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Don’t plan on a vaccine or persistent natural immunity.

Written By: - Date published: 3:42 pm, April 18th, 2020 - 93 comments
Categories: covid-19, Economy, health - Tags: , ,

There is a reason why there haven’t been any human based vaccines for corona viruses. Planning on an effective COVID-19 vaccine without excessive human side-effects being produced in the next five years looks pretty unrealistic. I’m concentrating in this post on giving accessible overviews in the links. But ones that reflect my reading further into the science areas.

There are lot of vaccine projects for COVID-19 underway. Wikipedia has an accessible summary. But there were after SARS as well, without anything that actually went to human trials, even 13 years after the outbreak.

Just looking at the history of trying to get useful vaccines for the SARS or MERS cousins of COVID-19 makes it obvious that getting a vaccine for corona viruses is tricky. Who really wants a vaccine that is more likely to cause lower lung inflammation than the disease itself?

Moreover at present there is no particular reason to expect that any natural immunity from COVID-19 will be persistent over the longer term. Any immunity acquired from either getting the disease or a vaccine is liable to fall away within years, if not mere months.

We never really got to see this with COVID-19’s cousin, SARS. It was so virulent that victims almost all wound up in hospitals, taking them out of infectious circulation. SARS died out in the human host population because it was too obvious. COVID-19 mostly has mild symptoms, and it hasn’t been around for long enough to see if reinfection is possible. But the WHO and medical systems everywhere will be looking for it – like this report from South Korea.

The most accessible overview of medical strategies that I have seen so far was on the aussie ABC site yesterday. “We’ve never made a successful vaccine for a coronavirus before. This is why it’s so difficult

For those pinning their hopes on a COVID-19 vaccine to return life to normal, an Australian expert in vaccine development has a reality check — it probably won’t happen soon.

The reality is that this particular coronavirus is posing challenges that scientists haven’t dealt with before, according to Ian Frazer from the University of Queensland.

Professor Frazer was involved in the successful development of the vaccine for the human papilloma virus which causes cervical cancer — a vaccine which took years of work to develop.

He said the challenge is that coronaviruses have historically been hard to make safe vaccines for, partly because the virus infects the upper respiratory tract, which our immune system isn’t great at protecting.

And while we have vaccines for seasonal influenza, HPV and other diseases, creating a new vaccine isn’t as simple as taking an existing one and swapping the viruses, said Larisa Labzin, an immunologist from the University of Queensland.

“For each virus or different bacterium that causes a disease, we need a different vaccine because the immune response that’s mounted is different,” Dr Labzin told ABC Science.

The basic problem with vaccines for upper respiratory tract infections is that area is an external interface to the air. It effectively has its own immune system, one that has proven to be far more tricky to develop a vaccines for than for viruses that attack via through our circulatory or digestive systems.

“One of the problems with corona vaccines in the past has been that when the immune response does cross over to where the virus-infected cells are it actually increases the pathology rather than reducing it,” Professor Frazer said.

“So that immunisation with SARS corona vaccine caused, in animals, inflammation in the lungs which wouldn’t otherwise have been there if the vaccine hadn’t been given.”

This showed up in both the early SARS vaccines and even the ones that were produced for SARS and MERS within the last 5 years.

Sure, COVID-19 has now produced a very strong incentive for humans to produce a vaccine. And COVID-19 isn’t going to leave the human host population anytime soon, so there will be a continuing incentive.

But you have to be aware of where the corona viruses COVID-19 and SARS and MERS came from. They almost certainly arose in bat populations, transferring to humans via other species, and eventually becoming infectious between humans.

Bats are mainly colony species and not noted for their social distancing where they roost in caves or trees.

2017: “Bats From a Single Cave in China Have All The Building Blocks of a SARS Epidemic

To allow this kind of social behaviour, bats also have fierce immune systems. Cell level studies like the one referred in “There’s Something Special About Bat Immunity That Makes Them Ideal Viral Incubators” explain some of the consequences from other species that bats come in contact with.

That’s because one of the molecular mechanisms in bats’ immune systems is the lightning fast production of a signalling molecule called interferon-alpha, which is triggered in the response of viruses. When interferon proteins are secreted by virus-infected cells, nearby cells go into a defensive, antiviral state.

The African green monkey cell line does not possess such advantages. In experiments, when the cell cultures were exposed to viruses mimicking Ebola and Marburg virus, the monkey cells were quickly overwhelmed. The bat cells, on the other hand, resisted the viral onslaught, thanks to their rapid interferon signalling.

The paradox, though, is that interferon ultimately seems to benefit viruses, even while it hinders their capacity to kill cells. While the signalling system prevents cells from dying, the infection nonetheless holds on, and the virus starts to adapt to the defensive regime, at least according to the team’s computer simulations.

“This suggests that having a really robust interferon system would help these viruses persist within the host,” says biologist and first author of the study, Cara Brook.

“When you have a higher immune response, you get these cells that are protected from infection, so the virus can actually ramp up its replication rate without causing damage to its host. But when it spills over into something like a human, we don’t have those same sorts of antiviral mechanism, and we could experience a lot of pathology.”

And that is the key point. We simply haven’t evolved to deal with or live with diseases at this level at a cell or molecular level.

We have no known verifiable treatments apart from just trying to keep severe cases alive with ventilators.

We probably only have one strategy that we know actually works for us. Social distancing.

We also have no idea how much that dealing with COVID-19 depresses our immune systems over the short or long term. What we do know is a bit depressing – we get respiratory co-infections of other diseases with infections of COVID-19.

We also know that the disease is likely to be infecting nerve tissue or even crossing brain-blood barrier. The widely reported symptom of losing small and taste senses clearly points to that. But there are more severe reports of other nervous system related issues. There is an accessible report in Wired “What Does Covid-19 Do to Your Brain?“. That has severe implications because the long-term economic costs of a disease that afflicts nervous systems is quite evident when you look at the 20th century history of polio.

Covid-19 is likely to remain endemic in human populations worldwide for the foreseeable future. That is what we need to plan on, at present, rather than some mythic vaccine or treatment.

We have a choice in New Zealand at present about being able to produce an economy at present that will largely or even (maybe) wholly free of COVID-19 outbreaks. Or to learn to live with the country or parts of it having economy damaging waves of infectious disease outbreaks as was common in the early part of the 20th century with diseases like polio or diphtheria.

The choice requires that we look at the types of businesses and parts of the economy that can be opened in the short-term and over the longer term.

For anyone who can read basic science and knows the history of luck involved in vaccine development, this is pretty obvious. Evidently it isn’t that obvious to many of our local brainless pundits who appear to be more concerned about industries that will be dead while a worldwide pandemic continues over the next decade. Unless a scientific miracle happens and it turns out humans can achieve long-term herd immunity against a sneaky bat disease in the short-term via vaccine or natural immunities.

But if we’re careful, in NZ we can shift the portions of our economy that risk us.

I think that our incoming tourism industry is going to be pretty dead. As will be our outgoing tourism industry. Same for the overseas student industry. Importation of skilled workers will become fraught with uncertainty for quite some time. What employer would want to deliberately take the chance of infecting their other employees? The film industry can probably deal with quarantine weeks. And the cross-tasman business commuters are going to need to decide what side they stay on.

Basically shipping people around the world isn’t going to be a basis for any industry for some time.

But shipping sea and airfreight with some restrictions has no real issues. That is where our real economy lies – both rural and urban.

Most of our outwards facing businesses are already remote capable and have been for years. Rather than hopping on plane and taking 10 or 24 hours to get to where our customers are (I haven’t been to aussie since 1992) we can (mostly) do everything via the net. Some things can’t be done like that. I spent many months in 3 to 6 week chunks doing hands-on work in various countries in the last 4 years. But when you’re doing work at that level, then a few weeks quarantining one or both ends isn’t that much of an imposition – provided you have networks

Certainly every export business that I’ve been involved in has been largely remoteable for at least a decade. 5/6th of our overseas earning income won’t be particularly affected long term.

