Johnson launching UK racism commission

In response to the Black Lives Matters protests that had spread to the UK Boris Johnson has announced the launching of a racism commission.

Reuters:  Calls for action, not words, as Johnson launches UK racism commission

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson came under pressure on Monday to deliver action on racism after he launched a commission on racial inequalities following Black Lives Matter protests.

Johnson said a cross-government commission would examine racism and the disparities experienced by minority ethnic groups in education, health and the criminal justice system.

Johnson said he could not ignore the strength of feeling shown by tens of thousands of people who had demonstrated in British cities following the death of African American George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis last month.

“What I really want to do as prime minister is change the narrative, so we stop the sense of victimisation and discrimination,” he said on Sunday.

“It won’t be easy. We’ll have to look very carefully at the real racism and discrimination that people face.”

On Monday, Johnson’s spokesman said that work to establish the commission had already begun, and a report on findings and recommendations was expected by the end of the year.

But…

…he gave few details about the commission, leading to criticism that he was prevaricating rather than delivering concrete steps.

“It’s the sort of morning that makes me slightly weary, because it feels like we’re going round in circles,” said David Lammy, an opposition Labour lawmaker whose own report into over-representation of black people in the criminal justice system is one of several whose findings have not yet been implemented.

“The time for review is over and the time for action is now.”

Sounds like Johnson’s government wants to be seen to be doing something but doesn’t really have much idea what to do, or they are kicking the racism can down the road.

The commission was announced in a broadcast clip and accompanied with an article in the Daily Telegraph newspaper, where Johnson also again said it was absurd that a statue of Winston Churchill should be under threat from protesters.

Johnson said he was “extremely dubious about the growing campaign to edit or photoshop the entire cultural landscape” by tearing down statues.

“Let’s fight racism, but leave our heritage broadly in peace”.

A commission that will take months is unlikely to stop the current protests and debate over statues and racism.

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.”

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/05/pm-boris-johnson-forced-clarify-uk-lockdown-advice-200511215621327.html


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.

4 million Covid-19 cases and still climbing

World wide confirmed cases of Covid-19 are now over four million, and while the rate of increase has leveled off the number of new cases each day remains mostly at at 80-90-,000 a day, although yesterday it was higher at 97,128.

About a third of cases are in the United States, currently at 1.3 million.

There are now over 275 thousand deaths attributed to Covid-19, with more than a fifth in the US, currently 78,615 – the rate of increase in the US has leveled or perhaps slowed a little but are still averaging nearly 2,000 a day (about 13,000 in the last week).

Some of the worst affected countries, Italy, Spain and Belgium, seem to be over the worst with declining rates of cases and deaths, but that’s from high totals.

The UK has the highest number of deaths in Europe and is  the second behind the US but trends appear to be declining a bit there.

Covid-19 seems to have been slower to spread in Brazil but their death rates are increasing. Yesterday they had the second highest increase at 804 and are now the sixth country to have more than 10,000 deaths.

But the problems are far from over.

Reuters: Coronavirus inflicts huge U.S. job losses as pandemic breaches White House walls

The U.S. government reported more catastrophic economic fallout from the coronavirus crisis on Friday as the pandemic pierced the very walls of the White House and California gave the green light for its factories to restart after a seven-week lockdown.

A day after the White House confirmed that President Donald Trump’s personal valet had tested positive for the virus, Trump told reporters that Katie Miller, press secretary to Vice President Mike Pence, had also been infected. She is married to senior Trump aide and immigration policy hard-liner Stephen Miller and travels frequently with Pence.

The back-to-back diagnoses of individuals close to Trump, Pence and the White House inner circle raised questions about whether the highest levels of government are adequately safeguarded from infection.

Earlier in the day, the Labor Department reported the U.S. unemployment rate rose to 14.7% last month, up from 3.5% in February, demonstrating the speed with which the workforce collapsed after stay-at-home orders meant to curb the outbreak were imposed across most of the country.

