WHO promise review of handling of Covid-19 pandemic

The World Health Organisation says they will begin and independent review of the global coronavirus response “as soon as possible”.

This is being backed by China and most countries are suporting WHO, but the US are still sticking their boot in, continuing to blame WHO and China for the severity of the pandemic.

RNZ:  World Health Organisation promises Covid-19 response review

The World Health Organisation says an independent review of the global coronavirus response will begin as soon as possible, and it received backing and a hefty pledge of funds from China.

But the US administration of President Donald Trump decried an “apparent attempt to conceal this outbreak by at least one member state”.

Trump has already suspended US funding for the WHO after accusing it of being too China-centric.

Without mentioning China by name, US Health Secretary Alex Azar made clear Washington considered the WHO jointly responsible for the pandemic.

“We must be frank about one of the primary reasons this outbreak spun out of control,” he said on Monday.

“There was a failure by this organisation to obtain the information that the world needed, and that failure cost many lives.”

Chinese President Xi Jinping said China had acted with “openness and transparency and responsibility”.

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus defended the organisation’s response.

“WHO sounded the alarm early, and we sounded it often,” he said.

Tedros, who has always promised a coronavirus review, told the forum it would come “at the earliest appropriate moment” and make recommendations for the future.

He received robust backing from the WHO’s independent oversight panel.

“Every country and every organisation must examine its response and learn from its experience,” Tedros said, adding that the review must cover “all actors in good faith”.

In its first report on the handling of the pandemic, the seven-member oversight committee said the WHO had “demonstrated leadership and made important progress in its Covid-19 response”.

It also said “an imperfect and evolving understanding” was not unusual when a new disease emerged.

In an apparent rejoinder to Trump, the panel said a “rising politicisation of pandemic response” was hindering the effort to defeat the virus.

Meanwhile  disagreement in the US over handling of the pandemic and related scapegoating has flared up in public, with Azar defending US efforts.

Fox News – HHS Secretary Azar hits back at Navarro’s criticism of CDC: ‘Inaccurate and inappropriate’

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar hit back Monday at White House trade adviser Peter Navarro for his coronavirus-related criticism of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in a striking public spat between two wings of the Trump administration.

“The comments regarding the CDC are inaccurate and inappropriate,” Azar said on Fox News’  “America’s Newsroom” Monday.

Azar’s comments come after Navarro slammed the CDC over the weekend, saying the agency “let the country down” in its early stages of testing for COVID-19.

“Early on in this crisis, the CDC, which really had the most trusted brand around the world in this space — really let the country down with the testing,” Navarro said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “Not only did they keep the testing within the bureaucracy, they had a bad test and that set us back.”

But Azar defended the agency Monday, saying they “had one error, which was in scaling up the manufacturing of the tests they had developed.”

Azar also defended the administration’s coronavirus testing methods, saying that President Trump “is delivering 300,000 tests per day” and that the U.S. has conducted over 10 million tests.

Trump claims US testing is the best in the world (it has now identified over one and a half million cases, but that’s the 39th best testing rate according to Worldometer).

No organisation or country could have handled the rapidly unfolding Covid crisis perfectly. It was impossible to know the best way to respond (that’s still debatable), and most countries were under prepared for any sort of pandemic.

Blaming others is just a way of trying to divert from one’s own inadequacies. The focus should be on learning from mistakes and doing better now and in future health emergencies.

Full economic recovery may require vaccine

The US Federal Reserve Chairman  says that a full economic recovery may take well over a year, and it may be dependent on a Covid019 virus becoming available.

That isn’t a surprising prediction, as a return to unrestricted international travel is likely to also depend on a vaccine. Travel affects business, especially tourism. Airlines that survive may it difficult to get back previous levels of business if social distancing remains required.

Reuters: Fed’s Powell says full economic recovery may require coronavirus vaccine

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said a U.S. economic recovery may stretch deep into next year and a full comeback may depend on a coronavirus vaccine.

“This economy will recover. It may take a while … It could stretch through the end of next year. We really don’t know,” Powell said in remarks aired on CBS’s “Face the Nation”.

