Covid-19: Almost over, or still a serious threat?

This is a follow up to “mid 2021, can we live with Covid-19”, as significant further information has become available. Currently updated as at August 22nd.

  • Will Vaccines end the Covid-19 problem, or is it an ongoing threat?
  • Risks vs Optimism: A range of futures is possible.
    • Looking on the bright side.
    • The Worst That Could Happen?
  • The Warning Signs.
    • There is no herd immunity, spread continues.
    • Vaccinated people do continue to become infected.
    • Infected People When Vaccinated Still Have Negative Health Outcomes.
    • While there is spread, there are variants.
    • Yes, ‘the worst’ may be almost here.
  • Complacency?
    • Will Coivd-19 just go away?
    • It Only Effects the Elderly.
    • Vaccines are a Silver Bullet.
    • We Just Have To Get Through Now.
  • The Challenge of Battle.
    • Lockdowns and Delta.
    • Civil Unrest.
  • Conclusion.

Will Vaccines provide an end the Covid-19 problem, or is there an ongoing threat?

In summary, there is conflicting evidence.

The promise has always been that vaccines could return the world to the glory days of before Covid-19. First we had to wait while we get and approve the vaccines, then we had to wait for people to be vaccinated. Along the way, variants of Covid-19 changed the rules. There are two possible post-Covid-19 futures, enabled by vaccines:

  1. Society could leverage a reduced spread rate of Covid-19 as a result of vaccinations, and eradicate the virus.
  2. Improved health outcomes for vaccinated people could make Covid-19 a disease we can live with.

From experience with vaccinations so far we believe the following is established:

  • Vaccinations do not eliminate spread.
  • Spread is reduced to some degree as a result of vaccinations.
  • Cases of Serious illness and deaths are dramatically reduced as a result of vaccinations.

This is mixture of good and bad, as significantly spread is reduced is uncertain, and weather the reducing serious illness and death is sufficient for living with the virus to be acceptable is also still in doubt.

There is an economic cost of eradication, but there is also an economic cost of living with Covid-19. Is it better to spend the effort now to eradicate, or to continue to pay over the longer term?

From a cynical perspective, it may depend on how economic cost is measured. Living with the virus actually creates economic activity as health care and even funerals are economic activity.

Risks vs Optimism: A range of futures is possible.

Looking on the bright side.

Positive: The UK has an acceptable outcome at the current case level?

The situation in the UK has transformed from nightmare, to a vision of utopia where a sufficiently vaccinated population has been able to cast off the shackles of Covid-19, open up, and see cases fall in the aftermath. Deaths are still relatively low, and the good news includes case numbers being lower now than when the UK fist opened up on July 19th. and even cases are lower than the peaks prior to opening up. But is the utopia only temporary?

Current data is that 94% of people in England currently have immunity to Covid-19. While even 94% does prevent spread, cases have remained below the level present on July 19. Deaths are currently on a seven day average of 100 deaths per day, and with a life expectancy of 81.77 years, and a population in 68 million, the result would be 1 in 22 chance of dying from Covid-19. In reality, chances are higher, because daily deaths are mostly from older people who originate from a smaller population, but this is still around a 1 in 20 chance that person’s death will be from Covid-19 as opposed to other causes. The current death rate is approximately 3x the influenza death rate from 2019.

Downside of the UK Situation?

The death rate of 100 per week would be 36,500 per year which is 18 times higher than the 2,000 people who die on the roads annually, and a lot of effort is exerted minimise that much smaller number, so it is not insignificant.

A concern is that the trend is that although case numbers fell immediately after July 19, they are now on the rise again.

Deaths are also on the rise.

Given that cases in the US fell in January 2021 prior to vaccinations reaching a level sufficient to explain a significant fall in cases, there is evidence that virus comes in waves that at time subside independently of vaccinations. The fall in cases in the UK, directly at the time restrictions were lifted, is hard to attribute to any peak in vaccinations or trigger. Given cases are again rising, it is too early to be certain where the long term average case numbers and resultant casualties will stabilise.

What is missing from the available data is the hospitalisation rate, which is more critical in determining the risk that some measures will need to be reintroduced, and the rate of ‘long-Covid’ which may take longer to asses.

The overall risk is that current open status with an ‘acceptable’ rate of hospitalisations will either turn out to no be tolerable due to long covid, or only an unsustainable temporary situation.

The risks individual risks I can see are:

  • Cases and deaths could still continue to rise, and there is no reliable data on a stable level of case numbers.
  • If cases rise, the hospital system could come under stress.
  • ‘Long-Covid’ may pose a long term health problem.
  • New variants could emerge given case numbers are close to those at the peak of the pandemic.

Negative: The US situation is disconcerting.

The perception of vaccines is central to the situation in the USA.

The data is:

  • Vaccines have been highly effective in reducing death and serious illness, despite conflicting data on effectiveness against spread of the virus.
  • Cases in the USA fell in 2021, prior to a sufficient level of vaccination to cause the fall.

This data is interpreted with a high degree of confirmation bias by polarised groups with strongly held beliefs. Interpretations include:

Vaccines solve everything:

People were vaccinated, cases fell, but now delta has arrived we need more vaccinations.

It is now a pandemic of the unvaccinated.

Vaccines are part of a conspiracy to erode freedoms:

Cases fell in January even in areas where vaccinations are low, so claims on vaccine effectiveness are false.

A problem is a polarised society, is that the with differing belief about vaccines and Vaccines have been very effective, but data on results from vaccinations in the US have seen data interpreted according to belief with a strong degree of confirmation bias.

