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Plan B activists still think NZ should be like Sweden

Written By: - Date published: 11:50 am, December 26th, 2020 - 171 comments
Categories: boris johnson, covid-19, health, making shit up, spin, uncategorized, you couldn't make this shit up - Tags:

There is a new strain of Covid 19 recently discovered in the UK that is considerably more infectious than the originally discovered strain.

From the ABC:

A new variant of SARS-CoV-2, the virus which causes COVID-19, is thought to be driving increased transmission of the disease in parts of the UK.

The government has placed some regions including London under new, stricter coronavirus restrictions, known as Tier 4. People in Tier 4 areas will not be able to gather with anyone outside their household for Christmas, while those in the rest of the country can only gather on Christmas Day itself.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his chief scientific advisors said that the new variant could increase transmission of COVID-19 by as much as 70 per cent and increase the R or reproduction number by 0.4 per cent.

The discovery has caused Boris Johnson to severely curtail Christmas celebrations in the UK, something that you can bet was the last thing that he wanted to do.

The Observer in an editorial published in the Guardian puts it in these terms:

‘We don’t want to cancel Christmas… I think that would be inhuman,” the prime minister said just last Wednesday in response to calls from scientific experts to reduce the relaxation of social restrictions allowing households to mix over Christmas.

Four days later, he was forced to abruptly change course in light of alarming data indicating a steep increase in infection rates in London and parts of the south-east and east of England, thought to be linked to a new and more easily transmitted variant of Covid-19. The government was right to immediately impose tougher tier 4 restrictions on these parts of the country and elsewhere to restrict indoors household mixing to Christmas Day only.

It is clear that without these measures there would have been a huge risk of a rise in infection and death rates in January and February as a result of intergenerational mixing over Christmas, particularly endangering older people and those with pre-existing health conditions. This is likely to have put the NHS under intolerable strain as it reached the worst point of the year in terms of winter pressures, compromising the treatment not only of people with severe Covid symptoms, but with any serious health condition. The fact that vaccines are being rolled out to high-priority groups, with more comprehensive coverage months away, underlines how ill-judged it would be to trigger a larger-than-necessary spike in the death rate with the end of this period of social restrictions in sight.

But the late nature of this decision will cause considerable pain and heartbreak to families who have been encouraged to look forward to Christmas for weeks by a prime minister who, in characteristic form, foolishly over-promised in an attempt to avoid being the bearer of bad news.

For weeks, scientific experts, including members of Sage, have urged caution with respect to Christmas relaxations, given the direction in which infection rates were heading. For weeks, they have warned that it is a question of balance and that relaxing restrictions against a backdrop of rising infection rates could lead to a significant number of avoidable deaths. It is understandable that the government wanted to allow people to see their families at Christmas after the year we have had. But Johnson should have been honest with the public that there was no guarantee of any Christmas relaxation, that it was contingent on the state of the play with the virus. Instead, he gave false reassurances and encouraged families to make and look forward to plans that, for many, will now not come to pass.

Meanwhile here in Aotearoa New Zealand we are celebrating Christmas, going to the beach, going shopping or to the cricket and generally doing what we have yearned to do all year.

Makes you want to heap praise on the Government for its go hard and go early strategy?

Not for everyone.

So how does a ginger group that so far has never budged from the thought that Sweden may be better respond?  By criticising the policy that has without any doubt resulted in our rather welcome position.  Because as the rest of the world struggles handling this evil virus for now at least we can live relatively normal lives.

Plan B academics have written a letter to the editor that has been published in the Royal New Zealand College of Medical Practitioners claiming that chasing elimination through lockdowns is stamping out livelihoods and lives.

Short version of the letter:

  1. Aotearoa New Zealand has an elimination strategy.
  2. There is no successful vaccine which will take at least four years and may be a decade away.
  3. Tourism, our biggest export earner, will remain a casualty and the domestic economy will endure ongoing disruption.
  4. The WHO believes that lock downs are not a long term solution for the virus.
  5. Health and the economy are inseparable and the single most important determinant of health is income.
  6. Because the economy has retracted a reduction in life expectancy can be expected.
  7. New Zealand has maintained its elimination strategy despite the WHO and most countries deciding to adapt rather than eliminate.
  8. “Hard lockdowns are still the tool our government plans to reach for to ‘stamp out the virus’”.

The letter concludes with this call to arms:

How many more lockdowns, billions of dollars and social and health harm is an acceptable price to pay before this misguided and expensive strategy is abandoned? We implore Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield, and fellow health advisors to reflect on the points raised in this paper and to abandon elimination as a strategy and the use of lockdowns. We believe that future policy should return to the initial approach that was taken. That is to reduce transmission of COVID-19 through reasonable use of infection control, to maintain capacity in our hospitals and intensive care, while focusing public health and infection control efforts to protect the frail and elderly of our community.

There is quite a bit to unpick in this letter, mainly how can a bunch of academics get things so wrong?  For instance:

  1. It is correct that we do have an elimination strategy.
  2. There are two vaccines being rolled out right now and others in the pipeline.  Big Pharma has thrown a lot of effort and resources into developing a vaccine as quickly as possible.
  3. Sure international tourism has tanked but domestic tourism has picked up.  The economy is adjusting.
  4. The WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has listed New Zealand among the countries that have done well during the pandemic.
  5. This reads like something the Taxpayers Union would say.
  6. Annual GDP grew 0.4% and the latest quarter’s growth was 14%, a remarkable result that is among the best in the world.  Going hard and going early and then allowing society to reopen worked pretty well.
  7. Most countries have decided to adapt because they have no choice.  They all wish they were New Zealand right now.
  8. The Government has shown an increasingly sophisticated response to the virus with the second “lockdown” being far more permissive and targeted than the first and with other examples of community spread being dealt with by way of contact tracing and advanced genomic analysis which can pinpoint where the virus may have come from.

I mean, really?

Professor of Health Michael Baker has also poured scorn on the content of the letter.  From the Herald:

… University of Otago professor of public health Michael Baker told the Herald the letter was almost unfit for publication due to its inaccuracy and, in his opinion the authors were living in an alternate reality.

“I assume that article couldn’t have been peer-reviewed, really, because it’s got things in it which are patently absurd,” Baker said.

“I don’t know what they’re basing their claims on. I mean just to begin with, as soon as you say ‘There is no hope of a vaccine’, and they pretty much say that, or ‘It’s very unlikely’, when the world seems to be awash with fantastic vaccine candidates. I mean, surely you begin to doubt the credibility of the entire argument.”

In the letter, the Plan B group claim “a vaccine may never eventuate. After 37 years and billions of dollars invested, an HIV vaccine remains elusive”.

Baker also criticised the logic of the Plan B group’s focus on the economic impact of lockdowns, saying you needed to judge that cost in the context of all other alternatives.

“What economists always say is, it’s not about whether something costs a lot of money or not. It’s whether there is a better alternative that will give you a better result and cost less,” Baker said.

“If you haven’t got that alternative you’re better to stick with Plan A, rather than shoot off to this planet B which appears to have a completely alternate logic structure to it.

“That’s what I find almost scandalous, that university academics are putting out material that is so poorly argued and is cherry-picking evidence in a very selective way and doesn’t make any sense.”

By all means let’s have a reasoned debate about what the best response is and how we should be adapting and changing our approach to the virus.  But when we have this debate ginger groups should at least try to ensure that their basic understanding of things is sound.

171 comments on “Plan B activists still think NZ should be like Sweden ”

  1. shanreagh 1

    Crazy to my mind, yes. Arguing the toss, yes. Perhaps dated (giving them the benefit of the doubt)

    Letter was written in early November, accepted by NZMC in early Dec and published 22/12.

    They will be heaping mana on themselves by getting a letter published in NZMC. Other seemingly august publications will pick this up as if it has some imprimatur from NZMC.

    I have deleted the names of the authors, they are at the top of the article and I do not want to to give them any credence. Plan B is the best name.

  2. shanreagh 2

    By all means let’s have a reasoned debate about what the best response is and how we should be adapting and changing our approach to the virus. But when we have this debate ginger groups should at least try to ensure that their basic understanding of things is sound.

    This from MS summarises it well.

  3. Reality 3

    First impression is they are a group of 'self-regarding academics' who want to be noticed and have some attention going their way. They seem to not be happy the experts we have come to listen to and respect are getting too much media attention and think they know better. Well done Michael Baker for his robust response.

    • weka 3.1

      Could also be driven from economic beliefs.

      • Graeme 3.1.1

        Could also be driven by the economic beliefs of whoever is funding them.

        • Incognito 3.1.1.1

          It is common and good (!) practice for authors of a peer-reviewed Research Article to acknowledge all the funding sources that enabled the present work and publication.

        • Andre 3.1.1.2

          At the end of their letter they claim to have received no specific funding for producing their letter.

          Of course, that doesn't preclude influence from the funding sources for their other work. Or maybe they really are spreading their nuttery around for free from the goodness of their hearts for undetermined reasons.

          • Incognito 3.1.1.2.1

            From the Journal website:

            Acknowledgements

            Acknowledgements should be briefly presented on the title page. Where appropriate, give credit to funders, sponsors, technical assistants, and professional colleagues. All sources of funding need to be acknowledged. If the work has been part of postgraduate studies, the university you were enrolled in should be mentioned.

            https://www.publish.csiro.au/hc/forauthors/AuthorInstructions#22

            Competing Interests

            A statement of competing interests should be included on the title page. Each author should declare the source of any financial or other support, and any financial or professional relationships which may pose a competing interest.

            Under a subheading ´Competing Interests´ at the end of the text all authors must disclose any financial and personal relationships with organisations or people that could inappropriately influence their work. If there are no conflicts of interest, authors should state that none exist.

            https://www.publish.csiro.au/hc/forauthors/AuthorInstructions#23

            • McFlock 3.1.1.2.1.1

              Looks like Thornley ended a job advising an international airport on covid risks, then. He declared it for a September publication:

              ST and AM are providing paid advice to Auckland International Airport related to health risks associated with covid-19.

              Or he now doesn't think it's a "competing interest".

            • mickysavage 3.1.1.2.1.2

              Just as a response I should declare the following on behalf of the Standard.

              Sponsorships

              None except for the occasional donation and LPrent hosting the server and paying for the broadband.

              Payments associated with the writing of this post

              I wish …

              Competing interests

              Only that I want to see a safe and secure Aotearoa.

        • SPC 3.1.1.3

          There is a National party influence at Auckland University – one of their senior academics Des Gorman was a sidekick of a former Treasury boss Murray Horn on National appointed positions in National Health oversight – National Health Board. These two were arguing for taking management of the pandemic off MOH earlier this year (and against lockdowns as well).

          Horn was at Treasury during the sweeping economic reforms of the fourth Labour government in the 1980s, and served as Treasury secretary during the welfare and labour reforms of the 1990s National government. His book in 1998 championed making neo-liberal reforms that future governments would be unable to undo.

          • Incognito 3.1.1.3.1

            Apophenia (HT to McFlock).

            • SPC 3.1.1.3.1.1

              Hardly, former National appointees were peddling National Party/business lines. And also offering to take over pandemic management – inferring lack of confidence in the government and MOH.

              An obvious fear being a successful lockdown elimination strategy would end National's election hopes.

              • Incognito

                😀

                Has it occurred to you that National Party/business might have been peddling lines of former National appointees?

                Anyway, you replied saying “[t]here is a National party influence at Auckland University” to a (rhetorical?) question about the “economic beliefs of whoever is funding them [Plan B activists]”. So, where and what is that influence, specifically?

                This mythical ‘influence’ doesn’t seem to affect the likes of Siouxsie Wiles, Shaun Hendy, Dame Anne Salmond, Margaret Mutu, to name a few. Are you guilty of apophenia to suit your (inner?) narrative, by any chance?

                Professor Baker’s words are still fresh in my mind …

                An obvious fear being a successful lockdown elimination strategy would end National's election hopes.

                Yup, it was their only hope and they were such a shambolic lot that I doubt that anything would have saved them. Imagine a failed lockdown elimination strategy and National now leading Government! The mind boggles!

                • SPC

                  Anyway, you replied saying “[t]here is a National party influence at Auckland University” to a (rhetorical?) question about the “economic beliefs of whoever is funding them [Plan B activists]”. So, where and what is that influence, specifically?

                  Well yuh and he is Des Gorman – a very senior figure there – above Thornley, "Sundecorp" and co and an appointee alongside Horn on the National Health Board for years during the 2009-2017 period.

                  As I said Gorman and Horn opposed lockdowns and wanted an appointed body to take over the response from MOH (people like themselves). Which is in line with the ideological direction of the right internationally – team Barrington and the Telegraph freedom line. No lockdown and undermining state led response, our Team B as it were.

                  It’s example, and precedent led influence.

                  National are well known for appointing their ideologues into sinecure, such as NHB. And corporates are well known for funding research by those they think are of similar ideology – for example those who fund the New Zealand Initiative.

                  Those who are unable to note connections between events, never understand anything about anything. Nor learn from history.

                  And those who bare grudges from the past and carry them from one issue onto another, rather than take on the matter at hand directly, rarely realise anything constructive – they just see targets.

