Views from our readers, around the world, in quarantine.

We asked our readers to describe their lives in quarantine. Here’s a selection of the letters we received.

Somewhere, Minnesota

Here in Minnesota I feel like we have shut down too much. The governor is locking it down tighter even more starting Friday night. He is in self-quarantine because a member of his security detail tested positive. He “sent out” a pre-recorded press announcement by video stating the new guidelines. He took no questions (they could have come to him by text or Zoom). He wants to do this for two weeks. The politicians better thread the needle otherwise they are in trouble. The press as well. They have been irresponsible. The lower class and small business owners are taking the brunt of this for the wealthy with the economy (part of it) shut down.

Can you imagine any of this happening to Western Europe at any time when we were young, and the United States Army in Europe not rushing into Lombardy, or the Loire Valley, or Birmingham, or Madrid, with massive field hospitals and battalions of military physicians—at the invitation of the relevant governments? This thought occurred to me literally yesterday, and it stopped me short.

San Diego

What is life like here in San Diego California? It’s quiet. Restaurants, most stores, and many businesses are closed. Where I live they have even padlocked the tennis courts. …

There’s a Christmas-New Year’s type of energy here. Strangers are more willing to talk. The local networking website is filled with people offering to help others—sharing toilet paper, going shopping for those unable or unwilling to go out, etc. Someone harvested their orange tree, set the crop out front of their house, and invited neighbors to help themselves. … My belief is that this pandemic is media manufactured. There is a Covid-19 virus of course, but I suspect it is only marginally more lethal than the seasonal corona virus that sweeps the world each year. …


I would not dream of going to the Post Office without a full body Hazmat. The news out there is awful. Parisian hospitals are saturated and the PM predicts the peak is yet to come. …


I work as a data professional for an agency of the New Zealand Government, although currently nothing to do with the Health Sector. I feel like I have a good non-medical understanding of the COVID-19 pandemic, because I studied the history of colonisation in Mesoamerica and Australasia with the late Dame Judith Binney at Auckland University (including the effects of Smallpox and Measles and the Spanish Flu), as well as a range of applied mathematics, and a few years ago I did use to do Health Sector statistics work. I’ve got pretty good logical and modelling skills. …

By early March it was clear Australia had lost containment and was headed the same way as Italy, so I began to urgently tell my Australian and NZ friends to get ready to go into quarantine. Seeing that New Zealand would eventually go the same way too, my wife and I began preparing for quarantine about two or three weeks before it actually happened. We voluntarily self isolated Friday 20 March, and a whole-of-New-Zealand four-week quarantine came into effect on Wednesday, 25 March. …

I think the worst thing so far has been realising many countries, whether First- or Third World, are going to have between 1 percent and 5 percent fatalities from COVID-19 because of the overwhelming of their health systems and the impact of subsequent military-style triage. Frankly this will happen in NZ too, but we might—just might—have jumped early and quarantined in time to prevent the worst of this. …
Also, sending emails to elderly or poor-health friends wishing them good
luck, but actually saying goodbye, that has kind of cut me up.


I work for a manufacturer of commercial kitchen equipment, and am in regular contact with our sales and purchasing office in Shanghai and half a dozen suppliers in Lombardia and Veneto. As such, I’ve been aware of “the novel coronavirus” about as long as any non-specialist in the US. Watching it arrive like a slow-motion tsunami while nearly everyone in my day-to-day life was oblivious has given me new appreciation for the myth of Cassandra. You quietly tell people that it’s going to be a big deal and they should get ready. You share charts and graphs, then you share gut-punching horror stories. You try to persuade gently, to seem level-headed and thoughtful about the risks we face, lest you get written off for “panicking.” You’re not surprised that China isn’t exactly a real place in American minds; you are surprised that Italy isn’t, either. It is an eye-opening lesson how little influence you have, even over family and close friends, when you are fighting the tide of normalcy bias.

