325 - Covid in December | Scoins.net | DJS

325 - Covid in December


The changing position continues to be unsettling. The lockdown ("Two") imposed on Nov 5th stopped on Dec 2nd, when we switched to tiers, placed most of us at tiers 2 and 3. I am expecting that there will therefore be a surge of cases across the month, with a surge of deaths right on Christmas week, such that the review promised for the 16th Dec will move even more places to tier 3 (shown to be correct). The furlough scheme is planned to run until March and I need to look at understanding the situation around printing money (QE, MMT). The Downing St briefing of Nov 26th showed that I'm not the only one thinking that way (but they're three weeks later in publication) and I was impressed how much Chris Whitty pushed the idea that the rule relaxation over Christmas was so that we kept the mass of population within some rules, however silly – I assume that the thinking here is that the relaxation then encourages the masses to think within the rules rather than simply ignore them wholesale, thus keeping people in some sense on board. He also pointed that he personally will be 'on the wards' and I think I heard him say that he wouldn't be hugging any older family because he'd like them still around in April. Even if I was reading between the lines, so to speak, then I like this guy. More of Prof van Tam too, please.

As of mid-Nov we now have three vaccines announced as close to certification. I put a list of these in a separate page, 328. Those making it to market will be in quite fantastic demand – I'm thinking around 20 billion doses wanted, being twice the world population plus wastage, including the doubling up or repetition. As the vaccines are better understood, so some will be combined for (even) better effect. But it will take all of 2021 and more to move from certification to delivery; we will see unevenness in delivery, inequality between nations and vast sums being made and spent in spreading vaccine to more than the countries which develop them. Whether this will turn into something positive (e.g., exporting the manufacture) or negative (making vast profits) or both, only time will tell. Whether this represents a wholesale change in the way we produce vaccines is also not yet visible.

Dec 3rd, data for Nov 27th shows an uptick in incidence as lockdown two comes to an end (Dec 2nd). That really is not good. Turkey is having a torrid time and has shot up in cases per week per million, from safe to visit in the first week on November and the worst in my Europe list from 4th Dec. My table in the November page shows that Wales has a bad situation, case numbers rising very quickly as soon as their circuit breaker ceased.

Dec 9th shows an uptick in (case count in) all four nations over yesterday (see right), quite clearly on the south-east quarter of England and Wales has had a torrid time since their circuit breaker ended. This change is even sooner than I had anticipated. At the same time the Brexit negotiations have gone critical, with both sides simultaneously accepting and denying that the last moments are occurring. It could still go either way. Whatever results, we can be sure that the Tories will, initiallly at least, claim this as a success. I still deem the whole affair a disaster and found some fun prose in the Guardian this morning. Reaching the sunlit uplands via shit creek, as one comment had it. Moaning is useless, so we may as well laugh at ourselves.

I looked at international comparisons, 13th Dec, putting the table onto November's page. In case order per million we currently have Belgium, USA, Spain, France,..Sweden,...,UK,....Germany, while deaths per million is the order shown. At tests per million, the few countries ahead of the UK include Luxembourg, Denmark and Iceland, with the USA almost equal. As ever, there are counting issues with comparisons.

18th Dec, figures for 12th, shows an alarming leap in Scotland, Wales passing 500 cases per 100k (0.5% of the population testing positive in the last five days 500cpht) partly dues to a glitch in the figures but still putting Wales over 400cpht. The consistent rapid increase across SE England meant that many more places were added to tier 3. Herefordshire was a noteworthy exception, no doubt to be dragged upwards again by Welsh escaping their severe lockdown and wanting respite (with the spice of adding to English case counts). Pleas by the gov't for us collectively to be responsible are, of course, clamoured down by MPs with vested interests  so whatever the gov't does is shouted to be wrong, with the result that all of the above is treated as ignorable.

19th Dec PM's briefing reveals the effect of a new variant spreading from the SE of England (almost 300 cpht, 400 in London) and in S Wales (600cpht), displacing the older variant. Thence we have tier 4 introduced, Christmas mixing reduced to one day only and uproar from the very same people who yesterday were demanding recognition that the figures were adrift of the action. Public idiocy, then. For the first time, the data collected by me shows an increase everywhere (see November's table). I also noted that the concern shown by the press jumped in intensity as soon as it threatened where they live themselves; when the higher incidence was Oop North, they report it but clearly are not involved  but as soon as it is in London, the time devoted jumps and the intensity of questioning becomes so much more personal. So much for an independent press.

The spread of the new variant is extreme. Merthyr Tydfil and Bridgend (S Wales) have a 7-day rate to 13th Dec over the 1000. Places east of London are over 900 per 100k (cpht). Look here, cases by area, and sort utla (upper tier local authority) by rate. On the 26th, data up to 19th, we had eight utlas exceeding 1000 cpht, mostly on the Thames estuary. Looking across the whole pandemic, eight exceed 6000 cpht, of which Blackburn and Manchester lie in my often updated table on the November page.