The US dan the need for vaccines in the US

The worst that could happen?

Given the mixed outcomes we are seeing in different countries, and interpreting that data in the most cautious way, what appears to be the worst outcome we are facing right now? This is not the most likely outcome, but more the outcome we need to consider insuring against, just as we insure against a car accident even when we do not expect to be involved in a car accident.

Imagine a world where everyone, including babies in the womb, must be perpetually vaccinated levels against Covid-19.

Then, imagine that even when vaccinated, most people will spend months in hospital, even during their childhood years, and 1 in 10 or more will die before they are 30.

Although not technically the worst possible scenario, to me this sounds like a future we should insure against. Just as we insure our house against fire even though for most houses the risk is low, because it would be so terrible if the fire did eventuate.

If that outcome is sufficiently dire, the next question becomes, “is there a real threat this could eventuate?”.

How close to this reality are we?

The Warning Signs: The Reasons to Consider Insurance.

There is no long term herd immunity, spread continues despite vaccinations.

Already with the delta variant, or what I call Covid-19.4, it seems to be now agreed that, as I have suspected for some time, Covid-19 continues to spread within a vaccinated population. This is despite ‘waves’ , as in India in May 2021, or the USA in January 2021, seeing declines in cases even without substantial vaccination.

Vaccinated people do continue to become infected.

The term ‘infected’ is open to interpretation, but clearly vaccinated people can become infected.

This was backed by UNSW Kirby Institute virologist Greg Dore, who pointed to the example of Iceland to show herd immunity was “not attainable with the Delta variant”.

Iceland, which has 93 per cent of the population 16 years of age or older vaccinated, reported 2,783 cases over the past 30 days — its largest wave since the pandemic began.  

Yet Iceland has had no deaths for the past 30 days attributed to COVID. 

ABC 17th August.

Note that Iceland is a small country with a population of only 370,000 people, so this level of cases means almost 1 in 100 people in the country became infected within the last 30 days.

If vaccinated people who should be ‘immune’ can become infected, then clearly a person can be infected repeatedly. If there is substantial virus circulating in the community, as far as we know a person may become infected multiple times every year for the rest of their life, even if fully vaccinated.

Infected People When Vaccinated Still Have Negative Health Outcomes.

The above statistics from Iceland note that there have been no Covid-19 deaths within the past 30 days. However, data from Australia does show that vaccinated people have been hospitalised, been on intensive care, and even died during the current outbreak. Yes, of those who have died despite vaccination, they have been either elderly or had other health complications. This would suggest perhaps people who never become elderly, or never experience other health issues, will have nothing to fear once vaccinated, but even this assumption is not yet fully tested as with Covid-19 once the level of the virus in the environment rises, the severity of disease also rises. It may be still too early to have data on the impact of an outbreak amongst vaccinated people.

So far, the impact on the unvaccinated is so much worse, that the focus is on getting people vaccinated, and only then will we learn for sure the extent of the remaining problems. But what is clear, is that problems do remain even once vaccinated.

While there is spread, there are variants.

But we have progressed from the original Covid-19 to the delta variant within 18 months and the amount of circulating virus is higher than ever. What will we having in another 18 months, or an another 3 or 6 years?

Yes, ‘the worst’ may be almost here.

So with the delta virus, we already have the potential for people to become infected multiple times year after year even if vaccinated, and there are already hospitalisations as a result even when vaccinated, even if deaths are rare unless the patient also has other health problems. Possible the risk of death is low if you never contract Covid-19 and have an other health issue at the same time?

Complacency?

Will Coivd-19 just go away?

Trump was famous for declaring the virus would magically just disappear, and although it did not disappear on a schedule he would have wanted, it is still possible the virus could one day seem to do just that. What happened to the virus that caused 1918 pandemic?

“The end of the pandemic occurred because the virus circulated around the globe, infecting enough people that the world population no longer had enough susceptible people in order for the strain to become a pandemic once again,” says medical historian J. Alexander Navarro, Markel’s colleague and the Assistant Director of the Center for the History of Medicine. “When you get enough people who get immunity, the infection will slowly die out because it’s harder for the virus to find new susceptible hosts.”

Eventually, with “fewer susceptible people out and about and mingling,” Navarro says, there was nowhere for the virus to go —the “herd immunity” [also see here] being talked about today. By the end of the pandemic, a whopping third of the world’s population had caught the virus. (At the moment, about half a percent of the global population is known to have been infected with the novel coronavirus.)

Time.

Ok, if that is correct, then Covid-19 will not just go away, as unlike that explanation of what happened in 1918, there is no herd immunity as Covid-19 delta strain still spreads.

However, that does not rule out other possibilities as something at least reverses the ever increasing spread of Covid-19. Consider:

Both times there was a fall in case numbers that is not easy to correctly explain. For example, many people give credit to vaccines for the drop in cases in the USA, but examining the data clearly show the cases began falling prior to vaccinations reaching significant levels. Even though long term herd immunity through vaccination appears to be shown to be impossible, some level of short term immunity that prevents spread does seem to be possible. Either that, or the end of the coldest weather can cause a drop in case numbers.

While there are ways case numbers, even with delta, do fall, Covid-19 is not just going away by itself through herd immunity.

It Only Effects the Elderly.

It becomes convenient to adopt a belief that Covid-19 is a disease of ‘others’, and in this case, the elderly, negating the need for the young and healthy to isolate and making insistence they do isolate unnecessary and cruel.

Vaccines are a Silver Bullet.

