Corona Diary – Day 73

Thursday, 28 May

In Sweden, 192 people under the age of 60 have died from covid-19 up to 27 May. Approximately half of the number of deaths of all ages have been in the county of Stockholm. This isn’t an argument in favour or against the Swedish light touch model. But these much lower statistics than the total number of deaths do stress the importance of looking beyond aggregated statistics to understand what’s happening.

It might be so that Sweden’s light touch model “sacrifices” the old and frail. But there could also be other reasons apart from the strictness or otherwise of lockdown/social distancing for the deaths among the older population. How great a proportion of these deaths occurred in care facilities and when did infection take place? Are there systematic differences between the way that care facilities for the aged are organised in Denmark or Norway compared with Sweden, for example, as regards the number of privately-owned care providers? What effect has the system of competitive procurement with its focus on complying with contractual demands (and perhaps not “over-compliance”) had on the conduct and preparation of those companies organising care (for instance, as regards the availability and use of protective equipment)? Has this been better or worse or about the same as public providers? What impact has the “balkanisation” of care providers had as regards stocks of emergency equipment?

These questions may or may not lead to sharp conclusions but they again stress the importance of looking beyond aggregated statistics.

I have now been in voluntary social isolation for 73 days. I have met my elder daughter who brings me groceries once a week (keeping our distance from one another) but almost no one else. I’ve had a plan of activities for home and work organisation and various reading projects, which has worked well. As I usually spend a lot of time sitting at a desk reading, it’s been to a great extent business as usual but with less interruptions from external temptations. And the ability to get out and explore the nearby countryside and Uppsala on my foot and by bike has made a great difference as have the social media.

But once the lockdown eases internationally and Sweden’s light touch becomes lighter still, I will have to decide what’s reasonable for me as a 70 plus person with a couple of underlying medical conditions.

Social isolation and no international travel for 500 days or, however long it takes before protection is available doesn’t seem a great prospect but neither does getting covid-19 (my early training as an economist is floating around in the back of my head with enjoyment of life and life threat curves cutting at some equilibrium point where the marginal unit of threat to life is equated with the marginal unit of life enjoyment…..). Summer in Sweden is probably a safe assumption so that I shall start working on what I want to see in the county of Uppsala so that I will be well prepared once I feel it’s reasonable to take my bike on the commuter train and “fragilise” my social isolation.

I haven’t blogged for a few days as too much seems similar. Workwise, it’s been quiet – a few small jobs. I’ve sorted and indexed my collection of glossaries (15 files on various topics) and sorted out absurdities (removing a list of Iranian boy’s names from my Economy/Finance glossary file, for instance).

I’ve finished reading my report from the Investment Association. I don’t understand everything that I’ve read but at least recognise some of the landmarks in this relatively new landscape. I have read a long article on the development of Christianity in Dorset, which was an interesting background to the church part of my Dorset project. And worked regularly on Bengali and French. And am now about to embark on a book written by a late friend of mine which I’ve never read but which pricks my conscience every time I catch sight of it.

I’m still having problems with structuring time, working too long and then getting tired and demoralised until I’ve slept at some weird hour. I’ve started to define my working day better so that I have a goal for the day and stop by a particular time to do other non-work-related things. And taking exercise at least every other day.

My problem is that my non-work-related things usually involve sitting in front of a computer and reading and dousing myself with blue light or whatever it is that interferes with sleep. I probably have to structure my non-work-hours better into a hard part (more computer-related) and a soft part (more reading) and again make a better plan for the day to compensate for the lack of structure (both external and internal).  

It’s a weird combination of what’s normal and even better than normal (lack of interruption, improved eating habits with better food and less wastage) and what’s missing (social contact, inability to visit libraries). And, at the times when it doesn’t feel so great, trying to work out what exactly is missing or badly organised. Hopefully, I can develop habits of self-discipline and structure that will be useful post covid-19.

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