Analysis of Sweden versus UK COVID-19 outcomes

“Sweden, Covid and lockdown – a look at the data” (The Spectator (UK), May 17, 2021) should be interesting for Church of Sweden adherents.

Sweden currently has Europe’s highest COVID-19 “case” rate, but a fairly low COVID-19 death rate compared to other European nations.

One of the interesting charts is “population-weighted density” (i.e., how dense is the average person’s neighborhood in Sweden compared to other countries):

Swedes are actually packed together more tightly than Germans, despite Swedish ownership of a big area of uninhabited land up north.

What about Stayin’ Alive, the thing that most of us insist on doing even when the other 8 billion folks on the planet say that we wouldn’t be missed?

Even in 2020, the Swedes had a low rate of excess deaths compared to other European nations of similar density (see above). The Swedes should also have a lower rate going forward because they didn’t have a 15 months of lockdowns in which people were unable to exercise and maintain mental health. And they didn’t lose as much economically, which means they’ll have better public health going forward (since they won’t have impoverished themselves the way that other European nations did):

None of this will convince Church of Shutdown members, of course, but I thought readers might be interested to see these data from a 200-year-old current affairs magazine. And maybe it is time to buy Swedish stocks! Unless Nature runs out of coronavirus variants, it seems safe to assume that this coming fall will feature soul- and economy-destroying lockdowns in many countries while Sweden remains open.

Related:

Full post, including comments

Portuguese stocks or Lisbon real estate for the next five years?

At least to judge by our media, the U.S. is embroiled in white v. Black, white v. Asian, white v. Latinx, and hetero cisgender v. LGBTQIA+ fights. We’re also adding $trillions in debt, welcoming millions of new welfare-dependent citizens, and instituting dramatic changes in government (every day we hear a new and exciting idea for a bigger more powerful central government!). It seems like a good time to ensure that children have the option to study, work, and live in Europe. The Europeans bumped up against the limits of how much government could be responsible for and don’t seem anxious to go back to the 1970s.

There is no way to predict whether Portugal, Italy, Germany, France, or Sweden will be a better place to live than the U.S. in 2030, but keeping only a U.S. passport is essentially a bet that the U.S. will be a better place to live than anywhere in the E.U. Would we want to make that bet?

Portugal operates a “golden visa” program in which folks who purchase real estate (500,000 euro) or invest in Portuguese stocks and bonds (1 million euro) can obtain citizenship after five years of periodic visits (roughly one week per year) and demonstrating a reasonable command of the language. After a passport is obtained for one or both parents, children can then get Portuguese citizenship as well. Then they can hang out in the wonderful Azores or the historic cities of the mainland and wander at will among the rest of the EU nations.

The most obvious place to purchase real estate is Lisbon, but the property market could be vulnerable to a crash since it has been pumped up by all of the other folks purchasing real estate to meet golden visa requirements. There are some developers who promise to pay 3-5 percent as an annual return for anyone who buys an apartment in one of their buildings, but obviously they won’t be paying if they run out of money after a collapse.

I’m wondering if it is safer and simpler to purchase Portuguese stocks, of which there are only 56 currently trading on Euronext Lisbon. The PSI-20 consists of the 20 largest stocks. A March 2021 Factsheet shows a P/E ratio of about 18 and a dividend yield of 3.63 percent. The big components seem to be energy companies and utilities, retail, and a bank (i.e., fairly conservative investments and maybe not a terrible hedge against U.S. stocks). The PSI-20 does not have a great track record. It is a good thing that there are dividends because the price is quite a big lower than it was in 2010:

I’ve never liked real estate as an investment, especially for a foreigner. You have to trust a city, a neighborhood, a developer, a building, etc. But folks in countries that have had a lot of economic ups and downs love real estate! They also like bonds, but right now yields are minimal (see “Portugal Sets Precedent with Near-Junk Bonds That Yield Nothing” (Bloomberg, December 2020))

European readers: What do you think?

American readers: send me an email if you want to copy this idea. I have found some attorneys that seem reliable (referred by a major international bank). There are some ways to do this with a capital stake of only about $350,000.

