Day 210 – The headlines, the story

Coronavirus vaccine headlines:

 

Coronavirus vaccine story:

A volunteer taking part in clinical trials of the Covid-19 vaccine developed by Oxford University has died in Brazil, officials announced on Wednesday, though media reports said he had received a placebo, not the test vaccine. Media reports said the volunteer was a 28-year-old doctor working on the front lines of the pandemic who died of complications from Covid-19.

So the volunteer did not receive any vaccine and he died of Covid-19.

 

The volunteer did not receive any vaccine and he died of Covid-19. 

 

But read those headlines and you’d likely think it was a completely different story.

In this world of (anti)social media and shared screenshots, it’s so vitally important that headline writers ensure that their work doesn’t misrepresent the actual story it titles. Because literally no-one reads the actual words underneath the big font any more. It’s just too much work and effort.

8000 doctors, nurses and other frontline workers who are regularly exposed to Covid-19 positive patients are taking part in the vaccine trial in Brazil, and only half of them will receive the test vaccine: that’s how double-blind, randomised, controlled studies work. Sadly, it’s likely that – despite the best efforts of PPE and barrier nursing – there will be further deaths amongst the volunteers. Importantly, we hope that they are not in the cohort who received the vaccine.

Incidentally, since we’re discussing this, it’s worth noting that this “disease of the elderly and unwell” had no issue with taking the life of an otherwise healthy 28 year old man with no known co-morbidities.

Wash your hands. Wear a mask.

 

Day 200 – Some lockdown thoughts

Compare and contrast my Day 200 thoughts with my Day 1 thoughts by reading here.
And… er… then reading here as well:

 

It’s Day 200 of the lockdown in South Africa.

Not that you’d really know that we’re in a lockdown. The measures now are so very lax that it’s hard to distinguish anything from normal BTV life.

I’m not allowed out of the house between midnight and 3am and I can’t buy alcohol to take away on the weekends. Other than those two bizarre rules, there really is nothing else directly affecting me. I’m not sure how either of those limits the transmission of the coronavirus in any material way.

Tourism, however, continues to be roundly buggered. No visitors allowed from the UK* or the US (and a whole handful of other countries) and suddenly that’s a good three-quarters of our local business shafted. The Waterfront, Robben Island and other tourist sites have been rapidly and happily re-de-colonised by the locals, but we don’t have the numbers or the spending power to make up the international shortfall.

And no matter how welcome the peace and quiet, it’s difficult to enjoy it when you know how people are struggling because of the situation.

Perhaps it’s the lack of rules now that means that people feel the local version of the pandemic is over. It’s very much not, and they are exacerbating that exact issue by behaving as if it is. Currently, for example, hundreds of schoolchildren at several local, private privileged schools are in quarantine after an inadvertent “superspreader” party at a local nightclub.

It’s difficult to comprehend just how blasé and how stupid you would have to be to think that chucking a couple of hundred kids into a poorly ventilated, confined space with loud music (meaning that they have to raise their voices and get even closer together to talk) is an ok thing to do at the moment.

But then you only have to look at the people still wearing their masks around their chins or around their wrists to see just the calibre of person we’re dealing with.

And of course, most of those kids will be absolutely fine. Completely asymptomatic, even.
It’s just their grandparents that will kick the bucket in a couple of weeks after the family lunch on Sunday.

Hell of a party though, I believe. Did you hear that Tarquin and Ashley finally hooked up?
So probably all worth it, right? Unless you’re Tarquin’s gran.

I’ve said before that while we’re fortunate in having a seasonal advantage over the Northern hemisphere with regards to the timing of the pandemic, we still really need to be mindful about what’s going on. This isn’t over – no matter how it sometimes feels – but we do still have the option to limit the spread of any second wave. It only requires people to just think before they act and to not put themselves in high risk situations.

But therein clearly lies the problem.

 

 

* although weirdly, BA59 still arrives from Heathrow every morning at 10 past 10…

Day 197 – An unfair comparison right now, but still…

Top Tip: Never read The Independent for political news, thinking that it will give you a fair, balanced viewpoint. The name is merely designed to fool you into thinking that way.

The tagline for The Independent used to be:

It is, are you?

…suggesting that The Independent was actually independent and additionally offering that up as some sort of virtue, like there was some problem with holding an opinion on any given matter of the day.

Get over yourselves.

Anyway, it turns out that The Independent really isn’t very independent at all.

But this isn’t post about The Independent. I just thought I’d add a bit of unnecessary context because I’m looking at a story from that outlet in this post.

It’s this story (and it’s not very political, so I think we’re ok to run with it):

This is very much in the same vein as the post I wrote a couple of days ago detailing a similar issue in the USA.

The thing is, the USA post I did compared the numbers of deaths from Covid-19 this year (because it’s new) and those from influenza over the last five flu seasons over there. Covid-19 was much, much worse than flu, despite comparing the figures from when flu was at its height over there.

But yes, flu is very seasonal, and so there’s no real surprise that if you look at the figures between January and August (which they have done here) then the numbers for Covid are so much higher: most of that time wasn’t flu season in the UK.

Deaths linked to Covid-19 were higher than deaths due to influenza and pneumonia between March and June.

And yes, they’ve added in “pneumonia” as well, but again, that isn’t as prevalent during the summer months.

It’s not a fair or meaningful comparison.

Still, it still doesn’t make for pleasant reading because the real story is probably yet to come.

As winter – and flu season – approaches, if we see what we have seen in the Southern hemisphere, then influenza will be less of an issue this year (because more people will choose to get vaccinated this time around and because of measures in place to try to combat coronavirus will limit influenza transmission as well) and that’s a good thing, but coronavirus will almost certainly continue to knock people off.

