Different Responses to a Global Pandemic

Some countries have dealt with COVID-19 much better than others. With quarantine, social distancing, and good healthcare it is possible to significantly reduce the number of dead people. Politicians and the healthcare system can make a huge difference. Some countries have done a pretty good job. Others (hint: the USA) have been absolutely terrible. I believe that at this point it is possible for me to argue that the USA has the worst politicians and the worst healthcare system among all the developed countries.

Let’s look at some graphs.

Trajectory of COVID-19 confirmed cases.

Trajectory of COVID-19 confirmed cases in some countries.

Some countries have done a pretty good job at slowing down the spread of the virus. A straight upwards going line indicates that the virus is spreading freely. A downwards curving line means that the the spread of the virus has slowed down.

Trajectory of COVID-19 confirmed cases.

Trajectory of COVID-19 confirmed cases. A few more additions.

Some countries have done much worse. At this point even in Italy and Spain the spread of the virus has significantly slowed down. It’s the USA that keeps soaring up.

Trajectory of COVID-19 confirmed cases.

Trajectory of COVID-19 confirmed cases. All the countries.

Now, for the heck of it, let’s make a ridiculously crowded graph by selecting all the countries out there. USA is the number one! For all the Americans out there who imagine that theirs is the greatest country on Earth—congratu-fucking-lations! You did it! You won the first place on a chart! You get the prize—mass funerals for a hell lot of dead people. Cheers!

Let’s look at some more graphs.


COVID-19 cases in Latvia. 5 deaths, 655 confirmed cases, 28 776 people have been tested.

Pay close attention to the graph at the bottom right corner, which shows how many new cases were diagnosed in Latvia over the last few weeks each day. This starts as exponential growth at first, but the rate of new cases quickly slowed down. As of writing this, there are 5 deaths, 655 confirmed cases, 28 776 people have been tested in Latvia.


COVID-19 cases in Italy. 20 465 deaths, 159 516 confirmed cases.

Here is the same graph for Italy. After the disastrous start, the growth rate has finally slowed down. Nice.


COVID-19 cases in the USA. 22 861 deaths, 560 891 confirmed cases.

And here is the graph for the self-proclaimed “greatest nation on Earth.” It looks great indeed. (Do I even need to use sarcasm tags in this post? I shall assume that sarcasm is obvious here.) Finally, the growth rate appears to stabilize, but holy shit, what took Americans so long? Why the fuck did it take American politicians so damn long to tell people to stay at home? Oh right, you can’t expect a president with the mind of a toddler ta make reasonable decisions.

After China (a not so democratic country) Italy was the first Western democracy to get hit by COVID-19. They totally fucked up the initial response. Hence the disastrous start. But Italy’s response did get better once they finally realized that they are in a middle of a healthcare disaster.

When Italy’s morgues where overflowing with too many dead bodies to handle, the whole world heard about it in the news. Some countries (like Latvia) learned from Italy’s mistakes. Other countries, like the USA, failed to pay attention and waited for the pandemic to get out of control within the USA borders.

Latvian doctors, epidemiologists, and politicians started preparing for a pandemic even before the first COVID-19 case was detected in Latvia. All Latvian citizens (tourists) who returned home from countries in which there were COVID-19 infections were ordered to sit at home for two weeks without getting in contact with other people (with paid sick leave, of course). Completely healthy people with no symptoms were paid to sit at home so that they couldn’t accidentally infect others. I recently read about American politicians not wanting to give paid sick leave to workers. Guess what, where I live we have always had paid sick leave for as long as I can remember.

When the first COVID-19 cases were imported from Italy (by tourists returning home), epidemiologists traced all the people who had been in contact with the infected. They too were ordered to sit at home for two weeks. In addition, people were tested for COVID-19 (state funded tests, obviously). In Latvia, there was little shortage of tests, because you know, that’s called “preparing in advance.” Any sane person watching news from Italy understood that this shit was going to spread everywhere, thus you had to prepare for dealing with it as quickly as possible.

When the first case of local COVID-19 transmission was detected, Latvian politicians closed the country’s borders, closed schools, universities, and various offices and ordered everybody to sit at home as much as possible.

For example, in grocery stores people have to keep a two meter distance from each other at all times. Smaller stores have to impose limits upon how many people can be inside the store at the same time (no more than one person for 4 square meters of floor space). For example, there is a small grocery store in the building where I live, and they cannot have more than 7 customers at once.

