Why do I always have to start a post by explaining my position? Because there are so many people out there who don’t understand English… yet it is the only language they speak. Kudos to those of you that speak 3 or more languages… you are simply amazing. You are rock stars to me and I love you… and your parents.
For me, I do not think Covid-19 is funny at all. It is a virus that needs to be taken seriously. I do not think we need to take it any more seriously than other diseases though. There are still a lot of unknowns about it and I get that, but there is also a lot that we DO know about it. If you knew that our reaction to the virus was going to cause another 1930’s style depression and your family would end up losing everything, would you still be abdicating for the destruction of our economy? Just curious.
Maybe calling this the funny side of Covid-19 is a little click-baity… it is more the “interesting” side of Covid-19.
For those who know me well, I love writing. I am working on having three books published this year and in the middle of it I am still trying to complete an anthem of blog posts about my trip to Finland in 2016. You see Finland, to a Canadian, is absolutely nuts. Everything they do is backwards… of course it turns out they aren’t backwards as in stupider than us, because everything they do is smarter. I suppose everything about America and Canada is backwards. Those posts will be coming soon… I promise. The research is difficult but I have some Finns helping out.
But if everything about Finland (and Sweden by definition because they were the same country for 800 years), is smarter than Canada and the USA, and I am questioning the way we are handling this Covid-19 situation, then how curious am I at how they are handling this Covid-19 virus up in Northern Europe? If you don’t believe me that Finland is better than Canada in virtually every single way, you will have to save your comments for the 8-part series that was supposed to come out this summer when I was in Europe…
So I don’t want to talk about politics or how people feel about the virus, I just want to look at how we act, just the numbers. How are different places around the world reacting to this virus? I don’t have many answers after a 18-hour marathon of research and typing but I do have some interesting questions… if you have answers, feel free to comment…
These questions come from Google GPS data. Since 70% of the world’s smart phones are running android, they have GPS data from a lot of countries (no Russia, China, or North Korea though). This Christmas I will be releasing a book about internet security and privacy and in it we will talk about how amazing this data is and you are about to see just one of the things it has to offer us.
Google has tracked phone locations for people who share that information, and come up with some interesting data about our recent travel habits. They tracked percentage changes for phones in the following locations: retail/recreation areas, groceries and pharmacies, transit stations, parks, workplaces, and residential locations.
You would assume that the whole world saw drastic reductions in all these locations except the residential where you would expect to see rises… and you would be right, for the most part. I have tracked 56 countries and the changes look like this:
- retail / recreation: 94% less in Italy to 9% less in Taiwan.
- groceries / pharmacy: 85% less in Italy to an 11% increase in South Korea
- transit stations: 89% less in Finland to 16% less in Mongolia
- workplaces: 73% less in Jordan to a 1% increase in Mozambique
- residential: 31% increase in Panama and Malaysia to a 2% increase in Mongolia
- parks: 90% decrease in Italy to a 51% increase in South Korea.
Keep in mind that this data was taken from the first 56 countries that popped in my head… it would have taken me another day or two to go through another 150 countries and I have a book to write…
QUESTION 1 – Why are Nordic countries still shopping?
The Netherlands looks just like most other countries that we hear about in the news. But one of the things I know about Finland, and much of the Nordic countries, is that they love nature and they treat the outdoors like most Canadians treat their bedrooms. They don’t leave garbage laying around and they love to sleep there.
Aside from that, Sweden has seen one of the lowest retail losses at a 24% decrease, one of the lowest grocery/pharmacy decreases at 10%, and one of the lowest residential increases at only 5%. This residential caught my eye at first, because it seemed like nobody was at home in these Northern countries.
Residential increases in Nordic countries:
- Netherlands 11% more
- Norway 11%
- Estonia 10% (I included Estonia because I was writing with a young lady from Estonia and she continuously told me about how interwoven Finnish and Estonian cultures were)
- Finland 9%
- Denmark 9%
- Sweden 5%
Their workplaces had all decreased, not anywhere near many countries, but they had, so where was everyone? In the parks. I can’t tell you how much Finland people respect their nature but when global crisis arises, most of their parks actually became busier than they were before the crisis.
