Non-US Covid news and analysis
October 5, 2020 5:24 AM   Subscribe

 
Meanwhile, Sweden says “What, me worry?”

A few weeks ago, there were articles quoting Danish epidemiologists asking whether Sweden might just have beaten Covid-19 through common-sense measures and/or natural partial herd immunity. Then the figures started going up again.
posted by acb at 5:40 AM on October 5 [3 favorites]


Meanwhile, in the UK, Public Health England had a data handling error due to a file truncation that led to 16k people not having their contacts traced last week. Luckily the people who tested positive were at least informed but their contacts weren't passed on for tracing until Saturday because of this cock-up. Rumours swirling about each data point being stored as a column in an Excel file (a very odd choice) and being silently truncated.
posted by atrazine at 5:40 AM on October 5 [12 favorites]


Here in the UK we just saw our positive test numbers jump from 6k last week, to 12k on Saturday, to 22k yesterday. Why?

Because the test data was being input into an Excel document and somebody forgot to check that the maximum amount of columns had been exceeded:

"It is understood the Excel spreadsheet reached its maximum file size, which stopped new names being added in an automated process. The files have now been split into smaller multiple files to prevent the issue happening again."

World beating!
posted by fight or flight at 5:43 AM on October 5 [30 favorites]


Well, experts would advise against using Excel for life-critical tasks (and, indeed, the Microsoft Office licence agreement does not licence its use for such tasks), though experts also said that Britain should remain in the EU, so experts can go jump.
posted by acb at 5:44 AM on October 5 [29 favorites]


Whoops, pipped by atrazine.

This is significant because it means that the "real" numbers (though they've never been particularly accurate) had us at 10k positive cases per day since the 30th. Though the actual story hasn't changed much, i.e. we're up a certain creek without a paddle and rapidly losing sight of the shore.
posted by fight or flight at 5:45 AM on October 5


in an Excel file (a very odd choice)

It's the absolutely standard I/O format any time non-developer white collar types are confronted with a need to share data, even if both ends are ultimately and grudgingly implemented by developers.

(unless you were talking specifically about columns. I have a vague recollection from my time in the IT mines that some Excel libraries put columns and rows in the counter-intuitive argument order, so it could easily have been an accident...)
posted by grahamparks at 5:52 AM on October 5 [2 favorites]


Because the test data was being input into an Excel document and somebody forgot to check that the maximum amount of columns had been exceeded

Excel's maximum number of columns is apparently around 16,000 and maximum rows around a million, so if they'd entered each case as a separate row instead of column there wouldn't have been an issue.

"The files have now been split into smaller multiple files to prevent the issue happening again."

Is it really easier to keep track of smaller multiple files than to transpose the contents of the file so that separate cases are recorded in rows?
posted by rory at 5:59 AM on October 5 [4 favorites]




Oh, it really is easier! I've divided the data across multiple sheets within the workbook (I'll write down how I divided them later) with another sheet set aside to keep track using a bunch of macros I wrote especially and it's all password protected with separate passwords for each sheet (security is important!). Yes, it takes a few minutes to load and is a bit slow but you can just keep it open all the time.
Did you see how the formatting follows department guidelines, including the in-house font? Took longer to do that than it took to format the data!
posted by thatwhichfalls at 6:08 AM on October 5 [16 favorites]


Reading the paper this morning Germany is going back to restricting internal movement. That is, if you want to travel from Mitte, Kreuzberg or Neukoelln in Berlin (specific neighborhoods) to other parts of Germany, you have to go into quarantine. Next week the fall break starts for schools, which means two weeks off and most family's travel somewhere. Except, obviously, not this year.

They have a green-yello-red indicator system set up for Berlin (red being, obviously, "bad") and it's back to red.

Here comes the second wave.
posted by From Bklyn at 6:12 AM on October 5 [5 favorites]


Reading the paper this morning Germany is going back to restricting internal movement. That is, if you want to travel from Mitte, Kreuzberg or Neukoelln in Berlin (specific neighborhoods) to other parts of Germany, you have to go into quarantine.

The last I heard was that this depended on the state that you wanted to go to, with some states having no restrictions, others having the possibility of doing something, and others will it already in place. I'm in Frankfurt rather than Berlin, so the Herbstferien have already started, but we are teetering just below the 50 new cases per week per 100k at the moment, though Hessen is lower.

It is however possible that we end up in the slightly weird position that because of the way that the regions are reported it would be possible to travel abroad without a quarantine (as they look at the state as a whole), whereas travelling to the next state would mean a quarantine (as they are looking at data on the level of a Kreis/Berlin neighbourhood.)

that led to 16k people not having their contacts traced last week

The worrying part for me is that the missing 16k weren't immediately obvious - I think the total number of cases in Germany over the week was just over 15k
posted by scorbet at 6:38 AM on October 5 [4 favorites]


I could understand using an Excel file for data interchange while you're getting the system up and running. Everyone knows how to use it (badly) and it actually works very well as a prototyping tool for non-coders. That it was still in use at this point is not great.

The worrying part for me is that the missing 16k weren't immediately obvious - I think the total number of cases in Germany over the week was just over 15k

Good news: Unlikely this has done much harm.

Bad news: Because there were so many cases anyway.
posted by atrazine at 6:49 AM on October 5 [3 favorites]


>and is a bit slow but you can just keep it open all the time.

My left eye is twitching... (But... this sort of thing keeps me employed doing conversions and training users on better ways of doing things- and makes me look like a wizard...)

It's a great "front-end" for reporting, slicing/dicing and doing "what-if" and pivot analysis - however - the real trick is... NEVER store your data within Excel, unless it is connected and refreshable...
posted by rozcakj at 6:49 AM on October 5 [2 favorites]


NEVER store your data within Excel, unless it is connected and refreshable

And ideally not even then.
posted by Cardinal Fang at 6:56 AM on October 5 [6 favorites]


A) Excel is not a database, part one million.

B) increasing covid numbers: the universal opening-up plan seems to be "quit eating healthy and exercising everytime you hit your target weight."
posted by j_curiouser at 7:01 AM on October 5 [30 favorites]


In Poland, our daily cases are way higher now than they were when we got our first scare. People all came back from mixing with others in vacation/virus hot spots and then sent their kids back to school to spread it to families that didn't go to those places. Yay.
posted by pracowity at 7:02 AM on October 5 [10 favorites]


In Portugal the numbers have been rising more or less steadily for a month now, simultaneous with schools opening and less strict rules for restaurants, though masks are still required in any closed public space. Also, while numbers are rising they are still not out of control (around 700-800 new positives per day), there are fewer hospital internments and it even seems as if the mortality rate has lessened (just over 2,000 people have died of Covid-19 so far here).
posted by chavenet at 7:06 AM on October 5 [2 favorites]


The WHO has a European Dashboard with countries broken down into regions. It's not completely up to date, as it is dependent on the info reported by each country, but it's useful for comparisons.
posted by scorbet at 7:08 AM on October 5 [5 favorites]


Here in Ontario our extremely competent provincial government has signalled the depth of their commitment to keeping the public safe by limiting capacity in bars and restaurants to a maximum of 100, and 50 for gyms.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:18 AM on October 5 [10 favorites]


Here in Quebec they refuse to make masks mandatory in classrooms (often poorly ventilated at best), but are considering making them mandatory in the schoolyard for grade 4 and up.
posted by jeather at 7:31 AM on October 5 [4 favorites]


Australia is just now pulling out of its second wave. Most of the country has no new transmissions - only one state still has untracked outbreaks. Of course, that success has come at an enormous cost - many Australians are stranded overseas because flights have stopped running or there's not enough spaces in quarantine to accept them, and international students within the country have been left to rot, which is probably going to mean the end of Australia's higher education industry.
posted by Merus at 7:39 AM on October 5 [4 favorites]


"The files have now been split into smaller multiple files to prevent the issue happening again."


"Hey guys, this bucket totally over-flowed because water keeps coming in. But don't worry, I have the solution: Now we have TWO buckets."

What happens when they fill up and the same problem happens again?

"More buckets, I guess?"


As a data guy, this is absolutely INSANE.
posted by Paladin1138 at 7:40 AM on October 5 [21 favorites]


The Public Health Agency of Sweden is saying that we can expect another year of covid-19 related restrictions in the country. Having high-ranking government officials say this is refreshing and needed. No one should go around thinking Covid-19 is over in a few months or if/when we get a vaccine.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 7:46 AM on October 5 [4 favorites]


""More buckets, I guess?""

So Excel has no limit on the number of sheets besides available memory (maximum 2GB on 32bit system but essentially unlimited by software on 64 bit systems). If they just step it up and put one record per worksheet they'll be good until the dataset exceeds the memory available on their machine.
posted by Mitheral at 8:04 AM on October 5 [5 favorites]


Feh. That article seems to be fairly Milano-centric and the passing anti-southern Italy sentiment sticks in my craw. In Lazio, restaurants are only required to measure and record staff temperatures at evey shift, and customers fill out a form with contact information, which must be kept for 30 days. As of the end of last week, Lazio is also back to obligatory masks everywhere at all times, and there's a presidential decree supposedly coming down the pike, forcing bars and restaurants to be closed by h22-h23. Chewable swab tests in schools are also about to be rolled out.

My eldest's 3rd grade class has had two close calls with her classmates' family members coming into contact with someone who was diagnosed with COVID a few days later.

And I write this in quarantine, awaiting my 5 yo's COVID swab results (3-4 days) prescribed by our pediatrician after my husband called him when she developed a runny nose and a fever. Fever's gone already; it's going to be a long damn winter at this rate. Second wave is coming, though.

My 3rd grader has to wear a mask at all times at school except when eating lunch. My 5yo's pre-school does not have the same requirements and would have her take off her mask as soon as she crossed into the classroom. Wonder if they're still gonna do that when she gets the all clear to go back.
posted by romakimmy at 8:05 AM on October 5 [7 favorites]


The Guardian has more details on the Excel error in the UK
But while CSV files can be any size, Microsoft Excel files can only be 1,048,576 rows long. When a CSV file longer than that is opened, the bottom rows get cut off and are no longer displayed. That means that, once the lab had performed more than a million tests, it was only a matter of time before its reports failed to be read by PHE.
Most every thing about this is reasonable standard practice. Shame it may have gotten people killed.

Someone was storing test results as rows in a CSV file, a perfectly reasonable way to store textual and numeric data. Yes, it's not awesome, but it's easy and common and safe if you're reasonably careful. Someone loaded that CSV file in Excel to analyze it. This is also a standard and reasonable thing to do; Excel is an excellent data exploration and analysis tool.

The problem is Excel's limit on 1M rows. It is not a suitable tool for working with large CSV files. Excel does have an error message for this problem, which presumably the data analyst ignored. Or the error was thrown out by some automation. It also has workarounds for this limit; linking to the CSV file as an external data source is one solution.

To me the real problem is the analysts weren't sanity checking their results. They should have noticed something was off sooner. But that's also standard practice with Excel, sadly, the idea of testing or verifying a spreadsheet is doing what someone expected is entirely foreign to most analysts.

