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Pandemic to endemic covid-19

Written By: - Date published: 9:30 am, February 13th, 2021 - 84 comments
Categories: chris bishop, covid-19, health, International, Politics, Social issues - Tags: ,

Back in May, I wrote a post “Covid-19: may be endemic” in which I said

Like measles, covid-19 could become endemic. Never dying out entirely. Needing to be controlled in human denser populations into the indefinite future.

The Standard: “Covid-19: may be endemic


That is where I think that this disease will wind up. If I had to bet, and assuming a vaccine, I’d say this will eventually be more prevalent than measles, and less frequent outbreaks than the annual flu. It will be endemic.

The Standard: “Covid-19: may be endemic

That certainly seems to be where this virus is heading. Vaccinating the worlds population to the point that the disease can’t find human hosts to spread to increasingly seems unlikely.

The kind of viral recombination variants (like B.1.1.7 recognised in the UK, and B.1.351 recognised in South Africa) that we are seeing now indicate that a deep penetration into human populations. Certainly sufficient to allow enough shuffling of features from different viral strains to cause a moving target for vaccine immunity and for recovery immunity.

Viral recombination occurs when viruses of two different parent strains coinfect the same host cell and interact during replication to generate virus progeny that have some genes from both parents. Recombination generally occurs between members of the same virus type (e.g., between two influenza viruses or between two herpes simplex viruses). Two mechanisms of recombination have been observed for viruses: independent assortment and incomplete linkage. Either mechanism can produce new viral serotypes or viruses with altered virulence.

Medical Microbiology. 4th edition.

While the emergent effect of recombination strains is often considerable, the effect is usually to cause strain on expected medical capacities, and ignorant barking by stupid politicians (National’s Chris Bishop gave a fine example of such stupidity before New Year).

The Economist has a good leader article on the endemic probabilities of Covid-19. While it is paywalled, you can probably read it without a subscription after jumping through some hoops.

Even miracles have their limits. Vaccines against the coronavirus have arrived sooner and worked better than many people dared hope. Without them, the pandemic threatened to take more than 150m lives. And yet, while the world rolls up a sleeve, it has become clear that expecting vaccines to see off covid-19 is mistaken. Instead the disease will circulate for years, and seems likely to become endemic. When covid-19 first struck, governments were caught by surprise. Now they need to think ahead.

The Economist: “How well will vaccines work?

Which is really going to be an issue with some of the political idiots. Especially those politicians on the right who seem to see a virus as being part of a cultural war rather than something that they can deal with. The level of idiotic foot-dragging by conservative and right-wing politicians in many countries has, in my view, been the primary reason for the depth of the covid-19 pandemic.

The late and half-hearted responses to the spread of a new disease back in the first quarter on 2020 were led by conservative politicians more concerned about short term effects on their economies and election chances than on any clear understanding of disease spread. The crux of the issues that point toward the pandemic reducing to an endemic disease are explained well.

… Although vaccines fail to prevent all mild and asymptomatic cases of covid-19, they mostly seem to spare patients from death and the severest infections that require hospital admission, which is what really matters. Early evidence suggests that some vaccines stop the virus spreading, too. This would greatly slow the pandemic and thus make it easier to alleviate lockdowns without causing a surge of cases that overwhelms intensive-care units. Those findings, and many more, will harden up over the next few months as more data emerge (see article).

However, despite all this good news, the coronavirus is not finished with humanity yet. Covid-19 will continue to circulate widely. There is a growing realisation that the virus is likely to find a permanent home in humans, as “The Jab”, our new podcast, which launches on February 15th, will explore. That has profound implications for how governments need to respond.

One reason the coronavirus will persist is that making and distributing enough vaccine to protect the world’s 7.8bn people is a Herculean task (see article). Even Britain, which is vaccinating the population at a faster rate than any other big country, will not finish with the over-50s until May. To add to the burden, the potency of a jab may fade, making boosters necessary. Outside the rich world, 85% of countries have yet to start their vaccination programmes. Until the billions of people who live in them have felt the prick of a needle, which may not be before 2023, they will remain fuel for the virus.

Another reason for covid-19’s persistence is that, even as vaccines are making sarscov-2 less infectious and protecting people against death, new viral variants are undoing some of their good work. For one thing, successful variants are more infectious—anything from 25-40% in the case of b.1.1.7 which was first found in Britain. Infection is governed by the dizzying mathematics of exponential growth, so cases and deaths accumulate rapidly even if the variant is no more deadly. To get a given level of viral suppression, more onerous social distancing is needed.

In addition, new variants may withstand current vaccines. The ones found in Brazil and South Africa may also be defeating the immunity acquired from a previous covid-19 infection. The hope is that such cases will be milder, because the immune system has been primed by the first encounter with the disease. Even if that is true, the virus will continue to circulate, finding unprotected people and—because that is what viruses do—evolving new strains, some of which will be better at evading the defences that societies have mounted against them.

And the third reason sarscov-2 will persist is that lots of people will choose to remain a target by refusing vaccination. A total of 10m Britons are vulnerable to the disease, because of their age or underlying conditions. Modelling suggests that if just 10% of them declined to be vaccinated and if social distancing were abandoned while the virus was still liable to circulate at high levels, then a tremendous spike in infections and deaths would result.

The Economist: “How well will vaccines work?

An excellent summary of the difficulties involved trying to make covid-19 a rare rather than an endemic disease.

