Life in a Time of Covid

I write this at a time that I should have been packing up for a flight to Denmark before continuing on to California. I’m clearly not. Rather, I’m sitting in suburban Trier listening to the sound of aeroplanes flying to and from Luxembourg. Passenger flights remain suspended, but cargo flights are still coming and going.

Trier is as it always is. It is, in some ways, becoming more interesting and cosmopolitan. There is an established (and reasonably authentic) Japanese restaurant. There is a new “Mexican” restaurant, although I was rather more Mexican than the food. I can at least claim to have come into contact with things Mexican at some point in my life.People are coping reasonably well, life has returned to some semblance of normality.

The border with Luxembourg and France is set to open soon. Luxembourg threatened to sue Germany if the border continued to be shut. But, perhaps most surprisingly, there has been a sea-change. The German people are no longer as supine as they were in the past. They are not as obedient as they were in the past. There have been more and more protests. There were major protests in Hamburg, Munich and Berlin. There were protests on both sides of the German/Luxembourgian border. People have had enough.

As of next week, restaurants, etc. will reopen. I am pleased that the Minister-President of Rheinland-Pfalz, Malu Dreyer,  was instrumental in that. Merkel was equivocating. Dreyer announced in advance that if the go-ahead to open the hospitality wasn’t agreed upon, that Mainz would use its sovereign right to determine its own policies and open regardless of Merkel’s wishes.

From Copenhagen to Prague, from Vienna to Bordeaux normality is gradually returning in fits and starts. Meanwhile, north of France, they’re talking about imprisoning people for having the temerity to leave the North Korea of Europe, Boris Island. It boggles the mind.

Author: Christopher-Dorset

A Bloody Kangaroo

15 thoughts on “Life in a Time of Covid”

  1. Hi Christopher!

    I had not realised that you had deserted Blighty for the comforts of Germany.

    I, too, should be elsewhere – cruising down a European river to one of my favourite cities, Budapest, before continuing on to the UK via, I had hoped, Carcassone. I doubt that I will ever get to Carcassone. I suspect there are many people, like you and me, who are, at this very moment, thinking they would and should have been elsewhere. But, that’s the way it is.

    Here, in Fortress Australia, we have not yet reached 100 deaths. Some are asking whether the huge hit to our economy was really necessary and even questioning whether the ‘virus’ is real. Clearly many Ozzies do not read international news.

    We are insisting on an independent international investigation into how the virus began and how much the WHO were involved in a Chinese cover-up. We are being threatened by the Chinese government. I do hope we stand firm and that the rest of the world will stand tall with us. Although I understand that the EU has already capitulated to China’s threats.

    I found your comment re ‘the North Korea of Europe, Boris Island’ to be quite insulting. Maybe I misread you – I hope I did.

    I know I’m an Anglophile – how could I not be? But for those who simply quote figures and condemn the UK could I point out that the UK has a population almost 5 times that of Italy and thus their death toll, despite being higher than that of Italy, is a far smaller percentage-wise. The UK is, now, including all deaths from the virus whereas some other EU countries are not.

    I’m not saying the UK has done particularly well, Being an island it should have shut its borders PDQ. But the fact that it has shut its ‘new’ hospitals says to me that the NHS is coping with the problem.

  2. Boadicea: It was a very sudden thing. My nan’s caretaker was visiting her family in Poland when first Poland and then Germany shut their borders. My uncle, aunt and Terror Cousin were doing their bit, but it was too much for them. With my job allowing me to work anywhere in the world so long as there is an internet connexion meant that I was best able to look after her for an undefined period of time. With absolutely nothing to do in Dorset, there was no real reason for me not to go. My flight was rescheduled for early September. Even though my flight hasn’t been cancelled yet, I rather suspect it will be in due course. There is still an effective travel ban on both sides of the Atlantic. Even if that is lifted, a possibility, but hardly a guarantee, there is still no real certainty that there will be enough of a passenger load to warrant those flights. Few North Americans are eager — or even financially capable — of flying to Europe right now. Fewer Europeans are eager — or even financially capable — of flying to North American right now. I gave notice that I would leave 1 August, booked a Eurostar to Paris and that’s it for that chapter of my life. The cost of living here is 40pc cheaper than it is in Britain. In the past, I was willing to pay that premium because life in Britain was far more pleasant and agreeable than in Germany, but right now…

    I’ve grown increasingly sceptical about how governments have handled the situation and how governments are proceeding. Had this virus emerged virtually anywhere else, the situation would have been very different. For example, when there was a Zika outbreak in Brazil, the Brazilian authorities were very open and upfront about it. When there was an outbreak of Swine ‘Flu in Mexico, the Mexican authorities were open and upfront about it. The same could be said for the outbreak of Ebola in Liberia and Nigeria a few years ago. However, the Chinese have been remarkably difficult about it and have sought to cover the situation up — with the help of their proxy, the WHO, from the very start. Once it could no longer be hidden, the Chinese sought to turn themselves into the victim-heroes. As such, that a state of emergency was declared and a short-term shut-down of economies was implemented was both logical and necessary. However, the extent to which fundamental civil liberties have not only been curtailed, but seemingly abolished is terrifying. The way statistics have been compiled is also terrifyingly dodgy. For example, people with stage 4 cancer, suicides, people who’ve passed away of heart attacks and strokes, even car accidents have been listed as Covid-19 deaths. When people insist that 2+2=5, I no longer take them seriously. When people insist that 1.27+0.63=5, I simply role my eyes and assume that they’re shameless liars. I also wonder what intentions really are when, for example, deaths are attributed to a disease without so much as a single test being made, without an autopsy being performed or when people with a disease are knowingly sent back to old age homes by authorities as was the case in New York. Other factors have also been left out — the high rate of lung diseases in northern Italy and Switzerland, for example. The fact that northern Italy is both densely populated (Italy’s 59,000,000 people are largely in the north) and that there is severe pollution there. Madrid, the epicentre of Spain’s crisis, is also badly polluted and has a high rate of lung issues.

