We are quite surprised by the lack of drive from governments and health authorities and the nonchalance of the population following the outbreak of the Coronavirus in China.
Our hypothesis is that a lack of thinking skills among governments, health institutions, and the population has seriously contributed to the spread of the Coronavirus.
We will substantiate the hypothesis on the basis of a number of concepts that we previously examined in the Thinkibility blog. But let´s first start with the thinking patterns governments and health experts showed in nearly every country in Europe and in the United States.
The Course of the Crisis – Blundering into Disaster
After the horrific scale of the Corona crisis in China had manifested itself, the lax response to the outbreak in China by governments and health authorities in Europe and the United States show remarkable similar regularities. (Derived from Elsevier Weekblad; The development of the crisis in the Netherlands, certainly when it comes to the emergent situation, is comparable to the other countries in Europe and those in the United States)
Day 1 There is little chance that there would be a corona patient in the country if so measures are taken …
Day 3 The coronavirus does not seem very contagious …
Day 5 It is possible that the coronavirus also comes to our country, but that it´s unlikely that it would spread here …
Day 9 The coronavirus is not easily transmitted from person to person …
Day 15 The chance of a possible spread of the virus in the country is small because then all kinds of measures would come into effect that would prevent the further spread …
Day 17 Someone could only infect others with the coronavirus if one is actually already sick …
Day 23 Someone without complaints does not spread the virus …
Day 24 We don’t have to worry about COVID-19…
Day 31 Do not worry. If the virus comes to our country, we will take the necessary measures…
Day 34 Correct treatment can be performed in all hospitals. There is sufficient capacity to admit critically ill patients to intensive care …
Day 35 Preventive testing does not provide certainty and makes no sense …The virus does indeed resemble the common flu …
Day 37 One patient in our country was diagnosed with # COVID19 tonight …
Day 38 February 28 Last night, a second patient was diagnosed with # COVID19…
Day 40 The schools do not have to be closed tomorrow …
Day 43 The total number of positive tests is now at 38 …
Day 44 There is no reason to avoid or cancel events at this time …
Day 45 We advise residents of the province with many infections with a cold, cough or fever to limit their social contacts …
Day 51 At this point, the death rate doesn’t seem to be alarming …
Day 53 The government has taken additional measures to tackle the coronavirus. Schools and nurseries close for three weeks …
Day 53 and after. A ban on events is instituted for more than 1000, then 500, then 100, then 50, then 10 participants …
Denialism is a person’s choice to deny reality as a way to avoid a psychologically uncomfortable truth. Denialism is an essentially irrational action that withholds the validation of a historical experience or event when a person refuses to accept an empirically verifiable reality.
It can also be seen that governments rely heavily on scientific insights, and it seems that they fail to think for themselves, or are unable to do so. This so-called Scientism, implying a cosmetic application of science in unwarranted situations considered not amenable to the application of the scientific method or similar scientific standards. However, these social-psychological explanations, and by that, as usual, just descriptions. with no clue how to act. They are only a warning: keep alert for this kind of thinking errors.
Instead of that, we propose to look at the thinking operations involved and how it led to actions or their omission. We will do this based on a number of Thinking Skills that we discussed earlier in this Thinkibility blog.
The Concepts Used. What are the concepts that play a role in thinking about the spread of the virus? What do they actually mean? Are alternative concepts conceivable? What are the assumptions behind each concept? Are phenomena framed? What words are used? Which not?
Information Considered. Is there an information strategy to discover? Which models are used? What is the reliability? Which information is relevant but not available (so-called Cassandra information)? Is there any information left out?
Daily Thinking. To what extent is there mechanistic and linear thinking and a lack of basic insight into probability, statistics, and non-linear curves?
System Thinking. To what extent are more subsystems involved than just the health care system in tackling the crisis? Is it taken into account that the spread of the virus, the measures that are taken by the government and the reactions of the citizens form a complex dynamic system? Are concepts like ¨tipping point¨ applied?
Black Swan. If we consider the spread of the virus as a black swan phenomenon, what does that say about the robustness of the health system, the logistics chains, and the suppliers?
Groupthink. Is their pressure for harmony or conformity in the group that results in an irrational or dysfunctional decision-making outcome. Have measures been taken to prevent group conformity and group obedience? Or is it even stimulated (eg. we have to join the government, we have to rely on the health institutions)?
How We Proceed
In the following posts, we will discuss how every thinking ability – or absence thereof – played a role in the spread of the virus. We will demonstrate that a lack of modern thinking habits among governments, health institutions, and the population has seriously contributed to the spread of the Coronavirus.
Perhaps you can already start thinking for yourself. What caused the lack of drive from governments and health authorities and the nonchalance of the population following the outbreak of the Coronavirus in China?
Previous related posts:
9 Replies to “Thinking about the Spread of the Coronavirus (1)”
I’ve been going backwards through this series from your most recent post, (reading all on June 1st) – it’s wonderful! Wish I’d been following what you had to say when it was written.
Another factor not mentioned in #3 of the series is the tendency to only test those who show significantly troublesome symptoms, and NOT test those who are “sheltering at home” with the Corona Virus, who recover without having to be hospitalized. (This selective testing practice makes the percentage of cases who die higher in the statistics. )
Thank you Franis. Glad you found it interesting. And thanks for pointing out more factors that contribute to selective testing. We hope you are well and stay safe.
America Is Trapped in a Pandemic Spiral
As the U.S. heads toward the winter, the country is going round in circles, making the same conceptual errors that have plagued it since spring.
1. A Serial Monogamy of Solutions
2. False Dichotomies
3. The Comfort of Theatricality
4. Personal Blame Over Systemic Fixes
5. The Normality Trap
6. Magical Thinking
7. The Complacency of Inexperience
8. A Reactive Rut
9. The Habituation of Horror
Mental Models For a Pandemic
Mental models help us understand the world better, something which is especially valuable during times of confusion, like a pandemic. Here’s how to apply mental models to gain a more accurate picture of reality and keep a cool head.
Nearly one year later: two million deaths, so what went wrong?
When do governments fail to take responsibility for their actions and omissions, what routes are available to hold them to account? “Should these deaths be seen as ‘social murder’?”Or failing that, as crimes against humanity, involuntary manslaughter, misconduct in public office, or criminal negligence?
Meanwhile, in other countries, “trying to appease both public health demands and the libertarian views of the free market has led not only to astronomical death tolls, such as in the US, UK, and Brazil but to flailing economies,”
Avoidance, delay, and mishandling have been compounded by a refusal to change course in the face of evidence and events
Why is it so difficult for the Netherlands in this pandemic and why is it struggling so well-organized and prepared country a year later still checking the virus and increasingly with part of the own population? What does this struggle tell us about the Dutch crisis response and what lessons can already be learned?
https://www.groene.nl/artikel/we-moeten-een-coronageneraal-hebben (To be translated by Google Translate)
Yuval Noah Harari: Lessons from a year of Covid
In a year of scientific breakthroughs — and political failures — what can we learn for the future?
How can we summarise the Covid year from a broad historical perspective? Many people believe that the terrible toll coronavirus has taken demonstrates humanity’s helplessness in the face of nature’s might. In fact, 2020 has shown that humanity is far from helpless. Epidemics are no longer uncontrollable forces of nature. Science has turned them into a manageable challenge.
Why, then, has there been so much death and suffering? Because of bad political decisions.
If Covid-19 nevertheless continues to spread in 2021 and kill millions, or if an even more deadly pandemic hits humankind in 2030, this will be neither an uncontrollable natural calamity nor a punishment from God. It will be a human failure and — more precisely — a political failure.