Related:

  • “Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt applies to become Cyprus citizen, along with his wife and daughter…” (Daily Mail), i.e., the Biden advisor won’t suffer too badly if his advice to President Biden doesn’t work out
  • “Golden visas to be scrapped for Lisbon and Porto” (starting in 2021): S… the PS parliamentary group decided it was time to address the galloping property speculation that golden visas have generated, as well as try to dynamise ‘poorer regions’ where people could do with increased job opportunities.
  • “Call to rent out vacant golden visa homes” (March 13, 2020): In the motion signed by the BE councillor in Lisbon, Manuel Grilo, to which Lusa had access and which should be presented on 12 March, in a private meeting of the municipal executive, it is defended that the municipality urges the Government “to proceed with the survey of vacant properties acquired in connection with the granting of gold visas”. In addition, and under the current legal framework, “the requisition mechanisms for public purposes must be considered in order to reinforce the housing supply in the municipality and, in such cases, define the obligation for these properties to be leased, within the scope of the Affordable Income Programme”. (If the U.S. government, via the CDC, can order an eviction moratorium for more than a year surely the Portuguese government could issue regulations around how these apartments are to be rented.)
Full post, including comments

Coronapanic now, coronapanic tomorrow, coronapanic forever?

With apologies to George Wallace (“segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever”)…

“‘We have a new pandemic’: Angela Merkel sounds dire warning over dominant UK Covid variant in Germany as she orders Easter lockdown” (Evening Standard):

Mrs Merkel sounded the alarm on Tuesday after announcing tough new restrictions including a lockdown over the Easter holiday.

“We basically have a new pandemic,” Mrs Merkel told reporters in Berlin in the early hours.

“Essentially we have a new virus, obviously of the same type but with completely different characteristics,” she added.

Unless the coronavirus gets the memo about evolution being only a theory, Coronapanic now, coronapanic tomorrow, coronapanic forever?

(Note that Angela Merkel has a Ph.D. in quantum chemistry, but the misogynists at the Evening Standard call her “Mrs.” and not “Dr.” as would befit a colleague of Dr. Jill Biden, M.D., Ed.D.)

A late-1990s photo from Munich. Note the cultural appropriation (“Chinesischer Turm”) and the sitting ducks for a respiratory virus.

From the same trip (visit to Siemens, a major adopter of our ArsDigita Community System software), tourists try to cram themselves into Neuschwanstein.

Looking at these photos how humans used to behave, what is most shocking is that viruses didn’t drive us into our bunkers centuries ago.

Full post, including comments

Is it time for the British to beg their way back into the European Union?

I’m sure that we can all agree that the working class in Britain shot themselves in the feet by not listening to the elites when it was time for the 2016 Brexit vote. Now that we’ve learned more about science and realize that the only important function of a government is protecting subjects from COVID-19 (corollary to the only important function of a human being to avoid coronavirus infection), let’s look at the vaccination rate in the UK (18 per 100) versus the abandoned EU (4 per 100):

In light of these data, when would be the optimum time for the Brits to rejoin the EU?

Related:

  • Linguistic impact of the Brexit? (a Jennifer’s lawsuit to cash out from her marriage is referred to as “the Jexit”)
  • “Solidarity Is Not an Easy Sell as E.U. Lags in Vaccine Race” (NYT, today): There is no doubt that the European Union bungled many of the early steps to line up vaccines. It was slower off the mark, overly focused on prices while the United States and Britain made dollars and pounds no object, and it succumbed to an abundance of regulatory caution. All those things have left the bloc flat-footed as drugmakers fall behind on their promised orders. But the 27 countries of the European Union are also attempting something they have never tried before and have broken yet another barrier in their deeper integration — albeit shakily — by choosing to cast their lot together in the vaccine hunt. With just over 3 percent of E.U. nationals having received at least one dose of a vaccine by the end of last week, in stark contrast to Britain’s 17 percent and the United States’ 9 percent, nowhere does the lag sting more than in Germany, the bloc’s biggest economy and de facto leader.
Full post, including comments

View from Holland: The core innovation of lockdown

From a Dutch university professor: “The Nazis got tired of digging graves for people they’d shot, so they figured out that they should make them dig their own graves first. It’s the same strategy governments have pursued with lockdown. Make people work to pay for their own cells. It’s not Arbeit macht frei, but Lockdown macht frei.” From my 1999 trip to Dachau:

IMG0044.PCD

Governors and public health officials in the U.S. work together in the same ways as the medieval prince and priest: “You keep them stupid and I’ll keep them poor.”

