351 - Covid in June | Scoins.net | DJS

351 - Covid in June


Left, vaccination goes at pace in some places. One might ask questions about uptake, about reasons for not being vaccinated, incentives that states think are effective (and reasons for these). One might ask about levels of herd immunity, about global immunity possibilities. One might ask about variants, which is directly related to the volume and density of cases - where case density is very high, variants will be created and, because of the local medical pressure, all the more likely to escape into the wider community.

Covid update 20210608 source high rates in Argentina Colombia (most of S America but for Venezuela). Mongolia, Namibia, Botswana, Brunei. This might well be reporting as much as prevalence. I read a report that explained that India's figures could easily be out by a factor of five (and any figures five times bigger would have closed their borders far sooner, where our UK-India traffic has held at about 900 persons per day). (sources: 1, 2)

On vaccination, Canada has done a lot of catching up, as has quite a bit of Europe, while the UK has slowed down, no doubt because it is so well into second doses. The UK stands 40 million people vaccinated with this 72% split 41:19 on 2:1 doses. Currently we're offering jabs to 30-year olds, but it is quite patchy around the nation. Meanwhile the delta variant (previously called the Indian one) is running amok and accounts for the upturn in the graph above. Worldometers this morning says the UK has12.9 million current cases, of which 86500 are serious or critical. Interactive map found here, showing issues  in the NW centred on Blackburn & Bolton (again), from Glasgow and southwards and around Bedford. On the right, the same maps one week later.

The Guardian's update page is quite an impressive site and well worth visiting. I particularly like (still) the ability to look at change and to zoom in to look at detail. Overall, we're not doing at all well right now and if it was not for the vaccine we'd by looking at another bad wave. As it is, things look pretty bad and the population not vaccinated should be concerned. All of the population needs to be distinctly careful. Inset herre is the vaccination progress, 1st dose from the beginning of the month and then the middle. 

The unvaccinated population is goes down by some 400,000 each day, but the un-vaccinated number is about 15% (any dose) or 32% (incomplete). These are total population percentages, so we have 15% adults plus 21% under 18s, which is 10 million adults and 14 million not-yet-adults, most of whom go to school and act as a churn for spread, even though their specific risk to themselves is very low. The population of the Netherlands is 17.3 million  (1044 per square mile) and of Belgium is 11.5 million( 976 per square mile),  while the UK population is 67 million and its density 712, but 1120 in England. (source).  So in terms of ability to spread disease, we have the same sort of susceptible population as Belgium and a matching density of carriers—so unvaccinated Britain is not dissimilar from Belgium with no vaccination at all, and they had a very bad time through 2020 with covid. That perspective says to me that the visible complacency is completely wrong and that the case count blip you can see to the right of the chart below on the right is quite sufficient to worry about.

You might appreciate why I would prefer to call this the fourth wave and not, as the press do, the third. To me the middle wave is very clearly a combination of two. I also like that that allows the delta variant to match the fourth wave label.

The risk of hospitalisation or death are both dramatically lower than they were, thanks to the experience of 150,000 deaths. But, looking at cases and case rates, we're back in a bad place, one we have been in before. This table shows several places with case rates over 300 and you ought to play with the (frequently updated) Guardian choropleth, where I show 21 June below left. I live on the coast west of the biggest darker red patch. On the right is the same chart a week later, and the corresponding area table is repeated below the R-rate chart.

This graph on the right shows estimated R rate (and how that has moved into the vocabulary from 18 months ago). I do not understand how and R>1 is acceptable, unless we have consciously decreed that the virus is no longer dangerous, which would mean we rated it as equivalent to a mild flu. Which it is not. 

The delta variant, at June 20th is now 97% of the active cases studied. I'm expecting to hear of the success gained by mixing vaccines  specifically using non-Astra-Zeneca for the next booster shot; the vast majority have received that source's jabs and my expectation is that variety will strengthen protection.