And so, with coronavirus cases already increasing again, it seems likely that Covid-19 will likely still be far more deadly than flu in the UK, even when the playing field is levelled.

Day 195 – “Just like the ‘flu” virus actually not just like the ‘flu shock

Latest figures just in from that bastion of public health, the USA, suggest that the SARS-CoV-2 virus might not be “just like the flu” as many well-educated* people had previously suggested.

In fact, the most recent figures available suggest that in the USA, more people have died of Covid-19 this year than in the last five influenza seasons put together.

I don’t like bandying around numbers of thousands of deaths like each and every one doesn’t matter, but I’m lowering myself temporarily to Donald’s level in order the address this clear error.

Using the CDC figures from 6th October, the estimated number of deaths from Covid-19 is somehow sitting at 197,884, despite the virus being a hoax and paradoxically also causing a mild illness from which that everyone recovers.

And (again using CDC figures), the deaths from influenza over the last five years have been (working backwards) 22,000, 34,000, 61,000, 38,000 and 23,000. That’s a total of 178,000.
In five years.

So… how is that “just like the ‘flu”?
(Except in that they have both managed to kill hundreds of thousands of American people.)

Ironically, there is hope that this year’s influenza season in the Northern hemisphere will be much milder than previous years, simply and precisely because of the precautions being taken against Covid-19. It’s already happened (or… er… not happened) in the Southern hemisphere, including South Africa.

Who could have known that keeping your distance, wearing a mask and washing your hands regularly could have reduced the chance of becoming infected by any given virus?

OK, that was most of us.

This is absolutely the time to keep going though. We might be emerging from the influenza season that never happened, but with the Covid-19 numbers starting to drop, there’s a real risk of complacency setting in. Indeed, that drop has stopped over the last couple of weeks and thus, we might be at a bit of a crossroads right now.
Let’s make the right turn: mask up, wash your hands and keep your distance.

It’s not rocket science.

 

 

* by Facebook and Donald Trump 

Day 188 – Football is ruined

Football. It’s ruined.

For me, at least. It could be that other people are still enjoying football, but if they enjoyed football a few years ago, I simply can’t see why they would still be enjoying football now.

Because it’s ruined.

Not all the reasons behind this ruination are football’s fault, but equally, some of them certainly are, and football would do well do look at the stuff it can control and then control it better. Especially since the causes of football’s ruination are cumulative and so removing some of those causes would make things a bit better.

Let’s run through a few of the things which have ruined football. And while doing so, let’s also remember that this is a sport that I – like many others – have loved for several (or more) decades. It pains me to see it this way and it pains me to write this post. (I’m quite sure it pains you to read it too, but that’s nothing to do with football.)

The crowds are gone. And football without crowds is crap. Whether it’s 33,000 at Beautiful Downtown Bramall Lane or 120 up at Sandygate, it’s amazing the difference that having supporters at games makes. The novelty (if there ever was any) of hearing the players and managers shouting expletives at one another has well and truly worn off. And the fake FIFA20 noises were briefly amusing but are now very annoying. And haven’t improved in their accuracy.

This one isn’t changing any time soon. March 2021 before they even risk trying again, I’m told.

The commentators‘ desperate efforts to keep the audience engaged in games which are very dull because the standard is poor or because it’s 5-0 with 2 minutes remaining are becoming ever more irritating. Yes, they need us to hang around so that we can boost the figures for viewing their adverts, but phrases like “there’s still time for a miracle comeback” should only really be used on Easter Saturday outside a cave in Jerusalem, and are plainly completely inaccurate when Fulham need to score 4 goals in 25 seconds to scrape a draw.
Or 4 goals in any length of time, to be honest.

And the co-commentators are getting worse as well. Thankfully, it seems that David Pleat is only dug up from his vault and briefly semi-reanimated when everyone else is busy or infected these days, but hey, step forward Jim Beglin stating the bleeding obvious with gems like:

Yeah, well Arsenal will be hoping to keep a clean sheet this evening.

and (on Arsenal’s goalkeeper):

Yeah, well I think he’ll be glad he was in that position because it came straight at him.

No shit, Sherlock. Thanks, Einstein.
I’m so glad that they’re paying you the big bucks for insight like that. Honestly, I would pay almost as much never to hear your irritating, talent-free, Irish/Scouse voice polluting the air in my living room ever again, you lousy, utterly clueless goon.

And I’m clearly not alone. Because how many other co-commentators have their own Facebook group like this?

No. I didn’t set that up. It’s real.

Then there are the changes to the handball rule. Utterly ridiculous. I don’t want to get technical here (and so I won’t), but the rules are crap and they’re being applied poorly.

Even  with helpful synopses like this:

and this:

… it just all seems like randomised, inconsistent guesswork from the referees.

And while we’re on the subject of refereeing, even those who hate VAR have (to some degree, at least) welcomed the new guidelines instructing referees to use pitchside monitors during games this season. It’s just that they don’t seem to be using them very much, or very consistently. It’s massively frustrating, especially when everyone except them can see that they’ve got a big decision wrong and the technology is there to put it right and… isn’t used.

There could be a lighter, happier side to try to balance out all these ills, but as discussed earlier, that’s not there right now either. And yes, of course that just makes the whole thing even more miserable.

It all adds up and now it’s got to the point where my FOMO at not watching games has been easily overcome with my desire to just go to bed. I haven’t watched a single minute of this last weekend’s Premier League football and I haven’t missed it at all.

Big wow? Yes, big wow.

You need to understand just how scary that is for a guy that will watch literally every minute of every live game he can, no matter how arbitrary or pointless those matches may seem to be.

There is a hole in my life where football-based enjoyment used to be and it’s making me very sad.

Football is ruined and needs to be unruined as soon as possible. Will someone please sort it out?