Well, now it’s here. We’ve been at six confirmed cases in the county for two weeks now, all with known, traced origin. But “community spread” was confirmed yesterday in a neighboring county, and we have to assume it’s here now. My company instituted work from home a week ago, and today the state’s “Safer at Home” lockdown order went into effect. Our plant is still running as “essential production” since we make some medical gear in addition to food service equipment. …

… Just a quick, dark update. I mentioned we had just confirmed community spread yesterday. I follow a local Facebook page that posts calls from the police-fire-EMS dispatch scanner, and last night there were five EMS dispatches for “difficulty breathing” in the span of a few hours. So it begins. Lord, have mercy.

Los Angeles

Toilet paper shortages are a drag, but my family and friends have joined forces and begun a “Save Josh’s Butt” Drive, each sending me whatever they can spare—so I’m doing all right on that front, or rear.

LA is beginning to see a a jump in cases. At 814, it has almost doubled since Tuesday. People are beginning to gossip fearfully about our passing Italy in confirmed cases, and even more fearfully about an economic recovery that seems more distant and inaccessible every day.

And to be honest, I’m exhausted. I was exhausted before this started. We’ve discussed this, Claire, I’m a Trump guy because no one has presented me a sane alternative. … Nevertheless, the country’s division has just worn me out. All of my friends are die-hard lefties, and I have to take it, because arguing is pointless. That’s played a huge part in wearing me out, and I think many people in this country feel the same way.

Perhaps this quarantine—or semi-quarantine—will give everyone a much needed pause. …

Somewhere, Louisiana

In Louisiana; I am staying with a high-risk family member. My immediate family is scattered across three continents, all on various degrees of lockdown. Normally, I live in neat, orderly Wisconsin. My area has few cases and was probably the last place in the world to run out of hand sanitizer. Many Wisconsinite friends still think this is media-driven panic and maybe we all already had it—remember that bad bug last month? Still, they’re law-abiding and they’ll obey the orders, mostly, in laid-back fashion.

Louisiana is different, a strange cultural mix that I can hardly understand or describe, one of the places I’d have expected to ignore lockdown—friendly, family-oriented, not rule-following, and defiantly careless. The shopping carts are left scattered throughout the parking lot. Fifteen years ago, I watched these people shrug off a Category 5 hurricane until it was too late. Perhaps lessons were learned, because Louisiana isn’t shrugging now. New Orleans is a growing hotspot: Mardi Gras spread coronavirus like wildfire. People are scared. We don’t quite have a lockdown, but an honor-system “stay at home” order (enforced more in New Orleans itself, I believe). At least in this neighborhood, and based on a few drives to the park (still allowed), people are mostly following the rules. The neighbors are outside, but we all keep our distance.  The “social distancing scoreboard” shows Orleans and Jefferson Parishes shutting down as thoroughly as anywhere in the country.  … 

Enough of daily life is normal that it is difficult, especially for my grandmother, to remember that we can’t go shopping or to non-urgent doctor appointments or run over to my aunt’s. Shopping online is a challenge. Both our churches have checked in with us and we watched services online. My grandmother can remember the Depression and the War; she keeps this in perspective. We are taking all the precautions to the max, but we’re not afraid. She watches the president’s daily press conferences. Honestly, at this point it helps that Donald Trump obviously hates all this (as does Boris Johnson in his own fashion). Americans bitterly resent intrusive commands from bureaucrats on a power trip; Trump, for all his failings, is manifestly not that. Partisanship continues in D.C., but on the ground the Republican president and Democratic governors are giving people the same essential message. Either alone would face civil unrest, I think; together they gain some decent level of compliance.

The federal system is serving us well. I watched this coming with a growing sense of inevitability as events unrolled in China and in Italy—and now that America has finally started paying attention, I am still concerned, but relieved. Beyond the political details, I see America being herself. We start too slowly then ramp up into overdrive.  We make some messes along the way but get the job done.  We’re in action now, and we’ll win this one.  