    My comment was intended to be tongue-in-cheek critique of the rapid change in social climate in the UK. I was left in shock by how rapidly the UK changed. Within a few weeks, it became unrecognisable. The police went from being absent to harrying absolutely everyone — unless, of course, it was in dodgy or dangerous areas in which case the police proved to be as absent as ever. At market, a constable was insisting on ensuring that everyone was exactly 6.5 feet apart. A journalist was harassed by a Met constable for stepping to the side at Hyde Park to write a text message. An old man’s door was broken down by multiple police who stormed his house because someone had heard multiple voices and the sound of merriment outside. It turned out to be a half-deaf man who had, like many other hard-of-hearing elderly, turned his television up. Then, of course, there was that constable in Leicester who threatened a man with arrest after he pulled over to the side of the road to take a telephone call. He threatened to fabricate an incident because a constable’s word would be taken more seriously than a civilian’s. Nor do I entirely approve of a woman being arrested in London and sentenced for a non-existent crime. Yes, she was annoying but being annoying is not a crime. The shut-down in the UK has taken a sinister, almost totalitarian tone. When listening to Spotify, every 10-15 minutes an ad came on telling me exactly what I was permitted to do, when and how. When people questioned the wisdom of taking the lock-down that far, they were savaged in the media in ways that sound more like something that Karl-Eduard Von Schnitzler, host of East Germany’s “Black Channel” would wholeheartedly approve of.

    I do not think that people should have been allowed to do whatever they pleased, as they pleased. I fully understood the need to avoid crowds and large gatherings. I did not object to those being broken up. Nor did I object when the Met broke up a house party in Harmondsworth — something I was witness to. What I did object to is people sitting alone on a field keeping a safe distance from others being harassed, what I did object to is a ban on friends and family members being able to see each other. Two people taking a hike or playing chess in a park is not a grave threat. I know one man who was a refugee from the USSR, a Jewish man from the Crimea who fled one of Stalin’s anti-Semitic pogroms. He has been very vocal in his concern about how the government, police and society have changed so rapidly and in ways that remind him far too much of what he fled. I have also spoken with people from Poland who have told me that all of this reminds them far too much of what they grew up with in the 1970s-’80s: the twitching of curtains, neighbours ringing the police because someone left their house twice in a day, the public humiliations of people who don’t visibly toe the line. (Not wearing a mask publicly, stopping to rest for a minute, etc.) Again, I’m not objecting to there being a ban on large crowds gathering or people gathering together in close quarters. I do, however, see a profound difference between a large house party and a homeless woman sitting alone on a park bench. (The incident in Victoria where 8 police officers circled her) There is a profound difference between an impromptu concert in someone’s garage with 30,40 people packing in and an elderly couple taking a 5-minute break on a park bench. In Rheinland-Pfalz, the police have handled the situation well. When 3-4 friends sit opposite each other on park benches and chat while eating take-away ice cream, they won’t say anything. A safe distance is kept and, in spirit, the law is respected. When a group of 7-8 teenagers were gathered in a close flock, the police disbanded the group and give citations. That is reasonable. The police didn’t say anything when a single person visited someone’s house for a cup of coffee, but if there was a party, they did intervene.

    Nor do I see there being any sense or logic to what the government is now planning. Summary house-arrest for anyone who dares to leave the British Isles at this point no longer makes sense. When the pandemic was blowing up, flights from Wuhan were allowed to land and passengers let in with no more than a leaflet. When the pandemic was growing, there was a single hand-sanitiser station put up at Heathrow. (I spoke to someone in mid-March who had just returned from Barbados) People were travelling back from northern Italy and were not stopped during the peak of the situation in that region. Intercontinental travel at the moment is very, very limited. Even regional travel is very, very limited. France has been pragmatic. People who return from outside Europe are forced into house arrest, but not people travelling from within Europe simply because the situation in Germany, the Netherlands or UK isn’t significantly worse than France’s. People arriving from Ireland won’t be stopped, even though the situation there is far worse than it is in Germany or Sweden, for example.

  3. Christopher, you may have seen this site. If you zoom in on the planes, you can see their call signs. Many are, as you say, cargo. https://www.flightradar24.com/. Still a lot of planes in the sky.

    In Zimbabwe, there is zero plan, just thumb sucking. We have 36 cases and 4 deaths, officially. In reality, nobody has any idea. But that has not stopped the government locking us down, though they do not have the resources to prevent social distancing which is entirely unfeasible given the living conditions and poverty of the bulk of the population. But it makes the ZANU chefs feel powerful. They will follow South Africa, more than likely. In that country, people are getting very uppity and I doubt it will be long before there is unrest. Ministers have imposed arbitrary rules such as banning cigarettes and alcohol sales. After 7 weeks, you an imagine tempers are getting frayed.

