What Makes Soup Soup?
Don't ask Ukraine's kakistokrats
What is Ukraine’s COVID-19 disaster, and how can we measure the spread of the virus correctly? These may seem like simple questions, but top Ukrainian officials have been struggling to answer them.
They first created algorithms to measure infection rates, but it’s been difficult to assess the reliability and accuracy of the reporting formula without a circular reliance on the means used to collect the data, which we distrust.
The exercise raises challenging epistemic and technical questions. Much of the public’s knowledge about Ukraine’s handling of the epidemic has been based on the opinions of hacks and academicians. (cf. 1,700-word op-ed, titled One Year Later: Zelensky’s Moment of Reckoning, appearing in The American Interest)
This same bold - and exquisitely nuanced - assertion is repeated daily by Ukraine’s president and healthcare officials. It is not supported by facts. Formulation of beliefs based on what might be pleasing to imagine - rather than on evidence - is called wishful thinking.
The seven-day average of new COVID-19 cases in Ukraine flattened during the third week of April, according to officials statistics. Few trust the accuracy of the Health Ministry’s daily reports or understand calculations made to determine whether restrictive measures can be eased. One reason is because the algorithm changes almost daily, ostensibly in order to justify the decisions of national and local authorities to allow businesses to re-open.
A good rule of thumb is to believe *nothing* Ukraine's heathcare officials say. the *peaceful plateau* approach to mitigate COVID-19 will likely last months, maybe years.
Past is Prologue
At the beginning of the outbreak, Ukraine had a chance to contain the novel virus by identifying each person bringing the infection into the country and stopping it before it spread in the community.
President Volodymyr Zelensky told us not to worry on January 31.
Ze!Team did nothing to prepare for the pandemic in February and March.
There was no individual-level containment, which would have had minimal effect on the economy. Instead, Illia Yemets, a corrupt hack from the era of disgraced former President Viktor Yanukovych, was installed as Health Minister. He said the country’s limited medical resources shouldn’t be wasted on people over the age of 65.
Yemets was sacked after members of Ukraine’s jet set brought the virus back to Ukraine from European ski resorts. Germy priests co-mingled with hundreds of thousands of returning migrant workers and exacerbated the situation. All regions have since seen a steady increase in cases.
The idea that that restrictions imposed in March could be lifted after hospitals were re-equipped has been abandoned. Ze!Team in April gave up on a policy of sufficient testing and contact tracing altogether, opting for a policy of harm reduction, the success of which will likely depend on the unpredictable zeal of the nation’s vertically-integrated 300,000+ police force to delouse infected establishments and their owners.
(to be continued)