Sundry virus update

1. Six types of covid-19?

The New Scientist reports on a study in the UK where researchers grouped Covid_19 symptoms into six clusters:

1 Flu-like symptoms, no fever
Headache, loss of smell, cough, sore throat and aches and pains, but no fever. Around 1.5 per cent of this group will go on to require breathing support in hospital.

2 Flu-like symptoms with fever
Similar to group 1, plus a loss of appetite and fever.

3 Gastrointestinal
Diarrhoea alongside loss of smell and appetite, headache, sore throat and chest pain. Typically, no cough.

4 Fatigue
This cluster is considered more severe than the previous three, as 8.6 per cent require breathing support. Fatigue accompanies headache, loss of smell, cough, chest pain and fever.

5 Confusion
Another severe category. People experience confusion in addition to symptoms listed in cluster four. Around 10 per cent will require breathing support.

6 Abdominal and respiratory
Considered the most severe cluster, because almost half will require hospitalisation, and around a fifth will need breathing support. Symptoms include headache, fever, loss of smell and appetite, cough, sore throat and chest pain, along with shortness of breath, diarrhoea and abdominal pain, muscle pain, confusion and fatigue.

The last three represent severe cases.

Originally in Wuhan:

    health authorities listed cough, fever and difficulty breathing as key symptoms. People with severe infections developed pneumonia. The illness looked like many other respiratory infections.

Now we know that Covid-19 is not a respiratory disease as such. However, there are still problems in testing and diagnosis. In the UK the government currently advises that only those with fever, a persistent cough or a loss of taste or smell get tested. The study found this strategy would have missed 24 per cent of symptomatic children. If diarrhoea and vomiting were added then 97% of cases would be detected.

Young children tend to get different symptoms from older children, and for adults it’s different again.


    The amount of virus a person is exposed to might influence which symptoms they develop, too, as could the route of infection, for instance whether by nose, eyes or mouth.

As of now we don’t know.

2. Long COVID

Long COVID could form a seventh category. We’ve already mentioned it. Here in an ABC RN segment of Science Friction with the wonderful Natasha Mithchell is These doctors got COVID-19, now they’re suffering the serious, mysterious symptoms of ‘long COVID’:

    Three accomplished doctors share their visceral personal experiences of ‘long COVID’.

    Most likely infected with coronavirus early in the pandemic, months on they’re each grappling with bizarre and disabling symptoms.

    … it seems Long COVID doesn’t discriminate. Healthy people. Young people. Those who apparently had a mild case of COVID-19.

    Every system in our bodies can be affected.

Symptoms after a mild infection can be so bad that it is hard to walk, or gather concentration sufficiently to work at anything.

Some with the disease are finding it hard to get a COVID diagnosis, with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome in the mix, which can effect the benefits they receive, and their career prospects.

Ed Yong at The Atlantic writes Long-Haulers Are Redefining COVID-19:

    Lauren Nichols has been sick with COVID-19 since March 10, shortly before Tom Hanks announced his diagnosis and the NBA temporarily canceled its season. She has lived through one month of hand tremors, three of fever, and four of night sweats. When we spoke on day 150, she was on her fifth month of gastrointestinal problems and severe morning nausea. She still has extreme fatigue, bulging veins, excessive bruising, an erratic heartbeat, short-term memory loss, gynecological problems, sensitivity to light and sounds, and brain fog. Even writing an email can be hard, she told me, “because the words I think I’m writing are not the words coming out.” She wakes up gasping for air twice a month. It still hurts to inhale.

There are tens of thousands of them. Most are women, their average age is 44, and most were formerly fit and healthy.

3. Vaccines

One of the many experts said the world is trying to compress 8 or 9 years of R&D normally required to produce a vaccine into 8 or 9 months.

Michael Bartos in Mission accomplished? looks at the global politics and positioning. On recent form, every country that can should manufacture the vaccine itself, which of course means a lot of kit to store and deliver the vaccine in addition to the vaccine itself.

The Morrison Government has struck a deal, see Australia to produce 84 million doses by mid-2021 in $1.7b deal:

    The Oxford University vaccine is slated to be available from early 2021 while the University of Queensland version is on track for midyear.


    About 84.8 million vaccine doses would be manufactured, primarily in Melbourne by CSL, which plans to produce 51 million doses of a UQ vaccine and 33.8 million doses of an Oxford vaccine under a heads of agreement signed with the Government.

The ink was hardly dry when we heard Oxford vaccine trial halted after patient’s ‘serious adverse reaction’.

It seems this was a minor hiccup, and one to be expected in such trials.

However, I heard other commentary that manufacturing may start around this time next year, and that it would take a years to produce the 80 million doses.

Of interest, two Queensland firms are developing vaccine manufacturing capacity. Also there is a third Australian candidate – Adelaide-based company Vaxine, which has laboratories at Flinders University, already has a vaccine in human trials and reckon they will be good to go by the end of 2020.

According to this article the vaccines from the US companies Moderna, Pfizer and German companies BioNTech and Curevac are based on mRNA (messenger RNA) technology which has the disadvantage of having to be stored at -80°C in freezer farms, then shipped in specialized, well-insulated boxes, filled with dry ice or frozen carbon dioxide. Repackaging will be done in rooms as low as -20°C, with workers requiring full PPE.

I believe the Oxford vaccine is not based on mRNA technology. Most vaccines require normal refrigeration of 2 to 8°C.

Four Chinese vaccines number among the dozen or so leading candidates, with promises being made about initial availability by the end of the year, on par with the rest.