    Boadicea, I am not sure where you got your figure about Italy’s population in comparison to the UK. Italy has a population of 60 million, the UK 65 million. (That excludes illegals, which may increase the figure significantly, but not 5 times). But I share your view that it is a tad unfair to single out the UK at this stage. Actually make it up until yesterday. Boris’s latest announcement strikes me as being neither fish or fowl. One can debate whether he was wrong not to have followed (or rather led) the Swedish strategy or whether the lockdown was correct. I think that the initial 3 week lock down was probably right, to help the NHS and give it a head start, but thereafter they should have opened for business as usual. If the virus is as bad as they claim, nothing will prevent it from taking its toll. There is no point destroying the economy to delay the deaths of a few thousand people by a few weeks. On average 1 in a hundred people die in the UK and Italy for that matter, every year. That is 650,000 give or take. The majority of the 30,000 or so that have died as a result of Covid, would have died anyway. But now we shall see not only a lot more deaths as result of the lockdown, but also a lot more misery and depression and a devastated economy which in turn will lead to even more deaths. It makes no sense to me.

    Toby Young of the Spectator has a blog that is worth looking at. https://lockdownsceptics.org/

  4. Christopher, in reference to your remarks about the changing face of the UK under Covid, I urge you to read this chap. I have mentioned him before. His first two books were published in 1938 and 1939. He was in Germany and Austria as a Times correspondent. Remarkably prescient. He predicted it all but was ignored by his editor and so resigned. His third was published in 1941 when he had returned to London. See what he says about the officiousness and self-serving incompetence of those in power. Shameful behaviour.

    Free downloads.
    https://archive.org/details/InsanityFair_201708/mode/2up
    https://archive.org/details/DisgraceAbounding_775/page/n7/mode/2up
    https://archive.org/details/in.ernet.dli.2015.206842/page/n11/mode/2up

  5. Christopher: By and large, I agree with you.

    There seems to have sprung up a new plague. Can we call it “Covitis,” or is that name taken? Its chief symptom is a loss of common sense. That is most obvious in the “Covidiots” who would infest our public spaces, but can also be found in various Gummint officials.

    We in the USA are far from immune. Governmental approaches have ranged from the eminently sensible to the flatulently ridiculous. As an example of the latter, there’s a University-owned ocean research vessel that just returned to port after *two years at sea*. So how did the authorities celebrate that return? They quarantined everyone on board! (I didn’t know that whales carried the virus.) Another recent example involves a chain of car washes that are fully automated. Just put your money in the appropriate receptacle at the starting end and drive on through the magic water tunnel, with *no human interaction* required. I saw the chain’s owner on TV a couple of days ago, talking about how carefully they’d thought it all through and listing the precautions they were planning to take on top of their inherently safe mode of operation, all of which information they had sent to the “appropriate” authorities. Yet the State politicos insisted they wait a few days to reopen, until “official guidelines” (note: guidelines, not mandates) could be issued.

    The approach taken in the UK is different, although from better. I suppose I could understand elected officials’ viewing the police as dull, unimaginative and to be tasked only with enforcing strict adherence to the letter of the law. But what if the laws were poorly thought out and badly worded in the first place? Why is it left to the police to decide whether a purchase or a trip is “necessary?” Are children buying Easter eggs to be criminalized as a danger to society? And what gives the police the right to go through anyone’s shopping trolley in search of “unnecessary” items purchased along with “real foods,” disinfectants, loo rolls, etc.?

    Other countries have their own litanies of error but at the moment I’m too tired to go on. My dear wifeperson and I are alright in any case, locking the gates, raising the drawbridge and generally keeping ourselves well isolated from that dangerous world out there.

    At least we have the dogs (both carefully selected, even if unelected, and who can correctly count up to 9 so far as we know) to keep us company!

  6. Sipu: I’m hyper-sensitive to out-of-control governments. I grew up with grandparents and remember a great-grandmother who went through the Third Reich. I know too many people who fled communism, risking everything to do so, often making very grave sacrifices. My great-grandfather was arrested six times by the Gestapo and came close to being executed for openly opposing Hitler. His wife, my great-grandmother, was a crypto-Jewess. I’m not about to shut up and be a good boy to get a properly distanced pat on the head from the Muppet of 10 Downing Street. Is the UK the only country to have seemingly lost the plot? No, far from it. However, in most countries, there is far more resistance and far more vocal calls for the lockdown to be ended or at very least phased out. I spent 3 weeks in the UK for lockdown and just over a month now in Germany, as the lockdown here has quickly started to be phased out. Here, so long as people are behaving responsibly and not being obviously stupid, they’re left alone. You’re asked to wear a face covering in enclosed public spaces. There are limits to the number of people in most stores at any given time. A bit of an annoyance, but fair enough. All stores are open again, coffee shops, restaurants, museums and hotels are opening up this week. Were mistakes made? Yes, but there has never been anything but clarity on the part of the German government and commitments to citizens and businesses have been met. In the UK, even demanding that the government make commitments is often met with anger and finger-wagging. Having a debate about the lockdown is fair enough and if a phased wind-down is necessary to assure some members of the public, so be it but even demanding that there be a plan is a deeply unpopular view to hold in the UK at the moment.