84 comments on “Pandemic to endemic covid-19 ”

  1. Treetop 1

    What is the most concerning when it comes to Covid-19, the death rate or not having access to an ICU bed if required?

    I can see that lockdowns occur to prevent infection to not overwhelm the health system. The model used to allocate ICU beds will need to change or introducing Covid hospitals will probably need to occur.

    • Andre 1.1

      What is the most concerning when it comes to Covid-19, the death rate or not having access to an ICU bed if required?

      Yes. Both. Plus the long-term symptoms and disabilities a lot of the victims end up with.

      But at this stage, it appears the vaccines provide enough protection to bring the death rate, the hospitalisation rate, and long-term effects down far enough that a highly vaccinated population won't need to be any more worried about it than any number of other diseases we live with. Even with the mutations seen so far that are different enough that the existing vaccines only give partial protection.

      That is subject to change at any moment with the appearance of new mutations and new information about vaccine performance and immunity duration, of course.

    • Sacha 1.2

      Need to have the ICU beds with ventilators in the first place before allocating them becomes an issue. We are extremely fortunate in NZ to have dodged that bullet thanks to decisive leadership and action. The first wave would have killed thousands.

  2. RedLogix 2

    This is pretty much the same thesis I presented (albeit with far less authoritative detail) back in October – what happens if the vaccines are not the promised magic wand like they were for smallpox eradication? At that point the realisation is going to sink in that lockdowns will not be tolerated without limit, and border isolation cannot be maintained without failure indefinitely.

    At some point I argued we're going to have to pivot from the strategies that served us so well going into this pandemic – to different ones to help us get out of it. In particular I think we're going to have to open the door wider to exploring non-vaccine treatments that boost the ability of the body to fight off the infection.

    The remarkable aspect of this virus is how closely age related the death rate is – which strongly suggests that understanding this relationship may well hold the best promise to treating what will likely become an endemic disease.

    And of course it begs the question of just how long NZ might maintain it's purist stance of elimination – in the event the wider world gives up on that goal. I realise just how unhappy a question this is – so I do ask it respectfully.

    • Drowsy M. Kram 2.1

      And of course it begs the question of just how long NZ might maintain it's purist stance of elimination – in the event the wider world gives up on that goal.

      I'm happy for NZ to maintain it's health-focussed stance. Most of the wider world gave the elimination goal away early in the ‘game’ – NZ and Australia implemented sustainable elimination strategies and reaped a year of good Covid-19 health outcomes.

      As for notions that "border isolation cannot be maintained without failure indefinitely", and "lockdowns will not be tolerated without limit", imho NZ's system of border controls is performing well, with only minor breaches, and while lockdowns may not be tolerated without limit, the current five-day lockdown in Victoria suggests that limit has not been reached yet, and that most of the team understand what's at risk.

      Things will change eventually, but there's no urgency. Thanks to our "purist stance" we're in the enviable position of being able to introduce changes gradually with a view to retaining the gains made so far. Many developed countries are still grappling with moderately high daily (7-day average) Covid-19 death rates, e.g. US 2,760; UK 754; Germany 518; Spain 488; France 404; Italy 355. Even in Ireland it's 37 – a tragic reminder (if one was needed) that sometimes a "purist stance" is just what's needed.

      The pandemic wasn't over on the 3rd of October and, with over 25 million currently active cases worldwide, it's not over now. No need to get ahead of ourselves – plans are afoot for NZ's next 'baby' steps, despite Hosking's claim to the contrary.



      • RedLogix 2.1.1

        The pandemic wasn't over on the 3rd of October

        It damn well should have been. The primary reason for this Northern hemisphere winter surge is Vitamin D deficiency. The failure of multiple govts to take effective action on this has cost huge numbers of lives and amounts in my view to criminal negligence.

        Our personal experience with this has been quite striking. For five years we lived in Ballarat which experiences remarkably long (May – Oct) cool and gloomy winters. Basically we got no sunshine on our skin for six months of the year. (On top of this I worked one of the antipodean summers in the Canadian Arctic.) The first year in Ballarat was OK, but every year after that both my partner and I suffered quite severe bronchial infections that lasted for months. When one of us recovered the other would relapse and then a week or so later the cycle would repeat.

        The last year in Ballarat I had one episode so severe I wound up in A&E.

        The past three years we've been in Brisbane (or tropical work sites) – and not one single cough or sniffle the whole time. This past year we've both been taking 4000 IU of VitD most days – and I did ask for it to be included in my recent bloodwork check up. Result came back at 50ng/l which is exactly in the desired 30 – 80 range.

        I realise this is just a personal data point and is proof of nothing medically – but it is our experience and it's been such a striking contrast I cannot help but be impressed by it.

        I'm not going to bother linking to references – there are so many of them now that anyone who wants to find information only has to type a few words. The various trials and studies show a wide range of hazard reductions, but almost all show seriously worthwhile gains.

        • Drowsy M. Kram

          The primary reason for this Northern hemisphere winter surge is Vitamin D deficiency.

          Is Vitamin D deficiency linked to severe cases of COVID-19?
          Sales of Vitamin D have spiked 42 percent since the pandemic began, as early research in the US and other countries appears to suggest a possible link between Vitamin D deficiency and more severe cases of COVID-19.

          Just imagine how much worse that winter surge might have been without the spike in vitamin D sales.

