Covid won’t necessarily get naturally less deadly by itself

The topic of consensus has come up recently and it is interesting to look at the flip side of scientific consensus and look at broad rules of thumb that exist in wider society. With diseases caused by viruses, bacteria and parasites etc there is a reasonable (but flawed) assumption that over time a specific disease will become less deadly. The assumption rests on a rough sketch of how evolution works. An infected person needs to be alive for the virus to grow and spread and so, killing the infected person is of less advantage to a virus than leaving the person alive and walking about. It’s a reasonable idea because we are all hosts to a wide range of viruses that cause common colds that usually just make us snotty and miserable rather than dead.

But it is no more than a rule of thumb and the reasonableness of the idea hides a whole pile of complexity. Also, there’s an underlying cognitive error we all fall into when considering how natural selection works that makes us pretend that there’s some sort of agency behind how these changes happen. A virus doesn’t want to kill people, it has no wants or any capacity for anything like wants or a direction nor does evolution strive for perfection. An additional reasoning error is a more subtle version of the old anti-evolutionary argument “if humans evolved from apes, how come there are still apes?” Evolution spawns new varieties of reproducing things rather than just replacing old ones with shiny upgraded versions.

A moment’s thought about examples of long term diseases that humans have faced shows that many diseases remain very deadly despite long histories. Evidence of smallpox is present throughout most of recorded history and its deadliness was reduced not by the virus becoming less virulent by itself. Obviously, there are related viruses to smallpox that are less deadly but humanity had to live with those as well as smallpox. Improved care reduced the deadliness, inoculation as practice (intentional infection of people with matter from a smallpox-infected person possibly first used in China) reduced the impact of the disease and eventually, vaccination led to the disease being wiped out.

Influenza keeps working its own happy way through the evolutionary gambling tables each year, throwing up variations that are more or less injurious. Every living (or not quite living) thing is a glitchy, cobbled-together trade-off of adaptations. “Less deadly” is one direction but there’s not a simple genetic switch or “deadliness” parameter a virus can turn up or down without affecting other features of the virus.

Now I’m not a virologist or even a biologist. I don’t know what the odds of new variants of covid being more deadly are. The rule of thumb isn’t utter nonsense, all other things being equal, I can see why it makes sense that maybe a more infectious & less dangerous version of the virus might become more dominant and maybe (if we were very lucky) also give people sufficient immunity that the nastier versions would fade away. I wouldn’t bet money on it though. Again, appealing to what we can see, covid currently is relatively slow to kill people and there’s plenty of time for an infectious person to spread the virus before they feel so sick that they aren’t out and about spreading the disease. Also, many infected people are asymptomatic, so the deadliness is not much of a disadvantage to the disease.

But we really can only get so far trying to think these things through with general knowledge and a critical eye. Expertise matters and literally whatthehelldoIknow. Expertise matters much more, particularly when evaluating multiple competing factors. Here’s an article by experts in microbial evolution and mathematical biology explaining some of the issues far better than I can: https://theconversation.com/will-coronavirus-really-evolve-to-become-less-deadly-153817

That article also links to an academic paper looking at the potential evolution of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. That paper looks at multiple ways the virus may evolve into new strains. On this specific topic it notes:

“A crucial question is how virulence will evolve [28]. As discussed above, direct selection on virulence is weak (Figure 3D,H). Thus, virulence evolution will be driven largely by the indirect effects of pleiotropy. In Figure 4, we consider two potential examples. First, consider mutations that couple a higher transmission rate, the βs, with higher mortality, ɑ (positive pleiotropy, Figure 4A,C), as might occur if mutations increase viral replication rates. In this case, evolution will lead to higher mortality (see inset bars), as an indirect consequence of selection for increased transmission (see Supplemental Information and also [12,29]). Alternatively, consider a mutation that alters tissue tropism such that the disease tends to preferentially infect cells of the upper respiratory tract, rather than the lower respiratory tract. Such infections could lead to a higher transmission rate but be less virulent (negative pleiotropy) [30]. This would generate indirect selection for lower mortality rates (Figure 4B,D).”

