Over the last, almost three years, we’ve learned that Covid-19 is capable of changing rapidly and blowing through our immunity, whether natural or vaccine induced. This means we can’t expect ‘herd immunity’ to kick in and finally cause the virus to die out. So how do we get rid of it? Is it even possible?
A new study detailed in this New Atlas article makes me cautiously optimistic. Apparently, researchers have discovered an ‘epitope’ that stays pretty much the same across all the mutations up to BA.1 and BA.2. It may also stay the same for BA.4 and BA.5, the two variants we’re battling at the moment, but the research is lagging a bit behind on them.
Essentially what this means is that there may be an area of vulnerability on the virus that doesn’t change every five minutes. If a suitable vaccine can be created to target that vulnerability then scientists may have found the ‘master key’ to all variants.
But… The thing with fast moving mutations is that blocking off this ‘master vulnerability’ could make a hitherto unproductive mutation become productive, by default. This hypothetical mutation could make it easier for the virus to infect frogs or cats or some other host. If that’s the case, it could simmer in a different environment and possibly cross-over again at a later date. Or…best case scenario, it could settle into an animal host and stay there.
Either way, I’ve got all my fingers and toes crossed that science does find a ‘master key’ against Covid because I really would like to see friends and family in the flesh again.
I’m writing this as someone who lives in the most locked down city on Earth – Melbourne. We suffered through the first wave of Covid-19 and lost 820 people to the virus, but that death toll could have been much, much worse; during the first wave in Italy, 35,142(1) Italians lost their lives.
Returning to the first wave of Covid-19 in Melbourne, we eliminated the virus and kept it from spreading to the rest of Victoria and the other states by putting ourselves into a VERY strict lockdown. That lockdown included a curfew and a ‘cordon sanitaire’ around Melbourne. It worked. In fact, the same restrictions continued to eliminate the virus from Victoria until NSW, with the tacit approval of the Federal government, decided that we all had to ‘live with Covid’. Thanks to our long border with NSW, we could no longer keep the virus out.
The other States and territories – Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania, Northern Territory and the ACT – continued to keep Delta out until Omicron came along. Western Australia is now the only state still trying to keep Omicron out. Across the ditch, our New Zealand cousins have not given up the fight against Covid-19 either. The battle may have changed from elimination to a fighting retreat, but it continues. The battle also continues in many of the countries of Asia, but we hear so very little about them.
That’s a lot of data and the forest tends to get lost in the trees so I created a subset(2) of the data to show the difference between the Asian approach to Covid-19 and that of most Western countries. I’ve included Australia and New Zealand as part of Asia, because that is what we are.
In the screenshot below, the data is sorted by total deaths:
Iceland did the best with just 46 deaths while the USA did the worst with 904,038 deaths, but Iceland has a very small population while the USA has a very large one. In the next screenshot, I sorted the data according to deaths per million in order to account for differences in population size:
Iceland appears on the top of the list, again, because something is screwy with the ‘per million’ figure. I suspect a human error resulted in the decimal point being left off, but I’m too lazy to look up the population of Iceland to be sure.
Setting Iceland aside, the data suddenly reveals two surprises:
China does the best with just 3 deaths per million. [Remember that China has a population of roughly 1.4 billionpeople]
Hungary does the worst with 4,285 deaths per million.
Hungary is the country of my birth. It’s a small country with a small population [roughly 9.6 million]. That population is now smaller by 41,229 people. I’m glad my parents are no longer alive to see what has happened to their country. That said, the USA and the UK have the dubious honour of having the second and third worst results after Hungary.
So how do you measure success in a pandemic? Is it money saved? Or lives?
In a recent video, Dr John expressed disbelief that China would continue to eliminate the virus ‘in the age of Omicron’. In the comments, all sorts of theories were raised, most denigrating China’s strategy as futile, draconian and only possible in such a tightly regulated nation. The unspoken assumption was that no sane person would want to live like that.
I’m not an apologist for China because I don’t think it needs one. Yes, the Chinese government probably is guilty of human rights violations, but people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. The murder of George Floyd in the US brought the plight of Black America into sharp focus. When police feel they can kill Black Americans without fear of consequences, that’s a human rights violation. When children can be murdered at school because there is no gun control, that’s a human rights violation.
