Covid-19 Diary : Sunday 15 August, 2021

It has been a relatively quiet time, Covid-wise, since the last diary entry on Thursday.  So not a lot to share today.

And unusually, let’s start with some good news.  New research shows that one of the Tetanus type vaccines and the Measles-Mumps-Rubella vaccine both have some beneficial effects with the Covid virus, too.

So if you’re possibly due for a Tetanus booster anyway, perhaps this is another reason to go and get one.

Not quote so good news – yet again, the EU’s attempts to keep its member nations all marching in lock-step with each other and official EU diktats has foundered on the rock of Covid concerns.

Last Monday, the EU as a whole decided to ignore the US being way over the trigger-point at which EU policy required it to be moved to the high-risk category with more restrictions on travel from the US to the EU.  But on Friday, Germany decided, perhaps after noting its own stubbornly growing case numbers, to unilaterally move the US to its own high-risk category.

The result is that is has become almost impossible for non-vaccinated people to travel from the US to Germany.  This took effect today – details here.

Current Numbers

The minor country list sees the Seychelles getting very close to toppling Andorra from lead position, and Gibraltar swapped places with Bahrain.  At the bottom of the list, Luxembourg has dropped off and been replaced by Aruba.

An unusually large number of changes in the major country list, with the most notable for most readers being the US rising now to second place.  The US seems likely to hold that position for at least the next short while.  France also rose two places.

There were no changes on the death rate list.

The list of countries with the most new Covid cases over the last week shows the usual large changes, with Malaysia appearing from nowhere and heading straight to fourth place, and the US now registering near the bottom of the list.

Although the numbers of cases seemed to be generally up in the list, the world as a whole reported a 2% drop.  Europe had a tiny increase of 0.2%, with the most affected countries being Switzerland with an 81% rise, Austria up 58%, Germany up 56% and Norway at 27%.  Spain had the largest drop – 39%, followed by Netherlands (11%) and Belgium (8%).

Canada had a 73% rise in cases, and Mexico a more modest 10%.

Coming back to the global rise of 2%, that, and the modest changes in numbers in previous weeks too, is surprising.  Where are the Delta variant impacts?  Why have some nations been impacted by the Delta variant (such as the UK and US) but others not nearly so much?

Certainly, there is more “smoothing” of numbers as Delta flows through the world, country by country, but even so, while we have seen our case numbers rise 11-fold in less than two months, and the UK saw their case numbers rise 20-fold in just over two months, the world as a whole has seen case numbers gently not-quite-double in two months.

Another question – talking about the Delta variant, look at the table above.  Why does France have such an utterly and completely different set of virus variants compared to its neighbors – Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Italy and Spain (and other nearby European countries)?

The European borders are again very open, so why is France so incredibly different to its neighbors?  I’m not sure if it is good or bad that the Gamma variant has become predominant in France, but I am very sure it is significant.  The last time I saved this chart was on 23 July – here it is again.

Back then, the Gamma variant was present in reasonably similar numbers in Italy, Germany, Switzerland, and France.  But in three week, it has largely disappeared in other countries while soaring in France?

The answers to puzzles like this may give us clues to the strengths and weaknesses of the virus and its variants, and for sure, I’d like to know all about its weaknesses in particular.

Top Case Rates Minor (population under 10 million) Countries (cases per million)

Rank One Week Ago Today
1 Andorra (191,677) Andorra (192,807)
2 Seychelles (187,663) Seychelles (190,803)
3 Montenegro Montenegro
4 Bahrain Gibraltar (154,751)
5 Gibraltar (152,227) Bahrain
6 San Marino San Marino
7 Maldives Maldives
8 St Barth St Barth
9 Slovenia Slovenia
10 Luxembourg (116,549) Aruba (124,448)

 

Top Case Rates Major (population over 10 million) Countries (cases per million)

Rank One Week Ago Today
1 Czech Republic (156,083) Czech Republic (156,200)
2 Argentina (109,937) USA (112,453)
3 Netherlands (109,789) Argentina (111,358)
4 USA (109,693) Netherlands
5 Sweden  (108,622) Sweden
6 Spain Spain
7 Belgium France
8 Portugal Belgium
9 France Portugal
10 Brazil Brazil
11 Colombia Colombia
12 UK (88,891) UK (91,783)

 

Top Death Rate Major Countries (deaths per million)

Rank One Week Ago Today
1 Peru  (5,881) Peru  (5,893)
2 Czech Republic (2,829) Czech Republic (2,830)
3 Brazil Brazil
4 Colombia Colombia
5 Argentina Argentina
6 Belgium Belgium
7 Italy Italy
8 Poland (1,992) Poland (1,992)
9 UK (1,909) UK (1,918)
10 USA (1,900) USA (1,914)