          Supplements for the Treatment of Mild COVID-19—Challenging Health Beliefs With Science From A to Z
          The supplement industry is estimated to be worth approximately $300 billion globally. More than one-half of US adults report taking at least 1 vitamin or supplement for various health reasons, with little evidence of efficacy to support their widespread use. The best evidence to guide clinical recommendations comes from well-designed RCTs (randomized clinical trial). Given the widespread public use of supplements, such as zinc and ascorbic acid, for the prevention and treatment of viral infections, we applaud the COVID A to Z study investigators for adding rigorous science by testing their efficacy and challenging popular beliefs. Unfortunately, these 2 supplements failed to live up to their hype.

          • RedLogix

            Just read the literature and quit with the useless quibbling.

            Vitamin D and RTIs: lesson from the recent experience

            The seasonality of viral RTIs such as those caused by influenza virus and rhinovirus has been recognised from long time and is even considered to be one of the major contributor to seasonal variations in human mortality.

            As matter of fact, a recent large study found that sunlight UV radiation dose is negatively correlated with the percent positive patients for SARS-CoV-2 and for four other common human coronaviruses in the USA, and this association is season-related with lowest vitamin D serum concentrations.

            In a large population survey (6789 participants), the prevalence of RTIs and altered lung function showed a strong seasonal pattern and linear association in the opposite direction to the vitamin D serum concentrations.

            A more detailed study evaluating the link between vitamin D concentrations and ARDS, patients with 25(OH)D3 <20 ng/mL showed a significantly higher odds of ARDS compared with patients with 25(OH)D >20 ng/mL after adjustment for age, gender, diagnostic category, staging and degree of cigarette consumption, (p=0.032).

            Interestingly, when 25(OH)D concentrations were analysed with logistic regression as a continuous exposure in 0.4 ng/mL increments, the odds of ARDS decreased by 17% for every 0.4 ng/mL increase in 25(OH)D (OR 0.83 (95% CI 0.69 to 0.98; p=0.033).

            In another study, it was found that each 4 ng/mL increase in 25(OH)D was associated with a 7% lower risk of lung infection (95 % CI 3% to 11 %) after adjustment for lifestyle, socioeconomic factors and adiposity.

            Therefore, it has been argued that vitamin D status should be taken into account as an important contributor in determining the population susceptibility to seasonal epidemic outbreaks, together with the effects of augmented indoor confinement in wintertime (ie, school) and increased circulating reservoirs of respiratory viruses.

            Furthermore, another large observational study evaluating healthy adults during the fall and winter of 2009–2010, investigated the relationship between serum 25(OH)D concentrations and incidence of acute RTIs (ARTIs).

            The result was that only 17% of patients showing serum 25(OH)D concentrations over 38 ng/mL throughout the study developed ARTIs, on the contrary 45% of those with serum concentrations less than 38 ng/mL did.

            Concentrations of vitamin D over 40 ng/mL induced a significant (p<0.0001) twofold reduction in risk of developing ARTIs including a strong reduction in the percentage of days of illness

            The negative correlation between seasonality (winter) of inflammatory conditions (ie, rheumatoid arthritis) and vitamin D concentrations (UV effects) has been already deeply analysed and it links the immune response with the 25(OH)D concentrations.

            More recently, the prevalence of vitamin D insufficiency and deficiency, (serum concentrations of 12–20 and <12 ng/mL, respectively), was assessed in association with mortality from respiratory diseases during 15 years of follow-up in a cohort of 9548 adults, aged 50–75 years.

            Overall, 41% of respiratory disease mortality was statistically attributable to vitamin D insufficiency or deficiency.

            Previously, in a systematic review and meta-analysis, 25 randomised, double blind, placebo controlled trials (total 11 321 participants, aged 0–95 years) were selected in order to evaluate if supplementation of vitamin D might reduce the risk of ARTIs.

            Interestingly, vitamin D supplementation reduced significantly the risk of ARTI among all participants (p<0.001) and in a subgroup analysis, protective effects against ARTIs were observed in those individuals receiving daily or weekly vitamin D without additional bolus doses, but not in those receiving one or more bolus doses (p=0.05). Among those receiving daily or weekly vitamin D, protective effects were stronger in those with baseline 25(OH)D <10 ng/mL than in those with baseline 25(OH)D levels ≥10 ng/mL (for interaction p=0.006). The lesson from these recent evidences seem to confirm that vitamin D supplementation is safe and might protect at least against ARTIs overall.

            This experience seems today replicated in COVID-19 patients.

            Exactly what are you objecting to here? Early October the rates pretty much everywhere were trending downward and it's my view we had quite enough information at that point in time to have avoided this second lethal wave.

            That people like you demanded 'gold standard RCT' trials before implementing a very safe, cheap and well understood treatment, has now contributed to hundreds of thousands of avoidable deaths. This may be something you want to have a long hard think about.

            • Drowsy M. Kram

              "quit with the useless quibbling"

              Thought we were debating differing points of view, but by your command laugh

              That people like you demanded 'gold standard RCT' trials before implementing a very safe, cheap and well understood treatment, has now contributed to hundreds of thousands of avoidable deaths.

              Thanks RL, I do appreciate that you wrote "people like you", rather than 'people such as you" wink As with all medical interventions, efficacy is paramount, ihmo.

              • RedLogix

                efficacy is paramount

                All the evidence I've read strongly suggests that adequate VitD levels (>30ng/l) would have avoided somewhere between 40 – 90% of COVID deaths this past northern winter.

                How much more 'efficacious' do you want?

                • Drowsy M. Kram

                  How much more 'efficacious' do you want?