“Assuming there is not a second wave of the coronavirus, I think you will see the economy recover steadily through the second half of this year. For the economy to fully recover people will have to be fully confident and that may have to await the arrival of a vaccine.”

Like governments a lot of businesses will need to rely on borrowing to survive, and that could be a burden for years.

The world economy is in part reliant on the US economy, as is New Zealand’s economy. We have done a lot of travel to and through the US, and a lot of business with them.

Covid deaths have now passed 90,000 in the US, with trends indicating that wil reach well over 100k by the end of May and still climbing into June – see Where The Latest COVID-19 Models Think We’re Headed 

Reuters: So far, no spike in coronavirus in places reopening, U.S. health secretary says.

U.S. authorities are not yet seeing spikes in coronavirus cases in places that are reopening but it was still too early to determine such trends, health secretary Alex Azar said on Sunday.

“We are seeing that in places that are opening, we’re not seeing this spike in cases,” Azar said on CNN’s “State of the Union” program. “We still see spikes in some areas that are, in fact, closed.”

However, Azar said identifying and reporting new cases takes time. A critical part of reopening will be surveillance of flu-like symptoms in the population and other hospital admissions data, as well as testing of asymptomatic individuals, he said.

“It’s still early days,” Azar cautioned in an interview with CBS’ “Face the Nation.” He said data will take some time to come in from states that reopened early such as Georgia and Florida.

There are now 315,000 deaths currently recorded world wide. It is difficult to predict what the trends are going to be over the next few months as US states as well as countries start to cautiously reopen.

Some countries have increasing problems, like Brazil and Mexico, and Russia is now second to the US in number of cases, but with an extraordinarily low number of deaths recorded.

Two of the worst hit countries are at lowering rates – Spain and Italy record lower death tolls

Spain has recorded its lowest death toll in two months with 87 deaths in 24 hours, while Italy recorded its lowest daily toll, 145, since lockdown was declared.

It was the first time that Spain announced under 100 deaths in a day since mid-March, which could be due to a delay in reporting over the weekend, the health emergency coordinator said.

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Saturday that the government would request to extend the state of emergency for another month as the country continues to phase out restrictions on movement amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The state of emergency was set to end on May 24.

Declaring the lowest number of daily deaths since 9 March, Italy is now looking to bring forward the reopening of some commercial activity in the country, with retailers, hairdressers, salons, restaurants and cake shops authorised to open from tomorrow.

Spain has been relaxing stringent restrictions over the lats week. But weekend numbers are lower then weekday numbers.

DW: Brazil overtakes Spain, Italy in COVID-19 cases

Brazil overtook Spain and Italy in the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases on Saturday, making it the fourth-largest outbreak in the world.

The country’s total number of cases rose to 233,142 after authorities logged 14,919 new cases, according to data form Brazil’s Health Ministry.

A total of 15,633 people have died due to the coronavirus in the country so far, with the country registering 816 new fatalities over the past 24 hours.

Experts have warned that due to under-testing, the actual figures could be as much as 15 times higher, cautioning that the worst could be yet to come.

Despite the rising case numbers and fatalities, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has repeatedly downplayed the seriousness of the outbreak, dismissing the virus as a “little flu.”

He has also continued to attack lockdown measures implemented by some governors to contain the spread of the virus, and calling for businesses to reopen

“Unemployment, hunger and misery will be the future of those who support the tyranny of total isolation,” the far-right president tweeted.

RNZ: Brazil’s Bolsonaro sees second health minister quit

Brazil’s health minister has resigned after less than a month in the job following disagreements over of the government’s handling of the country’s escalating coronavirus crisis.

At his news conference, Teich did not reveal why he had stepped down. He just thanked President Bolsonaro for giving him the chance to serve as a minister and praised healthcare workers.

But he has clashed with the president over several aspects of how the government has dealt with the spiralling epidemic.

He disagreed with the president’s desire to widely use chloroquine as a treatment. The drug has gained widespread attention although the World Health Organisation (WHO) says there’s no definitive evidence it works.