No one did anything egregiously stupid. Just a bunch of common practices with easy to make, well known errors.
posted by Nelson at 8:05 AM on October 5 [9 favorites]


There's reason to be a little less worried about the European surge in new cases detected. Quoth the Economist in a fantastic article from 10 days ago:
diagnosed cases in Europe have been climbing steeply into what is being seen as a second wave, the number of deaths has not followed: indeed it has, as yet, barely moved. The main reason, though, is simpler. During the first wave little testing was being done, and so many infections were being missed. Now lots of testing is being done, and vastly more infections are being picked up. Correct for this distortion and you see that the first wave was far larger than what is being seen today, which makes today’s lower death rate much less surprising (see data panel).
That being said, the death rate in Europe is going up recently.
posted by Nelson at 8:10 AM on October 5 [11 favorites]


After they put a lid on it in europe everyone went fucking travelling the continent....'protected' with ridiculous infection theater both at origin and destination. Of course we're in a 2nd wave.
posted by lalochezia at 8:12 AM on October 5 [7 favorites]


Apparently PHE was using an older version of Excel which has the old 65k limit.

I love Excel and think as a tool it's often unfairly maligned by people who want everything to be produced using their pet workflow but I'm genuinely surprised that this far into the process, no-one had setup a workflow to load these into a database. It's not a difficult task and they certainly will have had some DBAs between PHE and test&trace who could have done it.
posted by atrazine at 8:13 AM on October 5 [5 favorites]


I've mentioned over in another thread that the second wave here in Denmark is much worse than the first, it's spread more out all over the whole country (I spent the lockdown in a region with nearly zero incidences, now they are heavily hit), and younger people are falling ill. Just less than half of all Danes have been tested, and the last two weeks of September all Danish kids in our equivalent of high school were tested in an experiment to get a more accurate impression of the distribution of the disease, regardless of asymptomatic cases. I haven't yet seen any report on the data from that experiment.
The nursing homes are locked down completely, I can't see my mum.
Schools open and close on a case-by-case basis, and bars and restaurants have to close at 10 PM. You have to wear masks on public transportation and you can't use cash there. You have to wear a mask everywhere food or drink is served, until you sit down, but not in the shops. The commentators expect mask-wearing everywhere will happen soon if the spread doesn't stop.
There are lots of places we can't travel to unless we have a good cause.
I work at a university and serve on the boards of some different institutions. At the university, I don't feel it's working well, for many reasons, but one is that a lot of the external funding and the fees from international students have disappeared which means we have to do more (to manage the disease) with less money. At the other institutions we have cancelled all events and most physical meetings. It is stressful and sad, but we deal with a lot of elderly people and can't take risks. In one of those boards, I am in frequent contact (together with the rest of the board) with the authorities and we have a fair picture of how things are going. I am pretty proud of our government and its institutions, I have to say. But like romakimmy says, it's going to be a long winter.
Luckily, far less people are dying during this wave (as compared with the normal death rate). I'm guessing it's a combination of the hospitals being better at dealing with the virus and its side effects, and that the infected and ill people are a lot younger than during the first wave.
posted by mumimor at 8:27 AM on October 5 [7 favorites]


Here in Ontario our extremely competent provincial government has signalled the depth of their commitment to keeping the public safe by limiting capacity in bars and restaurants to a maximum of 100, and 50 for gyms.

And! The province reopened casinos last Monday. What could possibly go wrong with indoor environments that are highly popular with seniors?

The thing that's forehead-slappingly painful is that we now know, with fair a degree of certainty, what needs to be done, but the province is sitting on its hands, moving in the wrong direction, or acting once the horse that people were waving their arms about is already out of the barn.

As Toronto, where I live, goes, we're trending very badly, along with other places in the province, especially when it comes to hospitalizations, and the province just shit the bed on testing -- it's now appointment-only because it's so backlogged. They squandered the time bought by the first-wave provincial lockdown, by refusing to spend the money on ramping it up.

In her October 2 letter to the province, Toronto's medical officer of health pointed out the following:

We have been monitoring trends and effective public health measures in other comparable jurisdictions. The State of Victoria, Australia, which includes the Melbourne metropolitan area with a population size that is comparable to Toronto, implemented strict public health measures when daily case counts were lower than those currently occurring in Toronto:

- Stage 1 – When cases were at ~165 cases/day (2 cases per 100,000 population/day), individuals could only leave home for work, education, fitness and essential activities (Statement from the Premier Opens in new window). On October 1, Toronto had 280 cases.
- Stage 2 – When cases were at 466 cases/day (9.51 cases per 100,000 population/day), a complete lockdown was implemented in the Melbourne metropolitan area, including a nightly curfew. Toronto is currently at 8.8 cases per 100,000 population/day, and experienced 381 cases on September 28, 2020.


And Ontario hospitals were telling the province over two weeks ago that things need to change -- and fast -- due to rising Covid-19 hospitalizations.

And! Also! The long-term care home outbreak situation in Ontario is still a massive crisis. That can't be overstated, but based on what the province is saying and doing, you'd think that everything was juuuust fine.

The latest from Dr. Nathan Stall from the geriatrics team at Sinai Health, via Twitter:

As of Oct 4th (Δ from prior day):
-50 homes in outbreak (+1) with 12 involving resident cases (no Δ)
-124 resident active cases (-4)
-158 staff active cases (+5)
-1 new resident death [25 since Sept 14th]
Source


All of which is to say is that this was all predictable. In fact, it was predicted. But the province decided to ignore that completely. And here we are again:

And despite a rapid rise in new cases across the country, hospitalizations and deaths are comparatively lower so far, which might lead you to believe the second wave will be less dangerous than the first.

"It may seem somewhat comforting to say, 'Yes, there are a lot of cases, but we're not seeing our hospitals overwhelmed, and we're not seeing a huge number of deaths so far. So things are better, right?'" said Dr. Samir Sinha, director of geriatrics at Sinai Health and University Health Network in Toronto.

"The truth of the matter is, we're just getting started."

Sinha said COVID-19 outbreaks typically followed a predictable pattern: people increase their number of contacts amid relaxed restrictions, then weeks later cases rise, hospitalizations spike and more deaths occur.

posted by mandolin conspiracy at 8:38 AM on October 5 [12 favorites]


Luckily, far less people are dying during this wave (as compared with the normal death rate). I'm guessing it's a combination of the hospitals being better at dealing with the virus and its side effects, and that the infected and ill people are a lot younger than during the first wave.
That's what we're seeing in France too. There are deaths but the increase is not exponential and the reasons given are the same: younger people and better treatment, particularly in the early days of infection
posted by elgilito at 8:42 AM on October 5 [1 favorite]


There's reason to be a little less worried about the European surge in new cases detected. Quoth the Economist in a fantastic article from 10 days ago:
diagnosed cases in Europe have been climbing steeply into what is being seen as a second wave, the number of deaths has not followed: indeed it has, as yet, barely moved. The main reason, though, is simpler. During the first wave little testing was being done, and so many infections were being missed. Now lots of testing is being done, and vastly more infections are being picked up. Correct for this distortion and you see that the first wave was far larger than what is being seen today, which makes today’s lower death rate much less surprising (see data panel).
That being said, the death rate in Europe is going up recently.


Every single one of these analyses like the one the Economist has been wrong during this pandemic. They continuously fail to account for a changing lag from cases detection to deaths (currently somewhere around 4 weeks). There is improvement in treatment and the fatality rate is dropping but only very slightly (and that can change quickly if hospitals get overrun again).
posted by srboisvert at 8:52 AM on October 5 [2 favorites]


Here in Ontario our extremely competent provincial government has signalled the depth of their commitment to keeping the public safe by limiting capacity in bars and restaurants to a maximum of 100, and 50 for gyms.

I'm having a tough time navigating the contrast between the the number of new Covid cases in Ontario, population 14.7M, in the last few days - five to seven hundred per day over the last few days - with the number of new Covid cases in Vietnam, population 97M and GDP one third of Ontario's over the last month, that being... 30.

It is hard to describe how badly we are fucking this up.
posted by mhoye at 9:02 AM on October 5 [12 favorites]




Every single one of these analyses like the one the Economist has been wrong during this pandemic.

Not the OP, but I think I might be reading this in a different way than you did. I've seen a bunch of Very Smart People pointing out that the fatality rate is way down from April and arguing that this means the virus is getting less severe over time (with the usual followup being that thus it's no big deal, back to the bars with everyone). If the Economist is right, they're saying that the actual fatality rate is essentially unchanged, and we shouldn't let its apparent decline make us overconfident.
posted by echo target at 9:11 AM on October 5 [2 favorites]


Apparently PHE was using an older version of Excel which has the old 65k limit. -by atrazine

Do you have a reference for that? You have to go back to before Office 2007 to hit that old limit.
posted by Nelson at 9:18 AM on October 5


> As Toronto, where I live...

The public library system is full of people eating, drinking and/or not wearing their masks properly (or at all, once they pass the front doors). In theory this is against the rules, but in practice these rules are unenforceable.
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:20 AM on October 5 [2 favorites]


Do you have a reference for that?

It's explained in this BBC article. Apparently they were using an .XLS file.
posted by scorbet at 9:24 AM on October 5 [4 favorites]


Also! The long-term care home outbreak situation in Ontario is still a massive crisis. That can't be overstated, but based on what the province is saying and doing, you'd think that everything was juuuust fine.

A good friend of mine (and incidentally the smartest person anyone I know knows) started working a couple of years ago in long-term care homes. She observes that there are 626 LTCH in Ontario and at the height of the crisis, 121 had outbreaks. Far worse than we’d want it to be, far less dramatic than most of us think it was.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:27 AM on October 5


Thanks scorbet! The BBC's reporting contradicts the Guardian reporting I linked earlier. Excel; so many ways to screw up! The BBC article is more detailed so if I had to pick one explanation I'd go with it. The core problem:
The problem is that the PHE developers picked an old file format to do this - known as XLS.

As a consequence, each template could handle only about 65,000 rows of data rather than the one million-plus rows that Excel is actually capable of.
posted by Nelson at 9:30 AM on October 5 [1 favorite]


I think we can probably put the whole Excel thing to bed now? It's finger wagging and tiresome, especially here. Pretty sure this thread is not supposed to be about that, anyway.
posted by seanmpuckett at 9:31 AM on October 5 [31 favorites]


From the BBC article scorbet linked:
The problem is that the PHE developers picked an old file format to do this - known as XLS.

Bet that was because some senior manager won't let anyone upgrade his Windows XP box.
hahahahasob

(On preview, apologies if that comes across as finger wagging. It's intended to be much more rage filled than that)
posted by thatwhichfalls at 9:34 AM on October 5


NZ summary: The US Whitehouse currently has more hospitalized cases than all of NZ.

Paraphrased from various slightly inaccurate tweets - NZ has more cases (40 and declining) than the Whitehouse (15 or so and increasing) but zero are hospitalized in NZ, and all are in managed isolation or self-isolation.
posted by inflatablekiwi at 9:48 AM on October 5 [4 favorites]


> It is hard to describe how badly we are fucking this up.

It is hard to describe how badly we fucked up when we elected Doug Ford.

Yes, yes...what do you mean, "we"?
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:52 AM on October 5 [2 favorites]


Regarding the fatality rate:

There is a huge difference in disease severity between individuals 50 years and older and those younger than 50. The danger is the disease first circulates amongst younger people who move around more and have more contacts and then spreads to older populations. That's why I'm not ready to celebrate declining ifrs yet.

From the US CDC

ifr 0-19 years: 0.00003 or .003 percent.
20 - 49: 0.0002 or .02 percent.
50 - 69: 0.005 or .5 percent
70+: 0.054 or 5.4%

CDC Link

Those numbers don't account for potential long term complications.

Basically, you have to consider the age of people being infected when trying to figure out whether ifrs are improving or getting worse. If the disease is primarily spreading amongst younger people you would expect the ifr to be lower than if it were spreading amongst older people. You also have to consider the age distribution of a country's population when comparing fatality rates between countries.