    On 9 October, China also announced that it had joined COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access (COVAX), the collaborative effort by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, together with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and the World Health Organization (WHO), which is aiming to provide two billion doses of vaccine to the most vulnerable people and to health-care workers, especially in poor countries. Some 80 wealthy ‘self-funding’ countries have committed to support the initiative, with the notable exception of the United States. It is not clear yet whether China will commit money or vaccines, and how much.

Countries which China has publicly pledged to make vaccines available to include the Philippines, Cambodia, Burma, Thailand, Vietnam and Laos, as well as African and Latin American countries, with specific deals with Brazil and Indonesia.

India is probably key to poorer country access – see India is key for global access to a COVID-19 vaccine – here’s why:

    India has the potential to play a key role in overcoming vaccine nationalism because it is the major supplier of medicines to the global south. Médecins Sans Frontières once dubbed the country the “pharmacy of the world”. India also has, by far, the largest capacity to produce COVID-19 vaccines. Its role in manufacturing a vaccine could come in two different ways – mass-producing one developed elsewhere (likely) or developing a new vaccine as well as manufacturing it (less likely, though not impossible).

It has already started manufacturing the University of Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.

Just now Dr Norman Swan said that vaccine developers probably already know how effective their vaccine is going to be, but safety testing required tens of thousands of people in the trials, and months to wait for longer term effects.

4. Europe has lost the plot

Europe was completely unready for the COVID pandemic in spite of warnings over the years. As David Nabarro said:

    “We appeal to all world leaders: stop using lockdowns as your primary control method,” he said.

    “The only time we believe a lockdown is justified is to buy you time to reorganise, regroup, rebalance your resources, protect your health workers who are exhausted.”

By and large Europe, rather than adopting Australia’s policy of aggressive suppression to the point of no community transmission, tried to live with an acceptable level of the virus. It seems clear now that too much travel and too much openness involving people to get together in groups was allowed, given the state of their health systems and abilities in testing and contact tracing. Now:

    Europeans are united, though, in asking themselves a single question: Is this the new normal? If a vaccine is a year or two away, are they supposed to live until then in this world of rolling restrictions, curtailed travel, distanced societies and depressed economies?

    The answer is yes if your government has run out of ideas and money. But if your government has a find-test-trace-isolate system like those in Japan and South Korea, you can enjoy a more normal normality.

    But that’s apparently a very big if.

That’s from an article Lessons from Europe as it faces second-wave setbacks by Hans van Leeuven in the AFR. He says that the Czech Republic was the poster child in defeating the virus. They had a big party on the Charles Bridge to celebrate the victory. Now their per capita infection rate is one of the worst in the world.

France now has over 50,000 new infections per day. Italy has over 21,000 per day, the UK roughly the same, and Spain thereabouts. Germany, which had suppressed the virus to around 250 per day by mid-June has now had a day of 13,400 with a sharp upward trend.

These figures are between two and seven times the first wave.

In Europe they seem all over the place with lockdowns, partial lockdowns, and difficulties in public compliance with whatever the authorities deem appropriate. In Britain the government rejected medical advice for a two-week circuit-breaker lockdown. Van Leeuven says:

    England’s contact tracing system is reaching less than 60 per cent of its targets. And only one in five people who is advised to isolate is doing so properly, for the full 14 days.

Philip Clarke on ABC Nightlife said his daughter, who is in England, tells him you can’t necessarily get a test if you have symptoms.

Van Leeuven says Germany is getting it right:

    Within Europe’s bleak canvas, there are brighter spots: places that show what a more sustainable pre-vaccine “new normal” could look like. The exemplar is Germany, which is experiencing a surge in cases now, but from a low base that’s the envy of Europe.

    Chancellor Angela Merkel came out in early March – when everyone bar the Italians was still largely in denial – and said COVID-19 was the biggest crisis the country had faced since World War II. The German authorities took it seriously, mobilised, and swallowed the hard decisions.

    “You have to balance between the harm of the virus and the social distancing, and we were on the side of being very cautious,” Health Minister Jens Spahn told the British think tank Policy Exchange.

They had a strong health system to begin with, beefed it up and put in a lot of work. They had expected the autumn and winter to be challenging – Chancellor Angela Merkel warned of 20,000 new cases per day. Der Spiegel published an interview with Helge Braun, the head of Merkel’s Chancellery, see “We Are Threatened By a Second Wave If We Don’t Act Very Quickly”.

The interview was published on 12 October. If you look at their worldometer site, the 7-day average took off about a week earlier than that, and is now doubling every 10 to 11 days. I think they have their second wave.

As the officer working most on national co-ordination, Braun won’t comment on how well particular states or doing. Nor does he have in mind any uniform target infection rate, but generally speaking infections need to be held to a point where they don’t take off rapidly. He does say, however, that particular attention needs to be applied to places like Berlin “where there is a diffuse infection pattern” and there has been exponential growth in the Berlin Mitte (central) in recent days. There he said that infection rates there needed to be held below 50 per 100,000 population per week. That’s 0.05% and converts to Melbourne as around 350 cases per day.

Seems high to me.

Germany feels it erred in closing schools and childcare first. Now they would close them last.

Travel and holidays is a problem. Generally Europe opened, (in August, 50 percent of Germany’s infections were from people who had traveled abroad) but now restrictions are being introduced. Hotels in most of Germany can’t accept bookings from Berliners.

Germany has put 500 million euros towards the conversion of air filter systems to eliminate virus circulation in air conditioning.

Overall, though, Van Leeuven says it could be a long time before the Czechs are partying on the Charles Bridge again.

