BALI & COVID19 — an Involuntary Experiment in Epidemiology & Immunology

BALI & COVID19 — an Involuntary Experiment in Epidemiology & Immunology

Let me start by saying that I am neither an epidemiologist nor a doctor or virologist. I am just a keen observer. And what I am observing here in Bali is very interesting and deserves more attention.

So let me share with you what we are seeing here in Bali in terms of the spread and impact of the Coronavirus on the population.

While truly horrific news is coming from parts of Europe, the US and other parts of the world the Corona situation in Bali is very unique and more importantly very positive.

In short: BALI seems to be largely unaffected by the Coronavirus.

Unlike South Korea or Taiwan, this is certainly not due to any interventions such as testing, isolating, tracking, etc.. Because very little of this is happening here. Fortunately!

The only things that we see here are beaches being cordoned off and the majority of restaurants catering for tourists are shut. In fact, tourism has come to a standstill.

Which is not surprising as the airport, through which over 95% of all visitors come in has been largely closed for foreign arrivals since the first week of February.

Schools have been closed since mid-March and public offices also to a large degree.

But that’s about it. Other than that business as usual.

Traditional wet markets are busy as usual and all businesses catering to the local population function as normal.

Construction sites, at least in my neck of the woods, are busy as normal. And Bali’s agricultural sector as well as small industries and businesses which are not involved in tourism function as normal.

Corona & COVID19 stats for Bali

Here are the official numbers as of 17th April 2020.

Confirmed cases: 113 | Recovered: 32 | Deaths: 2

Are those numbers to be trusted?

Not really. Yet those numbers are nevertheless interesting — and that is, to put it mildly.

But first, let me tell you why the official numbers are not that reliable?

There is hardly any testing going on here. And the testing that is happening now has started very recently.

The number that I think deserves the most attention is the death rate. I suspect this one to be rather accurate. And even if the true death rate would be 10 times as high (unlikely) we would still have a mere 20 deaths by now.

The Crematorium in Bali’s capital city Denpasar does not see any increase in the number of cremations.

The hospitals do not have a flood of patients. There is hardly any talk on Social Media by people reporting about folks falling ill with Corona like symptoms.

The only thing I could find in Social Media groups is that business owners in Bali have reported an unusually high number of employees falling ill during November and December 2019.

Many of those have shown symptoms very similar to Covid19 symptoms. But all of them recovered from whatever it was.

Of course, this is merely anecdotal.

Oh, and by the way the two reported deaths so far are both foreigners, not local Balinese.

But it gets more interesting than this…

Now all this would hardly be noteworthy if Bali would be a largely isolated island. But it ain’t!

And this is where it gets really, really interesting.

Here is why:

Bali ranks among the world’s most popular tourist destinations. The island receives a whopping 6 Million tourists or more from across the globe every year.

Around 25% — 30% of those tourists come from mainland China. The Coronavirus outbreak started in China. And from there it moved to Europe and other parts of the world.

As for Bali, we should look at the following.

In 2019 between 1.2–1.3 Million Chinese tourists visited Bali.

That makes it around 25.000 tourists from mainland China every week.

And until mid-January 2020, before the outbreak of the Corona pandemic, there were 5 direct flights from Wuhan per week.

During January 2020, 113.000 tourists from China visited Bali. During December 2019 when the Coronavirus was already spreading the number of arrivals from China was even higher because December is very busy in Bali.

So during the months of December 2019 and January 2020, approximately 220.000 tourists arrived from China alone.

Bali stopped accepting tourists from China by 5th February.

So again: Since the Coronavirus outbreak started in China late November and up until early February almost a quarter of a Million Chinese visitors had their holiday here in Bali.

If we also count other nationalities then at least 400.000 foreign visitors had been to Bali between December 2019 and January 2020. And this is a rather conservative figure.

I won’t delve deeper into the stats. Suffice to say that a lot of people from China including Wuhan and Hubei province arrived in Bali while Coronavirus was spreading across the globe.

Therefore it is highly likely that there were significant numbers of people bringing the virus to Bali.

So most epidemiologists will agree that with this kind of numbers the virus must have made its way into the local population of Bali. Probably in rather high numbers.

Yet there are no signs of a pandemic at all here.

