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Merkel bans meetings of more than two people to slow coronavirus (politico.eu)
330 points by doener 7 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 353 comments





Story from a very good friend of mine in Germany, we talk almost every day: There was a suspected case in his kid’s school class, first grader. So they closed the class and tested the other kid. That was 11 days ago. The result came in today (I.e. the other parents were informed today): Positive. There is no way you can stop this virus from spreading if you inform contacts almost 2 weeks later.

That's surprising. A family member of mine (mid 20ies) in Germany went on a one-week vacation to the north of Germany (he lives somewhere else in Germany) two weeks ago and one of them wasn't feeling well. So they called the respective office to ask about Covid-19 and were told to stay at there vacation home, no one should go anywhere and someone would come to see and test them. They came early the next day in full hazmat suits testing everyone of them. Also bringing an official order that they have to stay in the house until there are results. Results where available a few hours later and they were told by phone that they are negative and can move freely again. All of this was about two weeks ago. They were generally happy with the response and the speed of everything.

Health is delegated to the States, not a federal matter, so the respond may differ greatly between each of them.

The title is also misleading, as Merkel does not have the power to decide such things. Well, at least not by the letter.


It's even worse. Each city and county has its own health department (Gesundheitsamt) that can freely decide on their own guidelines. So you have some departments that test nearly everybody and others that will only test when you call 3 different always busy hotlines with a 40°C fever - which btw isn't even an indicator; you can be infected and just have a mild cold.

Bavaria declared a statewide emergency in part to be able to overrule and have a consistent guideline across all health departments.


Honestly, Bavaria is the only State that implemented sane rules.

The list of exceptions in NRW is completely crazy.


What is the list? Do you have a link?

Friends of mine were on a vacation in Italy too a few weeks ago. They said they were tested right at the border and got their results in under 24h

> That's surprising. A family member of mine (mid 20ies) in Germany went on a one-week vacation to the north of Germany (he lives somewhere else in Germany)

Not every state responds the same and follows the same routines, that's the federal structure for you and differences can be enormous depending on where it is.


Well people hopefully don’t run around if they suspect being infected. Germany is not China, we don’t protect people “by force” e.g. by locking them into their apartments, we currently still trust people to do the right thing. If that’s the right strategy remains to be seen, I think/hope we will be able to stop the growth of (verified) infected people at 50.000 or less, then we won’t overburden the health system. So far it seems to work as the number of new infections seems to go down, we will have to wait until next week to see if it really works though.

Huh? You will reach 50k by Thursday, that is guaranteed!

Germany just began any serious action, and there is a 2 week lag before seeing any sort of impact.

In Poland we had a national lockdown a week ago (which you can see everywhere - empty streets and so on), and so far the numbers don’t reflect it at all.

As for locking people down, yes you can do it, it’s called a quarantine.


Actually the measures in Germany started on Monday, six days ago. That's when all the schools and kindergartens closed down, many stores closed, and those interventions also triggered the first significant changes in people's behavior. Of course effectively it was a gradual change over the week, with more and more stores closing and public spaces emptying, but that Monday six days ago was clearly the major tipping point.

So I would expect to see first effects in new infection numbers over the coming week, with nearly full effect probably visible some time during the following one.


Nothing really changed. In my city people still went to parks together and were more or less cuddling with each other in the supermarkets.

Most might have stayed at home but the 5% that didn't are still enough to spread it exponentially.


I've observed significant changes. Can't say much about parks (haven't been in one during the last days, for obvious reasons) but at stores and supermarkets people were trying to keep their distance. My regular supermarket has painted lines on the floor in all places that typically get crowded to help with keeping the 1.5m minimum distance while waiting. Multiple hardware stores have limited the number of customers admitted to the store at once, surplus customers have to wait in line outside (at appropriate distance).

Home office has changed from being the exception to being the norm for a week now at my workplace (an IT company), and I've heard the same from members of my family working elsewhere (in non-IT businesses).


If you spend 8 hours a night sleeping next to somebody, I don't think a little public cuddling is going to hurt.

Well, this got lost in translation. "Cuddling with each other" ("miteinander kuscheln") in this context is a German idiom that means strangers standing really close to each other.

Sounds like "huddling" together might be an English word that conveys the meaning slightly better than "cuddling".

We will see, I'm hopeful. Good luck to the people in Poland and everywhere else as well of course!

Western nations certainly do protect people by force. There are a lot of circumstances where this is true--both protecting people from others as well as from themselves.

In the current circumstances, in a lot of places in the U.S. people are being told to stay home unless they have a specific, approved reason to go out. These are legal orders--not suggestions--that are ultimately upheld by the threat of force.

If things get really bad, we could see the National Guard deployed to enforce curfews and such. And there are other uses of force that are legal in emergency circumstances.

I assume things are similar in Germany and other European countries. The German government could order people to stay home under threat of fines or jail time, even if they haven't done so yet. (I'd be very surprised if this isn't the case.)

Now, I'm not saying the U.S. or Germany is equivalent to China or anything nonsensical like that. I just don't see why people need to keep saying we don't do this or that (e.g., use force) when we clearly do.

I don't have much optimism that people, on the whole, will do the right thing and self-quarantine. Being forced to stay home is probably the only thing that will work.


> unless they have a specific, approved reason to go out

Which includes things like walking, running, & hiking with people at 6ft distance. Not sure how serious that is.

> These are legal orders--not suggestions--that are ultimately upheld by the threat of force.

They're also not getting enforced AFAIK, so not everyone's taking it seriously. I don't really have reason to think anybody's getting "forced" in the sense of threat-of-force.


Sure, in the U.S. the cops aren't citing people, as far as I've heard anyway, but I do think the potential to get busted does impact a lot of or maybe most people's behavior. A lot of people would do the right thing anyway, but a lot of other people wouldn't without the underlying threat of force.

They are absolutely getting enforced by the police.

Wait really? I've seen/heard no indication of such, but a fair bit to suggest otherwise. Is this a very recent development? (Any links you can share?)

In Bavaria very similar rules have been in force since Friday night already. Yesterday evening the bavarian police published a statement that they did "thousands of checks" and found "dozens of violations". They say that overall most people are following the rules.

This is the official statement, but some newspapers seem to have more details: https://www.polizei.bayern.de/news/presse/aktuell/index.html...


...you're talking about Germany? The comment I was replying to was "in a lot of places in the U.S. people are being told to stay home unless they have a specific, approved reason to go out".

You are right, I misread your answer. Germany at least seems to be handing out fines.

A Chicago neighborhood has this:

> The Oak Park order is in effect until April 3, which means local schools will be closed a week longer than the governor has commanded. While the order states that violations can result in a misdemeanor criminal charge, Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb said the goal is not to place people in jail, but rather to use the ordinance to explain the gravity of the COVID-19 pandemic.

https://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:I-uzFm... (google cache due to paywall)


Yeah, exactly. It's similar in other counties. Instead of enforcing, they're basically telling people they won't enforce. It's actively making people not take it seriously.

Enforcement should be limited to congregations of people. If I am walking outside by myself, and nobody is nearby, then the government should not have the right to tell me I have to go inside. This isn't a disease you get by merely stepping outside of your home.

I agree, to a point, and currently there are no such restrictions in the U.S. Hopefully things won't get bad enough that they become necessary--i.e., I hope people are finally starting to take this pandemic seriously.

But I think anyone can agree that if it becomes a question of, say, millions of people dying unless people stay home for awhile that it would be okay for government to exercise that kind of authority.


Our gov said that about half of the people that were told to self quarantine after returning from Italy just went shopping outside. (determined by credit card usage data)

Card sharing may account for low percentage of that perhaps.

So I'd trust about 50% of people, perhaps. I guess this number rises, as the effects of the crisis are getting more severe and immediate.


Which gov is 'our gov'? Can you cite that report?

https://www.seznamzpravy.cz/clanek/odhaleni-diky-datum-polov...

Google translate:

> COVID19CZ's IT Initiative has put together anonymised card payment data at merchants. They show that people do not comply with the mandated quarantine, but also that many Czechs are still in risk areas. Article

Those arriving from Italy are going to quarantine for two weeks, the government announced on Friday 6 March. The measure began to apply from Saturday. That person was supposed to report on the phone to his general practitioner, who decided on quarantine on Monday. If returning Czechs have taken this step, it is not clear, but their payment data shows that 46 percent of people quarantined at least once in the first week in the first week.