There are many commentaries that I don't see doing this and therefore coming up with misplaced speculation about changes in disease severity, treatment efficacy, or even mutations. All that being said, I believe there was an Italian study from the spring that controlled for age and indicated they were getting marginally better at improving outcomes, but unfortunately the change didn't appear dramatic enough to completely erase death spikes if the illness spreads to older people. Hopefully with vaccines and monoclonal antibodies we can get there though.
posted by eagles123 at 9:59 AM on October 5 [1 favorite]




The UK's taskforce on vaccines has released their interim advice on vaccination priority.

The current plan is to vaccinate about 50% of the population within 3 months of a vaccine being approved.

older adults’ resident in a care home and care home workers
all those 80 years of age and over and health and social care workers
all those 75 years of age and over
all those 70 years of age and over
all those 65 years of age and over
high-risk adults under 65 years of age
moderate-risk adults under 65 years of age
all those 60 years of age and over
all those 55 years of age and over
all those 50 years of age and over
rest of the population (priority to be determined)


(Note this plan is subject to revision depending on how effective it is in older people - a vaccine that works very poorly on the elderly may rearrange priorities. A vaccine that is very effective at reducing transmission may lead to a switch to a transmission-led vaccination strategy which would go after younger people in contact with the public earlier)
posted by atrazine at 10:09 AM on October 5 [3 favorites]


i just finished ranting about our domestic situation (whose numbers might seem laughably small to many of you) because the new wave is literally caused by our politicians seeing the prize of winning back a key state in a state-level elections (since the initial strategy of buying enough MPs to your side, which was used to great success at federal level, failed) was so in their grasp, they wilfully leaned on the health ministry to change the SOPs so they won't technically be in the wrong, while the state itself was in the midst of an outbreak caused by the inevitable porosity between staff and detainees when this new govt made a u-turn in the middle of a pandemic with regards to the migrant population and resumed mass arrests and detention. I'm certain we've not yet peaked but hopefully the daily case numbers won't hit 1k, but who knows. apparently we're one of those countries who's being hit by the consequences stick in libra season.
posted by cendawanita at 10:10 AM on October 5 [3 favorites]


There is a huge difference in disease severity between individuals 50 years and older and those younger than 50. The danger is the disease first circulates amongst younger people who move around more and have more contacts and then spreads to older populations. That's why I'm not ready to celebrate declining ifrs yet.

There was data from a French district that showed the infection moved from primarily young school aged people to vulnerable seniors in about 4 weeks. So the time from the infection of a young person to fatalities showing up among seniors can be 2 months.
posted by srboisvert at 10:32 AM on October 5 [4 favorites]


This 91-DOVID chart shows European Union cases plotted against other nations'.
posted by doctornemo at 10:34 AM on October 5 [1 favorite]


Of course, that success has come at an enormous cost - many Australians are stranded overseas because flights have stopped running or there's not enough spaces in quarantine to accept them, and international students within the country have been left to rot, which is probably going to mean the end of Australia's higher education industry.

The conservatives have had it in for the higher education industry for a while, as it encourages critical thinking (“Cultural Marxism”) which makes a Murdocratic agenda less attractive. They already have a bill they're trying to wrangle through the Senate (the overtly racist party are onboard) that doubles the cost of humanities degrees.

In a few years' time, there may not be a higher education sector in Australia as we know it; rather, there'll be enough vocational schools to turn out however many doctors, nurses, engineers and teachers the country needs. As for the great and good, their scions can go to Oxford or Harvard.
posted by acb at 10:52 AM on October 5 [6 favorites]


Far worse than we’d want it to be, far less dramatic than most of us think it was.

We have a friend who works in an LTC home where, out of 50 or so residents (it's a smaller home), they lost 10 residents to their early-stage outbreak. They're girding for the next round.

He, along with almost every other staff member there, has contracted Covid-19 at one point or another. The emotional toll on staff and residents alike -- deaths and physical suffering notwithstanding -- is the other part of the crisis that's harder for anyone on the outside to see because it doesn't easily plug into a stats dashboard.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 10:53 AM on October 5 [14 favorites]


Does anyone now of decent data combining testing rate with number of new cases?
That is, I’d like to see country comparisons that 1) are per population 2) take into account how broad testing is within each country.

Bonus points if I can build my own graphs so I can look at a log scale or cumulative/new cases or whatever I would choose.
posted by nat at 11:25 AM on October 5


Does anyone now of decent data combining testing rate with number of new cases?
That is, I’d like to see country comparisons that 1) are per population 2) take into account how broad testing is within each country.


I think you can take that information out of the EU data site linked above.
posted by mumimor at 11:39 AM on October 5 [1 favorite]


CTV (Canada) has charts for the 7-day average of new cases per 100,000 population, which meets the first part of your request.
posted by echo target at 12:25 PM on October 5


Does anyone now of decent data combining testing rate with number of new cases?

Health Canada's numbers (as reported to them by provinces/territories) are here under the "Current situation" heading, including per capita rates for total cases, active cases, and deaths. The rate for testing is given per 1M population. The data is also available as a csv file there.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 12:58 PM on October 5




Take your turkey dinner to the gym! Fucking asshole.
posted by seanmpuckett at 3:07 PM on October 5 [1 favorite]


I think our (Canada's) proximity to the US is giving cover for Premiers to make do with half-assed measures. No matter how poorly a province is doing it is still significantly better than the US state immediately to the south of it so the province (and premier's actions) looks better by comparison. We should be setting our sights higher. Some of it is the Fed's fault - we're still allowing too many people to enter the country and quarantine on arrival isn't being adequately enforced - but things such as lockdowns and restricting business are within Provincial jurisdiction so the Provinces need to step up and do the necessary things in order to control our numbers. Toronto would close restaurants if it could, but it can't and the Province doesn't want to do it. So that leaves us with over 300 new cases per day and growing.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 4:06 PM on October 5 [3 favorites]


I think our (Canada's) proximity to the US is giving cover for Premiers to make do with half-assed measures.

This is a problem in every area of Canadian politics. "Somewhat better than the United States!" tends to be the limit of our national aspiration.

Here in BC, Provincial Health Officer Bonnie Henry is reporting that we've got our R wrestled back down below 1. That's great! If we look south or east we might feel proud of our consistently competent response to the crisis. We avoid looking west, lest we remember that our Pacific Rim neighbors include South Korea, China, Vietnam, New Zealand...
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 4:31 PM on October 5 [7 favorites]


This is a problem in every area of Canadian politics.

Yep. For a while there under Obama things were starting to look bad for the part of the Canadian psyche that is buoyed up by being better than the US. The US was on track for some sort of single payer healthcare, same sex marriage was dealt with, cannabis was edging towards legality and they had a Whitehouse with at least a honest try at being representative. We were really going to have to step up our game.

And then Whew! *Shrugs and points south*

I honestly can't believe the lack of action on the part of Ontario and BC (and probably other places). We could be doing so much better and yet we are having to deal with Canadian MAGAS who are pissed off at restrictions and payments.

Schools have been in session for three weeks now in BC and super predictably we have our first super spreader event centred at a school affecting not only the students but parents and grand parents at home..
posted by Mitheral at 4:56 PM on October 5 [4 favorites]


Schools have been in session for three weeks now in BC and super predictably we have our first super spreader event centred at a school affecting not only the students but parents and grand parents at home.

Zeynep Tufekci: This Overlooked Variable Is the Key to the Pandemic - "It's not R."
Why did widespread predictions of catastrophe in Japan not bear out?

[...]

To fight a super-spreading disease effectively, policy makers need to figure out why super-spreading happens, and they need to understand how it affects everything, including our contact-tracing methods and our testing regimes...

Oshitani told me that in Japan, they had noticed the overdispersion characteristics of COVID-19 as early as February, and thus created a strategy focusing mostly on cluster-busting, which tries to prevent one cluster from igniting another. Oshitani said he believes that “the chain of transmission cannot be sustained without a chain of clusters or a megacluster.” Japan thus carried out a cluster-busting approach, including undertaking aggressive backward tracing to uncover clusters. Japan also focused on ventilation, counseling its population to avoid places where the three C’s come together—crowds in closed spaces in close contact, especially if there’s talking or singing—bringing together the science of overdispersion with the recognition of airborne aerosol transmission, as well as presymptomatic and asymptomatic transmission.
posted by kliuless at 10:32 PM on October 5 [6 favorites]


What is the rationale for schools being open? It seems that governments around the world are quite reluctant to close them even as they are linked to the second wave. I understand that closing schools creates hardships for parents/students/teachers, but surely so does mass illness? We don't seem to see the same reluctance to close workplaces, retail, or even health care providers, all of which also creates hardships. What am I missing?

(Not trying to argue - just want to understand the reasoning)
posted by mikek at 11:20 PM on October 5 [1 favorite]


I understand that closing schools creates hardships for parents/students/teachers, but surely so does mass illness?

Doctors and nurses can also have kids - closing schools effectively means closing or crippling everything else too, including hospitals.
posted by Merus at 12:02 AM on October 6 [2 favorites]


[One deleted. Sorry, but let's be careful not to steer this into a US-centric discussion, please. Thanks!]
posted by taz (staff) at 12:04 AM on October 6 [3 favorites]




Doctors and nurses can also have kids - closing schools effectively means closing or crippling everything else too, including hospitals.

They could arrange childcare for them without sending all children back to school.
posted by pracowity at 1:33 AM on October 6 [2 favorites]


pracowcity, that's what they did here - NZ.
posted by unearthed at 1:39 AM on October 6 [6 favorites]


Googletranslation of a current “view from Italy”, trying to tease out the factors explaining our comparatively lower curves, so far.
posted by progosk at 2:24 AM on October 6 [1 favorite]


Mikek, I understood the Swedish policy on schools to be
- kids need school/peer contact for mental health
- Merus' point about essential workers needing childcare. Organizing a new system, policing eligibility, all huge administration.
- if the kids aren't in school maybe they'll be sent to elderly relatives and now the healthcare system has more problems
posted by anthill at 3:05 AM on October 6 [1 favorite]


- kids need school/peer contact for mental health

I keep seeing this repeated by governments as a justification for opening schools back up fully (rather than just to the younger kids of key workers) and evidence suggests the opposite is true.
posted by Dysk at 3:30 AM on October 6 [5 favorites]


I moved to central Sweden about 5 weeks ago. The caseload and deaths from Covid-19 are much lower here than in Stockholm and that's true for nearly every region (maybe all regions) outside of Stockholm. I thought the worst was over, maybe, then Stockholm went from 500+ new cases to 900+ cases within 7 days. That was a couple of weeks ago (I believe) and I don't know where things are at the moment. I compulsively checked the new cases + deaths statistics every day for months and months and then stopped for my mental health.

Closing schools or not closing schools: That is a tough issue. I don't know the right approach and I am glad I don't have to decide. A few folks I know with small children deal with chronic mental illnesses (so do I) that make it nearly impossible to give kids the kind of consistency and care 5 days a week that those kids (often, not always) get in preschool and grade school. Summer breaks and long holidays can be a nightmare for lots of folks, not just us neurodiverse types. But I think a lot about how we don't get as much treatment as we need, even in Sweden, and closing schools completely would have been disastrous for lots of families.

Of course, the families affected by Covid-19 illnesses and deaths have suffered immeasurably. I don't think we will know for maybe 5 years if Sweden made the right call or not about schools and some other decisions. I used to think Sweden was doing it all wrong; now it seems that Sweden made some obvious mistakes about care homes and PPE but it's not clear that keeping schools open was a mistake. Anyhoo, dear fellow MeFites who are outside the US, many thanks for the various updates.
posted by Bella Donna at 5:20 AM on October 6 [3 favorites]


What is the rationale for schools being open?

