Lockdown

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Lockdowns ranged from severe, as in China’s Wuhan, to practically non-existent or highly localized, as in Botswana, where major cities saw greater control. If lockdowns worked as advertised, then we would not expect to see such enormous variability in the reported death rates. Belgium, again, had 751 per million, and Ethiopia, population 109.2 million, had the lowest reported non-zero death rate of 0.04 per million. This is a difference of 19 thousand times!

Ethiopia did declare a state of emergency, but had no lockdown. They also had from the US a “$37m package which encompassed case management, infection prevention and control, laboratory strengthening, public health screening, and communications and media campaigns, among others.”

Vietnam, population 95.5 million, which had a lockdown (they reported 18,000 businesses were forced to close), reported 0 deaths.

Sweden did better than the UK, and there couldn’t have been a greater difference in strategies. In the US, South Dakota, which had no lockdown, did 7 times better than Chicago (or all Illinois), which did.

Brazil did not have a country-wide lockdown, but a handful of cities threatened, and some carried out local measures. Same kind of thing in the US, with of course harsh mandatory measures in more enlightened cities, to nothing in all in some flyover cities. Japan did not have a lockdown and did fine, relatively speaking. It’s never mentioned in the press, though. Wonder why? Georgia (the country) appeared only to lockdown Tblisi.

Some countries locked down only a few major cities or ports, others cut off foreign travel, and either left their citizens alone or only issued warnings. Some lockdowns were esoecially harsh, with food shortages happening fast, like in Paraguay. Lithuania required people to wear coronavirus bracelets to indicate their health status. Foreign workers in Qatar concentrated on their lockdowns in camps. Albania scanned the grounds using drones to find lockdown scofflaws. Even nomads in Western Sahara were ordered to stay in their tents!

There is a sort of trend of lower death rates in hotter countries, or in areas of larger countries with better weather, like the US. Population density also played a part. It easier to spread any bug in tightly packed quarters, than when people are spread far apart. People mattered, of course. Australia and New Zealand, both locked down, and both had 4 per million death rates, but then it was summer in both places at the start of the pandemic, and the people are largely similar.

Obviously, many, many other things varied between countries. Age and healthy of citizens. Old and decrepit in Europe? Younger and more robust in Africa? Compliance of people was of every possible status. In some countries, there was not as much oversight on lockdowns, and even in those without lockdowns some measures were taken, as in Taiwan. In Guinea police fired on lockdown protesters. In Somalia police fired and hit their targets, killing lockdown protesters. In Michigan no shots were fired, but the politicians began sweating.

Reporting also varied widely, and wildly. The West went with hour-by-hour breathless updates for every number. The press trumpeted each new increase, besides themselves with glee for an opportunity to feel important. We hardly heard from, or about, African countries.

And then the medical systems are also vastly different among all these countries. Some numbers seemed more reliable than others. Tajikistan only a few deaths (2 per million), which some said was a lie. Who knows? Everybody is sure China lied. Did Japan? Did Belarus? Over-counting and excessive nervousness caused uncertainty in the numbers in the West. Incapacity, or lack of interest or resources, or even government intervention, as in China, muddied the numbers elsewhere.

In the end, it does not come down to country- or even city-level statistics. It comes down to people. Each individual catches the bug or not, lives or dies. Not because of their country, but because of themselves, their health, their circumstances. Any given individual might have benefited from self-quarantine and loss of job. Just as any given individual might have come to a bad end from a lockdown. The only possible way to know is to measure each case. Which can never happen.

What should we conclude? Strike that. What can we conclude. Only one thing: we cannot conclude that lockdowns worked.

The only evidence for lockdowns is the desire that lockdowns worked. That, and the embarrassment (and worse) in admitting to error. What politician anywhere will cop to ruining their economy and the lives of millions of their citizens? Who can say “Ah, it was only a few trillion”? This will not happen. It just won’t. All politicians will and much go on repeating that their lockdowns “saved lives”.

They have to. It’s suicide not to. They are all talking out their nether regions. What’s the answer, the realpolitik? Let those leaders say “My plan worked” get away with it. And dispose of those who revealed themselves a petty martinets, dictators in training, and assholes. You can read into “dispose” whatever you like. Whatever happens to politicians should happen harder and longer to journalists. In any case, a global purge of braggarts will not happen.

This virus, as viruses will, found its way to all corners of the world, and it affected different areas differently. End of story.

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