“We can look at the number of people who paid with a card for one week in Italy and the next one in the Czech Republic. It can be seen from payment transactions that such people often went somewhere in the Czech Republic and bought something, ”says Petr Bednařík from DataSentics, who is part of the initiative of several Czech technology companies and IT enthusiasts COVID19CZ. It focuses on helping to combat a new type of coronavirus pandemic.

His analytical group, consisting of DataSentics and Keboola, works with leading Czech financial institutions. The analysis of Czech payment card activities abroad was based on Dateio data.

[...]


I can bet, Germany will reach 100k next week. The people don’t care at all. Only minority wears masks and try to keep proper distance. Even today police force was needed to cancel something like party in part in Munich.

"Germany is not China, we don’t protect people “by force” e.g. by locking them into their apartments"

Wait until you will (chance of avoiding it I think is really small)


> we currently still trust people to do the right thing

Except it's been shown time and time again that people can't be trusted to do the right thing.


I don’t think this is a universal truth. It can be trusted that a small percentage of people will be selfish or indifferent, even in the light of warnings; while that always means >0, I don’t think that such a thing can be said to apply to “people” in general.

I think it is. Look at alcohol for example. Governments that permit alcohol consumption "trust" that people will "drink responsibly". However, just look at the disasters that alcohol has brought about, from drunk driving, to being the cause of many rape and homicide crimes, to health issues for drinkers, to breaking apart families, etc.

Many, many more people drink alcohol responsibly than those who cause problems with it. I am not sure that "a minority of people, given freedom, do harmful things with it" is a good reason to broadly take away freedoms from people in general.

There are many other good examples, like driving, over-the-counter medications, and firearms, for example. The fact that 56,000 people each year in the US end up in an ER because of acetaminophen overdose is not a good reason to ban Tylenol from being sold.


> Many, many more people drink alcohol responsibly than those who cause problems with it.

The argument is that those who do cause issues cause them in a disproportionate manner that it makes total sense to ban it outright. It is 100% the logical thing to do.

The Tylenol argument doesn't make sense because it is a medicine that can have good come out of it. Alcohol is dangerous, and it mainly exists for companies to profit hugely from it (it's sufficient to watch the lewd ads around alcohol to know what's going on).


> Alcohol is dangerous, and it mainly exists for companies to profit hugely from it

I think you will find that human manufacture and consumption of alcohol predates the idea of companies. You seem to be letting your personal biases about it affect your beliefs, for example:

> It is 100% the logical thing to do.

This is not some logical, objective fact, but is actually your opinion. It's fine to have the opinion that it should be banned; to present it as "the logical thing" is another.


I know of another case reported to me by a friend. Their co-workers have taken part in an event that spawned multiple infections. They were ordered to stay home for two weeks and await testing.

No one ever came to test them, after multiple pleas. The two weeks ran out some time ago.


Would the tests have made a difference to them?

In the meantime, since that event, they met multiple co-workers, and they in turn met other people as well (families etc.). So potential for spreading is high.

Well, that was on the "ordered to stay home for two weeks" part which should have prevented them from meeting multiple coworkers.

Maybe the authorities should start sending sham tests that always test positive. Honestly what difference would the test make if they keep meeting people. Even after the event, they expose themselves to infection

They should not through. You are supposed to assume you are infected.

But if they closed down the class because of that all parents should have been aware that their kids could possibly be infected.

That seems strange. Most results are ready in 24h in Germany I think.

Living in Germany with a neighbor working in intensive care on COVID-19 patients: Germany was one of the first nations to come up with a test and usually, the lab they're working with has a 4h turnaround time, but the backlog is currently 3 days. As said, results vary widely depending on where you are, but on average, Germany's still testing more people here than most other nations other than maybe China or South Korea. I suspect that's the main reason behind the huge discrepancies of deaths per case in Germany vs. South Europe: Germany may not be particularly thorough, but the number of unreported cases is certain to be higher almost anywhere else. Especially the US will have a really rough wakeup call.

Most stuff related to the pandemic like testing is not centrally organized in Germany, this is all on the state or local level. So I can easily imagine that there are very large differences depending on where exactly you are.

The test in the lab actually only takes a couple of hours. Most labs are currently struggling with a backlog.

The test is a simple polymerase chain reaction (PCR), however, the number of PCRs that some labs have to perform has increased by an order of magnitude. The utilization of the required machines and the number of qualified lab scientists are now bottlenecks. This is why tests results often take a couple of days now.

We should see faster lab results in the coming weeks as labs are equipped with more machines and staff is retrained. However, this is also of course dependent on the increase of tests.


In Canada it used to be 24hrs, but there is now a 4-5 day waiting period to get results after you get swabbed or blood tested, due to a large backlog of tests.

So most results we see today are about ~9-10 days old if we combine that with “when did first symptoms appear?” survey in the Chinese study (results were often 5-10 days before visiting the hospital when the tests are first initiated). Then on top of that some people take up to 5 days to show the first symptom.

So any data you see today could easily be 2 weeks old. 1 week would be an ideal target in the short term, depending on where your goalposts are...


It still looks like a lot of testing is still not being done. 2 of my friends (here in Germany) most likely had it (as attested by their doctor), but were told they would not be tested as they could not with certainty say that they had contact with someone that was tested positive.

It really depends… tests in my city are 1-2 days right now I think, but priority cases like doctors will take the front of the queue and can happen all the time. Colleague of mine was tested and diagnosed (negative) within 4 hours, because her partner is a emergency doctor.

That's why the best rule for ingesting news about current events is usually: don't read the comments

In theory you're right but I've often see reporting that is plain BS and serving some underlying political agenda rather then cold facts and/or reasonable analysis. So in those cases first hand info from the people who are actually there could make more sense.

No. My colleague was tested on Wednesday, still no result.

I don't think there is a way to stop this virus from infecting "everyone". The important thing about self isolation and social distancing is that it reduces the speed of spreading so hospitals are not overloaded.

* "everyone" being a large enough population in the world where heard immunity is achieved, probably something around 90%


you can calculate the necessary herd immunity by taking the natural R0: 1-(1/R0) with R0 of 2.4 that would be about 58%

That’s just anecdotal data. Two weeks ago, Munich, test on Sunday for a 4 person family, results came back Tuesday. They were not allowed to leave their home until results came back.

That's consistent with what other people in the thread are saying, that Bavaria has declared an emergency and is taking it much more seriously than most other German states.

I read an interesting article describing how cultural factors are affecting virus spreading. Among many things, the family configuration is radically different in Germany than in Italy or Spain and this is one of the key factors (besides Germany being able to buy and execute tests to confine who needed to be confined in time). It looks like many Italians (also many Spaniards but not so many) live with their parents even when they are 30-40 years old. In addition, many grandparents take care of children in daily or regular basis. This means that very socially active slices of society are in constant contact with the the population which is most at risk.

So far the median age of German cases is 47. It is 63 for Italy. Also, Germany isn’t doing postmortem testing on people that are dying from preexisting conditions that could be suspicious. Italy has tested corpses that weren’t initially tested.

Global numbers are so tough to compare with different countries testing differently, reporting differently, and of course demographic differences.


To put those case figures in context; the median age of the population as a whole in Germany is 47, and for Italy it's 45. [1]

[1] https://worldpopulationreview.com/countries/median-age/


Italy doesn't test people that die outside of the hospitals either.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-italy-...


The OP is not talking about people dying outside hospitals, it saying that people with dying with preexisting conditions are not tested

Very true. Each country is following also different policies. I personally know a few people that are infected in Spain but have not been officially tested so they don't make part of any statistic.

If they have not been officially tested, how do you know they are infected? It's not enough to have symptoms; I myself had several symptoms about a month ago, but they didn't test me because they were not enough symptoms and I didn't have a travel history to mainland China, so then I still don't know if I was actually infected or it was just a flu.

It is what the doctors told them. Also considering they have been in direct contact with officially tested infected people. Young people with very hard breathing difficulties (for the first time in their life), fever, muscular and bone pain, etc. Btw, the doctors call them at least once a day but they are confined at home.

The differentiating question might be did you have a running nose? If yes, it's not the coronavirus.

