All posts filed under: COVID-19

Will COVID-19 Mark the End of European Liberalism?

Understandably, given its potential for large scale loss of life and severe economic disruption, coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic has so far focused on its short-term health and economic impact. Eventually, however, we will have to start thinking about the longer-term repercussions of the virus—particularly its political fall-out. According to the social science literature, there appears to be a positive correlation between the prevalence of disease and an increase in authoritarian-nationalist political views.1 This could have important ramifications in continental Europe, where several of the countries at the epicentre of the outbreak were already dealing with the rise of authoritarian-nationalist opposition parties and have upcoming elections. The possibility of the EU’s three largest economies (Germany, France, and Italy) shifting toward authoritarian-nationalist politics, and upending the liberal settlement of the world’s biggest economic block, means the political fall-out from COVID-19 could influence events around the world for decades to come. This conjecture is built on two foundations. The first is the evidence that greater prevalence of disease increases authoritarian-nationalist politics in individuals and countries. The second …

COVID-19 Science Update for March 25th: Understanding Models

The latest global data for COVID-19—updated with reports received on March 25th, 2020—have been published at Our World in Data. Here are some of the numbers and trends that I believe deserve special attention, as well as a brief report on notable developments and analyses. Since March 21st, these updates have been published at Quillette in our section marked COVID-19 UPDATES. Please report needed corrections or suggestions to jon@quillette.com. The number of newly reported deaths increased yesterday. There were 2,200 new confirmed COVID-19 fatalities, compared to 1,764 reported on Tuesday, 1,660 on Monday, and 1,690 on Sunday. This was largely due to increased death tallies in France (240 new deaths, up from 186 the day before), Italy (743, up from, in reverse order, 601, 649, and 795), Spain (514, up from 462) and the United States (211, up from 119). The Netherlands had an unsettling jump to 63 new deaths (up from 34 on Tuesday). And some bad news in Sweden, which I discussed yesterday as being a European outlier due to its liberal approach …

The Coming Age of Dispersion

As of this writing, the long-term effects of the coronavirus pandemic remain uncertain. But one possible consequence is an acceleration of the end of the megacity era. In its place, we may now be witnessing the outlines of a new, and necessary, dispersion of population, not only in the wide open spaces of North America and Australia, but even in the megacities of the developing world. Much of this has been driven by high housing prices and growing social disorder in our core cities, as well as the steady rise of online commerce and remote working, now the fastest growing means of “commuting” in the United States. Pandemics naturally thrive in large multicultural cities, where people live “cheek by jowl” and travel to and from other countries is a fact of international tourism and commerce. Europe’s rapidly advancing infection rate is, to some extent, the product of its weak border controls, one of the EU’s greatest accomplishments. Across the continent, cities have become the primary centers of infection. Half of all COVID-19 cases in Spain, …

No, COVID-19 Is Not a ‘Disaster for Feminism’

I wasn’t especially surprised to find an essay in the Atlantic calling the COVID-19 pandemic a “disaster for feminism.” But I am disappointed. It seems that the author, Helen Lewis, undervalues “women’s work” simply because it is unpaid labour. But to undervalue unpaid labour is to reaffirm corporate ideas of what constitutes valuable work. The denigration of home economics has always been a blind spot within feminism, which often champions traditionally male markers of professional and corporate success as success itself, rather than celebrating the un-corporatized nature of traditional female work. To repeat, I am not surprised by this anti-female logic at this late date, but I still find it disappointing. There are, of course, good reasons why feminists fought to emancipate women from the home. Economic independence transformed societies, economies, and the individual lives of many women, and allowed them to pursue intellectual, creative, professional fulfillment they had hitherto been denied. However, the kind of professional and capitalistic contemporary feminism (of which Lewis is apparently an adherent) seems to require the denigration of home …

COVID-19 Science Update for March 24th: Counting Cases and Deaths

The latest global data for COVID-19—updated with reports received on March 24th, 2020—have been published at Our World in Data. Here are some of the numbers and trends that I believe deserve special attention, as well as a brief report on notable developments and analyses. Since March 21st, these updates have been published at Quillette in our section marked COVID-19 UPDATES. Please report needed corrections or suggestions to jon@quillette.com. There were 1,764 new deaths reported globally over the last day. This represents an increase from the previous day’s jump, which was 1,660, and Sunday’s reported jump, which was 1,690. France had its deadliest day yet, with 186 deaths. The United States had 119 deaths, down from 131. Crucially, Italy had its second day in a row of declining death count—601 versus Monday’s 649 and Sunday’s 795. (Italy also had its second straight day of decline in new cases reported: 4,789, down from 5,560 and 6,557 on Monday and Sunday respectively.) Spain’s daily tally jumped to 462, up from 394 on Monday. If these trends continue, …