It is also worth noting that at the end of March Bali celebrated one of its most important religious festivals. Namely, Melasti where almost all the Balinese flock in great numbers to their temples to worship. And while performing their religious duties the temples are densely packed with devotees.

Perfect conditions for a virus to spread.

Many people, including myself, were holding their breath in anticipation that within 2 weeks after those religious celebrations we would see the pandemic come into full swing.

Meanwhile, 3 weeks have passed and… Nothing!

No spike of people falling ill, let alone patients with severe conditions or deaths.

For reasons of completeness I also need to mention that a lot of Balinese people are working on cruise ships around the world. And we know that cruise ships are ideal breeding grounds for viruses.

The majority of those cruise ship workers have returned back to Bali during the last few weeks. Most of them have neither been tested nor quarantined after their return.

So what on earth is going on here??

Bali and Herd immunity

Some people have claimed that Bali seems to be building up herd immunity quicker than in other places of the world.

While I agree with this observation I feel the fact that so few people in Bali have fallen ill let alone have succumbed to the disease is where we should focus our attention.

As I said I am no expert on epidemiology or virology.

My only background is that after I was diagnosed with an auto-immune disease a few years back I became obsessed with and very passionate about health, nutrition and all that comes with it.

I spent countless hours devouring lots of information about autoimmune diseases and the human immune system.

I personally have been able through nutritional intervention and other lifestyle changes to reverse my auto-immune condition almost completely. I feel healthier than ever before. But I am digressing here.

During my research into nutrition, life-style related diseases the pivotal role of our immune system became abundantly clear to me.

After all, it is our first line of defence and determines how well we cope with the constant exposure towards viruses, bacteria and toxins.

It is proven beyond any doubt that those people whose immune system has been compromised are the ones who become seriously ill or even succumb to COVID-19 related complications.

Virology experts agree that while Social distancing, tracking, and other interventions do mitigate the spread of the virus it is still the Immune system that determines how well or not we cope with this and other infections.

The numbers we are seeing in the US and other first-world-nations seems to confirm this. After all, the USA has the highest rate in the world of people suffering from lifestyle and auto-immune diseases.

So it is not far fetched to conclude that their Immune system is not up to task.

In Bali on the other side, it makes a lot of sense to come to the opposite conclusion. Namely that in spite of the virus certainly making its rounds people’s immune system seems to deal much better with this ‘nasty agent’.

Considering that Bali must have had rather high exposure to the virus between December 2019 and now it makes a lot of sense to draw the following two conclusions:

Firstly that the immune system and its response to the virus seem to be working significantly better in Bali than in other parts of the world.

And secondly, as a consequence, the population here in Bali may have already reached a high degree of herd immunity towards this virus.

I really wish that some experts in Immunology and Virology would come to Bali and figure out what is really going on here.

Certainly, some interesting lessons are to be learned from the odd way Bali has not been affected by COVID-19’ that wreaks havoc in many parts of the world.

Can we also have some sort of Immunity towards the economic impact, please…

But I am afraid that would be too much to ask for…

Unfortunately, there is no immunity or medicine against the economic impact of the pandemic that is depriving Bali of its main source of income. Namely tourism.

After all 70% or more of the money made in Bali comes from tourism which most pundits agree will be in the doldrums for quite some time.

It is therefore rather plausible and sobering that once the dust has settled and count has been taken many more people will have been badly affected by the economic repercussions that will continue to reverberate for quite some time…

Of course, Bali’s successful involuntary experiment with COVID19 could be all just a matter of luck. Yet the odds for this are rather slim.

Or it could also be that certain spiritual forces are guarding over Bali… I can’t comment on this though because I do not know how to navigate the realm of ‘woo-woo’ and ‘hocus pocus’.

And on that note…

Stay safe and healthy and see you (hopefully) soon here in Bali. Either just for a holiday or for a build-up of your immune system…

Whatever it may be that leads you to Bali our wonderful island welcomes you.

Truly’ DOMINIK

ABOUT DOMINIK: I have been living and working in Bali for over 20 years. I am a business owner, a Slow Photographer, a father and a nutrition & health enthusiast.
If you have gotten interested in Bali and would like to visit Bali you can find some inspirations 
at this link.

Please visit my website at: DOMINIK-PHOTOGRAPHY

Source: medium.com/@dominik.vanyi

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