Young German’s perspective on coronaplague and shutdown

Text messages received by a friend from his family’s former au pair, now back in her native Germany, age 26:

  • People are slowly having enough of this bullshit
  • There are hundreds of people down by the Main river and the police doesn’t say anything to them anymore even though they are supposed to hand out fines
  • I still can’t believe that they escalated the situation to the point it is now
  • It’s basically impossible to get a fucking job right now: Restaurants and all these small businesses struggle to survive
  • And for what?
  • We saved 25000 people 80+
  • So they can die of something else within the next 6 months?
  • not even half ICU beds in Germany are actually used
  • it is such a crock of shit [I suspect she learned this idiom from the host dad!]
  • if someone has a car accident and dies and is corona positive they count a corona death
  • They count people like this so that they get at least some concerning numbers
  • But not even with that questionable way of counting numbers are too concerning compared to the measures taken

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22 thoughts on “Young German’s perspective on coronaplague and shutdown

  1. Yup, seems to be pretty much universal sentiment in Europe with possible exceptions of Italy and Spain.

    • Since you mentioned Spain and I happen to be locked down in my apartment in Spain for 7th week now:
      I do not know why the pandemic hit this country so hard and at what extent did the lock down slow down the spread of the virus. This is job of epidemiologists to figure out.
      What I can clearly see is that the measures are overreaching, disproportionate, unnecessary and unsubstantiated. Region where I live heavily relies on tourism (as many other places in this country) and most of people who work in hospitality and catering are out of work since all hotels are closed. I do not want to think about how they pay their rent or feed their families. Unemployment level never actually went down to the pre-2008 crisis levels, so there were plenty of families with only one earner already. The central government in Madrid has just announced their plan of reopening the economy which would allow hotels and restaurants to be open within weeks. The only thing they didn’t tell is that international and inter-regional travel will not be allowed well into second half on June, so not clear who will stay in those hotels and eat in those restaurants.
      If you follow the actions of government very closely, you can see hat their actions are not based on any scientific grounds despite declaring opposite. One example was recent relaxation of house-arrest rules for children: after heavy pressure from parents they finally came up with permission for kids up to 12 years to go out. But not just go out- they could accompany their parents to groceries or other daily errands. What is that science which tells that going out to park is unsafe vs going to supermarket? After heavy outcry they modified rule on the same day, saying kids are allowed go for a walk “up to 1km for 1 hour only per day”, they are allowed to “run and jump”, and can bring one toy with them like “ball, bicycle or skateboard”. Seriously? You have to issue a permission to children to jump and run? And if you take skateboard AND a ball, you are risking contracting virus???
      I could draw more examples of such incompetence, but I am afraid the post will be too long then.
      How do you expect we trust such governments after all this?

  2. > So they can die of something else within the next 6 months?

    Let’s try a back-of-envelope calculation on the cost-benefit of the US lockdown. Say 100,000 lives are saved.

    (This seems a generous estimate for several reasons: the lockdown is itselfkilling people; the Coronarecession or depression will kill some more; hospitals have not faced high demand except in a few poorly-managed hotspots.)

    Call that 100,000 life-years saved. (In nursing homes, a typical setting for those vulnerable to the virus, the median length of stay before death was, in 2010, five months).

    Say the US GDP falls by 5% thanks to lockdown. That’s 5% of about $20T so about $1T.

    Cost per life-year saved is $1T/100,000, i.e. it’s costing about $10M per person to help them die of something else next year instead of a respiratory virus this year. Maybe that’s a modest sum by US healthcare standards?

    • Lord P: I think the true number of American lives saved via lockdown is negative due to shutdown of regular health care, clinical trials, medical school training, etc., and due to poverty and unemployment caused by shutdown. And that’s not even counting all of the poor people in trading partners we are killing by not buying from them (Planet Earth could never sustain a human population of 8 billion without global trade, so I think it won’t sustain 8 billion people now.)