Teich also butted heads with the president over plans to open up the economy, saying last week that he was not consulted ahead of an order that paved the way for gyms, beauty salons and hairdressers to reopen.

Case and death rates are increasing in Brazil.

A study comparing Denmark and Sweden claims that most of the drop in consumer spending is due to the virus itself and not the lockdowns. Newsroom: New paper calls into question benefits of Swedish strategy

Economists at the University of Copenhagen have found lockdowns have had little impact on consumer spending habits and that the true dampener of purchasing activity is the coronavirus itself.

The findings of the preprint paper, which may not have been peer-reviewed, call into question the premise of the much-touted Swedish strategy, in which the Nordic country has shied away from entering lockdown, suffering thousands of deaths as a result, in order to preserve the economy.

Transaction data for 830,000 Danes and Swedes from the second-largest Scandinavian bank found aggregate spending dropped by 25 percent in Sweden and 29 percent in neighbouring Denmark, which instituted a lockdown. Denmark has had 10,713 cases of Covid-19 and 537 deaths, while Sweden has seen 28,582 cases and 3529 deaths.

“In Denmark, spending drops sharply around the shutdown on 11 March 2020 and remains below the level in the reference period,” the researchers write.

“In Sweden, spending drops sharply at almost the exact same time although no significant restrictions were imposed. Presumably, this is no coincidence but reflects that the Danish shutdown responded to an escalating pandemic, similar in the two countries, with its own strong effect on spending. This highlights the empirical difficulty of separating the effects of social distancing laws and the pandemic they are designed to contain.”

In their conclusion, the economists argue that the lockdown resulted in just a 4 percent decrease in spending and that the virus itself was to blame for the vast bulk of the economic slump.

With no sign of a vaccine keeping the virus in check and getting economies back in action may be a long slow process.

Covid-19 deaths pass 300,000 and gloomy outlooks

The total recorded Covid-19 deaths has now passed 300,000 and is could be significantly higher than this. There are doubts that the Chinese toll of 4,600 is accurate, and while Russia has quarter of a million cases they officially have just 2,300 deaths, which seems quite out of kilter with rations in most countries.

Moscow defends reporting of low coronavirus death statistics

Russia’s high number of confirmed coronavirus cases but low number of deaths has raised questions about the veracity of the Kremlin’s reporting of the pandemic’s statistics.

But Moscow hit back on Wednesday, saying its way of counting and attributing deaths was the most accurate.

More than 60 percent of people who died in April after contracting coronavirus had their deaths ascribed to other causes, said city officials.

Of Russia’s 2,212 coronavirus deaths, Moscow, the epicentre of the country’s outbreak, accounts for 1,232.

Moscow’s department of health said Russia, unlike other countries, conducted post-mortem examinations for every death in which coronavirus was suspected as the main cause.

“Therefore, post-mortem diagnoses and causes of death recorded in Moscow are ultimately extremely accurate, and mortality data is completely transparent,” it said.

“It’s impossible in other COVID-19 cases to name the cause of death. So, for example, in over 60 percent of deaths the cause was clearly for different reasons – such as vascular failures (such as heart attacks), stage four malignant diseases, leukaemia, systemic diseases which involve organ failure, and other incurable fatal diseases.”

But:

Data released by Moscow’s city government on Friday shows that the number of overall registered deaths in the Russian capital in April exceeded the five-year average for the same period by more than 1,700. That total is far higher than the official Covid-19 death count of 642 — an indication of significant underreporting by the authorities.

A similar picture has been observed in many other countries. In neighboring Belarus, for example — where the authoritarian leader Aleksandr G. Lukashenko has rejected calls for a lockdown as “frenzy and psychosis” — the reported death rate is about 10 per million. In Mexico, officials have recorded more than three times as many deaths in the capital as the government has acknowledged.

With over 86,000 recorded deaths it looks far from over in the US.