                  The ultimate proof of efficacy is in the pudding. Hope you're right.

    • Treetop 2.2

      There is no going back to previous Covid-19 times. Some changes are greater than others. NZ is fortunate that elimination has worked due to having a purist approach. What other countries do to manage Covid depends on the level of infection and the available resources. NZ can have its own stratergy and does not need to follow any other country.

      • RedLogix 2.2.1

        There is no going back to previous Covid-19 times.

        A lot of commenters here seem real keen on that proposition. Quite possibly because COVID has had relatively little real impact on their own lives and it aligns with their tendency to apocalyptic thinking.

        Of course COVID will have permanent impacts, but the idea that NZ can maintain the current lockdown/isolation regime indefinitely into the future is ludicrous. We have to start at least thinking past the horizon of the next few months or year.

        • Drowsy M. Kram

          There is no going back to previous Covid-19 times.” seems consistent with “COVID will have permanent impacts” – don’t see what all this argy-bargy is really about.

          Of course COVID will have permanent impacts, but the idea that NZ can maintain the current lockdown/isolation regime indefinitely into the future is ludicrous.

          Quite agree – ludicrous. Whoever might have touted such a hyperbolic stance?

    • lprent 2.3

      The remarkable aspect of this virus is how closely age related the death rate is

      Actually that is the norm for most if not all new families of diseases through history. If you start from virtually no-one having any base immunities, then you would expect a death rate concentrated amongst people with weakened immune systems. This is what got seen in episodes like the smallpox or measles into the islands.

      In a reasonable healthy population – new diseases follow a death rate concentrated by age in the more elderly of a population.

      Outbreaks of population 'known' diseases tend to target children and young adults because they are weaned and have less of a immune responses to something they haven't been exposed to in the last 20 or so years. Plus people with weakened immune responses. But older people's immune system have a reasonably high probability of having seen the disease before.

      The classic example was the 1918 influenza, which knocked off people in the west in their 20s preferentially. That was because they hadn't seen a similar epidemic of an H1N1 type, but there had been a less deadly one in the 19th century.

      It is just that we are currently unused to widespread disease these days.

      • RedLogix 2.3.1

        then you would expect a death rate concentrated amongst people with weakened immune systems.

        Which is kind of my point. SARS-COVID-2 seems a relatively harmless virus unless you are already weakened and age seems to be the key factor.

        One aspect of UVB production of Vitamin D is just how much it reduces with age and how older people are less inclined to expose much of their bodies for all sorts of social reasons.

        So far we have excellent COVID/Vitamin D correlations with:

        Season – winter reduces UVB dramatically
        Age – reduces VitD production dramatically
        Skin Colour – reduces VitD production dramatically
        Indoor living habits – both hot and cold climates induce people to stay indoors during daylight hours
        Diet – some populations seem more resistant because they regularly eat foods with a fair bit of VitD
        Supplementation – people in the habit of taking VitD regularly to a decent level are having better outcomes

        Yet for some reason govts have been deeply reluctant to even try this simple, low cost, well understood and very safe treatment – in favour of a ‘vaccines as the magic wand’ approach that as you outline in the OP – may or may not work as well as we hope.

  3. Sacha 3

    Our tourism industry will need to get real.

    • Sabine 3.1

      please define 'industry' in regards to tourism?

      Air NZ? (the private part or the government part, or both?

      the big international hotels?

      the motels chains?

      the independent hotel/motel/b&b operators who are locals?

      the guide tours?

      the big food chains?

      the small cafes/restos?

      the tourists shops?

      the bike shops? the ski shops? the diving gear shops?

      Car / Van rentals (mind most of them are already gone)

      the tourist bus operators?

      the trail guides?

      Camp grounds?

      Doc? Government?

      All of the above?


      Seriously, please define Tourism Industry.

      And then define 'get real', as what would/could that entail in todays Covid world.

      • Sacha 3.1.1

        I doubt anybody here is in any doubt how extensive that industry is. Nor how its prospects for the next 2-10 years are likely to be affected by the topic of this post.

        Why would the public spend billions every year to prop up something whose fundamentals have thoroughly changed, rather than fund transition to other activities?

        • weka

          The thing that pisses me off is that at the time tourism is collapsing, freeing up workers and infrastructure, we're also hard up against the urgency of climate/eco crises, and these neolib numpties can't see the wood for the trees. They seem to largely lack the imagination to see how things can be anything other than the business model they are used, and I would guess this is part of the struggle to get real. If one can only see the collapse, and the not the rebuild then denial is strong.

          But as Graeme points out, this isn't new. Tourism has long been in denial of climate change change too. No idea why Labour then puts people in to solve the mess who likewise seem to lack the imagination to step out of BAU. Incredibly frustrating because NZ is full of people who do have the imagination, and for some reason we are slow to make the connection.

          • Sacha

            Same with the bleddy 'shovel-ready' projects last year hoovering up scarce opportunities to make a difference. Gross negligence.

            • Sabine

              While i don't agree with all the shovel ready projects and the funds they received i would assume that some of the money spend is now counting for that 4.5 % unemployment for men. Women sit at 5.4%.

              Again, government can subsidize jobs – hopefully decent future orientated ones, or it can spend its money on unemployment benefits/social welfare, or it can create a surplus that the next government can then spend on the rich of this country via tax cuts. Right now it seems to me that they are opting for #3.

          • Sabine

            Because they are literally bailing each other out. The rest of the country not so much.

