Saturday, 14 March 2020

Denmark, Czechia, Slovakia and Poland self-isolate - should Romania do so?

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Danish borders will close at 12 noon today and air, ferry and train transport will be completely or partially halted to prevent the spread of coronavirus.


The Danish Prime Minister (42, female, Social Democrat, Donald Trump called her nasty for not wanting to sell him Greenland) said that until April 13 all foreigners with no good reason to enter Denmark will be turned away at the border. That includes all tourists. Danish citizens will always be able to enter.

The armed forces will be present at the border to back up immigration officials.

The measure comes after 801 people in Denmark have been found infected with coronavirus. Twenty-three of them are in hospital, four of them in intensive care, two of them are in critical condition.

However, the actual number of infected people is higher, as the National Board of Health no longer encourages people to call the doctor unless their symptoms are serious.


The Polish Prime Minister (51, male, a crunchy conservative, strongly opposes abortion and immigration from the Maghreb) said his government will do the same and go further. 

Restaurants, bars, casinos and some shops will be closed. 

At midnight tonight local time, Poland will suspend international flights and international railway connections. 

Poles returning to their country will undergo a two week quarantine. 

Slovakia is closing the country’s international airports and stopping all international bus and train travel. Czechia will bar all foreigners except for those with Czech residence permits starting on Monday.

Spain is ordering people not to leave home except to buy food and pharmaceutical products, go to and from work and to and from hospitals. Italy did this last week. 
 

Israel has forbidden entry for a long time to everyone coming from a host of countries where the virus exists and so far has 126 people infected out of a population of nine million.

Should Romania do likewise? Yes, as a short-term precaution for a couple of months, though I very much hope and I think that by the early summer things will be looking much better and the virus will turn out, like flu, to be a winter illness. 

Romania may well do so any day, which is why yesterday I reluctantly cancelled my trip to London to see Sir Tom Stoppard's hit play and meet friends in an eerily deserted West End.

The Polish and Danish policies are the exact opposite of the British Chief Medical Officer's view that widespread infection is inevitable and in some ways desirable, because it creates 'herd immunity' and will deter the virus from returning in future years. 

There are very many big differences between Britain and Romania. One is that Britain has a first class health service. Romania has a very unsatisfactory health service indeed, to put it mildly, and British hospitals might well be overwhelmed. Everything possible has to be done to contain the numbers admitted to Romanian hospitals. 

The biggest problem for Romania is the 1.3 million Romanians who are or were living in Italy, by far the largest immigrant community in Italy. Many are or will be out of work and have nowhere to go but home. Most would normally spend Easter (which is much bigger thn Christmas here) in Romania.

Over 40000 people who left or passed through Italy have entered Romania since February 23. The Romanian government has asked them to stay put and stopped direct flights but they are driving back or flying via third countries.

If I sound like I am panicking about the virus, I am not. I hope and suspect that it will spread much less widely than is feared, but it still makes very good sense to take stern precautions, looking at what is happening in Italy. I hope this will be yet another quasi-eschatological scare like mad cow disease, avian flu and swine flu. 

How many died from swine flu in the epidemic of 2009?

They now think maybe 203,000 people worldwide, which is ten times more than was thought at the time, but only half as many as an estimate by researchers in 2012. Yet I recall no panic. In fact I scarcely recall swine flu at all and do not remember reading about it much at the time. People thought it reduced world GDP by 1%. They feared it might trigger a recession, but it didn't.

9 comments:

  1. The Wall Street Journal in their lead editorial Thursday: "Mr. Trump is right that his opponents, in politics and the media, want to turn the virus into his Hurricane Katrina. That is inevitable and he shouldn’t take their bait. The best defense isn’t to strike back as if the virus is Adam Schiff. It can’t be mocked with a nickname or dismissed with over-optimistic assertions that risk being run over by reality in a week or a month. On Wednesday Mr. Trump punched back at an article in Vanity Fair by tweeting: “Our team is doing a great job with CoronaVirus!” Who cares about Vanity Fair?
    "The best reply is cool and realistic leadership that marshals the strengths of the government a President leads. This means letting the experts speak, not putting himself in the front of every briefing and speculating about things he doesn’t know much about. It means showing personal support, ideally at some point in person, for virus patients and their front-line caregivers.
    "Leadership means putting together a response to economic weakness and what can be done to help those who lose their jobs, not promising something he can’t deliver on Capitol Hill or blasting the Federal Reserve for the 100th time. Above all, leadership in a crisis means telling the public the truth, lest people begin to tune him out or, worse, make him a figure of mockery.
    "Disasters and crises can make or break presidencies—not from the event itself but from how the public judges a President’s response. In the last week the Administration’s performance has improved, and his speech to the nation Wednesday night was at least a step toward more realism. But the pandemic continues to build and he still understated the scope of the health risk. Travel bans are less important than mitigation efforts at home with thousands of likely cases already here. Comparing the U.S. favorably to Europe won’t reassure anyone if the U.S. catches up."