U.S. faces ‘darkest winter’ if pandemic planning falters: whistleblower

A whistleblower who says he was removed from his government post for raising concerns about coronavirus preparedness told a congressional hearing on Thursday that the United States could face “the darkest winter” of recent times if it does not improve its response to the pandemic.

Hours after President Donald Trump railed against him on Twitter, whistleblower Rick Bright testified to a U.S. House of Representatives panel about readiness for the outbreak.

“What we do must be done carefully with guidance from the best scientific minds. Our window of opportunity is closing. If we fail to improve our response now, based on science, I fear the pandemic will get worse and be prolonged,” Bright said during his testimony.

Later on Thursday, Trump told reporters at the White House that he had watched some of Bright’s hearing.

“To me he’s nothing more than a really disgruntled, unhappy person,” Trump said, adding that he did not know Bright.

A gloomy economic outlook too.

Seven weeks into coronavirus lockdowns, Fed has a new, darker message

One Thursday morning seven weeks ago, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell made a rare appearance on NBC’s “Today Show” to offer a reassuring message to Americans dealing with economic fallout from measures to contain the coronavirus outbreak.

At the time, Powell said he expected economic activity would resume in the second half of the year, and maybe even enjoy a “good rebound.”

But on Wednesday, he offered a much more sober outlook.

In an interview webcast by the Peterson Institute for International Economics, Powell warned here of an “extended period” of weak economic growth, tied to uncertainty about how well the virus could be controlled in the United States. “There is a sense, growing sense I think, that the recovery may come more slowly than we would like,” he said.

Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was similarly somber when he told lawmakers earlier this week that the country was by no means in “total control” of the outbreak.

“There is a real risk that you will trigger an outbreak that you may not be able to control and, in fact, paradoxically, will set you back, not only leading to some suffering and death that could be avoided, but could even set you back on the road to try to get economic recovery,” Fauci said.

In New Zealand yesterday’s budget allowed for an increase of debt from 20% of GDP to 50%. Snowballing ebt is a problem worldwide.

Coronavirus to leave a legacy of unprecedented global debt

Enormous doses of stimulus spending are offering relief from coronavirus damage but their lifelong legacy of debt could seed future crises by hobbling economic growth and worsening poverty, especially in developing countries.

Central banks and governments worldwide have unleashed at least $15 trillion of stimulus via bond-buying and budget spending to cushion the blow of a global recession tipped to be the worst since the 1930s.

But the steps will pile even more debt on countries already struggling with the aftermath of the 2008-9 financial crisis — total global debt has risen $87 trillion since 2007, and governments, with $70 trillion, accounted for the lion’s share of that increase, the Institute of International Finance estimates (IIF).

This year alone may see the global debt-GDP ratio rise by 20 percentage points to 342%, the group said, based on 3% economic contraction and a doubling in government borrowing from 2019.

Money seems to replicate as easily as the coronavirus, but with no attempt to find an economic vaccine.

And more problems in the US.

Sen. Burr steps aside as Intelligence Committee chairman amid stock sale investigation

Republican Sen. Richard Burr has stepped aside as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee amid an investigation into his stock sales during the early stages of the coronavirus outbreak.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced the development in a brief statement Thursday, saying:

“Senator Burr contacted me this morning to inform me of his decision to step aside as Chairman of the Intelligence Committee during the pendency of the investigation. We agreed that this decision would be in the best interests of the committee and will be effective at the end of the day tomorrow.”

Later, Burr confirmed that he would be stepping aside.

Suspicions arose last month after it was revealed that several senators dumped stocks prior to the coronavirus pandemic upending the global economy. The FBI reportedly reached out to Burr to discuss the sale of as much as $1.7 million in stocks.

Senate records indicate that Burr and his wife sold between roughly $600,000 and $1.7 million in more than 30 transactions in late January and mid-February, just before the market began to nosedive and government health officials began to sound alarms about the virus. Several of the stocks were in companies that own hotels.

This all makes our Covid-19 and economic problems look puny in comparison – 21 deaths and no new cases over the last three days as our lockdown is relaxed.

