A twitter argument about covid

I got into an argument with Damien Walter about covid. I’m still not really sure what his position is. I can see a lot of legitimate reasons for criticising how the UK is handling lockdowns in a clumsy and inequitable manner but I don’t think that was the point he was trying to make. I think he is expecting a let-it-run-its-course strategy to work? Not sure.

Damien @damiengwalter
I’m divided on the economic hurricane heading towards the UK.
As a former Marxist and anti-capitalist I can appreciate the need to blow up late stage capitalism to make space for something better. And where better to start than Britain?
UK credit rating downgraded by Moody’s amid growth concerns Ratings agency cites weakening economic, Brexit woes and coronavirus shocks theguardian.com


Damien @damiengwalter
As a human being, I’m incredibly worried for the lives of all the people in the UK that are in process of being torn apart by Hurricane Brexit-Covid.
Britain is uniquely exposed to this “perfect storm” of economic devastation.

Damien @damiengwalter
The UK as a nation now seems dominated by two equally delusional factions. On one hand are the Brexit conservatives, who believe you can cut-off the UK from the world and somehow not get cut down by global finance in the process.

Damien @damiengwalter
On the other hand are the Lockdown liberals, who I’m certain see it as an essential response to Covid (despite the lack of any evidence to support that belief)
and seem completely blind to what this means in terms of human suffering from the widespread poverty its unleashing.

Camestros Felapton @CamestrosF
Do you mean lockdowns in general or the specific lockdown approach in the UK?

Camestros Felapton @CamestrosF
I’m not going to defend BorisJ, who has demonstrated his incompetence – but covid demonstrably kills large numbers of people & nobody knows yet what the long term health impact is on those who don’t die. Restrictions to reduce infection rates make sense in principle

Camestros Felapton @CamestrosF
…and they have demonstrably worked in other countries. More interestingly we have before&after comparisons of nations that initially imposed strong measures and then let them slip e.g. Israel.
Israel initially managed to control the spread of infection then, due to multiple reasons, undermined its own sucess. There’s a good discussion about it here https://lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2020/07/from-new-zealand-to-america-covid-19-in-israel…

Damien @damiengwalter
You can suppress the virus, or you can flatten the curve. Note: lockdown was dishonestly sold as 2 weeks to flatten the curve, when it would obviously escalate into a suppression strategy.
Suppression is simply not viable longterm. It’s a fantasy.

Camestros Felapton @CamestrosF
Longterm as in say 10 years, maybe not. As in long enough to plan, adjust and get treatments & vaccines? It’s a great idea. NZ isn’t suffering much additional economic pain as a consequence

Camestros Felapton @CamestrosF
I’d also recommend reading this https://ourworldindata.org/covid-health-economy…
It’s noisy data but strong covid measures per country aren’t a big driver of economic downturn.
It’s the OVERALL world effect – the impact on trade etc that drives a lot of the economic pain.
Which countries have protected both health and the economy in the pandemic? Responses to the pandemic have often been framed in terms of striking a balance between protecting people’s health and protecting the economy. There is an assumption that countries face a trade-off… ourworldindata.org

Camestros Felapton @CamestrosF
Of course in the UK you’ve got the triple whammy of covid, Brexit and PM who couldn’t run a chip shop without it burning down. ‘Lockdowns’ are only a small part of the economic hell-hole you are in.

Damien @damiengwalter
Longterm is whatever length of time people keep trying to suppress a coronavirus. It’s a fantasy, supported by an imaginary vaccine which the science is clear will never happen. You might get a 30% V in t years, won’t stop Covid being endemic pike flu.

Camestros Felapton @CamestrosF
A vaccine as effective as the flu vaccine would still be a win and would still put a nation that had followed a supression strategy in a much better position than a country that hadn’t. If covid is like flu then there’s no long term immunity post-infection…

Camestros Felapton @CamestrosF
…so there’s no immunity gain for countries that let covid run-its-course. It would mean long-term adjustments to the covid reality. There’s nothing new there — all nations have made long term adjusmtents to infectious diseases often with gov intervention…

Damien @damiengwalter
Read about the history of coronavirus vaccine research. Any plan that turns on getting a vaccine is delusional.

Camestros Felapton @CamestrosF
I have read about coronavirus vaccine research. As I said, if a vaccine is unlikely or ineffective that also implies no long term immunity post infection. A let-the-virus-run-its-course in that circumstance is a disaster. Everybody who recovers faces a new bout every year.

Damien @damiengwalter
Sigh. That’s the point. Covid is endemic and here to stay. Suppression strategies are a denial of this. We can hope it normalises to near non-lethal like other coronaviruses, and we can hope its herd immunity level is low towards 20% not up at 70%….

