Sunday, 14 June, 2020 – 06:06
In the past week, we have learned that the 2020 F1 Grands Prix in Singapore, Suzuka, Sao Paulo, Austin and Baku will not, or probably will not, take place. take place. We have already lost the first half of the season including the much awaited Vietnamese Grand Prix. The underlying reason is that there remains great fear of the spread of the CoVid-19 virus and such fear is not misplaced.
But there is one place where ground can be made up quickly, easily and even cheaply.
Brazil has not yet reached its peak of the crisis but what it has is already amongst the most severe in the world. The other countries are widely considered to be close to their maximum risk or, even, over the hump but not yet safe and certainly should not be complacent.
It is into this environment that Formula One stepped in Melbourne for the first race of the season. At that point, almost nothing was known about CoVid-19 except that it spread fast and killed people.
We now know that there is a wide range of possible outcomes ranging from non-symptomatic recovery to long periods in ICU and uncertain long-term prognoses and death. We know that previous models for patters of infection are not as reliable as first thought and that those models are also not convincing in relation to the effects on e.g. the elderly, the young and those with underlying conditions.
We know that some ethnic groups suffer higher mortality percentages and that this is not directly attributable to either living conditions or available healthcare.
And we know that there is no treatment proven to be universally effective and that there is no vaccine available.
We know that testing kits have improved beyond all recognition since the outbreak began but that in terms of speed, convenience and cost there remains a long, long way to go.
We now think we know that a 14 days’ quarantine period is enough to identify those who carry the virus but we also know that people can be non-symptomatic and in the community for up to 14 days.
We know that a rough and ready assessment can be made using body temperature but we also know that some people have defeated such schemes.
We know that testing produces a point-in-time result as to antibodies and/or infection which might be different later and we know that criminals have produced false test results which is not to say false negatives – they are falsified as to the test having been taken.
We know that countries that put in place track-and-trace measures early have, generally, kept lower infection rates than those that delayed and we know that countries that compelled the citizenry to stay at home except for very limited purposes have similarly managed to keep the numbers of infection down.
We also know that many countries that closed their borders to all but their own returning citizens have now largely eliminated transmission within the community but are seeing cases amongst those returning home.
In some countries, certain localities, often with a defined population, have been hot-spots and those have seen some intra-community transmission – some several weeks into their isolation which undermines the idea that anyone who hasn’t already got it isn’t going to get it if they don’t meet anyone who has it or who is a carrier.
The idea of building a moat around countries has been at best patchy in most parts of the world. However in South East Asia, several countries have found it to be highly effective.
This is what we know.
What we don’t know is how effectively successes can be maintained when near-normal travel and activity is resumed.
Everyone is holding their breath as countries, which have had a wide variety of measures in place, start to relax them.
We know that there have been some spikes relating to movements have happened and we know that apparently random outbreaks have occurred.
We also know that one person can infect dozens.
Ironically, the great reality that governments don’t want to admit is that, in many countries, deaths related to CoVid-19 are not as many as those from influenza and that the number of CoVid-19 cases is often less than those related to mosquito borne diseases: the real problem with CoVid-19 is the danger that health providers will be overrun and that entire health service systems will collapse under the additional weight that CoVid-19 brings.
For most governments, it’s not about deaths per se – it’s about managing public fears and managing resources.
The question that Formula One is asking itself is this: how can we get the vast amount of racing, track and broadcast kit into a country, with its people, safely in order to protect both those in F1 and those in the host country?
In the UK, it has been decided that it’s possible and there will be two races, back to back.
This is because most of the F1 paddock is based in the UK and there will be significantly less movement of people and things across borders than for any other venue.
And, ironically, one of the things that is the cause of greatest criticism of Silverstone is, in this case, its advantage – its relative inaccessibility.
Also, its private airfield can ferry people and kit without them entering, even briefly, the general population.
The UK Government is granting a special waiver over its quarantine rules for those working at the races.
The question is .. is there anywhere else that can operate in such isolation?
The answer is … yes. Sepang in Malaysia.