Covid surging in Europe

BBC – Covid rules: What are the latest three-tier restrictions?

Northern Ireland has imposed new restrictions to try to stop the spread of coronavirus.

The announcement comes on the back of England’s new three-tier system, announced earlier this week.

Every area of England now falls into three categories – medium (Tier One), high (Tier Two) or very high (Tier Three), depending on the local rate of infection.

Guardian: Wales to ban visitors from Covid hotspots elsewhere in UK

People who live in Covid-19 hotspots in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland are to be banned from travelling to Wales, the Welsh first minister has announced.

Mark Drakeford said he had asked for the “necessary work” to take place to allow devolved powers to be used to prevent people from travelling into Wales from “high prevalence” areas.

The Welsh government is likely to stop people who live in tier two and three areas of England from travelling to anywhere in Wales. Residents of the whole of Northern Ireland and the central belt of Scotland are also set to be banned.

Stuff: As virus surges in Europe, hospitals in Milan, Italy, are under pressure again

Coronavirus infections are surging anew in the northern Italian region where the pandemic first took hold in Europe, putting pressure again on hospitals and health care workers.

At Milan’s San Paolo hospital, a ward dedicated to coronavirus patients and outfitted with breathing machines reopened this weekend, a sign that the city and the surrounding area is entering a new emergency phase of the pandemic.

Months after Italy eased one of the globe’s toughest lockdowns, the country is now recording well over 5000 new infections a day – eerily close to the highs of the spring – as the weather cools and a remarkably relaxed summer of travel and socializing fades into memory.

Italy is not the only European country seeing a resurgence – and, in fact, is faring better than its neighbours this time around. Italy’s cases per 100,000 residents have doubled in the last two weeks to nearly 87 – a rate well below countries like Belgium, the Netherlands, France, Spain and Britain that are seeing between around 300 to around 500 per 100,000. 

Trump has learned nothing useful from his Covid experience

Donald Trump claimed he had learned from experiencing being hospitalised with the Covid virus, but he doesn’t seem to have learned anything useful. To the contrary. He has set bad examples for dealing with Covid infections.

The normal practice for people with Covid is to isolate or quarantine them to avoid spreading the virus, which has proven to be very contagious. But Trump doesn’t do normal practice.

When leaving hospital Trump touched railings as he descended steps. I presume someone had to follow him disinfecting everything.

When Trump returned to the White House he symbolically removed his mask before going inside. There have already been a number of cases amongst White House staff, but Trump doesn’t seem to care about anyone else, it is all about his own ego.

Trump portrayed his dealing with Covid as some sort of sign of great leadership, as has his campaign, and also media fans – see Sean Hannity Compares Trump’s COVID Response to FDR and Churchill

Hannity asked if people wanted “a leader who’s willing to fight every minute of every day, for the country” or a “shadow of a man who hides in his basement bunker.”

Talking about the nation being “land of the free and home of the brave,” he went on to share famous words from FDR and Churchill.

Trump suggested he was an “invincible hero”:

And Trump continues to seriously downplay the seriousness of Covid, to the extent that Twitter slapped a warning on a tweet:

Presidents don’t usually get hospitalised and treated with steroids and experimental drugs for the flu.

Hundreds of Americans are still dying a die from Covid, with the total death toll 215,000. Many survivors have severe complications.

And Trump seems to be wrong about flu deaths: Trump compares COVID-19 to flu in tweet, Twitter raises red flag

On Monday, Trump told Americans “to get out there” and not fear COVID-19 as he returned to the White House after a three-night hospital stay to be treated for the new coronavirus and removed his white surgical mask to pose for pictures.

During the 2019-2020 influenza season, the flu was associated with 22,000 deaths, according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates. (

So Trump seems to be as misleading as ever – and continues to dangerously set a bad example.

He is also taking a huge campaign risk. His treatment may have got him through his Covid infection remarkably fast, but there’s a real possibility he isn’t over it yet and he could have further problems.

Reuters: Trump steroid treatment for COVID-19 raises potential side effect risk

U.S. President Donald Trump is being treated for COVID-19 with a steroid that is recommended for severe cases of the illness and that comes with risks of serious side effects, including mood swings, aggression and confusion.

As a number of people have pointed out, that sounds like Trump before taking steroids.

The Infectious Disease Society of America says dexamethasone is beneficial to people with critical or severe COVID-19 who require extra oxygen. But studies show the drug may be harmful in people with milder COVID-19 because it can suppress their natural immune response.

In addition, side effects can include physical problems such as blurred vision and irregular heartbeat, as well as personality changes and difficulty thinking, according to the International Myeloma Foundation.

That’s just possible side effects of one drug Trump is still taking intravenously at the White House.

If it turns out that Trump is not free of Covid and it causes further problems his bravado will look like stupidity. And potentially dangerous.

FiveThirtyEight: Trump Is Giving Dangerous Advice. Being Afraid Of COVID-19 Has Helped Us Control COVID-19.

…the best evidence we have suggests that these simple actions work. A June study published in Nature estimated as many as 60 million COVID-19 infections were avoided thanks to social distancing and lockdown efforts. And disease modelling projects that tens of thousands of lives could be spared with widespread adoption of social distancing and mask-wearing.

