Day 231 – On Cyril’s Address

You can probably reach him at the Tuynhuys, Cape Town, 8001. But email might be quicker.

Obviously, I’m not talking about that sort of address though. President Ramaphosa addressed the nation last night at 8pm (he was on time again) on “developments in the response to Covid-19”.

He’d clearly had a good look at my post from a couple of days ago and essentially based his entire 45 minute monologue around it. The good news of the vaccine, the concern about the figures in Nelson Mandela Bay (which will surely spread from there), the apparent blasé attitude of those suffering from what he kindly described as “Covid fatigue” and not “pure stupidity”, and the massively incorrect Business Insider story about going back to Level 2.

Strange that.

For me, the address demonstrated the difficult balancing act between controlling the spread of the virus (which pretty much every decent economist worldwide agrees is key to re-establishing economic growth* and whatever passes for normality wherever you are) and attempting to keep the battered economy from crashing completely.

We’ve seen this elsewhere before:

So on the one hand, we have Cyril telling us to behave responsibly, wear masks, wash our hands and not attend big parties, and on the other, he’s opened the national borders and removed the restrictions on sales of alcohol. It seems contradictory – it is contradictory – but there are reasonable grounds for both approaches. I’m just painfully aware that while the government is certainly not the best at making sensible decisions regarding Covid (or anything else), putting the responsibility into the public’s hands is not likely to be much of an improvement.

Basically, it’s not going to go well either way, and it never was.

We still have the anti-mask brigade shouting about pore sizes and oxygen deficiency, with data that they gathered from some Facebook page based in the Republican heartlands of the Southern US. Never mind that it’s easily proven incorrect: that’s just the New World Order brainwashing you so that they can install Sharia Law and mandatory vaccination with Bill Gates’ 5G chips through the back door**.

And while the international borders are open, it remains to be seen if anyone will come down here for summer. I can actually see it happening to a certain degree: a nice cheap trip down to the sunshine after a shitty year. But a lot of the locals will be staying here anyway: there’s already a lot of chatter about the Garden Route and Southern Cape being booked up for the entirety of the summer break.
Masks and social distancing don’t happen in the small towns, which wasn’t so much of an issue while they were not invaded by hundreds of thousands of city folk and their virus. So what could go wrong with crowded beaches, pubs, towns and restaurants in small towns to the east?

Yes. Lots.

And so our next peak – should it not all go off in the next few weeks from PE – will likely be in January. Because people are not going to behave themselves sensibly over the holiday period.

What happens then, with the economy already shafted and schools, universities and businesses just about to go back for the new year?

Who knows?

Happy Days!

 

 

* we didn’t have any of that BTV anyway. 
** I’d much prefer an intramuscular injection, but I suppose suppository form is just another way in. 

Day 218 – How not to get infected

Morning all.

A couple of interesting, somewhat interactive articles about that pesky coronavirus for you today. More specifically, some work that has been done to show you how not to get infected with the damn thing as we struggle to get our lives back on track, and some case studies we can learn from on what went wrong elsewhere.

I should point out that while these are full of good advice, there’s not much that hasn’t been said before as far as the basic rules go. In fact, much of it is based on the fundamentals that I shared here, namely avoid inside spaces, avoid poorly ventilated spaces, avoid crowds, keep your distance, wear a mask and if you must put yourself in those situations, then at least try to avoid prolonging the duration of any of these riskier activities wherever possible.

Here is the the first of those two articles:

An office, a restaurant and a bus were the settings for multiple infections that have been studied in detail by health authorities. Their conclusions offer valuable lessons for the de-escalation process.

And yes, they do. But it has to be said that if any of the protagonists in these tales had read that post I wrote 116 days ago (or any of the other literature around managing risk of coronavirus infection, obviously), then these could all have been avoided.

With hindsight, I trust that they can see that there should have been red flags and alarm bells all over the place. e.g.

In a single wing of a call center in Seoul, in South Korea, the risk of infection was multiplied by four key factors: close, prolonged contact between numerous people, in an enclosed space.

Oops.

But there is some good news as well. If you do find yourself in a situation where you need to be inside with other people, then you can still mitigate the risk of infection by taking some fairly straightforward steps. Let’s look at the example of the bar from this second article. where one individual is having a drink with his mates in the local pub after work on a Friday. Nobody knows (including him) that he has Covid-19.

In this bar, capacity has been reduced to 50%. There are 15 patrons and three members of staff. The windows are closed and there is no mechanical ventilation.
In the worst-case scenario, if no measures are taken, 14 of the customers will be infected after four hours.

Yes, that’s everyone in the bar.

If masks are consistently used, the risk of infection falls to eight new cases.

Almost halved. Of course, the most important person here as far as mask wearing goes is our erstwhile infected office worker, but since he doesn’t know that he’s infected and we don’t know if we’re infected, then anyone of us could be him, so wearing a mask could make a huge amount of difference here.

If the premises are ventilated, which can be done with a good air conditioning unit or opening doors and windows, and the time spent in the bar is shortened, there is only the risk that one person will be infected.

No-one wants to spend less time drinking with their mates on a Friday night. After all, that was a truly shitty week and the deal with that shoe company looks like it’s about to fall through. After all that hard work, too. So sure, we need that downtime, but if you really need a whole four hours, then just open a door and a couple of windows. (Or sit outside, of course.)

And you might say that you’ve only reduced the number is real terms by 6 or 13 people, but the fact is that those 6 or 13 people would have gone on to infect x more individuals, who would then have gone on to infect y more and so on. We can’t stop the spread of the virus completely, but we can really slow it down and – moreover – prevent unnecessary infections.

What you do regarding your behaviour (within the laws, rules and regulations, obviously), is completely up to you, but there’s plenty of sense in taking stock of your surroundings and choosing to make small, simple changes to make yourself, your friends, your family and other people a bit safer.

For all that we are learning more every day about this virus and the problems that it causes, we still don’t have a vaccine or a perfect cure. It’s certainly worth protecting yourself as much as possible: especially when the steps you need to take to do so are so very uncomplicated.

Oh – and keep washing those hands. That’s not so hard, either.

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.