            Tourism industry is just one. Next is the Education Industry. And any other industry that depends on people coming here to spend money.

            And hence why i ask to 'define the industry'. IS one talking about the big player (Air NZ to name one) or is it to bail out the people at the end of the rope that are the ones that will be the hardest hit and will have the hardest time of coming back from it. Maybe that would be the first thing to do is rather then talk about an industry – talk about the part of the industry that can go to never be replaced and then the parts that are good and should be grown, differentiate between big asset holders and their janitors so to speak.

          • Craig H

            This seems to be the obvious time to rethink tourism, so I share your frustration – by the time we get back to "normal", climate change will have overtaken normal.

    • Graeme 3.2

      A group people are seeing a very dramatic destruction of wealth in tourism and hospitality. It's a grieving process with many stages and unfortunately will be worked through in a very public arena. Heard of someone who paid just short of a million two years ago for a very profitable restaurant in town, they're shutting it down next week. The landlord is pretty much certain to go tits up as well. Of course they'll scream and yell. Whether anyone listens, and gives them any sympathy, well….

      Tourism goes through some huge booms and busts. There were a lot of empty premises in Queenstown in 2009, and after 1987 it took five years before things stabilised. This one has a different mechanism, pandemic rather than financial silliness, although that was getting close to catching up with people (example above) and most of what's gone was sick 12 months ago. A major correction for inbound tourism was brewing before covid, the social license was getting pretty sketchy and the main tourist centres are being abandoned by NZ travellers in the same way the "industry" abandoned the domestic market and packaged and sold the traditional NZ holiday to the world. Roost meet chooks.

      There's a transition happening, it's not going to be pretty but hopefully we'll come out in a better place and some lessons will be learnt. But the upshot is that we're unlikely to see mass international travel for a very long time. Vaccines will only put the world where NZ is now, there's no covid circulating or it's manageable. Until a new variant pops out and the vaccine doesn't work, then everything stops again. International travel insurance will be next to impossible.

      • Ad 3.2.1

        Graeme I sincerely hope you and your team survive this.

        You make products that are high in creativity and productivity and value, and low in mass and weight.

        You continue to do everything you can to change your business to be more online.

        You've weathered so many rises and falls in Queenstown over decades – and your catastrophist Mayor isn't helping.

        I'm wishing and hoping that you make it through.

      • Sabine 3.2.2

        Thanks for pointing out the human cost in nicer terms then i ever could.

        I have said for a while now to my globe trotting friends that they can write travel off for the next 4 years, i have said this here in town to people. And they don't want to believe this, because for many that would mean to go down under, and i guess that is hard to contemplate.

        And as you said, even if we beat Covid faster then my timeline we still won't be going back to anything resembling the before because a lot of people world wide are also loosing their affairs, businesses, jobs and thus are will also be much poorer in the near future and won't have the money to travel here even just for a two week stint, let alone a three month campervan or bike trip.

        Personally i don't want any industry being bailed out, i want the people bailed out via decent unemployment and social welfare benefits added into that a requirement for job search that does not clash with the reality that this year we will more likely then not loose more jobs, more self employment etc then we as a country can create.

        • RedLogix

          won't have the money to travel here even just for a two week stint, let alone a three month campervan or bike trip.

          Yet here in Brisbane that exact same industry is booming. The lead time on a new caravan or camper is 6 – 9 months right now.

          • Sabine

            I doubt that at the moment many people from Europe or the US / Asia are travelling to Brisbane for a campervan currently? So i am not talking about local consumption, but international one. As for the leadtimes, are they running out of spare parts that are not coming in from overseas? Never mind….. .

            Btw, next to where i live is a camper van / rent a box type business. He is doing really well, he is building lots of boxes that people put in yards for their relatives that can't afford rentals anymore, they are popping up in back and front yards everywhere, and some have campers, and i even have a neighbourg with an old huge horsefloat that is converted for the son/missus and child.

            Considering the housing crisis in NZ i would assume the Camper/Box builders to be in great demand for a long long time to come.

          • Graeme

            New Zealand, and Australia are discovering that international tourism is a net negative to the economy, much more money goes out of the country than comes in.

            The money that would have gone out for the overseas holiday is now being spent on re-creation at home. Around Queenstown it's swimming pools and/or tennis courts, and nationwide, boats. All will be next summer

    • Sacha 3.3

      For those who may have missed it, this is one recent story I was thinking of: https://www.tvnz.co.nz/one-news/new-zealand/moral-obligation-help-nz-tourism-companies-if-borders-remain-shut-through-2021-ceo-says

      Chief executive of Fox Glacier Guiding Rob Jewell is one of those operators who relies heavily on the dollars that international visitors bring.

      "The thing is, this isn't just about tourism, this is about survival of our communities," he told Breakfast this morning.

      "With those borders closed until 2022 and businesses that can't attract domestic visitors, the [Tourism] minister said some of those are going to fail, and look, I agree of course the Government can't save every business, but probably the big thing is it does need to save communities and the people who live in them.

      I doubt we can afford to keep all the tourism-dependent places like his alive. If alternative work is not able to be transitioned to locally, people may just need to move. That has happened many times in human history, especially in widespread once-a-century disruptions like this.

      • Incognito 3.3.1

        Government could subsidise domestic tourism for people who can never afford a holiday and/or as reward for special service such as frontline workers in MIQs. Decile 1 schools could organise school trips/excursions or even school camps. Great for nation-building and development, I reckon. Can somebody please think outside the square and use some imagination?