    Cog: The government is trying to look tough. In reality, it’s just being nasty when it’s too late for “being tough” to have any meaningful impact. For example, their insistence that all sinners who dared to be outside of the British Isles confess their mortal sins to the Home Office and then submit to enforced house arrest for two weeks isn’t going to help. Airlines, airports, shops, hotels, small museums, etc. were already preparing for an uncertain future and a travel season from hell. There was no real chance that millions of European holidaymakers would take their holiday in the UK this summer as is usually the case, but perhaps a small but steady streams — tens of thousands, perhaps a couple hundred thousand, could fill some rooms, warm the seats at some dining facilities, put a few hundred thousand into the tills of museums, etc. Now, forget it. A Dutchman visiting friends/family in the UK being turned away at the border is unlikely to bother making a return visit. An Italian or Frenchman desperate for a change of scenery, when faced with that confession form, is unlikely to think “maybe next year”. There probably won’t be a next time. I suppose the home office could simplify rules for Russian, Chinese and Indian holidaymakers… It isn’t only foreign holidaymakers. People from the South-East or parts of the Midlands/North with holiday homes in the West Country have been treated very shabbily for having the temerity to try to weather out the worse of the storm by the sea rather than in London, Brum or Manchester. When illegal migrants receive assistance from the coast guard but Nigel Farage is harassed by the police for showing what was going on, you know the plot has been lost.

  7. Just as well Christopher that you are not the only person to give me their opinion of the how the UK lock-down is affecting them! Their complaints are far different from yours!

    Sure the cases you mention happened – but I believe that the cops who decided they could decide what was essential shopping, etc were pretty soon stopped. Just as all the care homes here, who refused to allow adult visitors according to the ‘recommended’ guidelines and locked their residents away, were given an exceedingly long dressing down by ScoMo. There are people all around the world in positions of limited authority who will over-step that authority given half a chance. It’s the fact that they were not allowed to continue that we should applaud.

    I didn’t understand why we were not allowed to go for a drive in our self-contained car. But, the ban wasn’t designed to stop me but to stop all those who were heading for coronavirus-free small towns, doing their ‘essential’ shopping and stripping the shelves of supermarkets in those towns – as well as, hopefully, halting the spread of the virus.

    Unfortunately, rules have to be made for idiots. I took us into voluntary self-isolation the minute I understood the nature of the ‘Chinese Bug’. Others chose to visit events with thousands of people (just as they did in the UK) and would have continued to do so had the government not intervened.

    ScoMo is not China’s favourite person – he required all people coming from China to isolate for 14 days in a virus-free country before arriving here well before WHO declared a pandemic. Both told us we were over-reacting.

    We also let people from other countries in with no testing – despite the models of Singapore, North Korea and Taiwan in our immediate neighbourhood. But it didn’t take long before we realised that all those entering Oz needed to quarantine here – and when self-isolation was ignored – we ‘locked’ incomers into 5 star hotels for the duration – at tax-payers’ cost.

    Oh, yes indeed! Some had the audacity to compare their ‘confinement’ to being in a Nazi Concentration Camp… Methinks they need to take a few more history lessons!

    The only problem I have with the UK’s present attitude to overseas visitors is that it has come far too late. Britain consists of over 6,000 islands. Just how hard would it have been to ‘self-isolate’? Even those living in the 14th C knew that the best way to stop plagues spreading was to quarantine.

    As for borders being shut, you seem to be unaware that Oz has closed internal borders. I can now travel 50 km away from home – next week I can travel 150 km from home – those in Rural Queensland can travel 500 km. But internal borders are firmly shut and I still don’t know whether I will be able to travel interstate for my grandson’s wedding in Adelaide in October.

    Like the UK, there is a shortage of scrubs here for medics – my daughter has done far better than I – but we have both answered the call and turned our sewing skills to help. I have to admit, that it amazes me that the NHS has not collapsed.

    I’m not too distressed by the rules that have been imposed – we still have just under 100 deaths here for a population of just over 25m – and I see that the restrictions imposed to be a small price to pay to keep deaths so low. I’m sure those numbers will increase as we phase out. But, hopefully, we are now in a position to deal with local outbreaks.

    I understand where you are coming from Christopher and to some extent how you, Cog, might think about out-of-control governments. Oddly enough, I trust my Government – if only because it is still demanding an international inquiry into how coronavirus began despite all the threats from the Chinese Government.

    We have had demonstrations by people claiming that the virus does not exist (hardly surprising since we have had such a low infection rate), that it is caused by 5g masts, that it is a plot by Bill Gates to micro-chip the whole of humanity, etc, etc, etc. but, more specifically, that it is a Government scheme to reduce civil liberties.

    Let me assure you, that if I suspected it was the latter I’d be out there demanding that the rights I have voluntarily surrendered for the duration of this crisis are returned PDQ – and I am quite sure that most Ozzies will be there with me.

  8. As lockdown in German has started to be phased out you say, Christopher, ” All stores are open again, coffee shops, restaurants, museums and hotels are opening up this week ” Just a pity the infection rate in Germany has now apparently tripled. About turn perhaps? And there’s the 100 new cases in Seoul all from one nightclub.

    I’m quite happy to stay in the UK, laughing my socks off at Jeremy Corbyn’s even dafter brother and his weird ideas about the origin of the virus, Boadicea. Of course it couldn’t possibly have originated in the blessed communist state of China, according to the Corbyn comrades. Even Wuhan, that terrestrial paradise, is now seeing an increase in cases. And I think Bryan Adams has got it spot on.

  9. Boadicea: Taiwan handled the situation very well. Taiwan was able to send its own observers in very early on. They then developed a very well-calibrated and effective strategy to cope with it. As a result, Taiwan has not destroyed its economy or financial position. It was proactive rather than reactive. It was calibrated rather than haphazard and chaotic. At the same time, Taiwan received an unexpected blessing from the Chinese government. After Taiwan re-elected Tsai Ing-wen in a landslide and gave her party a majority in the Legislative Yuan, Beijing announced the effective end of independent travel from mainland China to Taiwan. I’ll spare you the details about the cross-strait travel/im(migration) situation. Their effort to spite Taiwan prevented its spread.

