The state of emergency and the “datacracy” ritual

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Part 1 of the reportage, continues from the introduction: Coronavirus: the governments publish numbers… but the counts do not add up.

From March 14th, the day of the entry into force of the state of emergency for Coronavirus, we are following from Jerez de La Frontera, in Andalusia, the press conferences and the speeches of the representatives of the Spanish government, broadcasted live by the Spanish Radio Television (RTVE) and also from private networks.

Public health technicians, ministers, and the top police and army officers appear every day lined up 2, 3 or 4 at a time, each in front of their lectern with microphone, in a sort of stage – altar from which they reveal how many they are the new people infected, healed and deceased for Covid-19 in Spain, based on the data updated the previous evening that they say they receive from the Autonomous Communities (the spanish Regions), as well as presenting us quarantine implementation programs and economic and social measures. For a lot of weeks not only the government, but also the media and a multitude of “experts” have speculated on numbers and curves that would graphically represent the evolution of the pandemic and its treatment, while, waiting for the daily government ritual, which sometimes is repeated with different actors several times a day, we are deprived of the freedom of movement because they tell us that only the “social distance” will stop the infection.

In Spain the confinement was prolonged from time to time for 15 more days. The Prime Minister announced the extension proposals in his usual public speeches on Saturday, obtaining congressional approval the following Wednesday. Pedro Sánchez said on Saturday, the 2nd of May that on Wednesday the 6th he would ask Parliament for a further extension of the state of alarm until 24th of May «because there is no plan B», and despite having announced on the 28th of April a «de-escalation plan in stages», in which the «phase zero» started on May the 4th and the last one should end by June, but there are no certainties, because the dates correspond to expected results according to government criteria. What is certain, in fact, is that the usual daily data on infections, dead and treated, and new “markers”, imposed by the government to the Autonomous Communities as a goal to change from phase, will continue to influence the limitations on fundamental freedoms. These data will be the condition to gradually sweeten or strengthen confinement for a long time, that is, during and even after a «controlled path towards a “new normality”», according to the disturbing words of Sánchez, an unknown reality that the government wants to establish for us. The President of the Government on the 31st of May has informed the presidents of the autonomous communities and cities that the Government will request the Congress of Deputies «a last and definitive fifteen-day extension of the state of alarm», until June 21st, and as a substantial novelty «the maximum responsibility in the management of the de-escalation is transferred to the autonomous communities that are in Phase 3». But the regulation of mobility will remain in the hands of the Government, that in the event that the data worsens, may again limit the liberties of people.

So, how long will the restrictions on citizens’ fundamental rights, guaranteed constitutionally and by international conventions, last? And above all, with what objective from a healthcare point of view?

In fact, we do not know what the direct relationship between government measures and public health is, in terms of decreasing actual, present and future infections, and in treating the sick. The government has always hoped for a «descent of the curve», said in the words of the epidemiologist Fernando Simón, the director of the Center for Coordination of Alarms and Health Emergencies (Centro de Coordinación de Alertas y Emergencias Sanitarias) of the Ministry of Health, but as we will show in this analysis and as he himself comments, the “curve” represents only the sample of the “registered” cases.

The main point of the matter is that to manage any epidemic and to limit its spread, the steps to be taken are the diagnosis of real cases and the treatment of infected people, isolating those infected but not necessarily the whole population.

Since the World Health Organization stated on 27 January that there would be a «high global risk» of an international health emergency, the Spanish government, like many others, has not controlled people arriving from states where it was known already that there were infected, nor the outbreaks inside the country, although it had an eye on, for example, the evolution of the Coronavirus in Italy and could have predicted that if it had not intervened in time, the epidemic diffusion would have been similar to the Italian, as it actually has been.

Instead, the Spanish government preferred to wait, to be precise until Saturday 14 March, to confine the entire population, probably in the most drastic way of all governments, when there were already 5753 cases of Coronavirus reported according to the Ministry of Health, of which 2940 only in Madrid, and 136 dead. Moreover, giving the announcement of the confinement on Friday 13th, feeding up until the following day the exodus already underway of a part of the population from the most affected areas towards second homes or other accommodation in other parts of the country and therefore increasing the risk of contagion.

Total confinement was justified by the Spanish government stating that this virus is unknown, even though it belongs to a known “family”, and that it would take time to locate the infected, and to better understand how to cure ourselves and to produce a vaccine. But to date the executive has not yet prepared a massive action plan to identify all infected people, or as many as possible, even asymptomatic, and to treat all those who are sick, who have spontaneously resorted to the health system. Only from mid-April the government announced the increase in diagnostic tests, but largely insufficient to base the “de-escalation” on their number, as the president said instead, otherwise it would take years at this rate to put it into practice (see article: Six and a half years of confinement in Spain, according to the president of the government Sánchez). The treatment was left in the hands of the extraordinary intervention of the health personnel of the hospitals and health centers, and unfortunately many people had to cry in silence or even worse remotely the death of some family members without even being able to participate in their funeral.

The “counts that do not add up” are precisely the data that the government announces in the daily ritual of indoctrination of the people, their use as the only and irrefutable argument in support of their measures, and the insufficient number of diagnostic tests or other types of territorial diagnoses carried out so far.
In Spain it was expected that people would go to seek help at hospitals at an already advanced stage of the disease, putting their health and the intensive care units of the hospitals more at risk, but the healthcare personnel was not stimulated to go to seek infected people in advance through the territorial articulation of the country’s health system, which is probably among the best in the world. In fact, the message repeated until nausea in the government’s big communication campaign was “#quedateencasa”, “stay at home”, more than the invitation to call your health center in time in case of suspicious symptoms, or to make a preventive diagnosis, given that the doctors were instructed to receive their patients or to visit them only in cases of extreme urgency, and without providing neither of them with adequate means of protection.

The government and its technical committee of experts have continually passed the ball on the responsibilities of the decisions, taken on the basis of data that represent, by their own admission, only a part of the infected, cured and dead, those who have manifested and that the government has or has not registered according to the criteria given to the Autonomous Communities, which have changed several times, and according to how they have applied them in the surveys and in sending the numbers, repeatedly generating mutual criticism between the executive and some regions, phase shifts and recalculations.

While the government anesthetized the residents of Spain by inviting them to stay calm at home to wait for the virus to pass, with daily slogans like “#estevirusloparamosunidos”, “we will stop this virus together”, in his daily announcements it did not provide enough updates about the progress of the ongoing treatment modality and has not reassured people with solid health issues. The government has so far considered its citizens as a people to be tamed and as a database from which to extract a partial statistical sample to develop a trend curve, when only doctors and nurses engaged in hospitals and health centers or who treated people at home considered them and their family members as patients, protagonists of prevention and cure, and as persons capable of being self-responsible.

The contradictory behavior of the Spanish government was highlighted precisely in the public interventions of its representatives and in the data provided by the Coordination Committee of Alerts and Health Emergencies, and in a striking way especially after the first month since the start of the alarm state on March 14th: Let’s review these announcements in detail.

Continue in part 2: If the “datacracy” analyzes us, let’s analyze it. Support us with a donation and ask us to read it.

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