge and freezer. Generally have a months supply of groceries in any case. Even so, there are still some things which have to buy weekly or fortnightly, very little if anything which need to buy daily. The fridge and freezer and cupboards have limited space. But there are only a few things which are perishable and do not last long even if kept in a refrigerator. Most of such perishable things you do not necessarily need. You wouldn't take perishable food stuffs on an expedition. You would take long life food stuffs: canned food, powdered and dried food stuffs. Food stuffs which do not require a fridge or freezer.

No need to buy in bulk, nor a need to spend extra money if you can't afford to. Just change what you usually buy, buy fewer perishables and get some extra canned foods. Also no need to buy in bulk, just get an extra can or pack during each ordinary shopping day, and build up reserves slowly. That way industry can also slowly build up production, and both manufacturing, wholesale and retailers can keep stock in supply. Noting that some businesses are shutting down, as a consequence of unnecessary panic. Sure if know going into quarantine, may need to buy extra. Then again there are all those people who get in a panic when have long weekends, a mere extra day, so the prospect of a fortnight or month in quarantine, definitely not going to cope.

As for the northern hemisphere, what's all this rubbish about isolation and keeping kids occupied? What do you normally do every single year during the winter months? As I recollect being a kid in England, walked to school in the wind, rain and snow: but during the school break trapped in doors. So travelling in bad weather accepted, but playing out in it, less acceptable. Point is being trapped in the house for days, weeks, or a few months is part of every year life: so shouldn't be an issue. Secondly hasn't everyone been complaining for years that kids spend too much time in doors, first complaints about reading, then watching TV, and these days playing video games or using social networking websites? So doubly, shouldn't be an issue.

As for social distancing I would contend that people get too close to one another in public spaces in the first place, and that shaking hands is a relatively dumb trait (mainly because I don't overly appreciate getting my hand crushed by halfwits who have read some junk pop psychology. Fools who will find out the hard way how wrong the psychology is.)


So consider that our towns are poorly designed, as a consequence of becoming reliant on privately owned mechanised transport. There are calls to increase population density. The architects seem to have taken this as a need for more grandiose multi-storey buildings: which I contend is a mistake. As I have mentioned before urban sprawl is not created by the car, but by architects and their multi-storey buildings and other large facilities. These facilities draw a workforce from distant locations and supply to distant locations. That is these buildings have an unacceptable radial reach. It is a planning issue, to restrict the size of buildings in an area, and also to restrict their reach and catchment areas (hinterlands).

As far as I know part of the incentive for building codes stemmed from two major events: the great fire of London (1666) and the great plague of London (1665 to 1666), along with cholera out break of 1854. In both cases the primary problem was a lack of isolation and circulation between buildings. In the one case the problem was access to and around buildings to fight fires, in the other there was a lack of ventilation and air circulation. On the other hand the circulation and movement of people otherwise contributed to the spread of disease. Though any significant building code didn't eventuate until the  London Building Act 1844 : in other words slow to respond. (Not quite:Rebuilding  of London Act 1666, and Rebuilding of London Act 1670 ).

Any case our historical fortress cities, and rural villages could for the most part be isolated and locked down, whilst modern sprawling suburbs are more difficult to lock down, and remote rural villages are a few hours drive away, not several days walk.

I've mentioned before that whilst South Australia has many council regions, some of which are referred to has cities, the suburbs of these regions are all listed as suburbs of Adelaide. Our development act shouldn't just place limits on separation distances between buildings, it should also separate and keep separated the cities, the towns and the villages. There wasn't any point in building the satellite City of Elizabeth and then allow urban sprawl to join it to the Adelaide metropolitan area, nor for the rural town of Gawler to become increasingly connected into the metropolitan area. In all this urban sprawl market gardens have disappeared under housing. Agriculture seems to keep moving north, closer and closer to the Goyder's Line. It doesn't seem sensible.

If we kept nature strips between villages, towns and cities, and minimised the number of connector roads between. Then they can be isolated more readily than sprawling suburban grids. More importantly each community has more localised facilities and is not dependent on modern technology. The car isn't entirely necessary. Trains can shift cargo, as can small trucks and vans.

People are considered able to walk at about 5 km/hr and cycling considered to be about 4 times faster, so around 20 km/h. People already spend around 1 hour stuck in cars to travel less than 20 km. Whilst my contention is that an industrial city state should be 100 km diameter, a town 5 km to 10 km diameter, a village 1 km diameter, and estates 100 m diameter. All of which get isolated by nature strips. Assuming can travel for 5 hours each day, then can walk 25 km/day, or cycle 100 km/day. Travelling from the perimeter to the hub of a 5 km diameter town would thus be a 30 minute walk, and at the hub most of the needs can be bought. I find it strange that as a kid we used to walk 2 km to 4 km to do the weekly shopping using a shopping trolley, no car needed: whilst monthly shopping was a car trip to a distant supermarket to buy bulk items.

If we restricted the reach of buildings, as far as it is practical to do so, then local communities would be stronger, and more resilient, and service quality would improve. Not the least of which the customer you upset lives at the end of your street, or at least in your local neighbourhood, not out of town.

