As we have written as early as February, it was our conclusion that COVID-19 would ultimately disappear on its own after a certain period of time, having inflicted a lot of damage to the world and the Western economies in particular.
In this article, thanks to the resources of pandemic modeling, we can now predict the timing of the end of the pandemic very soon and assess its final damage in terms of human lives and economic hardship.
But before delving into the projections, let us explore rap[idly the background and origins of COVID-19.
What is COVID-19 ?
COVID-19 appeared at the beginning of December 2019 out of nowhere and is one of the most mysterious virus ever experienced by science due to its unique properties of contamination, length of survival, self-defense and ability to suddenly hyper-stimulate the human immune system, making it, and not COVID-19 the principal cause of fatalities.
Obviously scientists around the world are scratching their heads to understand where it comes from, how it appears and how it has been spreading. It is now established that it did not appear in the WUHAN open-air animal market, that a number of cases appeared in locations with strictly no links to other areas of contamination, and that the density of the virus in human organisms tend to diminish significantly over time.
The other thing that has been established through the decoding of its genome is that it contains 96 % of the genome of a well-know Bats Coronavirus and that the evolution of the remaining 4 % is a mystery as most studies on the natural mutation of viruses show that mutating organisms happens very gradually with changes affecting 0.01 to 0.05 % of the genome at best.
Finally, one of the most intriguing facets of COVID-19 is the fact that originating from bats, a mammal, COVID-19 seems to be only attacking the human immune system and NOT other mammals human immune systems, and it is well-established that the human immune system has been evolving considerably over the past million years and displays far more resistance capabilities than the immune system of animals.
Considering the unique properties of COVID-19 and its sudden appearance out of nowhere, it is legitimate to raise the question of whether COVID-19 was engineered in Biological warfare laboratories and voluntarily or involuntarily spread in December 2019.
Viruses do not appear out of the blue and when they do they are very minute evolutions of existing viruses that have already been identified. This one is very different in that respect.
Biological warfare (BW) is the use of biological toxins or infectious agents such as bacteria, viruses, insects, and fungi with the intent to kill or incapacitate humans, animals or plants as an act of war.
Biological weapons are living organisms or replicating entities (viruses, which are not universally considered “alive” in nature and that can be spread easily through carriers due to their contaminating characteristics.
Biological weapons may be employed in various ways to gain a strategic or tactical advantage over the enemy, either by threats or by actual deployments. Biological weapons may be lethal or non-lethal and may be targeted against a single individual, a group of people, or even an entire population.
They may be developed, acquired, stockpiled or deployed by nation-states or by non-national groups. In the latter case, or if a nation-state uses it clandestinely, it may also be considered to be bioterrorism
It is perfectly known that most powers around the world have developed Biological Warfare capabilities in highly confidential laboratories, designated as P4 facilities due to their extremely high levels of security. They are often associated with research on genetically modified seeds or molecules for either agricultural or pharmaceutical purposes.
In strategic terms, Biological Warfare is considered to be the most cost-effective category of weaponry in the traditional arsenal of weaponry with the added advantage of being usually the least damaging for the attacking groups or nation itself.
Due to its extremely damaging effects, the use of biological weapons is prohibited under the Laws of War and the customary international humanitarian law, as well as a variety of international treaties. The use of biological agents in armed conflict is considered to be a war crime.
Biological Warfare is also considered to be one of the main tools in Asymmetric warfare.
Asymmetric warfare is war between belligerents whose relative military power differs significantly, or whose strategy or tactics differ significantly.
Asymmetric warfare is used in conflicts where the resources of two belligerents differ materially in an attempt to exploit each other’s characteristic weaknesses. It involves strategies and tactics of unconventional warfare, the weaker combatants attempting to use strategies to offset deficiencies in the quantity or quality of their forces and equipment.
Such strategies may not necessarily be militarized. This is in contrast to symmetric warfare, where two powers have comparable military power and resources and rely on tactics that are similar overall, differing only in details and execution.
Biological Warfare is not new…
The British Army attempted to use of smallpox against Native Americans during the Siege of Fort Pitt in June 1763. A reported outbreak that began the spring before left as many as one hundred Native Americans dead in Ohio Country from 1763 to 1764.
It is also likely that the British Marines used smallpox in New South Wales, Australia, in 1789. Recent research established that there are strong circumstantial evidence supporting the theory that someone deliberately introduced smallpox in the Australian native Aboriginal population.
By 1900 the germ theory and advances in bacteriology brought a new level of sophistication to the techniques for the possible use of bio-agents in war. Biological sabotage in the form of anthrax and glanders was undertaken on behalf of the Imperial German government during World War I (1914–1918), with indifferent results. It is still unclear whether the deadly Spanish flu pandemic of 2018 was of natural origin or the result of misused bio-agents by either of the belligerents of the First World War.
What is certain is that the Geneva Protocol of 1925 prohibited the use of chemical and biological weapons very soon after WW1.