I can only speak for what is happening here and we are a small school system in a small town where the COVID experience is very different from a large town. The philosophy here is that kids need to be in school if they can, for many different reasons. Continuity in education, mental health for both parents and students, childcare and quite frankly food and a respite from what goes on at home for some kids. OUr school system continued to hand out meals during the shut down and all through the summer, at one point handing out 20000 in a week. This is a school system of under 2500 students. In the best of conditions, online schooling is hard on the parents and children AND teachers. Add in that many don't have internet or single parents work 2 jobs or parents first language is not english or parents WON"T help their children, and the fact that we may be in the same situation next spring, and you have a mess.

The school system came up with a plan and they are following it religously. That means whole classes have been sent home for two weeks for quarantine and the high school went to an A/B schedule for a while to limit spread, but it is working.
posted by domino at 6:50 AM on October 6


What is the rationale for schools being open?

I live in a small city in Northern Ontario, where most of the student in the school board are from rural areas. My spouse is a teacher who is teaching a remote class of grade 7/8. One of the biggest challenges for students in our board is lack of access to reliable internet with sufficient speed to access the online learning systems for learning from home. He has a number of students who are doing at home learning for medical reasons who are getting paper packages from him via their home school because they have no internet access at home. The board is rolling out internet (hubs) and devices to students who need them, but there are several communities where even having the cell service needed to run the hubs is an ongoing challenge. If there kids aren't attending school in person, their options for learning at home are limited and its a difficult reality for many parents in our board.
posted by snowysoul at 7:53 AM on October 6 [4 favorites]


I keep seeing this repeated by governments as a justification for opening schools back up fully (rather than just to the younger kids of key workers) and evidence suggests the opposite is true.

I've browsed the report, but here in France, the concern was less about mental health than about children dropout rates, particularly in areas already threatened by poverty and illiteracy. Actual figures are hard to come by (the official rate at national level was about 4-5%), but in some areas it was reported that schools lost track of up to 30% of their students during the lockdown. Some educators were pushing for reopening schools for that reason.
posted by elgilito at 8:29 AM on October 6 [2 favorites]


Some educators were pushing for reopening schools for that reason.

I understand why prioritizing school reopening is a choice a lot of jurisdictions have made, and it's isn't necessarily a bad choice. The problem is that a lot of places -- like Quebec, where I am -- are ALSO prioritizing other stuff, like retail stores and businesses being open, etc. You can't have multiple priorities and expect any of this to work.
posted by jeather at 8:51 AM on October 6 [3 favorites]


If people want to open schools for the sake of parents, the economy, difficulty accessing education remotely, etc, that all makes sense. But pretending it is for the sake of the wellbeing and mental health of the kids, when those factors have all been markedly better or not significantly changed during lockdown compared to pre-covid (and one imagines being back at school during a pandemic isn't likely to be less stressful for kids, but I've yet to see research on this) is bullshit. If you want kids back in school do their parents can go to work, or do the kids can access education, or whatever, that's fine, but admit and own that it's at the expense of the kids' mental health, not the opposite.
posted by Dysk at 9:14 AM on October 6 [1 favorite]


That study didn’t look at kids under 13, I don’t see that it looks at effects on different social classes, and it reports worse outcomes among some students - it’s important for what it covers, but it doesn’t cover 'school'.
posted by clew at 10:08 AM on October 6 [2 favorites]


No, it covers secondary. And the improvements were significant, the worse outcomes were very small. And it absolutely suggests that the received wisdom that school is good for kids' mental health at the very least warrants investigation at all levels, because the evidence we have four the age group that has been studied rubs counter to that received wisdom.
posted by Dysk at 11:32 AM on October 6 [1 favorite]


They could arrange childcare for them without sending all children back to school.

They did that here in BC (or my district anyways) but it was basically parking those kids. Actual instruction was minimal. It could be done better but resources are lacking.

There are certainly some kids who need the sort of structure school provides and there parents are unable or unwilling to provide it.

Serveral parents who kept their kids out of school even though in person classes have resumed are finding that homeschooling, especially of the individual sort rather than group homeschooling, is a full time job and it can't be done while working another full time job at home.
posted by Mitheral at 12:11 PM on October 6 [1 favorite]


Teenagers were in a very different boat to young children during lockdown. Many teenagers can go out by themselves, socialise online, and manage their own learning. My son is six and spending the whole of lockdown without being able to play with another child took a toll on him. He spent every weekend being taught because we both have full-time jobs, and a massive amount of screen time on weekdays. It wasn't good for him.

I already linked to the Consensus statement of UK Chief Medical Officers on schools and childcare reopening. More recently, the weekly surveillance reports break down the contact tracing data on how people are catching COVID: there are bar charts on page 21 of the latest. Education is a small bar down in sixth place after Household, Household visitor, Leisure/community, Visiting friends/relatives and Other workplace. At the moment it looks like the report was right and having schools open is a relatively minor contribution to the spread of the virus in the UK. (Other countries may be different).
posted by TheophileEscargot at 12:41 PM on October 6 [6 favorites]


Many teenagers can go out by themselves, socialise online, and manage their own learning.

The research specifically compared at pre-covid and lockdown. Not many people going out, on their own or otherwise, during lockdown.
posted by Dysk at 2:08 PM on October 6 [1 favorite]


Tokyo keeps bumping along with 100-200 new cases per day. Indonesia has regional elections across the country at the end of the year. Three candidates have died with COVID-19 and many have broken the rules, jeopardizing the elections which have already been postponed once.
posted by Gotanda at 3:16 PM on October 6 [3 favorites]


TheophileEscargot, pp 21 and 22 aren’t reports of where COVID transmission occurred, they’re reports by infected people of where they’ve spent time with other people. Which is useful for surveying for new cases, but it doesn’t mean particular activities are or aren’t relatively safe unless you also know a bunch of other things (what leaps to mind is, what does this chart look like for a matched sample of people without COVID? Same or different? )
posted by clew at 4:01 PM on October 6


Announced today: there are now zero cases of COVID in the community in New Zealand. The 3 remaining cases are travellers in managed isolation.

Can't lay my hands on a source right now but at this point enough tests have been done to cover about 20% of the population. Contact tracing + genomic testing to identify transmission sources + massive public campaign about testing has done the job in enabling clusters to be managed down to nothing in quick time.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 5:37 PM on October 6 [3 favorites]


Not many people going out, on their own or otherwise, during lockdown

I didn't mean go out partying, I meant go out of the house for a walk or a bike ride. Under lockdown, a teenager could do that. A young child whose parents are working from home couldn't. They're imprisoned at home except when the parents could spare time from their full-time actual jobs and new full- or part-time teaching job.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 9:02 PM on October 6 [4 favorites]


This is a little old but Scamademics? Right-Wing Lobbying Groups Reviving ‘Herd Immunity’ in the UK was pretty informative on how a small group of fringe scientists are trying to give the impression that science is deeply divided on how to fight COVID-19.

I'm linking it because Sunetra Gupta is at it again with another one out today.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 9:21 PM on October 6 [2 favorites]


Wether or not a child suffers negative mental health effects through schools closures depends on the age of the child and their home situation.
As theophileescargot rightly points out children unable to go for a walk alone etc are stuck at home. In cities this means staying indoors 24/7- something that is hard for adults but unbearable for toddlers and primary school age children.

My son (11yrs) definitely was negatively impacted in his mental health by the 6 week complete lockdown, followed by 5 weeks of school closure with distance learning.
Friends with younger children suffered even more.
Teenagers were less affected, my observation in real life is they already had an established culture of communicating with apps etc.
My sons age group, particularly among boys struggle with communicating electronially only. This is not from some study but lived experience and daily struggle to keep us both sane.
Please do not trust studies so easily or try to apply findings from age 13/14 to children of a younger age. I have in the last three mpnths battled the mental health effects and literally all of the specialists i spoke to attested to the grave effects of isolation and school closure in preteens.
posted by 15L06 at 11:55 PM on October 6 [8 favorites]


I'm not saying it applies across the board, but similarly, the experiences of primary school kids don't generalise to secondary. And no government I'm aware of has opened lower schools only.
posted by Dysk at 12:38 AM on October 7




Two weeks ago the Swedish Government decided to lift the ban on visitors to elderly care facilities and already there are reports of major increases of covid-19 infections. Some facilities are back to April level of infections and have banned visitors again.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 10:42 AM on October 7 [1 favorite]


If I'm reading the Our World In Data site correctly (scroll to the "school closure" map), all of the countries in orange have at least some staggered-by-educational-level school closure policy. This includes Australia and Canada in the anglophone world, and a decent chunk of other countries (mainly in Africa and Asia).

I'm not really qualified to comment on any of those countries' policies specifically, so I don't know if my interpretation of the map is at all correct.
posted by nat at 11:42 AM on October 7 [1 favorite]


I'm really confused by that map - it has the UK as "recommended" (which means what? Schools are recommended to close?) when schools here are open. It has Denmark as "recommended" when schools are open. It doesn't have data for Germany (wtf?). China is listed as being "required (only at some levels)" but everything I can find suggests that schools are open from kindergarten through grade 12.China has 12 years of compulsory schooling, making grade 12 the end of secondary education. So that's all of the grades open?

There are lots of places where school opening has been staggered by year group, but largely due logistical reasons. Very few places have secondaries remained closed for long periods while primaries have fully reopened, as far as my Googling can tell me? I'd love to be wrong though. For the countries I have been able to find concrete answers on whether schools are open or not, and precisely which schools, for which age groups, there has not been a meaningful differentiation by age group, or any meaningful relationship between the colours on that map and the actual situation?
posted by Dysk at 12:39 PM on October 7


Here in Denmark, the younger children went back to school in late spring/early summer, and it didn't make much of a difference to the falling infection numbers. Now that all the kids are back, schools regularly have to close entirely for two weeks. But that is what they do, or rather, depending on how the virus spreads and the size and layout of the school, they send home classes, age groups or everyone. It's not ideal, but hospitalizations and death-rates are the same as before this second wave, so something is working. The nursing homes are still closed down completely so the spread among younger people doesn't effect the health of the vulnerable elderly. My mother is heading to the hospital in two weeks, and ironically, when she gets there it will be the first time I can visit her for 6 weeks.
posted by mumimor at 12:54 PM on October 7


This is a little old but Scamademics? Right-Wing Lobbying Groups Reviving ‘Herd Immunity’ in the UK was pretty informative on how a small group of fringe scientists are trying to give the impression that science is deeply divided on how to fight COVID-19.

It has been quite enjoyable watching the various cranks in the Daily Mail / Telegraph / Spectator machine try and push the government in a particular direction, clearly expecting that they can push "their" government around and watching them get absolutely zero traction and getting more and more frustrated as they realise that nobody is listening to them.