Aside from politicians and the billionaires, who has done well in West’s Year of Lockdown? “It’s been a Godsend to the sad and lonely. The West has been the center of family disintegration and there are more people living alone than at any other time or place in history. The sad and lonely are not any better off, but everyone else has been dragged down to their level.” [Divorce lawsuits are more lucrative in the U.S. than in Europe and, perhaps not coincidentally, the U.S. is statistically more disintegrated than any of the European countries.]

How about the college students? Are they rioting? “They’re used to having a world imposed on them by Baby Boomers, so it doesn’t occur to them that they can object. They’re having parties in basements and trying not to get caught.”

Unlike Maskachusetts, the Netherlands allows residents to roam outdoors without masks. My friend goes to a private riding club in which the government cannot require masks. “If it were a public for-profit club, they would be subject to the mask law,” he said. Executives generally cannot issue orders that eliminate citizens’ rights, but the parliament can meet expeditiously and change the law, which it has done.

What has muscular government action in the Netherlands accomplished? A similar-shaped profile to masked-and-shut UK or US and also similar to unmasked and un-shut Sweden:

“About half of the older people still believe that masks and lockdown can save us,” he said, “but the other half are disillusioned by the continued epidemic.”

Full post, including comments

Julian Assange cannot be held in isolation, rules a judge in the locked-down UK

“Julian Assange cannot be extradited to US, British judge rules” (Guardian):

Julian Assange cannot be extradited to the US to face charges of espionage and of hacking government computers, a British judge has decided.

Delivering her ruling the judge said said the WikiLeaks founder was likely to be held in conditions of isolation in a so-called supermax prison in the US … “I find that the mental condition of Mr Assange is such that it would be oppressive to extradite him to the United States of America,” she said.

But she accepted the evidence of prominent medical experts, including details of how Assange had suffered from depression while in prison in London. “The overall impression is of a depressed and sometimes despairing man who is genuinely depressed about his future,” said Baraitser.

My Facebook friends assure me that government-imposed isolation is no hardship whenever the person who is isolated has access to Zoom. Perhaps the U.S. could obtain Assange if we promised the UK that we would let him have access to unlimited video chat?

Separately, Jan Steen’s painting of Londoners (those fortunate enough to live in a multi-person household) trying to make it through their Nth lockdown… (from the (real) National Gallery)

From London, 2017, #AheadOfTheCurve:

And a Messerschmitt car to keep you safe while traveling solo during COVID-19 (London 2007):

The Sitting Ducks of St. James’s Park (2007):

Related:

Full post, including comments

Only about 1.7 percent of Danes had Covid-19 antibodies back in April

“Estimation of SARS-CoV-2 infection fatality rate by real-time antibody screening of blood donors” (medRxiv; thanks, Colin!) describes testing donated blood in Denmark (nearly 10,000 samples) and finding that only 1.7 percent were positive for coronavirus antibodies. The blood had been donated April 6-17.

Does this mean that, now that the Danes are emerging from their bunkers, they will essentially start all over with a coronaplague? If 98 percent of the population has no immunity to plague, how is that different than if 100 percent of the population has no immunity (presumably, the situation back in December/January)? If it wasn’t safe for people to mix back in mid-March, now that 2 percent of the population is presumed immune, it is suddenly safe?

What do we make of this seemingly crazy low number for a purportedly exponentially growing disease that had at least two months to run free in Denmark? Here are some possibilities:

  • Except in certain high-density cities, coronaplague is not very contagious, nowhere near as ferocious as we were told
  • A lot of people simply aren’t susceptible to coronaplague, just as a lot of people won’t catch a cold that is going around, and, having never been truly infected, don’t develop antibodies
  • The antibody tests that we have are not reliable for determining if someone has previously been infected with coronaplague

[Another aspect of the paper that I suspect won’t interest anyone:

Using available data on fatalities and population numbers a combined IFR in patients younger than 70 is estimated at 82 per 100,000 (CI: 59-154) infections.

