Thursday, April 23, 2020

How Taiwan Conquered the Coronavirus with Common Sense

This is Ms. Tsai Ing-Wen. She is the first female President of Taiwan. She also leads the country with the best response to COVID-19.

Let's look at some of her stats and then her steps.
  • Taiwan is geographically right next to China, and had daily flights to Wuhan, the epicentre of the virus.
  • When the epidemic began, John Hopkins university predicted Taiwan would be the second hardest hit country.
  • Right now, they have a population of 23 million, out of which only 427 are affected, and 6 deaths. For comparison, Canada has 37 million people, more than 40,000 cases and over 2000 dead. Not to mention, Taiwan's 23 million live in an area smaller than Nova Scotia.
Now let's see how they handled their epidemic.
Short summary: Masks, hand wash, travel ban, aggressive tracking and quarantine. Also, ignore the WHO.
Result: Everything is open, economy hasn't crashed, curve is basically flat.
  • early action (from January 1, 2020). Starts to board flights from China and check passengers for symptoms.
  • Travel ban from ALL flights from Wuhan, and then China, shortly after.
  • Put a triage centre in airport to identify possible cases
  • Strict quarantine: you get paid for staying in quarantine, get food delivered to your house, get your symptoms checked thrice a day. Break quarantine and you are fined several month's salary. They would do this for all POSSIBLE cases, not just positive cases.
  • Aggressive hand washing - every public building had sanitizing stations, and you get your temperature checked before you enter. You are not allowed to enter a building if you show symptoms.
  • Masks - Everyone MUST wear masks when out. Taiwan saw they have 40 million masks in their stockpile, so they cranked up production to 10 million masks PER DAY and put a price limit on the masks to prevent price gouging.
  • They integrated travel, immigration, customs and health care databases and included cellphone tracking to identify possible cases and improve contact tracing.
  • QUARANTINE the sick, not the healthy - was their motto.

Today, Taiwan is a classic example of using common sense and the old age methods with new technology to control an epidemic. They went hard, they went aggressive - AND THEY WENT EARLY. Today their parks, restaurants, schools, offices, public services are all open, and yet their numbers are low.

Compare this to Canada where we had no travel restrictions, no forced home quarantine, no database integration, no masks (STILL NO INSTRUCTION ON MASKS), no aggressive stockpiling of PPEs, no protection from PRICE GOUGING or PANIC BUYING, no hand washing in public buildings, NO AIRPORT measures ... the list goes on.


Tuesday, April 21, 2020

A Tale of 3 Women: Jacinda Ardern, Dr. Henry and Dr. Tam

Let's talk about three women.

Two of them are smart. The third one - Let's say I am not a fan.

1. Jacinda Ardern

They say a leader is tested in a crisis, and how you deal with it makes or breaks you. By that definition, Ms. Ardern should be the leader of the world. Her first crisis was last year during the horrific mosque shooting in Christchurch. The whole world saw how she dealt with the fall out, with empathy, determination, unity and determination. Now let's see how she dealt with the corona virus:

  • COVID-19 testing is widespread
  • Out of 5 million, only 12 people died
  • Banned travellers from China in early February, before a single case in NZ
  • Banned foreigners from NZ in mid-March, with only a handful of cases
  • National lockdown from early March, much earlier then other Western nations
  • Unveiled a four level alert system
  • With a degree in communications, kept her citizens abreast of events, and used empathy in her Facebook live sessions
  • Inspired a collective effort from all NZ, public health departments and hospitals.

Though it's early to say, by all counts, her efforts seem to be working.

2. Dr. Bonnie Henry 

She is the Provincial Health Officer for British Columbia, and the first province to see a spike in the number of growths of COVID-19 positive cases. Yet, as of now, whether you go by confirmed cases or hospitalizations, by raw numbers or a per capita comparison, the virus has steadily grown in Ontario and Quebec, but flattened in BC. Why? It is her leadership, as well as luck and timing.

  • She looked at the data from Quebec's March break and correctly deduced it's mostly community transmission from USA. This was at a time when Dr. Theresa Tam was saying the "risk is low".
  • She immediately asked BC citizens to STOP ALL TRAVEL outside of Canada. This was on March 11, the same day Doug Ford of Ontario was telling people to travel on March break and "have a good time".
  • She immediately put a halt to health workers working in more than one place. This immediately broke the back of community transmission. As a comparison, Ontario did this only last week (4 weeks later).
  • Improved testing per capital (Ontario is still behind its goals), reserve stock piling of PPE and focus on social distancing.
  • Unified messaging and response to the public, and a better health care system than other provinces.
  • She saw the data and introduced corrective BOLD measures in BC much before the rest of Canada caught on.
  • Dr. Henry's direct experience in overseeing Toronto's SARS and Canada's H1N1 outbreaks is the type of background that's impossible to quantify in a situation like this.

3. Dr. Theresa Tam

Now let us quantify the "contributions" of Canada's top doctor.

