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Diary in the time of Corona of Robert and Nenad – Days 1 – 50

17 May , 2020  

My dear friend Robertemailed me today. In order not to describe him you can read http://www.plustri.com/en/1000-portreta/robert-classen-1966-covek-renesanse-renaissance-man/ We came up with the idea of writing a diary together in the time of corona. He watched news of his government on the TV and sent a text, and during that time I finished Platform, a Spanish film, directed by Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia, not well known even on IMDB. I believe Robert won’t mind named our diary after the movie because the world is just created as a Platform. I don’t think we should write in Serbian, although Robert suggested because more people need to understand us. Today is March 31, 2020, and this is my first response to Robert.

— Day 1 —

Dear Nenad,

I am sending you the first contribution to the diary on the coronavirus from Holland. A bit more than a month from the first case in The Netherlands (26 February) we have reached 12595 confirmed infections and 1039 deaths (third in the world per capita after Spain and Italy). I am sure that the number of infections is much higher, as The Netherlands is so far doing very limited testing due to a lack of test material. That means that compared to Italy we are one month ‘behind’ and I am afraid that we are following the same route as Italy. Unlike Serbia, we do not have a curfew here, but a so-called intelligent lockdown is applied. The following measures are applied:

  • People have to work at home except for those who work in ‘vital infrastructure and can not work from home
  • Everyone has to keep 1,5 m distance except for people in one household
  • Groups of more than 3 people are not allowed
  • Anyone who has light symptoms of a cold must stay at home
  • If anyone has symptoms of high temperature and coughing the whole household has to stay at home
  • It is not allowed to visit people in critical groups (older and ill people)
  • Restaurants, bars, hairdressers and all other jobs where contact is unavoidable are closed
  • Only one person can buy groceries, all shops have restrictions on the number of people and distances

These measures were activated two and a half weeks ago and depend a lot on the responsibility of citizens. Before that, we only had advice not to shake hands anymore, to wash your hands, etc. Everything is done with the aim to ensure that the wave of corona patients is not higher than the capacity of the health system, especially the departments for intensive care. At the same time work is being done on increasing that capacity (people, respirators, etc.). The biggest part of the patients is at home and if you have a temperature below 38 oC you are not welcome in the hospital.

The first weekend after the activation of these measures not everyone was living up to them, leading to serious comments from the government and threats to go to total lockdown. After that, it seems that people understood how serious this is and the streets are now much emptier. I believe that the biggest problem is with the younger generation but I see that the situation has improved. Tonight the government has announced that these measures will be prolonged until at least 28 April, but they expect that it will take longer. In any case, they will increase the testing capacity both on infection and immunity.

In my view, the government could have taken earlier measures, but I realized before many others how serious this is because of my contacts with friends in Bergamo. The last time I was in Bergamo was the end of January, which now seems to me as being three months ago. That’s also why Tanja and I have decided that we stay as early as possible at home and that we do not visit my father (who lives one hour by car from us) and of course we canceled the visit to Tanja’s parents in Belgrade.

One of the biggest friends of the pandemic is that we all need time to understand the seriousness. I was in favor of having more police or army on the streets (in The Netherlands you almost never see the army on the streets), just to make sure that everyone understands that we are in an abnormal situation. But it seems that by now everyone understands. That is why I hope that the responsibility which the Dutch now show will stay once the economic effects will become clearer. Tomorrow more about the economic measures.

What do you think about the measures in Serbia, how does the situation according to you compare with Holland or Italy?

Greetings Robert

Dear Robert,

It seems that Corona started just a few days later than in Holland, but officially they published March 5th. According to https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/ we have 900 cases and 23 deaths. I am sure, as you are, that number is higher. As you said, there is not enough testing. I could add that some of my wife collogues who have been in obvious contact with Corona patients have not been tested. The reason is unknown since they should be, but I believe they lack doctors, and they could not accept many of them in isolation who are not working. I am sure when you don’t follow knowledge, curfew or lockdown could not help a lot. I believe that an honest, professional, and empathic approach could do more. Actually, I saw that in Germany, even Russia. I don’ arguing against soldiers on the street, but I need more empathy. So what are the measures against Corona in Serbia:

  • A mandatory curfew for all residents: 5 p.m. – 5 a.m. Mondays through Fridays and 3 p.m. – 5 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. Exceptions are residents with a work permit or a special authorization issued by government authorities and those with a medical urgency.
  • 24-hour curfew for residents over 65 in urban areas and 70 in rural areas, except on Sundays from 3 a.m. to 8 a.m. to buy groceries and medications.
  • Indoor and outdoor Farmer’s markets have been closed until further notice.
  • All public transportation is suspended. Taxi services are limited but remain operational, and driving personal vehicles is allowed.
  • Cafes, restaurants, and shopping malls are closed for the public, with some being operational only for takeaways and home food delivery.
  • Outdoor and indoor gatherings are limited in both cases so that the distance between people must be at least two meters, and that there may not be more than one person on an area of four square meters.
  • The maximum indoor capacity is limited to no more than 5 people.
  • All sports facilities, facilities for the elderly, schools, kindergartens, and universities are closed.
  • All public parks and public spaces intended for recreation and sports are closed fo visitors.

As you could see in some measures, we are “better” than Holland who is on a much higher platform then Serbia. Distance between people must be half a meter longer than in Holland, and space is limited to no more than five people instead of three. It is something controversial in our measures.

People definitely, don’t understand the situation, so maybe we will have 24 hours curfew, in spite nobody knows how people will live. Currently, only residents older than 65 years and dogs are under a kind of 24 h restriction, but none of them are speaking too much. As you said, we need more testing, as well as the plans what after. What we have and you don’t are Chinese doctors, they are advising us and helping to find the best solution. But mentality and way of living are not similar, so some of the proposals scared the people. They organized “Sajmiste” which means to the majority of the educated people “concentration camp”. Again, not a bad idea, but wrong wording could kill even the best idea.

I have a good friend in Bergamo as well, Silvio Calvi, http://www.plustri.com/en/1000-portreta/silvio-calvi-1945-vise-od-prijatelja-more-than-a-friend/. Since he is on immunosuppressive therapy, he is an easy target for Corona. I had a message from him two days ago. Prayed to God and Archangel Michael, he is healthy. I don’t understand how such superior medical system of Italy, didn’t fight back better. Tonight Serbia got economic measures as well, but I will stop here and continue tomorrow.

Nenad from many platforms down

— Day 2 —

Dear Nenad,

Apart from the human health tragedy as a result of the coronavirus there will for sure be an economic crisis as a result of the measures taken. Here strong actions are taken by the government for any company that is impacted for more than 20% in turnover as a result of the lockdown measures. The measures taken are:

  • 4000 € per company,
  • postponement of taxes
  • and yesterday the government announced that that for these companies they will pay 90 % of the personnel costs.
  • Banks have announced that they will help, still aware of their role in the financial crisis of twelve years ago. Then it was them that were bailed out by tax payers.

Whether this will suffice, remains to be seen. For instance our global supply chains have become so lean and so dependent on certain countries/producers that it is not just a question of money. Will we be able to keep our vital infrastructure and food supply going? Discussions here are already taking place whether the lockdown does not do too much damage. These discussions will be stronger as the lockdown will last longer.

Geopolitics have started playing a role as well. For instance there has been a lot of discussion here on the respirators that Philips (a Dutch company) produces in the US. There is fear that Trump can order to keep all produced respirators in the country. So far this has not happened, but it shows that international solidarity can easily come under pressure.

As you remarked yesterday, you are missing empathy on part of the government. Luckily here the government is showing that empathy towards their own citizens.The same does not hold for other countries, as our Minister of Finance has shown an appalling lack of empathy towards Italy in particular, when discussing European solutions for the crisis. This worries me tremendously, not only because of my special connection with Italy and the Italians, but also because this behaviour threatens to tear apart the European Union. As a believer in Europe I strongly think that the union has to be a community of values and not only an economic free space. If the value of solidarity in hard times is not amongst those shared values, then the union is a purely opportunistic one. This will play in the cards of right-wing populists in all countries, who anyway have been winning in the last years in several European countries. Especially in these times international solidarity is key, as the virus does not stop at the borders.

Also, I get a bit tired of all the people who try to sell this crisis as a ‘chance’. Sometimes a crisis is a crisis and we should call it that. I had to think of a city under siege. You know the enemy is at the gates, you hear shooting here and there but you do not know when and what will happen. As a result I think a lot about what is really important in life and what that will mean towards the future. This counts for me, but also for society as a whole. What we do need to do, according to me, is rethink our economic system, the way we have been living the last years. But more about that tomorrow. I look forward to your comments.

Stay safe and healthy

Robert

Dear Robert,

I am not sure could I easily compare the economic measures:

Holland Serbia
4000 € per company three-month minimum wages for those self-employed people and about 900,000 employees
postponement of taxes tax policy measures worth 1.3 billion euros in order to bear the cost of enterprises.
bailed out by taxpayers suspension of dividend payment by the end of the year

 

But I could say that:

  • Serbia prepared a 5.1-billion-euro (5.6-billion-U.S. dollar) package of economic measures
  • that all adult citizens of Serbia could receive direct assistance of 100 euros!!?

I didn’t expect this, but I don’t consider myself as an economic expert. It seems that Holland with a GDP of 59.105 USD didn’t do so much better Serbia with GDP 7.246,7 USD in 2019. Maybe it is interesting to understand the difference between the population as well: 17.417.600/ 6.963.764 (NLD / SRB).

Since I am not in finances, I will leave it to you is there’s any reason to go further in the analysis. But I could say that I know more about medicine and for that, I will use https://www.worldometers.info/ comparison.

Country Population Total
cases
New
Cases
Total
deaths
New deaths Total
recover.
Active
cases
Serious, Critical Cases
on 1 mil.
Death on 1 mil
NED 17417600 13614 1019 1173 134 250 12191 1053 795 68
0,08% 7% 9% 0,98% 2% 90% 8%
SRB 6963764 1006 160 28 5 42 990 62 121 3
0,01% 16% 3% 0,50% 4% 98% 6%

 

It would be not easy, but on the first glimpse, I could say that NED has 50% fewer new cases and 3 times more total deaths, with a death rate per million almost 20 times more. And those numbers could not be easily explained like economics. I could say that empathy starts from here. How it happens that the mighty Dutch health care system is not doing better. The same thing I have questioned my self regarding Italy. I am still believing that the Italian health care system is oriented towards people more than in other countries. I had personal experience; they have treated my wife, my friends, and my acquaintances; my teachers are living there, my bosses in sports medicine as well. I have been in the health care mission with Italians in Nepal. They are so good, but obviously the society underestimates the threat of the virus. Could we say the same from Holland? I am not sure. Your medicine is good, but I think it started to be oriented for profit not people, like States. Dutch officials didn’t underestimate the situation and still, the problem is bigger than in Serbia. I know that the numbers are still at the beginning. I know that I am possible wrong. But I am interested in your thoughts about this. You feel Italy I could assume that you could say more precisely what happens there.

I am sure that your phrase appalling lack of empathy threat to tear apart the European Union could be compared to everything that happens to Yugoslavia. I know that you are aware of that, but for the sake of potential readers, I could add that with a lack of empathy everything starts. Probably more than that, the complete system could be destroyed like in “walking dead” movies.

Italy is now dealing with hunger, criminal, crack of the social system and civilized values. Hungary suspended Parliaments and laws. News is centralized in Serbia. I am not sure that anybody is immune to the potential sequence of events. What do you think about Holland? Could we have in Europe a more catastrophic scenario?

Maybe the right moment to mention that from my floor in Platform I am afraid of everything that could happen. It could be that affection to that genre is influencing my thinking. I agree that we need to rethink everything. Let’s start as Chinese started during the Chinese New year in isolation to wish instead of well-worn appeals to prosperity to telling each other to be free from sickness.

So, be free from sickness.

Nenad

 

— Day 3 —

 

Dear Nenad,

Thanks for your comments yesterday. Tanja has corrected me regarding the economic package here, as I did not quote all the measures. In total a package of 90 Billion Euro of economic aid is foreseen, so in terms of comparing on the basis of GDP, this is a serious package. Luckily there was also a move of our government towards Italy, as an amount of 1 Billion € will be donated for a medical aid fund.

With regards to the health system I have exactly the same question. From my time of living in Bergamo and later on Lake Iseo, I have personal experience of the Italian health system. To me it has always given a very professional impression, as well as a genuine drive in medical personnel to want to help you.

Your remark that profit has been going over people is certainly true on a political level, although I do not believe that this is true for the medical profession itself. The health system has been one of the key targets for cuts in government spending all over the EU, especially after the financial crisis of 2008. In addition I believe that both Italy and The Netherlands have been taking action too late in this crisis, as on a political level the crisis was underestimated and the fear of heavy economic consequences was in the back of their mind. Now the economic consequences will come anyway, but we lost precious weeks in preparing for the health crisis.

Sometimes I have to think back to a Finance course for non-financial people, that I took some 27 years back, not long after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Our lecturer said that now that the Berlin Wall has fallen we will slowly see the world becoming more capitalistic, i.e. money as the measure of everything. And this is precisely what has happened. For more than 20 years I have been working in large multinational corporations, that I have seen ‘americanizing’ over the last years. Quarterly results became increasingly important and the old ‘family feeling’ we had in these companies diminished over time. Twenty years ago companies helped local communities, but did not publish much about this. Now everyone has a ‘Corporate Responsibility Report’, but the link to the local communities has weakened tremendously (It was certainly one of the reasons why I have become an independent professional, i.e. working for my own company). There has been a lot of discussion about neoliberalism here, especially before the coronacrisis.

Also I have been reading a lot on this subject and one of the recent theories I read is that in order to have a stable system we need to balance three pillars: Market, State and Community (or in French revolution terms: liberte, egalite, fraternite). The community part has been neglected in these neo-liberal (at least in The Netherlands) decades. Markets and states do not give empathy, for that you depend on your local community. We have to find a way to get people involved, to make them feel part of a group and this is precisely the level where we see initiatives being taken in this crisis: volunteers to help elder people, spontaneous sewing of masks, etcetera. In fact communities have been forced to compete on a global market (outsourcing production etcetera), as a result of which we now see how dependent we are in our global supply chains.

The point is also that this community should be inclusive rather than exclusive. In other words the community should not be based on nationalism or related convictions. I fully agree that it looks a lot like the situation in Yugoslavia: in the end it was the lack of ‘bratstvo’ that killed the ‘jedinstvo’. At the time many politicians on all sides have been focusing on creating a community with the intent to exclude others, leading to the catastrophe of the 90s. Also communities need to be balanced.

If people cannot turn to a community then in times of crisis people can only turn to the state and that is precisely what is happening now. You mentioned already Hungary that has instituted extensive rights for the government, without giving a time period. Moreover, I think that one of the problems is that we already have a system of ‘Surveillance Capitalism’ in place (or Surveillance Communism in some countries), which technologically gives an enormous amount of control. For me the point is not if we can use these systems to save lives (we should), but under which conditions and how temporary these measures will really be.

So we need to rethink our system for after the crisis, because without a valid alternative it might also go totally the wrong way. Balance is an important concept also in some books I have been reading in these lockdown days on philosophy. But more about that tomorrow, I look forward to hearing your comments

Stay safe and healthy Robert

Dear Robert,

Everything that you are talking about reminds me of a statement of Clare Wenham, an assistant professor of global health policy at the London School of Economics, which I read in preparing the article about endangering women’s rights in the time of corona. She said: “Everything that’s happened has been predicted, right? As a collective academic group, we knew there would be an outbreak that came out of China, that shows you how globalization spreads disease, that’s going to paralyze financial systems, and there was no pot of money ready to go, no governance plan … We knew all this, and they didn’t listen.”

I think that the process of listening has been stopped many, many years ago, because politicians started to believe they know everything better. Because of that, they removed the community from your three pillars and they weakened voluntarism (about that I could say a lot since the sport has been based on voluntary work). I like that “volunteers to help elder people and spontaneous sewing of masks” but as a guy educated in socialistic Yugoslavia, I could say all that was organized through civil defense services and people are trained to act in emergencies. I still know to make a mask from serviette in a few seconds, not to speak that I have been trained to do CPR before medical faculty, etc. Nowadays, people don’t know how to do it. In the past, it was important to know and to help people around you, and today it is important just to think about yourself. That is probably one of the explanations why people respond so poorly in more or less all European countries, and totally different reactions in China (which was crucial for the result of the stopping of the infections). It seems that Surveillance in Communism is still better working then in Capitalism. In general, Surveillance is working all the time on a high level in Serbia. I am sure that you are aware of the movie “Balkanski spijun (Balkan Spy) and “Cvorovic” family. Exactly the same things are happening right now and instead to support integrity and empathy system is supporting poltronism and fear.

Just tonight we have got new measures, new curfew would be introduced from Saturday at 1 pm until Monday 5 am and that pets could be walked form 11 pm to 1 am as of Saturday night, not further than 200 meters from home and not more than two people together. Those things opened so many questions and the rules are not clear. Anyway, people should respect them somehow. Maybe it is not important but if the curfew is from Saturday at 1 pm until Monday 5 am and that pets could be walked form 11 pm to 1 am, what the pets are doing throughout the days and are the pet owners really so dangerous for corona outbreak.

Maybe I forget to tell you that we have under hard rule residents over 65 who have 24 hours curfew except on Sundays from 3 a.m. to 8 a.m. for the purpose of buying groceries and medications. Thus provoke one of our best journalist, Zoran Kesic, to create top lists of the greatest enemies of corona infection: 1. Dog owners, 2. Our people who are working in foreign countries, popularly called “Gastarbeiters”, 3. people who are sitting in cafes (not anymore), 4. residents over 65 and of course 5. independent journalists. Hope that you have a chance to see some of the episodes. There are on https://www.youtube.com/user/24minutaofficial

In the end, not to forget, my friend Silvio from Bergamo is good and even he is a resident over 75 he is still working as an architect, currently on some churches in Georgia. I think that could be the message for the end of this letter, stay at home, but use the opportunity and work.

Stay safe,

Nenad

— Day 4 —

Dear Nenad,

First of all good to hear that Silvio in Bergamo is doing well. I look forward to meeting him, when I will be able to go to Bergamo again. The advice to stay home and work is precisely what we are doing. We are slowly becoming experts in using videoconferencing. Even my father, who has not wanted anything to do with internet, has now discovered that seeing each other on the telephone, is an interesting option now that physical visits are out of the question.

Today I have not yet seen the latest data for The Netherlands, but as a known Dutch writer, Ilja Pfeiffer, living in Italy, remarked today in the newspaper: “I start ever more to wonder if this exceptional situation, that everyone has problems to deal with, has not become the normality ?”. In that respect this period throws us back to think about how to face a situation like this and how abnormal this situation really is.

As an avid reader I always read lots of books and in this period I do of course exactly the same. Having started some months ago to learn my ‘sixth’ language, Greek, I have started to read a lot about Greece, as well as about the Byzantine empire. Reading about history can learn us a lot about the fact that pandemics have like wars, always been a normal part of life. Large catastrophies and wars in The Netherlands for many people have become something of the past, things that ‘do not happen here anymore’. I remember that a good friend of mine, who knew Tanja’s parents, gave me a call when the air attacks in 1999 on Belgrade started. He told me that he had often seen wars on television, but for the first time actually now knew people in a war zone. The same goes for large catastrophies like a pandemic. This is something you see on TV or in films, but not something that actually happens here.

So this has for many been a big wake-up call, also for me. Despite the experience with the war in Yugoslavia and the fate of our family and friends in this, also I was convinced that the world is progressing and will stay ‘normal’. A world in which we can easily travel, you have dinners with friends and things are taking their ‘normal course’. It feels like someone has pulled the hand brake on us. Now when I watch a movie, I wonder how people can talk, sit, sing, walk etcetera so close to each other. In a few weeks we have created a ‘new normal’.

In my list of books I read a book on ‘Travels with Epicurus’ by Daniel Klein, written on a Greek island and indicating what philosophers tell us about the “pleasure of old age”. Old age was something taken for granted in the “old normal”, but with the virus is now under attack. This book led me to “How to think like a Roman Emperor” by Donald Robertson, about the emperor Marcus Aurelius, who was a follower of the stoic philosophers. This is a book that prepares us better for the ‘new normal’. A couple of things are key in this philosophy, such as that we do not suffer from what happens to us, but from how we think about it. As a Dutch song says: “life is what happens to you while you were busy making other plans”. The advice is to try to take distance in our judgements and instead focus on living according to our values as well as to help other people. Bad times are part of life and it is no use to blame or complain, but better to accept the situation and then take action according to what you believe is important. This situation is only abnormal because our minds tell us that it is.

Thinking about this helps me better to cope and keep calm. What are your ideas on how to psychologically cope with all this ? I look forward to reading your comments

Stay safe and healthy Robert

Dear Robert,

Exactly many things which are happening right now look like a catastrophic movie. But reality started to be more and more difficult. We have got the first news that our friends, medical doctors, and nurses from the first line, are in hospital. Just an hour ago, Ana’s colleague, a medical nurse from cardiology, had diagnosed pneumonia, and she will be hospitalized. She is frightened, hungry, and more and less alone in this. The same is with Dr. Predrag Drenovakovic, my school mate from Medical faculty, now a surgeon in the small city of Cuprija, who stayed in the front line at the moment when his colleague died and director of the hospital runway in the best hospital to be treated against corona. I am not surprised by Predrag courage since he is a black belt in karate, always secure, with high ethics. That is actually what we are missing, except empathy, we are losing integrity and courage. People like him should run this fight against the virus, not the one who is lacking knowledge, compassion, and intimidate us. Finally, if we do not protect doctors and nurses who will work. Dr. Drenovakovic said: “Of the eight anesthesiologists, five are positive, all four urologists are positive, the head of the ORL and the head of the maxillofacial are also positive, the only oncologist is positive, the internists, the technicians, the number is no longer known… it is terrible, ” So, it seems that the situation is not only abnormal because our minds tell us that, but because it is.

Again I have a problem with the imposed measures in Europe since they are not the same. They are different, that means even when we think that we did right or neighbors should do as well, otherwise, what we would not have corona on or territory, but they will have it. When you mentioned Roman Empery, it could be comparable with Asterix the Gaels who have been living on a small territory surrounding with Romans. Serbia should harmonize the measures against corona. It is difficult to understand that we could not test medical doctors and nurses, and in Croatia, they introduced “drive-in” testing. People should know that epidemy will be solved when community immunity is more than 70%. For that reason, the UK and Sweden started to fight with the herd immunity approach but then changed to be harmonized with our countries. In general, politicians tried to be clever as usual, but this is a question of epidemiology and specific knowledge, which even we lack as clinicians.

It seems that we will fight in this way months and months with the possibility of having the same outbreak next year, and next year. No, we see how difficult it is to live under epidemy, like people from Afrika under Ebola, Sars, or HIV. I don’t want to mention that we have been blind to their suffering, as we are blind to their hunger. The same worldmeter reported that today 30.094 people died on hunger at the same time when they reported that 58,729 people dead of Covid from the begging of the outbreak. Now we understand how much they suffered.

It is quoted in a tweet: „We understand that medical doctors are worth more than football players and singers. Prevention saves more lives than cure. The state takes everyone and returns some. Politicians continue to protect their interests, not people. Religion doesn’t have an answer, (except some honored priests).“ We are not as educated as we believe. The wealthiest countries don’t have the best public health, and much more money should be invested in public health rather than weapons. It grotesque as president from the big and small countries are competing to produce ventilators.

I am also afraid that the virus will soon remind us of another old truth that we are unequal. Some of us are isolated, while others are working in shops, power plants, and water supply. The third will risk health, working in hospitals. Some are earning an epidemic, and others will lose their life. Many countries could not cope with it. In Ecuador, people are left dead on the streets. No international help and solidarity. The same was in Liberia and Sierra Leone during Ebola. Some life matters, some doesn’t.

So not easy to cope with everything psychologically. I should think about it. Maybe, the right approach could be to accept that some of that we deserve it. If we do not understand that our values will be changed, our freedom will be sized, and psychology will be our last concern.

Yours, Nenad

 

— Day 5 —

 

Dear Nenad,

Your comments yesterday regarding people working on the medical frontline were worrying and appropriate. Our first action should be to ensure that they have the right protection equipment and that testing is available first of all for them. In The Netherlands this is regularly done and resulted in the fact that much more medical personnel was positive than assumed based on symptoms. We can order as many respirators as we want, but there has to be someone left to operate them. People working in hospitals are literally risking their lives to help us.

As you, I know several people working in hospitals and know that their drive is enormous, but they faced insufficient protective materials also here and are already making hard choices. To the point that indeed hospitals are now giving psychological help to medical staff.

Your comment about people in other parts of the world is on the spot. What for us is ‘not normal’, for them has been normal for a long time. Unfortunately you have to know people involved, before it stops being something abstract. That is what is happening to all of us. Three weeks ago I talked to someone who knew someone that was infected, One and a half week ago I found out that someone I knew in our Italian village had died, this week I know three people in a hospital.

This morning we gave the last greeting to a friend of mine. Now only direct family is allowed at the funeral. So the only possibility to give a last greeting was that the car with my friend followed by his wife and children, passed a row of people (us), all on a large distance from each other. It was impressive and good to be there. But we left immediately after the car passed, although many people had the need to talk to each other. The lack of human contact was painful, but there was only one thing to do: back in the car and back home.

Driving back into Amsterdam I got angry: today is the first nice spring day and streets are full of people. I am appalled by the lack of responsibility shown by apparently a large number of my fellow citizens and in that case, unfortunately, the only option left is to enforce it. Because this is the second weekend that this goes wrong and everyone was asked to stay as much as possible inside. It shocks another conviction I have held: that people in principle want to be responsible. And so the Belgians, who are more restrictive in their measures than the Netherlands, have already for two weeks closed their borders. And indeed, as you say, why do we not harmonize measures internationally.

So like you said yesterday, I am also not positive about what awaits us. And coming back to what I wrote yesterday, the first step maybe is accepting that the world is different from what we thought it to be. The second step is to keep living according to the values that are important to us and not give up, despite the many disappointments (in this case I think the Serbian word razočarenja expresses it even better) we will face. We have to find a way forward. Let me know what you think.

Stay safe and healthy Robert

Dear Robert,

Today, I was at one funeral of Jadranka Kuljanin Jakovljevic, not by car. Still, it was very sad, because a lot of people could not come, including her father and family. Since I don’t like to speak about the deceased without explanation who she was, I could say first that she was chemist and teacher. She was working in our remaining research institution Vinča as scientists, and she lectured chemistry in Medical Faculty at Foča, University of East Sarajevo.

I had a chance to see some of her books and the first impression that I don’t understand much, in spite, I was good at the Medical Faculty. One easy question:

In which of these compounds does oxygen have an oxidation number+2?

1)Na2O2 2) BaO2 3) F2O 4) N2O 5) CH3CHO (correct answer is 2))

It was funny that just three days ago, I tried to explain more about oxygen toxicity before I administrated her oxygen therapy. Actually, that was the last good thing we applied to her. In general, we had lucky to use all modern medicine against her disease. Still, Carcinoma is such a vicious disease that until today from the beginning of this year, 2.130.857 people died, and until I finished this text, 20 more will die.

I believe in “Noli me tangere” moment when the spirit is still around us, but don’t want to disturb, like Jesus didn’t allow Mary Magdalene to touch him. There is a special part of my http://www.plustri.com/ portal, like my personal ofrenda where some portraits are written so that people remain eternal. It started with my friend Tatjana, http://www.plustri.com/noli-me-tangere/tatjana-vuckovic-1973-2015-noli-me-tangere-ili-portret-onih-koji-nisu-vise-sa-nama-noli-me-tangere-or-a-portrait-of-those-who-are-no-longer-with-us/ who was buried at the same cemetery with Jadranka.

In the end, I have found one lecture of Jadranka where she said: “Since the molecule is at the base of matter, and the matter is one of the modes of existence of the entire universe, chemistry is one of the cosmic sciences.” I hope that Jadranka’s molecule will meet molecules of my mother, father, grandmother, and all dear people who are now part of the universe.

Back to our part of the universe, I am equally surprised by how the people are acting. Actually in the big Boulevard in front of the cemetery so many people have been there, like Champs-Élysées. The reason that I am surprised more in fact that I never see so much of them in spite I regularly driving there. Something is not functioning in the head of the people.

Unfortunately not only in Serbia, since my collogues said everywhere is a problem. Great Prof. Kupper from Germany wrote, „No material – in one of the richest countries of the world! We are improvising a disinfectant solution!“ From another side of the world, my teacher Buddha Basnyat said that in Nepal, people desperately hope that this „wave“ will not materialize. Just imagine what will be in Nepal who is practical without intensive care units and regular health care structure. Just to remind you that during the earthquake 2015, about 10.000 people died, many without the possibility to get medical help. From another side, Nepal has brilliant doctors, good Tribhuvan university, and not by chance, I feel Buddha as my teacher.

I had the chance to speak with Silvio, and he is still fighting well. He said that close friend of him on immunosuppressive therapy as well survived Covid pneumonia, but tested negative three times, probably because immunity is shut down. Does it means something, I am not sure, but I have good news from Dr. Angelini from Padova. He said, “We are slowly coming to a reasonable number of people hospitalized, and this might slowly improve, but we are in quarantine until Easter.” That is optimistic since Easter is next week, but at least it’s comforting because things are going better. Anyway, I bought dye today for eggs, in spite only Ana and me will egg fight.

Stay safe my dear Robert,

Nenad

— Day 6 —

Dear Nenad,

Excellent that you are writing the pieces in the “Noli me tangere” part of your website. When I read the article on Jelka, it brought back good memories and thus a smile on my face. Once I read, if I remember well in a book of Milorad Pavić, that people die two times. The second time is when the last person dies that still remembers you. Remembering people this way therefore is important. Especially in this period as funerals are now so limited that they lack the rituals which we are accustomed to, as we both saw yesterday.

Today I talked to my good friend Josee, who is a lawyer and lives and works in Bergamo. Two weeks ago there were reports about a funeral every half hour, but now even that is not the case anymore. For many people there is not even a funeral anymore, but many deceased are transported to a crematory in other parts of Italy and then the urn is sent to the home address. No ceremony, no chance to say goodbye, nothing.

Therefore it was good to hear the confirmation from your friends (also confirmed by my friends) that the situation in Italy is, albeit slowly, improving. Friends from Bergamo sent me videos on the new hospital that the Alpini, together with many associations, have built in a record time at the Bergamo Fair area. It shows that not only in China these things can be done, but also here. Interestingly enough I have seen very little about this in the news outside Italy. Maybe ‘good news’ for many news agencies is still a contradiction in terms.

Anyway, what I have been trying to do over the last weeks is to reduce the time amount I spend in watching news. In the first week I followed Dutch news, Serbian news, Italian news and Greek news (the last one with some difficulty) and Linkedin. Then I found out that in one week I had been spending 5,5 hours per day looking at my phone, so I have tried to limit that to looking half an hour in the morning and half an hour in the evening. It helps to have more time for doing other things, but especially in keeping a more positive attitude, which is difficult if you read bad news all day.

There is something which I see as positive in Europe: as far as I can see many European companies are trying to take a social approach, i.e. not firing people and rerouting parts of their production to helping society as much as possible. A big difference with the United States, where in the last two weeks 10 MILLION people have lost their jobs due to the crisis. Often losing their job for them also means losing their health insurance. With a country that now has the highest number of infected people, this will turn into a disaster, especially for those people which do not even have an insurance.

As I read Serbia since yesterday has introduced a two-day full-time curfew. How are you coping with this ?

Look after yourselves ! Robert

Dear Robert,

I see this as an opportunity. Actually, I wrote that before but maybe not so clear. I said that Silvio is working on the project of Georgian churches, voluntarily of course. But more important, Georgian guys are blessed since they could not pay experts with such knowledge and experience.

I am learning my 4th specialization, Clinical pharmacology. Honestly enjoying since I understand all those therapeutic approaches to fight corona, because they use almost unknown drugs to Western doctors, antimalaric, antiparasitic, immunomodulatory drugs with very peculiar pharmacokinetics.

I must admit that I enjoy that “antivaccine movement” is so quite. Probably they see what’s happen when the community doesn’t have immunity. And that reminds me of Pasteur and Koch so brilliants minds who invented vaccines to almost everything. I see that my passion for the history of medicine presented in my two early books (http://www.plustri.com/knjige/ordinacija-doktora-faustusa/ and http://www.plustri.com/knjige/kinoteka-doktora-frankenstajna/ about literature and movies in medicine, nowadays have full recognition. Unfortunately, people don’t know too much about that, and that is one of the explanations of why they act so irresponsibly. But, what to say ignorance an arrogance is put on a pedestal not only in my country.

