European Diary, 3.3.2021: Austria’s Chancellor Kurz says he no longer wants to be dependent on the EU and wants to look into producing his own vaccines together with Denmark and Israel. The science editor of the ORF (Austrian Broadcast), Günter Mayer, comments dryly on this move, saying that this is “not a matter of squeezing an apple”. Such complex production could not be ramped up in a short time by decree, and here Austria would have to deal with pharmaceutical companies whose sales are higher than the Austrian national budget. Not to go into further painful detail: the Chancellor’s grandiose announcements are obviously hot air intended to distract from other problems. E.g. from the following: On the same day it became known that in an Austrian showpiece enterprise, the company “Hygiene Austria”, which manufactures mouth nose protective masks, a house search took place. This is actually the company about which Sebastian Kurz proudly tweeted in May 2020: “The Corona crisis has shown that we must not rely entirely on international supply chains for the production of important protective equipment.”
The raid was carried out on suspicion that masks supplied from China had been relabeled in Austria by workers employed illegally without social security contributions and sold at a higher price than Chinese masks. Hygiene Austria’ has firmly denied this and of course the presumption of innocence applies. Piquantly, there is a close relationship of the company to a close associate of the chancellor, as already reported on August 4, 2020, the research platform Addendum: the husband of Sebastian Kurz’ head of office has a 25% stake in one of the two companies to which “Hygiene Austria” belongs, and which is now to ensure Austria’s mask self-sufficiency with large government contracts. And managing director Tino Wieser of “Hygiene Austria” is their brother-in-law. (https://www.addendum.org/coronavirus/vertragsdetails-geheim/)
The vaunted autarky seems to be faltering. But as a slogan for national awakening – and for distraction from the slowly accumulating investigations and house searches in the closer political circle of confidants of the chancellor – relabeled Chinese masks are probably also suitable. Or perhaps in the future also relabeled vaccines?
The number of corona deaths continues to grow. In the U.S., more than 500,000 people have long since died from the pandemic. New reports of irregularities in the disclosure of deaths in shelters, such as those just shaking the hitherto heroic reputation of New York State’s Democratic governor, Mario Cuomo, suggest an unknown dark figure of dead. Which are likely to exist in other states as well. These dark figures appear to be particularly high in Russia and Mexico when excess mortality is considered as a factor. Even the Russian government does not trust their own official figures. it is said that only 57,000 people in Russia had died from covid-19 by the end of 2020 and about 81,000 by mid-February, whereas excess mortality in Russia in 2020 claimed 323,000 lives. Shortly before the turn of the year, even Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova declared that 81 percent of excess mortality was due to Covid-19. This would correspond to almost 261,000 deaths from Covid-19 by the end of 2020, while other calculations put the number of deaths at well over 300,000.
Russia, which is proud of having introduced the first vaccine, “Sputnik V,” is using the apparently highly effective vaccine primarily as an export hit, for example to Mexico and Serbia, Paraguay and Egypt, while vaccinating its own population is taking a back seat. This leads to the paradoxical result that Sputnik V will possibly help to combat Covid-19 in poorer countries. At least, if it succeeds in ramping up planned production in Brazil and India. In Russia itself, especially beyond the metropolis of Moscow, it appears that herd immunity by infection continues to be the most common prescription for acquiring antibodies.
Addendum on March 9, 2021: In the meantime, the allegations against “Hygiene Austria” and the two parent companies Lenzing and Palmers have been substantiated. While “Hygiene Austria” CEO Tino Wieser still talks about how “proud” he is to have created 200 jobs in Austria, it has become known that these are mainly in dummy companies. Bogus companies that either employ workers officially on a “marginal” basis, but actually have them work full time on the black market, or that get rid of social security contributions by going bankrupt in time. Also subsidies for not effected short-time work had been raked in. Also the suspicion that the “domestic” production partly took place in China, but that the masks were then repacked by illegal workers in “Hygiene Austria” cartons, now seems to be confirmed.
Flashback, early March, 2020: the EU is co-financing the delivery of 25 tons of protective equipment to China. The European Commission reminds national governments in Europe to report their needs for protective masks, test kits and respirators. But it will be weeks before the first requirements come through.
The first cases of Covid-19 are being reported in the United Kingdom. Dominic Cummings, advisor to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, summarizes the British government’s strategy as “herd immunity, protect the economy and if that means some pensioners die, too bad.” No. 10 Downing Street denies.
Donald Trump has also spoken out again on Covid-19: “It’s a flu, like a flu.”