It remains true that the more we allow the virus to run (amok, anywhere in the world), the more likely that there is a variant which is able to defeat our vaccination, even though we might think we now have techniques to counter most possible variants. So it remains important to inoculate ('jab' is so much shorter) as much of the rest of the world as we can and, now that we've done ourselves, we direct attention to that. But at the very same time it is essential that we curtail the traffic that recirculates the virus – and this is something that we appear very reluctant to do. This is perceived (bought, sold) as a restriction of basic freedoms; that being the one that says everyone has the right to be stupid. But such a freedom of stupidity is only permissible, say I, if it does not affect others. Which in turn means that the person exerting such choice has an obligation to protect those who might disagree. Surely there are counter-examples that show that this is untenable, but if, perhaps half of the population thinks one way, maybe the other half ought to comply.

This week we lost Matt Hancock as Minister of Health; the Sun published a poor quality snap from video in his office showing him snogging an aide. Issues here not that he's snogging someone not his wife, but that he's supposed to be following his own distancing rules (and said very binary statements about this for others); that the security is lazy enough to allow such video to be shared; that he didn't get fired, but resigned after response of comment much as I've made so far. BoJo said this was okay (no action to take) and dealt with, which begs to question the extent to which the standards in public life have drifted from the printed rules. I'm most bothered by the security breach and next most that the replacement is Sajid Javid, who was the previous Chancellor (and has also led the Home Office). Matt H had at least been in post long enough for one to believe he had an idea what he was talking about, while Javid has come out pushing the line that 19July will do fine as a release date. Maybe 'protecting the NHS' is the key, not fixing the viral spread; if so, that directs us to believe that this gov't thinks the matter is 'dealt with'. I disagree.

Not least, with this sort of behaviour, we're not going to be supplying vaccine in volume to poorer countries, as we will continue to behave in ways that rely upon vaccination preventing hospitalisation and death. This is snafu, just the normal state of a fucked-up nation, where the chancers are in power and, partly as a result, this behaviour is copied as being not just acceptable but normal. Along with what I continue to call the Cummings Effect and its corollaries, this means that everyone who thinks they're just a little bit special (elite was the word) will behave as if the rules don't apply to them. We had a chance for the public at large to take responsibility for its actions, but the failure of MPs (and it really only takes one, such is our press reproduction) to set good examples and reinforce this message means that we will yet again take the selfish short-term option. This exemplifies what is called marginal thinking, where small actions build an effect that takes us to a bad place. ¹

DJS 20210621and 29

 The summer equinox; all downhill from here.

1  marginal thinking . source. https://www.runnerstribe.com/features/doping-and-the-trap-of-marginal-thinking/?fbclid=IwAR1rmxAaVLb1pPciS5WVcJ2DqOljoiGUqLXPLRwizIXwNoIiTfJ9LHJXVYE

Marginal costs are what you pay to make one more widget. Full costs account for everything. So when an idea occurs that would make something a little better or a little differently, the big company, which looks at marginal costs, is slower to adapt than the newcomer. In a sense, the watcher of marginal costs is (always) looking short term. In the end change must occur or the product (and supplier) will die away. So we do the same in life and we can call this marginal thinking

A few examples: texting while driving because you are late to a commitment, fudging your receipts to hide an accounting error, prioritising work over family to secure that promotion, or taking a performance enhancing drug to be able to workout even though you haven’t fully recovered. 

Marginal thinking has a few typical qualities: decisions are 1) made in the present moment, 2) done to avoid or reduce negative effects, 3) heavily influenced by our environment, and 4) they are small. In fact they feel trivial, at least relative to the problems they help us avoid. 

The first step down that path is taken with a small decision. You justify all the small decisions that lead up to the big one and then you get to the big one and it doesn’t seem so enormous anymore. You don’t realise the road you are on until you look up and see you’ve arrived at a destination you would have once considered unthinkable.

 There is a sense in which Management from Underneath is looking to the larger picture but at the same time trying to nudge the higher-ups with small changes so that they arrive at the big change—a positive one, not the negative ones described above—as something of a surprise.

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