Worse economic news may be yet to come. White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett said the unemployment rate was likely to climb to around 20% this month. The jobless rate for April already shattered the post-World War Two record of 10.8% set in November 1982.

But Trump seems increasingly turning his attention to the election campaign in the US, endorsing Republicans and criticising and blaming Democrats.

For Trump it’s mostly about ‘me’, When calling other people crazy it appears to be projection.

Another leader seemingly at odds with reality is President Bolsonaro.

The Lancet – COVID-19 in Brazil: “So what?”

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic reached Latin America later than other continents. The first case recorded in Brazil was on Feb 25, 2020. But now, Brazil has the most cases and deaths in Latin America (105 222 cases and 7288 deaths as of May 4), and these are probably substantial underestimates.

Even more worryingly, the doubling of the rate of deaths is estimated at only 5 days and a recent study by Imperial College (London, UK), which analysed the active transmission rate of COVID-19 in 48 countries, showed that Brazil is the country with the highest rate of transmission (R0 of 2·81).

Yet, perhaps the biggest threat to Brazil’s COVID-19 response is its president, Jair Bolsonaro.

When asked by journalists last week about the rapidly increasing numbers of COVID-19 cases, he responded: “So what? What do you want me to do?” He not only continues to sow confusion by openly flouting and discouraging the sensible measures of physical distancing and lockdown brought in by state governors and city mayors but has also lost two important and influential ministers in the past 3 weeks.

Time will tell how bad things get in Brazil but current trends look bad, and their testing rate is very low at 1,597 per million (the US is 25k per million, New Zealand is 37k, Spain is 52k).

Covid-19 is dominating news all around the world.

https://www.bbc.com/news/live/world-52597437

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):

https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/

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.”

 

 

UK adjust deaths up, US passes 60,000

The UK has bumped up their Covid-19 death count, now including elderly care home deaths. Their Wednesday death total is 4,419, bringing their total up to 26.097, more than Spain and just 1,600 fewer than Italy.

And the US has now topped 60,000 deaths with no sign of the rate abating, currently running at about 15,000 per week. A previously suggested 100k death toll still looks possible.

BBC: UK deaths pass 26,000 as figures include care home cases

The number of people who have died with coronavirus in the UK has passed 26,000, as official figures include deaths in the community, such as in care homes, for the first time.

The foreign secretary said this did not represent “a sudden surge”, as the figure includes deaths since 2 March.

Dominic Raab also warned the UK was at a “dangerous moment”, saying that the peak of the virus had not passed.

The total only includes people who died after testing positive for coronavirus.

Boris Johnson had warned that the toll in the UK could be the worst in Europe, and it’s not far off that now.

The US now has more official Covid deaths than their Vietnam war death toll of 58,220: U.S. coronavirus deaths now surpass fatalities in the Vietnam War

The toll on the US economy also looks a bit grim: Coronavirus savages U.S. economy in first quarter; bigger hit still to come

The U.S. economy contracted in the first quarter at its sharpest pace since the Great Recession as stringent measures to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus almost shut down the country, ending the longest expansion in the nation’s history.

The drop in gross domestic product (GDP) reported by the Commerce Department on Wednesday reflected a plunge in economic activity in the last two weeks of March, which saw millions of Americans seeking unemployment benefits. The rapid decline in GDP reinforced analysts’ predictions that the economy was already in a deep recession and left economists bracing for a record slump in output in the second quarter.

Gross domestic product declined at a 4.8% annualized rate last quarter, weighed down by a collapse in spending on healthcare as dentists’ offices closed and hospitals delayed elective surgeries and non-emergency visits to focus on patients suffering from COVID-19, the potentially lethal respiratory illness caused by the virus.

That was the steepest pace of contraction in GDP since the fourth quarter of 2008. Households also drastically cut back on purchases of motor vehicles, furniture, clothing and footwear. Receipts for transportation, hotel accommodation and restaurant services also plunged.

