Thursday, July 09, 2020

Melbourne 2nd lockdown: fool me once...

First, basic facts. Australia has some 25 million inhabitants. Sydney and Melbourne are the largest cities, in the New South Wales and Victoria, respectively. The basic statistics page shows that Australia has had 9k cases and 100 deaths or so, only 4 of those were after May 23rd. The number of deaths per capita has been basically zero. Note that the seasons are reversed relatively to most of ours but the (currently ongoing) winter is really mild, too.

OK, because of "roughly a hundred positive tests per day", the Victorian authorities have re-established a harsh lockdown on the city. The 5 million people who are trapped inside cannot really leave the area for six weeks (a siege). They can't visit relatives. Restaurants, barbers, and most of other would-be non-essential things are shut down and so on.

Even the first lockdowns or national quarantines were criminally stupid, economically devastating, and the people responsible for them should get a life in prison or be executed. But doing the same thing again, for such a long time, even when everyone in the world who hasn't lost the last traces of the independent brain activity knows that the lockdowns were a pure disaster that has brought nothing positive to virtually anybody? It's just incredible.

Bloomberg printed a prognosis that most restaurants, bars, and shops won't survive this second hit which is going to be "catastrophic". I don't know how many will survive. The risks of the businesses' destruction is surely huge.

Even the leftist inkspillers in the British Guardian noticed that this time is different. The amount of positive feelings about the lockdown is much smaller than several months ago; and the negative ones are vastly greater. Many people's spirits are shattered, the Irish Times add. Why?

They describe it differently but the underlying reason is that lots of people have understood that all the positive spin about the lockdown were lies and all the negative claims about the horrors without a lockdown were lies, too. At the level of nations, there is no significant evidence that the lockdowns have helped a nation to improve the health situation; at the subnational level, there is some weak but visible evidence that the lockdowns have made the conditions strictly worse.

Months ago, the lockdowns were sold as a new thing that all the people who want to "save the world" should join. It was never tried before so it's surely great and important to do it. And that's why most nations mindlessly joined this insane, nearly global campaign. But now? It's not new anymore. The virus isn't really mysterious by now. Many of us have spent more time by investigating the properties of this virus and especially its propagation than we have spent with the flu virus and most other important viruses in our whole lives. And the "flattening of the curve" has succeeded but it just didn't solve anything, everyone can see clearly right now. At most, it only delayed some events that may restart as soon as you end up with the policies that are clearly unsustainable (because prohibitively expensive) in the long term.

The nations that avoided the lockdown didn't go extinct. In fact, Sweden saw the same number of deaths per million inhabitants as Spain, France, Italy, UK, and others. Belarus saw lower rates. Brazil is doing roughly just like Mexico, Chile, and Peru. But some countries avoided most of the suicidal cowardliness-driven policies, others didn't. At any rate, we already know that the lockdown is surely not "the thing" that decides about the life or death of a nation or a city. So no one will praise you, the folks of Melbourne, for being such nice people who damage your lives and the lives of other people in the city.

The negative impact of the lockdowns on the GDP is obvious, too. Most of the GDP numbers from the harshest lockdown months have already been published. For two months, the lockdown may reduce the sales and the economic activity by 15-50 percent, depending on the details, and the annual GDP drop because of the two months is estimated as 5-10 percent, some of which may last for years (we aren't quite sure about the future evolution). The excitement for the lockdown is gone but all the bad things – isolation from relatives and friends and the economic devastation – is still there.

We've experienced almost half a year of these Covid discussions and reactions. We may compare Sweden, a no-lockdown country, with Czechia because it's the really relevant comparison, I think. Both have 11 million people after rounding. Sweden didn't force anybody to be locked, Czechia did. Czechia did join the global fad in March and established a very early, pretty draconian lockdown. It was draconian in some respects (all the restrictions were immediately "laws" and not just recommendations left to the hypocritical people's decisions – the latter just doesn't work at all!) but it became clear quickly that many things would be vastly more relaxed here. So throughout spring, Czechs were pretty much freely walking outside, doing sports around their homes, whatever. No one was screaming at them that they were killing trillions of people by running alone in the forest – because virtually everyone in my country understands that these screaming machines are wrong and braindead (and because no one can scream at you when you are alone!).

But we adopted the mandatory covering of the noses and mouths on March 18th, as the first white nation, and it made a difference in the propagation of the virus, I am confident. On top of that, the tracing of the people with positive tests and their contacts was basically in place since March. In July, we switched to the Smart Quarantine which turns this process into the key of our fight against the virus. Only the professionals are fighting the virus now, as it was in early March and as it should have been at all times. I believe (but I cannot rigorously prove) that this process, along with the face masks, would have been enough to have those 351 deaths that we have now, too.

While Czechs joined the crazy global fad, like almost everyone did, and we're just not deviating in the "truly big things" in most cases, Czechs are faster in regaining their composure and common sense. The real panic, fear, and desire to fight the virus together lasted from mid March to mid April or so. The discipline with face masks and other things was already disappearing in late April because Czechs saw it was a farce and it became politically unavoidable that the loosening was introduced. And because the numbers looked great (i.e. very small), it was sped up and in early July, regular Czechs don't have to wear masks anywhere (not even in most situations in the hospitals!) and there are no tangible restrictions. 351 deaths per 11 million people, about ~1 dead person per day. Tiny relatively to the annual flu fatalities, between 1500 and 3000 per Czechia.

Sweden has 5,500 deaths with Covid. A huge difference. The dying is over in Sweden, too. But did Czechia avoid the 5,000 deaths or will they start to reemerge? By now, it's pretty clear that as I optimistically predicted, Czechs do understand that Covid isn't a fatal national threat and we don't want another lockdown – even if the numbers resembled the Swedish ones. It's clear that the face masks would be the first tools to be reintroduced if some policies from Spring 2020 returned, and it's happening very locally in our tiny outbreaks.