If we strengthen local business and protect diversity rather than competition, unemployment should reduce, and energy usage should also drop.

It should also be noted that the response to a pandemic and epidemic is no different for a nation. About the only difference it makes is if the nation is dependent on imports for its survival, in which case it may have difficulty getting what it needs.

Now what we have with urban sprawl is increased potential for contact and transmission of contaminants of all kinds. With isolated communities, say villages within towns, and towns within cities, then have increased potential to isolated, and otherwise continue business as usual.

The layout of our cities is a mater of defence and security. The current response to a pandemic/epidemic has demonstrated a lack of security: bio-weapons can easily bring the worlds nations to their knees. The response is some what pathetic given that the majority of people infected with COVID-19 have recovered and will recover.

As it is, here in SA we could put a barrier across Port Wakefield road, and prevent those from the Adelaide metropolitan area travelling to the North West of the state. For that matter it is a major failing that infection has already spread to the Barossa Valley approximately 75.4 km from Adelaide, no way should it have been permitted for the virus to transmit more than 25 km from the centre of Adelaide. Whilst there are some long back ways to some places, for the most part there is one and only one way to get to most of the remote towns.

Locals returning from overseas, we should have been able to track their destinations. Tourists, shouldn't have been able to leave the proximity of airports and (sea)ports. For certain we have the problem of those people who left and dispersed before we knew we needed to track. But tourists mostly visit tourist destinations. So once again we have a few places we can lock down and isolate.

There is no need to shut businesses down or pubic events. As I said we are some 150 km away from where the infected are. The doctors, dentists have gone into isolation. The local gym has shutdown.

I understand why I just had an appointment with cardiologist over the telephone, instead of the appointment I originally had for face to face in Kadina. Normally the cardiologist travels from Adelaide all the way to Kadina, and I likewise have to travel around 50 km to up the Yorke Peninsula to Kadina. Adelaide is where the infections are, so we don't want people from Adelaide potentially spreading the infection to the north. But since we haven't got infections, I don't see why local dentists, gym and other facilities need close.

Not the least of which the gym is used by rehab patients, recovering from various conditions: heart attack, COPD, cancer, etc... Apparently my heart ejection fraction hasn't improved after 12 months at the gym, but neither has it deteriorated. The doctor wants to put me on more medication, and now I've got to find some other way to get exercise (I'm a problem as I don't fit the text book solution: no high blood pressure, never smoked, don't drink, and as for being over weight everyone says BMI meaningless. Primarily thin as are most people in the rehab group, more a concern if we lost weight.). Going to the gym, was only reason not to be at home, and not to be working at computer. It is unnecessary to be closing specific types of business across the entire nation.  Yet I am meant to go to the chemist and get the new medication (prescription being posted out), and then with in a or week go to local doctors to get blood tests.

Sure we don't know where the virus maybe, but we do know where it is, and where it can spread from. So unless it arrives in a neighbourhood near you, there is nothing to panic about, and even if it does arrive, and you get the thing, you are more likely to recover than die.

As mentioned above rural towns are small, typically with one road through, if you blink whilst travelling then you might not notice the towns. These towns can be shut off, but there is no need to, because the infection has not reached that far, and it shouldn't because the metro area in the vicinity of the airport should be shut off.

So there maybe people out there who do not yet know they have the virus, but once they do know, we shut off their neighbourhood. That could be a suburban block or a single street. From any individual we can identify friends and relatives they may have been in contact with, and so have additional neighbourhoods to monitor and/or shutdown. It maybe slow but it doesn't throw the population into turmoil and wreak havoc on the economy. We simply identify, trap and isolate the contamination and stop it spreading from a source. If there ain't no source, it ain't gonna spread.

Therefore there should be no need to shutdown where there is no existing source of infection.

{I was interrupted 3 times and lost my track. The basic gist, is that the way our towns and cities are designed impacts on our capacity to isolate locally. The building blocks are too big, we should have smaller villages, within towns, and towns within cities.}

Additional Reading: (the stuff you ought to read)

  1. WHO COVID-19 dashboard
  2. Coronavirus disease (COVID-2019) situation reports
  3. Coronavirus (COVID-19) current situation and case numbers
  4. Government response to the COVID-19 outbreak | Australian Government Department of Health
  5. The maths and ethics of minimising COVID-19 deaths | Pursuit by The University of Melbourne
  6. Imperial-College-COVID19-NPI-modelling-16-03-2020.pdf
  7. What is herd immunity?
  8. Will warming spring temperatures slow the coronavirus outbreak?
  9. View from The Hill: Entertainment venues closed in draconian measures to fight the virus
Architecture, Population Density, Housing and Climate
  1. Density by stealth: A house for Gen Y
  2. Housing Diversity: Adapting 1.0 Infrastructure for 3.0 Lives
  3. What Would Boyd Do? A Small Homes Service for Today
  4. Infrastructure priorities in the face of bushfires, floods and droughts
  5. Ethical and scientifically sound architectural solutions to the climate crisis
  6. Public spaces bind cities together. What happens when coronavirus forces us apart?
  7. Outbreaks like coronavirus start in and spread from the edges of cities

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[26/03/2020] : Original