      Let me quibble with some of your numbers. These economists say more than $2 trillion for the first two months: https://www.mercatus.org/publications/covid-19-policy-brief-series/cost-covid-19-rough-estimate-2020-us-gdp-impact . You also have to consider that people who used to buy American manufactured goods will switch to Asian-made, Swedish-made, or Dutch-made items whenever possible (since those countries never shut down their businesses and factories). If someone invests the effort to find a Chinese supplier for something formerly purchased from the U.S., why go back? More Americans will get used to being on the sofa watching TV and consuming alcohol/opioids, See https://philip.greenspun.com/blog/2015/06/01/book-review-the-redistribution-recession/ for what happens when you pay Americans to sit at home instead of work. It becomes an agreeable lifestyle for quite a few!

      My guess is that the actual GDP shrinkage will be closer to $5 trillion over the next 5-10 years.

      But my biggest quibble is with the assumption that any lives will be saved from Covid-19 via shutdown! New York City was the only place in the U.S. that ever came close to running out of ventilators (which can reduce the death rate by as much as 12 percent in an ideal world), but they didn’t actually run out (and they only came close because they wouldn’t transfer people to relatively nearby empty hospitals). And the NYC lockdown came just a couple of weeks before peak hospital utilization, so it probably had no effect. The March 2020 Flatten the Curve dogma says “different shape curves; same area of infections underneath.” We have no new or improved treatments for Covid-19. So the chance of dying after infection is the same as it always was for any given person. Because U.S. hospitals never filled up, at best we moved deaths from April 2020 into May or June 2020.

    • Maybe we could compromise and say it’s costing $5T to save 1 (one) person year? (At that point it’s approximately the same as saying it’s costing $5T to destroy one person-year, but I’m trying to stay positive!)

      I suppose there will never be a dispassionate and generally accepted analysis of what has happened in this whole bizarre episode. George Orwell observed that the last major world event whose history was generally agreed was the First World War; by a few decades later such agreement on major events was impossible due to the demands of ideology.

  3. Since Monday it is mandatory to wear a mask in shops and when using public transportation in Germany. A few weeks ago the same virologists who recommended this to Angela Merkel said exactly the opposite: masks are useless even risky. The public does not seem to mind this change of opinion.

    There are people in all major cities protesting against all the restrictions of their civil rights. Every week their number grows. You won‘t find anything about why they are protesting in the media. Only a small blip here and there about „some idiots refusing to believe in the Government doing the right thing for the people“.

    The whole corona lie is so big that the Government can‘t resolve it by saying „we listened to the wrong people – sorry! Now back to work.“ They have to keep the sharade going. Maybe they can even find some use of the matter: tracking people with corona apps, getting DNA samples of every citizen through corona tests, mandatory corona vaccination. This is only possible if they keep the fear level up. So far they succeed. Surveys even show that people are very satisfied how the Government handles the corona pandemic.

    Feels like German Democratic Republic 2.0

    • Joe: Interesting and thanks for the on-the-ground perspective. Is there a German language equivalent to the American social media shaming term “covidiot” (a person who fails to social distance, typically someone young and healthy whose personal risk is extremely low).

    • No term comes to mind. People who do not believe the hype are usually called „Corona Leugner“ = corona denier or put into the conspiracy believer / aluminum foil hat / nut case bin.

  4. I’d stop short of calling it a lie. Hopefully we can all agree it’s not just a flu. However, what some governments are doing in terms of countermeasures defies logic in epidemiological terms and will/is backfiring on them because they didn’t account for managing human behaviour over the long term. And it is becoming clear by their actions that even they don’t believe in what they’re saying. As far as I can tell, the only real leader who seems to understand this dynamic is Jacinda Ardern and I’m guessing even kiwis will eventually start rebelling.

    My problem with developing anti government protests is that even those that started out for the right reasons seem to have been taken over by conspiracy crackpots because they naturally tend to be the loudest and most visible.

  5. Hearing someone from Germany saying that sacrificing 25,000 people of a certain class (in this case, octogenarians) in the name of a stronger economy has some rather disturbing historical parallels…

  6. 25,000? So far 6,314 people have died of Corona in Germany. Although pathologist argue that most of them died with Corona not of Corona. My argument is not to save the economy – its already down the drain anyway. I complain about the loss of civil rights. And this has also historical parallels to another unglorious part of German history: the Deutsche Demokratische Republik / German Democratic Republic. All the media told the same story, borders were closed, only the Governments opinions and views were allowed. Maybe the way she handles the crisis is just an old habit of Angela Merkel who grew up in the GDR.

