Quarantine random thoughts #7

Went to the supermarket yesterday morning. There was a long queue, so I decided to try again later. In the afternoon the queue was even longer. People were distancing at least 5 meters, so the long queue didn’t necessarily mean a lot of people. Still, it took about 30 minutes to get in the store. Maybe it’s just that it was Friday.

New stickers on the floor at M&S. Yes, I do understand how this works, I stepped onto it right after taking the picture for y’all.

Since I’m partially writing this as a diary, to read back in some distant and happier future (why would one do that?), I’m recording the fact that right now my expectation is that this quarantine will last at least until the second part of May.

This means that my plans for the Negroni fountain in my Italian garden for my birthday at the end of April are now officially cancelled, sorry.

It’s interesting how expectations change. When this all started, just three weeks ago, I had almost bought the ticket to fly home at the end of April.

We keep trying to guess when we will be able to go back to at least some normality, trying to read the tea leaves, the numbers and the news, but my attitude has been changing.

Just like everybody else I keep watching press conferences, refreshing web pages of statistics, getting more familiar with exponential growth and logarithmic scales, but I’m finally realising that this whole charade is much less meaningful than I thought.

The total number of confirmed cases is not how many people got it, is how many tests resulted positive. This number is mostly dependent by how many tests are performed (determined by political decisions and capacity) and by who is being tested (which changes significantly from region to region): we all know that it is underestimated, but we don’t know how much. But the bottom line is that governments all over the world can manipulate these numbers as much as they like.

So while these numbers might be giving an idea of the trend of the disease, it doesn’t make any sense to compare them. Stuff like “the UK is two weeks behind Italy” is meaningless, because the numbers that we are comparing are not comparable.

I’m realising that we have all been looking at that number because it was a relatively simple thing to do, but of course there’s no simple solution to complex problems, and this is a pretty damn complex problem, with a lot of unknown variables, which even the experts are learning to deal with every day.

In other news from the UK, we have been promised 100.000 tests a day by the end of the month (but they are only performing 10,000 a day now, which is less than what Italy was doing by mid March), tomorrow the Queen will address the nation 👑 from her quarantined castle, and I’m getting a bit more annoyed every time somebody asks me to “stay home, protect the NHS and save lives.”

Keep calm and carry on.