A Tsunami of Disability Is Coming as a Result of âLong COVIDʼ
Comment of the Day

August 20 2021

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

A Tsunami of Disability Is Coming as a Result of âLong COVIDʼ

Thanks to a subscriber for this article from Scientific American which may be of interest. Here is a section:

Consider the numbers we know. At least 34 million Americans (and probably many more) have already contracted COVID. An increasing number of studies find that greater than one fourth of patients have developed some form of long COVID. (In one study from China, three quarters of patients had at least one ongoing symptom six months after hospital discharge, and in another report more than half of infected health care workers had symptoms seven to eight months later.) Initial indications suggest that the likelihood of developing persistent symptoms may not be related to the severity of the initial illness; it is even conceivable that infections that were initially asymptomatic could later cause persistent problems.

Common long-term symptoms include fatigue; respiratory problems; “brain fog”; cardiac, renal and gastrointestinal issues; and loss of smell and taste. Surprising manifestations continue to emerge, such as the recent realization that infection may precipitate diabetes.

For some, symptoms have now continued for many months with no apparent end in sight, with many survivors fearing that they will simply have to adjust to a “new normal.” More and more sufferers have not been able to return to work, even months after their initial illness. While the number of patients with persistent illness remains undetermined this early in the pandemic, estimates suggest that millions of Americans may enter the ranks of the permanently disabled

Eoin Treacy's view

The big question for policy makers everywhere is what do these figures mean for the projected size of the future workforce and dependency ratios. No one has a good handle on is how long lingering symptoms last. That data will take years to compile and not least because there is no set barometer against which to measure individual experience.

The other big upset from the pandemic has been the acceleration in the number of retirements. Many highly experienced people decided to retire in the last 18 months. Together with a lagged response from the workforce that suggests there will be fewer workers to fill roles in the coming years.

It is looking increasingly likely that the USA and Europe are ready to follow Japan’s lead in deploying more mechanisation into the economy.  Vertical farms are increasingly attracting investment with the first (AeroFarms) due to go public on the 30th.  They are not profitable at present but that may be possible with scale. These kinds of operations appear to be ideal candidates to fill vacant malls on the outskirts of major population areas.

Boston Dynamics acrobatic robots continue to excel in reminding everyone of the terminator movies. They obviously raise the spectre that Afghanistan may be the last ground troop heavy war. That’s dependent on battery technology innovation but the trajectory is clear. Russia is already deploying autonomous tanks. It’s obviously a lot easier to develop autonomous systems when killing rather than preserving life is the goal. At the other end of the spectrum, these kinds of robots are quite capable of doing the menial, repetitive, labour-intensive work of farms and warehouses.

These kinds of innovations have the scope to blunt the inflationary bias of a less productive workforce.

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