Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update 4 August

WHO Situation Report 196 for 3 August (released 4 August Brisbane, Australia, time)

Globally: 17,918,582 confirmed cases (257,677 new), 686,703 deaths (5,810 new)

The inflection upwards in US deaths is becoming evident now, though the change in collation procedures raises questions especially under the current President. Just as I highlighted the apparent success that Africa has had in dealing with the pandemic as pieces on Bloomberg have discussed, South Africa especially has begun to become one of the most impacted countries. The Americas are still the most impacted region, but without that curious jump in the Peru line on the deaths graph the US would have the highest number of deaths relative to their population (perhaps Trump has provided some “foreign aid” to assist them with their data collation).

I was prompted to write an update today because my friend Dr Shi Zhengli has, for the first time in this pandemic, written in some detail about her work for an article published in “Science” magazine.

I would suggest that the article is well worth the read, but the magazine published her answers in full in a supplementary document, and I suggest that it is compulsory reading not just for those interested in more “meaty”, technical information, but to gain an insight into the personal cost paid by a group of scientists to make such a significant contribution to all of mankind irrespective of nationality or ancestry.

I truly hope that Zhengli and her group one day receive that apology, and it should be equal in sincerity to any given in the history of mankind.

Moreover, I believe that nobody would be more deserving of being named a Nobel Laureate than Zhengli.

I will also take this opportunity to discuss the current situation in Australia (not really to highlight the contrast between “Toxic Masculinity and Political Footballs“, but because there is another very important message in it).

Whether all of the current phase of the COVID-19 outbreak in Melbourne can be put down to security breaches at quarantine hotels – and I doubt that is the case – or not is more a political question than anything else because it allows the Federal Government to sheet home the blame to Dan Andrews.

The truth is that by deciding in March/April on a suppression strategy – instead of an elimination strategy which Mr. Morrison has since adopted with a semantic maneuver placing the adjective “aggressive” before “suppression strategy” and clarifying further that the aim now is for zero community transmission – always meant that his initial decision was for Australia to have to deal with more community transmission.

As I wrote extensively on this site through the first half of this year, Mr. Morrison was little different from his ideologues in the US and UK by dithering on strong measures to minimise loss of lives out of concern for impacts on businesses. However, he had a seasonal advantage being based in the southern hemisphere with warmer weather and Australians spending more time outdoors serendipitously lessening the likelihood of transmission.

When our heroic front line health workers dealt with the first phase of the pandemic – I won’t call it a first wave because this suggests a closed population with mostly community transmission, but in this period it was almost entirely travellers returning from overseas – and the number of new cases went down to zero in most states on most days, instead of using that breathing space to prepare for the subsequent phases of the pandemic, the Federal Government concentrated almost exclusively on economics and politically herding all of the cats towards the bright lights of a fully open economy.

At the same time the expectation of greater freedoms of movement imparted on the public, especially the younger members of society, was always going to make subsequent measures challenging to implement including from a mental health perspective. Again, these were issues that I have discussed on these pages.

The southern hemisphere winter period was always going to challenge Australia. In those weeks with low case numbers, which offered some respite to the front line responders, there should have been an enormous amount of biosecurity human capital swung into action to protect Australians from the ravages of this devastating pandemic.

While our near neighbours New Zealand have basked in a bright winter glow safe without community transmission, the COVID-19 pandemic reignited in our coolest, populous state with a vengeance unseen during the earlier period.

The current phase of COVID-19 in Australia threatens to move northward.

The concerning thing is that if there is a lot of community transmission heading into summer, evidence from the sunbelt in the US and in Spain suggest that warmer climates in developed countries may have difficulty in containing the spread, possibly due to the wide use of air conditioning systems.

I personally am relieved that Mr. Morrison has adopted an elimination strategy even if for political reasons he can not bring himself to say those words. And I know that in the role that I am attempting to play for my fellow countrymen I cannot strongly prosecute an argument highlighting that he was wrong because ultimately I have gotten what I wanted and have pushed for from my first reports in February – a Prime Minister who wants to do everything necessary to minimise loss of life – and I cannot lament too loudly the time lost.

Going forward we need to implement our enormous biosecurity human capital and infrastructure to start to be more proactive rather than reactive in our battle against COVID-19.

I am currently co-writing a paper on what I consider to be a particularly important aspect of that proactivity, and as a hint, it follows on from a theme that I have discussed in a previous post as well as my previous update on 23 July below and was touched on in Zhengli’s document.

Keep out an eye for it in the press (hopefully) and I will link to it from these pages.

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© Copyright Brett Edgerton 2020

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