Covid-19 Diary : Sunday 18 July, 2021

Tomorrow (Monday July 19) sees England triumphantly celebrate “Freedom Day” – as in freedom from the virus and all the restrictions associated with it.

We’re unable to congratulate them, however.  Their “freedom” is a rather bizarre concept, and some people are more sensibly called it “freedumb”.  England’s current rate of infection is higher than every other country in Europe, and is almost seven times higher than here in the US, where states and counties are slowly starting to reluctantly return to “recommended” or mandatory indoor masking rules.  We’re returning to controls at an infection rate nearly seven times lower than England, while England is pretending everything is fine.

This is becoming harder to do now that their Minister of Health has come down with the virus (even though fully vaccinated), requiring, among others, the Prime Minister to now self-isolate in case he caught the virus too (unlikely, because he nearly died from it, about a year ago, and probably has also been vaccinated too).  Details here.

Talking about catching the virus even though fully vaccinated, a friend in London, who completed his double vaccination some months back, so is presumably currently at the point of maximum vaccine protection, caught the virus earlier in the week.  The thing he doesn’t understand is how he caught it.  He almost never leaves his house, and whenever he does, he wears a mask and keeps as far away from other people as possible.  The very few people he has been in contact with have been tested and aren’t also infected.

The point about his experience is to show how extremely transmittable the Delta variant is – precautions or not, vaccine or not.  It is no wonder that new virus cases are rising in most countries around the world at present.

I mentioned above how US states and counties are starting to haltingly move back to imposing some controls and restrictions.  But it is one thing to impose such controls, and another entirely to enforce them.

In Los Angeles County, the Sheriff has said he won’t enforce the county’s new mask mandate, because he says the mandate is not backed by science.

Must sheriffs enforce laws and legally created regulations that apply in their jurisdictions?  Or do they have discretion, and can they choose to enforce only the laws they like and support, and ignore the ones they (or the people who elected them) don’t like?  That’s a surprisingly complicated question with a very unclear answer.

The sheriffs themselves tend to claim their first responsibility is to their state (and/or national) constitution, and then secondarily to the laws and regulations enacted by the various government bodies that apply in their jurisdiction, and if they feel a law/regulation contravenes the state or national constitution, they must/will not enforce it.

That’s a rather specious argument because it assumes a great degree of constitutional law expertise on the part of each individual sheriff.  It has been several times discussed – for example, here and here.

But it is another thing entirely to say “this regulation is scientifically invalid”.  Some constitutional arguments are simplistic – gun control measures that transgress the Second Amendment, for example.  But what level of expertise must a sheriff have to be able to second guess a public-health official who probably has spent the better part of a decade studying to become a doctor, and studying further in the field of public health?

I’m surely not saying that the public health authorities have consistently got things right; but I am wondering whether the appropriate response to bad measures they enact is via the formal legal system and courts to get a regulation overturned, or through the political system to get a regulation withdrawn or changed, or if local sheriffs should be allowed to make their own determinations?

The LA Co Sheriff may or may not be correct about the scientific underpinnings of the mask mandate, but that’s not the point.  He’s not a public health expert, and his remit as Sheriff is not to selectively enforce laws and regulations based on his interpretation of the science underpinning them.

Indeed, I could replay back to him a conversation he’s doubtless had on patrol.  An apprehended miscreant says “that law is stupid” or some variation of that.  The law enforcement officer says “I don’t care, I don’t make the law, I don’t interpret the law, I just enforce it.  Complain to your elected officials or complain to the judge, but don’t complain to me, I’m just doing my job”.

Current Numbers

There were no changes in the minor country list.  In the major country list, the Netherlands and Colombia both rose one place, while Argentina and France matched with a fall of one place.

There were no changes in the death rate list.

In the active cases last week list, the UK is now at second place, and all placed countries are showing generally higher activity levels than last week.

The UK had a 44% rise in cases.  Europe as a whole had a 35% rise, with the highest rises being in Austria (143%), France (108%) and Italy (103%).  Norway was the only major west European country to show a drop in cases, and that was of only 8%.

Here in the US, we had an estimated rise of about 65%.  I have to say “estimated” because by Sunday mid-day, less than half the states had reported Saturday numbers (something that was formerly almost always done by the end of Saturday), and on Sunday evening, only 14 states had bothered to send in any Sunday data, and several of the states that did send in data did not do so for all counties.  It seems that even the public health officials charged with reporting this data have given up and lost interest.

The world as a whole reported a 15% rise in cases for the week compared to the previous week.

Monday will see the US pass through 35 million reported cases.

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

Rank One Week Ago Today
1 Andorra (181,866) Andorra (184,420)
2 Seychelles (168,524) Seychelles (174,111)
3 Montenegro Montenegro
4 Bahrain Bahrain
5 San Marino San Marino
6 Maldives Maldives
7 Gibraltar  (131,528) Gibraltar  (136,431)
8 Slovenia Slovenia
9 Luxembourg Luxembourg
10 Uruguay (108,024) Uruguay (108,675)

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

Rank One Week Ago Today
1 Czech Republic (155,587) Czech Republic (155,738)
2 Sweden Sweden
3 USA (104,305) USA (104,987)
4 Argentina (101,883) Netherlands (104,723)
5 Netherlands  (100,644) Argentina  (104,241)
6 Belgium Belgium
7 Portugal Portugal
8 Brazil Brazil
9 France Colombia (90,177)
10 Colombia (87,716) France
11 Spain Spain
12 Chile (82,320) Chile (82,949)

Top Death Rate Major Countries (deaths per million)

Rank One Week Ago Today
1 Peru  (5,809) Peru  (5,834)
2 Czech Republic (2,827) Czech Republic (2,827)
3 Brazil Brazil
4 Colombia (2,193) Colombia (2,261)
5 Argentina Argentina
6 Belgium Belgium
7 Italy Italy
8 Poland (1,988) Poland (1,990)
9 UK (1,882) UK (1,886)
10 USA (1,870) USA (1,876)

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

Rank One Week Ago Today
1 Cyprus  5,138 Cyprus  5,692
2 Tunisia  4,519 UK  4,595
3 Namibia Botswana
4 Mongolia Netherlands
5 UK  3,201 Tunisia  4,069
6 Colombia Cuba
7 Cuba Spain
8 Kuwait Mongolia
9 Argentina Georgia  2,594
10 Netherlands Namibia
11 South Africa Libya
12 Georgia  2,036 Colombia  2,478

The rest of this newsletter is for the very kind Travel Insider Supporters – it is their support that makes all of this possible, and it seems fair they get additional material in return.  If you’re not yet a Supporter, please consider becoming one, and get instant access to the rest of the Diary Entry, additional material on previous diary entries, and much extra content on other parts of the website too.

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Items below include some comments on “long haul” Covid, the subtle complexities of combatting misinformation, lessons from Israel, a look at the Delta variant’s penetration into countries around the world and what it means for the future, the Olympics are about to start, Canada could be about to open its border with the US, will the US open its border for Europeans, and how will visitors to France get to eat or drink (not a question normally asked of a nation famed for its food and wine!).

SUPPORTER ONLY CONTENT

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

Please click here for a listing of all our Covid-19 articles.

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