        • Poission

          Stagger the school holiday breaks by province?

          • Incognito

            Yes, good thinking but already rejected by Government and even National doesn’t seem keen.

        • Sabine

          School camps would be great. I guess there is a whole raft of kids in either Island that never went to the other parts of NZ.

          • Incognito

            Anecdotally, there are NZ kids who have never been to a beach! I’m sure there are quite a few who have never been to major NZ city either. Would it not be exciting if young Kiwis could learn first- hand about their country and bridge a few socio-economic as well as cultural divides in the process?

        • Sacha

          Great idea. Let's see it planned out.

          • Incognito

            If only they would scour sites such as this one for fresh ideas cheeky

            • Sabine

              Maybe an open letter of ideas to Labour?

              • Incognito

                Well, it is an interesting question, isn’t it? How best to submit stuff to Government or Labour, which are very different ‘beast’ in all reality, without it ending up in the Deleted folder of some faceless person? How to send a letter that gets results? A bit like cold calling. Any other specific suggestions except for an open letter, which I would have to sign with my real name?

                • Sacha

                  Anything short of an organised campaign or a face-to-face meeting is likely to be unpersuasive. Hence the existence of 'govt relations' consultants to secure the latter.

                  • Incognito

                    The joys of representative democracy where the representatives are well-shielded from undue influences from the people they are supposed to represent and vice versa. The disconnect is always the undoing.

                    • RedLogix

                      "The isolation of the elites" – a theme Jared Diamond returned to in Collapse quite a few times.

                      The thing is it's not all their fault – their roles are demanding and time consuming. They're surrounded by necessary functionaries and technocrats. Talented and capable lobbyists compete for their attention. We expect them to be responsible for broad and onerous ministry's, complex tasks and be across all the details as well.

                      When exactly are they supposed to quietly and without a media circus get alongside the homeless, the disabled and alienated at the margins? In many cases it will be their families who're their only real connection with the wider non-political world.

                      My defense here is of the very human people who we elect to be our leaders. We should treasure them more than we do I think. It's the nature of the system they have to work in that undoes so much of their good intentions.

                    • Incognito []

                      Nothing in your comment suggested that you think the divide could and should be bridged. Since you raised the thorny issue of “fault”, who has the power and will to change it? You seem to defend (!?) the status quo.

                      Chlöe Swarbrick is quite capable of connecting directly and engaging with people/voters via Social Media on a personal level but with a keen eye & ear for issues in the community that are worth knowing about and possibly following up on. Is she Wonder Woman?

                      Anyway, I’m not interested in playing the blame game.


                    • RedLogix

                      Why imagine that I was defending the status quo? My last line stated:

                      It's the nature of the system they have to work in that undoes so much of their good intentions.

                      There is where change needs to happen.

                    • Sacha

                      RL, I agree our Ministers are behaving as the system requires of them. If there is a non-creepy way to do it, maybe we could try to connect with their families and friends as an avenue of influence?

        • Graeme

          The main tourist resorts are reaping the reward of ignoring the domestic market for 10 years. Effectively the 'industry' took the traditional NZ holiday and packaged it up and sold it to the world. We found our holiday spots booked out by international visitors, our beaches and picnic spots over run by freedom campers and it was a rare to encounter a New Zealander in a front line job, especially the business owner.

          New Zealanders don't want the product that has developed, and are currently shunning the main tourist centres for other destinations. Over New Year Queenstown and Te Anau were dead, effectively 0, Wanaka, Stewart Island and Catlins had a huge couple of weeks.

          • Sacha

            Your Mayor does not seem to be taking it well (have not watched the embedded clip, just read the text). https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/travel/2021/02/would-we-slaughter-all-the-cows-queenstown-mayor-says-tourism-industry-won-t-survive-another-year-of-closed-borders.html

            "Queenstown businesses did not cause our borders to close, and yet we're being asked to pay the price," he told The AM Show on Friday, begging the Government for a new wage subsidy package and loans so tourism operators can survive until the borders reopen.

            • Graeme

              One of the dubious pleasures in these sort or times is seeing who amongst the town's worthies has been swimming without any trousers. I'm beginning to wonder about Jim.

              There could be something coming up regarding pandemic planning, or rather lack thereof, going back a few years that won't reflect well on his mayoralty too. Man and town are under a bit of stress, most self induced.

          • Ad

            We did similar to that for four weeks this holidays.

            We went:

            – 3 nights Landed Dunedin for Christmas, picked up the car, then

            – 6 nights Te Anau and the Kepler Track and Trout fishing, then

            – 1 night Riverton, then

            – 5 nights Catlins at Surat Bay

            – did the punt over the Clutha on the way up to …

            – 7 nights Wanaka

            – Returned car to Dunedin, 2 nights at Dunedin and out back to Auckland

            It was a good epic deep-south thing.

          • Incognito

            Yes, good point. When I visit a place that’s overrun with tourists I run for the hills although this is partly because I’m a deep-introvert. It’ll be survival of the fittest, i.e. of the ones who can adapt. However, a problem is that unfair treatment, be it perceived or real, can easily create a lot of bitterness and resentment and test the fragile fabric of local communities and society as a whole. Some will take the opportunity to launch populists propaganda aimed at ‘outsiders’. Thus I see the Government handouts and bailouts as a double-edged sword that, if not wielded wisely, can do an awful lot of long-term damage (e.g. think 1984).

        • Craig H

          I mean, this was the reasoning behind the various union and employer holiday homes e.g. Marram Trust.