Our internal economy will have issues until we get down below level three. But then we will mostly it will be a transition away from dead or nearly dead industries over the next 5 years.

Brian Easton has a pretty good overview of the prospects over at Pundit “Where Is The New Zealand Economy Going?“. But he also has a pretty clear warning about what happens to our economy when you have dithering leadership wanting to go back into the comfy blankets of the past.

Fortunately I detect none of that from Labour or the Greens, and only muted echos of it from NZ First and most of the public. The clarity of policy and vision in our government has been awesome to watch. A bit ragged around some of the implementation – but what else did you expect from the on-rushing events. I’m really glad that previous governments kept updating the pandemic response policies over the decades. It paid off big time.

So I’ll end by quoting a large chunk of Brian Easton’s analysis.

However, I do not think that they have paid enough attention to the impending collapse in some of our foreign exchange earners. Together, international tourism and educational services generate about a sixth of our export revenue.

Admittedly there will be some substitution by domestic tourists confined to home, but they wont be at the expensive end – we tend to stay with friends. And there may be other uses – hotels for the homeless. (Would it not be just great if the upper education sector abandoned its commercial pursuits and focused on education?)

A supply-side shock of this magnitude has happened once before. In 1966 the price of wool collapsed, also taking with it about a sixth of our foreign exchange earnings. Policy handled it very badly, ignoring the structural change or pretending that it was of no great significance. As a result, it took a decade to adjust and when we got back to ‘normal’, the long-run track was about 15 percent lower than the previous one.

Let’s be optimistic, assume we handle the impact more intelligently and that the magnitude of the damage  is about half that of the wool price crash. (If we assume there will be no long-run impact, we will handle it badly.)

What all this suggests is that we shant be back on track until around 2026 and the economy will be tracking between 5 and 10 percent lower (depending upon the world economy).

That mucks up the Treasury short-term forecasts. Rather than its assumption of a short sharp drop and a rapid recover to somewhere near the pre-Covid19 track by late next year or shortly after, we may well be struggling for another five years at least.

Bugger! I have just made a forecast. Hopefully I am wrong. But it is what years of working on New Zealand’s economic history (see here and eventually here) has taught me. Econometrics and common sense is not enough. A knowledge of the past is as important.

93 comments on “Don’t plan on a vaccine or persistent natural immunity. ”

  1. Stunned Mullet 1

    A good interesting post and raises some good discussion points.

    I agree that vaccines directed against corona viruses have proven tricky but do note that that there has been nowhere near the investigation into vaccines for the two recent Corona viruses of concern in comparison to the efforts and co-operation currently underway for Covid 19.

    Probably due to reasons of both profitability and clinical need SARS and MERS didn't attract the kind of effort that is now underway throughout the public and private sector so I'm tending to the more positive side of when and if a vaccine will be available.

    Certainly agree that there will be a number of industries which disappear in the short and medium term and remote-able opportunities that provide foreign capital are a promising source of growth to add to our exports of primary produce.

    There’s also probably many new businesses and opportunities that will appear over the next 5-10 years that we can’t currently comprehend.

    • lprent 1.1

      Probably due to reasons of both profitability and clinical need SARS and MERS didn’t attract the kind of effort that is now underway throughout the public and private sector so I’m tending to the more positive side of when and if a vaccine will be available.

      There was quite a lot of effort and resources put into SARS, less for MERS. The basic problem that kept foiling them was getting around the infection site issue – the upper respiratory system without triggering the excessive cytokine ‘storm’ in the lower respiratory system as lung immune systems over-reacted. Which is exactly what causes the fatal effect in humans – not the virus itself, but mostly the over-reaction by the immune systems.

      Effectively in animal trials it reliably often caused the worst possible effects of an actual infection while immunising – and was arguably more dangerous than the virus itself.

      Throwing money and resources at that won’t solve that basic issue with known approaches to the vaccine. What is needed is a new approach of how to cause less lethal immune responses in separate respiratory system. I think that they’re going to be lucky to get that breakthrough within the next decade. It is the same kind of fundamental issue that was found with HIV – for which we don’t have vaccine for either.

      I think that they’ll be far more likely to get a treatment to block the worst effects well before that. Just as they did with HIV. But as you’ll be aware that took decades to find because it was a delicate set of chemical cocktails.

      There’s also probably many new businesses and opportunities that will appear over the next 5-10 years that we can’t currently comprehend.

      That is more of truism than anything else. I just don’t think that international people moving is going to feature extensively in them

      • Stunned mullet 1.1.1

        I think comparing HIV with Coronavirus in terms of vaccine development is problematic as they're both quite different beasts.

        What does give me profound hope for a quicker rather than later solution to treatment and/or vaccine development is both the pace of clinical advances in medicine and vaccine development of the last decade and the effort being thrown at this issue and the collaboration between the scientific community.

        Agree wholeheartedly with your comment about international people movement being essentially stuffed but you never know perhaps with some new antigen/antibody diagnostic and an appropriate algorithm for the results that might change.

        • lprent

          I think comparing HIV with Coronavirus in terms of vaccine development is problematic as they’re both quite different beasts.

          Not really they are both viruses present in humans after a recent (ie less than a century) jump to being infectious in humans from another species.

          Both belong to classes of virus that we’ve never made a effective vaccine for. And both have had work doing on to do so for decades. The coronavirus variant of the common cold has had attempts made on it since the 1970s. The HIV since the 1980s.

          Lentiviruses and coronaviruses both have the characteristic that they’re really hard to figure out how to produce a vaccine that gives an appropriate level of immune response.

          What does give me profound hope…

          But if you read my post, what you’ll notice is that I don’t put much hope in hope as delivering a therapeutic method. I certainly don’t think that it should enter the current policy analysis because if you read history of pandemics, you invariably find that hope is the area of expertise of snake-oil salesmen and simply doesn’t provide reliable verifiable treatments.

          After all Trump is demonstrating this right now. For each droplet of hope that he throws out – hundreds or thousands of people die from it. Test – of course anyone can get a test – and people die waiting to have one. Fish tank poisons. Simpleton border closures with *lots* of exceptions.

          …is both the pace of clinical advances in medicine and vaccine development of the last decade and the effort being thrown at this issue and the collaboration between the scientific community.

          If this was an engineering level issue like how to manufacture a dead virus fragment, then eventually you’d be right – within a few years. But they literally already have that now with old SARS. It triggered immune responses that were somewhat larger than desired.

          For a single blocker treatment that hist one part of the virus life cycle – I’d expect a few years. It is a engineering problem as well.

          With the kind of cocktail drug approach that wound up with a treatment for HIV – then within a decade you can expect it. We’ve gotten a lot better than the efforts for HIV.

          For a actual working COVID-19 vaccine? This is one of those problems that requires a level of inspiration to find a different approach to get around the immune responses. They were working on that for SARS a decade ago. Hopefully people haven’t lost the lab notes of the large number of failed virus attempts for SARS.

          Maybe the different approach of the DNA MERS one that is entering human trials will provide a means.

          But I suspect that it may just have to wait for a eureka moment by someone to happen. Which doesn’t happen that often.

  2. That_guy 2

    Good summary, thanks for that. I agree that the overseas student market for short courses is in trouble, but I think that if a student is coming here for a 3 year degree, many will be OK with a 2 week quarantine.

    • lprent 2.1

      Sure. But I'd point out a few things about that.

