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Fragile Bird

Covid-19 #38: As the Worm Turns

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17 minutes ago, Mudguard said:

There have been many, many variants, thousands by now, but the vast majority are not of concern because they do not appear to increase infectivity or severity of disease.  There were dozens of known variants all within the first several months of the pandemic, when the numbers of infected was much smaller.  I think this virus mutates at a normal rate that is typical of RNA based viruses, which is relatively high, at least compared with DNA based viruses.

The coronavirus RdRP which is shared by sars-cov-2 has a somewhat uniquely high fidelity in the RNA virus world. It has a proof reading mechanism. Far lower mutation rate than most RNA viruses.

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4 minutes ago, Impmk2 said:

The coronavirus RdRP which is shared by sars-cov-2 has a somewhat uniquely high fidelity in the RNA virus world. It has a proof reading mechanism. Far lower mutation rate than most RNA viruses.

I've seen various estimates that suggest that the coronavirus mutation rate is roughly half of the influenza mutation rate, and maybe about a fourth of HIV.  That's really not much of a difference and to me they are all in the same ballpark, especially when you compare it with DNA based virus error rates which are orders of magnitude less.  I would still classify all the RNA viruses as having a relatively high error rate.

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1 hour ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

Well, that'll kill the virus alright. Most mouthwashes will do as well.

Still, I suppose it's better than injecting someone with bleach or giving them sunburn on the inside of their bodies. Not much better, but still. 

Edit: snorting too.

Edited by Deadlines? What Deadlines?

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42 minutes ago, Makk said:

Well I'm glad there is not an election anytime soon. By 2023 it will probably be settled on whether or not elimination is still a viable option, but without superior vaccinations it is probably not.

People support elimination because of the freedom it offers within our regular lives (outside of international travel). People will not be supporting extended lockdowns, I feel this will be the last one that is complied with. Many companies can still operate at level 4, but there are plenty of others which are causing their owners to lose their entire livelihoods as well as burdening future taxpayers with debt.

This one is particularly bad, much worse for Auckland than last years, and is not working particularly effectively other than to reduce transmission speed. We don't know the exact details over why there are continuously more and more community exposure events that keep leading to more cases. But there are about a dozen previous exposures that are waiting on day 3 tests over the next couple of days, and if that goes badly it will be back to square one. We need some luck now.

I don't think there is any doubt we needed to go ahead with this lockdown, the vaccination rate was far too low, ICU capacity far too low, and I have no doubt that if there was not a lockdown we would have seen many, many deaths and a lot of others seriously ill. But even though the vaccine seems much less effective at reducing transmission than we were hoping for, it does seem very effective at reducing the severity of the disease.

My gut feeling is we will be living with covid inside the community sometime next year. And that will be broadly supported by the public while future lockdowns will not.

Edit - as an aside I had my first vaccination yesterday. Was pleasantly surprised at how efficiently it was being run. I counted 15 staff who were vaccinating roughly 6 people every minute. If that rate was kept up around all the vaccination centers, the country population could be vaccinated in a couple of weeks then the 4-6 week wait and then the second shot. After seeing it in action I'm not entirely sure why I had to wait 3 weeks from the date I booked.  

That is a total myth. Governments never run out of money or have to burden future generations with debt, unless they cede control of their currency to someone else (like adopting the Euro or those several countries that have adopted the US dollar).

Support for lockdown should continue for as long as the govt can credible state that COVID-19 running relatively freely in the country will kill thousands of people.  Get the predicted number of COVID-19 deaths in the first year below the annual number of 'flu deaths (500) then a large proportion of people will start chomping at the bit. Get the predicted number of deaths below the annual road toll (~250-300) and you are likely to have a majority of people agreeing with opening up. IMO the govt can extend the prospect of lockdowns reasonably well into the future if it sets a death benchmark, rather than a vaccination benchmark, which the vast majority of NZers find to be reasonable. What's your death benchmark? If you think some time next year is when we should allow COVID-19 into the country permanently then you must have a fairly high death benchmark.

The opening up question really is about appetite for death. By implication that means capacity of the health system to treat people as their symptoms demand in a timely fashion, since a stressed health system means more deaths. Given we only have about 180 ICU beds in the whole country, that means we can't really afford to have a rate of ICU occupancy for COVID-19 cases of much more than 60. If the ICU demand for one disease gets much above that then capacity problems will start to hit hard, since the other demands for ICU beds will still be there. At the peak of this outbreak we had ICU occupancy of 6 with active cases being roughly 700. So if we have 7-10K active cases in the country our ICU capacity for COVID-19 will likely be about maxed. So we need to model ICU occupancy as part of our death appetite.