                  • McFlock

                    Those who are unable to note connections between events, never understand anything about anything. Nor learn from history.

                    Note, or imagine?

                    • SPC

                      Churchill imagined the German military build up in the 1930's was a real threat for years …

                      WHO issued a world alert of a pandemic back in 2016 …

                    • McFlock

                      Churchill was receiving confidential intelligence material through connections he'd made in his previous government roles. He was talking about a build up because he'd seen the evidence of actual soldiers, ships, tanks, and aircraft. The connections were part of the picture: new ships are evidence of new shipbuilding. New machine guns are evidence of rearming. More divisions are evidence of bigger armies.

                      WHO has given pandemic warnings based on experimental, epidemiological, and historical evidence weighted towards the hazards of novel viruses entering a population based around frequent global migration. The connections were part of the picture. Mutation rates and migration rates and delays in novel virus identification all point towards significant spread before measures can be implemented.

                      You've provided a lot of dots selectively, there are many missing dots (all the leftish academics), and zero actual connections between these guys and specific payment for their work.

                    • SPC

                      No its less the evidence than the breadth of perspective in play.

                      Other right wingers had the same information as Churchill – but they liked the way Hitler put down the left in Germany and saw him as weapon against Russia. They were blinded by ideology.

                      Their's was a short term or current events led position, Churchill was more focused on the history of it all. And the fact that WW1 was supposedly the war that ushered in democracy.

                    • McFlock

                      The point being that Churchill was noting connections and basing his projections on clear indications, rather than taking a bunch of random events and constructing his own narrative around them – to the point of ignoring evidence that could equally support the opposite perspective.

                      So he saw new battleships and built a picture of rearming, just as he might see the number of nats in a university faculty and see nat bias. But there were no indications that the Nazis were disarming, while university faculties also have many leftish members.

                    • SPC

                      Back then some on the left cared more about peace than democracy or collective security. And some on the right pretended to care for peace too, but were just using that to give Hitler his head.

                      And yes there are left and right wingers at the university today. And they have the same facts, yet the right wingers choose to oppose lockdowns – Gorman was the senior figure at Auckland and a National Party appointee on the National Health Board (and what was Horn's expertise in Health … his right wing ideology …).

                      When ideology is rewarded …

                    • Incognito []

                      You know, when you have to invoke Churchill, Hitler, and WHO to demonstrate your point about National Party influence in the University of Auckland on Plan B academics specifically, it is obvious that your argument is weak as piss or non-existent altogether.

                    • SPC

                      Gorman, Thornley, Sund et al (those in their economics department as well). The right wing ideology force is strong there.

                      Of course the peddling of right wing ideology and getting appointed to say the National Health Board (such as Horn) by National/ACT is an influence across all academia. Not just Auckland, but it is well Auckland.

                      Just because other people have also flirted with Team B, apparently convinced by the strength of their argumenret, if not their ideology, does not refute that.

                      While I supported the lockdown to get spread under control to protect the health system, and get testing and tracing up to scratch. For a week or two I had doubts about going for elimination, then I thought it through and saw the light. Puting the people first, before the economy was not only right – but it would work and possibly lead to political change. Little wonder the right were nervous.

                    • Incognito []

                      Gorman, Thornley, Sund et al (those in their economics department as well). The right wing ideology force is strong there.

                      There’s rightwing ideology in the Economics Dept? Well, strike me down with a feather!

                      Isn’t Tim Hazledine a Professor in that Department too? And Professor Jilnaught Wong (different Dept, same Faculty) who called upon NZ businesses to pay back the Wage Subsidy?

                      Maybe the World is a little more complex and nuanced than your narrative, yes?

                    • McFlock

                      So thousands of years ago people imagined pictures within an essentially random pattern of dots in the night sky. They noticed a connection between those constellations and seasons. All good. Then they imagined stories based on those pictures and connections, and astrology was born.

                      All you're doing is listing bright points in the night sky, and ignoring others that don't fit your story. But the stories are getting more elaborate the more this is pointed out.

                    • SPC

                      Saying that right wing ideology is rewarded by both business (who funds New Zealand Initiative) and National (political appointments), is hardly a unique argument, nor often so disputed. And it seems that puting the economy first line, or freedom first (political line alongside the economic one) has an impact even on health academics – if they do not place the public good first.

                      Apophenia, astrology – you two are hilarious, the Soviet gulag meets must not be quarrelsome against the CCP. Not playing some KB pantomine stereotype of TS?

                    • McFlock

                      Saying that right wing ideology is rewarded by both business (who funds New Zealand Initiative) and National (political appointments), is hardly a unique argument, nor often so disputed.

                      In general, yes. Just as the left wing have been known to fund research and support people with left wing ideaology (e.g. unions, some left wing political parties).

                      But you made a connection between a specific body of research a specific organisation. That requires a specific identified connection.

                      Lots of people suspected some nats and right wing bloggers were in cahoots, but that wasn't a demonstrable fact until a specific connection in the form of hacked emails was made public.

                      Thornley has already declared himself to have had paid work (at some time during this pandemic) advising a business that specialised in international travel. Dunno why you need to drag the nats into it – I doubt this lot would have been able to keep a nod and a wink secret, anyway.

                    • Incognito []

                      Very well said, thank you.

                      But you [SPC] made a connection between a specific body of research [Plan B’s latest paper] [and] a specific organisation [National Party]. That requires a specific identified connection.

                      QFT

                      Somehow, I don’t think that SPC will come to the party though 🙁

                  • Incognito

                    You have not presented anything that points to a direct influence, undue or otherwise, of the National Party within the University of Auckland on Plan B academics. Incidentally, not all Plan B academics are from the University of Auckland so that mythical ‘influence’ must reach far & wide, maybe it’s a conspiracy?

                    Des Gorman works in a different School and Department from Simon Thornley so he has no seniority as such over Thornley and is not “above” him either. You may want to check out Gorman’s third selected publication in his staff profile: https://unidirectory.auckland.ac.nz/people/profile/d-gorman

                    So far, you have produced only innuendo and hot air and not a modicum of hard robust evidence. Talking of “grudges from the past”, do you have an agenda, by any chance?

                    • SPC

                      So you do not dispute that hiring right wingers to positions in health, such as Horn, is say an indirect influence on academia.

                      Then there is economic ideology and influence on perception of valid public health policy – placing an importance on business activity, thus promoting a health policy that works around that, even if the health outcome is less optimum?

                      So far, you have produced only innuendo and hot air and not a modicum of hard robust evidence. Talking of “grudges from the past”, do you have an agenda, by any chance?

                      Yeah sure.

                      Puting the people first, before the economy was not only right – but it would work and possibly lead to political change. Little wonder the right were nervous.

                      Ignoring those voices saying put the economy before people.

                      Hopefully the government can take some of the courage in their response into other areas of policy, and thus avoid being accused of being Blairlite.

                    • Incognito []

                      So you do not dispute that hiring right wingers to positions in health, such as Horn, is say an indirect influence on academia.

                      Yes, I absolutely dispute that the appointment of Horn as Chair of the National Health Board had the influence that you imagine it had because that Board was about the provision and funding of health services. What does this have to do with the latest Plan B brain fart?

                      Nine years of National-led Government had a perverse effect on NZ academia, especially that wrecker Steven Joyce.

                      The rest of your comment is just another smokescreen to avoid answering specific questions under this Post.

  4. weka 4

    weirdly, they're not actually offering a plan B in that letter. We haven't had that many lockdowns, so it's hard to know what they are on about. Also, if they believe that income is the biggest determinant of health, where's the call to be raising benefits and minimum wage, and the plan for that?

  5. weka 5

    By all means let’s have a reasoned debate about what the best response is and how we should be adapting and changing our approach to the virus. But when we have this debate ginger groups should at least try to ensure that their basic understanding of things is sound.

    Yes, and… there is an odd dynamic of denial on all sides about the vaccine. There are risks in rushing to a vaccine, as well as relying on that for something (what?) when we don't know how it will work. Maybe I've missed it (I haven't been following super closely), but I still don't get what the plan is.

    Is the vaccine intended to eliminate covid19 like polio? Or is it intended to be like the flu vaccine, something needed to be taken seasonally? Or something in between?

    Specifically for New Zealand, how do those questions relate to our closed borders and ideas on when/how we should or could be opening them?

    Are we working on the assumption that vaccines are Good, and that we will work out the details as we go along? Not saying that is wrong necessarily, just that I find it odd that we're not really talking about it.

    If the idea is that we will be free of covid and able to open our borders in a year or so, I think it’s ok to question how real that is.

      • weka 5.1.1

        what's your point Incognito? The MoH doesn't have a plan yet, and…?

        The strategy makes sense, but in the context of my questions it's still a strategy based on best hopes and guesses. Afaik we don't yet know how long the immunity from a vaccine will last, and issues like transmission of the virus by people immunised are still not resolved.

        It reminds me of the position re climate change that we can avoid powerdown because soon we will develop the tech for CCS etc. It's a bloody big gamble.

        If the point of the vax strategy is to work alongside other strategies like border control, tracing, lockdowns etc, I think that should be explicit. Maybe I'm wrong here, but aren't people expecting we're heading for herd immunity from the vaccines?

        • Incognito 5.1.1.1

          What is my point? None, zilch, nada 😉

          For the convenience of those who want to find out more information from MoH, I simply provided a link. That is it.

          As you can tell from the Menu on the LH side of the MoH webpage, Vaccine Planning is just one of the planks of Response Planning. However, it was always going to be a major plank and even more so now vaccines are starting to be approved and used in general populations, IMHO.

          At this stage, we can't advise how the availability of vaccines in New Zealand and internationally will influence any changes to our border controls.

          https://www.health.govt.nz/our-work/diseases-and-conditions/covid-19-novel-coronavirus/covid-19-response-planning/covid-19-vaccine-planning#border

          Nobody knows how effective these vaccines will be or how long they might last. I think it is safe to say that they are quite safe when they are approved for use in the general population. This doesn’t mean that there won’t be any side effects, some of which could be serious in some rare cases. However, this is carefully monitored; some large clinical trials have been temporarily paused because of reported side effects but this is common practice.

          https://www.immune.org.nz/vaccines/vaccine-safety/safety-monitoring

          My interpretation of the MoH information is that they aim for ‘herd immunity’, but that they are actively avoiding using this loaded term.

          HTH

          • weka 5.1.1.1.1

            My interpretation was that they're not aiming for herd immunity at this stage. How did you get to that conclusion from that doc? eg the potential scenarios.

            From the last link,

            "Vaccine safety is monitored through voluntary reporting of adverse events, passive monitoring, and formal systems that require reporting, active monitoring."

            This is inadequate. If you get someone talking about an adverse reaction to a GP, it's up to the GP whether to report it or not, and people concerned about vaccine reactions have been saying for decades that many GPs won't report. This is in the context of anti-anti vaxxer rhetoric and pressure, which is sometimes intense and nasty. GPs aren't immune to those positions either.

            Of those situations some, possibly many, will not be related to the vaccination, but the problem with the current situation is it leaves us with simply not knowing. (if someone has the guidelines issued to GPs, I'd be interested to read them. I'd also like to know what the defined period is for mandatory reporting of adverse reactions for new vaccines).

            We do know that the MoH is generally useless on disability and chronic illness that it isn't equipped to deal with. We're also seeing it not stepping up on long covid. So it's not hard for those of us already at the sharp end of the stick to be thinking this will be true for people with adverse reactions to the covid vaccine as well.

            The position that the vaccine is relatively safe (probably) and will save more lives/disability than not vaccinating (definitely in countries with community transmission, probably in NZ), but who don't address the issues in the health system and assume that things will be fine, are in a position of denial which boils down to a collateral damage position. Understandable, some of us are pushing back against that.

            Instead, what we could be doing is saying the vaccine is relatively safe (probably) and will save more lives/disability than not vaccinating (definitely in countries with community transmission, probably in NZ), and there will probably be people who have adverse effects and we shouldn't be afraid of talking about that openly and what it means and how those people will be helped.

            • Drowsy M. Kram 5.1.1.1.1.1

              Since 'NZ' has purchased more than enough doses of COVID-19 vaccines to vaccinate the entire population, it's likely that all NZers will be (strongly?) encouraged to get vaccinated. But it's also likely that taking a COVID-19 vaccine, like all other vaccines available to NZers, will be a matter of individual choice/responsibility, and I don't expect any NZ government to make all my (difficult) choices for me.

              I'll (probably) choose take part in any nationwide COVID-19 vaccination programme (although I certainly won't be volunteering to go first smiley ), and should I suffer a serious adverse effect then (in NZ) I would expect some support/assistance from our over-loaded but still excellent public health services to be available to me.

              It's a bit difficult to know where Bolsonaro's coming from with this bizzare list of possible side-effects; why, it's almost sounds like scaremongering.

              If Covid-19 vaccines cause side-effects, who pays: makers or governments?

              If you turn into a crocodile [after taking the vaccine], it’s your problem,” he [Bosonaro] said. “If you become superhuman, if a woman starts to grow a beard or if a man starts to speak with an effeminate voice, they will not have anything to do with it.