Marketwatch: Trump White House vows to double coronavirus testing in May in push to reopen the economy

Looking ahead, Trump again predicted the U.S. would make a strong recovery in the second half of the year even as the economy verges on the biggest contraction in growth since the Great Depression almost 100 years ago.

Most economists think the U.S. in due for a deep recession from which it will take a few years to recover.

While Germany has a remarkably low death toll (currently 6,376) compared to Italy, UK, Spain and France their economy also faces major problems – Germany braces for ‘worst recession’ in post-war history

German gross domestic product (GDP) is expected to shrink by a record 6.3 percent as demand for exports plummets and lockdown restrictions weigh on domestic consumption, Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said in Berlin.

“We will experience the worst recession in the history of the federal republic” founded in 1949, Altmaier said.

This year’s forecast drop in GDP is worse than during the global financial crisis in 2009, when Germany’s economy contracted by more than five percent.

If the government’s projection is confirmed, 2020 will mark the biggest contraction since federal statistics authority Destatis began keeping records in 1970.

The government offered a glimmer of hope however, predicting that the economy would bounce back in 2021 and grow by 5.2 percent as the virus impact wanes and businesses reopen.

I wouldn’t be too confident about next year predictions. It is likely to be a tough year or two for both health and economic reasons.

 

Elderly deaths dominate Covid-19 statistics despite claims of undercounting

Elderly people. especially those with other medical conditions (most old people do) are most at risk from the Covid-19 virus, and aged care homes and hospitals have been badly hit in many countries.

And counting deaths has been controversial. Official deaths in France shot up when they started including deaths in aged care facilities as well as hospital deaths.

Similar undercounting is now being claimed in the UK – Care home deaths ‘far higher’ than official figures

The National Care Forum (NCF) estimates that more than 4,000 elderly and disabled people have died across all residential and nursing homes.

Its report comes amid calls for accurate data on virus-linked deaths.

Only 217 such care home deaths have been officially recorded in England and Wales up to 3 April.

The NCF, which represents not-for-profit care providers, said its findings highlight significant flaws in the official reporting of coronavirus-related death statistics.

It collected data from care homes looking after more than 30,000 people in the UK, representing 7.4% of those people living in one of the country’s thousands of care settings.

It said that, across those specific homes, in the week between 7 April and 13 April, there had been 299 deaths linked to coronavirus. That was treble the figure for the previous week and double that in the whole of the preceding month.

If that number was reflected across all residential and nursing homes, NCF estimated there have been 4,040 coronavirus-related deaths in care homes which are not yet included in official figures.

The official death count for the UK is currently 16,060, with only the US, Italy, Spain and France having more deaths, with deaths of the elderly.

According to Worldometer Covid totals Belgium has the highest number of deaths per capita, currently on 490 deaths per 1 million population. Spain has 437, Italy 391, France 302, UK 237 and the US 122.

Why is Belgium so high? In part possible due to how they are counting – see Why is Belgium a Europe hotspot for COVID-19 deaths?

Dr Raf De Keersmaecker, chairman of the Limburg Province Association of GPs, knows of many colleagues who have caught COVID, some ending up in hospital.

He has a firm theory on why Belgium’s death rate is so high compared to other countries – greater transparency.

He said: “We record everything. Deaths everywhere, not just in hospitals.”

And that includes deaths suspected to be from COVID but not actually tested. More of those deaths are in care homes.

Dr De Keersmaecker said: “If we think the people are dying of COVID, we count it.

“Of course, that (accounts for) the higher level of dead people in our country.

“In most countries they don’t do that. They only take deaths from the hospitals. We even have people dying at home.”

The big problem in Europe is the spread of Covid to aged care facilities.

Euronews: Care homes could be where over half of Europe’s COVID-19 deaths occur, says new study

He said: “We record everything. Deaths everywhere, not just in hospitals.”

And that includes deaths suspected to be from COVID but not actually tested. More of those deaths are in care homes.

Dr De Keersmaecker said: “If we think the people are dying of COVID, we count it.