Remember when the DM spent a whole week in the summer leading up to one of Johnson's speeches and he basically just announced they would review the rules again in a week? All that stuff about the Save Summer Six etc which was completely invented on their part in order to get the government to do what their masters wanted and they might as well have been writing a column in the New Statesman.
posted by atrazine at 2:53 PM on October 7


That "Scamademics" thing intrigues me because there is a little cabal of dissident academics here in New Zealand, calling themselves "Plan B", advocating a Swedish style response. They have gone so far as to work with a local PR firm (who claim they're acting pro bono and are not being paid). The epidemiologist in the group is an obesity guy, the public health one is a noted low-carb/paleo crank, etc. They haven't had any success in influencing public policy but they pop up in right leaning media periodically. Interesting parallel.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 7:20 PM on October 7 [1 favorite]


It's still grim down here in the South Atlantic.
Brazil has just topped 5 million recorded cases. Rio de Janeiro (city not state) (11,250 recorded deaths) passed the German death total about a month ago.
This is the beach last weekend.
Countrywide more young people are dying (26%).
R Rate on reported figures is 0.99, Pretty much everything comercial is open as normal. Schools set to open at end of month.
More detail
Meanwhile in Manaus the virus is running out of people to infect.
posted by adamvasco at 5:08 AM on October 8 [8 favorites]


The numbers in Berlin are worse and worse. We've gone from bad to really quite bad, and now the city is effectively shadow-banned by the rest of the country. Unless you get a test. Which entails waiting a couple hours in line and paying on the order of 150 euro (60 with Gov. Insurance).

The schools are bracing for the next wave - one in Neukoelln has been closed and last night at a parent-teacher meeting how to manage going forward is a real question. The city has made funds available to help with this implementation but still, it needs to be effectuated.

Berlin puttered through the summer without really much care, and now the R0 is up around 1.35. Just fucking Ugh. (We had planned to leave the city for the first week of fall break - just going to the country. Now it's looking like maybe that won't happen.)
posted by From Bklyn at 7:26 AM on October 8 [4 favorites]


And David Biller of AP news has just written a very comprehensive article on Covid and Brazil.
posted by adamvasco at 11:33 AM on October 8 [3 favorites]




Beyond the July NYT piece that was the object of merited pushback (previously), and the recent slick WHO video, are there any further on-the-ground accounts of the situation in Thailand out there? (I’ve only been finding fluff pieces about sinus flushing...) It would great to understand what are the actual ingredients of the limited local Covid impact is.
posted by progosk at 1:04 AM on October 9


ow the city is effectively shadow-banned by the rest of the country

Frankfurt is now over 50 per 100k in the last week, so we've reached the shadow-banning point too. They've also brought in a number of measures like masks in certain busy areas in the city centre, closure of restaurants and basrs from 23:00 and 6:00 and a ban on alcohol consumption outdoors in specified areas. They've also banned the use of visors as a substitute for masks.

(We weren't hit particularly badly in the first wave - so we've actually ended up having about 10% of our total cases in the last week, which is extremely worrying.)
posted by scorbet at 3:51 AM on October 9 [2 favorites]






Herd immunity letter signed by fake experts including 'Dr Johnny Bananas':
An open letter that made headlines calling for a herd immunity approach to Covid-19 lists a number of apparently fake names among its expert signatories, including “Dr Johnny Bananas” and “Professor Cominic Dummings”...

Others listed include a resident at the “university of your mum” and another supposed specialist whose name was the first verse of the Macarena.
Richard Murphy:
Dr Barnard Castle, a consultant eye doctor, as well as Dr Harold Shipman, have also signed.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 2:29 AM on October 10 [2 favorites]


After having battled the first spike of Covid-19 infections last spring, nurses in intensive care wards in and near Paris tell FRANCE 24 that exhausted health workers are frightened by the virus’s resurgence.
posted by adamvasco at 2:38 PM on October 10


Richard Murphy:
Dr Barnard Castle, a consultant eye doctor, as well as Dr Harold Shipman, have also signed.


Scrolling through the comments on that post, I found the explanation for this weird phenomena:
Robin Stafford says:
October 10 2020 at 9:42 am
That the declaration came from the American Institute for Economic Research, a Koch brothers funded right wing think tank, tells you all you need to know. A track record in climate change denial and defending tobacco, both areas where some scientists lent their names (and sold their souls) amplified by wealthy interests.
As wiser heads than mine explain, it’s our utterly failing test and trace system that is the problem. If that was working, we would be able to drive down the numbers and progressively relax and be more selective about lock down.
With all the noise Trump is making at the front of the house, it's easy to forget that the Koch brothers are still pushing ahead as usual. And that they are as dangerous as always.
posted by mumimor at 2:20 AM on October 11 [3 favorites]


Four week curfew in Paris and other eight other French cities
French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday ordered a nighttime curfew for Paris and eight other French cities to contain the spread of Covid-19 after daily new infection rates reached record levels.

In a televised interview, Macron said residents of those cities – which combined are home to close to a third of the French population – would not be allowed to be outdoors between 9pm (1900 GMT) and 6am (0400 GMT) from Saturday, for a duration of at least four weeks, except for essential reasons.
Ireland bans household visits
‘We know that a lot if not most Covid transmission is happening in private homes,’ Tánaiste says
The Government has announced a nationwide ban on visits to homes or gardens in almost all circumstances, except for providing care to children or elderly and vulnerable people.
posted by roolya_boolya at 4:33 PM on October 14 [1 favorite]


It's hard to summarize the chaos in the UK.
Cases are rising sharply in the second wave.
The government's claims to be "following the science" were torpedoed when the SAGE advisory body released documents showing they'd been largely ignored.
The government is trying to adopt a 3-tier system of regional lockdowns, but regional governments are refusing to go into the highest levels of lockdown, which offer far less support to businesses and individuals who are forbidden to work.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 8:41 PM on October 15 [5 favorites]


"Conservative" leadership doesn't seem be be working very effectively against coronavirus across the planet...
posted by Windopaene at 9:04 PM on October 15 [4 favorites]


"Conservative" leadership doesn't seem be be working very effectively against coronavirus across the planet...

Except in Germany? (yes, I know globally speaking unimpressive, but still seems well organised and effective compared to rest of Europe)
posted by atrazine at 3:14 AM on October 16 [1 favorite]


You know, I kind of thought Germany was doing really well with the Coronavirus generally, but looking at Johns Hopkins Mortality Analyses Poland has a better deaths per incidence and Poland has a markedly more 'Conservative' government. The list is pretty provocative and of course the first thing that sprang to my mind was 'how are the numbers reported and how reliable are they?' Is Azerbaijan really that much 'better' at treating the virus than Germany? What variables aren't being accounted for here?

(The cover of the Süddeutscher Zeitung was chilling (if it's not still up - it shows Merkel coughing into her hand and Söder (CDU Ministerpräsident ('governor') from Bayern sitting 2 meters away, glancing at her and putting on a mask.)
posted by From Bklyn at 3:56 AM on October 16 [1 favorite]


She is a scientist, she is supposed to know that you cough into your arm and not your hand. My grandkids haven’t learned that yet but I am constantly reminding them. Great/scary pic. Thank you, From Bklyn.
posted by Bella Donna at 6:23 AM on October 16 [1 favorite]


It's definitely worth evaluating the difference in performance between different governments but we do need to take into account an element of randomness in how heavily seeded they were with infection before Europe woke up and took steps. I don't believe a single country in Europe took it seriously enough early on, including some countries that have not had many cases as well as the ones that have.

It might be worth separating governments into populist and not populist and the attitudes of their leaders towards expertise in this particular case rather than "conservative" or not since those labels don't translate well between countries and situations.

Merkel is very much a conservative and fiscally much more so than someone like Trump, Johnson, or Bolsonaro. Macro is sort of centre right, Conte in Italy is a technocrat put in by M5S (sort of left populist) and the League (right populist), the Spanish PM is centre-left, Rutte in The Netherlands is centre-right.

When I look at the FT's coronavirus tracker I can see:

-A difference in timing
-A substantially later 2nd wave in Italy
-Superior performance of Germany (relative to other Western EU countries)

However the broad "shape" of the pandemic is very similar in all these countries.

When you dig a little deeper into how they've run their responses you see that despite different approaches, they have had similar results.

The UK for instance invested very heavily into upgrading testing capability and (data) but has not been able to turn this into effective control of the pandemic because:
-the contact tracing system was built on the assumption that everyone lives a comfortable and organised middle class life like the consultants and civil servants who designed it and that they would give contact information when asked and isolate when required to.
-People who said up front that more generous support was required to isolators in order to ensure that they did it were not listened to and as a result compliance has been very poor.

Much is made of the poor (on many days now <70% contact rate) but if all the people contacted actually isolated then the pandemic would be slowed down enormously. The real problem is that on top of the uncontacted people, many people are simply not isolating. The low contact rate is simultaneously worse and better than it sounds. Better because many of the contacts listed are actually in the same household so it hardly matters whether they get a call from a call-centre to say that their brother or whatever has Covid-19 because they already know that. Worse because that is only the % of recorded contacts and many infections will be from people who are unknown to the initial case.

The Netherlands is doing contact tracing through existing public health infrastructure but I am not really clear that it is delivering a better outcome than the call-centre approach in the UK.

France is leading contact testing locally. Is that working better than the central approach used in the UK? I don't really think so if you look at the case rates.

South Korea has immensely centralised and powerful contact tracing which clearly works.

NZ seems to have come to contact tracing pretty late but took lockdown measures very rapidly relative to number of cases so never really needed it. Having put out the proverbial fire we don't know how good their brigade is.

Anyway, my point is not that Johnson+Hancock are particularly effective leaders (I think Johnson is completely unsuited to the role and Hancock is doing ok-ish (as anyone might) but was never going to come out of this very well) nor that their cabinet as a whole has done a good job (I don't) but to point out that it is very easy for any one of us to doomscroll our way through our domestic news and assume that if we had a different government, we would have had a very different result. Maybe we would. If Rory Stewart had been prime minister we would have locked down much earlier. As long as we're hoping that quixotic characters had been PM, I don't think that Corbyn would have been an effective nor inspiring leader but I do think that his and Labour's instinctive sympathy with and understanding of the issues of the poor would have led to better compensation for low-paid people who had to isolate and that might well have made a big difference. That being said, a useful perspective is always to look at other countries and to see what they've done and the results they've had.

Some very interesting books will be written after this whole mess is over looking at this in great and forensic detail.
posted by atrazine at 7:00 AM on October 16 [2 favorites]


"Conservative" leadership doesn't seem be be working very effectively against coronavirus across the planet...

Except in Germany? (yes, I know globally speaking unimpressive, but still seems well organised and effective compared to rest of Europe)


Germany's government has been paying furloughed employees 60% of their lost salaries, and has committed to keep doing that for 2 years. I don't know if you've been paying attention, but that is clearly communism socialism antifa radical left.

It's a lot easier to stay home when it's not a choice between safety and food on the table.
posted by trig at 8:12 AM on October 16 [9 favorites]


I think the UK's, or at least England's, highly centralized system of government has been a disadvantage too.

Except in Scotland and Wales there aren't levels of government that are both powerful enough to take COVID measures and small enough at act quickly in response to regional conditions.

In Germany it's largely been the States that have managed the response, not the Federal government.

Contact tracing seems to be most effectively done at a local level with people with local knowledge who know the neighbourhoods, the bars, the schools, the parks. In the UK it was outsourced to a giant centralized private contractor without local knowledge.

Now the regional lockdowns are struggling partly because the regions don't trust the national government, and feel they're getting worse treatment in terms of funding and support. But they don't have a tax base or resources to handle a lockdown independently.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 10:13 AM on October 16


On the other hand, the very localised response on the German side means that it’s now getting a bit confusing, as everywhere seems to have slightly different restrictions, not just on a state level, but even from Kreis to Kreis. (It was still a bit amusing earlier in the spring, when you had things like being able to buy a book in a bookshop in Berlin, but not sit on a park bench and read it, whereas in next-door Brandenburg it was the other way around.)

