October 24th, 2020

Lives and livelihoods


By Lethbridge Herald Opinon on April 18, 2020.

Reopening the U.S. economy too soon could be disastrous

Wuhan, the Chinese city where it all started, was locked down for 79 days before the restrictions on movement were finally lifted last week. A bit over-cautious, perhaps, but in China the coronavirus does really seem to be under control – not totally eradicated, but controllable without extreme measures.

If Donald Trump “reopens” the United States at the end of this month, then California and a few other states will have been under lockdown for only half that many days, and some states for much less time or even none. Far from being under control, the COVID-19 virus is killing huge numbers of Americans (2,405 on Tuesday), and the number is still rising.

These two giants define the extremes of the “lives vs. livelihoods” debate, but almost every other country is having it, too. Everybody knows that you can’t shut the economy down indefinitely, but nobody wants to risk a second wave of infections by moving too soon.

Well, almost nobody. The toddler-in-chief in the White House is frantic to reopen the economy because he has an election coming up in six months, and he will lose it if the economy has not recovered by then.

Dr. Anthony Fauci has doubtless explained that lifting the restrictions on movement on May 1 will cause a second wave of deaths and a second lockdown before November, but Trump doesn’t retain that sort of information for long. His attention span is not only short but selective: he forgets unwelcome information very quickly.

Trump might actually order the country to reopen on May 1, as he believes that “When somebody is the president of the United States, the authority is total.” But most states wouldn’t obey his command: as New York governor Andrew Cuomo said: “We have a constitution É we don’t have a king É the president doesn’t have total authority.”

Elsewhere, some countries are cautiously reopening their economies a bit at a time, but they either had a very high death rate early and have now wrestled it down again – China, Italy and Spain – or responded hard and early and never had a high infection rate, like Germany, Denmark, Austria, the Czech Republic and New Zealand.

We should also note two countries that never closed their economies down at all, because they could test, identify the infected, and trace their contacts fast enough to break the chains of infection and keep deaths low: Taiwan and South Korea. All three of these groups have one vital thing in common.

They have the ability to “test, test, test,” as the World Health Organization’s Director-General, Tedros Ghebreyesus, put it a month ago, warning countries that they “cannot fight a fire blindfolded.” And they can follow up the tests with contact-tracing teams and apps so that not just the individual who tested positive but the whole cluster of other people who had contact with him or her can be isolated.

Any countries that have their infection rate down AND have their testing and tracing teams ready can start reopening their economies, although there will be a continuing low but steady toll of deaths until a vaccine is found. France, Canada and Australia can probably do it next month.

Countries like Turkey, Russia and South Africa are more debatable, because they gave the virus a head start, but their medical infrastructure is strong enough that they could think about letting their citizens go back to work by July. However, the United States, the United Kingdom, Brazil and India are very worrisome.

India is doing the right things, but it started late, its medical resources are limited, and the sheer numbers of victims may overwhelm the system. Brazil has a complete fool in charge, Jair Bolsonaro, and the many sensible people in the health-care system may be unable to overcome his malign influence.

As for the U.S. and the U.K., they both reacted very late to the threat, which guarantees that their casualties would be considerably above the rich-country average. Worse, they do not have the testing and tracking resources in place that would make reopening the economy a relatively safe proposition.

On April 3 the British Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, pledged 100,000 coronavirus tests per day by the end of the month. Half the month is gone, and the maximum number of tests carried out on a single day has been under 15,000.

The U.S. situation is harder to judge, since there is not a unified health-care system but a highly fragmented “health-care sector.” However, nobody has spotted evidence of nationwide preparations for extensive testing and tracking once everybody goes back to work, so a second wave of deaths later in the year is practically guaranteed.

Finis Trump, perhaps, but at a high price.

Gwynne Dyer’s new book is “Growing Pains: The Future of Democracy (and Work).”

Share this story:

19
9 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
zulu1

For the first time in history most countries decided to destroy their economies in a misguided attempt to minimize the effects of covid 19. According to the head of the bank of Canada, Mr. Poloz, Canada’s Gross national product could fall as much as 32% in the second quarter of 2020. To put this in perspective , during the 1929 depression GDP dropped 25% . Anyone expecting a quick recovery may be delusional , since restarting an economy is a great deal more difficult than shutting one down. Millions of unemployed , thousands of small businesses destroyed , some never to reopen.