      There are quite a few question marks about how effective 2 week quarantines are. As far as I'm concerned, the jury is still out on that because there aren't any really good tests and reviewed data on that. It requires a widespread biopsy study to find out if (for instance), the 37 days of known faecal COVID-19 RNA excretion is live or dead. This is the carrier / whole body issue.

      The 2 weeks is pretty much the maximum time after infection before people are known to have become symptomatic. It is a good fast and dirty estimate made early in the pandemic. It probably doesn't cover the whole range of human responses – just the 95%+, and we really don't have good ways at present of testing how valid it really is.

      Moreover most students currently come here expecting to be able to head home in the breaks between years or even terms. It is a big ask to tell a 18yo that they can't go home for a holiday. I suspect that will tend to be a big disincentive to come to COVID-19 clean NZ from a COVID-19 dirty country. Whereas they can go to and from a COVID-19 dirty uni in (say) the UK – probably without major quarantines

      I expect that what will happen a lot is that the courses and universities, to keep their overseas students, will proceed more into extending their 'summer' courses to make degrees get shorter, with a big confinement when they arrive. Furthermore it is only going to require one outbreak sourced from an overseas student, and the gates will close rapidly on the whole industry.

      What institution would want to resource it with that risk. Remote learning systems would be more viable – just less lucrative for the real estate agents and other economic beneficiaries of the current system.

      • That_guy 2.1.1

        Good points. Two weeks was a guesstimate, but I wasn't thinking to just stick people in a hotel for 2 weeks. There would need to be a decent PCR and serology test during those two weeks to check if the student has or had covid19.
        Remote learning is an option, especially how hard it was to get students to actually turn up to a lecture even pre-covid.

      • barry 2.1.2

        Why wouldn't we take students from China without quarantine? or Taiwan? they have less virus than we do.

        • Drowsy M. Kram

          Maybe because there is a low risk of some students from China or Taiwan infecting NZers with Covid-19 (and vice versa) – if those students are quarantined for 14 days on arrival in NZ, then the risk of infecting NZers is (a lot) lower.

          There are no reported cases of Covid-19 in some of the Pacific Islands, but arrivals will be quarantined nonetheless. Common sense precaution IMHO.

        • lprent

          Why wouldn’t we take students from China without quarantine? or Taiwan? they have less virus than we do.

          Taiwan does have less reported cases. China has more reported NEW cases evey two days than we have had reported at all.

          Why would we take anyone without a certain test and or quarantine that confirms that they aren’t vector for a outbreak of COVID-19? After all, like us, both Taiwan and China currently have closed borders except to their own citizens and test and isolate their own incoming citizens.

          What is your problem with that?

          If you actually read what I wrote in comments, I said that if overseas students come here they will need to get through health constraints and quarantine at the border. Furthermore educational institutions will carry the extra risk; that any outbreak caused by overseas students would probably cause a political call to stop the practice.

          After all we are in the process of spending tens of billions of dollars eliminating or nearly eliminating the disease. Losing a max of billion dollars of revenue by excluding overseas students seems like a small cost compared to the cost of having to do this again.

  3. Barfly 3

    that would kill off the national garbage courses – "transport manager " = bus or truck driver "hospitality manager" working as cashier at "Pizza Hutt"

    FYI my local "Pizza Hutt" was almost exclusively staffed from the Indian sub-continent prior to this crap fest

    • That_guy 3.1

      Yeah that's pretty much my thoughts. Dubious McDegrees that the economy and society won't really miss.

  4. RedLogix 4

    Excellent post Lynn. Pretty much lines up with what I've been reading for a while. I've avoided dwelling on it much because some moderators are getting twitchy about 'depressing speculation' … but all the points you make about the impact of this being deeper and more extended than we initially expected are correct.

    Fortunately NZ and Australia are going to be remarkably well placed if we don't stuff it up.

    But if this crisis extends out of control as you outline above, there are going to be many other nations struggling with massive consequential damage. To food supply in particular. China and Japan are the obvious candidates that are importing much of their food and agricultural inputs. Combine this with the high probability of a bubble pop of historic magnitude in the Chinese banking system … and there are all sorts of risks out there.

    Another factor we must discount is the 1.2m ex-pat kiwis all around the world. As economies contract many will be looking to return home if they lack social support where they are. Even if 10% return, that's a big immigration bump that brings both threat and opportunity.

    Air freight is going to be the big opportunity; if I were AirNZ I'd be renting those A380's sitting about on desert runways right now and converting them.

    Right now I'd have the Foreign Affairs teams swatting up hard on Sth Korea and Taiwan … these countries have both managed the crisis admirably and the trade match is made in heaven.

    • RedLogix 4.1

      Another aspect arises from the China risk; if they have a banking collapse (as all logic suggests they should) then imported inflation is going to go through the roof.

      The Chinese banking system loans on throughput and employment so they have been grossly overproducing for years, driving down prices everywhere. When this hits the wall inflation is going to be dramatic. As a side effect watch for more Chinese attempting to get capital out of China by whatever means possible.

      Another impact; as the Europe staggers under the impacts of Greece, Brexit and now Italy, Spain and France all in deep recession, the end of NATO … the breakup of the EU looks more on the cards than ever. For us it will mean an increase in European emigration to this part of the world.

      The ME powder-keg is even more fissionable than usual; the Iranians have been belted by COVID19, but when they recover all bets are off. The regime is highly unstable, it could collapse inwardly, or expand aggressively into Iraq. At that point the Saudis will go feral. Don't depend on oil deliveries.

      COVID 19 is exposing a multitude of energy and food security risks that globalisation has largely mitigated for the past seven decades. Now that safety net is going away and geography will matter once again. The tyranny of NZ's distance will once again assert itself, but in a peculiar way. Air freight and the internet will keep us connected, but the movement of people is going to be regionally constrained. The impact of this will be more social and cultural than anything else; we will have to get better at putting up with our own company. This strikes me mostly as a positive.

      We are going to have to pay some real attention to the Pacific again; only this time as partners and peers. Both Australia and NZ will need to assert regional military security as best we can. The vast area involved demands all the encompassed nations contribute. If Winston Peters gets another turn at Foreign Minister he is not in for a quiet shuffle into retirement. The fishing rod and lawnmower will have to wait.

    • lprent 4.2

      Fortunately NZ and Australia are going to be remarkably well placed if we don’t stuff it up.

      Yep, and if we can face being completely out of step with the rest of the world apart from a few states that can have excellent borders controls, social systems where there isn’t a fundamental distrust of the political systems, and fast political reactions.

      • In Vino 4.2.1

        This bothers me a bit too: if we are so exceptionally good and achieve elimination, how will we fit into a world where most other countries have been unable to do the same? We will have to isolate ourselves very strictly to maintain our status, and thereby become pariahs or what?

        • lprent

          The net makes this somewhat easier. I'm working on a project now that involves development in NZ, AU, and UK with kit coming from the UK, US and China. I'm writing code in conjunction with a developer in aussie.

          We were coordinating via the net. We're still coordinating via the net.

          The only real difference is the shortage of shutdowns at plants delaying deliveries of test hardware, airfreight and local delivery.

          Plus that it is hard for me to fit the hardware like an oscilloscope and desktop power supply into our 55 sq metre apartment.

          Hardware is such a pain in the arse for development.

          I don’t really expect this layer of cooperation is really going to affect projects ongoing. At another layer, I know that other people in the company have been closing out and even starting negotiations on contracts – all remotely – mostly the same way we have for years – from their desks.

  5. McFlock 5

    That's the basic framework to plan from, I reckon. I'm a bit more optimistic about a vaccine simply because I don't recall the same level of effort being thrown at it after SARS/MERS, but it's not something to rely on.

    • weka 5.1

      What are the chances of a highly effective vaccine like the polio one vs a somewhat effective one like the flu one? Do we know yet if this cv will or won't mutate like flu does?