WHO says "very few" people will get a running nose, but that is not equivalent to saying you do not have the virus if you have a running nose. I'd be careful saying blanket statements like this

Why do they test people who are dead already? Given the shortage of tests, wouldn't it more sense to test people who are alive?

Dying patients are still in contact with tons of people: doctors, nurses, relatives, etc; and these people go on infecting, unless they are traced and isolated. One case in Southern Italy resulted in death, but the body was incorrectly released for the funeral like a regular case. Result: dozens of infections at the funeral.

One person in a nursing home of now 20 dies of respiratory complications matching pre-existing conditions.

You can:

- assume it was coronavirus, test the remaining 20 people - cost: 20 tests

- or, test the dead person, then only test the remaining 20 people if that test comes back positive - cost: 1 test or 21 tests, expected cost 1 + 20 * % chance the person was infected tests.

Unless you believe there's a 95% chance they were infected, the tests are better spent elsewhere.

(This assumes you are also going to isolate them until the results are in regardless, which has further cost and dangers especially in high-risk groups. And that you are either already testing or not testing anyone outside the living group possibly exposed. Public health is a wicked problem.)


1. You can still do contact tracing of a dead person, and follow-up on who they interacted with.

2. Bigger death numbers allow medical professionals to go to their government, and demand for more stringent quarantine measures.


Different places in the world have different levels of test shortage.

There was an additional interesting cultural correlation I heard: there are more cases in the south and south-west of Germany plus a slightly outlier in Hamburg layer. This matches apparently when there are winter holidays in schools (different in each state in Germany) and the fact the generally skiing is more popular in the south, were many people would travel to the Alps, including northern Italy, for vacation. This could possibly mean that more people from these regions brought the virus back home.

There are more explanations. Karneval/Fasching/Fasnacht celebrations are hugely popular in the South and West and virtually inexistent in the North and East. The east is generally poorer (so easterners travel less) and has less popular tourist destinations - except Berlin, which has been hit badly enough.

Also, if you compare the map of corona cases with population density maps of Germany you will see a strong correlation.

That’s essentially saying where there is more people there is more virus; which is close to a tautology.

Not a tautology but yes, that is essentially what I am saying.

I just found it weird that people seem to be focusing on all sorts of factors like family structure, median income, winter holidays, Fasching/Karneval celebrations etc (which of course also play a role) while completely ignoring that higher population density facilitates the spread of a novel virus.


Can confirm for Hamburg being an exception in the north, the holidays there are often called skiing holidays because people will travel to Austria, Switzerland and Italy for skiing. I live in the greater metropolitan region and still have family in the city, and they've mentioned that everybody that they know in quarantine is so because they've returned from Austria or Italy.

Indeed i worry that these measures on the south don't work because of this: https://i.imgur.com/AuTw89a.png

Physical distance is a major determinant, as people naturally in times of crisis tend to stick together or even visit their parents more often.


Ah, so one could draw a link to the single currency. The single currency is basically European countries tethering theirs to the Deutschmark, which is great for Germany, but disastrous for the others. So, economic boom for Germany, kids can afford to live away from their parents. Economic hardship for others (remember "PIIGS"?) mean kids have been living with their parents more...

Before people downvote me for being kooky conspiracy theory, read:

https://www.csmonitor.com/World/Europe/2012/0924/Euro-crisis...

and:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/timworstall/2016/09/11/the-euro...


The conspiracy part of it is that you're fundamentally misunderstanding German society. Exporting to European countries (and the world) is great for shareholders and they've made a lot of money. It's not so much so for the average worker, and they aren't earning a lot more in real money. The jobs are in the cities, the rents are rising very quickly, the taxes are high and there's very little individual wealth for the middle class. There's no "economic boom" that would enable large parts of the German society to live comfortably, and it may come as a surprise, but trickle-down isn't working in Germany either.

Very interesting. In Germany, many deaths occurred in retirement homes...

most live together with multiple generations in china too.

That would be an interesting factor, do you still have the link to the article?



The Spanish and Italians also kiss each other on greeting.

And in many Asian countries they bow. Maybe that's one reason countries like South Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore were able to slow down the spread so quickly.

Bavarians do that too.

Except they don't?

Interesting point. But maybe there is also difference in air travel/contact between Germany/Italy/Spain and China.

I think this is fair. The problem in most western democracies is, that it is nearly impossible to enforce a law that is not accepted by the people, at least not for a long time. A complete shutdown in Wuhan-style may be more effective, but in any western country the people would, after two or three weeks, start to find loopholes. So i think its better to make a law that is a bit less effective but accepted by the people instead of a law that invites people to get "creative"

" The problem in most western democracies is, that it is nearly impossible to enforce a law that is not accepted by the people"

It's not a bug, its a feature.

Seriously, the very idea of democracy is to only have laws accepted by the people.

So if there is no acceptance, there should be no law. Unless it is accepted to have emergency authorian rule, like in this case.


Would be nice if democracy would really work like that. In reality the ruling parties can make the laws how they like no matter if people will like it or not. Think for example on the current plan in the US to break all end-to-end encryption: people will not like it but it does not matter

"people will not like it but it does not matter"

It does matter what the people like and not. The problem in this case is just, that most people do not at all understand the implications of breaking encryption. Actually most barley know what encryption is at all. Thats why there is no outrage.


There was this analysis of bills passed and who supported them a while back by someone at Princeton. Turns out public opinion has a near negligible impact. https://act.represent.us/sign/the-problem/

That's not a counterexample. The claim was about enforcement of a law, not proposed legislation. It hasn't worked very well for other governments that have tried a similar approach, so I have little reason to believe people would just stop using E2E encryption. For a more apt example, consider digital piracy laws which are IIRC in the US explicitly ignored up to a certain number of counted (far from actual!) abuses.

I feel like this is ignoring how self-centered most people are.

There's plenty of laws that your average person agrees with because they want everyone else to follow them: pay your taxes, follow the speed limit, don't be loud after 10 PM, and clean up your dogs poop. But at the same time, they have no problem making exceptions for themselves.

So whether or not any individual follows a certain rule is not indicative of their support of the rule, and a lot of people breaking a certain rule doesn't make it nondemocratic.


> Unless it is accepted to have emergency authorian rule, like in this case.

Post socialist seem to understand what a national emergency is and when it's on, you shut up and do as told. I'm a Hungarian, living in England; the brits have no grasp on this scenario. Somewhere deep down it feels like we needed this pandemic to:

a, undestand one's "rights" doesn't always apply

b, to realize we're living in the golden years* - it's cushioned, comfortable, wonderful, and that we should cherish it and value it.

* Iron Maiden - Wasted Years https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=mmszv0jpvSY


All countries have had challenges like this before, be it world war 1/2, conscription, etc.

It's not an excuse to lose rights outside the confines of the emergency.

It might be true post-Russian dominated states might still have recent memories on how to obey a central authority (mainly on pain of 'disappearing' into something like a gulag or being executed), it's not a lesson we need to learn thanks.

It's still hard for many of us to take the threat seriously, but that'll change.


>undestand one's "rights" doesn't always apply

It's funny, movies got it wrong, you don't need mass deaths, zombies or giant deadly global disasters to have people accept their rights being suspended and acquiesce to being herded like sheep under strict authoritarian rules under threat of monetary punishment or even incarnation....you just need to make them scared of being sick...


Speaking about social behavior, I'm in contact with Italian people; they're pretty scared and they're respecting the rules (that is, staying home).

I can definitely tell you that up to around a week ago, there was a certain anarchy, that is people carelessly meeting in crowded places (Italy has a mix of both strongly social behavior, and cultural aversion to rules), but things changed drastically.

Until people is scared, they'll honor the rules (of course, one will always find exceptions); I think that it's not about acceptance, but fear.

If this is true, then while the epidemic is (sadly) going strong, people will do what's necessary in an acceptable manner.


> I can definitely tell you that up to around a week ago, there was a certain anarchy

As one of the locked up people in Italy, I don't think it is completely true. The media did quite a nice job at cherry picking the bad apples. But if we go by the number of fines levied for breaking the rules, it's around 45K (figure taken from a day). A drop in the bucket compared to the population that's staying at home.