There were several other articles of interest at Der Spiegel, including What the Pandemic Has in Store for the World, a useful roundup which mentions the success of Thailand and Vietnam, also unexpected countries like Sierra Leone and Rwanda. New Zealand gets a mention, but not Australia.

Their bottom line is that we are going to have to learn to live and die with COVID and expect more because it won’t be the last.

Vaccines and cures are being researched at a great pace, but indications are that the world has changed forever. There is no snap-back. One country that has regained a semblance of its former normality is China.

Georg Fahrion, a Berliner in Beijing, tells What Life Looks Like in an (Almost) COVID-Free Country. He was in Wuhan when the virus emerged, escaped to Beijing to suffer lockdown there, then in March returned to Berlin for a holiday, just in time for a lockdown there (a walk in the park by comparison).

Returning to China, he now lives in almost complete freedom, freedom as defined and experienced in China, where, if they want to celebrate, they go to a club. It’s a paradox.

China’s example is not available to us. Nor would we want it to be. Inconvenient as it is for China, Taiwan stands out as an entirely different example of the balance between freedom and coping with the virus within a democratic system.

73 thoughts on “Sundry virus update”

  1. This post was not meant to be a comprehensive update, just a selection of items that came my way, but with a bit of a focus on Europe. So I’ll add here the link John D made on another thread – Doctors with COVID-19 continue to work as hospitals in Belgium buckle under pandemic.

    Of particular concern is that doctors and other medical staff are having to continue to work when infected themselves, and, frankly, the appalling lack of compliance in the population.

    It looks as though national lockdowns are inevitable.

    European countries may now wish to study Australian success, as well as other countries like Taiwan, South Korea and Japan.

    Certainly most European countries have porous land borders, which create extra problems. This article headlines a ban by Denmark covering Germans unless they have serious reasons for entering Denmark. There are exceptions, including Germans who own a holiday home in Denmark.

    What happens in Europe will have an impact on the world economy among other things.

  2. Brian: Interesting to mote that “LOSS OF SMELL” was a symptom for all the cases you mention above. It is what I have been using to decide if winter sniffles etc. are the virus. (American son, sociologist medical facility University of California San Diego) said at one stage that a runny nose had never been linked to the virus but I don’t know if this still stands.)
    Given that people who are tested have to self isolate there must be a massive incentive to put off testing. May be a lot smarter to emphasize smell loss. (More research required?)
    I have known a couple of people over the years with no sense of smell bur it seems to be pretty rare.

  3. John, looking carefully at the symptoms, you are right about loss of smell.

    We are told from time to time that sense of smell is under-rated among the senses. It keeps us safe, and is hooked into memory and emotion very strongly.

    I recall it being said that via the sense of smell the virus penetrates the blood-brain barrier.

    Looking through I noticed that headache was also common to all six.

    It seems in the first three either the respiratory tract or the gastrointestinal system are emphasised.

    Four and five seem to be amplifications of brain issues, while six is full spectrum.

    I don’t know enough about Long Covid, but it could be variations of brain and nervous system issues.

  4. Fair enough, and good link. It says:

      However, smell loss is an important component of many conditions, from a simple cold, to a sinus infection, to early stage Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, or simply aging.

    The last three happen once a lifetime, so it’s mainly a cold or sinus.

    So it is indeed tempting to look to anosmia as diagnostic.

    If you could rule out a runny nose, so much the better.

  5. Ihave to go to the doctor then work, but it has just been announced that Queensland will open borders to NSW from 3 November, except for Greater Sydney, which is defined by 32 LGAs.

    If a person from outside Sydney has been in Sydney during the previous 2 weeks they can’t come.

    Dr Young emphasised NSW capacity to monitor through sewerage testing and contact tracing, which gave a lot of confidence. However, Sydney still had some mystery cases popping up here and there.

    Whatever decision was made, it was always going to be labelled ‘political’. However, Qld has had a practice of making these announcements at the end of the month, applying to the next month.

    I have thought that the public pressure on Qld would ensure that the decision would be made pretty much by the book. I think that is what happened.

    Now Young is saying we have to wait to see how opening up in Victoria works out in practice. She was impressed with what they have done.

  6. Brian: “Queensland will open borders to NSW from 3 November, except for Greater Sydney, which is defined by 32 LGAs.
    If a person from outside Sydney has been in Sydney during the previous 2 weeks they can’t come.”
    This means that the border crossing will still be constipated with, in theory, every person in every car (including cars with Qld number plates) being stopped crossing into Qld and volumes going up with people coming from outside the current bubble.
    Interesting to know how many cars crossing the border would contain people who come from greater Sydney.

  7. John, presumably the people from Greater Sydney know not to show up.

    But, yes, vehicle checks will still apply. I am simply the bearer of news, but Qld Labor did some polling for some unknown reason, which wasn’t taken into account because it was only done yesterday. Apparently it shows a shift in opinion about people being ready to open up, but I don’t know the details.

  8. John, I think Jeanette Young was probably more conservative about opening up because of the election. In terms of what she had said a month earlier, what we got was a concession.

    Palaszczuk was too busy electioneering to give it any consideration.

    BTW Dr Young was asked at the media conference whether her policy was ‘elimination’. She said. no, suppression.

  9. Brian: “John, I think Jeanette Young was probably more conservative about opening up because of the election.” Yep.
    Elections are not the right time for nuanced thinking.
    The Qld policy re the border with NSW suggested to me a serious ignorance re what was south of the border and how many people had a regular, often daily, need to cross.