“Of course, that (accounts for) the higher level of dead people in our country.

“In most countries they don’t do that. They only take deaths from the hospitals. We even have people dying at home.”

In Belgium, 90 percent of care homes have had confirmed cases of COVID-19, and 42 percent of the country’s deaths from the disease have come from within them.

The rate is close to 45 percent in France, which was one of the first countries to disclose the number of deaths in its care homes, Comas-Herrara said.

In Italy, her study estimates that more than 9,500 care home residents died as a result of COVID-19, or 53 percent of the country’s total death toll.

In Ireland, care homes accounted for 54 percent of deaths and more than half of the “clusters” of the virus identified nationwide.

There are no official estimates for COVID-19 related mortality in care homes in Spain, but regional data reported by the media suggests that nursing home residents account for 57 percent of deaths – the highest share among the countries studied.

In the UK, “there’s no real reason to expect the percentage to be much different” from the average found across other European countries, Comas-Herrara said.

The UK government has come under criticism for underestimating the actual toll from the virus, as the daily figures it releases only include deaths in hospitals, not nursing homes or other settings.

New Zealand is counting all deaths believed to have been from Covid. The total is currently 12 which now includes a man who died at home and was confirmed yesterday to have had Covid.


Official counts of deaths in Europe have just passed a hundred thousand (currently 101,742) and cases have just passed a million (currently 1,085,143). The latter will certainly be a lot higher with many undetected cases, but it seems the deaths could also be significantly higher as well.

Lockdowns extended in UK, Australia, some states of US but others want to reopen

While some lockdowns are being relaxed, others are being extended around the world.

BBC: UK lockdown extended for ‘at least’ three weeks

Lockdown restrictions in the UK will continue for “at least” another three weeks as it tackles the coronavirus outbreak, Dominic Raab has said.

The foreign secretary told the daily No 10 briefing that a review had concluded relaxing the measures now would risk harming public health and the economy.

“We still don’t have the infection rate down as far as we need to,” he said.

It comes as the UK recorded another 861 coronavirus deaths in hospital, taking the total to 13,729.

Mr Raab, deputising for Prime Minister Boris Johnson as he recovers from the illness, said: “There is light at the end of the tunnel but we are now at both a delicate and a dangerous stage in this pandemic.

“If we rush to relax the measures that we have in place we would risk wasting all the sacrifices and all the progress that has been made.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said similar when warning about rushing relaxations of restrictions – we won’t find out until Monday if the lockdown here is being scaled back next Thursday.

SkyNews: Australia in lockdown for another four weeks: PM

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says there are “no plans” to change the current lockdown measures for at least another four weeks.

Delivering an update in Canberra on Thursday, Mr Morrison said restrictions would only be eased if Australia met three key conditions: increased testing, better contact tracing, and the ability to lock down localised areas in cases of outbreaks.

“We want to be very clear with Australians, baseline restrictions we have in place at the moment there are no plans to change those for the next four weeks,” he said.

Mr Morrison also clarified what he sees as the end date for the “six month” timeline his government has referred to the response to the pandemic.

Australia’s lockdown conditions are probably more similar to our planned Level 3 lockdown than our current Level 4.

In the US the partisan divide is a problem, with Democrat governors extending lockdowns while republicans want to scale back:

New York’s stay-home order will be extended until May 15, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday.

Cuomo, during his daily briefing in Albany, said extreme distancing measures that began on March 22 have helped slow the coronavirus infection rate, but he’s not ready to let up on the far-reaching restrictions.

Wisconsin schools will be closed for the rest of the school year and many businesses will stay shuttered until the end of May under action Gov. Tony Evers took Thursday to extend restrictions to contain the coronavirus in the state.

The move will keep hundreds of thousands of school children at home for nearly three months — some receiving no virtual instruction — and comes as key Republican lawmakers are calling for Evers to roll back restrictions, not extend them.

Gov. Tom Wolf has no plans to move forward with a broader reopening of businesses during the COVID-19 emergency.

