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Lockdown lunatics keep the faith
Our public health bureaucracy has trouble letting go of the Coof. Simply getting on with life is for them not an option.
The redoubtable Eugyppius, who emerged last autumn as a trenchant critic of pandemic policy, in particular the sociology of our elphantine public health bureacracies, published a piece several days ago, The Corona Myth Assumes its Final Form (paywall), in which he continued his expositions on the turgid control-freakery of the containment zealots:
The latest journalistic abomination from Der Spiegel, Germany’s leading weekly news magazine, is a piece by Rafaela von Bredow and Veronika Hackenbroch, purporting to chronicle the three greatest Corona policy errors Germany has committed, in order to understand how we can best prepare ourselves for the fall and the new deadly variants that await:
Germany has already experienced two pandemic summers. Beautiful, carefree summers. But also two pandemic winters that did not go well, because hardly anyone prepared for the next wave during the virus-free period.
The question now is whether another summer will pass in which nothing happens, whether people will again have to suffer restrictions or die because no one wants to learn from mistakes – all while new variants may already be emerging that could evade immune defences. […]
As if on cue, the very same message was delivered here in the Netherlands in a news item published on the state-funded NOS. Our handwringing, pearl-clutching Karens continue to fret:
The Netherlands is ill-prepared for a severe corona wave in the autumn. The government's plans are too non-committal and the elaboration of these plans takes too long. As a result, valuable time is being lost. If things go badly with the coronavirus, a new lockdown threatens this autumn or winter. This is shown by a survey by the NOS among hospital directors, virologists and scientists.
They see taking measures such as a renewed mouth mask obligation and keeping one and a half metres distance, but also a form of a lockdown, as a real scenario due to the sluggishness of the Cabinet. This is remarkable, because in the latest Cabinet plans, the starting point is to prevent lockdowns even in the event of an outbreak of the virus and to keep society open.
Today, the Lower House will discuss the longer-term corona policy, but according to the experts, preparations for a corona wave this autumn are not being discussed enough.
"Everyone seems to have fallen asleep, it's a bit like sticking your head in the sand," says David Jongen, director of the Zuyderland hospital and vice-chairman of the Association of Hospitals, expressing the concerns of his fellow directors.
Fewer IC beds due to even fewer staff
The biggest problem is still the staff shortage in healthcare. This was already a problem before the pandemic, but in the past few years many nurses have stopped working. On top of that, absenteeism among the remaining care workers is still twice as high as before the corona crisis.
According to Joke Dieperink, board member of the professional association V&VN-IC and an IC nurse herself, almost nothing has happened in the meantime to solve this. "We now have to do the job again with fewer colleagues than at the start of the pandemic. And that really worries me, because I don't know if this is going to work. That you will lose even more colleagues in the next wave."
Pressure on personnel still high
It is precisely in the area of staff shortages that the Ministry of Health seems to have given up on the issue in advance. The 'Policy Agenda on Pandemic Preparedness' of 14 April states: "Given the shortages in both healthcare and other sectors, it is unrealistic to expect the number of healthcare staff to increase further in the coming years."
As in so many other parts of the world, our lockdown lunatics, our face-mask fanatics, our constipated keep-your-distance nannies have learned nothing the past two years. No new information has been assimlated; no nuances or fresh insights gained. The system is a closed one. The gears grind ever onward.
One salient aspect of Dutch situation, as indicated above, is the shortage of healthcare staff. A long-standing problem, the pandemic only made the situation worse. The never-ending regime of permanent austerity imposed by our neoliberal overlords has resulted in a chronic personnel shortages across the public sector, with healthcare, education and police especially heavily hit.
As we've since learned from WOB (Freedom of Information Act) releases related to the pandemic, the health bureacracy was aware even before Covid arrived that hospital capacity was extremely tight, and during the first half of 2020 developed a plan to increase it. This was summarily rejected by the Dutch Cabinet and the Outbreak Management Team (OMT), which, for motives (perverse?) that we can only speculate on, preferred to rely instead on lockdowns, facemasks, curfews, group size restrictions, and social distancing. And of course vaccines, the Holy Grail of our Big Pharma-friendly public health boffins.
Dutch data analyst Daniël van der Tuin has been providing a yeoman service on his Substack with his analysis of this and other pandemic-related WOB documents:
This country can easily afford adequate numbers nurses, teachers, and policeman. It is one of the most prosperous countries in Europe, with a permanent trade surplus which proportionally dwarfs that our eastern neighbor Germany. Dutch infrastucture is some of the best in the world, as I myself am reminded on a nearly daily basis. So it is not that we abhor all forms of public spending. We just don’t seem to like to spend money on people.
So, we plump up the dykes — both figuratively and literally — from time to time, as we have since time immemorial in the never-ending struggle against river and sea. But surely there is more to life than just keeping one’s feet dry?
Postscript The day after this news item appeared, Dutch health minister, the ghoulish Ernst Kuypers, of whom I am decidedly no fan, nonetheless stated in response that The Hague could not henceforth take sole responsibility for pandemic policy; even he seems to grudgingly admit that manically pursuing a top-down approach is not the way forward. Errors were made, and all that. (See: Vooral aan samenleving zelf om voorbereid te zijn op nieuwe coronagolf, zegt Kuipers)
Ewald Engelen, my favorite Dutch political economist, observed that maybe, just maybe Kuipers learned something from the more successful Swedish pandemic approach. We’ll probably only know for sure in the autumn.