  • On Dec 31, 2019, Taiwan warned WHO about the virus spreading from human to human. WHO rejected the idea. Guess who sits on the oversight committee of WHO? That's right, Dr. Tam. This is the committee that is there to make sure WHO does the right thing, and NOT bow to pressure from China. 
  • On Jan 14, 2020, WHO tweeted the virus was NOT transmitting from human to human. This, despite doctors treating patients in China getting sick. Dr. Tam did not stop them, but actually repeated that rubbish, despite warnings from Taiwan and Singapore.
  • Jan 20, China finally admitted the virus was transmitting from human to human. Dr Tam insisted there was no risk to Canadians. Flights continued from China.
  • Jan 25, first Canadian case, a man who returned from Wuhan.
  • Jan 26, second Canadian case, that man's wife. Dr. Tam insisted risk is "low".
  • Jan 27. Dr Tam chastised those worrying about the virus as "racism".
  • Jan 31, Trump acted on his "China ban". Meanwhile Dr Tam continued to insist there is no risk, and travellers continued to come here from China. Canada's numbers showed a steady rise.
  • Feb 19 to March 4 - As Iran became the new hotspot, Dr. Tam continued to resist calls for travel bans. By this time, Singapore, New Zealand, Vietnam, Taiwan, USA, Italy had all acted on travel restrictions, but not her. Canada's numbers now began to rise sharply as returnees from Iran began to show signs of infection. 
  • By March 4, returnees from USA were showing signs of infection. One of them rode the TTC and Go before testing positive. Dr. Tam insisted the "risk is low". She also said travel bans were of no use. She also said don't wear masks.
  • March 12 - Mrs. Trudeau tested positive, and all hell broke loose.
  • March 30, the CDC says you should wear masks. Dr. Tam still denies it's of any use.
This is why Dr. Theresa Tam needs to be fired.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Why Dr Theresa Tam, Chief Public Health Officer of Canada, Needs to be Fired

Recently there was an article on how Canada's COVID-19 response is led mostly by women. A lot was made of the fact that Canada's Chief Medical Officer, the Deputy PM, and the top doctors for several provinces and cities (Toronto/Vancouver) are all women. Now to me, I was never a big fan of Trudeau's gender balanced cabinet. Personally, it doesn't matter for a job whether you are a man or a woman. What matters is how good you are at the job. And I am not that impressed with this group.

Going by our numbers and our state of the nation right now, most of these women (sorry, most of these employees) have been HORRIBLE at their job. And at the top of the pack, led by Chief Public Health Officer of Canada and head of the Public Health Agency of Canada, Dr Theresa Tam.

As far as I am concerned, when all this is over, she needs to be FIRED. 

The only reasons she shouldn't be fired right now is that we are in the middle of a crisis.  At the minimum, there should be a public inquiry on how badly she has mismanaged this crisis and how these so-called "experts" have failed Canada every step of this crisis.

Let's take a look at some facts.

  1. As early as Dec 1, 2019, Taiwan told WHO that the virus causing COVID-19 was a case of human-to-human transmission. WHO chose to believe China, which defiantly lied and said it was NOT a case of human-to-human transmission. Canada (and Theresa Tam) chose to believe WHO.

    You can say it was the fault of WHO, which was trying to appease China, but why did Dr. Tam not take the cautious and conservative approach of preparing, just in case ? You are there to prepare for the worst, but hope for the best.
  2. As things deteriorated in China, Dr. Tam continued to emphasize that the risk to Canadians was "low". It wasn't until January 15, 2020 that Canada activated its Emergency Operations Centre. Yet flights from China continued to come to Canada daily. Plane loads of people, whether they were affected with COVID-19 or not, continued to flood into Canada.

    US President Donald Trump banned anyone from China coming to USA (with certain exceptions) on January 31. Meanwhile Dr. Tam continued to toe the general line that "travel restrictions does not work". Canada did not ban foreigners from coming to Canada until mid-March, when it practically had no choice.
  3. Iran reported the first case of COVID-19 on Feb 19. One of the first cases in New Zealand came from a family who had recently traveled to the Islamic Republic. At least three of the first 12 cases in Canada came via Iran, as did all 33 initial cases in Iraq. In the United States, the first confirmed COVID-19 case in New York City was a health-care worker who had returned from Iran, and Los Angeles also identified a coronavirus patient from Iran who passed through LAX.

    Yet Canada continued to allow passengers from Iran to disembark in Canada. Flight after flight came in, and plane loads of people disembarked. One of the infected travellers even rode the TTC and Go on March 4, 2020. This was when community transmission probably started in earnest. And yet, Dr. Tam continued to insist the risk to Canadians was "low".
  4. On Thursday morning, March 12, 2020, Ontario premier Doug Ford told the people who were planning to travel for March break to go ahead "and enjoy themselves". This, despite the fact that USA (the most likely destination for many) had become a hotbed of COVID-19. Remarkably, even on March 12, Dr. Tam had no dire warnings for Canada, even as the situation worsened. By this time, Europe (especially Italy) was the new epicentre of the disease. Still planeloads of passengers continued to come from Italy into Canada with no screenings at the airports and no restrictions. Where was Dr. Tam? She was sleeping on the job, it seems. Risk to Canadians - "low".