              Countries’ regulators have repeatedly emphasised that serious adverse effects caused by vaccinations generally are rare – about one or two per million doses.

              But the full picture on possible side-effects is not yet known, with Covid-19 vaccines having been developed at an unprecedented speed – developing a vaccine typically takes up to a decade. Some side-effects may be found only after large-scale vaccination.

              Cosmetic surgery is a choice; maybe some people will decide to make different choices as a result of the global pandemic; we can only hope.

              Moderna COVID-19 vaccine causes swelling and inflammation in patients who have cosmetic facial fillers

              The FDA advisory committee reviewing the new Moderna vaccine has noted a specific side effect involving several trial participants who have cosmetic facial fillers.

              Local board certified dermatologist Dr Shirley Chi explains what the FDA committee noted.

              "In these cases the patients all had swelling and inflammation in the area that was given the filler. A couple of the patients had cheek filler six months prior to their vaccine and one patient had lip filler done two days after the vaccine. All were treated with steroids and anti-histamines and all of their reactions resolved," she said.

              Millions of people have physician administered cosmetic facial fillers to smooth out fine lines, wrinkles and to enhance cheeks and lips. Chi says the reaction to the vaccine is immunological.

              "Your immune system which causes inflammation is revved up when you get a vaccine, that's how it's supposed to work. So it makes sense that you would see an immune response in certain areas where they see some substance that is not a naturally occurring substance in your body" says Chi.

              It's risky waking up each morning – it's even riskier not to. All we can do is educate ourselves about (relative) risks, make the best (informed) decisions possible, and accept there’s no guarantee that we won’t (occasionally) choose poorly.

              Boston Doctor Has Allergic Reaction to Moderna's COVID Vaccine, Uses Own EpiPen

              It's unclear why some people are experiencing allergic reactions after getting the shots. Fatigue, headaches and muscle pain have been noted as the most common side effects from Moderna's vaccine, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

              A study being led by a team at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases is looking at why some people have suffered from severe allergic reactions and is expected to include several hundred people who have a history of severe allergic reactions.

              Within moments of receiving the shot containing the vaccine, Sadrzadeh's heart began racing, then felt his tongue and throat tingling and begin to go numb, he told The Boston Globe. He called it the worst allergic reaction he has experienced since he was 11 — he's allergic to shellfish.

              But Sadrzadeh told the newspaper that he was feeling normal again by Friday morning, and hopes his story will encourage anyone else with a history of allergies to educate themselves with information before getting their vaccine.

              • weka

                and should I suffer a serious adverse effect then (in NZ) I would expect some support/assistance from our over-loaded but still excellent public health services to be available to me.

                If by that you mean that you will still be supported to some kind of quality of life, let me disabuse you of that notion. Many people with chronic illnesses get SLP if they're lucky, otherwise the dole from WINZ, they don't get ACC (or if they're eligible for ACC but weren't working in the year before because they were a student or a solo parent or on the dole etc then they get sfa). They get minimal disability support via the health systems because the health system is antiquated around the social realities of disability (eg you might get a few hours of home support per week irrespective of the degree of disability).

                If, and that's definitely an if, your disability is a recognised medical condition, you may or may not have trained doctors who know how to help, or there may be no help known, or you may not be able to access the doctors because the ones experienced in your condition are few and far between.

                Everything I just said is how the health/welfare/disability systems already operate. I guess there is some chance that covid will prompt some changes to that but given Labour are resistant to ensuring disabled people have a decent standard of living and in fact have no income support policy for them, I'm not hopeful. Also, the MoH has its own set of cultural problems akin to WINZ that that the non-disabled don't want to talk about.

                • Drowsy M. Kram

                  Thanks for that Weka – my expectations in this regard were based on personal experience; I'll have to revise them in light of the information you've supplied.

                  Terrible thing to live in fear. Brooks Hatlen knew it. Knew it all too well. All I want is to be back where things make sense. Where I won’t have to be afraid all the time.” ― Stephen King, Different Seasons

            • Incognito 5.1.1.1.1.2

              My interpretation was that they're not aiming for herd immunity at this stage. How did you get to that conclusion from that doc? eg the potential scenarios.

              There are many clues on that webpage that point to it but these are the clearest:

              Strong vaccination uptake levels are critical to achieve enough population immunity.

              Sufficient supply of a safe and effective vaccines to achieve population immunity to COVID-19. [my italics]

              I don’t know any details but my uneducated guess is that the roll-out(s) of vaccine(s) will be monitored with much greater attention and care than usual. I assume that details will become available early next year. However, this appears to be a new development:

              Now over 15 years old, we’re developing a replacement NIR system – the National Immunisation Solution (NIS).

              The first iteration of the system will be available to fully support a COVID-19 vaccine roll-out and additional functionality will be added through further iterations.

              In any case:

              The COVID-19 vaccination will not be mandatory for the New Zealand public. You may choose not to be vaccinated.

              Obviously, given that NZ roll-out won’t commence before June-21, there will be considerable international experience on safety and effectivity that will guide us here in NZ.

              HTH

    • Andre 5.2

      There are risks in rushing to a vaccine,

      It's important to understand how much of the timeframe compression was achieved, because safety checking has not been short-circuited or bypassed.

      Almost all of the 11 months since the virus was definitively identified has been taken up by safety and efficacy checking – Moderna's vaccine was apparently developed two days after the genetic sequence of the virus was released.

      The speedups have been achieved by steps such as vaccine companies gearing up for production as soon as they had a candidate that might be viable and they knew roughly what production facilities were needed. That's a financial risk for the company (or the government that funded it), but it's not a safety risk. It's also a huge contrast to the usual process of not even thinking about pilot or full production for the next stage until the previous stage is complete and signed off.

      The phase 2 and phase 3 trials were also started almost immediately when the information needed for the trials came out from the previous step. It's because all parties involved were closely following the process and doing the analysis and review and giving approval (or not) as fast as reasonably possible. Again, there weren't safety shortcuts taken, it's that everyone involved had a sense of urgency to expedite their part of the process. The comparison to the length of time it normally takes just illustrates how long-winded and needlessly drawn out the normal process is.

      Tragically, another reason the vaccine development went so quickly was the way the pandemic massively grew very quickly after the phase 3 trials started. That meant enough trial participants were getting infected soon enough that the required number of infections to get efficacy conclusions happened much more quickly than would have been expected earlier this year. In contrast, other vaccines in recent years have taken much much longer to get results from trials, simply because the disease they protect against is so rare.

      I've recently seen a good article that went through all this in depth, but I'm having trouble finding it again. I'll keep looking and post it if I find it.

  6. xanthe 6

    OH Gaia now we not only have to cope with Michael Baker's self promoting reaction to every snippit of news . we also have this lot.

  7. Anne 7

    They're not "academics" in the accepted meaning of the word.

    I don't know who they are but my pick is:

    1) They're probably quite young (maybe not) and rather arrogant.

    2) They haven't done due diligence on the subject matter because they're right wing ideologists following an agenda to discredit both the government and the main stream academics… of whom they are jealous.

    In short, they're nut-bars.

    My considered opinion. 😉

    • Andre 7.1

      Enough of them are employed in academic posts by recognised academic institutions such as University of Auckland and University of Canterbury that a label of academics is accurate enough to be fair. That a few of them aren't academics, but are instead public relations weasels or lawyers or in private practice, doesn't make the description unfair.

      From the linked original letter:

      Gerhard Sundborn;1,9 Simon Thornley;1 Michael Jackson;2 Grant Morris;3 Mark Blackham;4 Grant Schofield;5 Richard Doehring;6 Ronald Goedeke;7 Ananish Chaudhuri8

      1 Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, The University of Auckland, 85 Park Road, Grafton, Auckland 1023, New Zealand

      2 School of Biological Sciences, University of Canterbury, Private Bag 4800, Christchurch 8140, New Zealand

      3 Faculty of Law, Victoria University of Wellington, GB 324, Government Buildings, 55 Lambton Lambton Quay, Pipitea,Wellington 6011, New Zealand

      4 Blackland PR, Level 12, City Chambers, 142 Featherston Street, Wellington Central, Wellington 6011, New Zealand

      5 Human Potential Centre/Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition, Faculty of Health & Environmental Sciences, AucklandUniversity of Technology, Private Bag 92006, Auckland 1142, New Zealand

      6 Private Practice, PO Box 25109, Christchurch 8144, New Zealand7Private Practice,

      7 2a Apollo Drive, Albany, Auckland 0632, New Zealand

      8 Business School, The University of Auckland, Owen G Glenn Building, 12 Grafton Road, Auckland CBD, Auckland 1010,New Zealand

      9 Corresponding author. Email: g.sundborn@auckland.ac.nz

      However, there is strong evidence for their being ideologically blinded nutbars. That is, one of their first biggest claims, around the timeframe for vaccine availability, has been shown so spectacularly wrong immediately after they wrote their piece. It's not as if the rapid progress on vaccines was any kind of secret, either.

    • alwyn 7.2

      You cannot seriously claim to be giving a considered opinion and also state they are not "academics" when you admit that you don't know who they are.

      • Incognito 7.2.1

        You seem to have missed the emoticon at more than one level.

        • Anne 7.2.1.1

          Thanks Incog. 🙂

        • alwyn 7.2.1.2

          That certainly seems to be an interesting approach.

          Does that mean that I can say that some commentator here is a total idiot and is unable to give a reasoned comment on anything at all and make everything OK by putting an "I'm just joking" emoji at the end?

          • Incognito 7.2.1.2.1

            😀

          • Anne 7.2.1.2.2

            Sorry you are unable to decipher a self-deprecating acknowledgment that my comment was off-the-cuff and lacking any detailed analysis. Perhaps I caught the bug from your esteemed self who is a past master at producing brief, caustic comments with no facts attached.

            My response appears to be well backed up by the real experts:

            https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/covid-19-coronavirus-new-zealand-scientists-critical-of-anti-lockdown-letter-in-top-medical-journal/YL36RS7MHJ7RBXUO572SXV53PM/

            • alwyn 7.2.1.2.2.1

              I'm not really sure that the people in the article you link to are disinterested individuals. They are, after all, people who pushed for the total shutdown approach.

              Michael Baker was one who said that there could be about 80,000 deaths in the absence of a lockdown. Such a scenario never happened in any country. Even Sweden has only had about 8,000 deaths in a population that is twice that of New Zealand

              He also said we didn't have to worry about mutations of the virus.

              'Baker said he wasn't worried about the virus mutating further as it spread across the globe.

              "These viruses are under huge selective pressure and generally the selection is towards variance that is more infectious and less lethal.

              "So what we might tend to see over time is the virus will become part of our normal bugs that infect our respiratory tract like the other four coronaviruses."'

              I wonder if he still thinks that, and whether there was any peer review of his own work back in March? I once emailed him to ask about peer review of his predictions. I never received an answer but even if he saw it I doubt if he would have had time to waste in answering a random question from someone he would never have heard about and who certainly doesn't have any medical background.

              https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/national/412734/covid-19-lockdown-critical-people-change-behaviour-expert

              I think we could follow the example of Taiwan which never had a total lockdown and who kept their schools running. Total of 7 deaths in about 24 million people the last time I looked.

              • Drowsy M. Kram

                I think we could follow the example of Taiwan which never had a total lockdown and who kept their schools running. Total of 7 deaths in about 24 million people the last time I looked.

                Thanks for sharing your opinion Alwyn. NZ’s not perfect, but the last time I llooked our team was doing OK too, so credit where credit's due IMHO.

                The Best and Worst Places to Be in Covid: U.S. Sinks in Ranking

                New Zealand—with its closed borders, vaccine deals and elimination of the virus in the community—remains No. 1 in December, with Taiwan edging into second place as the onset of cold weather challenges previously top-ranked places like Japan and South Korea.
                https://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/covid-resilience-ranking/

              • McFlock

                Except for the bit in february where they postponed the opening of schools for two weeks. Banned cruise ships from 6 feb. Most foreign nationals by March.

                So, yeah, they got in even earlier than us. We made the finals, they're on the podium.

                That doesn't make the plan B crowd anything other than a festering pile of bullshit, though.

              • Incognito

                Michael Baker was one who said that there could be about 80,000 deaths in the absence of a lockdown.

                This is misleading on more than one account. I think you’re referring to this: https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/health/coronavirus/120604818/new-model-shows-coronavirus-could-kill-80000-kiwis-without-lockdown. However, Professor Baker was not involved and he was not an author on that paper. However, that model was adapted from a model developed by Baker and colleagues – Baker’s model predictions never went as high as 80,000 and only (!) as high as 10,983, about which they said:

                The estimated mortality burden … is large, but not unprecedented. That is, it would still be less than the 0.8% of the population dying from the 1918 influenza pandemic in New Zealand (ie, 9000 deaths24 out of 1.149 million people at that time).

                https://www.health.govt.nz/system/files/documents/publications/report_for_moh_-_age-specific_impacts_covid-19_pandemic_final.pdf

                The other misleading aspect of your comment is that you are hung up on the exact number of 80,000 rather than the implications of not doing anything, which would overwhelm the NZ Hospital system and lead to high numbers of deaths. With your training in Economics, you would know that all models are wrong but that some are useful.