The president’s message not to be afraid of the virus is dangerous if it encourages Americans to reject the things they do because they’re afraid of the virus. And that has implications for all of us. Think of the grocery store worker who has to stock shelves while dozens of strangers brush past them, or the nurse who has to come in close proximity with patients daily, many of whom may have active COVID-19 infections. Without the fear of what this disease can do to you, there’s little motivation to protect them.

It’s easier to feel secure when you’re the president of the United States, of course. But that’s not a reality the rest of us live day to day. In our reality, fear is rational, and it’s what pushes us to act. By telling us there’s nothing to fear, Trump is both ignoring the experience of millions of Americans, and giving further fuel to those whose response to fear is denial. Fear on its own isn’t useful. But neither is a dismissal of reality.

New York Times: ‘Don’t Be Afraid of Covid,’ Trump Says, Undermining Public Health Messages

Public health experts had hoped that President Trump, chastened by his own infection with the coronavirus and the cases that have erupted among his staff, would act decisively to persuade his supporters that wearing masks and social distancing were essential to protecting themselves and their loved ones.

“Don’t be afraid of Covid,” he wrote. “Don’t let it dominate your life.”

Scientists, ethicists and doctors were outraged by the president’s comments about a disease that has killed nearly 210,000 people in the United States.

“I am struggling for words — this is crazy,” said Harald Schmidt, assistant professor of medical ethics and health policy at the University of Pennsylvania. “It is just utterly irresponsible.”

Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical School, called the president’s message “dangerous” because it encouraged his followers to ignore basic recommendations to keep themselves safe.

“It will lead to more casual behavior, which will lead to more transmission of the virus, which will lead to more illness, and more illness will lead to more deaths,” Dr. Schaffner said.

This is fairly obvious stuff.

It is also obvious that trump doesn’t really care about the health of Americans. All he cares about is his own ego, being seen as a hero, and winning the election.

Covid would have been much worse if drastic action wasn’t taken to limit the spread of the virus. If could still be much worse if too many people follow Trumps example and advice.

Trump speaks about coronavirus amid outbreak: cartoons

Trump and White House Covid crisis

After months of playing down the severity and risks of Covid the virus has hit home to Trump (or at least should have), after he, his wife and a number of close aides testing positive over the last few days.

The latest positives are Trump’s ‘body man’ (who accompanies the president day and night) assistant Nicholas Luna and White House press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany.

Reuters Factbox: White House staff, top Republicans who have tested positive for COVID-19

It is not being disclosed how many White House staff have tested positive, and information about the severity of Trump’s condition is being deliberate withheld, with a number of contradictory reports confusing the situation.

Reuters: Severity of Trump’s illness unclear four weeks ahead of election

President Donald Trump on Monday began a fourth day of treatment for COVID-19 at a military hospital outside Washington, with the severity of his illness unclear barely four weeks before Americans go to the polls to decide whether to reelect him.

Doctors at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, are treating Trump, 74, with a steroid, dexmethasone, that is normally used only in the most severe cases. Trump was running a high fever on Friday and had been given supplemental oxygen after his blood oxygen levels dropped, Dr. Sean P. Conley, the White House physician, said on Sunday.

But the Republican president’s medical team, which has painted a rosy picture of his condition, will weigh whether he can leave the hospital later on Monday, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows told Fox News, adding that he was optimistic Trump would be discharged.

Even if discharged, Trump will need to continue treatment as he is still undergoing a five-day course of an intravenous antiviral drug, remdesivir. The normal quarantine period for anyone testing positive for the novel coronavirus is 14 days.

Trump put his ego head of his security staff by going on a drive by to have fans wave and cheer. This will have also made things difficult for staff caring for Trump.

The treatment regime being given to Trump suggests his condition is not minor. It has been suggested Trump may be discharged from hospital on Monday (US time), but that would really just be transferring to near hospital conditions at the White House, with intravenous treatment continuing.

This has impacted on Trump’s campaign, that can’t be avoided. While he might attract some sympathy votes he also risks losing support with a significant show of vulnerability and stupidity in how he has dealt with Covid.

FiveThirtyEight: Will Trump’s Diagnosis Change the Way Republicans Think About COVID-19?

In a Reuters/Ipsos poll, for instance, they found that 67 percent of registered voters agreed that if Trump had taken the coronavirus more seriously, he probably wouldn’t have been infected, including about 9 in 10 Democrats and half of all Republicans.

Meanwhile, a Yahoo News/YouGov poll found that 52 percent of registered voters didn’t trust Trump to give accurate info about his health and his COVID-19 treatment.

And Politico/Morning Consult found that 56 percent of Americans did not trust Trump to give accurate updates on his health.

The severity of Trump’s illness may not be clear for another week or two Covid has a reputation for lingering and getting worse with people badly afflicted. Trump will be receiving the best medical care he wants to get, but that may or not work well for him.

RealClear Politics: One Month Out, Battered Trump Campaign Faces Big Challenges

President Donald Trump’s long-hidden tax returns leaked out. His first debate performance ignited a firestorm over white supremacy. He was hospitalized for COVID-19 after months of playing down the threat of a pandemic that has killed more than 200,000 Americans.