      • lprent 5.1.1

        We already have a highly effective vaccines for SARS – which is a close cousin. They are just unusable because they’re nearly as dangerous as SARS itself because they trigger too much immune response.

        Polio was pretty much a breakthrough vaccine – but was based on more than 20 years of prior art in trying to get an attenuated or dead virus (and a lot of better not discussed quack treatments before that). The actual breakthrough was being able to cultivate polio in test tubes – which as an accidental discovery in 1948. Which meant that the virus didn’t have to come from already infected and was capable of being manufactured to a high uniform standard.

        Have a look at nextstrain clades. https://nextstrain.org/ncov/global?c=clade_membership
        So far, it doesn’t look like there are significant variations outside of the originating source in China. What you see as it travels is that the clade variants from the source turning up in differing proportions in different areas depending of which one spread in each habitat.

        Influenza is a 1700 base pair virus that appears to thrive on transcription errors. COVID-19 is a 30,000 odd base pair that (so far) appears to not tolerate too much damage. Everything mutates, especially RNA diseases. The trick isn’t that – it is how many of the mutations manage to replicate and survive as viable variations.

  6. Treetop 6

    Regarding Covid-19 there is no good news and the virus is a real kick in the guts. On trying to be optimistic a treatment which allows a good chance of survival for anyone who requires oxygen, or a treatment to prevent a hospital admission will hopefully be available.

    Your article raises the reality of needing to adjust to the limitations which Covid-19 has caused.

    • lprent 6.1

      The best news that I saw recently on COVID-19 was an observation from a hospital in the Bronx or New Jersey that said that they were getting better responses from changing the posture of extreme victims than from drugging them into a coma rather than putting them on a ventilator.

      Bearing in mind that success rate with the latter was about 40%, I must look up to see where that went to.

      • Treetop 6.1.1

        I would take the 40% any day. I did see somewhere in the states that lying someone on their stomach was helping. As you say something so basic can increase your survival by 40% is a good thing.

        As for sedation 24/7 when on a ventilator can't be good. I am not sure if once on a ventilator that a person is always sedated.

        • lprent

          Other way round – the success with ventilators was about 40% (reportedly 15% in Italy BTW – probably older patients skewing teh rate).

          With the posture changes when the extremely rapid shift (hours) from ok'ish to drowning in their lungs happened, they usually went straight to sedation and ventilators. With the posture change they shifted rapidly to breathing themselves again.

          But the report was from a ICU – so it was pretty ad-hoc.

  7. Bazza64 7

    Very interesting post, thanks for that. If only the global powers trimmed 0.1% of their military spend & diverted it to scientific research into vaccines, but I guess when the threat of SARS & MERS dropped off there were probably more pressing areas of medical research (primarily cancers) which is where the $ went.

    It would be interesting to see in future how to incentivise people to lose excess weight (probably a higher health risk than the whippet thin smoker) which is placing huge demands on our health system for what are lifestyle diseases.

  8. weka 8

    Very good Lynn. I actually feel relieved reading that. It makes it very clear that NZ needs an elimination strategy long term, and that we are better off working from reality as we find it rather than wishful thinking.

    I'm impressed by current leadership too, although I hope we can merge the need for change now with the need to mitigate climate and address pressing ecological issues.

  9. weka 9

    Also relieved about the economic prospect. Can someone explain what the problem would be with this scenario of relocalising some of our economy to make up for the loss of export income? I understand the broad strokes of we need export income to be able to buy goods from overseas, but if we need to import less, do we need so much export income? Obviously there's a lifestyle adjustment in that for NZers, but we're undergoing a massive adjustment anyway.

    • lprent 9.1

      About the only thing that we don’t need from the old economy is the air flight and cruise ships. Everything else remains the same apart from employment. There is a *lot* of employment unequally distributed in tourism, immigration, and education sectors that will be affected. The income from people incoming from other countries effectively supports the employment of people in those sectors.

      We still need to get hardware for pumps, computers, electronic PCBs, e-bikes and their components, etc, etc and myriad of other bits of industrial gear that can’t really provide ourselves at a low cost in a market of 5 million people. Basically if we tried to provide these things ourselves, it would effectively increases dramatically the costs to all of the other industries that export to a world market or which operate internally using them as their infrastructure.

      Personally having lived through this once through the 1960s, 70s, and 80s as our export income as country relatively declined (see Brian Easton’s post) with the commodity prices and EEC – I’d prefer to never see this again. It was like living in a decrepit cemetery. Fine if you never wanted to do much apart from the 1800 swill or playing sport. A pain in the arse if you wanted to actually do anything.

      In 1982 I started planning my escape from the kiwi prison like so many of my generation, and only actually called it off in 1986 when I saw vague signs that the ‘hide up their own arse’ approach of kiwis was changing (albeit under great stress).

      Local production that could be done at a pinch if we had something that cut off transport ties like a world war or a great depression affecting all world trade or a catastrophic world wide event that we survived. In other words – the survivalist mode. And we always need to maintain a capacity for doing that.

      Doing it voluntarily and at scale would be a major disaster. In essence this was the basis of our 70s mistakes. We tried to run a more local economy by bootstrapping an industrial structure in the face of britain going into the EEC. We paid for it with debt after a decades of balance of trade issues. We were buying more imports that we could pay for.

      Over time it would probably involve dropping our exports by about half because it’d make most everything apart from dumb commodities unsaleable. IP in manufactured or intellectual or marketed products is pretty much directly related to the use of productivity tools. Throwing people at it is wasted effort because each added person just slows down the process. Ask anyone who had to deal with old clerk based systems.

      Our effective household incomes drop by about half as well. There really isn’t that much profit in selling commodities. Most of the profit in our economy doesn’t come from straight beef or dairy. It comes from our services and manufacturing (including processes like creating large quantities of cheese or milk powder cheaply). That means there would be a domestic race to the bottom at a income level because in the absence of productivity enhancing capital intensive equipment.

      oops – gotta go shop.

      • RedLogix 9.1.1

        We still need to get hardware for pumps, computers, electronic PCBs, e-bikes and their components, etc, etc and myriad of other bits of industrial gear that can’t really provide ourselves at a low cost in a market of 5 million people.

        Thanks for saying this. As someone embedded in that part of the economy all my life I'm vividly aware of just how much of our economy depends on all these invisible bits and pieces we all take for granted.

        Just one short trip around a local water supply pumping station should convince anyone of this. The list of imported engineered components would run easily into the thousands. If you looked at a more complex operation, like a tissue paper machine, a sawmill or dairy factory the list would run well over 100,000.

        And they all have to be replaced promptly if they break. If there is one thing that really irks me is how most people are so unaware of the complex infrastructure and supply chains that make almost everything about their life possible.

        In 1982 I started planning my escape from the kiwi prison like so many of my generation,

        My only regret is that I left it 10 years too late. Honestly it was the best thing I ever did.

        • lprent

          My only regret is that I left it 10 years too late. Honestly it was the best thing I ever did.

          Best thing I did was staying. But I also switched from management to programming around the time that we started getting the early net at the start of the 90s. It has meant that I could pretty much do what I wanted, when I wanted to, and never ever got seriously bored after that. My feet were in NZ, my head hung out in the netspace.

          • RedLogix

            If I had stayed I would have always been gainfully employed, but within weeks of arriving in Australia I was doing projects I could never have dreamed of. Suddenly I was the lead engineer with real budgets, full design specification, testing and commissioning. Projects over $150m depended on me getting my part right, on time, on budget.

            The automation team is always the last men standing at the end, without us everything else is so much scrap steel and junk concrete … we make the beast rear up and breath fire. Our budget may be the smallest, our resources always slim and time constrained, but we always have the most fun and the greatest satisfaction.

