Note from Norway

From Mike Seltzer, Oslo, April 21 2020

A short note about how things are developing here in the Nordic countries, specifically Norway, Denmark, and Finland, with a side look at Sweden.

Norway, Denmark, and Finland went on lockdown — schools, restaurants, drinking places, cinemas, etc. — on about March 11 or 12. All except those in vital occupations — medicine, transport, drugstores and supermarkets — were told to stay at home. Since then the spread and impact of the coronavirus in all three countries have followed the same pattern.

Our infections and deaths peaked about the same time and have now been steadily going down each day. Consequently, all kindergartens in Norway opened yesterday and next week later the first four grades of primary schools will be opening, and one week after that barbers and hair salons, physical therapists and related occupations will be free to go back to work. That is more or less what is taking place in Denmark.

But meanwhile in Sweden the death rate per million populations is currently four times that of Norway and I think of Denmark too.  Here is a link to a statistical site we check each day. And here as in the other Nordic countries deaths have been tightly concentrated among elderly people — mainly those with preexisting conditions like diabetes, heart conditions, etc.

Since March, many of us here in the North have been deeply troubled with what has  been taking place in Sweden. There, they have as state epidemiologist, a man named Anders Tegnell, who got his job being the protege of the former state epidemiologist. For those with a few years in academe behind us, it is a rather familiar story where the protege, i.e. the favored candidate with the fewest qualifications gets the position. The keyword is “lovende” which translate into “she/he is promising”. At any rate, this man, never questioned critically by Swedish journalists at daily press conferences, has kept schools and high schools, bars and restaurants open, and what we see on Swedish television of life in the streets and eating and drinking places is like watching a movie about life on another planet.

Finally, last week, 38 professors in fields like virology and bacteriology publicly attacked Tegnell and in good Swedish understatement characterized him as being “utan talang” which translates as totally lacking talent. And they have called for a radical change in Swedish policy making it more like that of Denmark, Norway and Finland. By the way, Norway has closed its borders to Sweden and any Norwegian coming across from Sweden is to go into voluntary quarantine for 14 days – and this morning the Norwegian police announced that they had jailed someone who broke the quarantine and they are hitting him with a big fine.

As it looks now, if the virus does not resurge, Norway in midsummer, always a big holiday, may be back to normal – again if the virus does not resurge.  Even then, the Norwegian government is advising us to stay in Norway during July when everyone gets four weeks of vacation.

I hope that what Norwegians, Danes and Finns have experienced gives you some hope in the dark times you all are now experiencing. Of course, we have here three things lacking in the US: a rational response by the government, a well functioning and FREE medical system headed by a national institute of health and nationalized radio and television system dealing in facts, not opinions.

I cannot for the life of me understand after watching weeks of Trump that Fauci does not simply take the mike and say: ” Do not believe this man. He knows nothing. And everything he says leads to more deaths.” Fauci resigns, gets a pension, and like the captain of the Theodore Roosevelt, I am sure there would be a massive public outcry if Trump and the Trumpsters went after him. And it is so nice these days to watching your California governor – and in fact all the Dem governors.

Finally if you have not seen this, please share. It will help bring a smile even as the Donald prepares for the next so-called press conference.

 If Trump were captain of the Titanic, here are his announcements in chronological order.

  • There isn’t any iceberg.
  • There was an iceberg but it’s in a totally different ocean.
  • The iceberg is in this ocean but it will melt very soon.
  • There is an iceberg but we didn’t hit the iceberg.
  • We hit the iceberg, but the damage will be repaired very shortly.
  • The iceberg is a Chinese iceberg.
  • We are taking on water but every passenger who wants a lifeboat can get a lifeboat, and they are beautiful lifeboats.
  • Look, passengers need to ask nicely for the lifeboats if they want them.
  • We don’t have any lifeboats, we’re not lifeboat distributors.
  • Passengers should have planned for icebergs and brought their own lifeboats.
  • I really don’t think we need that many lifeboats.
  • We have lifeboats and they’re supposed to be our lifeboats, not the passengers’ lifeboats.
  • The lifeboats were left on shore by the last captain of this ship.
  • Nobody could have foreseen the iceberg.

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