Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Ebola: I don’t do policy, but…..

I know there are other subjects which require attention, but sorting out Ebola should have priority, because implementing a sensible policy could save lives. Every day counts when controlling an outbreak. I claim I don’t do policy, but I have a modest suggestion, which may simply show you why I should not be trusted with policy making.

What if we invited all the key government officials of Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea to an all-expenses paid conference in some African location, say a luxurious Cape Town beach hotel, assuring them that for every day they spent at the conference their carnal and material desires would be fully satisfied, and in addition they would receive a generous per diem payment through the usual obscure channels, and also that they would never be taken to The Hague to answer to any tribunal.

Then, in their absence, we could hand over Ebola management in those countries to Medecins Sans Frontieres, assuring them that they have the lead role and full command over such resources as those countries have available, with no need to consult the World Health Organisation unless they wanted to, and that their money will come from charitable donations only. They might need a large police force and a cadre of health workers. They can bring in Nigeria and Senegal if they wish. Westerners can help, but only if they agree that in the case of getting infected they will be treated in local facilities with their African colleagues. Flights are banned until the outbreak is over, or until there is a reliable quick test for the virus. The new management is told that to fulfil their side of the bargain they must stamp out the outbreak in 210 days, which is ten times the presumed incubation period. That is, no new cases after 19 May 2015. They can use quarantine, isolation, tracing, tracking, and incineration of bodies and contaminated property. Failure means that they have to apologise to WHO, sack all their PR people, and keep quiet for 5 years.

One would expect that, given the welcome change of country management, the owners of Microsoft and Facebook would step up their already generous donations and channel them directly to MSF. However, if you have severe doubts about the quality of Microsoft software, and bemusement at the purpose of Facebook, and thus would not like these organisations to dominate the proceedings, then you could send the new MSF medical powers a pair of rubber gloves.



  1. What are you offering African leaders that they don't already have? And do you think they would place a higher value on the welfare of their citizens than that of themselves, given the implied loss of credibility and potential future authority? Or have you crossed through a metaphorical time-warp into a parallel universe where leftists no longer exist?

  2. "Then (...)"

    I thought you were going to go the Masque of the Red Death-route and suggest infecting them all with Ebola.