Some of it is logical, as rather than having a set collection of restrictions, the response depends much more on the local situation. (At the same time, as the situation becomes more critical, it moves from a local response, to a state one to a national one.) However, as the initial response is local, you end up having to hope that neighboring areas actually even semi-coordinate.
posted by scorbet at 2:34 PM on October 16


So, now that the last major European second wave hold-outs, Germany and Italy, have both jumped the 10K+ new daily cases threshold, and are thus back in the exponential fray, for how much longer can we keep this as the thread for non-US Covid pandemic news?

A couple of other-parts-of-the-world analyses/perspectives: Coronavirus in Africa: Five reasons why Covid-19 has been less deadly than elsewhere (A. Soy, BBC Africa); The Swedish COVID-19 Response Is a Disaster. It Shouldn’t Be a Model for the Rest of the World (K. Bjorklund & A. Ewing, Time); Inside view of Vietnam’s Covid second wave (H Bohane, Asian Times).

(would still love to find out more about Thailand’s success, so far...)
posted by progosk at 1:02 AM on October 22 [3 favorites]


The Swedish COVID-19 Response Is a Disaster. It Shouldn’t Be a Model for the Rest of the World (K. Bjorklund & A. Ewing, Time)
Man, that is hard to read. So many lives lost because of what? It's hard to understand. They claim to be trying to protect the economy, but that isn't working for them. There's a cynicism in the approach that is quite mind-boggling. Tell your vulnerable old parents that the government has decided they might as well a few years earlier, alone, and feeling choked. At the end of the day, I suppose it's incompetence. But idiots are still pointing to Sweden as a good example. The final paragraph sums it up:
Health care workers, scientists and private citizens have all voiced concerns about the Swedish approach. But Sweden is a small country, proud of its humanitarian image—so much so that we cannot seem to understand when we have violated it. There is simply no way to justify the magnitude of lost lives, poorer health and putting risk groups into long-term isolation, especially not in an effort to reach an unachievable herd immunity. Countries need to take care before adopting the “Swedish way.” It could have tragic consequences for this pandemic or the next.
At this point, we also know that it is not just the mortality rates. The "long COVID" is not yet completely documented or analysed, but clearly a huge issue going forward - specially if thousands of people who would otherwise be healthy are disabled.
posted by mumimor at 2:52 AM on October 22 [3 favorites]






Here’s a GoogleTranslation of a pretty detailed - and worrying - deep-dive into how Italy’s previously sufficient contact tracing capacity seems suddenly to have buckled: Contact tracing is no longer working (E. Zacchetti, il Post).
posted by progosk at 11:24 AM on October 22 [2 favorites]




Can anyone provide a good source for updates on the regulations in Italy? All I can seem to find are news stories and opinions pieces, I just want the facts.

(Still keeping my fingers crossed that in a couple of weeks I'll be able to see Rome and Venice without any tourists...but it's not looking good.)
posted by LizBoBiz at 12:35 AM on October 23


As long as you're under capacity on contact tracing, it will keep working / deteriorate slowly in performance. As soon as you're near the max, the performance will decline sharply.

It's clear that the combination of continued distancing measures and contact tracing has had some effect everywhere in Europe as Rt has mostly been between 1.1 and 1.4 but of course as long as its above 1 for any prolonged period of time, the pandemic will spread. I'm sure there will be some interesting papers coming out estimating the degree to which contact tracing was effective.

I do hope that tier 3 measures in England will bring it below 1 for a period in those areas so that they can come back out, otherwise it's just a one-way ratchet since every area will get worse. Yes, in tier 3 they will get worse more slowly than in tiers 2 or 1 but there will be no basis ever to relax restrictions. There is some very limited evidence that the rate of increase (1st time derivative of new cases) is decreasing in Greater Manchester which I dearly hope is true. People will be much better able to bear it if they can see case rates dropping rather than have to rely on the theoretical comfort that without restrictions things would be even worse.
posted by atrazine at 1:00 AM on October 23


Can anyone provide a good source for updates on the regulations in Italy? All I can seem to find are news stories and opinions pieces, I just want the facts.

The facts are actually changing week by week (and sometimes faster than that), but I guess you need info both regarding restrictions on incoming travelers to Italy, as well as local restrictions in place. (Not sure where you’d be traveling from, but I assume you’re aware there’s still a CDC travel warning in place?)

For the first, the EU-level platform is Re-Open Europe (for comprehensive, continent-wide updates), which will point you to Viaggiare Sicuri, the national public resource which provides a guide to fit specific travel scenarios.

It’s likely that there will soon again be restrictions (which previously also applied to foreign citizens) on traveling between regions or even between provinces in parts of Italy - Campania, Sardinia and Lombardia are all currently floating/implementing the idea.

A relatively reliable English language outlet that’s following these news is The Local. (The official regional authority Covid-19 sites are unfortunately Italian-only: Lazio, Veneto.)
posted by progosk at 2:32 AM on October 23 [2 favorites]


Thanks progosk. Coming from Germany, so I don't really care about the CDC travel warning, technically I'm living in a place the CDC says I should avoid.

Its a multi-city trip, so city/region level information is good. Thanks!
posted by LizBoBiz at 4:00 AM on October 23


(Actually, you’re also going to need city-level information (Rome’s going under a regional night curfew, but the mayor has also just ruled four major piazzas as no-go zones on weekend evenings...); apart from which, judging by the current exponential climb of cases, hospital & doctors’ alarm signalling, and the governor of Campania’s call for another national lockdown... I’m not sure it’s time pack your bags just yet, purtroppo.)
posted by progosk at 10:17 AM on October 23


NZ seems to have come to contact tracing pretty late but took lockdown measures very rapidly relative to number of cases so never really needed it. Having put out the proverbial fire we don't know how good their brigade is.

Yeah, we were late getting started, but it seems to have stood up pretty well in our second wave of community outbreaks. For example, we had someone who had tested negative twice in 14-day MIQ (managed isolation and quarantine) and then positive a few days after leaving. Through genome sequencing and contact tracing, we were able to determine that he'd caught COVID from another hotel guest in quarantine, from the surface of a specific rubbish bin on a specific day. We had daily updates on the big Auckland cluster, ended up identifying around 4000 close contacts, contacting all but a handful of them, and having them self-isolate. I'm genuinely pretty impressed. We seem to be able to damp down any outbreaks before they spread far (touch wood) [small disclaimer: my employer is involved with MIQ and a few of my friends work in contact tracing, so I may be biased].
posted by Pink Frost at 6:03 PM on October 23 [9 favorites]


For example, we had someone who had tested negative twice in 14-day MIQ (managed isolation and quarantine) and then positive a few days after leaving. Through genome sequencing and contact tracing, we were able to determine that he'd caught COVID from another hotel guest in quarantine, from the surface of a specific rubbish bin on a specific day. We had daily updates on the big Auckland cluster, ended up identifying around 4000 close contacts, contacting all but a handful of them, and having them self-isolate. I'm genuinely pretty impressed.

That is genuinely impressive.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 7:16 PM on October 23 [4 favorites]


" That is genuinely impressive."

It had to be built up. The real justification for "go hard go early" and our very serious and total initial lockdown was partly the limited capacity for ICU care, and partly the limited nature of our capacity to test and trace at that point. Many people have been snickering (as an alternative to crying) over the UK using Excel to manage case records, but our own Ministry of Health was likely doing the same thing in the beginning. The important thing is that in NZ there seems to have been a genuine culture of continuous improvement applied to all aspects of managing the pandemic, such that having got a breathing space from the successful lockdown, we didn't stop there but continued to work on building up capacity.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 11:25 PM on October 23 [10 favorites]


During the last week, the number of infected Danes pr day doubled. So now the restrictions are tightening: no gatherings of more than 10 people, mask-wearing everywhere (before it was only in public transportation and restaurants/bars), curfew after 10 PM, and also no selling of alcohol after 10 PM. The latter rule points to the fact that right now, the spread is very much among young party-goers, and while only some of them get seriously ill, their parents, the 40-50 year-olds, are getting hospitalized.
It's very hard to track and trace people who are participating in informal street parties, and some of them are happening in communities where authorities are met with suspicion, making it even harder.

Denmark has been managing quite well till now. Half the population has been tested at least once. Only one region (out of five) has been overwhelmed at some point. But you can tell that the government is very worried right now.

It had to be built up. The real justification for "go hard go early" and our very serious and total initial lockdown was partly the limited capacity for ICU care, and partly the limited nature of our capacity to test and trace at that point.

I think Denmark and NZ are similar in this. Denmark has a very lean hospital system, and if we hadn't closed down hard and early, the system would have been flooded completely. But in a sense it has been a blessing in disguise. There are obviously still idiots who don't get it, mostly because they don't understand that it is about the community, not them individually , but they are a minority.
posted by mumimor at 12:25 AM on October 24 [2 favorites]


I'm getting the impression that track and trace is very, very difficult to set up and keep going in virtually all of Europe and the US, both because the governments/health care can't cope and because the population doesn't cooperate. Germany seemed to do okay-ish for a while, but now their numbers are rising rapidly again.

Without effective track and trace, it's impossible to achieve the kinds of results NZ or Taiwan have demonstrated. Is there a feasible plan B?
posted by dmh at 5:58 AM on October 24 [1 favorite]


Meanwhile, in China
After the discovery of a dozen coronavirus cases in the Chinese port of Qingdao, city authorities launched an effort to test all of its 9m people in five days. There had been no reports of domestically transmitted infections since early August.
9M people tested in 5 days. Imagine that. There's a reason China has been at near-zero cases for ten months now. Biggest country in the world, the first country to have the disease. Totally controlled.

Here in the US my friends in both New York and the SF Bay Area can't get tests at all, for themselves or their kids. The testing centers are only testing people with symptoms; concern about exposure isn't enough. (Of course the exposure concern is self-determined, since neither place has effective contact tracing.) One friend is excited because she heard a rumor Costco is selling saliva test kits at $130 a pop. So hey, at least someone's making a lot of money on this global pandemic.
posted by Nelson at 7:15 AM on October 24 [2 favorites]


she heard a rumor Costco is selling saliva test kits at $130 a pop

Not a rumor.
posted by aramaic at 8:43 AM on October 24 [2 favorites]


The FT has a series Coronavirus: Could the world have been spared?, which is not paywalled. It has some interesting data, analysis and investigative journalism.
posted by roolya_boolya at 10:48 AM on October 24 [3 favorites]


[One deleted. Given the xenophobia and anti-Chinese racism that trump et al are actively cultivating about the origin of the virus, please take extra care to avoid comments that could come across in that way.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 11:31 AM on October 24 [3 favorites]


Checking in from Canada, where numbers are currently spiking again. Where I’m living currently has the highest per capita growth rate of the country...and we’re doing nothing different. With winter pretty much here, I’m worried about the next few months of everyone largely being indoors.

Currently sitting, socially distant and masked, at my sons hockey practice. Maybe not the best thing to do, but I don’t know how much longer he’ll have a chance to play with his cohort and I want him to have some fun and physical activity before we’re all at home, on top of each other, again.
posted by nubs at 12:10 PM on October 24 [1 favorite]


For example, we had someone who had tested negative twice in 14-day MIQ (managed isolation and quarantine) and then positive a few days after leaving. Through genome sequencing and contact tracing, we were able to determine that he'd caught COVID from another hotel guest in quarantine, from the surface of a specific rubbish bin on a specific day. We had daily updates on the big Auckland cluster, ended up identifying around 4000 close contacts, contacting all but a handful of them, and having them self-isolate. I'm genuinely pretty impressed.

That is genuinely impressive.