 

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.”

 

 

More on Covid models

The early Covid-19 models that tried to predict possible death toll from Covid-19 in various countries received a lot of attention because numbers were large and alarming, but the worst case scenarios were based on limited data and nothing being done to stop the virus from spreading.

But a lot has been done to try to limit the death toll, and models have been continually refined, but there are still have quite wide variations due to not being sure how quickly or drastically restrictions will be lifted, and other unknowns.

Modelling is not very important in New Zealand now because we have very few new cases per day and deaths per day have been 0 for a few days and were never more than 4 a day. We still have quite tight restrictions with only gradual easing indicated, so we should be able to keep Covid deaths to not much more than they are now, at least for the next month or two.

Modelling is a bigger deal elsewhere as while the death toll in many countries may have flattened it is still quite high. For a couple of weeks now deaths have averaged around a couple of thousand a day in the US. The situation there is quite complex with different infection rates and different restrictions across various states, and some states are starting to lift restrictions.

FiveThirtyEight takes an interesting look at models, showing wide ranges in single models and differences between models looking ahead only for the next month (May).

Where The Latest COVID-19 Models Think We’re Headed — And Why They Disagree

Models predicting the potential spread of the COVID-19 pandemic have become a fixture of American life. Yet each model tells a different story about the devastation to come, making it hard to know which one is “right.” But COVID-19 models aren’t made to be unquestioned oracles. They’re not trying to tell us one precise future, but rather the range of possibilities given the facts on the ground.

FiveThirtyEight — with the help of the Reich Lab at the University of Massachusetts Amherst — has assembled six models published by infectious disease researchers to illustrate possible trajectories of the pandemic’s death toll.

Forecasts like these are useful because they help us understand the most likely outcomes as well as best- and worst-case possibilities — and they can help policymakers make decisions that can lead us closer to those best-case outcomes.

And looking at multiple models is better than looking at just one because it’s difficult to know which model will match reality the closest. Even when models disagree, understanding why they are different can give us valuable insight.

The article goes on to explain each of the six models and also looks at state by state breakdowns.

What this shows us is how imprecise models are.

But the US models suggest that models from a month or so ago predicting 100-200k or so deaths may have been reasonably on track, From now a lot still depends on the success or otherwise of containing the spreading of the virus, the success in particular in keeping it out of aged care and rest homes, and the time taken to find effective treatments and ultimately a vaccine.

The current official death toll in the US is about 65,000 and if the death rate continues as at present that will reach 130-140k by the end of May. Even if on average the death rate halves it will still be over 100k by then.

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.

 

Covid cases – 3 million worldwide, 1 million in USA

The number of Covid-19 cases has now passed 3 million, and US cases have now just passed 1 million, just under a third of the world total.

Note that this is just the number of confirmed cases, there will have been many more infections that haven’t been detected or included.

Total deaths are now 211,065.

Both may be levelling off but it is hard to be sure as different regions grow as others improve. There is also a risk of further regional waves, especially as lockdown restrictions are lifted.

Reuters: More U.S. states ease restrictions

Georgia on Monday allowed residents to dine at restaurants for the first time in a month, as more U.S. states began easing restrictions where the coronavirus outbreak has taken a relatively light toll.

Alaska, Oklahoma and South Carolina, along with Georgia, previously took such steps, after weeks of mandatory lockdowns that threw millions of Americans out of work.

President Donald Trump and some local officials had criticized Georgia Governor Brian Kemp for orders that enabled restaurants and theaters to join a list of businesses, such as hair and nail salons, barber shops and tattoo parlors, allowed to reopen last week, with social-distancing restrictions still in force.

Even so, some restaurant owners and managers in the state capital Atlanta said they would not reopen on Monday.

There will be a lot of observation and analysis of places that ease restrictions to see whether the virus keeps tracking down or comes back again, and also to see how quickly business picks up.

Italy has outlined plans to ease restrictions from 4 May as it has recorded its lowest daily death toll in about 6 weeks.