            I've lost count of how often I've walked into a project and my first silent reaction was WTF … how the hell am I going to ever make this go? But by the time we go home on that last plane, we knew more about every last nut, bolt and cable tie than every other bastard there, except maybe the chief process engineer.

            And my honest reaction to all of this … we must be the luckiest bastards who ever lived.

            • lprent

              Mine is the same. I write the application code that glues everything together. I avoid the RTOS and bare metal. My toolkit is (wherever possible) c++, boost and linux, mostly because it has to run for extended periods on low energy requirements.

              Can't really afford the static overflowable arrays of true embedded nor the profligate wastage if the indeterminate garbage collection of c# or java.

              • RedLogix

                Industrial automation lives in it's own language bubble. We use three visual languages, ladder logic, function block, sequential function charts, and one dynamically animated text based one. The modern incarnations of these languages is remarkably adapted and powerful to it's purposes.

                The big difference is the major platforms all offer dynamic recompiling, and have done so since the 90's. In other words we can edit substantial code in run mode. My main platform even allows multiple edit owners online simultaneously. (The CPU does the compile in the silicon and then pushes the edits back out to the all the users keeping them all synchronised. I’ve done it will five users online t a single CPU all at once.)

                Our technology platforms are optimised for huge amounts of IO. 128,000 digital and 4,000 analog points can be connected to one CPU. And distributing dozens of CPUs around a plant on common ethernet networks is now routine. The past decade has seen a strong convergence with the IT world, but we still operate in a world where strong process knowledge, and the ability to work 14 hr days while performing multiple edits on a running plant with the always live possibility of breaking something expensive or worst case hurting someone.

                We live in a cross-over world where understanding the process, the electrical install, the VSD's and motors, valves, heaters, instruments, the networks, the safety demand, the virtualisation platform are all layered on top of having an intimate knowledge of at least three or four major vendor platforms. It's a total jumble of demands, but the core of it is still to be able to write, read and quickly edit code on the fly. Which is why the two major visual languages, ladder and function block still dominate our world.

                Adrenaline city when it flows.

                • lprent

                  Youch.. That realtime aspect is an issue. Especially the real time updates.

                  Mine is mostly RF out to about 10kms and only thousands of radio units on the net. That makes real time updates nearly impossible – especially since the hardware seldom has space for two copies of the operating code and they brick easily.

                  The sensors I don’t care about that cod every much. For me they are just messages through local PANs or over RS485. Although I’m starting to have to deal with a bit more for metrics data.

                  Dealing with very limited bandwidth with time slots, making sure that messages only get acked when they have been received at final destinations, and making sure we don’t lose data despite lossy networks (goddamn trees and geography) tend to be my focus.

                  I haven’t bothered to head off to the whole world of interpretation of that delivered and sent data yet. It is good to have a unfinished frontier to look forward to.

                  But when we’re testing full scale, I tend to sit onsite processing failures and figuring out fixes to put into the app code – usually to work around issues at the hardware code level.

                  • RedLogix

                    Sounds pretty familiar. In my water supply incarnation we had reasonable sized narrowband FM telemetry system to look after (Lester Abbey) so I've some sense of the challenges you're describing there.

                    In the last year or so I was in NZ we started moving across to ethernet radio, and since then they've continued to expand down that path with good success. Again one of the major benefits was being able to monitor and edit remote sites in real time. (With a bit of luck!)

                    • lprent

                      With a bit of luck!

                      Small devices in wider area networks are a lot of fun. Kind of reminds me of what it was like on the last of the minis.

                      I’ve been digging through the sierra wireless catalogue. There are some pretty interesting chips in there.

                      What I love about this job is that a decade ago I just started looking at small hardware linux for a bit of a change. I’d spent decades on windows and Mac apps with wide area networks. Now I’m an expert on both. Now (somehow) I’m starting to learn to solder, and build kotlin apps in android.

                      I’m always astonished that people actually pay me for this…

        • Poission

          We still need to get hardware for pumps, computers, electronic PCBs, e-bikes and their components, etc, etc and myriad of other bits of industrial gear that can’t really provide ourselves at a low cost in a market of 5 million people.

          There are significant clusters of specialist manufacturers in NZ,say CHCH that do export specialised mechanical equipment such as boilers and pumps.February saw 217 million airfreighted from chch to vietnam.


          A lot of specialised equipment can be made here like the ISS.


          • RedLogix

            Kiwi engineers and techies are often world class, and apologise for nothing when they have the opportunity. Cavotech MoorMaster is just one example that springs to mind.

            In the industrial/machinery sector the products they are exporting are typically assemblies that are a blend of locally designed and built structures/mechanics with imported electrics/automation. It's an efficient mix of high added value at the application level, with cost effective standardisation at the component level.

            And it's these catalog components that we import in critically quantities which NZ is way too small to import substitute for.

            The same broad principle applies to quite a broad range of our manufacturing sector; yes it's a healthy and surprisingly innovative sector. Here for example is one of my favourites, Vesper Marine who are launching cutting edge radio based products into a very competitive global market … and gaining respect. Now these guys are designing and building their own hardware, but every aspect of their operation is connected to a global industry. They would be very unlikely to stand on their own as a totally local shop.

            • lprent

              Here for example is one of my favourites, Vesper Marine who are launching cutting edge radio based products into a very competitive global market … and gaining respect.

              Ah gee. You’re too kind. I wrote almost all of the Watchmate app code for Watchmate Vision and Watchmate XB-8000 between 2010 and 2014.

              Nice to see that they’re still using the same mapping and html display toolkit. I was proud of that because it was a really was a teeny processor to run that level of graphics. Not to mention the lack of a FPU made some of the calcs a bit tricky.

              Looks like they upgraded the base hardware to Cortex. And they have concentrated on adding features since then. Some of which were being tossed around when I moved on to the next project.

              • RedLogix

                Cool. The Watchmates have certainly done well for Vesper.

                I'm impressed with the Cortex, the combination of a full software defined VHF radio, full feature AIS and monitoring all in a hardware based low power package looks very nice. Saving up for one.

      • weka 9.1.2

        I wasn't arguing for us manufacturing specialists gear, or trying to manufacture most things so we don't have to import anything, but wondering how it works if we stopped say importing food that we can grow here. Or clothing. Or any number of goods that we used to make here and presumably could again if we had to.

        If the link is high export = personal income that we can't do without, then we have a serious problem, because industrial dairying is causing massive problems that are not going to go away no matter how many riparian strips get planted.

        So let me reframe the question somewhat. Is there anywhere that we could relocalise some of our economy to make up for the loss of export income due to no in/out flying?

        Where is the excess that we can do without? What personal costs are already dropping? Petrol? Flying? Lattes and takeaways? What happens if start repairing things instead of replacing them?

        Am also curious if we need such high personal incomes if housing costs were lower?

        • pat

          what you are asking is will people accept a lower (or different) standard of living in the future…and the answers will depend on many factors, not least of which is choice.

          • weka

            Yes, I have been arguing this for a while. We can still have good lives, but the level of consumption that we have from exponential growth and and extractive/polluting economy can never be made sustainable.

            It would be good to explore those factors (and choice), because at the moment it looks like people saying TINA.

            • pat

              There may well be no alternative…but it may not be the option they are thinking of.

              The choices may also be personal…during the reforms of the 80s and 90s many chose to emigrate looking for a better(?) life…will that option be available this time round?

              Then theres the choices imposed upon us by gov policy direction…and they will likely depend greatly on the election outcome…and the following elections.

              Then there a choices imposed from without…NZ is very vulnerable to what occurs offshore, particularly what the US, China and Australia choose to do,

              Finally there are choices determined by resources, both personal and collective.

              What happens will be a combination of all that….some of it in our control, some not but as we live in a democracy (and not the sham that is the US) we can at least have a measure of choice…its why the manifestos this year will be so important.

