Some common probabilistic misunderstandings linked to Covid-19

Misunderstanding #1:

‘BSL-4 labs are very safe. It makes no sense at all to point to a potential leak out of the the Wuhan BSL-4.’

Misunderstanding #2:

‘BSL-3 labs are very safe. They do not leak.’

Misunderstanding #3:

‘Whatever the LAI risk in China was in 2003–04, the situation has very much improved and the risk of an LAI in a Chinese BSL-3 lab is very small’

Misunderstanding #4:

‘Since we know that a SARS-like epidemic in China is much more likely to be triggered by a natural encounter with some animal rather than by any lab accident, saying that the recent epidemic may have been caused by a lab accident is simply unscientific and not worth discussing.’

Misunderstanding #5:

‘If you suppose that a community outbreak happens in China, then by definition it must happen somewhere. So there is no point saying after the fact that there was a small chance that it happened in Wuhan, of all places. It had to happen somewhere and it just happened in Wuhan by chance.’

Misunderstanding #6:

‘There is still nothing proving that the COVID-19 community outbreak was caused by a lab-related accident, whatever the probabilities. So it makes no sense to talk about a possible lab accident.’

Misunderstanding #7:

‘There may be very roughly a 1 in 10 year probability for a random SARS-like community outbreak in China but we know that coronaviruses outbreaks are more common (MERS, SARS pig, etc) across the world. We also know that populations living close to bat colonies in China carry antibodies for SARS-like coronaviruses, so this is only the tip of the iceberg and outbreaks involving SARS-like coronaviruses are much more common than that’.

Notes & References:



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Gilles Demaneuf

Gilles Demaneuf

Opinions, analyses and views expressed are purely mine and should not in any way be characterised as representing any institution.