I spoke today with my friend Jovana (http://www.plustri.com/1000-portreta/jovana-savkic-1990-nema-veze-dont-matter/ ), and she explained me laconic everything in two words „Don’t matter“ since we have to understand while we have each other, and we don’t have what is imposed on us, we are right. I am happy that I have the chance to drink zero coke with lemon with her during the two-day full-time curfew. Everybody knows that I am not the guy who really respect silly rules. But, all real laws I am strongly respected, as you know, I am still an athlete.

You don’t mention do you exercise. Since you don’t have a curfew and your authorities are advancing regular walking, exercise, and physical activity. I am arguing about that with my students. We did a number of homework on that topic, and it is not bad. They realized that preaching about physical activity is essential. My other friend, Jovana, published an article (https://runrepeat.com/exercise-covid-19-study ) that people in general exercise more everywhere despite all restrictions. There are so many funny clips on the Internet. But, I like to say #stay home and exercise.

So to conclude „Don’t matter“ stay healthy,

 

Nenad

— Day 7 —

Dear Nenad,

Exercising is indeed what I am doing, but not more than in the ‘old normal’, in which I went to the gym 2-3 times per week. In this period I would start cycling on my racing bike to train for my annual week in August with a group of friends, in which we cycle some 100 kms a day in the mountains, which we have done in different countries over the last years. But biking is more difficult now, as you have to keep distance, which is difficult especially when you are still in the city. This is something I am missing now.

So what I do is, I take a walk late in the evening when streets are emptier (but it is hard to reach my goal of 10.000 steps a day). In addition I had a Facetime talk with my gym trainer who made a small program for me that I can do at home (gyms are obviously closed) 3-4 times a week. They took the initiative to call me, which is great. And I got my old home trainer from the basement, so that I can cycle a bit inhouse. Last but not least every now and then I play a game with VR glasses, involving physical exercise. It is also a good break from the video conferences and telephone calls.

Talking about Georgia, I know that also a lot of work has been done there on bacteriophages. As my father has been struggling with a resistant bacteria infection for the last year (a good extra reason to keep him in quarantine now), I have been reading about this. The specialists here, however, were skeptical and the main reason for that was, according to me, that it was not developed in a country they know well. This requires openness to other ideas and as you say, in some countries there is a lot more experience so their knowledge now has to be spread fast. Cultural prejudices should be put aside if we want this to work.

Luckily, despite the negative approach towards Georgian medicine, in Rotterdam they did start some research on this, but it is now on a low level due to the corona crisis. And this is another effect now: people with other illnesses are postponed, much less operations are carried out and this will have its effects as well. Cardiologists here for instance are concerned as the last month they have seen much less people with heart problems than previously, probably as many people are now afraid to go to the hospital at all. And indeed, Tanja has heard today that an uncle of one of her colleagues has died of a heart attack and that he did not want to go to a hospital when he had the first symptoms.

As I know everywhere in the world people are now working on corona vaccines and antiviral medicines. So let’s hope that the new Pasteurs and Kochs will be ready soon. Yesterday I read an article of someone claiming that with a few billion euros investment we would be able to develop an overall anti-virus vaccine (i.e. not only for Covid-19), safeguarding the world for a number of years to come. Not being a medical expert, it is difficult for me to understand whether this has any chance of success. How do you look at the chances of having a vaccine and/or a medicine to lessen the symptoms soon ?

Take care ! Robert

Dear Robert,

I think that you have a point. Exactly more people will die because of adjustment towards corona than usual. We had a similar case in Nis. A member of the council died from myocardial infarction since his symptoms were mixed with corona. I would call that lost in a pandemic. Since the system was not prepared to act in this situation and few good specialists in every filed are too busy with corona. Just imagine that invasive cardiologist is working in intensive care, instead to be prepared for myocardial infarction. Maybe for somebody that is the same, but it is not, and especially it is not reasonable that we gave up from severe cardiovascular and other terminal patients. Actually, before corona, our hospital has been full, which means that many chronic patients have been treated there since there were no other options. Now, our hospitals are waiting for corona, and patients are suffering and dying at home. If you compare the number of deaths in one day of corona and other different diseases, it will be easy to see that we have many more significant problems. Two days ago, when I have been at the funeral, too many funerals have been at the same time. The system is not prepared for this. One, almost retired, an epidemiologist in charge of the whole country could not take responsibility for everything; in spite, he is trying to.

Since I am following the destiny of a medical nurse who is working with Ana, I could say she is really lost in the city hospital. Nobody treats her, and she is literally fighting to get therapy, meals, and medical care. Just imagine that the temperature list hanged on the bad is empty. There is no label on infusion etc. On the day when she was examined, she waited 6 hours hungrily, exhausted, and finally, about midnight, she was transported to the hospital. Tomorrow morning, after urgency, she got breakfast at about 10 a.m., but not therapy. More and less routine is repeating every day—chaos. Luckily Ana has a colleague from the studies, and she managed to provide for her medicine, at least. It was also essential to know that everything started since the nurse has been infected during the work in Urgent center, where she was transferred from the ward, but without sufficient protective equipment. We lost so many medical people in that way. Now, I heard they lack staff, and because of that, many are working 16 hours. Definitely, we are lost in a pandemic, but we also failed to see that sacrifice of nurses, in spite, they are the most vital link to win corona.

My second impression today was a colloquium of my students. A 30 multiple-choice question should be solved in 15 minutes. Only 12 of 50 students have passed. But that is not news since more or less they starting the same every year. Sports medicine is easy, and unfortunately, many believe that they know everything, and they don’t learn enough. The real problem was the internet since at the beginning only two students could log, it was weak, and went on and off. Simple, online platforms are not designed to host so many people. I already wrote in my columns about that. It will be challenging if isolation continues since I see that internet speed is decreased. Just imagine what will happen without the internet. The disaster will be several times bigger than the corona. Some of the disaster movies I watched are going like that.

You mentioned the overall antivirus vaccine. I doubt that is possible since the viruses are so different, they act different, they look different, and they are not similar in spite they are called viruses. But what I could tell you, all significant virus infections helped many drugs to be invented. I could say that practically the whole spectrum of antivirus drugs are connected with three essential viruses, HIV, hepatitis C, and herpes. I believe that overall scientific efforts will create new antiviral drugs and vaccines, but to be clear, not fast, since they need at least a year to pass all steps before they get FDA approvals.

I think that it is more important to make global strategy not only against corona but against global economic collapse. If everything continues, the world would not be the same. Since that is your field of expertise, maybe a good question for you is to tell use are we lost in economic too.

Finally, for the end to tell you that father Teodosije from Hilandar sent a message wishing us health, patient, and love. I told him that we are writing a diary, but unfortunately, he didn’t meet you.

So I like to wish you the same, my dear Robert,

Health, patient, and love.

Nenad

 

— Day 8 —

Dear Nenad,

First of all it was hard to read the story about the medical nurse which you wrote yesterday. I totally agree with you that we should have more attention for them, as they are real heroes and I also believe that their care and attention to patients plays a big role in the success of therapy, despite the current contact restrictions. Also thanks for the message from Hilandar. I sincerely hope that no infection cases have already taken place in the monasteries of Athos and that they will be able to stay out of this health crisis. Do you have any information about this ?

Yesterday you asked me on my thoughts about what will happen to the economy. I am not an economist by training, however there are some things which I foresee. The first issue which will occur in many companies, especially the smaller ones with low margins, is a liquidity problem. This is a difficult term for something very simple: it basically means that there is no money left on the bank account. This will happen fast with all the companies that have now no turnover left, think of restaurants and bars, hair dressers, air lines etcetera. If no money comes in but you still need to pay bills for personnel, rent, leasing transport etcetera, the bank account will drain fast. This is the same problem that households face when people lose their jobs now, but rent, mortgage etcetera still needs to be paid.

One of the disturbing things which I am seeing is that even with companies that still do have turn-over, some of their customers introduce the concept of paying bills only after a long period. Basically they use their suppliers as a bank to get cheap financing. A couple of years ago I have been discussing with a large multi-national company that wanted to pay their bills only after 180 days. We declined the contract and told them that we are not a bank. In this case I was also sure that it was not lack of money driving them to do this. Bad enough behaviour outside of a crisis but in my view unacceptable in this situation, also as this is often done by large companies having the power, whereas their suppliers are struggling to stay alive. Several companies have been criticized here in the newspapers precisely for this behaviour.

This is the reason why governments partly are focusing on giving money directly to (especially smaller) companies. Another way to safeguard liquidity is by deferring payments (think of taxes for instance) to the future. You then basically say that you will pay it back once you start earning money again. This gives a temporary break, but the assumption is that your future income will be enough to pay back your debts. If it will not be enough, you have a solvability problem, i.e. even if things go back to where they were before you are too deep in debt to be able to pay back. And as no one at the moment knows how long this will last, it is difficult to predict for many companies if they will be able to survive in the long run. Like with the IC capacity, it is difficult to make a ‘triage’. One thing is sure: the longer the crisis lasts, the more bankruptcies we will see, again leading to additional costs for governments (and that means for all of us).

This is basically the core of the discussion within the European Union: Southern Europe wants money now to fight the crisis, but Northern Europe wants to guarantee that they will be able to pay it back in the future, leading to the shameful discussions we talked about a couple of days ago. The example of Greece in the last years was a clear one: no one wanted to donate the money to Greece, because they promised their voters that it would all be paid back. As a result Greece was left with an almost impossible task to keep going and in addition they were not helped very much with other problems such as the refugee crisis. (Also if we are honest, democracy was de facto put aside in Greece by the EU, and we have already discussed this as a danger also in this crisis). And this was only the financial crisis, the common view amongst economists is that the economic effects of the corona crisis will be much worse.

So a big question is how we will get out of this crisis, once we have assessed the economic damage which has been done. If we look into history, we can look at how we got out of the two World Wars. After the First World War (by the way followed by the Spanish Flue epidemic), there was a ‘winner take all’ mentality. Germany was forced to repay all damage and we have seen what this has lead to: the arrival of extreme ideologies resulting eventually in the Second World War. After the second war the economy again was in ruins. In order to get out of this in Western Europe the Marshall plan was set up, which included (part of) the enemy Germany as well. Interestingly enough this was done by building up welfare states with a strong role for government (probably also out of fear that otherwise communism would get hold). In Eastern Europe a different approach was taken: nationalization of companies and smart use of available resources (think for instance of the ‘radne akcije’) to build the country up again. Of course the war in Yugoslavia started with an economic crisis as well. I can write for days about this, but let me limit myself to saying that, apart from the toll in human lives, also economically this was a total disaster. All the former Yugoslav states largely missed the economic boom of the 90’s.

So apart from the question how we can get the economy running again without risking many lives, there is also the question of which road we will take. In my view we will need a sort of Marshall plan, but the question is who will pay for that, as all countries are facing hardship. If countries close their borders and start thinking of themselves first, this will be difficult to set up and even more difficult to motivate tax payers which are already in a difficult position. Now there is one big difference with the end of the 2nd World war: during the war a lot of capital was lost and in a way this has led to larger equality. Now, however, if you follow studies (such as the ones of the world-renowned Serbian/American economist Branko Milanović) unequality has been on the rise in the last decades. You remarked that it is good we now at least have internet to stay in contact and probably apps will start playing a role in combatting the virus. At the same time we have seen several internet companies getting extremely rich (partly by using our data), whilst not taking care too much of our privacy, in addition to ways to reduce the amount of taxes they pay. So I would not be surprised if some of these companies will be charged with more taxes in order to force them to help refinancing the economic rebuilding. But as they are so large you have to cooperate with other countries in order to be effective, as the European Union has shown over the last years. Which one will win, the nationalist path or the international cooperation path is therefore crucial but also hard to predict.

There are many other aspects to think about, especially in terms of rethinking our economic system. But it is a long story already, I will leave those for other days, feel free to react.

Γεια σου (health to you) ! Robert

Dear Robert,

Actually, the monks are healthy, and if I could say in their natural habitat. No bunch of people around them, it is more like in medieval times. They should dedicate some time for themselves as it should be in the time of Nemanjic. Good news that my priest called me today, and I was thrilled since as I wrote, I believe that it is their duty to give us psychological support. Since a lot of god people are on my blog, here is my priest, Trajan Kojic http://www.plustri.com/1000-portreta/trajan-kojic-1948-moj-svestenik-my-priest/

Today, we have also celebrated Ana’s birthday, with our neighbors (http://www.plustri.com/1000-portreta/jovana-savkic-1990-nema-veze-dont-matter/ ), respecting distance in the backyard of the building. Finally, we have realized that it is good that we have it. It was nice, in spite, Ana was a little bit annoyed that she celebrated a birthday, not because of the isolation, but because of the uncertain future. Anyway, some finger food was good, including excellent cheese pie prepared by Ana.

Our medical nurse is trying to be good. In general, our hospitals are almost decapitated. What would you say if on one of the cardiovascular clinics more then 60 medical staff are positive, on obstetric clinic nobody knows, 30, 60… who knows. In some hospitals, they stopped the surgical program. Just today, a friend of mine got information that she would not be operated on Carcinoma. She is out of mind. Luckily malignant cells are not spreading so fast like viruses, but imagine what question she is thinking? I am sure that people should be better informed since nothing is going faster than the fear (as it is written on the movie poster for Contagion, 2011, sent by my sister Sanja). Somebody said that World health organization used term infodemia since that epidemy could be even more fatal.

I got info that people are taking more sedatives and other psychiatric drugs. Probably that is normal, as much as that close persons to me are getting high blood pressure, arrhythmia, non-Covid disturbance in the chest. Certain daily routine should be implemented, since obviously that we will stay at least a month in home isolation. Now, we have just got the news that Belgrade and Nis will be closed cites from Friday to Monday. I should do a comparison between Holland and Serbia again.

Total cases New Cases Total deaths New deaths Total recovered Active cases Serious, Critical Cases on 1 mil. Death on 1 mil Total tests Test on 1 mil.
NED 19580 777 2101 234 250 17229 1424 1143 123 86589 5053
SRB 2447 247 61 3 118 2268 109 280 7 9626 1102
SRB/NED % 12% 32% 3% 1% 47% 13% 8% 24% 6% 11% 22%

 

Since there is no closed city in Holland; since citizens from so many countries could go out (all my friends from abroad are exercising outside, as you said the same is in Holland); since many countries are planning to restore life in the next weeks (written in daily NYT news and my daughter confirmed for Austra); where is the rationale for this kind of decision. Maybe your analytical mind could find the clue. Is this necessary?

Γεια σου! Nenad

 

— Day 9 —

 

Dear Nenad,

 

First of all it is good to hear that the virus has not arrived to Athos yet, as I expected.

This morning I attended a webinar from the Delft University of Technology on the mathematical models which are being used for defining the policy towards corona, as well as on the influence that ethics should have on these policies.

 

Without going into details in the models themselves, there are two types. The first is what they call a logistical model and it basically uses statistics and data analysis. They use the data as given by country and try to predict what will happen. They can predict the maximum number of cases (albeit with a high uncertainty) and have two problems: they can only look 3-4 days ahead and are of course very dependent on the raw data. And as we know that testing is not done on everyone, we also know that especially the number of infections is much higher.

The second model is the epidemiological modelling, which is more complex, but as a result also has more uncertainties. What we see is that in all countries that did an intervention, that Ro is decreasing (i.e. Ro is the amount of infections one person transfers). With these models they can test intervention approaches. One of the things is that there are people that individually infect many more people than Ro, so these have to be taken into account as well (this is what we could call the ‘football game effect’).

As different countries take different approaches, we might learn something by looking at the numbers, so I made a selection of today’s numbers:

 

Country # infections #deaths infections/1 M deaths/ 1M tests/1M Strategy
Sweden 8419 687 834 68 5416 laissez faire
Netherlands 20549 2248 1199 131 5053 partial lockdown
Belgium 23403 2240 2019 193 6947 strong lockdown
Germany 107663 2016 1285 24 10962 Containment
Serbia 2666 65 305 7 1102 full lockdown
Greece 1832 81 176 8 2742 full lockdown

 

As we know that testing is not done 100 %, I also put the numbers per million inhabitants, including the number of tests done.

Sweden I put on top because they seem to follow the ‘herd immunity’ strategy. An extremely risky one, the models indicate that following that strategy would lead to half a million deaths in The Netherlands. So far, however, Sweden is doing better than us. The next weeks will be decisive to see how this will work out.

The Netherlands and Belgium differ in the severity of lockdown measures taken, Belgium is testing a bit more, but is doing worse in terms of casualties.

Both Serbia and Greece, with strong lockdown measures are so far doing much better than all the others !

An interesting one is Germany, that follows a containment strategy. Their infection rate is higher than others, but the death rate is much lower. They test much more, intervene with patients sooner and as a country were much better prepared than others, both in terms of testing capacity and in terms of Intensive Care capacity. Already in January German institutes were publishing about how to test for corona! The NYT had an interesting article on this, which is worth wile to read:

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/04/world/europe/germany-coronavirus-death-rate.html

And that brings me to the second part of the webinar which was about the ethical discussion. First of all some of the models also take into account the ‘economic value of a year of human life’. This is an ethical discussion to start with, because the question is whether you can put a value to that (and how do you differ amongst groups).

In this case we cannot say that the virus was a ‘black swan’, i.e. something we could not see coming, as we have had several warning over the years and in The Netherlands a pandemic was included in the National Risk Profile. Germany prepared itself better and so far has better results !

The second thing is how do you work on assumptions? Usually in science you try to prove your point of view before publishing it. In situations where the effects can be serious you have to apply the ‘precautionary principle’, i.e. better safe than sorry. By the way a concept which I am very used to in the chemical industry.

Here the opposite has happened. As an example: we were told that you cannot infect other people if you have no symptoms, which turned out not to be true. We also do not know if people are really immune after having had for instance light symptoms, but so far we assumed it.

In reality I think most strategies have been determined by the level of preparedness. Here the Intensive Care capacity was much lower than in Germany, so we are basically steering this crisis, with help of the models, on IC-capacity. The same thing goes for testing, as we did not have enough tests available.

The other point brought forward is that emotions should play a role in this, as they are often linked to moral values. Here the government tried ‘technocratically’ to keep the schools open, but after protests from society they changed their mind. If you explain to people well what the situation is, than they understand the “better safe than sorry” principle very well.

In reality we cannot undo the fact that we were very unprepared. Populists are now screaming that we have to do everything fully and immediately. But resources are unfortunately limited. On the other hand a fully technocratic approach also does not work, especially if you do not inform people well. If I understand well, this is one of your main frustrations now that things are decided but not explained clearly. It comes back to the third pillar: find a wat to get society involved!

We have not yet talked about another ethical question which has come up already in Italy: how to triage if the IC capacity is not enough ? Should this be a ‘medical expert only’ discussion or does this have to be more widely discussed? What is your opinion on this?

Stammi bene ! Robert

Dear Robert,

 

The last question is not medical triage; it is Sophie triage (Sophie’s Choice, 1982, https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0084707/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1 ), and it is a question for society, but then society should work in intensive care. Maybe it should stay to the conscience of a medical doctor like was in Hypocrites oath.

Your idea to listen to the webinar and then analysis of pandemic is excellent. It merely proves that the system, politicians, and specialists of epidemiology did an excellent job in Germany. NYT again did the better than others. But German story doesn’t explain why all others are so stupid; thereby, I don’t mean on Serbia, but on Holland and Belgium. What your epidemiologist didn’t understand?

I see that only one Serbian endocrinologist, Dr. Kon, didn’t follow world epidemiologic situation, and now we have a curfew. I use this word since lockdown doesn’t impose jail and penalty on people. Actually, measures which our politicians are doing more absurd, we have now closed cities of Belgrade and Nis, and weekend curfew (that is probably unique invention). I think that our politicians are misusing corona to play with State like Charles Chaplin in the Great dictator. But that was a comedy, and we are living in real life.

I downloaded the Epidemiology textbook (David D. Celentano, Moyses Szklo – Gordis Epidemiology-Elsevier, Inc. (2019) and started to read it. Luckily you explained epidemiologic models so good that I don’t need to continue. But other things bother me, like mortality. It is so low in Serbia, practically on the level of day mortality in a regular situation in Belgrade. I downloaded the last statistical report of our Public health institute, and there are around 21.000 deaths just in Belgrade, about 100.000 in the whole country. I understand that it is difficult to compare that with the deaths of corona until today in Serbia. Still, then I realized on another sheet that we have only 110 specialists of infectology, actually, Serbia is state without doctors. Because of that maybe we should be closed because if the doctors continue to get corona like it is the trend, people will stay without them. Maybe to add that we have only around 800 anesthesiologists. For everyone who liked to review, this is the link http://www.batut.org.rs/index.php?content=77, and it is on Serbian and English.

I had Telecon with regional anti-doping agencies, and everywhere is different but not with so many restrictions like in Serbia. How to understand the opening of the restaurants and gasoline stations in Austria, drive-in testing in Croatia, almost normal life with restrictions in Slovakia and more, and stricter measures in Serbia? I think that certain population groups will be sick after everything is finished. I still don’t understand why older people could not go out at any moment during the day except Sunday from 4 to 8 a.m. Why 4 a.m, why not any other reasonable time, and why not other days as well. Serbia is one of the oldest countries in Europe, with an average age of 44 years, and more than 20% of people are older then 65 years. That means that 1/5 of people are locked up today for one month. Is this necessary?

I don’t think that we are doing much better than others, but in the end, we need to have something between herd immunity of Sweden and the German approach of testing, which both are visibly to far away from us. As I said previously, harmonization will make Europe open again. Thus, my daughter in Vienna will start in June usually, and we will stay still closed with maybe not more than three times more deaths, but without open borders and the possibility to meet people from abroad.

I think that long term planning is missing from the beginning and a lot of empathy.

Let’s see what will happen on our “Platform”.

I like to say stay healthy and patient since obviously, I missed the second today.

Nenad

 

— Day 10 —

Dear Nenad,

Today I have been thinking a lot about what you were writing yesterday. There was one thing that I did not mention from the NYT article and that is the last positive point which was mentioned which is trust in the government. As they described Merkel had a strong role in this, as she is a scientist herself and communicates regularly, clearly and calmly. Interestingly enough there has been little protest against ever stricter measures, irrespective of political beliefs. And I would also like to keep it outside of a political discussion, but focus on lessons learned on leadership in times of crisis. Big books have been written on this subject and I am not claiming to be an expert, but let me anyway write some of my personal thoughts.

During the years I have had several trainings in crisis management, including crisis communication. The first one was my training during military service as an army officer (armies are trained to work in crisis situations). After that I have had several trainings in the chemical industry and during the years had to manage a couple of crisis situations (of course on a lower scale than the current crisis) in real life. There were a couple of lessons I have learned. Apart from the correct way of behaving in a crisis, one of the more difficult parts is that you have to be decisive and focused on solving the problem and at the same time stay open for the outside world and understand how people are dealing with your actions. The same thing goes in the army: you have to focus not only on the action but also on the morale of your people and keep an eye open for what is happening in the world around you. As I sometimes say, the only reason you need a plan, is to understand where you deviate from it.

Crisis organizations are by definition hierarchical, as you otherwise lose speed in solving the crisis. Only one person does the end decision, but you need a whole team to have the right expertise on board. They all have to know their role and have to be trained in problem solving discussions. Crisis communication has to be open and transparent, also on the things you do not know yet (people want 100 % guarantees from you, but you often cannot give them, you can only tell them what you know at that moment and what you are doing).

However, and there we come back to the discussion on the difference between countries, even the best crisis team is not going to be successful if they are not well prepared. A big part of the trust people have is not built in the crisis phase, but in the preparation phase. So far I did not yet find the data on the number of medical specialists in other countries, so it is difficult for me to make any comparison with Serbia. Also I do not know if for instance the WHO has guidelines on this and, very importantly, on which scenario they are based. How is for instance the possibility of losing medical staff capacity due to infections and/or burnout taken into account in the pandemic scenario’s? Have these situations ever been practiced/simulated (during every practice there are lessons learned)? Who could help us on these questions ?

So to answer your question on why epidemiologists here see things differently than in Germany, of course I do not know. But, like I said yesterday, I am afraid that a big part of the policy was determined by a lack of preparation. Then it is difficult to have the courage to tell the real reason for certain decisions (open and transparent), but rather they start to ‘rationalize’ their choices and have ‘confirmation bias’, i.e. they only see things which confirm their thinking. This is normal human behaviour, we all do this. The problem with many experts who are called upon in time of crisis, is that they think that then they have to know everything and appear to the public as absolutely convinced. The result of that can be nicely seen in the programme of Zoran Kesic on what the government and their advisers have been quoting on the virus in the last two months, where opinions kept on changing. It is also what I meant yesterday with the change in messages here in The Netherlands where first we were told that you could only be infected if you had symptoms, although no one was 100 % sure, and it turned out not to be true. Or the current discussion on whether or not to wear mouth caps, which has lead to different policies in different countries. My conviction now is that wearing them would be better, but it is not confirmed, because of the lack of mouth caps. And then I agree that it is better to reserve them for medical staff, but at least then communicate that this is the reason! Otherwise I start doubting other messages as well.

What makes a good leader (not only in politics) is very situation dependent. Not everyone is fit to lead or manage in times of crisis. We had a Minister of Health until two weeks ago, who got totally overworked in this crisis, collapsed during a debate in parliament and decided the next day to step down. He said it was better if someone else took over and was widely praised for his decision. A good international example was Winston Churchill, deemed to be good during the wartime, but voted away after the war ended. The old Greek city states and Roman republic (before they had emperors) understood this, because during wars they appointed a tyrant or dictator, to be removed immediately after the war had ended. The last bit is important as crisis situations are often used as an excuse for sticking to power. In that respect, by the way, I liked the system of government in Athos which we saw when we jointly visited: after one year the monk which is elected president goes back to his monastery and gets the lowest ranking job, just to make sure he does not get used to power.

The current situation gives me a worry, which I think we share: how many of the extra-ordinary measures which are now introduced will disappear when the crisis is over? Here the government has announced that it is considering the use of telephone apps to start controlling the virus (like in Asia and already some countries in Europe). This should be on a voluntary basis and all kind of conditions on privacy have to be fulfilled, but the question is how this will work out and especially how long this will be in effect!

Luckily the government here does clear, calm and regular communication and tries to explain the reasoning, which makes it easier to accept certain measures and does a big demand on personal responsibility, but as you can read also I still have a lot of doubts on the why of certain decisions, especially in view of the international differences.

One last thing: today I read that one of the key success factors of coming through a crisis is humour. Luckily I everyday get in a lot of funny videos and slides from everyone, which for me certainly helps.

So I wish for all of us, health, patience and, despite the situation, a good laugh every now and then !

Robert

Dear Robert,

First, congratulation on our 10th dairy day. Ana calculated it is the 25th day of isolation, and I could add that from last Saturday, I haven’t been out. Luckily, there is humor, and our people are outstanding in that, maybe too good, sometimes too dark, on the edge of good taste. But, that is Balkan.

Again, thank you for the excellent analysis, which will help me to understand the situation. You said that you would like it to keep it outside of a political discussion. The same message came from the President of the World Health Organization. Political parties are fighting, which means people are not in solidarity but in the clash. Unfortunately, it is not easy, since all the measures are influencing our present and future life extremely.

You said trust in the government and use Merkel as an example since she communicated regularly, clearly, and calmly, and because of that, there was little protest. We have quite the opposite situation. Because of that, we have a problem with the moral of our own people, and we are not open to the outside world. Actually, we are trying to be better, and somehow we are competing with the outside world to our detriment.

They are demonstrated exactly to opposite what you wrote: One person does the decision, they are not trained in problem-solving, and they are not open and transparent. I already wrote something about that. But I learned that we do not have an epidemiology system, that doctors are not trained, either in basic medical science nor in clinical science. Simple, there was no training, which I mentioned that we have as a youngster in former Yugoslavia. Nobody was prepared for a pandemic. Finally, I don’t want to speak about transparency, since we are probably the only state where one journalist is arrested.

Indeed it is not easy to finds the recommended number of medical specialists. But, just tonight on the news EU said that have 4% medical doctors of the total population, the older are living in Bulgaria, etc. Since Serbia has less 20.000 medical doctors on a population of 7 million, it means that we lack 8000 medical doctors, which is 40% of the current number. And on top of these, there was no training, plan, preparation not only for the epidemic but e.g., for invasive cardiology intervention in the state of emergency because we are losing lives of noninfected people, as we already mentioned the cases in both countries.

And that lack of preparation are the reason for unclear decisions, and non-professional appearance to the public with absolutely no convincing to recommended measures. You just mentioned correctly journalist Zoran Kesic who did brilliant timeline explanation. Unfortunately, people are scared to be open and say what they think.

The question of whether or not to wear mouth caps or gloves are ongoing. So many politicians are intimidated people since this is the moment when they can do it. Even the measures are not possible if the President has infected soon, and don’t think to go in isolation—totally wrong message for people. I like your story about “voting after the war ended”, even more, that you remember the story from Athos – that President goes back to his monastery and gets the lowest ranking job. The priests did not, without reason, say that you deserve more than some Serbs to be on Athos. Simple, like in this corona analysis, you understand better the situation than many. Your concern is how many of the extra-ordinary measures will stay after the crisis is over, is big concern of mine, as well. I am not sure what could be the outcome in such turbulent, not calm, and irregular communication we have it right now.

In spite of everything, I worked today on pain receptors, prepared new lectures for students, and listen to what happens around me. From tomorrow only we have in the world 60 hours of curfew. I have prepared cornbread which my grandmother did it, The recipe is good, easy, and cheap, and maybe some Dutch readers could try it. Ingredients: 2 cups of cornflour, 1 cup wheat flour, 1 cup of sparkling water, 1/2 cup oil, 1 egg, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 bag of baking powder (my grandmother didn’t have it). Preparation: Mix and all ingredients until smooth dough. Pour into a very small oily round pan, or rather, cover the pan with baking paper. Normal baking is for a total of 30 minutes, 20 minutes at 250 degrees, and then 10 minutes at 150 degrees. This will first bake the crust and then cook the inside to make it soft and tender. After 30 minutes, insert the dough with a toothpick. If it is dry after the extraction, the cornbread is ready! The original name is “proja”, but I don’t know is there better translation.

So, I am almost scared to continue writing since I got horror reports for hospitals today. It is challenging to stay calm, but you are right that patient and regular communication could help a lot. Perhaps this correspondence of ours serves that purpose.

I will try to laugh every day. It is good advice.

Stay safe.

Nenad

 

— Day 11 —

Dear Nenad,

When we started with writing I wondered if we would even be able to write 10 diary entries, but you see that every day we have new things to talk about, congratulations also to you on the first 10 !

I consider myself lucky to have lots of Balkan friends, because as you say the humour is on a high level, and most of the funny videos I get in are coming from them. Even the people that moved abroad never lose this sense of humour. We have one friend living in The Hague who has an unendless supply of them, so that I laugh much more than once a day.

Here I did not yet find the amount of medical staff, so I had a look at the WHO figures from 2015. Of course they are a bit outdated, but in view of the long education period for medical staff, I do not expect that they are very different now. It looks like this:

There indeed you see that Serbia has a much lower amount of doctors per capita, as compared to other countries. Belgium is on the low side as well, but has a lot more nursing personnel. For Italy and Serbia no data on this was available. It would be interesting to know what causes this. Are much less people educated in medicine or does it also have to do with the ‘brain drain’ effect, where many young people have left Serbia the last 30 years to find a job abroad ?

What you write on training is also worrying. I do not know the situation here, but what I do know is that on a national level several risks are evaluated and scored on impact and probability. On one of these evaluations from 6 years ago, a pandemic is scored as high impact and high probability. It makes you wonder what we did on preparation in the meantime, in any case we cannot call it a ‘black swan’.It probably has to do something with our risk perception. We tend to underestimate risks and to overestimate what we can do about it without being prepared. That also makes us estimate risks wrongly, as more people are afraid of flying than of car driving, despite the fact that figures show that driving a car is much more dangerous than going in a plane (at least before the virus). But the sense of control we think we have in car driving, makes us think that an airplane is more dangerous.

Psychology has a lot to say about this, as I know from working with safety programs in industry. It makes me wonder also if psychologists are included in the teams that define government policy, also to evaluate the effect of different approaches. From a scientific point of view the current period would be something to draw lessons from.

Thanks for your recipe on ‘proja’. Tanja is making bread now once a week with a simple recipe and actually I like it better than the bread we buy. In one of the next days I will write down the recipe as well. It is an interesting side effect, that we go back to making our own bread. Something which was very normal some decades ago, but now a craft we have to rediscover.

Today I saw you posted an article in Serbian on Linked-in regarding biorhythm and the current situation. I think there are some interesting points in there that would be good to put in this diary as well, as this can help tremendously in going through this period.