  10. Interesting article, zoot.

    My conclusion is that there was a fundamental basis to what every (rational) government attempted, whether by distancing, mask-wearing, contact tracing, and restrictions on employment and travel, et cetera, et cetera : to reduce as far as possible, the potential of damaging exponential growth of case numbers because any health system will eventually not cope if case numbers grow “too high”.

    The “too high” figure varies from nation to nation. The measures adopted likewise have varied.

    Here’s the Swedish expert:

    “We’re beginning to approach the ceiling for what the healthcare system can handle,” Dr Tegnell told a news conference.

    “Together, as during the spring, we can push down this curve and avoid the strain on healthcare.”

    All Australians remember “flattening the curve” from March and April.

    As relevant now, as then. As relevant in Brazil, the UK, and USA; in Spain and Italy and France and Belgium,…..

    Science is science. Epidemiology is epidemiology. Public health specialists have a large base of knowledge and experience to draw on.

  11. Ambi, I think the problem in Sweden is that their daily cases trend had been flat for some time, but are now doubling in less than a week.

    I had a go at translating the 2480 per day quoted to Melbourne terms, and it comes to around 1200 per day.

    I’m thinking the next few weeks will be critical. Where they are right now is about equivalent to Germany, where they have slammed on the brakes.

  12. Brian: The WA system is crude and must be costing its tourist industry big mobs. In NSW the greater Sydney area is still a risk but most of NSW hasn’t had a case for yonks.
    If you can imagine, WA makes Qld’s xenophobia look negligible.
    The saving grace for WA is that the border is in very low population areas so you don’t have many people needing to cross the border on a daily basis for health, job or other reasons.
    I have never lived in Tas but the thing that strikes me about NSW is that, unlike other places we have lived, the people tend to think of themselves as Australians rather than new south Welshmen.

  13. Brian: “NSW do seem to know who we are after we beat them at rugby league.” I find the Queensland obsession with state of origin a bit quaint even though I support Qld because I have lived most of my life nth of the Qld border and was completely pissed off when NSW got the league to ban some of the Qld stars during the rugby league split.
    “NSW was quite sure Palaszczuk was just being political about the borders. Will they listen now when she says she’s going to take advice from the CHO?” The problem is that your CHO appears to have no understanding of what lies south of the border, the degree with which the economies and people of northern NSW and southern Qld are integrated and the logical places to have a border if closures are really necessary.

  14. The problem is that your CHO appears to have no understanding of what lies south of the border, the degree with which the economies and people of northern NSW and southern Qld are integrated and the logical places to have a border if closures are really necessary.

    It’s not a CHOs job to consider the economics, or the politics for that matter, only the health of Queenslanders.
    The CHO gives health advice to the Premier.
    It’s up to the Premier to weigh up all the advices given, including the economics and many others, then make the call.

  15. Jumpy, that doesn’t help.

    Hospitals and other services in Brisbane and the Gold Coast provide regional services beyond the Qld border. They are designed and would be funded to do so.

    On the other hand, many of the staff that work in places like the Lismore Hospital live in Qld.

    Then once a health emergency has been declared, the CHO makes the calls. That is a law, passed in parliament before Palaszczuk became a member.

    The current emergency officially runs to 31 December.

    How many times do I need to say this stuff.

  16. John: ” I find the Queensland obsession with state of origin a bit quaint”

    It’s pretty simple, really.

    First of all according to the TV stats somewhere between 10 and 20% of people in Qld watch State of Origin. Many couldn’t give a diddly darn.

    I follow most sports to some degree (not tiddly winks or synchronised swimming) I think because growing up in a country one-teacher school you get to play a few. Our school aced the district athletics carnival a few times, partly because it included ball sports which we practiced diligently in mixed teams with the girls.

    Played hopscotch with the girls and all kinds of things.

    I played rugby union at school, and rugby league in a country district B team for two years, so I’m just interested, the way I’m interested in most forms of music and the arts. Interested and in awe of what humans can do, but it’s more than that.

    We attended a concert today – a performance by the Brisbane Chorale of Johannes Brahms ‘A German Requiem’.

    It’s a powerfully emotional piece of music, first performed with 200 voices. Today they did pretty well with 80 voices, and a chamber orchestra of 24 pieces. You have to be a seriously good singer and musician to get into the choir, and the two soloists had sung around Europe and the US.

    Anyway, having been brought up a Christian I can connect emotionally with the culture that produced all those towering musical works.

    As an aside, it was designed to be Covid safe, and would not have happened if we had Covid around the traps the way Gladys B says we must. Too many oldies involved. Also we have a premier who supports the arts.

    Back to SOO.

    Thing is they had these interstate matches for decades, when Qld stars used to play in the NSW team, having went there on pokies money, and we were flogged.

    NSW has around three times the number of players that we do to pick from. Every single match they look like the winners on paper.

    But we have won our share, plus a bit, mainly because they don’t take us seriously.

    And it helps us to remember who we are not and we don’t need to live by their wisdom and rules.

  17. Brahms, Familie Bach, Mozart, Telemann, Beethoven, Familie Strauss, Wagner, und so weiter ….. what a legacy for the world, Brian.

    Alle Menschen werdern Brueder !!

    All men shall be brothers!!

  18. For 80 minutes you’ll see them trying to smash each other, run over the top of each other, or make the other mob look really stupid.

    Many are clubmates and friends for the rest of the year. Even after the game they chat and are known to comment on good play by those on the other side.

    It’s only a game.

  19. Ambi, Beethoven took things to a new level, though not in opera, of course.

    Thing is that after Brahms and Wagner there wasn’t much und so weiter although the Menschen in years to come looking back may see things differently.