Nordic park attendance rates:
- Netherlands 30% decrease
- Norway 5% decrease
- Estonia 4% INCREASE
- Denmark 35% increase
- Sweden 43% increase
- Finland 48% increase
You can say that Finland has a lot of outdoor spaces and I would agree. With a population density of only 16 people per km2, they’re half as squished as the USA at 33 per km2. But in Canada we have less than 4 people per km2 and our parks, some of the most abundant and beautiful in the world, have decreased by 16%. I will let you know that I am 2 hours away from taking my motor home and family to the mountains as soon as the military is deployed at Walmarts and Costcos and I am probably not alone. Save me a campsite.
Can anyone explain to me why these Northern European countries find so much peace outdoors and how on earth can we spread that to Canadian children when this whole nightmare is over?
QUESTION 2 – Why the huge disparity between retail reduction?
I have spent all of today and last night trying to figure out what caused this. I looked at whether it was free markets but New Zealand, the third freest market in the world (according to Heritage.org) has seen the third largest drop in retail/recreation visits with a 91% decrease, joined by the seventh hardest hit in the UK with a 85% loss and they are the 7th freest economy in the world.
The #11 freest economy though was Taiwan and they have only seen a 9% decrease in their retail/recreation visits. Denmark, number 8 in world economic freedom, saw a reduction of only 37%
How about location?
Aside from New Zealand, 4 of the top 5 countries to see the greatest decrease in retail were in Europe:
- Italy 94% down
- Spain 94%
- New Zealand 91%
- France 88%
- Austria 87%
The UK was only two more down at an 85% decrease for retail. This makes sense because these countries have been hit so hard by the virus.
But if location was the problem, wouldn’t places beside China see the largest hit? I have heard that these countries are used to taking crap from China so they mobilize quickly but 4 of the 5 countries to have the least retail impact are right there (minus Sweden who might be trying to prove a point to Bernie Sanders fanatics by showing off their un-socialistic economy):
- Taiwan only lost 9% of retail and recreation
- Mongolia lost 16%
- South Korea lost 19%
- Sweden was down 24%
- Japan was down 26%
Do you have any idea why there was such a huge retail disparity between Taiwan at 9% and Italy at 94%? Clearly when people tell me on Facebook that the whole world is locked down, that simply is not the truth.
QUESTION 3 – Could religion have any effect?
I was wondering if maybe countries who believed in certain religions, or any religion substantially, might think they were immune. Nope. Of the top 7 places with decreases in workplace attendance, we cover Hindu, Islam, Catholic, and Judaism… so not very likely anything to do with religion.
Top 7 countries for workplace displacement:
- Jordan 73%
- Nepal 72%
- Spain 64%
- Italy 63%
- New Zealand 59%
- Panama 59%
- Israel 59%
Oddly, outside of Mozambique (no idea why I added this country to my list anyway), 4 of the top 5 countries that saw the smallest work displacement include:
- Mozambique 1% increase
- Taiwan 1% decrease
- Mongolia 2% decrease
- Japan 9%
- Laos 9%
And South Korea is a couple away at only a 12% loss. As a matter of fact, 7 of the top 11 for least workplace loss were from East Asia. And no religion ties could be found.
QUESTION 4 – What makes people stay home?
I suppose the government has something to do with this but it is hard to imagine that the government ordered 50% of people who were home two months ago in Sweden to go camping. Geography has nothing to do with it because the top 4 countries that saw the largest gains in people staying home in the past two weeks were:
- Panama 31% increase
- Malaysia 31%
- Israel 30%
- Peru 29%
The 5 countries that saw the smallest increase to home bodies during this crisis are:
- Mongolia 2% increase
- Taiwan 4%
- Sweden 5%
- South Korea 6%
- Japan and Latvia at 7%
Finland and Denmark are the only other two countries on my list with less than 10% increase, both at 9%.
You can’t tell me it is camping in all these places because Taiwan and South Korea aren’t known for their wide open spaces. Who would want to camp in Mongolia? We have already discussed the love of camping with Nordic countries so we don’t need to go there. But talking about the Nordic countries made me realize something very odd, which I have talked to several people about… Finland had the highest loss of traffic for their public transit stations where they were tied with Jordan at an 89% decrease.
With Jordan being the highest workplace shutdown and Finland being one of the highest for park increases, who is left to take public transit in these places?