How do you prevent mass deaths?

  • Testing to detect who has the virus;
  • Quarantine for the sick;
  • Good healthcare and enough hospital beds;
  • Social distancing for those who probably aren’t sick.

It is possible to slow down the spread of the virus. It is possible to significantly reduce deaths. Doing so requires at least semi-competent politicians and a good healthcare system.

I passionately hate Latvian politicians for their transphobia and corruption, but unlike the USA government, they actually handled the COVID-19 global disaster relatively well. There were no stupid or contradictory announcements from the government. Unlike the American toddler in chief, here the minister of healthcare has a degree in medicine, and she seems to have a clue what she is doing. Anyway, all the official announcements and guidelines issued by the politicians were reasonable and bullshit-free, moreover, politicians didn’t have a difficulty comprehending the seriousness of the problem.

Recently we on Freethoughblogs read about how the only hospital in Wellington, Kansas’ management decided that it was not going to be cost-effective to fight the coronavirus, so they closed the hospital. Meanwhile in Latvia, doctors who treat Covid-19 patients got bonuses added to their salaries. They politely asked, and the government agreed to give them extra money. Granted, the politicians had little choice, because there do exist laws regulating overtime work and the payment for it.

Dealing with a healthcare emergency is also simpler when hospitals are state owned and their supply chains are centralized. Thus hospitals aren’t bidding against each other in order to purchase critical supplies like ventilators, face masks, or disinfectant. Moreover, not only it is possible to allocate equipment where it is most necessary, it is also possible to shuffle around patients. Some patients, who had problems other than COVID-19, were transported to hospitals in other regions where they had fewer COVID-19 infections in order to free up space in hospital wards dedicated to coronavirus patients.

Moreover, state funded healthcare and Covid-19 tests mean that sick people won’t stay at home (or even worse—go to work) clueless about whether they have just a cold or the coronavirus.

Back on 3rd April, in stderr comment section I wrote the following:

So far things seem to be doing relatively well here. Politicians aren’t saying anything stupid to the media (it helps that here the minister of health has a degree in medicine, and other politicians don’t do anything stupid either), government response to the pandemic has been mostly adequate. Testing is sufficient, and there are no terrible shortages of equipment. (Obviously, there is an increased need for some stuff, but so far it is manageable. Latvia’s largest alcoholic beverage manufacturer now makes hand and surface disinfectant. Pretty much every business that could possibly make protective equipment of any kind is now seizing the opportunity to earn some money during what looks like the beginnings of an economic crisis.)

So far 493 people have been infected, 18198 people have been tested. Today I read news about the first person dying from the virus. Sort of. It was a 99 years old lady who supposedly died from her other health problems while being also sick with Covid-19.

Unfortunately, now it’s only a matter of time for things to get worse. Up until recently, epidemiologists could trace where each patient got infected, but now some of the patients get sick in unknown conditions, which means that the virus has started to spread freely. Oh well, at least here it is spreading more slowly than in the USA, given how various measures that slow down the spread were implemented long before the situation got out of control.

I’m happy to say that little has changed in the last ten days. There are 162 new confirmed cases and 4 more dead people. Other than that, there’s little change. Most importantly, the rate of new infections has slowed down. And hospitals can still cope with the patients they get.

Some people have also become unemployed as various businesses stopped working. The state is now allocating extra money for such people. Unemployment benefits for people who have recently lost their jobs have always been there, but now there are talks about increasing them and prolonging the period how long a person can get the money. On top of that, now there are also more locations in which poor people can get free food.

Still, life feels pretty normal for me. Toilet paper is available in stores. You can even easily find hand and surface disinfectant in retail stores. The streets are not completely empty, but there are much fewer people and also fewer cars. Even children’s playgrounds in public parks are not closed and there’s the occasional kid here and there.

But at least the churches are closed. Here churches were the first to get closed, because nobody even thought that they might provide some essential service.

The obvious conclusion: How people respond to an emergency determines how many of us die.

It’s nice to live in a place where there is an absence of blatant government stupidity. The only stupidity we have to deal with are individual people. A few of those who are ordered to sit at home (due to either being sick or having been in contact with somebody who was sick) feel bored and go outside. And then there are the attention seekers who are either foolish or incredibly selfish.