  20. Victoria ‘once again united’ as Melbourne and regional travel limits scrapped:

      Travel limits in Melbourne will be scrapped, regional tourism restarted, and hospitality capacity limits raised under sweeping new relaxations to the state’s COVID rules.

      It comes as Victoria records nine days in a row of zero new cases and zero deaths, with Premier Daniel Andrews praising the “amazing” job that citizens in his state had done.

    Now The experts can’t agree how much longer we need to wear face masks.

    Some say 14 days, some say 28 days without community transmission.

    I say masks should still be worn while we are in public enclosed spaces. The virus doesn’t advertise its presence.

    Mask wearing at the performance we went to was rare. The seating was spaced, with people who booked together seated next to each other, but a space to the next lot. When the choir and orchestra came in the walked through the crowd, which was quite surprising and spooky, with a swarm of people dressed in black going right through the audience.

    The place wasn’t airconditioned, although they had windows open. Not sure we’d go again.

  21. My take is that people should be expected to carry facemasks and use them in situations where it is hard to maintain spacing;
    “Professor McMillan said NSW should consider making masks compulsory for people on public transport and in crowded areas where one person per four square metres can’t be maintained. (Ex: Always compulsory on public transport, taxis and….)
    Assoc Prof Vally agreed, saying “mask-wearing should be highly encouraged and even made mandatory in certain high-risk environments in NSW”.
    We should also review other parallel protections that don’t have a high impact on peoples lives or the economy.

  22. You will have heard about the mass destruction of minks in Denmark. Seems a mutated strain of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus had been found in at least 214 people and on five mink farms.

    Here in Oz Production of first Aussie virus vaccines just days away, says Morrison.

    Richard Aedy on ABC RN’s Money program talked about a Huge demand expected for Australian-made rapid COVID-19 tests.

    It’s Brisbane company ellume, which has been given $100 million by the Americans do develop the test. Administering the test and getting the result takes about 15 minutes, which includes watching the supplied video instructions.

    There is information about it on their site.

    They are good to go with the American market, and say they will struggle to meet demand. The price to customers would be US$30.

    They said they wouldn’t be selling it in Australia, for two reasons. Firstly, not enough virus to make a market. Secondly, it’s against the law to test yourself for most things.

    Finally, for now, for weird stuff the ABC’s Download this show often has mind-bending stuff. This week’s episode, from 12:00 minutes in, talks about AI work being done by MIT on a new Covid test. They have found that asymptomatic people can be identified as carrying the disease by the nature of their cough, using four markers in cough production. So if they get it right, you just cough into your phone every morning and it shows a big tick.

    They reckon 89% accurate at present.

    They also say that 80% of people who have Covid are asymptomatic. I don’t think that is actually right. My recall is 15-18 %.

    Later in the show they talk about holograms of dead people telling us stuff. I think that might be already happening.

    Along the way they say that we are at a tipping point as to how we behave with technology and may be ready to share data to gain more freedoms. The info needs to be highly secure and highly disposable they reckon.

    I think the people who inhabit the show are in their early 30s, characterised by laughing all the time when they are talking.

  23. I just made about 10 edits to that comment. The main one is that the rapid test takes 15 minutes not 125.

  24. Pfizer and German company BioNTech have announced a 90% effectiveness in their vaccine trial.

    They are looking for emergency FDA approval and expect to start using the vaccine from the beginning of next year.

    We have ordered 10 million shots of the vaccine, but it is currently manufactured in Germany and our order will be in a queue.

    This is a vaccine that has to be stored at -80°C, so I’m not sure what that will mean. Possibly not available in every GP surgery.

    The main unresolved issue I’ve heard so far is that they have no idea how long immunity will last.

    However, it does appear to be good news, 90% is way better than 50%. Maybe the oldies around here who love to sing in choirs and such will be back in business in 2021. I’d wait to hear what the likes of Raina MacIntyre have to say.

  25. Brian: “Pfizer and German company BioNTech have announced a 90% effectiveness in their vaccine trial.” Keep in mind that the effectiveness of parallel strategies needs to get the “N” number (Average number of people infected by an invected person.) below 1.0. The peak N in march was 1.28. A vaccine used in conjunction with facemasks etc. does not need to be all that effective to control the virus.

  26. Yes John

    We want to “control the spread” but we also wish to minimise infections because some cause fatalities.

    As it happens, the annual ‘flu vaccine isn’t 100% effective either.

  27. Ambi: If you can keep N under 1.0 the virus dies out. But yes quicker is better because it saves lives.

  28. I agree that Victoria should try to keep N well below 1.0

    Also agree with you about the efficacy of (relatively ) low cost masks. And that several methods (not only face masks in public places) should be used together.

    Where we differ, I think, is in my complete and utter ignorance of State of Origin.

  29. Not good news with the covid mutation to minks in Scandinavia and Ireland and back to humans.
    Good luck with the vaccines trying to keep up.

  30. Ambi: “Where we differ, I think, is in my complete and utter ignorance of State of Origin.” Hardly surprising. Both NSW and Qld have a completely different take on what it is all about. I will resist the temptation to explain what it is all about and how different the history and phycology of the two states are but will desist because I try to avoid upsetting Brian and Jumpy.

  31. That’s a strong duo you mention, John.

    BTW is phycology the science of fungi? If so, how do Qld and NSW come into it??

  32. Error Alert

    Phycology is the study of algae, the primary producers of energy in aquatic environments.

    • BTW is phycology the science of fungi? If so, how do Qld and NSW come into it??

    Or algae.

    No, it’s not about that it’s about cockroaches and cane toads.