Here in Australia, the media shone a spotlight on our asylum seekers recently, but only because a famous tennis star was locked up with them for a very short time. What we’ve done to asylum seekers in the name of ‘stopping the boats’ is also a human rights violation. Would they be treated the same way if they were white and came from a European country?
But our human rights violations aren’t restricted to asylum seekers. The ‘deaths in custody’ of hundreds of First Nations Australians doesn’t rate a mention unless there’s some political twist to the story. That’s an ongoing human rights violation, yet no one wants to haul Australia off before the Court of International Justice in The Hague. Is it because we belong to ‘us’ and everyone else is ‘them’?
I’m sure China’s strategy of elimination isn’t motivated by pure altruism, but I suspect the Chinese government has worked out that its economy depends on the health of the populace. Dead people can’t manufacture anything. Dead people can’t buy anything either. Maybe that’s a lesson all neo-liberal governments need to learn.
Vaccines are great but they’re not a silver bullet that will save us from the inconvenience of old fashioned contagion control. To save lives, we have to have both. To save our economies, we have to save lives first.
(1) Finding the number of total deaths in the first wave [for Italy] was surprisingly hard, or perhaps I didn’t search for the right terms. In the end, I had to calculate the number of death [for Italy] from a graph put out by the WHO:
If you go to that graph and hover your mouse over each column, you can see the total deaths for that period. I copied the raw numbers into the spreadsheet below so I could get a total just for the first wave in Italy:
(2) The data I used for the comparison between Asian and Western Covid-19 results is detailed below:
I almost missed this interview in which Dr John Campbell talks to Swedish whistleblower, Dr Jon Tallinger. I was shocked. Then I went to Dr Tallinger’s Youtube channel and watched him tell the world the truth about the so-called Swedish experiment. In brief, it boils down to this:
Sweden didn’t expect Covid-19 to hit and hit hard,
the Swedish government did not have a plan for dealing with Covid-19,
once the virus hit, the plan became to ‘let it rip’ with minimal interference,
All the way from the top to local councils, the directive was to not treat Covid patients over 80, or the over-60’s if they had co-morbidities,
People from this vulnerable population were not to be sent to hospital if they presented with Covid-19 or Covid-19 like symptoms,
Instead, care homes and GPs were to administer palliative care only,
This palliative care included morphine to make the patients comfortable, but also to make them appear as if they were not suffering when family came to visit,
Morphine is contraindicated for people with respiratory diseases because it depresses their breathing. In other words, it speeds up the moment of death.
The people in this vulnerable population were not even to receive oxygen to help them breathe. Top health officials lied about this directive saying that administering oxygen outside of a hospital setting was too ‘dangerous’.
This is a lie with just enough truth in it to make it plausible to the public. A small number of people with certain kinds of respiratory problems shouldn’t be given oxygen, but almost all Covid-19 sufferers should. Remember Boris Johnson of the UK? When he was hospitalised with Covid-19, the press made a big point about how he needed oxygen but wasn’t sick enough to need a ventilator.
There has been a cover up at all levels of government, and the reason could be that health care for these unproductive members of the Swedish population is just too…expensive.
These damning accusations don’t begin until minute 8:30 because Dr Tallinger clearly fears he won’t be believed and because…this is his own country doing what amounts to involuntary euthanasia:
“…that we let the virus, Covid-19, effectively eliminate those that aren’t contributing. And they [the Swedish government] are doing this with open eyes…as a strategy for Sweden.”
At the end of this post you’ll find a video about gentle exercises to improve posture. BUT, they also ‘open’ the lungs and may help.
I don’t normally repeat anecdotal evidence because I truly believe in the scientific method, but we’re all in uncharted territory here, and this first hand report by Chris Cuomo makes sense to me:
Forcing yourself to move around, doing gentle exercise, forcing yourself to breathe deep, these are all things my Dad did in his sixties, just days after a surgery on his nose. He did it again after a kidney operation to remove kidney stones. He did it despite best practice back then, and he recovered faster than those patients who stayed immobile.
