So far Aotearoa New Zealand has dodged a bullet. The Australian visitor who visited busy parts of Wellington but then developed Covid appears so far not to have affected local person even though he was infected with the delta variant, the variant behind recent surges in the United Kingdom and India. Ewen Callaway at the Nature website has this rather chilling description:
The Delta variant has been linked to a resurgence of COVID-19 in Nepal, southeast Asia and elsewhere, but its UK spread has given scientists a clear picture of the threat it poses. Delta seems to be around 60% more transmissible than the already highly infectious Alpha variant (also called B.1.1.7) identified in the United Kingdom in late 2020.
Delta is moderately resistant to vaccines, particularly in people who have received just a single dose. A Public Health England study published on 22 May found that a single dose of either AstraZeneca’s or Pfizer’s vaccine reduced a person’s risk of developing COVID-19 symptoms caused by the Delta variant by 33%, compared to 50% for the Alpha variant. A second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine boosted protection against Delta to 60% (compared to 66% against Alpha), while two doses of Pfizer’s jab were 88% effective (compared to 93% against Alpha).
Preliminary evidence from England and Scotland suggests that people infected with Delta are about twice as likely to end up in hospital, compared with those infected with Alpha.
“The data coming out of the UK is so good, that we have a really good idea about how the Delta variant is behaving,” says Mads Albertsen, a bioinformatician at Aalborg University in Denmark. “That’s been an eye-opener.”
Over the ditch you get the feeling that Australia is struggling to keep the virus under control. From Radio New Zealand:
Australia is grappling with multiple rapidly growing outbreaks, reaching parts of the country the virus never has before.
One of the threats: A mine worker who tested positive in central Australia. He had 900 colleagues leave the mine and travel elsewhere before his positive result was returned.
One of these contacts flew north to Darwin, spent time in the greater area, and then tested positive. Due to the possibility of the man being contagious while in the community, the Darwin region is now under harsh movement restrictions closing almost everything but essential services, initially for 48 hours.
“The Northern Territory is now facing its biggest threat since the Covid crisis began,” Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner said.
“I cannot rule out the lockdown being longer. I cannot rule out expanding the boundaries of the lockdown. If it needs to be longer, if it needs to be wider, it will be.”
Gunner said there are another 14 people who worked at the mine and have travelled to Darwin that they have yet to track down, which is of concern to them.
New South Wales recorded 30 new cases and there have been reports of cases appearing in other parts of the country. Given what is happening the Government’s early response appears to be very appropriate.
Fiji is also struggling. From Lice Movono at RNZ:
Fiji’s Covid-19 positivity rate continues to increase as health authorities report another 262 cases from 8am Saturday to 8am Sunday.
While there have been 13 deaths reported in this outbreak alone, Permanent Secretary for Health James Fong said two Covid-positive deaths are being investigated to determine if they were caused by the virus.
Five of the new cases are from the Nawakalevu Containment Zone in Nadi, three are linked to the cluster at Korovou Town in Tailevu, 118.9 kilometres north of the capital Suva.
The rest of the 254 cases are from the Lami-Suva-Nausori Containment Zone.
Fiji’s positivity rate continues to climb further up from 5 percent, which according to the World Health Organisation’s criteria published in May 2020, means the epidemic is not under control.
According to Our World in Data (OWID), a scientific online publication produced by a research team at the University of Oxford in England, a rising positive rate “can suggest the virus is actually spreading faster than the growth seen in confirmed cases”.
Despite this the authorities have still not locked the country down. The reason offered is the economy. This Herald article contains this quote from Fiji’s Permanent Secretary for Health, Dr James Fong:
The tragic reality is that Fijians living in communities most vulnerable to the virus – including those in informal settlements – are also those most vulnerable to the socioeconomic catastrophe that a 24-hour lockdown for 28 days would bring about …
So to say that many other countries have done a strict lockdown is not correct. Few, if any countries, have locked down in the same manner that Fiji has locked down.”
The delta variant also appears to be a major contributor to Taiwan’s spike in cases. Taiwan’s example shows that you cannot take anything for granted.
The Government’s urgent action in suspending the travel bubble in Australia has caused some pubic disquiet, from Kiwis in Australia now facing delays and/or quarantine to get home and some tourism business owners. I suspect most of the rest of us breathed a sigh of relief.
And we are not out of the woods yet. The Australian visitor had received one shot of vaccine and did not appear to be a shredder of the virus although his partner recently tested positive for the virus. His partner has not contracted it so far, maybe we were very lucky but time will tell.
Meanwhile the vaccine roll out is gathering pace. There are still the usual attacks because we are behind other countries. For pretty well every other country this is a race against time where every successful vaccination reduces the prospects of the disease spreading. For Aotearoa New Zealand the relevant date is the end date. Until then there is clearly the intent that we maintain free of the community spread of the virus.
The problem with the prevalence of the virus is that mutations are almost inevitable. For those thinking that after enough of us were vaccinated things would return to normal I am afraid this may not be the case.