      • Sabine 3.3.2

        Where do you want them to move to?

        This is not just a snarky comment, but a real question. 5+ years ago, people in AKL where told to just move some where where it is cheaper to live….never mind the jobs.

        How many South Island communities that live of tourism in particular do you want to up and move and where too, and to what jobs?

        The last time something like that was proposed Paula Benefit touted a 3000NZD payment to any unemployed person moving to CHCH to rebuild the city. It did not work really well if i remember correctly.

        So the Government can do a few things, help the station to survive the next three years on local tourism. Allow people to stay on the unemployment benefit without sanctioning them for failure to produce a job, helping people at the end of their working life into early retirement, and looking at investing heavily in green alternative jobs.

        Expecting people just to move……is the cheapest cop out ever, and a good way to fuck society over. But then maybe Thatcher was correct, and there is no society, just some people who don't care if other suffer while some do well.

        • Sacha

          Heaps of Aucklanders have moved away because of unaffordable housing and living costs. People move all the time.

          Where jobs are located depends on what sort they are. If public funding is involved in fostering them, they had better be sustainable future-oriented ones.

          This is not business as usual. Let's stop pretending that comes without social costs. Some people will suffer. Some places will suffer.

        • Craig H

          Payment to move for work rarely works out because the support networks don't move with the person. If it was more than just money, so a house/accommodation was included and they actually sorted out a job beforehand, it might work, but just a straight cash payment isn't enough to compensate for all that goes into moving to a new city without being so high that the public look askance at it (make it $10K and it might work, basically).

      • Graeme 3.3.3

        Why should the State bail out businesses that couldn't plan. Tourism is totally dependant on mobility of people, both internally and internationally. For the last 10 years the biggest threats to this mobility internationally have been war and pandemic. And internally, especially for the Coast, that lovely interaction between the weather, the geology and gravity.

        Where's the business planning to mitigate these risk? Oh right, let's stick the paw out for a Government hand out so we can stick the paw out for another Government hand out the next time it happens.

        • Sacha

          It is also a good test of how we will collectively adjust to climate change.

        • Sabine

          Should we expect anyone – anyone to have at least two years of rent/mortgage/electricity/rates/etc saved up to be prepared for an event like this so that they don't need government help?

          I find it funny how arguing for better benefits and more leniency for the current and future unemployed is considered helping businesses. That is what i want government to do. That is the one thing really we must now admit, is that we will lose a whole heep more businesses, that could also be yours or mine, and thus we be unemployed. Not only our staff, but us and lower down the chain our suppliers and so on and so forth. And at some stage that will be something to deal with. We can do nothing, or we can start being honest, rather then pretending that there was anyone/someone (inclusive the Labour Party and its leadership) in this country that was prepared for a pandemic that could kill anyone anywhere on this planet within three weeks after catching it, being so highly contagious that wearing a burka seems reasonable when leaving the house to buy groceries, and completly putting a stop to what was 'life' as we knew it.

          What i talk about is stuff that needs to be done on a policy level – legal framework for lease negotiations rather then….just negotiate with your landlord – who is in an equally shit position maybe. Help people get out if they want or must get out.

          Help local economy by raising the disposable income of those that have non at all atm, our beneficiaries. All of them. That disposable income would trickle down, rather then the subsidies aimed at businesses.

          And allow people to understand that the next few years will be slower, quieter and tighter, but feasable, rather then pretend that we are ever going back to what was the norm on March 27 11.59 PM. At the moment we have business as usual – throw a few dollars, complain when that does not work, do nothing more, when the patient is dead ask what could have been done more. Rinse repeat.

  4. McFlock 4

    If we get it to the stage where nobody has anything more than mild symptoms, that's cool, too. Lotsa people walking around with herpes they know nothing about. And a whole bunch of other germs.

    • Andre 4.1

      There's four other coronaviruses commonly circulating in the human population, constantly evolving, frequently causing short duration mild illness. These are just a few of the hundreds of viruses that cause common colds. It may well be that this new coronavirus will become similar.

      Hell, it may even be that if an elderly person that had never been previously exposed to a common cold coronavirus then got it, it might be dangerous to them in a similar way to the SARS-CoV-2 virus. But we've all been frequently previously exposed and re-exposed to all the common cold coronaviruses at regular intervals from infancy (when the covid virus also seems to not be very dangerous), so we're all at least partially protected.

      • Treetop 4.1.1

        Do you think that Covid-19 is an actual corona virus and it might need to be reclassified?

      • McFlock 4.1.2

        One thing I'm wondering is what effects the covid research boom will have further down the track. Like in twenty years will the process of isolating and sequencing a virus and then generating an mrna vaccine be at the patient level, rather than population level. Person gets sick, blood test isolates the pathogen, doc gives a jab… Star trek shit.

        • Andre

          The work behind the mRNA vaccines has being going on for 3-odd decades. So I'm not sure I'd call it a covid research boom. It's kinda more a case of covid becoming a big enough problem that everyone was incentivised to do their bit to overcome the obstacles in the way of making mRNA vaccines an actual available reality.

          But yeah, that Moderna allegedly had the vaccine made within a couple of days of getting the genetic sequence from China really points to exciting possibilities for the future. (The rest of 10 months or so after Moderna developing the vaccine to actually releasing it under the emergency use authorisation was the trials, clearing the regulators, and gearing up for production)

        • Sacha

          Skip the doctor part. It will be available to the wealthy sooner than that; to the word's most poor, never.

