A Pandemic of Bureaucracy

The “war on viruses” must go on.

Some compare corona times to the novel “1984”, but I thought that perhaps Terry Gillian’s “Brazil” could be an even more apt comparison. In that movie, the totalitarian nightmare is coordinated by bumbling and incompetent bureaucrats, who nevertheless never give up in their indefatigable pursuit of more paperwork.  

If there was one thing that this damn pandemic sure increased was bureaucracy. To travel, to meet people, or even to have a cup of coffee somewhere, anywhere, now you need to show your “papers” — or, at any rate, a QR-code in your smartphone. 

I traveled to Italy during the “first wave” of the pandemic — or was it already the second? It’s hard to recall, there were so many. At the time, the bureaucrats had invented some kind of contact tracing form that everyone needed to fill before boarding a plane, however there were four or five different forms available, and confusion reigned. People weren’t sure which form to fill or how to fill it, and in the end, no one at the airport even checked the forms. 

The procedure has been streamlined, and now they certainly check all forms and digital passes, but the confusion has only increased. Italians initially had a “Green Pass”, then a “Super Green Pass”; now they seem to be inventing some kind of “Booster Green Pass”, and yet, predictably, none of it is reducing cases. It appears, go figure, that viruses and diseases are immune to paperwork. 

On top of the passes, now they, like other European countries, also added an obligatory PCR test to all vaccinated travellers, however, the same test that is valid for the vaccinated is not valid for the unvaccinated, who are still banned from most social and economic life, even if they present such negative test. Unless they get a vaccine first. Then a booster. Then yet another PCR test. And of course all respective obligatory passes and forms. 

But there is no reason to laugh at the Italians, as the same bureaucratic nightmare takes place basically everywhere. Germany is not short of idiotic rules either. For instance, after a year of accepting surgical masks, now they are requiring FP2 masks on public transportation and even supermarkets. Is there any study that shows that FP2 masks work any better than surgical ones? Not really. It seems that the idea is that, since such masks make breathing harder, they are thought as more efficient. The cashiers, however, wear just simple surgical masks or no mask at all. I suppose they are immune to the virus. And of course, the German 2G/3G rules is a “vaccine passport” scheme with a different name, and just as useless. 

Since none of that works, one would think that with such abysmal failure the pandemic bureaucrats would give up, but that is misunderstanding the issue. As a wise man observed long ago, a bureaucracy, like a virus, exists only to perpetuate itself. 

People still have to take off their shoes and have them x-rayed before boarding a plane, twenty years after the only unsuccessful and very suspicious “shoe bombing” attempt, and they cannot carry a bottle of water through customs, even though no “water bottle bombing attempt” was ever recorded. 

Now on top of the “war on terror”, we have the equally unwinnable “war on viruses”. And its attending bureaucratic overload (“it’s for your safety!”) will last as long.