Monday, May 25, 2020

Coronavirus Spreads More Rapidly than HIV/AIDS, Justifying Harsh Measures, Demographer Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 23 -- The coronavirus pandemic has hit Russia hard, Anatoly Vishnevsky says, but what is especially important is the way in which the government has responded. But on  the whole,  the demographer says, its actions have been harsh but correct because the coronavirus is so infectious, far more so than HIV/AIDS.

            The director of the Institute of Demography at the Higher School of Economics says that many feared that HIV/AIDS could acquire “the character of an epidemic” affecting the entire society beyond the capacity of a country’s medical system to respond. But that has not happened, at least not yet (

                “HIV infectious have not spread with the speed of the coronavirus, when each individual who becomes ill is capable of infected two or three others and the total number of those infected grows in snowball-like fashion. Even if lethality is small, and in the case of the coronavirus that is so, the rapid growth in the number of infections inevitably leads to a sharp increase in the number of deaths,” Vishnevsky says.

                Thus, the tough reaction of the authorities while unpleasant has been correct, albeit somewhat delayed. It reflects “not panic and fear but good sense.”  That of course is something of which epidemiologists must be the best judges. But demographers have a role to play in thinking about where to go from here.

            The rapidly growing population of many parts of the world and the increasing flow of people from one area to another means that pandemics are going to become more and more likely. When population density and movement are low, local epidemics don’t spread. But now things have changed and any local epidemic can become a pandemic. 

            At present during the pandemic, governments are closing the borders of their countries, Vishnevsky continues; but after it passes, migration is likely to return to something like it was before because of population pressure and differences in incomes in different parts of the world. And governments are going to need to think about how to deal with both.

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