On Thursday, I spent at least 5 hours by listening to the Czech Parliament (the lower house) which discussed the government request to extend the state of emergency again (the current one has been in place since late September). The state of emergency isn't quite the same thing as a lockdown; but they are closely related because the state of emergency is a legal framework that allows the government to do potentially harmful things that it simply cannot do otherwise, at least not without very special ad hoc justifications. They include the closure of all non-essential shops in an area. Our non-essential shops are closed now (although they were opened in December for weeks) and even some supermarkets are not allowed to sell non-essential goods (I couldn't clearly see the difference, however, the rules must be confusing).
Communists whose votes are needed to keep the minority government (coalition of ANO i.e. the billionaire PM Babiš and the social democrats) in power already had doubts about the extensions of the state of emergency in the past. They often succeeded in reducing the duration of the extension but it didn't matter because the state of emergency was later extended again, anyway. Now they helped to cancel it which finally could matter. Only ANO and social democrats want to continue. Other lawmakers have adopted the prevailing view of the Czech public that it is just too heavy a weapon that doesn't really bring much of an improvement in anything. The government hasn't been able to refine its policies so that the people would feel that the policies help more than they harm.
Many of the speeches were impressive, I did admire Tomio Okamura's (anti-lockdown) talk, among others. But even the most hysterical pro-lockdown talk by the social democrat Zaorálek had some quality I have to appreciate (and of course I will forgive him a few exletives).
PM Babiš's speech was nominally a pro-lockdown, moderately persuasive monologue but I think it was clear that he actually didn't have a strong opinion and was ready for a different setup. A guy who wants to keep 30% of votes simply can't afford to sound extreme in either direction. It's expected that the regional governors will declare the state of danger which allows to restrict the economy as well but not as much as the state of emergency. They may also request the restoration of the state of emergency by the government. If and when the government does it (after the Parliament said "No"), a well-known communist lawmaker with batons Comrade Ondráček will immediately submit a criminal charge against the government for its "abuse of the power of a public official". So many mechanisms still seem to work here, including the Parliament, the public opinion's influence over the Parliament, the police, courts, and their interactions. It's an important enough topic and some controllable battle is taking place. I find this preservation of the rule of law vastly more important than some detailed changes of the Covid parameters.
Before the Christmas, the fearmongers' main theme has switched to the new mutations of the virus. I am still amazed by the amount of hype in these talking points and by the huge fraction of the public that immediately switches to the new kind of hysteria. Sometimes in Spring 2020, every brainwashed person would talk about the flattening the curve, full hospitals. Then the "cases" became super popular again. Since Christmas, all these brainwashed people are screaming names of the mutations, despite the fact that the mutation is an unavoidable part of life on Earth (and, almost certainly, not only on Earth).
So we've had the hype about the British mutation, South African mutation, Brazilian mutation, French fries mutation, Szegedin mutation, Scotch Whiskey variant, Russian wheel mutation, Greek yogurt version, Arabic coffee subspecies, and many others. Most importantly, we have teamed up with our former compatriots and created the Czechoslovak mutation, too. ;-) Almost none of the people who use such terms can have an idea what they mean, whether they are mutually exclusive at all, and whether they make anything worse. Right, I do believe that some mutation is responsible for the new increase of the cases, a rather fast increase of R0, e.g. in Czechia. But in this late stage of the epidemics, such an increase of R0 will only lead to a very small total number of casualties at the end. Much of the re-acceleration will be compensated by a faster decrease because the more contagious variants speed up the growth as well as the decrease of the epidemics.
Meanwhile, you may see the graphs from South Africa, a country that gave its name to one of the most important mutations. You can see that the number of cases and deaths was clearly dropping in recent weeks. They probably have a lot of the South Africa mutation (although it's not necessarily the case, after all, China doesn't have much of the China virus) and the overall impact of the South African mutation on the public health may very well be beneficial and perhaps very beneficial.
But none of the people who hysterically scream about these mutations cares about any of these actual facts. They are brainwashed and braindead animals who apparently think that it's just important to repeat meaningless geographic names of variants of the virus and this repetition itself is a sufficient reason for hysteria or lockdowns. And everyone is obliged to be hysterical after hearing these names, they believe. It is a reason for these things only in the eyes of the people who are scientifically illiterate, idiotic, braindead piles of manure.