    I do, however, take issue with your separation of the WHO from the Chinese government. There is no difference, it has effectively become a proxy organisation for Beijing. The Chinese have well learnt the lesson of the Mudan Incident and have mastered the art of hijacking global organisations through carefully pushing candidates favourable to their interests.

    I have precious little sympathy for idiots who carried on as they bloody well pleased. I have precious little sympathy for those who drove from, say, the North Shore to Bathurst or Orange, from Southbank to Bendigo or Kangaroo Flat and stripped their shelves. I also have very little sympathy for the likes of those who packed into pubs or continued to host large gatherings. It is a bit like nightclubs in Seoul. It’s rather too early for mass-gatherings in cramped places. I broadly agree that a shut-down was necessary. However, I think it has gone too far and it’s become punitive.

    I was fully aware that Australia shut its internal borders. I was also aware that there were restrictions on how far people could travel. I was also aware that each state has handled it differently. Western Australia and South Australia were relatively open, New South Wales and especially Victoria had stricter laws put in place. Poor Gladys Berejilkian. She’s not a bad premier, but some of her ministers are drongos. Brad Hazzard’s allowing passengers from the infected ship to go free into the general population wasn’t exactly a moment of genius. She will have to be excessively careful because of that. Dan Andrews does rather like imposing his will on people, though, so it should be expected.

    The difference between how ScoMo approached it is that ScoMo was careful, measured and methodical. The National Cabinet has done remarkably well. There has been a great effort placed into ensuring that everyone was at least on the same page. Muppet has been the complete opposite. Within days he went from taking a Swedish approach (which actually respects laws and the constitution) to mass-incarceration. It was chaotic, haphazard and poorly thought-out. It became an offence to sit on a park bench and drink a cup of coffee alone, but people could return from Milan or Madrid and be on their merry way. Then, after the situation stabilised, the glorious Muppet decided that everyone who leaves the British Isles is subject to house-arrest as a punitive measure. That is, until Macron talked sense into him (I hate having to back Macron on anything) and he backed down allowing French citizens/residents to travel to Blighty without summary incarceration. Except that by making that concession to Macron, the eternal Muppet undermined the whole bloody plan. That concession, now made, cannot realistically be withdrawn. By agreeing to respecting the basic liberties of French citizens, all citizens of EU member states must be afforded the same treatment. As there are so few intercontinental flights and most are repatriations (what’s the point of visiting London when you can’t even stay in a hotel?) there is only a very limited impact. Furthermore, ScoMo ensured that all people returning to Australia were at least looked after. True, they can’t go home — but they have a place to stay and their necessities are provided for them. Is it great? Well, no, but come on, two weeks in a hotel and three meals a day? Muppet Stalin? Nope, no plan. Nothing. Is anyone going to do my shopping? No. Is anyone going to bring me soap, shampoo, toothbrushes, etc? Nope. Absolutely nothing. There is a very long wait for delivery slots so ordering is out of the question, not that I trust them to get my order right, anyway. So because I wasn’t prepared to abandon my nan in her moment of need, I am supposed to starve for two weeks and be filthy whilst starving. Brilliant. Nazi concentration camps? Please, unless someone was doing medical experiments on you, raping you, starving you to death and taking pot shots at you for fun, you probably need to tone down that rhetoric.

    ScoMo has also moved with all due speed to relinquish government controls as soon as possible. Muppet Bombshell hasn’t. Bloody brilliant, I can pop out twice a day! How marvellous. If I pop out three times, will Karen at the Window ring the plod?

    Sheona: There will be no about-turn. I have been following the numbers closely. There have been fluctuations, but they have not generally been excessive. Since 28 April, there has been a single day — 1 May — with a growth of infections of over 1pc. The general trend has been downwards. When localities have unusually high rates of infection, that locality will see more restrictions imposed — but not the entire federal republic. The press have made far too much of the situation. But they always do that, especially when they choose to take a position.

    There are limits to how many people can be at a shop at the same time. People are required to wear masks that cover their nose and mouth when in public places and “Abstand” is enforced. As I said earlier, the Seoul nightclub was opened a bit too early — there still shouldn’t be mass gatherings at this point. However, there is no reason why 2-3 people, wearing masks, can’t be in a small shop. There is no reason why, for example, people should not be able to share a park bench with one other person and drink coffee together. There is no reason why people cannot go to a restaurant and sit safely spaced apart. The German government is also being held to account by growing protests. Karlsruhe ruled that people cannot be denied their right to protest so long as they keep a safe distance from others.

  10. Sheona.
    I read a few articles on Corbyn’s brother. They confirmed my opinion that some people are just born stupid, etc and that, in the end, nature and genes will overcome all the ‘nurture’ we can give them.

    Christopher.

    Thank you for your very honest comments. Sometimes, here, we try too hard to rein in emotions.

    My attitude to the WHO and China is the exactly the same as yours – I, obviously, did not make that clear. I suspect our government has much the same opinion – although they have to be slightly more diplomatic. I am, however, pleased that they are refusing to be bullied by Beijing – despite some of our Limpy-Lefties trying to assert that we need to be ‘sensitive’ about our relationship with the Yellow Devil.