Vaccines provide immunity that it was originally thought would result in herd immunity once vaccination targets were reached. There are still many messages, such as ‘vaccine passports’ suggesting that Covid-19 is over for those who are vaccinated. Now in the US, there are again recommendations of masks even for those who are vaccinated, but pandemic is constantly presented as a ‘pandemic of the unvaccinated’. In relative terms this may be true, but we may still find that even vaccinated cannot assume all is over.

We Just Have To Get Through Now.

Covid-19 has always been presented as something we must get through in order to be able to return to normal. That we can exists in any way near the previous normal without eradicating Covid-19 is still unclear, and rather than eradicate Covid-19, what I am hearing so far is plans for places where Covid-19 is currently eradicated to open up and allow the virus in.

The Challenge of Battle.

Lockdowns and Delta.

Australia is proving lockdowns with the delta strain are already difficult. How hard will it be it the virus continues to evolve?

Civil Unrest.

Much of society is completely frustrated with Covid-19 to the point that they demand and end to lockdowns, regardless of the consequences. Partly because lockdowns have prevented them seeing the consequences of no lockdowns. Generally, once the medical system breaks down, people then accept lockdowns, but that does nothing for eradication. Eradication requires lockdowns to continue even when cases are low until they are eliminated, and getting societies to accept that is extremely problematic.

Conclusion.

The real conclusion is that we do not yet know if we can live with Covid-19, yet no one seems to have plans to eradicate the virus in the longer term.

Vaccinations and Spread: The Dangerous Myth That Vaccinated People Don’t Spread Covid-19

Confirmation of reality: Extensive spread even if vaccinated.

A new study shows the Delta Covid-19 variant produced similar amounts of virus in vaccinated and unvaccinated people if they get infected.

CNN Health: July 2021

Note that once infected, the amount of virus is similar. This does not mean that spread is necessarily the same within a vaccinated group as within an unvaccinated group, as depending on how the ambiguous ‘infected’ is interpreted, there may be less risk of being ‘infected’ when vaccinated, and it is also possible that similar amounts of virus many not result is similar infectivity.

It is still most likely that being vaccinated reduces spread, but what is becoming clear is that reduction of spread appears far from elimination of spread. Given the delta strain is twice as infectious as the original, then unless being vaccinated means less than half the risk of spread following vaccination, a fully vaccinated population would experience as much spread of Covid-19 delta variant, as occurred within unvaccinated populations and the original virus.

People should still get vaccinated as it will massively reduce their own risk, and it still will like reduce the risk of spread to others, but being vaccinated is not a panacea or reason to abandon other measures.

We Know Elimination of Spread is a myth, but many pretend or even lie anyway.

There Is Clear Data on Spread Amongst Vaccinated.

While it is only recently we have studies showing just how infectious vaccinated people can be, it has long been clear that being vaccinated will not necessarily block infection. Examples of people being aware of the reality include the case of the UK health secretary, who under the rules for the UK went into lockdown despite having tested positive to Covid-19 despite being fully vaccinated. Note that the UK prime minister Boris Johnson, initially was going to not isolate despite being a close contact of the health minister because Boris Johnson is not only fully vaccinated but has also famously been previously infected, but Boris Johnson was forced to ‘backflip’ and go into isolation as scientific advice was that he could still not only be infected but also spread the virus.

Yet there are commercial interests that promote the fairy tale that “vaccinated people won’t spread the virus” because it can allow commercial activities that clearly, when facing reality, are life threatening if allowed on a large scale. Vaccine passports promoted as suggesting holders need not quarantine is just one example.

No Where has Herd Immunity been Achieved, despite vaccinations and case numbers.

Government Policy Based On Myths Could Be Tragic.

The Dangers of Subscribing To The Myth.

Unlike the myth of Santa Claus, where it can be said that telling people things you know are not true can be benign and yet make them happy, this myth is definitely dangerous.

The national news program last night declared that Australia would require 80% of the entire population to be vaccinated in order for life to be able to return to normal with the delta variant of Covid-19. The problem is, the data presented clearly completely unreal, and seems to assume zero fully vaccinated people become infected. So what is the reality? The reality is there will be no herd immunity at 80% vaccination levels, just reduced hospitalisations as a result of the vaccinations. Policy tells the population one thing, when reality is another. One people are convinced they cannot spread Covid-19 following vaccination, their behaviour is likely to be reckless. Unlike the Santa myth that is used to encourage good behaviour, this myth can also encourage bad behaviour.

Grattan Institute Report: Simplistic Statistical Lies.

It can seem simple. If in an unvaccinated population the virus spread to 5 people, once 80% (4 in 5) are vaccinated, then the spread will be to 1 person or less. ‘Herd Immunity’. Except this only works if vaccinated people cannot spread the virus. You would think, just weeks after the fully vaccinated UK health minister tested positive and need to in isolation, and his close contact, previously infected and vaccinated Prime Minister Boris Johnson went into lockdown, that thinktanks advising the Australian government would not the vaccinated people can be infected and potentially spread the disease.

In fact, with the UK at around 80% immunity levels once the effects of vaccinations and prior infections are both taken into account, guesswork is not required to see that infection numbers do rise even with 80% immunity, as it is happening in Britain. Herd immunity is not achieved, and the hope is that with sufficient people vaccinated, deaths will be low. However, deaths in Britain with 80% immunity are currently at around 100 per day, so the question as to whether that is ‘low enough’ and other consequences can be tolerated is still to be determine. However, but the time Australia does reach 80% immunity, then there will be more data.

Theoretical model that conflicts with real world data from the UK.

