Thursday, March 19, 2020

April Fool's Day

Only a fool would think things will be getting back to normal after the first of April.

We closed the day on eight detected cases of covid-19, with an additional four hundred people in quarantine. 

Should the eighth turn out to be the last for a full fortnight, Giammattei could, in theory, declare that community transmission has been successfully smothered and that some of his key restrictions on public gathering might be loosened.

The problem is that without effective testing, there is no real way of knowing and the President has made it that much harder for himself by advising people with the milder, 'gripona' symptom set to stay away from hospitals. 

In effect, the mortality rate in the over 70s is going to have to be the canary in the coal mine. 

To be absolutely sure that the virus has not been spread into the general population already, he's going to have to wait (at least) a month. Yet it's highly unlikely that the detected cases will dry up immediately. Indeed, if the woman with a high fever who walked into a hospital in Zona 13 today tests positive, we've already shifted into the next phase. 

El Salvador has had its first confirmed case and Bukele says the virus came over the border from here, also suggesting that his Guatemalan counterpart may be fighting a losing battle. 

Meanwhile, the borders will have to remain closed to foreigners almost indefinitely. I'm allowing for at least six months, which is the timeframe that countries like Australia have set for their own restrictions. One will be able to leave, but I suspect the US airlines at least, won't be flying almost empty planes out here so that ex-pats have a route home, and the land border to the north is totally dependent on the situation in Mexico. (118 cases and counting.) 

Yesterday I watched a short video presentation from Gloria Álvarez (enjoying a temporary, enforced exile in southern Australia) in which she proposed a 'libertarian' solution to the economic problem. 

She seemed happy to make the assumption that the self-isolated/socially-distanced life is essentially less expensive than the one we would otherwise be leading. 

Her thinking seems to be that employers and employees could come up with a figure representing all the things that the latter would no longer need to spend money on, like trips to sporting events, restaurants and cinemas, which would form the basis of a negotiation aiming to reduce salaries accordingly for the duration of the mutual benefit. 

And assumption it is, because many people will in fact already be incurring additional expenses by choosing smaller, local suppliers or by getting stuff delivered, for example. 

And, it's also sort of bleeding obvious that the logic starts to crumble for the employers and employees of cinemas, restaurants, sporting franchises and so on. 

We are anyway experiencing a moment when the size of the economy as much as the size of individual salaries will be creating the sort of all-pervasive anxiety in which voluntary downsizing of any sort will hardly appear rational and reasonable in the sense that she is suggesting, for it's near impossible to predict where things are headed right now. 

All of our decision-making is clearly being hampered by this uncertainty. 

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