                The third misleading aspect is that models were adapted as more information and data came in. Of course, this lowered the estimates for the number of deaths in New Zealand. This is how good science works. Anyway, you may want to read the NOTE on page 1 of Baker’s paper.

                I wonder if he still thinks that …

                My confident guess is ‘yes’, why would he not?

                I once emailed him to ask about peer review of his predictions. I never received an answer …

                See comments above.

                I think we could follow the example of Taiwan which never had a total lockdown and who kept their schools running.

                You seem to have a fondness of bringing Taiwan into the conversation even when this is mentioned at all in the OP. Funnily enough, New Zealand has changed its response over time to resemble Taiwan’s, for obvious reasons. The World can learn much from Taiwan and New Zealand’s response to the pandemic:

                Potential lessons from the Taiwan and New Zealand health responses to the COVID-19 pandemic https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanwpc/article/PIIS2666-6065(20)30044-4

                If you have anything specific in mind, perhaps you could enlighten us? Or do you mean to say that we could have followed the example of Taiwan from the outset? Maybe you should e-mail the Plan B activists because they’re stuck in Sweden still.

                • alwyn

                  The material I was quoting from was in the link I posted with my comment. It was from RNZ and not Stuff as you surmise.

                  If you look at my link you can see the sentence directly before, and the ones immediately after the photo of Professor Baker.

                  '"It's so critical in this period that people change their behaviour and not share this virus."

                  Recent modelling predicted the lockdown could save about 80,000 lives across New Zealand. Dr Baker said large-scale testing, contact-tracing ability, and tighter border control systems were needed to contain the illness.'

                  That sounds that Dr Baker agreed with the 80,000 estimate doesn't it?

                  • Incognito

                    That sounds that Dr Baker agreed with the 80,000 estimate doesn't it?

                    Of course, he [Baker] agreed with the conclusions and implications of the study by Hendy and colleagues, as it was based on his own work! That was never in question, was it? But now you are moving the goalposts again, from “Baker said” to “Baker agrees”. It seems to me that you’re on one of your pedantic point-scoring hunts again. Just as well, it takes one to recognise one, which is why you and I get on so well here.

                    In any case, that was March, and Hendy and Baker have moved on, as intelligent people tend to do, unlike you and the Plan B rabble, who seem to be still stuck in Taiwan and Sweden, respectively, and unable to join in a reasoned debate about the future.

              • mickysavage

                Terrible that Baker should have overestimated the risk. It may only have been 8,000 deaths. One in everey 500 kiwis or so. That would have changed everything …

                • alwyn

                  I am curious Micky.

                  Where do you get the numbers from that you use in this calculation? I could have understood if you had used a number like that of Sweden, which is about 1 in 1,250 but your chosen value is about 2.5 times that. Why did you pick that value.

                  Incidentally you could assume that we had done well, and achieved results like those of Taiwan. Our death rate was, allowing for the different population and the number of deaths in each country, about 17 times theirs. Of course they went hard and early rather than carrying out the rather dithering approach we seem to have followed.

                  • Incognito

                    Another of your idiosyncratic ‘querying’ comments that are so typical of a pendant with training in Economics, i.e. hung up on numbers 😉

                    Are you, by any chance, a Plan C activist bringing up Taiwan in every conversation about Covid? I wonder who funds you

                    • Andre

                      Heh, "pendant". It works. Given the load of swinging bollocks you responded to.

                    • Phillip ure []

                      @andre..

                      what actually was incorrect/'bollocks' in what alwyn said..?

                      I see no sign of testicles in his words..

                    • Incognito []

                      You’ll need to use a stroboscope.

                    • alwyn

                      "I wonder who funds you …"

                      Nobody old chap except I suppose my wife who lets me waste my time in reading and commenting on blogs.

                      Isn't such a statement by you a breach of the sites privacy rules? Or is it valid for me to wonder the same thing about you?

                    • Incognito []

                      I’m just a lune wolf roaming TS for easy prey when I’m hungry.

                    • Phillip ure

                      @incognito

                      as taiwan has done better than anyone else..of course they should feature in any covid conversation..

                      also helps to stem our national propensity for self-congratulation/smugness..

                    • Incognito []

                      as taiwan has done better than anyone else..

                      Are you sure about that? By what measure(s)? Don’t give us your reckons, give us a link.

                      of course they [Taiwan] should feature in any covid conversation..

                      But her e-mails …

                      also helps to stem our national propensity for self-congratulation/smugness..

                      ‘kay, this is by far the worst thing that could happen to us and needs to be fought to the death. The winner must not be smug about it. FFS, I thought we got rid of Sir John Key!

                  • Muttonbird

                    Taiwan's response is great and everything but how about comparing apples with apples. For instance, do we in New Zealand have a mask-wearing culture? No, we don't.

                    • Incognito

                      I replied to Alwyn yesterday with a very informative and educational link to a recent article in The Lancet about Taiwan and New Zealand in the context of Covid-19. If he had read it and taken it in he would not make the comments he’s making, IMHO.

                  • Drowsy M. Kram

                    Alwyn, you weren’t always so keen on Taiwan – first there was South Korea, although we probably shouldn’t emulate them since their 'COVID deaths per million' has sadly climbed to more than three times NZ's.

                    But you think you know where NZ went wrong; such a team player laugh

                    The major mistakes we made were to do nothing for the first six weeks or so. We did not put arrivals into quarantine. We did not arrange for supplies of either ventilators or Confid 19 testing kits. We simply ignored it until far too late and then shut our whole economy down in an enormous crunch.
                    Alwyn @1.1
                    Alwyn @1.1.1.1.1
                    Alwyn @ 5:15 pm, 7 April 2020

                    • Incognito

                      The distance between South Korea and Taiwan is about as short as between Auckland and Balclutha but Cook Strait is swimmable and the East China Sea is not 😉

                      We need more loyalty in this day and age!

                  • mickysavage

                    I misread your statement Alwyn. Correct figure would be more like 4,000 or very roughly one in a thousand kiwis. Still to many …

    • Stuart Munro 7.3

      I think charlatans is the best description.

      Academics offering uniformed opinions outside their areas of expertise.

      Some of them are lawyers and PR folk, of whom truth is not expected. But the medical professionals may need their credentials reviewed, in the interests of patient safety.

    • The March Hare 7.4

      A measure, albeit a fairly coarse one, of scientific impact of an individual is how often their work is cited, which can be looked up easily enough on the Web of Science if you have access to a subscription.

      The total citation counts of the two most recognized members of Plan B are Schofield (citation count = 5054) and Thornley (total = 1341).

      In comparison, the counts for the three most visible supporters of Plan A are Baker (5313), Wiles (2225) and Hendy (1394).

      So at least based on the available data, I don't think that you can just trash the credentials of the Plan B team in that way. You can disagree with them (as I do), or question their motivation, but you cannot use this argument to claim that they are not qualified to contribute to the debate or are somehow less qualified either.

      • Stuart Munro 7.4.1

        you cannot use this argument to claim that they are not qualified to contribute to the debate or are somehow less qualified either

        If they insist on assertions that are patently untrue, as Baker points out, things like

        • a vaccine may never eventuate

        when NZ has bought two already they discredit themselves.

        • weka 7.4.1.1

          Here's the full paragraph,

          The view of many experts is that a safe and effective vaccine for COVID-19 is at best four years away,with the more likely time frame a decade or more. A vaccine may never eventuate. After 37 years and billions of dollars invested, an HIV vaccine remains elusive. Interestingly, Africa recently announced elimination of wild poliovirus after a three-decade effort assisted with a vaccine. The only virus successfully eradicated is smallpox. This global effort required an effective vaccine and took over three and a half decades.

          I think it's pretty clear there that the 'may never eventuate' sentence is in the context of eradicating covid19. Or in the wider context of the article, elimination for NZ.

          This is a reasonable position (that an effective vaccine in terms of elimination or eradication may never eventuate). See my comment elsewhere in the thread on what's the actual plan for NZ.

          It's worth reading the whole piece. I disagree with their basic premise (and lack of an alternative plan), but the issues they raise aren't meaningless.

          https://www.publish.csiro.au/HC/pdf/HC20132

          • McFlock 7.4.1.1.1

            The issues they raise might not be meaningless in an absolute sense, but it's farting against a thunderstorm.

            Who seriously cares, at this point in time, whether covid19 is reduced to rabies or tetanus? Endemic in some areas, particularly in wild hosts, but you get a shot before travelling to those areas. Big whoop compared to a million dead inside a year (and that's the official count – comparing official counts with excess mortality seems to not tally up).

            Yes, they are issue that will need examination eventually. But I'm pretty damned sure the only reason plan B are bringing up polio is because they value international passenger dollars over people dying right now.

            • weka 7.4.1.1.1.1

              Sure, but isn't the point of mass vaccination in NZ so we can save the economy?

              I've seen pro-vax people using the polio argument in the other direction and it's daft then too.

              Not sure what you second paragraph is about. They're not arguing against vaccination.

              As for who cares, I do. Some people are good with the 'trust us we know what we are doing' approach from the MoH and don't want to talk about the problems with that, there are many with direct personal experience who cannot afford to do that.

              As someone in a grey area personally on safety re both covid and vaccination, it also matters to me what NZ is intending to do. Are we intending to let the virus become endemic here at some point like flu? Why are we not having an open conversation about this?

              Plan B's position is pretty clear, I've said I don't agree with it. What I don't get is why we're in such a false binary in terms of looking at all the issues.

              • McFlock

                The point of mass vaccination against covid is to save lives. If some economic sociopaths think that coincides with their concept that the only thing worth preserving is GDP, well that's a happy coincidence.

                The second paragraph is because they are actually arguing that global elimination via vaccination is an impossible (or at least unrealistically long) goal, in order to belittle short term efforts to (checks notes) save lives.

                The intent is to eliminate. An effective vaccine and no reservoir in the wild would make that possible. If someone turned up at an airport with active polio, dollars to doughnuts we'd be vaccinating anyone who even vaguely came into contact with them, to eliminate it again. NZ does not take infectious diseases lightly.

                We don't do that so much with the flu because elimination of the disease itself is likely impossible at this stage of tech. But we don't know that covid is like that. If the best we can do with covid is what we do with the flu (assess the most likely strains this year, do a vaccine for each one). But that is the real "plan B", and not anything close to the ideal. That's not high on the discussion list at the moment, because quite frankly anybody who is anybody is focused on stopping the damned pandemic.

                Whether that means vaxxing it down to low levels like influenza or elimination depends on multiple variables to which nobody yet knows the answer – vaccine effectiveness long term, the rate of the virus mutations that take it out of the vaccine envelope, and so on. If a single jab lasts ten years and takes out ~all variants, we're golden. If not, that's the hand we're dealt.

                • Mika

                  This podcast from JAMA goes into some depth about how vaccination strategies may impact on herd immunity. It's in the second half of the podcast- the first relates to how to prioritise populations for vaccination in a US context.

                  Interestingly the candidate COVID vaccines are all effective at preventing the development of severe disease, but the impact on transmission by vaccinated individuals is not yet apparent. Polio, influenza and measles vaccines are really effective at preventing transmission, whereas pneumococcus vaccination, for example, doesn't prevent the bacteria circulating in the community, but does prevent serious disease in the vaccinated individual.

                  Interesting figure of >100% population vaccination rates is mentioned to the astonishment of the interviewer!

                  https://edhub.ama-assn.org/jn-learning/audio-player/18570273

            • weka 7.4.1.1.1.2

              also, the comment you replied to was me replying to Stuart because he's selectively quoting in order to undermine the people. I think that's sloppy and detracts from being able to address the issues raised by Plan B. The whole 'they're not real academics' lines in this conversation are pretty low level responses, that won't serve us in the long run.

              • McFlock

                I agree they're academics. But they're sloppy academics pushing a barrel of shit. Why their letters got published, I have no idea. Frankly I think it was clickbait by the publishers.

          • Stuart Munro 7.4.1.1.2

            It is indeed worth reading the whole thing. The assertions are troubling, and many or most of the arguments are economics rather than science based.

            The NZ government and the majority of its health experts have maintained their advocacy for elimination, in spite of:

            – a vaccine being at best a four-year wait;

            So, not 37 years but four years now? At best this shows a serious lack of imagination – at best the vaccines we have arranged for will rollout mid 2021, and prove reasonably effective. Should they prove inadequate there are a number of others in development – rather more than usual as a result of the grave situation many countries are in.

            • weka 7.4.1.1.2.1

              The problem I have here is you now intentionally taking sound bites from the letter and using it to support your position of antagonism against them, presumably because you don't like what they are saying and believe it's better to undermine them than to argue against what they are saying.

              Their meaning on this point (elimination in NZ) is clear enough and is supported by evidence (see Incog's link above to the MoH strategy doc): we don't know yet how covid vaccination programmes will work, and we don't know when/if we will get a vaccine that enables elimination/eradication in the NZ context.

