Just when you thought that the world has Covid under control the virus has chosen to reply by letting us know it is still alive and kicking, and even more dangerous than before.
In Fiji the spread is out of control and Vietnam which had been coping well it is also spiking. China has locked down hard and eradicated it and Taiwan has it back under control. But elsewhere it is spreading. In New South Wales it is barely contained, and elsewhere in Australia the state governments are scrambling to deal with community spread.
There was previously a debate about whether we should attempt to eradicate the virus or whether we should accept that it is here and adjust.
One of the major proponents for the let it rip brigade was Plan B’s Simon Thornley. Last New Year’s eve he complained that he was being shut down and prevented from speaking. This article by Charlie Mitchell contains this passage:
Over the course of 2020, Thornley had become the most notable critic of the Government’s Covid-19 elimination strategy. It happened largely by default; he was the only known academic within his speciality to publicly disagree with it. Baker had been one of the strategy’s chief architects, backed by the overwhelming majority of public health experts.
The two men had traded jabs over the pandemic’s course. It started off politely, but had become more heated as their views diverged further. A week before the debate, Thornley and several other academics – known together as Plan B, a group proposing an alternative method for handling the pandemic – had published a letter in the British Medical Journal outlining their position against the country’s elimination strategy.
The letter contained several dubious arguments, prompting Baker to publicly describe it as “almost scandalous” and “patently absurd”; a piece both poorly argued and reliant on cherry-picked evidence.
The animosity between the two continued on-air, during the debate.
“It is shameful that some people have denigrated our efforts,” Thornley said, obliquely referring to Baker and other public health experts, many of whom had been critical of Plan B.
“They’re trying to shut down alternative views which have already been proven correct.”
This is an interesting claim because recently Thornley has been firing off lawyer’s letters to the Spin-off and Siouxie Wiles for an incidental reference to him in one of their articles. Which is funny because the Mitchell article contains far more damaging comment. I wonder why the former article was not attacked.
You have to question if Plan B actually got things correct. And just in case it is said that I am misrepresenting them I will quote this from the front page of the Plan B website:
We said New Zealand’s attempt in 2020-21 to eliminate Sars-Cov2 and use lockdowns was unnecessary, and would cause more health, social and economic harm than the virus itself.
The experience throughout the world suggests that Thornley and Plan B are wrong. And that eradication should have been the goal everywhere. Because the rampant spread of the virus has increased the chance of mutations occurring. This backgrounder from Marc Daalder explains how, and why Boris Johnson’s decision to open up England is the most reckless thing imaginable.
What most experts can agree on is that the United Kingdom is about to embark on a country-wide experiment in gain-of-function research. By abolishing all public health restrictions with just half of the population fully vaccinated, the UK could produce new variants that evade vaccine-induced immunity.
“If you are going to train a virus to escape vaccine-induced immunity, you would do exactly what they’re doing,” Jemma Geoghegan, an evolutionary virologist at the University of Otago, told Newsroom.
“You’re basically providing a training ground for the virus to overcome those selection pressures. You’re allowing the virus to continue to spread.
Chillingly Daalder noted that allowing the virus to spread through a population half of who are vaccinated will mean that it may find ways to render the vaccination worthless. Viruses do that.
And surprisingly eradication in a short sharp lock down was much better for the economy than an insipid lock down that lasted for months on end.
While the global outlook remains uncertain, going hard and early in responding to COVID-19 has meant that there are really positive signs for our economy. GDP figures show New Zealand's economic growth is ahead of the pack – outstripping Australia, Canada, the US, the UK & Japan! pic.twitter.com/o5HLjqUI0Z
— New Zealand Labour (@nzlabour) July 22, 2021
There is so much more at stake now. The Delta variant of the virus is much more able to be transmitted.
The BBC has this description of how much easier.
The cleanest way of comparing the pure biological spreading power of viruses is to look at their R0 (pronounced R-naught). It’s the average number of people each infected person passes a virus on to if nobody were immune and nobody took extra precautions to avoid getting infected.
That number was around 2.5 when the pandemic started in Wuhan and could be as high as 8.0 for the Delta variant, according to disease modellers at Imperial.
This is why the Government’s shut down of the bubble is the correct decision. It is causing problems. There are over 20,000 kiwi visitors in Australia right now. Getting them back and through the managed green flight process or through quarantine will not be easy. And this is why the Government took so much care in designing the bubble system and did not rush into it, even though it was being urged to.
But recent events highlight if we thought things were going to get back to normal any time soon we were wrong. Hang on, this is going to remain tough.