His spokesman said he will veto the GOP-backed Senate Bill 613, which the General Assembly sent to his desk on Wednesday. The governor plans to continue his aggressive measures to stem the spread of the virus.

Following President Trump’s lead, Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday created a task force to plan for the “resurgence and reopening of Florida” from the coronavirus shutdown.

The governor also notably distanced himself from Florida Surgeon General Scott Rivkees’ comments Monday that social distancing could last as long as a year or more until there was a vaccine.

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer faces at least two federal lawsuits challenging her April 9 executive order to combat the coronavirus outbreak, including requirements that residents stay at home and most businesses close.

In complaints filed on Tuesday and Wednesday, several Michigan residents and one business accused the Democratic governor of violating their constitutional rights by imposing her “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order.

The plaintiffs in Wednesday’s lawsuit “reasonably fear that the draconian encroachments on their freedom set forth in this complaint will, unfortunately, become the ‘new norm,’” according to their complaint.

The governors for Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky have formed a partnership to work together on restarting the economies in their states, they said in a statement.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Thursday warned against reopening the country prematurely, saying the public health threat posed by the deadly coronavirus is a greater evil than the current economic hardship facing businesses and workers nationwide.

The Speaker is calling for more widespread testing around the country, to gauge the regional prevalence of the deadly virus, before scaling back locally imposed prevention measures.

“I heard one of them say: ‘Well, people will die — or we’ll open up the economy and people will die — so that’s the lesser of two evils,'” Pelosi said.

The White House plans to release guidelines Thursday to inform states on how to relax coronavirus restrictions and reopen businesses.

President Trump announced the plans during a news conference Wednesday, claiming data shows that the United States has “passed the peak” of COVID-19 cases nationwide.

The decision on what individual states do, however, will fall to governors across the country.

“The battle continues but the data suggests that nationwide we have passed the peak on new cases,” Trump said at a news conference in the White House Rose Garden.

x

Covid-19 – Ireland acted sooner than UK, double the testing, less than half the deaths per 1m

A comparison between Ireland and England in dealing with the Covid-19 virus and their casualty rate seems to reinforce the importance of timing in locking down countries, and in testing rates.

Irish Central (March 17): Britain and Ireland’s differing approaches to Covid-19

The United Kingdom may be Ireland’s closest neighbor, but the two nations could hardly be further apart in how they are approaching COVID-19. 

They are virtually polar opposites and Britain’s approach could deeply impact the Republic of Ireland, especially since the countries share a significant border in Northern Ireland.

The UK has lagged behind Ireland (and indeed the rest of Europe) in implementing stringent measures to curb the spread of Coronavirus.

From a Twitter thread by historian and writer Elaine Doyle @laineydoyle (edited):

I don’t understand the British media. I really, really don’t. Basic things: Ireland and the UK started this pandemic with roughly the same number of ICU beds (6.5 per 100,000 for Ireland, 6.6 per 100,000 in the UK). If anything, the UK was slightly better off.

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(ICU beds is just one indicator of country preparedness. Germany and Austria have relatively low death sates compared to Italy, France and Belgium, but so do Portugal and Finland).

As of today, there have been 320 deaths from the coronavirus in Ireland, and 9,875 deaths in the UK.

So we adjust per capita – how many deaths per 100,000 people?

As of Saturday 11 April, there have been 6.5 deaths per 100,000 people in Ireland (now 6.8).

There have been 14.81 deaths per 100,000 people in the UK (now 15.6).

Guys, people have been dying at more than *twice the rate* in the UK.

That the UK’s closest neighbour, with almost the *exact* same starting line in terms of its health system, is having a wildly different outcome? Not saying Ireland’s a paragon of virtue! Loads to discuss & critique & make better!

But wait, it’s worse! Because if you compare the per capita death rate between Ireland and *England*, rather than the UK as a whole, England has almost *2.5* times the number of deaths as Ireland (14.81 deaths per 100,000 vs 6.5 deaths per 100,000).

