COVID-19: Ungoverned

Posted here (week 2452).

We zijn geen kinderspeeltuin, ik wil niet de baas spelen hier. [We are not a children’s playground, I do not want to play boss here.] – Prime Minister Mark Rutte, 8 May 2020

The Dutch are very libertine and so is their government. It is difficult, both culturally and procedurally, to limit people’s freedom. A core rationale for this is that the public can be trusted to doe normaal and behave responsibly.

This may be true in aggregate, but certainly not of everyone. When you’re trying to control a virus you need everyone to behave, so there must be rules. Without a clear pandemic-control plan to utilize, those rules need to be written, and revised, quickly as the situation evolves. The Dutch government is not good at this. The poldermodel approach of talking until there is consensus fails them under these conditions.

One of the first clear signs this country was not prepared to control a virus was when spring came last year and the beaches became crowded. The governments (national and municipal) implored people to avoid the busy times and places, and suggested people use their birthdays or names to arrange staggered timeslots. Yet they offered no tools to make this possible! I was aghast; don’t we hire the government to provide social coordination services?

Nearly a year later, I am no longer surprised but remain disappointed. They know what behavior they want people to exhibit, but they lack the will or power to demand it, so seem to “hint” with restrictions they think are enforceable. Nevermind if the police actually can or do enforce them.

It doesn’t help when politicians are unwilling to adapt to new science and reverse previous positions on masks.

It’s obvious to anyone paying attention to the science that we shouldn’t be meeting indoors with too many different people. A sensible rule might be to “bubble” on a weekly basis, and invite people from no more than 2 different households to join you for visits of more than a few minutes. Instead, we are limited to 1 person each day.

We need to prevent people from having parties, so we have a late night curfew that only means people have to stay out until 4:30 in the morning.

The night before writing this, we visited friends and thus brought 2 people into their home. With both of our households being very responsible and not having anyone else to either home for weeks prior this was quite safe. But it was illegal, nonetheless. Don’t tell anyone.