And it's still not clear why the people were fined: were they breaking intentionally the rules, or were they not in possession of the required documents? (You have to go around with a piece of paper stating wh you're out of your house, and if not found truthful you risk a fine and an arrest).


I've checked the chat logs with my Italian friends, and the discussion about people still carelessly gathering in social places (and in fact, photos were being posted on forums) was referring to March 9th.

Therefore, the reference "around a week" that I've made is wrong, considering that March 9th was the lockdown date.

My experience with another country with lockdown is still different - people started to be wary of social gatherings/interactions earlier, however, at this point, the anarchy argument is weaker :-)


> I've checked the chat logs with my Italian friends, and the discussion about people still carelessly gathering in social places (and in fact, photos were being posted on forums) was referring to March 9th.

That's what I meant by cherry picking. Some were ignoring the requests, but a lot of others did respect them. I was already working from home from a few days before.


I agree with you here. Fear is a core, primitive driver for human behavior.

In Bavaria we have these rules already a few days. They are quite acceptable. It leaves options to go jogging alone, to go out with the kids and have a chat with the neighbors over the street. 1.5m is IMHO a bit too close, but it seems the recommendation.

However, I live a villagers life. Wuhan is a huge city with much less public space. So I argue, it is not only democratic vs. Non democratic society but also depends on the location dramatically.


I know people who would argue if Bavaria really counts as a western democracy ;-)

But i think you are right: The infection risk out in the countryside must be magnitudes smaller than in any major city (so long as mass-events are banned).


In general, I think it also depends on society maturity (given there are many ways to get to that state). In Spain and Italy, the countries I know best, thousands of citizens are trying to cut corners and bypass any quarantine obligation.

I would be very careful with the wording maturity in context of society. Italy and Spain have a society which is far more family friendly, elder friendly and outgoing culture than Germany. That is usually much better. Just not now.

By maturity, in this case, I mean to really understand the thread, act upon it and have the society backing up measures taken, even if they personally affect you. In Mediterranean countries this usually doesn't happen.

It's quite acceptable for a while.

Non-compliance will increase the longer it goes on, I suspect. There's a reason isolation is used as punishment/torture in prisons.


That should have started in winter, when the weather was crap anyway.

As soon as it will start getting nice outside, I don't believe you will be able to detain people for long.


Absolutely. I suspect that 8 months or so we just accept dead people.

Believe me this won't take 8 month. Especially given that in many areas the live of "old" people and "mid/young" people got sadly somewhat decoupled in the recent 30 or so years.

The young which require hospitalization have a real chance to die if left untreated. There aren't enough beds to treat everyone if 80% of people get sick.

Downvotes wont change the fact that mass psychology is at play. Not invidual psychology, like people in jail.

Those are two different things! Most people think they are the same, but they are not.

Nonetheless,thats why i wrote, soon or later we accept the dead people as part of doing "business"


You're way off base. We're not going to "accept" the risk of dying tomorrow any more than we do today. This isn't about old people dying. It's about 40-80% getting infected, 17-20% needing hospitalization and there not being enough beds. Simple as that.

I'm betting it will happen far sooner than 8 months. Just watching the public polls, there is already plenty of evidence to suggest people are making that calculation already.

The cold truth -- if the bodies that keep stacking up are nearly all 80+ years old, as it seems to be now, then people of working age aren't going to tolerate a forced quarantine all that long. If gov't tries to force the issue, they may only succeed in demonstrating the limits of gov't power.


Try looking at traffic rules. No-one likes rules against speeding. But in places where there are hidden road safety cameras and significant fines that quickly arrive in the post, people speed much less.

Rules can be enforced even in western democracies.


This is not quite true I believe, it's more like no one like to be found out when overstepping regulations. But that doesn't mean they don't like the regulation in general.

Most people would agree that most traffic regulations makes sense in general. Not just necessary in that specific situation. Like "yes speed limits make sense but in this street it should be 20km/h higher then it is". "Yes speeding cameras make sense when used at places where speeding is quite dangerous. But do they need to use them here where it's not really dangerous just to earn more money with fines" etc.

Still you can enforce regulations the _population_ doesn't like, but it's really hard to do so effectively for more then just a short amount of time.


> No-one likes rules against speeding.

I can't imagine this is true. Not many drivers overtly claim to support rules against speeding, but I expect most people would not campaign to remove them because it's not hard to imagine potential problems in their absence.


Germans would not agree and neither would their road accident statistics.

about that, >http://www.hwysafety.com/hwy_montana.htm common sense keeps people safe, over aggressive legalism creates learned helplessness at scale and reduces common sense.

I think that this and our lack in 'hands on' experience with pandemics play a role in how western governments act. It is sad that the population has to learn via a death toll that certain things have to be done. I wish I could say it wetter, but I'm lacking the right words/phrases.

It is still possible to declare martial law in case of disaster, which I would welcome looking at how many "creative" people are there (at least here in Italy).

If you are right, then I forsee that some countries are going to have significant changes of government in the coming months and years.

Interestingly, Merkel herself is in quarantine because her doctor is tested positive. Why did German think that social distance was not okay, or even harmful, when it was clear that covid-19 was highly contagious? And why are people so resistant to wearing masks? How do I know for sure that people around me are not contagious? How do I know for sure that myself is not contagious, under the current pandemic situation? Yet people freak out when they see a person wear a mask.

Just saw this paragraph in the article "The politics of pandemics" in The Economist: "To see what is to come look to Lombardy, the affluent Italian region at the heart of the covid-19 outbreak in Europe. Its hospitals provide world-class health care. Until last week they thought they would cope with the disease -- then waves of people began turning up with pneumonia. Having run out of ventilators and oxygen, exhausted staff at some hospitals are being forced to leave untreated patients to die". So, this article is telling people that Italians thought that they were so good that exponential contagion was no big deal?

An honest question: isn't what the Europeans have been doing a classical example for the quote "Weakness and ignorance are not barriers to survival, but arrogance is"?


>And why are people so resistant to wearing masks?

In the US, there is a severe shortage of masks. Even hospitals are struggling to get enough masks for health-care workers.


The US Surgeon General told the public masks don’t work[1]. Doctors and nurses are being told they’ll be disciplined for wearing masks because it would alarm patients and visitors [2].

[1] https://mobile.twitter.com/surgeon_general/status/1233725785...

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/29/health/coronavirus-n95-fa...

[2] https://twitter.com/wendellpotter/status/1241371042020392961...

https://www.nj.com/coronavirus/2020/03/i-have-never-been-so-...


> Doctors and nurses are being told

The passive voice is doing a lot of work here with only one anecdote cited.


> Health care workers on front lines of coronavirus battle discouraged from wearing masks

https://eu.citizen-times.com/story/news/local/2020/03/26/cor...


Everyone could wear a bandanna over nose and mouth.

If it reduces transmission by 20%, that would be a fantastic win due to reduction in exponential growth.


This is pretty much how most people implement the rule in Czech Republic for mandatory masks in public - anything that covers you mount and nose is fine, including self made cloth masks and even scarves. The government even said they are find with that at multiple ocasions.

So "I don't have a mask" is really no argument, as long as you have at least one piece of clothing on you, you can wrap it around your mount & nose. There, you have a mask.


I like the Czech pragmatism. Obviously it is not perfect, but anything that obstructs droplets even a bit is helping to flatten the curve, and that's what you want right now. This is one of the most reasonable and easy and pragmatic rules I have seen so far. It seems clearly superior to telling people, because there is a shortage, that masks are not preventing an infection, implying that they don't help.

Czech people have common sense.

In Australia, lots of households have pretty good masks to cope with the recent bushfire smoke. And they were wearing them then. But now, hardly anyone is wearing them. It is completely irrational. It seems clear the herd isn't going risk looking weird until it is too late, in a week or two when people are obviously symptomatic.

I’m sure way more people would be wearing a mask if they had one. It’s going to be a common household item soon the way it already is in Asia.

The only reason I was able to get one is because I know people who live in China and already had boxes of them before COVID-19.


Yes, that's a perfectly good reason. What I was asking about is people's general attitude toward wearing masks, when shortage of the supply is not in the equation.

>And why are people so resistant to wearing masks? How do I know for sure that people around me are not contagious?

Judging from my own personal feelings I think you're kinda answering your first question with your second one. Being one of the few people wearing a mask in public signals that you think everyone around you might be contagious. People worry that they might be seen as rude.

