333 Days Later

The week was grueling and I’m effectively working through the weekend (at least a few hours a day) to catch up, but I thought a short update was in order regarding , since a number of things have come to pass.

This post is the latest in my increasingly long series on the COVID-19 pandemic as viewed from Portugal, which began after the start of the pandemic and has had irregular updates , , , and days later.

This Week

…was a mess, in many ways:

  • Schools were closed this Thursday, with the haphazard justification that the English variant of COVID-19 is quickly rising to prevalence (and semi-denial that they would contribute to community spreading regardless of common sense).
  • We’ve surpassed every single indicator (cases/day/million, deaths/day/million, etc. worldwide). Portugal is now officially the country that is hardest hit by the pandemic (and, in my rather biased opinion, where it’s been most mis-managed).
  • All manner of mobility indicators show that despite the seriousness of the situation, there are roughly twice as many people out and about than in last year’s lockdown. People just don’t care (even down to walking empty dog leashes and exploring all manner of other loopholes).
  • Emergency services are overwhelmed in various aspects (beds and gear are not quite lacking but can’t be set up quickly enough, and we’re running out of carers, with people being drafted and from all kinds of medical staff and fast-tracked through training). Ambulances are scarce for any kind of patients right now.
  • We’re still going to have the presidential election tomorrow, where I expect absenteeism to be at least 70% (if not up to 90%) and our local right-wing Trump wannabe (who, incidentally, has flouted his contempt of sanitary rules more than once) to garner enough votes to become more than a nuisance.

This last one is partly because our Constitution does not allow for postponing elections come hell or high water, and because there seems to be zero political common sense and will to amend it, in much the same way we stumble forward every fortnight and have long and protracted bi-weekly decisions because emergency measures are limited to 15 days’ duration, and our politicians can’t think (or act) faster than the pandemic.

New Data

Meanwhile, all curves on my dashboard are still going exponential:

The raw data is worrying enough, but I'm expecting the right-hand chart to plateau, and deaths (not shown) to rise sharply.

…and I’ve started looking at some correlations, since with a few hundred data points I can actually trust their accuracy somewhat:

As far as I'm concerned, we lost this battle when we didn't lock down hard mid-December, new variants or not.

Decision Paralysis

Amidst the overbearing certainty that this could have been averted to a massive degree by taking action much earlier (instead of endless political dithering) and having done much more in terms of preparation–like reinforcing staff and hospitals during early Autumn and starting the lockdown before Christmas, instead of putting up a facade of normality and loosening restrictions during the holiday season–there are some things that I find utterly inexcusable and thoroughly irresponsible.

One of them is that the Ministry of Education, in a gloriously incompetent way worthy of being prominently featured as a textbook example of governing according to the least common denominator, has decreed that the next two weeks are an “interruption” (i.e., vacation, to be compensated later) and has stated no schools are to move to online learning, flamboyantly ignoring the fact that even though it is clear that there are thousands of schools (and kids, and most especially teachers) that are not prepared (or have the means) for it, the Government did nothing to prepare for this situation since last year, and would rather burn these two weeks instead of allowing many schools that had forethought to decide for themselves.

Oh, and it was pretty obvious this was going to happen. Announcing it this late, in this way and without any forward-looking plan borders on criminal incompetence, and I fully expect at least a couple of rushed “digitizations” of public schools to emerge as media success stories soon in an attempt to save face.

How It Affects Us

My kids’ school issued a contrite note stating (and I paraphrase) “we were fully prepared to move back to full remote schooling this Friday, but the government won’t allow it.”

My kids were expecting (and ready) to resume online classes, and are now miserable because they can’t do that. And yes, I know we’re privileged in that regard, and I can only imagine what it must be like for the majority of people (especially those with smaller kids), but having them around the house doing nothing for two weeks means a fair amount of supervision that, given my current workload, I would rather do without…

Also, online shopping is getting a little wonky (not to the same degree as last year, but cooking balanced meals for 4 people on a daily basis–some with dietary restrictions–is going to be another challenge).

What really gets to me is the brazen way the Portuguese government gets away with the roaring abyss of inaction it leaves behind us, and that we seem to be ruled by a pack of medieval peasants who would rather have us all roll in the muck rather than stand up for ourselves whenever possible, let alone planning ahead…

If you’ve read this far, apologies for the rant. I have far too much on my mind at this point to hold everything back, and, at the same time, I’m trying to lay down enough reference points that I can look back to these times later and write something further in-depth.

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