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Economic recovery and coronavirus… you can’t have one with the other July 16, 2020

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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And so the reopening has been put on… hold. Sort of.

Ireland will not progress to Phase 4 of the roadmap on reopening as planned next week, the Taoiseach has said.

Micheál Martin said that Cabinet has agreed that current health measures on Covid-19 should remain in place until 10 August.

Moreover further measures are being introduced.

Face coverings must be worn in all shops and retail settings and shopping centres. Retail staff will also be required to wear them unless there is a partition in place or there is a space of 2 metres between them and customers.

Pubs, bars, hotel bars, nightclubs and casinos will remain closed until 10 August. Pubs currently serving food can remain open.

Social visits to people’s homes should be limited to a max of ten people from no more than four different households.

Current restrictions of 50 people in indoor gatherings, 200 at outdoor gatherings is being extended until 10 August.

It is continuing to advise against all non-essential travel.

So much of this is entirely sensible, not least given the R number is now above 1. Talking to people this last week it is clear that social distancing has actually collapsed in the state in the last two or three weeks. And the consequence of that has been hardly unpredictable.

Hardly surprisingly there is this:

The Licensed Vintners Association (LVA) has said the decision to postpone the reopening of pubs was a “hammer blow”.

In a statement, it said that businesses are “now required to go 40% of the year without trading” and that “compensation and support is now essential” if the sector is to survive.

As it happens support is reasonable. What isn’t has been the rush to reopen and the push from business interests to do so. And it has been driven largely by a fallacy about what is happening.

Jordan Weissman, Slate.com’s economics and business writer was interviewed in a piece on that site this last week and made a point that I think is crucial to understanding both the nature of the problem we face and a reality that has to be dealt with. Noting the record number unemployed, and ‘record’ numbers returning to employment in the US:

There is an important point to make here, which is that back in March, economists were talking about unemployment rates at 20 percent. So if you’re looking at unemployment, that’s half of that—that does seem positive.

We did not get the worst-case scenario. We do have 31 million people on the unemployment rolls right now. It’s not good. These stats that we’re looking at and that Donald Trump is celebrating are very backward-looking. Basically what they said is that between the middle of May and the middle of June, we created about 4.8 million jobs on net. The problem is that by the middle of June and then toward the end of June, things started to really tail off.

And…


And then Texas shut down.

All these states had these massive flare-ups said, Oh, crap, we have to reclose things. And so, what we saw in this jobs report was that, yes, if you completely ignore public health, you can rehire a bunch of people and try to restart the economy. But eventually the virus becomes this natural barrier to recovery. A lot of people warned this was going to happen. It should be crystal clear at this point to everybody that life is not going to go back to normal. And as a result, the economy is not going back to normal, no matter how hard Republicans wish it would.

It is this simple truth that seems for many to be near impossible to grasp. You can want to reopen an economy, you can want matters to return to normal, but short of quashing the virus the former is actually near impossible. It will continue to return and spike requiring the economy to close down again – because it is impossible to run an economy to its full extent during a pandemic, the effects on health-care are so appalling, and of course people, workers, themselves resile from being forced into risk-laden situations.

Moreover even relatively minor restrictions to prevent the virus, necessary as they are, force matters in certain directions. To take a small example, consider that I, and many of us, are currently working from home, precisely because the transportation systems cannot take the full capacity of workers due to social distancing that they ‘normally’ would. Or what about screens in shops and workplaces. Or what about bars and restaurants where those working must wear masks, or take various sensible precautions. All the rhetoric about how we can’t stay locked down for ever, or matters have to go back to ‘normal’ is pointless in the face of this reality. None of that is normal. It’s nowhere close to normal.

Yet some persist in the illusion that this is possible. For example, Mark Paul in the Irish Times continues a run of arguably ill-informed commentary (and a telling line in anti-public sector rhetoric) by adding to it with a piece on tourism here. It’s not that he’s wrong about the support needed for the tourist industry, rather it is that his solution is to essentially ignore the reality of the pandemic and the implications of same. For example he writes;

Here is the big, unanswered question for those who want Ireland to seal off its borders and to hell with the wider economic damage: what then? What is the exit strategy from this isolationist policy? How does Ireland climb down off that limb in the absence of a vaccine?
In the meantime, the tourism industry is reduced to ashes. It deserves attention and proper help.

There is no ‘what then’. Until the virus is suppressed elsewhere there’s going to be no normality, there is going to be next to no international tourist industry.

Where does Paul think these tourists from abroad are going to come from? Hardly the US. Likely not much of Europe. Already this week we’ve seen a section of the Spanish tourist industry close again because tourists from other parts of the UK were, quite literally, uncontrollable.