Red State, America

Can you imagine any of this happening to Western Europe at any time when we were young, and the United States Army in Europe not rushing into Lombardy, or the Loire Valley, or Birmingham, or Madrid, with massive field hospitals and battalions of military physicians—at the invitation of the relevant governments?

This thought occurred to me literally yesterday, and it stopped me short. Of course, literally any President of our youth … okay maybe through January 2017 … would have had US European Command at the ready and massively engaged on the ground alongside European partners. It wouldn’t have required a second thought. It would have been literally unthinkable for us to stand aside from this in 1977, or 1987, or 1997, or 2007.

No one is even missing it now. It doesn’t even enter anyone’s head that it’s a thing that should happen. That’s so revelatory. For the first time in our lifetimes, and our parents’ lifetimes, and our grandparents’ lifetimes, Europe is in crisis and no one is asking, “Where are the Americans?”

We’ve divorced and we don’t even know it.

Remember back when Europe and America were all in it together, to the point that the NATO war plan basically envisioned Europe getting nuked to pieces in the first seven days, to buy the Americans time, and the European partners signed on to it? Or when NATO did its first-ever Article V deployment in manning airborne command-and-control aircraft after 9/11—in US airspace?

To that last point, this is some fucking ingratitude from us. Pardon my language.

Oh, and the Russians in Lombardy. Literally a return to the European power politics of the 1790s.

San Francisco

I live in the Tenderloin, which is the second-most dense neighborhood following Chinatown. Isolated in my household of one. Making more phone calls than ever before. Riding my bike in the street where I am 15-20 feet away from the nearest human. …

I am angry that we do not have tests available. I am a trained public health professional and I always assumed our CDC would naturally behave in a muscular manner at times like this with mandates and tests and medical supplies. I realize I was living in a fantasy all these years.


I think what is going to happen in the US is likely to be worse than Italy, and the UK and France. There are fewer hospital beds per person here. And a private health care system means that resources can’t be mobillized to areas where they are needed unless there is state or federal involvement and direction. That seems to happening in New York state with Cuomo. But elsewhere, who knows? There is a national strategic reserve of 20,000 respirators which the Department of Health refuses to send to New York—punishment for being a Democratic state? And Trump may try to send everyone back to work in a few weeks.

My take on it is that the virus is everywhere by now and probably has been for a while. I think it possible I have had it. For the past month I have had aches and pain in my upper lungs, and breathlessness, although no fever or congestion. Also had headaches caused by what I would call dry congestion in my sinuses; and fatigue. I think I picked this up in New York when I visited my sister about a month ago. … I’d put it at about 50-50 that I’ve had it. Guess it won’t be possible to know until there is an antibody test for it, or I clearly get it.

Wine Country, Northern California

Every morning I wake up in quarantine here in the wine country of Northern California, planning to improve my computer algorithm to detect laser signals from extraterrestrial civilizations. But every morning, I’m drawn to the mysteries of the coronavirus, to the point of obsession. I study the latest global case and mortality data and read opinion pieces about both suppression efficacy and economic impacts. Remarkably, few people are placing COVID-19 in the context of other causes of death. How does COVID-19 compare to other causes of death, which informs our resource allocation?


Here in Denver I really think an ambitious grad student should do a dissertation analyzing patterns of panic buying: one day there will be no chicken or eggs, but plenty of frozen vegetables; the next day there will be meat and milk but no lettuce or crackers. The one constant—there’s never any toilet paper anywhere. I was at a market the other day when a pallet of paper products came off a truck, and a line immediately formed. I got one of the last packages of TP on that pallet! Now supermarkets here have instituted metered entry; we line up out front and they let in only so many at a time. You see more masks a gloves, but the vast majority are not wearing them yet.