Things have changed a lot since Dad drove the medical staff insane with his crazy notions. These days we’re encouraged to get up and move around as soon as possible because movement improves our breathing and blood flow, both of which are critical to recovery. Yet with Covid-19, we’re told to stay at home until we’re so sick, hospital, and possibly intensive care, are all that’s left.
But maybe curling up in a ball at home is not the right thing to do.
If the results from ICNARC [Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre] are correct, people on ventilators have only a 50/50 chance of surviving. Those are not good odds:
Maybe Chris Cuomo and my Dad are right – if you get sick, push past the pain and keep moving.
I hope none of us ever have to put this anecdotal evidence to the test, but if the worst happens, this advice may just make a difference.
Stay well. Stay safe. #StayHome
Updated: gentle exercises that happen to also open up the lungs:
There is nothing specifically new in Dr John’s update today, yet in some ways I found it even more compelling than previous videos because he’s talking about what this virus means for us. What it means for our lives. And why our behaviour can cause the death of people we may never see.
We have to move past the…inconvenience that Covid-19 may cause us to a concern about others.
Some will think this is Care Bear stuff, but the bottom line is that no society or culture can survive if we’re all just in it for ourselves.
The compassion and integrity we show now, to others, will determine what kind of society we have when this pandemic finally ends.
Like many Melbournians, I was immensely relieved to hear that the Grand Prix had been cancelled due to Covid-19, but I was puzzled, and angered, by the Federal government’s continuing mixed messages about the virus. On the one hand Scott Morrison says the authorities will put social distancing interventions in place, but not until Monday [March 16, 2020]. And they won’t apply to schools, universities and public transport.
Why give the virus a whole weekend to turn up at the ‘footy’ and in churches and concert halls and theatres etc etc etc.
If these interventions are meant to stop the rapid spread of the virus, why wait?
Why encourage people to ‘go to the footy?’ And why not close schools, universities and public transport?
Is the delay all about the money?
Despite my cynical anger, there was something about all of this that simply did not add up, especially as the Premiers of all states and territories appear to be in agreement with #ScottyFromMarketing. As my state, Victoria, has a Labor government, I would have expected the Premier, Daniel Andrews, to be more caring of people’s lives than old Scomo.
It was at this point that I remembered an episode of The Drum I had watched just a few days ago [the 12th of March, 2020]. On this episode, the panel of The Drum included a guest, Professor James McCaw, a mathematical biologist and Infectious Diseases Epidemiologist from Melbourne University. Apparently, Prof. McCaw and his colleagues have been modelling the spread of the Covid-19 virus and have been advising the Federal government.
Keep that point in mind, ‘advising the Federal government’.
During the course of the discussion, the panel talked about interventions such as forced social distancing – e.g. cancelling the Grand Prix – as a way to avoid getting the virus and jet propelling it through the community.
To explain the reasoning behind social distancing, they displayed this graph:
Those of you who have been following the Covid-19 virus online will be familiar with graphs that look very similar. The sharp peak is what happens if the virus is allowed to spread without interventions. The flattened, ‘fat’ curve is what happens when you slow the spread of the virus via interventions. The important thing to note from this graph is that a slow spread allows hospitals to cope with the influx of desperately ill people infected with Covid-19.
So far so good. But if interventions slow the virus, and slowing the virus is good, why would mathematical biologists and infectious disease epidemiologists have to model anything? Isn’t it obvious?
Going back to Professor McCaw, I think I’ve found the answer, or at least understood it. This is what the Professor had to say about the virus and interventions:
“The really important thing to be aware of, though, is by avoiding that transmission [i.e. of the virus] all of the people who may otherwise have gotten ill, they are all still susceptible. So as society returns to normal…the population is still equally susceptible, and this is where the mathematicians have a role to play.”
ABC, The Drum, March 12, 2020, at minute 19:55
You can find that episode of The Drum on iView If the link doesn’t take you to the right episode, look for the episode aired on March the 12th, 2020.
So, what exactly does all that mean?