It looks already as if January will have lockdown at tier 4 and higher, where the penultimate sanction, that I think of as level 5, is the closing of school and the ultimate is all but non-essential travel, in effect curfew and level 6

We can see that numbers are rising, but most of the hard data is from 5 days ago, so what is really wanted is less definite data pointing to what is happening more immediately, like yesterday. The escape dilemma¹ continues to fuel the spread of disease; an example being the setting of tier 4 in London (late December) and having crowds of escapees in the gap between announcement and deadline. Obvious solution, there. Similarly, the new variant was spotted in a ski resort and 'all' the Brits left before the new local restriction could be enforced. All this does is permit more spread. But European commitment to free movement makes for it to be very difficult to restrict any movement. Another strand to this general problem is the unnoticed nature of the infection, that fully a third are asymptomatic and at the same time infectious. So the long-standing self-test 'Do I feel well?' is not only unreliable but misleading. The general result is that the public (self-selecting in that they have travelled already) are both the source and the cause of the spread. If they hadn't travelled—and it is amazing to me how many are having holiday in an environment where holiday is so obviously not to happen—there wouldn't be spread.

So we perpetuate this misery with selfish behaviour.

We must expect case counts to continue to rise and hospitalisations to rise for another week, such that hospital occupations hit a peak through to mid-Feb, whereupon we hope that those figures will peak because some effects of vaccination begins to bite. My graph on November's page is relevant, small copy hereabouts with log₂ scale y-axis. 

Figures published on Dec31st reflect a reduction of data supply and suggested a drop in case rates, but of course they all jumped back upwards the following day (but for Wales, whose kept falling). If the base R number for the original strain when unrestrained was 3 then that for the new variant is 5, Within the restrictions we have a situation where with the old variant the restrictions should have brought R below 1, to 0.7-0.9, but the more vigorous variant adds 0.5 to 0.9, so we have R definitely above 1 all over again. The table on November's page shows a doubling in case count across two weeks in several regions; Tower Hamlets illustrated a far faster doubling. As of the end of the autumn term the gov't was iterating that school would return on the 4th and then suddenly, on the last day of term the plan was (or wasn't, practically) to have testing at the start of term (for virus, not knowledge) and then, just as the start date arrives, to delay this for some groups in some places; another fine mess. The panic already is that somehow missing a single week of school renders summer exams somehow unfair. Our leadership (and we must bear in mind that it is not just the patent idiot Williamson, but that Gove too was MinEd fairly recently, so it's not all Just William's fault) is clearly unable to see far enough ahead to make any judgement that will stand a criticism or upset. That same leadership seems utterly incapable of bluer sky thinking. For example, what it might take to enable online education to work; we're stuck on the wail that there are not enough tablets, not enough broadband; meanwhile Korea simply moved education to the tv. No, it's not a complete alternative, but nor is it abandoning education for those who don't have access. [6].

The underlying problem in the West is that of 'freedom', the freedom to move at will and the general willingness to take (short-term or economic) advantage by taking risks. The same 'freedom' prevents the state administration from preventing such behaviour, and so behaviour in general works to the advantage of virological spread. Each time a new rule is introduced, the escape dilemma kicks in and the effect is a surge of infection just before each new restriction bites. So-called freedom continues to apparently permit people to claim that the new rule doesn't apply to them, which I continue to call the Cummings Effect.

DJS      20201125 heading to 20201231

1 The escape dilemma: aware that an infection is looming, does one escape, quick before any movement restrictions can be applied, or stay put? Escape is seen to help spread the disease but, despite that being a bad thing, it occurs anyway. I don't see this as a dilemma at all, merely selfish behaviour.

[1]   Should-covid-19-vaccines-be-mandatory  Discussion piece. Please both read and discuss.

[2]    https://theconversation.com/covid-vaccines-will-be-here-soon-in-the-meantime-heres-how-to-stay-resilient  Resilience.

[3]   https://theconversation.com/why-is-covid-19-more-severe-in-the-north-of-england-the-story-in-four-graphs  What that says. But it's not actually any better than my own writing. Data comment confined to the over-70s, and otherwise reproducing my line graph from Covid in November.

[4]   https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2020/12/covid-numbers-hospitalizations  A US viewpoint from the start of December. The next line of charts is from there. The supposition is that the US is about to have a further wave, 'worse'. It is very much like my writing, if I were placed there not here. A valid point os that there are reporting issues (already noted here) such that the very irregularity is causing trends —rate of change—to be misleading. Original chart source. These are not well viewed in Safari but Google Chrome works well.         https://covidtracking.com/data/charts/us-all-key-metrics

[1] https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2020/12/pandemic-year-two/617528/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=atlantic-daily-newsletter&utm_content=20201229&silverid-ref=NTE3MDgxNDgxMDUyS0

[6] https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/edutech/brief/how-countries-are-using-edtech-to-support-remote-learning-during-the-covid-19-pandemic  A round-up of who is doing what about education through the pandemic. I'd like to have seen an entry for the UK or the US so as to perhaps compare the level of enthusiasm over content.