Here the numbers are slowly getting a little bit better. Although we still do not know the real number of infected and deaths, we see in any case that the number of people going to hospital and going to the Intensive Care people daily is decreasing. This gives some hope. On the other hand a big worry is the number of cases in elderly homes. As protective equipment is prioritized towards hospitals, a lot of personnel in these elderly homes does not have the required protection. So not only are elderly people locked in and visitors are prohibited, but there is also a large chance of the virus spreading amongst them and the personnel. We already had several cases and it is believed (but not tested !) that 40 % of these homes have people inside who are infected. The people that died are not all registered as a corona victim, because they were not tested. Based on the general statistics of deaths, the number of corona deaths could then be twice higher than the official number reported. So I am afraid that this will be the next disaster, now that the situation in the hospitals seems to be getting better. In Spain and Italy they have already started investigations at several of these homes.

In one of these homes 19 people have died, after most of them had been visiting a church service beginning of March. This is now forbidden, these services are now done online. However, from the news some days ago I understood that people in Novi Sad not only attended church service but were also all using the same spoon for the rituals. It makes me wonder how can this be possible ? I look forward to your comments.

Stay healthy ! Robert

 

Dear Robert,

Definitely, our systems are not comparable. I found that in 2018. we had around 50.000 nurses on 7 million population, which is about around 70 per 10000 people. Too little compared to the EU. But, as I learned today, that is no problem, as the complete organization of the system.

Several colleagues of mine told me they are working 12 hours per day because there are not enough doctors. What is the more important ar e their impressions, they said that everything that is happening is more complicated than they expected, that clinical picture is going sometimes too fast, they hardly manage to react. They noted that pulmonary patients fainted immediately (I remember that we were wondering is it possible by watching Chinese videos two months ago). Simple, patients lack oxygen, and then they are intubated and put on respirators. The mortality rate on ventilators is too high, even 70%, but that is difficult to calculate for the moment.

They are searching for proper therapy. It was written to many approaches, but obviously, that is not easy. We don’t have easy answers to virus infection. It is good that doctors are publishing papers immediately all around the world, so the scientific info is going around. It seems that hydrochlororokine and some antibiotics from macrolide antibiotics (one of them synthesized many years ago in Pliva, Croatian factory) are doing the best. Honestly, the mechanism of drugs is not easy, since in general, the virus is alive only in our body and scientist don’t know yet how to eliminate it. All in all, real fight in spite it is not possible to see that in statistics of worldmeter. It is the reason why the corona is so dangerous since the whole system is occupied in treatment on sever patients and preventing of serious phase in less ill patients.

This means that we will be isolated for more than a month and in the same time means that each of us will have many, but not so important problems to solve, like medical doctors. How to organize time, exercise, not eat too much, drink too much, sleep good, and at least do something useful.

You noticed that I am publishing in my columns in telegraf.rs and tosamja.media (https://tosamja.media/bioritam-u-izolaciji-osmislite-dan-zaboravite-dremku/) useful advice on how to cope with isolation. As you asked, I have copied recommendations done, prof. Gottlieb, Northwestern University on behalf of the International Society of Bipolar Disorders Task Force on Chronobiology and Chronotherapy:

• Set up a routine for yourself while you are in quarantine or working from home; routines help stabilize body clocks
• Get up at the same time every day: a regular wake time is the most important input for stabilizing your body clock
• Make sure you spend some time outdoors every day, especially in the early morning; your body clock is regulated by the light – dark cycle
• If you can’t go outside try to spend at least 2 hours by a window, looking into the daylight, and focusing on being calm
• Set times for a few regular activities each day such as home tutoring, telephone calls with a friend, or cooking; do these activities at the same time each day
• Exercise every day, ideally at the same time each day
• Eat meals at the same time every day; if you’re not hungry, at least eat a small snack
• Social interactions are important, even during social distancing; seek out “back and forth” social interactions where you share thoughts and feelings with another person in real time; videoconferencing, telephone, or real-time text messaging is preferred to scrolling through messages; schedule these interactions at the same time every day
• Avoid naps during daylight hours, especially later in the day; if you must nap, restrict the nap to 30 minutes—napping can make it hard to fall asleep at night
• Avoid bright light (especially blue light) in the evening (eg, computer screens, smartphones); blue spectrum light suppresses the hormone that helps us sleep
• Stick to consistent sleep and wake time that fits your natural rhythms; if you are a night owl, it’s ok to stay up a little bit later and get up a little bit later than others in the household, but make sure you go to sleep and get up at the same time every day.

Simple this reminded me of journalist question when we published the textbook of sports medicine “What is the most important in human life from sports medicine perspective?” My answer was “routine”. We should organize our life on the way to protect ourselves. Maybe routine is more important than exercise since regular exercise could not be done without routine. So, for all of us a good daily plan with ate least 30 min exercise is essential for physical and mental health.

You raised important questions of unrecognized cases of corona and probably a much higher death rate, and you are right. It would be difficult to get those data. Those data from another side are crucial if we like to understand herd immunity. Our daughter has been occupied today about the analysis of how to protect mother when pandemic finishes. Are our granddaughters danger for the grandmother who had until today more than 25 pneumonia? How we will know are they are going to transfer corona to grandmother like they are regularly doing with all kind of kinder garden infections. You could imagine how many combinations Nina nominated. It is challenging to know the right answer.

For the end to finish with the stupidity of measures imposed in Montenegro. Could you imagine that fishing is forbidden even from the boat? At the moment when I was envy to my friend Mio in Boka bay, the Government made this new measure. Crazy, since I believe that fisherman is the safest and isolated person in the middle of Boka bay. And all that is happening when many tuna enter the bay. I remember the “Hot tuna” T-shirt, but for this situation, it is better happy tuna.

So, stay safe as tuna in Boka,

Nenad

 

— Day 12 —

Dear Nenad,

As per your description, I indeed try to follow the normal routine as much as possible. Usually in the weekend I start with cappuccino and with reading two big newspapers (in the weekend always with much more articles). I think the amount of news which was not linked to corona was something like 3%. That is precisely why I try to limit the intake of news. One of the things I did not know yet is that the neighbourhoud of New York City which is most hit by corona is called: Corona. Nomen est omen it seems.

After the newspapers I did my range of exercises in-house, while Tanja already early went out to run. Early in the morning or late in the evening are the best periods to be outside. Today is also a warm day, so in my view it is getting too busy, although I see that people are doing their best to keep distance now.

What you said about the effort doctors are making in finding the best cure, makes me think how little I actually know about our immune system. With every draw of breath we get in enormous amounts of micro-organisms and as far as I understand we still do not understand well how this system differentiates between harmful and harmless ones. In Rotterdam they have started testing with blood plasm with antibodies, next to some of the virus medicines you mentioned. The problem is always to also understand what the side effects are and we are in a squeeze of time….

It of course also makes you think if the appreciation for medical personnel will increase after this crisis. The past does not give good hope, it seems we sometimes have a short-term memory. Today I read that the research into a vaccine for SARS, stopped receiving funds 2 years after the outbreak was under control. But let’s stay positive, maybe this time we will do better.

The measure from Montenegro you mentioned really surprises me. Not only because of the safety aspect, but also because fishing I assume to be part of the vital activities, i.e. there has to be a food supply.

At least here the food supply has not stopped. The other day I talked to an ex-colleague of mine that now works for a large company of milk products. They are producing now a lot more than previously whilst at the same time of course in the factories they have many additional safety measures, which makes working more difficult. Also supermarkets seem to be still well stocked, although I have not been in one for the last 4 weeks. We now get all our groceries once a week by online delivery.

In the past for me this was a no-go, because of the additional environmental burden and we have 3 supermarkets on walking distance. However, despite the additional online deliveries, the water and air quality is improving now, not only for the tuna. Yesterday I saw that from India they can again see the Himalayas, who are 200 km away. This has not been possible for the last decades.

When I saw this yesterday, I remembered my own trip to Nepal and the feeling I had when I saw them myself for the first time. Only being able to see this is already an excellent motivation for continuing with the actions to come to a climate neutral society.

Last year I have been very involved in discussions with the Dutch government on how to get industry climate neutral in 2050. Most plans are now postponed due to the corona crisis, but that does not mean that we should postpone the end date! Of course all these plans will cost money and the question is where we will find that after we will have spent already lots of money on the now unfolding economic crisis. Something to think about this weekend, as this weekend for us last three days, because of Easter.

One of the benefits of intercultural marriages is that you can celebrate twice, if there is a difference in (church) calendars. So we will celebrate Easter both tomorrow and next Sunday with a nice Easter lunch. Also here it is important to stick to routines. We are not planning an egg fight as part of the tradition, but I might change my mind.

 

Wishing you all health and positivity ! Robert

Dear Robert,

Please do the egg fight. I think that is not only custom for Orthodox, but Catholic/Protestants as well. I am not sure about the coloring. It could be nice to hear that you beat Tanja like I will do Ana. I am missing my granddaughter to beat then as well. It is a little bit sad that we are all separated. On another side, it could be a good opportunity to have fun in isolation and make a real competition. The winner will be an isolated person who cracks the highest number of eggs. Since this is a symbol of the resurrection of Jesus at Easter, we could consider a turning point in current crises. Maybe for you a good moment to learn new Greek word “tsougrisma” https://www.thespruceeats.com/greek-easter-egg-game-1705738

This reminds me of my grandmother and grandfather and their village. Just today, we have discussed an option to go there, since, after a month at home, it is a little bit depressing to be closed. I think this curfew was not necessary since I believe that people will act equally responsible. Everything seems like a bad political plan. I already said that WHO asked politics not to missus the situation for political campaigns. The village of my grandparents is almost empty. There is a lovely anecdote in my book The last Adrovac wolf https://books.google.ca/books?id=HVkwDwAAQBAJ where I have written a story which compares San Diego and Adrovac who has been equally big in 1876, with the same spirit of the people who flighted for freedom (against Mexico and Turkey). Both win, but San Diego has now about 1,5 million population and Gornji Adrovac only 60. So, an excellent place to be isolated. Ana’s concern is the curfew will be permanent, and that we could not come back. Totally normal, since we are not even sure when Nina could come from Vienna.

This reminds me of the demographic disaster of Serbia, for which were responsible politicians who led the country from war to war. This corona is a kind of war, and again, politicians are sacrificing one vital defense part, the healthcare sector. We are probably the only country were 15% of the infected population are healthcare professionals (414/3380) with more of the six deaths. The problem is that we don’t have real data, because of the embargo on the information. I have just learned that my peers, specialists of gynecology, died in Leskovac as the one who started to examine the patients in the beginning. Too many things bother these people at the moment when they need to be concentrated on other things.

Unfortunately, history taught us they would forget tomorrow when they need to choose.

I am sorry I am not fully concentrated since I just finished watching the new Kesic. Before that excellent series “Kalup” about baby trafficking in Serbia. I still could not understand that hundreds of babies are stolen in Serbia in more than 40 years without a clue and court decision. It seems that corona is just an episode in this so-called country. My Noli me tangere philosophy is more suitable, but let’s leave that for the moment.

I wish you a happy Easter.

Hristos voskrese Tanja and Robert,

Nenad from the closed city

 

— Day 13 —

Dear Nenad,

First of all reacting on your last wish: ваистину воскресе ! We will say the same next week, of course. Yesterday I had to laugh, because sometimes things get ‘lost in translation’. When you talked about an egg fight with Ana I imagined both of you throwing eggs at each other at the balcony…However, once you mentioned the Greek term, I finally understood what you meant with egg fight. The Greeks have a special verb for this, which is τσουγκρίζω, i.e. clutching eggs. This is of course a tradition I know very well from Serbia also, but my mother-in-law always wins, so I gave up…

Today we made it into a special Easter Day. First I made a big breakfast with eggs, because I knew we had to wait until the end of the afternoon for the next meal. In Tanja’s company they decided to give some extra attention to their employees during Easter, so the management team drove around yesterday and today, dressed up in a suit as Easter bunnies to bring them chocolate and flowers at their home address. After breakfast we went to a local flower farmer to pick up a whole bunch of tulips and hyacints. These farmers have a hard time now. Two thirds of the flowers in the world come from Holland, now is the main growing season and of course the corona crisis has stopped their business.

So, with a temperature today of above 20 oC poor Tanja was dressed up in an Easter bunny suit handing out presents. That is, she left them in front of the door and then spoke to people with a megaphone from a 10 meter distance. It was great, because everyone was surprised and really felt appreciated that they have been doing this. Often the neighbours of these employees wondered what was going on, but when they understood reacted very positively as well. I was driving the bus with the flowers and chocolate, helping Tanja to carry flowers and making some video’s and photo’s. All employees we visited were living in The Hague or one of its suburbs, but it still takes quite some time to visit all addresses.

In fact it took us most of the day but it is worth wile to do, if you can put a smile on people’s face during these days. We finally were back at the end of the afternoon, luckily still some sun on the balcony here in Amsterdam. We just had a great dinner, even succeeded in finding some lamb for dinner and luckily my wine stock is not empty yet (but in need of new bottles soon). So I look back at an interesting day and the first day in 4 weeks that I have been driving a car around. It felt a bit awkward to do, but after some time it was OK. Good to see that people in The Hague seem to be paying more attention to keeping their distance than what I have been seeing in Amsterdam !

In the last two days we had contacts with many friends to find out how they are doing. Some of our friends now have parents in the intensive care units. Our thoughts and hopes are with them, as they are living through difficult times now. Counting on the worst and hoping for the best. All we can do now is give them our support at a distance, which makes you feel helpless. Easter is the feast of resurrection, which is precisely what I wish for all these parents now struggling in the hospital !

Sending Ana and you greetings from the heart ! Robert

Dear Robert,

Exactly resurrection, since so many sad news coming all around. I heard tonight that the father of an acquittance died, but the poor son was not informed. Yesterday, I had the same story about the medical doctor from Leskovac. The system is not functioning. I remember during wartime, I should have issued a death list immediately and send a telegram to the family. It is an act of respecting the dead and legal issues. We are really feeling depressed a little bit more than yesterday since there is no empathy, just the whole day TV intimidation. I am wondering what is happening with psychiatric patients, depressive and anxious people, lonely people, people with a special need, and the most important, older people. So many things remind me of the film “Platform,” but I do not go further since, on your Platform was Easter, and I am glad to hear that you celebrated decently, with lamb, wine, etc. I didn’t hear from you who wins in egg battle.

Nina has celebrated Easter as well in Vienna, and the Easter bunny has brought some lovely presents to kids. It was so nice to see them happy. They had a beautiful day started with a big breakfast with neighbors.

In Serbia, we have celebrated today’s festivity “Cveti” (Eng. probably Blooms), which should remind us entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem. This holiday always falls on a Sunday. The name “Cveti” is named after the palm tree that Jesus Christ carried in his hand. What I know is that it is a red-letter in the calendar and that we should not work. From another side, I am working a lot, for my antidoping job, university lecturing and learning of pharmacology. Since it did not go, as usual, It seems that was the influence of “Cveti.” However, I think that without all these things which occupied me, I will be nervous. As I wrote, only routine is saving us all.

I am thinking of spending Easter in the village. When my first granddaughter is born, I have planted 158 threes of all kinds of fruit, and there is nobody who could take care of them. I thought that it would be good for us to go in nature since, after a month at home with all these curfews, I fell some stiffness in joints and muscles. The only problem we see is that we could get 24 hours curfew and that we could not come back to Belgrade. It could be like in some good apocalyptic movies. Unfortunately, none of them is going with a happy ending. It falls to my mind, “Time of the Wolf,” the film of the great Austrian director Michael Haneke (https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0324197/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1).

Let’s see what will happen. The good that our diary is going. I talk with many good people and friends, which helps me, and them as well, to sat sound. Just imagine the monk Teodosije informed me today that he sent some surprise book for me. Probably, that would not be possible if there is regular time in Hilandar.

I wish you to stay focused and relax. Our regards to Tanja and you.

Nenad

— Day 14 —

Dear Robert,

Just today I would like to do it first. I have to translate what Dr. Ana (I don’t know the name wrote on twitter).

THIS IS A VIEW FROM MY HOSPITAL ROOM

This is a view from my hospital room at KBC “Zvezdara,” Belgarde, Serbia. Of course, as a doctor, I didn’t have enough protective equipment. Of course, I worked with a COVID19 positive patient who we didn’t know he was +, and of course, I soon got symptoms.

I remember precisely that call in the evening when, after a 12-hour shift, the team chief called me to let me know that one of the patients I was being treated is COVID positive. All I have to do is wait and be confident because I’ve never had problematic lungs.

It started with a low fever, then a higher fever, then a temperature that didn’t drop on 2000mg Paracetamol. Then a sore throat, a dry cough, and a persistent headache. On the second day, when the constriction in the lungs began, I listened to my lungs, and I know. Everything was clear to me.

Tomorrow morning, I called my colleagues from the Clinic of Infectious Diseases. The Roentgen showed bilateral pneumonia. I had the emergency hospitalization at KBC “Zvezdara,” which, I think, is just then opened for the admission of COVID patients. I was the first in a four-bedroom to fill up in less than 24 hours.

The nurses have agitated because of the death of a colleague born in 1987, who became infected with a Covid19 + patient. For three days, patients were continually arriving at the Clinical Hospital Center “Zvezdara.” One night shift from 8 p.m. had 80 admissions. And the doctors, the nurses, the cleaning ladies all worked tirelessly.

I want to THANK YOU to all the nurses, doctors, cleaning ladies of KBC “Zvezdara”, to commend the exceptional the organization, human attitude, care, cheerfulness while working 8 hours shifts under the equipment, without being able to eat, drink or drink water or go to the toilets.

They have fog goggles and they have two size pairs of bigger gloves. The nurses puncture practically blind the veins. They all sweat under the equipment, and they often rustled through the corridor looking like this.

The organization of KBC “Zvezdara” was top notch. They did a maximum concerning what they have at their disposal. Beside each bed was oxygen, garbage emptied 5,6,7x a day. If there was no cleaning staff, nurses did it. Floors were cleaned two times a day, door handles, sinks, taps, etc..

One day they told us to lock all the windows and doors, that no one goes out for an hour, disinfection is done inside and out. Some noisy machines worked for 45 minutes, and no one was allowed to go outside for 45 minutes, say the nurses after “The Russians brought some miracle.”

I watch people complain about home quarantine. I’ll just tell you this …

– Freedom is when you can breathe fully with your lungs.

– Freedom is when you can sleep in your bed.

– Freedom is when you can sleep in whatever the position you want without being bruised by I.V. cannula if you bend your arm.

– Freedom is that you can store whatever you want at home without being dependent on hospital food (which was very decent, and I would commend it). Later, we got organized, so families and relatives were handing out packages at the entrance, and the sisters were taking to our rooms.

– Freedom is when you don’t see, they pushed dead man the second day of hospitalization, who died two rooms away from yours, on a department for not severe patients.

– It’s freedom when the nurse doesn’t come in your room in the morning and says, “Ladies take off all the personal belongings, rings, chains and give back to the families, you know why you are here, you know what can happen” … When I didn’t die then. None of us returned anything, and we wanted to go home with our chains.

The head of pulmonology told me that I was lucky to come after two days of symptoms. The first four days, we all slept mostly, terribly tired, the two of us with persistent headaches. Every 3 hours, oxygen and temperature are measured, then control RTG, lab, swab …

And now I tried a lot. I have not yet cleared all the stuff from the hospital. Only now, I see how sick I was in the first four days in the hospital. They told me 5th the day was the worst. Yes, the younger people who went bad, they come too late.

I have not seen my parents since all this with Covid19 started, and I will not see them until the end of self-isolation, and at least I have saved them. A lot of us haven’t seen our families, and most don’t know when. A lot of medics have also been hospitalized.

Quite a few of my colleagues have isolated themselves from families, a few come together and rent apartments, which should be a shame for the state, as they couldn’t provide hotels. The Four Seasons in NYC opened the door to medics, and none in Belgrade did it.

These people, from cleaners to doctors, do not have to receive applause every night at 8 p.m. Insufficiently protected, often dressed in bags, half of them buying goggles and visors, separated from families sent to war against the virus, and they don’t even know if they will get infected.

They are wondering why in Slovenia and Croatia, it is better with smaller measures towards citizens. Well, they simply have better health care. Our health has been plagued for decades, belittling nurses, doctors, politicizing hospitals, health centers, and director were agreeing on everything to stay in armchairs.

At the time of the pandemic, the director of the “Narodni Front” forbade employees to wear masks. The result is more than half of the infected medical collective. Will he be responsible for consciously endangering the health of others, that is what I would like the government to respond to that?

I read that the hospital director “Laza Lazarevic” forbade employees to wear the gloves. Would she also be responsible for consciously endangering the health of employees and patients, and would the government answer to us?

This same Clinic of Infectious Disease, which has all the experts and organizes the now lion’s work, examines, receives samples and distributes the findings. They send its professor to consult all hospitals daily, and wherever it is needed. No one has renewed the building for decades.

You have been ruining the health care system for decades (both the former authorities and the current government, because realistically, the 25 years are the same people in the political arena). Now we have results, no equipped hospitals, no facilities, with the humiliated people you forced to leave.

Because here, singers, reality freaks, and overbearing Youtubers are more valuable than doctors. You have transported Saban Saulic’s body by a government plane. At the same time, you undervalue the nurses and the maids of the hospitals. That is why we are here, now.

This is why all press conferences look the same to you, the empty measures, and a lot of politicization by doctors. You have mostly brought those who can control what they will say. Until you finally banned live conferences. Then write announcements at 3 p.m., we don’t have to look at you.

Because while you were clearing yourself at the 26.02.20 press conference. “the funniest virus in human history” when Italy people were dying, SERBIA AND ITS PEOPLE LOST PRECIOUS 3 WEEKS TO PREPARE, for the procurement of masks, protective suits, gloves, disinfectants …

Quarantine is not the most significant burden on Serbia. And if you lock us in houses 24/7, we will endure. The biggest problem is you arrogant, immoral, narcissist who does not see your mistakes, do not admit it, interfere with other professions and think that you will forever be like that

These people have humanity, decency, care, empathy, knowledge. I saw that in the hospital. All that you do not have, and you are trying to turn the majority into that arrogant flaw minority of yours. Serbia will leave quarantine, and then you have a nice shopping trip to Milan, so we don’t look at you again.

I do not want to add anything.

Enjoy your Platform and stay healthy,

Nenad

Dear Nenad,

after reading this doctor’s testimony today I also will not add anything, let the text speak for itself.

Stay healthy! Robert

 

— Day 15 —

Dear Nenad,

It seems that the numbers here are moving in a better direction, i.e. that both the daily number of deceased and the daily number of people newly being accepted in hospitals is decreasing, also there are 88 less people on the IC now compared to Saturday. I see the same move in numbers in Italy and Spain, so let’s hope that the measures are starting to have effect.

Already I described my worry on the elder people’s homes and I saw on the Serbian news that in one of these institutions in Niš 140 elderly people have tested positive. This is not good news, as the death rate in elderly homes will be much higher than average. Three weeks ago I saw on TV that in an elderly home in Spain personnel had decided to move temporarily into the home, i.e. away from their own families, in order to reduce the risk of bringing in infection from the outside. Very moving to see, but the question of course is for how long you can do this. And many people working in these homes in The Netherlands do not have sufficient protective equipment, as all supplies now go to hospitals, they are working on this, but it might be too late. The long working hours is also of course a worry we both share for all the medical personnel. It is possible to work long hours for a period, but how long will they be able to continue in this way, even apart from the risk of infection ?

For most people at home it is the other way around. Here there are a lot of newspaper articles that more divorces are expected as a result of people having to stay home all the time. Having too much idle time seems to be difficult for us, although we usually dream about it when we are hard at work.

Going to a village would at least give some kind of relaxation, as I noticed Sunday when we were driving around, but I understand that you are worried about the curfew. From Italy I know that it is forbidden to go to your second home. When people travel they have to show a document stating the reason for their trip, and going to for instance a village is not permitted. Here it is still allowed and I even talked yesterday to a friend who has a second house in the North of The Netherlands and offered us that we can stay there if we liked, if we want to get away from the town a little bit, which is very nice of him.

Yesterday here was the second Easter day, on which the last years big furniture shops were open and many families went to visit (why people like this furniture shopping, I do not know, but they seem to do). Luckily yesterday it seems that people tried to stay at home (although not all of them) and shops had special measures implemented. As this lasts longer it will be ever harder to manage this, especially as the weather is getting better and people get fed up of staying inside.

Now that the numbers are moving in a better direction there is the possibility that people will get less strict in following the measures and we might be back in exponential growth of the virus in no time. And when we start seeing the first companies going bankrupt, I am afraid that we might get into difficult discussions. People are already calculating what the effect of the economic crisis on the life expectancy of people will be and wondering out loud if this is all worth it. They of course then believe that they themselves will survive the virus. But I also regularly read about younger people dying from the virus, so I do not know why they think that they are safe. Let’s hope that we will stay out of this discussion and that we keep intergenerational solidarity alive.

Another phenomenon of course is ‘fake news’. We had plenty of it before the corona crisis, but also now some stories are circulation. In the last days already a couple of 5G network masts were set afire, apparently by people who believe that 5G is helping the virus to spread. As we discussed yesterday news was also posted that in Italy only few people died of corona, with a reference to an official report. However, if you read the report you see that this conclusion is not in there. But a rumour nowadays is sent around at record speed with social media, so fact checking stays very important.

With all the news we are reading and hearing from friends, it is difficult not to be depressive. So I try to read some books which give me a better feeling. I just finished a book from a young Dutch historian and writer called Rutger Bregman (I do not know if there is already an English version), which is called in translation “Most people are good”. He for instance starts with the following question, which is tested each year on students of social psychology:

An airplane has just made an emergency landing, breaks in three pieces and the cabin is filling up with smoke. Everyone knows they have to get out as soon as possible. What happens?

  • Planet A: Passengers ask each other how they are. Persons that need help go out first, people are willing to give their lives to save others.
  • Planet B: Everyone thinks of himself, panic breaks out, kicking and pushing. Children, elderly and people with a handicap get trampled over.

The question is on which planet do we live ? Whereas 97 % of respondents answers Planet B, historical evidence shows Planet A. He gives a book full of evidence that our idea that most people are not good is not in line with the historical facts. It was a nice book to read and, although I am not 100 % convinced yet, it at least gave me some hope that things might turn for the better.

International solidarity is under pressure, but we have been able in the past for instance to build an organization like the Red Cross and I do think that there is a lot of scientific cooperation now on finding a medicine opr a vaccin, so let’s not abandon hope!

Wishing you hope and positivism! Robert

Dear Robert,

 

I am not sure of my positivism since we are not going in a better direction. We have more infected people, two last days more than 400, plus so many disturbing news, plus new measures from Government. Next weekend we will have a curfew from Friday till Tuesday, the whole Easter. Regarding yesterday’s story of a medical doctor, I have got a controversial reaction. The nurse which we are supporting http://www.plustri.com/1000-portreta/zorica-grujicic-1986-izgubljena-u-pandemiji-lost-in-pandemic/ said that she doesn’t believe with her eyes how is possible that in one part of the hospital system is functioning in other part, patients are fighting to get therapy. Definitely, too many controversies in the system which actually doesn’t exist. It seems that we don’t have only fake news, but different impression for the same event.

Our yesterday action to check is it the truth that from more than 5000 patients, only seven died of Covid is solved by your search and provide the reference document. Using that as a piece of essential knowledge, I published an article in my column in telegraf.rs. https://www.telegraf.rs/zivot-i-stil/zdravlje/3178171-prof-dr-nenad-dikic-upozorava-na-jos-jednu-opasnost-koja-vreba-uporedo-sa-korona-virusom I have got a different reaction, but some negative, since my friends said that I had posted that news yesterday before I have checked is it correct, and I spread the fake news like others. Generally, he is right, and maybe I should check the report, especially the serious one. It must be some recommendation about what should do each of us to stop spreading the fake news.

And because of fake news, but not only them, I am not sure should I go to the village. Traveling is not forbidden out of curfew, but what if they do 24 hours curfew, and I could not come back. Officials are threatening all the time that even that measure is an option. Really grotesque, in Austria people are returning the life in normal, in Holland people are going to furniture shops, in Denmark kids started again to go to school, and in Serbia, stricter isolation is imposed, but epidemiological situation is not bit different. What are we doing wrong?

On another side, the villagers are calling me and asking me to do something in my orchid. Nature could not wait. A few weeks ago, we did the cutting of trees, then painted trees trunk, etc. Now they said it is the right moment to do fertilization and digging the soil around the trees. And because of everything Ana and me decide to go to Adrovac. At least we could put everything in order, and work there as in Belgrade. I just bought today a portable WiFi router. I hope that we would not have any problems.

Where we expect the problem is Nina coming from Vienna since Macron announced he would propose that Schengen stay closed until September 1st. That is depressing, not to see granddaughters for so long.

Regarding your phycological story, I could say that it is overlapping with some stories I know. Actually, in a real situation, when people are faced with a terrible situation, they are acting with empathy to others, helping and supporting each other. All those stories from concentration camps, airplane disasters, war, etc. are full of positive examples. I believe that “historical evidence” prevails today as well. The whole day the main topic in Serbia is the last goodbye letter of the head of the urgent center who died of Covid. “As Urgent Center Director two months before retirement, I stood in front of my people, dear doctors, and nurses… I don’t want to go quiet, I want to leave the way I have been all my life, and my friends, colleagues, family know that.” was the last words of Dr. Miodrag Lazic.

So real turmoil, my dear Robert. Maybe, because we are small and everybody knows everybody and the news are travel fast. Perhaps, we are doctors and have more information. Maybe because this is Balkan and it was never organized and prepared for any disaster, but always brave people died in the front line, without taking care of themselves. Maybe because of that, we need a curfew, since we don’t play as expected.

But you are right. We need positivism

Nenad

 

— Day 16 —

Dear Nenad,

Let me start with the good news: in The Netherlands again hospital patients and intensive care patients have dropped. The number of deaths, however, is not yet dropping significantly. Let’s hope that this trend will continue. They have also started with a plan to restart ‘normal’ operations, i.e. to start working on all the non-corona operations, such as for heart diseases or cancer, which had been postponed. Also good, because as the number of corona patients on the IC’s is decreasing, the number of non-corona patients is 50 % of what it is normally. This means that people are not seeking medical care when they should, probably out of fear.

The issue of fake news, I know, is a sensitive one. Some weeks ago someone I knew on Linkedin posted a message that gasoline stations pose a big threat and that his source was hospital personnel. So I also shared this post, in order to warn people as soon as possible. In the end this also turned out not to be true and ever since I have been more cautious in sharing things.

It is a good idea to visit Adrovac, while you can. It will set your mind to different things for a while. And the good thing is that we humans have come to a stop, but nature has not.

Today I worked only half a day (did a video course), because I am celebrating my 54th birthday. So I decided to go on the balcony, sit in the sun, have a good drink and today with a bottle of wine I will sit together with Tanja and discuss what I have learned over the years…What I most miss on my birthday is to share the wine, cake and food with my friends, so I can now do it only online (and you will have to bring your own wine, unfortunately….). Indeed not knowing when we can again see our family and friends is one of the most difficult things now.

As you said in Serbia there have been examples of extreme altruism, despite the extremely violent circumstances in history. Unfortunately here in The Netherlands not many people know those stories, it would be worth wile to have more books, movies etcetera on them. When you wrote about this yesterday, Bajaga’s song ‘Ovo je ovde Balkan’ came into my mind. Maybe it explains, in a strange way, some of the things I love about Serbia, although and probably because they are extreme.

For those that read our diary, but do not understand Serbian, here is my humble translation:

This here is the Balkan,
Country from a dream
In between mighty powers,
Good and evil,
Here everyone can be your enemy and your brother,
And every fifty years a war breaks out.

This country was made by
Soldiers and poets
And different Gods

This here is the Balkan
Beautiful flower
Totally not understandable
For the whole world
Here everyone can be your enemy and your brother,
And every fifty years a war breaks out.

This country was made by
Soldiers and poets
And different Gods

Enjoy your trip to Adrovac! Robert

Happy birthday Robert!

Is it really possible that only four years have passed from your unbelievable celebration of the 50th birthday in Italy? I said then that kind of event we will miss in the future, with such a pleasant atmosphere, your friends from everywhere, delicious food and high energy.

Actually, I have that feeling more and more all these years, not because of this corona disaster but because of the unequal share of wealth. Last scuba diving in Indonesia showed that our lifestyle on the liveaboard was extreme compared to the life of local people. If I add that our group is modest, from not so developed country, then it questions about the difference between some group of scuba divers from Western Europe or US and Indonesians. On another side, when you speak with the people, you could not see such a big difference except for the many ordinary things in the West, including traveling abroad. That impression I have everywhere, with our dive masters in Egypt, guides in Ethiopia, Sherpas in Nepal, divers in the Maldives, all of them have the same wishes as me, but not the equal opportunities. It is really a question why people are not helping each other more? Still, the Western world is taking raw material from the third world and paying less. Is it possible that the world continues to live if the reach is paying raw material (last say coffee) a dollar and sell ten times more? Is it normal that the rich are not supporting the poor with technology to provide them water and basic needs, to teach them how to do something, and teach them to be sustainable? After, when we get migrants, we don’t like them. Just imagine now what is the life in migrants camps right now, not in Syria and Turkey, but on European soil. Somehow what is happening right now is happening for a reason.

