Capitalism, the state and epidemics: Event 201

biotech/health

The Event 201 simulates the outbreak of a new coronavirus of animal origin that is transmitted from bats to swine and eventually manages to be transmitted from human to human, resulting in a severe pandemic. This coronavirus and the diseases it causes have been modeled on the basis of a combination of the “experience” of SARS (high lethality, low human-to human transmission) and the “experience” of swine flu (high transmission, extremely low mortality rate, an outbreak beginning from a pig farm in a south american country -then mexico). The scenario, as it unfolds, looks surprisingly similar to the current situation, with one great difference -at least compared to the killer [virus]. Covid-19 is NOT particularly lethal (perhaps the corresponding real mortality rates are even smaller than those from the common flu), BUT it is presented as a lethal one! And this is something we shouldn’t lose sight of because it is a crucial piece of evidence from a politically antagonistic perspective.

According to the official site of Event 201, the scenario is as follows:

The disease starts in pig farms in brazil, quietly and slowly at first, but then it starts to spread more rapidly in healthcare settings. When it starts to spread efficiently from person to person in the low-income, densely packed neighborhoods of some of the megacities in south america, the epidemic explodes. It is first exported by air travel to portugal, the united states, and china and then to many other countries. Although at first some countries are able to control it, it continues to spread and be reintroduced, and eventually no country can maintain control.

There is no possibility of a vaccine being available in the first year. There is a fictional antiviral drug that can help the sick but not significantly limit spread of the disease.

Since the whole human population is susceptible, during the initial months of the pandemic, the cumulative number of cases increases exponentially, doubling every week. And as the cases and deaths accumulate, the economic and societal consequences become increasingly severe.

The scenario ends at the 18-month point, with 65 million deaths. The pandemic is beginning to slow due to the decreasing number of susceptible people. The pandemic will continue at some rate until there is an effective vaccine or until 80-90 % of the global population has been exposed. From that point on, it is likely to be an endemic childhood disease.


The Event 201 was a “tabletop exercise” for combating a deadly pandemic held in New York on October 19, 2019. Covid-19 hadn’t appeared yet; however, this time coincidence has led to the idea in their excitable and fictitious minds that: Aha! They had preplanned the whole (current) pandemic thing!

There’s no relevance at all! We will repeat it many times: NO relevance! Conspiracy theorists are the fifth column that obscure facts the way the bosses love it! (After all, the “countermeasures” suggested during the Event 201 “hygiene drill” are a far cry from what is happening now) This specific “drill” was not the secret meeting of humankind’s potential murderers!! It took place publicly, in the full glare of the media spotlight, and was widely viewed online (more about it later). It’s important to recognize what it really was: a high-level “readiness exercise”! And if its study provides us with an opportunity, this can be the discovery not of any kind of “conspiratorial cabal”, but of the …foresight of the capital!…

Or, to say it in our own words: we are offered a proof of a certain capitalist tendency… Because a heretic may wonder: who cares what a “public health crisis” could bring -always from a capitalist perspective- compared to a catastrophic volcanic eruption from a large volcano? Only for “humanitarian reasons”? (No way!…) What has become generally exploitable (from a capitalist point of view) in health and more specifically in epidemics/pandemics, especially something that can’t be found in other natural disasters? What is that which makes, for example, an “exercise responding to a pandemic” appealing, which a (not still yet) “exercise for an attack from outer space” doesn’t?

Maybe a suggestive answer comes from the particular interest shown in pandemics (to the point of obsession) by microsoft’s founder Bill Gates -his foundation was one of the hosts for Event 201. Any billionaire could have his “humanitarian concerns”… We know, though, that there is a very close correlation between the evolution of the 4th industrial revolution and Health Big Data, the massive acquisition , the “smart” processing and the distribution of conclusions (for diagnoses, new chemical substances that can be developed into medicines, and so on) drawn from personal health data –and indeed in constant flux, for ever!! Our “suspicion” (that is our knowledge) reaches to thinking that all the variety of artificial intelligence, big data management, new materials, biotech, computer-based behavior modification, and so forth, technologies (and companies) have a particular interest in epidemics/pandemics.


Facing this scenario, the invited participants in the exercise (who, according to the event’s organizers, had no prior briefing) had to think of and submit ideas and suggestions for dealing with the worst that could happen· each one of them, depending on their experience and their position within the international distribution of business enterprise and ruling power.

For the record (and for the reason that you must have a general idea of the identity of the “players” participating in the particular exercise), the following took part in the Event 201:

Latoya D. Abbott, the senior director of health services for the u.s. hotel chain Marriott International…

Sofia Borges, the u.n. foundation’s senior vice president and head of the New York office…

Mr. Connett, the president of Henry Schein’s u.s. medical group, the american arm of an international corporate group specializing in providing medical and dental products and services (from vaccines and medicine to financial services and equipment)…

Chris Elias, president of the “global development program” of the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation, specializing in global health issues…

Timothy Evans, a current academic (with area of responsibility, the school of population and global health at McGill university) and a former senior director with similar responsibilities at the world bank…

George Fu Gao, the director-general of the chinese “center” for “disease” control and prevention· a professor in the institute of microbiology of the chinese academy of sciences· president of the chinese society of biotechnology and of the asian federation of biotechnology…

Avril Haines, a senior research scholar at Columbia university and member of the american “national commission on military, national, and public service”. She is also a member of WestExec Advisors, an american private company that sells geopolitical and other related advice to “leaders” for resolving difficult problems… During the Obama administration, she served as an advisor to the u.s. president on national security issues and as the deputy director of cia…

Jane Halton, among other things, a member of the board of the australian ANZ bank, the australian strategic policy institute and the american institute of health metrics and evaluation…

Matthew Harrington, the global chief operating officer of the largest global public relations firms providing services to businesses and governments, the american firm Edelman…

Martin Knuchel, senior director and head of crisis management for the german airlines’ group Lufthansa.

Eduardo Martinez, the president of the UPS foundation and UPS chief diversity and inclusion officer, an officer of the largest international shipping company…

The vice admiral of the american pentagon Stephen C. Redd, a deputy director at the american “centers for disease control and prevention” (cdc)…

Hasti Taghi, a current chief of staff at the american NBC channel, with past experience in hospital administration. She is also involved in partnerships with the world economic forum…

Adrian Thomas, the vice president global public health at the american chemical/pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson, responsible for global public health programs…

Lavan Thiru, member of the monetary authority of Singapore and its chief representative at the New York office…