I'm not saying this is a logical behavior, and things might be different in the current situation if masks were in wide supply.


I got carryout at a Chinese restaurant today. The staff (Thai) said her friends are afraid to wear masks because of fear of assault. So that would most certainly be a factor outside of Asia for Asians.

Personally I'm not wearing a mask yet as I am strict about only going outside for exercise and essential shopping, I am staying very mindful about keeping distance (which I think many people are being lax about), and I don't own reusable masks yet. I have ordered cotton reusable masks though and plan to buy additional ones (from a friend who is starting the process of sewing them - taking nothing from medical personnel) so I can change to keep them effective as needed. And then when (probably not if, I speculate) I need to go out more before this pandemic is over, I plan to wear them in public. Both to avoid spreading to others if I am an asymptomatic carrier and to do my very tiny part in normalizing mask wearing in this case. My thinking has gone from buying into to the current conventional wisdom in the west not to wear them to believing that they are a relatively low cost way to slow both this and possible future epidemics.


> And why are people so resistant to wearing masks?

I don't know if this is the reason, but they're not exactly comfortable to breathe through.


They're easier to breathe through than pneumonia.

Great, I'll go let the US population know.

Masks are equally uncomfortable no matter what country you happen to be in, so I think a different explanation is needed to explain why people are wearing masks more in some countries than others. (Availability is the obvious answer.)

There is a group of thought that believes that we should simply allow people to get sick as soon as possible so that the herd immunity forces the virus to burn out, and only quarantine those who are vulnerable (those over 65 and those with high-risk conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and leukemia).

That group of thought has not yet managed to prove to anyone that if you catch it now, you'll be immune to a mutated strain.

Nor have they explained how we are going to a handle a situation where ~5-20% of the under-65 people who will catch it all at once will require hospitalization.

Hospitals in affected areas are currently overwhelmed, with people under 65 alone. Italy has stopped treating people under 60. And this is when the vast majority of people under-65 are not infected!

Somehow, I doubt their situation would improve if people over 65 stopped getting sick, while people under 65 started getting sick at 4x or 5x the rate.


You can do it in phases, preemptively. If your area isn't overrun with the virus right now and isn't close to one that is (e.g. my area, with four hospitals and ~2 total confirmed cases), ask for volunteers to be infected, preferring those with a high likelihood of transmission (e.g. health care workers, bus drivers, grocery store clerks, etc) to less risky individuals (e.g. people who can work from home or have relatively solidary jobs, like sanitation workers).

It only really works if you act decisively and can infect enough of the population before the virus really gets started in your area. I would sign up for that, provided I didn't just father a child, if only to get it over with.


This would also allow us to study the virus under controlled conditions. Maybe the way of infection (or some other controllable aspect) has influence on the severity of the disease.

>That group of thought has not yet managed to prove to anyone that if you catch it now, you'll be immune to a mutated strain.

Isn't our current approach of social distancing also vulnerable to mutated strains? Except, of course, we keep social distancing forever. Possible mutations affect all strategies in the same way and can't be used as an argument against a strategy.


Research had now shown that you do develop immunity once infected and recovered.

For this to have not been the case it would have been a very novel strain of covid indeed.


This is the absolutely worst way to go: they are essentially telling nature to take its course, killing what it has to kill. We might as well stop vaccinating people and stop taking any drugs - the 10 people left alive will surely have herd immunity.

Germany is still missing out on some very basic things that have been done right in countries like South Korea: Namely: constant cleanup, constant testing, identification and information about potential hot spots. The government reacted really slow (we had the first case ~mid of February and nothing happened for another 3 weeks) it now does a lot of actions but mostly destructive ones like shutting down the economy.

Yes, social distancing is good, and yes we need to flatten the curve, but there are other possibilities, too? Protecting people above 65 (i.e., retired) and with medical conditions would have been easier. Now there is fear everywhere. Still, I hear from a lot of people that they indeed show (mild) symptoms, but are not tested - even upon request. How can that work?

I was riding the subway here in Munich last Friday. Quite empty - still very dirty. No where anyone with sanitizing spray or anything.


Do you have any evidence that cleaning subways is an effective way of preventing infection? From everything I have read the main vector of infection is by direct droplet infection during personal contact with an infected person. Sure, maybe if you disinfect surfaces everywhere you may decrease the spread a tiny little bit, but everyone's resources are probably better spent elsewhere right now.

You also can't just protect people above 65 and let the virus spread amongst young people. Have a look at the Imperial College study published a few days ago, where they modeled the effect of different interventions in the UK and US. Even if you could perfectly isolate all old people (and ignoring the mental health cost of that) the young people needing medical attention would still vastly overwhelm the health system.

And I agree that widespread testing would be great, but there are simply only so many tests you can do with the resources available. It's easy to say "you should test everyone" but nobody ever has an answer for how.


"Even if you could perfectly isolate all old people (and ignoring the mental health cost of that) the young people needing medical attention would still vastly overwhelm the health system."

I am willing to stipulate that this is correct.

However, I feel that we've slowly developed (over the past few decades) an underlying assumption that "flu-like symptoms" automatically warrant a trip to the hospital.

During normal times, if you went to an emergency room in rich, well-educated American cities, you would see many, many rich, well-educated people who had taken their children to the ER (or urgent care center) for flu-like symptoms and had asked for and been given antibiotics, wastefully, for a condition caused by a virus.

This was, of course, irksome and disappointing, but now it is a matter of tremendous import for public health: what would our options look like if we did not assume every person exhibiting flu-like symptoms needed medical services ?

What would our options look like if people understood that there is no such thing as cold "medicine" or flu "medicine" and that the doctor can do nothing for your not-critically-sick child other than prescribe rest and good nutrition ?

Instead, we desire to be consumers of health-care because it is a modern imperative.

I believe these were wrong-headed attitudes and we are now paying the price for them.


Are you implying that the reason the hospitals are overwhelmed is that they are admitting people that could just "ride it out at home"? Because that is certainly not the problem. Many COVID patients need to be on 24/7 ventilation in the ICU to stay alive, including young and healthy ones. Way more than the hospitals can cope with.

This is not about people's attitudes towards healthcare, this is about thousands and soon millions of people suddenly requiring emergency medical treatment, way beyond what the health system can cope with.


> including young and healthy ones

I'd be interested to see the stats on this. I also hear that the success rate for patients who have to be ventilated for COVID19 is pretty low. Given that the vast majority of deaths are 70+, one of these statements isn't correct. Either ventilation is pretty successful after all, or many young and healthy patients who are hospitalized for COVID19 are not vented.


"Are you implying that the reason the hospitals are overwhelmed is that they are admitting people that could just "ride it out at home"?"

No. As of this writing, on March 22, no hospitals in California are, as yet, overwhelmed.

I am saying that we are taking steps to avoid hospitals being overwhelmed, with the assumption that anyone with flu-like symptoms will be utilizing professional medical care.

If, instead, we assumed that only critical cases (as you say, those needing, for instance, ventilation) need to avail themselves of medical care, then the potential for overwhelm drops significantly.

"This is not about people's attitudes towards healthcare ..."

I think it is. We set a symptomatic bar, above which we seek professional care and consume medical resources. In 2020 America, I think that bar is too low.


I haven't seen any young and HEALTHY folks needing ICU care. Can you share any cases? Or any stats indicating this is the case?


I read that statnews article. Nothing in there actually indicates that young and HEALTHY people are at a high risk. What it does say is that 2-4% of the 20-44 age group needed ICU treatment. No indication is made to the risk profile or previous issues that group has. That being said there is a 0.1-0.2% risk for people within the age range of 20-44.

The example of the hero doctor frankly stands out as an outlier. We aren't actually sure he was healthy, and even if we were, what we know is he was exposed to a high viral load very rapidly. Beyond that he was under tremendous stress from being a front line worker, meaning he might have been exposed to multiple infections and under stress from an authoritarian government trying to silence him with questionable means. Stress has a very real effect on our immune systems that has been empirically shown to make it very challenging for the body to recover from infections.

I want us to be incredibly careful about how we share information and our interpretations of it. I have yet to see anything that clearly indicates that young people age 20-44 are at a high risk if they are HEALTHY. Healthy here means not currently battling any other severe infections, and in a general state of good health. The percentage within this demographic is clearly stated as 0.1-0.2% and this includes immunocomprised people.