Trump’s reelection team, battered on all sides, now enters the final month of the campaign grappling with deficits in the polls, a shortage of cash and a candidate who is at least temporarily sidelined.

The crises, many of Trump’s own making, have come so quickly that they are hard to keep straight.

Recordings revealed that he acknowledged minimizing the dangers of the coronavirus earlier this year. A blockbuster story raised questions over whether he privately belittled members of the military. And even the first lady was captured on tape expressing disdain for having to decorate the White House for Christmas.

The president’s team is launching what it calls “Operation MAGA” to propel his campaign forward, even as he was being treated Sunday at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Although Trump’s medical team raised the possibility that he could be released as early as Monday, significant questions remained about the president’s health and schedule.

The challenges facing the reelection team are enormous.

Both heads of Trump’s political apparatus — campaign manager Bill Stepien and Republican National Committee head Ronna McDaniel — tested positive for COVID-19 this week. Also infected: several outside advisers who had been involved in the president’s debate preparations last week, including former White House senior adviser Kellyanne Conway and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

Deputy campaign manager Justin Clark is temporarily overseeing the campaign’s headquarters in Arlington, Virginia. Stepien organized a late Saturday staff call to project an optimistic tone, even as he acknowledged the loss of the campaign’s “best asset,” the president.

Trying to portray positives is an obviously difficult situation risks looking like the knight in the Holy Grail movie.

Vice President Mike Pence outlined plans to launch a new effort to ramp up campaign appearances by Trump lieutenants who haven’t been infected. Pence himself will star in the new effort, in addition to Trump’s children. Pence promised that he and the first family would begin fanning out across the country aggressively in person after Wednesday’s vice presidential debate.

“We’ve got a campaign to run,” Pence said. “I promise you, this president, as soon as his doctors say so, he’s going to be back out there.”

The standard quarantine period for someone with Covid is 14 days, providing they get over it quickly. There may be a negative reaction oif the normal rules are not applied to trump and his campaign staff.

The president’s hospitalization also underscores what has long been the Trump campaign’s greatest challenge: its inability to shift the national discourse away from the virus. For months, even as the campaign has tried to frame the election as a choice between Trump and Biden, the race has been perceived largely as a referendum on the president’s handling of the pandemic.

And Trump’s tone on the virus has changed little despite his illness. In a video released late Saturday from the hospital, he expressed no contrition for his handling of the virus and still spoke of quickly moving beyond the pandemic.

The rush to campaign again is as risky as being a threat to Trump’s health and even his life – and the health of others. Biden has been a lot more sensible about Covid than Trump and won’t want to put himself at risk, so further debates may not happen – or if they do happen with Trump in some sort of obvious isolation it will be difficult for Trump to avoid his handling of Covid.

Trump is a chaos candidate at the best of times, but it is an abnormally chaotic year in the US. Anything could happen – not only is political power at risk, health and even lives are at risk, and Trump is currently the centre of attention on that right now. It won’t help that an increasing number of his key staff are testing positive and having to isolate as well.

Twitter is again getting a workout from Trump, but that has largely lost it’s novelty and shock value. It’s going to be a tough month for him.

Elsewhere in the world Covid is far from over. One in 10 may have caught COVID, as world heads into ‘difficult period’: WHO

Mike Ryan, the WHO’s top emergency expert, was addressing the agency’s Executive Board, where the United States made a thinly veiled swipe at China for what it called a “failure” to provide accurate and timely information on the outbreak.

Ryan said that outbreaks were surging in parts of southeast Asia and that cases and deaths were on the rise in parts of Europe and the eastern Mediterranean region.

White House Covid cluster

The growing White House Covid cluster could turn out to be a clusterfuck. Lax attitudes to Covid and lax protective measures may have contributed to a dangerous situation.

It appears that Covid may have been spreading amongst those associated with Trump for days before a positive test of close aide Hope Hicks raised the alarm – but not enough alarm to stop Trump travelling to and attending a fund raising event before his positive test result was made public.

The White House Covid cluster includes:

  • Donald Trump
  • Melania Trump
  • Hope Hicks (senior White House adviser who close aide too Trump)
  • Kelly Anne Conway (former adviser and current associate)
  • Bill Stepien (Trump campaign manager)
  • Chris Christie (ex N.J. Governor who helped Trump prepare for the debate on Tuesday)
  • Ronna McDaniel (Republican National Committee Chair)
  • Mike Lee (Senator R-Utah)
  • Thom Tillis (Senator R-N.C.)
  • Ron Johnson (Senator R-Wis.)

I’m sure there will be a lot of testing going on and more positive tests may come out of the cluster.

Trump is currently being treated in hospital. There are differing reports of his condition. He is in a high risk group due to his age and weight and presumed lack of physical activity.

There is also uncertainty about when Trump tested positive.

CBS News: Trump tweets he is “feeling well”; Source says his vitals were “very concerning”

It’s the most serious health crisis a president has faced since President Ronald Reagan was shot in 1981. 

Dr. Sean Conley, the president’s physician, told reporters on Saturday that Mr. Trump was not on oxygen. However, he sidestepped questions about whether the president had received oxygen treatment at the White House on Friday. 

Conley said Mr. Trump is “just 72 hours into the diagnosis now,” creating confusion about when the president found out he had COVID-19. He made the announcement about his positive test result early Friday morning, after appearing at a fundraiser at his club in Bedminster, New Jersey, hours earlier.