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  2. I read the notorious Rush Limbaugh for the first time just now and what I read is very good. I quote it.

    How did we ever survive 60 million infected with the swine flu? But we did to the point that hardly anybody remembers it. And that’s just 10 years ago, 300,000 hospitalized. So we overcame it. We overcame Ebola. This is gonna end, it’s gonna pass. And I’ll tell you what else is gonna happen. Because of the actions President Trump has taken, like this travel ban from Europe, that has really put the Democrats in a dicey position.

    There’s some real positives if you want to find ’em here, and I, of course, have, and I’ll share them with you in a minute. The point is we’re gonna rebound from this, and when we do, you had better get ready and hold on tight, because this market’s gonna rebound. The people who are selling right now and getting out of it are panicking, and they don’t want to be selling. Everybody’s doing this from a very defensive posture and point of view.

    And it’s adding… Like we get news that Tom Hanks and his wife have coronavirus. “Oh, no, it’s all going (mewling)! It’s over. Oh, my…” And then his kid — his kid, Chet — goes on TV, tries to calm everybody. “They’re fine. They’re in Australia. They’re fine. They’re not suffering at all. Everything’s fine!” It doesn’t matter. They’ve got it.

    Anyway, this is gonna end, and this market is gonna rebound like you can’t believe because the people who have been selling off want to get back in it. And we are taking economic procedures right now that are going to serve to further reignite the economy when all this passes. And when we get back into the growth trajectory, some of the proposals the president’s making regarding payroll taxes, Small Business Administration loans, even a tax holiday?

    You just wait until people have no more emotion left to be panicked and get tired of this and want to go a different direction. And that day is gonna happen. The day’s gonna come where people are gonna wake and say, “I’m tired of living this way. I’m fed up with being panicked every day. I’m fed up,” and then — because of the actions the president’s taken — we’re not gonna have that many brand-new infections.

    By shutting off this travel from Europe… As I said, this has really put the Democrats in a bad position ’cause they love the European Union. They love it, and the very fact that travel from their beloved European Union has been shut down… But let… If they come out and oppose this, then they’re essentially coming out for open borders. This is actually… If you want to look at it politically, it’s a good move from that standpoint.

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  3. Ursula von der Leyen commented:


    “Certain controls may be justified, but general travel bans are not seen as being the most effective by the World Health Organization. Moreover, they have a strong social and economic impact, they disrupt people’s lives and business across the borders.”

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  4. the British Chief Medical Officer's view that widespread infection is inevitable and in some ways desirable, because it creates 'herd immunity' and will deter the virus from returning in future years.

    Isn't the 'herd immunity' idea based on the assumption that those who survive the disease have some kind of long-term immunity? Do we know for a fact that this is so?

    And isn't it also based on the assumption that those who survive the disease will suffer no long-term effects? Do we know for a fact that this is so?

    And what if the coronavirus mutates? Isn't it exactly the kind of virus that does just that? Where does that leave herd immunity?

    There's also a widespread assumption that like flu this is going to be essentially a winter illness. Once summer arrives it will fade away until the following winter. Do we know for a fact that this is so?

    Coronavirus might be flu-like but it isn't actually flu as such. It seems like many people are assuming that it's going to behave exactly like the flu. If it decides not to behave exactly like the flu then people will be looking for a lamp-post from which to hang the British Chief Medical Officer.

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  5. The British Chief Medical Officer's opinion did not quite make sense to me as I heard him give it at the press conference with Boris. He has the power to destroy Boris's premiership if Boris uncritically follows his advice and it proves bad. I think Boris will stop doing so this week. Events have their own logic.
    Journalists say there is no need to ban mass gatherings but that public opinion will force it. I think I am with public opinion not the CMO on this.

    Unlike the CMO I see no reason why after 12 weeks people will stop following self isolation rules, if people in numbers are dying around the world. How does the CMO know?

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    1. The British Chief Medical Officer's opinion did not quite make sense to me as I heard him give it at the press conference with Boris. He has the power to destroy Boris's premiership if Boris uncritically follows his advice and it proves bad. I think Boris will stop doing so this week. Events have their own logic.

      By the time Boris regains his senses it will probably be too late. That's the problem with the UK strategy - if it doesn't work the consequences could be catastrophic.

      Is it an actual strategy though? Someone elsewhere made the point that the Asian nations are taking a proactive can-do approach while European nations such as Britain look to be adopting a defeatist approach. Maybe it's not defeatist but it sure looks like it.

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    2. It has changed since the PM's press conference an hour ago.

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  6. "Voters would also back plans for Britain to self-isolate from the rest of the world. A clear majority, 58%, think the government should stop all international travel into the UK and 83% support testing everyone entering the UK."
    (The Sunday Times today.)

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    1. Voters would also back plans for Britain to self-isolate from the rest of the world.

      It might be more of a case of the rest of the world having to isolate itself from Britain.

      I'd certainly be in favour of Australia's isolating itself from Britain just in case the British government comes up with another hare-brained scheme like herd immunity.

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