I am no expert so my reading of Professor McCaw’s comment may be completely wrong, but this is how I finally understood it:
the whole world is going to get this virus sooner or later, so…
if Australia stops the virus from spreading, we’ll simply postpone the deaths until a later,
but if a lot of the most healthy people get the virus, they are likely to get only a mild version that does not need hospitalisation.
this will leave the hospitals free to deal with those who do get very sick,
so it makes logical sense to allow this younger, healthy group to get sick, recover and become immune before interventions are put in place,
then, once this first pass of the virus is over, and a vaccine is available, the uninfected members of the population can be protected as well.
From a theoretical perspective, this ‘strategy’, if that’s what it is, would stagger the victims of the virus, making the epidemic manageable. I guess it would also have less of an impact on the economy.
But even in theory, this strategy can only work if the authorities actually know how many cases of Covid-19 there are in the community so they know when to apply the breaks via more draconian interventions. It also assumes that everything else needed to apply the breaks is already in place, ready to go.
Given the lack of widespread testing, I don’t think the authorities do know. I think they are guessing on the basis of how quickly the virus has spread in other countries and extrapolating that to Australia.
More worrying still is the lack of clear, public messaging. People are getting their information from social media, and they’re scared and confused. Getting them to go along with drastic social interventions ‘when the time is right’ can only succeed if everyone understands and agrees with those interventions.
Australia is not a ‘command and control’ country. How are the authorities going to enforce these interventions? Using the police? The armed forces?
People working in the GIG economy, the underemployed and those who think they are immortal will continue doing what they think they need to do for themselves.
This is human nature. Expecting people to behave like robots may work on paper; it will not work in the real world. In the real world, individuals who ignore the interventions could easily infect far more people than the ‘strategy’ anticipates. This will skew the timing and effectiveness of the interventions so when they finally do come, they may not work at all. Or they may not work well enough, allowing the curve of the graph to continue shooting up like a rocket.
But practical considerations aside, nowhere in this strategy is there a recognition of all those who will become collateral damage, the ones who will catch the virus, get sick and die.
According to the statistics, children under the age of 10 don’t die of this virus, but those over the age of 10 do start to die. It’s a small percentage, but it exists:
So who are these children and teens likely to be?
Right from the start, we’ve been told that people with pre-existing conditions will be most vulnerable to the virus. Well guess what, children and teens have pre-existing conditions too. They have asthma, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, cystic fibrosis, Crohns, ulcerative colitis, leukemia, cancers of all sorts… the list goes on and on and on.
What part of the strategy protects these vulnerable young people when they go to school or university or travel by public transport?
And then there are the older age groups. As we age, almost all of us develop some type of chronic disease. I’m pretty fit and healthy, but I’ve had cancer. If the virus gets out of control and the hospitals can’t cope, will I be triaged to die because I am less likely to survive than someone younger?
That kind of soul destroying triage is already happening in Italy.
And what of remote Indigenous communities? They are already behind the eight ball when it comes to health. How are they going to survive when they are often hundreds of miles from the nearest doctor let alone hospital?
We are people, not numbers, yet the silence about us has been deafening. Self isolation is fine, but where are the systems that will make it effective?
I went to Coles [supermarket] this morning. I arrived at 7am, thinking I’d be almost alone in the store. Thank god I was wearing my mask because there was a conga line waiting outside the entrance. What were they all waiting for? Toilet paper.
Coles is now doling the toilet paper out, one packet at a time, but to get a packet you have to stand in a queue next to people who may already be infected but not showing any symptoms.
Toilet paper aside, whole families packed the aisles of the store, stocking up, and every single cash register was open and working at a feverish pace. Instead of being in and out in ten minutes, it took me an hour and a half to get my shopping and leave. The whole time I stood there, flanked by overflowing shopping trolleys, I was acutely aware of the people around me. I didn’t hear any sneezing, but someone did cough behind me. Just a little cough… Probably just clearing their throat… 😦
Professor McCaw’s models may work on paper, but as they are currently being implemented, they are ensuring that the most vulnerable in our society pay the price if things go horribly wrong.
As I’ve probably mentioned before, there are all sorts of autoimmune diseases in my extended family, so this novel corona virus is of huge concern. People I love are amongst those who are most likely to die from this virus, yet the message in the media seems to be ‘it’s okay, you probably don’t have anything to worry about’.