Like in Bajga’s song, you have translated, “Here everyone can be your enemy and your brother,” unfortunately enemy prevails. Even here in Adrovac where we arrived on time, before curfew, the situation is similar. The certain tension is around us. I didn’t mention it, but Ana started to have hypertension, because of the everyday stress and uncertainty. Simple people are changed during this one month, and everybody should be cleaver to stay sane. We have here relatives, and Lilja is not a typical representative since she is superior to the local population http://www.plustri.com/en/1000-portreta/ljiljana-novakovic-exsavic-1951-intelektualka-iz-male-zemlje-srbije-intellectual-from-small-country-serbia/ Now, because she is over 65 it is forbidden to her leave the house. Maybe that will be okay, that there are no people who following and reporting her or similar people who are not supporting major political parties. This is a small community and everybody knows everybody and this is animosity is really happening. I don’t want to elaborate this more, and please read the second part of the letter of Dr. Ana, who defeat corona. Unfortunately, we have parallelly two significant issues at the same time. Ljilja is upset, but not because of the corona.

To come back to your Rutger Bregman, “Most people are good” only if they are informed if they are treated as equals with a real wish to help them. Unfortunately, that is not happening. If it is like that 200 km south of Belgrade, imagine what is in Ethiopia. Maybe, for people from Holland good example is Indonesia, where Dutch people left certain traces. Wouldn’t it be reasonable for Dutch to help Indonesians now, because they have done so much harm to them? I remembered talking with students on Fatahillah Square in the Old Town of Jakarta, who asked me to answered some questionnaires from the history of Indonesia. The essence was the search for how to understand the complicated relationships with the Netherlands. I told them that in spite I am from Europe I have the same question, not only about Nederlands but other EU countries. Is it normal that the EU is blind to the dictatorship in Europe or in any other country? How is it possible that powerful states are supporting non-democratic countries? Why they are concerned only when the problem comes to their door? For example, the Syrian problem started with global warming problems in the country. Then, lack of food, lack of possibilities for people to survive forced people to move to big cities in search of a job. And then with political radicalization sparkled from the west, so-called “Arabian spring” finished (or pray that is finished) with 586000 deaths and about 6 million refugees. They have the same dreams as we are. I know some Syrians and I am aware of how educated and cultural people they are. I am sure that “Most good people” if they are from rich countries should use their power to change the world to be better placed, or we could say that we are living on “Planet B.” It all depends on how long this blindness will last.

Obviously, fresh air in Adrovac activates some of my synapses, but I should back to reality. Tomorrow we will have lunch with my relatives to cheer their spirit a little and provide them some necessary things since they could not go shopping. Later days I should put fertilizers in my orchard, and work around the house. Definitely, it is good to be here, if not because of us, but because of everything that this place means to my family, and promise to my grandmother that I will maintain the house.

Wishing us hope and positivism, like you said.

The last wolf from Adrovac

— Day 17 —

Dear Nenad,

Good to read that you have arrived in Adrovac, which will hopefully give some relaxation as well. In addition, probably the number of infections is still lower in the country side than in the cities, although we have seen in The Netherlands that also small places can easily get high numbers of infections if there is an active community life.

Your remarks about inequality in the world are of course very true and having travelled a lot myself (amongst others for scuba diving), I have seen tremendous differences. Added to that is that in the current crisis people in these countries will be hit extra hard, as there are just not enough hospitals and social distancing in a part of town with houses made from corrugated sheets is impossible.

Most people would agree with Rutger’s thesis if they apply it to people with whom they are in direct contact. However, as the book describes, one of the issues is that we are also very tribal people. If I remember well it was Josef Stalin that said: “One death is a tragedy, a million deaths are statistics”. It brings me back to the discussion on the third pillar, our community (or our tribe), and how large we want it to be. If you have travelled a lot, like we did, you like to think of your community as an international one. There is a theory that it takes a link of only 5 people to get to any person on the planet. If this is true, it should not be difficult to get worldwide solidarity. And this crisis shows us also how connected we really are in the current world, just be looking at the speed at which the virus has spread.

Unfortunately, in times of crisis, people seek security also in belonging to their tribe. And then it is very important how people define their tribe. This made Yugoslavia fall apart and this is the reason for the current discussions on financial solidarity in Europe, let alone if we talk about the rest of the world. It is easier for us as human beings not to have solidarity with groups that we can put a label on and then in a way ‘dehumanize’ them. Someone is in the newspapers a ‘Syrian refugee’, but if you know some people they all of a sudden become fathers, friends, doctors, etcetera, in other words they become very much like us. So in my view to best way to fight for instance discrimination is to ensure that people get to know each other as people, not as groups that read about each other in newspapers (in which the focus is by definition on the negatives).

The second part of your remarks is that we often do not see the systemic causes of conflicts and also do not act until the problem is at our doorstep. There are always several reasons to explain how problems or conflicts arise. Colonialism from Europe is one (of course in Indonesia, but also in Syria), political decisions to support or not support certain governments is one, but also for instance environmental reasons and I can name another ten. In the case of Syria, for instance, I believe that the increasing water shortage has also played a major role. Because of this, many farmers could not survive and moved to the towns, creating a new unsatisfied and unemployed underclass. Because of the water shortage I remember seeing a study from 2008 that classified Syria as a potential conflict area. But when the conflict broke out, Europe was not prepared for the effects.

The problem with these systemic causes is that they all work long-term and are never the sole reason for a conflict. And like with the frog of Avogadro, if things go gradually, we tend to get boiled without jumping out. And then when things happen, we go to fast measures, because we have for instance not been working on strengthening our medical capacity for a pandemic or have not been foreseeing certain conflicts and prepared for that. As we get more connected, the only way to really solve these global problems, is international cooperation. And the fact that Trump just decided to stop paying the WHO gives little hope for the future.

Nevertheless, with so big problems it sometimes feels like the question how to eat an elephant, i.e. piece by piece. Unfortunately, we cannot solve everything immediately, but each one of us can do something immediately. I cannot prevent people getting infected, but I can prevent them getting infected by me. If enough people follow that example, we will slowly get to a much larger solution.

A friend of ours who took us to Nepal, always quoted Mahatma Gandhi: ‘ ‘Be the change you want to be in the world.’ Often I think about this and in my experience this is not easy and not fast, but it is at least a step ahead.

Stay healthy! Robert

Dear Robert,

Yes, it is nice to be in the village again — a different environment, calm, clean, fresh, and of course, lots of memories and family history. I am just watching the mirror of my mother and thinking about how great a witness it is. If the mirror could speak, who knows what I would learn. From another side, different people in the village, not comparable with Nepali guides who are quoiting Gandhi, not similar to your thoughts about prevention awareness.

The Center of the small city of Zitkovac was crowded like during the fair, too many cars, people around without mask and gloves, and no distance. Many people on the street are standing just like that, without an obvious job. Since the new measure is curfew during Easter, I saw more people in the churchyard then usual. I was there to buy a cresset to burn it for my grandmother and grandfather. Somehow it looks like they are catching last moment to be present on holy ground, many of them older than 65 years.

We had the meal with my relatives, on dissent distance, and without significant risk, since both sides have been in isolation for four weeks, with limited interference with others. It seems that the situation frustrated us a lot since we discussed all the problems we faced. It seems an important question are we in stress because of corona and fear that we will be ill or because we are locked, and by curfew, our movement is maximally limited (in their case totally, since they are older than 65).

I have also argued with the editor of my column at 45+ https://tosamja.media/ since she claimed that it is not correct to say that we are in stress because of curfew since obviously we are tense because of the corona.

That brings me to the conclusion that because we don’t have prevention awareness you mentioned, curfew has been imposed on us, we have been additionally stressed, acting less responsibly, and we get 4-day curfew. How great it will be to know to quote Gandhi.

It seems that we are experimental Avogardo frogs whose cage is shrinking, and somebody testing us how much we could endure. I should go back and argue for empathy and the positive attitude of the people who are taking care of us. Maybe, that is the key why we have more Covid cases comparing to similar countries.

Tomorrow, we are fasting because it is Good Friday, who is called like that because it led to the Resurrection of Jesus and his victory over death and sin. Maybe this could be a breakthrough like some of our epidemiologists announced. We will dye the eggs in the name of that, and like I said I would beat Ana in egg fight.

Until then let’s stay healthy and be the change we want to be!

Nenad

— Day 18 —

Dear Nenad,

First of all wishing you all the best for Good Friday, I hope you have won the egg battle! The last day of the Lent, after which we can celebrate the Resurrection. Let’s hope that we will have a positive turn in this situation, although I understand that in Serbia there will be a curfew now for the whole weekend, including Monday. So I assume you have in the meantime returned to Belgrade.

Luckily the number of IC patients in The Netherlands is still slowly dropping, which will give at least a bit of relief to the health system. A big discussion has started here now in parliament on whether or not to use mouth caps, as both Belgium and Germany are using them. It seems that slowly the government is admitting that the lack of them is the main issue, rather than whether they are useful or not, but it is still going to be a long discussion.

In Italy today the number of deaths has increased again, although the number of new case and the number of IC patients is still dropping. On the Serbian news I saw today that a Dr. Nestorović said that ‘we have conquered the coronavirus’. In view of the Italian numbers this looks to me as a bit premature conclusion, what do you think ?

What I do notice is that several countries have started to make ‘exit’-plans, in other words how can the economy slowly be started again, whilst taking into account the 1,5 m distance and the other measures. For instance Denmark has started to reopen schools, although with extra measures, and the US are thinking about a 3 phase plan. We will need some creativity on this and I am trying to help companies now to share best practices and see where different parts of society can help each other. Let’s not forget that the so-called vital companies have continued working and in the meantime have developed new working practices, taking the special measures into account. As I have little knowledge in the medical field, at least I can try and do something in the economic field.

The only thing still improving everywhere is the air and water quality. I have already read some interesting proposals on how to work in the future. Now that we got more used to working from home, you could imagine that we do this in the future for 2-3 days a week. The reduction of car traffic as a result of this would already be a tremendous gain in terms of environmental impact.

What do you think will be the changes in the way we work in the future as a result of this crisis?

Wishing you a good weekend, despite the curfew! Robert

Dear Robert,

Actually, egg fighting is on Sunday, today we dyed the eggs. But you should congratulate us 84 hours curfew, probably the world record for corona, if there is any other country with the curfew, except Republika Srpska. So until Tuesday at 5 a.m. people should stay at home. Just imagine how many people have been today on the streets to prepare for that. Every curfew is a simple buster for new corona.

Today I met people who don’t know about the corona. The farmers from remote villages who will help me with mowing the grass explained to me they are doing everything as usual, since they so many to do that they don’t have time to watch TV. I have the impression they are practicing Swedish model, without knowing that. They are lucky to live far away from the main roads, so even the police do not patrol there. When I am mentioning patrolling, I noticed a more significant presence of the police than usual. Is it really necessary to intimidate poor people at the moment?

Not only are the farmers not interested in corona, but we are also passing regularly through gypsy parts of the city, and they act so normally, without social distancing. I have the impression that more gypsies are on the street than usual. It seems they are practicing the Swedish model. There are at least three facts regarding them. First, they do not have conditions to be isolated, plus hygienic settings are so weak. Second, they could not afford anything meaningful for the moment from disinfectants, to face masks, and they don’t have health insurance. Third, none of them is infected, which is superb, and it will be good to stay like that. That reminds me of some history of the infections when rich people have sent children to play with the poor to get immunity. A great story about that is Polio paralysis and Poliovirus. Finally, I listened to some gypsies who said that economic crisis would be hard since they are the first who felt that on their income. As you know, they are collecting secondary raw material from the garbage, which is now impossible because of many factors.

These satirical stories are just the opposite of life in a big city, like Belgrade. Our close friend got abdominal pain yesterday, and she should have to be operated urgently. It was not possible, easy, and safe to be treated in state hospitals, and she was operated privately. Unfortunately, it was a tumor. We don’t know the diagnosis since the pathology should be done, and that is now very slow because of isolation. I am sure that operation is done correctly, but I know that this kind of operation is always better to be done in state hospitals because the treatment of tumors is not easy. Finally, she should have to pay this operation in spite we are all paying healthcare insurance, which is unfortunately valid only for state hospitals.

But the most important fact is that her husband is Dutch. The outbreak has separated them, and now he is trying to come to Serbia. The only reason why he is coming to help her and take care of her. We spent a lot of the day looking for the possibility that he passed the border police without detention to public isolation. Of course, the trip was impossible, with certificates of both Ministries of foreign affairs, etc. Unluckily, like in Serbia, he could not be tested on his demand in Holland, although I think that his testing is medically justified. The strange thing that politicians, police, and all kind of experts have influenced that decision in every country. I hope that he will manage. Keep you inform tomorrow.

Corona is influencing the life of the people a lot. Hardly wait to the end of outbreak and analysis who was right. According to current statistics, we are not doing so well. I am sure that all European discussion about different strategies take time. For the moment they are not sure should they use masks or not, should they continue the football championship or not. For example, Scotland closed the championship, and Italians who are with the highest number of deaths are still thinking of continuing. It is not good; there are so many different approaches for the same thing. For me again, the biggest concerns are my daughter and granddaughters could come to Belgrade or not, and when it will be possible. And when they come are tey going to have the right to go back. That partially answers your question are there going to be changed the way we work. People all around Europe are working all around, and it seems that it should be changed, and that will influence the EU economy a lot. Funny thing from the perspective of Brexit, it looks like they got with corona proof that it will be better to be separated. Let’s see what will happen.

So in front of us our first curfeweekend.

Wish you to stay safe and relaxed on your Platform,

Nenad

— Day 19 —

Dear Nenad,

It was good to see each other today on Facetime and excellent to see Adrovac! When I saw it, I immediately felt like drinking a rakija..It was an excellent decision to go there for this Easter weekend. As I understand it is one of these villages which is getting emptier and emptier. If I remember well three or four years ago for the first time more than 50 % of the world population was living in cities. This also means that there is more vulnerability for infections, with so many people living in cities.

The story you told yesterday about your friend who had an operation and her husband not being able to visit her, is hard to read. At the moment many people are sick alone/dying alone, only seeing medical staff in protective suits. We have to think also about this, how can we find protective measures but also find a more human way to deal with this ? As we know, babies that get food but are not cuddled will die. As human beings we also need to be close with other people, so we do not only have to think about the economic measures but also about the human measures.

Maybe one of the problems is that the experts advising our government are mainly virologists, but no psychologists or other disciplines. And as I understand from the newspaper today, if as a virologist you have a different opinion than the others, you are not anymore invited to the meetings. Diversity of opinions is important, also in a crisis. And politicians obviously lack the knowledge to make the right decisions.

At least here today the number of IC patients decreased again, let’s hope that the trend continues. Also temperature is getting higher, which might help, although it is not yet clear if the virus gets less active at higher temperatures.

Meanwhile, there was an example here, which in my view shows why we have to rethink our economic system. One of the companies here in Amsterdam is booking.com. Like many others they now requested government support, which would not be unusual if you did not know that in The Netherlands they have hardly paid taxes, despite making a profit last year of 5 BILLION Euros (I am not kidding 5.000.000.000 €). Most of this has gone to their shareholders through a share buy-back program, before the crisis. These will probably be the same people that will lend money to our governments, at interest, to finance all the support programs. So they will make money twice, in the meanwhile asking tax payers to pay the salaries for the people working in this company. If this is the moral code of this company, then I think that we should really think about boycotting booking.com in the future, when we start travelling again.

Today I did some work around the house and had my weekly Greek lesson (by videoconference of course). I translated part of our diary, including Bajaga’s song ‘This here is the Balkan’ into Greek. We also talked about the measures in Greece and although their measures are very strict, at least the Greek government seems to take the time to explain extensively to the population why they are taking the measures. This was a surprise for many Greeks as during the financial crisis this did not take place. In any case Greece so far has been able to keep the number of cases and deaths very limited.

Tomorrow we have Easter (for me for the second time), let’s focus on the hope that things will slowly get better. So in anticipation for tomorrow:

Христос воскресе!/Χριστός Ανέστη! Robert

Dear Robert,

We have invented a company like Booking.com, which doesn’t pay tax, makes an extra profit, taking more and giving less, and doesn’t care about anybody except its pocket. I am shocked that we still exist since our companies and politicians are stealing people’s money and suck the blood from 1990. Until that time, we have several wars, several inflations, and several governments who swore to God that are better than previous. Obviously, there is always something which could be stolen from the people.

Yes, it was good that we came to the village, but it is not right that we don’t have a tractor since, with the tractor, you could move even during the curfew. I didn’t see in Adrovac so many tractors like these several hours today. It is good that we are here since we are working a lot in the house and around to clean it. Hope that my grandmother Zaga is happy. It is a beautiful day, and I hope that will be to tomorrow the same for Easter. Not only because of that but because I am prepared to win against Ana in egg fight and eat non-Covid roasted pig. For the first moment, I was reluctant, should we have a pig and not, and then I found evidence-based that salt and high temperature are killing Covid. So let’s see, am I right in 14 days from now, actually 33 days of Diary ( I mean 14 days of incubation from now, in spite scientific articles said that incubation is on average four days).

Tomorrow, we could not go around because of 84 hours curfew, but I planned to go to my official buddy http://www.plustri.com/1000-portreta/toplica-stojanovic-1955-pobratim-the-official-buddy/. But since we got the analysis from the first neighbor that he is a risky person since he is in contact with so many people as a churchman, we canceled it. In the New York Times, I have found an interesting article called Shame Corona, and I became a member of the same-titled group on Facebook. Actually, the stigmatization of the people is now modern if you think they do not practice recommendations against corona. It is really new, an old invention of international haters.

I had an interview chat with some of my friends, Srboljub Zunic, sports coach, about everything that is happening on Instagram. More than 25 people listened to us. I was cool, but at the moment, I thought it couldn’t be that this will be the future of communication of the people. I miss hugging and kissing with the people I like and respect.

So big hug and kiss for you and Tanja from Adrovac https://www.google.com/maps/place/Gornji+Adrovac/@43.4942102,21.6200208,14z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m5!3m4!1s0x4755d325925b58e9:0xfeb9e9359f40cb1!8m2!3d43.5036326!4d21.6363157

Nenad

— Day 20 —

Dear Nenad,

Today is a special day for us, not only did we celebrate Easter (I will not report about the egg fight, because I did not win), but we also celebrate our 29th wedding anniversary. So extra reason to eat well and drink good wine. We had a virtual ‘drink’ with friends from ours living in Amsterdam and a great dinner.

This morning we had a long walk and it is good to see that by now everyone keeps their distance, so we are slowly getting used. Talking to people they all have hope that measures will be loosened soon, which I think is very optimistic. Like I said, we will have to start using some creativity to get the 1,5 m economy going. It does come with risks though, today I read that Singapore now has a second wave of infections.

And there is of course the bad news, finding out that the parents of good friends have died of the coronavirus, we now have several friends to which this happened. It is tough to deal with that, especially now that a farewell with a lot of people is not an option. The only thing we can do is to be with our friends from a distance, continue to be careful and to hope that the situation will now really start improving.

We have the current measures until 28 April and next Tuesday we will hear what the next steps will be. I believe that one of the first things will be to re-open some schools, but working in shifts and ensuring that distances are kept. But I do not believe that restaurants will open anytime soon.

Today we talked to our Italian neighbours. I wrote to you some days ago about the appalling approach of the Dutch government towards Italy. If I hear the comments in Italy today about my country, I will make sure to speak only Italian when I am there! Luckily our neighbours know me well enough to know that not all Dutch people think in the same way.

Slowly people here start talking about how summer vacation will look like. It is a big question mark, we were planning to go to the Greek Pindos mountains for a week in May, but we have cancelled all our reservations. Mentally I think we have to prepare for a long period in which a lot of things will just not be possible.

How did your egg fight go ?

Take care of yourselves! Robert

Dear Robert,

Not only that, but we could also celebrate the 20th day of our Diary. Just imagine in a year. I am kidding, actually to take attention from the lost with Ana, 1:2. Somehow it is not nice when there are not more people for egg fight. Three eggs for the whole day, this is not real Easter.

Actually, it is not we are under curfew, which would not be so difficult if that would not continue. I believe that metaphorically curfew for all of us will be many months from now. I could not even imagine what will happen as a measure from different countries and companies.

I just read that the middle seat in the airplane would not exist anymore. For me, that means a more expensive ticket and not any preventive measure against corona, 10 or 40 cm doesn’t make a difference.

From another side, I already told you different stigmatization just started all around the world. There is a picture from Switzerland where people in small groups are laying on the grass below sign to keep social distancing. Even that term is wrong, and it should be physical distancing, not social, that “social” should never end. Ignorant politicians introduced that as a term and now we are kind of hostages. We will have more and more explanation from defenders of anticorona measures what is wrong and what is OK.

Even here in a small village with 60 inhabitants, we learned that not all are doing as it is recommended. Like I learned in Canada, “neighborhood watching”. My relatives could not go out, not because somebody will report them. That extra stress we don’t need and people are fighting against that. There is another picture on twitter where people are on anti-government protest staying on a big square in Tel Aviv but with 2 m difference between them. Somehow people will more easily learn to distance than the Government does not use situations against their people. It seems that the pledge of WHO to politicians not use this situation for the political fight was not accepted.

We are facing many health issues today. We learned that in the urgent center, they had a lot of thromboembolic conditions. That is typically happening when people are not walking. It is difficult to estimate, but that would be an excellent Ph.D. to see the difference between deaths in regular non-corona situation and pandemic. Is there anybody who will be responsible for that. My friend Silvo wrote: “I am worried about the frequently placed emphasis that deaths from coronavirus are higher among the elderly, quorum ego, of course. Yesterday’s Eco reported that the percentage recorded in Italy, where out of 18.641 victims by Covid-19, 13.408 were between the ages of 70 and 90 71,9 % of the total. I went to see the mortality boards that ISTAT published for 2019 and added the percentage of deaths aged between 70 and 99, getting a total of 84,9 %. But then there’s nothing abnormal!”

I could add that the death toll until today is on the level of the death rate of influence last year. Should we monitor the mortality of cardiovascular diseases, we would see what means real death toll. Of course, I don’t want to say that corona is not dangerous. Still, definitely, after month and a half in isolation, I think that the consequences will be more costly than the measure, and the world population would not even notice that.

Today we have worked on the land. We did fertilization of the orchard and prepared everything for mowing the grass on Tuesday. Both of us read a lot of medical literature. We spoke with lots of friends and our daughter and somehow tried to be as normal as possible.

But, personally, I had that feeling Noli me tangere! Somehow I would like that I am in some better place. During the lunch one nice, the old cat arrived. I was not completely satisfied with that, but then I thought that is the spirit of my grandmother Zaga. She treated the cats so nicely, comparing the dogs. I am joking, but cats always had milk with something in it and dogs just a bunch of bones. But if the cat was connected with my grandma Zaga then the door between the world exists. There are so many fairy tales in our culture when people from another world help the living, and we really need some help now. Maybe some of them will hear me.

Until that, I will try better to egg fight tomorrow.

Noli me te tangere and stay safe dear Robert,

Nenad

 

— Day 21 —

Dear Nenad,

From today’s figures it seems that the numbers here are again decreasing. So far it would be more than in a heavy influenza year, but certainly not much more. The difference is of course all the measures we have taken. Without them the death toll would probably be much higher.

Apart from the work on a vaccine, I understand that there are three types of medicine being tested. The first is chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, which should reduce the symptoms of the virus. The second type are medicines that reduce the immune system reaction like tocilizumab and sarilumab. The third type is the introduction of anti-bodies through blood plasma. I understand that none of these medicines so far has scientific proof that they are effective. Does this have to do with the comparability with a control group? And how do you decide to put someone in a control group, i.e. not to give medicine. This looks to me like a big moral dilemma for doctors.

In Amsterdam there seems to be a company called deedmob, which developed an app not to check us but to help us. Through the app they couple volunteers with people who need something (for instance shopping). I think that these developments will help the development of the third pillar, i.e. the community, which is hopeful.

Our government has also held a tender for companies to propose a corona app, but all failed as the privacy was not guaranteed enough. It at least gives some hope that privacy is still taken seriously.

On the economic field, for me the situation with the oil industry is starting to get worrying. There are two big problems, one is that the oil price is so low that some companies will get in trouble. The second is that the demand for benzine and kerosene has gone down tremendously (logical because there are much less cars on the road and airplanes in the air). So the storage capacity is getting full. The combination of these two factors might trigger a decision form some companies to shut down refineries. However, refineries make more products such as naphtha, which is a very important raw material for the chemical industry. But of refineries are shut down, also naphtha will not be made, which might the close down chemical plants and as a result many more industries that use chemicals as raw materials.

Because of the interdependencies of all these industries, the problem all of a sudden becomes much larger than a problem only of the oil industry. So we have to find a creative way to get the economy going again, whilst taking the 1,5 m distance into account. How can we be more creative ?

Tomorrow there will be a government press conference, in which they will announce what we will do after 28 April. Let’s see what the new measures will be.

Keep safe! Robert

Dear Robert,

According to any dana, unfortunately, numbers are not decreasing. Actually, they are not even flattening. I have found the CDC site with live graphs, and it is straightforward to see that all the parameters are rising. Unfortunately, there is not a big difference between the Swedish model or Dutch despite Sweden is doing differently. I had the impression that Serbia was the worst in the region, but it seems similar to others. On this graph, Holland is just below Germany; by mistake is not written.

On another side, I have the impression that the whole life is blocked is equally dangerous, like full emergency rooms and occupied all ventilators. Maybe there is a space to think that somebody created this on purpose, like in a good movie. Like you said, what will be if they shut the oil industry? Everything will go down like a pile of cards. It is a pity that we don’t have the same graph, which is showing economic parameters.

All governments are announcing opening the space and loosening of measures. Not only me, but I see others as well, could not see that something is changed in a better direction. The number of cases, deaths, severe patients are rising, so why suddenly officials believe that something is going better. Do you see the proof for that? And even it is going god one country, and it would never be good if all European countries are not doing good.

Kind of playing hide and sick. If it is going better, why your countryman could not come to Serbia to take care of his operated wife after he got so many certificates. If green markets starting from tomorrow, why the Dutch husband should stay in isolation for 28 days. I mean, could we start from begging to treat this infection differently, or massive hysteria dictated what we are doing. It looks like an exercise which somebody created to be two months long and then everything will be like before. What about stories that the Chinese bought all American companies on their soil. What about the game about Covid tests and vaccines. What about all that ideas of Bill Gates there are too many people on Earth. Are all these stories which we are reading on social networks fake or there is some truth in them? As a medical horror fan, I could like it that all of us are not actors in it.

So I think that it is too early to say anything. I understand there many factors that are influencing the situation, but as we spoke from the real beginning, the world needs harmonized measures and more empathy. Until today we have many individual approaches and two and a half million ill people and 170.000 deaths. Let’s see what happens. Until that time, we should stay not only healthy but sane, and not only we but the whole world.

Here in Adrovac, if I am not watching TV or the Internet, the situation is calm and peaceful, like in the time of grandparents. I am 6th generation of wolfs who are walking here, and I am aware that many disasters passed over here, but probably neither one similar to the pandemic. I just started to read folks tails, so if dragons take me away or I found the door to another world.

Stay healthy and don’t give up if I am stopping with writing, begin to look for me.

Nenad

 

— Day 22 —

Dear Nenad,

I wanted to write on more things today but will leave that for tomorrow.

Just tonight we got bad news. Cees, the twin brother of my father has died. Like my father he grew up in an orphanage and did not have an easy life, as he lost his only son who then was only 19 years old. He was suffering of several diseases, including Parkinson and was already several months in a nursing home because of that. With the corona measures visits to the nursing home were forbidden, so his wife (my aunt) could not visit him anymore. Because of that he decided that he did not want to eat anymore and died. He did not die of corona, but you could say that he died due to corona. How many more of these cases are there ?

Stay safe and healthy! Robert


Dear Robert,

My deepest sympathies to you and your family. May God give your uncle the peace. I think that everybody should go by remembering who he was. Please write a few words about your uncle and he will be on my ofrenda in “Noli me tangere”.

Take care and stay safe.

Nenad

 

— Day 23 —

Dear Nenad,

 

First of all thank you for your offer, I will have to think about the right text. Today I have been very busy with work, which is good as I do not have time to think of other things then.

In the meantime it seems that people have lost their patience, in all countries they are now talking about loosening up measures. Here we had the press conference yesterday of the prime minister and the conclusion is that they will half of May only open up elementary schools, who will work in shifts to have less children there. On the economic part nothing will change, people are asked to work at home whenever they can and professions like hair dressers, physiotherapists etcetera cannot open up. Also visits to nursing homes and grandparents are not allowed, like in the last weeks. All this will stay in effect until at least the 20th of May. I think people expected more loosening up so there might be disappointment. I did like the fact that they took their time to explain the why of the measures, including the fact that medical personnel has been working too much and that regular medical care also has to restart. So we cannot afford a rebound of the virus.

Of course one of the big discussions everywhere is the corona-app (and of course every country does their own solution). Today I read the Italian news, where people also have their doubts on the privacy of this way of tracking. It is a difficult discussion, on the one hand you would like to implement it as soon as possible to help containing the virus, on the other hand privacy issues really have to be resolved. I remember reading 1984 as a teenager and I realize that today there are already much more control mechanisms on us than in this famous book. Will the app be cancelled once we have a vaccine? All kinds of questions are important before we decide to (voluntarily) download it. Will you be allowed to travel without it ?

It indeed resembles a film script more and more. If someone would have explained the current situation to us half a year ago, we would have thought that it is surreal.

What is good to see during my working day is that there are now many companies or groups of companies that have switched their production to respirators, mouth caps, screen visors etcetera. And they are not trying to earn money on this but to help society as fast as possible. Quite a difference from booking.com which is still being discussed here. I think that they have lost a lot of reputation, although the discussion of course is only here, I do not believe that they are being discussed in other countries.

Meanwhile they have also done some research amongst blood donors here. The conclusion is that so far only 3% of the population has developed a form of immunity, so we are still far away from herd immunity. Every day I see someone posting a new promising medicine, but knowing the testing procedures for medicine, I know that we will still have to deal with this crisis for an extended period of time. So I try to focus on the moment now and on the good things: I am sitting on the balcony in the sun, being able to write this diary. Compared to many other people I actually have no reason to complain.

Wishing you a focus on the good things! Robert

Dear Robert,

Actually, the excellent highlight is App and 1984 for everything that is happening to us right now. Maybe this is a breakthrough, but not from a medical point of view, but “the big brother”. The old idea to control the people could be easily implemented right now, when many human liberties are suspended, people are frightened, and saviors are around us.

Somehow I don’t believe in App since I am already sure that intradermal chips are a better solution. Right now many companies are using them for different purposes, from security, to medical reasons. After all in so many science fictions movies chips are helping administrators to recognize people. I learn as a kid that everything what sci-fi literature said it will be the truth. Just check what Jules Verne didn’t predict in his novel.

So 1984 is just a classic novel compering to all others published later. And I want to remind you of another book from Orvel. It is “Animal Farm.” Famous sentence, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others” is precisely what is happening right now. So many dilemmas, should we put old patients on a ventilator, could we take the vaccine or not, do other patients should have treatment as before, or they could wait.

Question about the vaccine is especially interesting in Serbia since Novak Djokovic said uncontrollably, “Personally I am opposed to vaccination, and I wouldn’t want to be forced by someone to take a vaccine to be able to travel. But if it becomes compulsory, what will happen? I will have to make a decision.”

First, arguing about something which is not produced is meaningless. Second, the new era of vaccine production is leaving space for discussion, in spite, humankind would not exist if there were no vaccines. I already mentioned that my heroes are Pasteur and Koch. But I think that Novak is metaphorically arguing about the same thing you said and that is controlling of people. If they make that App mandatory, the key facts will be the presence of antibodies, vaccination, or other relevant data, probably genetic information. Yes, we should discuss all those issues, since nothing is possible just like that, and speed could be used potentially against humanity.

When I mentioned antibodies, I am not sure did you have info in news that convalescents are offering to sell antibodies. I don’t have an original link from the dark web, but everything is written in the most important newspaper from the past “Politika” which is now just pale appearance http://www.politika.rs/articles/details/452666. In spite it is sensational news without the reference, it is simple going good with 1984.

If you remember, there is no sun in 1984. Thus your idea of sitting on the balcony on the sun, is similar with our todays lunch under the walnut on the sun. Just imagine that it is jeopardized these days, and it could be taken from us in the near future, under some new rules and isolation.

So, it is essential to be focused and recognize the right thing.