Camestros Felapton @CamestrosF
You aren’t going to get ‘herd immunity’ to a significant degree without a vaccine & the scenario where a covid vaccine is less effective (eg flu-like) is the one where there’s no lasting immunity from infection. You gain nothing from not following a suppression strategy now.

Camestros Felapton @CamestrosF
Suppression buys time and lives. The economic cost is less (on average & with noisy data) than not following a suppression strategy. Also, an effective suppression strategy gets a country into more relaxed conditions quicker & safer & more sustainably

Damien @damiengwalter
Nonsense. You must live in comfortable bubble think so. Get out of it. Go and look at what mass unemployment looks like in the lower parts of society. And it’ll.look much the same in the higher parts as the shockwaves move out.

Camestros Felapton @CamestrosF
I’ve lived through mass unemployment in the UK. I’m very familiar with its consequences & impact but even if I hadn’t that wouldn’t change the veracity of what I stated.

Damien @damiengwalter
That wasn’t even close. You have no idea what this has unleashed.

Camestros Felapton @CamestrosF
You think more people are unemployed now in the Uk than the were in the early 80’s? https://ons.gov.uk/employmentandlabourmarket/peoplenotinwork/unemployment/timeseries/mgsc/unem…

Camestros Felapton @CamestrosF
Now true, thinks will definitely get a LOT WORSE in the UK because of Brexit & government incompetence. However that’s not a great argument against suppression strategies in general.
It’s a good argument for economic stimulus & generous benefits & deficit spending.

That last one got this response:

39 thoughts on “A twitter argument about covid

    1. Yeah…I wasn’t trying to antagonise him, I was more curious about what his analysis actually was. Maybe it was just ‘lockdown bad’, which yes they are bad things but you need a strategy to avoid them or minimse them

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      1. I mean the first tweet alone. He wants to “blow up late stage-capitalism” which isn’t really describing the current state of affairs nor have such undertakings gone particularly well in the past.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. I don’t know anything about political dynamics in the UK, but I’ve run into a certain amount of herd-immunity-curiosity lately from the Left here in the US. As best as I can tell, it’s primarily fallout from the Democratic primaries: a plausibly deniable way of making the claim that Biden is just as bad as Trump.

    I actually got into a brief Facebook beef about this back in Spring when, you may recall, the Trump administration was underbidding hospitals on medical essentials as a matter of policy.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I wouldn’t be at all surprised about that, although I don’t have a lot of Alt-health people in my circle.

        My main point of contact with the world of the lefties-than-thou is through through alumni groups for my small liberal arts college. So lots of cynicism, lots of performative radicalism, but no particular animus towards science and medicine as such.

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  2. Damien Walters wants to be treated like a priest without enduring the shackles of knowing any theology or being willing to adhere to one consistently.

    His blocking you will spare your time for more important pursuits, like making cat pictures.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Statements like “an imaginary vaccine which the science is clear will never happen” followed by a general hand-waving citation of “read about the history of coronavirus vaccine research” does not give the impression of someone who has the slightest clue what he’s talking about. Even if there were a bunch of stories about vaccine research encountering unusually terrible difficulty – which I haven’t seen, and a general search of the kind Walters is suggesting doesn’t turn them up either – it’d be absurd to think that less than a year’s worth of such history could prove it will never happen.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think his point was trying to get at that corona viruses have a poor history of effective vaccines, I think. But there really are a host of promising vaccines in development with a range of different techniques behind them

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Everything I’ve seen predicts we’ll have one by late 2021. Which is a long time, yes, but nobody in 1918 thought they’d have a vaccine ever.

        There was a TV ad here for… something… which emphasized staying in, mask-wearing, etc. and the last person shown was a spritely-looking woman who was born at the very end of that epidemic (her mother was a nurse, I think?).

        If we can do a reasonable job with flu shots in less than one lifetime, I think we can figure out Covid a little faster.