    Just wash your hands.
  5. Suddenly, late Thursday night, March 12, 2020, Sophie GrĂ©goire Trudeau, the wife of Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, came down with flu like symptoms after travelling from UK. She was tested for COVID-19, and the result came back positive.

    All hell suddenly broke loose.
It wouldn't be unfair to state the Canada woke up after Mrs. Trudeau tested positive. Suddenly we stopped going to work. Suddenly schools were closed - initially for two weeks, and then indefinitely. The situation was no longer "risk is low". The situation was suddenly "stay home". Businesses were immediately shut down if they were considered non essential. 

The number of cases jumped, and continues to go up daily. The healthcare workers are suddenly complaining of a shortage of masks, gloves and other PPE.  There is now a Global News article on how we have to choose who gets to live in Canada due to a shortage of ventilators. The news is grim and this week is critical.

So the question remains - why is Canada now REACTING to the crisis, rather than being PROACTIVE? It remains Dr. Tam's responsibility to make sure we were not just prepared for this crisis, but on top of it, without it ruining our economy. 

So how did we go from "risk is low" to the "situation is grim" in the blink of an eye?

There was never a perfect solution to this. What we could hope for was to delay the onset of the crisis as long as possible and limit its effect once it was here. 
  • When China became the ground zero for the crisis, we should have immediately banned all travellers and flights from China. In fact, Air Canada suspended its operations in China long before any government directive.
  • When Iran became the epicentre, we should have barred any traveller who had been to Iran in the last 14 days from entering Canada, whether they were showing symptoms or not.
  • When the disease moved to Italy, we immediately should have suspended all travel from Europe. 
  • In all these cases, surprisingly US President Donald Trump took these decisions. But even he was late, and his details diluting the intent of the action. But at least HE TOOK the action. Canada, based on Dr. Tam's advise, never did. 
  • If you argue that this would mean denying Canadians entry to Canada, it would only be temporary. Just like we did for Canadians stuck in Wuhan, there could be separate flights to bring Canadians home (just like now).
  • When you bring these Canadians home, they should have been quarantined in a place away from the community (just like those from Wuhan were held at CFB Trenton for 14 days). Then you would not have had the community transmission which is how it is spreading now.
  • When reports emerged of Seattle being the hotbed of USA cases, we should have immediately closed the border to US citizens except essential travel. Instead, we were told "the risk is low" and we continued.
  • When the first infected traveller rode the TTC, that should have been it for start of social distancing and other measures. Yet we were told the "risk is low" and we continued.
  • Until Mrs. Trudeau got the virus.

There are things that we can be doing RIGHT NOW to abate the disease. Yet, we are not.

  • Get local factories to make test kits and ventilators. If we need them, we have them. If we don't, we can export them to the States.
  • Why are we not ramping up immediately to produce more PPE? Where is the plan for that?
  • How long are we planning to stay in shut down mode? Where is a plan to return to normal? How are you going to sanitize public transit?
  • Today there was a speech by the PM and for the first time we are hearing that masks are a good thing. Yet for so long we were told "don't wear masks".
  • What is up with the supply chain? When can we expect Lysol wipes?
  • What are you doing to keep control and track of inbound travellers to avoid another spread?

So, Dr. Theresa Tam, what did you actually do with all that expertise? And why should you not be fired for gross negligence? 

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Is this world a simulation?

As a believing and practicing Muslim who also loves science fiction, I find the recent musings of some key figures (such as Elon Musk and Neil deGrasse Tyson) that "this world is a simulation" very fascinating. These quasi-philosophers (and I like to play one on the internet) say that we are all avatars, or characters, in some big simulation and nothing is "real".

We know from our religion that our souls (programs?) are created separate from our bodies (avatars) that exist only in this world. We know that the sun and the moon are precisely programmed (Quran, 55:5). In this world, everything we do is recorded by the angels in a scroll (our activity log).

We know that God created the universe in 6 days. In Islam, we have long accepted that these "days" are not like our 24 hour days, unlike Christianity. And part of the reason is that we know this universe took millions of years to take shape. And God says His day is not like our days. But consider that on His day 1 He ran Day1.exe. On His day 2, He ran day2.exe. I am just speaking in terms a computer layman can understand, but you get the point. The time inside a simulation does not mean the same time outside the simulation. We know this from our own simulations, such as SimCity or The Sims. And you don't even need time dilation to explain this.

Since Allah is the creator of everything (39:62, 13:16 etc), He is also the Creator of Time and Space.. He is not bound by constraints of Time and Space. That exists for us inside our reality (our simulation?).

Just to throw a spanner in the works: If it were proven that we live in a simulation, that would prove a creator, but not a perfect creator. Since our Creator is perfect, one would expect that the simulation would be perfect. If a simulation is only detected by its flaws, we would probably never know.

Then, Allah says in the Quran: "And what is the life of this world except the enjoyment of delusion." (Quran, 3:185).

The final answer: We probably wouldn't know. And after death (game over), we probably wouldn't care, except our final score!