              If you think the 2021 roll out of the vaccines that NZ has access to are going to enable elimination of covid in NZ, please explain how. What I can see is vaccines that will be used alongside our current strategies, not replacing them.

              Your faith in the development of an eventual vaccine that allows elimination is no more valid than their concerns that there won't be one or it will take a number of years. As I’ve said, I disagree with where they go after that, but the denial on the other side of the limits of the vaccination programmes doesn’t help.

              • RedLogix

                and believe it's better to undermine them than to argue against what they are saying.

                Yup; the gross politicisation of this disease event has proven even more deplorable than the same forces that played out with climate change.

              • Stuart Munro

                Your faith in the development of an eventual vaccine

                Is neither here nor there. The writers asserted that the best case for a vaccine was a working one within four years. On the contrary, a best case admits the possibility of some of the existing vaccines working as well as the trials of them to date suggest, i.e. reasonably well. This is the only position for which actual evidence exists to date. It may not work out as happily, but to assert that it cannot without any evidence is going too far. Inventing an outcome to support a stance critical of the government is a shameful retreat from any pretense of academic standards, bringing both the authors and the publication into disrepute.

                • RedLogix

                  The letter was received dated 5th November, and I think we can assume was written at least some weeks before this. The delivery of new vaccines is very much a moving feast, and only recently this past month have promising trials been announced.

                  At present there are four leading contenders; the Pfizer mRNA version that is being currently rolled out. Problems here include the need to store at -70degC, the need for two doses, and the fact that vaccines are nowhere near Pfizer's core business. It will likely be useful for medical people and other high priority candidates in the next few months.

                  Moderna have been in the vaccine business for a while and are ramping their mRNA version up fast. Like Pfizer they need two shots, but the distribution only requires conventional freezer temps around -20degC. Both of these are good news as being available now, but probably aren't the global solution we need.

                  Oxford trials have been a bit messed up with some mistakes in dosing, which is going to delay it's roll out. It's not the mRNA type the first two and uses fairly conventional low cost manufacturing methods and requires only normal refrigeration. In six months time it should be outselling the first two.

                  Perhaps most interesting of the four is the Johnson and Johnson approach which requires only one dose, no onerous storage requirements and is relatively low cost. It looks like it will come online about March, and can likely piggyback on the distribution chains already established by the other ones. Any doctor or health clinic anywhere will be able to administer it. This is the one that will make or break the vaccine approach to ending COVID globally.

                  If at least one of these four vaccines can be successfully rolled out over the northern hemisphere summer, then it's likely a third winter wave will be prevented.

                  I'm not a big fan of relying wholly on vaccines to end this; mainly because it allows us to bypass the obvious questions as to why it's the developed Western nations in North America and Europe who've been most vulnerable and avoids addressing issues around poor underlying health, highly prevalent co-morbidities, Vitamin D deficiency, and much more.

                  But pragmatically I accept this is what we're being conditioned by the media and health authorities to accept as 'good science', and objecting is going to be like farting into a hurricane.

                  • Stuart Munro

                    There are other vaccines in development, so that failing our existing options working, we're not back at square one.

                    Some scepticism of vaccination as a solution to viral infections may not be misplaced – but the fact is that this article is a deliberate rhetorical assault on the government's handling of Covid, and on lockdowns should the need for them arise again. Real scientists eschew rhetoric – it is no substitute for data.

                    Lockdowns have enjoyed mixed success around the world, but they have been reasonably effective in NZ, presumably because of limited infection paths and (now) a decent tracing set up. I am sure the MoH would prefer not to use lockdowns again, but the idea that they could be taken off the table by a couple of persons who have no coherent alternative proposal is about as sound as Gnat economic policy.

                    As Sanctuary notes, this was a bad faith piece, and need not be humored.

                    • RedLogix

                      And a fair bit of the response on this thread hasn't demonstrated much better degrees of 'good faith' either.

                  • Drowsy M. Kram

                    I'm not a big fan of relying wholly on vaccines to end this; mainly because it allows us to bypass the obvious questions as to why it's the developed Western nations in North America and Europe who've been most vulnerable and avoids addressing issues around poor underlying health, highly prevalent co-morbidities, Vitamin D deficiency, and much more.

                    Don't worry RL, once this global pandemic is under control (the number of "Currently Infected Patients" has just topped 22 million, up from 7.8 million on 3 Oct.) then there may be time to draw breath and ask those obvious questions. In fact, they're so obvious that some are asking them even now.

                    CLAIM: There is not enough evidence to warrant using Vitamin D as prevention or treatment of COVID-19

                    VERDICT: Accurate as a whole (with reservations)

                    Why we are fact-checking this claim
                    Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have seen many claims that Vitamin D is helpful in the prevention and treatment of COVID-19 – whether published in traditional media or circulating freely on social media.

                    In addition to scientific reasons, the conversation about Vitamin D is still at the forefront because of psychological reasons. Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have consistently seen that when in doubt and under stress, many people believe information that is aligned with their beliefs rather than factual information – something called confirmation bias. There are many more psychological reasons why misinformation can be believed and spread, which you can find here. Even in the absence of evidence, some people would rather take the route of “it can’t hurt” – even if in the case of Vitamin D, it can hurt to self-prescribe larger quantities of Vitamin D.

                    According to the article published by the University of Alberta, whose initial claim we find to be accurate, it’s always important to look at why some potential treatments are touted, as the Vitamin D market has become a multi-billion dollar market.

                    Maybe they should have also fact-checked that claim about a multi-billion dollar market.
                    We're on the same page, not wanting to put all our eggs in one basket smiley

                    While I think there is ample evidence that indicates that vitamin D deficiency is causally associated with increased mortality in SARS-CoV-2 infections, it is only one factor. It can't replace effective masks, social distancing and immunization. Supplementation with 2000 IU daily in sensitive populations is very inexpensive and offers some additional beneficial "side effects" on bone an mineral metabolism for those with vitamin D deficiency.
                    Dr. Arthur Santora (Endocrinology, Metabolism)

                  • Stuart Munro

                    And a fair bit of the response on this thread hasn't demonstrated much better degrees of 'good faith' either.

                    Oh rubbish – these clowns have gone way beyond their scholarly mandate for a cheap shot at the local response. A cheap shot so jaded its manifest shortcomings make it absurd within scant months of publication.

                    The fact is the authors have been living consequence free for too long, and figure that that can dress up nakedly politicized bullshit as informed dissent. All that they have demonstrated is that they are not informed.

                  • Incognito

                    If at least one of these four vaccines can be successfully rolled out over the northern hemisphere summer, then it's likely a third winter wave will be prevented.

                    One hopes so! BTW, if you go https://euromomo.eu/graphs-and-maps/#z-scores-by-country you’ll see that some countries have experienced a mini-wave in their summer and these countries are now in their third wave of daily new cases & deaths 🙁

                  • Drowsy M. Kram

                    I'm not a big fan of relying wholly on vaccines to end this; mainly because it allows us to bypass the obvious questions as to why it's the developed Western nations in North America and Europe who've been most vulnerable… ” – RL

                    Re the obvious question of why it's some "developed Western nations in North America and Europe who've been most vulnerable", part of the answer could be poor leadership. But when I asked a Belgian friend why they have by far the most COVID deaths per million of any country (1,650), she replied "Belgians don't like being told what to do."

                    Food for thought, IMO. Maybe NZers recognised how vulnerable we’d be if COVID really took hold here, and that COVID is an 'enemy' best fought by following the consensus advice of health experts – kudos to the team/flock of nearly five million. We don’t know how lucky we are.

              • Incognito

                I was following Plan B in the beginning because I thought that they actually had some good points to make and to be perfectly honest I still think so, more than I care to admit here.

                However, I think they were ill prepared and stumbled, at both the science and PR levels. They teamed up with Blackland PR, possibly for the right reasons, but failed to get much traction mostly because they were up against it.

                I also think they made a classical mistake of being wedded a little too much to their own ideas and message and didn’t take criticism well, whether fair or unfair.

                If you decide to go against the ‘establishment’ and general opinion, you must ensure to be near flawless, resilient, act with unbreakable & unbendable integrity, and have a damn strong argument and an even stronger unwavering communicator. I think they failed on all these counts to some degree.

                Just as the National Party, Plan B became more reactive, reflexive & defensive, and antagonistic instead of constructive and this became a vicious circle. They were definitely not the only ones in the World who spoke up and against the prevailing ‘orthodoxy’, but as others such as John Ioannidis and Anders Tegnell or even the nation of Sweden, for example, can attest this was not for the fainthearted. Of course, politicians such as Trump and Johnson were never far away, muddying the waters, turning clear fresh water into murky swamps.

                Plan B have done both the public and scientific debate a huge disservice, in my view. We need to have these debates for good reasons. It takes a lot of guts to front up in public but they have raised the barrier even further 🙁

                All my personal opinion, as per usual.

                • McFlock

                  Pretty much.

                  If covid was significantly less infectious or less lethal, it's possible that the economic hit would cause more harm than the protective effects iof shutting everything down for weeks on end. And I'm pretty sure that nobody expected a recovery to be so quick, and stronger than for those nations just "living with" the virus.

                  So the govt had them on one side, and Baker and co on the other saying "lock it all down now". Fair call, we got lucky and the govt made the right choice in a messy information environment.

                  But to still be pushing it now? faaaarkk

                • weka

                  thanks Incog, that's solid analysis, which I pretty much agree with (although haven't followed Plan B as closely).

                  The other issue in this thread is to what extent we can have meaningful discussion about various issues that don't fit the dominant NZ narrative on covid, and where they overlap with organisations like Plan B. Rather than knee jerk reactivity that writes the issues off along with writing off Plan B. Always appreciative of those that will dig deeper (and there's been both in this thread).

          • Sanctuary 7.4.1.1.3

            "…It's worth reading the whole piece. I disagree with their basic premise (and lack of an alternative plan), but the issues they raise aren't meaningless…."

            Only an idiot would suppose these people are arguing in good faith, and the response has to be calibrated within that context.

            • weka 7.4.1.1.3.1

              What does that have to do with what I said? If you want to ignore the issues, go ahead /shrug.

      • Incognito 7.4.2

        Hendy only has 1394 citations? I find that hard to believe, but without a subscription to Web of Science, how can we tell if you speak the truth?

        The raw number of citations is as useful as the IQ of your mother-in-law.

        In any case, here we have a herd of academics who are trying to influence public opinion and health policy and as such, their intended impact goes well beyond the boundaries of research or scientific impact.

        https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=RHyTIvMAAAAJ&hl=en 2038 citations of Hendy

        https://scholar.google.com/citations?hl=en&user=ji2WVyQAAAAJ 2119 citations of Thornley

        At least Google Scholar is a source, with all its drawbacks, that we can all read without subscription.

        Academic credentials mean nothing if their bearers don’t apply the rigour of academic standards to their propaganda pieces. It is like an F1 driver crawling behind the wheel of a Corolla and driving while 8 times over the limit and not wearing a seatbelt.

        • The March Hare 7.4.2.1

          Re: 'I find that hard to believe, but without a subscription to Web of Science, how can we tell if you speak the truth?'.

          If you are going to accuse me of being untruthful then you might want to get your facts checked first. You could ask anyone studying or working at any major university to check it for you. All the main universities in NZ subscribe to the Web of Science.

          My comment was a legitimate response to the claim that 'They're not "academics" in the accepted meaning of the word.'. I still stand by my response. We might not agree with them but it is simply dishonest to pretend that they are not real academics either. And just for the record, the ability of an academic to cultivate the media well and get extensive media coverage for themselves can be quite independent of their scientific impact or standing.

          • Incognito 7.4.2.1.1

            If you are going to accuse me of being untruthful then you might want to get your facts checked first.

            Tsss, so defensive! I said that I cannot check if you speak the truth without a subscription. Your ‘helpful’ suggestion to find somebody in a NZ university is anything but helpful at this moment in time. You asserted the facts and the onus is on you to show us that they are correct and true or convince us that we should take your word for it. How do I know that you’re not one of Plan B activists, for example? Can’t you see the dilemma here?

            For my ‘fact-checking’, I used Google Scholar and the numbers appear quite different from yours!?

            I still stand by my response.

            Of course, you do, because you missed the whole point, which is that they do not perform as rightful academics. This is a point made by Professor Baker too.

            And just for the record, the ability of an academic to cultivate the media well and get extensive media coverage for themselves can be quite independent of their scientific impact or standing.

            On this, we agree. In fact, I said as much when I mentioned “impact” 🙂

            • The March Hare 7.4.2.1.1.1

              Any reader of this blog at any university can check my data and are welcome to do so. I don't see any need to respond beyond that to this point. However, there are simple reasons as to why Google Scholar citation counts are always higher than Web of Science (or Scopus) counts.

              First (and most importantly), the Web of Science only counts citations of ones work in peer reviewed journals. Google Scholar counts citations of ones work in pretty much everything that it can find on the web, including not just in peer reviewed journals, but also in non peer reviewed work, reports, blogs, etc. For this simple reason Google Scholar counts are usually about 1.5x those of Web of Science counts, as indeed your own data is relative to mine.

