US pass 100,000 Covid deaths

The United States has now passed 100,000 recorded deaths from Covid-19, and now have had over 1.7 million cases.

While the total number of deaths in the US is well over twice the next highest, the United Kingdom, they are only 9th highest in deaths per million population (of countries with  population greater than a hundred thousand).  Belgium is the highest but that may be in part to do with how they record Covid deaths compared to other countries.

Current models estimate deaths in a month’s time in the US to be somewhere between 111k and 173k, so it is far from over with risks of a resurgence as states relax their lockdowns.

President Trump thinks he has done his job very well dealing with Covid, or at least wants other people to think he has done very well.

Containing the virus in the US was always going to be difficult with the amount of international travel to and through the country.

States continue to make most of their own decisions despite Trump urging them to get things back to normal.

Covid seems to be out of control in Brazil with a climbing death rate, which looks to be under reported going by their number of cases.

The death total in Russia is surprisingly low and could be questionable.

Ways of counting cases and deaths varies in different countries so are indicative only.

Stress of Covid quarantine leads to arrest

From Gezza:

It appears that quarantine requirements are very strict, the conditions of those under enforced quarantine more rudimentary than generally realised, & that the services & help available to those effectively sentenced to temporary detention in designated quarantine hotels are causing significant mental health problems for some detainees.

Also, that the police response to those driven by panic or mental distress to escape to outside may sometimes be over the top & harsh. The court’s response to this case could be instructive – although it’s entirely possible that we, the public, will hear little or nothing about it, cos suppression orders.

… … … …
A man has been arrested after trying to escape an Auckland hotel minutes after a fire alarm was triggered.

A witness to the event said the man was distressed and “tried to escape” when he was detained by six police officers.

Police confirmed the man’s arrest and said it was in connection to a “mental health incident”.

The arrest comes on the back of a series of incidents reported by Kiwis in quarantine or managed isolation, some who say the strict restrictions have adversely affected their mental health.

Recently, a 24-hour ban on walking was enforced at some hotels to allow authorities to figure out a way to keep guests, and the public, safe.

The ban came under the scrutiny of the Human Rights Commission who said people who were legally required to stay in quarantine should have access to necessities.

In April, a woman was found in a distressed state in the Novotel Hotel car park by security officers. The woman, who was in her thirteenth day of managed isolation, was issued her with a warning from police.

It bothers me that this sort of thing doesn’t bode well for the police’s relations with the public. For the first time in my life, when I see them cruising through Tawa, I find myself now watching them automatically with some suspicion.

I have to actually do an intellectual override of that negative gut reaction, because these public protectors might not all be perfect, but they see some bloody awful things, have to deal with some difficult, even dangerous people, have often got a really shit job to do that none of us would take on, & I respect them for that.

No active Covid cases in most districts

The Covid numbers are barely changing day to day now (that’s a good thing), but yesterday a milestone for the Southern DHB was reached – zero active cases.

There are now only 30 active cases in the whole country, and that’s in just five districts. Not only have most districts have ni active cases, they have had no new cases for a month.

The stringent lockdowns have effectively served a purpose.

Total cases by DHB, as at 9.00 am, 21 May 2020
DHB Active Recovered Deceased Total Change in last 24 hours
Auckland 3 174 177 0
Bay of Plenty 0 47 47 0
Canterbury 3 149 12 164 0
Capital and Coast 0 93 2 95 0
Counties Manukau 3 129 132 0
Hawke’s Bay 5 39 44 0
Hutt Valley 0 20 20 0
Lakes 0 16 16 0
Mid Central 0 32 32 0
Nelson Marlborough 1 48 49 0
Northland 0 28 28 0
South Canterbury 0 17 17 0
Southern 0 214 2 216 0
Tairāwhiti 0 4 4 0
Taranaki 0 16 16 0
Waikato 1 186 1 188 0
Wairarapa 0 8 8 0
Waitematā 14 219 3 236 0
West Coast 0 4 1 5 0
Whanganui 0 9 9 0
Total 30 1452 21 1503 0

There is still a lot of testing being done:

Lab testing for COVID-19 as at 9.00 am 21 May
Tests Date
Total tested yesterday 6,113 20 May 2020
7-day rolling average 5,032 14 May to 20 May 2020
Total tested to date 244,838 22 January to 20 May 2020
Supplies in stock 193,211 21 May 2020

So a lot of testing and no new cases most days now.