On the evolutionary epidemiology of SARS-CoV-2, Troy Day, Sylvain Gandon, Sébastien Lion, and Sarah P. Otto Current Biology 30, R841–R870, August 3, 2020 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7287426/pdf/main.pdf

[Word of the day: pleiotropy – when a gene impacts two or more unrelated traits https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pleiotropy]

So there you go, right? I’ve got experts and an academic citation from a paper with maths in it AND GRAPHS! Case closed, right?

Not really. I like the argument I just wrote but it is far from immune from being BS. I’m smart, STEM-educated and I can find academic papers and quote from them (and thank the Humanities for those skills). Yet, I’ve no real idea whether the academics I quoted are actually good at their jobs. I don’t know whether the two essays I’ve quoted are actually making well-known errors in the field of evolutionary virology or pushing some heterodox minority position. For all I know, the field of evolutionary virology is currently engaged in raging flame wars on this very issue and there’s a really, really strong argument that (aside from a few exceptions) viruses nearly always get substantially less deadly for reasons other than better treatment or vaccines. It’s not just that I’m not an expert on these topics but also I don’t know anything about the community of people who ARE experts.

Now, given the currency and high profile nature of this issue, I’m fairly confident that I’m not making an ass of myself and quoting a paper that virologists are scorning. Yet, this takes me back to the real topic of this post: consensus and truth not just in science but in any body of knowledge/field of expertise.

A body of knowledge is not a set of textbooks but a community of expertise in which opinions and experience matter. Those communities are flawed. They will have biases. They will be slow to adopt new ideas that are actually more true than old ideas. They will be vulnerable to professional and commercial pressures. These things are true because science is done by humans and communities of humans have these issues. That means we should not unthinkingly accept what any given community of experts say as the unimpeachable truth. However, the odds are that a community of expertise that adopts methods of self-correction and reasoning is far more likely to be a source of truth than our naive intuition about complex issues.

Do I have one more rhetorical trick up my sleeve to convince you that covid won’t necessarily get less deadly? I have lots but as this is a portmanteau essay on many things, including the art of rhetoric then I shall use a failed student of the art to convince you that covid can get worse:

“These utterly ignorant idiots don’t understand that it is the flawed vaccines that are causing the next variant to be worse, not the unvaccinated. If it had been left to progress naturally through the population, the virus would have become more infectious and less harmful, like every other virus in history. It’s already doing that, which is why the Delta variant is estimated to be 10x less lethal than the original one.”

Vox Day, https://web.archive.org/web/20210726205857/http://voxday.blogspot.com/2021/07/when-vaxxing-makes-it-worse.html

I call the move I’m making here the anti-appeal to a lack of expertise 😀

Covid: Trajectory

A few weeks in and Australia is still struggling to get on top of the recent delta-variant outbreak of covid. It’s apparent that the initially muddled and delayed lockdown in Sydney was too late to keep the virus bottled up and it is now spreading in more rural areas.

As regular readers will know, I’ve tried to stick with one fairly consistent way of looking at covid numbers: cumulative confirmed cases per population size. There are no perfect numbers and these figures have the same issues in terms of being dependent on testing rates. However, my point about the graphs has been that it is not so much the magnitude as the slope of the graph. Lower testing rates may obscure or delay how that graph gets steeper but when the virus is spreading exponentially it will show up in the numbers.

On the “delay” aspect with testing, I thought I’d illustrate that with a simplified graph. The underlying data is a number that increases proportionally by 1.2 times the previous “day’s” number. Two lines show 5% of the current day’s total (blue) and 1% of the current day’s total. Obviously, testing rates do impact the number of reported cases but inevitably the numbers go wooosh regardless.

Putting the curves side-by-side helps show how the pattern is similar but these two lines look identical if plotted with different scales on the vertical axis. The underlying shapes are similar in a mathematical sense where the difference is scale.

Anyway, still locked down for the time being and the curve is still going up.

I am in Lockdown [updated]

[Update: the state government has decided the plan was too complicated and now the Greater Sydney Area is all in lockdown. So my situation is basically the same but less ambiguous.]