 

Top Rates in New Cases Reported in the Last Week (new cases per million) for Countries over one million population

Rank One Week Ago Today
1 Botswana  6,608 Georgia  8,457
2 Georgia  6,462 Botswana  5,898
3 Cuba Cuba
4 Eswatini Malaysia
5 Cyprus Eswatini
6 Iran Israel
7 Kazakhstan Iran
8 UK 2,772 UK 2,909
9 Israel  2,646 Kazakhstan
10 Mongolia Mongolia
11 France USA  2631 (est)
12 Spain  2,219 France  2,535

I Am Not a Doctor, But….

Here’s a terribly worrying article that suggests children born during the pandemic have much lower IQs.  This is apparently not due to the virus, but due to the changed nature of interactions they have with the people around them.

I’ve two questions, though – is this lower IQ a permanent thing; and how exactly can one measure the IQ of an infant who can’t talk (or even walk)?  Details here.

Another somewhat worrying article is this one, joining the rush of articles all eager to worry us about the new Lambda variant of the virus.  The article even dubs it the “Deadly Lambda Variant”, but the truth is all versions of the virus are deadly, and the article makes no suggestions this version is any deadlier than any other.  Possibly more infectious than some, possibly less constrained by vaccines, but no clear sign of being deadlier.

Here’s a great article showing how China controls, or at least massively influences, even the most seemingly “purely scientific” of journals these days.  It seems that if one is “just following the science” that path will lead you wherever China wishes to take you.

The most notable example of this was of course the total and almost unanimous rejection of any notion the virus was man-made and leaked out of a Wuhan virus lab for over a year.  Eventually the truth finally did escape, and here’s a great article about how the leader of the WHO Covid investigation team that went to China is even now admitting that perhaps the “patient zero” case was a Wuhan lab employee.  (The article is in Danish, but you can use Google Translate on it.)

The Times in London had a long feature this weekend on China’s deceit and takeover of WHO.  Unfortunately it is behind a paywall so not available to most of us.

Vaccine News

The pressure on the unvaccinated to become vaccinated is becoming almost unseemly.  Astonishingly, as this article reports, the most vaccine-hesitant group of all are not rednecked residents of “Fly over territory” as some people like to think, but PhD graduates.

At least so far, the Supreme Court is refusing to block a “You must be vaccinated to attend college” mandate, so maybe future PhD graduates might have a different perspective on things.

Timings And Numbers

This is a new chart, offered to you for the first time.  One of the most perplexing aspects of the virus activity is trying to understand why it suddenly becomes very active with rapidly growing cases, then just as rapidly, plunges again.

There have been an abundance of people volunteering explanations for this, but none of the explanations have been at all convincing, but rather are examples of people seizing unrelated facts and making them fit the observed situation.  The lack of validity is invariably revealed when the virus numbers either then reverse direction again, or repeat the same changes in the future, but without the same offered other facts applying (or the other facts also being present at other times but with no impact on the virus).  That is not to say the same factor has to apply every time, but whatever these factors are, they are “big” and strong influencers on the virus’s occasional rises and falls.

The chart above includes the explanation of what it is reporting on – basically, the various social distancing measures, lockdowns, mask wearing, and so on.  But it all seems rather random, – for example, within the last month, a sudden rise then a sudden fall in stringency here in the US.  What was that?  Most of all, it is hard to match to the observed reality of the rise and fall in case numbers.

I’m only showing the report for the US and UK, because the lines on the chart quickly become muddled if more countries are included.  You can create your own report if you wish here.

Closings and Openings

The interesting part of this item about 27 people on board a cruise ship testing positive for Covid is that apparently now cruise ships don’t lock the entire vessel down if people test positive on board.  That certainly makes it less disruptive to everyone on board, although perhaps somewhat less safe, too.

Canada is now requiring people flying into or within the country to be vaccinated.  This does not yet apply to people driving across the border, but it is far from unthinkable that Canada will realize they omitted to include that and respond accordingly.

It is of course a really strange omission.  I guess as many or more people drive across their border as fly in and out.

On the other hand, Mexico reminds us it is welcoming all visitors without the need for vaccination or even testing.  A curious divergence of approach between our northern and southern neighbors.

We wonder how well this will end for Mexico.

Shortages

There have been some unexpected and strange shortages during the course of this pandemic, but I think this is now the strangest of them all – a shortage of dogs in the US.

Please stay happy and healthy; all going well, I’ll be back again on Thursday.

 

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