Spain (88%), Italy (87%) and France (87%) round off the top five and it makes sense that those three places killed public transit for a totally different reason. Because of the known disparity of reasoning behind this change, I removed the transit numbers before I scored the countries on total marks.
Before we get to total scores though, I would like to mention those crazy parks once more, because something unique happened when looking at that data.
QUESTION 5 – Why is getting away so important to some people?
First let’s point out that parks are most deserted in the countries you would expect to see them deserted in:
- Italy 90% decrease in parks attendance
- Spain 89%
- Argentina 89%
- France 82%
- Portugal 80%
On the flip side, there are a few places where getting away happens a lot, and one even doing it more than anyone in the Nordic countries… and I never would have guessed or believed it had I not seen the data with my own eyes. Only 7 of the 56 countries I chose use parks more now than they did before this crisis…
- Estonia 4% increase
- Mongolia 5%
- Taiwan 17% (they have room for parks?)
- Denmark 35%
- Sweden 43%
- Finland 48%
- South Korea 51%
I know. South Korea. Who knew? I figured if you wanted to get away from people in South Korea you needed to go to North Korea.
As much as South Korea having a 51% increase in park usage was odd, there were a couple other very interesting oddities. In every other field, the USA and Canada were just somewhere in the middle but with park usage, they both saw a decrease, but Canada was the 9th lowest park loss at 16% less traffic and USA was number 12 of 56 with a loss of only 19%.
Another interesting thing I found out when I dug a little deeper into the GPS data (looking to see if Albertans were heading to the mountains or people from Vancouver were heading into BC) is that not all provinces and states were the same. In Canada, I am sad to say, that some provinces absolutely saw a benefit of getting outdoors, but Alberta wasn’t one of them.
- BC +27%
- Alberta -23%
- Saskatchewan +45%
- Manitoba -9%
- Ontario -14%
- Quebec -68%
- New Foundland and Labrador -18%
- Prince Edward Island -51%
- New Brunswick +101%
- Nova Scotia +95%
Exactly half of the US states saw increases as well… and three states saw increases of over 100%. That means that there are over double as many people at parks than there were before the pandemic. I am going to have to give some of this to weather because of the numbers around the great lakes.
- Alabama 19%
- Alaska 18%
- Arkansas 81%
- Idaho 21%
- Indiana 24%
- Iowa 41%
- Kansas 72%
- Kentucky 68%
- Maryland 29%
- Michigan 15%
- Mississippi 27%
- Missouri 73%
- Montana 28%
- Nebraska 109%
- North Carolina 13%
- North Dakota 73%
- Ohio 117%
- Oklahoma 29%
- Pennsylvania 7%
- South Dakota 126%
- Tennessee 35%
- Utah 26%
- Virginia 46%
- West Virginia 52%
- Wyoming 29%
I do not know what the differences are that would cause this. You can’t convince me that people in West Virginia and Nebraska like the outdoors more than people in Washington (-11%) and Oregon (-22%). The Canadian numbers might reflect exactly that though… and many more people work in the parks so those employees, while working, still have cell phones in parks.
Conclusion, or lack of one
I typically really like to share my opinions but I find myself having more questions than answers after 18 hours of data mining and typing.
Here are the top 5 countries for being hit the hardest by GPS data… and the only ones who scored over 100 on my spreadsheet…
- Italy 108
- Spain 104
- Panama 103
- Argentina 102
- Peru 100
Other notable numbers are:
- France 95
- UK 78
- Germany 68
- Canada 58
- USA 47
And the top 6 countries for being affected the least by Covid-19, of the 56 I tracked…
- Japan 29
- Mozambique 28
- Sweden 14
- Mongolia 7
- Taiwan 7
- South Korea 3
Like I said, seeing Japan, Mongolia, Taiwan, and South Korea at the very bottom of this list is beyond puzzling.
I know that the CDC just updated their data on March 26 for USA casualties from February 12 to March 16, 2020 and I lost 4 hours going through all that data too. There is a reason I am a geek I suppose.
At the end of the day, 92% of the deaths are people over 55 and most with previous health issues but that still means that 0.2% of Americans have died from a disease that has taken 2.5% of Italy’s population and 2.6% of Spain’s. It has already killed 0.08% of the world but we will never have accurate numbers from China so that is just a guess. I mean North Korea has stated that they have no deaths but just got $900,000 from the UN to help fight a disease that doesn’t exist there. This is the same UN that has turned into a puppet for China over this whole charade.