              • weka

                Not sure what you mean there. You appear to be saying that economic theory is largely determined by what people want. I was asking someone to explain why we can't have less exports and replace that income from the relocalised economy. The *theory seems to be that we *have to x, y, z or terrible things will happen, but I'm not seeing it.

                • pat

                  economic 'practice' is indeed largely determined by what the majority vote for…whether it works or not is another argument

                  • weka

                    sure, but I'm just trying to understand how it (apparently) works and how it might work differently. Whether people will want the other options is a separate matter, but how would they know if they're not presented with the options?

                    • pat

                      it works if what results is accepted…thats why economics was better described when it was called political economy.

                      We could have a working economy with full autarky if we wished, it just wouldnt be anything like what we have grown to expect life to be like.

              • bill

                There may well be no alternative


                What choice or alternative is available when/if the likes of supermarket workers who've been thrown up there like sacrificial lambs for the sake of someone else's daily bread across the western world say "Fuck it" ?

                If they start 'falling over' (a possibility), what then?

                Top on down systems of order are a world of prescribed alternatives, but life is more a case of navigation – and courses that people chart may or may not be conducive to imposed order. jist sayin'

                • pat

                  a scenario for you then Bill….the banks collapse. world trade ceases…what alternative would we have to autarky?

                  Sometimes there really is no alternative,

                  Id suggest that most people would prefer to see something between that scenario and BAU…the question is, for the majority what does that look like and how is it achieved?

                  • bill

                    Independence is an impossible silliness. Interdependence/autonomy is a realistic and desirable state of affairs.

                    If capitalist trade rules break down, it's not as though trade ceases (I'm picking that's really what you mean when you write "world trade ceases")

                    Basically, I think you're working on false alternatives, but that said, I can't say what order it may or may not be possible to superimpose on people who just might adopt 'awkward' basic principles as foundations on which to base their post capitalist life.

                    🙂 This may be the laphroaig talking.

                    • pat

                      Im not presenting alternatives…im saying there are a multitude of alternatives and what is adopted can be selected by the majority….dont let it be imposed by minority interests.

                      But (and there always is one) there are conditions we dont control that may constrain those alternatives….not least having a common vision.

                      Slante mhath

                    • bill

                      Slante 😉

                      And before I lose this delicate balance –

                      Common principles and many visions work. One vision things never do.

                    • pat

                      "Common principles and many visions work."

                      Perhaps…if the principle is isnt crowded out by the vision….I think thats difficult for us.

      • weka 9.1.3

        Personally having lived through this once through the 1960s, 70s, and 80s as our export income as country relatively declined (see Brian Easton’s post) with the commodity prices and EEC – I’d prefer to never see this again. It was like living in a decrepit cemetery. Fine if you never wanted to do much apart from the 1800 swill or playing sport. A pain in the arse if you wanted to actually do anything.

        You're older than me, but I left school in 1984. The internet aside, I'm struggling to think of things I can do now that I wouldn't have been able to do at all or much in the 1980s. TV has definitely improved, and access to books, but they weren't non-existent either. I'm not sure they are worth destroying our environment for.

        I went out to the movies way more in the 80s than I do now. Eating out has also improved, and we have a wider range of food generally available now, but I'm not sure that that couldn't have happened anyway.

        Probably a lot of what I do that I love is around being outside, so the massive drop in tourism is likely to improve the quality of my life quite a lot. Kind of like what it was in the 80s in that regard.

        I wasn't actually suggesting a return to those decades, but it is interesting to see what is different. I'm curious what the things are that you can do now that you really wouldn't want to live without.

        • RedLogix

          Lynn nails it here:

          Over time it would probably involve dropping our exports by about half because it’d make most everything apart from dumb commodities unsaleable. IP in manufactured or intellectual or marketed products is pretty much directly related to the use of productivity tools.

          I can attest to this in my own life; in the last five years of my career I was achieving each and every day, what would probably have taken me six months to achieve when I started out in my 20's. My personal productivity gain between the late 70's to 2020 was several orders of magnitude.

          When we needed a piece of complex instrumentation in the late 70's I had to design and build it pretty much from scratch, it was slow, inefficient and the end result was pretty crap. Now I buy it on the internet and it arrives a few days later. If I bought it off a big name vendor it works exactly to the published spec and will likely keep working for over 20 years.

          I encountered my first IBM XT machine in a paper mill maintenance office in 1987 and my monthly report went from taking all day to produce, to 10 minutes.

          A few years back at the company I was working at the internet fiber connection to the street was accidentally severed … we all went home for the rest of the day, there was literally nothing worthwhile most of us could do without it.

          I'd not claim that all of these productivity improvements were an unalloyed benefit, but without them NZ would be a much, much poorer country. And you can bet that the poor and deprived in this country would remain even more firmly wedged at the bottom of the heap as ever.

        • lprent

          The internet aside, I’m struggling to think of things I can do now that I wouldn’t have been able to do at all or much in the 1980s.

          The internet and computers pretty much defines it for me.

          I don’t usually notice that much about the rest of the system – mostly because I seldom use it much anymore. It doesn’t involve communications.

          Essentially virtually all of the changes between 1985 and now have reduced my carbon and pollution footprint dramatically because of computers and the internet. Well apart from the overseas travel that I allowed back in my contract in 2015 (I’d stopped completely from 1991) – and that was purely an optional choice. I’d decided tat I wasn’t talking to actual customers enough – and all of my customers were offshore.

          Never did too much on movies. Never watched that much TV (we never had it until I was 15). Got over the joy of eating out decades ago (and somehow I’m now the main household cook) – but it is there if we want it :- Ponsonby rd one way, K rd the other way.

          I have a crook big toe (wore the pad out between the toe and the foot bone through tramping mostly). So I only really commuter ride outside these days. Or amble along Ponsonby Rd for some coking that isn’t mine.

          I stopped weekend farming as a hobby with my parents moving off their hobby farm. Tramping, sport, army, and even going on holidays got discarded a while ago. Case mostly of having been there and done that as far as I wanted to.

          I’d probably still be doing the occasional tramping but for the foot.

          But the biggest difference for me between 1980 and recently is the work choice. In the 1980s there wasn’t much – I bootstrapped through a pile of jobs from when I was a kid in 1975 until I was running a small factory for Ceramco in 1984.

          Looked at the choices in the early 80s and decided that there wasn’t anything that I wanted to do inside the NZ economy. Working just within the NZ market is (to put it mildly) stupefying boring, slow, and really really limited – and I’d already spent some time working with some of the Think Big projects by then.

          I suspect jobs centered inside the NZ economy probably still are now – decades later.

          But computers and the net became obvious to me as being a viable choice in 1985/6 with PCs and modems. So I scratched plans to flee elsewhere then and started to work on staying in NZ and working for elsewhere. I haven’t had a job that was more than 25% local since 1995.

          The second biggest related change is that I don’t have to jump through hoops for services and goods. It is unbelievable how much of difference that makes in my life. Or how much time it frees up for doing what I want to or need to do.

          Back in 1980 it took me a month to get my phone on at a new student flat. In 1992, a phone line just to be connected (ie no line) took weeks. And that was after deregulation. It took me two months in 1992 to get ISDN put in and that cost more than $1000. The price is way way smaller.

          Whereas this fibre line switch over for TS was done in 2 days and happened within 15 minutes of the time specified. The site was out for less than 45 minutes – most of which was carrying the gear up 3 flights of stairs. The cost in real terms is now less than a quarter of analogue phone in 1980.

          The same applies for everything I do. Massively less cost – much less time required. I pay my bills fortnightly. It takes about 5 minutes on my phone. That used to be a slog with shuffling paper, doing cheques, and posting them. I’d typically spend at least 3 hours each month with that crap in the 1980s.