Unfortunately for Paul who made great play of arguing recently that other states such as Israel where spikes occurred weren’t going back into lockdowns, the fact is that across a range of states, including Israel, they have had to reimpose measures and constraints because of the tenacity of the virus. Much economic and social activity has been halted yet again. Because, again, societies are unable to function in the face of those spikes.

Paul argues that:

Travel and tourism is too often seen by the public and by opinion formers as a frivolous pastime rather than a serious industry. There is ample evidence for this in the way the industry has been blithely offered up as an economic sacrifice for a travel quarantining strategy that is unique in the European Union.

There’s a lot to find implausible about that. As one comment BTL on his piece notes that industry was able to advance pub reopening by recourse to absurdities about serving food. But an actual survey of the situation in relation to the quarantining strategy suggests it is not quite as unique as he likes to propose. For example the Czech Republic demands those from the UK and Sweden quarantine, likewise Estonia which demands self-isolation of those from countries with an high infection rate, similarly Romania and so on.

Pretending that Ireland is an outlier or a laggard, unwilling to open up when others have is to ignore what is happening in Catalonia and other places in Europe. It is, worse, to argue on the side of taking risks and losing the hard fought gains that have us where we are. The truly strange irony of this is that with solid constraints on our borders – even accepting issues relating to exposure to Britain, we could be reasonably certain that the virus was contained to a degree that would allow a much greater opening up.

I can’t quite work that one out. Is it fatigue on the part of people or is it the wish to go for reopening and getting businesses moving again and sort of crossing fingers and hoping for the best that a second lockdown isn’t imposed. If so that seems terribly short-sighted.

I’ve suggested this before, as have others. Why is there no political will to go for a real reopening, one that will naturally be constrained internationally, because internationally there are huge obstacles to a return to normality, but one that here on the island would be as expansive as possible? One that would in tandem with the North offer the prospect of schools, places of work and entertainment moving back to something perhaps a little short of normality, but close enough.

Perhaps as the implications sink in, as has been noted here on the site by various of us in posts and comments, and elsewhere too,that this isn’t going to be wished away, that political will will begin to manifest itself.

For a start the willingness of the government to at least defer the reopening Phase 4 is something. Maybe, just maybe, they’ll be able to build on that to progress matters in a more positive direction. Perhaps it is time to take a leaf out of the Australian approach:

“The time for warnings, the time for cutting people slack is over,” Victoria state premier Daniel Andrews said.
“Where we are is in a very serious and deadly position.”

That’s a hard truth. But faced up to it perhaps allows for that positive direction.

Comments»

1. An Sionnach Fionn - July 16, 2020

The Darwinist strain of right-wing politics, of small government, low taxation fiscal conservatives far to the right of the political centre ground, has never been more glaring. There is a body of political and press opinion that literally believes in survival of the fittest. Be it in health or society. One small sliver lining in the dark clouds of Covid-19, the regressive tendency has never been so exposed. Unfortunately their influence is out of all proportion to their numbers.

Liked by 1 person

WorldbyStorm - July 17, 2020

+1 by the way, is your site okay. Been getting an issue in Firefox trying to access it today and yesterday. Similarly in Safari.

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An Sionnach Fionn - July 17, 2020

Thanks for the heads-up. Yeah, seems ok in all browsers, desktop and mobile. Used a VPN just to double-check.

I wish I had the time to keep up with it. So frustrating to see events you’d like to post about but work is sucking up all my time. I’m in the camp of people thinking we’re opening up too soon too fast but in one way it would make my life better if things went back to “normal”. I’d get my out of office hours life back for a start instead of being permanently in work mode. But then again there is no “normal” in the current circumstances without a vaccine. And the more “normal” things get the more “essential” workers like myself feel uneasy with others around us.

And then I feel guilty for thinking that others should stay at home when I have the luxury of full employment throughout the crisis. And a shed-load of accrued hours on my payslip to be used at some stage in the future.

This stuff messes with your head! 😉

Liked by 1 person

WorldbyStorm - July 17, 2020

Good to hear might be my broadband playing up. I feel the same just having my job keep going. As for holiday time Like yourself I’ve been working throughout but it feels wrong to take any.

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2. Mick 2 - July 17, 2020

I love the pub and miss it probably more than most and I let out an involuntary whoop of approval when I heard confirmation on the wireless that pubs were to remain closed.

‘The truly strange irony of this is that with solid constraints on our borders – even accepting issues relating to exposure to Britain, we could be reasonably certain that the virus was contained to a degree that would allow a much greater opening up.’

Agree with this. The situation is ripe for so many question-begging appeals to common sense from the usual quarters. ‘We can’t just shut down the entire country.’ Well, we kinda can, to a large degree, and we kinda should.