In other words, a person under 70 who actually does get infected with this evil virus has a 0.082% of dying (about the same as the annual risk of death from commuting via motorcycle 4,000 miles per year). Given the current popular mood, however, I think any number larger than 0% will be a sufficient justification for cowering in a bunker.]

Some other studies in the most plague-ridden areas have found 20-30 percent of the adult population with antibodies. That too, however, suggests to me that a lot of people are somehow naturally immune.

Readers: Could Denmark have truly missed this first wave of plague?

Related:

Full post, including comments

Coronanews from the Netherlands

Schools are reopening in Holland today (Reuters), but not in a Swedish business-as-usual manner. Children will be separated by walls of plastic.

Shops and businesses in the Netherlands never closed and my Dutch friend said that the general population hadn’t wanted schools to close, but “the teachers are in a union and they knew they’d get paid even if they didn’t work, so of course they immediately refused to work.”

What was his take on the continued lockdown in the U.S.? “All of the rights that Americans fought and died in multiple wars to defend, they gave up in one governor’s press conference.”

Where does Holland fit into the death-rate-so-far competition? About the same as Sweden, which continued to run schools and restaurants, and therefore less than half the death rate of my home state of Massachusetts (but more than the U.S. overall):

How about a moving average of recent deaths?

What about other businesses? From Bloomberg:

Restaurants, bars and movie theaters will be allowed reopen starting June 1, with restrictions to comply with the “1.5 meter society” which will remain in place for the foreseeable future, Prime Minister Mark Rutte told reporters at a televised briefing in The Hague on Wednesday. Prostitution, which is legal in the Netherlands, is allowed restart on Sept. 1 according to the current time line.

(Due to the border closure, workers in the Dutch sex industry cannot simply spend the summer in the U.S. and return home with a developing annuity (see “American Child Support Profits Without an American Child”))

Given that the Dutch continued to meet in shops, in public squares, and at work, how is it possible that the coronavirus hasn’t already reached nearly everyone who is susceptible? Presumably they are expecting a second wave if they reopen restaurants tomorrow, but why is June 1 any better?

Related:

  • May 2: “Wear a mask if you want to, says Dutch prime minister”: ‘Everyone can do what they like, this is a free country,’ he said. ‘But there are risks and if you use them incorrectly, they can actually help spread the virus.’
  • starting June 1: “Since public transport will probably become busier around 1 June, it will be more difficult to stay 1.5 metres apart. It will also be impossible to carry out a preliminary risk check. That is why everyone travelling on public transport will be required to wear a non-medical face mask to protect others.”
Full post, including comments

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

Related:

Full post, including comments

Why aren’t a ton of Swedes on their way to being dead?

Sweden is geographically close to and tightly connected via commerce and tourism with some of the world’s coronavirus hotspots, e.g., Italy, Spain, and Germany. Yet the government in Sweden hasn’t closed the schools or done much of anything else about coronavirus. Why don’t the WHO COVID-2019 situation reports show a dramatic upward trend for Sweden compared to its European neighbors?

“As the rest of Europe lives under lockdown, Sweden keeps calm and carries on” (Guardian):

While every other country in Europe has been ordered into ever more stringent coronavirus lockdown, Sweden has remained the exception. Schools, kindergartens, bars, restaurants, ski resorts, sports clubs, hairdressers: all remain open, weeks after everything closed down in next door Denmark and Norway.

Universities have been closed, and on Friday, the government tightened the ban on events to limit them to no more than 50 people. But if you develop symptoms, you can still go back to work or school just two days after you feel better. If a parent starts showing symptoms, they’re allowed to continue to send their children to school. [!]

Anders Tegnell, Sweden’s state epidemiologist, believes it is counterproductive to bring in the tightest restrictions at too early a stage. “As long as the Swedish epidemic development stays at this level,” he tells the Observer, “I don’t see any big reason to take measures that you can only keep up for a very limited amount of time.”