Our main worry is my wife Dulcy, who is on the faculty of the University of Colorado school of medicine. The supply situation at the university medical center is no better here than elsewhere. I had to send her to work with an N95 mask I had lying around for cleaning out the basement and cutting wood, along with an old pair of high school chem lab goggles. The city of Denver organized a donation drive over the weekend for folks to drop off personal protective equipment that they happened to have on hand; it was a big success.

Everyone she works with is increasingly nervous as they wait for the coming deluge. As of yesterday there were 912 diagnosed cases in Colorado, with 84 hospitalized and 11 deaths. They’ve already added a second full ICU team at the university hospital. Yesterday, when she came home, Dulcy told me that one of the residents in her department had tested positive. She now wears scrubs at work, and undresses in our basement laundry room when she arrives home before heading straight to the shower. But we are all cheering up now, since our president announced yesterday that this will all be over by Easter! (We need a sarcasm emoji.)


We played this at my mother’s funeral. I am simply gutted. My favourite African musician. Why didn’t he get the hell out back to Cameroon or anywhere else in Africa where they know how to deal with bloody viruses?


Years ago, when we met in that cafe in Paris, we were both laughing at it, “It’s just a flu!” … Not my proudest memory, but well. …

… I’m just back from the supermarket. Had to wait a little bit outside, but inside felt as crowded as ever. People fighting over the last bottle of pure alcohol then taking their mask off to chat with the cashier. Everybody complaining about runners and elders sitting on benches together. Cashier spreading rumors about impending rationing with every family given a card to collect one single pack of food. People complaining that dogs are allowed in. I am speechless. All that chatting about solidarity and discipline sounds empty. I don’t know if we’ll actually overcome this, but it will probably be because of sheer luck. …

I never saw anti-Americanism going so wild and so mainstream—it’s because of Trump.


The interns who are doing their internship with us are facing a situation so terrible, so unimaginable that I am sad for them. It’s really ugly to start your life as a doctor in Alsace in the face of such a human disaster. We try to support them, but …

Israel, small town

I’m not holding up. I’ve never been so upset in my life. I’m filled with dread. I’ve never felt anything like this before. And it’s nowhere near as bad here as it is in other places—not even close.

I can’t sleep at night at all and my mind just spends hours going in dizzying morbid circles: I will never see the people I love who are far away from me again, I will never see America again, nothing will ever be the same.

I am working very hard to conceal my state of mind as we’re are all in the house together. This takes incredible energy and I am completely wrung out but I can’t show any of it.

Now I have to go cook dinner and pretend I’m not going out of my mind.


A Wuhan-style lockdown here seems impossible to me. First, the Wuhan one concerns a single city of 11 million people, not the whole country. To decree this for all of France, not to mention the entire European continent, clearly cannot happen.

Second, even if such a draconian lockdown involved only the Paris region (which has around the same population as Wuhan), can one imagine the logistical nightmare of delivering food daily to so many people? There are simply not enough state agents who can be mobilized for such a thing (not mention protective gear, in a country where there are not enough surgical masks even for medical personnel).

Third, what food would they deliver? Industrialized/processed food has been consumed on a large scale in China for barely two decades. Everyone in a given region in China eats more or less the same things and knows how to prepare food from the raw vegetables and meats (and there are likely not too many vegetarians). I can’t imagine what inedible crap would be dropped in front one’s door here, vegetables people no longer know how to cook, meat that would go straight into the trash, etc. This alone would provoke an uprising. …

The French doctor in Wuhan, Philippe Klein, who has been interviewed regularly on TV and radio, insists on the necessity of a Wuhan-style lockdown for France, but I don’t think he’s thought it through. It just cannot work here.


It’s too late. If we had started movement restrictions and massively procured tests in February, we might have dodged this. I’m hoping that at least some places started this early enough in their local curves that the curve will bend a bit and not wreck the medical system, since that’s where we’re at. Best-case scenario, we don’t wreck the medical system too comprehensively, and some form of treatment and widespread testing emerge around the time it gets warm and humid. Which should give us some time to catch our breath before the fall, since I don’t see a vaccine this year.

