If the world hadn't noticed that Covid-19 was significantly different from previous situations, and if it had treated it like any other flu outbreak, what would have happened?

Typically an influenza outbreak of any kind results in nursing homes and other sensitive areas being closed to visitors and their taking extra precautions for internal cleanliness and hygiene.

If all the effort were put into protecting the most vulnerable and everyone else simply warned to be careful, the disease would spread among the general population but there would be very few serious cases.

In the short, medium, and long term, would the world be significantly better or worse than it will be with the current political actions?

  • I don't think this can really be answered without extreme speculation.
    – Bryan Krause
    Mar 11, 2020 at 20:51
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    @BryanKrause, since I posted this, I've read predictions that perhaps 70% of the population will get the disease by the end of the year. If anywhere near true, that means that nearly all the media-inspired political decisions will have effectively had no useful effect. As a lay person, I can speculate that the whole thing is an incredible waste of time, and the side effects of those decisions (stock market, economies, etc.) are incredibly unnecessary. Surely there are professionals that can comment, without speculating, on whether it was all an unfortunate overreaction or something necessary. Mar 11, 2020 at 22:56
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    One of the biggest purposes of the efforts is to limit the speed of spread. There is absolutely no way hospital systems can handle that many people sick at once, but there is a lot more potential to handle them over a longer time. The professionals are commenting, and they are stressing the importance of measures to control the spread.
    – Bryan Krause
    Mar 11, 2020 at 23:27

1 Answer 1


I think the following quoted article mostly answers my question.

The current, sometimes draconian, measures are not being taken to prevent the spread of Covid-19, only to reduce the rate at which it spreads.

A system that can handle a hundred new patients each week for many months, typically can't handle hundreds of new patients each day for a few weeks.

In either case, the same number of people get infected.

In one case the seriously ill can be properly treated, in the other case almost no one can be properly treated.

Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) - Our World in Data contains this information:

‘Flattening the curve’

This is why early counter measures are important in an epidemic. Their intention is to lower the rate of infection so that the epidemic is spread out over time and the peak demand for the health care system is lower.

While the total number who get infected might not change, the containment measures intend to avoid an outbreak trajectory in which a large number of people get sick at the same time. This is what the visualization shows.

This is the reason that limiting the magnitude of peak incidence of an outbreak is important – health systems can care for more patients when the number of cases is spread out over a long period and it is not peaking in a very short period.

A worst-case scenario for a pandemic of COVID-19 is that the number of patients at one point in time is so large that health systems would fail to provide the required care for some of them

enter image description here

And perhaps in a year or two we might learn the factual answer to my original question by looking at life in Turkmenistan:

Coronavirus: Why has Turkmenistan reported no cases? - BBC News

  • Belarus is another good candidate, and Iran has just announced its intention to be a guinea pig for what happens when you relax restrictions too soon.
    – Mark
    Apr 7, 2020 at 23:33

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