The usual caveat of ‘I’m not an epidemiologist but’ applies, but, to borrow from Father Ted, is there anything to be said for another lockdown? In fact, was the time to double down on restrictions not a few weeks ago, when the embers were stamp-outable? I suppose getting public buy-in to that is another question. There would have been something superficially, but not actually, counterintuitive about doubling down on restrictions when it looked like we were coming out of the woods. I don’t know if some people actually need to see the headlines the morning after telling of hundreds of new cases before acceptance of the reality sinks in.

Liked by 1 person

WorldbyStorm - July 17, 2020

I like the pub too. I enjoy my at this stage monthly or six weekly visits! I never thought I’d say this but I miss a pint of Smithwicks in particular. But I felt much the same, it was like perhaps they’re getting the message. And I agree entirely re perhaps we just have to shut the country down for a short period and reboot.

I think though you are spot on. The time to lock it down completely was in the first two months and then set up the protocols for containment from abroad (it is odd how by dint of simply being an island that seems to be workiing re transmission, or relative lack of same from the UK – whereas they seem to be in much worse straits).

I fear too you’re absolutely right, that this will only come clear in peoples minds if the numbers go back up again. But I wonder if the demographic will be starkly different to the first time around, perhaps many more in their 40s and 50s as distinct from those in care contexts.

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3. 6to5against - July 17, 2020

I’m delighted we held off on the reopening of pubs. In a situation where clarity is paramount and where mask wearing still hasn’t been normalised, the idea of opening the pubs seemed ridiculous. I think we’re in for a long haul of reduced social interactions, limited public gatherings and mask wearing – alongside the reality that people will still get sick and many will die. And its good that the govt here stuck to some restrictions for the moment at least.

But that is also why I find the fact that public debate has swung to a right vs left, economy vs health paradigm so distressing. Like a lot of people here, I’ve done OK during the lockdown. I’ve been able to keep working and I like being close to home. I’ve missed the pub a little, but far less than I thought I would. I don’t think that that has been the same for everybody though. I know people who have no interest in reviving the ‘economy’ who would still like to get back to work – because the 350 a week is OK, but its less than they could be making and bills haven’t disappeared. And some people actually like their jobs, and see some of their value to be tied up in it.

And the social limitations are fine for many us middle aged. They might even be a blessing. And I was amazed and impressed at how well all the youngsters in my world accepted lockdown. They really bought into the health-care needs for the whole community. But that was for a limited time. Could we really say to kids who are, say 15 – 20, that you have to keep 2m from everybody else indefinitely, ruling out most competitive sport and the development of romance and sexual relationships. Not just for a few weeks, but maybe for a few years. Maybe several years? Can you remember how long a year seemed at that age?

The lockdown period was needed, and it also had the benefit of simplicity. No social interaction, essentially no trade, no sport. But if we’re in this for the long haul, we’re going to have to settle into some sort of uncomfortable, hard-to-define, constantly evolving middle ground. The right wing have made any discussion of that really difficult with their calls for ‘freedom’, and use of debating-society-level arguments based on false equivalence and incomplete science.

I think that they are being in very foolish in that regard, even in the short-term. I think this might damage Trump and his cohort far more than their racism or naked greed and self-interest, because they will be quickly shown to be wrong. But its important that the left doesn’t get driven into a bunker too, in response to that nonsense. This is complicated, and we need accept that complexity and find a way through it.

Liked by 2 people

WorldbyStorm - July 17, 2020

I agree with so much of what you say. Seeing the 12 yo home has been enlightening, and tbh being glad they’re not a couple of years older, that they’re tech savvy, able to build online communication and keep in contact with friends. A lot of her friends have been stuck in flats and apartments in the inner city and again, what of the next cohort four, eight, twelve years older. Of course it’s difficult for everyone (I know what you mean re middle age, but again I suspect it depends what the individual circumstance is – I know a fair few middle-aged who are very isolated).

I’m finding it difficult though to envisage how it is possible for a middle ground to develop. It seems to me that every time there’s a reopening the likelihood is of a wallop by the virus that will close schools or social contexts and/or workplaces too come to think of it. How long can the society and economy sustain that sort of irregular thrown punch across say a couple of years (I’m sceptical about vaccines and treatments seem few and far between). And then there’s the point you make about I guess fatigue on the part of cohorts, and the natural inclination of people to want to mingle and more. I know people where that’s been the case from the start of the lockdown, and then people where it wasn’t at all until the last few weeks – wrt to their late teens and early twenties and yet all those folk are part of families and connected to older people, sometimes much older people, and that has to have an impact in terms of spread and then mortalities. And I wonder how this all works if, as seems likely, we’re actually having the brakes go on again and perhaps to judge from tdoay’s news go back to a sort of Phase2 lite. In other words it seems to me the only strategy is island wide containment and repression of the virus (which is what the medical side is saying) and while that could indeed be on the spectrum of a middle ground but tending towards the better one it might necessitate as Mick2 says above a renewed lockdown for a short duration (perhaps unfortunately one forced by rising cases).