Please help spread accurate information, as this panic is getting absurd. I was at a grocery store today and people were fighting for supplies that there is not actual shortage of, and being generally rude to each other.

People are losing their livelihoods and our economy is crashing. A recent bloomberg article is stating that we should expect a 30% unemployment rate. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-03-22/fed-s-bul...

This would be a devastating outcome which will be substantially worse than this virus has been, especially in a country like the USA with no universal health care and no clear indication that will ever happen. Have you ever tried being poor in the US? It's not fun or easy.

Unfortunately our leadership is not equipped to handle this correctly. Corrupt congresspeople are profiting off of this. The sitting president is showing signs of mental instability. The alternative probably isn't much better. Beyond that, sentiment on social media now seems to have people favoring authoritarian measures enacted to force people to stay home.

This virus is serious, but our reaction to it is much more serious. We cannot sustain this type of quarantine for the long run. We may end up finding ourselves under authoritarian rule that won't disappear anytime soon.

The only solutions we have are that we accept this virus as a real part of life, we attempt herd immunity through a more targeted type of quarantine, or we wait for the miracle of a vaccine to be developed. Referring back to the statnews article, they come to a similar conclusion and say that the demographics of a country should dictate the measures taken to prevent the most at risk populations from contracting this virus.


> I read that statnews article. Nothing in there actually indicates that young and HEALTHY people are at a high risk.

That's not what I responded to. This is:

> I haven't seen any young and HEALTHY folks needing ICU care.

The linked articles says "up to one-fifth of infected people ages 20-44 have been hospitalized, including 2%-4% who required treatment in an intensive care unit."

Unless you wish to claim that 1/5 people ages 20-44 are not HEALTHY (your capitalization, maybe there is some intended meaning I'm missing there), you have now seen what you were asking for.

> That being said there is a 0.1-0.2% risk for people within the age range of 20-44.

Let's go with the lower number, 0.1%, and see what that implies. In 2018, there were about 109 million people aged 20 to 44 in the US [1]; 0.1% of that is 109000, more than all ICU beds in the US [2]. And that's just counting those who would die if given intensive care. If we go with 2% of the same age group needing ICU treatment (again, the lower end of the quoted range, 2-4%), that's 2.2 million people.

With only 100000 ICU beds available, that means 2.1 million people aged 20-44 die, even if we deny everybody else intensive care.

[1] https://www.statista.com/statistics/241488/population-of-the...

[2] https://eu.usatoday.com/story/news/health/2020/03/18/coronav...


On top of what you said there is also the naked assertion that this virus is in “exponential growth phase” when the truth is we aren’t testing the right population to prove or disprove it.

And before you downvote this comment... consider all the “exponential growth” you see on those stat counters could correlate to number of tests administered.


There's actually evidence that there's tissue damage in the longs (read, potentially permanent damaged lung capacity) even prior to symptoms, and of course, even after recovery, in young people too. This thing is no joke. There's good reason to believe even many young people who get infected will have permanent damage and for given the correlations between lifespan and organ health, it's not unlikely that this damage to the lungs results in years of lifespan cut decades down the line.

That's just a little tidbit on people who don't even show any symptoms. Then there's many people hospitalised who're literally in a state of feeling like they can't breath for weeks, it's absolutely agonising. If you want more, just look up the pictures of coffins laid out in Italy and the military trucks transporting out dead bodies. These aren't hoax images or videos (although some do circulate). I don't see how the comparison to flu is apt.


What would be your sources for this, and in reference to the claim that people being hospitalized and feeling like they can't breathe for weeks, are you referring to those who number among the roughly 5% of critical cases?

Who goes to the ER for flu like symptoms? Even with insurance the costs would make this a fairly expensive trip, and the wait times can involve hours. I mean I’m sure there are some but it’s hard to imagine that this a choice that lots of people would make.

If you want something prescribed the local urgent care center is a much quicker and much cheaper option. For children you can also generally get same day appointments at most pediatric clinics.

It would require a pretty severe case to justify a trip to the ER.


There are medicines for flu: oseltamivir and zanamivir to name two. None for the cold as far as I'm aware.

I don't think the desire for a cure is unreasonable on the part of patients though, but it's the job of public health and experts to temper those expectations. By now any doctor prescribing antibiotics for a virus or to placate a patient should be facing professional sanctions.


You missed the point entirely. If we could magically isolate everyone over 50 and let everybody else get infected it would still overwhelm hospitals with people that really need ICU care.

I think "ignoring the mental health cost of that" is exactly what most governments have been doing up until now.

I am in mainland China (outside Hubei) where we had about 4 weeks of strict lockdown and then 4 weeks of shops slowly reopening but still fences and checkpoints and restrictions on where people are allowed to go... It's been devastating to my mental health, and that of many others. The schools still aren't open and parents are on their last thread.

If there is a strategy for getting on top of this outbreak where less people have to go through the stress of lockdown, I think that would be worth investigating.


I don't claim that not cleaning spreads the virus, nor do I have any evidence that cleaning helps. For me its just an indicator that the cities / government do not work carefully. In South Korea pretty much all subways (at least from what I hear in Seoul and Daegu) and public buildings are cleaned very frequently during the pandemic. Look at their numbers / curve to see how well they handled this.

The assumption regarding the health system is based on the official number, which is way too low. The official number right now is ~25k cases in Germany. The real number may be closer to 250k cases. Most people get mild or no symptoms at all. Also of these 25k cases - most people do not require intensive medical care. Yes, the deaths are tragic, but influenza death count is above 2k this year alone. In comparison each year we have 33k kills caused by superbugs in Europe. Do we act here (in some countries there are active measurements - not so in Germany)? So while flatten the curve is definitely important its all about the balance here. And I think the balance is way off ...

Yes, I am aware that Germany has only 25k breathing machines (80% already taken) and would not be equipped for a full outburst - but that would not happen with general sanity, too (e.g., basic hygienic measures). For instance, in South Korea (sorry to use this example again) every citizen gets 2 facial masks per week. I know that these masks are not for your protection, but for protecting others - but that's exactly it. If everyone wears them (by order of the government) then the infection risk is drastically reduced.

Again I don't want to claim all would be good, but claiming that now everything is good is certainly wrong, too. Without basic testing and other essential measures the spread will continue. If you need some evidence here then look at Italy. First country to act with such strong restrictions, still right now the one that has the most problems.


Honestly I don't have time to pick apart this entire comment, but just to address the most egregious assumption you make:

You compare death numbers from the flu to COVID.

COVID is a pandemic that is in its exponential growth phase, with zero existing immunity and no existing treatment. The flu is a well-known, well-studied disease for which we have a vaccine, to which many people will have some level of immunity and for which we actually have a treatment. The flu is also at the end of the season right now. COVID is only getting started.

Even if we instituted perfect social distancing and prevented all further spread we can expect COVID deaths to double every few days for the next few weeks because of the incubation period. I am willing to bet good money that the 2k influenza deaths this year will dwindle in comparison to the number of COVID deaths when everything is said and done.


Before you reason about somebody's assumption you should first think about your interpretation. Next time please read it more carefully before you compare apples and oranges.

It has been shown that this virus can survive on surfaces for 3 days.

Virus fragments. The ability of the virus to infect decreases quickly.

Honestly curious, do you by chance have a source for this ability to infect decreasing quickly? I would love to share it becasue many people are getting paranoid about how long a tabletop or doorknob could infect them after being touched.

That doesn't mean much without also accounting for how easily an infected person actually spreads the virus into their environment, as well as how likely copies of the virus left in the environment are to actually infect someone.

I would suspect that as long as people don't sneeze/cough without a tissue they are not actually spreading that much copies of the virus on surfaces. And similarly I would also expect that if you wash your hands before eating or touching your face, you are not that likely to get infected even if you had touched a surface with viral particles on it.

But of course I have no evidence for any of this since the studies have clearly not been done yet.


> Still, I hear from a lot of people that they indeed show (mild) symptoms, but are not tested - even upon request. How can that work?

Why would you test everyone with mild symptoms? 90% or more of those people are going to have the flu or a common cold. And they’d use a test that can be used on someone where it makes a difference: someone admitted to hospital, or someone working at a hospital.