The question is how a group who advise government can predict that 80% will actually provide herd immunity, and that if there are outbreaks, as shown in the news article on 29 July 2021 on abc news, these outbreak would produce only around 10 deaths per outbreak is frightening. The UK has proven that as fully vaccinated people can still spread the virus, herd immunity is not achieved, and case numbers continue with deaths at levels many times those the models being used project.

No more lockdowns, no more capacity limits on venues, and that is the point as well when we can start opening up international borders.

Danielle Wood, Grattan Institute, on ABC news July 29, 2021.

This is a cause for concern, but at least the advice is not to open up before 80% levels, and hopefully by that time wise heads will prevail.

Update 17th August: Finally, Now the ABC also reports Herd Immunity does not appear possible.

Implications for Living With Covid-19.

There are choices as to what future countries aim for:

The problem created by the myth, is that if living with Covid-19 there will be very low rates of infection as everyone is vaccinated. The reality is that all evidence suggests that spread among vaccinated people of the delta strain is at least as prevalent as spread with unvaccinated people of the original Covid-19 virus.

Given that everyone locked down before hospitals overloaded with the original strain, the lower hospitalisation rate means we can expect the delta virus to spread to unprecedented levels with a vaccinated community. The positive news is that the chance of being hospitalised may be reduced by 90% to 95% as a result of being vaccinated.

However, as with the vaccinated health secretary, this ‘immunisation’ is against serious disease, not all disease. So over time, it seems certain everyone will have the disease ten or even twenty times. Which means, back to be hospitalised, although perhaps only after a year or two instead of first time around.

Conclusion.

Sorry, but like the pandemic, it is not over. But I will be trying to add a conclusion to this page soon,

Mid 2021: Eliminate it? Or ‘Live With’ Covid-19 and what follows?

Is China Responsible for Covid-19, or Scapegoat?

So far around 75% of countries who have lived with Covid19, most often not by choice, and around 25% of countries have lived in the shadow of Covid-19, but through elimination, mostly without Covid-19.

Vaccinations may allow living with Covid-19 to be more palatable, but they also provide an opportunity for more countries to eliminate Covid-19.

This raises a huge question of global significance: does humanity prefer to live with Covid-19, or use immunity through vaccinations as an opportunity to eliminate the virus.

What is ‘Living with Covid-19’?

Opening up when there will still be spread: Giving up on reaching herd immunity.

More and more the phase “we have to learn to live with Covid-19” seems to appear. The suggestion is, even if cases are rising, remove Covid-19 restrictions, and allow the virus to spread as a result. Since ‘herd immunity‘ is when there are sufficient people immune that a virus will not spread, this means removing restrictions without achieving herd immunity. This means giving up, or simply not waiting to achieve herd immunity through vaccinations.

Vaccines have promised the possibility of herd immunity through vaccinations, but given herd immunity is when cases do not rise even when restrictions are removed, this is a call to not for herd immunity. Why? There are 3 possible reasons:

  1. Everyone wanting a vaccine has been vaccinated, so it is considered fair to expose the unvaccinated.
  2. It has been decided herd immunity is impossible, but as with the common cold, the disease is not sufficiently severe to justify eradication.
  3. Even if herd immunity is possible, it has been determined that with the most at risk now vaccinated, it is an acceptable risk and lower cost to achieve herd immunity through exposing the rest of the population to the disease.

The UK seems to be choosing option 3, while Israel, even with a high level of vaccinations is reimposing restrictions as with their high level of vaccinations, cases are again rising.

Which path should a country choose? Or is Option 4: “Only remove all restrictions when the virus will no longer spread”, still an option? With herd immunity, even if a person from outside starts a cluster, that cluster would die out by itself because the spread factor has dropped below one. It seems no country is there yet.

Asymptomatic Spread: Will the waves just keep coming?

Theoretical practical flattened curve (blue bar is duration of flattening).

Early in the pandemic I wrote about the much misunderstood and misrepresented ‘best practice for pandemics’ referred to as ‘flattening the curve‘. In theory there would be only two waves: One with restrictions in place, and another after restrictions are relaxed.

Yet with Covid-19 many countries have seen more waves. Is this a sign that herd immunity is impossible with Covid-19, or just that we have not reached required vaccination levels?

Outbreaks with Covid-19 have not followed the script because:

  • lockdowns can be more effective than the theory expected, stopping instead of lowering spread
  • there is insufficient ‘herd immunity’ levels when re-opening, forcing the introduction of new measures to reduce spread

It is possible that with Covid-19, as being vaccinated reduces, rather than eliminates, the risk of spread, that herd immunity becomes impossible. The graph of worldwide cases has at least three peaks, but these were largely driven by peaks in the the US (Jan 2021), India (April 2021) and a current rise that must turn into a peak driven by many countries together, rather than the whole world having three peaks together.

More disturbingly the US, Israel, and Japan are all heading for their 5th peak, the UK its 4th. Many other countries have also had a sequence of peaks that would be expected from an outbreak managed using a ‘stop-go’ containment plan of continually deliberately letting cases rise in order to achieve herd immunity by infection. Instead of this being by design, all these countries again rising cases again now as a result of more infectious strains of the virus. Herd immunity is proving elusive, likely because with Covid-19, vaccination is may not create sufficient immunity for herd immunity.

The Case for elimination, and against living with Covid-19:

Blaming China won’t prevent outbreaks like Covid-19, and we can expect more pandemics.

It is popular to blame China for Covid-19. Trump even pointedly called it the ‘China virus’. However, perhaps blaming China is a way to avoid admitting that 21st century society is a hot bed for pandemics.

Really it, the evidence shows pandemics are becoming more frequent, and the most likely source of Covid-19, our 21st century society of almost 8 billion extremely mobile humans crowded onto one finite planet, it not going away and statistically will soon add another pandemic. It we don’t get ride of this one, we could soon have two to deal with at once. Should we just live with an ever increasing number of pandemic level viruses circulating?

UNESCO welcomes the release of the latest expert report from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) which establishes the links between biodiversity loss and the increase in pandemic risk factors. This scientific report highlights that the current COVID-19 crisis, which it has its origins in microbes carried by animals, and the previous global health pandemics all have one thing in common:  their emergence is entirely driven by human activities.

Unesco: 29/10/2020

Analysis of the origin of the virus does suggest China was the origin, but that given that no one blamed the 1918 flu on the USA, nor did they blame 2009 ‘swine flu’ pandemic on the USA, even though both appear to have began in the USA, blaming China just because that is where the first case occurred would seem a double standard.

Plus, the worst outbreak in Australia during 2020 clearly was imported from the US, and variants though to have originated in the UK, South Africa, Brazil and particularly India have taken over now as the source of concern. So why should we blame China?

We don’t blame the county where a virus starts because it could have happened anywhere.

Or could it have happened anywhere? Isn’t there a suggesting China is the ‘bad guy’ with this outbreak?

In reality. No. There is a slight chance bad management by China made the outbreak worse, and even a minute and highly unlikely chance accidentally released a virus that was already in nature and able to cause a pandemic, but even these unlikely scenarios do not change the underlying source: nature.

And it is not just my analysis, here is a review by the Sydney University scientist who was first in the world to isolate the virus: Leading biologists publish review of SARS-CoV-2 origin evidence – The University of Sydney

China gets blamed because it is good for social media, and good for politics, even in China!

Social media is gets engagement and thus revenue through outrage, and blaming China creates outrage against China, and outrage against those who blame China. Politically, leaders get better approval when there is an ‘enemy’, and blaming China allows American leaders to appear strong against China, and having the world blame China allows Chinese leaders to position China as being oppressed by the west and generate increased nationalism. Perhaps politically it is Chinese leaders who benefit most from China being blamed.

But none of this changes the reality, that there is a reason people where waring of just such a pandemic, and they were even movies about the scenario just before it happened: human society has created the breeding ground for pandemics.

And if we ‘live’ with this pandemic causing virus, we cannot be at all sure it will remain the only one we are living with at once.

Living with Covid-19 is not like living with another influenza: Its far, far worse.

Earlier this month, the Australian government announced a four-phase plan to return us to something resembling normality. Under this plan, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said, we will eventually treat COVID-19 “like the flu”.

The hope is vaccines will allow us to live with some transmission without many people getting seriously ill or dying.

But death and hospitalisation aren’t the only outcomes of COVID-19 we need to prevent. New research shows even young people can be left with chronic health problems after infection.

COVID-19 will always be a very different disease to the flu. We should aim to stamp it out like measles, not let it spread.

Dr Zoë Hyde: Epidemiologist, University of Western Australia.

I suggest reading the full article by Dr Zoë Hyde entitled: No, we can’t treat COVID-19 like the flu. We have to consider the lasting health problems it causes. In fact, since it is under creative commons, republish the article.

While there are politicians who suggest that, once the population is sufficiently vaccinated, Covid-19 could become “like the flu”, this is unrealistic claim is typically by those politicians have found the pandemic has improved their chances or re-election, and not something an actual expert would say.

The UK has not reached target levels of vaccination, but when considering most of the unvaccinated in the UK are in age groups of greatest socialisation and least likely to have shown symptoms if infected, the percentage of the population who are likely to have immunity is likely to be close to the maximum percentage that would be achieved by population alone. Despite this, many warn of the consequences of deciding to ‘live with’ Covid-19.

Without elimination, we are ramping up the virus incubator: a completely batty idea.

The most common source of pandemics are viruses that evolve in bats. So many viruses evolve in bats because bats have live with a lot of viruses. Humans living with Covid-19, means another population living with a dangerous virus, and therefore another factory to produce new viruses. The total number of bats in the world is unknown, but even if it does exceed the number of humans, human contact between humans is far higher than human contact with bats. Plus, a vaccinated population living with a virus is like a challenge to evolution “solve the problem of how to thrive in vaccinated hosts”.

Even living with Covid-19 in just 2021 poses a threat of creating ‘variant factories‘.

The chance of future pandemics will be far higher if we are living with dangerous viruses in the not just the bat population, but also the human population.

Living with Covid-19 the virus may mean a partially brain damaged population.

Being vaccinated means statistically means exposure to the virus in the vast majority of cases will not result in symptoms, however this does not mean zero copies of the virus, and does not ensure a person will not test positive or suffer ‘long covid’.

Coronavirus (Covid-19) cases in the UK are soaring, with the latest daily figure for 9 July showing at 35,707 cases. Leading scientists and clinicians are saying the government’s plan to ease lockdown on 19 July is both “dangerous” and “unethical”. But Johnson is sticking to his plan, which is herd immunity in all but name. Meanwhile, recent studies reveal that damage to brain tissue could be yet another consequence of long Covid.

Boris Johnson toys with herd immunity despite evidence linking long Covid to brain damage.

I do not believe the above article is suggesting Boris Johnson has brain damage as a result of his well know case of Covid-19, but there is the suggestion that opening up the UK is somewhat irrational. Then again, while only a small percentage of the electorate would have brain damage after 1 year of Covid-19, it is unknown how high that percentage would be after 10 or 20 years of a population living with Coivd-19. Apart from jokes about how a brain damaged population may help some political candidates, there is a serious side to the dangers of a long term experiment exposing the population to a dangerous virus, year after year, even if respiratory symptoms are known to be in almost all cases at the worst very mild in vaccinated people, when other affects are not yet known.

Children, currently not even vaccinated, could be subjected year after year for their entire lifetime.

Economic Cost of Living with Covid-19.

Start with the economic cost of influenza, which in the US alone in 2014 was estimated at more than $87 billion dollars annually.

Covid-19 is far worse. Firstly, except when everyone is social distancing and having some degree of lockdown, the rate of mortality and hospitalisation is higher than with influenza. Data for delta suggests at least 10x higher, which by itself would raise the cost just in the US to $870 billion, and that is before considering the cost of ‘long covid’, of vaccinating the entire population repeatedly, and trying to prevent outbreaks from vaccine resistant strains. Even in the best possible scenario, living with Covid-19 would be extremely costly, and the costs would continue year after year, while if Covid-19 is eliminated, annual costs would also be eliminated.

The ‘Flu’ is not that great to live with either, why would be want another worse version?

The Influenza virus mutates so frequently that it is more difficult to vaccinate against than Covid-19. With vaccines, we can lower the illness and mortality levels from Covid-19 to be comparable to those with influenza. But this is not like for like, this is that after vaccinating the entire population, we still have what is quite a big problem. Influenza and not something we want to live with either, and researchers are working to try find way to eradicate influenza, not add another problem just as bad.

It would be far better to ask “can we also eradicate influenza”, than “it is ok to have another one”.

The case for living with Covid-19, and against elimination.

Elimination is too hard.

Approximately 25% of the countries in the world have managed to eliminate the spread of Covid-19. Given that means it has been circulating in 75% of countries, which makes it impossible to ensure not a single infected virus arrives with international travellers to those 25% of countries without local spread. As Covid-19 enters a countries without local spread over and over again, Covid-19 outbreaks keep happening, and to the virus must be eliminated over and over again to return to be a country with elimination.

This proves many locations have over and over again proven it is possible to eliminate Covid-19. The problem in keeping Covid-19 eliminated, is that the majority of other countries are not yet even close or trying to eliminate Covid-19, so international travellers continue to re-introduce the virus.

Economic Cost of Elimination.

So elimination, at least so far, has been possible.

The next main argument against elimination, and for living with Covid-19, is that elimination is too costly. Elimination requires the use of lockdowns, and these reduce economic activity. While living with the disease comes at cost to society and has an economic cost, a disease can even generate economic activity, while lockdowns used for elimination also eliminate economic activity and increase the enemy of economic activity: unpaid work.

Similarly, during lockdown during a pandemic, even if the same number of meals are eaten during the lockdown, if none of the meals are purchased at a restaurant, the result is a disaster for the economy.

On the other hand, if a pandemic makes retired people ill, there is increased economic activity through the medical services. If some die, then there is economic activity for the funeral system, although this is better there are no limits on people attending.

Economic Activity vs Wealth Production.

The Richest and Most Powerful are better off with a pandemic.

Note also that while a long pandemic may cause economic hardship for many, the wealthiest 5% of society tend to get wealthy during a pandemic. There are some very wealthy people with big marketing budgets who will lose wealth if Covid-19 is eliminated.

The combined worth of Australian billionaires was assessed to be 52.4% higher this week than at the same time last December.

By comparison, billionaires in the US and UK recorded an increase of about 25% over the same period, the Bloomberg index shows.

The Labor frontbencher Andrew Leigh said the figures “remind us of the importance of tackling inequality, which is significantly higher in Australia than it was a generation ago”.

“Those increases are remarkable,” the shadow assistant minister for Treasury and charities told Guardian Australia.

“Any of your readers would be punching the air if they had enjoyed a 20% increase in their wealth, and they would be double fist-pumping the air if they had a 50% increase, and yet that’s the story for the typical Australian billionaire.”

Australia’s billionaires became 50% richer during pandemic: Guardian (msn alt link)

Australia mid 2021: A Case study and experiment in elimination.

Overview.

I will update this as the story unfold, but as previous described in July 2021: Vaccines or not, its not over yet, Australia has recently had an a new outbreak of the delta variant of Covid-19. Eliminating the delta virus, in a population with only less than 9% level of vaccination, and in a country where a greater percentage of the population living in cities than in the USA or UK, will be a challenge that has never before been tackled. However if this can be managed, than most other countries should be able to also managed elimination, at least once vaccination rates are higher.

With individual case history traced in Australia due to the current low infection numbers, data will be revealed about the spread of the delta variant that has not been possible to collect from previous outbreaks.

This outbreak started in a country previously free of local transmission of the virus, from a single case of infection of a driver transporting international flight crews to their hotels in Sydney. One of more flight crew passengers must have passed the infection of the delta strain through to the driver.

Up to July 16th.

In the fully open city of Sydney, the driver visiting shopping centres and other venues before having symptoms and getting tested. This triggered an outbreak predominantly in the eastern suburbs of Sydney which after two weeks of ‘whack a mole’ resulted in a lockdown for Sydney. ‘Whack a mole’ because by the time the outbreak in the Eastern Suburbs appeared was under control, there was a new outbreak in the South Western suburbs of Sydney. Following the first case being detected on June 17th, there was a delay of 9 days until the first lockdown began, possibly to first allow the school term to complete. Initially the lockdown was to last 2 weeks and end before school returned, but this was extended due to that ‘whack a mole’ effect seeing cases rise in the second location even during the light lockdown.

Then 3 infected removalists travelled to Melbourne and were part of spreading the virus to Australia’s second largest city, before travelling to a third state capital, Adelaide. Before the spread to Melbourne was detected, the worst had already happened, and infected person had infected others at a crowded football match.

Now on July 16th, over 8 million Australians, in the cities of Sydney and Melbourne are in lockdown.

2021: July 24th.

Crowds at protest
Protesters have been chanting for “freedom”.(ABC News: Timothy Swanston)

On July 24th, with the highest number of Covid-19 cases so far, a protest down Broadway to the centre of city town hall took place. With an outspoken far right contingent in Sydney, the prospect of civil disobedience such as this managing to prevent a lockdown achieving results is very real. Protesters protesting a lockdown, yet at the same time making lockdown inevitable is potential perfect storm. Early stage, but this could become very serious.

Some protesters brought their children, while few people were wearing face masks at the demonstration, which started at Victoria Park in Camperdown.

Protesters carried signs saying “Wake up Australia” and waved Australian flags.

NSW Police received an application for the protest, which was rejected.

Sydney anti-lockdown protest chaos as NSW COVID-19 crisis deteriorates

Much depends on whether the march will turn out to be a super-spreader event, and that could turn out to depend on whether people who knew they were infected would attend with nefarious intent.

On July 17th, the same day the NSW government strengthened lockdown measures the Populations Intervention Unit at the University of Melbourne released modelling. On interactive graph, it shows cases to peak at 198 on July 27th under the worst case scenario. Of course, modelling did not anticipate protest marches impacting the outcome, but even prior to any such effect latest trends risk exceeding the worst case scenario, with 163 cases from July 23 (below the projected worst case outcome), representing an above worst case rise in infection numbers from the previous day, but could be an aberation.

By State: (data sourced from ABC.net.au).

New South Wales
Brad Hazzard urges Fairfield residents to avoid passing the virus to famiy and friends
NSW health minister Brad Hazzard said the state had recorded 163 locally acquired cases over the last 24 hours and 45 were infectious while in the community. (News Video)

New South Wales registered a record 163 new locally acquired today, including one death. 

At least 45 of the cases were infectious while in the community. 

The man who died was in his 80s and lived in Sydney’s south-west.

In a sometimes emotional press conference, Health Minister Brad Hazzard pleaded with other states to donate doses of the Pfizer vaccine.

States including Victoria and South Australia rejected the same plea yesterday.

“Last time I looked, we were a Commonwealth — we worked together, and it disturbs me that all we’ve ever done to work together has just seemingly been cast aside,” he said. 

Sydney’s stay at home orders are being extended, with the Cumberland and Blacktown LGAs now included. That means only authorised workers can leave those areas. Mr Hazzard said the worst-hit areas were mostly in Sydney’s west and south-west. 

“[It’s] transmission particularly as a result of family members getting together when they just should not be getting together. We also are seeing transmission in shops and in other workplaces, ” he said.

Earlier, more venues were added to the list of COVID-19 exposure sites across New South Wales. You can see the full list here.

Victoria
An individual dressed in protective gear cleaning inside a market.
Cleaners were brought to the Prahran Market in Melbourne for deep clean after it was designated as a tier 1 exposure site this week.(ABC News: Darryl Torpy)

Twelve new locally acquired cases were recorded today, 10 of them were in quarantine for their entire infectious period.

Five cases are linked to the AAMI Park outbreak, three to Ms Frankie’s restaurant in Cremorne and two to an apartment complex in Richmond.

Health Minister Martin Foley said the decrease in daily cases was a positive sign the lockdown was working and could be lifted next week, if the trend continued.

Victoria has also introduced a travel permit system designating areas across Australia and New Zealand as green, orange, red or extreme risk zones.

The change came into effect at midnight, with New South Wales declared an extreme risk zone.

It means those entering Victoria under that classification without an exemption will be put on a return flight or placed into 14 days mandatory hotel quarantine.

Anyone who attempts to enter Victoria illegally faces fines of more than $5,000.

Another 400 exposure sites, mostly in Melbourne’s city centre and inner-east, were also added to the exposure site list overnight. 

South Australia

South Australia has recorded one new case of COVID-19 today, and it’s linked to other cases at a winery north-east of Adelaide.

The person was in quarantine, and it brings the state’s total in the current outbreak to 16.

Premier Steven Marshall said the state was on track to come out of lockdown next week.

Mr Marshall said repatriation flights scheduled to arrive in Adelaide on Monday and Tuesday would be cancelled. 

Queensland

Queensland has recorded zero new locally acquired COVID-19 cases today, although contract tracing will continue amid an alert involving a flight attendant. 

The Brisbane woman in her thirties tested positive on Thursday and was potentially infectious while working on QantasLink flights to-and-from Longreach, Gladstone and Hervey Bay on the 11th and 12th of July. 

The woman has the Delta strain which is circulating in Sydney.

Western Australia

Western Australia has recorded no new COVID-19 cases today.

WA Health are still monitoring 9 active cases: eight cases remain aboard the BBC California currently berthed at Fremantle Port and one case is in hotel quarantine.

ACT, Northern Territory & Tasmania.

There have been no new cases of COVID-19 reported in the ACT, Northern Territory or Tasmania today.

UK – Mid 2021, A Case Study and Experiment on Living with Covid-19.

Fully Vaccinated? Still Potentially Infectious.

The start was frightening. As if proof that being fully vaccinated does not prevent disease, it was revealed on July 172021, that the UK minister for health minster had tested positive and went into quarantine. To add to the confusion, the UK prime minister, Boris Johnson who has previously been infected and fully vaccinated but is a close contact of the health minister, initially stated he would not enter quarantine only to ‘backflip’ and later announce he would enter quarantine.

This also fits with data from Australia of cases on the rise among fully vaccinated people. Note that hospitalisation of fully vaccinated people is dramatically reduced.

According to UK data released last month, two doses of Pfizer and AstraZeneca are respectively 96% and 92% effective against hospitalisation from the Delta variant.

The Guardian, July 16th 2021.

Case For Optimism?

Unlike Belgium, where just a week after opening cases surged and the country went almost immediately back into lockdown, in the UK cases since the 19th of July, the end lockdown date, have fallen. On the other side, deaths have risen to around 100 per day.

more to be added as July data is complete.

Conclusion.

‘Ending’ this pandemic by ‘living with’ Covid-19 does not feel like a true ‘end’, and despite the China origin theories, the risk of more pandemics to follow is very real, and leave humanity accruing a collection of diseases requiring periodic vaccination.

To me, it seems like yet another case where global governance is required for a true real world solution.

(more to be added as the experiment is evaluated)

July 2021: Vaccines or Not, Its Not Over Yet.

  • June/July 2021: Covid-19 may seem to be under control- but we are not there yet.
  • The World Picture: Snapshots Of Instability.
    • India: First Impact Site of Delta, and a dramatic recovery?
    • UK: Reopening, seriously?
    • US: A mystery to the decline in cases?
    • Israel: 80% immunity and still not enough!
    • Japan: A problem Olympics.
  • So Where Are We Now? Vaccines don’t mean it is over!
    • Vaccination Levels by Country.
    • Pandemic Severity By Country: July 2021.
    • Vaccination can even make things worse?
  • Alternative Strategies: Should we just live with the virus?
Continue reading “July 2021: Vaccines or Not, Its Not Over Yet.”

Australia in the Pandemic: Eye of the storm?

This is a snapshot of the pandemic as of March 2021, looking at what life is like in Sydney Australia, and looking out at the world.

The most recent case of a person infected in NSW , the state with Sydney as its capital, outside of quarantine was on March 17th and was a person working with arrivals in quarantine. In this case, the person infected was asymptomatic, and was the first case in 50 days. The general picture in NSW, and Australia in general, is that cases of Covid-19 are very rare right now. Is this the end of the pandemic, or the calm before the storm?

Continue reading “Australia in the Pandemic: Eye of the storm?”

Vaccines, yes, some stories are too good to be true.

I have been following Covid-19 since January 2020 I felt the world too complacent, through to today March 17 2021, when I now fear there may be too much faith in vaccines. Israel has been at the forefront of vaccination, and should provide an early indicator of what to expect. So today I thought I would check on the latest from Israel. What I found sounded almost unbelievable good! Until I realised, yes, it should not be believed. The data is presented in a very misleading way.

Continue reading “Vaccines, yes, some stories are too good to be true.”

Vaccines: Another Covid-19 Mistake, plus > 5,000 deaths

It is already January 20 here, but in the US, it is still very early in the morning, and the inauguration of President Biden awaits. So does the release of Covid-19 statistics for the day, and although numbers may be delayed until tomorrow, the US will likely record a tragic daily record of over 5,000 deaths in a day for the first time. Worldwide, over 2 million deaths. Why? Partly due to mistakes, and yet another looks set to occur with vaccines.

Continue reading “Vaccines: Another Covid-19 Mistake, plus > 5,000 deaths”

Covid-19 in 2021: Threat of Dangerous Assumptions.

2020 is regarded by many as ‘anus horribilis’. Enter 2021 and the hope for better, however dangerous assumptions, including that with a vaccines and a new year all will be fine, create a very real threat that 2021 may be no better than 2020.

We come into 2021 armed with vaccines, but with Covid-19 case levels higher than ever. Much has been learnt since I first wrote back in January 2020 how the then unnamed new coronavirus would very likely take the world on a wild ride.

Continue reading “Covid-19 in 2021: Threat of Dangerous Assumptions.”

Sport and the Precarious Australian Open

Current Australia is one of places in the world where you are least likely to become infected with Covid-19.

Keeping it that way, is extremely difficult when a significant percentage of international arrivals can bring the virus into a country only enduring cursory changes to lifestyle in the face of the pandemic. The fragile freedom from Covid-19 is only maintained by extreme vigilance at the borders, and aggressive action when infections do break through.

There is a Christmas gathering of perhaps 8 people I am scheduled to attend in area outside of the lockdown, but even that event is now threated as a result of less so far 30 local transmission cases in country of 25 million. This is because in the last few days, cases of virus within the community of Sydney, a city of 5 million people, have risen from zero, to numbers of less than 20 infections per day. In response, a large percentage of the city has entered compulsory lockdown, and the rest of the city is on voluntary lockdown.

Further, there is now bad news from Great Britain, which could offset any reductions in viral spread from a vaccine, and make current lockdown measures ineffective, is that there is a strain of Covid-19 which is even more infectious. It is a very precarious time.

It must be said that the Australian Open, scheduled to take place just over one month from now is looking quite precarious! Perhaps the only viable solution is actually even more tennis in Australia?

Continue reading “Sport and the Precarious Australian Open”

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