Covid-19 “will be here for some time”

It has become obvious that the impact of Covid-19 will continue for some time, either contracting the virus or the significant impact on everyone’ way of life – months if not years.

Yesterday Jacinda Ardern said we should accept there would be a “significant disruption” to daily life from now on – “this will not leave in weeks. It will be here for some time”. Some time is obviously going to be quite a bit more than a few weeks.

As of Saturday afternoon there were 52 confirmed cases in New Zealand, with the possibility that two of the latest my have been community spread. This is significant, because if community spread is confirmed then communities (probably local at first, for example towns, cities or schools) are going to be locked down – that is, we will be asked if not compelled to stay at home.

So far 279,000 people have been confirmed infected across the world and 12.755 have died.

Italy and Europe continues to bear the brunt of the pandemic.

Reuters: Italy coronavirus deaths surge by 793 in a day, lifting total death toll to 4,825

The death toll from an outbreak of coronavirus in Italy has leapt by 793 to 4,825, officials said on Saturday, an increase of 19.6% — by far the largest daily rise in absolute terms since the contagion emerged a month ago.

The total number of cases in Italy rose to 53,578 from a previous 47,021, an increase of 13.9%

Italy is in lockdown and their health system is under severe strain, currently having to try to care for 2,857 people in intensive care.

Spain, France and Germany also have a large number of cases, but the death rates are markedly different, suggesting that access to good healthcare is imperative – Germany has started to take patients from France. The worst affected countries:

The full table, map and other information from Reuters here.

Good data summaries from John Hopkins University including this map:

That shows the virus spread around the world, with China, Iran, Europe and the US prominent. It seems odd to see so little in Russia but these are reported cases.

Russia has reported few coronavirus cases but a sharp spike in pneumonia

Despite its large population and hefty border with China, Russia has reported just 306 confirmed coronavirus cases. Pneumonia, however, is booming, according to official statistics.

As of March 18, only one lab, located near the Siberian city of Novosibirsk, has been able to carry out tests—and had found only 114 positive results from 116,000 tests, according to the Moscow Times. That is the lowest ratio of tests to positive cases in the world, the paper reports. A deputy in the health committee of the Duma, Russia’s parliament, acknowledged the “figures are likely a lot higher.”

As the US and EU accuse the Kremlin of sowing disinformation about Covid-19 at Americans and Europeans, some Russians are looking back at Chernobyl and accusing their government of again lying to its own people about a public health crisis.

International power playing and propaganda haven’t been halted by Covid-19.

More from Reuters: Latest on the spread of the coronavirus around the world

  • Spain said it would turn a Madrid conference center into a giant military hospital, as Europe’s second-worst outbreak claimed another 235 lives.
  • France reported 78 new deaths on Friday, taking the total to 450, an increase of 21%.
  • Germany may enforce a nationwide curfew if the country’s 83 million people fail to keep their distance from each other this weekend.
  • New Jersey’s governor was expected on Saturday to follow four other states – California, New York, Illinois and Connecticut – demanding that millions of Americans close up shop and stay home to slow the spread of coronavirus infections. The total number of known U.S. cases has climbed past 19,000 in a surge that health officials attributed in large part to an increase in diagnostic testing. More than 270 Americans have died.
  • China reported a record rise in imported coronavirus cases as students and expatriates returned home from the United States and Europe, sparking fears of a second wave of infections just as the country recovers from the initial outbreak.
    All 41 of the new confirmed cases in China were imported from overseas.
  • Indonesia’s total of cases rose to 450, with 38 deaths, a health ministry official said on Saturday. This comes a day after the governor of Jakarta declared a state of emergency in the Indonesian capital for the next two weeks.
  • Malaysia’s cases jumped to 1,183 on Saturday with four deaths.
  • Iran’s death toll from the outbreak rose on Saturday by more than 100 to 1,556, and the total number of people infected now exceeds 20,000, a health ministry official said.
  • Angola on Saturday confirmed its first two cases of coronavirus, while Mauritius recorded its first death as the virus spreads across Africa.

The news may not all be bad.

One reason for measured optimism is the prospect that antiviral medicines will beat the coronavirus; some are already in clinical trials. Scientists have hopes for remdesivir, originally developed for Ebola; chloroquine, an old anti-malaria drug; and some anti-H.I.V. and immune-boosting drugs. Many other drugs are also lined up for trials.

Even without proven treatment, the coronavirus may be less lethal than was originally feared, so long as health care systems are not overwhelmed. In South Korea and in China outside Hubei Province, about 0.8 percent of those known to be infected died, and the rate was 0.6 percent on a cruise ship.

But:

By some counts, the United States is just eight days behind Italy on a similar trajectory, and it’s difficult to see how America can pirouette from the path of Italy to that of South Korea. The United States may already have 100,000 infected citizens — nobody knows. That’s too many to trace. Indeed, one can argue that the U.S. is not only on the same path as Italy but is also less prepared, for America has fewer doctors and hospital beds per capita than Italy does — and a shorter life expectancy even in the best of times.

Sounds a bit ominous. And I hate to think what may happen when Covid-19 gets going in Africa.

eNCA: Africa coronavirus cases to rise as some undetected

Africa will likely see higher numbers of coronavirus cases in coming weeks because of the likelihood some are slipping through the net, the head of a regional disease control body said.

“We are picking (up) some people but we are also missing some people,” said John Nkengasong, head of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) which is a branch of the African Union bloc.

“The situation will get worse before it gets better because the chances are clear that people have slipped through.”