The delta variant has officially come to town in Sydney and once again the oddly social class nature of Covid is on display. There’s nothing new about infectious diseases having a socio-economic aspect – social interaction and mobility play a role, as do access to healthcare and resources. However, at different stages Covid has had an odd impact on wealthier areas, often radiating out from areas of affluence (e.g. in the early international spread via ski resorts). That impact, of course, affects people of all income levels not just rich people.

For Sydney, the location of the airport and quarantine hotels is at the Eastern end of this very asymmetrical city and that’s also where the posh suburbs are. Not just posh suburbs of course and not just wealthy people. The suburb of Redfern is caught up in this core area and while that suburb is undergoing rapid gentrification it still retains a significant Aboriginal community. The current outbreak has put four local government areas into lockdown and basically, those areas are the main CBD (the bit with the opera house and the bridge that gets blown up by aliens) and the suburbs directly east of the CBD with the beaches, gazillion-dollar homes, pricey shops and (not so many any more) scruffy backpackers etc.

On a personal note, I’m safely well away from that area, way out in the sprawling areas that are prone to bushfires but less prone to sporadic Covid 19 outbreaks. But…the lockdown also applies to people who have worked in CBD in the last two weeks for at least three days. Which…isn’t quite me, did two days of work in the CBD the other week but better safe than sorry. So according to the official advice I’m not obliged to be in lockdown but I’m going to err on the side of caution.

The slow and fumbled vaccine roll-out here is part of the problem. There are still lots of vulnerable people not vaccinated and this current outbreak involves an unvaccinated limo driver whose job was ferrying flight crew to their hotel.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-06-26/more-than-a-million-sydneysiders-now-in-lockdown/100244924

Covid graph update

I left off doing these for a while as the situation wasn’t shifting much globally. Today, I’ve picked a grab-bag of countries that we’ve looked at before or are in the news.

The good news is that both Israel and the UK which had very swift vaccination programs have levelled off. However, that is not necessarily showing cause and effect.

The main news story on the pandemic is the disastrous second wave in India. Using the style of graph I picked, the numbers are misleading. India is a big country in both area and population and the per-capita figures belie the impact of this new wave. As I have said before, it is the trajectory that matters with these graphs and that becomes clearer when India is graphed by itself.

I’ve been sceptical about the utility of looking at the death rates in these graphs for various reasons but with the vaccines in play now, we should expect to see an impact.

I’ve focused on the last few months so as to keep the vertical scale manageable.

The world is not out of the woods yet.

Some graphs for February

I’m jumping between two different topics rather than doing separate posts.

Firstly, global temperatures. As per usual, I’m looking at the satellite data set from UAH, not because it’s the best but because it avoids a couple of bad faith arguments about the data:

http://www.drroyspencer.com/2021/02/uah-global-temperature-update-for-january-2021-0-12-deg-c-new-base-period/

La Niña slowing things down right now, making for a relatively wet summer in Australia. Not wet enough to avoid bushfires though https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2021/feb/02/fierce-bushfire-in-perth-hills-is-a-threat-to-lives-and-homes-warns-wa-premier


Jumping to the pandemic, a question I was asked is when we will see vaccinations make an impact on Covid cases? I haven’t found an article on that but it is a good question. The short answer is “not yet” looking at the graphs and it might not ever.

Currently, Israel has the most intensive vaccination program (but foolishly not originally for everybody). This chart shows does administered per 100 people for a range of countries:

https://ourworldindata.org/covid-vaccinations

Here is the cumulative case numbers relative to population size for the top three countries for vaccination roll out. It’s way too early to see any impact.

https://ourworldindata.org/covid-cases#world-maps-confirmed-cases-relative-to-the-size-of-the-population

Vaccines may not impact these numbers at all (https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)32318-7/fulltext ) but should impact mortality and other impacts (i.e. covid might well stick around but do less damage).

Covid cases over time

New South Wales is still anxiously watching whether a recent cluster of cases will lead to a new lockdown. The rises in cases linked to the Northern Beaches area of Sydney has led to one major policy change: there is now a mandatory mask requirement for some locations https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2021/jan/02/nsw-makes-face-masks-mandatory-as-state-records-seven-new-covid-cases

I’ve largely stuck to the data here that shows number of cases relative to the size of the population. One thing that graph can also show is change over time. https://ourworldindata.org/covid-cases#world-maps-confirmed-cases-relative-to-the-size-of-the-population

You can set a date and then watch the figures change as it rolls forward to the current day. I’ve made a video capture of that to show how some selected countries changed. I think this helps illustrate what I mean by the trajectory mattering more than the actual number. We can’t really be sure what the true number of cases is because of different levels of testing but the rate of change is a different matter.