But, as you well know, there’s no easy path forward. … as I said to someone yesterday, “fuck the weak” is not a strategy I’m on board with. You can rebuild a business, but you can’t bring back the dead.


The Austrian government appears to have acted way quicker than other countries’ governments, and they receive a lot of praise for it. But also here, measures are getting stricter by the day. I think public parks are still open, but substantial fines threaten everyone who does not comply with the rules of “social distancing.” Petrol stations are now closing their toilets. Car wash facilities are now closed, too.

I might want to add that those latter things affect me daily as—please don’t call me crazy!—I continue with my job as a taxi driver, as stupidly I have not built up any savings, which is why I must continue to work, even though I’m now registered with the job centre and do my taxi driving on an official basis of marginal hours. It’s all quite a mess now. …

As for Austria, politically, I wonder whether we are well served with our political class. Hofer (a National Socialist, to be plain) lost, Van der Bellen (a “Green” Marxist) won as State President back in 2016. Meanwhile the nationalist FPÖ went under after their Ibiza scandal and milkface Sebastian Kurz now heads a coalition with the (Marxist) Greens. I’m suspicious of Sebastian Kurz. It’s well known he is a homosexual (or bisexual). But he doesn’t make that public, I suppose not to lose votes from elderly conservatives. Yet, by keeping his orientation a secret, by definition, he could possibly become the object of political blackmail, something the Russians (read: unchanged Soviets) are extremely good at (and infamous for). As, I did hear him once say that Austria should seek closeness with Russia rather than America, because we share the same continent with Russia (which is plain stupid, but why did he say this?). He also defended the Eastern Europeans in a manner, as if he were responsible for them and not for the country of Austria. …

I’m convinced we are now in the early stages of WWIII. …. I’m not afraid of our own authorities, or police, but I do worry about what might be Moscow and Beijing’s next moves to eventually checkmate the West.


We are in quarantine ultra-lite. There is nothing enforced (yet) as the county is not as badly hit as New York City (72 total cases, 3 deaths as of last count) but the streets are empty. I think my neighborhood is observing more than most—it’s university environment with a sprawling medical center—because we understand the risk, and are keeping to ourselves.

I’m a full-time MBA student and well, school is shut and online classes have taken over. I’m working with teammates who are an eight-minute walk away, but on Zoom. I think I am busier than when school was open; it seems everyone is so bored they’re looking for an excuse to set up a Zoom meeting. I’m in my first year, and I have an internship offer for the summer that I’m not sure the employer will honor; I’m just being realistic. I’m fortunate it’s only an internship because we have some second-years who will be graduating in May with debt and have no job offers yet. For a degree whose value (and cost) is predicated on the post-graduation salary, it is a really bad place to be in.

Most of the extra time I have on my hands now is spent on Twitter, keeping up with affairs from back home—I’m a Nigerian, and so is my wife (who’s a dual citizen). Nigerian Twitter is usually the place to immerse myself back home but now, it’s where I get updated on new cases of COVID-19 and the curve seems to look like any other badly-hit country’s in the early days. I’m afraid. Very afraid. Our health system is messed up, so much that our president has in five years cumulatively spent months in the UK treating an undisclosed ailment. Our economy is very informal and so day-to-day that it can’t survive a total lockdown for any extended period. Our democracy is still fragile and the virus is messing with it—Our President’s Chief of Staff (who is rumored to be the real power broker in the Presidency) has tested positive; so have three of his aides, and at least one governor. All I have left is hope that somehow, our case will be different. I can’t do much else, bar getting my parents, family and friends to take precautions and let them know that the virus is real, it’s here, and it’s deadly.