So far the death rate is approximately 1/4 of the rate of a normal flu season. One country refused to close down it’s economy , that being Sweden, and their infection and death rates are no worse than countries that slavishly follow ed the WHO.

We could now face a massive depression as a result, and how many lives will be lost in utter despair ?
Something to think about !

Seth Anthony

This action of isolating due to a low danger virus is typical of the people and their governmental “PANIC NOW!” knee jerk reactions. Only the most vulnerable should be isolated, while others simply take standard precautions. We’re delaying the inevitable and delaying herd immunity at great economic and societal cost.

If we continue doing what we’re doing, then we are headed for a depression worse than the 1920’s. Poverty, murders, robberies, assaults, suicides, domestic violence, alcoholism, psychological disorders, and drug addiction will skyrocket. This so called “cure” will cause far more destruction than Covid itself.

The needs of the many should outweigh the needs of the few….especially when the few dying already have one foot on death’s door and the other foot on a banana peel.

phlushie

All of this makes one surmise that this was a specially engineered project that Sweden didn’t buy in to.

zulu1

I see you are starting to catch on.

grinandbearit

I am not sure why the Covid-19 business creates such outrageous myths, but there are lots of them.
Early in the month Sweden’s death rate per capita from Covid-19 is far higher than their nordic (slavish) neighbours. Sweden 10.2 per million vs Finland 0.9, Norway 2.0, and Denmark 2.9.

The rate of deaths from Covid-19 is much higher than the flu. Look at a graph. https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/total-covid-deaths-per-million?tab=chart&year=2020-04-20&country=SWE FIN
https://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/not-like-the-flu-not-like-car-crashes-not-like
People need to think clearly that the effect of the shutdown should not be compared to the way things were pre-Covid-19, but to what things would be like without taking the dramatic steps for protection with the infection going full bore. It is not clear that the economics would any better.

Fescue

Thank you, G&BI, for your post.

This group could find Agenda 21 in car maintenance: you can do preventative maintenance, or you can see through the malign mischief of automobile mechanics and just keep driving it. Somehow they would find someone else to blame when they get their car towed back to town.

On the other hand, it will be interesting to see how the myriad actions of different states compare when the data is collected.

zulu1

It may well be higher than other Nordic countries, but, much lower than other world hot spots. The question you have to ask yourself is the total destruction of the global economy a reasonable price to pay for this particular virus. This is the first time in history that such a drastic response has been engineered,. The destruction is likely to be worse than even the 1929 depression, and if you don’t believe that , then look at some early indicators, for example the May 2020 oil futures contract closed today at minus US $ 38.50 dollars per barrel, it has never happened before in history.

biff

grin – thanks for the insight and the links
zulu – always stuck on “the economy”…the least real thing when it comes to the reality of disease, or the other big issue: the sustainability of diversity and healthy life systems of the planet.
what we should be seeing clearly now is the economy is a hoax, a joke. money can be printed whenever. it is made and lent out of thin air by a few privileged folks/corps, and all but 10% that is loaned, in effect, does not really exist. so long as all the wealthy nations print up batches of the plastic notes and create more digitally roughly in equal proportion, there is no real devaluing of currency and hence no runaway inflation.
what we should really catch on to here, however, is that just like in 2008/9 when the robber baron crooks – that should have been prosecuted and should have had their assets seized under proceeds of crime laws – govts, instead, rewarded these scum with massive amounts of public monies. to wit, here we watch more massive sums roll from the public trough to big corps…into pretty much the same hands that robbed us just over a decade ago.
while us peons get some droplets of our tax pooled money, the big guys get the hugest chunks, yet again. this is, and remains to be, our biggest economic problem for well over a generation already: the hoax that is our economy keeps us in debt and essentially poor, while the few that comprise the uppermost of the top 1% are always getting more. how do they do it? they own govts and they influence the laws to their favour such that they de facto make the laws that benefit them.

buckwheat

All well and said but the peons and the plebes need to live to, even its on the “droplets”.