Friday, April 10, 2020


The streets of Paris are deserted today. No tourists at all; a handful of locals. Sure is quiet. Too quiet. It's eerie.

Champs-Élysées at rush hour
A species of hysteria seems to have gripped much of the world in recent weeks, including France. It is unlike anything I've previously seen in my lifetime. It concerns a flu-like, relatively innocuous viral respiratory infection, COVID-19, which has begun spreading rapidly worldwide, and which—for reasons unknown to me—seems to be causing a baseless panic. The disease is not particularly dangerous, with mortality in the same league as seasonal flu, but many governments and populations have gone off the deep end of the hysteria pool. It is astonishing and worrisome to see.

None of the actual data I've seen seems to warrant any great concern. The infection fatality rate seems scarcely worse than the flu, i.e., less than one percent. This is not smallpox (30% IFR) or pneumonic plague (98% IFR). And yet government officials are issuing "executive orders" (not necessarily with legal authority to do so) confining people to their homes and shutting down businesses, trampling civil liberties and destroying the economy.

Currently you need a special authorization just to go outside in Paris, and you can only do so for certain purposes. Scofflaws risk fines or imprisonment. All "non-essential" businesses have been ordered closed. The last time things were like this was during the Occupation, eighty years ago.

Employees at most companies have been told to work from home. My employer refused to set up remote working for me, even after I explained how to do it (after all, computers are my profession). I don't think their many consultants know how to do it. Instead, I was furloughed, with reduced salary. The company is probably itching to get rid of me, now that I've served my purpose during the buyout. This hysteria may provide them with an excuse. The lockdown is costing them a fortune, no doubt about that.

And so the streets of Paris are empty, even at rush hour on a weekday. I was only able to capture the video below because I had to go out to buy food. It's crazy. It's scary—and not because of the virus.