Multiple good news on Covid-19 vaccines

News from the UK is that the Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccine appears to be at least 70% effective:

“The announcement today takes us another step closer to the time when we can use vaccines to bring an end to the devastation caused by [the virus],” said the vaccine’s architect, Prof Sarah Gilbert.”

https://www.bbc.com/news/health-55040635

That is good news that comes shortly after the announcement from the US that the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine could be 90% effective:

“The developers – Pfizer and BioNTech – described it as a “great day for science and humanity”.
Their vaccine has been tested on 43,500 people in six countries and no safety concerns have been raised.”

https://www.bbc.com/news/health-54873105

What is doubly good is these two vaccines have been developed using completely different principles and work in quite different ways. There are disadvantages to both but in ways that are distinctly different.

As I understand it, the Oxford vaccine uses a different virus (one that causes colds in chimps) to deliver a key protein from the covid coronavirus to provoke our immune system into creating the needed antibodies. A similar vaccine is also under development in Russia and is also showing success https://www.bbc.com/news/health-54905330

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and a similar one being developed by Moderna ( https://www.bbc.com/news/health-54902908 ) uses a more novel technique, exploiting messenger RNA. The use of mRNA potentially opens up faster and more adaptable vaccine development in general.

“Vaccines train the immune system to recognize the disease-causing part of a virus. Vaccines traditionally contain either weakened viruses or purified signature proteins of the virus.

But an mRNA vaccine is different, because rather than having the viral protein injected, a person receives genetic material – mRNA – that encodes the viral protein. When these genetic instructions are injected into the upper arm, the muscle cells translate them to make the viral protein directly in the body.

This approach mimics what the SARS-CoV-2 does in nature – but the vaccine mRNA codes only for the critical fragment of the viral protein. This gives the immune system a preview of what the real virus looks like without causing disease. This preview gives the immune system time to design powerful antibodies that can neutralize the real virus if the individual is ever infected.”

https://theconversation.com/how-mrna-vaccines-from-pfizer-and-moderna-work-why-theyre-a-breakthrough-and-why-they-need-to-be-kept-so-cold-150238

An added advantage for the mRNA vaccines is that it can be produced without a biological step. Apparently the challenge for mRNA vaccine development has been finding ways of keeping the mRNA sufficiently stable that vaccines can be produced en-masse. While those hurdles have been overcome, the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has to be stored at very cold temperatures and degrades within days even at normal fridge temperatures.

The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is more conventional and much easier to store. It is also easier to manufacture as it uses existing processes and will be much cheaper than the mRNA based vaccines.

Meanwhile, there are multiple other vaccines for covid-19 under development. This table from a PubMed article in June, has a good overview of the variety of types of vaccines under development. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7301825/table/t0005/?report=objectonly

Covid in mid-November

I’ll confess to a degree of superstition in not posting any graphs of cases recently. Currently things in Australia are looking optimistic after a scary period in Victoria. Ironically that’s made me more anxious as things here are beginning to feel a bit ‘post-covid’ but when I look at the Northern Hemisphere winter the reality is anything but.

The countries shown this time are just the default offered by the website with the addition of the Philippines and Africa as a whole. If we want a good news story about Covid-19 it really does look like Africa as a continent has managed to escape the worst of things. The ‘why’ of that has had several months of speculation and I think we won’t know really for some time.

I added the Philippines because of the horrific impact currently of typhoon Vamco on the country.

“The death toll from the deadliest cyclone to hit the Philippines this year has climbed to 67, with 12 people still missing, the national disaster management agency has said.”