Unless there is a significant reversal in current trends we must be looking likely to drop to level 1 next week.

And if that happens hopefully Dunedin wil have the silly dots removed and cars on the main street will again be able to legally travel as fast as pedestrians and scooters on the footpaths. There have been a lot of Complaints over George St changes

Dropping the already low limit from 30 kph to 10 kph means that cars will be on the street for at least twice as long.

And there are serious concerns about encouraging children to play on the street.

Alert Level 2 again – stay safe, stay healthy and enjoy!

We were in Covid-19 Level 2 semi-lockdown for a couple of days from 21 March before ramping up to Level 3 for another couple of days leading in to seven seeks of level 4 lockdown from 26 March, restricting most of us to our homes most of the time.

In that seven weeks I went out briefly just twice, once for a regular blood test and the other time for a flu vaccination. Both of those trips were into the Dunedin CBD for less than an hour and I didn’t enjoy visiting a partial ghost town.

Today won’t be much different for me, work from home as usual. I will probably resume working from the office next week.

Tomorrow I will visit some relatives, seeing them for the first time for months. I’m looking forward to that.

Visiting other relatives is currently on hold as one of them is waiting for the results of a Covid test (Update – fortunately negative). I think it is unlikely that that will be positive but to be sure the test had to be done, and as a precaution contact with that family is on hold.

It is most likely just a cold or flu, but anyone else catching either cold or flu has to get tested, just in case, and should voluntarily isolate – a child won’t be welcome at school with a runny nose or cough, and I would be obligated to stay away from work if having any symptoms that could possibly be Covid.

I’m looking forward to getting out and about in the weekend. I will be staying away from shops and cafes and restaurants even though some will presumably be opening. I see no reason to take the risk of mingling with a possible surge of people getting ‘back to normal’.

First outing will be to a beach. Picking one that will be less crowded will be a bit of a punt. Other than that I don’t know what I’ll do. Fortunately the weather forecast is looking very good, both Saturday and Sunday are predicted to be clear sunny autumn days.

Otherwise I will be easing cautiously into Level 2. I see no need in taking unnecessary risks.

Obviously everyone will make their own choices over the next week or two.

Stay safe, stay healthy and enjoy!

UK update and busting a couple of myths about their handling of Covid

Missy is back with a welcome update from the UK.

I thought I would give a quick update (and bust a couple of myths) about the UK, apologies if it has been done already.

Myth one: The UK’s official strategy was initially herd immunity. WRONG. The strategy was always about flattening the curve and not overburdening the NHS, it was just that one of the scientists said herd immunity was the natural outcome of the UK’s strategy as they expected upwards of 60% or more of the population to be infected.

Myth two: The UK has Europe’s highest death toll from the virus. This is a tricky one, on a per capita basis it is far from true, on reported numbers it is currently true, however, there are problems and issues wiht these stats. first: The reported deaths are not only where confirmed cases have been the sole cause of death, but also a contributory factor, or where someone died of something else but happened to have COVID-19.

None of the UK statistics section out those who have, or died from, probable or suspected COVID-19 vs those that were confirmed cases, they are just lumped as one statistic second: deaths in care homes and the community are taken from death certificates, and this is problematic as COVID-19 symptoms are similar to pneumonia and other respiratory illnesses, also there has been a suggestion by some that the doctors are just putting COVID-19 on death certificates even when the patient died of something else (no verification of that, but if true this is huge). third: Many countries in Europe are not including care home and community deaths, but just hospital deaths that are confirmed, so numbers are skewed, and most likely under reported.

