250-ish Days Later

Now that we can worry substantially less about the US, let’s get back to the real word for a bit and follow-up on my last cursory update on the pandemic. As of tomorrow, 121 councils in Portugal will be under strict lockdown from 23:00–05:00 on weekdays and after 13:00 on the next couple of weekends.

The reason why is pretty obvious, as well as somewhat dramatic when compared to where we were at the 200-ish day mark:

As usual, this comes from my COVID-19 dashboard, which I keep updating daily.

After months of political and social laissez-faire, punctuated with a smattering of public events, insanely active night life and constant outbreaks in nursing homes, this is hardly surprising.

In short, like pretty much everywhere else, there is a segment of the population (young, carefree, stupid–pick any two) that just isn’t helping.

Schools are still open (given that “there is no data to prove they’re a major source of contagion”–yet), the government and most politicians are rallying around the need to keep as much of the economy running as possible, but right now we’re starting to run out of hospital beds:

This is the really worrying bit.

I’m told we’ve actually gone over stated capacity from March, although (obviously) more beds were made available and we’ve learned a lot about how to treat this in the meantime.

Walking on Quicksand

I’m squarely on the side of these new measures being too little, too late–again, like in other countries, there is a widespread notion of trying to use November as a suppression buffer to “tide us over Christmas”, but it would have been a much better decision to have restricted movements a full month (or maybe even two) ago, just as people were coming back from holidays and mingling.

Would it have been a highly popular move? No.

Would it have impacted the economy? Yes, but (and this is my key point here) a lighter touch might have gone farther.

Remember, it’s been 50 days since my last full update, and it was already pretty obvious that cases were slowly ramping up–and last month’s update was already well into an exponential growth curve.

I guess monkeys humans are clearly not cut out for statistics. Or for thinking ahead, in general.

Mind the Gaps

The way I see it, there are two major blind spots in government thinking and some of their most common statements:

  • “there is no data to prove (schools are) a major source of contagion” (which comes to mind every day I pick up my kids from school and see teenagers removing their masks as soon as they go through the gates to bunch up on the street)
  • and “there is no evidence of contagion on public transportation”, which worries me considering a hefty chunk of the population absolutely must use it to get to their jobs.

Also, the curfew on weekend afternoons just means that supermarkets (and shopping centers, which these days are often co-located) are going to be crowded in the mornings. Not the brightest idea, to say the least.

In short, family groupings, pubs, restaurants, etc., are considered (rightly) to be a major factor in spreading the disease, but many scenarios where humans are shut in enclosed environments at length are blissfully ignored.

And many people will be going to other councils to work (or shop), so it is quite likely that we’ll be looking at more than 121 councils under lockdown in a couple of weeks.

What about Masks?

They work, but we’re hostages to human nature and carelessness. Even with them becoming mandatory, I still see too many colorful rags, noses poking out or uncovered faces to believe they are, in the grand scheme of things, effective against the blithering mass of “covidiots” that pervades the population.

Just as an example, the guys preventing me from working quietly every day walk around the stairway and in and out of the building with nary a care in the world.

What About The Next 50 Days?

I’m a pessimist, but based on what I’ve been observing I fully expect January and February to be pretty dramatic as people get together over the holiday season, the weather becomes worse and hospitals start to collapse under the number of cases.

There is already widespread concern that COVID-19 has had a severe collateral impact in the ability to treat or even keep track of all other medical conditions, so this is not going to be a happy holiday season–except if you’re a pine tree or something.

That Data Cesspit

Oh, and before I forget–case reporting is still a shambles. A few days ago 3500 delayed cases “caught up” with the official daily report, which still hasn’t improved and is still a disgraceful dinky little PDF instead of an actually usable dataset.

Sadly, I think even the volunteer crews have given up by now. I salute them, and hope we’ll all see the end of this soon.