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-11-15/death-toll-from-years-deadliest-typhoon-in-philippines-climbs/12885864

What the impact of a major natural disaster will be in the time of a pandemic is an open question. In addition with a news cycle crowded with political tantrums, attention and donations from wealthy countries is impacted. https://secure.oxfam.org.au/donate/international-crisis-fund

The USA was already on a steep trajectory of cases and that somehow has got steeper. Just in time not just for winter but also for maximum dysfunction in federal government.

The good news is that overall case fatality rates have fallen substantially. Some of this may be purely statistical (more testing of people who get mild cases) and some of it is improved treatment.

This graph shows excess mortality in the USA over several years for comparison.

It’s deadly but these figures do suggest that improved treatment and protecting more vunerable groups may reduce deaths. However, to temper that good news the long term impacts of the disease on people who survive is becoming clearer:

“Young and previously healthy people with ongoing symptoms of Covid-19 are showing signs of damage to multiple organs four months after the initial infection, a study suggests.”

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/nov/15/damage-to-multiple-organs-recorded-in-long-covid-cases

As I said at the start, things down-under are increasingly normal – worryingly so perhaps. Trains are getting busy again and generally people are acting a lot more relaxed about things. As we’ve seen elsewhere, covid-19 can spread slowly and asymptomatically in a population for awhile before a few events lead to more sudden and rapid growth.

A vaccine is looking hopeful though:

The impact of a new Covid vaccine will kick in significantly over summer and life should be back to normal by next winter, one of its creators has said.
Prof Ugur Sahin, BioNTech co-founder, also raised hopes the jab could halve transmission of the virus, resulting in a “dramatic reduction in cases”.
Last week, BioNTech and co-developers Pfizer said preliminary analysis showed their vaccine could prevent more than 90% of people from getting Covid-19.
About 43,000 people took part in tests.”

https://www.bbc.com/news/health-54949799

Let’s hope so.

The Eve of Something

…but we don’t know what.

By virtue of time zones, it is already Tuesday 3 November here. In a normal year, this would be Melbourne Cup day — the big Australian horse race that everybody bets on and people wear hats and get drunk. This year, things are a bit more subdued.

Meanwhile, it is still Monday in the USA. The final vote tally for the US Presidential election won’t be known for awhile but tomorrow things will be changing rapidly towards a conclusion. The polls and the models point toward a victory for the Biden/Harris ticket. Over shadowing those polls is the fact that Trump won last time and, more darkly, that Trump may not accept defeat even if he does lose.

Nate Silver at 538 is busy reminding people that a 10% chance is not a 0% chance https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/im-here-to-remind-you-that-trump-can-still-win/ There are uncertainties of many kinds, particularly around Pennsylvania and Florida where the chance of a Trump winning the state is much closer than in national polls.

In addition, the polls and models are unlikely to have adequately compensated for a number of factors:

  • Increased early voting
  • Potentially increased turn out
  • Attempts at voter suppression
  • Attempts at vote intimidation

There are also claims of a “shy Trump voter” bias in the polls — more centre-leaning Trump voters not wanting to say they are Trump voters out of shame or fear. This last one I am doubtful of.

Back in 2016 I thought it would be interesting to see how people associated with the Sad/Rabid Puppies movement would shift (or not) during the Trump years. As reflected more broadly in the polls, people who were already solidly right wing have only consolidated more in their support of Trump. Where a number of notable Sad Puppies were dubious (or even hostile) towards Trump during the GOP Presidential nomination process all those years ago, most shifted towards some degree of support by the election (or at the very least overt hostility towards his opponent). In between times, that has only strengthened. John C Wright and Sarah Hoyt shifted from sceptical/grudging support to full on Trump-advocacy. Larry Correia and Brad Torgersen have been more circumspect and adopted an ‘anti-anti-Trump’ position. I don’t think either of them have overtly said they’d vote for him but their anti-Biden position is unambiguous and also shallow (focusing on Biden’s age and his dodgy son — qualities which don’t distinguish him from Trump). Vox Day has been an avid Trump supporter and remains so.

On the whole, most of this former leaders of the Puppy groups remain bullish about the election. There is an underlying belief that Trump is very popular and the polls are very wrong. That is compounded with a confusion about how wrong the polls were in 2016 — as if dismissing the result of the popular vote for constitutional reasons also (magically) means the polls got it wrong that Hillary Clinton was more popular than Trump.