His team at the Public Health Agency of Sweden is critical of the Imperial College paper that warned this month that 250,000 people in the UK would die if the government failed to introduce more draconian measures. A week later Johnson ordered the police to implement a partial lockdown to combat the virus, telling people they “must stay at home”.

“We have had a fair amount of people looking at it and they are sceptical,” says Tegnell. “They think Imperial chose a number of variables that gave a prognosis that was quite pessimistic, and that you could just as easily have chosen other variables that gave you another outcome. It’s not a peer-reviewed paper. It might be right, but it might also be terribly wrong. In Sweden, we are a bit surprised that it’s had such an impact.”

Is it that the Swedes have so much hospital capacity they don’t care how quickly the patients come in? No need to flatten the curve (or remind everyone you know on Facebook to flatten the curve) if an infinite supply of universal health care is available. The World Bank says that Sweden has 2.6 hospital beds per 1,000 population, less than the U.S. (2.9), Italy (3.4), Germany (8.3), or Japan (13.4). Has Sweden been hoarding ventilators? Exactly the opposite: “Sweden’s Getinge to deliver 500 ventilators to Italy as demand rockets”.

If you believe that hot/humid weather helps keep the virus in check that can’t be a factor for Sweden (high of 39F tomorrow in Stockholm). Here they are wearing jackets in summer (from my Sweden photos):

Maybe they’ve just given up? From the above article:

Tegnell even questions whether stopping the progress of the virus is desirable. “We are just trying to slow it, because this disease will never go away. If you manage, like South Korea, to get rid of it, even they say that they count on it coming back. Stopping it might even be negative, because you would have a pent-up possible spread of the disease, and then once you open the gates, there is a possibility that there would be an even worse outcome.”

While Tegnell understands that he will be blamed if Sweden ends up in a similar situation to that of Italy, he refuses to be panicked. “I wouldn’t be too surprised if it ended up about the same way for all of us, irrespective of what we’re doing,” he says. “I’m not so sure that what we’re doing is affecting the spread very much. But we will see.”

Why haven’t we seen the effects already? If a shutdown works, Sweden should have a higher infection rate per capita than Denmark, right, since Denmark is shut down. But WHO reports show Sweden with a lower infection rate (Sweden has twice the population of Denmark).

Why don’t we read about overwhelmed hospitals in Sweden? With exponential growth, we’ve had enough time to see a difference between Germany and Denmark (schools shut afternoon of March 13) and Sweden, no?

(Maybe two weeks isn’t enough if Denmark and Sweden are like Massachusetts and don’t test people until they’ve been admitted to the hospital and are at death’s door. And then the tests don’t get reported out to the public until after they’ve come back from the lab (can take 2-4 additional days). So Sweden could have been experiencing far more infections during the last two weeks, but it wouldn’t show up in the data just yet. Though you’d think we’d see hysterical articles about the hospitals filling up, as we have been getting out of New York.)

Related:

  • From 2018: “Denmark plans to house the country’s most unwelcome foreigners in a most unwelcoming place: a tiny, hard-to-reach island that now holds the laboratories, stables and crematory of a center for researching contagious animal diseases. As if to make the message clearer, one of the two ferries that serve the island is called the Virus.” (nytimes)
  • family law in Sweden (a divorce following a coronavirus quarantine is unlikely to be profitable; alimony is unavailable and child support revenue is capped at about $2,500 per year)
  • getting to the same place, but perhaps from a less-obviously-informed-by-epidemiology perspective, “Brazil’s Bolsonaro makes life-or-death coronavirus gamble” (Associated Press): “Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has staked out the most deliberately dismissive position of any major world leader, calling the pandemic a momentary, minor problem and saying strong measures to contain it are unnecessary. “The Brazilian needs to be studied. He doesn’t catch anything. You see a guy jumping into sewage, diving in, right? Nothing happens to him. I think a lot of people were already infected in Brazil, weeks or months ago, and they already have the antibodies that help it not proliferate,” Bolsonaro said.
  • my photos from Sweden (back in the film days)

Full post, including comments