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The Covid crisis

Written By: - Date published: 11:43 am, November 1st, 2020 - 51 comments
Categories: boris johnson, covid-19, Donald Trump, Europe, uk politics - Tags:

Through much of the world the Covid pandemic is playing out roughly in line with how it was predicted it would.  It could have been better.  China, who felt its effects first, has through determined action managed to get the spread under control.  Current infection rates are in the vicinity of 30 a day which given its vast population is a remarkable achievement.

Taiwan, Australia and New Zealand are, touch wood, in good positions.  The combination of determined Government action, respect for the science, a mostly cooperative population, and being surrounded by water all play their part.

But other island states are not doing so well.

For instance in the United Kingdom infection rates are surging and a new lock down has been imposed.  Startlingly schools and universities are not included.  And it is subject to a vote. It has been reported that some conservative MPs are furious at the proposal and Boris may have to depend on Labour MPs to get the proposal through Parliament.  From Mattha Busby at the Guardian:

Boris Johnson has relented to pressure from the government’s scientific advisers to impose another full lockdown in England, following warnings that the virus could kill 85,000 people this winter and local measures were not sufficient.

After describing the move as “the height of absurdity” that would “turn the lights out” just 10 days ago, the prime minister announced on Saturday that new restrictions – including the closure of pubs and restaurants, and a ban on most international travel – would come in on Thursday and remain in place until 2 December.

The Covid trends for the UK and for Europe are not good although notably in Scotland, which has put in place stringent measures a short while ago, has seen a drop in the infection rate.  The advice from the UK science advisers is that that a two-week lock down is not enough to contain the spread of the virus, and that a longer lockdown is required but clearly Boris thinks this is not manageable.

Part of England’s problem is that the track and trace system is, to use the technical term, crap.  From George Monbiot in the Guardian:

Until a working vaccine is released and widely used, our best hope of controlling Covid-19 is testing, tracing and isolating people who might carry the disease. Even after a vaccine is produced, test and trace will remain essential, as inoculation will not be completely effective, or universally accepted.

Today, it’s our only real hope of preventing repeated lockdowns, and other great interruptions to our lives. Yet the English system on which our freedoms depend is a total fiasco. The government has so far spent £12bn on test and trace. But, as a result of catastrophic mismanagement, it might as well have flushed this money down the toilet, as tracing has failed to reach the critical threshold (roughly 80% of contacts) needed to reduce the infection rate. Last week, after a further fall, the figure stood at just under 60%.

To put this in context, £12bn is more than the entire general practice budget. The total NHS capital spending budget for buildings and equipment is just £7bn. To provide all the children in need with free meals during school holidays between now and next summer term, which the government has dismissed as too expensive, is likely to cost about £120m: in other words, just 1% of the test and trace budget.

Because so much about this essential programme has been shrouded in secrecy, it’s not easy to see where the money has gone. But the breakdown of the system appears to result at least in part from its oversight by corporate executives (led by Dido Harding), with no relevant experience in public health and a track record of failure, rather than by professional public servants.

The government has created an opaque and unmanageable hybrid system of public and private provision, in which favoured corporations have received vast contracts without competition, advertising or even penalty clauses. Public health, reorganised in the midst of the pandemic to give even greater control to Harding and her chums, is in semi-privatised meltdown.

He then goes on to detail how Serco workers on minimum wage are being used to deal with grieving family members and to perform track and trace duties that the NHS, when it did the job, had reserved for people with actual public health qualifications.  No wonder the tracking rate is plummeting and the disease is spreading.  But imagine wasting valuable resources on corporations that are just not up to it.

Meanwhile in the US of A new infections have hit 100,000 a day for the first time.  Dr Anthony Fauci warned about this possiblity at the end of June.  But what would he know?

From CNBC two weeks ago:

A frustrated and at times foul-mouthed President Donald Trump claimed on a campaign call that people are tired of hearing about the deadly pandemic which has killed more than 215,000 Americans and trashed Dr. Anthony Fauci as a “disaster” who has been around for “500 years.”

Referring to Fauci and other health officials as “idiots,” Trump declared the country ready to move on from the health disaster, even as cases are again spiking and medical experts warn the worst may be yet to come.

Baselessly claiming that if Fauci was in charge more than half a million people would be dead in the United States, Trump portrayed the recommendations offered by his own administration to mitigate spread of the disease as a burdensome annoyance.