Adjacent to the Puppy leaders we have other puppy-characters like Michael A Rothman being super bullish on Facebook:

“Mark this as my official prediction:
Trump wins electoral with at least the same margin as last time.
Trump likely wins popular vote as well.”

https://www.facebook.com/MARothman/posts/10217545584647542

That seems unlikely.

If the opposite happens and Biden’s win is more substantial then maybe some Republicans will re-evaluate their support of the Electoral College. That will be interesting to see. Because of the above, I’ve ended up watching Utah conservatives extolling the virtue of the EC, even though it remains a bad deal for Utah conservatives (the way the Senate works is a different question). Ironically, the 2016 election would have been an opportunity for Utah Republicans to leverage the EC by voting Democratic and ironically giving themselves far more influence over the GOP as a result…but that’s not how people actually vote or behave.

Speaking of which, I was gifted yesterday a cursed item: a book! Entitled “Divided we Fall: One Possible Future” it is a political-science fiction anthology edited by the pseudonymous Mack Henckel and according to the cover features:

“Stories by Sarah Hoyt, Brad Torgersen, Jon Del Arroz and More!”

The premise is all the bad things that will happen to America if Trump loses. This is the flip side of the apparent bullishness: a deep seated fear of what happens next.

You won’t be astonished to hear that it isn’t very good but let me reassure you that even by standards of Hoyt’s, Torgersen’s and Arroz’s writing, it isn’t very good. Indeed, all three are more than capable of word-smithing readable fiction — they aren’t inherently bad writers and Hoyt in particular gains a lot more clarity when she writes fiction. This book though, is rushed and poorly edited both in a broad sense and in a copy-editing sense. It falls even below my extraordinarily low standards for typos.

Torgersen’s persecution fantasy is that the Federal Government will outlaw the Mormons:

“Ephraim Roberts watched the feds from behind his own sunglasses. Until six months prior, he’d been among their number. The injunction—which had come swift on the heels of the church having its tax-exempt status revoked—had put paid to any plans Ephraim had of retiring on a federal pension. He’d watched two nephews and one niece go to jail during the early days, when idealistic church members still actively challenged the blockades that had sprung up around every single Latter-Day Saint temple in the United States.”

Secret Combinations by Brad Torgersen, in Divided we Fall: One Possible Future

Jon Del Arroz’s story is more unpleasant but is basically just trolling for outrage. Sarah Hoyt’s story is quasi-autobiographical which has the unfortunate effect of making it read like one of her not-intended-to-be-fiction columns. The protagonist lives in Colorado and in 2016 is considering voting Libertarian but is persuaded reluctantly to vote for Trump. Unlike Hoyt, the protagonist is gay and has a liberal wife but the dialogue from either of them reads like direct quotes from her columns. For example take this dialogue about Covid19:

‘“Sure. Very dangerous, if you’re like 80. Maybe. Look, I did a deep dive into the Diamond Princess numbers. It can’t be that dangerous. Those ships are plague vessels at the best of times.”
“Ah.”
“And what they’re doing is putting an entire country under house arrest. A lot of the economy won’t come back, can’t come back.’

Teach the Children by Sarah Hoyt, in Divided we Fall: One Possible Future

Anyway then tomorrow happens and society collapses:

‘Well, you know what happened. The election was called for Joe and the Ho, and Trump didn’t dispute it. And things got crazy. Really crazy. It was hard to know what was actually happening, you know, because the news was all bizarre. They’d started the fiction with their Tales of the Covid, and they just ramped that up. The Green New Deal was going to save us. The Native Americans were coming out of the reservations to teach us to love Mother Earth. Police were disbanded. The committees of reconciliation…’

Teach the Children by Sarah Hoyt, in Divided we Fall: One Possible Future

The story rapidly skips into an apocalypse society but the protagonist and friends keep the faith and at the end have started a kind of religion whose faith is the USA (a theme Hoyt has used before).

…and so on. Yes, obviously the anthology is an attempt to make a quick buck (and a quick book) but the fear mongering is both cynical and sincere. That combination is quintessentially the story of the Puppy years — a mix of grift, confabulation and paranoia.

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: