This blog posting represents the views of the author, David Fosberry. Those opinions may change over time. They do not constitute an expert legal or financial opinion.

If you have comments on this blog posting, please email me .

The Opinion Blog is organised by threads, so each post is identified by a thread number ("Major" index) and a post number ("Minor" index). If you want to view the index of blogs, click here to download it as an Excel spreadsheet.

Click here to see the whole Opinion Blog.

To view, save, share or refer to a particular blog post, use the link in that post (below/right, where it says "Show only this post").

Round-up of Covid-19 news.

Posted on 2nd June 2022

Show only this post
Show all posts in this thread (Covid-19).
Risk Of Infection
Covid Risk of reinfection by month

This article on The Huffington Post includes an interesting graph (shown to the right) of how one's risk of reinfection with Covid-19 increases over time (from the last infection, or presumably, from the date of one's last vaccination).

This article on Salon reports on a study which shows that vaccination against Covid-19 reduces the risk of infection by only 15%!

This article on Fortune reports on the 5th wave of Covid-19 in South Africa, which was predominantly the Omicron variant, which happened even though 97% of the population had antibody protection (either from vaccination or previous infection).

Side-Effects of Covid

One of the possible side-effects of Covid-19 is type 2 diabetes (which is why I am now diabetic). Studies (e.g. this one, published on BMJ.com) have shown that vitamin D deficiency increases the risk of serious illness from the coronavirus, and that treatment with vitamin D supplements can reduce the severity and duration of illness. This report on by Medical News Today looks into the use of vitamin D supplements for treating type 2 diabetes; although the results of studies are mixed, it suggests to me that the coronavirus may interfere with the body's vitamin D metabolism to cause type 2 diabetes.

Also on Medical News Today is this report which suggests (a causative link has not yet been proven) that Covid-19 can cause long-term (maybe even permanent) thyroid dysfunction, which could cause a wide range of knock-on health effects.

Round-up of Covid-19 news.

Posted on 15th April 2022

Show only this post
Show all posts in this thread (Covid-19).
Relaxed Regulations

Countries in the EU continue to relax Covid-related travel restrictions, as reported here on Schengen Visa Info.

Germany has done away with the requirement for infected people and their direct contacts to quarantine, as reported here by Reuters. Instead, there is now "isolation", which is only for the people infected, and only for 5 days. The country has also relaxed the mask requirement in most shops (although not on public transport), as reported by Deutsche Welle.

Immunity

The chances of achieving immunity seems to have evaporated. As new more-infectious variants emerge and take hold, which can infect even fully vaccinated and recovered people, scientists are starting to realise that Covid is here to stay, and the best we can do is to limit the severity and and number of infections.

Having said that, new research, reported here on Healthline, has shown that a combination of double or triple vaccination and infection with Covid provides fairly good protection, although not complete immunity.

Also, this Israeli study, reported by Haaretz shows that a 4th vaccine dose cuts severe illness rates by three times compared to the triple-vaccinated.

Protection

Despite all the disinformation and conspiracy theories about mask wearing, new research, reported here on The Jerusalem Post, shows that a combination of social distancing by six feet, universal mask-wearing, and increased room ventilation provides protection against infection by Covid in 98% of cases.

More worrying is that fact that the various Omicron variants are infectious before they are detectable with tests, and before symptoms are apparent, as reported by the Los Angeles Times. This makes it very difficult for people to protect themselves and others.

Treatment

A recent study has shown that sabizabulin, a new oral medication from pharmaceutical company Veru has the potential to cut the virus’s mortality rate in half for moderate and severe cases, as reported by Fortune. The study was so successful that researchers stopped the trial early.

Effects of Covid-19

This report on the New Scientist (scroll down to the 7th April entry) describes the huge increase in the risk of blood clots after a Covid infection: a 33-fold increase of lung clots within a month of being infected and a 5-fold increase in the risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) within 3 months of infection. This BBC report states that a higher risk of blood clots persists for at least 6 months.

Round-up of Covid-19 news.

Posted on 13th February 2022

Show only this post
Show all posts in this thread (Covid-19).
Relaxed Travel Regulations

Countries are gradually accepting that the Omicron variant, despite being much more infectious, is less dangerous, at least for vaccinated people. As a result, various nations are adapting their control strategies, based on the number of Covid-19 hospital admissions, rather than the number of infections, and relaxing travel restrictions:

Long Covid

Anecdotal evidence (based on the experience of only two patients) suggests that over-the counter antihistamines, commonly used to treat allergies such as hay fever, can alleviate the symptoms of long Covid, as reported here by Science Alert. It is not clear whether this is a cure, or whether one would need to keep taking the medications to remain symptom-free.

Woman's World suggests that the herb rosemary may also help in dealing with long covid (personally, I am not a great believer in herbal remedies, but if you are suffering from long covid, it is probably worth trying).

The BBC reports that some people suffering from long covid have serious hidden lung damage.

Side-Effects of Covid-19

New Atlas reports a "massive analysis of health records has revealed recovered COVID-19 patients are at a significantly higher risk of cardiovascular complications in the year following an acute infection.

Ivermectin

Market Watch reports of the saga of falsified data behind some people's false belief that ivermectin is effective in treating Covid-19.

Round-up of Covid-19 news.

Posted on 3rd January 2022

Show only this post
Show all posts in this thread (Covid-19).
Tougher Travel Regulations

International travel continues to get more difficult.

The BBC reports that, from the 10th January, the UAE (United Arab Emirates) will ban citizens who have not had three doses of a vaccine against Covid-19 from travelling abroad. As of the 24th of December only 34% had received the booster jab.

Schengen Visa Info reports that all people arriving in Czechia (the Czech Republic) from other countries, irrespective of their vaccination status, must undergo a COVID-19 PCR test, starting from 27th of December.

Also on Schengen Visa Info, Norway will, from 20th of December, require arrivals from Romania, the Azores and some regions of Italy, Finland & Sweden to quarantine.

Again, on Schengen Visa Info, from the 21st of December, all arrivals in Sweden from the EU and EEA countries are required to present proof of COVID-19 vaccination, recovery from the illness within the previous six months, or negative results of a test performed in the last 72 hours before arrival.

Also on Schengen Visa Info, the EU has announced that it is limiting the validity of COVID-19 Vaccination Certificates to only 9 Months (270 days), effective from the 1st of February 2022.

Yet again, on Schengen Visa Info, “All travellers from the age of 12 years from outside the EU/Schengen need to provide a negative COVID-19 test result for travel to the Netherlands. This needs to be a NAAT/PCR test with the sample taken a maximum of 48 hours before departure or an antigen test with the sample taken a maximum of 24 hours before departure. This includes travellers with proof of vaccination or recovery”.

Other Health Regulations

DW (Deutsche Welle) reports that Germany will limit private gatherings after Christmas, to dissuade people from holding and attending large New Year's Eve celebrations. Specifically, a maximum of 10 people who have been vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19 will be allowed to attend a private gathering. In cases when an unvaccinated person is present, only one other household will be allowed to attend. The new participation limits will apply to both indoor and outdoor celebrations. Access to restaurants remains limited to people who can provide proof of vaccination or recovery. From the 28th of December, spectators will be banned from sporting events, cultural shows, concerts and other large public events. All this is in addition to the general ban on fireworks, on both Germany and the Netherlands, announced in December.

Vaccines

The BBC reports that Israel, which has from the beginning of the pandemic been ahead of the curve, is starting to give a fourth dose of vaccine to over 60s.

The New Scientist reports that the protection against the Omicron variant provided by the Oxford/AstraZeneca, Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines begins to wane within 10 weeks. This is likely to mean that everyone will need to have even more frequent boosters (Germany has already reduced the recommended interval from 6 months to 5 months, and will probably reduce it even more in the coming months).

Variants

The Delta and Omicron variants have already supplanted other variants almost everywhere, with Omicron now out-competing Delta.

The BBC reports a summary of the mix of good news and bad news about Omicron.

The BBC reports that the Omicron variant is milder than previous variants. This risk of hospitalisation if you catch Omicron is 30% to a 70% reduced (the 70% figure applies to fully vaccinated people), but there is double the chance of catching it.

Natural Immunity

The Daily Mail reports that some (a very few) people seem to be naturally immune, even without vaccination or previous infection. Obviously, scientists are very interested in this phenomenon. It would be nice to know how this immunity works, and to be able to use it as the basis of a vaccine or treatment, but that seems a long way off.

Treatments and Prevention

This report on New Atlas describes the growing scandal and disappointment surrounding molnupiravir, a drug developed by Merck and issued emergency use authorisation by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Now the FDA is calling the authorisation the "worst decision in its history". Molnupiravir’s Phase 3 data revealed a stark drop in efficacy, down to levels bordering on insignificant. There are also now questions about the drug’s safety. Luckily, there are alternative treatments.

This report on the BBC describes a trial by Australian researchers to see whether squirting a blood thinner into the nose could offer protection against Covid. The nasal spray uses the cheap drug heparin in an attempt to neutralise Covid's spike protein. The heparin in the nasal spray is not absorbed into the bloodstream, so there are no blood-thinning side-effects from using the spray. When sprayed into the nose of a Covid-infected person it appears to make them non-infectious, the researchers say.

Comments (test - under development):
dfosberry@gmx.net 29/1/2022 An, excellent summary; thanks.
dave.fosberry@gmail.com 30/1/2022 When is the next Covid-19 round-up coming?
Round-up of Covid-19 news.

Posted on 8th December 2021

Show only this post
Show all posts in this thread (Covid-19).

There has been an avalanche of Covid news in the last few days, so I thought I should post another update.

Tougher Health Regulations

This update on Schengen Visa Info reports that, from January 2022, Czechia (previously known as the Czech Republic) is reducing the validity of COVID-19 vaccination certificates to only nine months. Croatia and Austria have taken similar action.

This article on the BBC reports that Italy has toughened restrictions for unvaccinated people, making many public activities off limits to anyone without a so-called Covid Super Green Pass from Monday this week.

The city of New York has mandated that all New Yorkers must be vaccinated in order to go to work, as reported here by the BBC.

Vaccines

There is very mixed data on the effectiveness of the various vaccines against the Omicron variant. The BBC reports, here, that the WHO have said that existing vaccines should still protect people who contract the Omicron variant from severe Covid cases, although laboratory tests of the new variant in South Africa suggest it can partially evade the Pfizer jab, as reported here by The Daily Mail. This report on Science.org gives similar data.

The Guardian reports, here, that following a first dose of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine with a second dose of either the Moderna or the Novavax immunisation yields far higher levels of neutralising antibodies and T-cells compared with two doses of the AstraZeneca jab. This CNN report describes similar results with a Johnson & Johnson booster vaccination followed by the Pfizer jab. This supports previous data on mixing vaccines brands.

This report on The Guardian gives us an idea of which people are not vaccinated in the UK.

New Variants

There is some preliminary data suggesting that the Omicron variant, although much more infectious, leads to less severe illness (here, on New Atlas) and that Omicron is rapidly displacing Delta and other variants (here, on City A.M.). If this turns out to be true, it would bear out predictions by some experts that Covid-19 will become more like the 'flu or common cold: endemic and less severe.

This article on Gloucestershire Live warns that the symptoms of the Omicron variant are different to those of other variants, and explains how to spot if you have caught it.

Social Distancing and Masks

This article on Digg reports on an interesting study on the effectiveness of social distancing and masks in preventing Covid-19 infections. The conclusion is that social distancing alone is ineffective, but that wearing a mask is much better, and wearing a mask as well as social distancing gives very high levels of protection.

The Unvaccinated

This sad, but rather unsurprising, story on the Stoke Sentinel reports on a UK woman whose baby died of Covid-19 shortly after birth, because the woman decided not to get vaccinated. That is the price of believing disinformation: Darwinism in action.

Round-up of Covid-19 news.

Posted on 4th December 2021

Show only this post
Show all posts in this thread (Covid-19).
Tougher Health Regulations

This BBC article reports that Ireland is closing nightclubs and the hospitality sector faces tighter rules over Christmas as the government tries to curb the spread of Covid-19. Indoor events such as concerts and sports fixtures must operate at no more than 50% capacity and private home visits must involve no more than four households.

Germany is, as reported by the BBC, barring the unvaccinated from much of public life: restaurants, cinemas, leisure facilities and many shops. Angela Merkel also recently said, in a speech, that there could be a national vaccine mandate in Germany from February 2022.

This update on Schengen Visa Info describes tighter restrictions on travel to EU countries, especially for the unvaccinated.

Vaccines

Pfizers's chief executive Dr. Albert Bourla was recently speaking to the BBC (before the discovery of the Omicron variant). He said that we will probably need annual Covid jabs for years to come (as I predicted back in 2020), as with the 'flu shot.

Dr Bourla also said that Pfizer had already developed updated vaccines in response to the Beta and Delta variants, but that they had not been needed. The company is now working on an updated vaccine that will be more effective against the Omicron variant that could be ready in 100 days (which is pretty impressive).

One of the problems with Pfizers's vaccine, especially for developing nations, has always been the need for it to be stored at -70°C, but within a month or so, Pfizer says it will roll out a new formulation of the vaccine that can be stored for three months in a normal fridge, which Dr Bourla said, would make a "huge difference" for sub-Saharan African countries.

New Variants

This piece on the BBC discusses whether low rates of vaccinations could be responsible for the emergence of the new Omicron variant. The opinion seems to be that there is not yet enough evidence to prove the case, but that it seems likely. In a population of totally unvaccinated people, mutations of the coronavirus confer little advantage; in a population with high vaccination rates, virus transmission rates are greatly reduced which limits the opportunity for mutation; but in a population with low to medium vaccination rates there is plenty of opportunity for mutations to arise (because transmission rates are still high) and mutations confer advantages to the virus. So, you unvaccinated people are probably responsible for the Delta, Delta+ and Omicron variants.

Round-up of Covid-19 news.

Posted on 29th November 2021

Show only this post
Show all posts in this thread (Covid-19).
Tougher Health Regulations

Covid-19 continues to rampage across Europe, causing most nations to toughen their control regulations:

  • Travel restrictions have been tightened almost everywhere, and flights from some countries have been stopped;
  • Restaurants, bars and entertainment venues now require proof of vaccination or recovery in many countries (a negative test is no longer enough), and some countries, such as the Netherlands, have ordered restaurants and cafes to close;
  • Austria introduced a full national lockdown from 22nd November, and has introduced a legal requirement for its residents to be vaccinated from 1st February 2022.

In answer to those people who feel that lockdowns and vaccine mandates impinge on their rights and freedoms, the Austrian Chancellor said in a recent speech that "You don’t only have rights, you have obligations". Well said!

Vaccines

As many nations roll out booster vaccinations, this article on The Daily Beast reports on several studies which conclude that, at least in the case of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, people should have been given three doses to have full protection (in other words, the third dose should not be seen as a booster at all). This is similar to the conclusion that the Johnson & Johnson is not, after all, a one shot vaccine, but requires two doses for full protection.

Other studies have shown that you are better protected if you mix vaccination types, e.g. two shots of Pfizer and one shot of Moderna.

Treatments

New treatments continue to emerge.

This report on Euronews describes a nasal spray, currently in trials, which is very effective in preventing infection by the coronavirus.

This report on Science Alert describes a new antiviral (thapsigargin), also still undergoing trials, which is very effective against the SARS-CoV-2 virus, in all its variants.

Both of the above will take a while to pass their tests and, if they pass, to become available, but are a good sign of progress.

New Variants

The world is mainly focused on the Delta variant of Covid-19, but Delta+ is already with us, and in the last few days news has come about the Omicron variant (reported on here, by the BBC), which seems to be even more dangerous. It has a total of 50 mutations, with more than 30 of them on the spike protein. The spike protein is the part of the virus that all our current vaccines target, leading to concerns that our vaccines will be less effective against Omicron.

Europe Battens Down Against Covid-19.

Posted on 17th November 2021

Show only this post
Show all posts in this thread (Covid-19).
.

The information in this post is taken from the Schengen Visa Info New web-site, this report on The BBC, this report on The BBC, this report on The Financial Times, this report on Orillia Matters and other sources.

In summary, cases are rising all across Europe. Hospital beds are either full or filling up fast, and governments have realised that they need to take firm action quickly. Even the UK, which was feeling rather cocky due to falling case numbers a week ago, has experience an uptick.

Travel rules have been tightened all across Europe, with more countries being added to the red-lists of many nations, and stricter entry requirements for vaccination or tests.

Austria has imposed a lockdown for its two million unvaccinated citizens.

The Netherlands has started a nationwide lockdown, with non-essential shops being closed, and earlier closing times for all shops.

In Germany, where Covid regulations are set by each state (Lände) government, many are considering bringing in lockdowns for the unvaccinated, and FFP2 masks are again required to enter shops or use public transport (for a while, ordinary medical masks were sufficient). Many public venues, bars and restaurants will only allow people who are vaccinated or recently recovered (a recent negative test is no longer enough): the so-called 2G (geimpft or geheilt) rule instead of the 3G (geimpft, geheilt or getestet) rule.

Many nations are now encouraging their citizens to get a booster jab.

Things are likely to get much worse before they get better.

"What Are Unvaccinated People So Afraid Of?"

Posted on 17th November 2021

Show only this post
Show all posts in this thread (Covid-19).

Earlier this week I called my mother, who is now living with one of my sisters (in New Zealand).

My sister refuses to get the Covid-19 vaccine; my mother, thank goodness, is fully vaccinated.

We ended up talking for a while about my sister's refusal of the vaccine (which means that she has to leave her job at the end of this week). At one point she said "What Are Unvaccinated People So Afraid Of?"

The question suggests that she, and presumably other unvaccinated people, believe that vaccinated people are fully protected by the vaccines.

Well, for anyone not able to work it out for themselves, here are the answers:

Lower Risk is not Zero Risk

Although the risk of serious illness, hospitalisation or even death for vaccinated people is significantly lower, that risk is not zero.

Unvaccinated people are the main source of Covid-19 infections.

By refusing to get vaccinated, they are putting everyone, including the vaccinated, at real risk.

Some People Are Not Well-Protected By A Vaccination

Vaccination against Covid-19 is less effective in higher risk people. Such high-risk groups include:

  • Older people (like my mother);
  • People with conditions like heart disease or diabetes;
  • Immunocompromised people. These could be transplant recipients (who have to take immunosuppressant drugs for the rest of their lives), people who had had radiotherapy to treat cancer, people who have been infected with any one of a number of other viruses which suppress the immune system - HIV, Epstein-Barr virus (the cause of mononucleosis/glandular-fever/student-flu/freshers'-flu/kissing-disease), etc.

This is because vaccines work by training one's immune system to recognise and fight off infections, and compromised immune systems do this less well.

Covid-19 has Serious Consequences even for the Unvaccinated

In most countries, if you catch Covid-19, even if you have no symptoms whatsoever, you will have two weeks of mandatory quarantine. That means that you can't go to work, go shopping, or go out for a meal or drinks. Typically, any family members with whom you live will also be quarantined.

Quarantine is a major inconvenience that I can do without.

The Unvaccinated Breed New Variants

Unvaccinated people are known to be the main breeding ground amongst whom new variants evolve.

Already we have variants of the virus (e.g. Delta and Delta+) which are not only more virulent, but also not so well controlled by vaccines. It is only a matter of time before an even worse mutation evolves, that may render the existing vaccines ineffective.

By refusing to get vaccinated, they are hastening that evolution and, again, putting everyone at risk.

Antibody Discovered Against COVID-19.

Posted on 15th October 2021

Show only this post
Show all posts in this thread (Covid-19).

Finally, some good news about the fight against the coronavirus. This piece on "City A.M." reports on the discovery in a 45 year old man of a natural antibody which is effective against most variants of the virus, including the Delta and Alpha variants.

It is possible to synthesise antibodies, so it is only a matter of time before a treatment using this antibody is available.

Hospital Calls Bullshit On Religious Exemption Claims.

Posted on 19th September 2021

Show only this post
Show all posts in this thread (Covid-19).

I like this story from Ars Technica. Unusually, everyone involved seems to understand what an exemption means and who can grant one, and the hospital in Arkansas is calling bullshit on the claims of religious exemptions.

The basis of the claims by some of hospital staff that they should be exempt from a vaccination mandate is that foetal cell lines are used in the development and testing of the Covid-19 vaccines, which is in conflict with their religious beliefs. So the Conway Regional Health System is requiring staff to sign a written declaration that they will also not take any other medicines that use foetal cell lines for development or testing.

The report lists a selection of such medicines: Tylenol (paracetamol/acetaminophen), Pepto Bismol, aspirin, Tums, Lipitor (Atorvastatin, to lower blood cholesterol), Senokot/Ex-Lax (a laxative), Motrin/Ibuprofen, Maalox (an antacid), Benadryl (an antihistamine), Sudafed (a decongestant), albuterol (which opens up airways in the lungs), Preparation H, the MMR vaccine, Claritin (for allergies), Zoloft (an antidepressant, Prilosec OTC, and azithromycin (a powerful antibiotic, listed by the WHO as an essential medicine). Remember that these are just examples, and the full list is much larger.

I am pretty sure that all of the health workers applying for religious exemption have taken more than one of these medicines in the past, and will find it difficult to give them all up. Without them, they run the risk of serious illness, permanent disability and even death.

I am also pretty sure that, if the Conway Regional Health System catches any of these staff taking any of these proscribed medicines, they will have their vaccination exemptions revoked immediately, as they should be.

Religious Exemptions.

Posted on 19th September 2021

Show only this post
Show all posts in this thread (Covid-19).

This story on NewsOne is sadly not so unusual.

NewsOne says, in their piece, that there " a growing trend of people who oppose COVID-19 vaccine mandates exercising their religious exemptions as a way to skirt the rules."

I can't work out who is more ignorant in this case: NewsOne, the restaurant or the family trying to skirt the rules.

A man took his family to a restaurant in New York. The waiter tells the family that he can not serve them unless they show proof of vaccination.

The key statement is by the would be customer: "... we just told you that we are religiously exempt". No proof of this claimed religious exemption was proffered.

There are only two kinds of requirement to be vaccinated: those imposed by law, whether federal law, state law or local law; and those imposed by the venue (in this case, the restaurant). There is only one party that can grant an exemption to a rule: the party who created that rule.

In Germany, the requirement to have been vaccinated, and to show proof of that vaccination is imposed by law (usually by the city of state government, not the federal government, depending on the current number of infections), but in the US these rules are usually imposed by the venue/business. In such cases, claiming that his family "are ... exempt" could only be true if the restaurant had granted an exemption.

For countries like the USA, Germany, Britain, etc. which have a separation of church and state, and where religions have no special status under the law (except, in many cases, being tax exempt as a charity) there is no way that one's church can grant an exemption to either a law or a venue's rules. Even in countries which do not have this separation, such as Iran, documentary proof of this exemption is required.

The restaurant really should have pushed back much harder.

The problem in the US seems to be that people believe that their various religions have some special legal status that they do not actually have. This has led to numerous highly publicised cases of people flouting laws against discrimination on the grounds of their religious convictions.

I do not have a requirement that people who visit my home are vaccinated against Covid-19 (nor any other disease), but I have a general expectation that they are. If a visitor tried to claim that they were exempt on the grounds of their religion, they would not get in (or if they were already in my home, they would be leaving immediately), simply because I don't tolerate being bullshitted, and will not tolerate being told that my choices are governed by someone else's religion.

Even on their death beds, some COVID-19 patients in Idaho still reject vaccination!

Posted on 12th September 2021

Show only this post
Show all posts in this thread (Covid-19).

The headline of this report on ABC News really says it all: even people who are at death's door due to Covid-19 still reject the vaccines.

I am sure that many of you will feel that I am being overly harsh when I say that these people deserve to die!

There are some other nuggets in the article, such as:

  • The patient who said "Don't tell me I have COVID. I don't believe in COVID".
  • Medical staff reporting that they are often afraid to ask patients whether they have been vaccinated, because of the risk of "adversarial" responses. The answer to this question is essential for working out a treatment plan, and for making an accurate prognosis!

There is so much disinformation, and so many conspiracy theories, on the subject of Covid-19 and the vaccinations that combat it, that it can be impossible to have a rational discussion on the topic.

Disinformation seems to be a modern pandemic in its own right; one for which there is no vaccine.

Do the unvaccinated feel guilty about this man dying?

Posted on 11th September 2021

Show only this post
Show all posts in this thread (Covid-19).

This sad story on USA Today, in which a man died of a "cardiac event" after being turned away by 43 ICUs (Intensive Care Units) which were all full due to the enormous number of Covid-19 patients, really begs the question: do the unvaccinated feel guilty about this and other deaths and severe illnesses caused by their selfishness?

Of course, we all know the answer: no they don't. They should do. This is exactly the sort of reason why they are being asked to get immunised, but they are more concerned about their "right to choose" than about other people's life and health.

Well, that "right" (to be selfish) is gradually getting eroded away. As reported here on Reuters, the US government has mandated that most federal employees be vaccinated, and the US Department Of Labor will now require companies of 100 people or more to insist that their employees either be vaccinated or tested weekly.

Other employers in the US and elsewhere are also making moves to require vaccinations. Other governments will probably follow the example set by the US.

This is only right. As I have pointed out before, the basic liberal principle is that people should have as much freedom as possible as long as it doesn't impinge on other people's freedoms. Choosing not to be vaccinated against Covid-19 clearly takes away other people's freedoms and rights (to "life, health and happiness"), as demonstrated by the case of the man turned away by 43 ICUs.

Children make up a growing proportion of new Covid-19 cases.

Posted on 4th July 2021

Show only this post
Show all posts in this thread (Covid-19).

This piece on USA Today reports on data from the USA on the increasing proportion of children amongst new infections by the coronavirus.

At the start of the pandemic, kids were just 2% of cases; now they make up 24% of new infections, despite only making up 16% of the population.

Luckily, these infections are still less severe than in adults (fewer severe infections and hospitalisations), but there is still some risk to the kids, and they are also a source of further infections in adults.

Vaccination programmes have, until now, focused on adults, and most governments have not approved any vaccines for younger children.

Given the new data, it is time to test and approve Covid-19 vaccines for younger kids, and get them vaccinated.

Karma!

Posted on 4th July 2021

Show only this post
Show all posts in this thread (Covid-19).

This article on Newsweek reports on the case of a woman in Missouri who was worried about the side effects of COVID-19 vaccines and chose not be vaccinated, but then caught the Delta variant and died.

There are many such cases popping up in the news from time to time, but people don't seem to be learning the lesson.

As far as I am concerned, this is karma.

You can die from eating a bad batch of food from the supermarket, drinking alcohol, crossing the street, or taking a flight on an aeroplane, but people take the risk because the benefits outweigh the risks. Vaccination against Covid-19 is the same.

Unvaccinated people are factories for Covid-19 variants.

Posted on 4th July 2021

Show only this post
Show all posts in this thread (Covid-19).

This story on Insider, and this one on CNN explain how unvaccinated people who are infected with Covid-19 are breeding grounds for mutated variants of the coronavirus.

By not getting vaccinated, they are not only risking their own health, but are also putting the health of all of us at risk, by creating and spreading potentially more dangerous variants of the disease. This phenomenon makes the disease much harder to control, and runs the risk of making our current vaccines ineffective.

The basic liberal principle is that people should be given as much freedom as possible without allowing them to limit the freedom of others. This principle is the justification for laws putting limits on people's exercise of their rights and freedoms (such as the various rights in the US constitution). Exercising the right to choose to not be vaccinated is impinging on the rights and freedoms of the rest of the population.

How much longer will we tolerate people choosing not to get vaccinated? I think it is time to enact legislation to limit people's freedom to make this irresponsible choice.

A hidden coronavirus pandemic amongst our pets!

Posted on 3rd July 2021

Show only this post
Show all posts in this thread (Covid-19).

This report on Gizmodo describes a study of Covid-19 infections amongst household pets of people who were themselves infected with the coronavirus.

It has been known for a while that some pets (dogs, cats and members of the weasel family) can get infections of Covid-19. Generally, these infected animals only exhibit minor symptoms, and do not infect humans (although mink, part of the weasel family, show more severe symptoms and can infect humans). What was not so clear was how often these pets were getting infected.

The new study shows that infections of pets by humans is actually fairly common.

The Gizmodo article is rather dismissive of the risk, because of the fact that cats and dogs do not infect humans. So what happens when a new variant evolves, which can make the leap from pets back to humans? This is not such a stretch of the imagination, given the constant parade of new mutant coronavirus types, and the fact that such a mutant variant first made the leap from animals to humans in the first place.

If such a variant (or even several such variants) emerges, the disease will be much harder to control, because there will be a reservoir of infections amongst unvaccinated pets. Mass culling of household pets will be very strongly resisted by pet owners, so vaccination of pets seems the only option, and we do not yet have Covid-19 vaccines for dogs and cats.

This new data suggests that the threshold for achieving herd immunity will be even tougher than previously thought; a 70% vaccination rate is simply not going to cut it.

Some of Britain's Athletes don't want to have the Covid-19 vaccine!

Posted on 26th June 2021

Show only this post
Show all posts in this thread (Covid-19).

This article on the BBC reports that some of Britain's athletes do not want to receive the Covid-19 vaccine before travelling to Tokyo to compete in the Olympics. The poor hard done by babies!

Why is there even a discussion? If they want the privilege of representing their country in the Olympics, they need to get vaccinated. If they don't, they are putting themselves, staff and other competitors in Tokyo at risk; when they return home, they will be putting more people at risk. Get the vaccine, or stay home and allow someone more appreciative to take their places on the Olympic squad.

The SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes Covid-19 is still rampant across the world, and mutating into more deadly and infectious variants at an accelerating rate. Already vaccination is required to attend some social and cultural events, make many international flights and take international vacations. Vaccinations are also required for hospital workers (medical and non-medical workers) and some other professions. Given that the disease is clearly not under control, it is probably only a matter of time before vaccinations become mandatory for more people and more circumstances.

Personally, no-one is allowed into my home unless vaccinated, no matter who they are.

Are we really so worried about offending people, and restricting their "rights" that we are prepared to be put at risk by people who don't want the vaccine?

Incentives To Get Vaccinated In The USA.

Posted on 12th June 2021

Show only this post
Show all posts in this thread (Covid-19).

This story on Gizmodo is only the latest of a whole array of incentives for people to get their vaccination against Covid-19.

Gizmodo reports that, in Washington State, where recreational marijuana is legal, people can get their immunisation shot at a weed shop, and will receive a free joint.

In California there is a cash vaccination lottery, with prizes currently up to $1.5M; Washington State also has a cash lottery with the chance to win $250K.

This news story on AP News summarises other incentive schemes in the USA: a free beer from Anheuser-Busch once the nation's 70% vaccination target is met; free childcare while getting shots and recovering from the side-effects; plus sports tickets and paid leave.

Canada also has a whole slew of incentive schemes to speed vaccination efforts.

All this is in stark contrast to the situation in most other countries (the EU and Taiwan are examples) where there are not enough doses of vaccines, and governments are focusing their efforts on delaying, prioritising and excuse-propagandising.

Black Fungus, Covid-19 And Diabetes.

Posted on 6th June 2021

Show only this post
Show all posts in this thread (Covid-19).

This report on the BBC is one of a whole series of articles about the number of cases of black fungus (mucormycosis) in patients recovering from Covid-19. This seems to be especially problematic in India.

Initially, suspicion fell on treatment with steroids (now a standard medication used in severe cases of the coronavirus), but now the spotlight is on diabetes. In India, amongst patients recovering from Covid-19 94% of those who had the fungal infection also suffered from diabetes.

The IDF (International Diabetes Federation) estimates that about 57% of those with diabetes in India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka are undiagnosed, and nearly all of these are found in India.

We should, however, be cautious in interpreting these statistic. Covid-19 is now known to trigger diabetes (something which the author of the BBC article seems unaware of), so the number of cases of black fungus amongst diabetics recovering from Covid-19 will inevitably be distorted by cases of diabetes brought on by the coronavirus.

Eric Clapton Complains Of Covid-19 Vaccine Safety Propaganda.

Posted on 16th May 2021

Show only this post
Show all posts in this thread (Covid-19).

I read this report on the "Mail Online", about Eric Clapton, one of the greatest guitarists of all time, and his severe and scary side-effects from the Covid-19 vaccine.

From the description, it sounds like he had Guillain-Barre Syndrome (read more about it here), which is a rare but known side-effect of Covid-19 which attacks the body's nerves causing partial or even complete paralysis and loss of sensation. Having Guillain-Barre Syndrome as a side-effect of a vaccination (in this case with the AstraZeneca vaccine) must be even rarer than as a side-effect of a Covid-19 infection; of course, we do not know whether he actually had Covid-19 as well as the vaccination.

Eric Clapton reported that "his hands and feet became 'useless' – prompting fears he would never play [guitar] again". That would have been dreadful for him and the world.

His main complaint, described in the news article, is actually about the propaganda surrounding the safety of the vaccines.

Well, Duh! Of course there is propaganda on the subject, from all sides: from governments, vaccine manufacturers and anti-vax activists. Governments and vaccine manufacturers are trying to encourage the maximum possible number of people to get vaccinated, so that the coronavirus can be brought under control by achieving the holy grail of herd immunity. What is important is whether that propaganda was truthful or not. All the official information that I have seen has been truthful, although the same cannot be said of some information in the media, where publications and their journalists have their own agendas, and are often too ignorant about matters of medicine and public health to be useful. The usual messages are of the form that "the benefits outweigh the risks".

The real problem for members of the public is translating that into real risk evaluations for individuals: answering questions such as "given my age, my weight, and my pre-existing conditions, what are my risks of the various possible side-effects?" A large part of the problem in answering such questions is the lack of the necessary data, and it will probably take two or three more years before enough data has been accumulated to provide such answers.

Known side-effects of Covid-19 vaccines, depending on which vaccine, include:

  • Fever;
  • Soreness at the injection site;
  • Allergic reaction, very occasionally to a life-threatening degree;
  • Blood clots;
  • Changes to menstruation;
  • Based on Eric Clapton's experience, numbness and paralysis due to Guillain-Barre Syndrome.

In addition,we should not be totally surprised to see any and all symptoms which can be caused by Covid-19 also being found, albeit rarely and less severely, to be side-effects of vaccination. These include:

  • Coughs;
  • Strokes;
  • Organ failure due to blood-clots;
  • Breathing difficulties, possibly requiring supplementary oxygen or even a ventilator;
  • Type-2 diabetes;
  • Lack of energy or lethargy.

This also implies that health conditions that predispose people to higher risks from Covid-19 may also increase the risks of side-effects from Covid-19 vaccines. These health conditions include:

  • Obesity;
  • Diabetes;
  • High blood pressure;
  • Heart conditions (e.g. a history of heart attacks or arrhythmia);
  • Kidney problems.

So, in summary, yes Mr. Clapton there is lots of propaganda about the safety of Covid-19 vaccines, but most of it is basically truthful, and the real limitation is the lack of data.

Evidence That Covid-19 Can Trigger Diabetes.

Posted on 23rd March 2021

Show only this post
Show all posts in this thread (Covid-19).

This new story on New Atlas reports on growing evidence that COVID-19 can trigger the onset of diabetes.

Diabetes is already known to be a factor which increases the risk from the coronavirus, making infection more severe and increasing the likelihood of hospitalisation, but now researchers are investigating a causal link of Covid-19 causing diabetes.

This doesn't surprise me. I am fairly certain that I had Covid-19 last spring, which caused a stroke. Whilst in hospital, the doctors found that I had type-2 diabetes. Of course, I have no proof, because the hospital refused to test me for the coronavirus (an antibody test) despite my repeated pleas (the Rechts der Isar hospital in Munich is such a dreadful hospital!).

Round-up of Covid-19 news.

Posted on 17th March 2021

Show only this post
Show all posts in this thread (Covid-19).

Mutant Virus Variants

More and more variants of the coronavirus are being discovered, as reported here by the BBC, and here by the BBC.

Vaccines and Immunity

There is a steady stream of new vaccines becoming available:

Of course, these new jabs need to be approved before they become available for the general population, but governments have shown that they can fast track these approvals, so there should only be a small delay.

The French government is now saying that just one jab is needed for people previously infected with Covid-19, as reported here by the BBC.

Do vaccines prevent transmission?

The jury is definitely still out, on this point. Some research suggests that the vaccines do help prevent transmission, but some suggests not.

This report on Reason suggests that there is strong evidence that vaccination curtails (i.e. doesn't completely prevent) virus transmission.

This report on New Atlas also suggests mRNA vaccines (i.e. the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines) prevent onward transmission.

Do the vaccines work against the new variants?

This report on Prevention states that Pfizer and Moderna are testing a third "booster" dose for their Covid-19 vaccines, to ensure protection against variants (mutant strains) of the coronavirus. The report also states that Moderna has announced that it has finished making a variant-specific vaccine to target B.1.351, and the company is ready to begin a Phase 1 clinical trial of the vaccine.

This report by the BBC says that Moderna's research shows that their vaccine appears to work against variants.

This report by the BBC states that the AstraZeneca vaccine "offers less South Africa variant protection". The company is developing a modified jab, slated to be ready by the autumn, to combat the South Africa variant.

How often will we need to get re-vaccinated?

As reported here by the Mail Online, the UK government's chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, has said that we will need re-vaccination on a yearly basis.

Side-effects of vaccines

There are understandable concerns about the side-effects of various vaccines:

  • This piece on Live Science reports on new data released by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) which shows that strong allergic reactions to Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine are extremely rare;
  • There have been reports from Denmark that the AstraZeneca vaccine can cause blood clots, which has caused several countries to suspend or restrict the use of this vaccine (here, on the BBC, here, on the BBC, here, on the BBC, here, on the BBC, );

The World Health Organisation (WHO), however, says that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine outweigh the risks, and should continue to be used, as reported here by the BBC.

Delays in Vaccination Roll-Out in Europe

As reported by the BBC continental Europe is suffering major problems in getting their populace vaccinated, only partly due to supply issues.

Germany, which prides itself on its organisational skills, is having a particularly hard time, due in part to their difficulties making their minds up about how to do things, as reported here by Politico. They offered self-test kits to all the schools and kindergartens, then backtracked. They also recently offered all kindergarten staff vaccinations, putting them ahead of many others in the queue, but what they offered was the AstraZeneca vaccine which it seems no-one wants. There seems to be no programme to pro-actively contact people when they can be given the vaccine; I am at higher than normal risk, being 65 years old and having type-2 diabetes and high blood pressure, but it seems that I need to take the initiative to register for immunisation.

Germany continues to be reactive, rather than proactive, as shown by the debacle over the AstraZeneca vaccine. Fist they limited it to under 65s, then approved it for all ages, then promoted it for kindergarten workers, then barred it for all.

Treatments

A large number of herbal treatments have been tested for use against the coronavirus, as have many pre-existing and new drugs:

  • This report on News Medical describes a study by researchers in the United States showing that a compound found in cannabis plants inhibited infection with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) in human lung cells;
  • This report on The Times of Israel describes a study showing that aspirin may protect against COVID-19; people who take small doses of aspirin (75mg) are less likely to be infected, and recover more quickly;
  • This report on Fox13 describes a study which showed that an experimental COVID-19 pill called Molnupiravir, by Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, showed promising signs of effectiveness in reducing the virus in patients;
  • This report on The Daily Mail describes a study which showed that people taking statins (used to reduce cholesterol in the bloodstream) were 50% less likely to die from Covid-19;
  • This report on the BBC describes a new study showing that the arthritis drug tocilizumab cuts deaths from Covid-19;
  • A small clinical study in Italy and China has revealed that an anticancer drug, bevacizumab, could help mitigate mortality and boost recovery from the coronavirus, as reported here on The Hindu Business Line;
  • This report by BGR describes a phase 1 trial for a new drug called EXO-C24 that was found to cure COVID-19 in 3-5 days in most volunteers who received the drug;
  • This report by BGR describes a study of the cancer drug plitidepsin, showing that it is 30 times more potent against Covid-119 than remdesivir and can work against the highly infectious new mutations;
  • This report by DW (Deutsche Welle) explains that Germany has approved the use of the REGN-COV2 monoclonal antibody to treat Covid-19 patients;
  • This report on News Medical describes a study showing that St. John's Wort and Echinacea could protect against COVID-19.

Prevention

Experts continue to recommend wearing masks, social distancing and frequent hand washing or disinfection as the best way to avoid infection. They also recommend working from home wherever possible, although for many this is not an option.

This piece on The Mirror also reports that people who wear glasses are up to three times less likely to catch Covid, according to a recent study.

Having Covid-19

It seems that men are at greater risk from Covid-19 (more likely to contract the virus, suffer from severe complications, and die from the disease) than women, according to a large study (reported on here by New Atlas).

Even more worrying is this report on the Daily Mail, which describes research by Leicester University and the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showing that a third of "recovered" Covid-19 patients are readmitted to hospital within five months and one-in-eight of the Covid patients then died.

Australia sends pitiful coronavirus help to Papua New Guinea.

Posted on 17th March 2021

Show only this post
Show all posts in this thread (Covid-19).

This news report on the BBC shows the Australians living up to their reputation.

Papua New Guinea has a very serious outbreak of Covid-19, with the infection rate estimated at one in every three or four people. With a population of 9 million, that is over 2 million cases. Hospitals there are full. Papua New Guinea has ordered vaccine, but it is due for delivery in April, and will probably be delayed, because AstraZeneca are struggling to deliver on schedule.

The Australian government has decided to "help" by sending 8,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine. This vaccine, like most, is a two dose immunisation, so they are sending enough to protect 4,000 people.

That is simply pathetic!

Round-up of Covid-19 news.

Posted on 17th January 2021

Show only this post
Show all posts in this thread (Covid-19).

Vaccines and Immunity

This article by the BBC reports that the Chinese vaccine, Sinovac, has been shown to be 50.4% effective in clinical trials in Brazil. 50.4% is not great, compared to the figures for the vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca, but still better than nothing.

Moderna claims that its coronavirus vaccine will provide immunity from the disease for at least one year, as reported here on Axios and here on BGR. A year or more is way better than the 4 to 6 months that experts originally estimated for the vaccines.

This piece on The New York Times reports that the Pfizer vaccine works against key Covid-19 mutations, including those found in Britain and South Africa.

A BioTech firm, IosBio - based in Sussex, England, has announced that it is developing a Covid-19 vaccine in the form of a pill, as described here by The Irish Post. The company is currently testing the immunisation pill in clinical trials.

Analysis of data about the 3.2 million recorded cases of Covid-19 in the UK to date has shown that infection provides around 5 months protection from reinfection by the coronavirus, as reported here on Cosmopolitan.

Treatments

This article on the Hindustani Times reports that the use of the diabetes drug metformin, before a diagnosis of Covid-19, is associated with a threefold decrease in mortality in Covid-19 patients with type 2 diabetes, according to a racially diverse study at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Metformin is used to treat type 2 diabetes which is not severe enough to justify insulin injections (I take it myself). "The mechanisms may involve metformin's previously described anti-inflammatory and anti-thrombotic effects", since anti-inflammatory and anti-thrombotic drugs are now a standard part of the treatment protocol for the coronavirus.

A large clinical trial has begun in the UK of inhalable interferon beta, as reported here by the BBC. This treatment is intended for patients hospitalised due to Covid-19; it costs £2,000 for a course of treatment.

The BBC reports, here, that two anti-inflammatory drugs, tocilizumab and sariluma can cut deaths by a quarter in patients who are sickest with Covid. The drugs each cost around £750 to £1,000 for a course of treatment. The recommendation seems to be to administer these two drugs in addition to dexamethasone (way cheaper, at £5 for a course of treatment).

This report on BGR describes how doctors have begun experimenting with the use of stem-cell treatments for severely ill Covid-19 patients, with some success. These are not, however, proper clinical trials; such clinical trials would need to be successfully concluded before this treatment is approved and made widely available, which takes significant time.

Prevention

This report on "Eat This, Not That" mentions the research done and ongoing on the use of vitamin and mineral supplements (vitamin C, D, B6, zinc and magnesium) to prevent severe infections of Covid-19, although some of the trials have been inconclusive, and have contradictory results. There shouldn't be any surprises here: many people are at least lightly deficient in vitamins and minerals, due to poor diet and the impact of processed food. For such people, taking supplements is likely to boost their immunity - Duh!

A report from New Atlas, here, a study investigating the relationship between COVID-19 severity and the gut microbiome. The observational research suggests specific microbial patterns correlate with disease severity and those bacterial imbalances may account for some cases of “long COVID”. Again (as above), if you are healthy, you are not so likely to get severely ill from an infection.

Having Covid-19

This article by The Mirror describes 10 signs that you may have already had Covid and may therefore be protected (immune) for up to 5 months.

There have been several articles about the potential long term effects of a Covid-19 infection:

  • Mashable reports, here, and New Atlas, here, that 3 in 4 recovered Covid-19 patients (people who were hospitalised) suffer from symptoms 6 months later. These symptoms include fatigue, muscle weakness, sleeping difficulties, anxiety, depression, "chest imaging abnormalities", chronic coughs, shortness of breath, chest tightness, and cognitive dysfunction.
  • Medical News Today reports, here, that Covid-19 infection might increase the risk of long-term neurological problems, including cognitive decline and dementia.

The Future

CNBC reports, here, on the prediction by the CEO of Moderna that Covid-19 and the resulting and overwhelmed hospitals will be with us forever, and that Covid-19 will become an endemic disease, meaning it will become present in communities at all times, though likely at lower levels than it is now. This would mean the wearing of masks and social distancing will be our lives forever, and that travel will be much rarer and riskier than it used to be.

Taking a slightly less pessimistic tone is this report on "Mic", which says that Covid-19 may become nothing more than an annoying, common cold-like illness. I guess that would be after the coronavirus has killed most of the more vulnerable people, or nearly everyone has been vaccinated.

MMR Vaccine Protects Against Covid-19?

Posted on 24th December 2020

Show only this post
Show all posts in this thread (Covid-19).

There was some surprising news today, here on WSB-TV.

Research in Georgia suggests that the MMR vaccine against measles, mumps, and rubella (German measles) "may also provide protection from getting COVID-19 or reduce the severity of the disease".

This is surprising because vaccines usually only protect against the specific diseases for which they were developed, and although measles, mumps and rubella are all viral diseases, none are caused by a coronavirus.

Nevertheless, this is good news, if borne out by other research, and could explain why children have been less severely affected by Covid-19, since children in many countries are routinely immunised with the MMR vaccine.

Round-up of Covid-19 news.

Posted on 12th December 2020

Show only this post
Show all posts in this thread (Covid-19).

There has been quite a lot of news about Covid-19 in the last few weeks, much of it good news, so here is a summary.

Vaccines

Several vaccines against the corona virus have completed trials. The UK and the US have each granted emergency approval for a vaccine, and the UK immunised their first person. The European Union is not far behind. Russia began vaccinations even before trials were complete. Brazil has decided to go with the Chinese vaccine, and is preparing to begin their immunisation programme.

So far, all approved vaccines require two injections, separated by a few weeks.

No country expects to have the majority of their population vaccinated within a year, so lockdowns and travel restrictions are not likely to ease any time soon. Immunisations will be prioritised for high risk people (the elderly and front-line medical staff); if you are not at high risk, expect to wait at least a few months before you can get your injections.

Also worth noting, as reported here by BGR, for the Pfizer vaccination at least, immunisation is not recommended for certain people:

  • Children under the age of 16, because the trials so far did not include children, so we don't yet know if it is safe for them,
  • Pregnant women, again because we don't yet know if the vaccine is safe for an unborn child,
  • People who have a history of strong allergic reaction, due to a couple of strong allergic reactions amongst the test subjects.

There have also been several warnings that the vaccination (usually the second injection) can have quite strong side-effects: fever, soreness around the injection site, and generally feeling unwell for a couple of days.

I have heard from several people who are saying that they will not get the coronavirus immunisation, even if it is made mandatory, and quite a few who want to wait until there is more safety data before getting it. I don't think these people are unusual. What this may mean is that the limitations to the speed with which the general population will get inoculated have more to do with people's concerns about safety than with the logistics of giving injections to billions of people.

As reported here by The Huffington Post, there is not yet enough data for us to know how long immunity from a vaccination will last, and therefore how often we will all need to repeat the vaccination. It could be as often as every four months; in time there will be better data available to answer this vital question.

Safe Behaviour

Despite increases in the number of infections and hospitalisations in very many countries (Germany now has more daily infections than ever before), and tighter restrictions (e.g. curfews) across the world, people continue to engage in unsafe behaviour: not wearing masks, not social-distancing, going to clubs and bars, etc. I have seen several videos in Facebook in the last few days of people at dances in Australia.

One surprising development for us is that the supermarket that we use on a weekly basis has removed its shopping cart disinfection station. Sheryl now wipes down our shopping cart with pocket disinfectant wipes before we shop.

I understand that many people are getting emotionally exhausted by so many months of restrictions, and feel the need for a bit of normal life, but failure to behave sensibly is a guarantee of continuing high rates of infection, which continues to kill some at risk people.

Seriously, people, follow the rules and guidelines! It is not just your own life that you are putting at risk! If you doubt that wearing a mask helps, see this report by Forbes.

The Origin and Time-Line

A new Italian study, reported here by BGR, shows that Covid-19 was spreading in Europe "at least three weeks before China announced that a new infectious illness was found in Wuhan".

This casts further doubt that the coronavirus pandemic originated in China, and supports the significant number of anecdotal stories of people in Europe having Covid-19 in December, or even November 2019.

Treatment

There have also been some developments in treatments for Covid-19. This report on Entrepreneur describes a study on ferrets, which showed that an anti-viral drug, Molnupiravir, was able to completely stop the transmission of the coronavirus after just 24 hours of treatment.

Obviously, human trials are still needed before it can be approved for use on humans, but it could eventually add another valuable treatment option.

Also, a report by News Medical describes an extract from a novel cannabis plant (i.e. not ordinary street variety cannabis) may offer protection against infection by Covid-19.

Back to Normal Life?

The short answer is that normal life will not return any time soon, and maybe never. That is the considered opinion of Dr. Ian Lipkin, director of the Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia's Mailman School of Public Health, as reported here by Newsweek.

So forget clubbing, vacations to tropical beach resorts, ski holidays, shows and concerts, and just generally going out for drinks or meals. That sucks, big time!

Belgian doctors with coronavirus asked to keep working.

Posted on 1st November 2020

Show only this post
Show all posts in this thread (Covid-19).

I found the decision reported in this story, published on the BBC about 5 days ago, to be utterly irresponsible.

Doctors in the Belgian city of Liège who are infected with Covid-19 have been asked to keep working. This puts patients at even greater risk of infection with the coronavirus. I just cannot imagine the thought process of whoever made this bizarre decision.

I suppose it may have one advantage: it will mean that people will be strongly discouraged from going to hospital unless they have a real emergency, reducing the load on the hospitals.

Round-up of Covid-19 news.

Posted on 24th October 2020

Show only this post
Show all posts in this thread (Covid-19).

It is been a while since I added to this blog thread about Covid-19. Since then there has been a steady stream of news about the coronavirus, so here is a summary.

Severity

Although many people who get infected have only mild symptoms (like, apparently, Donald Trump), there are continuing instances of more severe cases.

One example is Chris Cross, known for his late–‘70s hit “Ride Like the Wind” who had a very severe case of Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a rare side-effect of Covid-19 which attacks the body's nerves, and left him paralysed for 10 days. He still can't move around easily, months later. You can read more here on Variety.

Many people assume that, if you have had Covid-19, getting reinfected will result in less severe symptoms. That was not the case here, on the BBC, where the second infection was much more severe than the first.

Rising Numbers of Cases

I am not going to post links to news stories about the second wave of coronavirus being suffered my many countries, because they will be out of date the instant that I post this.

Most people know the latest news about infection rates in their own country: cases are going up significantly all across Europe, the US, and India, and hospital beds are filling up with severe Covid-19 cases. The Czech Republic has it very bad right now, as has France. Lockdowns and curfews are being imposed all over. Restaurants and bars are either closed, or face restrictions (reduced opening times, limited numbers of customers, limits on alcohol sales, etc.).

It is mandatory to wear masks on public transport, in shops, and even on the street, in many places.

Things will definitely get worse before they get better.

Part of the problem is that people are getting fed up with the restrictions, and are being less careful. More people are going to the gym, to the hairdresser, going to bars, clubs and restaurants, and even going on vacation to other countries; all of these are high risk activities. People are resuming business travel. Is it any wonder that more people are getting infected?

Medication

Vaccinations

Currently there are 200 vaccines being developed, of which 44 have started human trials (according to this article on DW.com {Deutsche Welle}), and getting closer to approval. Front runners include:

  • ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 from AstraZeneca/Oxford-University vaccine,
  • CoronaVac, developed by Chinese firm Sinovac Biotech,
  • BNT162b2 from Pfizer & BioNTech,
  • mRNA-1273 from US-based Moderna,
  • Ad26.COV2-S from Johnson & Johnson,
  • Sputnik V from Gameleya National Center of Epidemiology and Microbiology (Russia).

Despite the claims/promises by Donald Trump that a vaccine might be available in the US before the US elections, it is not realistic that any will be approved this year. Even when they are, doses still need to be manufactured, distributed and administered. Given that many vaccines require two doses to be effective, and that top-up immunisations might be needed every four months, the cost and complexity of widespread vaccination is enormous (bear in mind that the human population of our planet is over 5 billion); it is unlikely that widespread protection from the virus will be possible before the end of 2022 or later.

Treatments

Doctors seem to be getting better at treating Covid-19, probably because many have finally read the recent research. The result is that death rates from Covid-19 are falling in some countries, and recovery times are also getting lower.

They are starting to understand that, in most cases, ventilators do not help those who experience breathing difficulties, and indeed make people worse, because their issue is not with getting air into their lungs, but with absorbing oxygen (and flushing out carbon dioxide) from (and to) that air.

Several medications have been shown to help coronavirus sufferers: dexamethasone and other steroids; interferon, antibody treatments, remdesivir and other anti-virals; ibuprofen and other anti-inflammatories; and heparin and other anti-coagulants.

There has also been some useful research on diagnostic tools to determine whether people need treatment with some of the more extreme regimes, such as described here on BGR.

Prevention

Apart from the obvious techniques to avoid infection (wearing a mask, social distancing, disinfecting your groceries and staying at home), there has been new research on prevention.

Some (a small number of) people seem to be naturally immune, but it is not yet proven and at the moment it is not possible to tested for such immunity. In the future it may be possible.

People with blood type O seem to have some degree of protection from Covid-19, as described here.

Vitamin D supplements seem to offer some protection, in people who are deficient in vitamin D. Trials are under way to prove this, as described here.

The Prognosis

Things are not going to get better any time soon: not this year, and maybe not even next year.

The concept of herd immunity has been shown to be a non-starter.

Vaccinations will probably start in 2021, but most people will not be able to get one until 2022 or 2023 (the same situation as with testing for the coronavirus, which has taken ages to become widely available), so the general populace will not be protected for quite some time.

By now, pretty much everyone knows people who have had Covid-19. Many of us have heard of people (friends of friends, or distant relatives) who have died. All this will continue for the foreseeable future.

This means that our lives will continue to be affected by the coronavirus: lockdowns and quarantines, wearing masks, social distancing, working from home, disinfecting groceries, no vacations (if you have any sense), countries to which you can't travel for business, eating and drinking at home and basically no social life. Thank goodness for the Internet!

Just to be clear, no-one has beaten Covid-19!

Posted on 18th July 2020

Show only this post
Show all posts in this thread (Covid-19).

There has been a lot of discussion recently about the success, or failure, of various nations in dealing with Covid-19. At one extreme there is New Zealand, which has been hailed as a roaring success, because they had so few cases, and almost no recent cases (and all of those due to visitors from outside of the country). At the opposite end of the spectrum there are countries like the USA and Brazil, where the coronavirus is raging out of control. In between, there are countries such as Spain, Britain, Ireland, Australia, Sweden and many more, where the virus is surging again, after seeming to be under control, as lockdown restrictions are gradually eased. Even in Germany, where I live, the number of cases of Covid-19 have increased with the reduction of restrictions on travel and public gatherings.

This New York Times report provides an excellent summary of the global spread of the outbreak and the resulting deaths, and this search yields a graphical summary where you can select (in a pull-down menu) the country for which you want data.

So, let us look more closely at the extremes.

  1. New Zealand brought in very strict quarantine and lockdown regulations very quickly. This means that the disease is pretty much eliminated from the country, few people were infected and hardly anyone died (22 people at the time of writing). That in turn means that virtually no-one has any immunity. As soon as they open their borders, the disease will get in again, as it has done at least once in recent weeks. New Zealand may have eliminated Covid-19 from their shores, but all the while that the pandemic rages around the rest of the world, the only way they can keep it at bay is to maintain a national quarantine. For a country which is so heavily dependent upon tourism, and with a fairly high rate of immigration, that is an economic death sentence.
  2. The USA has had an incredibly high number of infections and deaths, compared to China and Europe, for example. They seem to have had no success in “flattening the curve”, and in parts of the country the infection rate is rising dramatically. Even so, the total official number of people who have caught Covid-19 is only around 3 million, which is less than 1% of the population. Research suggests that the actual number of infections could be between 5 to 10 times that (due to undetected infections because of inadequate testing), but even that means that less than 10% have had the coronavirus. Given all the recent doubts about how long immunity to the disease may last after an infection, the number of people having immunity is unarguably lower (probably significantly lower) than 10% of their population, which is nowhere near enough to provide “herd immunity”. This article on The Point describes an interesting analysis of the numbers for Mississippi, showing how unrealistic it is to reach herd immunity in that state, even in a year; the numbers for different states and even countries are obviously different, but crunching those numbers will yield basically the same conclusions, that herd immunity is 1 to 3 years away, if it is ever achievable.

The countries between the extremes have had varying degrees of success in limiting the spread of Covid-19 and the resulting deaths, due to the varying strengths of their lockdown regulations, the amount of testing, and the quality, availability and cost of their health-care systems. Also in the mix are cultural differences, such as people’s willingness to wear masks and socially distance, the general level of public and personal hygiene (and even the availability of soap and water in some places), the varying habits regarding social gatherings and the prevalence of the sharing of food and drink. Many places have been rolling back recent easings of lockdown restrictions as infections surge again (see here, on The Guardian).

The key here is that these differences, country to country, are only about the spread of infections. Limiting the spread of Covid-19 inherently limits the spread of immunity, however short-term and limited in scope that immunity may be, so success in controlling the spread has nothing to do with defeating the disease, and actually has the opposite effect.

In summary, herd immunity will not be achieved in any part of the world within the next year, for simple logistical reasons (as pointed out above, in the article about Mississippi). This is further complicated by the fact that immunity from infection may only last a few months (see this report on The Guardian), meaning that it will never become widespread enough to provide herd immunity. This is unfortunate, since herd immunity was the basis of the exit strategies of governments around the world (see here). We urgently need a new exit strategy. The best hope for immunity is a vaccine, which may be available by the end of 2020, but current expectations are that a vaccine will give only short-term protection, possibly meaning immunisations being regularly repeated (maybe every 3 to 6 months).

There may be no immunity against Covid-19, new Wuhan study suggests.

Updated on 26th June 2020

Show only this post
Show all posts in this thread (Covid-19).

This article on SCMP is a disgraceful piece of sensationalist journalism. It completely misrepresents the research results.

As I wrote in this post, if you are infected with Covid-19, either your body mounts an immune response, or you die of the disease.

This report, on the New York Times, paints a more balanced picture: that the immunity that you acquire from the infection "may last only two to three months, especially in people who never showed symptoms while they were infected". Immunity might last longer, for some, but in others it will not. This is in line with the many reports of patients getting infected more than once with Covid-19, typically after about two months.

Of course, this new information has several implications:

  • The whole concept of so called immunity passports (being introduced, for example, by Chile, and being considered by other nations), are not supported by science and are inherently flawed (Chile now admits this [see this Reuters report], but is going ahead with issuing them anyway!);
  • The lockdown exit strategy of almost every government in the world (except New Zealand, it seems) of building up so called herd immunity (by as many people as possible being infected) is also not supported by the latest science, and is thus not sound. Clearly a new exit strategy is needed.
  • Just because you already had Covid-19 does not mean that you can't catch it again yourself, and infect other people, so keep wearing a mask and social distancing;
  • The antibody tests that detect whether you have in the past been infected with Covid-19 are also likely to detect only infections in the last few months, because it is the levels of antibodies in your bloodstream (detected by these antibody tests) that fades over time, the research has shown;
  • Any Covid-19 vaccine that is eventually approved for human use may also only confer immunity for two to three months, so it may be necessary to have a booster shot every two months, which will have enormous cost and logistic impact on vaccination programmes;
  • Covid-19 will most probably be with us forever, like Cholera, Measles, Tuberculosis, the common cold, influenza and many more diseases, as warned about in this piece published by the World Economic Forum; we are going to have to learn to live with that, and adapt our lifestyles accordingly (less long-distance travel for business or pleasure, less promiscuity and casual sex [a condom will not protect you against Covid-19!], less close social contact like handshakes and kissing on the cheeks, improved hygiene [at home, at work, in restaurants, at hospitals, in prisons, on public transport etc.] and so on).
A drug to treat Covid-19.

Posted on 21st June 2020

Show only this post
Show all posts in this thread (Covid-19).

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is celebrating "a remarkable British scientific achievement", a drug that has been shown to be effective in treating Covid-19, as reported by the BBC here.

The headline of this story, "Dexamethasone proves first life-saving drug", probably based on UK government a press release, is actually not true. Dexamethasone is not the first. Trials of remdesivir, a drug developed to treat ebola, have shown that it is effective in treating Covid-19, as reported here, by Ars Technica about a month ago. There have also been very hopeful animal trials of a new drug from Celltrion (it seems that this new drug does no yet have a name), as reported in this story on Fox News.

For most of us, however, the news about dexamethasone is not really relevant. Dexamethasone, a low-dose steroid medication has been shown to increase the survival rates of people with severe infections: patients on ventilators (survival rates increased by a third) and patients receiving oxygen (survival rates increased by a fifth).

The reason why it doesn't affect most of us? Dexamethasone does not seem to help people with milder symptoms of coronavirus: those who do not need help breathing. Given that around 95% patients who are infected with the coronavirus recover without even being admitted to hospital, and not all patients admitted to hospital need oxygen or a ventilator, most infections will not be helped by treatment with this drug.

There is something that worries me about this announcement. Several studies (reported, for example, here, here and here) have shown that SARS-CoV-2 (the coronavirus which causes Covid-19) is not in fact a kind of pneumonia, but a blood vessel disease. It damages the blood vessels, causing lots of small blood clots; these clots cause not only the symptoms in the lungs, but also the widespread organ damage that some patients suffer, and the side-effects such as strokes and heart attacks. As a result of these analyses.some of the researchers have recommended treatment with a combination of anti-inflammatories (e.g. steroids or ibuprofen), anti-coagulants, anti-virals (e.g. drugs like remdesivir) and antibiotics (to treat the bacterial opportunistic secondary infections that often occur with viral diseases). So, it really shouldn't come as a surprise that dexamethasone (a steroid) and remdesivir (an anti-viral) are effective treatments, but for many doctors it seems, nevertheless to be a surprise. It just confirms that many doctors are not paying attention to current research, and as a result are putting their patients at risk.

Covid-19: "The question is not whether you become immune, it's how long for".

Posted on 17th May 2020

Show only this post
Show all posts in this thread (Covid-19).

After I wrote this, about governments' lockdown exit strategies, I posted a copy on Facebook. I received a number negtive comments.

Some were about the issue of immunity: people saying that we don't currently know if our bodies have any ability to acquire immunity from infection by Covid-19. This BBC article gives a good summary of the current situation, based on expert opinions. The key take-away is the statement that "The question is not whether you become immune, it's how long for". Basically, given that there are no effective treatments for Covid-19, if your body doesn't mount an immune response to the coronavirus, you will die of the disease. The only thing that we don't yet know is how long the resulting immunity lasts, although the fact that antibody tests are now available to show whether you have had the disease shows that immunity lasts for at lest a few weeks or months, at least for many people.

There were also comments to the effect that my opinions about the exit strategy were wrong, and based on no evidence. I found this odd, because the UK government, and others, have talked about herd immunity quite a bit. In the absence of a vaccine, herd immunity can only come from being infected (and recovering, obviously). Governments are hoping that the populace develops herd immunity, and the only way to get that is for enough people to be infected, and for them to develop immunity. My opinions on the exit strategy are therefore based on published official statements and policy.

Governments around the world are gradually relaxing their lockdowns, and carefully monitoring infection rates as they do so, to maximise infection rates within the limits of their health-care systems' ability to cope, all to build up herd immunity.

Covid-19 lockdowns; what is the Exit Strategy?

Posted on 17th April 2020

Show only this post
Show all posts in this thread (Covid-19).

People are starting to ask "What is the Exit Strategy [from lockdown]?" and "Why is my government being so cagey about it?"

Your government is reluctant to explain their exit strategy because they believe (probable rightly) that you will be upset when you find out, so here is an explanation.

Governments want the lockdown to be as short as possible, because of the impact on the economy and their tax revenues.

The only purpose of the lockdown is to limit the rate of infection to something that a country's medical infrastructure can handle. As long as hospitals and medical services can cope, governments want the infection rate to be as high as possible. Catching Covid-19 is the only way that the population can currently get immunity, and this will remain so until an effective and safe vaccine is widely available (probably not before the end of 2021), and widespread immunity is necessary before ending the lockdown is possible (see this report on Slash-Gear about an MIT modeling study which shows that easing lockdowns too soon will result in "Disaster").

Several countries (e.g. Denmark, Austria and Germany) are beginning to gradually ease their lockdowns. They are doing this because their medical infrastructure is coping. They want to increase their rates of infection (within the limits of their medical infrastructure), to reduce the lengths of their lockdowns. If this increases their infection rates, and the resulting need for hospitalisations, by too much, they will make the lockdowns stricter; if not, they will continue gradual easing.

That, in a nutshell, is the exit strategy: maximise infection rates within manageable limits to spread immunity as fast as possible, so that lockdowns can be ended as soon as possible. This is similar to parents who deliberately expose their kids to childhood diseases like measles and chicken-pox (e.g. by sending them to "measles parties").

Covid-19 is not about to be defeated (there is no sign of a treatment or vaccine in the near future). Your government is going to manage your exposure to the disease, to ensure that you can get back to work as soon as possible. If some people die along the way, so be it.

All this might sound brutal and morally bankrupt, but no-one has a better strategy. No nation can afford to stay in lockdown until a vaccine is available.

The USA is committing economic suicide!

Posted on 7th April 2020

Show only this post
Show all posts in this thread (Covid-19).

A friend of mine posted this on Facebook.

It is quite a long read, but worth a look. The earlier parts put the economic stimulus package that the US has put into effect in perspective: what seems like a huge amount of money amounts to a week's lost income, to help families and businesses ride out a lockdown that has already gone on for two weeks, has been extended for another two weeks, and realistically will last several weeks beyond that.

He argues, probably correctly that this lack of support will destroy the US economy, with impacts lasting at least a decade or two.

I do not, however, agree with his later arguments that borrowing money for a larger stimulus package has no real cost, because the money would be borrowed from the borrower, and therefore wouldn't need to be paid back. This is not how things work in national finances.

There are two basic ways for governments to "borrow" money:

  1. They can borrow money by selling government debt (borrowing from individuals, companies, or other governments), or by borrowing money from the IMF or the World Bank. This sort of debt most certainly does need to be paid back.
  2. They can effectively borrow from themselves, by printing money. This has the inevitable result of devaluing their currency: the more money they print, the less value it has. In the long term, this has disastrous consequences on the economy, and on personal and corporate wealth.

This doesn't mean that neither of these measures should be taken, but the idea that they are free and without negative consequences is naive.

The Covid-19 pandemic will have huge and long lasting impacts on us all, and we should be prepared for life to be hard for a very long time. There are no easy solutions, neither medical nor economic.

Self-isolation is so tough!

Posted on 30th March 2020

Show only this post
Show all posts in this thread (Covid-19).

Everyone is complaining about how tough it is, being in self-isolation (except for people in Sweden, where it seems to be business as usual, as reported here by the BBC): complaints of boredom, having to spend time with their family, difficulties in getting exercise, problems with grocery shopping (because of panic buying) and so on.

But it seems that not everyone is suffering as much as most of us. One example is the King of Thailand. The Daily Mail reports (here) that he has gone into self-isolation in Bavaria (Germany) by booking out the entirety of the Grand Hotel Sonnenbichl, along with his wife and 20 concubines.

Such a hard life, although I am sure that the hotel owners and staff are happy with the situation.

The Covid-19 pandemic: what can we expect?

Posted on 30th March 2020

Show only this post
Show all posts in this thread (Covid-19).

Although there is quite a lot of information available about the Covid-19 coronavirus, there is also a lot of disinformation (not least from President Trump), and quite a few scams. Also the consequences of the information are not being explained by governments and health experts. So I am going to try and list some key facts, and the results on us of those facts.

There is also a useful article here on The Atlantic, on what the future holds regarding Covid-19.

Treatments

As I write this, there are no proven treatments for Covid-19. There are some rumours, but nothing yet that has been shown to work. Many scientists are busily searching for existing drugs that are effective against it, and trying to invent new drugs to treat it.

We should expect that this will take some time, partly because it is a large and complex task, and partly because the approval process for new drugs takes time, although it is reasonable to assume that this process will be fast-tracked. Therefore don’t expect an approved treatment before the end of 2020, or mid 2021 at the very earliest.

Also, if and when one or more treatments are found and approved, expect the drugs to be in short supply at first. This is true even for any existing drugs found to be effective against Covid-19, but even more so for any totally new drugs.

In the meantime, treatments are all symptomatic: treating the symptoms so that they don’t kill the patients, thus giving their bodies time to defeat the virus. This is no different to the situation with many endemic viruses such as ‘flus and colds.

An immunisation

Many scientists and drug companies are working flat out on an immunisation, and at least one has already started testing on humans. Although this sounds hopeful, the development of new vaccines is always full of false hopes and failures: shots that don’t work and immunisations that have side-effects so severe as to make them useless.

We should expect that the first approved immunisations will give only partial and/or short-term protection against the virus. We should also expect that any approval may have exclusions: parts of the population for whom the vaccine is not deemed safe (most likely the people who need it most).

As with treatments, immunisations will take time, for the same reasons, so don’t expect them to be available before mid to end of 2021.

What is all this talk about flattening the curve?

There has been lots of talk about flattening the curve, and it is the justification for the lockdowns and travel bans that have been put in place.

Basically, self-isolation is a way of slowing down the spread, so that hospitals are not overwhelmed by the numbers of patients, so that people who need to be hospitalised can be, thus increasing their survival rate. In other words, lockdowns and travel bans will reduce the proportion of infected people who die, by a small amount.

There is no justification for believing that flattening the curve will reduce the total number of people who get infected. It just means that it may take longer for you to get infected: in some isolated communities maybe 3 to 5 years instead of 3 to 6 months.

Through their strategy of flattening the curve, your government is not trying to prevent you from catching the virus; they are only deferring when you will catch it. That means that not only are your chances of survival improved, but also there is a chance that treatment or a vaccine may be available when you do catch it.

Will you catch it?

Current projections are that at least 50% of the world population will become infected with Covid-19 eventually. It could be more. So yes, expect at some point to catch it.

You might have no symptoms at all, or you might have only mild symptoms. At risk people (people with existing conditions like heart disease, cancer and diabetes, and older people) are likely to have more severe cases, and may need to be hospitalised.

How long will the lockdown last?

One of the results of successfully flattening the curve is that the danger period will be lengthened. You should therefore expect lockdowns to last 3 months or more (the lockdown in Wuhan has already lasted 3 months and is not completely over (being eased, but not over), and that lockdown was severe and very strictly enforced by Chinese authorities).

Will it come around again, and will I catch it again?

Most coronaviruses are prone to mutation. This coronavirus is already mutating. Scientists are currently tracking 8 variants around the world (see here).

What that means is that any immunity that you gain, by catching it, or by vaccination, may not be effective against a new strain resulting from mutation. Immunity from having been infected is likely to be more effective against such new strains than an immunisation.

Also, it is not yet clear how long immunity from infection lasts (see paragraph 8 in this BBC article).

Colds and ‘flus come around regularly, also due to mutations, and these viral diseases are now endemic. Expect Covid-19 to also become an endemic disease, but so far there is no factual scientific basis for believing that Covid-19 will be seasonal like colds and ‘flu (see paragraph 6 in this BBC article).

So yes, it would be reasonable to assume that Covid-19 will come around again, and that some of you will catch it again. If you have some partial immunity from a previous infection or vaccination, a second infection should be less severe (but there are no guarantees).

Will it ever be completely stamped out?

It seems unlikely that we will ever completely eradicate Covid-19.

We have only been partially successful in limiting ‘flu, and even less successful in limiting the common cold (also caused by a coronavirus). In the case of influenza, new vaccines have to be developed every year for the new strains.

There are some notable success stories with immunisation (such as smallpox – now completely eradicated), but other diseases such as polio (caused by a virus) have not been completely eradicated, and TB (caused by a bacterium) is making a comeback, with drug resistant strains.

What about the impact on the economy?