In the UK there has been a lot of discussion around the fact that ethnic minorities are disproportionately affected by the virus, along with men, with some MPs (Labour mostly) claiming the virus is racist. Despite calls for the Government to set up an inquiry as to why, generally with the aim of making it political and somehow the Government’s fault, the opposition are ignoring evidence of research from a variety of institutions and hospitals, including Trinity College in Dublin (the most comprehensive study I have seen so far) which states that vitamin D deficiency impacts how severe the symptoms are.

It is already acknowledged in the UK that ethnic minorities tend to have lower vitamin D levels than the white population, thus putting them more at risk. Also, in my area at least, it tends to be the immigrant population (Africans and Middle Eastern mainly, but also some Eastern Europeans) that have not been adhering to the lockdown rules, this may also have an impact on those communities.

So, the UK lockdown, or should I say lockdown lite. With the exception of the Government ordering some businesses to close and enforcing of social distancing, in general most of the lockdown was a guidance only, and nowhere near as severe as much of Europe – though not as relaxed as Sweden. The Government were advised by a group that included scientists, medical professionals and behavioural scientists, when the lockdown was brought in it was expected about 70% of the population would adhere to it, and that the 30% who didn’t would be able to aid the economy and eventual economic recovery.

As they say, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry, and this did. Over 80% of the population adhered to the lockdown, and now over 60% are too scared to go out, or return to any form of normal life. The struggle the Government has is to convince the population to return to a form of normal life.

Which brings me to the easing. Despite reporting (and G’s article above), the PM’s plan is in general quite clear about things, if a little complicated. In short he is putting some of the responsibility onto the population of what they do or don’t do, instead of telling everyone how they should behave.

The basics are:

  • If you are unable to work, and your workplace is open, then return to work;
  • If you are returning to work then drive, walk, or cycle if you can and try to avoid public transport if at all possible;
  • Garden centres and takeaway food places may open;
  • If the virus is under control primary schools will re-open on 1 June;
  • If they adhere to COVID-19 guidelines non-essential shops may open in June;
  • Pubs, bars, and restaurants will not re-open before 4 July;
  • In England people may travel for exercise or recreation activities, such as to play tennis or golf, or to fish etc;
  • People may meet one other person outside their household as long as they maintain social distance and don’t go to each other’s homes, they may also play sports such as golf or tennis with this person, or exercise;
  • People may leave their homes for an unlimited time and may visit parks for more than exercise (eg: picnics or sunbathing) as long as they maintain social distancing and limit the people they meet to one other person.

All international visitors, with the exception of those from the Common Travel Area (Ireland, Guernsey, Jersey, Isle of Man), and France, will be required to self-isolate for 14 days. Guess that means no self isolating for the illegals coming from the camps in France that is rabid with COVID-19.

Gezza on Boris Johnson:

“In his first statement to Parliament on the coronavirus pandemic, months after the beginning of the outbreak in the United Kingdom, Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday issued a lengthy clarification to his government’s advice over the lifting of lockdown measures.

He had addressed citizens on Sunday evening in a recorded televised address, but his statement was criticised for prompting more questions than it had answered.”

A response from Missy:

The poor guy is damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t.

For weeks the Government have been criticised for not giving an overview of the plan for exiting the lockdown, when the PM gives an overview of the plan he gets criticised again.

The Monday address was not him being ‘forced to clarify’ his advice, it was him going into more depth for the nation of the document that was presented in Parliament earlier in the day.

By the way, I read the 50+ pages of the strategy to get out of lockdown, and with the exception of a statement of intent for quarantining, it was in general pretty clear what they were wanting to do.

Seriously the media have done nothing but nitpick and try to get gotcha moments without asking any questions that actually gives new information, BBC have been one of the worst at it to be honest.

In the first few weeks of the lockdown the best media question came at a weekend from – of all places – ladbible. If everyone is praising them for asking one of the most pertinent questions then there is something wrong with the so-called expert political reporters who start most questions with ‘will you now admit you were wrong about….’.

Some of the media reporting I have been seeing is just diabolical, its hysterical nonsense that has imbued the nation with a sense of fear that if they get sick they will die.

UK now second to US with Covid-19 deaths

The UK has passed Italy and is now second to the US for recorded Covid deaths. It was predicted weeks ago that the UK would end up with the highest toll in Europe.

Meanwhile New York has revealed 1,700 previously undisclosed Nursing Home deaths.

There are now more than quarter of a million deaths world-wide, with recent signs of just a slight slowing down of deaths (but cases keeps climbing at 80-90,000 a day).

Countries with more than a thousand deaths recorded (with new totals to date for 5 May GMT):

BBC: UK reports highest death toll in Europe

  • The latest daily reported death total for the UK (29,427) is now higher than the total for Italy (29,315)
  • The UK has reached this figure faster in its epidemic than Italy, but there are caveats to the comparison
  • Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab says there will be no “real verdict” until the pandemic is over
  • Europe’s first-known case may have emerged almost a month earlier than thought, French doctor suggests after re-testing patient

The death count in New York has been bumped up:

National review: New York Reports 1,700 More Coronavirus Deaths at Nursing Homes

New York on Tuesday announced 1,700 previously undisclosed suspected coronavirus deaths that occurred at nursing homes and adult care facilities.

The new data from Governor Andrew Cuomo’s administration, which includes people who passed away before a lab test could confirm they had coronavirus, brings the state’s death toll from the virus to at least 4,813 since the beginning of March. That number does not include nursing home residents who were transferred to hospital before they died, causing the actual toll of the virus on nursing homes to remain fuzzy.

There are now over seventy thousand deaths recorded in the US,

BBC: A hunt for the ‘missing link’ host species

It was a matter of “when not if” an animal passed the coronavirus from wild bats to humans, scientists say. But it remains unclear whether that animal was sold in the now infamous Wuhan wildlife market in China.

The World Health Organization says that all evidence points to the virus’s natural origin, but some scientists now say it might never be known how the first person was infected.

Global health researchers have, for many years, understood how the trade in wild animals provides a source of species-to-species disease transmission. As life-changing as this particular outbreak has been for so much of the global population, it is actually one of many that the trade has been linked to.

Infectious disease experts agree that, like most emerging human disease, this virus initially jumped undetected across the species barrier.

Donald Trump keeps trying to blame a Chinese laboratory and has promised to release evidence. Others are also promoting this claim – Mike Pompeo: ‘enormous evidence’ coronavirus came from Chinese lab

The US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, claimed on Sunday there is “enormous evidence” the coronavirus outbreak originated in a Chinese laboratory – but did not provide any of the alleged evidence.

Pompeo said: “There is enormous evidence that that’s where this began,” later adding: “I can tell you that there is a significant amount of evidence that this came from that laboratory in Wuhan.”

But when he was reminded that US intelligence had issued a formal statement noting the opposite – that the scientific consensus was that the virus was not manmade or genetically modified – Pompeo replied: “That’s right. I agree with that.”

BBC: US allies tread lightly around Trump lab claims

UK officials believe it is not possible to be absolutely sure about the origins but point to scientific opinion suggesting the most likely scenario is that it was from a live animal market. However, they add that it is impossible to rule out the theory of an accidental release from a lab without a full investigation.

Their view echoes comments on Tuesday by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who said: “We can’t rule out any of these arrangements… but the most likely has been in a wildlife wet market.”

US intelligence, like other countries, has devoted extensive resources to try and understand what has been happening within China, and some of the information could be highly sensitive.

Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told National Geographic on Monday that he did not entertain the lab theory. The World Health Organization (WHO) also says it has not received any evidence from the US to back up the lab theory.

Intelligence may well point to China having tried to play down or hide details of the initial outbreak, although this is different from hiding the exact origin of the virus.

Trump is still trumping up claims and has reassigned his ‘miracle’ claims.

But that ignores the more important comparison of tests per population.

  • USA: 7.6 million tests (22,988 per million)
  • Germany: 2.5 million testst (30,400 per million)
  • Italy: 2.2 million tests (37,158 per million)
  • Canada: 919,000 tests (24,359 per million)
  • France: 1.1 million tests (16,856 per million)
  • Spain: 1.9 million tests (37,158 per million)
  • Belgium: 3309,552 tests (39,3632 per million)
  • UK: 1.3 million tests (19,026 per million)
  • Australia: 664,756 tests (26,069 per million)
  • New Zealand: 155,928 tests (32,335 per million)

There are 39 countries with a higher testing rate than the US.