              Second, Google Scholar can be gamed. The academic sets up their own Google Scholar page and controls it. There are ways that it can be gamed to inflate ones citation count and there are very good reasons why universities wont normally use Google Scholar counts for staff promotion.

              I could not use Google Scholar counts in this case for the simple reason that Baker has not set up a Google Scholar profile, and as Baker is a key player here, it was necessary to use something else (e.g., Web of Science) to allow for a fair comparison.

              • Incognito

                Any reader of this blog at any university can check my data and are welcome to do so. I don't see any need to respond beyond that to this point.

                ‘kay, still shifting the onus to somebody else 🙁

                Raw citation counts are a meaningless metric at the best of times, anyway.

                If Google Scholar also counts citations in non-peer-reviewed media, it might actually be a better metric in this context than that Web of Science one for which you have to pay.

                I hope that you’re not so naive to believe that Web of Science cannot be gamed in some ways, but I take your point that it is important to compare fruit with fruit when possible.

                This whole thread is a bit moot, IMHO.

  8. Anker 8
    • They have made themselves look like the complete fools they obviously are.
    • huge credit to our Government for their health and economic response to the pandemic. Their approach has worked fantastically well. We are all bloody lucky including the plan b group in NZ
    • why did the medical journal publish it?
    • Incognito 8.1
      • why did the medical journal publish it?

      You’ll have to ask the Editor but one presumes she deemed it of sufficient interest and importance to the journal’s readership to let this poor propaganda piece pass for publication in her journal.

      The take-home message is, for me, that if you have a point to make, make it as well as you can and start a proper debate based on good faith. The Plan B activists failed on that count, again, and again. I’ve called them out here for acting as pseudo-scientists and they are continuing with their charade.

  9. It is definitely funded by fresh water (chicago) economic commandments. The smell of the taxpayers union is pervasive.

    I accept that both academics and politicians are strongly egotistical but why the anonymity?

    Academics, like politicians crave public attention (at least) among peers. This effort seems pointless.

    Sideline experts telling the ref what to do.

  10. newsense 10

    Well I wonder if these fucks are enjoying their holidays rather than being told to stay at home in a quasi-lockdown lockdown using their holidays to quell surge and having to spend 8 months and the forseeable future wearing masks, social distancing, feeling guilty about seeing family and friends and feeling vulnerable at all times.

    Fuck them. And fuck their backers. NZ people already showed how they feel about people peddling BS about the pandemic. Long may they continue. Most people in the world would be grateful to be in NZ now.

  11. Sanctuary 11

    We need to see this Plan B letter for what it is – not good faith science but a planned piece of propaganda from BlacklandPR whose release was designed to fill the news void around Xmas. Luckily, its central thrust since submission for publication was made nonsense by the rapidity of the vaccine development, but it doesn't mean whoever is funding these Plan B clowns won't try again.

    • Anne 11.1

      Wonder if these clowns have links to the ACT Party – or somebody rich who has links to the ACT Party.

      • veutoviper 11.1.1

        If you mean by "these clowns" Blackland PR's Directors etc, once again you should check who you are talking about before hitting your keyboard.

        If you had done so, with your long association with the Labour Party, I would be surprised if you (and MickySavage) did not recognise the name of one of the Directors of the company – Mark Blackham – listed in the Covid Plan B letter.

        Why? Because Blackham was Press Secretary to Mike Moore back in the 1990s, ie from the About Us section of the Company's website https://blacklandpr.com/about-us/

        25 years ago, Mark was working in Hamilton when his media talents were spotted by the then Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and later Prime Minister, Mike Moore. Mark worked for Mike as press secretary, speech writer, and then leader of the Labour media unit.

        The other Director, Nick Gowland, also worked in the Beehive for Helen Clark's government:

        Nick’s talents were first honed in the Beehive, where he advised a number of Ministers under the Helen Clark government on media relations and policy development for the education, labour, immigration, and commerce portfolios.

        Blackland's two PR Consultants, Ben Craven and Dylan Lee, also have had considerable experience in Parliament and government

        Ben’s career started in Parliament, where he provided communications advice and crafted speeches for Rt Hon Winston Peters. Interest in electoral strategies and public policy communication led him to take up roles with campaign groups and think tanks, where he developed public engagement and mobilisation plans to achieve legislative change.

        Most recently, Ben worked for the Department of Internal Affairs. There he developed and implemented the communications strategy for a large enterprise-wide change project and was called upon to provide crisis communication support following the Christchurch terrorist attack.

        After graduating from Massey University with a Bachelor of Communication, Dylan worked for Select Committee Services in the Office of the Clerk at Parliament where he developed knowledge of Parliamentary policy and procedure.

        The website also shows that Blackland PR carries out MP career research and publishes it on their website (well worth looking at IMO – https://blacklandpr.com/mp-career-research/

        This tri-annual survey collates and analyses the career and education backgrounds of members of the New Zealand Parliament.

        The survey has been conducted within a few months of each new Parliament since 2014.

        The project is the work of political scientist Geoffrey Miller, and political advisor Mark Blackham. They started the survey to learn about the working and educational experience of people before they entered Parliament, to compare these to trends among other New Zealanders, and to monitor any long-term changes.

        The only mention of the ACT party I could find was that Blackland PR selected their Communicator of the Year awards with Nicole McKee, the new ACT party MP as the 2020 recipient of the Blackland Communicator of the Year award . with Greg O'Connor, Mike King, Sir Peter Gluckman , and Shamuveel Equib previous recipients of the award. https://blacklandpr.com/communicator-of-the-year/

        • veutoviper 11.1.1.1

          This para should also have benn in quotes but edit time ran out

          After graduating from Massey University with a Bachelor of Communication, Dylan worked for Select Committee Services in the Office of the Clerk at Parliament where he developed knowledge of Parliamentary policy and procedure

        • Anne 11.1.1.2

          Don't know what all that has to do with the price of fish.

          I was replying to Sanctuary who used the descriptive word "clowns'. Imo it is well placed in this instance.

        • Sanctuary 11.1.1.3

          "…The only mention of the ACT party…"

          Given the homogenity of neoliberal & libertarian ideology in our political & managerial elites, particularly in the Moore/Clark era it should not be a surprise that members of the political and managerial classes can move smoothly through a revolving door between private and public PR.

          The main consideration is defense of the extreme centre and neoliberal hegemony, not any particular set of moral values – although I am sure the various associates of Blackland dutifully take granny a Xmas present in her rest home and possibly even give to charities who support the immune impaired – it is just such personal considerations are never allowed to interfere with the cool professional need to lobby on behalf of those who regard granny and the immune impaired as expendable.

        • Incognito 11.1.1.4

          The Plan B crowd had organised a Symposium on Parliament grounds that was sponsored by David Seymour. Check out the Programme @ 4:10 PM.

          https://www.covidplanb.co.nz/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/17-august-webinar-programme.pdf

    • mickysavage 11.2

      Also the GDP figures must have been a real shock …

  12. gsays 12

    Further to these yo-yo's and their reckons, this is from Mediawatch and their round-up of the years goings on, ala Covid.

    Warning! Contains excerpts of Hoskings, but only to highlight his, and his colleagues, rank hypocrisy.

    https://www.rnz.co.nz/national/programmes/mediawatch/audio/2018777800/2020-hindsight-media-in-the-year-of-covid-19

    I am still pointing out to people, who use the word lucky to describe the situation we are now in, that it is not luck. It is good advice, well communicated and then trusted and followed by the populace.

  13. RedLogix 13

    As for the title to of the OP, that NZ could be like Sweden.

    Well cases numbers are one thing, the deaths (which are a good proxy for serious illness as well) are quite another.

    The selective misuse of data just irks me beyond all belief. Sweden for instance may well have had a quite large second wave of case numbers as the OP highlights, yet remarkably (as with most other places) the death rate of this same wave has been much lower, and is now dropping away to almost zero again. The Swedish response may not have been ideal, but neither is it exactly the insane catastrophe some people want to paint it as.

    I'm clearly on record as saying that the lockdowns and isolations were the correct response at the beginning when we really didn't know what the potential of this virus was. But now it's 10 months later and we now know one hell of a lot more (and probably have a fair bit more to understand) about COVID, and I think it's perfectly reasonable to at least talk about more nuanced, intelligent paths forward.

    Politically the calculus of the current ideology is 'either you submit to a medical procedure (a vaccine), or we will control your freedom of movement'. The team of 5 million may not have an unlimited appetite for such a draconian response to a disease that's definitely worse than seasonal flu, but as time goes on it's becoming clear it's not the major catastrophe it could have been.

    • Andre 13.1

      Meh.

      Apart from being a bit slow off the mark right at the start of the pandemic, I reckon the government response has been very reasonable and struck a good balance between maintaining as much freedom as possible while keeping public health at a reasonable high. Turns out to have been a good strategy economically as well. So I'm very happy with the decisions made so far, and what is being said about the ever-evolving near future.

      Looking ahead, I like the idea that anyone wanting to come here from overseas needs to have been vaccinated with acceptable proof at least two weeks before travel (or have good medical reasons not to be vaccinated). If any citizens want to return without getting vaccinated (and don't have good medical reason not to be vaccinated), they can spend two weeks in managed isolation at their expense. Fuck 'em, we don't need to make it easy for antisocial arseholes to come here and spread disease.

      As far as internal freedom of movement, I have not seen any proposals for compulsory vaccinations, nor proposals for movement restrictions on vaccine refusers. I'm good with that. But I wouldn't be happy about the borders getting opened up until everyone in NZ that wants to be vaccinated has received it.

      • RedLogix 13.1.1

        There is still a long way to go on the vaccine front; assuming it's going to be the silver bullet (like it was for smallpox) is a tad optimistic even by my standards.

        That’s why it’s worth at least talking about more nuanced, less draconian responses.

    • The March Hare 13.2

      I agree but only to a point. The media has been unrelentless in exaggerating Sweden as a disaster. In fact its per capita death rate by Covid is 25th globally, still pretty terrible, but the US and UK and much of Latin America are much worse. There are however two reasons why copying Sweden would result in a much, much worse disaster here than it is in Sweden. Both are based on the fact that NZ has much more inequality in Sweden and that in Sweden the rich pay their fair share of tax:

      1. Sweden (through its higher taxation of the wealthy and of property) has simply invested much more in its public health system than has NZ, and they therefore have a much better capacity to deal with a covid outbreak. Yet then there intensive care units are full to capacity. NZ's health system simply couldn't cope with similar numbers.

      2. NZ has much more systemic poverty than Sweden, and therefore a much higher incidence of diseases resulting from poor diet like obesity, heart disease and diabetes. These diseases greatly increase the risk of serious illness and death for those who do catch Covid.

    • Incognito 13.3

      As you know, the media like to over-hype things in both directions.

      If you click on this link (https://euromomo.eu/graphs-and-maps/#z-scores-by-country) and select just the four Scandinavian countries (Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden) and start the time-scale at 2015-01, you’ll see that the mortality patterns in the four countries have been strikingly similar since 2015 or since inter-country comparisons were possible until Sweden became an ‘outlier’ due to Covid. There are many countries that fared worse but Sweden could have done better, much better too. The sad thing is that Sweden, like many other countries, had a distinct second wave of deaths, which could have been minimised, at least, if they had changed their ways based on the information and knowledge gleaned since. So, to portray Sweden as some example that we should follow is somewhat ‘challenging’ in light of these (and other) facts, which is a point raised in the OP.

      I don’t think it is right to put vaccination against curbing of freedom of movement as a dichotomy and that both are likely to operate simultaneously (in concert) for at least some time.

      I don’t know what “draconian response” you have in mind but almost all of the people in New Zealand were able to celebrate Christmas in complete freedom. Except for a few PS5s not arriving on time (https://www.stuff.co.nz/entertainment/games/123374490/playstation-5-selling-on-trade-me-and-facebook-for-more-than-twice-the-retail-price), possibly caused by Covid measures, things are not too bad here.

      Some fortunate Kiwis have not been able to go off on their overseas holidays and they may feel a ‘little annoyed’ but they don’t comprise “the team of 5 million”, only a small-ish fraction, and they can now sink their hard-earned money into luxury cars (https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/money/2020/12/luxury-cars-prove-popular-alternatives-to-international-travel-as-sales-soar-over-last-six-months.html), renos (https://www.stuff.co.nz/life-style/homed/real-estate/123800232/reno-boom-bites-tradies-in-short-supply), and buying new houses (https://www.stuff.co.nz/life-style/homed/housing-affordability/123799660/kiwis-splash-out-12b-more-in-house-buying-frenzy-this-year).

      One issue that needs urgent attention, IMO, is compassionate exemptions.

    • Muttonbird 13.4

      There's rightly a lot of focus on Sweden because they insisted on a relaxed approach which didn't impinge on people's personal freedoms and business activities. People’s health came second. Swedens approach was used as a stick with which to beat the New Zealand's government with.

      Turns out Sweden fucked up royally and it's only right to keep pointing that out.