72 hours before Saturday is about Wednesday.

Reuters – Trump’s COVID-19 symptoms ‘very concerning’, next 48 hours critical: source

President Donald Trump is not yet on a clear path to recovery from COVID-19 and some of his vital signs over the last 24 hours were very concerning, a person familiar with his health said on Saturday.

The source’s assessment of the Republican president’s medical status seemed to be at odds to that of a team of doctors who said at a press conference earlier on Saturday that he was “doing very well.”

The source, who asked not to be identified, said the next 48 hours will be critical in terms of Trump’s care.

Trump left the White House and was moved to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center near Washington on Friday just hours after he was diagnosed with COVID-19.

Trump just getting Covid is concerning. The health of the president is a big deal. It’s hard to read how much the hospitalisation was precautionary and how much necessitated by Trump’s condition.

White House doctor Sean P. Conley told reporters outside the hospital on Saturday that Trump had not experienced difficulty breathing, and currently was not on supplemental oxygen.

“The team and I are extremely happy with the progress the president has made,” Conley said.

Conley said Trump had received a first dose of a five-day course of Remdesivir, an intravenous antiviral drug sold by Gilead Sciences Inc that has been shown to shorten hospital stays. He is also taking an experimental treatment, Regeneron’s REGN-COV2, one of several experimental COVID-19 drugs known as monoclonal antibodies, as well as zinc, Vitamin D, famotidine, melatonin and aspirin, Conley has said.

That seems like a lot of drugs. They must be being administered based on top current medical advice, but there must be some risk from the experimental nature of the treatment.

So how did this Covid outbreak occur? Obviously many people associated with Trump travelling and mingling at campaign events raised the risks, as did a lax attitude to basic protective measures like wearing of masks.

Trump repeated mocking of Joe Biden for frequently wearing a mask at the Tuesday debate. Trump’s campaign is now in jeopardy while Biden can continue his cautious campaign (his campaign has sensibly withdrawn negative advertisements targeting of Trump).

There is some uncertainty about Trump’s condition and also when he tested positive.

Reuters: Relying on testing to ward off COVID put Trump White House at risk

Early in the coronavirus pandemic, U.S. President Donald Trump put his faith in a toaster-sized machine that could spit out test results in a matter of minutes.

In late March, Trump hailed the launch of Abbott Laboratories’ ID NOW test at a Rose Garden event and embraced its widespread use at the White House to keep the deadly virus at bay. The president often skipped his own administration’s public health recommendations on mask wearing and social distancing, explaining that “everyone’s tested” around him using the Abbott device.

His strategy was no match for the virus.

Obviously everyone around him being tested was not enough as it didn’t prevent the current outbreak, it just confirmed the virus was spreading in Trump’s entourage.

“The reliance on a rapid test, with its limitations, unfortunately gave the White House and its staff a false sense of security that they were in control of the virus,” said William Schaffner, a professor of infectious diseases at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

“You cannot rely on that test to create a barrier between you and the virus,” he said, adding that people “have to wear masks, do social distancing and not go to all these rallies.”

While rapid tests can help contain the spread of a highly contagious virus, they were not designed to be used in isolation. A negative result merely captures a snapshot in time and doesn’t guard against infection soon after. And a person may be infectious for days before the amount of virus in their body registers positive on a test.

That’s all well known. We have been told about it often enough here in new Zealand over the last eight months. Human behaviour contrary to safe practices has been our biggest (but relatively small) problem.

Lax behaviour is likely to have contributed to this outbreak.

Trump and his staff regularly do not wear masks. Last month, Trump publicly disagreed with Robert Redfield, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who testified to Congress about the importance of the face coverings.

And at Tuesday’s presidential debate, Trump disparaged his opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, for his frequent mask use. “I don’t wear masks like him – every time you see him, he’s got a mask,” the president said.

Now, the fallout from the White House’s focus on testing as a precaution could extend far beyond the president and his wife, experts say.

The fallout includes obvious serious health risks for Trump and those who have been associating with him.

Trump’s campaign has also been severely disrupted. If Trump recovers quickly enough and resumes his campaigning that is likely to be much more cautious regarding Covid, and Trump’s attitude to Covid could be (should be) quite different.

While most people survive Covid Trump is in a higher risk group, so his health, his life and the presidency are at risk. His ability to govern the country has already been impacted.

There have been a number of articles along the lines of What happens if a presidential candidate dies

Aside from his risk factors the odds are that Trump will survive.

To date there have been about seven and a half million recorded cases of Covid, and currently 213,841 deaths, which is a 2.8% death rate.

There are currently 2,566,780 active cases in the US, with 14,177 of those classified as serious or critical, which is just 0.55%.

There is a seven day rolling average of 42,646 new cases per day in the US, with a seven day average of 726 deaths, which is 1.7%.

So the Trump and White House cases are comparatively small, and the risk of serious illness or death also small.

But even if Trump recovers quickly from being infected with Covid should be a reality check for him. It should also dent his cavalier attitude to the virus.

There are reports that suddenly White House staff seem to be wearing masks. The reality of Covid will have hit home to many people.