    It’s always easy to get out the old Nazi accusations if a topic has remotely to do with Germany. But if everyone who argues for handling this pandemic different than one-size-fits-all lockdown is a Nazi than several countries can be accused of being Nazis.

    • 25,000 comes directly from the original post. “We saved 25000 people 80+.” It seems that the commenter and you would both be willing to toss those 25,000 to the jaws of the virus for the redemption of your civil liberties. I’m not one to lightly toss out Nazi accusations — that gets done far too often on the ‘net — but when it’s suggested that a specific demographic be sacrificed to promote another, I’m going to say that is very reminiscent of a certain regime.

      It came off far too casually and unsympathetically to say that 25,000 were saved only to die of something else in the next 6 months. So 80 is the life span that one is granted now? After that, you’re expendable? Hey, if we’re going down that path, why not make it 70? I mean, they’re not really contributing to society much more than the octogenarians. Why not save ourselves the trouble and start knocking them off before they die of something else? The young won’t have to work as hard to support an aged population then. What’s the cutoff you want to start eliminating them at? 75? 70? 65, even?

      Major crises *always* include some kind of suspension of civil liberties. Abraham Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus during the Civil War. There were many other instances where he exercised an almost autocratic level of power, too. To the point that it inspired riots in New York in 1863. His actions were born out of necessity, though. So are some of the restrictions being put in place during our current pandemic.

      If the temporary loss of some of your civil liberties means that you’re ready to start sacrificing the lives of a portion of the demographic, then I’m sorry, but I’m going to say that absolutely reeks of Nazism.

    • “I’m not one to lightly toss out Nazi accusations “.

      And yet you are. Apparently, you reading comprehension skills are at a level you cannot even understand what you are writing yourself ! Much less what you are responding to.

      I am in the “endangered” demographics myself, and I feel extremely uncomfortable with young/middle aged people going through the current trials and tribulations for the sake of people like us. A more nuanced restriction approach the original author suggested is required but hardly possible with the 60+ selfish electorate.

    • It’s always amusing when someone tosses out an accusations about reading comprehension skills when they apparently suffer the malady to an equal extent. I stated why I decided to use that invocation in this particular instance. If sacrificing the lives of a specific demographic in order to preserve the comfort of another demographic doesn’t invoke memories of 1930s-1940s Germany, then I don’t know what does. But what do I know? I’m apparently illiterate.

  7. Sometime ago I opined in a comment that there will be a lockening of the restrictions, and I expceted the kindergartens and primary schools to have been reopened already.

    I apparently need to calibrate my predictive ability as this is now only planned for after the summer! Needless to say, people for whom this is relevant are not fans.

  8. The thing that bothers me most is that nobody, to this point, has articulated any kind of strategy for how we respond if no vaccine is possible and we don’t develop any other great mediation treatments. They don’t want to talk about that. All of our strategies hinge on flattening the curve, limiting the spread, testing and tracking, opening back up Mario Cuomo’s valves a tiny crack and watching his famous four dials, and waiting for the therapies and vaccines to come riding to the rescue. Or a miracle cure to suddenly emerge from out of nowhere.

    But we cannot keep global travel, global trade, all our industries shut down, etc. We also cannot afford to keep slamming the economy into a brick wall every couple of months because a new outbreak occurs. We’re in the middle of the first attempt at a barely-controlled crash right now, and pieces and parts are flying all over the place! How many times can we patch this car back up and smash it into the wall again?

    Twenty five years ago when I was in College, I knew a young guy who decided prior to his undergraduate years that he was going to become an MD/Ph.D. and research Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Lou Gehrig’s or Motor Neuron Disease. Brilliant guy, his father was a brain surgeon. He was a real polymath, a prodigious talent – he was doing graduate level research as an undergrad, he spoke several languages fluently, could juggle 7 or 8 balls at the same time, rode a unicycle, could juggle the balls while riding the unicycle, played several instruments, painted in oils and watercolors, etc. Really the smartest guy in the room almost all the time.