And terrifying given that we all need groceries that will be touched by others....
posted by srboisvert at 3:33 PM on October 24


To add on to Gotanda’s comment, and the Japan situation as a whole, aside from the 200 reported cases in Tokyo the other day (which was the first day over 200 in over a week), things have been mostly around or even below 100 cases a day. Including the 200 or so in Tokyo, the national count was 450.

It’s honestly weird being in Japan, seeing things just sort of smoothing out and the number of cases being a slow constant, a cause for concern rather than a reason for terror, while the rest of the world is reporting new surges. Early on, I was definitely one of the people decrying Japan’s obscenely low testing rates, convinced that the real numbers were being hidden, but... it’s been so long now, I just can’t conceive of a modern government managing a coverup on that scale and making it last for so long. Maybe, just maybe, the idea of being careful, wearing a mask, it actually works?

Of course, every fucking night on TV, the celebrities and comedians are wearing those god awful plastic mouth guards meant for food service. On the news, I’ve seen politicians doing the same, and seriously folks, I do *not* need to see your mouth, cover it the fuck up. I see people wearing that shit in pubic, and it freaks me out. Past that, my junior/senior high students are clearly exhausted, and are having a hard time with their masks. Having teachers at my school who pull their masks down to teach class doesn’t help, nor does the very passive way the school is handling things.

In short, my feelings about the state of corona in Japan are a land of contrasts.
posted by Ghidorah at 10:24 PM on October 24 [5 favorites]


dmh re track and trace, I think (actually pretty sure) a main reason is that we more or less lack a class system (in the deep, structural sense) and (currently - and for at least 3 more years) we have leaders who are very much like all of us - they don't treat us like children or idiots but as responsible citizens - and almost everyone behaves responsibly.

As a result life is reasonably normal and currently at Level 1. Thank goodness Jacinda got in as the other bunch are far right maniacs who would gladly weaponize this.

Countries with decades of designed class enmity seem very ill-prepared for existential shocks.
posted by unearthed at 11:43 PM on October 24 [3 favorites]




I just wanted to say I don't understand the "winter's coming" argument. The world finished up winter in the Southern Hemisphere in September and they didn't experience this level.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 5:10 PM on October 25


The percentage of the Southern Hemisphere population for which winter means "it's too damn cold to be outside hardly at all, so we must cluster in enclosed spaces" is considerably smaller than north of the equator?
posted by bcd at 5:16 PM on October 25 [2 favorites]


good answer.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 5:35 PM on October 25


At the beginning of June (the start of winter, in Australia) my home state of Victoria seemed to be doing very well. The daily number of new cases was in the single digits and it was hoped that we could reach zero new infections. Remote learning for primary and secondary students ended on June 9th, and other restrictions were expected to be lifted. Then the numbers started heading up, apparently exacerbated (but not caused) by a government decision to use a private security firm to monitor quarantined travellers in hotel accommodation. On June 17th there were 21 new cases. By the end of June some of our northern suburbs were put into lockdown, flights into Victoria were suspended, and a few days later residents of some public housing towers were literally confined to their homes by police. Since then we've had around 20,000 new infections and 800 deaths, apparently largely caused by a spread of infections from the poorly-managed hotel quarantine program. It has been very hard to bring this second wave under control, despite compulsory mask wearing, closed schools, closed non-essential businesses, a ban on socialising, etc.

I feel that there was a significant difference between spread of the virus in the first and second waves. Maybe the second wave was exacerbated by undiagnosed carriers remaining from the first wave, but I think a lot of it must come down to the difference of transmission in late summer/autumn, and transmission in winter.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:33 PM on October 25 [1 favorite]


So it looks like Australia is going to stay closed to the world through 2021.

Australia is an interesting case. They are a 1st world/developed nation with a robust healthcare system that should be able to handle a decent number of cases. Their caseloads are incredibly low compared to the rest of the world and especially Canada and Europe, whose health systems are mostly doing ok (with special localized exceptions) but are of comparable quality.

But Australia seems to have decided that instead of keeping the number of cases at a manageable level, they want no cases at all. And that's just not going to happen unless you close yourself off from the world which seems to be what they've decided to do until there's a vaccine.
posted by LizBoBiz at 2:16 AM on October 26 [4 favorites]


Teargas deployed at anti-lockdown protest in Naples on day of new curfew – video report (Guardian, Oct 24)
Angry over a newly imposed 11pm to 5am regional curfew, demonstrators in the southern Italian city of Naples threw stones and bottles at police on Friday evening. The authorities responded with teargas

Police disperse fourth anti-lockdown march in London (Guardian, Oct 24)
Tens of thousands of people joined a march through central London against the coronavirus restrictions on Saturday afternoon, calling for an end to lockdowns and other measures they described as a threat to civil rights.

Germany: Thousands protest against COVID-19 rules in Berlin (DW, Oct 25)
Some 2,000 demonstrators gathered at Berlin's Alexanderplatz on Sunday to protest against the German capital's coronavirus restrictions, according to local authorities.

Who in Europe is getting it right on Covid? (Guardian, Oct 25)
Across the 31 countries from which the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control collects national data, the average 14-day case incidence rate per 100,000 inhabitants has multiplied from just 13 in mid-July to almost 250 last week.
posted by dmh at 2:52 AM on October 26


It had to be built up. The real justification for "go hard go early" and our very serious and total initial lockdown was partly the limited capacity for ICU care, and partly the limited nature of our capacity to test and trace at that point. Many people have been snickering (as an alternative to crying) over the UK using Excel to manage case records, but our own Ministry of Health was likely doing the same thing in the beginning. The important thing is that in NZ there seems to have been a genuine culture of continuous improvement applied to all aspects of managing the pandemic, such that having got a breathing space from the successful lockdown, we didn't stop there but continued to work on building up capacity.

I think that no country that did not have a substantial pre-existing public health infrastructure has managed to build it up to a big enough size to handle a large outbreak without aggressive social distancing / lockdown measures. That includes NZ which has built up enough to handle the small numbers of mini-clusters that got past the initial control measures.

Stories I've read from NZ press early in the pandemic do seem to indicate that NZ also did not have a substantial pre-existing ability to do contact tracing and that it took a while for that to get going. Would NZ have been able to effectively contain a large and dispersed outbreak had the government taken longer to introduce border controls and lockdown measures? We don't know because it's a counter-factual but so far the only countries that have had a really big outbreak and then managed to control it have been China and South Korea. Every other country has either caught it early or not done so and then struggled to contain it after.

In terms of continuous improvement - all countries have improved their testing and contact tracing abilities over the last nine months. Timing is everything though.

It's nice that the UK can now routinely do 300k+ tests a day (and while tests were below 200k or so were able to turn almost all of them around within 24 hours). In some sense, it's genuinely impressive to stand up that kind of capability from a base of very little. But by the time the UK was able to do that, it was much too late for that level to do more than slow the pandemic down. The same story essentially repeats in every European country. None of them had a substantial pre-existing capability to carry out contact tracing for infectious diseases because to first order infectious disease outbreaks of the scary kind are no longer part of our lives. We're actually much better equipped to do it for livestock (and it wouldn't surprise me if NZ had a very good vet-med infectious disease control team as well).

dmh re track and trace, I think (actually pretty sure) a main reason is that we more or less lack a class system (in the deep, structural sense) and (currently - and for at least 3 more years) we have leaders who are very much like all of us - they don't treat us like children or idiots but as responsible citizens - and almost everyone behaves responsibly.

As a result life is reasonably normal and currently at Level 1. Thank goodness Jacinda got in as the other bunch are far right maniacs who would gladly weaponize this.

Countries with decades of designed class enmity seem very ill-prepared for existential shocks.


I'm sure a class system doesn't help but I think we have to be careful not to pick too few points and extrapolate too much: i.e. we can't just compare the UK to NZ, look for the differences and then assume that this explains everything. Contact tracing has also had only limited success in France, The Netherlands, Belgium, and Denmark and now seems to be getting overwhelmed in Germany as well where it seemed to hold the line early on and those countries have a wide range of social structures and degrees of stratification in their societies.

I tend to skim read the newspapers of a number of countries to keep my languages up and in almost every country there has been a constant stream of Covid related fuck-ups. I think it is very easy if you live in a country where Covid is not under control to look at that news-stream and think: "these people are fucking up X, Y, and Z. Covid is getting worse. If they hadn't done those things, it would not be getting worse"

Who in Europe is getting it right on Covid? (Guardian, Oct 25)
Across the 31 countries from which the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control collects national data, the average 14-day case incidence rate per 100,000 inhabitants has multiplied from just 13 in mid-July to almost 250 last week.


That article is the one where I gave up on reading The Guardian (again, I doubt I'll stay away for long this time either). It's a nothing article, a blogpost listing some incidence rates. There is neither any information on what any of those countries are doing, nor any kind of systematic assessment of whether it seems to be working. On line on tough regional measures in Finland that seem to be working. Ok, but don't France, Spain, and the UK have tough regional measures now? How are they different? It's basically clickbait.
posted by atrazine at 3:30 AM on October 26 [1 favorite]


Most of the measures in place seem to be spread across both "successful" and "unsuccessful" countries pretty evenly.

My impression is that taking measures early is the only thing that worked. Once you've let reservoirs of infection get established, you're pretty much fucked.

People seem to be optimistic that you can look at a bunch of "successful" countries, deduce a package of ideal measures, and apply that to an "unsuccessful" country. But the measures that worked to stop COVID getting started, don't work when you apply them to a country where COVID has an established toehold.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 4:47 AM on October 26 [2 favorites]


My impression is that taking measures early is the only thing that worked.

Taking measures early, and not ceasing the interventions when things looked good. The UK had the first wave somewhat under control (much too late, and after much damage was done, yes), but then went way way way too hard and fast on easing lockdown measures, and here we are.
posted by Dysk at 7:33 AM on October 26 [2 favorites]


There's also an open question about whether it's possible to recover after you're already deluged with cases. There's some hope that a region can lock down, hard, for three weeks. Snuff out 95% of transmission. Then start fresh from that new hopefully much better place. I don't think anyone's tried it. I'm kind of hoping we get an opportunity to here in the US, oh, Jan 7.

But all this discussion is so West-centric, Europe and United States. The failed places. I wish I was reading more about China or South Korea or Vietnam or Japan. The successful places.
posted by Nelson at 7:54 AM on October 26 [4 favorites]


CBC's White Coat, Black Art speaks with Dr. Deena Hinshaw (Alberta's chief medical officer of health) and Dr. Eileen de Villa (Toronto's medical officer of health)
posted by nubs at 8:17 AM on October 26


If you look at European data for COVID deaths per 100,000 over the last 14 days: the UK is on 3.1, France 3.0, Spain 3.9, Belgium 5.3, Netherlands 2.7. In general the countries that got hit bad the first time round are getting hit bad again now. The UK doesn't stand out particularly in the data.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 8:55 AM on October 26 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I'm not saying other places didn't take the exact same trajectory as well, I'm just most familiar with here.
posted by Dysk at 9:01 AM on October 26




"Closing yourself off from the world" is a pretty great strategy from the perspective of this New Zealander. We have a lifestyle that is very close to normal. We've repurposed hotels that used to hold tourists as comfortable quarantine. Citizens/permanent residents and essential workers can still arrive and the govt is subsiding flights to ensure there's enough capacity for air freight. It seems like a reasonable price to pay given the alternative. I guess we've made an assessment that "manageable" can flip into a major outbreak fast enough that it's worth the cost.

What Theophile Escargot says is kind of consistent with NZ govt policy. In March and April it was all about "flatten the curve". Talk of elimination didn't start until it became apparent that Level 4 lockdown was working better than expected. And here, being a small country does help I think... once you can count known active cases on one hand, you're in a good place to be confident of having eliminated community transmission.