It would be a miracle if Trump started to be honest (unless he doesn’t understand the numbers).

Fox News: Coronavirus death toll in US projected to double as restrictions ease, key model predicts

A revised mortality model predicts coronavirus deaths in the U.S. will nearly double to 135,000 through August as states continue to ease social distancing restrictions.

The grim new projection, released by the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IMHE) Monday, which has helped influence the U.S. response to the coronavirus outbreak, has jumped up considerably from its April 29 forecast of 72,433 deaths.

the new projection coincides with an internal Trump administration forecast obtained by The New York Times that predicts the daily death toll will reach about 3,000 on June 1. It also projects there will be 200,000 new coronavirus cases every day. This is a significant jump from current numbers of roughly 25,000 new cases and 1,750 deaths each day.

Sources told Fox News that while a significant portion of the data comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the projections of new cases and deaths come from modeling done at Johns Hopkins University.

When asked about the document, White House spokesman Judd Deere said: “This is not a White House document nor has it been presented to the Coronavirus Task Force or gone through interagency vetting.

“This data is not reflective of any of the modeling done by the task force or data that the task force has analyzed.”



Redesigning the economy and the climate change opportunists

We are experiencing major economic disruption due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the actions of Governments around the world in locking countries and regions down. The effects of this will be felt for months and probably years. Some business and businesses will bounce back, but some, especially air travel and cruise ships (and tourism in general) – those that survive – will likely have a long and slow recovery. The numbers of unemployed have surged, the number of people going out of businesses is likely to also surge (we won’t find out until lockdowns ease off) and will drop only gradually.

Governments have been piling large amounts of money into financial support for personal and business and that looks likely to continue for a while at least.

We have had some minor murmurings for Ministers over future economic refocussing, but there’s no solid sign of what we have coming from Government, they are still in reactive rescue mode.

This is a very good opportunity to redesign the economic and social systems of countries, and the idealists and opportunists are already out pushing their favoured reforms.

Here are some suggestions being made by various lobbyists.

Russel Norman at Greenpeace: Climate change is harder to visualise than coronavirus, but no less dangerous

The Covid-19 Coronavirus has so far caused more than 145,000 deaths worldwide.

These are grim numbers from the World Health Organisation, the actual human suffering is impossible to measure.

By comparison, the WHO predicts that climate change will kill 250,000 people every year between 2030 and 2050.

A total of five million people. Starting in ten years’ time.

Given those figures, why does the global response to the climate crisis compared to Covid look like a tortoise versing a hare?

One of the crucial differences – Covid has been with us just over a hundred days. Climate Change became front page news more than 30 years ago.

The pandemic is much easier to see and visualise. It doesn’t affect us, it infects us. Watching those awful scenes of coffins piling up in Italy and mass graves in the US, you need little imagination to grasp the threat to you and your family.

By contrast we may feel that climate change is unlikely to kill us. A dangerous misconception.

The neoliberal argument against society acting collectively via the government is dead. As the Financial Times editorial put it recently: “Radical reforms — reversing the prevailing policy direction of the last four decades — will need to be put on the table.

Governments will have to accept a more active role in the economy.”

Transforming agriculture, electrifying transport, embracing wind and solar power. We can do this.

Best of all we can start now. If we are going to spend 20 billion dollars stimulating the economy, let’s spend a bunch of that money on a Green Covid Response – infrastructure projects that hasten us towards a zero carbon future – rather than landing us slap bang in the middle of another existential crisis.

That was posted at The Standard on Friday and only got six comments – does this suggest there isn’t a lot of public support for the climate change switch, or Norman or Greenpeace?

Associate Professor Janet Stephenson, Director of the Centre for Sustainability at the University of Otago: Covid-19 has nothing on what’s coming

Covid-19 and its aftermath will be the greatest disruption that New Zealand has faced since at least the Great Depression in the 1930s.  It is already causing untold misery and trauma and will bring both economic hardship and health consequences for some years to come.