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7 minutes ago, The Anti-Targ said:

That is a total myth. Governments never run out of money or have to burden future generations with debt, unless they cede control of their currency to someone else (like adopting the Euro or those several countries that have adopted the US dollar).

The claim that it is a total myth, is a total myth. One way or another the money is eventually paid back even if it is simply through higher cost of imports. If the country persists in not doing anything about it they end up like Argentina or Zimbabwe. The country cannot repetitively lockdown Auckland and expect the economy to continue to function.

Quote

What's your death benchmark?

There is no simple answer to that. It would depend on the types of people dyeing (vaccinated vs unvaccinated, the age). And what damage is done to those for whom it is not fatal and in the young who cannot be vaccinated. And I haven't given it any thought. What I do believe if you want to run an elimination strategy it is not going to work anything like they are currently doing it. You would need custom built facilities, outside of a main city, and the quarantine stay would have to be greater than 2 weeks (probably 4). Unless of course the next generation of vaccines were effective in preventing transmission which I previously mentioned. 

Edited by Makk

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2 minutes ago, Makk said:

The claim that it is a total myth, is a total myth. One way or another the money is eventually paid back even if it is simply through higher cost of imports. If the country persists in not doing anything about it they end up like Argentina or Zimbabwe.

"Future generations of taxpayers saddled with debt" is a false narrative with no economic basis that is deployed purely for political purposes. The boogey men of Argentina, Zimbabwe and Weimar Germany are also false narratives deployed for purely political purposes, which fail to understand or acknowledge the underlying causes of why those countries went to shit. Those circumstance are not in danger of being replicated here any time soon.

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7 minutes ago, Makk said:

The claim that it is a total myth, is a total myth. One way or another the money is eventually paid back even if it is simply through higher cost of imports. If the country persists in not doing anything about it they end up like Argentina or Zimbabwe.

Our governmental debt levels are very low by international standards, and governments don't die - they can literally roll-over debt indefinitely (with no-one suffering a drop in life-time living standards, but rather having to defer consumption. It's counter-intuitive, but economics is weird like that). Also, international interest rates are going to be stuck at zero for a long time to come.

As Anti-Targ mentioned, the question here is "how many deaths are we willing to tolerate?" The major factor being that we haven't yet seen the upcoming Northern Hemisphere winter, so can't do anything until well into the New Year.

Anyway, 14 cases today. Lockdown continues to work.

 

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To illustrate: Denmark has roughly the same population as New Zealand, an excellent vaccination rate, and three deaths a day. Would New Zealand tolerate a thousand Covid deaths a year, never mind the extra pressure on ICUs? I am sceptical (I really think the major comparison is the road-toll).

Bonus consideration is that this is September. For all we know, Denmark come December and January will be looking much, much uglier... and Fortress New Zealand much, much more attractive.

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4 minutes ago, The Marquis de Leech said:

Our governmental debt levels are very low by international standards, and governments don't die - they can literally roll-over debt indefinitely (with no-one suffering a drop in life-time living standards, but rather having to defer consumption. It's counter-intuitive, but economics is weird like that). Also, international interest rates are going to be stuck at zero for a long time to come.

We came into the covid lockdown with historical low levels of debt in an extremely robust position. Now it is trending towards the midterm. Yes there is a bit of wriggle room, but it cannot continue indefinitely. Countries that are producing real things (we do OK on food, not much else) are going to come out of this much better off.

13 minutes ago, The Anti-Targ said:

"Future generations of taxpayers saddled with debt" is a false narrative with no economic basis that is deployed purely for political purposes. The boogey men of Argentina, Zimbabwe and Weimar Germany are also false narratives deployed for purely political purposes, which fail to understand or acknowledge the underlying causes of why those countries went to shit. Those circumstance are not in danger of being replicated here any time soon.

The situation is much more analogous than you are letting on. These countries continued to print money for years to maintain a standard of living while their production in real terms was being destroyed (either by themselves or uncontrollable world events which they ignored). If we are locking down Auckland for multiple months a year our own production is going to take a real hit. Even now already at this early stage it is effecting the entire country through shortages of building supplies, exactly when we desperately need to be building more houses. This is real, it is not fictitious scaremongering.

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1 hour ago, Mudguard said:

I've seen various estimates that suggest that the coronavirus mutation rate is roughly half of the influenza mutation rate, and maybe about a fourth of HIV.  That's really not much of a difference and to me they are all in the same ballpark, especially when you compare it with DNA based virus error rates which are orders of magnitude less.  I would still classify all the RNA viruses as having a relatively high error rate.

I'm surprised it isn't much lower than those. I've seen several publications mention the lower mutation rate making it a good vaccine candidate when compared to other RNA viruses. I at least don't think influenza is a great comparison for it in any case - has the propensity for antigenic shift due to the segmented nature of its genome.