“People are tired of Covid. I have the biggest rallies I’ve ever had, and we have Covid,” Trump said, phoning into a call with campaign staff from his namesake hotel in Las Vegas, where he spent two nights amid a western campaign swing. “People are saying whatever. Just leave us alone. They’re tired of it. People are tired of hearing Fauci and all these idiots.

One of the steps that Trump took to counter Fauci was to appoint another medical “expert”, Scott Atlas, a radiologist and Fox News talking head, to give Trump advice that more aligned to his prejudices.  A la John Key he clearly thinks that if you get expert advice that you do not like then you just keep hunting around until you get the advice you like.

The trouble is however that the expert that Trump appointed, although expressing opinions Trump approved of, soon showed that he, as well as Trump, did not know what he was talking about.

For instance Atlas thought that masks were a waste of time, schools should be kept open, social distancing does not work and herd efficiency was a thing .  Taiwan, New Zealand and Sweden would beg to differ.  If Trump was just after contrary opinions to Fauci he could have hired Homer Simpson.

From Ed Pilkington in the Guardian:

Atlas has misleadingly called into question the efficacy of masks and social distancing, has echoed Trump’s call for reopening schools, and perhaps most controversially has supported the purposeful contraction of the virus by young people to create so-called “herd immunity”.

Public health experts warn that the viability of a “herd immunity” against coronavirus without a vaccine is unknown, given uncertainty about levels and duration of immunity in individual cases. They also say that achieving “herd immunity” would involve millions of infections and unknown thousands of cases of serious illness and death.

Atlas is a former Stanford medicine professor and a senior fellow at the conservative Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

His controversial statements drew an open letter from 78 former colleagues at Stanford medical school, who warned that his advice was dangerous.

“Many of his opinions and statements run counter to established science, and, by doing so, undermine public-health authorities and the credible science that guides effective public health policy,” the letter said.

And the US election campaign is descending into utter chaos.  Armed militia driving four wheel drives and brandishing American flags surrounded the Biden campaign bus and forced it to abandon campaign events.  What is weird is that there was not a police officer to be seen.

And the Republicans are throwing lots of resources into court cases trying to prevent American votes, particularly those with darker skins, from being counted.  This Guardian series of articles has some jaw dropping stories.  And Trump shows his complete disdain for his supporters by staging a rally in Nebraska and stranding some of them after the event in freezing weather.  Expect Nebraska’s Covid infection rate to surge in the next couple of weeks.

Trump has taken to telling untruths recently claiming that the country was “rounding the corner” and that deaths were way down.  These were patently not true.  From Dan Friedman at Mother Jones:

Over the last two weeks, the national average of daily deaths that local medical examiners attribute to COVID-19 has increased by 16 percent. That’s according to the New York Times COVID data tracking project, which is assembled by journalists compiling data directly from state and local health agencies. 1,004 deaths attributed to COVID were reported on Thursday, bringing the seven-day average (the average of reported deaths on each of the last seven days) to 811, up from 701 on October 15. Confirmed US deaths attributed to COVID now total about 229,000. (A separate metric, the CDC’s tally of excess deaths compared to how many people generally die during this stretch in a normal year, suggests that COVID caused far more deaths, nearly 300,000 through just early October.) Johns Hopkins’ COVID-19 tracking project, which separately compiles local data on the virus and reports slightly different numbers, shows the same general trend as the Times, an independent corroboration that deaths are in fact rising. Since September 12, COVID cases have been increasing throughout the US, with especially sharp rises in the Midwest. The spike in cases also means that deaths are likely to increase even further in coming weeks. People who die of COVID tend to succumb weeks or more after contracting the virus.

Ideology is one thing.  Telling outright lies to cover your ineptitude is another.  But this is a clear sign what Trump will stoop to in his desire to hold onto power.  Truth and American lives are secondary considerations.

This could get pretty ugly.  In every nation where the scientific advice is sidelined.

51 comments on “The Covid crisis ”

  1. lprent 1

    Hum – not too sure why this post has a date-time from yesterday.

    Stanford University Economists have done an estimate of covid infections and deaths from 18 trump rallies
    https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/31/us/politics/stanford-study-infections-trump-rallies.html
    30,000 infections and 700 deaths

  2. We don't know how lucky we are! to quote Fred Dagg.

    A small niggle – Fauci, not Cauci.