BBC: Boris Johnson says this is moment of maximum risk

Speaking outside No 10 for the first time since recovering from the virus, Mr Johnson said “we are now beginning to turn the tide” on the disease.

He said lockdown would not be relaxed too soon and details on any changes will be set out over the “coming days”.

BBC:  Coronavirus ‘currently eliminated’ in New Zealand

New Zealand says it has stopped community transmission of Covid-19, effectively eliminating the virus.

With new cases in single figures for several days – one on Sunday – Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the virus was “currently” eliminated.

But officials have warned against complacency, saying it does not mean a total end to new coronavirus cases.

ABC Australia: How Australians feel about the coronavirus crisis and Scott Morrison’s response

The coronavirus pandemic has made Australians more anxious, more confused — and a lot more bored, a new survey suggests.

The COVID-19 Monitor, a new research project from Vox Pop Labs in partnership with the ABC, takes us inside the homes of Australians to reveal how they’re really feeling as they live in self-imposed exile. It finds:

  • The number of Australians reporting poor mental health has more than doubled compared to a month ago.
  • The number frequently feeling despair has more than tripled.
  • Those frequently feeling confusion is up more than five times.
  • On a more positive note, the number of Australians frequently feeling a sense of solidarity has also jumped.

Doing enough to protect from the health risk:

  • Agree 85%
  • Disagree 14%

Doing enough to protect from economic risk:

  • Agree 75%
  • Disagree 21%

New Zealand has taken similar measures to Australia, with a slightly more restrictive lockdown but with more severe policing of breaches of social distancing rules.

Meanwhile Donald Trump has reveresed his sudden aversion with press conferences, returning to the podium to make profound statements:

“There has been so much unnecessary death in this country. It could’ve been stopped and it could’ve been stopped short, but somebody a long time ago, it seems, decided not to do it that way and the whole world is suffering because of it.”

He didn’t suggest who it was, but he’s probably looking hard for a Chinese journalist with links to the Democratic Party.

Further on in his news conference he does get more specific saying his administration has launched “very serious investigations” into China’s handling of Covid-19:

President Trump says his administration has launched “very serious investigations” into China’s response to the novel coronavirus.

“And we are not happy with China, we are not happy with that whole situation, because we believe it could have been stopped at the source. It could have been stopped quickly and it wouldn’t have spread all over the world.”

Every virus could be stopped at the source, if the virus and the source could be identified before it spread.

“Nobody except one country can be held accountable for what happened”.

“Nobody’s blaming anybody here, we’re looking at a group of people that should’ve stopped it at the source.”

The US will never forget those who were “sacrificed for a reason of incompetence or something else other than incompetence”.

“They could’ve protected the whole world – not just us – the whole world”.

I wonder if Trump doesn’t want to be seen as being in any way responsible for what happened in the US.


Update

Both the increase in case numbers (69,746) and increase in deaths(4,532) on Monday (GMT) are down. While it could be a temporary post-weekend blip it could also be an encouraging sign that the worst is over, for now at least.

Covid-19 world roundup

Get rid of ‘old stale’ ideas: Prime Minister wants a new way out of the COVID-19 crisis for Australia

Scott Morrison is ready to hear ideas for economic reform but is a long way away from choosing the path ahead.

The Prime Minister is in what some call a “harvesting phase” on big reform options like tax, industrial relations and deregulation.

He wants business and community groups to come up with proposals but is not going to be prescriptive about the solution – whether that means changes to workplace rules or a company tax cut.

Morrison’s message is not so concrete because nobody can be certain of the depth of the economic chasm the country is falling into. To be blunt: the country is yet to hit the bottom. Nobody can be certain of the scale of the reforms needed to lift the country out.

Countries are wary of relaxing restrictions too quickly.

Merkel warns Germany is on the ‘thinnest ice’ as Europe realizes social distancing is here to stay

Germany risks squandering the gains it has made in slowing down the spread of the novel coronavirus if the country opens up too quickly, Chancellor Angela Merkel warned, joining leaders across Europe who have cautioned that any easing of lockdown restrictions would likely be gradual.