        There still are a lot of people around who had polio, and are so glad their descendants don’t have to. My mother forbade my older brother to do/not do all sorts of things during outbreaks, like her mother did to her, and giving me a sugar cube was a miracle to her.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Even if he’s only referring to the previous SARS, that makes no sense. They tried some things, made a bit of progress in understanding what might work despite some obstacles that included the lack of a reliable animal model (also true for the current one)… and then this kind of research became much less of a priority because there was no longer an active SARS outbreak. Science did not by any means determine that a vaccine for it was impossible. And if you broaden the subject to coronaviruses in general, that is provably false since effective vaccines do exist for some coronaviruses that affect livestock. Again, he has no idea what he’s talking about.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. As I understand there are no vaccines for the 4 common cold coronaviruses because they do little harm, so there’s little benefit to a vaccine, and there is the non-zero risk from a vaccine. There’s no vaccine for SARS-COV-1 because the disease was suppressed which removed the motivation for vaccine production (again the risk of taking a vaccine for a non-circulating disease) and made efficacy testing impossible. There’s no vaccine for MERS-COV because it isn’t contagious among humans, and zoonotic cases are (so far) sufficiently rare to make efficacy testing impracticable, and a rollout undesirably.

        There are effective veterinary vaccines for some non-human coronaviruses. I rather think that it would be a good idea to develop a camel MERS-COV vaccine. It would reduce economic losses and also reduce the risk of MERS successfully adapting to humans – every time a camel infects a human there’s a small chance that it will start spreading in humans.

        The bigger cause of concern is the short duration of immunity to the common cold coronaviruses, but that doesn’t have anything to do with the history of coronavirus vaccine research.

        Liked by 2 people

    2. I’ve seen stories about promising research ending up going nowhere. But Walters seems to be saying, “We’ve been at it for under a year and we still don’t have a vaccine, so let’s just give up.”

      Liked by 1 person

      1. There’s always promising research that goes nowhere. Always, in every field.

        I don’t see Walters saying “let’s just give up because we haven’t succeeded” but rather, “Science has proven that we must give up”. Which necessarily would mean that all the scientists still working on this must be either idiots or corrupt (I’m not sure how much of a conspiracist he is).

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I don’t know how old Walter is, but I remember at some point in the distant past him saying things that made sense — but given his utterances in recent years, it seems like he’s mentally losing it. Sad.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Damien hates it when people use actual facts. They’re super effective!

    He keeps claiming to be a Marxist, but keeps acting like a Tory/MAGA.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I certainly wouldn’t want to be in any club that would have Damien.

        (And who names their kid that AFTER “The Omen”?)

        Like

  6. We are currently in a very strange situation where the nominally liberal left is all in favour of lockdowns and ever more stringent measures, whereas the normally pro-oppression right is opposed to lockdowns. Those on the left who are opposed to lockdowns or their aggressive enforcement or believe the measures are unconstitutional (which many of them are) or worry about economic and social side effects suddenly find themselves in a difficult position, because their former allies have turned against them and those who agree with them with regard to coivd measures are horrible people with whom they don’t agree on any other point. It’s a very lonely position to be in and that’s probably the place where self.proclaimed Marxist Damien finds himself. I know a couple of people who are in a similar position and they’re mostly angry and desperate.

    Also, lockdowns do have massive economic and social consequences and even countries with good social programs cannot fully mitigate those consequences. The lockdowns have driven many businesses and whole sectors of the economy to the edge of ruin. A lot of these are small businesses or self-employed people who don’t get the government bail-outs e.g. a big airline gets. Economic worries or depression escalating due to enforced isolation are also causing a rise in suicides. Plus, there has been a rise in domestic violence and child abuse during lockdowns. People are missing doctor appointments or having their treatments delayed which causes medical conditions to worsen. Children are missing out on education plus they are traumatised by isolation, etc…
    People are ratting out their neighbours for supposedly violating anti-covid measures, which isn’t exactly helpful for social cohesion. So yes, there is a cost to lockdowns. Whether that cost is higher than the cost of covid is a question every country must answer for itself.

    Personally, I think that the best approach is somewhere in the middle. Protect high-risk groups and ensure that they don’t have to choose between risking their lives and poverty, make sure that no one has to go to work while sick, have a good test and trace program, so you can catch even asymptomatic infections before they spread, offer clear and rational advice to the public that neither makes light of the virus nor uses fearmongering, shaming and threats, shut down activities/events which carry a high risk (concerts, sports matches, parties, large gatherings, etc…) and support companies hit by such closures, but also let life, education and economic activities continue as normally as possible for those who are not high risk.

    I don’t think any country truly managed to get that balance right and right now, most of Europe’s politicians are running around like headless chickens, passing measure after measure with little idea how effective those measures truly are. Worse, covid is a respiratory virus and those usually get worse during the fall/winter season, so politicians in the Northern hemisphere could have prepared for rising cases, but they didn’t.

    That said, the UK approach is still exceedingly bad. I just read that people in the UK are apparently no longer allowed to have sex with anybody except a longterm partner, which is flat out ridiculous, because a) how on Earth are they planning to enforce that?, b) sex between people who are not longterm partners was not even banned during the AIDS epidemic, even though AIDS was sexually transmitted and nearly 100% lethal and c) it’s unlikely that random hookups are causing a lot of covid infections, since there’s usually only two people involved.