For example, a few days ago a local celebrity (a musician) tweeted that all this COVID-19 testing is pointless and should be stopped, because there is no cure for the virus anyway—those who have a good immune system will remain healthy and those who don’t cannot be helped anyway. A stupid musician writes a stupid tweet. That happens. What really pissed me off instead were the news sites that wrote stories about this—sensation, sensation, a celebrity says something controversial, let’s write about it. And those articles weren’t even about how stupid this statement was or how an uneducated person would be better off keeping his mouth shut. In pursuit of “journalistic objectivity” the media simply wrote about how a celebrity said something edgy.

This musician could have been clueless and too stupid to realize that it is better not to talk about topics he doesn’t understand. The other possibility was utter selfishness—for some people all publicity is good publicity. Media attention means more fame, thus people will seize every opportunity to say anything that will get their name printed in the newspapers. Never mind that their comments contribute to more people dying.

Probably it wasn’t even exclusively negative publicity—the clueless musician must have had some supporters. We have some conspiracy theorists (5G and all that). Then we also had another fool who started collecting signatures to make the government publish “the true data” about COVID-19 infections. His idea was that the true number of dead people must be smaller than reported and that the numbers are falsified in order to cause panic.

Of course, people shouldn’t blindly trust their governments. We are talking about governments that engage in corruption, deregulate and bail out banks, even lie about torture programs and the absence of weapons of mass destruction is some country they want to invade. So, yes, of course you shouldn’t blindly trust whatever politicians tell you. But this… 5G and inflated numbers of COVID-19 deaths… Come on, this is ridiculous.

So it goes. Some people are clueless.

Oh well, at least not every country has a president as terrible as Trump. Granted, “better than Trump” is such a low bar that pretty much every person qualifies.


For those who actually noticed that I didn’t publish anything for a while—I usually write about the same topics that I think about. Lately I have been reading about nutrition science, and I didn’t feel comfortable writing about the first thing I read somewhere. Here’s the problem—now people are recommended to go grocery shopping as rarely as possible and buy more food for a longer time period. My usual diet is absolutely incompatible with this (I eat a lot of fresh vegetables and fruits, never mind other foods that cannot be stored for more than a few days). Thus I have been looking into ways how to change my food choices so as to be able to go grocery shopping less often. “Healthy, tasty, cheap, with a long shelf life” turns out to be a pretty complicated logistical problem. I guess I’ll write about that soon. Anybody here interested in learning how to pop sorghum or cook lentils?

By the way, is anybody else here hoping that maybe Trump will die of COVID-19? He is old, he shakes hands with everybody, he moves around a lot. Maybe a miracle could happen after all.


  1. Jazzlet says

    Johnson getting COVID-19 hasn’t noticably changed British policy, TPTB are still lying about there being adeqate PPE for all healthcare staff when the healthcare staff themselves are saying there isn’t enough, and also still lying about testing rates.

    We also have our ration of idiots, apart from those damgaging 5G masts that aren’t even swtiched on yet (20 masts so far) we have the speeders taking advantage of relatively empty roads, one was caught doing 151mph on the M1 (speed limit 70mph), another doing 100mph on a 40mph road. Our local mayor says that 40% of drivers are speeding as opposed to the more usual 20%. This is particularly bad in built up areas as there are far more walkers and cyclists than normal for out-of-control speeders to hit.

  2. Jazzlet says

    I was wrong about the number of telephone masts vandalised, it’s now up to forty. *sigh*

  3. says

    @ Jazzlet

    I’m glad that so far we we don’t have any destroyed telephone infrastructure. Instead, we are dealing only with people who either publicly talk bullshit or ignore the laws about quarantine and distancing. For example, there was this one guy who was ordered to sit at home. Police caught him outdoors and fined him. Then, a few days later, police caught him outdoors for the second time. He got the maximum fine of 2000 euros, because he broke the law repeatedly. Now I just read a news article about how this guy was caught outdoors yet again and got another 2000 euro fine.

  4. Pierce R. Butler says

    … is anybody else here hoping that maybe Trump will die of COVID-19?

    Only those with no concept of Mike Pence’s potential for evil.

    … he shakes hands with everybody…

    From reports, no one gets into the White House now without a c-virus test.

  5. lumipuna says

    Considering Trump’s age and apparent health, there’s a significant chance of him dying* any given year as it is. I presume the pandemic doesn’t much increase that chance, as he’s probably fairly well protected and has access to premium/priority healthcare.

    * For practical purposes, “dying” here includes severe debilitation.

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