The country is “still at the beginning” of the coronavirus crisis and will have to live with the virus for a long time, Merkel told Germany’s parliament. “Nobody likes to hear this but it is the truth. We are not living through the final phase of this crisis,” she added.
German federal and state governments recently agreed to loosen some of the social distancing restrictions implemented to combat Covid-19, including allowing smaller shops to reopen. But Merkel warned against moving too fast. “This interim result is fragile. We are on thin ice, one could even say on thinnest ice,” Merkel cautioned.

Germany has a relatively low death rate compared to neighbouring European countries.

Belgium has the highest death rate at 540 per million of population, total deaths 6,262 (their population is 11.5 million, 2.35 times New Zealand’s population).

First patients injected in UK vaccine trial

The first human trial in Europe of a coronavirus vaccine has begun in Oxford.

Two volunteers were injected, the first of more than 800 people recruited for the study.

Half will receive the Covid-19 vaccine, and half a control vaccine which protects against meningitis but not coronavirus.

Prof Gilbert previously said she was “80% confident” the vaccine would work, but now prefers not to put a figure on it, saying simply she is “very optimistic” about its chances.

EU leaders agree huge rescue package

A plan for injecting billions of euros of emergency aid into Europe’s struggling economies has been agreed by EU leaders.

At a video conference they agreed to set up a massive recovery fund, to be closely tied to the bloc’s seven-year budget. The European Commission now has to work out the details.

They also confirmed that €540bn (£470bn) of financial support would be released through existing mechanisms, to ease the economic pain caused by coronavirus, from 1 June.

European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said the future recovery fund would mobilise €1 trillion of investment.

Nearly 3 million New Yorkers have had coronavirus, antibody study suggests

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo revealed Thursday that preliminary results from a coronavirus antibody study show the statewide infection rate is 13.9 percent, which would mean around 2.7 million residents could have carried the disease.

“These are people who were infected and who developed the antibodies to fight the infection,” Cuomo said. “They had the virus, they developed the antibodies and they are now ‘recovered’.”

@NYGovCuoma:

Percent positive by demographic:

  • Female: 12%
  • Male: 15.9%
  • Asian: 11.7%
  • Black: 22.1%
  • Latino/Hispanic: 22.5%
  • Multi/None/Other: 22.8%
  • White: 9.1%

Another clash between Trump and a top official:  Trump disregards science as chaos overtakes coronavirus response

In another bizarre twist, Trump produced Robert Redfield, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to walk back his remarks that the coronavirus challenge could be more difficult in the fall.

Trump claimed that Redfield had been “totally misquoted” by the media. But under questioning from reporters, Redfield confirmed that he had in fact made the remarks that angered Trump.

“I’m accurately quoted in The Washington Post,” he conceded, as Trump countered that the headline was wrong. It accurately described Redfield warning that if a coronavirus resurgence came at the same time as the flu season, hospitals could be overwhelmed.

The President also openly clashed with his top public health officials on the likelihood of the virus returning for another assault in the fall — saying only “embers” of disease were likely that could be easily put out.

And more mixed messages:

The President did break with Georgia’s Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, saying he “strongly disagrees” with aggressive plans to open businesses including hair salons on Friday as pro-Trump southern states look to ease stay-at-home orders.

But his rebuke followed days of Trump all but goading southern conservative states to open up, even though many don’t yet meet White House opening guidelines. And a source familiar with calls between Trump and Vice President Mike Pence and the Georgia governor said that both men expressed support and praise for Kemp’s move to reopen businesses.


The British government’s chief medical adviser says the restriction will likely last into next year, saying it would be “wholly unrealistic” to expect things to return to normal any time soon.

United States President Donald Trump says there is “pent up demand” to ease social restrictions, but has conceded the measures may need to stay in place until at least the summer.

https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/national/415014/covid-19-live-updates-from-new-zealand-and-around-the-world-on-24-april

Trump lurches into undermining of state lockdowns

Donald Trump is well known for his inconsistencies and swings, He recently claimed to have supreme power over state governments in dealing with Covid, and then appeared to backtrack a bit.