    Yes, I do think ScoMo has come across as being careful and methodical – and he has, apart from a few individuals, been supported by opposition parties. Also, in contrast to the UK, we had systems in place that made it easy to ensure that those of us over ‘that’ age could shop at dedicated times and those with internet access would get priority home deliveries. I can get alcohol delivered within 40 minutes of placing an order. But I do have to wait until the following day for food! However, the State’s ‘paper-work’ for contacting the ‘Care-Army’ arrived on the day that lock-down was being eased.

    I have to admit that I don’t think the UK has dealt with the problem very well. Unfortunately, I think the schisms over Brexit, the lack of a responsible opposition leader / party and all the divisions within Parliament have not made it easy to form a united front to deal with the crisis. I rather suspect that what’s been implemented has only been what the ‘ruling’ party think they can get away with.

  11. Boadicea: This pandemic has done much to fray my nerves. I’m by nature a sensitive and cautious person. My mother was a theatre nurse for many years, so I grew up surrounded by medicine and developed a love of it. I’m not a doctor, nor an expert by any stretch of the imagination. However, I’m more familiar with it than most laypeople. I also did a great deal of research into various pandemics and maladies throughout history — plagues in Japan, small pox in the Americas, the rise of the bubonic plague in China, the Great Influenza Pandemic, etc. From the very start, I’ve been very cautious and rigorously adopted enhanced hygiene routines (although I was already cleaner than average to begin with) and have been very careful to keep my distance. I can’t do much more than that. I lost the ability to go to gym — something that was part of a medically-advised routine to keep my stress, depression and anxiety under control. I have been cutting back for years until I have a quality of life worse than what I had when I was a schoolboy. I had few luxuries left, few joys remaining — going to gym, meeting friends once or twice a week for coffee, chatting over matcha lattes with the employee at the local tea shop, etc. That’s all gone now. I’m not even allowed to take a walk with a single friend. I am not allowed to have any social contact in the UK at all. I’m not even allowed to sit alone in church to think or try to clear my mind. Nothing. At the same time, I’m constantly being harangued with calls of “stay the f**k home”. Eventually, I stopped caring. I lost a $40,000+ a year job. I was on the verge of having a very comfortable life in a beautiful part of California, all gone. I still have my part-time job. As strange as it seems, this crisis has made me even more vital because I have so many years of experience in all aspects of that job. I’m better off than many, I guess — but it’s cold comfort when I have very little. I had enough of people with comfortable pensions, of people with safe, well-paying public sector jobs sneering at people who wanted no more than to be able to sit alone in the sunshine and try to make the most of the situation.

    Now, after I tasted greater freedom and normalcy (I was able to sit outside at a coffee shop today and drink a cafe au lait in the sunshine) I’m supposed to happily accept house arrest in the UK. Boris, my dear muppet, that horse bolted so long ago it’s halfway to the glue factory. Debating bolting the doors now is asinine. The fact that I will be able to at least take a walk, buy food and maybe — just maybe — be able to sit alone in a church in a couple of weeks is something I have to thank the EU and Macron for. That’s a bitter pill to swallow. It is also a bitter pill to swallow that I will likely return to Germany with my tail between my legs after backing Britain on a point of loyalty, honour and principle.

    In the US, the response hasn’t been as terrible as it looks. Trump’s mouth makes everything sound bad, but per capita infections aren’t out of control and US death tolls, even with inflated totals (a man I know of shot himself, he was counted as a Covid-19 death because he had antibodies) and malicious incompetence (the governor of New York knowingly sent infected patients to old age homes) it’s half that of the UK. Americans are not that healthy. The UK’s response has been disastrous and the amount of hectoring and finger-pointing has been well out of order. If people are stupid, they deserve to get hit with a fine — but the pettiness, the grassing, the hectoring, the screaming and shaming has been too much.

  12. Christopher, I sympathise with your frustrations from lost opportunities to incarceration. I am perhaps more fortunate than many in that I have a biggish garden and fabulous weather. I would rather sit at home with a cup of coffee than at some café. I am also able to go for walks. So, I do not do too badly. But I do have a huge frustration and that is what I consider to be the sheer stupidity of those in authority and those who support them for their continued enforcement of the lockdown. It’s not just the politicians, but the police and the officious jobsworths wherever they may be who irritate me. The first 3 weeks was logical, to enable the medical systems to get prepared for any potential onslaught, but thereafter it has been a disaster from which economies will not recover for a very long time and which will cause long term misery and possibly mores deaths than the virus itself. But that is my view.

    What I do find interesting is how your life has been so different to mine with respect to hygiene. At the risk of repeating myself, I grew up with a large family on a farm in this country. We were fairly isolated and had few friends to socialise with other than our ‘next door neighbours’, i.e. the family that lived on a farm, half a mile away, with whom we spent a lot of time. Like us, they were boys whose ages corresponded with ours. While our parents insisted that we washed our hands before meals and bathed and changed before supper or dinner (it depended on whether we were young enough to eat supper or old enough to join our parents for dinner), outside of those times we got into every kind of mess you can imagine. It was not that my parents were ignorant, they had been well brought up and my mum had been a nurse during the war and understood these things, it was just that they had a pragmatic approach to life. Think of 8 little boys running barefoot around 5,000 acres with guns and catapults, bikes, motorbikes and horses, fishing rods, tents and sleeping bags, catching snakes, monkeys and birds; making rafts and swimming in rivers and reservoirs, and so forth. We would make home made cannons and bombs, climb kopjes and fall out of trees, torment angry bulls and be tormented by angry bees. We fraternised with the children of the farm workers whose innate sense of hygiene was totally non-existent. We dared each other to taste anything and everything. If we had a wound, such as a grazed knee or a stumped toe, the dogs were suborned to lick it clean. It was common knowledge that the enzymes in their saliva were the perfect antiseptic.