More on Trump with Covid, senator also tests positive

Donald Trump is experiencing ‘mild symptoms’ after testing positive for Covid. He will continue to work at this stage, but he and his staff will separate themselves from vice president Mike Pence and his staff – Pence will take over presidential duties if Trump becomes incapacitated.

Trump has been acting as if Covid is virtually over and not a risk. here’s a Twitter timeline:

That was a fund raising dinner after he knew his close aide Hope Hicks had tested positive.

Senator Mike Lee has also tested positive to Covid. Three days earlier he had met with the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett. Lee says he will isolate for ten days but will be back at work in time to deal with the Supreme Court nomination.

The US sharemarket started down on Friday but has recovered.

RNZ: Pence negative, Trump has mild Covid symptoms – White House

US President Donald Trump has mild symptoms of Covid-19 after he and his wife, Melania, tested positive for the coronavirus, the White House says.

Vice President Mike Pence, next in line for the Oval Office, has tested negative for Covid-19, hours after Trump announced that he was infected, Pence’s spokesperson said.

Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, said the president was “on the job” and “in good spirits”, adding that he expected him to make a quick recovery.

Officials said the process of tracking all the president’s contacts in recent days was ongoing, adding that Trump was considering how he might address the nation or otherwise communicate with the American people later today.

Contact tracing will be a big job.

Yesterday, the first couple said they intended to self-isolate after one of Trump’s closest aides, Hope Hicks, tested positive. Soon afterwards, they too received positive test results.

But there has been criticism of Trump’s decision to go to a fundraiser attended by dozens of people in New Jersey on Thursday, apparently when officials already knew about Hicks’s symptoms.

Testing positive will impact on Trump’s ability to campaign, and should also impact on his attitude to Covid and the current state of the virus in the US, but that’s not a given with Trump.

I presume this will rule out at least one of the presidential debates.

House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi is next in line of succession after Pence. She said on Friday that she had been tested for Covid-19 and should know her results soon.

In response to Trump’s positive diagnosis, she said: “This is tragic. It’s very sad. … Going into crowds unmasked and all the rest was sort of a brazen invitation for something like this to happen.”

Before the positive test announcements:

After the announcements:

Biden praying for Trump is an odd image.

A burn from within the family:

The president’s niece, Mary Trump, who wrote a scathing book about her uncle, had this message: “I reserve my sympathy, empathy, and despair for those who are sick and for those who have died because they were misled, lied to, or ignored.”

CNN: GOP senator on Judiciary panel tests positive for Covid-19 days after meeting with Trump’s nominee

Sen. Mike Lee, a Utah Republican, announced Friday he tested positive for Covid-19, just days after meeting in person with Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett on Tuesday.

Barrett tested negative for coronavirus on Friday, according to White House spokesperson Judd Deere.

Lee, who serves on the Senate Judiciary Committee, tweeted on Friday that he took the test Thursday, and would “remain isolated” for 10 days. He said he has “assured” Senate Republican leaders that he will “be back to work” to join the Judiciary panel to advance Barrett’s nomination to the full Senate for a confirmation vote.

Ten days is a short isolation time for someone with Covid, and presumes that he will recover and test negative quickly. Most people with Covid only suffer from mild symptoms, but some are unlucky and suffer from severe and extended problames, and over 213,000 in the US have been very unlucky.

Covid continues to cause major disruptions. There are currently over 300,000 recorded new cases a day around the world , with over a million recorded deaths in total.

Donald aand Melania Trump test positive for Covid

News earlier today – a close aid of President Donald Trump, Hope Hicks, had tested positive for Covid, having travelled with Trump to the debate and to rallies this week.

Trump has just announced that he and Melania have also tested positive and will go into quarantine.

Trump will no doubt have the best health care possible, but he will be concerned as he is in a higher risk age group.

And this will curtail his campaigning that had been progressing despite Covid.

It will also dent his claims that the US is dealing well with Covid.

Back to level 1 for most of us

Most of New Zealand is back too Covid alert level 1. This means minimal restrictions apart from international travel.

Auckland has been tweaked from level 2.5 to 2.0 which I think means just a change to gathering numbers allowed. This will be reviewed in two weeks.

At 11.59pm on Wednesday night, Auckland will shift from ‘Alert Level 2.5’ to Alert Level 2. That means from Thursday, Aucklanders will be able to attend social gatherings of up to 100 people, and Auckland-based funerals or tangihanga can host up to 100 people.

From midnight (Monday), the rest of New Zealand will return to Alert Level 1.

At Alert Level 2, Aucklanders are still required to wear a face covering on public transport and are encouraged to wear them in places where physical distancing is difficult. 

We strongly encourage Aucklanders who leave the region to ‘take their Alert Level with them’. 

If you are travelling out of or to Auckland, be aware that face coverings will be required on all inter-regional public transport journeys to and from the Auckland region. This includes flights, inter-regional buses or trains.

The level 1/2 split is a new arrangement. There have been no community Covid cases outside of Auckland for months (apart from a few in Tokoroa but linked to the Auckland outbreak) but in making previous decisions Jacinda Ardern had said it was too hard to have Auckland restricted on level 2.x while the rest of the country was unrestricted. Cabinet now thinks this isn’t such a problem, but nothing has really changed apart from the election getting closer.

