by Freddie Sayers
Friday, 15
May 2020
Idea
15:35

The post Covid blocs are beginning to emerge

The world is dividing into low-Covid countries and places which have decided to live alongside it
by Freddie Sayers
A Swedish flag and Danish at the opening of the Øresund Bridge in 2000. Credit: Søren Bidstrup

We are beginning to see what a medium-term Covid world might look like. The ‘suppression’ strategy is winning out across the western and Asian world — country after country is opting to keep the virus completely at bay indefinitely, or until a vaccine.

The other side of this, of course, is that once you have almost no virus you have to shut your borders to preserve the purity of your virus-free kingdom: New Zealand is now completely closed to visitors; Hong Kong tests everyone on arrival.

One step further on from this will be pacts between neighbouring countries that share a common approach and similar levels of infection. In what has caused some understandable unease at a EU level, the young Chancellor of Austria has proposed a ‘travel corridor’ between Austria, Germany and the Czech Republic, that could even stretch as far as Greece, allowing the uninfected peoples of those countries to access the Mediterranean without fear of contamination. Are antibody-carrying persons with immunity passports going to be allowed into these special zones, I wonder? Britain is in discussions with France about a travel pact; the Baltic states have already agreed one.

One interesting aspect of this worrisome way of thinking is that the Swedes are suddenly bottom of the pile — with their more laissez-faire strategy they are considered unsafe. Politicians in Denmark are now considering re-opening their border with Germany but keeping the Swedish border closed.

In the US you can see a similar sort of fragmentation taking place between, mainly, Democrat-leaning Blue states that are being ultra-cautious and extending lockdowns, and Republican-voting Red states that are pushing for more rapid opening up. The state governments of California, Washington and Oregon have already signed up to a ‘Western States Pact’ in agreeing a Covid-19 rules, most recently joined by Colorado and Nevada.

Freedom of movement between states of the US is enshrined under constitutional law, but it remains up to the states to enforce this, rather than the federal government. If the divergence in approach between states continues, how long before we start seeing quarantine requirements for out-of-zone visitors, and subsequent legal challenges to them? An ‘infected zone’ along the southern and midwestern states, with minimal restrictions, and ‘pure zones’ along the seaboards.

Playing this out, you could start to see a very different sort of world, divided between the Covid-free world and those parts of the world that have decided to live alongside it. Will we start seeing direct flights from Stockholm-Arlanda to Dallas Texas, and straight down to Rio di Janeiro? Will the economy of this more freely connected world start behaving differently? Will the capitals of this new ‘free world’, with more lax quarantine restrictions, start acting as the new global travel hubs, replacing London and New York? It is too early to tell.

Meanwhile there is a sharp irony in the fact that those places most committed to an open, multilateral, progressive world (blue states in America, the EU, New Zealand, Scotland) look set to become the most closed and border-patrolled, while the ‘America First’ states and places like Brazil have the chance to look outwards like never before.

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Mads Naeraa-Spiers
Mads Naeraa-Spiers
2 years ago

Thanks for that piece.

Ironically, this issue has not been debated in NZ, not even in fact whether the plan is to wait for a vaccine. Could be a long wait.

It seems that people have been happy that the virus has been suppressed, and have forgotten to ask “what now?”, and the Government has been very quiet on the matter.

Frederik van Beek
Frederik van Beek
2 years ago

The message of this article is so depressing…I assume though that Freddie is right. We are being trapped more and more in a world that will be divided between a vast majority of people being led by what I would call the risk-free gestapo and a small minority of people that keeps its trust in evidence based science, common sense and above all: individual freedom. If individual freedom happens to be served by morons like Trump or Bolsonaro (temporarily I hope…), so be it, stranger things have happened to the world. Somehow I still want to believe that freedom can prevail on a global scale but the dystopian tendencies are closing in more rapidly than I ever could have imagined with the US and China being the ringleaders.

mikeedwardz.edwards
mikeedwardz.edwards
2 years ago

All this angst for an admittedly nasty virus which primarily sees off the most vulnerable aged and folk already ill. There are far worse things going on in our world that need attention.

Vicki Robinson
Vicki Robinson
2 years ago

Very thought-provoking article. Thank you!

Ian SN
Ian SN
2 years ago

Kiwis are all partying it up and slapping their backs congratulations Jac for saving them. Once they reopen the borders it will sneak in and bite them. You cannot possible permanently halt the progress of the virus at the moment. They are asking for your name and address in petshops before they will let you in. Nice!

Mads Naeraa-Spiers
Mads Naeraa-Spiers
2 years ago

Apologies if this is a double comment; my previous one seems to have disappeared.

Incredibly, there has been no talk or debate about this in NZ. People seem happy that the virus is under control, and the government remains very quiet.