Nenad

— Day 24 —

Dear Nenad,

As you correctly say, it is good to think about how great it is to sit in the sun and I would like to add that I notice that nature is really getting back to the city. Yesterday we say a lot of small parrots in the trees of our street in Amsterdam. One of Tanja’s colleagues made a picture of a turtle and a heron, who were looking at each other for a minute at the canal side in the middle of the town. And Tanja’s company amongst others produces bird radars for airports, to prevent collisions between airplanes and birds. What they see now on the radars is that the amount of birds on airports is much larger than before.

During the day I now talk to many different companies to find out how they are dealing with the crisis. Whereas many citizens start complaining and have problems to accept the new situation, I notice that many entrepreneurs are trying to think about how they could work in the 1,5 meter economy and come up with creative solutions. Also different companies have found each other in a new cooperation to produce mouth masks or other medical tools.

This is great to see because it also shows the resilience of people when faced with a crisis. In the nineties I have often wondered how people in Serbia found the strength to keep on going, despite hyperinflation, sanctions and wars. But I believe that the survival instinct is one of our strong points. As they say when confronted with a threat you can either fight, flight or freeze. As flight is not possible, because corona is everywhere, the possibilities which are left are fight or freeze. And those are precisely the two reactions I notice.

The freeze reaction (which is like a rabbit freezing in front of the headlights of an approaching car) also has the danger in it of too easily accepting the reduction of our privacy. Therefore I believe that action is better than waiting. It also gives us the feeling that we can maybe not control everything, but we can control at least something. To me it gives a much better feeling. Maybe you can not control what happens to you, but you can control how you react to it. This is precisely what I learned from the writings of Victor Frankl, a concentration camp survivor.

Deciding to go to Adrovac was also an action and I am sure you feel better because you have decided to go.

Wishing you more room for the right actions ! Robert

Dear Robert,

I am not sure that that concentration camp survivors control reaction since the majority of them died after the camp was liberated. Simple some invisible force left them, and since they didn’t need anymore to resist to most humiliating human conditions, they died. Indeed Frankl tried to find a meaning of life, and he explained that in the most painful and dehumanized situation, life has a purpose.

From the perspective of Yugoslavia, I am not sure that people fight, they have been more “flight” mode, or I could say the majority did not respond to humiliation and aggression. Every Yugoslav nation lost a lot, in spite, the majority could have stop everything, but they didn’t react to the attack of the extreme minority.

The more drastic thing happen to the Jews. Their departure without resistance in the concentration camp bothers me all the time. Despite what is happening right now it is not comparable, I am concerned why people are following measures which don’t have sense, which jeopardizes their human rights. We already wrote about that, that too many autocratic politicians tried to misuse the situation.

Now the politicians are deciding everything. I wrote the article in my column about sport who is in waiting mode. Nobody knows when it will start again. Some championships are finished some, some are waiting for some miracle to be continued, but again there is no harmonized approach, in spite the sport is run by the International Federation and Olympic Committee. As we said, too much money is in, and that could be a game-changer. I have the impression that sudden loosen restriction is economical, and not medically driven. Since that is connecting with one of my jobs, I could say for the moment nobody knows on the world level what will be with the sport, and not to mention antidoping.

We have communication with regional antidoping agencies, and it seems that nobody has a solution or idea about how it will be. All of them, as you wrote, try to be creative, but the problem is somehow too big. Keep you informed, but I doubt that real doping controls will start before autumn. That makes frustrated clean athletes since they believe that dirty athletes will misuse the situation, and doped athletes whose ban expires before postponed Tokyo games could become even qualified for the games. So, many challenges in sport.

I have returned from Adrovac today, just for a few days. I hope that I will be back before the 1st of May. In spite officials are proclaiming that the situation is better, we will have tomorrow weekend curfew (Friday – Monday), and they already announced the same for the first of May. Like our painter, Ana Kapor said, “Next week is the key, it all depends on it. The next three weeks are crucial, it all depends on us. What is not clear to you ???” Serbian people say for this that crazy is f..king confused. I am happy that life is really returning in Holland, in Austria, etc. but we have always been unique in Balkan.

May the Force be with you.

Nenad

PS. Ana’s medical nurse is still in the hospital. They lost her test, and because of that she could not be released from the hospital, in spite, she doesn’t have symptoms and signs of Covid for more than 10 days.

 

— Day 25 —

Dear Nenad,

Thank you for your comments yesterday. First of all, when quoting Victor Frankl of course I did not want to make any comparison with the concentration camps. What has always inspired me about his writings is that he claims that you have a choice how to react, whilst having been in a situation in which objectively you have the smallest possibility to change anything. As he said they did not see me as a human being, but I continued to look at them as human beings.

It makes me think about the grandfather of Tanja (Novak Oparušić, the father of her mother), who was deported with other men from his village in Srem in 1942, because a railway was blown up in the neighbouring village by partisans. He survived almost the whole war, while most of his fellow villagers had died in the meantime. He stayed in Mauthausen concentration camp in despicable conditions and almost made it to the end. Finally he was killed in an allied bombardment just before the end of the war in 1944. Apparently his will to survive has been incredible, he just lacked the luck to make it until the end of the war.

His father Despot was also taken away by the Germans to Mauthausen. Last year we sent his biography which was placed at the Mauthausen memorial site https://www.gedenkstaetten.at/raum-der-namen/cms/index.php?id=4&p=55708&L=1. When he knew he was dying he gave his food to a younger guy, saying to him: you are young, you need to survive.

Nor was it my intention to comment how the majority of people behaved in the 90’s in Yugoslavia, as I indeed, like you, believe that the ‘silent majority’ could have changed things. Why this did not happen is a useful discussion for historians and psychologists, but this is not why I brought it up. On an individual level I have seen many examples of people wanting to survive and going on in spite of many adversities.

If I compare this with the experience people had that went through wars, famine and the like, I get annoyed by people claiming on Dutch TV that they cannot handle anymore being in their house with their family. I mean, come on, there is no war, people still have food, still have some possibility to move around, they can sit in the sun and they are still complaining as if it is the end of the world. I look at my country and in these people I see deeply spoiled people, thinking they have a ‘right’ to have their old life back.

Luckily I also see the other side, people that selflessly help other people, companies that do not think about making profit and pleasing their shareholders, but think how they can be useful to society, for instance by producing medical tools. People taking the trouble to bring food to their neighbours, who are in a critical group and for whom it is dangerous to go out. And this I see happening in all the countries I know well, whether it is here, Italy or Serbia. And it is those people taking action to help others which do give me hope for the future. Coming back to Marcus Aurelius and the stoics, I cannot change the world but each of us can try to do the ‘right things’.

Also I see companies here in working not only on test capacity, but also on improved tests which give an answer much faster than the current tests. Having these tests could have helped Ana’s colleague. If they lost her test, why couldn’t they have done second test. Is it because of lack of testing capacity? In any case it is good to hear that she does not have symptoms anymore, so I hope that she will be able to leave the hospital fast.

What I am trying to do at the moment is to try to help these companies which are developing medical tools to link them to other companies which could help them in speeding up the process. As I always understand most innovation happens in difficult times, because people have no choice than to be creative. And what I like is that the willingness to help each other is very large.

Today I also attended the funeral of my uncle, through internet. Of course it was better to do this than not being able to see it at all. However, if we cannot be there in person and hug our family and express our condoleances personally, the question is which society do we have left ? Although I understand that they are now choosing for this option, as big gatherings are not allowed. But I sincerely hope that this really will change soon, as without warmth and interpersonal contact what are we as human beings ?

Take care of each other ! Robert

Dear Robert,

I put the story of Tanja’s great grandfather on my “Noli me tangere” blog since it is always important to remind people of somebody like him. I believe that lots of things are happening today because of low morale and lack of humanity. Everything started from there. I hope that is Ok with Tanja. I believe that it is equally important to write not only about good people who live, as well as to good people who have died.

I have been wakening up with the lack of morale following NYT news: “We’re covering growing calls for accountability in Italy, the pandemic’s exposing of American weaknesses, and a deeply divided European Union.” Those three words, accountability, weaknesses, and deeply divided, could explain in so many countries, including mine.

I am not sure how to explain drastic measures, weekend curfew when the green markets and all kind of shops are open again, or continuation of isolation for the people older than 65 after more than 40 days. I would like to believe that growing calls for accountability will be in Serbia as well. Especially know when leading strategists officially admit they were not accountable https://direktno.rs/korona/268819/svesno-lagali-kon-u-pocetku-nismo-imali-testove-i-uslove.html.

About weaknesses better speak all those funny stories which people exchange through social networks. I believe that somebody will keep it as a reference as well. As I said, this was an excellent opportunity for many researchers to do a good Ph.D. in social sciences, even medical as well. One of the most controversial is the payment of 100 euros to every adult citizen who calls them by the phone http://rs.n1info.com/Biznis/a592611/Malio-rebalansu-budzeta-i-isplati-100-evra.html raised so many funny comments, that I am proud of my fellow citizens. It would be nice they remember that.

Weaknesses all around us. Thus the owner of TV with nation frequency, Zeljko Mitrovic, is advertising ozone therapy with few negative comments from medical professionals https://www.novosti.rs/vesti/scena.147.html:859899-Zeljko-Mitrovic-pionir-u-lecenju-Covid-19-pomocu-terapije-ozonom. The same did Trump https://edition.cnn.com/2020/04/24/politics/donald-trump-disinfectant-uv-light/index.html. Of course, US medical professional and public opinion reacted strongly against compering to week reaction in Serbia to all those ignorant guys who led the campaign of isolation. It seems that at least the most exposed Dr. Nestrovic will be brought before a court of honor of the Medical chamber http://voice.org.rs/radovanovic-ne-verujem-da-ce-lekarska-komora-postupati-u-slucaju-nestorovica/. Finally, it is evident that people are deeply divided and that not only Dr. Nestorovic should face the charges.

If I could choose, I would put an example of Jacinda Ardern prime minister of New Zeland, who asked officials to take pay cut 20% in solidarity with those hit by Covid-19. She said: “If there was ever a time to close the gap between groups of people across New Zealand in different positions, it is now” https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/15/jacinda-ardern-and-ministers-take-20-pay-cut-in-solidarity-with-those-hit-by-covid-19. Could we compare that with “You are young, you need to survive.”. Definitely, not. But that is good morale, and that what people need today. And not only that, empathy and right care which she is doing towards citizen is something which other politicians are missing. The same was after killing in the mosque last year.

I have been out today, and I watched the people. Somehow I still don’t understand why they don’t try to do the “right things,” as you quoted. Actually, that is my impression for the last 30 years. Why people are not doing “right things,” for a better future, why weaknesses and non-accountability are not publicly condemned, and why people do not fight against the division. How is it possible that old Serbian proverb “Let my neighbor’s cow die” is so powerful. A society like that is infected with much more power virus than Corona, and unfortunately, there is no vaccine.

That is precisely highlight of your diary today “Take care of each other!” Without that, there is no future, and humanity will not survive. Again, deferent few from my platform.

Finally, I helped today that Ana’s medical nurse leave the hospital since they found the test, and it was negative. That means that Zorica will stay at home for her birthday on Sunday after twenty difficult days. http://www.plustri.com/1000-portreta/zorica-grujicic-1986-izgubljena-u-pandemiji-lost-in-pandemic/

Greetings from the closed city, Nenad

PS. I am just curious on your comment to this news: https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/we-call-investigations-bill-melinda-gates-foundation-medical-malpractice-crimes-against-humanity

— Day 26 —

Dear Nenad,

It is good to hear that Zorica has been able to return home and celebrate her birthday ! And thank you also for putting the story of Tanja’s great grandfather on the site. This will help us remember.

What can I say about the accusations against Bill and Melinda Gates ? Also in the Dutch newspapers I read today that people think that with the vaccine a tiny microchip will be injected, after which the government will be able to have all information about us all the time. In other words, no apps are needed anymore. In times of crisis complot theories usually blossom and to me it seems that this is again one of those. But what can you expect when you have a president that tells you to inject disinfectant in your veins ?

In the past I read books about the last millennial change in the year 1000. Apparently also then many people were foreseeing the end of the world and when I read it I thought: this was then, this is not possible anymore in modern society. I admit that I have to change that opinion.

At the same time, there is more reason to worry about our actual governments than about these theories. In the last 20 years our right to privacy has been constantly diminishing, often for security reasons and often also unnoticed by us. Our smart phones, with GPS inside, track us on a continuous basis and I always wonder whether switching off ‘Location Services’ is just an empty button.

With the current data science it is very easy to make a complete ‘picture’ about someone and it gets dangerous where algorithms then start to decide things for us. What you said about science fiction movies is true, if you look back to older movies. This will require an in-depth discussion still, but I am not sure that this discussion will take place. I try to read different books on how technology will impact our future and usually I am not more positive when finishing those books.

In Spain they are now installing glass windows on the tables in restaurants and introducing heat camera’s, so that people can go for dinner in a safe way. The heat camera’s are also being looked at for the Italian railway stations. This means even more camera’s when the last years already it is hard to find a place in the city without a camera. Where will this lead us?

Today I also read another interesting news item: nicotine seems to help in not getting infected, see https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/22/french-study-suggests-smokers-at-lower-risk-of-getting-coronavirus. From French research they find that smokers get less often infected, however if they get infected they have more severe symptoms !Because of the speed at which news travels nowadays the French government has now already banned the online sales of nicotine products. How many more of these news items will we have in the next couple of weeks?

Wishing you strength for the curfew weekend ! Robert

 

Dear Robert,

Yes, it looks foolish. Yesterday was the whole city on the street, in the shops, all around. Just on one semaphore, I have spent 30 minutes, and today the roads are empty, and there are no people. They repeatedly say that we are flattening the curve, but if we had yesterday four deaths and today , I am not sure.

Curfew is generally stupid since people could not buy something they need if they haven’t been prepared to buy everything before. For example, I didn’t plan to make a grill or pizza during the weekend, but my favorite neighbor would like to have it. We have a small gathering during the day in the garden, with proper distance between us. So we don’t break any rules, but we could not have it something that we like. I believe that it will be present more and more in the future. Simple, as the economic crisis is growing, we could not buy something we like. Jovana likes to say, “Don’t matter” (http://www.plustri.com/1000-portreta/jovana-savkic-1990-nema-veze-dont-matter/) and I think that we should learn that to go further not annoyed with non-important things. Thus, I consider Jovana as my guru.

Yesterday, I found that our custom seizes the complete track with more than 100.000 tablets of benzodiazepines, Clonazepam and Alprazolam https://www.carina.rs/lat/Stranice/Vest.aspx?ListItemID=2930. Since I am preparing a small article about that for my column on telegraf.rs I could say the corona crisis busts that. Since Clonazepam and Alprazolam cause the same type of effects, people use the two drugs in combination with one another to enhance the effects of each drug. Clonazepam lasts longer than Alprazolam; however, Alprazolam has a shorter half-life and affects people more quickly than Clonazepam does. People who abuse benzodiazepine tranquilizers desire the relaxed feeling they cause. It seems that corona stress is high and that people are looking to relieve tension, even with a forbidden combinations. What bothers me is the fact that those drugs are making people sedated, which means less ready to fight for their rights — excellent two medications in the specter of other users in the crisis.

French officials report heart incidents in coronavirus treatments with hydroxychloroquine in combination with antibiotics. For me, the problem is not when experienced doctors are doing the therapy, but people started to use therapy by themselves. Those drugs are hazardous, and in general, they are not known to the majority of medical doctors. Previously they are used as immunosuppressive in rheumatoid arthritis and similar diseases, and for antimalaria treatments. Now they add nicotine, and smokers finally believe they at least against something protected. But that is happening, when presidents are prescribing therapy. As I mentioned, an excellent situation to do many Ph.Ds.

I would be happy that officials decide to do everything, glass windows, heat cameras just to have the right to move. From a medical point, all those things are stupid since the virus could be stopped only when the majority of the population is immune. But who cares, they are inventing like we say “hot water” in spite they just need to make the world a little bit more human. Because of that, I mentioned Bill Gates since he argued about limiting the world population for years, and finally, he has an excellent chance to (miss)use the situation. For was always the question of why he and similar powerful guys didn’t help poor nations with knowledge, computers, and technology, and then they would not immigrate, and they will produce basic things to survive. Quite the opposite, they have always been happy when something terrible was happening in the third world. The same was with HIV, Ebola, SARS, etc. Now when they have a problem on their own door, they are less malicious. I remember quite well they didn’t help the Western African countries until they didn’t get first cases on their soil. The same was with HIV. Just imagine what will be in African countries if the corona outbreak starts there. The only reasonable option I believe, they are immune because of cross immunization with similar respiratory virus infections.

So tomorrow we will improvise the meal from the ingredients we have, and we will try to please my friend Jovana. And don’t forget the mantra word “Don’t matter”, life is easier.

Nenad

— Day 27 —

Dear Nenad,

Today I sent you the interview with two doctors from California https://youtu.be/xfLVxx_lBLU. They claim a number of things. One is that the symptoms of Covid-19 might be different, but that the statistics are not so different from influenza. Another one is that our immune system does not get any better from a lockdown, so they expect a wave of other diseases when the lockdown is lifted.

The last one I thought is an interesting one, I have to think about the stomach problems most of us get when we visit countries like India, because our intestinal flora is just not used to the attack of unknown bacteria we get there. I look forward to getting your medical opinion on what these two guys are saying.

There is one additional item which I think is worth considering. What I have noticed in the last two decades is what I call an ‘americanization’ of society in Europe. The difference, I believe, is whether your starting point is trust or distrust. That the American society is based very much on distrust is understandable. Whereas in Europe most people knew each other as they were part of a close social system, in America most people were ‘newcomers’. So they did not know whom they could trust and as a result have developed a system based on distrust. You can see this in the legal system: American contracts tend to be much larger than the European (and non-British) contracts. Also the lawyer per capita ratio is much higher in the US than it is in Europe.

This is just an example, there is also a big difference in management style. Control is a typical Anglosaxon way of managing, whereas in the traditional European way there is more focus on trusting professionalism and delegating. Books have been written on this and the point for me is not to discuss things at length here but to show the effect this has had on the government here.

What I notice is that there is an overriding fear of making mistakes, because it can cost someone her or his political career. And with the speed of social media many people nowadays are already condemned before the facts are on the table. Risk avoidance is of course a good thing if you have time on your hands. But in times of crisis sometimes making a decision is better than making no decision and total risk avoidance may have an adverse effect in that instant. Decisions often need to be made on incomplete data and I always think that if all the data are there making a decision is not really making a decision anymore.

That is for me different from deferring responsibility to others so you are not to blame (The Trump method). As usual, when you have more knowledge it is easy to say why a decision was wrong in hindsight (or as they say in Dutch ‘afterwards you can always look a horse in the ass’).

We are here in a typical situation where fast decisions can prevent more deaths (look at the situation of Greece where they took early action, probably the first time in 12 years that I saw a positive article on Greece in the Dutch newspapers). The problem is that as more information becomes available that it is hard to come back from a chosen path, for fear of having to admit that maybe you did not take the right decision in the past.

To give an example here: some weeks ago a whole shipment of some 750.000 mouth caps from China was not approved for medical use. As a result now hardly any other mouth caps seem to be approved, for bureaucratic reasons, but most probably out of fear to make a mistake. And this does not help all the personnel in nursing homes who are desperately looking for protective equipment.

What I liked about the video I sent is that they did not criticize the decisions taken by the government some weeks ago, even quoting that they would have done the same. Now I lack the medical background to really understand the validity of all their arguments, but I wonder if this psychological mechanism of being afraid of making a mistake plays a role in this.

Because then a second mechanism we have as humans comes into place. People having a deviant opinion are socially isolated because of that and I think that social media only accelerates this. As someone said: If Jesus had lived today, he would probably be arrested and put in a mental facility.

Looking forward to hear your thoughts on this.

Stay safe ! Robert

Dear Robert,

I am just listening to them, since the whole day I am learning something. I could say that those two guys are right. Actually, if you check our communication, you will see that we argued the same.

From the beginning, I mentioned that the death rate is not different than flu and that all these measures are overreacted. We are suffering right now under who knows which weekend curfew.

As they said, carnitine is invented to isolate the sick, not the healthy. Somehow somebody decided to do it differently. Here in Serbia, people are saying “profession.” So, finally, two guys openly said that it is not “profession”. I mentioned several times that “our profession” epidemiology knowledge is poor, but they run the show.

I mentioned immunology and gypsies who don’t have cases since they have immunity. Maybe cross-immunity is protecting them.

I don’t say that death is not happening, but exactly is like they told lots of comorbidities and lots of other problems due to isolation. They mentioned molesting the kids, home violence, etc. Business is shut down, the economy is shaken, and people are losing jobs. All that is not necessary. Simple more testing could be done, and that is all.

I will try to do the exercise and transfer their numbers to our situation, and we will get what we already mentioned, that curve is nor rising, not fattening it is normal for virus infection. Obviously that Swedish epidemiologists and government have been more right than others.

I am afraid that we will continue to lose the days without normal working activities and life. I mentioned that we have until now after a month and a half deaths equal to three days deaths in Belgrade. It seems that real professionals didn’t do the job. Somehow I am wondering why those two guys are much brighter. Simple they are thinking.

So let’s think in that direction and return life is normal. Like they mentioned, there is no science behind this. If we could go to a big supermarket and why not in coffee shops (or hot topic, churches in Serbia) where is the clue. It really seems that big business is going on, and the small is shut down. Somebody decides that.

So I will try to calculate our date, in spite I know that those two guys are right, and in spite, I know that the psychology of masses will prevail. But it is good to know that we will survive and that maybe our life will be returned to us. Currently, we are locked because of massive hysteria and bad guys who are misusing that. All are on the bunch, and on the top is Bill Gates (my favorite bad guy), but that was the same before, so why we are surprised.

And social media. I could say people there are even more right. Just think about how many good arguments you read these days on social networks. I could say much, much more than from professionals who are misusing public service.

So despite all flattening the curve, we are going to extended curfew next weekend from Thursday to Monday, in spite it will be rainy. Somebody is really playing with us.

We should go out and continue living. That is the conclusion of those two bright doctors. That is the conclusion of science, but unluckily current situation is driven by politics.

Somebody writes, “It’s easier to fool someone than to convince someone that they are being fooled.” – Mark Twain.

Greetings from fooled and locked guy.

Nenad

— Day 28 —

Dear Nenad,

Yesterday evening I heard an interesting interview on Youtube, unfortunately in Dutch, of one of our philosophers with Maurice de Hond, who is very known here for doing opinion polls. The guy is a data nerd and has been looking at data to find correlations and then back this up with knowledge from experts. In my view he has a couple of interesting findings, which you can also find in this article in English: https://www.maurice.nl/2020/04/24/the-spread-of-the-virus-is-already-virtually-under-control/

First he shows that there is a link between the activity of the virus and the air temperature combined with air humidity. From the data it shows that the most dangerous zone is between 11 and 14 oC and a humidity of between 3 and 6 g/kg. As Bergamo is in this zone (and Wuhan and New York, etc.) but Naples and Rome is not this could explain why the virus is more active. That probably also means that the higher temperatures in the coming months will help to have a less active virus.

He explains this based on Japanese research, where they both look at larger droplets and at aerosols: very small droplets that can get suspended in air. However, when the air humidity is higher larger droplets form and aerosols get less chance of being suspended. Whereas it is clear that you can get infected when someone coughs or sneezes in your face (the larger droplets), the Japanese claim that you can also get infected by the aerosols. The Dutch government experts (the institute is called RIVM) claim that this is not the case, so staying at 1,5 m should be enough, also inside. I wonder how data-based this really is and also think about the mechanism of fear of changing your standpoint I wrote about yesterday.

And that brings us to the second point which is ventilation. Often in buildings (but also think of the cruise ships) this ventilation is a closed system and often not controlled in the right way (as for instance with the ‘sick building syndrome’). So aerosols get the chance to move around and as a result one person can infect more people. In several places large gatherings of people have led to an exponential increase of infections, exactly for this reason. Think of church services, football games, but also choir concerts etcetera. He makes a comparison between Dutch communities being more and less hit by the virus and in the worst hit ones there were always social events, which worked as a ‘super-spreader’.

Whether or not remaining in lock-down seems to have a limited effect, after the initial infection period. Yesterday I also read the Wikipedia page on influenza which states that ‘social distancing has a limited effect on the total amount of deaths’. And of course you have to take into account the secondary effects of the lockdown, as we both have commented several times. And he believes that the real amount of infected people is underestimated by a factor 50, due to the lack of testing (But I have not seen on which data he bases this, probably the same extrapolation as the Californian doctors).

So he proposes a different approach, i.e. to still forbid large gatherings, to stop the lockdown (he believes that a 1,5 m economy will not work), of course to extra protect the elder and more vulnerable and to make sure that people wear face masks, so they do not spread the aerosols. Also to ensure that for instance in schools no singing takes place. This would at least get society running again.

For me it is interesting that he bases his conclusions on data, whereas I have not read any investigations from the government experts, just conclusions. In my view the approach of this Maurice seems like a more informed approach to soften the measures and get out of the lockdown based on data and science, rather than a decision based on societal or political pressure. But as always I am interested in what you think.

Today is a holiday here, as we are celebrating the King’s birthday. A day where most people dress in orange (as we did today of course) and at which everyone is normally allowed to sell things in the street without a permit. In a normal year there are two million visitors coming to Amsterdam (which is 2,5 times the number of inhabitants), all on the streets but this year of course there is none of this. Just us sitting at the balcony enjoying a glass of wine and the sun. Hopefully next year will be a different year, it would be nice to show you then the party that Amsterdam usually throws at this day (and the night before) !

Orange hug from Amsterdam ! Robert

Dear Robert,

I will study the article by Maurice, as well I decided to study a little bit more epidemiology. After so many days, I ‘ve had enough of their science. My conclusion is that our epidemiologists don’t know anything. They deal with us, people locked in houses. Serbian epidemiology is empty, and it is presented by ignorant doctors who are pretending they are not arrogant, but genuinely they are fraudsters. They are lying to us all the time, they are not doing in the public interest, and they have obviously hidden agenda. I don’t argue that measures aginst viruses should be done, but they misuse the situation for politics, against people.

In spite, I am learning a lot these days and preparing lectures for my students. I will try to study a little bit more textbooks of epidemiology and try to find proof that their attitude is poor. Simple, I don’t want to argue against physical (not social) distancing against mask or gloves, but what is enough is enough. Today they didn’t open small businesses but starting with gambling, fitness centers, and hairdressers. I could not tell you what more risker is. At the same time, they announced four days curfew again for the 1st of May. Come on, that is against the freedom of the people. At the moment when half of Europe is opening everything, EU Ministries are speaking about opening tourism, we are going in one more weekend curfew.

The bad thing is they are cover for politics. And that magic word “struka” (profession), which they repeat as sparrows, is somehow proof they are doing something knowledgeable. No, they are not doing anything intelligent, except they are manipulating with the people. For that reason, I could not think about temperature, humidity, the physical characteristic of the virus. Simple, we are poisoned by their mantra.

I know that we don’t have enough good doctors in many fields of medicine, but I didn’t assume that epidemiologists will humiliate us so much. They didn’t try to protect medical doctors and nurses in the first line. We debate about that. They didn’t preserve brave journalists who wanted to write openly about the problem. They played with Covid as a secret weapon against us, as in my sci-fi movies.

Unluckily we don’t have a defense against them. Like many years, or better centuries before, people obey masters, and that is bad since we know that they are not doing good. I don’t even understand how they may be speaking about Covid the whole day on television. Simple they are not tired, they are kind od preachers. For the moment, I believe they believe in what they are preaching.

Hardly wait, to leave the city aging, and go to Adrovac. Like in the novels of Thoams Mann or Camus, the air is contaminated here, and it is nor corona, It is much severe, for which we don’t have immunity. I am terrified about what it is going to be.

So, enjoy an orange holiday. You could think about what we will give to have a relaxed holiday, calm, but without fear and concern for the future, not because of the corona.

Unfrtunaltelly, not organge hug from Belgrade,

Nenad

 

— Day 29 —

Dear Nenad,

Already we have been writing about the different measures in different countries and your frustration about the approach in Serbia was very clear from your writing yesterday. Now we can see that also the approach for softening the measures is different everywhere. Like you I am surprised that hair dressers are amongst the first to open up in Serbia, whereas here they will be closed until at least May 20.

I checked the plans for the coming weeks in different countries and have not found one which is similar. I then wonder what the role of the WHO is. I assume that apart from data they also gather best practices from around the world, but I do not see anything of that back.

Of course I have not checked the text books on epidemiology here but I assume that they will have more or less the same content as in other countries. The national health system might be different but the virus is the same at the end of the day. So where is the difference if politicians now say that they rely on experts ?

In any case also here the discussion on the government policy is increasing. Of course from the side of the companies that now threaten to go bankrupt, which is understandable, but from many more places. What I understand is that in crisis situations mistakes are made, because you often have to decide on limited information. What I fear is that mistakes are not admitted for political reasons, i.e. because of elections coming up or other reasons.

Like we had already concluded, transparency is needed to keep public support for the measures and I see that support diminishing also here. At the same time I see that people realize that this situation will not be over soon: we might soften certain measures, but we are not yet rid of the virus.

Unfortunately today the weather here got a lot colder than yesterday, which could be bad news. But at least the number of IC patients is still decreasing and the amount of deaths and hospital patients is getting lower on a daily basis. Let’s hope that it continues and that people will keep the discipline for the social distancing. How are your students reacting to the current situation?

Stay safe! Robert

Dear Robert,

My students are OK. I could even say they are somehow more interested in lectures then in real life. I suppose they are sitting at home, and they have more time. Finally, they are humans in it will boring not to do any specific. Unfortunately, less than 50% are listening to lectures. They are more interested in doing homework, and practically they helped me to start a sports medicine practicum. Sadly, like with other measures, it is not clear how long this situation will go on. Universities didn’t get official information, but Minister said yesterday on TV that all schools will be finished by May 31. That is quite strange since I know that majority of schools didn’t do online education on a proper level, or not at all. The particular issues are exams since nobody knows how it will be organized. We have tomorrow’s teaching council meeting, and I suppose that we will know more.

We discussed on last lecture prescribing of physical activities to special groups of the population. Of course, a question about the older population was so essential, and we concluded that in this kind of situation, special attention should have addresses to them. Clearly, it is not done, and they are just locked without proper education on how to manage that. I believe that the death rate among them is higher than regular, but unfortunately, we will never know that. It seems that emergency headquarters should have consisted of sports medicine specialists and other medical professionals as well, which was not the case. Thus we had so many problems that are not considered by epidemiologists who follow their portfolio, strongly influenced by politics. Actually, they introduced new measures in the theory of epidemiology, which are curfew and quarantine for the healthy population. In the very poor textbook of Epidemiology for medical students of Faculty in Belgrade, they didn’t write a word about that. They argued a lot about patients, treatment, and quarantine for all infected and people who have been in contacted with infected. I think they didn’t do well precisely in that field since the monitoring was inadequate.

Results of testing people waited for days, weeks, and obviously, they lost precious time and the right moment to quarantine the infected and potentially infected people. Thus they decided to “quarantine” the whole population. If you remember they suggested 24 hours/ 7 days a week curfew. Luckily they gave up. The only part in the textbook where is written about limitation of movement of the population is done under section “Other measures” in a few sentences but without a word about the isolation of the complete country. I think that the recipe came from China together with the virus, which is not under our culture and way of living. I am sure that classical lockdown practiced in the majority of the EU countries would be more suitable. Again, a lot of work for the future scientist of epidemiology.

Except for bullying of own people, they mistreat our citizens whoa re living abroad. For example, my daughter could not come with my grandaughters from Vienna. Because Serbia doesn’t want to allow them entrance. They even recorded a video “Stay in the country where you currently live,” where the Government is asking Serbian citizens not to come to Serbia https://translate.google.com/#view=home&op=translate&sl=sr&tl=en&text=Ostanite%20u%20dr%C5%BEavi%20u%20kojoj%20trenutno%20boravite . My daughter checked all the possibilities, and she got official info from Austra, Hungary, and Slovenia that she could travel to Serbia only if she gets the permit since they could not accept her to be stopped on their territory. Except this is not human, it is against the constitution of Serbia. I am worrying when she will have the right to come.

We discussed a lot of problems of people who didn’t get proper medical help for other medical issues because of the orientation of the whole system towards Covid. Unfortunately, we have very sad news. A medical student from Kenya, Jonh Sande, died under unexplained circumstances. He spoke Swahili, English, and Serbian. He had pain in the stomach. The doctor from the student’s clinic didn’t examine him and told him to come tomorrow. The emergency didn’t come, three hospitals didn’t accept him since he didn’t have symptoms of the corona, and he died. My neighbor, which Epidemiology book I borrowed, studied with him. She and her colleagues are desperate. Nobody knows what happens, and I believe that we would not know more after autopsy. Since I didn’t know him, I will use to post his picture in our diary in the name of Noli me tangere.

The last two days were disappointed not only for me, and it is awful when you feel that the system is not supporting the basic needs of the people and protecting their human rights.