    2020 will surely not see the end of this pandemic! Nor will 2021, in my opinion.

  3. dv 3

    Covid is more dangerous for the US than WW2,

    US deaths 418 000 in ww2, over 3 – 4 years

    Covid is 230 000 in less than a year.

    • lprent 3.1

      It is worse than that.

      I’m reading a Neil Sheenan book “A Fiery Peace in a Cold War”. According to that it was something like ~290k casualties from combat related injuries and the remainder (~115k) from disease, injury, and other causes.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_military_casualties_of_war

                                   deaths  other causes
      

      World War II 1941–1945 291,557 + 113,842 = 405,399

      • dv 3.1.1

        Got mine from google search

        WW2 deaths per country

        ://www.google.co.nz/search?client=safari&rls=en&sxsrf=ALeKk01wcLcfEbV3Z3KBzL43IHXP4QEfNw%3A1604260350272&ei=_hGfX4WrEIeE4-EP_fiXiAc&q=ww2+deaths+by+country&oq=ww&gs_lcp=CgZwc3ktYWIQARgAMgQIIxAnMgoIABCxAxCDARBDMgoILhDHARCvARBDMgIIADICCAAyAggAMgIIADICCC4yAggAMgIIADoECAAQRzoKCC4QxwEQrwEQJzoOCC4QsQMQgwEQxwEQowI6CAgAELEDEIMBUNATWLgVYKUoaABwAngAgAG2AYgB5wKSAQMwLjKYAQCgAQGqAQdnd3Mtd2l6yAEIwAEB&sclient=psy-ab

    • Pat 3.2

      worth remembering that US pop in WW2 was around 135 million as opposed to 330 million today

      • Janet 3.2.1

        Huge difference in population -An over populated world, Covid loves. When will NZ decided on a NZ population target for itself. I read that at a Rotarian Business Round table Conference some years ago the "businessmen "of NZ decided 7 million. What do the wholistic sustainable and enviromentally qualified people say ?

    • Tricledrown 3.3

      That's recorded deaths from covid 19.

      Excess deaths in the US show that could be a 1/3 higher given undocumented migrants and the level of homelessness.

      Closer to 350 ,000 would be my estimate of the real covid toll.

    • froggleblocks 3.4

      Age of death for soldiers lost during WW2 are substantially different to those killed by COVID-19.

      Same goes for WW1 and the flu pandemic.

  4. Craig H 4

    When we did our economic forecasts of the impact of Covid-19, I don't think the awfulness of some of the responses of various countries was considered. I wonder if that has something to do with NZ's better than expected economic indicators.

  5. Watched the "Chernobyl" miniseries? The court case where the lead engineer states that the ultimate cause of the nuclear disaster was the USSR's culture of lies. The USSR broke up shortly after Chernobyl, as its myths about the great Soviet system went up in smoke.

    Pablo wrote an excellent blog recently about the toxicity of lies/ disinformation to a functioning democracy. http://www.kiwipolitico.com/2020/10/counterfeiting-information/

    The American century is history

  6. Byd0nz 6

    Right wing world wide based on personal greed. If NZ was right wing when Covid struck, we would be the same, swamped by the pandemic for the need of greed. We are still not safe in NZ while the world of right wing doesn't act responsibly

    • Treetop 7.1

      With a bit of luck Trump is gone burger on Tuesday in the US. Unfortunately he will hang around until January 2021.

  7. RedLogix 8

    Telling outright lies to cover your ineptitude is another.

    Trump is a high functioning psychopath, in the strict clinical sense of the word. He will do whatever he thinks is best for himself, whatever label we care to put on these actions. This has made him utterly unsuited to the office, and rendered his leadership on COVID incoherent and counterproductive.

    But placing all the blame on Trump, and by extension all right wing govts, is obsessive and reductionist in the extreme. There are multiple factors involved beyond incompetent leadership.

    In the USA in particular there has been institutional weakness at every level, and in general nations with highly fractured, commercial model, health systems have struggled to evolve coherent protocols.

    The age profile of a nation more than anything else determines the absolute numbers of vulnerable people. And increasing evidence is showing that people with low Vitamin D levels, for whatever reason, are also vulnerable.

    And of course people with co-morbidities such as obesity, diabetes and heart complications, already at epidemic levels in the developed world, are also highly vulnerable.