That’s a worry around the world, including here in New Zealand. Even if we manage to contain it and prevent community spread we will have a problem as soon as we re-open our borders. Our lives for the rest of the year are going to be markedly different to anything we could have imagined.

Just one town: Wanaka on the brink

Businesses are shuttering in the picturesque South Island town as the coronavirus pandemic takes its toll.

“The mood is pretty sombre. Businesses are laying off staff and some are closing even if just to avoid the risks posed by tourists who have not self isolated.”

Domestic tourism made up about 40 per cent of visitors to Wanaka and Helmore said they were pinning their hopes on the ski season going ahead.

The ski season won’t start for three months, if there’s enough snow and Covid border restrictions are lifted (and if we are allowed to travel internally by then).

And there’s a real chance it could be worse here already than we know – Man who tested positive for Covid-19 could not get through to helpline for four days

Tūwharetoa Trust Board has confirmed one of its staff members, Te Mahau Kingi, tested positive for the virus after returning to Auckland from London via Dubai on 12 March.

He then flew to Taupō on 14 March, self-isolated and was tested on Tuesday. His results came back positive on Friday evening.

That’s a flight into the country and an internal flight before self-isolating. And then four days wait, then another two days before tested positive before contact tracking would have begun.

I know a nurse who works in an elderly care hospital who was off work last week with flu-like symptoms. She tried to get tested but they said it wasn’t required as she had not had contact with anyone who had been travelling recently. She was allowed to go back to work.

 

Immigration rules discriminatory

An item on Sunday raised ‘serious serious questions’ about NZ’s refugee policy, which has a special rule that requires that refugees from Africa and the Middle East must have family in New Zealand to qualify. And the Minister of Immigration agrees that it is a discriminatory rule and says that Cabinet is reviewing the rule.

1 News: Is it racist? ‘Very serious questions’ raised about fairness of NZ’s refugee policy

New Zealand’s refugee policy is discriminating against vulnerable people from Africa and the Middle East, a TVNZ Sunday investigation has found.
In 2009, the then-National Government introduced the “family link” policy, requiring refugees from Africa and the Middle East to have an existing family connection to New Zealand.

The “family link” rule doesn’t apply to refugees from the Asia-Pacific or the Americas.

While some Middle Eastern refugees have been brought in under emergency intakes, including from Syria, the main refugee quota has been heavily affected by this policy.

New Zealand has been unable to meet its refugee targets for Africa and the Middle East over the past decade.
Refugee leaders and community organisations told Sunday that the policy is racist and unfair.

The “family link” policy has been criticised by Amnesty International and World Vision. Both organisations say they have lobbied the Government, asking for a change in the policy. Those efforts have been unsuccessful.

Chief Human Rights Commissioner Paul Hunt told Sunday that he would be “very disappointed if different rules were being applied to refugees from different geographic regions without very good reasons for such an approach”.

In a statement, the UNHCR – the UN’s refugee agency – told TVNZ that refugee laws should be applied “without discrimination as to race, religion or country of origin”.

Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway refused to be interviewed, saying that the issue is before Cabinet and he hopes to make an announcement later in the year.

However on Monday Lees-Galloway responded – Immigration Minister agrees Middle East, Africa refugees rules are discriminatory

Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway said the rules were inherited from the previous government and were being reviewed.

He told Morning Report the official advice he has received was clear about the difficulties with the current quota system.

“They told me that it’s difficult to source sufficient numbers of people to meet the targets that were set by the previous government with that policy in place.

“And that is something that we will need to take into consideration if we want to change the proportion of people that we take from various regions from around the world.”

Mr Lees-Galloway said quota rules run for three years and a government decision about the next three years was “imminent”.

I don’t buy the three year rule claim. Governments change rules when they want to.

It is good that the clear discrimination is being reviewed – but I presume it will require agreement from NZ First to change.

 

A Sea of Immigrants

Despite what some peop,e claim we don’t have open borders in New Zealand and we don’t have an unlimited flood of immigrants.

It’s debatable whether we have the right sort of immigration balance but especially compared to many other countries our immigration isn’t out of control. Illegal immigration is a minor issue here. Part of the reason for this is our lack of proximity to other countries.

Europe has major problems with illiegal immigrants. Many of these flood across the Mediterranean Sea moving north from Africa (a path for immigration since humans started moving from our continent of origin and spreading around the world).

Desperation forces people to take despereate measures and there’s many risks with the Mediterranean route, as a disater this week demonstrates.

Finjancial Times reports: New migrant deaths off Italian coast spur calls for EU action

As many as 300 people are feared dead after attempting to reach Italy on inflatable dinghies in stormy weather, in one of the Mediterranean Sea’s worst maritime disasters, sparking calls for European authorities to fund more intensive search-and-rescue operations.

Reporting accounts from survivors, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said four rubber boats carrying migrants mainly from sub-Saharan Africa left a Libyan beach on Saturday — but scores drowned in international waters amid high waves and freezing temperatures.

The death toll, if confirmed, approaches that of a shipwreck off the Italian island of Lampedusa in October 2013 that killed 366 migrants.

One of the winners in the World Press Photo competition is a graphic indication of what people will do, from the migrants to the traffickers.

BoatPeople

A Sea of Immigrants

Operation Mare Nostrum by Italian photographer Massimo Sestini: Taking second prize in the General News category is this image depicting a boatload of refugees rescued 20 miles north of Libya by the Italian Navy. Following the deaths of scores of asylum seekers in 2013, the Italian Government set its forces on saving anyone shipwrecked at sea