    He was sure that a cure for ALS was five years away at the outside. There were so many promising advancements in basic science going on at the time. The disease was better understood than ever before. The fledgling Internet was going to allow researchers from around the globe to share data and collaborate in ways nobody had ever dreamed of. It was already happening!

    A quarter century later, he’s got an MD/Ph.D. and he’s still working on it, along with many other people. ALS has turned out to be a very, very hard nut to crack indeed. Going that last 5%, or 1%, or whatever, has proven to be exceptionally difficult.

    I know that ALS is a very different disease than a coronavirus. But what if we have to “bite the bullet” and accept the fact that we’ve got to live with it, that everyone is going to get it eventually, and we have to try to carry on in that eventuality?

    You know, even New Jersey’s Health Commissioner, Judith Persichilli, said back on March 21st: “I’m definitely going to get it. We all are.” Saying that and understanding that a number of deaths are going to entail doesn’t make someone a Nazi. It may be what we’re stuck with.

    https://www.nj.com/healthfit/2019/06/nurse-who-exposed-problems-at-states-only-public-hospital-will-be-njs-next-top-health-official-sources-say.html

    • There isn’t going to be a vaccine – or at least, not one you just take once in your life and it’s done. It will be like the flu vaccine. Only works maybe 50% of time (you always have the big push for everyone to get vaccinated every year, and only sometimes do you read in some obscure source that this years vaccine turned out to be for the wrong strain).

      But that’s ok, because all the indications are that this is basically the flu. A pretty bad one this year, but as people gain a sort-of immunity to the general coronavirus each years outbreak will fade into the background. I actually think the biggest thing about whatever vax they come up with will be the psychological impact on those get it and thus feel that they are “protected”.

      This sense of no protection is why everyone went so damn crazy these last months. Some epidemiologists told the truth: utlimately, what has to happen is that enough people have to get it to create herd immunity. But the hype (and other models that projected “millions of deaths”) made that untenable for most. “You just want to let people DIE!?” So what started out as a (sort of) reasonable policy of self-isolation to “flatten the curve” and “avoid overwhelming the hospitals” turned into (after the hospitals became ghost towns) the whole “stay home – save lives” mantra. People barricaded themselves in their houses (and shamed those who didn’t) because they couldn’t stand the idea of not having control – of being felled by a mysterious invisible enemy. And until they feel that they have “protection” they won’t come out (and they will demand their governments make everyone else stay in, too)

      At this point, I would love it they could get away with just injecting everyone with saline and pretending its a vaccine. It would do wonders for everyone.

    • ” Saying that and understanding that a number of deaths are going to entail doesn’t make someone a Nazi. ”

      Exactly. The Nazi invocation does tell one volumes about the person making the unseemly comparison. The most charitable would be that no rational exchange of opinions whatsoever is possible (Godwin’s law).

  9. I’m not sure why this gal being German and looking at the cost per life-year saved makes her a Nazi. The British do this with their National Health Service. They don’t just open the taxpayers’ checkbook the way that Medicare does in the U.S. If a treatment will add 6 months to the typical patient’s life, but cost a lot of money, it will not be offered. (See “Quantifying life: Understanding the history of Quality-Adjusted Life-Years (QALYs)” https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0277953618303605 )

    Would we call the folks running the UK system “Nazis”? I hope not, because “Nazi” is bad (almost as bad as calling someone a “Trumpist”) whereas the government-run UK health system is definitely good from the perspective of any righteous American.

    (As noted elsewhere, I happen to disagree with this 26-year-old. Compared to a strategy of shutting down mass gatherings, putting on masks in crowded places, and isolating the elderly/vulnerable (i.e., Sweden plus masks), I don’t believe that the German total shutdown has saved any life-years and, in fact, has probably cost life-years due to all of the negative effects of the shutdown, including people not being to access regular health care for non-Covid issues.)

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