Tuesday, April 07, 2020

Czech PM may keep on moving towards Sweden, I hope

Czechia has seen an approximate 2-week stagnation of the new cases, see Onemocnění and the national WorldOmeters. The recent readings have been below 200 new cases a day (for a country of 10 million; the Monday morning figure was even 116), below the high of 380 around March 26th.

This trend which may look like a "minor, statistically insignificant deceleration" is likely to be statistically significant because the testing went up from 4,000 in average 2 weeks ago to 6,000 in average now. Czechia has right below 5,000 cases, some 80 deaths, 130 cured, 400 hospitalized (7% of known cases) including 84 serious (1.7% of known cases). Sweden, another country of 10 million, has no lockdown and 7,000 cases, almost 500 deaths, 200 cured, 600 serious cases. So all the "serious" counts are higher by a factor of 7, still not bad because those are still below the annual fatalities (and serious cases) caused by flu in the same Sweden.

Czechia is the leading country of whites that has adopted (and globally promoted) the Asian face mask culture – in a Bohemized, outdoors-style edition, of course. There seems a general consensus here that it helps a great deal. Less happily, we've had a lockdown, too. People are still allowed to go out, to nature, relatives, and some shops.

The permanently open shops have been grocery stores, apothekes, drugstores, tobacco shops, and some other "daily needs" shops, most electronics shops, and gas stations. Today, because of the relaxed numbers describing the dynamics in recent days, the Czech government is reopening hobby markets, building supply stores (so our Baumaxes and Hornbachs should be open in hours), bike shops, bike repair shops, outdoor sport places for noncollective sports (except for locker rooms).

All these reopened facilities need to embrace elevated rules of hygiene including gloves etc. for the clerks.

These changes of policies are being discussed with experts and, perhaps even more importantly, their consequences are being watched and evaluated. It's this scientific character of the approach to the problem that is perhaps more important than any particular policies as such. And science means that you don't know the answers in advance, you formulate the hypotheses, and you watch the empirical data and judge the hypotheses. Equivalently, science is not about doing mindless things and screaming that they are surely "scientific"!

So the loosening gives us a hope that we may start to move in the right direction, towards some normalization (hopefully a less normalized normalization than the Normalization after 1968).

I have never voted for Andrej Babiš and you know I have some trouble with his conflicts of interests, communist background, and more. But I think he is one of the optimal folks for this kind of "crisis management". He knows that at the end, he cannot and mustn't fight for unrealistic, infinitely expensive goals such as "no new fatalities". He knows that he can't shut down the economy for a very long period of time because it would be more destructive from every perspective. Even recently, he was bragging that a deficit of the budget is like a "loss" which would be unthinkable in his business. There will almost certainly be a huge budget deficit for 2020 but he will still work not to make it "super huge", I think.

Babiš has been comparing himself with the opposition using the slogan "we are grinding, they are babbling" and this "crisis" is a context in which I can appreciate it and feel that this self-praise was mostly genuine.

If the reopening of hobbymarkets happened to increase the number of cases by 100% (in reality, it will be at most a few percent and undetectable), well, we will still be below Sweden and Sweden is still doing perfectly fine. So there is quite some wiggle room here, room for trying to loosen the restrictive policies in many ways. Make no mistake about it: I think it would be perfectly fine if we loosened basically all these policies and even reopened the sports leagues (perhaps minus the sausages at the stadiums) and perhaps some low-density restaurants as long as we keep the face masks for a while.

While I am a supporter of face masks, I think that even the "innocent" face masks shouldn't be with us indefinitely, not even through the summer. They suck for various reasons. Even in Asia where they have been common as tools against flu, they were only worn during the "winter season".

It's important for Sweden to keep their expert-led tolerant policies towards this cousin of flu. Hysterical crackpots-and-activists have conquered the power over these decisions in all the other Western countries. Anders Tegnell is the epidemiologist who controls the Swedish approach so far (the prime minister allows him to make real decisions) and he is a real expert, not just a puppet. You know, public health tends to become a "social science" if not "humanities" and it's important that Tegnell has some actual background as a physician, i.e. a guy close to natural sciences, and not just as a public health bureaucrat similar to a community organizer, i.e. a guy from social sciences.

As always, it is the unscientific "social science and humanity types" that are behind all the destructive policies we are seeing in recent weeks, all the hysteria, fake news and unhinged rumors, lockdowns, and more.

Good luck to Tegnell, I guess he faces pressure from many sides, pressure to add Sweden to the community of countries currently controlled by authoritarian hysterical crackpots, idiots who can't even understand that Covid-19 is a flu-like disease and that's how it must be dealt with. And I hope that right after Easter, he won't feel isolated internationally.

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