Now he’s playing with lives and livelihoods in appearing to support protests against Covid-19 lockdowns in states with Democrat governors.

This is just after issuing guidelines for reopening businesses and schools – Trump’s coronavirus reopening guidelines:

President Donald Trump rolled out his guidelines for how the United States can reopen businesses and schools shut down by the coronavirus Thursday evening.

  1. States should have a “downward trajectory” of COVID-19 cases for a 14-day period before reopening, or a downward trajectory of positive tests for the same time period, given flat or increasing testing levels.
  2. U.S. states have core responsibility for testing and tracing citizens. A list of “core state preparedness responsibilities” includes the “ability to quickly set up safe and efficient screening and testing sites” and ensure “surveillance sites are screening for asymptomatic cases” and COVID-19 positive people are traced. U.S. testing to date has been delayed here and chaotic, thanks to federal government roadblocks and failures. Alphabet’s (GOOGL.O) Google and Apple Inc (AAPL.O) are working together on software to make contact tracing easier, but that will not be available here until mid-May.
  3. Phase 1 of the reopening recommends that schools and daycare facilities remain closed and that people maintain social distancing in public. Businesses should continue to encourage teleworking, and meetings of more than 10 people should be discouraged. Event spaces like movie theaters can reopen, with “strict” social distancing measures in place. Elective surgeries can resume, on an outpatient basis. Non-essential travel and visits to senior living facilities should remain suspended. Gyms can reopen, with proper sanitation and distances, but bars should not.
  4. Phase 2 of the plan, which states should progress to after another 14-day decline in positive cases, includes lifting the ban on non-essential travel. It recommends businesses continue to encourage teleworking and close common areas where people congregate. Employers should consider special accommodation for personnel who are members of a “vulnerable population,” which is defined as the elderly or people with underlying conditions like obesity, asthma and chronic lung conditions. Schools and youth activities can resume, and bars can reopen with minimized standing room areas. Large venues, like sporting arenas and houses of worship, can operate under “moderate” physical distancing. Elective surgeries on an in-patient business can resume.
  5. Phase 3 of the plan, which states can enter after another 14-day period of declining cases, allows businesses to resume “unrestricted staffing” of worksites, and visits to senior homes to resume. Large venues can operate with limited physical distancing guidelines and bars can increase standing-room-only areas.

But despite this Trump appears to be encouraging people protesting against lockdowns in some states.

Total deaths to Friday 111 deaths from Covid (+17 today)

Currently 2,227 deaths from Covid (+134 today)

Currently 231 deaths from Covid (+23 today).

USA Today:Trump calls to ‘liberate’ states where protesters have demanded easing coronavirus lockdowns

President Donald Trump called on supporters Friday to “liberate” states that have experienced protests over coronavirus lockdowns, a day after he unveiled guidelines aimed at reopening the nation’s economy.

Less than 24 hoursafter declining to name states he felt are prepared to begin easing social distancing guidelines to halt the spread of the virus, Trump named Virginia, Michigan and Minnesota as states that could benefit from what he described as liberation.

Trump has lurched from slamming Democratic governors, to saying he has developed friendships with them and back to attacking them. In a series of combative tweets Friday, Trump defended his performance on the virus, renewed his criticism of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and attacked his predecessor, President Barack Obama.

All three states that Trump called to “liberate”are led by Democratic governors, and all three have experienced protests in recent days demanding a rollback of stay-at-home orders. Demonstrators drove thousands of vehicles to Michigan’s state Capitol this week to protest Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s stay-at-home order, for instance.

This is dangerous incitement from Trump. With recent jumps in poll support reversing Trump appears to be campaigning in key election states – as usual it’s all bout him, but with Covid many lives are potentially at stake.

Trump has also lurched back into attacking China, Obama and Biden (over H1N1), and Governor Cuomo of New York who wanted more medical equipment.

And it looks like a surge of deaths in the US. Yesterday 2,174,  today 2535, current total 37,154.