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@Padraig I want to take a crack at a massive oversimplification of the other dynamic not mentioned yet with the question of updated vaccines targeted at Delta.

If we take vanilla covid-19 as our starting point and Delta has moved 50 steps east, then a vaccine tailored to target those changes in Delta could be even less effective against a new variant which has taken 50 steps west than the vaccine targeted at vanilla if such a variant were to emerge.

As Delta becomes more dominant, due to substantially out competing vanilla, then the risk of that happening diminishes - any further mutations off the Delta variant are going to be starting from the "50 steps east" point and there's not much vanilla left to mutate. This last bit would be part of why someone who actually knows what they're talking about, like Impmk2 and not like me, thinks that an updated vaccine would be a good idea now.

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I hate people who I hate it when people disseminate mis-information and uses such excuses as 

Quote

Vandervis said he was not giving advice to anyone about what to do and debate was healthy.

"I try to find the best data that I can," he said.

"I give people things to think about."

https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/covid-19-coronavirus-delta-outbreak-dunedin-councillors-vaccine-posts-called-provocativeand-unhelpful/VYRJVGQBVLNZ7D35ATMF3JBVCQ/

Quote

Councillor Lee Vandervis last month highlighted a video from a senior former Pfizer employee highly critical of the pharmaceutical industry and governments.

The "unrepentantly provocative" councillor disclosed this month he wanted to buy the elements of an alternative remedy, including anti-parasitic drug Ivermectin.

As if posting this kind of stuff in public forums is anything but deliberate intent to mis-inform and stir up distrust. Real debate can only be had among people who actually have the first clue about the scientific and medical possibilities of different preventatives and treatments. The general public can't debate anything, they can only argue, and most of the time one side is either ignorant or acting in bad faith. That is unhealthy debate.

Disappointing to see imports of ivermectin are increasing here too.

Another false narrative

Quote

University students stuck in lockdown in Auckland say they are falling behind learning remotely while most of their peers are able to attend classes physically.

Sophie Dixon is in her third year of a law degree at the Victoria University of Wellington.

She travelled to Auckland for the break but got stuck when the lockdown came into force on August 18.

Lockdowns, as experienced here, will have no long term consequences on the educational potential of students. In countries where poor access to education has occurred for students for several months or even more than a year, that is likely to have long term consequences. I don't think sub-optimal access to education will have much long term consequence on anyone. I feel mostly for the poor in this respect, as children in poor communities without school for several months or more will be getting almost no education at all, and this will be exacerbating already bad structural inequalities. Us middle class lot who's kids have access to online education are not really suffering much, IMO. Though I stand to be corrected when some PhD Theses are written doing a retrospective analysis of the long term effects on education of extended school closures under emergency scenarios.

Edited by The Anti-Targ

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2 hours ago, The Marquis de Leech said:

To illustrate: Denmark has roughly the same population as New Zealand, an excellent vaccination rate, and three deaths a day. Would New Zealand tolerate a thousand Covid deaths a year, never mind the extra pressure on ICUs? I am sceptical (I really think the major comparison is the road-toll).

Bonus consideration is that this is September. For all we know, Denmark come December and January will be looking much, much uglier... and Fortress New Zealand much, much more attractive.

Who is dying in Denmark?  Are the 3 a day a random mix of the population?  What's the average age? BMI is a flawed measurement compared to body fat percentage, but what way does that data skew?  When setting policy for millions of people, you have to weigh whether 3 people a day near to death dying sooner is better or worse than the externalities of lockdowns and fear.

I still think a zero covid approach is really just a way for the people in charge to consolidate their own power, so if the above sounds off, I probably sound like a raging maniac.  

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1 hour ago, The Anti-Targ said:

I hate people who I hate it when people disseminate mis-information and uses such excuses as 

https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/covid-19-coronavirus-delta-outbreak-dunedin-councillors-vaccine-posts-called-provocativeand-unhelpful/VYRJVGQBVLNZ7D35ATMF3JBVCQ/

As if posting this kind of stuff in public forums is anything but deliberate intent to mis-inform and stir up distrust. Real debate can only be had among people who actually have the first clue about the scientific and medical possibilities of different preventatives and treatments. The general public can't debate anything, they can only argue, and most of the time one side is either ignorant or acting in bad faith. That is unhealthy debate.

Disappointing to see imports of ivermectin are increasing here too.

As a Dunedinite, I should probably apologise for Vandervis. He's one of those local body politicians who specialises in metaphorical bomb-throwing, just to stir up nonsense for attention.

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3 hours ago, Makk said:

We came into the covid lockdown with historical low levels of debt in an extremely robust position. Now it is trending towards the midterm. Yes there is a bit of wriggle room, but it cannot continue indefinitely. Countries that are producing real things (we do OK on food, not much else) are going to come out of this much better off.