Everyone else with symptoms can just act as if it is covid and isolate for 14 days.

When you have exponential growing, testing capability can never keep up.


Given the long incubation period, as well as the fact that many people who are carriers are completely asymptomatic, blanket testing has been tentatively shown to be an effective way to halt the spread of the virus. See: the whole of South Korea's approach, as well as https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/coronavirus-...

The tests have an approx 20% false negative rate.

You test someone who has symptoms. The test returns negative. What do you tell them to do, given that you know the false negative rate?

This doctor says it better than me.

https://twitter.com/keirshiels/status/1241042696560619523?s=...


You tell them the same thing regardless of the outcome of the test.

The 80% of the time it returns positive, you tell the epidemiologist, and they prevent a few further infections by investigating close personal contacts.


My point wasn’t that fewer than possible should be tested, my point was that given the constraints (staff, equipment, time) it’s best to test people that it makes a difference for, such as those who must be in contact with people - in healthcare.

If you could test everyone with symptoms (or everyone full stop) then go for it. That’s not possible though.


> That’s not possible though

With less foot-dragging it can be. Germany tests 20,000 people a day, Korea tests 15,000 a day, the US (4-6x more populous) only test a few thousand...


>blanket testing has been tentatively shown to be an effective way to halt the spread of the virus.

Testing does not halt the virus. A test is just an indicator to see if you have it or not. Even if you could test for Corona as easily as you can for drunk driving, it'd still do us no good if you don't actually take some concrete steps to halt the virus.

If you have mild symptoms, you don't need a test. You need to stay the fuck home. No symptoms? Avoid going out if you don't need to.


I saw a paper that said 80% of positive tests in a Chinese population sample of people without symptoms were false positives. Is there some reason that wouldn't happen anywhere else?

Berlin for instance tested over 20.000 people last week alone. Less than 3% results were positive.

> Berlin for instance tested over 20.000 people last week alone.

20000 per week seems to be an absurdly low number to me.

> Less than 3% results were positive.

Given high number of VIPs that are already infected (members of the parliament, professional soccer, actors), I suspect that 0.5% to 1% of the population is already infected.

Edit to add numbers: The German parliament of size 709 had 4 member already infected last weekend. On March 19 we were at 6.


If 3% test positive and 0.5% are infected, then most of the positives are false, right?

But they test only 20000 per week(!).

Because if you're tested and it's positive you can tell everyone you came into contact that they need to isolate themselves too.

We assume you at least have temporary immunity so testing everybody with symptoms will make their anxiety less and a lot of more people could be mobile and working.

Having people wear masks in public so that they don't spread the virus by droplets is the biggest thing missing in all western countries. Lack of masks seems to be the primary reason.

I went out to a supermarket last night, I was the only person there wearing a mask and disposable gloves.

I imagine the first is because there's no masks which to wear. I only have face mask (well, two masks) because I have a pollen allergy.

Haven't heard really anyone talking about disposable gloves, so I'm not exactly surprised that people are not wearing them.


I happen to have a couple of protective masks but they're specifically intended for non-toxic dust, like sawdust or whatever, so I'm not sure if they would serve any purpose.

You may be interested in this webpage about materials for DIY masks: https://smartairfilters.com/en/blog/best-materials-make-diy-...

People only need to wear masks currently when they are infected

Yes, but some people are infected and don't know it yet. And some people have symptoms but don't think it's worth wearing a mask, maybe because of the social stigma of wearing one in western countries. I think if everyone was wearing a mask, that would solve both problems. (of course, we know that many countries don't have enough masks).

I was saying the same thing as you two weeks ago (even in HN comments). Now I'm confined and can't leave my home without risking a fine. There may not be sufficient scientific evidence yet, but I'm starting to believe that we wouldn't be in this situation if everybody started to wear a mask in public places at the very start of the epidemics.


Than you are describing human fallacy.

Even when you only think you are infected or there is a good chance => wear a mask


I strongly disagree.

1. Heaps of people have the virus without showing symptoms

2. No-one wants to be treated like a leper, so everyone needs to wear masks. If only the sick wear them, then self-deception and avoiding social opprobrium will cause people to avoid wearing masks, and the selfish will not wear masks

3. If home-made masks help even 20%, that would make a massive difference to infection rates over time due to exponential growth (think compounding interest).

4. Everyone in smart Asian countries wears them for a reason.

5. There is a reasonable chance that the reason Japan has low infection rates is due to masks. Everyone should be jumping on whatever actions that have a percentage chance of working (so long as they don’t carry significant risk).


Other example is Taiwan. Everybody wears a mask there since the first cases. We don't know for sure it's the reason why they have so few cases but there are good reasons to believe so. I had friends there and thought I was smart telling them it was useless to wear a mask without symptoms (which was actually WHO recommendations)... Maybe WHO recommendations took into account the fact that masks weren't in sufficient quantities. For this strategy to work, you need enough mask for everybody, otherwise people would start hoarding masks. Maybe this will be the strategy post-confinement.

Taiwan were preprepared for an outbreak, and started acting on the 31st December: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2762689

They are using many overlapping layers of solutions to contain the virus.

Everyone using masks is surely a great help in reducing the R0, but it is the breadth of multiple solutions that is protecting Taiwan so far.


> Still, I hear from a lot of people that they indeed show (mild) symptoms, but are not tested - even upon request. How can that work?

The sad truth is that we're low on reagents to test if people are infected. If the general advise is to stay home and self-isolate anyways, then we can stretch the supply for healthcare workers (nurses, doctors,...).

I might be wrong but I think this is the reasoning to prioritize and ration testing for certain critical people in the health supply chain of things.

edit: "low on reagents" was meant relative. I just wanted to convey we need to be smart how we use this limited supply.


Add to that mandatory (includign self made) mask wearing in public space. This is really not hard to do, cheap & can help a lot to prevent infected people from infecting others in public.

Exactly this. Looking at South Korea every citizen got 2 facial masks per week. That's how it should be done - they are only effective if everyone wears them.

The official opinion on mask wearing is absolutely pathetic in Germany. The should declare that there is a shortage, medical staff must have priority, others should use DIY masks.

It seems reasonable to allow meetings of 2, because orders like California's amount to weeks/months of solitary confinement for people who live alone. We may have to deal with a suicide epidemic alongside the regular one. (I'll be fine, but there are probably a lot of people going through much worse.)

I just heard Boris Johnson on television urging people to take responsibility and stay indoors, this is after the government had to force shut certain pubs. (notably Tim Martins' Wetherspoons where Tim Martin himself said he would not close[0])

In Sweden, I see more people on the street now than before the pandemic was announced, although I definitely see a downtrend in Restaurants. People are not staying inside, and I lament this. Failure to prevent the spread of this virus will only lead to harsher regulations and a lengthening of the quarantine period. But it seems like for a certain part of the population legal force is actually necessary.

I can only assume that this is driven from "individualist" mentalities that often come with delusions of being above rules or communal responsibility.

If that's the case then if Sweden can't follow such simple rules then I have no hope for the UK and even less hope for the USA.

[0]: (Sorry about daily mail) https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8133303/Pubs-packed...


Why don't you want to see people outside? Indoors is more crowded, and outside sunlight makes short work of pathogens and otherwise the wind will disperse them anyway. Of course, as long as the people don't flock together.

People need to take responsibility of course, but they also need to protect their physical and mental well being, and being outside contributes to that. Covid-19 isn't the only challenge people face. What I mean is, you can't just let it become a Pyhrric victory.


Exactly. We should be encouraging responsible outdoor activities. If you can maintain a safe distance from others, making sure to account for wind, your added risk of going outside is pretty low and you get a ton of mental and physical health benefits.

WHO is, I believe, encouraging outdoor exercise as well, with appropriate distancing.

Lots of discussion here on mask wearing, which I think is great and would help slow spread of this (reusable ones for those who aren't health professionals). Not a lot of discussion that I've seen on how to improve health and function of the immune system, which might not stop spread but could certainly improve the percentage of those who don't get critically ill. I'm talking mainstream advice like getting rest, exercise, eating nutritious food, not smoking. I've also seen a reputable study that states that vitamin d supplements can lower odds of getting respiratory infections. So a low cost way of improving odds. I'm glad I take vitamin d already.