    Here is a guide for idiots done by The Advertiser in Adelaide. It’s mostly right but wrong in a few places. I think it started in 1980, not 1982. And the 8-series winning streak by Qld started in 2010 and was broken in 2018. Prior to that we’d had 30 years of what we call ‘football’ where the series, the games, and even the points won were in total almost dead set even.

    A game is won or lost by a centimetre of two, and spectacular diving tries with the winger putting the ball in the corner while his body is airborne out of field seem to happen more than once a game.

    The article gives the impression that it is all brute barge stuff, which is quite wrong. You need little nippy guys and fast guys. And the big guys do need to be able to run rather than lumber.

    State of Origin is considered the highest form of rugby league because it is faster, tougher and more competitive than international RL.

    However, players who have played SOO, internationals and won a NRL club grand final will say the latter is the most gratifying and memorable.

  33. John please feel free to tell us how different the history and psychology of the two states are. No offense will be taken.

    We are always willing to learn, and being from NSW you are bound to know more about us than we do about ourselves!

  34. Ambi, there is a saying that soccer is a gentlemen’s game played by thugs, rugby union is a thug’s game played by gentlemen (in fact it is the game of choice by the private schools) and rugby league is a thug’s game played by thugs.

    That was coined back in the days when “going the biff” was an option worth the penalty. Now the faintest accidental touch to the head can be penalised, and deliberate striking, probably 7-game suspension.

    Now, of course, women play too, and on Saturday I believe we are going to have the women’s SOO.

  35. Nice quip, Brian.

    They’ve done their best to clean the biffo out of Aerial Ping Pong too: 3 field umpires, endless TV slow motion replays. On the player welfare side: thorough testing for concussion.

    In the old days, it was traditional to deselect the opposing team’s key player using an accurate punch-behind-play in ghe first two minutes of the Grand Final.

    Thugs will be thugs.
    I do like to see a very fast player weaving through the assorted opponents with deft side steps to score a try. It’s one of the few feats this ignoramus can understand.

    Kiwi rellies tell me they never expected the All Blacks to include fast, clever, smaller players. Yet it has happened.

  36. Brian: Once upon a time I had a girlfriend from Qld. When I met her mother the mother ranted on about how Slasher Mackay was robbed of rightful test team inclusion and how the ignorant Victorians wouldn’t let her kids play in the sandpit with bare feet.
    Later in life I had dealings with North Queenslanders. Helped me understand how Joh kept in power. Also worked with Central Qlanders. One of the ones we asked whether he had been outside of Central Qld said “Yes. He had worked in Gladstone for a while.”
    NSW people tend to think of themselves as Australians and would rarely describe themselves as New South Welshmen. (Probably explains why NSW rarely wins state of origin.

  37. John, I think I’ve said this before, but NSW people who think of themselves and everyone else as Australians don’t seem to understand that some people live in provinces where conditions are different from NSW, so then they are called provincial.

    Gladstone used to be a fishing town, now it’s an industrial city and is indeed different from what is commonly thought ‘central Queensland (I’m nor sure where the boundaries are).

    In cricket there was a saying for a long time that if NSW is strong, Australia is strong. It was in fact true that if you played for NSW you had a better chance. That ended when people like Greg Chappel (honorary Queenslander)and Trevor Hohns (actual Queenslander) headed up the selection panel.

    Finally sandpits! As you know my missus is an early childhood specialist. She says it is in fact pretty dumb to play in a sandpit with shoes on. The can be a bit wet and, you know, gritty.

    Apart from that it’s well known that playing in the dirt growing up is good for your immune system.

    My missus did have trouble with some Italian parents who wanted their child to be well-dressed all the time.

    Do you walk on the beach with shoes on?

    All the above being said, I worked on a number of national committees etc. In the main the NSW people were great – competent, respectful and listened.

  38. BTW the second State of Origin is on tonight, Qld having won the first, narrowly by 18-14 but three tries each, after being down 10-0 at half time.

    The NSW coach has said they will play better and are confident they will win, the Qld coach has said that if his team wants to win they will have to play better than they did in the first match.

  39. WHO head has singled out one developing country for its success in managing the coronavirus pandemic

    That’s Thailand.

    Thailand has had fewer than 4,000 cases and just 60 fatalities, despite having a population of 70 million and one of the world’s biggest and most tightly packed cities in Bangkok.

    By comparison the UK with a population of about 68 million, has had 1.3 million cases and 51,396 fatalities.

      “This is not an accident,” said Tedros. It’s because, in his view, Thailand made a commitment 40 years ago to invest in its health-care infrastructure and has built out a network of more than a million village health volunteers to act as the eyes and ears of the health system in their communities.


      The head of the World Health Organization has praised a developing country for its success in handling the coronavirus…

      ‘Thailand is an excellent example that, with a whole-of-government, whole-of-society, comprehensive approach, this virus can be contained — even without a vaccine.’


      “This is not an accident,” said Tedros. It’s because, in his view, Thailand made a commitment 40 years ago to invest in its health-care infrastructure and has built out a network of more than a million village health volunteers to act as the eyes and ears of the health system in their communities.

      Thailand also learned from its experience in handling the SARS outbreak in 2003, he said.

      “But Thailand is also learning the lessons of the present, by working with WHO’s country office to conduct an intra-action review, to understand how it can further strengthen its public health defences,” he said. “I urge all countries to follow Thailand’s lead. No country can say it was well-enough prepared for COVID-19, or that it has no lessons to learn.”

      The pandemic has shone a light on the consequences of “chronic underinvestment” in public health and ignited an economic crisis hurting billions of lives, he said.