Links to pages updated daily by HMG, being data.gov.uk. It would be so much smarter if I could persuade the HTML to do the updating for me.

https://coronavirus.data.gov.uk/details/cases  Charts like this. Whole pandemic shows rate per 100k around 2600, so pushing 3% of the population has had at least one positive test. That chart shows cases by specimen date.

https://coronavirus.data.gov.uk/details/interactive-map  Choropleth map (right) as shown usually in blue and green with slider so you can whizz back across the year. Not that doing so makes you feel better, but ...

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/dec/01/covid-cases-and-deaths-today-coronavirus-uk-map Dual purpose choropleth map (left) kept up to date, I show the 'on the rise' version, which shows the rate of change, irrespective of prevalence, so you need to view both.

ONS Summary.  to Dec 18th:

Multiple sources report that between 4% and 7% of the population has COVID-19 antibodies, which suggests that most of the population is still vulnerable to infection (September to October).

England Infection rate (prevalence, positivity);                  1st week September, 1 in 1400, 0.07%;  1st week December,  1 in 105, 0.95%; the last week in 2020 will be available from 8th Jan 2021.


"Iowa is what happens when the Gov't does nothing".   I compare Iowa, above, with California and New York, using the data from this link. Iowa mid-west, Calif west coast, NY east coast, each as an example. I've put the US national charts at the foot of this page. I'll update them occasionally, but you could easily use the link (not good with Safari) to see for yourself.


I am expecting all of the new variants to arrive in the US and pass immigration with no difficulty whatsoever. I expect a subsequent surge in cases. As with the UK, the critical figure is hospital capacity and how demand for that is reduced by any vaccine effect. So it is the blue panel that is significant, while I expect the orange one to surge again.

Article on Long Covid: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/dec/27/consultant-infectious-diseases-long-covid-not-mild-illness-seriously-debilitated-new-clinics?CMP=fb_gu&utm_medium=Social&utm_source=Facebook&fbclid=IwAR0P_N_JsB2bBWjACKMnBh3gVMxwlYwoEW8YM0cRr5gBi7l83JFqKjshHQU#Echobox=1609083375  — in excess of 60k UK people affected. 

Article looking ahead: https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2020/12/pandemic-year-two/617528/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=atlantic-daily-newsletter&utm_content=20201229&silverid-ref=NTE3MDgxNDgxMDUyS0

Related Pages:  (faulty links updated 20201202)

Essay 291 - Effects of an outbreak  what it says, effects, but some description of what we have (and not)

Essay 293 - Covid-19 charts  charts published daily reflecting concerns and issues.

Essay 295 Long-term Distancing

Coronavirus (Y10+)   modelling problems

Epidemics                  more general theory

Infectious disease      looking at the 2020 problem, particularly effects of the reproduction number changing.

Essay 298 Covid Consequences       Surprisingly prescient, considering when it was written.

Essay 299  Covid in April

Essay 300  Covid in May

Essay 303 Covid in June

Essay 304 Covid Disparities              A report on the report, including what it doesn't say.

Essay 305  Risk

Essay 306 Covid in July

Essay 311 Covid in August                 International charts updated

Essay 316 Covid in September          European comparison charts updated

Viruses are very small                        Worth reading, I think. (But I would, wouldn't I?)

Essay 317 Covid vs Influenza   

Essay 318 Covid in October                Charts updated through November

Essay 322 Covid in November            UK Regional chart and table through Lockdown Two

Essay 325 Covid in December            This very page

Essay 328 Vaccine progress               What it says on the tin.

Essay 332 Covid in January 

Essay 337 Covid in February

And on a lighter note... (mostly stolen),  what we might call 2020 hindsight:-

1. The dumbest thing I bought in 2020 was year planner. 

2. 2019: Stay away from negative people.       2020: Stay away from positive people.     2021: Stay away.

3. The world has turned upside down. Old people are sneaking out of the house and their kids are yelling at them to stay indoors.

4. This morning I saw a neighbour talking to her cat. It was obvious she thought her cat understood her. I came to my house and told the dog.....we had a good laugh.

5. Every few days try your jeans on just to make sure they fit. Pyjamas will have you believe all is well in the kingdom.

6. Does anyone know if we can take showers yet or should we just keep washing our hands? 

7. I never thought the comment “I wouldn’t touch them with a 6-foot barge pole” would become a national policy.

8. I really need to practise social distancing ... from the fridge.

9. I hope the weather is good tomorrow for my trip to the garden. I am tired of the living room.

10. Never in a million years could I have imagined I would go up to a bank clerk, with a mask on, and ask for money.

Covid            Email: David@Scoins.net      © David Scoins 2021