Tuesday, May 05, 2020

Coming Soon

Very soon were going to have an idea how much loosening can be done without a dangerous rise in infections. At the same time we’re going to see how much of the lockdown might have happened in each country without government ‘tyranny’.

Up until now Sweden has been our best bet for this kind of critique, and the absence there of stricter measures has certainly generated an illuminating proportional gap between what has been achieved with largely voluntary social distancing and what might have been achieved with more of the stick.

The prevailing platitude is of course is that well-mannered Swedes always had it in them to understand their collective responsibilities and act on these appropriately, yet the slow easing of restrictions may soon permit us to tell if even those touchy-feely Italians have an innate instinct towards self-preservation, if not indeed towards keeping nonna alive.

Some key US-based academic models of the pandemic have started to show a significant uptick in cases and fatalities in June as a result of re-opening. Given the incubation time of the virus we are probably still a week away from spotting any definite trend. 

Nate Silver tweeted today that there seems to be a clear correlation between R and Apple's mobility and urbanisation data such that at the moment the levels of infection are only falling off in the states where people tend to move around less. Mobility will, I'm sure, become one of the key challenges for Guatemala where, even with quite strict controls, covid-19 has kept cropping up along the Panamerican Highway. 

And from this we are also about to learn one more important truth: the extent to which the economic fall-out will turn out to have been a straightforward artefact of government policy.

Another tweet today struck me. This from Charlie Warzel, writer-at -arge for the Opinion section of the New York Times.
"The U.S. virus response feels so much like our response to gun violence. seems easy to prevent! others have! but it's not 'who we are.' a certain idea of freedom makes it impossible. so we move on and just learn to accept a level of human loss that other countries won't tolerate."
Could Americans really come to tolerate 2-3000 deaths a day as just the cost of doing business. People still send their kids to schools knowing that another pupil might show up with an assault weapon, but the risk profile of infectious disease seems different and also appears to have an innate tendency to smother the service economy no matter how much the freedumbos resist. 

It would also be almost absurdly selfish (and self-defeating) of the US to allow the virus to in effect become endemic within its territory when other countries have worked hard and made considerable sacrifices to near eliminate it. As ever they seem to be working with the Hollywood assumption that they’ll be the ones to come up with a vaccine first.

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