        • Sabine

          Deep Space Nine, the vaccines arrives but only the new born are free of the disease and the elders still will carry it and die of it. 🙂

          geek out.

  5. Treetop 5

    Iprent it is a serious post which you have put up.

    Is having a purist approach to prevent Covid-19 delaying the inevitable when the border restrictions are lifted?

    • Sabine 5.1

      I hope we manage to get the vaccine here and distributed before the border restrictions are lifted to be honest. I have family overseas and we do not want this here.

    • lprent 5.2

      Depends when the border restrictions lift and why.

      Firstly, the import industries of immigration, students and tourism got hurt. But they really aren’t that economically significiant to the whole economy. Which is why the government have managed to tail off the subsidies without stalling the economy – and Robertson has too much tax money to play with. This has been an interesting proof of something that I have argued for years. None of those industries are very good at generating profit for the country. They are just good at generating profit for some companies and individuals.

      Secondly it appears that real unemployment is down. The revenue gathering export industries haven’t been significantly hit. Internal catchup infrastructure and housing is keeping the domestic economy running.

      So there is no significant economic reason to open up in a hurry. Sure it means that some industries and companies would benefit – but ata significiant economic risk to other running companies and the economy as a whole. Because until the vaccination level hits somewhere above at least 60% – we wind up having wide lockdowns with outbreaks.

      Thirdly, by the look of modelling studies done with B.1.1.7 and B.1.351 in mind, if looks more like an over 90% vaccination rate will be needed to stop the need to have periodic narrow lockdowns to prevent spread.

      Personally I don’t think that we are likely to get those kinds of vaccination levels until late in the year. It qas always expected to start vaccinations around March or April. Currently it looks to me like that will be hit.

      The vaccines aren’t perfect. But they drop the probabilities of requiring wide quarantines and lockdowns to something acceptable for a running economy. ie not like the UK at present.

      • Craig H 5.2.1

        Also, a lot of the brunt of the lost jobs was the migrant work force – if students aren't able to be here to study, they also aren't working 20 hours/week, so the jobs may be lost, but no NZ residents/citizens lost anything. If the work is still there and needing to be done, the hours may have been redistributed even.

        Likewise tourism in many tourist-dominated regions – if that work was primarily done by working holidaymakers and other migrants, and the work is gone due to no international travellers, but so is the work force for the same reason, the actual net effect on employment and the economy is small.

  6. Fran 6

    There are some people who are contraindicated to the vaccines. For Pfizer one it includes people who are allergic to PEG. Are we going to test for this before administering the vaccine? I only ask as who knows if they are allergic to this or not.

    • Incognito 6.1

      It is not common and one’s medical history may contain some hints. When in doubt, don’t take this particular vaccine but wait for another without PEG.

  7. RedLogix 7

    A very good WSJ article from the former head of the CDC on the lessons to be learned from the COVID disaster. It has six major bullet points but the one that aligns with my usual mantra of 'global problems must be met with leadership at the same scale' is this:

    As the lead U.N. agency for global public health, the WHO remains the indispensable anchor of such efforts. The organization has obvious limitations: It has often been underfunded, underpowered and reluctant to criticize governments. But it performs several indispensable roles: providing evidence-based public-health guidance, facilitating international collaboration, openly tracking data and helping countries to strengthen their public-health efforts.

    The WHO needs real reforms to meet its mission. It must be much better insulated from political and geographic considerations in the hiring and promotion of staff, as well as in its assessments of countries and recommendations to them. A stronger WHO could provide robust technical support to governments world-wide, especially through its proposed Global Strategic Preparedness Network.

    • Drowsy M. Kram 7.1

      It would be great to see a better-funded and more politically independent WHO to advise and assist countries to prepare for and deal with pandemics.

      Fortunately the consensus among NZ and Australian health experts was to advise politicians to pursue a Covid-19 elimination strategy. The relative success of this strategy is evident whenever one looks at death tolls in other developed countries.

      The re-imposition of local lockdowns/travel restrictions in the state of Victoria and in the Auckland region in response to the recent threat of community transmission of Covid-19 is what effective Australasian leadership looks like. It's hugely encouraging, as are the recent moves to strengthen border controls. It suggests that both politicians and the wider public understand just how lucky we are, and what's at risk if we don't act as a team in the face of such threats.

      Stamp it out, keep it out.

      6. Don’t wait.

      We must act now: 2021 is the now-or-never moment to improve global resilience in facing future pandemics. We can’t know the character or the timing of the threats ahead, but they are inevitable. There is no time to lose in making preparations.

      Public-health decisions are unavoidably political. Failing to act, in the face of Covid-19’s proof that the world is dangerously vulnerable, would also be a decision. This year, when the urgency of such work is so clear, we must make significant investments to protect and expand global health—or we and our children will face the dire consequences.

      • RedLogix 7.1.1

        Fortunately the consensus that developed among NZ and Australian health experts was to advise politicians to pursue a Covid-19 elimination strategy to save lives.

        So why do you think they have they so egregiously failed to take other strategies that would have also saved lives?

        • Drowsy M. Kram

          Really RL, I'm not a mind reader – you'd have to ask them about their supposed egregious failure. Or perhaps you already have some reckons of your own wink

          What I do know is that our Covid-19 elimination strategy has saved lives – hooray!

          • RedLogix

            Sheesh – the way the debate goes down here so often I thought everyone was a mind reader. devil

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