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    1. The problem, I think, is that a lot of the lockdown opponents believe that if the lockdowns weren’t in place, economic damage would be minimal or non-existent. In reality, a legal “business as usual” approach would most certainly not result in business as usual. The economic damage would still be massive — because people spend less in times of great insecurity and people in fear for their lives will not go out and do and buy as they normally did, demand will be down, and businesses will be laying people off or going bankrupt anyway (just maybe somewhat less that in a full lockdown).

      Given that it’s simply not feasible for most countries to do what New Zealand has done, you’re right, I think, that a middle-ground approach would result in the least-worst blend of human and economic destruction. Unfortunately, there are so many of the idiots who are unwilling to live with any sort of restrictions at all, that middle-ground approaches will tend toward the effect of wide-open approaches with a similar amount of accompanying human destruction.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. There’s no particular bar on sex that I’m aware of. It’s just that the most obvious kinds depend on meeting up and there are restrictions on that, although there is a partial exception to those rules for people in a relationship.

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  7. I think the thing that has been most effective here in South Australia (in a population of ~ 1.8m people, most of them located in a single city, we have had less than 500 cases and only 4 deaths) was closing the borders early and being very choosy about when and how we reopen them. We are not an island, but there are probably only four or five major roads into the state, so it was relatively easy for us to do this. We had a few weeks of heavy restrictions in April during which most non-essential shops and other businesses closed, but things have been pretty much back to normal for quite a while now (there are still density restrictions on people indoors, and I suspect tourism and export based businesses are still feeling some pain).

    I have heard that even when the UK was in lockdown earlier in the year they did not restrict international travel, which seems just ridiculous to me.

    The other thing Damien misses is that people in the lower socio-economic groups that he is supposedly more concerned about are more likely to have health conditions that exacerbate COVID-19 (not to mention be in housing and employment situations that make it more likely they will catch it), and will also be the ones who suffer more if it runs unchecked (or poorly checked) in the population.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. restricting internal travel within the EU was going to be both practically & politically very difficult. Australia has this weird archipelago like population density, as if Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne were separate islands and Adelaide, Darwin & Perth even more so. Even Canberra is remote in a way that would be exceptional in Europe.

      Of course the extra irony with the UK was that Brexit was a claim that the UK could cut itself off with no ill effects…and yet they couldn’t manage it even in this crisis situation.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Large chunks of Australia have had fewer per capita cases than New Zealand. (Victoria has had more, and New South Wales and Tasmania are in the same band on maps as New Zealand, so one would have to track down actual numbers.)

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    3. That’s the rationale behind the “open everything up!” mania in the upper echelons of the Repubs. Get the businesses open to make money for their donors, and kill off the expensive old people who like having Medicare, plus kill off the minimum wage slaves and BIPOC, who they really want to get rid of anyway. They’re mostly brown or black skinned, and the party of treason wants them to go away. Especially since where their vote can’t be suppressed enough, they vote Democratic. And it’s easy to rile up the white mobs by feeding them the “masks are oppressive” narrative.

      The Lt. Gov. of Texas actually said the quiet part out loud about old people dying for the economy.

      https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/coronavirus-texas-dan-patrick-fox-news-republican-lieutenant-governor-a9478181.html

      My FIL’s nursing home locked down a month before anyone else — when there weren’t any community-acquired cases yet in the US at ALL — and I’m very glad.

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  8. A man who knows nothing of the field he’s professionally paid to write about doesn’t know anything about an entirely different subject that he’s holding forth on currently? I am shocked. Shocked, I say.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. There is the principle of hoping for the best and preparing for the worst. Basing policy on a hoped for herd immunity at 20% infected doesn’t follow that. (The highest official case rates are at 4.5% for nations and larger subnational entities – there are Brazilian municipalities at over 8%.) But seroprevalence studies give higher figures, with the highest I’ve seen being 97% in Iquitos some months back. I assume the last was wrong – on the grounds that we don’t have people trumpeting the disappearance of COVID-19 from Iquitos.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The way to get herd immunity at 20% is a permanent lockdown – herd immunity depends on R, and R depends on behaviour – or at least stopping superspreader events. SARS-COV-2 is too contagious to get herd immunity at low rates of immunity with pre-pandemic behaviour patterns, even it it’s not as bad as measles. (A virgin field epidemic of something with the lethality and contagiousness of measles would be very bad, but at least measles immunity is long lasting, and children generally recover.)

      Like

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