    • mickysavage 13.5

      Dunno RL looks like Sweden's deaths are peaking now.

      https://ig.ft.com/coronavirus-chart/?areas=usa&areas=gbr&areas=swe&areasRegional=usny&areasRegional=usnj&areasRegional=usia&areasRegional=usca&areasRegional=usnd&areasRegional=ussd&cumulative=0&logScale=1&per100K=0&startDate=2020-09-01&values=deaths

      I am also interested in the ongoing health problems like increased susceptibility to strokes. I don't think we are overestimating the effects of this virus.

      • RedLogix 13.5.1

        Try the graph I linked to above. Worldometer has the daily death rate trending right back to low numbers, and the entire second wave a fair bit smaller than the first.

        https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/sweden/

        • Andre 13.5.1.1

          Be wary of trying to work out a trend in the last few weeks of data for Sweden. Their data is by date of death, and they can take a long time to confirm a death and report it. So they always look like they are trending down over the last few weeks, but the data for any given date can get adjusted upwards for weeks as more reports come in. Over the holiday period their reporting is likely to be delayed as well.

          Other european countries present their data by date of report and that doesn't change afterwards.

          https://ourworldindata.org/covid-sweden-death-reporting

          • RedLogix 13.5.1.1.1

            Given that the daily death rate peaked on Nov 29 and has been falling since, it looks like the Swedes are now 30 days behind on their reporting. Or maybe not …

            • Andre 13.5.1.1.1.1

              Maybe you're looking at a cached version? I just checked worldometer and their recent peak deaths are shown as being around December 6 (single day and 7-day rolling average), or December 4 (3 day rolling average).

              Just outta curiosity, do you ever sleep?

          • Incognito 13.5.1.1.2

            I thought Sweden was reasonably up-to-date with their reporting: https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/sweden/

            If you click on the corresponding source link (https://experience.arcgis.com/experience/09f821667ce64bf7be6f9f87457ed9aa/page/page_0/), you’ll see that most recent update was 22 Dec. According to that webpage, they do an update every Tuesday-Friday at 2:00 PM. I assume that with Christmas there is a slight delay in reporting and testing numbers may also be a little lower.

            • Andre 13.5.1.1.2.1

              The ourworldindata link explains it thus:

              In the data that we present on Our World in Data, which comes directly from the European CDC, deaths in Sweden are shown by date of death, while deaths in other countries are shown by date of report.

              This matters because it takes a number of days until all deaths for a particular day are reported. In practice this means that Sweden might today only report 10 deaths for yesterday, but once reporting is complete the death count for that day might increase to 40.

              The death counts for the last 10 days in Sweden should therefore always be interpreted as an incomplete count of the deaths that occurred in this period.

              So yes, they are reporting their info regularly. It's just that each daily update can (and usually does) look back to increase previously reported daily totals.

              So what it means for chart-watchers is a daily update can change the shape of the curve going quite a way back. The alternative of just using the date of report means the past shape of the chart won't ever change, but the reported data becomes somewhat more of a lagging indicator. What really needs to change (for data obsessives, anyway) is for Sweden to crack the whip and improve the reporting so the info comes through in a much more timely manner.

              • Incognito

                Ah, that’s useful info, thanks. IIRC, Sweden changed their reporting significantly a while back but I cannot remember the reasoning for that at the time.

                This is a very recent and excellent commentary in The Lancet:

                COVID-19 and the Swedish enigma (https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)32750-1/fulltext)

                It echoes one of my (too many) comments (i.e. @ 13.3) under this Post yesterday:

                In the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Swedish national response continues to be an outlier with cases and deaths increasing more rapidly than in its Nordic neighbours.1, 2 On Dec 20, 2020, COVID-19 deaths in Sweden had reached more than 80003 or 787 deaths per 1 million population, which is 4·5 to ten times higher than its neighbours.1, 2, 3 This difference between Nordic countries cannot be explained merely by variations in national cultures, histories, population sizes and densities, immigration patterns, the routes by which the virus was first introduced, or how cases and deaths are reported. Instead, the answers to this enigma are to be found in the Swedish national COVID-19 strategy, the assumptions on which it is based, and in the governance of the health system that has enabled the strategy to continue without major course corrections.

                However, rather than bashing Sweden for its relatively poor performance so far, there is a lot to learn from them and we shouldn’t be so smug and pretend we have nothing to learn in this context.

                The commentary raises many areas and action for improvement of response that are definitely not specific or unique to the Swedish situation.

                To highlight a few, also because they touch on issues raised by weka, mainly:

                The ability to work effectively across sectors to minimise the spread of COVID-19 has been further hampered by a decentralised and fragmented system of health and social services, including the care of older people.20

                Moreover, there has been insufficient participation and engagement of key stakeholders, including informed scientists, civil society, and behaviour change communications expertise.

                Sweden is likely to be able to implement a strong COVID-19 vaccination programme if it strengthens interagency coordination and decentralised collaboration, provides greater transparency and accountability, including announcing a public national vaccine strategy and monitoring system, and develops an effective communications strategy and plan.

                So, instead of watch & weep it must be listen & learn.

                • RedLogix

                  That Lancet article is helpful. One point that did leap out to me is this:

                  The ability to work effectively across sectors to minimise the spread of COVID-19 has been further hampered by a decentralised and fragmented system of health and social services, including the care of older people

                  Not being much informed about the Swedish health system I found that quite surprising. It's a factor they have in common with the USA who have also been an outlier example. .

                  And as you say, there has been plenty of exaggeration of the Swedish case on all sides; when in reality they've just not done particularly well. But then again so have plenty of other countries ….

  14. xanthe 14

    As far as I can see Baker and the plan B lot are just slightly different hues of the same color.

    What they both are saying is "we should be doing something (undefined) different to what we are doing"

    Baker has so far contributed ziltch to the discourse. he is simply engaged in self promotion. He does not like plan B because it takes the spotlight off him!

    • Drowsy M. Kram 14.1

      He [Baker] does not like plan B because it takes the spotlight off him!

      Is that the only reason that Baker “does not like plan B", do you think xanthe?

      An anti-lockdown letter in one of New Zealand's top medical journals by "Covid Plan B" academics has drawn the scorn of the Ministry of Health's top advisers.

      Same goes for Wiles, Hendy and Dickinson, do you think?

      Siouxsie Wiles: They say, ‘learn to live with Covid-19’. Here’s what I say back

      Why Plan B Should Be Ignored & NZ's Success in Lockdown [Hendy]

      Coronavirus: Scientist hits back after being quoted 'out of context' by anti-lockdown group [Dickinson]

      Last week Dr Thornley tweeted support for protesters who gathered in downtown Auckland to demonstrate against the lockdown, most without masks.

      Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in August said the quicker move to level 2 this time around was not an abandoning of the elimination strategy.

      "Our system is good. It is designed to keep us on track with our elimination strategy at level 2, in the scenario we now have. But it will only work if people follow the guidance."

      • xanthe 14.1.1

        No and No

        You may think it clever to put up straw arguments and then shoot them down. I do not. Its kinda a dickhead strategy

        • Drowsy M. Kram 14.1.1.1

          Thanks. – more than enough dickhead strategies to go around I reckon wink

          Baker has so far contributed ziltch to the discourse…

          An interesting opinion on which we’ll have to agree to disagree.

          Special Critic and Conscience of Society Award for public health specialist
          One of the most recognised public voices during New Zealand’s COVID-19 response is this year being presented with a special Critic and Conscience of Society Award by The Gama Foundation in a ceremony at Dunedin’s Otago University.

          This year, for the first time, two $50,000 Critic and Conscience of Society Awards have been presented, to Associate Professor Anita Gibbs and public health specialist Professor Michael Baker.

          “The Judges decided to make a special Award to Professor Michael Baker for making an outstanding contribution by providing independent, expert commentary on New Zealand public health issues from 2016 to 2020 and notably during the Covid-19 crisis,” says Grant Nelson of The Gama Foundation.

          Each year the PHA honours individuals or groups for their outstanding contribution to public health action by naming them Public Health Champion for the year.
          https://www.nzdoctor.co.nz/article/undoctored/phanz-national-awards-2020

          • xanthe 14.1.1.1.1

            Interesting to follow up your link. Baker has done some good stuff over the years. Somehow his constant commentary is being presented to undermine the managed isolation.

            • Drowsy M. Kram 14.1.1.1.1.1

              Somehow his constant commentary is being presented to undermine the managed isolation.

              Genuinely not following that – is Baker's consistent advocacy/support for the managed isolation, testing and quarantining of those arriving in NZ being presented in a way that attempts to undermine our managed isolation programme? It's probably somewhere in the post and I've missed it – sorry.

    • Poission 14.2

      The difference is that plan B are reactive not proactive,the mirror symmetry is different.

      https://twitter.com/simonfrans/status/1338510819596890113/photo/1

  15. RedBaronCV 15

    If this is the quality of the "research" then the Universities need to look seriously at their hiring practices. As well they need to develop some ethical standards around academics that rely on their Uni credentials when they are giving opinions way outside their lane where they have no specialist qualification whatsoever. My personal favourite was the lawyer trying to opine on the stats and maths underlying transmission!!!

    • The March Hare 15.1

      As well they need to develop some ethical standards around academics that rely on their Uni credentials when they are giving opinions way outside their lane where they have no specialist qualification whatsoever’.

      You mean media stars like Hendy (who is a physicist) or Wiles (who is a microbiologist)? Neither has published on epidemiology pre-Covid. Thornley in contrast has actually done epidemiological work pre-Covid (as of course, has Baker).

      • SPC 15.1.1

        And Gorman (brain trauma specialist).

      • Incognito 15.1.2

        You strike me as a B & W kind of a person.

        Hendy has been staying fairly close to his knitting, IMO. In his work, he develops and uses “either mathematical models or computer simulation methods, and frequently both”. https://unidirectory.auckland.ac.nz/profile/shaun-hendy

        You’ll also note that Hendy has been awarded the Prime Minister's Science Media Communication Prize. Coincidentally, Wiles also is a recipient of the same Prize.

        Unlike, Thornley, who has a fairly limited track record in epidemiology of infectious diseases, Hendy and Wiles are strong and experienced science communicators and this has been an important part of their jobs for a number of years and it shows. In other words, they are doing their jobs and they are doing it well, IMHO.

        • The March Hare 15.1.2.1

          Praise Hendy all you want. But a model that had been constructed by or with epidemiologists would not have predicted 80000 deaths, a figure that we now know to be kind of absurd because of unrealistic assumptions underpinning the model. Also, a 'communication' award is a measure of the ability to communicate, not of professional expertise.

          • Incognito 15.1.2.1.1

            Please keep up if you want to contribute to an informed debate.

            Hendy’s infamous paper from March 2020, in which they presented several model predictions, was based on work and a model by Baker and colleagues.

            If you had followed this science story, you would know that they have moved on with the data & information since then. For example, here’s is their latest publication: https://www.tepunahamatatini.ac.nz/2020/12/16/modelling-support-for-the-continued-elimination-strategy/

            Also, a 'communication' award is a measure of the ability to communicate, not of professional expertise.

            OMG! Have you been living under a rock? And you have a subscription to Web of Science!?

            https://www.wgtn.ac.nz/explore/study-areas/communication/study?subject=science-communication

            https://www.wgtn.ac.nz/science/about/news/new-science-communication-major-in-2020

            https://www.otago.ac.nz/science-communication/index.html

            https://www.otago.ac.nz/courses/subjects/sccm.html

            https://www.careers.govt.nz/qualifications/view/OO0462/7007#tab_key_information_for_students

            • The March Hare 15.1.2.1.1.1

              The fact that they have moved on from their claim of 80000 does not in any way negate the fact that they made that claim in the first place. I doubt that anyone working within the boundaries of their expertise would so spectacularly err.

              And the fact that most universities offer programs in communications (something that I am particularly familiar with btw) is actually entirely irrelevant to the point I was making, which is that the ability to communicate to the public well via the media, and scientific expertise and excellence, are absolutely not the same thing. They both propel progress but they are very, very different. And you think that I am the one living under a rock??!?

              • Incognito

                They did not err, as such. They took a model initially developed by Baker and co-workers, adapted it, and ran several simulations. In basic terms, these are what-if scenarios in which you vary the model input [parameters] and compare the different outcomes. As such, the numbers produced, i.e. outcomes, are not necessarily to be taken literally – they usually have probabilities associated with them, e.g. confidence interval, etc. – but in this case to inform and/or recommend public health measures and actions, which is why they provided it to the Government. The Government and MoH took these on board and the rest is history.

                I’ll have to take your word for it, again, that you are familiar with programs in communications at universities but I cannot see it in your comments, I’m sorry to say. You made your point very poorly. Stop communicating like somebody from the stone age if you want to avoid the illusion that you have been living under a rock.

                In any case, specialist scientific expertise and science communication often go hand-in-hand. Hendy wasn’t asked for and didn’t offer assistance or his professional views on vaccines, did he? He did what he is good at, i.e. specialises in, and he communicated this, which he also specialises in. Science communication is now becoming a specialism in its own right.

