Covid-19 Diary : Sunday 14 November, 2021

The former director of the CDC, Dr Tom Frieden, had this to say on Twitter earlier in the week

The coronavirus has mutated because so many people are getting and spreading it around the world. Vaccination reduces spread, saves lives, and makes it less likely that dangerous new variants will emerge.

Makes sense, right?

Wrong.

This is almost literally and exactly a half-truth.  The first sentence is acceptably true.  The more cases of the virus, the more chances there are of more mutations occurring.

But, and here’s the rhetorical trick.  Get everyone agreeing with your first statement, then slip in a second statement that is less certain, but which also sounds credible.  Look at the three claims in the second sentence :

Vaccine reduces spread :  If only that were true.  But what country in the world can point to having conquered the virus as a result of vaccination?

Certainly not the US.  Not the UK.  Not almost all of Europe.  We’re all wrestling with high rates that are going higher again.

Vaccination saves lives :  This is probably true, albeit not as drastically true as vaccine proponents would hope for.  See the fascinating statistic in the further material, below.

Vaccination makes it less likely that dangerous new variants will emerge :  This statement is wrong.  Weak vaccines – and the vaccines we have are weak by any sensible measure – place “evolutionary stress” on the virus, selectively biasing the virus replication so stronger virus variants are encouraged to survive while weaker variants are killed off.

Any doctor worth the paper his MD is printed on knows this.  How could Dr Frieden express something so at odds with prevailing medical wisdom?  This has been a problem for decades with antibiotics – the over-prescription of them, and people who don’t finish full courses of antibiotics, has seen the steady evolution of infections to become more and more resistant to antibiotics, and the appearance of super-germs that would otherwise never have appeared.

The same week that Dr Frieden is saying that weak vaccines make it less likely for new virus mutations to appear, we have an interesting new piece of research published.  Use of the largely ineffective (some people even suggest it is more harmful than helpful) drug, remdesivir, has now resulted in the virus evolving to become resistant to the drug.

Meanwhile, a new variation of the virus is making its presence felt in France.  This article tells us it might have come from Africa, and shares an “expert” opinion that says the failure of western countries to give free vaccines to Africa is creating the risk of new variants emerging from such places (and therefore threatening the west).

That is ridiculous for two reasons.  The first reason is, as discussed, lack of vaccination means lack of evolutionary pressure on the virus.  But, implied within the expert’s statement is that perhaps numbers in unvaccinated Africa are so high that, just because of runaway case numbers, Africa will see new virus forms emerging.

So, let’s look at the numbers.  Currently, unvaccinated Africa is having about 4,000 new cases a day.  Many states in the US are having more than that every day.  Europe is experiencing 300,000 new cases a day.

As I’ve said before, concern about Africa, while possibly well-intentioned, is totally misdirected.  From a virus point of view, there is nowhere better in the world to be than Africa.

Current Numbers

Lithuania jumped three places in the minor country list.  Maintaining its place at number five was massively vaccinated Gibraltar.

As you can see, Gibraltar has fully vaccinated more than its entire population (visitors too, I guess) and has already given third booster doses to 36% of its people, but look at the growth in cases it had over the last week.  Its growth rate of 10,601 new cases is almost identical to worst affected Slovenia in the table below (but isn’t shown because Gibraltar is too small to be considered in that table).  Now consider the claim above “vaccines reduce spread”.

As mentioned on Thursday, Sweden has risen one place in the major country list, but this is more a case of Argentina dropping than Sweden rising.

Both Sweden and Argentina have very low new case numbers compared to many other countries and regions, as you can see.  And note also the line at the very bottom of the chart – “tragically” under-vaccinated Africa.

No changes in the death rate table.

Europe continues to be the hot spot for new virus cases in the last week, as shown in the table below.  European countries with the highest growth rates over the week included Hungary with a 66% rise, Germany up another 49%, Portugal up 44%, and both Austria and Italy with 43% rises.  France was up 39%, and the UK has shifted back into rising case numbers again, too, with a mild 6% rise.

Good news for Romania, which is now moving back down from its enormous rise a couple of weeks ago.  It had a 40% drop.  The Baltic states are falling some, too, with Estonia down 37% and Latvia down 33%.  Sweden dropped 25% (only Spain had a lower rate of new cases for the week).  Europe as a whole had a rise of 12% in cases for the week.

In North America, Canada seems to have halted its gentle rise, and had a 5% drop.  Mexico dropped 1%, and I’m guessing the US rose by about 10%.  The world saw a 4% rise in cases.