          Then, to get information about something (like where in the hell those toll charges came from (does anyone still have toll charges?) ) usually involved me spending a lot of time on the phone.

          Now I do it online and usually get responses in minutes.

          When I do insurance. Same thing. A half-intelligent form and I do most of the work. A signed copy gets returned in email. I’m not expected to sit across from someone and read the fine print (which I always do). I do it when I have some time to do the job properly.

          I can get information across the network rather than hoping that some library or workplace has the books. I don’t have to try to carry books with me. Which is important because I live on information for work, play (like this site) and read at least a book per day whenever I happen to find a few spare minutes. I used to spend days each week just trying to get the information I needed for work or anything else. I remember doing jobs like fencing that required days to find out how to do it and mere hours to actually do it. Of finding out if bay trees liked having wet feet. These days it usually takes minutes.

          I used to have this massive pile of newspapers and magazines every month. Paper with all of the processing and transport costs. Now I read everything online – mostly on my phone – mostly when I wake up early. And I don’t dump kilos of paper each month. By dropping paper and the bookshelves and magazine space that goes with it, I don’t need nearly as much living space

          I can dump broadcast TV and broadcast radio and quite a while ago. All of my news and entertainment comes via the net if I don’t have a local store. But I tend to store data locally and backup to cloud servers.

          I’m not sure they are worth destroying our environment for.

          That’s the curious thing. My actual personal impact on the world at this point is probably about half of what it was in 1980. I do way less travel inside NZ, spend less time commuting, probably less of a international freight footprint (I shudder at how much I used to have to replace bits on cars). Our car is a second hand 1993 Corona that doesn’t want to die despite my partner having it for 15 years and 260k on the clock. We fill it every 6-8 weeks. I had 5 different cars before I was 25, 2 of them died, one had an accident, and the other ones I passed on.

          Everything I buy these days lasts a *long* time. I’ve yet to replace a LED light despite starting to install them nearly a decade ago. My computers last way longer than my old stereos and TVs (made out of overseas components) did. I build computers for other people out of the component that I upgrade in them periodically (faster CPUs and more RAM mostly). I have Hard drives in my RAID array that show a life time of 6 years run time. That one has a 2010 date on it. My 2009 laptop still runs linux acceptably for normal use – on a 1920 screen. I haven’t had to replace or even fix a TV since switching to LED screens. The 22yo oven and hot plate in this flat requires some post-lockdown attention – the oven fan rattles and element is a bit vague about what level it is switched to. The one in my rented out apartment is still perfect. So is its dishwasher at a functional level – the sound is a bit much – but it always was. My parents stoves cost a bomb and required work every 5 years.

          Furniture is mostly pretty solid and over mostly 20 years old. Have some crappy bookcases for my partners books (keep hoping she will see the digital light). Have to replace a local sofa bed which didn’t do too well on the lots of sitting sit test. Will get something robust enough for actually sitting on this time. And I want a more robust lift table. Our current one suffered from my partners assembly and I’d prefer in something solid. Nice design – coffee table until you lift up for TV and dinner table.

          The exceptions on the footprint are work trips to Singapore or Italy or the UK – but I was doing some of those back in the 80s and 90s on the highly inefficient DC8s or DC10s. Not to mention way more flying inside NZ in the 80s.

          I probably get slightly more overseas produce and products despite trying not to buy any. I actually ate more bananas and overseas oranges back in 1980 than I do now. Just looking through the cupboards, fridge and freezer – virtually everything in made in NZ. Sometimes specifying imported components (like the pesto). I suspect that bread has a much higher overseas content than it did.

          The worst offender is some frozen pizzas which are apparently made in Germany (WTF?). And the herbs and spices – which have always been mostly imported. More tea and coffee than would have been present in 1980. And some of the emergency supply cans appear to have come from all over the world.

          • Karlos

            Yes lprent, I too will miss "the-before-times".

            Hopefully the supply chains for the tech-industrial hardware to maintain a semblance of it here won't fail.

            But that is in reality more of a "fingers-crossed" wish completely dependent on how our overseas suppliers cope with their own particular catastrophes.

            If it's a 'slow-collapse' we may start to see the fragile side of just-in-time networks as non-nz-replaceable components of our technologically interconnected spider web slow or crawl to a stop – perhaps as the Britons saw when Rome retreated. And I don't think we could manufacture our own compatible tech anymore. Faulty/dropped LED/LCD screen? The last screens made here were back in the '80s and heck they were CRT with o'seas components anyway _and_ twice the price of unavailable imports (yay protectionism).

            I'm betting a global "freeze" of tech-growth with a move to more repairable (and more expensive) modular kit. Still until that kicks in (in the middle of whole industries in turmoil) it wont solve the problem of vital infrastructure hardware failures that _must_ be repaired, but repaired with _what_ if we can't get the o'seas widget?

            Happy times.

    • Nic the NZer 9.2

      This is one of those questions which nobody actually has a good economic model for. In simple terms people working in export industries earn income in a similar way to people working in non-export industries. What is true is that the income earned by exporting reduces the unemployment rate domestically and this generally makes it easier politically managing such an economy (because of the lower unemployment rate).

      The key part is what happens in foreign exchange markets as a result of lower or higher exports because this is the different bit when your domestic income is earned locally and not internationally. If there is a significant fall in our $NZ due to a shift in less exports then this can make the remaining imports more expensive. It also however lowers the cost of our domestic produce overseas, tending to oppose and probably reduce such shifts in the exchange rate.

      As a lot of lprents comment highlights the impacts of lower imports and higher domestic production are primarily in terms of the real goods which are available. We should realize that this is also true for the country as a whole. In financial terms the country has the built in ability to facilitate payment for anything/everything produced here. Its (largely) a distributional issue that at times some people can't find something to do which earns an income. This also applies to those people who recently worked in export industries such as tourism and the like, so if the alternative is to have such people unemployed until the distribution changes enough that they find work, then the country will be poorer as a result. If will at minimum have missed out on the cumulative flow of their work outputs of the period before they were re-employed.

      I would also argue that a lot of the national measures reducing imports (and trying to promote export industries) were related to the fixed exchange rate mechanism which existed until 1984. These no longer apply and probably don't need to be legislated for.

      We should also understand that at all times the amount imported by all countries equals the amount exported by those countries. This means that for every country running a trade surplus there is that deficit among the other countries. It is literally impossible for the average country to be export based which is the supposed preferred economic strategy.

  10. weka 10

    "We also have no idea how much that dealing with COVID-19 depresses our immune systems over the short or long term."

    My suspicion, based mainly on reading first hand accounts of severe but not hospitalised infections (including in people that aren't elderly or with pre-existing conditions), is that we're going to see more medium and long term damage than is currently being discussed by the public. This is another reason why the whole let them die to save the economy line is so off. If it takes someone 3 months to recover, that's going to cause problems all over the show, even more so if they have longer term respiratory or neurological issues. We really need to stop thinking about this as a new flu.

    • lprent 10.1

      We really need to stop thinking about this as a new flu.

      Oh yeah, it really isn’t. This booger is (for a virus) a sophisticated disease. To survive in bats with their social system hopped up immune systems it really needed to be. 30,000 base pairs and amongst the largest of the known viruses. This thing is a evolutionary old and very moderate for a disease that is species hopping. It is our immune responses that are killing

  11. bwaghorn 11

    Tv1 news just had some falla from oxford says hes likely to have a vaccine by September

    • In Vino 11.1

      And look up! Someone has written 'gullible' on the ceiling!

    • Graeme 11.2

      And how much funding was he asking for?

    • weka 11.3

      The TVNZ online piece is fairly useless, doesn't really say much. This from the Guardian last month outlines what they were intending to do. They're saying they're now at the human trial stage.