With the onset of World War II, the Ministry of Supply in the United Kingdom officially established a BW program at Porton Down, headed by the microbiologist Paul Fildes. The research was championed by Winston Churchill and soon tularemia, anthrax, brucellosis, and botulism toxins had been effectively weaponized.
In particular, Gruinard Island in Scotland was contaminated with anthrax during a series of extensive tests for the next 56 years. Although the UK never offensively used the biological weapons it developed, its program was the first to successfully weaponize a variety of deadly pathogens and bring them into industrial production.
Today, America, Russia, China, France, Japan, Israel and many other third world nations such as Iraq, Iran, Syria, North Korea and Singapore are known to have included Biological warfare in their arsenal and have developed established capabilities.
Current theories floating around with regard to COVID-19…
Books by novelists often use facts of reality and incorporate them into fiction to write fascinating stories. In a bestseller writtenin 1981, Dean Koontz, an American novelist bases his novel on a virus developed in China’s Wuhan P4 Biological Warfare facility called the “Wuhan 400” that presents many of the characteristics of the current COVID-19 but with much deadlier effects.
According to various sources, his story was based on a still-classified part of the annual CIA 1980 WORLD THREATS REPORT that highlights the magnitude of China’s Biological Warfare capabilities and in particular viruses’ genetic modifications.
Some other theories link the Virus to America’s Biological Warfare capabilities and the interests of various industry groups in the spreading of such viruses.
As always, it is always difficult to make sense of these theories where, there again, actual facts are incorporated in hypothetical scenarios.
For our part, we have always been struck by the situation prevailing between North Korea and America in 2019 and the very serious threats addressed by KIN JUNG UN to DONALD TRUMP in October and November 2019 – see BEWARE OF THE HERMIT – and his promise to deliver Donald Trump and the world with a devastating “Christmas Present” before the end of the year.
The analysis of the long history of KIM JUNG UN and of his traditional way of addressing messages – pilgrimage to the Mount Paektu – leads u to conclude that Kim Jung Un is NOT someone who threatens lightly and does not deliver.
The sudden appearance of COVID-19 in December 2019 fits wih the timing and the seriousness of his threats as well a the unusually formal and public delivering of his message to the world.
It also fits well with the personal interest and knowledge that Kim Jung Un has always demonstrated towards Biological Warfare and with the typical Asymmetric warfare conditions North Korea is in vis-a-vis the powers of the world and primarily the USA.
Finally, the appearance of the Virus in China first also fits with the transmission mechanism that would be best available to North Korea while exonerating China’s responsibility for the pandemic.
Could such an act of biological warfare from North Korea happen without the blessing of China remains an open question, but the facts of the matter are that :
. North Korea claims to have NO contamination
. China has the LOWEST contamination and death rates in the world in proportion to its population.
. The pandemic first spread in China, South Korea, Japan, Iran and Italy, countries that all have a privileged relationship with North Korea
. The two countries that will be the most affected economically will be America and the UK, as the following tables will show, while China will gain another economic edge by pulling out of the pandemic earlier than the rest of the world – Wuhan has been unlocked only yesterday – and the pandemic will leave lasting consequences on the American society and economy due to its lack of social protection and its free-wheeling capitalist system.
In political game strategy, it is difficult to see what best than COVID-19 could weaken America and strengthen China.
The world should never underestimated the damage that Donald Trump caused by launching his 2018 Trade war against China .
The Chinese are not people to forget who has been attacking them, especially if they consider that they have been attacked unjustly. Donald Trump IS the enemy of China even if China’s culture is such that it will never admit to it officially. What best than using its seemingly crazy – but highly-dependent – neighbour to deal a lasting blow to the American system and it belligerent President ?
COVID-19 is also probably the most effective weapon to cause a personal defeat of Donald Trump in the upcoming Presidential elections IF it transpired over the summer of 2020 that COVID-19 was an act of Biological War initiated by Kim Jung Un targeting Donald Trump personally as officially stated in his November declarations.
Once again, this is only a game-strategy theory, but our role as analysts is to play geo-political chess and explore ALL possibilities and this is the one that is the most credible IF COVID-19 is truly a genetically-modified virus.
It is also highly likely that most intelligence services around the world have and are analyzing this hypothesis and they may have come to certain conculsions in that respect. But what is certain is that Governments around the world WILL NEVER acknowledge that COVID-a9 is an act of war for obvious political reasons.
This is why the complete scenario would imply an official declaration by KIM JUNG UN close enough the US presidential elections to quash the chances of Donald Trump of being re-elected and even eventually lead him to resign considering the “personal” characterization of Kim Jung Un’s November threat.
THE COMING END OF COVID-19
Thanks to trustworthy official statistics and modelization capabilities, it is now possible to announce that the COVID-19 Pandemic has now passed its peak in Asia and Europe where it will have almost disappeared by the end of April 2020 and will peak in May in the USA, the UK and India.
Statistics may not be trusted for China as a whole and dat is lacking in many emerging economies such as Africa, Indonesia or Latin America.