Will we remain isolated till a vaccine is produced? Will we have a SW Pac travel bubble? So many questions, but not one single news article or opinion piece has touched on this so far.

peterioffe
peterioffe
2 years ago

Let’s open a creative competition on how we should call this madness? We had Great Depression ( at least it was really great). So what is it now? Great Diarrhoea? Why people swept away toilet paper? Great Fear? Great Stupidity?

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
2 years ago
Reply to  peterioffe

The Great Madness.

Shay McInerney
Shay McInerney
2 years ago

I’m currently reading John Connelly’s From People’s into Nations, which is a history of the emergence of nation states in central and eastern Europe. When speaking about protofascism in East and Central Europe he says, “It flourished where national leaders, usually liberals, lost touch with the common people, thereby exposing themselves to accusations of treachery and contempt by forces further to the right.”
And I’m wondering is there a similar thing going on across the western liberal democracies. A political class, conditioned to respond to every wind that blows as if infected with the twiteritis virus, has lost touch with the ordinary details of peoples lives. Still believing that their populations are some kind of homogeneous mass, they duck and dive like some 21st century Arthur Daly.
While the reality is that society has fragmented into networks of small communities (often online) that are quite content to get on with their own lives as long as nobody bothers them particularly.
People are waiting to return to normal life. They will adapt to the fegaries of political fashion assuming that as long as they fly under the radar, they will be left to do normal. Normal as in form relationships based on the look on a persons face, socialise without the constant intrusion of the behaviour police. Shake hands when introduced to strangers. Visit friends and family where ever they may be. Despite the Stasi, people still risked death to escape the lockdown society of the Soviet Union.
I’m thinking the political classes have got massively out of touch with their citizens and none more so than here in Ireland. Those who make loud noises want you to believe they are a large crowd.
People always find ways of doing what people want to do. When you loose faith in the state, you avoid interacting with it. When you are prevented from avoiding it, you oppose it.
In The Psychology of the Masses by Noah Halberg, is the following, “Le Bon talks about how the French schools did a poor job preparing Frenchmen for life after school. It made them unable to act on their own initiative, so they had come to depend on the state. Most wished to become state functionaries, but not all were accepted; those who were not able to obtain jobs in this way became enemies of the state. Le Bon thinks that a sure way to make someone an enemy of the state is to fill his mind with knowledge which he is unable to make use of. People in this state of mind are ready for any kind of social disturbance to improve their lots.” Le Bon was writing at the end of the 19th century. Plus ca change, plus ca change pas.

Josephine Cooper
Josephine Cooper
2 years ago

OMG, my thoughts exactly. Thank you for putting them on ?paper.

laurarobertson180381
laurarobertson180381
2 years ago

And what of people living in virus free countries that want to cross borders and establish freedoms with others living in countries that have not suppressed the virus. Will be allowed back into our countries upon return?

Hugh R
Hugh R
2 years ago

“…..open, multilateral, progressive world (bluestates in America, the EU, New Zealand, Scotland”
….That list did make me laugh. All ‘Open’ to proper racism, homelessness, drug addictions and oppresive State oversight all, at least, in some areas.
I don’t think that a universal vaccine will ever be developed for this, as it’ll mutate constantly a bit like the common cold, but time will tell, and I sincerly hope I’m wrong.
I think Sweden may have got it right, and how much are we really willing to continue to pay (ad infinitum) for the morbidly-obese to gorge on deep-fried Mars bars(…for instance)?

Hugh R
Hugh R
2 years ago

THE NAME OF THIS SITE IS UN-f*****g-HERD
Advice: Don’t put spotty teenage wokians in charge the Moderation team.

Andrea X
Andrea X
2 years ago

This is dated today (30 aug), but some comments are 3 months old. Is that old news, then?

D Glover
D Glover
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrea X

It’s dated 15 May 2020

Andrea X
Andrea X
2 years ago
Reply to  D Glover

I see no date.
It just says 15:35 (and has been since yesterday).
It must be a bug in their system, otherwise why would people start commenting now?

Adrian
Adrian
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrea X

The biggest words on the banner are The Post. This is the first article that comes up on The Post. Thus it’s a magnet

Susannah Baring Tait
Susannah Baring Tait
2 years ago

Midsommer Murders director was forced to add characters of all ethnicities into his programmes because the series was deemed too white. Are these ‘culture warriors’ saying we should now remove all those culturally inappropriate people from UK TV and film series set in earlier times when only local whites inhabited the villages? And are we saying that other ethnicities cannot perform Shakespeare, etc.? So, coloured actors could be without many parts from now on. Talk about unintended consequences!

Susannah Baring Tait
Susannah Baring Tait
2 years ago

Sorry, I seem to have added my comment to the wrong article.