Cabinet will meet on Monday 5 October to review these new Alert Level settings – presumably the primary consideration will be whether Auckland drops to level 1 or not.

Early voting for the election starts on Saturday 3 October, and this will be on the minds of the politicians in Cabinet.

For ‘the rest of New Zealand’ level 1 means a mostly unrestricted lifestyle, except for international travel which looks a long way off being possible.

Air New Zealand says even travel to Australia will be well into next year at the earliest.

NZ Herald: Transtasman travel bubble on hold till at least March – Air New Zealand boss Greg Foran

Air New Zealand chief executive Greg Foran has shot down the idea of a transtasman bubble until March 2021, at the very earliest.

“I certainly do not believe we will see anything across the Tasman this calendar year. It’s hard to believe it would be before March next year and could well be longer,” he said.

So we’re likely be confined to Aotearoa for at least 6 months and possibly quite a bit longer.

Decision due today on Covid alert levels

Cabinet is due to announce today whether the Covid alert levels will be reduced or not. Auckland is currently on level 2.5 with the rest of the country on 2.

It had been looking promising for a lowering of levels, with several days of no new community cases – until yesterday when the Ministry of Health announced: 4 new cases of COVID-19

There are four new cases of COVID-19 to report in New Zealand today; two community cases and two cases in managed isolation.

The two community cases are household contacts of the case reported yesterday, which is not connected to the Auckland cluster. The case reported yesterday is a recent returnee who arrived in New Zealand from India on August 27 and completed managed isolation, returning two negative tests at the facility in Christchurch before returning home to Auckland on September 11. 

The case reported yesterday was tested after developing symptoms on September 16, and returned a positive result. He and his household contacts self-isolated when he developed symptoms. They were all moved into the Auckland quarantine facility on September 18, when the first case returned a positive result. 

All identified close contacts have been isolated and tested. 

The source of the case’s infection is still under investigation, but genome sequencing is consistent with two confirmed cases from the same flight from India to New Zealand that landed on August 27.  

It is possible that this case was infected during that flight and has had an extremely long incubation period – there is evidence that in rare instances the incubation period can be up to 24 days. This person developed symptoms 21 days after he arrived in New Zealand.  If this is the case, it sits well outside the standard incubation period of the virus. 

The vast majority of people who are infected with COVID-19 will become unwell within 14 days. Having returnees stay in managed isolation for 14 days remains the gold standard, and this is also the approach adopted by other countries. Our own modelling confirms that 14 days spent in managed isolation with two tests leaves a very low risk that someone will leave managed isolation with COVID-19.

Another possible scenario is that the case may have been infected during the flight from Christchurch to Auckland – other passengers from that flight are currently being contacted and assessed as a precautionary measure in order to exclude them as the source of infection.

This sort of uncertainty must weigh on the Cabinet decision, but Government advisers and allies are downplaying the implications.

Newshub: Fresh COVID-19 community cases lead to call for border restrictions review

It’s prompted the question – do we need to keep returnees in isolation for longer?

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield…

…says there are two most likely ways the man could have become infectious.

“Could be the person was actually infected before they left India, on the flight from India, during the period of managed isolation or subsequently even on that flight from Christchurch to Auckland.”

But he says there’s no risk to the public

Auckland University Professor Shaun Hendy:

“There’s a low likelihood that the new cases have led to unknown cases so I don’t think this will affect their decision tomorrow,”

Otago University epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker…

…says the chances of incubating the virus for longer than two weeks is low.

“It’s between 1 and 2 percent,” he says.

But Prof Baker says border restrictions need to be reviewed.

“If we find that some countries have such intense transmission that we’re seeing a lot of imported cases from there I think we’d want to think hard about that and how to manage that risk,” he says.

He wants returnees to isolate at their homes for a week after leaving quarantine facilities.

So perhaps we will lower levels but with another tweak to the rules.

While Jacinda Ardern says that decisions will be based on expert advice and science she received increasing criticism last week over the alert level being maintained outside Auckland. Cabinet Minister and deputy PM Winston Peters broke ranks with her.

I expect she will have one eye on expert advice and one eye on the election when making the decision today.

30 million Covid cases

There have now been over 30 million Covid-19 cases recorded around the world, and the number is still climbing by over a quarter a million a day – yesterday it was a high of 308,868, with 97,859 of those in India.

While the death rate (per case) has dropped, suggesting treatment is now more successful, the total deaths attributed to Covid is now 948,468 and rising by six thousand a day, so will likely pass a million before the end of the month.


While three recent deaths have increased the New Zealand death count to 25 the recent outbreak seems to be under control, with no community cases detected for the last three days.

Deaths in the United States have now passed 200,000 (over 20% of world deaths), with cases nearing 7 million (22.67% of world cases).

President Donald Trump continues to make strange statements about Covid. From a recent interview:

During a town hall on ABC Tuesday night, moderator George Stephanopoulos asked President Donald Trump why he said that he liked to “downplay” the threat posed by Covid-19 to the American public. Here’s the exchange that followed:

Trump: I’m not looking to be dishonest. I don’t want people to panic. And we are going to be OK. We’re going to be OK, and it is going away. And it’s probably going to go away now a lot faster because of the vaccines.It would go away without the vaccine, George, but it’s going to go away a lot faster with it.