    Here is the thing; none of us ever got sick. Well, one of the neighbours got measles once and we were quarantined for a week, but the rest of us were fine. I had what I think was flu when I was about 10, but from then until I was in my 30’s, when I contracted malaria, I was never confined to bed nor have I been since, except when I broke my leg. Apart from those occasions, I never took a ‘sickie’ at school or at work. I may get a cold every 2 or 3 years, but it is a cold and not the flu and never justifies staying away from work or any other appointment. My brothers too are never, or very rarely ill, nor are their children, or at least the ones that grew up in this country and experienced the laissez faire approach to hygiene that we were exposed to. I should point out that I am talking about infections, not things like reflux, which I did suffer for a number of years. My point being that I believe the modern world’s approach to cleanliness is utterly damaging and prevents children from building up a resistance to the variety of infections that we are exposed to. It is my firm belief that children need to consume a pinch of dirt a day in order to stay healthy. If that piece of bacon from the sandwich falls on the floor, by all means brush off any grit but it is still perfectly safe to eat. As for sell-by-dates, they are for people with more money than sense, while, as my dad used to say, doctors are for wets.

    For all I know, you are as fortunate as I am with respect to your resistance to infections ( I know, I am tempting fate). Maybe it is just down to genes. But when I see the number of people these days who have allergies coming out of their noses and who are susceptible to every infection that happens to be passing, I do wonder whether governments are giving people the right advice. Of course, there is a time and place for cleanliness and hygiene, but so too is there a necessity to build resistance in order to stay healthy.

  13. Sipu: In the short-term, you might get the majority to agree on something like this. In the mid-to-long-term, it is impossible. I’ve become so horrified by the British response — half the population want the lockdown to keep going on so long as the government pays them 80pc of their income per YouGov. Only about one out of three people want to go back to work as soon as possible — that I’ve been focusing my attention elsewhere. In the USA, there is a growing divide between those who have income stability and those who do not. There is a chasm emerging by cosseted public sector workers along with some pensioners and highly-stressed private sector workers, especially those in fields deemed non-essential, whose incomes and futures are increasingly precarious the longer it goes on. You are also seeing growing divides between younger and older people. For those whose careers and future prospects are on the line, there is far less patience for a lock-down than for those whose houses have been paid off and who can count on a secure pension. I look at my age group — those in our mid-30s — and those in their early 20s. If I, as with many of those in my age group, are rather annoyed about this there is a reason why. We finished university/technical education when the economy collapsed in 2007-2008. Many of us struggled along with part-time jobs, often two or three at a time (many took up gig jobs as well) in order to make ends meet. We weren’t looking at 7000-square-foot suburban McMansions, south-eastern bungalows or comfortable urban flats. We were looking at couples sharing small one-bedroom flats and being able to pay our bills — just. For many of us, it took until the last 2-3 years to finally become economically stable. It was quite a feeling to go from paying rent to your parents or sharing a small, two-bedroom flat with another couple to actually having a small house or a slightly roomier flat. It was quite something to go from desperately hoping that your 25-year-old car would last another 6 months to being able to afford something decent. In a moment, all of that was gone. We’re even worse off than we were 5-10 years ago. If this does end up being a V-shaped recovery and government grasp the nettle of economic reform, then maybe we’ll be fine and most things can be forgiven. But if we’re stuck in a prolonged downturn, don’t expect these divides to heal easily.

    If the UK doesn’t reopen soon, it can expect to turn into Zimbabwe with rubbish weather and worse pop music. The blessed NHS will really be in a bind as there won’t be much in the way of tax revenue to keep it even mildly functional. People forget that there needs to be money and an economy for healthcare to exist. Cuba has two systems. One for moneyed tourists — that one is world-class. The one for Cubans is a train wreck with no medicine, poor hygiene and ancient equipment. Italy is already spiralling out of control and Spain’s fragile economic recovery will be smashed utterly.

    In terms of health, I have a strong immune system. When I was growing up, my mother made sure that I played in the dirt. She made sure that I had vital immunisations — TB, polio, etc. but anything like chicken pox or measles she skipped. She’d rather that I get sick and get over it, building up a strong immune system. As I grew up, I became increasingly strict about personal hygiene. I have an extremely sensitive sense of smell and struggle with body odour of any kind. Living in major cities taught me not to take anything for granted. There were some seriously nasty, dirty people and I didn’t trust anything they came into contact with.

    I refuse to live in fear. I refuse to be lectured for refusing to live in fear. A lot of people, especially those who are of moderately secure means but are generally non-entities, have taken to enjoying the power they now have over other people. The ability to inform on them and be taken seriously, the ability to feel as if they’re somehow moral and ethical authorities. It’s ugly. It’s the smugness of those who did well out of the old socialist system, out of the old national socialist system. “Tomorrow Belongs to Me”, etc.

  14. As I said before, there are people in all countries who will use any opportunity to behave badly. We’ve also had people ‘reporting’ their neighbours, including medical workers, for leaving their homes, punch-ups (literally) in supermarkets by people determined to buy the last 20 packets of toilet paper, the last 10 packets of pasta, or a trolley load of Veuve Clicquot… It is not a British phenomenon – it is how some people, of whatever nationality, behave.

    Personally, since I believe that as long as the effects of this virus remain uncertain, Governments have no option but to ‘shut down’ society to try to contain it.

