This is why you cancel conferences in times like this

A facebook friend posted this link to an overview of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Cases in MA (pdf link), and pointed out that three quarters of coronavirus cases in Massachusetts are attributable to a conference in Boston for a company called Biogen.

NBC Boston has more: After Spreading Coronavirus, Boston Biogen Meeting Serves as Stark Warning

As the NBC Boston link says, this should serve as a warning. Don’t hold these large gatherings while a pandemic is going on. It will create a easy path for the virus to spread, making it more likely it will get in contact with vulnerable people.

 

Shutdown of Denmark

After a few weeks of trying to contain the COVID-19 through placing people in quarantine, the Danish government took much more drastic measures the last couple of days.

  • New time-limited emergency laws have been put in place, allowing:
    • The closing of schools and other institutes of learning, as well as public institutions in general
    • Forcing people into isolation if they have a dangerous disease
    • Allowing police to force their way into homes without a court order, if the Ministry of Health asks them to do so
    • Prohibiting events over a certain size
    • To put aside certain laws guaranteeing treatments for certain ailments within a certain time frame
    • Make it possible to limit access to public transportation, hospitals, and nursery homes
    • Create protective measures that guarantees delivery of goods
  • All public schools, high schools and places of higher education is shut down for two weeks from tomorrow (most closed down today)
  • All public cultural institutions (e.g. museums), libraries etc are closed down for two weeks
  • All state employees working in non-critical roles are sent home with pay for the next two weeks. If they can work from home, they should do so, otherwise they will get a paid leave.
  • Courts have closed down for the next two weeks, except in exceptional situations
  • The travel from certain places (Italy, Iran, China, parts of South Korea, different parts of Europe) are restricted, in the sense that you are forced to a mandatory examination
  • The government has asked for all events with more than 100 people to cancel the next two weeks
  • The government has suggested that cafe, restaurants, and bars consider closing down the next two weeks
  • The government has asked everybody to try to limit their travel on public transportation, especially during peak hours
  • The government has suggested that all private schools, high schools, and institutes of learning close down the next couple of weeks
  • The government has asked all private employers to get their employees to work from home or use their vacation if possible
  • The government has suggested that private religious congregations, museums etc close down for the next two weeks

As you can see, the actions taken are quite far-reaching, and affect most Danes. Personally, I will be working from home the next two weeks, communication with colleagues via the internet. For a lot of introverts, this probably sounds fantastic, for me, as an extrovert, it is not something I look forward to.

I am not too happy about the temporary law allowing the police to force their way into homes without a court order on behalf of the Ministry of Health, but I guess I can see the need for it under certain circumstances. If it is misused, the police and/or the Ministry of Health can be dragged in front of a court (unlike in some countries, people actually occasionally win over the state in Denmark).

The reason the Danish government is taking these actions, is because the spread of the virus was getting out of control, and because the Italian health minister warned Denmark that they needed to take drastic actions to avoid getting into a similar situations as Italy.

The measures taken is an attempt to both try to limit the spreading of the disease and to protect the most vulnerable. Before this, the idea was to contain the virus through asking people to go into quarantine – this clearly didn’t work, as the spread has more than doubled every day this week.

Generally, the steps taken by the government are widely supported, though a large minority believe that the whole threat is overblown. None of the later group appears to be working in health care or similar.

For more coverage, see The Local which has made the article free to read.

42

Tomorrow it is the International Women’s Day, and I have a couple of posts planned for that, but I also want to note that according to The Economist tomorrow is the 42th birthday of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

EVERY YEAR the world celebrates the anniversaries of masterworks and maestros. In 2020 there will be a host of events and publications commemorating the lives of Ludwig van Beethoven, Raphael, Charles Dickens, Anne Brontë and William Wordsworth. Such milestones usually come in neat multiples of 50. The 42nd anniversary of anything is rarely observed.

Yet on March 8th fans of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” (“HHGTTG”) will pay tribute to the comedy science-fiction series, which had its radio premiere on that day in 1978 and was subsequently adapted into novels, TV series, video games and a film. To mark the occasion, Pan Macmillan has reprinted the scripts and novels in colourful new editions (“HHGTTG” was the first book published under their “Pan Original” imprint to sell more than 1m copies). The British Library will host a day of “celebrations, conversation and performance”. BBC Radio 4 has aired the original episodes; Radio 4 Extra will put on a “five-hour Hitchhiker’s spectacular” including archival material and specially commissioned programmes. Such is the enduring interest in Douglas Adams’s story that it is due to be adapted into a new television series by Hulu, a streaming service.

I first read Hitchhiker’s Guide in the Danish edition when I was a teen (it was published in Danish as Håndbog for vakse galakse-blaffere in 1985), a couple of years later in the English edition, and I have re-read it multiple times since then. It is at least 5 years since I last read it, so it is probably time to dust it off, and re-read it again (together with the sequels).

As most of you probably know, the Hitchhiker’s Guide didn’t start out as a book, but rather as a radio comedy, and has been turned into a TV series, several other radio shows, a movie, stage plays, vinyls, comics, and of course, a book (with sequels). I think the book is the best medium, but no matter what you medium you prefer, take a moment to appreciate the fact that Douglas Adams created this fantastic work 42 years ago.