The situation is much more analogous than you are letting on. These countries continued to print money for years to maintain a standard of living while their production in real terms was being destroyed (either by themselves or uncontrollable world events which they ignored). If we are locking down Auckland for multiple months a year our own production is going to take a real hit. Even now already at this early stage it is effecting the entire country through shortages of building supplies, exactly when we desperately need to be building more houses. This is real, it is not fictitious scaremongering.

A closed border doesn't interfere with our dairy production, which is the sun around which the entire New Zealand economy orbits. Based off 2020, once lockdown's over, we'll recover pretty well.

Inflation is rather moot, seeing as the Government isn't funding its Covid response by printing money - it's funding it by selling bonds, as per normal.

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46 minutes ago, mcbigski said:

Who is dying in Denmark?  Are the 3 a day a random mix of the population?  What's the average age? BMI is a flawed measurement compared to body fat percentage, but what way does that data skew?  When setting policy for millions of people, you have to weigh whether 3 people a day near to death dying sooner is better or worse than the externalities of lockdowns and fear.

I still think a zero covid approach is really just a way for the people in charge to consolidate their own power, so if the above sounds off, I probably sound like a raging maniac.  

Put it this way: as it currently stands, letting Covid in knocks six months to a year off someone's life-expectancy. Since New Zealand (once the current outbreak is gone) will be back to Zero Covid, the question is whether we're willing to accept that, just so people can travel around more easily. I suspect the answer's pretty negative.

(I'd actually suggest that from a New Zealand perspective, reading overseas people bashing our response is truly hilarious).

Edited by The Marquis de Leech

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8 hours ago, Makk said:

We came into the covid lockdown with historical low levels of debt in an extremely robust position. Now it is trending towards the midterm. Yes there is a bit of wriggle room, but it cannot continue indefinitely. Countries that are producing real things (we do OK on food, not much else) are going to come out of this much better off.

The situation is much more analogous than you are letting on. These countries continued to print money for years to maintain a standard of living while their production in real terms was being destroyed (either by themselves or uncontrollable world events which they ignored). If we are locking down Auckland for multiple months a year our own production is going to take a real hit. Even now already at this early stage it is effecting the entire country through shortages of building supplies, exactly when we desperately need to be building more houses. This is real, it is not fictitious scaremongering.

The shortage of building supplies is a global thing right now. Here in Austria even things like bricks are difficult to get. Ending a local lockdown in a part of a tiny country is not going to change that supply situation significantly. The shortages in the chip industry are also a global thing.

Brexit is far worse for the supply of goods than lockdowns it seems at this point though as the UK is the only European country with significant supply problems on the supermarket side of things.

Edited by Luzifer's right hand

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6 hours ago, mcbigski said:

Who is dying in Denmark?  Are the 3 a day a random mix of the population?  What's the average age? BMI is a flawed measurement compared to body fat percentage, but what way does that data skew?  When setting policy for millions of people, you have to weigh whether 3 people a day near to death dying sooner is better or worse than the externalities of lockdowns and fear.

I still think a zero covid approach is really just a way for the people in charge to consolidate their own power, so if the above sounds off, I probably sound like a raging maniac.  

Yup, nailed it.

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11 hours ago, Makk said:

We came into the covid lockdown with historical low levels of debt in an extremely robust position. Now it is trending towards the midterm. Yes there is a bit of wriggle room, but it cannot continue indefinitely. Countries that are producing real things (we do OK on food, not much else) are going to come out of this much better off.

The situation is much more analogous than you are letting on. These countries continued to print money for years to maintain a standard of living while their production in real terms was being destroyed (either by themselves or uncontrollable world events which they ignored). If we are locking down Auckland for multiple months a year our own production is going to take a real hit. Even now already at this early stage it is effecting the entire country through shortages of building supplies, exactly when we desperately need to be building more houses. This is real, it is not fictitious scaremongering.

We do OK on food? Food IS what we do. We do excellently on Food. Food is as real a thing as you can get. We also do excellently on forestry, though it would be nice if we exported fewer raw logs, and made stuff instead, but log prices are very high (ref the global building material shortage that has naught to do with the Auckland lockdown) and it's hard not to sell them when people are willing to pay so much for so little effort. Heck, even wool is starting to regain some of its popularity, being not a fossil fuel based fibre, and enjoying many qualities over synthetics that people are starting to rediscover. There is a reason that international organisations who think about these things say NZ is the best place to ride out an apocalypse. It's because we basically have all the essentials that are needed to live relatively comfortably while the rest of the world has a bit of a lie down.

New Zealand is never going to get super rich as a great big farm with a few cities, but there will always be a demand for what we have to sell.

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