America is showing off it’s might and it’s free market healthcare system, something no other country is prepared to do. They may have a lot of problems down south but the facts are facts and they are mobilizing a nation to combat this disease. While the media and the rest of the world thank God that they have socialized healthcare, we ignore the fact that Chinese medical masks and tests are being shipped back from Philippines and Spain and who knows how many other countries as defective while multiple American businesses develop 2-15 minute tests. We will undoubtedly forget how fast the FDA approved Battelle to ship sterilization machines to hospitals all over the US to sterilize the N95 masks that were being stolen faster than they could be used.
We are a world filled with hypocrites that condemned America for closing their borders… their own ex-vice president called Trump a xenophobe for closing the borders to the UK and China so early… and now he is running a national ad-campaign on the story that Trump was too slow. We are going to forget that American companies are going to be shipping vaccines to the whole world when this is over because they have a healthcare system built on the profit of a free market economy. We are going to criticize them because their President is a loud-mouthed child who is the least presidential leader they have ever had. We are going to ignore the fact that he has taken a huge leadership role in the world and potentially saved millions of lives (if a vaccine comes fast enough).
At the end of the day, I don’t want to be a Trump fan, I never wanted to be. I act like one out of necessity because I despise bullies and I have never heard of a man get beat up so much by his own country since Abraham Lincoln. The difference now is that they are using lies to betray humanity in the name of keeping up racial and economic division. The haves simply don’t want the have nots to stop voting for democrats and that is a horrible reason to lie about someone every single day but social media makes it so easy. It is a horrible reason to deceive a country, which is what I see every day in these hypocrites. I will hold our deplorable education system accountable for their part in a future blog post.
I do not care about the politics of this disease. I care that America, the land of the free and the home of the brave, is appreciated at the end of this shit-storm for the contributions that were made by the people that work there. From the scientist and the medical staff to the police and the sanitation staff that made what they do possible. I for one, love you all, democrats and republicans alike. Thanks you for being there!
So much for not getting political.
If you have any ideas WHY some of these countries are handling things differently I would love to hear it… or get political. I don’t really care.
My friends keep asking me from Finland to Australia, how is my family doing. I tell them we are surviving but we are dealing with skyrocketing unemployment which will surpass the 30s in short order I live in a country that says the borders are locked down (our leader has said this three times). Somehow we are still letting in refugees if they are infected so they can use our healthcare and spread the disease I suppose, because we are nice… we are still letting in Temporary Foreign Workers even though they have no jobs, and we are still letting in International Students for schools that are shut down. If the rest of the world wasn’t so screwed up I would be seriously looking for a new home for my family… but then there is always Finland and South Korea right?
At the end of the day, we will all wish we had Jennifer Chan’s insight from January 14, 2020… but then she was so easy to ignore.
I usually like to leave the blog post on a funny picture but today, I have nothing funny. I have something to smile about though. You see one of the reasons I write it to hopefully affect change in one other person for the future of this planet. That future has always meant something special to me because I have nine children that I would love to see raised in a better world than I was raised in. That is not only not likely, it is almost impossible to imagine at this point. It has been 800 years or so since a father said that, or that it happened.
And this year it is especially important to me because I am finally going to be a grandfather… twice. I haven’t been given permission to say anything yet officially, but both my pregnant daughters have said they don’t care if I blog about it because nobody reads these things anyway.
If you read to the bottom, then kudos to you and now you know a secret. You know why I am passionate about this stuff more than I was in 2019. Scary as that is, it is true.
That’s a beautiful picture – it does need a few missing partners though: husband Matt and wife Helen. Shayne, now you will have some babies again! I love to watch my grandchildren grow, but somehow still have to filter in that this is happening to me too, kinda. Good to hear the news!
I know you have been impatiently waiting to become a grandparent. I look forward to both the writing and the photos.
I am a bit boggled by all this information. The current situation in our world has me more than a little concerned -some of it is for selfish reasons, some not.
You did a shit load if research …. it’s interesting to say the least. I need to digest it all and try to assimilate it in my brain.
I miss our in-person conversations but this gives me some real food for thought. Thank you!
Your welcome Barb… I miss our talks too… but when the world comes out of this deep funk we will have some time to visit again I am sure… until then enjoy the reading.