                • The March Hare

                  Wow. just wow. I always conclude when someone goes 'ad hominem' in their responses to me (as you keep doing) rather than sticking to the matter at hand, and keeps going off in tangents, that they are having quite some difficulty in articulating a convincing response. And while I don't begin to agree with your response and could keep responding ad infinitum, I don't actually think that keeping this going will achieve anything useful. So, I am actually going to leave the discussion at this point and the readers can read both our sets of comments and make of them what they will.

                  Oh, and feel free to have the last word using any ad-hominem words of your choice. Surely you can do better than 'stone age' and 'living under a rock''.

                  • Anne

                    I'll have the last word.

                    That was not an ad-hominem from Incognito. You just chose to read it that way. As for the allegation Incog is going off on a tangent… that is also incorrect.

                    From my own background in science based forecasting techniques, Incognito's explanation is exactly how it works. You run a series of models based on possibilities then you eventually choose the model which ends up fitting the correct scenario as it starts to play out. In doing so, those who might be affected are afforded an opportunity to prepare in advance should the worst scenario eventuate.

                    And if you cannot see the value of such a mode of operation, then I have to conclude you really do not know what you are talking about.

                • McFlock

                  BTW, dunno if anyone's linked to it recently. Here's the document journos extrapolated out to 80,000 dead.

                  Couple of points to note – firstly, 80k was the predicted result for zero response on the public health front.. Not even isolating cases or trying to get social distancing going. Cancelling elective zurgeries to bring up ICU capacity to 500 beds seems to be it, not in any way trying to lower cases. So worst response imaginable (maybe US federal level 🙁 ).

                  Second, even though the responses had a range of inputs, the disease in the model did not. They actually low-balled some of the numbers, but the issue here is that while they were reasonable estimates for NZ, Table 1 shows that things like hospitalisation rates can have quite wide confidence intervals. But the ICU admission rate they plugged into the model (1.25% infection) was about a quarter of the mid-range calculation (5.55%). But the actual range of ICU values in table1 is 3.29% — 7.82%. CFR is 0.90% –1.41% — 1.92%.

                  The goal was not to definitively state the number of NZers who would die. The goal was to establish a rough baseline and illustrate how different interventions would affect that outcome.

                  But that having been said, the projected pop fatality rate of 0.0004% if all controls were imposed isn't too far off (by my late night math) the 25 dead we have so far. So that end of the model seems accurate enough…

                  • Incognito

                    Yup, that sums it up very nicely in my view, thank you, and your “late night math” is pretty spot on 🙂

                    Hendy, Baker, and co-workers are doing some solid science and making it available to whomever wants to absorb it. They are setting a very high bar for Plan B, which is falling way short in the quality of their arguments and supporting evidence; they must lift their game or stop making noise.

                    Hendy, Baker, and co-workers have co-authored a recent paper, which has not yet been peer-reviewed): https://cpb-ap-se2.wpmucdn.com/blogs.auckland.ac.nz/dist/d/75/files/2020/11/Binny_et_al_Early_interventions_forTPMwebpage_9Nov.pdf.

                    Because it is highly topical to the discussion threads under this Post and highly instructive as to the methodology they are using I’ll highlight some bits from it, in order to edify further interested readers of The Standard.

                    In the Executive Summary, they summarise what they did:

                    • Evaluating the effectiveness of New Zealand’s COVID-19 response, relative to counterfactual (alternative ‘what-if’) scenarios, is important for guiding future response strategies. We assess the importance of early implementation of interventions for controlling COVID-19.
                    • We model counterfactual scenarios in which the timings of three policy interventions are varied: border restrictions requiring 14-day quarantine of all international arrivals, border closure except to returning residents and citizens, and Alert Level 4 restrictions. We compare these to a modelled factual scenario in which intervention timings are the same as occurred in reality.[my italics]

                    They list the important results or output from their model simulations, which contain no surprises and mostly fairly self-explanatory:

                    • Key measures describing the dynamics of a COVID-19 outbreak (notably peak load on the contact tracing system, the total number of reported COVID-19 cases and deaths, and the probability of elimination within a specified time frame), are used to compare outcomes between scenarios.

                    This is probably their most important finding, from the model simulations, which basically states that Alert Level 4 had the greatest bearing on the key measures:

                    • Key measures were more sensitive to the timing of Alert Level 4, than to timing of border restrictions and border closure. Of the counterfactual scenarios, an earlier start to Alert Level 4 would have resulted in the greatest reduction in numbers of cases and deaths.

                    This is a pertinent sentence in their Introduction:

                    While it is tempting to judge the success of interventions by comparison across jurisdictions [countries], this assessment may be confounded by local context that may influence success, as well as by the fact that policy choices can be driven by the severity of initial outbreaks.

                    They come back to this in their Discussion, which highlights why direct comparisons between countries are difficult if not impossible. It also point to the fact that things change over time meaning that predictive models are almost never 100% accurate:

                    Our model assumed a relatively high and constant proportion (75%) of clinical cases are detected and reported. In reality, this proportion can vary over time as testing and contact tracing policies are revised, or as contact tracing and health systems become overloaded in a large uncontrolled outbreak (e.g. Scenario 6). This makes it difficult to benchmark predicted case numbers against empirical data from outbreaks in other countries, where testing and contact tracing regimes may differ from New Zealand. Infection fatality rates can also vary between different countries and over time, for example fatality rates can decrease as new knowledge, treatments and technologies become available.

                    At least one of their key measures, i.e. the probability of elimination, influenced Government decisions:

                    Indeed, the likelihood of elimination was one of the factors taken into account in New Zealand government decision-making concerning the duration of Alert Levels (DPMC, 2020).

                    First, they checked that their model was fit-for-purpose and gave an and gave an accurate representation of the actual and real numbers, which it does well:

                    Scenario 0

                    To check that the model could accurately replicate the outbreak, we first simulated our model under a factual scenario with border restrictions, border closure and AL4 implemented on the dates they actually occurred. The predicted dynamics of daily new reported cases were a very good visual match to observed daily case data (Fig. 1) and predicted key measures showed good agreement with the values that were actually observed (Table 3, bold text).

                    Furthermore, (these) models need constant updating and refining:

                    For modelling future disease outbreaks, epidemiological parameters should be updated to reflect changes in national pandemic preparedness (e.g. improved policy and response plans) and behavioural changes influencing the dynamics of future outbreaks. For instance, the degree of compliance with alert level restrictions in future may differ dramatically from the March-April outbreak, resulting in different values of Reff. Further work is needed to explore the social dynamics affecting transmission and the effectiveness of interventions, for instance whether wearing masks in public spaces becomes more common, or whether more people will choose to work from home or avoid travel if a suspected new outbreak is reported or if government action is perceived to be inadequate. [my italics]

                    Lastly, this may touch upon some of the concerns raised by weka and Rosemary McDonald although it is not very specific:

                    The key measures of outbreak dynamics assessed here should be considered alongside other measures of economic, social and health impacts (e.g. job losses, consumer spending, impacts for mental health, rates of domestic violence or disrupted education). Particular attention needs to be given to identifying vulnerable groups who may experience inequitable impacts so that future policies can be tailored to support these groups.

                    HTH

              • RedLogix

                The fact that they have moved on from their claim of 80000 does not in any way negate the fact that they made that claim in the first place. I doubt that anyone working within the boundaries of their expertise would so spectacularly err.

                Back in March there were many initial estimates floating around that the IFR pf COVID was well over 1%. At the time an estimate of 80,000 was well within the bounds of possibility … much higher even.

        • Rosemary McDonald 15.1.2.2

          Hendy and Wiles are strong and experienced science communicators and this has been an important part of their jobs for a number of years and it shows. In other words, they are doing their jobs and they are doing it well, IMHO.

          Hmmm…Wiles clearly (like many of us) found the whole pandemic/Lockdown thing a tad unsettling. This was evidenced by her seeming to forget that most of us have a enough intelligence and life experience to recognize and manage risk for ourselves. Just present the data and let us make our own minds up.The stupid animations became irritating after a remarkably short space of time…and usually I have a lot of respect for Morris's work.

          Back in early March it was evident that she had not yet recognized that there were no experts on Te Virus and that in the interests of protecting those most vulnerable from these diseases it would be prudent, nay, morally required to take the precautionary approach and treat all like we were infected. https://thespinoff.co.nz/science/05-03-2020/can-you-catch-covid-19-from-someone-without-symptoms/

          This divvery piece was followed by her mini thesis on the pros and cons of mask wearing…https://thespinoff.co.nz/society/06-04-2020/siouxsie-wiles-toby-morris-should-we-all-be-wearing-face-masks-to-prevent-covid-19-spread/ …which still held the 'wait for the evidence ' line before promoting mask wearing by health and disability workers.

          Meanwhile… https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/health/coronavirus/120950545/coronavirus-waikato-hospital-doctor-says-compulsory-masks-vital-to-stopping-covid19 … but what would he know? In the early days she failed, like all our other frontline mouthpieces, to promote the precautionary approach…for this she (and the others) will never be forgiven. Vulnerable people were put at risk while they fucked around waiting for the "evidence".

          Wiles is awesomely good at communicating whatever the official narrative might be at the time and on the day maybe if the wind is from the right quarter and it is the appropriate phase of the moon. The need for 'evidence' is strong in this one and her credibility took her further dive in our whanau when she popped out this particular instruction.

          The general response to this was 'Ffs Wiles…make your fucking mind up!'

          Remember back in the Dark Days of Key? When awards from the Top Floor heralded a plummet in professional credibility?

          • weka 15.1.2.2.1

            Yeah, 2m 'cos science says is really problematic when not qualified (choir singing, ffs). The science wouldn't have been *that sure, it would have been based on a specific set of criteria that may or may not be applicable to many situations. The whole 'we work with the science at the time and update as we go' is not the best approach on its own when dealing with complex systems like viral spread and human behaviour.

            What irks me is the lack of awareness that organisations like the MoH are working on statistical probabilities across populations and that this means individuals can and do fall through the cracks.

          • Incognito 15.1.2.2.2

            I hear you but will all due respect, I think you have the wrong end of the stick in this case.

            Please let me explain why I think that.

            Wiles acted as a Science Communicator and made the fast-moving science accessible to many at a time when everybody was hungry for solid & sound information. She mostly managed to avoid dumbing down the science. As a scientist, she also avoided heavy speculation and long extrapolation of the available data & information. It was important, then more than ever, to avoid creating more uncertainty and confusion in the minds of the people by having to correct and/or retract statements about the science of Covid-19. So, yes, this meant cautious statements and a wait & see approach. Wiles had to and was operating within the boundaries of science, not short-cuts, no cutting corners, no reckons, et cetera.

            AFAIK, Wiles was and is not a member of any Task Force or Advisory Group or the likes. She was a “mouthpiece” for [the] science. She was also not involved in setting policy, which is and was not her job or responsibility either. Moreover, she could not cover all science either. But she did a good job, by and large, and covered much and covered it well, IMHO. It was up to others to add, complement, correct, and/or provide counter arguments, as and when required, e.g. MoH officials and the PM. At the same time, she had to be careful not to undermine the official Government lines as this could have created confusion and have seeded doubts & distrust. I hazard a guess that even Siouxsie Wiles had to bite her tongue a few times 😉

            Lastly, you say this:

            Remember back in the Dark Days of Key? When awards from the Top Floor heralded a plummet in professional credibility?

            That is neither here nor there. The Prime Minister's Science Communication Prize is not political like knighthoods, for example. The prize and process is managed by the Royal Society Te Apārangi and the winner is determined by an independent selection panel.

            HTH

  16. Infused 16

    Point to one bit of evidence showing the new strain being more contagious. You want. Top doctors doubt the claim.

    [Who are those “top doctors”? Do they exist only in your imagination?

    Why don’t you provide names and links to three of those mythical “top doctors” so we can check that you’re not making up things. You will be in Pre-Moderation until you oblige or opt for a long vacation in the wop wops – Incognito]

    [See you in one month – Incognito]

    • McFlock 16.1

      Public Health England reckons it has both epidemiological data and biological plausibility for the new variant having a reproductive advantage over previous variants. As of a week ago (which is a long time in politics and an eternity in this bloody pandemic, so who the fuck knows what the data says today).

    • Incognito 16.2

      See my Moderation note @ 1:40 AM.

    • SPC 16.3

      Meh. When I first looked at the stats I thought I was reading it wrong – thinking it could not be possible for one strain to suddenly go from a single case to the dominant infection type so fast.

      • Incognito 16.3.1

        The earliest samples in which B.1.1.7 was reported were taken on 20 and 21 Sep in the UK, AFAIK. Based on its spread, models suggest that this new variant might be up to 70 percent more transmissible, which is consistent with some of its mutations in the spike protein and the fact that it and similar mutations have been found in other areas of the World.

    • Incognito 16.4

      See my second Moderation note @ 1:40 AM.

  17. Grafton Gully 17

    The key word is "academics" they got through med school and found that healing obese, semiliterate people and whining "worried well" was not suited to their "high achievement drive" so a chance of tenure and (notice the joint authorship) no direct, personal responsibility was irresistible. Bless the doctors who use their training to get on with the job and fuck the shitheads who authored this piece of mealy mouthed claptrap.

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