Let’s hope that it will be better in the future.

Nenad

— Day 30 —

Dear Nenad,

What you write about having other people in the central team is a discussion which is taking place here as well. Many people here argue that more experts than just epidemiologists are needed in the advisory team to the government.

Next to what they call here the Outbreak Management Team (OMT) there should be a so-called IMT or Impact Management Team, which looks at the impact of the measures on society. Not only from an economic point of view, but also from a general health, social and psychological point of view. So far the government has not installed an additional team.

My worry is also that most people I speak with think that we will be back to the situation before the virus in a couple of weeks. However, things like social distancing will in my view continue to be in force for a long time still. We should not hope too much in a too short time and I wonder what will happen if a second wave hits.

Meanwhile the economic effects will start to worsen. Speaking to my Italian neighbor this week I understand that also on an economic level the situation is very bad. He is an entrepreneur who obviously has had no income from work the last two months (all activity stopped) and the promised support from the government is so badly organized that in practice nothing arrives. This cannot take much longer so also Italy will have to restart the economy again.

The other thing you wrote about is the restriction in travel, which I am afraid will also not be solved easily. Here within The Netherlands travelling is luckily possible, but going over the border is a different thing. In Italy you are not even allowed for the moment to leave your municipality. And I believe that travel restrictions are here to stay for still some time.

So all in all I see that people can hardly wait for the softening of the measures, but they will soon be disappointed that it will not go as fast as they expected. And the effects on our society are only just beginning. As I talk to many companies now, it makes me less optimistic that the economy will recover from this anytime soon.

One of the things of course is that we will have to increase the test capacity and interestingly enough I have not yet heard any update on this in the last week. And the question is also how this will work. Will people get an ‘immunity passport’ with which they can travel? Will that passport be recognized by all countries ? Again, it looks like a bad movie in which we have suddenly found ourselves.

Every day I scan the newspapers in different countries to read some news about a breakthrough in a vaccine, medicine or other positive news, but so far no miracle has happened. What does still put a smile on my face are the funny videos I keep getting, at least this is an activity that has not diminished.

Keep smiling! Robert

Dear Robert,

Congratulations, our 30th day 🙂

Yes, infection is somehow going down, but the economic outcome is going to be depressive. You remember that one of the Serbian financial measures was 100 euros to every adult citizen. Now that is not going to happen, but honestly, that was not the measure I expected. I believed that they would support people who are not working with minimal salary. But they didn’t in spite they promised. Because of that, some people have been thrown out of their flat. They couldn’t pay the rent. In Austra, all the rent was canceled, including the one for the business space, by Governmental decision. All people got an average salary as help from the first month of lockdown. Taxes are canceled as well. For me, that is standard measures tailored to help people.

I heard that the rebalance of the budget didn’t include the budget for culture at all. Just imagine all those independent artists, actors, writers, how they are going to survive. Nobody cares.

Fort, the majority of the people in Serbia restrictions of traveling, is not essential since they didn’t travel before. With such limited finance, they hardly lived. Now they are struggling. But of course, “Immunity passport “could be a wrong solution. I could tell you from the doping perspective that “Biological passport “introduced for athletes opens many problems. It is connected with science, which is not easy. In general biological results could always be interpreted in different ways. Corona tests are not specific, there are too many false-positive and false-negative tests, and even doctors are not consistent with the outcome. I could assume that it will create more problems, and it could definitely be a base for corruption and segregation.

Despite all you are right, we should keep smiling, that is the only way to go out of this madness. Maybe I am under the impression of the last portrait I did it on my blog. But a visit to all friends who have been forced to start everything from the beginning in the old years was just an excellent example that we must fight all the time.

We are back in Adrovac. I hope that air, nature, and calm village life will restore once again our mood, and prepare us for lifting the isolation after May 1st. Today, I have teachers council meetings, and too many options are open. Still, at least in my Faculty, everything is oriented for the student’s welfare, which I believe is essential, since they should not lose one year without proper education.

Smile form free guy until tomorrow at 6 a.m.

Nenad

 

— Day 31 —

Dear Nenad,

Before I started writing I checked the last figures from The Netherlands. The trend is still downwards, with the number of deaths decreasing from a peak of 170 per day to around 40 average in the last days, Also the amount of people being admitted to hospital is going down, whereas the IC patients went from 1400 to 780 (whether that is good news I do not know, because probably the majority has died). But at least the amount of new hospital patients is decreasing, reducing the burden on the health care system. Let’s hope that this continues.

Today I got annoyed by what I call one of the ‘prophets’. There was an article from scientists that claimed that instead of keeping the oil business alive, that now is the time to close down the fossil fuel business. A former colleague of mine had shared this post on Linked-in and said that he agreed.

I really wonder on which planet these people live. It seems they do not realize that oil is not only the raw material for gasoline and kerosene, but also the raw material for the chemical industry. If this stops now we would even not be able to produce most medicines any more, our food supply would stop, we would have no fertilizer for agriculture etcetera etcetera.

Basically my former colleague was proposing that his company would shut down as well, without realizing what the consequences are of the too simple calls for shutting down the fossil fuel business. If this crisis shows anything it is that we are all extremely connected and that we are not able to live without that. The only people that would be able to live still are people like the ones in Adrovac, who can still grow their own food and take fully care of themselves. All the rest of us, especially in cities, are dependent on this whole system of companies working for each other until things get to consumers.

I strongly believe that we have to go to a more sustainable world, but I also know that this cannot be done overnight. We see now everyday what it means if parts of our economy stop and I am convinced that the worst is still to come, as I wrote yesterday.

On the news I just saw that in the US the first problems with food supply are already happening, as too many factory workers are ill now. Here farmers expect a problem getting in the crops, because this was often done with foreign workers.

It again proofs the discussion of yesterday that we need a broader group of experts, so that we can see all the effects of the current measures. If we only keep looking at the % of economic growth or decrease, we do not see what is happening in practice. Just as the daily health figures on corona do not show us the human tragedy of the people behind those numbers. Therefore it is good that we are showing some of these effects at least in this diary.

Stay safe! Robert

Dear Robert,

I spent the whole day around, trying to fix drain in the bathroom since somehow water found the way and flooded cellar. After I managed with the free help of a local villager, I had an excellent exercise od three series of eight repetitions of the full bucket with water. Actually, I throw out water from the cellar. I hit head two times in a low cellar ceiling. After that, I decided to cut small branches and trees around the main quince tree. Something that looked easy was not finished until the end of the day. Living in the village is not easy. I earned some bruises and calluses. Luckily my relatives prepared a roasted pig, and we had a nice lunch. Since tomorrow is a curfew and we celebrated May 1 st a day earlier. In general, working around the house remind me of the days of my grandparents. They worked the whole life from dawn till dusk and managed to support education their son, my father. I remember they finished every day with a popular radio show called “Veslo vece” (Cheerful evening). In spite, I am thinking about that period as romantic, I believe they lived hard, and I feel sinful since we didn’t make their last years easier. Nowadays we have a comfortable house with a big bathroom, heating and air conditioning, which was not the same in their time. I am still wondering why I didn’t insist on improving everything in the house during their life. However, I promised my grandmother that I would not allow that house to fall, and I believe that she will be happy to see us here.

From today we have curfew until Saturday at 5 a.m.. It should have been until Monday at 5 a.m., but since people are actively protesting, they changed the decision. Everything is so grotesque since epidemiologists are pretending the are professionals, politicians are pretending to listen to professionals, and people are suffering. Everything is happening at the moment when they are loosening isolation measures. Everything is happening when we have a higher number of new cases then yesterday and the same death rate. I gave up on comparing the textbook of epidemiology with the scenario we are living in. That is written neither in Serbian nor in English book. Simple everything we lived in these two months more or less original, and strongly influenced by politics. I have the impression that our epidemiologists felt that power, and behind hidden agenda, I believe they enjoyed it. You know, people usually don’t pay much attention to them, and now they have their moment. Instead of showing professionalism, they enjoyed in endless press conferences and TV shows. Some future theoreticians will have a problem to explain everything.

I could say that prophets celebrated the pandemic. Just to remind us how many ignorant statements, inaccurate suggestions, and dangerous advice we heard. Hierarchically the best was treatment with disinfectant suggested by Trump. Then laughing at corona and sending to Milano Serbian women in shopping at the beginning of the pandemic by Prof. Nestorovic (I hope that he will finish of Ethical Court). Then an infusion of ozone in the blood as a revolutionary treatment by Zeljko Mitrovic, owner of Pink television. I am sorry that I am not informed about Holland’s genius, but the economic prophets you mentioned could join these groups. How is it possible that all these people, all leaders, professors, professionals, etc. and they are deciding about people’s destiny.

Because of them, we are going in a more profound crisis then it is necessary. Because of them, people are losing jobs. Because of them, less food will be on the planet and other products you mentioned. I would be happy if people start to see that and try to resist. Simple, there are good examples of us. Instead, to indicate the Swedish model again, I will say that Jacinda Arden, vice minister of New Zealand, is doing very well. Unfortunately, as we mentioned, it is not possible to stay without international harmonization, or it will be possible.

We had today’s meeting of the Antidoping agency, and we prepare the resume doping controls. I doubt that we will have problems since we are a group of professionals, but I am not sure that sport will start soon, even athletes with basic training. Our fitness centers are reopened, but that is a measure for recreational people, athletes are still on waiting, all the centers, swimming pools, stadiums are not working yet. Swimmers, in general, all water sports, suffered a lot without real training. It will be challenging to come to the previous results. On another side, I don’t understand why athletes didn’t have practice in swimming pools, respecting all necessary measures. At least water in our pools is too much chlorinated. So there is no population group that is not suffering because of the pandemic. The multi-expert team needed to be organized to cope with all these things. Unluckily as we said, that was not happening, and it is not going to happen. Why they didn’t try to correct the errors on the move, are they really too ignorant, too proud, too non-emphatic?

I will continue to work around the house, learn, prepare for mu jobs, and try to keep the smile.

All the best from Adrovac, Nenad

 

— Day 32 —

Dear Nenad,

Today is the 1st of May (by the way not a day off in The Netherlands) or Labour Day. All the usual manifestations are cancelled, although I saw that the trade unions in Greece organized an event on Syntagma square, including the prescribed 1,5 m distance.

In the Italian newspapers there was a lot of attention this Labour Day for the fact that women will probably be more hit than men when it comes to job loss. Now that part of the companies will reopen in Italy, it is estimated that around 70 % of the people going back to work will be men. So the corona crisis can also have the effect of throwing us 20 years back in time when it comes to working women.

Also looking at the expert teams active in Italy for advising the government, 80 % of them are male experts. At the same time there have been a lot of articles about the fact that countries with female leaders seem to do better in this crisis. You already mentioned New Zealand, where their prime minister I think had already showed her strength during the killing in the mosque.

So maybe more has to be done than adding more experts than epidemiologists to the team, but also to make sure there are more women in the teams.

Anyway, another week has passed. After another day today of phone calls and videoconferences I have to say that I am exhausted. And this I hear from many people, that online working tires you out more than working in an office.

Also of course movement is very limited, sitting all day at home. In order to ensure more movement, I online ordered a spinning bike, so that I can at least move a little bit at home.

So yesterday it was delivered (or better said left at the doorstep, I had to carry it up myself to the 4th floor) and then we had to assemble it. As usual the drawing was not in line with reality so it took Tanja and me a while to get it assembled. At the end I found out that it had a mistake, when I wanted to attach the pedals to the bike. The hole for attaching them is too large for the left pedal, so I now have a bike in the room, with which I can do absolutely nothing, because I cannot fix the left pedal…

Another reason to feel tired today! Today I called the company and they said that they would come with a solution, but have not yet told me when. So I will probably have a couple of other telephone calls to make, before this gets solved and find other ways to keep moving in the meantime.

But these are just nuisances, in the end it will get resolved, so I just need some patience. It is better than having your cellar flooded, as you had yesterday. Take care with all these works that you do not get an accident, better to limit it to some bruises.

How was today in Adrovac?

Happy May 1 ! Robert

Dear Robert,

 

Before I write something about Adrovac’s hard-working celebration of the labor work, please read the breaking news for me: “We have never said go into lockdown – we have said track, trace, isolate, treat,” Dr. Harris told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/who-backs-australian-move-to-ease-restrictions-20200426-p54na9.html. That means exactly what I have said. We are mistreated by epidemiologists who serve politics. They copied Wuhan recipe, instead of to “track, trace, isolate, treat,”

Since we have been today under curfew, we decided to work around the house. We did a lot, more than six plastic bags of different garbage, finished cutting of the quince tree, service of shutters, cleaning the cellar, washing rugs, etc. I could say the real labor day. Then we have real spring rain, which was excellent because of the flowers planted by Ana.

Stories about people who could not get medical advice are rising. I have been to a neighbor who got three different opinions from three doctors. It seems that she has some problems with lungs, but one doctor saw it on left, one on right and specialist on neither one. The Solomonic solution is CT. But she couldn’t get it for the last two months. I offered to drive her to Belgrade, but unfortunately, she could not come back, because transportation is canceled due to corona. She is scared since one of the doctors said it is too late, and another one said that she swears that some tumor is in the apex of the left lung. If I could say that those people didn’t have proper health care before corona, you could try to imagine the situation right now.

I have suggested different therapy, and I hope that I will find drugs tomorrow. What is also essential to understand people in Serbia have covered health care service, but in reality they are paying for everything, If I tell you that CT is 100 euros, and the income of this women is 320 euros, imagine her possibilities to be treated correctly.

That reminds me of a third world. Once in Ethiopia, I have been forced to give ordinary eye drops to a lady from a mountain village as a drug for cataract, since she didn’t have even a siltiest chance to be operated. In the humanitarian mission in Nepal, I have examined for the first time in life so many people older than 60 years. I know that we are poor, but I didn’t expect such poor health care. Simple, these people don’t have doctors who could treat them. And we are speaking about the corona.

On another side, they are responsible. They don’t go out. They are not gathering. They are working on a filed. As I already said, they hardly have information about the corona, since they are not watching TV the whole day.

Tomorrow we have a break in curfew, and I am going to service some mower. Luckily that is a kind of excellent way to go to the town.

So to conclude, “track, trace, isolate, treat” just simple as that. Don’t lock the people.

Best regards from a platform close to Wuhan,

Nenad

— Day 33 —

Dear Nenad,

Indeed the WHO from the beginning has said “track, trace, isolate, treat”. Of course this requires ample testing capacity and ample resources for doing the contact research. It seems that all over Europe everyone has gone into lock-down and did not do enough about the testing and tracing part. Here they claimed that it was ‘too late for that’, that the virus had spread too much already.

Like with the discussion on the mouth caps, I am afraid that we hear a lot of stories just to not have to talk about the fact that we were not prepared and took action too late. We know that the testing capacity is still not enough, despite efforts to increase it. At the same time there are many laboratories indicating that they could test but do not get the question. Also there are many initiatives for instance to produce mouth caps or operation coats for doctors, but they seem to be stopped by all kinds of bureaucratic procedures.

At the same time we lose billions of Euros per week and have many additional deaths because normal medical care is on a much lower level. What for me is interesting that we talk about reducing the measures, but I do not hear much about how we will do the “track, trace, isolate, treat” now that the spread of the virus seems to be going down.

And I know that it is always easy to criticize from the sideline, but I would at least get a better explanation of why the policy is as it is. Why do things work in South Korea and New Zealand but would not work in our countries ?

Of course in democratic countries the way to influence this would be through elections, but even these are now often postponed and indeed I think it is very difficult to organize ‘physical’ elections without running a big risk of virus spread. Nevertheless, the current situation is worrying and apart from thinking how to get the economy going again, we would also have to think about how to organize elections in a safe way. Maybe doing them online would be a way, but a special program would have to be designed to prevent fraud.

Everywhere I see discussions coming up on the summer holidays now. And I understand, for many countries this is a major source of income. Nevertheless, I still do not see how this will go ahead this year, if we already have difficulties implementing the track, trace, isolate, treat approach.

There seems to be a second disease popping up now for children under 5, which seems to be more frequent now in these corona times. In Italy they call it the Kawasaki syndrome, which is usually very rare. Have you heard anything about this in Serbia already ? As they say, bad luck never comes alone..

This morning we had a new record, we went on a walk for an hour, which we have not done for several weeks. Luckily in the morning streets were still empty, so we could walk safely. Nevertheless, our attention to other people is extremely high and we do a lot of zigzagging on the street to avoid other pedestrians. It felt good to be able to walk like this.

Stay healthy ! Robert

 

Dear Robert,

 

Our spy sent some pictures from Amsterdam today. It looks like you don’t need to do zigzag. Where are all those people from the street? You don’t have a curfew.

 

It seems that the virus is really influencing our behavior, and unfortunately, nobody knows when it stops. All those reductions of measures are economical, not medical. Like everything started, everything is going back, made by politicians.

I deeply sad since the medical profession didn’t act like in textbooks. For the first time, they didn’t respect the emergency, in spite, this time, they have been informed on time about the beginning of the big epidemic. Like in previous cases, they didn’t care until infections didn’t knock on their door. Then it was too late, and they started struggling to survive. Like one of the professor said, we warned them, but they didn’t act. They didn’t work against HIV many years ago until the nice face of Rock Hadson was not changed due to HIV infection. They didn’t react when Ebola has infected thousands of West African people until the first infected people didn’t step on the soil of Spain and the US (if I remember well). They thought it would be the same this time. It was not. Now we are because of that in problems.

And they created additional problems. They ruined the economy. They left people without jobs. They influenced the life of each of us deeply. Simple, they could have followed the advice, not be too proud, or too evil, and support 4 steps: “track, trace, isolate, treat.”

I disagree that it was too late. Maybe in some countries, like Italy, but they imposed lockdown very late and act dolce vita too long. But what about other countries, why so powerful, organized country, like England, for example, didn’t “track, trace, isolate, treat” people since they are doing that in other circumstances. They have security cameras everywhere. They are covering 95% of public space. They have face recognition software. They know the itinerary of every citizen, and thus they allowed them to go around. Not really allowed them, they invited them to a big concert to make herd immunity. And what’s happening the chief strategist became infected, being ill and treated by surpassingly not so organized system. Now he is well and continues to confuse people. It is Boris Johnson. First, he didn’t support the health care system. Now he is doing, by buying ventilators, for example, like many other leaders in Europe. After all, he could be more proud, like Englishman are always doing, since famous Dr. John Snow made the foundation of epidemiology there.

I am not sure d they understand that we don’t need too many ventilators, but we need a system that could adequately use them. I don’t know what the truth is, but if Serbia has all these years like thousands of them, how it is possible to use additional thousand just like that. Who will work on them, how all those different types will be integrated into the system, what about consumables. Not to speak about the race to start own production. Just imagine Trump asked General Motors to reorient production in the country where one of the biggest world manufacturers of medical equipment is working. Guess it is GE. Too many ignorant steps.

On another side, medical doctors are working, but at the same time publishing a lot. Believe it or not, I was involved in the treatment of one patient with Kawasaki, or we believed it was Kawasaki. Similar disease to my master theses about rheumatic fever. That was kind of vasculitis, which affected mostly the heart, and as I remember, cured by aspirin and corticosteroids, but not easy. It is rare, and it is strange they diagnosed it.

But what’s interested me more is a new theory that is a disease that ends with thromboembolism, which means that we need anti-inflammatory and anticoagulant drugs. It seems that we don’t need too many ventilators. Simple, it is useless to ventilate the lungs where blood does not circulate. If that is the truth, the new approach should be done, and keep up more with traditional anti-flu therapy. That also means that with the classical approach and epidemiologic measures, we could reopen the lives of the people.

As I already mentioned, I have an impression from the beginning that we copy-paste what the Chinese were doing. I am not sure their medical system is so advanced, and they are superior in any sphere of medicine. Thus I don’t understand why we followed them. As you said, maybe because it was too late. But it is not, and I think that medical professionals should take over the battle from show business doctors and politicians. It is always late when you don’t follow knowledge. Too many papers are published. Medical doctors are working hard, and they need to suggest further steps. Somehow we missed that from the beginning.

It seems that fresh Adrovac air is helping to see things differently, or it is just to student approach since I am still learning medicine.

Be well, Nenad

— Day 34 —

Dear Nenad,

Yesterday I sent the video of the two American doctors that we discussed some days ago to another friend and found out that Youtube has removed the video. The why is not explained, just that it was ‘not in line with Youtube’s service conditions’.

This is how censorship starts. I can imagine that they block videos that promote hate, but two doctors just giving their opinion ? You do not have to agree with people, but if you do not agree, show the evidence why you do not agree. A dangerous development in my view.

This week I finished a book from Marguerite Yourcenar called ‘Hermetic Black’, which is about an alchemist in the Middle Ages, who is finally being put on trial because his thinking is not in line with church dogma’s. Some months ago I would have read this book as something that happened in a long ago time, but in these days I start to see many parallels with how our society can develop, if we are not careful.

Also I talked to one of my Italian friends and it made me worry. He sees that in Italy nationalism is now very much on the rise, as they do not feel fairly treated by the North European countries. And of course the behaviour of our Dutch Minister came back as well. The combination of an economic crisis with nationalism is very dangerous, as the countries of former Yugoslavia know very well.

My hope is that we keep realizing that in the end we are all very connected, so only finding a joint solution will get us out of this crisis in the right way. But it can easily go the wrong way as well. Unfortunately it is more hope than conviction, as the experience of the last 30 years does not make one optimistic, despite books like the one I described that ‘Most People want to do good’.

The interesting thing is that the whole world really has a common enemy in the virus, but the internal fights continue. Mike Pompeo today announced that there is lots of evidence that the virus came from a Chinese laboratory. I did not see the proof, I did not see the investigation, but apparently these statements are not blocked by Youtube. The only thing they do is to put oil on the fire, when efforts should be focused on combatting the virus.

So today is a day in which I am not a big optimist. I need some good news, any good news from your side ?

Stay optimistic ! Robert

Dear Robert,

On my platform, everything that you mentioned is proceeding every day. Deleting videos, fake news, nationalistic eruptions are happening for the last 30 years. You said with reason former Yugoslavia. That is the reason why we are so below you. I doubt that you could reach us in the next 30 years, even with Pompeo, YouTube owners, and who knows who. Simple, you are living in a democratic system, and that is the reason your platform is so higher.

But I have good news. I gave my mower to be welding. It was done free of charge, by a man I don’t know, just because he knows my relative. Even more, I have got to complementary two loaves of bread from the baker. If I tell you that baker is the brother of the welder and that both of them are losing critical money for surviving these two months, simple their gesture is typical in these parts of the world. Maybe, not normal in this situation, but it merely shows they are good, even they are under pressure. Yes, most people want to do good, but I am not sure that it will prevail.

Second, the good news is that students are doing homework, because I think that lots of things are happening because of ignorance. Maybe I have the wrong impression, but in the past, students have been more enthusiastic. I am worried about the quality of the society we live with so many limited professionals. Just look at what narrow-minded epidemiologists did to us. Simple because of that, even doing homework is good news for me.

The third good news is that Nina will probably come in a week from Vienna with our granddaughters. I am not sure that is possible since Serbia is the only country in the world who sad that its citizens are not welcome. I sent you a video a few days ago (maybe they deleted that video as well). Officially nothing is changed, but I see that Nina is ready to risk. Perhaps they will arrest her with two daughters, but then she will be in Serbia. So Pompeo is nothing.

I will be back tomorrow in Belgrade. Probably curfew will be lifted from Wednesday. I hope that we will start to work next Monday. Some said that live lectures for students would begin at the end of the month. All this could be good news if there are other things normal. Unfortunately, there are not.

But we must hope, and I choose to stay optimistic,

Nenad

— Day 35 —

Dear Nenad,

First of all thank you for sharing some good news, I needed that yesterday. It is good to see that there are still places where money is not the measure of everything. And with regard to Nina’s travel plans, I really hope that anyway they will do something about travel restrictions soon.

In Italy since today you can travel around in your Region, so I hope that slowly it will be possible also for us to travel there. Even if it means two weeks of quarantine, I would not complain. But for the time being I psychologically prepare myself for the fact that it might still take a long time before we will be able to travel again.

Today there was an interesting article in the newspaper here in which a Dutch virologist working at Harvard University advocates that now that measures are being loosened, we should not only test a lot more, but also at the first signs of respiration problems use antibody injections for the risk groups. Of course as long as there is no vaccine available. Again I do not know the medical background but it sounds like an interesting approach to me, in line with the approach of Germany, where they do not wait with treatment until people have to go to hospitals.

Today in The Netherlands we have a tradition, which I really like. May 5 is our Liberation Day from the Second World War, so the day before on May 4 we remember all people that were killed in the wars as well as those that survived. We do this each year by having a two-minute silence in the whole country starting at 20.00 hrs in the evening. It is really impressive as indeed everyone is quiet, cars stop driving and all people are involved. It is preceded by a big ceremony on the Central Square in Amsterdam with usually lots of people, but this year with only the King and 4 more people, a small ceremony and it will of course be broadcasted.

This year it will be even more important to take these two minutes and reflect on how important it is to be able to live in freedom. I really hope that next year we will be able to have a ‘normal’ ceremony again.

And as you I choose to stay optimistic.

Stay healthy ! Robert

Dear Robert,

I am not sure that “antibody injections for the risk groups” exist. In general, antibodies exist only in the body of the people who are cured. I didn’t hear that anybody produced hyperimmunoglobulin, which is possible. I agree they should do the tests. But it is essential to know they have a lot of false negative and false positive results. I am not sure could we rely on that. The story about the vaccine is even more complicated. We don’t have it, and probably we would not have it, but we are arguing as we get it tomorrow.

But I am sure that the system should “track, trace, isolate, treat” all the patients, and what is also essential to use all positive knowledge in treatment. So many different opinions are confronted, and papers are presented. It seems that anti-inflammatory and anticoagulant therapy is the best for the moment, plus that antiviral drug, e.g. remdesivir. I think that we come to the phase when clinical doctors should be more consulted, and much less all those political ones. Definitely, we will have the second wave, and it is stupid not to be prepared.

We don’t celebrate any day as a citizens. Of course, there are some days similar to your Liberation day, but people don’t feel it as the national day. I think that we are lost in the transition from Yugoslavia to Serbia, and we didn’t find our soul again. Maybe good reflection is a ban for Serbian citizens to come to Serbia. But we have every night ate 20:05 applause to medical workers and 5 minutes after the action of bang into the pots. It is coming from the ’90s when we asked for democracy, and it is returned.

We came back to Belgrade. I had an online lecture and preparation for the colloquium. The students who did homework got some bonus points from me and made me inspired to do a practicum of sports medicine. So from one side, I am learning clinical pharmacology for my 4th specialization, and from another, I am teaching sports medicine. It is existing, and it is good to remind yourself how it is to be a student.

I spoke today with certain people about restraining the sport internationally, and there is not so much enthusiasm. Again there is no harmonization, and I have the impression that IOC failed to lead the system. I am not sure how it is going to be, but it seems that sport died until autumn. Again, politicians want to decide. But, there are even more obstacles than in others sphere of life.

Everything seems too far away from us. Nina extended my Austrian mobile phone number with some extra benefits for traveling abroad. It was quite paradoxical. It happens at the moment when nobody of us is sure that we will travel at all, or when my daughter could not travel home from Austria. At least I know that I have many gigabytes in Turkey, the USA, and the EU.

So, let’s hope that the international community will start to act as a community; that sports will again unite the people; that political conflicts would not prevail, but agreements. Wahoo, too optimistic, or it is not.

Yours Nenad

 

— Day 36 —

 

Dear Nenad,

Today on Liberation Day we have a day off and luckily the weather has improved, sun shining and blue skies. Today was also the first day in which there were anti-lockdown protests.

The current measures will stay in place until at least the 20th of May and although they were less severe than in other countries, it seems they last longer. So far with at least still decreasing victims and hospitalizations.

It is good to have a day off this week, as I feel that I am getting tired. Tired of thinking of this situation, tired of reading all these newspapers, tired even of hoping for some good news.

Tomorrow I will be back to work, but today I will be taking it easy: no big plans, just reading a book, watching a movie and that is it.

Despite having to work, tomorrow we will celebrate another special day, our slava: St. George day or Đurđevdan. I am thinking that it is already 4 years ago that we celebrated it together in Italy. Let’s hope that tomorrow will give some new energy.

Stay healthy ! Robert

Dear Robert,

A short letter, but I understand your point. You could imagine that you have two epidemiologists called Lessy and Leisure (Kon & Dokona) how much you will be tired. Probably the same as the people around me. I run about 7 kilometers today through my streets, and lots of people have been out, relaxing, drinking coffee, and chat. When non-empathic and non-justified measures push you, the reaction is straightforward. Everything is the opposite. Look Jacinda Arden in New Zealand.

From tomorrow I am returning to my fitness club. From Monday we start to work. What is changed? Not much. Except, my farmers have been forced to throw away some products (cheese, strawberry, green salat, etc.). I have spoken with them today. They lost the money, and they are concerned about the future.

What annoying me is too many false statements about testing, vaccine, gammaglobulin, masks, etc. I must write some essential articles about that because people started to believe in what they speak. Just imagine they think that a negative test is a kind of proof that somebody is healthy. They are arguing about the vaccine, which doesn’t exist. They are speaking about therapy, in spite, they do not know how aspirin is working. To many experts suddenly are around us.

But I think that the funniest topic is running or driving the bike with the mask. Again pro and contra discussion. Meaningless. Like in the past, when they argued is the earth is flat, or it is going around the sun. Some people gave their lives, like today. We didn’t do good. The system is exhausting, and they are not preparing for the next step.

Keep up to the philosophy of my friend Jovana “Don’t matter,” and tomorrow we booked pizza in a reopen restaurant, with newly introduced measures. Actually, it is not bad. I had a cafe coretto today, two meters, between the tables, waiters with mask and gloves, and little bit slower service than usual, but it is working.

I was in the church to burn the candles for all my living and dead people. Yes, I bought small charcoal and burn incense (tamjan, I am not sure about the word) at home. Everybody is doing disinfection on their way.

On my “offrenda” candles are lighting, and I hope that we went through something.

I am sorry that you do not celebrate St George’s day in Italy together with family, but let’s hope for the next year. Until that sentence from the Disney cartoon movie “Moana”: “There comes a day when you’re gonna look around and realize happiness is where you are.”

Maybe, the good point will be to hope to celebrate St Geroge together next year, but before that St Archangel Michael day, this year, Nov 21.

Thanks for being with me for 36 days.

Nenad

PS. Maybe to make you busy to analyze what we have been right and what wrong in these 36 days. I need some honest manager’s approach 🙂

 

— Day 37 —

Dear Nenad,

Today I am writing to you a little bit later than usual, as we first had to celebrate Đurđevdan, with lamb and good wine, as we should. I am convinced that traditions are important, as they give us a way to deal with uncertain times.

Also today our government announced the plan until 1st of September. Next Monday the so-called ‘contact professions’ like hair dressers, physiotherapists etcetera will re-open, however under strict conditions. On June 1st musea, libraries and outside terraces will be re-opened, again under strict conditions. Then groups of up to 30 people will be allowed. On July 1st groups until 100 people will be allowed. Only on September 1st gyms (teretane) will be allowed to re-open. All of this with a big caveat, i.e that the statistics do not worsen in the meantime

What is even more important is that the testing and tracing will be intensified, in May for certain personnel outside the hospitals, in June for everyone. This is a short summary of what has been communicated today by our prime minister. What I particularly like is the fact that a big emphasis is given, even more than before, on the personal responsibility of everyone to live up to the rules, i.e. 1,5 m distance, stay at home when having symptoms and now for the first time using mouth caps in public transport.

Just now we looked at a documentary om Dutch television of what happened in Bergamo, the city where we used to live. It is really strange to look at the city we know so well and see the amount of human tragedy which has taken place. Luckily the ‘Bergamaschi’ are a tough species so I know they will get over this and be even better than before. In these days I myself feel more Bergamasco than ever before, and I am really proud of some of the things they did like building an extra hospital in record time. We were in Bergamo beginning of February for the last time, with no idea of course about what was going to happen. It now feels like it was a century ago.

I like your idea about looking where we were right and where we were wrong in our diary, I will reread our diary an come back on this. Maybe the most important thing is to acknowledge that we may not have seen everything in the right way but that we are willing to learn, see our mistakes and adapt. For politicians this is extremely difficult and it is a potential threat to doing things in the right way now.

Today I also had a look at which countries are seen as the most resilient to these crises. Have a look at this link: https://www.fmglobal.com/research-and-resources/tools-and-resources/resilienceindex/explore-the-data/?&sf=1

Interesting to see that Norway is deemed to be the most resilient, whereas New Zealand is only on place 12, despite the fact that I do agree with you that maybe they had the best approach so far. Resilience, i.e. not giving up and adapting in the face of adversity is a very important skill in these days. So my wish today is in the Bergamasco dialect:

Mola mia, tegn’ dür (do not give up, keep on going) ! Robert

Dear Robert,

Uh, I like “Mola mia, tegn’ dür”. The reason why we are living, despite everything. Somehow you missed my wish to celebrate together St. George’s day next year in your Italian house. To meet there will be a kind of win. But let’s hope.