    I do agree that it seems to be an over-reaction to stop people sitting alone in a park – but I look at what happened here when Bondi Beach was left open. Hundreds poured onto the beach and no one could sit in isolation whether they wanted to or not. Rules cannot be made for the ‘wise’ – they have to be made for ‘fools’. At this time they are made for the idiots who are a health hazard to everyone – including the wise. I know I, and most others that I know, can behave responsibly – unfortunately, as has been shown, many others cannot.

    It’s not only young people who have had their future ripped away. Many retirees, who had their pensions reduced drastically by the Great Crash, have now had their futures ripped away again by this pandemic. At least the young have the ability and time to work to rebuild their future – the elderly don’t have either. I have to say that I’m pretty appalled by the many comments I’ve read by young people who have said that Governments should just let ‘the oldies’ die so that they are not inconvenienced.

    On a lighter note to both Christopher and Sipu!

    My parents were determined to protect me from every germ, virus or daily hazard! No one was allowed near me without a wearing mask, apparently I had three lots of ‘out-door clothing’ on the rare occasions I went out. I was never allowed out in the rain – I can remember the first time I was. And I can recall the first time I ever grazed my knee: I was utterly amazed at all that ‘red stuff’!

    The consequences were, as far as I’m concerned, that I got just about everything that was going. St Thomas Hospital London (I was once informed) has my many sojourns there on microfilm in their archives. I’m sure that will please some future family historian! Indeed, the frequency of my being on the ‘expected to die list’ meant that my parents were allowed to visit me despite the ruling at the time being that children could not have visitors. Well that’s what I was told.

    I survived. But, I am convinced that children need to eat a ‘peck of dirt before they die’ to accumulate immunities. I did the reverse to my parents and tried to let them build a good immunity system. My mother went berserk – accusing me of being a negligent mother – until a few years later, when she admitted that she just might have been over-protective of me.

  15. Boadicea: In Rheinland-Pfalz, people sitting alone or with one other person on a park bench were left alone. If a gaggle of teenagers decided that the rules didn’t apply to them, they received a fine. If people kept a safe distance from others in public spaces, they were left alone. If large groups gathered, the police dispersed them. If someone goes to a friend’s house for a cup of coffee, nobody cares. If someone throws a party, it’s a 2000-euro-fee for the host and 100 euros for the guests. The large majority of people played by the rules. The majority are being punished because of the minority. That is a grotesque inversion.

    I don’t take this seriously any more. I agree with Sipu. A short-term shut-down was necessary in order to buy time to prepare and see what was actually going on. The Chinese haven’t exactly been helpful or honest. However… The models used to predict deaths have overwhelmingly been based on bad numbers. Garbage in, garbage out. Why anyone took Imperial College seriously after their mangling of the Mad Cow Disease crisis boggles the mind. The fact that they admitted that they were wrong by a factor of 20 and still are being listened to is unacceptable. It is almost like one of those end-times predictions. With each passing missed date, they’re taken less and less seriously until only a hard-core group of cultists still hang on. I have also noted that Neil Ferguson decided that 67,000,000 people needed to be placed into summary house arrest and that the 800+ years of English/British legal tradition are dunny roll but he should be able to shag his married mistress. Andrew Cuomo decided that New York was to turn into a mass open-air prison, but that he could still have make-up artists, stylists and barbers keeping him chic. They obviously don’t take their own advice too seriously.

    Lufthansa cancelled my flight to London this morning. I’ve booked a trip on Eurostar from Paris to London. Had I spent the night in Frankfurt-am-Main and flown on a morning flight to London, I’d have been subject to house arrest in the UK. But because I will travel over French territory and spend the night in Paris, I’ll be exempt. Thank you President Macron and the EU.

    I have also noticed that when control studies are done and show that the fatality rate is akin to a severe strain of influenza, when doctors argue that we have to take a holistic, long-term approach they’re shouted down in the media by hand-selected “experts”. For example, bringing up the consequences of restricting access to medical care, the horrific increases in domestic violence, social breakdown caused by economic disruption and the general decline of health are all valid and important but people have nearly been penalised for doing so. Whenever debate is shut down, whenever “authorities” are hesitant to even acknowledge findings and information that doesn’t suit their positions, something is seriously wrong. But then, CNN have decided that Greta Thunberg is an authority on this so we’re in safe hands. The world was seized by a fit of mass-hysteria, governments included. Now, they’re trying to get out of it in a way that doesn’t leave them utterly discredited. In Germany, people have largely stopped caring and we’re getting back to normal. The government is being forced to go along with it. There are more protests this weekend planned and they are starting to turn more militant.

    I find arguments saying that the weak and elderly should be left to die disgusting. More support for them should have been put into place. For example, prioritising deliveries of food for vulnerable groups, giving them preference for non-emergency medical appointments. (A young woman or man with cancer still needs to be treated promptly, for example, but an annual physical exam can probably wait another couple of weeks Libraries could give vulnerable groups special access for a couple of hours a day to allow them to borrow films and books. Before leaving Dorchester, I volunteered to go shopping for vulnerable people. They emailed me a shopping list, I picked up the groceries and brought them to their doorstep. We at all times kept a safe distance. I left their bags on a table. They picked them up and left the money and walked away. I picked up the money and went. That is all fair and reasonable. But the way this has been handled, (The year of Woodstock is a good comparison — also a major global pandemic with H3N2, over 100,000 people died in the USA and over a million world-wide but the world wasn’t shuttered) will almost certainly be of greater interest in the long-term than the disease itself.

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