Covid-104

Dan O'Heirity

Statistics and China’s Ongoing Belligerence and Arrogance

According to my preferred data source – which is updated in real time for then number of new daily cases and new deaths with the data being reset at GMT+0 – as of today we have seen 12,623,698 cases of the Chinese virus and 562,705 deaths. Looking at the daily figures for the number of new cases, there were 208,325 new daily cases 4 days ago, 213,681 new daily cases three days ago, 222,758 new daily cases two days ago and 236,918 new cases yesterday. This points us to the rather obvious fact that the current trend in new daily cases means that we will see well over 1,000,000 new cases in a one week period. The number of daily fatalities has consistently been above the 5,000 mark and so we’re looking at around 35,000 new fatalities in a one week period. If the trend in new daily cases and daily fatalities continues for seven weeks then we will see around 20,000,000 confirmed cases of the Chinese virus along with around 600,000 deaths.

Looking at the figures above, China has now been responsible for 12,623,698 cases of the Chinese virus and for 562,705 deaths from the virus. However, if you agree with the line of reasoning that I have followed many times in these posts then China is actually responsible for 567,205 murders because China deliberately unleashed the virus upon the world in an act of biological warfare. Since unleashing the virus, China has become increasingly arrogant and belligerent on the world stage because, in my opinion, China has consistently tested the resolve of the world to stand up to its intimidation and bullying and found the world wanting in this respect. China’s belligerence continues with the Chinese Government using the “Global Times” to warn countries around the world of severe consequences should these countries put in place processes to allow Hong Kong citizens to gain residency or citizenship in their countries.

Australia Continues to Deal with an Increase in the Number of Chinese Virus Cases

Australia, the country where I live, was on the verge of easing lock down restrictions on the grounds that the rate of the spread of the virus had been contained. There was then a complete debacle in the management of a quarantine hotel and the result has been that the virus has again got something of a hold in Australia. More specifically, the virus took hold in a public housing complex in the North of Melbourne as a result of security guards at the quarantine hotel contracting the virus and spreading it in the community. Since, then further clusters have been identified in Melbourne because ring-fencing Northern Melbourne did not work. In terms of figures, four days ago saw 173 new confirmed cases of the virus in Australia. Three days ago saw 132 new cases. There were 176 new cases two days ago and 300 new cases yesterday. All but a few of these cases have occurred in Melbourne. The same time period has seen one new death so we have seen a total number of 109 fatalities in Australia.

Very early on in these posts I had an awful lot to say about the fact that Australia’s testing rate for the virus was so low that Australia actually had no real idea of how many people were infected with the virus. I argued that there was a need to carry out far more testing if the virus was to be brought under control. Today I came across an article in “The Conversation” that confirms my thoughts on the need to carry out testing on a much larger scale. There are two parts to the argument. First, a testing strategy that focuses only on testing people who present with symptoms means that those people will have already infected other people in the community. Thus, the virus is spreading. Secondly, if you really wanted to eliminate the virus then you would need to test on a massive scale in order to identify and isolate cases until the virus “dies out”. Testing figures suggested for Australia in “The Conversation” range from 150,000 people per day to is 6.5 million people per day contingent on the strategy being used.

Returning to the story about the outbreak of the Chinese virus in Melbourne, there is a suggestion that the lockdown came too late and that it is now time to move infected family members out of the home and into quarantine. However, this story almost completely misses the point which is that infections in these communities will already be rampant and there will be hundreds if not thousands of people who are transmitting the virus without being aware that they have the virus. I say “almost” because the story does acknowledge that there are people with the virus who do not know that they are contagious. However, rather than suggesting that we should be testing on a much larger scale, the story argues that Victorians should be wearing face masks in public places to reduce the risk of contracting and spreading the virus. This is eminently sensible advice but it misses two points. First, there are people who just will not wear face masks. Secondly, the real need in Victoria is for comprehensive testing to isolate those who are infected.

I find the next piece of news baffling as I had assumed that the Australian border remained closed to international travellers but apparently this is not the case. In the week July 1 – July 7, 2020, 8,450 people arrived in Australia. Thinking about this fact, I should of course have realized that international travellers were returning to Australia because the current outbreak in Melbourne is the result of the mismanagement of returned travellers who were quarantined in a hotel in Melbourne. There are two questions that we can ask with respect to Australia’s borders being open. First, given that there will always be risk from accepting international travellers, is this the right time to be allowing citizens and residents back into the country? Secondly, given the farce of the Melbourne quarantine of returned travellers, can we be assured that lessons have been learned from that experience and that nothing like it will happen again?

Whether or not Australia should be accepting international flights at this time is really a judgement call. There is risk and the government has tried to mitigate this risk by reducing the number of citizens and residents who can return each week and by stopping flights into Victoria. I’m not quite sure how that tactic makes sense. First, as of 4th July 2020, Sydney, for example has put a cap of 450 international arrivals a day with a view to further reductions in later weeks. That’s still 450 people per day who may have the virus and so the next logical question concerns the need for quarantine measures to be absolutely robust. The failure in the hotel quarantine in Melbourne that has led to the current outbreak has resulted in Jane Halton, former Head of the Department of Health, being asked to undertake an inquiry into hotel quarantine arrangements around the country. However, inquiries take time and Australia needs to be assured right now that every quarantine will be properly managed.

The Pandemic is here to Stay Until Herd Immunity is Reached in Countries Around the World

I’ve been focussing on Australia but if you think about it there is a global picture here which has to do with bringing the pandemic under control. The virus could have been brought under control if it had been contained to the Hubei province but that ship has sailed because China hid the virus before sending its citizens around the world to ensure that there would be a pandemic. Secondly, countries could conduct a massive testing strategy until such a time as the virus was eradicated. This is not happening and is, in any case, unfeasible because, for example, there are people who simply refuse to be tested. The third way to bring the virus under control is to achieve herd immunity. Herd immunity is reached when a sufficient number of the population – 60% – 85% are immune such that there will not be another outbreak of the virus. However, reaching herd immunity when a pandemic is out of control and without a vaccine would see many more people than the herd immunity threshold becoming infected and would result in a massive death toll.

This leaves us with the rather obvious point that we really need a vaccine if we are to bring the Chinese virus under control. Whether a vaccine can be developed is an unknown but it should be noted that there is no vaccine for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) or for Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). In the absence of a vaccine, and without a massive testing regime, it would seem that the Chinese virus will simply continue to spread throughout countries around the world. It seems to me that this scenario actually represents the herd immunity scenario because the spread of the virus will continue until the vast majority of the population have contracted and developed an immunity to the virus. The majority of people will recover but given the current death rate, this would see around 7% of those contract the virus dying from the virus. An important point here is whether those who contract the virus are then immune from the virus. Although we cannot give a definitive answer, current thinking seems to be that a person would be immune, at least for a couple of years. My concluding point, if we were being realistic then we would accept that the virus will continue to spread until herd immunity is reached and this will require a vaccine.

First Published July 11th, 2020

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