This genuinely must be one of the most challenging periods of time any of us have lived through.

Liked by 1 person

4. sonofstan - July 17, 2020

Boris says it’ll be over by Christmas.

Liked by 1 person

WorldbyStorm - July 17, 2020

Well that’s us all screwed. Clearly if he’s saying that it’ll never be over.

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6to5against - July 17, 2020

As of this morning, he seems to have decided it will be over by the end of next week!
https://www.rte.ie/news/coronavirus/2020/0717/1153920-uk-government-coronavirus/

Liked by 1 person

5. anarchaeologist - July 17, 2020

‘Pubs, bars, hotel bars, nightclubs and casinos’. Does anyone here regularly visit a casino? I though I misheard the first time on the wireless but it must be a thing all the same …

Liked by 1 person

WorldbyStorm - July 17, 2020

There’s one up past Croke Park on the way into town isn’t there? Nah, never been. Not my thing.

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Joe - July 17, 2020

Never been myself neither. But there’s a few about town. So it must be a thing for some people.

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gypsybhoy69 - July 22, 2020

Was in one in Estoril, a coastal town outside Lisbon,just for a peek mind . Allegedly it was the one that Ian Fleming based his first Bond novel on. Seems that part of Portugal was a hotbed of spies from all sides pre WW2 including a place where the abdicated King Edward resided for a short spell.
The casino itself I found depressing, seeing people losing money so quickly. Got the feeling it was a slightly upper class Dr Quirkeys only one making more money. The drink was cheaper though which I’d imagine is a lure.

Liked by 1 person

WorldbyStorm - July 22, 2020

It’s like outside a betting shop. A while back I saw a guy come out of one, shaking in that way that one does when something really bad has happened. He was white and crying and I’d be almost certain he’d lost a packet. Your heart would go out to him but so easy for that to happen.

Liked by 1 person

6. tafkaGW - July 17, 2020

Well the Green Party are contributing to ‘economic recovery’.

They voted yesterday against maternity payments and a living wage and collective bargaining for precarious workers.

Good of them, in one sense, to lay out their class position so clearly at the beginning of their time as greenwashers to the usual unsavoury suspects.

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tafkaGW - July 17, 2020

Eamon Ryan was literally asleep during the vote.

Despicable.

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7. CL - July 17, 2020

“The coronavirus kept surging in hot spots around the U.S. on Thursday, with one city in South Carolina urging people to pray it into submission, a hospital in Texas bringing in military medical personnel and morgues running out of space in Phoenix.”
https://apnews.com/06d8396db10d3ead960da4fc11cd02ae

“We are living through one of the greatest economic failures of any president in decades, and that has come as a result of the second surge of coronavirus cases in the Southern states. No single actor is more responsible for this surge than President Donald Trump. He pushed states to reopen, chided and cajoled Republican governors and, despite the rising number of infections and deaths related to the coronavirus, he said over and over again that it was “going away.” He said that we would now witness the “great American comeback,” and that the economy would come “roaring back.” His economic recovery plan was to get states to reopen.”
https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2020/07/17/trump-covid-economic-revival-column/5437528002/

-“Americans today are far more racially diverse, less Christian, better educated, more urbanized, and less likely to be married. In polls, they are more tolerant of interracial and same-sex relationships, more likely to acknowledge the existence of racial discrimination, and less concerned about crime.”-…
The GOP embrace of Trump has further narrowed the party’s already restricted access to the growing segments of the American electorate. It is deeply unpopular among voters under 40 who will determine the future of the U.S….
In propping up Trump’s corrupt and derelict administration, the GOP has grown increasingly authoritarian.”
https://inance.yahoo.com/news/trump-party-cannot-survive-multiracial-100015594.html

” Purposeful disregard for reality has always been an important element of the maga brand, but it isn’t working for Trump now…..

the political damage was done months ago, when the President effectively abdicated responsibility for the gravest national emergency in decades….
This is the context in which the 2020 campaign is playing out. As the pandemic enters its sixth month, the case numbers are rising in forty states, according to a Times tally, and figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that over the past week the number of new infections reported daily has averaged almost sixty-two thousand. This is now the coronavirus election, and Trump can’t escape it by swapping campaign managers.”
https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/replacing-a-campaign-manager-wont-rescue-trump-from-the-coronavirus-debacle

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Joe - July 17, 2020

“with one city in South Carolina urging people to pray it into submission”
Worth a shot I suppose. But it didn’t work for Aiséirghe with their plan for us to pray our way to a United Ireland.

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