      From a few days ago,

      When the University of Oxford’s Adrian Hill told the Guardian that his group’s Covid-19 vaccine candidate could be ready by the summer, it was this kind of readiness to which he was probably referring. The group, led by Sarah Gilbert, has since stated that a vaccine shown to be effective in phase-3 clinical trials that could be manufactured in large quantities won’t be ready before the autumn even in a best-case scenario. And that scenario is “highly ambitious and subject to change”.



      The vaccine may be ready as soon as September, Dr. Sarah Gilbert, a professor of vaccinology at Oxford from the same team, told The Times on Saturday. She said she was “80 percent confident” that the vaccine being developed by her team of researchers would work and would become available to the general public in about five months.


      • lprent 11.3.1

        Usual success rate at stage one human for vaccine is usually less than 10%.

        • weka

          Looks like they're going for a targeted vaccine fast rather than one for the whole population, but I am curious how they can be so confident that even this is likely to work.

          • lprent

            Ah developers. Doesn’t matter what industry in, they’re always more than a trivial over-enthusiastic (actually euphoric) that they got their alpha version version working at all. Which is usually when they get the real development money.

            Developers get really pessimistic in the depths of getting a stable beta release and the users start feeding back the issues and oddities.

            By the time it gets to going to gold release, the developers are usually pessimistic because there is a vast pile of unfixed issues that only happen in strange circumstances – which appear to be unreproducible. But they’re really not going to find out if these are real problems or not until it gets a wider release.

            Meanwhile the people in the front of the developers (project managers or the like) get locked into the alpha phase. A large chunk of the developers issues are simply stopping a too early release.

            Public confidence is a cheap commodity compared to making the damn project actually work properly. Thank god for the pessimism of testers is all I have to say…

  12. barry 12

    There is some hope that continued very low level exposure may protect most of us against the actual disease and harmful effects. What "most" means in this case is hard to know, and it may be that people (particularly older people) die from it.

    What do we know?

    1. High doses (like a doctor might get during an intubation) are harder to fight and lead to a high proportion of severe outcomes. Lower doses more often lead to less severe or asymptomatic cases.

    2. The younger the case is, the less likely they are to get infected. Sleep may help to protect them as well.

    3. The more severe the disease, the stronger the measured immune response afterwards.

    4. Some people seem to be able to be infected a second time, or relapse.

    So it may be that a vaccine has to be given as a low dose (protein, RNA or attenuated virus) weekly, rather than one shot that protects for life. It may also be that older people cannot safely take it, and we have to rely on herd immunity to protect them.

  13. barry 13

    …and based on what we know (which is very little really) a NZ without restrictions and without a vaccine will have 12000 – 20000 people die every year until we effectively have nobody over 70, obese, or immune compromised left.

    We can probably reduce this if we get someone to swab each of us every month or 2 and intrusively ask questions about who we have contacted in the last 3 weeks, and have thousands of people self isolating at any time.

  14. Stunned mullet 14

    More reading for those with an interest.

    SARS-CoV-2 Vaccines: Status Report


    • lprent 14.1

      Good article. Pretty much the same conclusions I got to.

      They have a better starting point than they did with SARS or MERS. But the best position they're starting from is human trials level 1, and most are lab clinical.

      No one has much of an idea about how persistent the immune responses are (either natural or induced). Nor the potential side-effects in humans of the vaccines.

      It becomes a matter of luck on getting one ready for large scale vaccination programs over the next couple of years.

      As the title of the post says – you can't plan with that. You can't base policy on it.

  15. ianmac 15

    An amazing sobering post thanks LPrent. Pretty hard for my old brain to understand it all but the message is clear that our World will really not be the same. Especially here in NZ. And that we can adapt to match circumstances if we avoid getting sidetracked by the ignorant and the malicious.

    A while ago I speculated on how we would manage if we were forced to eat food from just the local area. No more pineapples. It looks like there might come to be shades of this happening.

    The Post and responses indicate the terrible path that Government must tread. Do they need your help?

    • lprent 15.1

      The funny thing about it is that shipping of goods isn't likely to be too much of a problem. Viruses don't stay viable very well or that long on surfaces. And a few simple precautions will provide a pretty insurmountable barrier.

      We just have to stop shipping hosts around.

      • Sacha 15.1.1

        No more shore leave.

        • weka

          Would a ship that's been at sea more than 2 weeks effectively be a quarantine?

          • Sacha

            Crew could pass it back and forth – if re-infection turns out to be a thing.

          • Andre

            Would a ship that's been at sea more than 2 weeks effectively be a quarantine?

            No. Because of the long incubation period and possibility of transmission from asymptomatic carriers. Previous diseases that quarantines were used against didn't have those features.

            Seamen A gets infected just before the journey starts, on day 6 he gives it to B who is asymptomatic and gives it to C on day 12, who should then be exactly ripe to spread a burst of infection when he walks off the boat on day 14.

            That's also why I'm very wary of relaxing our lockdown early.

            • weka

              does this mean that quarantine at the border should always be solo? eg not families together.

              Or a longer time for groups?

            • Adrian

              Don't bet on attitudes changing Ian, cruise ship voyages are already filling fast for next year mainly because they are incredibly cheap. A woman I know who got a full refund for only floating around at sea for a fortnight instead of her Trip Of A Lifetime promptly booked for next year because it was less than half the price.

              I don't think things are going to change as much as others expect. Memories are short.

              • Graeme

                That's assuming the cruise lines still exist next year, the law suits are coming in pretty fast. There's lots more as well, and in US courts, so could get messy. Picking that Carnival Corp will be all over along with most of the industry.

                The cruise market isn't the brightest or most independent thinking part of the population, it'll take a while for the penny to drop that cruise ships are floating infection factories. Everyone I know that's been on a cruise in the last few years has got crook, one very crook, and that was before Covid19.

          • KJT

            Cargo ships crews now, have effectively been in quarantine for weeks, if not months. With the sort of effects on their welfare and ability to work, you would expect.

            Crews, now, are pretty much confined to their ships, with fairly strict requirements to limit contact with people from ashore.

            The last thing a cargo ship owner wants is their multi million dollar asset to be sitting in port, because the crew are sick..

            Most ships haven't changed crews for months. Philippine crews routinely were on nine month contracts anyway. Just heard, one crew of a container ship went stir crazy, and murdered their Captain.

            As for unmanned ships, which I think Iprent was hinting at. In reality, they cannot even get an unmanned engine room to work reliably overnight, let alone a weeks long sea voyage.

  16. Peter - this user name is already in use here so please pick a different one 16

    To look at the big picture whether a vaccine is found or not the present Lockdown/Level 1,2,3 is unsustainable as the money to pay welfare will run out and then Jacinda's biggest worry will not be the virus but starvation that many will face with no welfare. I have yet to read any story in the media pointing out this fact.

  17. Blazer 17

    What a wonderful ,enlightening thread-Covid19 For Dummies(me).

    Fantastic .yes

    • ianmac 17.1

      Me too x100 Blazer. And the incredibly high level of discussion on this thread blows me away. All these well informed writers.

      (Perhaps offer the whole group to Trump?)

    • Simbit 17.2

      Ditto. First time in ages I've persisted with any thread. We (wife plus 3) emigrated to Canada 4 years ago. This discussion informs our thinking for our next big decision: when, and how, to return. A post above talked about 10% of expats returning? Could be as lot more. If oil/gas don't get back to 2018 levels, there seems to be no plan b here. Plus NZ beer is better and once you get some good cannabis on the shelves, it'll be ka kite Kanata!

  18. tjarlz 18

    Great article. I think that this sentence needed a bit more elaboration to be fully formed.

    "But if we’re careful, in NZ we can shift the portions of our economy that risk us."

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