So you have two English-speaking countries, with close cultural and historical associations, both with underfunded health systems, & comparable levels of ICU beds (almost half the EU average) going into the pandemic.

But England has more than 2.5 times the deaths? Why?

If you’re arguing over whether Boris & Co’s ‘herd immunity’ policy (& the resulting delay in lockdown) had any effect on death rates – here’s your angle, lads. You have a real-time A/B test happening *right in front of you*.

Because Ireland closed down earlier. Much earlier.

While Boris was telling the British people to wash their hands, our Taoiseach was closing the schools.

While Cheltenham was going ahead, and over 250,000 people were gathering in what would have been a massive super-spreader event, Ireland had *cancelled St Patrick’s Day*.

The four-day Cheltenham Festival is a meeting in the National Hunt racing calendar in the United Kingdom. It place annually in March at Cheltenham Racecourse in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire – Wikipedia

Daily Mail: Cheltenham Festival organisers say Boris Johnson’s trip to England-Wales Twickenham rugby match was one reason they didn’t cancel race meeting blamed for coronavirus spread  – since the festival took place hundreds of people have complained of getting symptoms of the deadly virus.

In Ireland, we watch a lot of British media and news, and let me tell you, it was like living in bizarro-world.

Because our Irish TV news was filled with very direct, serious pronouncements about what was coming. But when we switched to the British TV channels… *crickets*.

Particularly vivid for the weekend before Paddy’s Day. Rolling restrictions in Ireland, so no groups > 100, but pubs not yet closed. Video emerged of people singing in a pub in Temple Bar => public outcry, #shutthepubs trended, Health Minister comments, voluntary closure ensued.

 

I remember watching that video being posted on Twitter that Saturday night, and feeling sick to my stomach. How many people were being infected, at that very moment, singing along to the Stereophonics? It was such a huge crowd.

I assume there were people in Cardiff who felt the same way I did. But the difference was: I was supported by my government. You weren’t.

And that cost lives.

The Stereophonics gig was on the 14 March. Median 5-7 days to get sick, and let’s allow another 14 days to get seriously ill. The people infected at the Stereophonics gig were in hospital last week.

The people *they* infected will start dying next week.

Pandemics roll along exponential curves. The NYT (using @brittajewell’s calculations) showed it beautifully here:

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@brittajewell used US figures, & showed that if you started to stay home *this week* (March 13, at the time of publication), you could prevent 2400 infections. But if you started to home *next week* instead, you prevented 600 infections. (Those figures were based on US infection numbers at that point, with 30% growth rate per day. It’s not the UK.)

It’s weird, right? Exponential curves are really counter-intuitive. When they go up, they go up FAST. Timing matters, a lot. By staying home *this week* rather than *next week*, one person could prevent an extra 1800 infections. One person!

And as @jkottke pointed out, assuming a 1% death rate, that’s 18 lives saved. 18 lives saved, by the choices of one person to stay home for the week starting 13 March, rather than the following week. That Stereophonics gig? Was on 14 March.

Ireland cancelled Paddy’s Day on 9 March, initiating a series of rolling, controlled restrictions, from school closures & large group bans (12 March), to closure of non-essential businesses & social distancing, to full lockdown. It was precise, clearly communicated, controlled.

The UK closed their schools on 20 March, a full week after we closed ours. Full lockdown came to the UK on 23 March.

And while there was some muddied, confused advice in the UK between times (avoid non-essential travel from 16 March? don’t go to the pub, but then again, they’re still open, so maybe do?) – there was an abrupt about-turn, after the Imperial College report came out.

The comparisons aren’t neat between the two countries, because the processes (and nomenclature) were different. Technically, the UK went into lockdown *before* Ireland; but that’s not a fair comparison, as we were already operating our ‘Delay Phase’ from 12-27 March.

But I would argue the crucial difference lies in that two-week period: from 9 March, when we cancelled Paddy’s Day, to 23 March, when the UK govt finally (and abruptly) wheeled about, and went into lockdown.

