1.) The UK is finally opening up on 7/19. The UK is on my somewhat lengthy list of “how not to handle Covid.” They’ve “enjoyed” lengthy lockdowns and restrictions, and yet still have among the highest death rates in the world per capita – #16, slightly above the US and #6 among countries with at least 25 million people. In any case, Boris has had enough, and the restrictions are going away. Here’s their current case count graph, with the US for comparison. My prediction is that the slope of case counts will NOT increase after restrictions are lifted, and in fact within two weeks at the most (by August 2nd) we’ll see case counts start to drop in the UK.
2.) Australia is dealing with a potential catastrophe. You’ve all read my posts about Melbourne and their Covid troubles – and how they put their citizens on house arrest for 5 months. Well, Sydney is in trouble now. There are a few things going on here.
- Australia has eliminated Covid within its borders multiple times. 0 cases. That means all cases come in from the outside. Sydney and Melbourne are most vulnerable to these cases since they have, by far, the busiest international airports in Australia. I’m not even sure if other airports are taking international arrivals.
- The latest outbreak occurred at least in part, perhaps in totality, because a taxi driver shuttling international arrivals to the quarantine hotel didn’t take any precautions in the taxi – windows open, mask, etc. He just happily drove the passengers and then went about his life, positive for Covid. This was apparently within in the rules. Obviously just a small oversight when you consider the consequence – millions of people on lockdown for weeks or months, billions of dollars lost.
- Sydney has apparently prided themselves on operating a safe and well-run hotel quarantine system – not like those Melbourne incompetents! They also prided themselves on their contact tracing. So when the outbreak occurred, they didn’t immediately go to a hard lockdown, but just implemented minor restrictions. I was amazed at this at the time, and apparently justifiably so. Even now, the Sydney area is in a “Level 3” lockdown. (The months of lockdown in Melbourne were mostly “Level 4”.) While Level 3 in Australia is more restrictive than anything in the US, it’s still, I think, too laid back to be effective, particularly with the more contagious Delta variant. I think Sydney is in trouble and should go to Level 4 now – should have gone to Level 4 two weeks ago. But we’ll see. Hopefully I’m wrong.
- Again, I wonder what Australia’s end game is. Vaccine skepticism is high there because Covid isn’t circulating. Why get a risky new vaccine when there’s no illness? (Not my opinion, obviously.) So how does Australia ever open up? Without any natural immunity, they are fully reliant on vaccination. Let’s say 70% of people get vaccinated (currently they are at 10%). Even then, opening up will likely rapidly produce a devastating surge of illness, without restrictions. Maybe if they wait long enough – I’ve actually seen talk of not fully reopening borders until 2023. Why not, I guess? It’s a return to olden times, when leaving your country means not seeing your family again – ever. They are currently engaged in building dedicated quarantine facilities that are more secure and have negative air pressure and so on, so they’re obviously thinking about the long haul.
3.) There are discrepant reports coming out of the UK and Israel regarding the Pfizer efficacy against Covid. Unfortunately, I think we should trust Israel’s data. (Israel claims the vaccine is about 65% effective; the UK said it was around 90% effective, both against symptomatic illness.) The UK has an unusually high CFR. This could either be due to poor medical care of people who contract Covid, or to insufficient testing. Given the NHS isn’t exactly ranked at the top of the medical care stack, I’m sure that medical care is a small factor, but I’m guessing that most of this is due to lack of testing and failure to identify many Covid cases, many or most of which are probably mildly symptomatic and being caught by the Israelis.
The very high CFR in Australia is very puzzling. It implies they, too, either have terrible medical care or are not catching all the cases, or a more vulnerable population. It’s hard to believe that their medical care could be so bad as to result in a fatality rate FOUR times that of Israel, but they have very few cases and lots of testing. If they didn’t have sufficient testing per case, you’d think it would be spreading like crazy. Do they really have a more vulnerable population? I’m skeptical of that as well. So it’s a puzzle to me. Maybe it’s a reporting issue.
4.) Ireland is sending a grandma to jail for 90 days for failing – TWICE! – to wear a face mask in the grocery store. Despite their never-ending lockdown, they still have a fatality rate per capita 25% higher than WA state.
5.) The US is obviously heading into a Delta surge. I keep reading about “two Americas” – the unvaccinated and the vaccinated. How ironic that those of us living in the vaccinated half are still having our lives curtailed. The latest? I just found out my daughters will have to miss the first week of school so we can quarantine for seven days after our trip to New York and Virginia. And then another week after our vacation to Hawaii this fall. More on that later.