The Tech that could have Fixed the Coronavirus.

The global coronavirus is a massive issue. Obviously. Along with tragic deaths and discomfort that will affect each and every one of us in some way or another, there are enormous social issues that this has given our society. Social distancing and distance learning are going to be those that most greatly affect us Etonians in the coming months, alongside the physical discomforts we may experience. But now it is certain, we can bearly leave our homes, parties and other such gatherings are off the table, but for many, going to a park or shop, or even outside is just not exactly feasible.

And as a result of this, problems are arising. The issues of educating the children of key workers, mortgages, and stockpiling food shortages are nearly behind us, in part due to the actions of charities, like our school. But issues like how best to treat people, how to care for doctors, deliveries, helping the elderly, when to stop social distancing, and the end goal of a vaccine. This article will look at the ways in which technology should, and could have been able to help alleviate the stresses of the Coronavirus if big government hadn’t got in the way.

First of all, deliveries of food and other items are a major stress for most people, and for good reason. If you are efficiently self-isolating, not leaving the house except for some exercise, not even touching anything while out, working from home, and eating through food supplies, you feel very safe. However, food supplies, especially those of fresh food, do not last forever, and the odd thing off amazon can be an immense help, but delivery drivers seem to pose a risk. They are the only people that a lot of people are still coming into contact with on a regular basis, and therefore a lot of people are fearful of them spreading this disease between households. There is a simple solution, and one that should be benefiting hundreds of thousands of people every day, drone deliveries. If a drone alone touches your parcel, there is no risk of it contaminating your deliveries with the Coronavirus. Yet government regulations, and misplaced fears of crashes or damage, led to enormous and growing legislative burdens on those willing to fly drones, in particular autonomously. This technology could have saved lives, and simplified the self isolation process for many people, yet failure to see the benefits of progress in general, haqs led to it not being ready in time.

A very similar story can be told of autonomous cars. Taxis and Ubers were widely publicised as the virus started to hit the UK as hotspots, where one ill person could give it to dozens every single day. Autonomous taxis, although still posing the risk of having to sit on the same seat as someone else, would have cleared up a lot of the human interaction that many people are fearful of when having to take a cab.

Then there is medical technology. Genetic modification has been strictly regulated for years, to the extent that companies or organisations attempting to do potentially life saving research have to be willing to pay deposit style fines into the tens of thousands, when the government decides to check their labs for potential “Class danger mismanagement”, i.e. saying it is a class 2 threat, when really the inspector decides it is class 3. This technology would have probably had very limited applications with regard to COVID-19. Unless a new vaccine, or antibody system happened to be discovered, maybe through SARS research, it probably would have had very little impact in the short term. But within the hundred year timeframe, it is impossible to estimate the innovation that could and should occur, if regulations are lifted.

With doctors and medical supplies, it is a similarly harrowing story of restricted potential. In America for example, doctors are only able to practice within their state. This means doctors cannot travel across state lines to help people, if needed, without getting certified in that state. Although these measures were recently lifted by President Trump, this was only several weeks into the outbreak, potentially contributing to America just taking the top spot in terms of virus cases. Furthermore, the trade in regulators and facemasks was still being regulated until last week, with non-UK certified facemasks and regulators not being able to be used in NHS hospitals, until the companies paid to be certified. There are no numbers yet with regard to how many life saving regulators and facemasks this prevented from being used, but when they are released, it will be interesting to see the real world impact of health commissions run by politicians trying to cover their own backs.

The vaccine is of course the largest area of impact for regulations having a direct impact on people’s lives, as well as tests. Vaccines have to have animal trials, human trials, EU and locally certified, or in the US, federally and state certified. They normally have to do long term trials to test that there are no long term side effects, in both animals and people, and they need to clearly work, more than standard immune response, otherwise there is no point. And a lot of these measures are necessary and highly beneficial to our society, just think of the enormous impact Thalidomide had on thousands of people’s lives. However, in the modern progression of medicine, where a lot of new drugs and vaccines are tiny variations of existing ones, much of this regulation is unnecessary, and we see that with the government’s drive to reach a vaccine ASAP. Similarly, tests, in particular antibody tests are being built and tested as fast as possible. But for the last decade such tests have been restricted and regulated on the fear of creating fear. Even though similar SARS and MERS tests were developed, they didn’t want everyone to be buying and terrifying themselves when they were the 0.1% false positive, and now there are limited numbers of standard tests, and no antibody ones, and the government needs them. They are cutting this regulation because they know it is safe to do so, within the context of the damage done if we don’t.

But why wasn’t this deregulation done earlier, before this virus killed and hurt so many people? Because there was no fear, no call to action, and no incentive, because they just didn’t know what was coming. But that shouldn’t be how science is done, motivated by the fear of politicians who just turn on the tap of progress whenever there is a war, viral or human. Progress should be controlled by the free market, striving to generate the best, most futuristic possible products that people will want to buy, whether that is a new smartphone, or a pharmacy buying a new vaccine against such viruses.

So hopefully governments everywhere take a leaf out of President Trump’s book and drain the swamp. Because the innovation stifling regulation may not have a huge impact on people’s lives every day of the week, but in a crisis, the ability to do more is greatly appreciated.

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