      “The time has come for a new narrative that sees health not as a cost but an investment that is the foundation of productive, resilient and stable economies,” he said.

      To support that effort, the WHO is setting up a new Council on the Economics of Health for All, he said, that will comprise economists and health experts and be chaired by Mariana Mazzucato, a professor of the economics of innovation and public value at the University of London, said Tedros. The council will hold its first session online in the coming weeks.

      Tedros reiterated his message that countries can control the pandemic even without a vaccine by following the public safety measures recommended by health experts and agencies.

    It’s a fair question to ask why the Europeans and Americans are doing so badly.

  40. It’s a fair question to ask why the Europeans and Americans are doing so badly.

    Simple answer – right wing governments (of the loony persuasion).

  41. Can it be that simple, zoot?

    Hospitals and community health care take decades to build and staff. What happened to the much vaunted NHS in Britain? Underfunded by both Tory and Labour Governments??

    What of the world leading medical and pharmaceutical industries in Germany, France, Switzerland, etc?

    Has the whole medical effort in Europe and the US moved away from preventative medicine, community health (literally grass roots in Thailand it seems, a nation that’s had its fair share of military regimes)??

    Has the medical world been too focussed on fancy surgery, limb replacement, robotics, IVF etc at the “high end” of machines that go beep with too little effort – and preparedness – for simpler problems like lurking infections that could lead to an epidemic or pandemic…..

    I don’t think “loony right wing governments” are a sufficient explanation, though in particular nations they may well have had poor health policies.

    Another example: the head of an ANC government in South Africa, and his Health Minister (!!) refused to recognise “the science” of HIV/AIDS, delayed effective treatment, quite possibly leading to thousands of unnecessary infections and deaths in a nation with huge health and welfare challenges. Loony right wing government? The ANC?

    Ignorance in a purported “left wing” government, sadly.

    Here endeth the sermon.

  42. Point taken. Here’s another possibility Ambi – neoliberal economic theory which treats health (amongst other things) as a business and not a service, a policy pursued by governments of all stripes.
    Under this explanation the UK and the USA failures wrt Covid-19 are just the latest endowment from Reagan and Thatcher. Thank you Milton Friedman.

  43. This is what Tedros said in the article are the basics:

      “The virus itself has not changed significantly, and nor have the measures needed to stop it. We know what works.

      “First, know your epidemic and do the basics well. Find, isolate, test and care for cases. Trace and quarantine their contacts. And second, engage and empower communities to protect themselves and others with the full range of measures: physical distance, avoiding crowds, ventilation, hand hygiene and masks.”

    To me the key phrase there relating to Thailand is “engage and empower communities to protect themselves and others with the full range of measures”.

    From what I keep being told Thai people hold compassion and looking out for each other as a prime virtue.

    Early on some of the epidemiologists with experience in third world countries emphasised the need for community engagement and empowerment. The case of locking down the residential towers in Melbourne was held as an example of how not to go about it.

    I’ve heard that the rift between the Victorian government and the residential towers communities had been repaired before the second wave.

    There is too much aggressive, selfish rights-bearing individualism together with anti-science nutters and a willingness to politicise everything in so-called advanced societies.


  44. Jumpy

    It’s possible to point to detriments of commercially focussed medicine without laying 100% of the COVID blame at its feet.

    Nuance, old chap. Nuance.

  45. In that list the UK is 19th and USA 33rd.
    But hey, Thatcher and Reagan was da culprits somehow.


  46. Oh look, Jumpy is capable of providing the E…Vid…Ence he demands from others. Unfortunately it has nothing to do with the question I was answering.
    Brian asked why the Europeans and Americans are doing so badly compared to Thailand. Perhaps our esteemed northern correspondent will exercise his giant intellect and provide us with his answer, which I’m sure will be canonical.
    Hint: I think Brian pretty much nailed it here (final paragraph).

  47. But hey, Thatcher and Reagan was da culprits somehow.

    You need to work on your comprehension.
    I clearly laid the blame at the feet of Friedman. Reagan/Thatcher were merely the bullies who implemented his glorification of greed.

  48. Mr A, nuance is fine but Zoot was specific.

    So far no one has shown evidence that government health systems did better than commercial.

    In any event we all want Big Pharma to hurry up and produce Billions of vaccinations, those Bastards!!

  49. Mr J

    Would you care to speculate about the reason(s) Thailand is (or seems to be) doing well on COVID?

    Or do you suspect their reported numbers are WAY below the true figures??

    Some regimes in Asia, even more despotic than the lamentable Thais, have adopted the attitude that past epidemics (e.g. AIDS) simply never occurred.

    In the Thai example, counter-evidence would be an unseasonal increase in deaths or burials or hospital admissions, if the health authorities were indeed hiding unpleasant facts. Diplomats in Bangkok or foreign journalists or aid workers would notice some of these indicators….. si?

  50. So far no one has shown evidence that government health systems did better than commercial.

    Talk about being misquoted!
    Apart from being specific about the US and Europe performing much worse than Thailand, (not some artificial horse race between private and public) I was actually citing policies and attitudes which treat government systems as if they were commercial systems.
    I long for the day when Jumpy argues with what I have written rather than his assumption of what I meant (based on his religious certainty that private good, public bad).

  51. It was suspected for quite a while that Indonesia wasn’t reporting as many COVID cases as they actually had*. Eventually foreign reporters noted that funeral numbers had risen sharply in Jakarta.

    Big clue.

    * not enough testing?
    reluctance to test?
    inaccurate tests?
    reluctance to restrict freedoms?