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

Rank One Week Ago Today
1 Montenegro (236,526) Montenegro (242,109)
2 Seychelles Seychelles
3 Andorra Andorra
4 Georgia (189,215) Georgia (197,073)
5 Gibraltar (182,706) Gibraltar (193,277)
6 Slovenia Slovenia
7 San Marino Lithuania
8 Maldives San Marino
9 St Barth Maldives
10 Lithuania (159,912) St Barth (160,214)

 

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

Rank One Week Ago Today
1 Czech Republic (169,169) Czech Republic (176,078)
2 USA (141,887) USA (143,608)
3 UK (136,058) UK (139,835)
4 Netherlands Netherlands
5 Belgium Belgium
6 Argentina Sweden
7 Sweden Argentina
8 France France
9 Portugal Portugal
10 Spain Spain
11 Brazil Brazil
12 Colombia (97,163) Turkey (98,248)

 

Top Death Rate Major Countries (deaths per million)

Rank One Week Ago Today
1 Peru  (5,966) Peru  (5,971)
2 Czech Republic (2,890) Czech Republic (2,932)
3 Brazil Brazil (2,848)
4 Romania (2,662) Romania (2,784)
5 Argentina (2,537) Argentina (2,540)
6 Colombia Colombia
7 USA (2,324) USA (2,348)
8 Belgium (2,242) Belgium (2,258)
9 Mexico (2,216) Mexico (2,226)
10 Italy (2,194) Italy (2,200)

 

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 Slovenia  9,680 Slovenia  10,658
2 Georgia  8,447 Croatia  9,194
3 Estonia Austria
4 Croatia Georgia
5 Lithuania Slovakia
6 Latvia Czech Rep
7 Slovakia Lithuania
8 Austria Netherlands
9 Czech Rep Ireland
10 Ireland Belgium
11 Serbia Estonia
12 Bulgaria  4,401 Hungary  4,947

 

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, all the additional material on previous diary entries, and much extra content on other parts of the website too.

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Items below include a look at the puzzle of Vermont’s numbers, the CDC doesn’t just move its goalposts, it burns them to the ground, another article that needlessly and without facts denigrates natural immunity, the results hidden in an appendix to a Pfizer six month vaccination follow up study, Europe starts to close down, social awkwardness this Thanksgiving and Christmas, the benefits of a nice hot bath (if any), and the death of snow leopards.

SUPPORTER ONLY CONTENT

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END OF SUPPORTER ONLY CONTENT

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.

 

2 thoughts on “Covid-19 Diary : Sunday 14 November, 2021”

  1. I would add one thing to the list of results of vaccination.

    Getting vaccinated seems to make people think everything is okay and behave as if there is no reason to worry about Covid.

    I was at a rock concert in a mid sized venue in NJ on Friday night. Vaccine or negative test required for admission. Mask wearing mandatory except actively eating or drinking. At least 90% of the audience seemed to be “actively” drinking throughout the show. It seemed that having a beer, having an empty beer glass in your hand, or thinking about having a beer all counted as “actively” drinking.

    We have a very good example of indoor mask wearing and very high vaccination rate producing very good results. The “Cornell University dashboard” with surveillance testing has positivity rate below the US rate. And since the US pretty much only test symptomatic people, the rate, if it captured asymptomatic cases would be higher (probably 2-5X).

    Cornell University, of course, isn’t an island and the University can’t control the behavior of late teens/early 20’s students off campus, so I’m sure there are plenty of opportunities for unmasked interactions. And, it will be interesting to see what happens after everyone is home for Thanksgiving and returns to surveillance testing.

    I’m not expressing any opinion on the impact of vaccines versus the indoor mask wearing. But it seems that the combination does work.

    1. David Rowell – Seattle, WA, USA – New Zealander now living in the United States.

      Hi, Cclinger

      You’re very correct – a bit like how cars fitted with ABS have seen drivers now being more aggressive, trusting in the ABS to save them, the behavior modification after getting vaccinated is a factor. Indeed, I don’t know about you, but for a brief while, I was pretty euphoric too, after having got my shot.

      I really don’t like any type of analysis based on normal test results for the reason you cite – only people who think they are at risk go get tested. But random testing is more meaningful. However, I stridently disagree with the assertion that the asymptomatic case rates are two to five times the detected cases. That would suggest we have had total cases for 29% (2x) to 72% (5x) of the population. Add that to the vaccinated level (some overlap/duplication, of course) and we’d be looking at a number approaching/exceeding 100%, and where’s the herd immunity that would be expected to follow?

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