Humanity’s Greatest Foe: Pandemics Through the Ages

A review of Plagues and Peoples by William McNeill, Anchor, 365 pages (1998) Readers seeking a longer historical perspective on the coronavirus pandemic would do well to consider William H. McNeill’s brilliant book, Plagues and Peoples. Originally published in 1976, Plagues and Peoples shows, in less than 300 pages (not including the appendix, notes and index), “how varying patterns of disease circulation have affected human affairs in ancient and modern times.” Not everyone, understandably, will wish to dwell upon the endless series of calamities infectious diseases have exacted in our collective past. The uncertain, terrifying ordeal immediately before us is quite enough. But along with well-informed worry, McNeill’s masterful account induces both awe and hope at our species’ capacity to endure the worst from its most ancient adversaries. To adapt words McNeill wrote in a slightly different context: The history of mankind’s long struggle against infectious diseases “will not solve contemporary dilemmas. It may, nonetheless, provide perspective and, as is the wont of historical awareness, make simple solutions and radical despair both seem less compelling. …

COVID-19 Science Update for March 23rd: The Wealth Paradox

The latest global data for COVID-19—updated with reports received on March 23rd, 2020—have been published at Our World in Data. Here are some of the numbers and trends that I believe deserve special attention, as well as a brief report on notable regional developments and media analyses. Since March 21st, these updates have been published at Quillette in our section marked COVID-19 UPDATES. Please report needed corrections or suggestions to jon@quillette.com. Let me start off with some good news: For the first time in a week, the daily number of new global confirmed COVID-19 deaths has dropped—from 1,690 to 1,660. That’s a small drop, but it’s important. Since I began doing these updates informally on my Facebook page, there has always been at least one country, every day, that has reported a horrifying surge in daily death rates. (The last time that the daily death rate dropped was March 16th — 17th, and even that seemed to have resulted from the previous day’s anomalous doubling of global daily fatalities, fed by an order-of-magnitude increase in …

COVID-19 Science Update for March 22nd: Grim Omens in the U.S.

The latest global data for COVID-19—updated with reports received on March 22nd, 2020—have been published at Our World in Data. Here are some of the numbers and trends that I believe deserve special attention, as well as a brief report on notable regional developments and media analyses. Since March 21, these updates have been published at Quillette in our section marked COVID-19 UPDATES. Please report needed corrections or suggestions to jon@quillette.com. Yesterday’s global tally of total confirmed cases was 305,275. This represents a daily jump of 34,047, up from the previous daily jump of 28,891. This includes: Another 6.5K cases in Italy (a slight increase from the previous daily jump); A worrying 4.9K case jump in Spain (up from the previous daily jump, which was 2.8K); And a big 7.1K increase in the United States, the biggest U.S. jump to date. These three countries account for more than half of all new cases. If you add in France (1.8K) and Germany (3.3K), you get more than two thirds of global cases. There were 1,690 new deaths reported globally. …

COVID-19 Science Update for March 21st: What Is Germany Doing Right?

The latest global data for COVID-19—updated with reports received on March 21st, 2020—have been published at Our World in Data. Here are some of the numbers and trends that I believe deserve special attention, as well as a brief report on notable regional developments and media analyses. Beginning today, these updates will be published at Quillette in our section marked COVID-19 UPDATES. Please report needed corrections or suggestions to jon@quillette.com. Yesterday’s global tally of confirmed new cases to date was 271,364. This represents a daily jump of 28,891. The previous daily jumps were, proceeding backwards, 29K, 19K, 15K, 12K, and 14K. As has been the case in recent days, the lion’s share of new cases came from just these five countries, which accounted for 74 percent of all new global confirmed cases yesterday: France (1.6K new cases, as compared to 1.9K, 1.4K, and 1.1K in the days previous) Germany (4.2K new cases, as compared to 5.9K, 1K, and 1.1K in the days previous) Italy (6K new cases, following on almost equally massive jumps of 5.3K and 4.2K) …

Winning the War on Coronavirus

A report released by Imperial College London researchers on Monday shook the world. The report gave a glimpse into the coronavirus’s battle plan. It was to kill over two million Americans and at least a half-million Brits.  Thanks to the wartime mobilization by the people of both nations, we can feel confident that we have thwarted its plan. There is very little chance that, after the lockdowns and social distancing occurring around the world, coronavirus is still on track to infect and kill as many people. But we are only at the very beginning of what will be a long, difficult, and deadly war, and things are changing quickly. To balance saving lives with minimizing social disruption, Imperial College scientists foresee societies engaging in several, weeks-long waves of social distancing between now and the fall of 2021. By then, most experts expect we will have a vaccine. We could get one sooner, but few believe we will have proven a vaccine’s safety and effectiveness sooner than 12 months. The events of recent days and past epidemics, …