When I look at your measure, I could see that somehow my platform is more advanced than yours, which is impossible. It might be that Lassie and Leisure played more than it is necessary. Just imagine that I have been in my gym today after two months, again, and your gyms will reopen Sept 1st. Come on, guys, are you crazy. Why our epidemiologists are so brighter, I suppose they are working together with politicians.

Regarding physiotherapists, there are funny restrictions, the sauna is not permitted, but massage it is. Totally, the opposite. Sauna is killing corona, and massage is quickly spreading corona from person to person. I could say smoothly from the skin.

I liked your measure “June 1st museum, libraries and outside terraces”, this measure already started in Serbia, but who cares for museum and libraries.

But, what is funny to me are travel restrictions. I could not see the difference between the immunity of the European people. The rate of mortality, infected, is more or less similar. The measures are more or less the same. So I really don’t understand what will happen if Serbian or Austrian people travel from Austria to Serbia, or if Serbian are traveling to Montenegro or Greece. Why the Governments continue to ruin, already ruined economy. Come on, Europeans are the same if they respect the equal measures; there is no difference. But we must understand that this is an ideal situation to show how it has bigger (measures). Unbelievable that state epidemiologist traps us. Poor guys, always in the second plan, and now like they changed indisposition for political domination. What about the knowledge?

I am not sure that I understand the map, so I compared some countries. It seems that less means better. BY the definition of resilience /rɪˈzɪlɪəns/ means the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties. Maybe you could explain it.

 

I hardly wait for your analysis of our diary. I am sure that we are better in many comments then officials, but since I am a medical doctor, I always like to kind of double-blind study. In our diary, that means your analysis since you are still more objective.

Finally, I could say that my today impression is that corona is excuse, when the system is not functioning. I have spent 2 hours and 45 minutes in the bank for something which should have been finished in 15 minutes. I didn’t get a proper answer, and I think that they didn’t do the job correctly. Too may wrong information, which needed to be checked by superiors, who proved that clerks are wrong. The same was in the Serbian Embassy in Vienna. My daughter was in a humiliating position. I don’t want to get into details, but it was unprofessional, against data privacy, against human rights, against the protection of the integrity of own citizens. In a word, “humiliation,” in one of the most populated countries in the world with people from Serbia. Just imagine what is happening where the community of the Serbian people is smaller. We humiliate ourselves, and then we have a problem when complete Wimbledon is going against Novak Djokovic. We must return our dignity, starting from Serbia.

Mola mia, tegn’ dür! Nenad

— Day 38 —

Dear Nenad,

First of all you are of course very much invited for St George day in Italy next year! It would indeed be a great win (and I also promise some great wine!).

What I like is that we leave place for doubt, acknowledge that we might not know things and are willing to learn from different approaches. And this is precisely the problem I had with the experts here, who have been stating things that turned out not to be true, are not transparent on what they base their decisions on and seem to insist on their own approach. We discussed here that the approach in Germany is a better one and I think that the numbers so far confirm it, as they do for New Zealand for instance.

The other thing we discussed is that the advisors are solely epidemiologists without other experts. This discussion has now taken place here for a while, but so far nothing has changed. Whereas we also wrote about the side-effects that a lockdown will have also in human lives.

And the point is not that I disagree so much with what the government is doing in view of the circumstances. It is just that I believe that still two things are lacking: transparency on the reasons behind the approach and the lack of ‘interconnectedness’.

With regard to the first item, my analysis stays as it is: everyone in Europe was ill-prepared for this, underestimated the effects, took action too late and then moved into a panic scenario because of this. All of that I understand, as the English say ‘It is no use crying over spilt milk’. What I do not understand is the lack of honesty around this, which is probably for political reasons. As someone two days ago said: “If I were the prime minister I would already now announce that I will not go for a next term, so that no one can argue that my actions are politically motivated”. This is what we know as the Athos model and I think that would work (but have not seen any politician doing this).

The Netherlands were simply not prepared for this in terms of medical tools, intensive care beds and testing and we are now paying the price for that. Being better prepared for the next time is precisely what resilience in my view is about and in that respect you can wonder if the resilience list we saw yesterday (with Norway as most resilient) is correct.

The second point is the interconnectedness. They sometimes define these situations as a so-called wicked problem, i.e. a problem in which it is impossible to make a decision without negative consequences. In my economic analyses I am used to think in economic chains or in other words trying to understand the dynamics in a system. We now face a possible shortage of yeast, because many people have decided to start making bread themselves.

This might be a small trend when it comes to households, but it becomes a big trend for yeast producers. These trends move through an economic chain, often get amplified and can lead to disasters if you do not understand the whole system.

The lockdown is a good example: the virus leads to an increased number of deaths, but also the lockdown leads to an increased number of deaths, for instance because no cancer operations are done. This could still be called a direct effect. But also the fact that hospitals now fully focus on corona means that many clinical trials have stopped. As a result many start-up companies now face delays, might go bankrupt because of lack of financing or a country loses the knowledge because the company is easily bought now that it is in a difficult situation. These are never immediate effects, but indirect effects, but they always come and can be large.

From what I see we have a good chance of big economic disturbances in the months to come and that means we have to prepare for that. We keep seeing and hearing data about economic predictions, but you have to understand what the underlying scenario is and which dynamics are in there. As we know from the virus, the difference between exponential and linear growth is huge.

In my view it is time now to prepare different scenario’s not only for the virus spread, but also economically and start to think what to do if a certain scenario starts to happen. If we wait until it happens, it will be exactly the same too late approach as what we have seen so far.

By having more scenario’s available you acknowledge that you do not know everything and that you cannot control everything. You are never optimally prepared, but at least you are prepared as best as you could and you can act immediately when you see that a certain scenario starts to play out. Not being prepared the first time is not good, but not being prepared the second time is unacceptable.

And so far I have not yet seen these scenario’s from any government, so I wonder what is being done on this. In the Cold War on all sides there were plans to convert some industries fast to a war economy if needed, but this is a situation we just did not prepare for it seems.

In all scenario’s one thing is clear: we will need a big cooperation between many different parties (industry, citizens, medical staff, government) to get this done. And what we see is that governments of different countries are not really cooperating now and if that is the example what will society do ?

Wishing for lots of cooperation ! Robert

 

Dear Robert,

This is an excellent analysis. Better then we could read in newspapers these days. Unfortunately, few will understand. And because of that, we are going in a real recession. I have the impression that even God doesn’t care too much since the developed world was blind too long on the suffering of the developing world. So why it will be relevant 33 millions of unemployed in the U.S., when they didn’t give a damn about anybody all these years. Still, they don’t care about the weaker, more unfortunate, and unprotected. It seems this is just beginning, as you wrote correctly, they don’t prepare for the second wave, third, etc. They are still too arrogant. They don’t wear a mask, they don’t give an example, and there is no empathy.

I have the impression that my world is falling apart. Just imagine if it is the truth that 80% fewer opportunities people have to travel. I missed 80% to be somewhere else. I should have been this year in the time of pandemic two times in Switzerland, once in England, and after that on football EURO, then on basketball. But that is nothing comparing to my colleague who can’t visit his father, who is dying in the Republic of Srpska (Bosnia). What kind of experts limited traveling between the same nation divided by artificial borders. If we were Yugoslavia, he could have the right to go there. But because they have torn our land apart, we are separated. I could not see there is a different epidemiologist risk between Serbia and the Republic of Srpska, but still, Governments are playing. Unfortunately, this is not a game.

I have also learned today that testing is essential, but not because it has sense, but because of marketing and prestige. Thus some athletes are testing, and some professionals are preventively testing, in spite, the tests are false positive or negative or simple not performed well. But who cares? The numbers and acting are important. And it is important to blame the Chinese. Somehow their tests are not good. Why do they not use different? Because they don’t have it, but the Chinese are not good.

And not this chaos around us is because of the virus. It was there, but now it is easier since we could blame somebody. The school system is not working, and the banks are not efficient, production is low, people are hungry, everything is happening because of the virus. Is it normal for everything to occur due to the virus within two months, or our system is corrupted and weak? Maybe that is resilience. That explains the difference between the Platforms. Did you watch the movie?

So 20% chances that we will meet next year, because evil is controlling the minds of Governments, and they are playing wicked games which they missed the whole life. Just look the NYT titles from this morning https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/06/briefing/recession-germany-us-hunger.html?campaign_id=51&emc=edit_dk_20200507&instance_id=18279&nl=morning-briefing&regi_id=76077049&segment_id=26771&te=1&user_id=5a00221cd8387eb18cd08c754be0fcd4 :

  • “A recession of historic proportions awaits Europe”
  • “U.S. levels of hunger and unemployment are soaring”
  • “Where virus rules vary from street to street” (The third one is good: The border dividing the Netherlands and Belgium cuts straight through the entrance of Sylvia Reijbroek’s studio and art gallery. She closed down her business, following Belgian law. But it has been frustrating, she said, seeing customers walking in and out of the health and beauty care shop next door — in the Netherlands.)
  • And for the most intriguing title, “The Future of Travel”, unfortunately without the clue. Our celebration of St George’s Slava in your house in Italy is really under the question mark.

Yes, we need significant cooperation between citizens, medical staff, government, industries to get this done. And you are right. The governments of different countries are not cooperating, and we are falling deeper into the problem.

At least one good news my friend Silvio celebrated today 75 birthday in Bergamo, and in spite, he was under immunosuppressive therapy he won corona infection.

Yes, we must work together, even if we don’t like each other or everything is falling apart.

More honesty, more knowledge, and a straightforward approach we need.

Nenad

— Day 39 —

Dear Nenad,

Good that you ended yesterday with the good news about Silvio in Bergamo. This is excellent news! My friends from Bergamo often send me movies of the city which are made in these times. Having lived there of course means that you live through these moments of crisis much more forcefully, because you know people living there.

And that will be a different effect of not being able to travel. Also Tanja and I used to take an airplane 3-4 times per month, and some years ago even 2-3 times per week. Having empathy with people you know is a lot easier than having empathy with people you do not know. In order to get to know new people you have to meet them and in order to meet new cultures you often have to travel.

With the current travel possibilities this will throw us back in time, so after a certain period international solidarity will seem like a strange thing for those who do not travel. It must have been a long time ago that I was for three months only in my own country (and almost only in my own house).

Indeed the relation with China is coming under stress, triggered by the way the US are now behaving. Of course an investigation would be good, but the way in which it is now demanded ensures that it will not take place. As someone commented in the newspapers today: imagine the opposite that China would demand an investigation in the US and how the US would react. This is all politics gearing up for the next election.

It also takes away the focus of dealing with the future rather than the past. The right preparation is more necessary than ever now and it seems that political battles are still more important than preparing well. Like I said, here on the one hand I have seen tremendous creativity in rerouting production to the things now most needed: medical supplies, test supplies, personnel. Unfortunately I also see many of these initiatives running up against the wall of bureaucracy. But probably now the virus is also to blame for that.

I liked your remark about who really cares about the people. Here I have seen two types of company. Both have been donating mouth caps to society, changed their production to make sanitizing hand gels and have been supporting in the production of parts for medical tools. One company is publicizing this all over the internet, showing to the world what a fantastic company they are. The other one has decided to not publicize anything, because they believe that the real heroes are in the hospitals and that their contribution was a small one.

You might call me old-fashioned but I very much appreciate the second company. Both are doing something for society, both are large multinationals, but I get the feeling that the second company wants to really do something for society, whereas the first company sees this as a Public Relations ‘opportunity’. Of course in both companies employees worked with equal determination to do something good, but their PR departments show a different reaction.

In a world where money or power has become the ultimate measurement, friendship is of course a bit of a strange thing. Doing something for a friend means that you have no expectation of getting something back, but you just do it because you wish her or him well. Let’s hope we will have more of this.

My dear friend, to friendship ! Robert

P.S. will watch Platform this weekend

—-

Dear Robert,

Exactly to friendship. I could just add that I lost too many friends because I was doing something for them, not because they didn’t do anything for me. But the sad story, we could discuss in person.

In general, I could hardly call our diary “in the time of corona”, since from today everything seems normal. The crowd of people is on the street, and busses are regularly operating, shopping malls are super full, 300 ladies are in queue to buy the discounted dress. Parks are empty, and restaurants are packed. I didn’t see a big change in the curve, but politicians decide to act differently. They are preparing elections.

So, on our Platform, the second season is too far, but not sure how this will be finished. Definitely, somebody should do a nice study, since such a shift is difficult to explain. This is Balkan.

Tomorrow, instead of being in Skopje, I will have an online meeting with the Ice climbing commission of UIAA. Luckily that could be a good chance to return to reality since I will see how the people are behaving in the pandemic, respecting something, and acting responsibly. However, Ice climbing problem is more significant than the current situation, since we should predict competitions for the next season on three continents. I believe that it is impossible. On the top, the are many organizational issues that don’t have anything with corona. We will have two days of a big discussion.

I have also visited the dentist today, and it seems that I will need to have a small surgery next week. Good, that is happening now, not month before, since I don’t know how I would solve it. Dental clinics are open again, but unfortunately, not all the diagnostic are possible to be performed. Thus, I have done today 3D orthopan as the non-contact method, since there is no film which you should put behind the teeth. It seems that it was good since they saw the process in the root of the teeth. I learned that a dental clinic in Holland should not be open soon since the dentist showed me an article about one of our dentist who is working in Hague – https://www.021.rs/story/Info/Misljenja-i-intervjui/242671/Stomatolog-Dragan-Grujic-pise-za-021rs-iz-Haga-Najveci-redovi-bili-ispred-kofi-sopova-odlazak-kod-zubara-i-dalje-rizican.html.What I have found interesting in the article that the biggest problems are closed coffee shop, and that currier service have ben stuck with orders. Nice to hear some real issues in the EU country, not ours advanced, political anxiety. I have also tried to watch Times 100 talks – “Finding hope”. Actually, I have expected some functional analysis, but I have got conversations with designer Christian Siriano. So different people have different problems, or we are similar only we are not educated the same to understand how much it is important to realize that everything depends on us, at least in one moment when there are elections. I like that “gearing up for the next election.” Unfortunately, people don’t understand that, like they don’t understand, that virus didn’t disappear, just because of isolation we have a smaller number of cases.

In the light of today’s optimism, we have got information that Air Serbia will restart flying to several countries, including the one who has seas. Nobody didn’t notice that people could travel with negative tests if there is bilateral agreements exist between the countries. Currently, Germany and Austria, have that agreement. Somehow don’t understand because I believe that Germans will appreciate more agreement with Croatia, Italy, and Spain. Is it so complicated that at least Europe makes some EU agreements and the post Corona measures? At least for small countries like Serbia, it will be easier to follow. Thus, we have to be brighter than some EU countries, do copy-paste, and in that process, the mistake will be made in the direction of breaking human rights. Just imagine that Europe allowed traveling under precise conditions, my daughter would not need to be humiliated in our Embassy for three days in a row to get the paper to enter her own country.

It will be great to have her and kids hear and pretend that everything is normal, preparing to celebrate the kid’s birthdays and to go on holiday.

Yes, my dear Robert, to our friendship. You didn’t allow me to be alone these corona days, and I suppose that is count more then you have been here, but never called me.

Nenad

 

— Day 40 —

Dear Nenad,

Congratulations on the 40th day of our diary! Today I will celebrate drinking rakija and Serbian wine and eating čevapčići, whilst sitting in the sun on our balcony. What you describe about the streets in Belgrade I can imagine. Today we went to a shop close to us which specializes in selling products from former Yugoslavia. Usually I do not see many Dutch in the shop and indeed I had to use Serbian to keep people at a distance.

So once we bought everything, we decided to go back home and stay there the rest of the day…

Of course I also see that many young Dutch people seem to have a different view of 1,5 meter distance than we do. Let’s see how the numbers will develop in the coming weeks. One of the things I was wondering is the form of the infection curve. Of course in the beginning it grew exponentially, but you would expect with a complete lock-down that after some weeks it would also go down exponentially. Instead in many countries it seems to go down linearly (or not at all yet in countries like the US). I also looked at an Italian report showing the difference between the different provinces where some were much more hit than others (with our province Bergamo being the highest). If you look at it province per province you see that it does go down exponentially, so the linear curve is probably a result of the geographic spread over a country.

Today I also read an interview with our chief infectologist. The arrogance drips from the page, he shows absolutely no doubt and says that the accusation of not being transparent is not fair, as ‘you can find everything on the internet’. Of course except the data ‘which they have to keep secret’. For me being able to doubt is a sign of intelligence, so the interview made me doubly worried about the level of advice. And, as you correctly showed yesterday, the number of daily deaths has not decreased yet considerably. What is decreasing here is the number of people admitted to hospital, and as a result the number of people on intensive care. What is never reported is how many of the people which left intensive care, left it alive…

I hope that your operation at the dentist will go OK, it really feels like bad luck if you have to go for anything medical now. We have two friends now in chemotherapy, probably the worst moment to have one. One of them has now been 5 days in hospital for an operation and when I spoke to him on the phone, he said that he was happy to be out.

Here dentists have reopened for non-urgent interventions, but I will for now follow the advice of the Serbian dentist in The Hague, from the article you sent yesterday: I will wait a little bit more before going there.

Also I do not know whether to go to the hair dresser, who will reopen on Monday here: on the one hand my hair now looks as if I am living in the 1970-s, so a visit would be good, but it also introduces another risk. We will see what to do.

Today we had planned to be in Thessaloniki and afterwards to travel for a week around in the Greek Pindos mountains. It would have been a good chance to see a new part of Greece and of course to practice some of the Greek I have been learning. For now we have postponed everything to autumn, but I do not know if we will be able to go then.

Yesterday evening I also had a virtual ‘drink’ with another group of friends. I am president of a club that has members that work or used to work in business and at the same time have been army officers. As a considerable part of them is in retirement we have of course cancelled our monthly dinners. Now that they are softening the measures, some of them have the hope that we could slowly start again, if after July 1st groups up to 100 people will be allowed, albeit with 1,5 m distance. However, last night I told them that I am not thinking about this yet, as a big part of them is in the risk group. Apart from what the government tells us, we still also have to make our own risk analysis. Anyway it was good to see many of them online.

Let’s hope that we will be able to prevent a second wave, although with the amount of people on the streets I am not optimistic. We will only see the result in a couple of weeks, so we will have to be patient.

Stay healthy ! Robert

Dear Robert,

Yes, congratulation, nice rounded number.

You see that our citizens don’t respect distance wherever they are. Luckily you know the language. Potentially you will be very busy in Belgrade as well because we had a full city again. Somehow I was happy to see so many older people walking around. Obviously, it was a harsh decision to lock them at home. In general, they don’t have risky behavior, and they didn’t need to be humiliated on the way that our Government did. If I tell you that one decision-maker has 65 years and another one 71 years, it is even worse since they didn’t have any empathy against them.

In general, that drastic turn that everything started to work, the crowd is everywhere is difficult to understand. I see that people are confused. Some of them still have masks and glows, some only masks, some masks on the half of the face, but the majority are without any protection. I think that could help that we do not stop with infection and that we got as Swedish specific herd immunity. The band thing is that health workers are tired. Not only tired, but they also didn’t get a higher salary which was promised. Even more, all of them who have been ill get a reduction in pay if they got sick on duty during fighting against corona. If you think that change something, you are wrong. We used to be tortured and humiliated.

All that chaos could be dangerous since we are losing the point. We still have a high number of new cases – 89 and deaths – 4. so it is difficult to see that something is changed. The same thing has happened in many countries around the world. I read that Korean needed to shut down the restaurant again since they got a dozen cases during one night from the night clubs. But what concerned me is the destiny of all those seniors from the senior houses. I use the word which I have learned from a colleague from Holland. He explained to me four years ago during the EURO in France that system is broken and that the Government could not support the high standard of the institution for retired people. Thus he explained to me that more and more people are trying to organize private houses with proper care as their future home. The fact that dozen of the have been infected and died in Nis, Banja Luka, and Split are telling that the health care system on the former territory of Yugoslavia is equally weak. The same is in big countries like the US. Today’s NYT said that one-third of deaths are coming from “assisted-living facilities, memory care facilities, retirement, and senior communities.” That is prove for something, I am speaking so many years, that there is no good life for the pensioner like we are calling them.

As I said yesterday, we had today’s first day of world mountaineering meeting dedicated to Ice climbing. The situation is not good, which you could suppose so. We will see what will happen since so many big populations are depending on mountaineering. My poor Nepalese, just returned to normal activates after the earthquake, and now again decrease in tourism. Same for Chagas and other people around Kilimanjaro, Maldivians, Indonesians, etc. For encouragement, Americans get the most out of it, and I believe they will find a solution if I could suggest turn like in Serbia.

Of course, I am joking, and at the same time, I was looking for a solution for immunization of a bigger part of the world. The vaccine is too far, despite Pfizer and at least five companies are doing trials on different levels. The good thing is that the FDA could cuts usually a period of 5 years to 18 months because of the emergency. Hyperimmune Gama globulins are an option as well, but unfortunately for several hundred thousand, maybe a hundred thousand, but not millions. Finally, the tests are the most problematic because there are too many differences, but neither one is accurate enough, and they are expensive. I was happy to read today in NYT that Americans introduced home saliva test, but then totally disappointed since sampling should be online monitored.

So still so many unknowns in the equation, no harmonization, and everybody is doing for themselves. It is complicated to explain why people are not unified in such a big disaster. It was written somewhere that the UK didn’t have the same emergency from the beginning of 18 century. After 4 million infected and nearly 300.000 deaths world is still not working together.

As if we were cursed, which is returning discussion about the goodness of the people.

Maybe the moment to say “Pomozi Boze”, “God help us.”

Nenad

— Day 41 —

Dear Nenad,

Today I was thinking about what this crisis does psychologically with me. Buddhism tells us to live in the moment, in the now. With a lockdown you are more or less forced into this. It has gotten a lot more difficult to think about the future. Usually a lot of our time is spent on thinking how things will be. As I wrote yesterday, this week we were supposed to be in Greece. I already had all kinds of thoughts about what we will see, what we will visit, what we will eat. But Greece is for the time unreachable for us and who knows when it will be?

The only one who did not acknowledge this fact was the only hotel we could not cancel and who did not even answer to our mails, the Blue Bottle hotel in Thessaloniki. We got a mail this morning to rate our stay….It makes you wonder how often we correspond with people and how often with algorithms.

Anyway, it is difficult not being able to do this. Yesterday we talked on video with our Italian neighbours and they also showed us our house on video. Then we started talking about how it will be when we will be able to go. Probably one of the few discussions on the future in the last months. Following the Buddhist advice is good, but extremely difficult, despite the fact that the current situation is helping that.

The other effect is that I noticed that my life has ‘slowed down’. Greek has two words for time, which have a bit of a different meaning: chronos (Χρόνος) and Kairos (Καιρός). Chronos is the time our watch measures, the linear time in which an hour is an hour. Kairos is the time as we feel it, the time that we feel being ‘slow’ or ‘fast’. From many people I hear that when they wake up the day seems endless, but in the evening you wonder why the day has gone so fast, especially in these days.

The good thing about having a limited amount of things to do is that you can spend more time on really seeing things. This morning we had a 2-hour walk in our neighbourhood, moving on the most quiet streets and we discovered again a lot of building, squares, ornaments, details we had never seen before. A street is now something to discover, rather than a means to get you from A to B. We saw a lot of nice building from the ‘Amsterdam School’ and were sure that few tourists had ever seen these buildings. We even found some nice ‘brutalist’ buildings, which reminded us of buildings from New Belgrade.

In a way you could say that our ‘kairos’ was in a slow state and we were much more conscious of our surroundings than usual. For me it is extremely difficult to be in the ‘now’ when I try hard, but automatic if you do not try. It would be really nice to show you some of these parts of Amsterdam, which are less known but really nice. Maybe a nice plan for the future to think about ?

Stay healthy ! Robert

Dear Robert,

Of course, I agree, and I am sure that I will walk with you in Amsterdam very soon. Not only that, but I am also sure that next year I will celebrate St George’s Days at your house in Italy. Simple, everything that happens today showed that the situation on the field is different than in the media. Nina finally arrived in Serbia, without big problems, except long waiting on the Serbian border, despite just a few cars with great, great distance from the border police. It seems that only the Serbian police didn’t welcome her since she got wishes for a happy journey from Austrians and Hungarians like everything is normal.

source: border camera, Horgos – It nice to see that your daughter is coming on live cam!

Finally, we are relieved, but not only because I kissed them in Belgrade, but because everything in Belgrade looks like that corona didn’t exist. People are on the street, and restaurants are full, it was crowded today. So crowded, that after we have finished the world mountaineering meeting, we couldn’t resist and we had a coffee on the street.

Psychologically it is schizophrenic. The week before we had a weekend curfew, people were scared, kindergartens were not working, the majority of the companies were closed, or people were working from home. And from yesterday, everything is like with magic wand changed. Just imagine buses are going as usual, shopping malls are so full, like never before. I have found out that the reason why the crowd was in one boutique is the reduction of one dress from 200 to 40 euros. An excellent way to restart selling.

I am just watching epidemiologists on TV, and they look funny, since their role was misused, or they act by purpose against our freedom, imposing not necessary measures which are against human rights. I met my neighbor, 80 years lady, trembling, happy to come out after two months. Just imagine she was glad to go on the green market, not at 4 a.m. but at the regular time around 9 a.m. All these measures look ridiculous today. Why we had curfew?

It will be just a matter of time, when Nina’s travel today will be normal for all of us, like in the past. Or my impression is wrong since today Russia had the most considerable number of new cases and almost 2000 deaths. That reminds me of the beginning in Italy, when everything looked normal in Serbia, and Italy had around 600 deaths per day. Is it normal that because of political decision again, we start to act normally when we have in five European countries (UK, France, Spain, Italy, Russia) with more than 20.000 new cases and more than 800 deaths? What is strange to me is not too many words about the UK who are in the second place per deaths, behind the US, in front of Italy, who is marked as the most jeopardized. What’s happening with the traditional analytical British approach? As I said, schizophrenic situation.

Who will be responsible for this chaos, for not making common strategy, for the biggest economic losses from the second world war, so many jobless people, etc.? Some of my friends are not working, and we are not sure how they will restore activities which are connected with traveling, sport, jobs outside of Serbia. I heard a good interview with the CEO of the Fleckensteiner hotel chain. He said that they didn’t have problems with staff on Balkan because those people used to work in poor conditions, in crises, without salary, and with limited resources. Are we cursed to live like that for the last 30 years, and why is that our advantage in front of the employers. Somehow business morals, which I learned in Hewlett Packard that all employees should be equal. It is not good that the EU staff is privileged over Balkans because people on Balkan used to suffer. Obviously, nothing new on our platform.

Thus, let’s go back to fantasy and allow me to imagine that we will travel on summer vacation and at the end of the year somewhere far away. Until that, I added to your Buddha thoughts an additional quote of him: As you walk and eat and travel, be where you are. Otherwise, you will miss most of your life.” We should live in moments, and that what we are.

See you soon,

Nenad

PS. What do you think to start working online in your book about Athos? We could edit one page per day, in the same manner as Diary. You prepare one page by translating your text from Serbian on English, and I will give my comments and suggest pictures. It will be first interactive writing, and in weeks we will have a journey book.

 

— Day 42 —

Dear Nenad,

Good to read that Nina has finally been able to travel to Belgrade! It gives some hope in what you correctly call a schizophrenic situation. Especially in Serbia: from total lock-down to opening up bars. Also, here, with the first loosening of the measures, people seem to have the idea that the crisis is over. Today elementary schools opened (although with extra measures), as well as hair dressers and beauty parlours.

People today seemed to take less care and keep less distance. This means that a second wave is now a real danger, as happened in South Korea because one person infected 40 others in a bar. In practice of course this would mean that they have to reintroduce the stricter measures, but I wonder if this will work.

How this will all go, we will see. In any case we will get an economic crisis now after the health crisis. In the second economic aid package of the Dutch government there is no longer the obligation that you cannot dismiss personnel. For some companies, like airlines, which for sure will keep having a big fall in turnover, this means that now the American situation of massive job dismissals can also start in Europe.

So it seems we will easily go back to ‘normal’, although some things might change. Will it still be normal in the next years to shake hands? Will we touch door knobs and all kinds of buttons as we used to do? How will this affect the ‘resilience’ of our immune system? Will we still have large concerts or other large events Lots of questions are still open.

They also started a test where people are able to visit their parents in nursing homes again, once per week, under strict measures. Of course differences between countries will also grow now, as Belgium stays more strict but Germany is looser compared to us.

I was shocked by the story of the CEO of the Fletcher hotels. It shows you the mentality where money still is the most important thing and where according to the corporate policy everyone is equal, but in practice ‘some are more equal than others’. Probably he did not even think that he was saying anything wrong. Here we had the CEO of booking.com defending himself in the newspaper for receiving state aid (paid by us), after having earned billions last year. He still does not understand that it is unacceptable. Will this change in the future? Actually I do not think so, it will probably get worse, but let’s hope that it will get better.

Looking forward to seeing you soon!

All four stay healthy ! Robert

PS: on Athos it would be nice to get the experience, translate the Dutch and Serbian version of my text to English, but let’s stick to the weekends for doing this.

Dear Robert,

I think that we will meet you and Tanja soon since fast reeducation of measures is not happening only in Serbia, but all around Europe. I could see that your description of that is different. Didn’t you say before that hairdressers would restart the end of the month again? I see that even in the UK system is going faster then epidemiologists’ advice since they have such a huge number of deaths. I realized today while I watched Boris Johnson, that complete British reaction was weak because of him. He tried to play as usually hard, then finished in the hospital, and now trying to come back with some dignity. It seems that corona is not Brexit.

So, traveling will be possible much before we expected, with good or bad tests, but who cares people like to travel. It seems that so many things are happening right now just because of the will of politicians and capital.

In that environment, I am doing exactly what we wrote yesterday—living for the moment, hugging (which is forbidden) my granddaughters, learning, watching good movies, having many online conferences, etc. Just imagine tomorrow I will listen to live conference with Jared Kushner. Let’s see what he will tell. Simple, I like to hear that we are not the worst in the world.

I think that we will be good next year with corona new deaths will come, but I suppose not like this time since the world learned a lot. Plus, I think that somebody uses this hysteria and impose actions which were not necessary. Many examples in every country, and we already wrote.

I think in what moment we will close the Corona Diary and continue to write something new or quite the same but not under the shadow of the corona. As it is written in NYT “coronavirus pandemic could end socially before it ends medically. People may grow so tired of the restrictions that they declare the pandemic over, even as the virus continues to smolder in the population and before a vaccine or effective treatment is found.” I think that we already have a social ending. But let’s wait for a little. Today “less then 3000,” people died. Again I see “who cares answer,” from where we were starting two months ago.

It is super that you liked to continue writing Diary or shift a little bit in the direction of Athos. I am satisfied with our Diary, it is not too demanding, and reflects the time we live.

See you soon in Belgrade,

Nenad

PS. I could bet in the mid of June, at the latest.

— Day 43 —

Dear Nenad,

Just read that to enter Serbia as a foreigner I will need a negative corona test not older than 72 hours plus a document from the embassy. What the extra value of this document is, is not really clear to me, it will in any case be effective in ensuring that people will not go.

What the NYT wrote that ‘people will declare that the crisis is over’ might turn out to be true. It is going to be extremely difficult to strengthen the measures again, if needed. And it is indeed not yet over. Let’s hope that we will learn something from all this.

What will now follow is the economic crisis, 25 % of entrepreneurs here say that they for sure will not survive the 1,5 m economy. The World Economic Forum predicts that 40-60 million people will be pushed back into extreme poverty. Global poverty was decreasing steadily, but this year will make a jump back up.

One of the things I am looking at is the survival of start-up companies. On the one hand a crisis is an accelerator of innovation, as we need solutions fast. On the other hand, all innovations which are not related to the corona crisis, are now often in stand still because companies, hospitals etcetera are focused on the short term.

Start-up companies are usually not very rich and any delay for them can mean the difference between surviving or going bankrupt. This would be a real pity, because there are lots of good ideas which will delay in development. They are really waiting for experiments to start again, which will enable them to survive. They are of course not so visible as restaurants, hair dressers and all other groups which have seen a big economic impact. But they are very important for the future, so we will have to find a way to help them through this.

What many people do not know is that also in a country like the United States, the main initiator of innovation is the government. The Italian/British economist Marianna Mazzucato has wrote some very interesting books about this, called ‘The Entrepreneurial State’ and ‘The value of everything’. So the government should not just look at throwing money to make the economy survive, but also at in what they really want to invest. As I understand, vaccine development has not been high on the list the last years, so we are now paying the price for that.