‘You’ personally? Maybe not, but what about those you may infect?
What about the frail elderly in nursing homes?
What about those over 65 in the community?
What about young people with diabetes? asthma? multiple sclerosis? lung conditions? heart conditions?
These people are not expendable. Grrrr….
Anyway, in order to protect people in my family, and ensure that I don’t bring Covid-19 home to them, I went searching for information. The best information I’ve found so far has come from an English gentleman by the name of Dr John Campbell. This is his Youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/Campbellteaching
John Campbell is not a medical doctor, but he has been a medical practitioner all his life. He also has a couple of medically related PhDs. That’s where the ‘Dr’ title comes from.
I say all this so that you understand that he is a teacher in the field and knows how to do research in the field. He is not at the front line of Covid-19 research, but he is very good at explaining what is known…to us.
John Campbell’s videos also include a host of practical info that I certainly didn’t know about – such as how to wash your hands properly. I know, sounds utterly basic doesn’t it? All I can say is, watch the video and learn how to protect yourself a little better.
Some of the greatest scientific discoveries have been accidental. To that list, Israeli scientists have added one more. They’ve discovered for the first time an instance of viruses leaving messages for other viruses. What makes the discovery remarkable is that scientists expect such communication systems to exist among other kinds of viruses. If true, we’ll…
This is quite astounding. Not quite the equivalent of dogs leaving scent markers so other dogs will know they’ve been there, but a form of communication nonetheless. From a virus. And there’s a good chance other viruses use a similar method to communicate as well. More amazing ‘accidents’. 😀
Still on the theme of computer security, here’s some very well explained info. on computer viruses etc., and how they work. The info. on the ‘zombie’ network should give everyone pause for thought. I won’t say ‘enjoy’, but I hope you learn something that will make you safer in the future. Meeks.
As a computer technician, my clients frequently ask me “Why the computer viruses are created?”, especially after I have been called out to remove a virus from their computer. This is what I tell th…
I’m not a programmer so I’m just guessing that the two emails below are scams, but whatever they are, any change of pattern deserves caution.
So what are these changes of pattern?
I’ve noticed two, and they both involve the email address of the sender. Before I show you what I mean, it’s worth having a quick look at the standard parts or components of an email address. I’ll use my gmail address [this is my public email only] to illustrate:
The components are as follows:
the username – i.e. meekasmind
the @ symbol
the mail server – i.e. gmail
the top level doman or extension – i.e. .com
The @ symbol never varies but the username could be just about anything, same with the mail server, however the top level doman is usually restricted to a few familiar extensions. These include:
I’m sure there are more, but those are the main ones, off the top of my head. Outside of the US, these extensions often include the country code – e.g. .com.au for Australia.
Now have a look at the screenshots of emails I received just this week:
This is the first one I received. Note the .stream extension. Now it is possible that new extensions were approved while I wasn’t looking, but when I searched for the ‘concert-tickets‘ mail server from which the email supposedly came, I found nothing. Zip, zero, nada.
The next day I received three more emails with the hypenated mail server name and the .stream extension. Hmm..a pattern emerging here.
Then today a variation on the theme:
Instead of a .stream extension on the email address, we now have a .download. Assuming the .download and .stream extensions are legitimate, just exactly how many of these extensions are there?
Note something else as well. Under ‘Improve Your Vision’ [which is a link to another web location] there is vertical line. That line is not a truncated picture holder [given that Firefox blocked the images embedded in the body of the email*]. Nor is it an error. That line is another link.
Why is that line potentially significant?
Because even people who know to be wary of links in emails might click it just to find out what it is.
For me, another suspicious thing is the lack of ‘other’ information in any of these emails. Now it’s possible that the blocked images contain more information – i.e. text – but as a form of marketing, this doesn’t seem to be very smart. Which leads me to suspect that it’s not really marketing at all.
If anyone knows anything about these ‘new’ extensions – i.e. whether they are legitimate or not – please reply in comments. Until we know for sure, however, please treat these kinds of emails as potentially dangerous.
*The reason Firefox blocks at least some images in emails is that certain images ‘can’ contain malicious code. I’m not sure how that works, and I’m not sure how often it happens, but I know it’s a possibility.