Stephanopoulos: It would go away without the vaccine?

Trump: Sure, over a period of time. Sure, with time it goes away.

If he keeps saying things like that he will eventually be sort of right, but he has been wrong for months. From 25 March:

President Donald Trump says he wants the nation “opened up and just raring to go by Easter” — a date just more than two weeks away that few health experts believe will be sufficient in containing the spread of coronavirus.

Speaking during a Fox News town hall on Tuesday, Trump reiterated he was eager to see the nation return to normal soon, even as doctors warn the nation will see a massive spike in cases if Americans return to crowded workplaces or events.

“I give it two weeks,” Trump said earlier in the town hall, suggesting he was ready to phase out his 15-day self-isolating guidelines when they expire. “I guess by Monday or Tuesday, it’s about two weeks. We will assess at that time and give it more time if we need a little more time. We have to open this country up.”

A number of vaccines are being tested but it could be some time before their use is widespread, but again in the US there are very mixed messages.

WHO calls for ‘consistent messaging’ after Trump and Meadows contradict CDC chief

President Trump reiterated a claim that a novel coronavirus vaccine will be ready this Fall, and said on Fox Sports Radio that Democrats are “petrified” that it will emerge before Election Day. Trump’s claim went against a prediction by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention head Robert Redfield that vaccines will not be widely available until the middle of next year. Many experts, including scientists leading the vaccine effort, have agreed with Redfield.

In an interview on Fox News, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said that attempted to discredit the head of the federal agency, saying he was “not sure where Dr. Redfield got his particular timetable, but it’s not based on those that are closest to the process.”

“It is important that we have consistent messaging from all levels” by top officials worldwide, World Health Organization emergencies chief Mike Ryan said at a news briefing on Thursday.

Asking for consistent messages from the Trump administration is futile.

And there is public concerns – 62% of Americans are worried that ‘political pressure’ from the Trump administration will rush a coronavirus vaccine, new poll shows

62% of adults in the US worry that “political pressure from the Trump administration lead the FDA to rush to approve a coronavirus vaccine without making sure that it is safe and effective,” according to a new poll from Kaiser Family Foundation.

Even if a vaccine did become available another poll suggests that many people would be reluctant to use one – from Majority of adults don’t trust Trump’s comments on Covid-19 vaccine

Adults are also more skeptical about whether they or their families would get a government-approved coronavirus vaccine if one became widely available.

The poll’s latest data show that just 39 percent of adults say they would, 23 percent say they wouldn’t and 36 percent say they aren’t sure.

Perhaps Trump can use the power of his presidency to encourage them to take a vaccine, but it’s likely some supporters will view a vaccine the same as they view lockdowns and wearing masks – with disdain and opposition.

Trump’s re-election campaign is running television ads touting that “in the race for a vaccine, the finish line is approaching.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of the country’s foremost experts on infectious diseases, reiterated last week that he feels “cautiously optimistic” that a safe and effective vaccine would be found by the end of the year and that doing so by Nov. 3 was “unlikely.”

And Covid is far from over in Europe: ‘Very serious situation’ in Europe, WHO warns

The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that coronavirus cases are surging alarmingly in Europe, as a “very serious situation” unfolds across the continent.

As Covid-19 infections spike to record numbers, European governments are imposing strict local measures and weighing up further lockdowns in a bid to halt a second wave of the pandemic.

But WHO regional director Hans Kluge said at a Thursday news conference that the increase in cases should serve as a warning of what is to come.”Weekly cases have now exceeded those reported when the pandemic first peaked in Europe in March,” Kluge said. “Last week, the region’s weekly tally exceeded 300,000 patients.”More than half of European nations have reported an increase of more than 10% in new cases in the past two weeks, Kluge added. “Of those, seven countries have seen newly reported cases increase more than two-fold in the same period,” he said.

There are some interesting charts of Covid data from Reuters: Covid-19 Global Tracker

Ross not standing in Botany

Jami-Lee Ross has said he will not stand in the Botany election, saying he is confident of Advance NZ co-leader Billy Te Kahika winning the Te Tai Tokerau electorate (off Labour deputy leader Kelvin Davis) and also confident of making the 5% threshold.

Davis (12,673 votes) beat Hone Harawira (7,866 votes) in Te Tai Tokerau in the 2017 election. While Te Kahika has built a significant following with thousands attending a protest he fronted in the weekend that is a long way from a majority in one electorate.

The composite party would probably need to get 140,000+ votes to make the 5% threshold, which is a very high hurdle for any small party let alone one with no history.

Times Online: Jami-Lee Ross not contesting Botany seat

Independent MP Jami-Lee Ross is not contesting the Botany seat in the General Election in October.

The former National front bencher who fell out spectacularly with his party and the former National Party leader Simon Bridges and is also facing Serious Fraud Office charges, told the Times he will go on Advance NZ’s party list. He is also confident Advance NZ co-leader Billy Te Kahika will win the Maori seat which would ensure they get into parliament.

Advance NZ has merged with several smaller parties which Ross likened to the successful approach adopted by Jim Anderton.