    And yet this was a nation with a significant, generally well-off Chinese minority; where you might expect many locals returning from family visits around Chinese New Year, to have carried the virus back from the good old People’s Republic.

  52. Mr A,

    Would you care to speculate about the reason(s) Thailand is (or seems to be) doing well on COVID?

    It could be a number of reasons.
    It could be cultural or genetic or climatic or past close shaves or timing or a combination of some, many or all of those.

    To say their success is due to anti-Thatcher, anti-Reagan, ant-Milton Friedman sentiment is ridiculous.

    Have a chat to zoot please and target him for saying stupid shit rather than trying to trip me up, how about that ?

  53. Mr J

    I think your suggestion of “past close shaves” is a good candidate. Several commentors here attributed the relative successes of Taiwan, Singapore, VietNam etc to their preparedness following the big SARS scare.

    Perhaps geography’s a factor?

    If China keeps spawning horrid little viruses, near neighbours would be well advised to keep a close watch. On those grounds you might expect Mongolia, Nepal, Burma, Japan, South Korea, Sikkim, India, Pakistan, Bhutan and Siberia to have done OK too.

    Which nations did I omit inadvertently?
    Shangri La??

  54. Yes Mr A, totally agree that’s also one of many many factors we can and can’t see.

    From what I’ve looked at Thailand seems very resistant to most all viruses.

    Could be diet too.
    Could be lots of things other than the same shit others blame on everything that happens, even climate change has been blamed by the usual suspects.

  55. To say their success is due to anti-Thatcher, anti-Reagan, ant-Milton Friedman sentiment is ridiculous.

    Once again the Mackay von Mises puts words in my mouth
    To say that the US and Europe failed because they embraced neo-liberalism (my POV) is not the same as saying Thailand succeeded because it is anti neo-liberalism (I have no idea of internal Thai politics).

  56. South Australia has a significant outbreak now numbering 17, which appeared to stem from hotel quarantine. Already there has been infections involving a hospital and a school.

    Sounds to me as though symptomatic testing had become complacent and there’s been several generations of infection before it was picked up.

  57. I think the score now is two schools, a hospital, an aged care facility and a jail.

    15 of the 17 are said to be from one family.

    Victoria, along with all the rest apart from NSW, has declared SA a virus hotspot.

    Meanwhile Queensland is easing internal restrictions, including for indoors:

      Seated, ticketed venues to increase from 50% to 100% with patrons to wear masks on entry and exit (e.g. theatre, live music, cinemas and indoor sports). Performers can reduce distance from audience from 4m to 2m, except choirs which remain at 4m from the audience.

    Now 200 people can attend a wedding and guests can dance, whether indoors or outdoors. Stadiums can fill to 100% of capacity.

  58. Just on statistics, I was gob-smacked to read in the New Scientist that in the second wave in the UK they reckon that, because of poor testing only 1 in 4 cases are being recorded as such.

    But cop this – in the first wave they guestimate that only 1 in 50 were being picked up in the official stats.

    I reckon our stats are better than that.

    Trump was to some degree right – if you test more you find more. The British testing regime has been pretty appalling.

  59. The New Daily has the story The whopper cooked up in a pizza shop that scared SA into its latest lockdown.

    In simple terms, a man working as a hotel guard, said he’d bought a pizza at Woodville Pizza Bar where a worker had already tested positive, the worker being also a worker at a different hotel.

    The SA authorities thought the virus was going crazy and replicating in an unexpected fashion. Since they already had I think 17 cases, most of then from the same family, they took pre-emptive action and locked the whole state down.

    On the information then available Prof Raina McIntyre and at least one other epidemiologist I respect said it was a good idea.

    Now they know the second guy was a co-worker of the bloke who already had it, the whole thing looks more orderly, so they are shortening the lockdown and sticking with more modest restrictions.

    There are a couple of issues arising.

    One is that SA law provides no penalty for telling lies to contact tracers.

    In the process Greg Hunt siad what was happening in Adelaide did not qualify as a ‘hotspot’, which he said the states had agreed to.

    Whether they did or not I have my doubts, but they all ignored him except NSW of course.

    I think he said they needed 47 cases, but I’m not sure over how many days.

    I’ve said before that the prevalence of part-time work helps the virus, and the Feds should be doing something about it since they run industrial law.

    Everyone is paying out on the bloke who lied. I’d be interested in why he was working two jobs and why he lied. Was he perhaps being paid in cash?

    And if this case was so crucial, did the authorities talk to the pizza place’s management?

  60. Annastacia Palaszczuk has just announced that the border with NSW will be open from December 1.

    She said that CHO Dr Young had extensive discussions with her NSW counterpart. Essentially there is no concession here. NSW has met the criterion of 28 days of no community transmission.

    Palaszczuk said she had spoken to Gladys B, and also Dan Andrews. She said Qld will also open to Victoria on December 1 if there are no slip-ups between now and then. Victoria will meet the 28-day no transmission threshold tomorrow.

    Dr Young has said she is monitoring SA, who are doing really well, but she is going to wait to see whether that continues. SA had one new case yesterday after 8 days of incubation.

  61. John, the worldometer site shows UK as having topped the 7-day average at around 25,300 per day, and that has now come down to 19,500.

    From your link and elsewhere the contact tracing system in the UK doesn’t seem to work. and I’m not particularly trusting their stats. Their best hope is probably the vaccine.

  62. Qld appears to be definitely dumping the 28-day requirement in favour of a more flexible approach.

    There seems to be a lot of communication between the CHOs around the country, together with an appreciation that decisions have to be made in view of their own situations and capacities.

    I think this was always the way to go rather than national numeric formulas.

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