    And despite the inverted logic of some of the quoted articles, there is no question that more testing will reveal more cases. This is obvious if you imagine two extreme cases, one if we were to test no-one, then there would be no confirmed cases other than the relatively small fraction who arrive at hospital. And if we were to test everyone, then according to WHO some 10% of the global population, or 750m people would test positive (assuming a perfect test).

    Put these five factors together and, along with the arrival of winter in the northern hemisphere, confirmed infection rates are dramatically rising. What alarmists want to play down is that death rates, while trending up somewhat, are on nowhere near the same comparable trajectory yet. There is about a three week delay between the onset of a new wave (this one started about the 7th October) and a corresponding rise in the death rate. In about 7 – 10 days time we should start to see a rise in deaths, but the critical information will be to what level.

    Looking at the US data linked to above it's immediately apparent that the US has had three separate waves so far, the first had by far the worst ratio of cases to deaths, while the second wave was much lower. Unless the virus has mutated to become more lethal, or the medical world to become more incompetent, there is every reason to expect the ratio in this third wave will be lower again.

    And finally the evidence for the positive role Vitamin D plays continues to accumulate. If this is confirmed, as it looks increasingly likely it will be, then we will have gained an important tool in substantially reducing death rates.

    On reflection my difficulty with the OP is the alarmist linkage between the management of a now endemic disease, and a highly polarised political agenda. This scientific tribalism means that we are only getting selective and incomplete narratives, and more crucially it cripples our collective ability to adapt to changing information.

  8. Drowsy M. Kram 9

    NZ and Australia’s ‘Stamp it out, keep it out.” approach to managing the COVID-19 pandemic has been a wonderful success – I can scarcely believe it.
    We don’t know how lucky we are…

    Scary to think that (officially) only about 0.6% of the global population have been infected with COVID-19 so far. The prevalence of asymptomatic cases means that 0.6% is an underestimate, but once this virus takes hold it's difficult to contain spread via asymptomatic individuals, even if one wanted to.

    "He also lamented that Scott Atlas, a neuroradiologist and Trump's favoured pandemic adviser, who advocates letting the virus spread among young healthy people and reopening the country without restrictions, is the only medical adviser the president regularly meets with.

    "I have real problems with that guy," Fauci said of Atlas. "He's a smart guy who's talking about things that I believe he doesn't have any real insight or knowledge or experience in. He keeps talking about things that when you dissect it out and parse it out, it doesn't make any sense."

    Fauci said he actually appreciated chief of staff Mark Meadows saying last weekend on CNN that the administration was not going to control the pandemic."

    "While Atlas has publicly rebutted assertions that he promotes a herd immunity strategy, he recently endorsed the Great Barrington Declaration – a document named after the town in Massachusetts where it was unveiled on October 4 at a libertarian think tank – that calls for allowing the coronavirus to spread freely at "natural" rates among healthy young people, while keeping most aspects of the economy up and running.

    "He insists he's not somebody who's pushing for herd immunity," Fauci said of Atlas.

    "He says, 'That's not what I mean.' [But] everything he says – when you put them together and stitch them together – everything is geared toward the concept of 'it doesn't make any difference if people get infected. It's a waste of time. Masks don't work. Who cares,' and the only thing you need to do is protect the vulnerable, like people in the nursing homes," Fauci said.

    Fauci said that many people who catch the virus recover "virologically" but will have chronic health problems.

    "The idea of this false narrative that if you don't die, everything is hunky dory is just not the case," he said. "But to say, 'Let people get infected, it doesn't matter, just make sure people don't die' – to me as a person who's been practising medicine for 50 years, it doesn't make any sense at all."

    https://www.stuff.co.nz/world/americas/300147030/fauci-warns-of-covid19-surge-offers-blunt-assessment-of-trumps-response

    Trump’s false accusation Friday that doctors were profiting from COVID-19 deaths drew harsh criticism from the governor of the election battleground state of Wisconsin.

    We have a president that believes that the doctors are at fault, they’re messing with the numbers and he believes that it’s over. It ain’t over,” Democratic Governor Tony Evers told CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday.

    We have hospitalizations going through the roof,” he said. “We absolutely need somebody that understands that this is an issue, it’s a thing. People are dying.
    https://fr.reuters.com/article/idUKKBN27H1NU

    • Treetop 9.1

      Trump does not have a Covid management plan. He is not helping exhausted health workers which would have partial or full burnout. Lockdown protects health workers from being overwhelmed. Probably health rationing has been going on since March in the US.