“We’re modelling it off the Alliance Party of the 1990s …several smaller parties came together as one bigger party so that they had more of an opportunity to campaign and reach parliament and they did ultimately reach parliament so that’s the model that we’re working on,” Ross said.

“It became pretty apparent that I had to make a decision – do I run a nationwide campaign? I’m effectively doing that, I’m running a campaign, I’m assisting in training and selecting and recruiting candidates.

“I’m working very closely with Billy Te Kahika (leader of the NZ Public Party, Advance NZ co-leader with Ross and Te Tai Tokerau candidate) who is a political novice but is making big inroads into things and I wouldn’t be able to do that and also give the required time necessary to run for election properly here in Botany.”

Ross said feedback he was getting suggested it would be three-way race for the Botany seat “because National’s considerably lower, Labour’s considerably higher, I’ve got a profile in Botany too so it wasn’t a foregone conclusion for anyone”.

I think if Ross actually thought he had a chance of winning Botany he wouldn’t pull out. This looks like him conceding he has no show.

“I had to make a call as to whether I could dedicate the time required to run for election in Botany properly. My strength of campaigning is also door-knocking face-to-face but you can’t do that during Covid so that’s been an interruption.”

He has been successful as a National candidate, but that was in a safe national electorate. His weakness now of face to face campaigning this election is that he has disgraced himself politically and personally.

“But in terms of contribution towards the country and the political party, I came to the view that my skills in terms of politics and campaigning were best suited to getting a new vehicle into parliament and working hard to ensure that a new political party (could get) a foothold and building off the profile and building off the following that the NZ Public Party and Advance NZ are starting to see now.”

Ross was getting nowhere with his own party so is tagging on to the cult-like popularity of Te Kahika.

Ross’ organising experience he gained when with National will help, but he is unlikely to attract many votes himself. He is really trying to enable Te Kahika.

“I know that many in the media, certainly down in parliament, write us off but on the ground, I’ve never seen a political party grow as fast as it has,” he said.

The party/parties have grown out of nothing very quickly, but that’s a long way from winning a seat or making the threshold.

“I’ve never seen the reach on social media like we’ve got in the last month. We reached 2 million people. In the last week we reached 1m people. Of course that’s not going to turn into votes entirely but that suggests to you the public are opening their eyes up to something new and something different.”

I don’t know where he gets those numbers from, but on their own they don’t mean much. I’ve been ‘reached’ on social media by several parties (not Advance NZ) but won’t be voting for more than one of them, and maybe none of them.

Ross also reckons Te Kahika could roll Kelvin Davis, the deputy leader of the Labour Party, out of the Te Tai Tokerau seat in October.

“He’s (Te Kahika) has a very good shot at winning that seat, taking it off Kelvin Davis who hasn’t really delivered anything for that area.”

It would be unprecedented in modern new politics if Te Kahika won an electorate. It’s possible, bu I think highly improbable.

It’s normal for politicians to talk up their chances to try to generate support. Many don’t come close to matching their claims.

Advance NZ – and its alliance comprising NZ Public Party, the Direct Democracy Party, the NZ People’s Party and a party called Reset New Zealand – will deliver an offering Kiwis want, said Ross.

“This movement and this party is growing so fast that I wouldn’t be surprised if we got to 5 per cent in any case. There’s a gap in the market where New Zealanders are looking for an alternative strategy to Covid-19.

Most people support what the Government has done on Covid. Some don’t, but they won’t all support a party promoting a range of conspiracy theories.

“The virus isn’t killing anywhere near as many people as we were told it would right at the start. That’s the case around the world.

That’s a nonsense claim. Models suggested possible death levels if nothing was done to restrict Covid, but I don’t know of any country did nothing. And all models I have seen show ranges of possibilities.

If New Zealand hadn’t locked down we would certainly have had far more deaths, as would have happened in many other countries.

As a country we need to learn to live with the virus. No other political party is offering a more risk-based balanced approach and so I think there’s New Zealanders opening their eyes up to that idea and that strategy so that’s where the party offers a point of difference.”

It’s ridiculous claiming Te Kahika represents “a more risk-based balanced approach”.

“We’re going to go to the election with 60 candidates, 7000 members which I’d argue is going to be bigger than other parties except maybe Labour and National.

“We’ve got tens of thousands of people who we’re reaching on social media who are volunteering as well and Billy Te Kahika is a unique phenomenon in politics and inspiring so many people. Sure, his opponents are writing him off calling him all sorts of names but what you’re seeing is someone who’s tapping into dissatisfaction with a large range of voters.”

If correct those are impressive numbers for a new party, but they are a long way from election success.

“Organisations like the World Health Organization are now telling us we need to learn to live with the virus. It’s time to be heard on a new strategy.”

It is blatant bullshit to imply that the Advance NZ approach to dealing with Covid aligns with WHO advice.

WHO have advice that is applicable to Te Kahika and Advance NZ – Mythbusters, which includes 5G Mobile networks.

Even if Advance NZ perform an electoral miracle and make it into Parliament I’m fairly sure Labour will have nothing to do with their nuttery in Government.

UPDATE: David Farrar comments on the Ross claim that Botany was a a three way race:

In no way was it a three way race. In a poll done by Curia in August 2020, Jami-Lee Ross was at 1.8%. And no that is not a typo – 1.8% not 18%.