Now is the time to also make some good choices for the future. And that means that we will need politicians which are able to think long-term, which nowadays almost seems a contradiction in terms. Which lessons do we learn from this?

If you could decide, what do you think for instance that the medical profession should focus on for the future ?

Stay healthy ! Robert

Dear Robert,

Regarding medical professions, the answer could not be difficult since if you watch sci-fi movies, you could see that machines are doing everything, sampling, analysis, diagnosing treatment. I am sure that will be possible since, even today, different medical devices are substantially helping medical doctors, and, without algorithms, doctors are making mistakes. In many countries, the computer must be consulted for every complicated and expensive procedure.

I have the impression the digitalization is the word which we heard so many times during the last two months. It seems so easy to make a meeting with different people or groups, from different countries, professions, without travel, accommodation cost, registration fee, and losing working days. For example, I had a meeting with a group of the best antidoping experts from my chair. Like in the advertisement, Priceless. Or it is not, since I like more to travel and see people live.

I am sure that with digitalization, many more people will use jobs because the computer will simply replace them. Still, remember when the employee on the highway asked me why I bought an automatic reader for the toll road. On my question, why is he asking? He replied because of those small units every day, and some workers are losing jobs.

In that world process of globalization, our Government is giving 144000 euros for one working place (http://rs.n1info.com/Biznis/a597769/Drzava-Henkelu-daje-144.000-evra-za-radno-mesto.html – I am sorry that link is not English, because of our potential readers who don’t know Serbian). You said the Government should not just look at throwing money to make the economy survive, but also at what they want to invest. Since you are an expert in this filed, could you tell the rationale behind this decision?

To my world, poverty was very difficult because I needed years to understand that I am coming from one of the poorest countries in Europe and because of that we have specific treatment. I mean, as a citizen of former Yugoslavia, I was taught that we are equal and that we should respect all people. In that time, Tito established nonaligned countries, and Yugoslavia was respected. Now, those counters are in poverty or struggling to be somewhere in the middle. Again it is not easy to understand why they didn’t continue to act together. It will be much better for every country. So there is “value of everything,” and you do not need to be wealthy, but you could have knowledge, morals, and vision. It is strange how corruption eats everything.

And some brighter thoughts. You don’t need a negative corona test if you are coming to Belgrade. You could go, and you will go to 14 days in quarantine, but then I will fix for you local testing, and if you are negative, you are free to go. Tomorrow I am doing that for Nina. It is a pity that it is tested just for the acute presence of corona, not proof that you have recovered from Covid. Without going in the essence, the problem is the types of immunoglobulins that could be detected.

We are waiting for both of you.

You are welcome,

Nenad

— Day 44 —

Dear Nenad,

Let’s hope that your prediction is true and that indeed in June we will be able to visit! Slowly the discussions have started about how to open up borders and how to allow at least some tourism. For now it is not even possible for us to go to Belgium or Germany, but you are right we have to be positive!

When I talked about that governments must choose what to support in innovation, I meant that they have to think about what will be the most important things for our future. One of the things for instance we have not solved yet is the climate change we are causing. So developing sustainable technologies and circular products should be high on our list. This means moving away from products which are based on fossil fuel, but instead based on biological raw materials or produced from recycled material.

Despite the current economic situation in Serbia, which will worsen more as a result of this crisis, I believe that Serbia has chances. Because there is a lot of knowledge and creativity around. You already see this in the field of digitization, where a lot of companies now have offices in Serbia, precisely for this reason.

So rather than investing 144.000 per worker to get a factory in Serbia, this money could be invested to finance start-ups in sustainable technology, digitization and medical innovations. If this will not happen, most of the students will leave for foreign countries, as in the last 30 years.

If Yugoslavia had stayed together, just image how much better the economic starting position would have been and how much brain power and innovative creativity the country could have assembled. But unfortunately it went the other way and every small state focuses on itself. The current crisis can trigger exactly the same direction in the European Union. Now the German courts think that they have a higher authority than the European courts, which if misused by populist politicians can easily trigger a break-up of the Union.

Looking at it from a wider perspective as Europeans we have allowed that the data industry is mostly run in the US, that the wind and solar industry went almost totally to China, whereas all three industries will be important for the future. My expectation is that if we do not invest strategically in new technologies in Europe, that American and/or Chinese companies will start buying the technology here, especially during this crisis because the start-up companies will need money to survive.

In the financial crisis the European countries forced Greece to sell the harbor of Piraeus by and it was China that strategically bought it. Now everyone starts to realize that this was long-term a bad idea, as this harbor is very important for the European transport infrastructure. We have had too many years of ‘leaving everything to the market’. It is fine to leave certain things to the market, but governments have to strategically think about what will be needed for the future.

And if you only leave it to the market, of course you find out that you expected a pandemic to happen on paper but in practice you were not prepared for it. Together we are strong and all are equal seem to be forgotten principles in times of economic crisis.

To look positively, many students in other countries have already discovered Belgrade as a nice place. In the days when we were still flying, the plane to Belgrade was usually half filled with Dutch students going for the weekend there. So rather than losing students to other countries maybe Belgrade should focus on getting more foreign students to Belgrade and make it the place where the future of the world is made.

Also in a crisis we have to keep dreaming of a better future. Everyone will go through hard times in the coming period, but as Darwin said ‘the most adaptable will survive’. How could we turn Belgrade into the innovation capital of Europe ?

Stay healthy! Robert

 

Dear Robert,

Unfortunately, there are no people who could turn Belgrade into the innovation capital of Europe. There are not enough people even to maintain the system. What could you expect from the country of 7 million, when there are fewer people than in average big world town as I like to say we kind of statistical error. Plus every year people are going abroad. Yesterday one teacher burned her diplomas in front of the Parliament https://www.danas.rs/drustvo/profesorka-srpskog-jezika-spalila-diplomu-ispred-skupstine-srbije/

From another side, we are already invaded by China. They are exploiting our mains, and they are running our still industry, they are building our roads, they are treating us against Covid, they are already in Belgrade. I don’t even think it is terrible since in main sci-fi literature, our continents will be EvroAsia. Just look at what Clark, Orwell, Huxley, Asimov wrote. They are running new technologies. Even 5G is their invention. There are new sheriffs in town.

Look what is happen with corona infection, the bit it very superiorly, with grate discipline, introducing measures which everybody followed, but not with the same success. When European experts warn the politicians that the outbreak will come to Europe, politicians were laughing, and they made to much difference among the countries. Somehow I see that every country has his Trump or Boris Johnson, except the ones where ladies are ruling. They did much better. I did an article about that in my column in tosamja. media. Just look Scandinavians, Iceland, and of course, New Zealand. https://tosamja.media/dzasinda-ardern-licni-primer-i-empatija-kao-lek-protiv-korone/

It is kind of grotesque when the EU is speaking about opening the border because of tourism. First of all, they should not close the borders, since it was one, Schengen territory, superior to beat the virus. But, local sheriffs decided to fight by themselves. Look where we are now. Too far away from everyday life, IATA said that standard air service would be introduced not before 2023. I am asking the same question again what was the difference among the EU countries regarding corona.

Do you see the EU has almost the same color ( at least western rich countries)? Just imagine they didn’t play with isolation, and they decided to have harmonized measures and use the power of the EU health care system. I am sure that it will be better. Now, they want tourism back.

I spoke with one of my friends today. Travel agency doesn’t want to return the money to him for already paid summer vacation in Greece. They offered him to choose any date this or next year. If he doesn’t want mange to go on vacation, they will return him money after January 1st, 2022. If he is going this year on vacation, he needs more then 1000 euros for four members of his family just for testing, which he doesn’t have. It is 4 times some amount in both direction.

When I am speaking about the test, as I said, Nina was tested today, and that test was just for acute infection. I am caught with the fact that they could not diagnose previous Covid infection. That is a big problem since IgG testing is valid just for a few days. So I am not sure about what kind of tourism they are speaking about.

I think that European should start to act responsibly and influence that bending the curve goes down in the whole territory of Europe. In some countries, they should influence the leaders politically to follow the same strategy since European territory should be possible to control the coronavirus. As I already mentioned, people on our territory are acting normal, we have even political rallies, and our brother country per anticorna acting, Belarus, has never stopped with a football championship. Curiosity is that their football, which is below average, is now dominant in world betting. Maybe that is the reason why betting shops are open the first all around Europe.

I am joking. Maybe we could bet when you will come here. With current measures and inconsistent steps, I am sure that you will be in Belgrade mid of June.

See you soon, Robert

or on Chinese 再见

— Day 45 —

Dear Nenad,

Of course I agree for the bet, let’s bet on a good wine, on the condition that we drink it together 😉

Interesting to see that the infection picture is almost opposite to the resilience picture we had a couple of days ago. So you can really wonder if the resilience ranking given there is really true.

Let’s look at two reasons why this is the case. The first one is what I would call arrogance and complacency. Really hard times in my country were so long ago (75 years to be precise) that people have come to believe that nothing can happen to us. As a result the response to the virus was too slow and politicians have fear of admitting this, because it can politically cause them trouble.

Another reason links to an article which my friend Josee from Bergamo (by the way a loyal reader of this diary) sent me today. Unfortunately it is in Dutch, so I will not link it here. But in short summary it is an interview with a Dutch mathematics professor who talks about two things: one is the occurrence of so-called ‘Black Swans’ and ‘thick tail events’. Things that seem unexpected to us because we think that we can extrapolate the past and therefore miss the signals of an unexpected event. What is a thick tail event you can see from the graphs of yesterday. i.e. the infections do not follow a Gaussian curve but grow exponentially and then take a long time to go down.

The other thing is the drive for efficiency which has been there in the last years, as a result of which we have almost no storage or buffers left. And indeed just in January we bought a deep freezer here in Amsterdam. We were so used to just go to the supermarket every day that we were not very prepared for ‘just in case’.

Companies have been doing exactly the same in their search for shareholder profit maximization. I myself have done several so-called ‘Lean’ programs and ‘Just in Time’ programs. The most ‘optimized’ country in this respect is the US and that in itself was already a big reason for why the US is so hard hit now. As this professor explains if we would all optimize our bodies in this way, we could all sell one kidney because there is a small chance that we will need the second kidney in our body. Yet very few people sell their second kidney.

With regard to travelling I agree with you that that antibody tests will have to be done, next to virus testing. Now the virus test must maximally be 72 hrs old, but in those hours you can catch the infection. Greece has been the best country so far, if you look at the graph. When I told my Greek teacher that I had found two positive articles on Greece in the Dutch newspapers, she almost could not believe after all these years of negative stories about Greece. But of course also 30 % of the Greek economy depends on tourism, so let’s hope that they will stay at these low numbers when tourists start to get in.

My worry is that we are slowly letting our guard down now and I start to see more people on the streets now not paying enough attention to distance. I hope that at least the higher temperatures will help to keep the virus low in the coming period.

Anyway, I look forward to us drinking the wine together and I know that it will take at least two bottles to convince you of the chances for Belgrade to become the innovation capital!

Stay healthy! Robert

Dear Robert,

Cheers for two bottles, and you’re coming to Belgrade.

I have been today on Medical Faculty in Kragujevac and had a proper consultation with their professors on clinical pharmacology, but we discussed other issues as well. The faculty starts to work from Monday. But what I have noticed that people are more cautious than in Belgrade. I saw many of them with the mask, and there is a kind of disinfection barrier almost in every public building, restaurant, etc. Waiters are with glows and masks. The different warning is printed on the buildings, etc.

Of course, we discussed the pandemic, and we agreed that the system was not functioning. Since the majority of them were young, they have been enthusiastic and speaking about medicine like it has to, as a job for the once who wants to help others. Unfortunately, they mentioned many examples where medical doctors were not ready to help people because they afraid of infection, and because of that, they suspended all standard activities and acted only against corona. In spite, we wrote about that I was again surprised since I am deeply sharing their attitude, and don’t understand doctors who don’t want or don’t know to help others. Why are they, doctors? Especially all of us have been disappointed with the work of our epidemiologists. Again, in spite, we wrote about I am always surprised how they acted poorly. Did you read in NYT that high court overruled lockdown measures in the state of Wisconsin?

So I agree with you that arrogance and complacency are essential for the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties, e.g., resilience. It seems that in many countries, they didn’t count on the disaster of such an extension. Still, they have to good opinion about themselves as powerful and capable of dealing with every problem.

On another side, I am always thinking about “just in case” preparation, building in the forest self-sustainable house with all supplies. Maybe that is the influence of “end of the world movies” movies I watch, and probably the same reason is why I didn’t because I watch the movie where all those different shelters didn’t work. Simple people are connected in good and bad things, and it is almost impossible to make something just for you since, finally, you always depend on interaction with others. We spoke about that as well, the necessity to be harmonized in a tough time. And we are still not, and borders are closed, international solidarity is low, despite the whole world suffering. Still in the US death toll is above 1500 per day, new foci of infection are in Brazil and the southern hemisphere. It seems that Europe doesn’t care too much, again too far from them.

I must find the time to compare what we wrote and what was happening, it seems that we have been better the so-called “professionals.” I hope that I will have more time during the weekend. Tomorrow I have a lecture, then on Saturday one colloquium and Monday the second one.

Until tomorrow, Nenad

 

— Day 46 —

Dear Robert,

No diary from your side tonight. I hope that everything is good, that you just stayed out unplanned. What I thought tonight is “burn out” of the pandemic. After I have finished today’s work, I stroll through Belgrade’s streets. There were full he people like we celebrated something. Live music everywhere. Then I remember that pandemic stops when people are stopping to afraid of it.

Actually by WHO burn out is defined in a new classification of the diseases:

“Burn-out is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions:

  • feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;
  • increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and
  • reduced professional efficacy.

Burn-out refers specifically to phenomena in the occupational context and should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life.”

In spite is written that should refer to occupational context, I could say that in this what we passed we could apply the definition. Almost the whole world was doing kind of special duty under pandemic. Some of us managed better than others. I remember that I wrote that we should use pandemic as an opportunity. I think that many of us did it. I learned, created some new things, writing a lot, and didn’t leave too much space to be free. Just imagine I watched one movie and one series in two months period. Impossible.

I could say that I feel burn out, not because of exhaustion, but because of feelings that everything that we are doing will be changed in the future. Of course, I am a little bit tired, and I need more sleep. Thus this weekend, I will try to relax and not working so much.

So if you feel the same, that is OK. I think that we should use these negative values around us to define what are our core professional values, what do we do want to do, and how we will continue to fight for our values?

Pandemic just help us to start to realize that the world is changed and that some new order is necessary to begin.

I have just watched a nice documentary about the bees who disappear, without explanation. That reminds me of one trailer that when the bees disappear, people will do the same. Then I looked on the Internet and found many articles about that “There is no specific reason as to why the honeybees are becoming extinct. Just as there are many reasons why things do not work properly. There are three main reasons for the bees’ extinction, and they are parasites, habitat loss, and cell phones.” So in the bees world the same as in ours, even 5G is a problem.

Bees are sensitive to electromagnetic waves. “Their navigation system is destroyed, and they cannot recall where their home is. It is known that these electromagnetic waves damage this specific ability in honeybees, but it is not proven that it destroys whole beehives.”

It seems that burn out which I am feeling, is just a warning that we should rethink what and how we are living and doing, or we will disappear as bees.

In my room, there is the unique part which I call ofrenda (An ofrenda (Spanish: “offering”) is a collection of objects placed on a ritual display during the annual and traditionally Mexican Día de Muertos celebration), where is written, “If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything.” And I have my dear people who are not with us are there. So I think that it is the right moment to remember our ancestors, friends from the past and rethink the future.

Exactly, five years ago, we had returned from Athos, and spent the early morning in Ouranapolis, before we left to civilization. We saw a lot and learned from the lost world and history of Athos. Maybe the clue is history and the past.

I hope you are OK.

Nenad

 

PS. then I have got your text, and since I have finished mine, I put your behind.

Dear Nenad,

Cooperation is indeed the key word we need and it is good to see that several companies and institutions start to understand. But cooperation means taking the first step of trusting someone, which involves taking a risk. As I always like to think, trust is something that you give, not something the other person first has to earn.

Unfortunately we have moved in the direction of the Anglosaxon system, which is based on starting from distrust, unless proven otherwise. In my daily activities I now see many activities of people finding creative solutions to create a ‘resilient society’. Also I often see bureaucracy getting in the way, because creative solutions by definition do not follow what is known to them.

Bureaucrats do not focus on finding a solution but on ensuring that everything is correctly documented so that they never take a risk. As if the world is still the same as six months ago and we do not need extra medical tools. They do not want to explain why we still do not have enough tools available, but some of the companies offering them are now exporting them to other countries, because they cannot pass the bureaucracy in this country.

In Italy the same is happening, because they now want to treat the infection of an employee as a work-related accident. But how do you know that people got infected at work? Will we do the same for the normal influenza? It feels like people sitting in an office, thinking up rules for the outside world without ever having been there.

In the meantime normal medical care has restarted. My father had to go to an operation three months ago, because he has some skin cancer spot on his nose. Yesterday I drove over to him to bring him to the hospital. Both of us in the car were wearing masks and he was sitting in the back of the car, but it felt strange to stay at a distance from each other. On the other hand he is in the risk group, so we of course took no risk. Luckily the operation went OK, so I hope that everything will be good. Obviously these are operations with which you do not want to wait too long, on the other hand this hospital until recently had a lot of corona patients.

Luckily numbers are still (slowly) going down here, so I have some hope that this will continue. Pressure here is increasing to open restaurants sooner than June 1st. We will see what will happen in the next days. This weekend I will test some wine to see what we will drink when we see each other in Belgrade…

Stay healthy! Robert

— Day 47 —

Dear Nenad,

Yesterday evening I was indeed a bit later in sending the text, because for the first time we had friends over for dinner. Dinner of course at 1,5 meter which was a bit strange but we managed. Today we also visited the hair dresser, so that I do not look anymore like an actor from the 1970’s. Never had a haircut with a mouth cap on, but it went OK.

Also I feel tired (it might have something to do with the wine testing last night), but all kidding aside, I hear many people that feel tired. Probably it is caused by the insecurity we have felt in the past months. As I understand this is a necessary phase in coming to change, according to the so-called ‘Theory U’. This is a theory developed by a Harvard professor called Otto Scharner, which is an interesting theory to read. And I fully agree that our values are very important in this journey.

Looking at the past, I believe that the past can teach us what our values really are, if we think back to all our experiences. In many difficult situations in the last years I have learned to trust my intuition on whether something is according to my values. This makes it much easier to act according to your values. Often when we are faced with dilemma’s related to our values we know the answer already, but the question is whether we are open to listen to ourselves. If we are able to do that we can also ‘learn from the future’.

One of the values which seem to be disappearing in our world is the trust in (scientific) facts. In our so-called postmodern world image and reputation seem to be more important than facts. We of course see this back in how our governments are dealing with this crisis, as we have commented in this diary several times.

One of the masters in this image building, rather than sticking to the facts, of course is Donald Trump. But with him it is so obvious that I even wonder why many people can still believe him. The point is that many other politicians do the same, but often not so bluntly, so something might look true, but if an investigation is done facts turn out differently.

With the high information speed of today, especially with social media, few people take the time to check facts. Often we read that things were lies only years afterwards and then it is not news anymore. Therefore, ‘framing’ and ‘spindoctoring’ has become a profession in itself and the difference between news and propaganda becomes a thin line. Just presenting a nice ‘outside picture’, without really having the ‘inside’ in order seems to be more important than the other way around. My values, however, tell me it should be the other way around, which is precisely why I worry about this trend.

And indeed going back to the long ago past, Socrates has learned us that we have to keep on asking questions, because that is the only way to understand. What I like in this diary is that we ask questions and mention the things we are critical about, without claiming to know the truth.

Understanding why the bees are disappearing is very important to be able to do something about it. And there are probably more reasons at the same time, so understanding the whole system is important. Also I understand that many more insects are disappearing. Why is this? So far, like with the virus, we just know what we do not know.

What was interesting to see on Athos is that monks basically very much live the same life as monks did 100 years ago. How were they able to do this, whereas the world around them changed so much? Which are the things we have lost in our society as compared to the Athos society?

As usual I have more questions than answers, but maybe that is one of the essences of being alive?

Stay healthy! Robert

 

 

Dear Robert,

 

Yes, I was worried a little bit tonight, since usually, you are writing much earlier, but luckily everything is OK. You are well. It is good that you had a nice social distancing dinner with good wine. That is what we all need. Even it is suitable for post-corona movies. I am just wondering what those movie guys are doing since they usually first come with some truth. Maybe they used this situation and prerecorded some material for future projects.

I started the day with the colloquium, students this time has been much better than last time, 82% passed. It is good to see that interaction between us gave some results. Then I have a relaxing time on the terrace. I was even transplanting some plants. As my blind friend Milos, says that you should always do something to somebody who needs help. Plants on our terrace have usually treated well, but as we traveled a lot, I could say they have been a little bit neglected. This isolation helped to get some extra take care, plus we put some spices plants, like parsley, the Chinese one (coriander), which I like, basil, menta, and cherry tomato.

Just before you sent me today’s diary, I read your text about Athos. It is so good. It is started exactly we spoke, from your interest in Greece, then after marriage with Tanja and because of your knowledge of different languages, including Greek and Serbian, more profound interest for Orthodox culture. I will do a shorter text since I will jump to adjust text about Atos for our writing. I will send it in email. When you check, please start to write in English and Dutch, and I will try to suggest some pictures and try to make some new questions. It could be an interesting book if you allow yourself to comment about everything you think is essential, and especially to compare it with Holland from every perspective. I suggest publishING when it is finished. Initially, I had the idea to write day by day and discuss it online. Now, when I read it, I think that it will be more interesting for everybody as a surprise, to read it when it is finished.

I am looking forward to getting your comments.

Nenad

— Day 48 —

Dear Nenad,

Just now we talked with some of our friends in Bergamo. It was good to see that they all were in a good mood. Now that Italy is slowly opening up again, finally some things are possible again. We caught two friends while biking for the first time in months. It seem like being able to do the ‘small things’ again make you happy, just because you can. Our neighbours were happy because their daughters could for the first time leave their house. Everyone hopes that it will last and that the numbers will not go up again.

The first thing they told us is that after the 3rd of June we will be able to go to Italy again. We will see what to do, because in any case we would like to go by car rather than by plane. We will probably have to make a plan on how to combine Belgrade and Riva di Solto in one trip. The question of course is what will be the rules in all intermediate countries.

This weekend it felt good to see some friends again, even if you have to stay at a distance. As I understand, for people in Scandinavia this was normal even before the coronacrisis, so probably we will get used to it as well.

Today I also worked on the Athos text. I did not finish it yet, because the English translation will take some time, but will send you a first draft of how it could be. As I understood from the Greek news today, churches there have re-opened, but with distancing measures and disinfecting icons after every kiss.

Everyone asks themselves if the governments will be able to return to stricter measures, now that they are loosened them. I also wonder and I read that in Germany, Poland and Switzerland protests are being held on a daily basis now against the government measures.

Local producers here have becoming creative here as well. Not far from here we have a local market and they have made a special app where you can pre-order things and them pick them up the next evening. One of the guys on the market is Iranian and he makes excellent hummus. So I pre-ordered the hummus with Iranian herbs and the one with fried paprika, which I often bought in the pre-corona days. Now I am sitting on the balcony, in the sun, eating this hummus with Lebanese bread and drinking ouzo. Being in the current moment, in the now, has never been so easy…..

Stay healthy! Robert

 

Dear Robert,

Do that Iranian guy delivers hummus in Serbia. Maybe we could drink something online. You will be on your terrace, and me on mine. We could toast with ouzo. When I am mentioning ouzo, do you feel the same taste as in Greece, or ouzo is different in Holland? I have kind of a problem that many drinks and food is tasting different when it is not consumed in the native country. The same issues I have with retsina, gyros, frappe, etc. Is it possible that something in our senses are acting differently in the natural environment of the products, or is it our mind which makes that kind of feeling. Anyway, I started with the season of frappe (in spite it was not easy during isolation to find blender).

The situation in  Serbia is varying, since yesterday we had 66, and today 114 new cases, plus Covid hospital in Vranje has reopened again because of 59 new cases. That is just the outcome of a political rally. Actually, the whole Covid crisis is under the influence of politics, and unfortunately, more people are becoming ill and dying. The measures should not be controversial. They should be clear. People should understand them and obey them because they know, not because of punishment. But, we argued about that. From the beginning, no empathy was here. Definitely, we are not bending the curve, and we expect in a few days a higher number because of the political demonstration a few days ago. Finally, in this atmosphere, we will have elections. It is fascinating one-third of kids are going to kindergartens, and some schools are working, some not, some athletes are preparing to continue championship, some competitions are finished, in some restaurants you have staff who respect all the measures, in some, there is no measures against corona, quite crazy situation. Some think that maybe that could be compared with Sweden, but I am sure it could not. They respect social distancing, restaurants, schools, kindergartens are doing the same, and most importantly, they have an excellent health care system.

We also argued about testing. Official data is about 190.000. What is strange to us is that we don’t know many people who are tested, even we are close to many medical doctors. One of the problems is in the organization. A good example is Nina. I made her tested on last Wednesday, and she didn’t get still the result. But, I got it on the second day from my colleague. Officially the result is not in the system, which means that she still needs to report to the police in 14 days quarantine period after her return from Vienna. That is really a big problem, maybe not in Nina’s case, but in the case of the people who wait for the result to be operated, or to travel, etc.  We discussed the issue of the patient who hasn’t been treated during isolation, but the situation is not changed. Officially only patients who have negative tests not older than 3 days could be examined in state hospitals. The same is with traveling, how to travel when it is impossible to get the result in 3 days. And what does it mean test which shows only the current situation, not antibodies of the corona in the people who have had the disease?

Anyway, Nina is with the children in the village. They enjoy the fresh air and huge space, and first cherries. The weather could be better. What makes me happy is the fact that the village house has sense. My grandmother would have been so excited to see them there. Actually, Lola and Anika are eight generations of my family in that village. Maybe that could be an advantage comparing with Americans who are all migrants in the last 8 generations. I sometimes think that your origins make you strong.

If you really decide to come by car, it will be fun. I believe they have standard routes for people who are crossing a particular country and that you would not have a problem. The only problem I see is quarantine in every destination or useless testing. Since you are coming by car, I should order some things. What particularly is interesting me is CBD oil. I believe that Holland is good for that. I had success in treating different problems at my friend with CBD oil, but unfortunately, it is not possible to buy in Serbia. Could you check and send me options for buying in Holland. I am looking for a cleanest and with high concentration. It could be there are some medical CBD.

Let’s drink tomorrow some ouzo or rakija on the terrace before dusk.

 

Stay well, Nenad

— Day 49 —

Dear Nenad,

That things taste different in other places than the home country is also true for me. It cannot be the product itself, because the ouzo is from Greece, the rakija is from Serbia. It might have something to do with air humidity, temperature or whatever, but probably our mind is just playing a trick on us. I also enjoy eating or drinking wine less when I am alone than when I am with friends. The surroundings and atmosphere play a big role in this. In fact in Amsterdam there is a restaurant (or was probably) where you can go and you eat in full darkness. I never tried it but food must taste totally different than when you sit in a room with light.

What you said about testing is worrying. Because if a test cannot be older than 72 hours to be able to cross the border but you only get the results after a week, in practice this means that you cannot travel. So if the rules are clear but the testing capacity and other things are not organized it will not work.

Here also several rules are not well worked out. From the 1st of June you have to wear mouth caps in the train, but not on the train platform. So chaos is assured, you really wonder who made rules like that.

Meanwhile I do not have the feeling that many people realize what the economic mess will be in the coming months. Like with the virus people do not seem to prepare enough and think that it will not be so bad. We talk about tourism, but the question is how many people will be able to travel in the first place.

And it goes like with the virus: first you hear from someone who knows someone that is infected. Next you know someone that is infected, then you know someone that went to the Intensive Care and so on. Yesterday we heard someone that knew someone that lost his job, so I can imagine what the next days will bring. It will start in sectors like airlines which obviously have big problems now. But it will slowly spread through many economic chains and we will see effects on many places.

So now is the time to prepare, see if we can shift people to sectors which are still doing well, see which additional measures we will need to keep economic sectors going even if they are not profitable because otherwise the whole society will come to a standstill.

If it’s OK with you let’s do the toast tomorrow, as I got home a bit later today and it is by now probably dark in Belgrade already.

Stay healthy! Robert

Dear Robert,

Definitely, madness is around us. I see that as a problem not only because of the corona but more as a problem of expected reaction. My impression of this day is precisely that. If we compare the world as

a g

lobal company, then the CEO doesn’t know what he is doing. Too many controversial decisions, no confidentiality on employees, wrong decision because of non-listening of the close associates, in one word chaos. And maybe we could not be worried about that if our lives are not involved.

Everything they are doing is not easy to understand. They could not issue test in 3 days, but they asked at least 3 days old test (by the way Nina still didn’t get the result of testing officially). They asked mask for the train but not on the platform. Two months we have a curfew, now people are going around like crazy. But then is some shops they ask mask, at the moment when the shop is full of people without a mask. In my gym, people are exercising without a mask, but fitness instructors have the mask. Sauna (95 C) is not working, but massage is working. We still have about hundred of infected per day and one dead patient.

I think that it is coming the moment when we need to write daily about the problem since it seems there is no problem. So my suggestion is to write on a weekly basis since I believe that something will happen for so many days, or we could write as we need. Maybe we need more to concentrate on Atos.

I met today, a man whose brother is a monk in a nearby monastery. He mentioned “Sveta Gora,” when I mentioned that we have been there and that we are preparing the book, he was interested. He said that he is especially curious about your view.  So, it seems that we are right and that we should add in the book discussion about cultural differences, which means that we should be more open. Let’s see!

So I suggest toasting tomorrow for our 50th day of communication, and a new challenge. I believe that I will be OK until, let’s say 18 h since, at 12 h, I have dental surgery. I think that it will be painful so that extra toast will do good.

Cheers for our 50th day and a new project!

Nenad

— Day 50 —

Dear Nenad,

Congratulations on the 50th entry into the diary. Corona numbers everywhere are still decreasing and if you look on the streets you wonder if we still think that we have a virus spreading around. Somehow I believe that it is probably more the warmer weather than our behaviour which is preventing a large renewed outbreak. Although in some places outbreaks still take place. Also here in the meat industry there are still some additional infections, mainly because they work with migrant workers, who live together and travel together to work.

Just to make the comparison, I pulled up today’s figures:

 

Corona figures 19 May 20
New infect. New Deaths Cases/1M Deaths/1M Tests/1M
Italy 451 99 3735 529 50294
USA 3978 152 4699 279 37316
Sweden 422 45 3052 371 20800
Belarus 936 4 3334 19 39771
Netherlands 108 21 2983 334 17600
Germany 193 22 2119 97 37584
Serbia 34 3 1228 27 21814
Greece 0 0 272 16 12627
Slovakia 0 0 274 5 26647

It is still hard to make any conclusion on this. The country with almost no measures at all (Belarus) is in deaths per million very low, but they still might be at the beginning of the virus spread. In Sweden the situation is comparable with the situation here, but they also started later so it might still worsen.

It looks like testing helps (compare Germany versus Netherlands), but Greece and Slovakia are doing well despite less testing (both did start with measures very early though). Probably it will need more time before the results can really tell us anything.

Today I read two more articles. One deals with the fact that the world is slowing down and was already slowing down before corona. The author thinks that this is a good thing because the speed of growth in the last 50 years has been too high and we need a ‘reset’.

The second one referred to the inhumanity of the measures taken, especially when it comes to elderly people in the nursing homes. As the author states, elderly people do not expect too many material things from life anymore, but they most appreciate human contact. This is precisely what we have taken away from them and many people died alone, without being able to see their families. Of course the measures in the nursing homes were taken to protect them, but you might wonder whether they would have chosen this solution themselves.

To be honest after 50 days I am still left with more questions than answers. Whereas it looks logical to me that the measures taken have slowed down the spread of the virus, the question pops up how much government intervention really influenced everything.

I just do not know, but we will in any case have to face the economic consequences in the period to come. In any case the 1,5 m economy will probably still be a reality for some time, but I expect that people will start paying less attention fast. We will see.

What these past 50 days have done is to give me an opportunity to reflect more on what is important in life, despite the insecurity we have been in and are still in.

Let’s indeed move now to a weekly diary, as I think it is still very interesting to see how the whole situation will develop further. I am going to take the Sundays for reflection and writing (and of course I then have some more time to finish the text on Athos).

Today I saw that Serbia is now also preparing to remove quarantine and testing for people that enter the country. (It also means you might win the bet..)

It was good to do the virtual toast from the balcony tonight, looking forward to a non-virtual toast !

Živeli! Robert

Živeli Roberte i hvala na druženju tokom ovih 50 dana / Cheers Robert and thank you for hanging out during these 50 days.

Jedva čekam da te vidim uživo / Hardly waut to see you live!

 

 

 


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