My sanity is intact—largely due to keeping a routine. A short run/light workout in the morning, showing up to classes, saying my salat at its appropriate time, speaking to my wife who works in New York City for two hours each night and seeing one episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender after before going to bed. The positive here is that I have been able to say my salat at the right time without having to do mental gymnastics around where I’ll be when it’s time to pray, and if I’ll be able to get a space to pray there.


Our date nights consist of walking up to my roof on the sixth floor. The roof time is our only fresh air of the day, and we get a grand overview of my neighborhood. Just a few days ago, the streets were full of neighbors ignoring the lockdown, enjoying the temperate weather. Two friends were playing catch on Amsterdam avenue, while a vendor of paletas watched the ball go back and forth with a vacant stare. When we went to do laundry, a few older men, dogs in tow, commiserated outside as they smoked cigarettes. There was a small pain in my side thinking about the consequences of everyone ignoring the quarantine, especially on a mass scale. But that was a few days ago, before the beauty parlors and barbershops shut down. Now, from my roof, I see few people traverse the sidewalk. That’s a relief, sort of … My girlfriend and I walk in circles on the roof, just to feel like our bodies are moving. By trade, we’re both restaurant servers, so the staleness of quarantine does not sit well in our bodies. We are used to frantic restaurant rushes.

Russia, China and Cuba are sending us equipment and doctors as the EU, once more, is being not only absolutely useless in not sending any help at all but also preventing Italy, Spain and also France to have the financial aid they need. … On Russia lying: for sure. No questions about that. But then again I wouldn’t take any truth lessons from the US—what happened to all those WMDs we were supposed to find in Iraq? Zip. Or all these chemical warfare labs Saddam had, Colin Powell told us about at the UN? Nada. Not to mention casus belli used in the past, like the Gulf of Tonkin incident, to name one. Every country lies to protect their self-interest or push them forward. Poland, Russia, the US—we are in a war now, a different, invisible one, but it’s a war, and lies on all sides are the bread and butter of war.

New York

Our date nights consist of walking up to my roof on the sixth floor. The roof time is our only fresh air of the day, and we get a grand overview of my neighborhood. Just a few days ago, the streets were full of neighbors ignoring the lockdown, enjoying the temperate weather. Two friends were playing catch on Amsterdam avenue, while a vendor of paletas watched the ball go back and forth with a vacant stare. When we went to do laundry, a few older men, dogs in tow, commiserated outside as they smoked cigarettes. There was a small pain in my side thinking about the consequences of everyone ignoring the quarantine, especially on a mass scale. But that was a few days ago, before the beauty parlors and barbershops shut down. Now, from my roof, I see few people traverse the sidewalk. That’s a relief, sort of … My girlfriend and I walk in circles on the roof, just to feel like our bodies are moving. By trade, we’re both restaurant servers, so the staleness of quarantine does not sit well in our bodies. We are used to frantic restaurant rushes.


Israeli government measures have been underwhelming so far. I mean, it’s very difficult for me to believe that they’ll actually arrest or fine me if I go out in the street … Here is a story for you, though: Seven out of my eight kids are staying home all day long, because the schools are closed. My wife is home too, since she is a teacher. Last week I told her that I’d rather have Corona than stay inside with all of our kids 24/7. Surprisingly, she didn’t appreciate the humor at all. In fact, she got really upset at me. She said that my joke diminishes or demeans her herculean efforts to keep the house up and running with all the kids around. Then she spoke to some of her sisters on the phone (she has five married sisters), and they said that the same scene repeated itself in their homes! The hubby made a similar joke, and the reaction was strongly negative. Who can fathom female mentality?


We’ve noticed just how quiet it has become, as almost all traffic has ceased, and the skies are clean and clear. In fact it’s so quiet these days that I find I miss the sound of helicopters landing at the hospital pad across the road—have I mentioned that we happen to live a few hundred meters from the two largest hospitals in Montpellier, LaPeyronie and Arnaud de Villeneuve? And that Montpellier is a university town with thousands of medical students who work for the CHU—le Centre Hospitalier Universitaire?