The very transition to the new general theme of variants is insane. You know, if you things proceeded naturally, people would have never started with the obsessive PCR testing for Covid. We could have easily lived for much of 2020 while seeing a new kind of flu. We could have called it flu and after finding out that it is not really closely related to the influenza viruses, we could still call it the Chinese flu, while adding that it is technically not flu. Nothing would have changed much. We could declare the quarantines according to the standard rules that are used for flu. But the search for the variants is a higher level of the obsession with the testing and diagnoses. Now the people are supposed to not only test every healthy person (whether he or she is Covid positive) but also the variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that he or she carries. It's insane. Will we measure the angles by which the RNA molecule is rotated somewhere? Can't you see that things have gotten completely out of control? These seemingly scientific operations have turned into a totally meaningless religious ritual whose only real consequence is the increased hysteria among millions of gullible people.
There is still a risk that the Czech prime minister will go to the war by declaring the state of emergency despite the clear "No" from the Parliament. I think that in that case, he will lose the next parliamentary election. And he may be arrested for the various alleged subsidy frauds.
In reality, all shops, services, fitness clubs, museums etc. should open on Monday. We will see what it does with the utilization of the hospitals and the death rates (cases should increase, indeed, but it's just wrong to care). I am extremely far from being certain about the answer but I think that we are more likely to see a natural decrease of Covid-19 and the small doses that the extra people will get from others in the shoe shops will be helpful for the people's immunity and not really harmful. If something goes self-evidently wrong, I guess that the Parliament may rather quickly change its mind. But similar states of emergency have continued for a big part of the recent year. While Czechs live a rather relaxed life and no one is hysterically screaming at the violators or reporting the normal behavior all the time (and in particular, kids are playing outside, boblseding, and doing many friendly things just like before – quite generally, there is a consensus in Czechia that it's healthy to be outside), the restrictions are still restrictive enough and hundreds of thousands of people suffer economically and really badly. The government budget also suffers and the debt is growing at an unprecedented rate (although it still seems very safe in the Czech Republic case).
I find it almost certain the virus will be almost non-existent by the late spring or summer and its reappearance in Fall 2021 will be a tiny fraction of the ongoing cold season and there won't be anough political capital to revive the hysteria in Czechia again. It would be nice if we could really end the nationwide restrictions on Monday, and forever. And if it is not forever, I am just grateful for every month in freedom. Summer 2020 just seems amazing now even though we were waiting for a new state of emergency at that time.
Incidentally, tables show that Czechia is the first non-micro country (and fourth after Andorra, Gibraltar, and Montenegro) in the percentage of the population that has been declared positive by PCR tests. While many countries had just "several people per 100,000" or "several per 1 million" which is why they preferred those units, the fraction is substantial in Czechia and we may use a more familiar unit for fractions, one percent. ;-) In fact, the percentage of the Czechs who have been PCR-tested positive for Covid has exceeded 10%. It is 10.0171% after the Friday morning update. San Marino is 4% (of our number) beneath us and the next country is already 15% beneath us. The Czech leadership in the number of cases is really solid. I find it extremely likely that well over 50% of Czechs have already had the virus in their body. Most people aren't reported. A cool factoid from the Parliamentary proceedings said: Research indicates that the average Czech has 3-5 "close contacts" according to some definition. The average Covid-positive person reports 0.8 closed persons in Czechia and in my Pilsner Region, that number drops to 0.25. One quarter of a person! The Pilsner PCR testers are regularly discovering that almost all the people in Pilsen and near the city are Hermites who live at most with their ram and a chicken and avoid other people for years! ;-) Needless to say, the reason is that "reporting someone" means "bringing someone to trouble" (because the 10-day quarantine subtracts ~50% of the income, among other things) which is why most people are sick silently and the percentage of non-tested, silent positive cases should really be about 80%.
On the other hand, this does not translate to a shocking leadership in the deaths. 0.167% of Czechs have died from Covid. That's below Gibraltar, around 0.25%, as well as below San Marino, Belgium at 0.1859%, Slovenia at 0.1776%, and U.K. at 0.1707%. Italy, Bosnia-and-Herzegovina, U.S., and Portugal are still above 0.147% which means extremely close to Czechia. This accumulation of the countries in this interval makes it rather clear that something is repelling the countries from 0.2% – 0.2% of the population killed by Covid is almost a hard upper bound so far. It's a non-negligible fraction but it's still equal to 2 months of dying. The total number of deaths in the recent year only increased by some 15% in the most affected countries like Czechia. It hasn't really qualitatively changed the character of the dying process and it's clear that this uptick is temporary and a higher risk aversion makes the suffering longer in time. Very old people may have a "doubled risk of dying" each day in early 2021. That's very significant but totally suspending your life for several years is worse because most of the rest of your life (~5 years for very old people) may be miserable if you do it (and you can't really avoid the Covid risks in this way, anyway).