      Long Covid is a problem and this further exhausts health services.

  9. Ad 10

    What's the main forecasters saying about its global impact into 2021 and 2022?

    Always seems to be worse.

    • RedLogix 10.1

      COVID is largely a disease of the developed world, but to the extent that it disrupts the much larger developing world, breaking down trade relationships and mechanisms … then the real impact will be felt there.

      There is a great deal of speculation about the USA falling into civil chaos in the next few weeks, but honestly with their harsh winter coming on, I think it more likely the protests will diminish, and activists on all sides will go back to their mother's basements and agitating on their facebook groups. But regardless of who prevails in the next week or so, the USA faces a decade of cultural turbulence as it works through a generation of critical theory lunacy that insists the entire structure must be burned to the ground.

      This factor alone will ensure the USA remains inwardly focused for the foreseeable future, and that everything we take for granted about how the rest of the world works is up for grabs. Almost certainly this will embolden the players to make their moves.

      It's reasonably likely we will see hot war at least one of Eastern Europe/Balkans/Turkey, the Middle East or Eastern Asia regions; all of which are the traditional zones of conflict throughout history. The moment this happens all the networks of trade and shipping on which everything depends will unravel in unpredictable ways. If nothing else the moment the first shot is fired in the South China Sea, all commercial shipping will cease to be insured in a passage that sees some two thirds of all global goods transit.

      Specifically the super-tankers will stop. Conflict that prevents safe transit of either the Persian Gulf or the Indian Ocean will immediately impact Australia/NZ in terms of energy supply. Both economies will be hit and hit hard for some period until we can arrange alternative sources. Planning for this possible scenario would be really smart, and on this someone in Wellington should be talking to someone in Canberra fairly urgently.

      • Drowsy M. Kram 10.1.1

        "COVID is largely a disease of the developed world…"

        That's an interesting opinion.

        How might this virus be targetting the developed world – relatively weak immune systems and virus/vaccination history, population genetics, faster spread (enhanced travel options, high-density (urban) populations)? Has there been some research on the potential contributing factors? Might the number of COVID-19 tests per head of population also be a contributing factor?

        Or do you mean that the disruptive effects of responses to the pandemic (travel restrictions, lockdowns) are more significant in developed countries?

        • RedLogix 10.1.1.1

          The developed world is where most of the elderly live. Compare say Africa with Europe.

          Also the developed world is where most people can afford to live and work inside most of the time, and which is associated with at least several risk factors.

          • Drowsy M. Kram 10.1.1.1.1

            Is the incidence of COVID-19 cases generally higher among the elderly?

            Looking at NZ's cases, the highest case rate appears to be in the 20-29 year age range (~14.1% of the population and 23% of cases), while those aged 70+ (~11% of the population) account for some 6.5% of COVID-19 cases. That's more than a 3-fold higher rate of cases per head of population in the 20-29 year age range than in those aged 70+.

            Might NZ be atypical because of the way it has chosen to manage the pandemic threat?

          • Drowsy M. Kram 10.1.1.1.2

            Whoops, only a 2.8-times higher COVID case rate in the 20-29 age range cf. 70+.

            • RedLogix 10.1.1.1.2.1

              It's important to separate out two very different numbers here. The number of infections seems to be somewhat higher in the 20 -39 age group because these are the people who socialise more and do lower skilled blue collar work, while the elderly are generally retired and live relatively more isolated lives anyway.

              But deaths are very much related to IFR, which varies hugely between populations and age cohorts. This pretty much sums up just how it's playing out:

              The COVID infection fatality ratio is around 1% in high-income countries, but substantially lower in low-income countries with younger populations.

              These are the findings of a new report from the Imperial College London COVID-19 Response Team.

              The report reveals that:

              • In high income countries, the estimated overall infection fatality ratio (IFR) is 1.15% (95% prediction interval 0.78-1.79).
              • In low-income countries, the estimated overall IFR is 0.23% (95% prediction interval 0.14-0.42).
              • Risk of death from COVID-19 doubles for approximately every eight years of aging.
              • Age-specific IFRs increased from 0.1% and below for individuals under 40 years to greater than 5% among individuals over 80 years.
              • Drowsy M. Kram

                Regarding spreading the virus, the fact that during the COVID ripples in NZ 20-29-years old were almost three times more likely to be infected compared to those aged 70+ will inform my social distancing behaviour if/when NZ catches another wave.

