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Eve of Lockdown # 2

Updated: Jul 21, 2021

Groningen, Dec 14 2020. Four days before schools were supposed to close for Christmas in the North.

Recently, I read a chill-inducing article about Germany's preparations to vaccinate.

Hundreds of vaccination sites have been built or established at former youth hostels, dormant airports, buildings otherwise empty.

Locally, colors were selected for floors and walls. Light green and white. Floor plans were designed. Repetitions were staged; volunteers played the to-be-vaccinated person, injected with a toy syringe.

Preparations are going well in some places, not so well in others. Security at the sites is a concern, and secrecy around the exact storage locations of the vaccines themselves. At one of the vaccination sites awaiting its grand opening (a youth hostel), the writing is on the wall. THIS IS WHERE YOU WILL BE VACCINATED AGAINST YOUR WILL WITH THE POISON OF THE DEVIL.

While I read the article, I heard a persistent tapping of impatient fingertips on the ever-thinning membrane of a nation's patience. Why did it take so long for the vaccine to reach Germany? It's coming from Germany, after all. (BioNTech is a German company, but my strong guess is that the researchers responsible for developing the stuff are an international group. They always are.)

The reason for the "long" wait is, of course, the fact that the European Medicines Agency (located in Amsterdam!) takes...its...time... approving it. So we ALL have to wait. No exceptions. Dec. 29 is the date.

According to the usual media leaks, prime minister Mark Rutte will treat us to another hypnotizing speech from behind his desk in the little tower tonight (the first came in March), and announce that everything will close, including all schools.

It could be fake news; but assuming it's true, here's my take.

In the summer, when the infection curve was as flat as my current ability to experience joy, the Dutch government supposedly had a plan to prevent a second outbreak. That plan was to set up a system of rapid testing, isolate infected and infectious persons and keep the virus from spreading. I distinctly remember the claim that "we are ready," and how it was ground to dust the moment infections started to rise as much as a tad. There were not enough tests, it turned out, and no structures in place to conduct them, had they been there. Not enough personnel, either.

The goal then was: obtain more tests. Because everyone agreed: we need more and faster tests if we want to "stay open."

Now the tests are here. They've been here for a while now.

Also here are: Echoes of cries to set up fast lane test centers at nursing homes, at schools, at universities, etc., so people can continue to visit/care/learn/teach/student/ etc., safely. And the country can stay open. Open, open, open.

And now, after many months in which we had time to get this right, it's too late? Too late for anything but another lockdown?

Lock down, shut off, pull plug?

Can't think, brain melt, system overload, hit abort?

As I'm letting my rage about all of this subside (not really, though), I'm thinking: Who knows.

Who knows, perhaps even a perfect system of testing & tracing (& swinging & pinging & stinging & ringing) wouldn't have prevented things from getting worse. It happened in Germany, which used to be the shimmering and extremely well organized Utopia across the border, until it wasn't.

Because even with a perfect system in place, people have to be willing and able to use it, and draw the consequences.

What we're seeing right now is this: hotels in our Northern Provinces are fully booked for the Holidays, because a hotel is the only place where you can still eat in a restaurant. [Maybe these bookings will be voided by the lockdown.]

Humans channel their obstinacy and legendary skills of adaptation into the act of damn well booking a restaurant table where it's legally possible. If Curaçao doesn't count as foreign travel, heck, we'll fly there instead of going to Germany. Because beach and sun and code yellow. We, as humans, can't help but wanting to do the things we still *can* do.

The response to our obstinacy seems to be to chop off the things we can do, sometimes haphazardly, until there's nothing left, and we can breath a sigh of relief: it's decided. Lockdown. Simple. Hard. Everyone equally at fault. Bam. We can act all brave and responsible, at least if we're lucky enough to have financial security and a peaceful home. And then what? We shut down, and infections go down. Then we open up, and infections go up. Repeat until vaccine?

That's what it feels like right now. Apart from the fact that public health minister Hugo de Jonge allegedly frequents a tanning salon, and the first shipment from Pfizer is delayed and will reach our Brexit-beaten shores "in the first half of 2021," with a meager 500.000 doses instead of the initially promised million, while the "Oxford vaccine," our main purchase, is not effective enough in the eyes of their developers, leading them to consider collaboration with the Russian Sputnik crew (where can I apply for my anti-vaxxer card?!)—apart from that, it feels as if we learned nothing.

This next lockdown feels worse than the first. It feels as if it had been preventable.

The upcoming vaccination campaign will be interesting. We are ready. That is the promise. This time, we are ready.

As a German I don't mind watching a mesmerizing display of fumbling incompetence followed by a spectacular save, against all odds, with one millisecond left on the clock. I watch, admire, love, and above all envy spontaneous brilliance.

As the year is drawing to a close, and I keep having nightmares about trucks carrying deep freeze containers filled with vaccine accidentally being re-routed to the "Amsterdam Lake District," I hope, hope, hope, hope, hope.

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