You would expect life as we know it to come to an absolute standstill since Emmanuel Macron ordered the country shut down on March 16th, but the trams continue to run, though they are almost always empty, ghostlike, carrying but a handful of passengers, most of whom are veiled or wear hospital masks. There’s almost no one in the street. I have ridden my bike to go shopping at the big Carrefour supermarket two kilometers from our flat, but each time there is a long line snaking around the building and I give up, riding my Trek down the road to the nearby Casino, where the line is shorter but it nonetheless takes half an hour to get in the door.

Every night at 8 pm, everyone in Montpellier goes out on our balconies to clap, shout, scream, whistle and rap noisemakers to show our appreciation for the nurses, doctors and other hospital personnel who are working overtime to fight back the virus. …

I can’t believe it when I learn that Trump wants to reopen the country in April—doesn’t he know that we won’t be in the clear for months? And that the influenza virus that hit the world 100 years ago endured for three years and killed as many as 50 million people? … Is he the devil incarnate (I’m not even joking)?


Best wishes from Budapest, where lockdown is emerging more into the fascist format of pumping up Orban’s invincible superpowers. This is a pretty good description of Orbàn’s plan to grab power via the virus’ wreckage of society. The comments, particularly from A. Göllner, reveal quite a lot too.

A letter from the Health Minister was published in a press outlet called “” today saying that he basically forbids all doctors to reveal the coronavirus as the cause of death, so what is showing up on might be a radical undercount … reminds me of Trump’s recent reveal in a lab walk-through with cameras rolling where he commands that the people on the ship in Oakland’s bay remain aboard in quarantine because releasing them “will affect the numbers.” Isn’t it amazing that the cabal of world dictators all do and say the same thing? That playbook must be worth its weight in gold.

New York

I’m a first responder in New York City. We work in close proximity with each other and the public. Every shift represents an increasingly likely exposure, a conclusion that we don’t put to words, but even the least mathematically-minded among us must reach. As the graphs climb, we report for duty and cast the die. Exposure is all but inevitable. An exposure that we will smuggle back to our homes without symptoms. But there is no alternative. Even without a pandemic, men kill. Buildings burn. Hearts stop. So the cogs of The City have to turn.


At first glance, you would be appalled by what goes on here. The schools are not closed. Government offices aren’t closed. Most businesses aren’t closed. People are not holed up in their apartments. The busses and the subways are functioning. The economy is hurting because of what is going on around the country as well as what is going on inside of it, but it hasn’t seized up and melted down. So how does it work?

First, for the most part, social distancing is fairly strictly observed, although we did see lots of school kids together. Not more than ten, but still. Second, the government tracks absolutely everybody and everything related to the virus. Every single suspected case is tested, and Singapore has plenty of test kits. In a city state like this it is possible to use information epidemiologically. There is a tracking app that anyone here can get, and is encouraged to get. That way everybody knows where the hotspots are so they can stay away from them. And third, there is remote thermal temperature taking just about everywhere you try to walk into a building. If you have a temperature above 38 degrees, you ain’t going nowhere but to a clinic or hospital …

Beneath all of this is the fact that the people here remember the SARS ordeal, and they are basically rule-abiding, risk averse people. They don’t like loose ends and ambiguity, they don’t like noise, they don’t like non-conformity, and they know how to pull together in an emergency. Individual agency is, frankly, fairly weak. That means the people here don’t really seek political voice, especially as long as the economy is humming and everybody is doing OK more or less. They trust the government to be competent, and they give them the benefit of the doubt until they learn otherwise. So when the government tells him to do something, and tells them it’s for their own good, they believe it and they do it. Pretty simple I think.

It’s an interesting question if this kind of method would ever work in the United States. I’ll bet it would work in Minnesota. I’ll bet it wouldn’t work in New Orleans.

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