Isn't one of the theories why there is more flu in winter than in summer that people spend more time indoors?

In Brazil they are using helis to keep people away from the beaches.

Video here: https://www.reddit.com/r/funny/comments/fn3p40/brazil_using_...

> But it seems like for a certain part of the population legal force is actually necessary.


It's absolutley frustrating that this is even necessary - after all that's happening worldwide, people should just stay at home and avoid meeting people. A lot of us are not THAT relevant for society to not collapse at an instant, and a lot of our pasttime are even less so.

Still, a few think that all this wouldn't apply to them. Or think this is the problem of the risk groups, who should stay at home while all others act as if nothing happened. Just had that discussion with a friend, who wanted to host a game night and used that very "argument". Well, egoism rules supreme :(

Thanks to people like these, some of our basic rights now have to be suspended.


I agree with what you're saying but then there's the other example of Asian countries that are not China, who have flattened the exponential curve without forced lockdowns. Governments in the west should just speedup mass production of masks because this is IMO the key to this flattening (and even if they still prefer forced lockdown, masks would be a good measure for when the lockdown is lifted).

I agree with you: We could have impactful measures without a forced lockdown. However, people in these other countries, did they act like usual or did they practice a strict regime of (voluntary) social distancing? After all, as long as the data is lacking, social distancing is one of the most simple, yet impactful measures.

This makes a huge difference. Though I am seeing a non-negligible portion of the population believing they could just act as if nothing happened. I know it sucks, but not meeting people for a while isn't the end of the world. And it would be easily possible without any laws, giving law- & policy-makers time to gather data and make a better, well-informed decision. I see this (voluntary, not-enforced-via-the-law-like-this-lockdown) as my democratic responsibility.

Edit: I see two interpretations for this lockdown: 1. "Shit, this is out of control and oh god, plenty of our people will die". (as a side note, the parties in power tend to be strong with the elderly; though I believe this isn't a major factor for this decision) 2. "Oh, what a nice chance to fk democracy and get more power". I'm tending to the 1., as long as the measures are not enacted for too long. Problem is: Relaxing too early will be bad for the people, relaxing to late will bad for getting re-elected. So I'm very happy right now I didn't enter politics. (end edit)

Also, the government can't just ramp up mask production. You need raw materials for that, factories, a supply chain. You need to make sure the masks are safe to various standards, else - even if you're the government - you're in a huge legal mess. Oh, and train people for all that. Germany isn't strictly free market economy, but it's not too far away from that ("social market economy"). And under that system, the state isn't meant to spontaneously interfere massively with markets by becoming a producer. So if they did, that would open just another pandoras box. Yes, we have food and other critical supplies, but masks and other medical equipment is a wholly different league.

The "ruleset" is too complex, there is no obviously best decision right now :(


I think the key is massive testing and ability to track cases fast and efficiently. If we could do that in the West, people could go out tomorrow. Perfection would be self testing at home, with self reporting on a gov website. But we're faaar from that...

Don't blame others for the removal of basic rights whist secretly applauding their removal. "this is why we cant have nice things" where the nice things were actually harmful. Instead if you were actually upset about basic rights being removed, try to defend these rights before they are taken away. Or perhaps be honest about actually liking less freedoms for the greater good (after all it will save lives). But please don't pretend.

For those of us old enough to remember 9/11 - we should remember that everyone wanted their rights and liberties to be removed because they were hurting. They applauded authoritarian measures then, just as we are now. And it did save lives (at the expense of brown ones).

The outrage revealed by Snowden and Assange happened years and years after everyone was happy to have sign away their basic rights to have some control over the crisis.


I know that the word "everyone" is now often used to mean "the vast majority of people", but I'm not even sure that the vast majority of people would have voted for reducing civil liberties in the aftermath of 9/11, had they been given a vote. The mainstream media did a good job of manufacturing the illusion of consent, but that does not mean that actual consent would have been given had it been asked for. For example, I often read people say thay the 2003 Iraq War was overwhelmingly supported by the US population, whereas polls from the time show that it was not even supported by a majority of poll responders.

Isn't that even more of a warning against the danger? Even the best case for the erosion of our liberties I could come up with was less popular than the current support for removing basic rights?

I don't think that the post-9/11 terrorism threat was actually anywhere close to a best case for the erosion of liberties. Until and unless terrorists gain access to weapons of mass destruction plus the ability to deploy them, terrorism is a very minor threat to America. Terrorists might well at some point in the future get access to weapons of mass destruction and the ability to deploy them to the US, but that was not the case 19 years ago and almost certainly is still not the case now.

Let's turn this around: if almost everybody stays at home (like in Italy, Spain, France for days/weeks) how does the virus still spread? That knowledge would help a lot in the current situation.

2 weeks of incubation period, that's how.

The median time is only around 5 days according to WHO[0]. The time from infection to hospitalization (when the case is bad enough) however has a longer median time which I have seen claimed to be around 11 days, but I can't find a good source. But it makes sense that we are seeing the longer lag when countries are only testing people with severe symptoms.

[0]: https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/q-a-coronaviruses


Almost is the keyword here.

I wonder how this should help while people still need to go to work in factories or large space offices. A friend of mine posted a pic of a sign in the lunchroom at Siemens that demands people to keep their distance to eachother while eating. In the meantime two or more people work together at a workbench, sharing tools, etc. But I guess every small bit helps somewhat.

I am glad that the client I currently work for closed all offices and sent all people to ull remote work two weeks ago.


I heard an exception is made if the meeting is 'work-related'.

"two is a coincidence three is a conspiracy"

Coronavirus is perfectly okay with co-incidence.

Germany is treating this pretty badly. Many People here dont care. The FAZ (popular conservative newspaper) is calling the german reaction “resembling ancient roman decadence”

The article said the government didn’t specify punishment for breaking this rule, but what would the existing statutory consequences be for disobeying an order like this?

They avoid talking about it. In Bavaria we have a up to 25k € fine on violations (which I presume is backed by a German wide law). I think mention this fine is a next escalation.

Yeah that’s § 73 (2) IfSG:

https://www.gesetze-im-internet.de/ifsg/__73.html

I guess they will escalate over time and fine only those people breaking the rules multiple times.


§ 113 StGB could be applicable if you resist officers enforcing the ban. Fine or up to three years. § 111 StGB could be applicable if you make Facebook posts calling for people to ignore the ban. Fine or up to five years.

The Infektionsschutzgesetz is lex specialis to the general criminal code.

https://www.gesetze-im-internet.de/ifsg/

§ 73 provides for fines up to 2500 Euros or 25000 Euros, § 74 provides for up to five years imprisonment, § 75 provides for up to two years imprisonment.


I don’t remember it it was specified at the time but supposedly businesses in Berlin that didn’t follow the first set of safety precautions (retail stores closed, restaurants closed for indoor seating at 6pm, tables 1.5 meters apart, takeaway only after 6) got 5k fines if caught by the Ordnungsamt. So there is some effort at enforcement.

Up to 15,000€ as far as I understand.

Merkel explicitly said (in the press conference, answering a reporters question) that they did not discuss the issue of specific consequences today.

edit: Ah, yeah that might well apply. Would be an upper bound though.


Then the 15,000€ fines are a thing for breaking specific federal rules and I mixed things up. In in Bavaria we have those rules and Saarland has similar rules.

Presumably you'll be paid damages. The reason there is no mention of specific enforcement is that there is very obviously no constitutional standing for these kind of outlandishly dystopian rules. Their "enforcement" is an emergency court petition away from being entirely invalidated.

There are quite a few, the "Infektionsschutzgesetz", or whatever the official name is, being one of them. There are also national emergency laws and such. That's nothing new.

Infectious diseases were, in fact, specifically discussed and named as one of the limits of freedom of assembly, when our constitution was adopted.

There is absolutely nothing dystopian about taking serious measures during such events.

Can a government even function with meetings of 2 or fewer?

The government isn't meeting in a public space, which these rules apply to. And they are able to use phone and video conferencing (which is how they coordinated these rules according to the original press conference on this).

Well, the government is a working place. This regulation is not addressing working places but only the public places.

Aside, members of Parlament are similar protected like journalists.


Protected from fines, but actually unprotected in this case.

They could use video conferencing.

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