And because the UK government delayed, distorted and distracted for those two weeks, the UK people ended up on the wrong part of an exponential curve, when lockdown started. And now, the UK has over twice the number of deaths per capita than Ireland.

But wait, it’s worse! HOW how HOW can it be worse.

Because: testing.

Because the UK figures only include deaths, in hospitals, from people who had already been tested positive for COVID-19. That sentence has a whole pile of clauses and commas, doesn’t it? Let’s break it down.

It means that a person could die *in a UK hospital* of the coronavirus; and all their doctors could agree that yes, they definitely died of coronavirus; and their *death cert* says that yes, they did, in fact, die of coronavirus –

… and they wouldn’t be included in UK figures.

Because they weren’t tested.

And you have to have a positive test, before death, to be counted in the UK deaths.

The UK isn’t testing nearly as much as it needs to.

And Ireland is testing a *lot* more. We have a drive-through testing centre in the sacred sporting grounds of Croke Park – think turning Wembley Station into a testing centre, and you get somewhere close.

Ireland is still building its testing capacity, but we’ve been explicitly following the South Korean model of test, test, test (and contact trace). And we’re using our time in lockdown to build our testing network.

The aim is to have 15,000 tests per day, or 105,000 tests per week – that is, testing 2% of the population a week. 15,000 tests is about 7 months of flu testing for Ireland – and we’re planning this, every day, for months and months.

We’re not there! We had to grab Germany for a dig-out, we fell so far behind! There’s loads of teething problems! Like I said at the top of the thread: I’m not saying that Ireland is a paragon of virtue here.

Of course no country has dealt with Covid-19 perfectly, it was a rapidly evolving with big decisions needing to be made quickly that had huge health, economic and social ramifications. Not easy for any country to get things right.

And to date, Ireland has performed 8.69 tests per 1,000 people. ourworldindata.org/covid-testing# The UK has performed 4 tests per 1,000 people.

Currently Worldometer shows Ireland with 10.73 and the UK with 5.2 (New Zealand 12.68).

So: to my UK friends, let’s lay it out there. You’re testing at half the rate that Ireland is, and your loved ones, your family, your friends are dying over twice as fast.

So timing and testing have been very important.

And that’s still a wild underestimate of how bad things are, because your low testing rates are artificially depressing your death figures; whereas Ireland’s high testing rate is (comparatively) inflating ours (or, more fairly, accurately recording them in our figures).

Failed by your government, and failed by your media.

Failed, by news reports that (correctly!) talk about how horrific the death toll is in NYC, while eliding the horrors of nearly 1000 people dying in a single day at home.

Failed, because it didn’t have to be like this.

Failed, because there are lessons and exchanges to be found here, but in those 2 weeks when so much could have been done, your media didn’t pay any heed to what was happening beside it.

Because your media didn’t report on the contrast between Boris’ choices and ours.

Failed, because your media STILL isn’t reporting on the contrasts in death rates between us, and why that might be the case.

It’s too late to get the timing of even cancellations and lockdowns right, but not too late to ramp up testing.

Failed, because in this long-standing, complicated, skewed relationship between us, we can see you clearly, and you seem to barely see us at all.

And it breaks my heart.

But there’s still time. Time to flatten your curve. Time to build testing. Time to develop a robust contact tracing system. Time to *use* your lockdown as it should be used, while we do the same. Time to be our partners in this, as we all must be, in a globalised pandemic.

The best time to plant an oak tree was 20 years ago; the second-best time is now.

The best time to stop this pandemic was last January. The second-best time is now.

And while we’re working this ground together, remember that over the fence, in your neighbouring allotment, we’re tackling the same tasks as you. It might be worth taking a peek over the fence sometime, to see what we can share.

The UK seems to be similar to how France was, not counting deaths in rest homes.

Business Insider: Hundreds of coronavirus deaths are taking place in UK care homes but not being included in the official death toll

BBC: Warning over daily death figures

Over the weekend, NHS England released new figures broken down by the actual date of death.