The economy has taken a huge hit all around the world (see here). Currently stock markets are about 30% down. Oil prices are down to around $20 for a barrel, due to reduced demand, due to the lockdowns and travel bans.

It currently looks like China will be the first economy to recover.

Economies will not recover until everyone can return to work and spending patterns return to normal, so not until after the lockdowns are over.

Things may not get as bad as during the great depression, but they might.

What about my job?

Many people have been fired, put on reduced hours, or temporarily laid off.

Governments are offering bail-outs to some industries and financial support to some conventional full time employees, but understand that they cannot afford to do this long-term. Most of the government support is going to large high-profile companies. Worker in the gig-economy, and freelancers, are getting no help. This means that many people and small firms can expect hard times and possible bankruptcy.

Some people are able to work from home. If you are one of these, as am I, you are lucky. Other people are in professions that are critical to keeping things working and keeping people alive (police, fire-fighters, medical workers and the like) continue to work and get paid.

The longer the lockdowns continue, the more people’s lives and livelihoods will be destroyed.

What about travel?

Most flights have been cancelled. Many borders are closed. The Czech Republic has barred its citizens from leaving the country.

So at the moment, international travel is all but impossible, except for people returning to their country of citizenship.

My father in New Zealand is expected to die this year, and I am expecting to be unable to attend his funeral.

Eventually, flights will resume, and borders will reopen. By then, many airlines, bus companies and travel agents may be bankrupt, so travel choices will be reduced.

You should probably not be planning a vacation trip this year, not even in-country. If you are sensible, next year you should probably vacation in-country.

People returning from ski trips have been a major cause of inter-country spread of Covid-19, and should probably be avoided for a while. I love to ski, but I think I will defer it until the winter of 2021/2022.

What about social and business gatherings?

For the time being, pretty much all events are cancelled: concerts, music festivals, conferences, exhibitions, beer festivals and sporting events. This will probably remain the case for the next 3 to 4 months. After that, there should be a gradual easing off of the lockdowns, and some (but not all) social and business events will probably start again. Other higher risk events such as music festivals and beer festivals may remain cancelled for the remainder of 2020.

Apparently this year's Oktoberfest in Munich has been cancelled, although I have no confirmation of that yet. Every year, many people get sick from attending the Oktoberfest, after catching a virus (called the Wiesenkrankheit) from glasses that are not washed well enough before reuse, so it is pretty clear that this year the coronavirus would be spread by the same means if the Oktoberfest goes ahead.

No, pandemics are not a new problem

Posted on 28th March 2020

Show only this post
Show all posts in this thread (Covid-19).

The current coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak is likely the first pandemic to have a direct effect on many people around the world today, so it would hardly be a surprise if many people thought that such pandemics were a new phenomenon. The are not (for some history of pandemics, see this report from the BBC).

As I wrote in an Opinion Blog post on 16th May 2017, human history is made up of a series of growth periods, interrupted by periods of zero or negative growth caused by disease. Population usually only starts to grow again when advances in medicine (e.g. the discovery of penicillin or the invention of vaccines) or public hygiene (e.g. the introduction of flushing toilets, drinkable water piped to houses, the invention of soap or the banning of public spitting) are made. Not all of these pauses in growth are caused by global pandemics (some have a smaller geographical footprint), but many are.

The Covid-19 pandemic is therefore part of a pattern, repeated very often in our past. History shows us clearly that pandemics, and other more localised (e.g. limited to a city) outbreaks occur when population density reaches a critical level. As each outbreak is solved, population grows to a new critical density level.

Some pandemics, such as the Black Plague, were solved not by innovations by humanity, but by the population reductions that the pandemic caused.

History also shows us that the human race has not learned the lessons it has tried to teach us. Continued population growth will inevitably cause more pandemics. Solving the Covid-19 pandemic will simply allow us to continue growing our population until the next one hits us. One day we will not defeat a pandemic; it will defeat us, either wiping out our species, or destroying our civilisation and pushing humanity back to the stone age.

It is never going to be possible to predict the nature of the next pandemic, so it will never be possible to pro-actively protect ourselves from the next threat (e.g. by developing a vaccine before the outbreak starts - just look at how unsuccessful we have been with seasonal 'flu shots, and our dismal failure to cure the common cold).

Of course, controlling population growth is an ethical and political minefield. Some people seem to believe that the "right to reproduce" is an inalienable human right, even though reproducing (especially excessive breading) takes away the rights to life, health and happiness of the other inhabitants of our planet. We urgently need to find a solution to this dilemma.

Everything is connected

Posted on 28th March 2020

Show only this post
Show all posts in this thread (Covid-19).

This article in The Guardian, written for Australia, makes the case that we cannot separate climate change from the Covid-19 pandemic.

There has been a sea-change in the Australian public's attitude to environmental issues, since the bush fires this winter (their summer). They are no longer a nation of climate change deniers; about time.

The point made in the Guardian article has merit. The root cause of both crises (the pandemic and the various environmental issues) are the same: overpopulation. Solutions which try to address problems in isolation are therefore likely to fail, or to be only temporary solutions.

It is therefore such a shame to see that the USA apparently didn't get the memo. In the news today (here on PBS News, and on many other new sources) is the announcement that the EPA (US Environmental Protection Agency) has stopped enforcing environmental laws because of the coronavirus crisis. This is exactly the opposite of what they should be doing. If they defer environmental protection enforcement until after the pandemic:

  • There is a risk that it will make it impossible to control the pandemic,
  • Environmental protections could end up being deferred indefinitely.

This is simply more of the same kind of lame and unsound excuses that are rolled out every time that environmental protection is discussed: we can't do anything that costs too much, we can't do it until we have dealt with the current crisis, blah blah blah. Enough with the excuses: the pandemic is a symptom of a wider environmental malaise and even if we get it under control, there will be another, and then another, until we address the root causes.

Real facts about Covid-19

Posted on 28th March 2020

Show only this post
Show all posts in this thread (Covid-19).

The text below was extracted from an email from a friend, and contains information from reliable and expert sources.

"There has been much posted on various media outlets concerning Covid-19. Most of it is true, some hearsay, and some totally misleading. One of [my wife's] clients she edits for is The International Journal Of Infectious Diseases. This journal reports on ALL outbreaks globally and their information is fed to them by people local to the specific outbreak/s. e.g. there are people reporting about the Ebola outbreak in DRC and the ongoing (seasonal) outbreaks of bubonic plague in Madagascar etc. It is considered the de facto source of information re Coronavirus and in particular the Covid-19 variant. And that is where there are issues arising. The virus can, will, and does, have the capacity to mutate. This will not be over any time soon."

"Johns Hopkins University provides solid facts with down to earth basic presentation here, and they also presented to the US Government here."

  1. "A study in The Lancet reported 81% of COVID-19 sufferers have only mild symptoms and do not require hospitalization -- good news for most of us!"
  2. "However, the percentage of those who do require hospitalization is much higher than for the flu -- 1% for flu vs up to 19% for COVID-19. In Pennsylvania, the current percentage requiring hospitalization of confirmed cases is about 13% -- hence, public health officials' concern regarding sufficient supplies, health-care staff, hospital space, ventilators, etc."
  3. "The same study in The Lancet studied a group of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in China -- average age of patients was 56 years, 62% were men, and 48% had other health conditions. The average age is lower than I think many of us suspected (we keep hearing "elderly" used); also, slightly more than half had no other conditions that put them at higher risk for serious disease."
  4. "The number of cases in the US has been skyrocketing in the past 2 days -- we have today passed Iran and Germany and at the current rate we'll pass Spain tomorrow, and only China and Italy will have had more cases [the latest figures show that the US now has more cases than anywhere, including China]."
  5. "Pennsylvania public health officials indicate the reason for the surge is not the increased availability of testing, but is indeed being caused by community spread."
  6. "How can this be if so many of us are staying home? Although the average person shows signs of COVID-19 at 5 days of exposure, it may take as long as 14 days or more for others to show signs."
  7. "Recent case examples: A woman in quarantine for 14 days, who tested negative 3 times during the confinement period, tested positive on day 14, just before she was to be released. Another man who traveled to a country with no local COVID-19 cases developed symptoms and tested positive 15 days after arriving."
  8. "So it's important to remember many folks are likely carrying the virus here and still haven't developed symptoms. Even if you feel well now, don't assume you're not carrying the virus. And this is why we all must stay at home as much as our lives/work/etc. allow."
  9. "Also, it's important to remember that researchers, infectious disease specialists and public health officials are having to work through this pandemic in real time and doing their best to provide good information to community and government officials to help people keep safe and well."
  10. "Covid-19 is a virus which does NOT 'die out' once temperatures get above 70°F or below a certain temperature. e.g. there are cases in Bangkok, Thailand in the past few days (temperature yesterday was 83F - a tad chilly!)"
  11. "Link to The Lancet article here and the Johns Hopkins tracker here."
  12. "THE solution is to isolate from other people for about 8 weeks. That is it... STAY INDOORS and keep in touch."
Failure on Covid-19 Testing in the USA

Posted on 14th March 2020

Show only this post
Show all posts in this thread (Covid-19).

This is a copy of a post made in another thread (Medicine and Health).

I am getting thoroughly tired of hearing President Trump and his lies about how Covid-19 (the coronavirus) is "under control" in the US. The facts do not support his position.

In this article on the BBC, Dr. Anthony Fauci, from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, is reported as saying that "The testing system for coronavirus in the US is currently failing". The numbers support his statement.

For example, this report from the Daily Mail, from the 10th of March, explains that 8,554 Americans have been tested for coronavirus (but the CDC director says there isn't [sic] enough staff to keep up). Of those 8,554 (and I am sure that in the 4 days since then, the number tested has increased, but I have to pick some baseline), there are 795 confirmed cases of Covid-19, that is around 10% of those tested are infected!

To put those numbers in perspective, the US population is around 330 million. If we simply extrapolate, that would mean around 30 million infected Americans! Clearly that number is an overestimate, because testing has so far been focused on contacts of infected people, and in areas where there are higher numbers of infected people, like Washington State. Nevertheless, the figures do not support the position that overall infection rates are low, because the government simply don't know, and they won't know until test coverage is significantly higher.

The pathetic testing performance of the USA is in stark contrast to all other developed nations, as described by Business Insider. Their report has a table comparing test coverage (tests per capita) for a number of nations: the USA trails the rankings by a huge margin (by a factor of more than 700 compared to South Korea)!

Added to that is the cost for US citizens and residents. Donald Trump announced that health insurers would cover the cost of testing, which is fine if you have insurance, but insurers will not necessarily cover the costs of treatment.

How is it that a rich nation like the USA has such poor provision of health care, especially during a world-wide health crisis? Why do the voters tolerate such a cavalier attitude to their health?