              • Drowsy M. Kram

                From the age distribution of NZ population and COVID case numbers, the age range least likely to be infected is the under-20s (is there a relatively low level of testing for the very young?), followed closely by the 70+ age range. Working with small numbers, of course.

                % infection rate (compared to the 20-29 year age range)
                <20 years 31%
                20-29 yrs 100% (1 case per 1,550 people)
                30-39 yrs 78%
                40-49 yrs 68%
                50-59 yrs 72%
                60-69 yrs 60%
                70+ years 36% (1 case per 4,350 people)

                • McFlock

                  So that's a ratio of the 20-29 year rate?

                  I suspect NZ data is heavily skewed because we largely manage to contain the cluster sizes.

                  • RedLogix

                    Yes, but from my reading this data seems pretty typical of other developed nations.

                    In blunt terms young people are spreading it, older people are dying of it.

                    • McFlock

                      Going that blunt can be highly misleading from a policy perspective.

                      For one thing, it suggests that locking away the elderly is a good idea, rather than a last resort.

                      It also reduces the impact of a disease to "dead vs not dead" binary.

        • McFlock 10.1.1.2

          Age distribution is a significant factor, but there are many, many others.

          There's the type of government: rational or stupid.

          There's the delay in getting it: not just realising how infectious it is, but also learning from mistakes. Italy was going to lock down Lombardy, but it got leaked by media and infected people fled Lombardy. As Eli Wallach put it, "When you have to shoot, shoot. Don't talk."

          Similarly, there's the experience some African countries gained in combating infectious diseases like ebola. Sure, different diseases, but with a much larger "oh fuck" factor than diseases many Northern countries have direct experience with.

          And a whole pile of other stuff. But even without a massive fatality rate (and pop FR are variable across nations of similar locations and development), large numbers of infections still stuff a country.

          • RedLogix 10.1.1.2.1

            I recently watched The Good, the Bad and the Ugly for the first time. An astonishingly good movie. With Eastwood and van Cleef it was always going to be great, but Wallach took it to another level. And along with the iconic soundtrack, the remarkable story telling that went well beyond the usual western fare … absolutely a landmark in film history.

            No-one is arguing that rising infections is a good thing, or can be carelessly ignored. But understanding how infections turn into serious illness and death seems central to calibrating our public health responses.

            • McFlock 10.1.1.2.1.1

              Apparently the sound editors deserved a medal, because everyone did their dialogue in their native tongue and the AD script had to at least vaguely match both the actor's lips and Leonie's script.

              For example, this was pure inspiration:

              When Tuco and Blondie/Biondo in the camp are stuck, is an orchestra. A man in a deck chair must ensure that the choir going all the way, otherwise the fight between Tuco and Wallace audible. The man in the deck chair originally said: "Piú Eccelenti ARCHITETTI forte" (play harder) on the English sound track he says: "More feeling"

              Once Upon a Time in the West is also a good 'un.

          • Drowsy M. Kram 10.1.1.2.2

            Thanks McFlock (and Redlogix) – useful info on fatality rates. And your point that large numbers of infections can still stuff a country (especially given the potential for longer-term health effects) means NZ should consider the potential consequences of (higher) infection rates, as well as fatality rates.

            In the last 10 days the global number of currently infected patients has increased by ~2 million, to 11,854,959. NZ – such a lucky country at the moment.

            Although we’re still learning about the virus, what’s clear is that this is not just a virus that kills people. To a significant number of people, this virus poses a range of serious long-term effects.
            https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/10/1076562

            • RedLogix 10.1.1.2.2.1

              I don't think anyone is discounting the longer term health effects. COVID is nothing like seasonal influenza in this respect. But for the sake of keeping the argument simple I usually set this consideration aside. My working assumption, and I could be proven wrong, is that the number of people in this category is closely related to the number of people who die.

              Keep in mind this for most people this peculiar damned disease is either very minor or completely asymptomatic. This means a very large fraction of the population must bear substantial costs in order to protect another much smaller fraction. If you wanted to design a disease that was incredibly disruptive, while not actually killing off a very large fraction of the population, you could hardly do better.

              • Drowsy M. Kram

                Hopefully the pandemic will be over soonish. Like to think I'm doing my bit – recently started taking vitamin D to supplement physical distancing.