And these reveal that between 11 March and 1 April there were about 300 more deaths than previously thought during that period.

Separate figures, published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) also suggest the number of people dying with coronavirus is higher than the daily totals indicate.

The ONS examined registrations and found deaths in the community not included in the daily hospital deaths figures.

In the week to 27 March, for the 501 deaths recorded in hospitals the ONS also found 38 deaths linked to coronavirus in the community.

Also from BBC:

Larissa Nolan (Irish Mirror:  7 April): UK and Ireland’s responses to Covid-19 crisis are worlds apart

For far too long, the Brits’ approach to this crisis was to stick their fingers in the ears, close their eyes and go: “Lalalalalala”.

Like many others in Ireland, I watched on; worried for relations and friends in England. What were they at over there?

British political leaders have subsequently made some attempts to address it, but it’s too late now. The “denialism” – as a senior British scientist called it – is too strong.

Reports from the weekend show Britons still gathering, regardless. Attitudes are ingrained. Behaviours have been set. Outcomes are following accordingly.

Here in New Zealand we don’t have such a stark contrast in approaches with our larger neighbour, Australia, except for timing. Covid-19 seemed to become established in Australia a few days sooner than here, particularly in New South Wales, but we lockdown harder and about the same time as Australia.

Current deaths in New Zealand 4, in Australia 59.

 

USA now has highest number of Covid-19 deaths

The USA now has more deaths related to the Covid-19 virus than an other country (current total 20,455 but rising about two thousand a day), but their death rate per 1m population is still a lot lower than Spain, Italy, Belgium, France and the UK.

Countries with the most deaths (Worldometer 9pm 12 April 2020 GMT)):

  • USA 20,455 (61 per 1m)
  • Italy 19,468 (322 per 1m)
  • Spain 16,480 (352 per 1m)
  • France 13,832 (212 per 1m)
  • UK 9,875 (145 per 1m)
  • Iran 4,357 (52 per 1m)
  • Belgium 3,346 (289 per 1m)
  • China 3,339 (2 per 1m)
  • Germany 2,736 (33 per 1m)
  • Netherlands 2,643 (154 per 1m)

Total deaths currently 108,333

Total recorded cases 1,771,543

Covid-19 death toll now over 100,000

The official world-wide death toll is now over 100,000 – current numbers as at 8:00 pm Friday 10 April 2020 GMT (Worldometer):

  • Total cases 1.685,533
  • Recovered cases 375,221
  • Active cases 1,208,213
  • Attributed deaths 102,099

Cases rose yesterday (Thursday GMT) by 85,589 and deaths by 7,234, with similar increases looking likely today.

As at the end of 10 April GMT:

Over the past week about a third of new cases and a quarter of new deaths have been recorded in the US. Total US cases are now 493,426 and total deaths 18,331 (just 500 fewer than Italy).

Italy and Spain seem to have flattened off at around 6-700 deaths per day.

France (+987 deaths)  and the UK (+980) are increasing rapidly, as is Belgium (+496).

Largest death totals (9 pm Friday GMT):

  • Italy 18,849 (312 per 1m)
  • USA 18,430 (56 per 1m)
  • Spain 15,970 (342 per 1m)
  • France 13,197 (202 per 1m)
  • UK 8,958 (132 per 1m)
  • Iran 4,232 (50 per 1m)
  • China 3,336 (2 per 1m)
  • Germany 2,728 (33 per 1m)
  • Belgium 3,019 (260 per 1m)
  • Netherlands 2,511 (147 per 1m)

So Spain now has the most deaths per 1m population.

New Zealand currently has 1,283 cases and 2 deaths, and for now is ‘flattening the curve’ with daily new cases less than recovered cases.

New confirmed and probable cases over time

Australia has 6,203 confirmed cases and 53 deaths but also seems to be flattening:

This graph shows new cases of COVID-19 in Australia by date of notification. See the Description field on the publication page for a full description