In addition, most countries are now shifting for full containment to a new strategy based on systematic testing and making the wiring of masks a compulsory obligation for people mingling in public. These strategies have proven their worth in Asia, and in particular in countries like South Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore.
As a result, we expect the confinement measure to be lifted earlier than most people think and a gradual return to economic normalcy during the month of May 2020
The following charts are giving. clear sense of the evolution of the pandemic . They are obviously optimal estimates with brackets of minima and maxima but they give a good sense of the situation.
United States of America
In America, the Peak of the epidemic will happen on April 12th 2020 and the epidemic will be over by June 14 when the number of deaths will come down to almost zero per day. The total number of casualties is estimated to reach 60’000 fatalities, making America the second most affected nation after the UK.
The UK stands to become the country with the largest number of total fatalities with 66’000 death, probably because of the time it took Boris Johnson to take the pandemic seriously. We all pray for him getting better soon. The Peak will happen on April 20th and COVID will have disappeared by June 2nd with no more fatalities.
Spain stands to end-up being the most affected country in Continental Europe with a total of 19’000 deaths. The epidemic has already started receding since April1st 2020 and will disappear by June 8th 2020, even if its medical resources will remain stretched for another month or so.
Italy was at the heart of the development of the pandemic in Europe and it is still unclear why it is Italy that was hit first. It passed the peak ahead of every other nation on March 27 and will be over with it by May 20th with a total casualties of 20’300.
France is already passed the peak and the pandemic will end earlier than the rest of Europe on May 8th with a total number of fatalities at 15’000.
Despite being more populated than France, Italy or Spain with 83 million people, Germany has been less affected by the Virus and will pass the peak on April 18th and have no more casualties as per June 6th 2020. Germany’s superior health system has never really put it in deficit of capacity save for ventilators.
Amazingly, Sweden, the only country in Europe that has not adopted any stringent containment measures will get out of the pandemic with a very small number of casualties at 4’100, even in proportion to its 10 million population. The peak is estimated to happen on April 28th and the pandemic end on May 30th.
The above simulations show that we are AT the peak of the COVDI-19 and that from now on the situation is to improve markedly over April and May 2020 for an official end of the pandemic in June at the latest.
If, as we expect, new types of measures will come into effect soon, this means that the return to normalcy may start in the third and fourth week of April and that economic activity will get better as of May.
When looking at the data, in the various countries, the net effect of the pandemic will have been to shut down economic activity to the tune of 65 % of GDP for a period of TWO months on average , followed by a gradual recovery that will shave off 25 % of GDP for an additional Two months until full recovery.
It is still difficult to see how lasting some consequences will be in terms of changes of consumption habits, unemployment and bankruptcies but what is certain is that the direct impact will be to see a GDP contraction of 1.8 % in the 1st half of 2020 and that economic growth in the second half may be slower than would have been the case normally, bringing the total GDP growth estimate for the full 2020 calendar year to zero or a marginal expansion.
What is also certain is that some economies will be more affected than others and primarily the ones with the lowest levels of social protection such as the USA and the UK, and the highest leverage such as America.
Continental and Northern Europe will probably ride the wave with marginal increase in unemployment, mainly due to small businesses and hospitality businesses going belly-up, while America and the UK stand to see there unemployment rates shoot up to 12 to 15 % in a more lasting manner.
We also China’s contribution to the world economy taking a new turn as Chinese consumption will probably be the main, if not the sole engine of incremental growth in the second half of the year.
The massive stimulus enacted by Central banks – more than 1.4 Trillion US dollars of bond buying in the past two months alone – way more than the accumulated total of the entire 2008 crisis decade – will inject liquidity and push inflation higher, but its ultimate impact on incremental growth will be limited.
The multi-trillion Fiscal stimulus will enable corporations and individuals to weather the shock in Europe and Asia, but will shave more limited effects in the USA and the UK where a non-negligeable portion of the population is going to experience hardship, real-estate liquidation and social downgrading.
Moreover, the final impact on public deficits, public dent and interest rates will make the US situation extremely delicate wit the need to raise taxes at the worst possible time in the coming few years.
Ultimately, COVID-19 will have exposed the frailties of the US and UK economic and social models and the un-sustainability of over-leveraged societies.
Politically, we expect a significant shift to the left of the US political scene with calls for generalised employment protection and medicare striking a chord with voters and the chances of Joe Biden’s bid for the Presidential post have been increased markedly and will increase as the full extent of the hardship appears in the coming weeks and months.
Economically, we expect very bad macro-economic numbers relating to the first quarter to be released in April, and even worse numbers relating to the second quarter to show up in July. This is why we are prudent on equities going into the end of April, expect a rally until the summer, and a relapse to the downside in the fourth quarter of 2020 in the USA.
China, Japan and Asia stand are probably starting a new bull market in May and June after a re-test fo the lows in April.
Longer term, COVID-19 will lead to an extended period of debt-deleveraging in the USA, the consequences of which are difficult to fathom.
We reproduce below our central scenario for the US equity market, to be revised obviously as and when economic data and corporate earnings come out.