                • RedLogix

                  If this winter induced surge of infections does translate into a dramatic number of deaths I will be very disappointed. Mainly because it may well have all been totally avoidable.

                  I cannot get away from the idea that the medical authorities are still very keen on us waiting for either expensive drugs or vaccines to arrive (which is a pretty high risk plan), while discounting or ignoring low cost options like Vit D supplementation.

                  One study I linked to earlier (sorry forgotten which one) calculated a HR ratio of 0.11 for people with adequate Vit D levels. Translated into action that would mean instead of 5 – 7,000 people dying every day the number would more like 800. Maybe it's all a false hope but with odds like that I'd think you'd want to give it a go.

                • lprent

                  Currently it isn’t looking too bad for some of the vaccines becoming available towards the end of the first quarter next year.

                  The biggest issue is one that I was raising here earlier this year – any one of them are going to be some way off 100% coverage and to have a limited immunity lifetime (couple of years looks likely). ie somewhat better than getting the common cold corona viruses – but not by that much.

                  I’m picking that because there have been so many approaches to the parts of the immune system targeted that there will be combined vaccine (ie made up with several vaccines approaches)coming out later next year that will be able to ramp up the immunity and duration.

                  But this looks like being a new endemic disease – requiring a vaccine every few years for a decade or two.

              • McFlock

                But that's the thing: if one discounts the general impact on health and focus solely on the immediate deaths, of course it looks like a conflict between the unaffected protecting the vulnerable.

                It's ruling out of consideration literally millions of people with new chronic conditions (based on roughly a million dead), and the resource impact on the health system's ability to treat all patients who come in, not just covid.

                And we get healthcare administrators saying that they did well because there's no shortage of ICU places when they triaged out any old people with covid.

                It's amazing how well hospitals can run when there are no patients. Yes Minister did a full episode on it.

                But increased stress on the health system, sick physicians, lots more people getting ill and not going to work, healthy young people with recovery times measured in months – even without people dying, this disease is a serious hit to every economy.

      • Koff 10.1.2

        "COVID is largely a disease of the developed world": The worldometer currently lists 14 out of the top 30 countries in terms of case numbers which are not "developed," depending on the definition of "developed." Covid in poorer countries, with a few important exceptions (Vietnam, Laos, Pacific islands etc.) is just one huge mess on top of all the other tragedies that are present.

        • RedLogix 10.1.2.1

          My comment at 1:32 more or less covers this off. IFR's in the developed world are about 5 times higher than the rest of the world, due mainly to a different age structures and I suggest, different lifestyles.

          Of course the total population in the developing world is very much higher, so the absolute number of deaths in these countries will reflect this.

          I guess this comes down to a question of which aspect you choose to look at, IFR or total deaths. Both are valid measures in their own way, but from a public health cost/benefit perspective IFR is the more important one.

      • greywarshark 10.1.3

        Turkey is feeling both vulnerable and right wing at present. Greece is pushing away boat refugees towards Turkey (which they have been told to do if they want to receive aid from EU).* There has been another Turkish major earthquake following recent others. I think they feel embattled, have not come to terms with an Armenian outrage** from early 20th century, and are now not dealing well with the Kurds. It would require statesmanship (and aid – which has been promised through NATO) from large countries to settle this down.

        * Sarc comment from Mar/20 – https://www.jacobinmag.com/2020/03/greece-turkey-border-syria-refugees-european-union-erdogan Europe Finally Sends Aid to Greece (But Only for Kicking Out Refugees)

        ** The Armenian Genocide (sometimes known as the Armenian Holocaust) was the systematic mass murder and expulsion of 1.5 million ethnic Armenians carried out in Turkey and adjoining regions by the Ottoman government between 1914 and 1923. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Armenian_Genocide

        • Obtrectator 10.1.3.1

          Turkey's ancestor state the Ottoman Empire acted unconscionably throughout its existence, as did Turkey itself in the years following WW1, which saw hundreds of thousands of Greeks forcibly expelled from their historic homes in Anatolia. After half a century or so of comparatively decent behaviour they now seem to be reverting to type. Regrettably, it's likely the only thing that will make them cease and desist is what happened to Germany at the end of WW2 – a damn good thrashing on their own soil (although it isn't really theirs, if you go back far enough to Byzantine times).