I fear for many other countries that while theoretically a stringent lockdown + masking + effective contact tracing could get you there, after earlier efforts didn't work, it's probably politically too difficult to get the people to comply (and you need the willingness to have big govt spending to compensate for business closing).
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 12:46 PM on October 26 [3 favorites]




atrazine: "it wouldn't surprise me if NZ had a very good vet-med infectious disease control team as well" -- can't source this but I have heard gossip that people who'd been working on the Mycoplasma bovis outbreak in the Ministry for Primary Industries did indeed get pressed into service.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 12:57 PM on October 26 [2 favorites]


The Race for a Vaccine Is ‘Going to Get Ugly’ in Hard-Hit Brazil
Brazil’s president said COVID is a conspiracy cooked up by the Chinese in an effort to restore leftist governments in Latin America, according to recent allegations.
The political fighting over the Sinovac vaccine has been going on for months. Now, as Butantan prepares to submit final data for federal approval, politics threatens to taint the decision over what could be the first nationally available vaccine in the western hemisphere.
posted by adamvasco at 2:13 PM on October 26 [2 favorites]


There's also an open question about whether it's possible to recover after you're already deluged with cases. There's some hope that a region can lock down, hard, for three weeks. Snuff out 95% of transmission. Then start fresh from that new hopefully much better place. I don't think anyone's tried i

Melbourne waves hello on the last day of their 112 day lockdown
posted by daybeforetheday at 4:43 PM on October 26 [9 favorites]


(It has been hard, brutally hard. It's not over yet by a long shot. But we have shown it can be done, even during a cold winter and start to spring)
posted by daybeforetheday at 4:45 PM on October 26 [4 favorites]


There's some hope that a region can lock down, hard, for three weeks. Snuff out 95% of transmission.

Three weeks won't do it. Six weeks will if your lockdown isn't a half-measure, and your compliance is high.
posted by HiroProtagonist at 7:54 PM on October 26 [1 favorite]


atrazine I think NZ had a few advantages, it's hardly egalitarian here, we have a housing crisis, widespread poverty and a meth epidemic. Any Polynesians are especially susceptible to Covid - But...

When covid hit the country was still trying to stamp out a cattle disease mycoplasma bovis and several serious plant diseases and these are well-publicized campaigns and quite disruptive so that helps keep disease front-of-mind.

Many rural tribes formed spontaneous blockades to control in/out movement (Maori suffered hugely with the Spanish flu and have kept that memory alive), Maori respond very quickly to threats and are often key to grassroots response in quakes and floods.

Many, many people in NZ have biological jobs (farming, horticulture, biosecurity, fishing, forestry, plus all the processing related to that, plus a more educated hunting/fishing public than I've seen overseas), disease understanding is pretty good here.

And we had lower tourism numbers as a result of the Australian fires, so a few less foreigner who don't understand our systems (altho' this past para is only my anecdata.)
posted by unearthed at 1:46 AM on October 27 [3 favorites]


Snuff out 95% of transmission. Then start fresh from that new hopefully much better place. I don't think anyone's tried it.

I’m not sure it was exactly 95%, but this kind of near-eradication (by extended hard-lockdown) is pretty much what Italy (and most parts of Europe) did. And look at us now...

At first, after the summer, it seemed to have done the trick, the remaining level of new daily cases, zero in some regions for weeks, mere hundreds in the worst-hit regions, looked steady, handleable... until they turned out no to be. And that seems to be the main lesson out of all the European strategies: if you do not hit actual zero new cases (for some sustained period)... you will, sooner or later, be facing the exact same challenges again.

Unless there are seriously innovative strategies in place (as some local areas have managed), aiming for anything short of full eradication has so far proven not to work out.
posted by progosk at 3:24 AM on October 27 [8 favorites]


At first, after the summer, it seemed to have done the trick, the remaining level of new daily cases, zero in some regions for weeks, mere hundreds in the worst-hit regions, looked steady, handleable... until they turned out no to be. And that seems to be the main lesson out of all the European strategies: if you do not hit actual zero new cases (for some sustained period)... you will, sooner or later, be facing the exact same challenges again.

I would add that not loosening travel restrictions between areas that are not actually at long-term zero is an important subpoint to that lesson. People's desire for their annual summer getaway be damned.
posted by trig at 7:25 AM on October 27 [5 favorites]


Merkel is holding talks with leaders of the Länder today, Macron will be addressing the nation this evening. Expect reimposition of restrictions similar to the spring lockdowns this week. There was a paywalled article in the FT today about Germany's local contact tracing now being so overwhelmed that they are only focusing on people who share living space with the vulnerable and no-longer monitoring household isolation. Seems like another datapoint that when infections reach a certain level, testing and contact tracing will be overwhelmed.

In England, the advice is now that the whole country will be in "level 3" restrictions by December and likely a "level 4" will be added. This would be similar to what is in place in Scotland. Wales is already in a high level "circuit breaker" lockdown.

Forecasts are that this wave will kill more people than the first but not at such a high peak.
posted by atrazine at 5:18 AM on October 28 [1 favorite]




This is shocking if true. I wonder if it is happening in other countries with huge infection numbers:
How teenagers ended up operating crucial parts of England’s test and trace system A Guardian opinion piece by George Monbiot
It's difficult to choose a significant take-out because the whole article is damning, so I've taken two
In its advertisements for this job, the NHS explains applicants must be at Clinician Band 6 level, who will be working as part of a team of “experienced clinicians”. You must have a health or science degree or “demonstrable equivalent experience or qualifications”; experience in “a field related to public health or health and social care services as a practitioner” and “registration with the relevant professional body”. Among your tasks are “conducting a public health risk assessment”, “providing public health advice” and “using your clinical knowledge to help escalate complex cases”. Anyone accepted for this role would be “provided with appropriate training”.

But the workers at the call centre who have been “upskilled” to this level are mostly school-leavers and students, with no relevant qualifications. While the job is officially advertised at between £16.97 and £27.15 per hour, they are all being paid the minimum wage, which means £6.45 for the 18- to 20-year-olds (most of them) and £8.72 for over-25s.
And the final paragraph:
People ask me, “is this a cockup or a conspiracy?”. The correct answer is both. The government is using the pandemic to shift the boundaries between public and private provision, restructure public health and pass lucrative contracts to poorly qualified private companies. The inevitable result is a galactic cockup. This is what you get from a government that values money above human life.
posted by mumimor at 11:33 AM on October 28 [6 favorites]


France and Germany to enter new confinements.

Von der Leyen gives a sober assessment of EU performance while her advisor on the pandemic assesses the ways out. It's not going to be short or easy.
posted by roolya_boolya at 4:54 PM on October 28 [2 favorites]


More than 1 million mink will be killed to help contain a series of Covid-19 outbreaks on Danish farms
At the bottom of the article, it says the same is happening in Utah.
The scary thing is that this is transmission through animals. No one knows how it is happening, but one theory is that seagulls who often swarm around mink-farms are spreading the disease. If so, it would be an other instance of how we humans are transforming the natural world into something very sinister. Actually, even if it is just a stupid and corrupt vet carrying the disease from farm to farm it is still that.
posted by mumimor at 12:47 PM on October 29 [3 favorites]


Minks are cute, What a bummer. Weird data point to be sure.
posted by Windopaene at 10:54 PM on October 29


More than 1 million mink will be killed to help contain a series of Covid-19 outbreaks on Danish farms

Weird. Surely there aren't that many viruses that can be concurrently epidemic in two species?
posted by Joe in Australia at 12:19 AM on October 30


Mink have been reported hit throughout Europe.
posted by progosk at 1:35 AM on October 30


China is finishing up its stage three trials for Sinovac in Brazil and the governor of Sao Paulo negotiated a deal to begin administering the vaccine. Until Trump's national security adviser Robert O’Brien talked to Bolsonaro and had him cancel the deal.

It would be a major embarrassment if China beat the U.S. to a vaccine in Brazil so Trump is having Bolsonaro kill the deal by having Bolsonara kill thousands of Brazilian citizens by depriving them of a lifesaving vaccine. Brazil has one of highest infection and death rates in the world. All in a face-saving measure for Bolsonaro's BFF Trump.
posted by JackFlash at 11:54 AM on October 30 [1 favorite]




Excellent piece on the policy failures in the response in Europe and the US compared to other countries by Naomi O'Leary in the Irish Times [paywalled but 10 articles a month free]
All kinds of absurd stereotypes about Asia were used to support the Western exceptionalism that underpinned our bad policies. All the successful pandemic control techniques, including mask-wearing, contact-tracing, and compulsory quarantine, were initially dismissed as authoritarian and culturally inappropriate for the West.

They were categorised as something only China would do, ignoring that these techniques were central to the successful pandemic response of democracies from Taiwan, to Japan, to South Korea. Ever-protesting Hong Kong is the example that makes particularly hilarious the idea that Asian people are just more “compliant” or “don’t love freedom” like the West.
...
Excuses could be made for ill-preparedness at the start of the pandemic. But Western leaders have been insular slow learners at every stage. And the failure to act effectively when cases were brought down to low levels during the summer – an achievement hard won with sacrifices by every citizen – is hard to forgive.

Western governments now emphasise that individual responsibility will determine the course of the pandemic. “The path it takes depends on YOU,” as Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris tweeted this month.

Societal co-operation is vital. But no individual citizen has the power to put in place an effective testing and tracing system.
posted by roolya_boolya at 2:12 AM on October 31 [9 favorites]


The article linked to above is totally worth reading. Thanks, roolya_boolya!
posted by Bella Donna at 7:25 AM on October 31 [1 favorite]


Nearly half of Slovakia’s entire population tested for Covid-19 in one day:
“Of the 2.58 million Slovaks who took the test, 25,850, or 1%, tested positive and must go into quarantine.
More than 40,000 medics and support teams of soldiers, police, administrative workers and volunteers staffed around 5,000 sites to administer the antigen swab tests. The country, which has a population of 5.5m, is aiming to test as many citizens as possible, except those under the age of 10. The scheme is the first in the world in a country of a comparable size, and is being carefully watched by countries around the world to see if it might offer an alternative approach to the pandemic.
While the testing was free and technically voluntary, Slovakia’s government will impose a lockdown on those who do not participate, which includes a ban on going to work.”
posted by progosk at 7:04 AM on November 1 [3 favorites]


The country, which has a population of 5.5m, is aiming to test as many citizens as possible, except those under the age of 10.

Sadly this child exclusion will prove to be a mistake. They have left a hole in their coverage based on what is now looking like flawed science. Kids are infectious - they just tend not to be tested and were better isolated in the early phases of the pandemic - A pretty rigorous household spread study out of Indiana and Wisconsin found kids under 12 were only slightly less infectious than adults - secondary infection rates of 52% for kids versus 58% for adults). India also had a massive contact tracing study that concluded children were major drivers of household spread. It's like that zombie movie trope where love blinds you to the danger.
posted by srboisvert at 7:58 AM on November 1 [3 favorites]


Belgium's COVID-19 health care collapse: 'It will happen in 10 days'
posted by adamvasco at 8:16 AM on November 2 [3 favorites]




A thread on what happened in Belgium.
Yes, sigh. Also the health care system is more like the US system than in many other European countries, with a multitude of independent providers and inscrutable co-pays (though nothing near as expensive as in the US). I suspect this means the most vulnerable people are more reluctant to call the doctor or visit the emergency room.
posted by mumimor at 6:05 AM on November 3 [1 favorite]


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