Yet these impacts will be trivial compared to the likely economic and social disruption if we continue to destroy the environment. Climate action failure, biodiversity loss, extreme weather, human-made environmental disasters and water crises are five of the top 10 global risks identified by the World Economic Forum in 2020. Infectious diseases are just one more.

The sudden shock of the coronavirus pandemic has shown how quickly governments and societies can act to deal with an imminent existential threat. We’ve been able to make massive personal and business sacrifices to respond to this emergency. Lockdown is working and even greater costs, and deaths, are being avoided.

But at the same time, like frogs oblivious to a pot of heating water, we’re failing to take serious action to avoid the slow-boiling yet increasingly visible emergencies caused by human over-consumption, over-exploitation and radical destabilisation of natural systems. These are existential threats but, like the frogs, we are failing to make the leap.

This is our chance to kick-start a shift to a sustainable future. A chance to safeguard future generations, to re-design our direction, to define a new normal and make it our way of life. To re-lay our track unerringly to a sustainable future so that the young among us can face it with confidence and their elders can leave it to them without regret.

Right now, we have an unprecedented opportunity to re-set our direction to a sustainable future. But it won’t happen unless visions are translated into actions that align with all seven whetū, not just the one or two that seem easiest.

Allbirds’ Tim Brown: How Covid-19 will help us unite against the climate crisis

New Zealand has made solid progress towards declaring goals for developing a carbon zero economy but now has an opportunity to accelerate the urgency of that action. We can build on the collaboration between business and government in the face of Covid-19 to imagine closer partnerships to tackle climate change. The primary industries must be brought into that conversation not as a roadblock to progress but as a potential source of the solution with innovation and regenerative farming practices aligned around carbon reduction initiatives.

Let’s use the challenges of this moment to propel us not back to normal but forward to something better.

Rod Oram: A message for the timid, fearful and selfish

If we want a better future, we’ll have to fight for it. Better means for all people and the planet. Fight means to overcome, by all ethical means, those seeking a return to the pre-Covid status quo.

Many people hope such profound improvement is underway. The great rupture caused by the virus makes blindingly obvious the weaknesses of our economic, social, political and ecological relationships; yet it also shows us how people can come together to cope with the coronavirus epidemic in ways magnificent, creative and effective.

– From the Yunus Centre in the business school at Griffith University in Brisbane comes a model for developing a regenerative economy. “Stimulus and rescue measures will be critical to recovery. We have a choice about how to shape these measures however. We could apply rescue measures that seek to get us back to where we were and likely achieve a degraded ‘business-as-usual’ economy, with a significant fiscal hole to fill,” the Centre writes.

“Or, we could intentionally design these measures to reshape our economy for recovery plus regeneration. This would mean an economy in better shape to withstand the longer term effects of the pandemic, and also deliver a broader range of outcomes for people, places and planet into the future.”

– From Volans, the British sustainability adviser to global corporates, long-led by John Elkington, comes the Tomorrow’s Capitalism InquiryIt aims “to accelerate the emergence of a regenerative economic system where companies thrive because their business model – and financial value – is inextricably linked to creating social and environmental value.”

– From Kate Raworth, the British economist, comes a city-scale application of her work on regenerative business, economic, social and ecological systems. This draws on, and takes to a deeper level, her insights in her 2017 book Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist.

The conversation between the three of them is essential watching for anyone wanting to help create our better future. Hopefully it might also persuade the timid, fearful and selfish that they too can contribute to and benefit from this vital project.

I don’t think that labeling people with alternate views as timid, fearful and selfish is a great way to gain wider support, but there could be a groundswell of public support for radical change that becomes unstoppable.

There’s obviously a lot of lobbying ramping up. The Government will be busy just dealing with Covid, but may also be able to be influenced in what they may do with their economic and social recovery plans.

I presume there are other lobbyists promoting other policy directions.

It’s important that if there are significant changes in policy directions being considered that the wider public are included in discussions and decisions, and there isn’t some sort of reform by stealth going on.