          • greywarshark 10.1.3.1.1

            Yeah messy and has the seeds of despair in it – don't we ever learn? Now France going off at Muslims. What a bunch of arrogant twits who will surely be hoist on their own petard – itself a phrase from the ancient past with an actual historic event behind it no doubt. (Strangely enough it is a phrase that I find lately cropping up in books I read, comments in the media etc. It seems to be following me around.)

      • Ad 10.1.4

        OMG Red I was thinking of the World Bank or IMF or OECD. Not the Methinks, you great fathead 🙂

        Their analyses, though published recently, are now on figures from back in June.

        Next NZ unemployment figures are out this week.

        What's Australian unemployment looking like, and what's your Reserve Bank commentary?

        • RedLogix 10.1.4.1

          lol … fair cop. What I'm reading is very contradictory, everyone is painting their own picture at the moment.

          However I've literally just been having an in person conversation with a commercial finance broker as I type this response. He tells me April, May and June were zeroes. July picked up, August best month ever and ticking along well ever since. People buying business equipment is a good leading indicator.

          Locally I know the marine industry here has had an excellent year, RV's and caravans are sold out as people are spending locally rather than on overseas trips. Other industries, hospitality in particular, and anything linked to overseas visitors has taken a body blow.

          And whenever a recession threatens all Aussie govts throw money at their building industry to fill in the gap. Works pretty well and ensures continuity of skills and capacity.

          But here in Brisbane life seems pretty normal, traffic is the same as always and the shopping centres are seeing the usual foot traffic. It's like COVID has rearranged a lot of deck chairs, some getting tossed overboard, others getting prime spots … but the total activity is not too diminished.

          Another interesting view:

          As for more recent outlooks … let me get back to you on that cheeky

  10. greywarshark 11

    This from the heading:

    And right wing governments appear to be spectacularly unable unwilling to deal with the crisis. FIFY

    And this from the body of the post is a summary of the most important evidence we have had for decades, showing the utter disinterest of the ruling elite in western democracies to serving the people's best interests and requirements as is their required role. They aren't just failing in their jobs, they are deviously manipulating them for their own benefit, and for a cabal they have chosen to sell their soul to.

    To put this in context, £12bn is more than the entire general practice budget. The total NHS capital spending budget for buildings and equipment is just £7bn. To provide all the children in need with free meals during school holidays between now and next summer term, which the government has dismissed as too expensive, is likely to cost about £120m: in other words, just 1% of the test and trace budget.

    Because so much about this essential programme has been shrouded in secrecy, it’s not easy to see where the money has gone. But the breakdown of the system appears to result at least in part from its oversight by corporate executives (led by Dido Harding), with no relevant experience in public health and a track record of failure, rather than by professional public servants.

    The government has created an opaque and unmanageable hybrid system of public and private provision, in which favoured corporations have received vast contracts without competition, advertising or even penalty clauses. Public health, reorganised in the midst of the pandemic to give even greater control to Harding and her chums, is in semi-privatised meltdown.

    This i think was from George Monbiot in the Guardian.

    I think the image will go into the files of film and tv producers as group type of 'assorted populace of disenchanted kind, with low education and reasoning skills, example of decadent, disaffected western society'.

  11. Draco T Bastard 12

    The government has created an opaque and unmanageable hybrid system of public and private provision, in which favoured corporations have received vast contracts without competition, advertising or even penalty clauses. Public health, reorganised in the midst of the pandemic to give even greater control to Harding and her chums, is in semi-privatised meltdown.

    This is what National have been saying that they would do to address the pandemic and we could expect the same results – total failure.

    and perhaps most controversially has supported the purposeful contraction of the virus by young people to create so-called “herd immunity”.

    These people obviously don't know how evolution works. Yes, you'd eventually get herd immunity doing this but that would be because all those that couldn't survive the infection would be dead leaving only those that survived to propagate.

    Hey, it works. Its why Europe has the highest population of lactose tolerance. Could take awhile though (~9000 years for the decline of lactose intolerance).

    And the Republicans are throwing lots of resources into court cases trying to prevent American votes, particularly those with darker skins, from being counted.

    Its been obvious for quite some time that the US is not a democracy. Now it looks like its a question of how long before they drop into outright civil war and chaos.

    Telling outright lies to cover your ineptitude is another.

    But its what the right-wing ideologists always do. Really, we should be used to this.

  12. Chris 13

    Where did that photo come from? Copies of it on the net don't have the swastika tattooed on the chap's stomach or any references to Trump.

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