But we don't know for sure whether Covid will claim 5,000 Czech lives before it becomes largely irrelevant (43% of Czechs are decided not to get vaccinated when the vaccines are available). If we really avoid it, it means that our policies made some sense. But they were still extremely expensive. Even if you assume that the lockdown was needed for us to save the 5,000 lives that were "sacrificed" in Sweden (and the lockdown almost certainly wasn't an important part of the positive mix), we paid some $30 billion for those lives which is $6 million per life. Six million fudging dollars for the average life ended by Covid-19 – which were mostly very old or very sick people, in many cases, people who were simultaneously very old and very sick. Sorry, six million is too much for such a human life. Even with the most pro-lockdown assumptions about "what has helped", it is very clear that the lockdown was a big mistake. (And most of these rough calculations could have been done already in April or earlier.)

So I think that there wouldn't be a support for a full-blown lockdown even if the numbers were approaching the Swedish ones, like 50-100 new corpses per day. We still know that the health impact isn't existentially dramatic for any nation, it wasn't dramatic anywhere. And I sort of feel that even in the winter, we won't have 100 Covid dead per day (I think that many Czechs got vaccinated by tiny safe doses of the virus that have made it through face masks and the virus isn't lethally dangerous for them for a year or two). I am not sure, however. But the amount of data that we already have is huge. There should be a rational discussion – which cities Melbourne resembles and which policies it wants to emulate. There was no discussion in Melbourne. The leaders just restarted the draconian policies.

Although the new lockdown is vastly more unpopular than the first one, I am still amazed by the weakness of the opposition to similar insanities – and even repeated insanities – and the second Melbourne lockdown is quite an example of that. It looks like people really want to be obedient to as insane "leaders" as possible, and to do increasingly self-harming and irrational things that are prescribed by those "leaders". This seems to be where the Western psyche has evolved. The more idiotic and malicious the leaders are (and the more irrational, dishonest, or non-existent the justifications are), the better. Note that there are some good reasons to think that the Victorian "leaders" actually play a game that China wants them to play which makes the relative complacency of the inhabitants even more striking.

At the same moment, it's important to realize that I focused on Melbourne which does something extraordinary. It's possible that Melbourne and Victoria are relative exceptions and almost all other places, including the majority of the English-speaking world, has far more common sense. One must be careful about the alarmism of all sorts, including one that could be spread by essays such as this one. I am writing "Look, Melbourne has completely lost its mind, so the rest of the West is doing the same". It's vaguely true but Melbourne isn't quite representative. It was cherry-picked (by me and others) because what's happening there is an eye-catching story. This obsession with such stories is a disease, a disease that tends to be spread by journalists of all types (perhaps including me), perhaps a disease that many of us on the "anti-progressive" side also share.

Maybe we shouldn't behave like that. I am happy not to live in Melbourne and other places where similar extreme things are taking place and I am converging to the attitude that the evolution of the communities is governed by "mostly local social laws", anyway. So it's not really my problem that the population of Melbourne is tolerating such things: the negative impact will probably remain confined to Melbourne, Victoria, and Australia and it's not really affecting us. And their self-inflicted injuries could even be an advantage for others including us. Of course, the malicious media's approach is different: they deliberately pick the most pathological patterns of behavior, like that of Melbourne, and present them as role models for whole nations or the world as a whole. And millions of others buy it which is the real problem.

P.S. 1: There are just huge differences in the self-evaluation in different nations. For another example, Czechs generally respond in polls that we're corrupt. I am already confident that there is nothing true about these claims and we're actually less corrupt than Western Europe now etc. But the same huge differences appear in the prevailing interpretation of the ~100 positive tests. We get ~100 positive tests a day among the Karviná miners (who were systematically tested), in a city of 50k people, they say that it's not a big deal, the government says so, and virtually everyone agrees. We have clearly beaten the epidemics (the current serious cases dropped from the peak 100+ to 12 now, so of course it shows we did beat it and we could beat it even more if we wanted) and these tests are just a reminder that the virus exists in the real world, not that it is a problem. We could go even lower in the numbers but we don't want to because it's way too expensive and annoying to fight against tiny problems. A miner who is a pub regular was interviewed by a journalist from the capital and added: "I have been a miner for 30 years, went to 12 miners' funerals, and I won't šit into my pants because of a virus dude. Tell it to the chaps in Prague and now you may already fudge off now." Exactly. The same ~100 positive tests appear in Melbourne, a 100 times greater city of 5 million, and its inhabitants go completely hysterical. The people's reactions and economic losses have virtually nothing to do with the virus; they all live in the people's heads only. And the 41-year-old Canadian actor's death (due to some overreaction of his immunity system) is a great metaphor for the disease of the Anglo-Saxon world which hugely and pathologically overreacts to everything. The actor is already dead and the Anglo-Saxon world may follow him.

P.S. 2: There are some special locations in Victoria, especially the Muslim school named Al-Taqwa College, which had an elevated number of cases. This school had over 100 "cases". Clearly, the fact that it's the special "ghettos" where the virus moderately "thrives" should be a reason to think that it's less important for the non-Muslim bulk of Victoria. It's really just the mostly segregated ghetto's problem, not Victoria's problem. But they're probably not allowed by the political correctness to think, to realize this self-evident argument, so they evaluate the (modest, anyway) number of 100 cases as if they were infections that are uncontrollably spreading between all inhabitants of Victoria. PC destroys, PC kills.

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